Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Song of Solomon
“LIKE a lily among thorny weeds, so is my girl companion among the daughters.” “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my dear one among the sons.” “Who is this woman that is looking down like the dawn, beautiful like the full moon, pure like the glowing sun?” (Song of Solomon 2:2, 3; 6:10) How sublime are these verses from the Bible book Song of Solomon! The entire book is a poem so full of meaning and beauty that it is called “the most beautiful (most excellent) song.”—Song of Solomon 1:1, footnote.
Composed by King Solomon of ancient Israel, likely about 1020 B.C.E., during the early part of his 40-year reign, this song is a love story of a shepherd boy and a country girl, a Shulammite. Among others mentioned in the poem are the girl’s mother and brothers, “daughters of Jerusalem [court ladies],” and “daughters of Zion [women of Jerusalem].” (Song of Solomon 1:5; 3:11) It is challenging for a Bible reader to identify all the speakers in the Song of Solomon, but it is possible by considering what they say or what is said to them.
As part of God’s Word, the message of the Song of Solomon is of great value for two reasons. (Hebrews 4:12) First, it teaches us what true love between a man and a woman is. Second, the song illustrates the type of love that exists between Jesus Christ and the congregation of anointed Christians.—2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-31.
DO NOT TRY TO “AROUSE LOVE IN ME”
“May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your expressions of endearment are better than wine.” (Song of Solomon 1:2) The dialogue in the Song of Solomon opens with these words of a humble country girl who is brought into the royal tent of Solomon. How did she get there?
“The sons of my own mother grew angry with me,” she says. “They appointed me the keeper of the vineyards.” Her brothers are angry with her because the shepherd boy whom she loves has invited her to go for a walk with him on a lovely spring day. To prevent her from going, they have assigned her to guard against “the little foxes that are making spoil of the vineyards.” This work brings her close to Solomon’s camp. Her beauty is noticed when she goes down “to the garden of nut trees,” and she is brought into the camp.—Song of Solomon 1:6; 2:10-15; 6:11.
As the maiden expresses her longing for her beloved shepherd, the court ladies tell her to ‘go out for herself in the footprints of the flock’ and look for him. But Solomon does not permit her to go. Expressing his admiration for her beauty, he promises her “circlets of gold . . . along with studs of silver.” The girl, though, is not impressed. The shepherd boy makes his way into Solomon’s camp, finds her, and exclaims: “Look! You are beautiful, O girl companion of mine. Look! You are beautiful.” The young maiden puts the court ladies under oath: “Try not to awaken or arouse love in me until it feels inclined.”—Song of Solomon 1:8-11, 15; 2:7; 3:5.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:2, 3—Why is the remembrance of the shepherd boy’s expressions of endearment like wine and his name like oil? Just as wine makes the heart of a man rejoice and the pouring of oil on the head is soothing, the memory of the boy’s love and his name strengthened and comforted the maiden. (Psalm 23:5; 104:15) True Christians, particularly anointed ones, likewise find strength and encouragement in reflecting upon the love that Jesus Christ has shown toward them.
1:5—Why does the country girl liken her swarthy appearance to “the tents of Kedar”? Goat’s hair, made into fabric, had many uses. (Numbers 31:20) For example, “cloths of goat’s hair” were used to make “the tent upon the tabernacle.” (Exodus 26:7) As is true of Bedouin tents even today, the tents of Kedar may well have been made of black goat’s hair.
1:15—What does the shepherd boy mean when he says: “Your eyes are those of doves”? The shepherd boy is saying that the eyes of his girl companion are soft and gentle in appearance, as are those of doves.
2:7; 3:5—Why are the court ladies put under oath “by the female gazelles or by the hinds of the field”? Gazelles and hinds are noted for their gracefulness and beauty. In effect, the Shulammite maiden is obligating the court ladies by everything that is graceful and beautiful to refrain from trying to awaken love in her.
Lessons for Us:
1:2; 2:6. Clean expressions of endearment may be appropriate during courtship. However, a couple should take care that these are manifestations of genuine affection and not of unclean passion, which may pave the way for sexual immorality.—Galatians 5:19.
1:6; 2:10-15. The Shulammite’s brothers did not allow their sister to go with her beloved to an isolated place in the mountains but not because she was immoral or did not have proper motives. Rather, they took a precautionary measure intended to prevent her from getting into a situation that might lead to temptation. The lesson for courting couples is that they should avoid secluded places.
2:1-3, 8, 9. Though beautiful, the Shulammite maiden modestly viewed herself as “a mere saffron [a common flower] of the coastal plain.” Because of her beauty and faithfulness to Jehovah, the shepherd boy thought of her as “a lily among thorny weeds.” And what can be said about him? Because he was handsome, to her he resembled “a gazelle.” He must also have been spiritually inclined and devoted to Jehovah. “Like an apple tree [that provides shade and fruit] among the trees of the forest,” she says, “so is my dear one among the sons.” Are not faith and devotion to God desirable qualities to look for in a prospective marriage mate?
2:7; 3:5. The country girl felt no romantic attraction to Solomon. She also put the court ladies under oath not to try to arouse in her love for anyone other than the shepherd boy. It is neither possible nor proper to feel romantic love for just anyone. A single Christian desiring to marry should consider only a loyal servant of Jehovah.—1 Corinthians 7:39.
“WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE BEHOLD IN THE SHULAMMITE?”
Something “is coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke.” (Song of Solomon 3:6) What do the women of Jerusalem see when they go out to look? Why, Solomon and his attendants are returning to the city! And the king has brought the Shulammite maiden with him.
The shepherd boy has followed the maiden and soon finds a way to see her. As he assures her of his love, she expresses her desire to leave the city, saying: “Until the day breathes and the shadows have fled, I shall go my way to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.” She invites the shepherd to “come into his garden and eat its choicest fruits.” He answers: “I have come into my garden, O my sister, my bride.” The women of Jerusalem say to them: “Eat, O companions! Drink and become drunk with expressions of endearment!”—Song of Solomon 4:6, 16; 5:1.
After relating a dream to the court ladies, the Shulammite maiden says to them: “I am lovesick.” They ask: “How is your dear one more than any other dear one?” She replies: “My dear one is dazzling and ruddy, the most conspicuous of ten thousand.” (Song of Solomon 5:2-10) To Solomon’s lavish praise, she humbly replies: “What do you people behold in the Shulammite?” (Song of Solomon 6:4-13) Viewing this as an opportunity to win her over, the king showers her with more compliments. The girl, however, remains steadfast in her love for the shepherd boy. Solomon finally lets her go home.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
4:11—What is significant about the Shulammite’s ‘lips dripping with comb honey’ and ‘honey and milk being under her tongue’? Comb honey is more flavorful and sweeter than honey that has been exposed to air. This comparison, as well as the idea that honey and milk were under the maiden’s tongue, emphasizes the goodness and pleasantness of the words spoken by the Shulammite.
5:12—What is the thought behind the expression “his eyes are like doves by the channels of water, which are bathing themselves in milk”? The maiden is speaking of her beloved’s beautiful eyes. Perhaps she is poetically likening the dark iris surrounded by the white of his eyes to blue-gray doves bathing in milk.
5:14, 15—Why are the shepherd’s hands and legs described in this way? The maiden is apparently referring to the shepherd’s fingers as gold cylinders and to his nails as chrysolite. She likens his legs to “pillars of marble” because they are strong and beautiful.
6:4, footnote—Does “Pleasant City” refer to Jerusalem? No. “Pleasant City” is “Tirzah.” This Canaanite city was captured by Joshua, and after Solomon’s time it became the first capital of the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. (Joshua 12:7, 24; 1 Kings 16:5, 6, 8, 15) “It appears that the city must have been a very beautiful one,” says one reference work, “which would account for its mention here.”
6:13, footnote—What is “the dance of two camps”? This expression can also be rendered the “dance of Mahanaim.” The city bearing that name was located on the east side of the Jordan River near the torrent valley of Jabbok. (Genesis 32:2, 22; 2 Samuel 2:29) “The dance of two camps” may refer to a certain dance held at that city in connection with a festival.
7:4—Why does Solomon liken the neck of the Shulammite maiden to “an ivory tower”? Earlier, the girl received this compliment: “Your neck is like the tower of David.” (Song of Solomon 4:4) A tower is long and slender, and ivory is smooth. Solomon is impressed with the slenderness and the smoothness of the girl’s neck.
Lessons for Us:
4:7. By resisting Solomon’s enticements, the Shulammite, though imperfect, proved herself to be without moral defect. Her moral strength thus enhanced her physical beauty. That should also be true of Christian women.
4:12. Like a beautiful garden enclosed by a hedge or a wall, which could be accessed only through a locked gate, the Shulammite maiden made her tender affections available only to her future husband. What a fine example for unmarried Christian women and men!
“THE FLAME OF JAH”
“Who is this woman coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her dear one?” ask the Shulammite’s brothers when they see her return home. Some time earlier, one of them had said: “If she should be a wall, we shall build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she should be a door, we shall block her up with a cedar plank.” Now that the constancy of the Shulammite’s love has been tested and proved, she says: “I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. In this case I have become in his eyes like her that is finding peace.”—Song of Solomon 8:5, 9, 10.
True love is “the flame of Jah.” Why? Because such love originates with Jehovah. He is the One who has put in us the capacity to love. It is a flame whose blazings are inextinguishable. The Song of Solomon beautifully illustrates that love between a man and a woman can be “as strong [unfailing] as death is.”—Song of Solomon 8:6.
Solomon’s superlative song also sheds light on the bond that exists between Jesus Christ and the members of his heavenly “bride.” (Revelation 21:2, 9) Jesus’ love for anointed Christians surpasses any love between a man and a woman. The members of the bride class are unyielding in their devotion. Jesus lovingly gave his life for the “other sheep” too. (John 10:16) All true worshippers, then, can imitate the Shulammite’s example of unwavering love and devotion.
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What does the Song of Solomon teach us to look for in a marriage mate?