The Agora
Bible Commentary
Song of Songs

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Song of Songs 3

Song 3:1

Song 3:1-4: Having dreamed her "Beloved" has been with her (Song 2:8-17), the maiden wakes to find that he is gone. Then, while seeking him, she is mocked (and beaten?: cp Song 5:7) by the "watchmen" (Song 3:3). She suffers much because of her love, while the object of that love is absent. (This theme repeats itself in Song 5:2-8.)

Or -- instead of in a dream -- has he actually been with her? This is a possible interpretation, and whether we choose such will depend on how we read the whole section, and where we place it chronologically. However, the "dream" approach here seems more likely when we see that she is searching for him "night after night": this looks like a continually recurring dream.

Another possibility is that her "Beloved" was not with her, yet she was waiting for him to come, and when he had not come, she retired for the night -- still hoping that he would arrive soon.

Throughout this section she refers to her beloved as "the one my heart (literally, 'nephesh' or soul) loves". This expresses an especially emphatic intensity -- 'the one whom I love with all my being' -- 'with all my emotions and passions'! "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mar 12:30; citing Deu 6:4,5).

ALL NIGHT LONG: Heb "nights" (plural), signifying "all night long" or more probably "night after night" (NEB). Night is the time of seeking, separation, weeping, and distress; the coming of the morning is a renewal of life and hope and joy: cp, generally, Psa 30:5; 42:1-3 (the deer seeking for water); Psa 90:5; 130:6; Joh 9:4; 13:30; 16:20.

In a historical sense, Israel experienced a long "night" of darkness and silence, when "the sun set for the prophets, and the day went dark for them" (Mic 3:6). " 'In that day,' declares the Sovereign LORD, 'I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. The days are coming,' declares the Sovereign LORD, 'when I will send a famine through the land -- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, SEARCHING FOR THE WORD OF THE LORD, BUT THEY WILL NOT FIND IT' " (Amo 8:9-12).

In a symbolic sense, night relates to the time when Jesus Christ is absent from the earth (Joh 9:4,5). The "hours" of waiting during the "night" seem interminable to those who are waiting for the "dawn" of his appearing (2Ti 4:8). And so they watch expectantly and eagerly for the rising of the "Sun of righteousness", with healing in his beams (Mal 4:2).

ON MY BED: Heb "mishkab": The common term for marriage bed (BDB), in distinction from the common term for "couch" in Song 1:16. Several uses of the term "mishkab" have plain sexual connotations, denoting the place of sexual intercourse (Gen 49:4; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Num 31:17,35; Jdg 21:11,12; Pro 7:17; Isa 57:7-8). The noun is used in the expression "love-bed", with obvious sexual connotations, in Eze 23:17. Whether this is the point here -- and how explicitly this is to be read -- depends, once again, on our view of the whole context.

More generally, the believer seeks her Lord on her bed at night, through trials and sorrows and tears (Psa 4:4; 6:6; 63:6-8; 77:2-4; 130:1,2; Isa 26:9).

I LOOKED FOR HIM BUT DID NOT FIND HIM: The verb "to seek" denotes the attempt, literally and physically, to find someone (1Sa 13:14; 16:16; 28:7; 1Ki 1:2-3; Isa 40:20; Eze 22:30; Est 2:2; Job 10:6; Pro 18:1). However, since this "search" seems to take place upon her bed, it probably describes a dream (as in v 2) -- or possibly an eager longing for him to appear to her.

To seek for the LORD (or the Lord), but not to find Him (or him) is echoed by: (a) Samson, who in his straitened circumstances "did not know" -- but soon discovered -- "that the LORD had left him" (Jdg 16:20); (b) Job, who looked for answers to his sufferings, but found them not (Job 23:8,9); (c) Peter, who in his fear lost sight of his Lord and began to sink into the sea (Mat 14:30); and (d) Peter again, who lost sight of his Lord while in the palace and thus denied him three times (Mat 26:69-75).

Yet sometimes God's loving purposes may be served by an absence from Him or His Son -- when all we want is the presence instead: "As nights and shadows are good for flowers, and moonlight and dews are better than a continual sun; so is Christ's absence of special use, and it hath some nourishing virtue in it, and giveth sap to humility, and putteth an edge on hunger, and furnisheth a fair field to faith to put forth itself" (Rutherford).

Song 3:2

The NEB, as an explanatory note, adds "I said..." at the beginning of the verse.

Cp Joh 20: Mary Magdalene seeks for Christ (ie, his body) early in the morning (see Song 2:14n).

I WILL GET UP NOW AND GO ABOUT THE CITY, THROUGH ITS STREETS AND SQUARES: It looks as though she is now acting on the earlier invitations, of Song 2:10,13. But the Bride cannot find her Beloved in the "broad ways" (AV), the open market places and squares, the wide places near the gates, of the city -- where there was only "destruction" (Mat 7:13; Pro 1:21; 8:2,3,34) and apostasy. "The Beloved is not to be found in the preoccupied business of a world that is 'at enmity with God' " (Atwell).

I LOOKED FOR HIM BUT I DID NOT FIND HIM: Jesus is not to be found among the multitudes of the world, but in the secluded recesses -- in the lonely wilderness realms -- of the prophets and apostles. He is to be found in the pages of Scripture, not very much traversed by modern men. There, hidden from public view, in Old and New Testaments, in Law and history and prophecy and gospel and letters all, he shines forth in his perfection. Don't follow the crowd to find Jesus -- he is not in the "broad way" (Mat 7:13); rather, look for him in the byways and the corners of this world -- there you will find him... for now.

Song 3:3

THE WATCHMEN: See Isa 21:11,12; 62:6,7; Jer 6:17; Eze 3:17; 33:7; Psa 122:6,7. Some watchmen are faithful, but others are less so: Isa 56:10; Jer 14:3,4; Mat 15:14; 23:16-26. These seem to be of the latter class, since they seem to offer no assistance to the young woman; in Song 5:7, as a matter of fact, these watchmen -- or others like them -- beat her!

FOUND ME AS THEY MADE THEIR ROUNDS IN THE CITY: And presumably asked, "Whom are you seeking?" (cp Joh 18:7; 20:15). What must they think of a young woman wandering the streets every night? One can only imagine what they tell others about her. "To be out after curfew in an eastern city, particularly a woman alone, could only have met with one rather unsavoury conclusion" (Hall).

"HAVE YOU SEEN...?": She accosts them with her question: "And I asked, 'Have you seen...?' " (NEB).

THE ONE MY HEART LOVES: Will the watchmen even know whom she means by this statement? (Perhaps it depends on what kind of watchmen they are!)

Song 3:4

SCARCELY HAD I PASSED THEM WHEN I FOUND THE ONE MY HEART LOVES: Like the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price (Mat 13:44-46)! "The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, 'We have found the Messiah' (that is, the Christ)" (Joh 1:41).

I HELD HIM AND WOULD NOT LET HIM GO: She "clutched him and refused to slacken her embrace" seems to catch the urgency and relief here. This is Mary Magdalene clinging to the feet of Jesus (Joh 20:17) -- as it is the other women too: "They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him" (Mat 28:9). The OT counterpart is Jacob's desperate grasping of the angel of the LORD, while seeking his blessing (Gen 32:26; Hos 12:3,4).

I HELD HIM AND WOULD NOT LET HIM GO TILL I BROUGHT HIM TO MY MOTHER'S HOUSE: It may be that the reference to the maiden's bringing her lover to her mother's home reflects Gen 2:24, where the husband is to leave father and mother, but no like command is given to the woman. The mother's house is where marriage plans and arrangements are often made (Gen 24:28; Rth 1:8).

In a spiritual sense, 'Until I took the news to the ecclesia' (cp Gal 4:26; Heb 3:6; 12:22,23; Isa 54:1-3; cp also Song 8:2). Or... 'Until I had brought Jesus into the innermost recesses of my home and my family and my life.' Christ Jesus is not our Lord only on Sundays or special occasions, but every day. He is not our Lord until we take him into ourselves, and into every aspect of our lives -- until he becomes the unseen guest at every meal, the unseen listener to every conversation, and the unseen partner in every enterprise.

Following along these lines, Jesus often took his closest disciples and withdrew from public scrutiny -- so as to enjoy a time of deeper communion and fellowship with them (Mat 14:13; 20:17; Mar 3:7; 6:31; 10:32; Luk 6:12,13; 9:10; 18:31; Joh 11:54).

TO THE ROOM OF THE ONE WHO CONCEIVED ME: Or 'to the very room, and bed, where I was conceived.' This suggests a sort of completion of the life cycle (cp Song 8:5).

In the spiritual sense, this room or house or place would be "Jerusalem that is above (or exalted), the mother of us all" (Gal 4:26) -- as though all saints are treated by God as having been "born in Zion" (Psa 87:4,6). Perhaps more especially the Temple and the Temple Mount is intended, for it is here that the saints will receive the blessing of immortality (see Psa 133; Rev 14; etc).

ROOM: Bed-chamber (sw Song 1:4).

There comes a time in the live of saints when the cares, worries and difficulties of our lives press heavily upon us. Then we become impatient for the end of all our troubles, and for the coming of the Lord. We seek every avenue to gain knowledge as to the day of that coming; we consult God's watchmen to that end -- especially those whose words are recorded in the Bible. And perhaps as we develop wisdom to go with our knowledge, we begin to appreciate that -- although he is absent physically -- he is nevertheless "with us until the end of the age" (Mat 28:20), that his unseen presence sustains us and consoles us by the Spirit of God. And so we learn, or remember, or are reminded, that he has never really left us -- that we may find him, and hold him, in our hearts... and that we need never let him go: " 'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD" (Jer 29:13,14).

Song 3:5

The Bridegroom speaks again: cp Song 2:7n; Song 8:4.


Song 3:6

The Bride's companions speak now...

Song 3:6-11: She is almost "surprised" (when at last she finds him) that her "Beloved" (the "simple" shepherd) has been transformed into the great "Solomon" (the King of Peace). The shepherd has returned in his true character, as a great and mighty king! Cp Song 6:11,12.

The marriage procession begins; onlookers describe it (cp Psa 24; Psa 45; Isa 63:1-6; Rev 19:7-19). These last three passages are extraordinarily similar to the Song under consideration here (Isa 63 especially, with its "Who is this that comes?", perfectly echoes Song 3:6). These passages, too, bring together the seemingly incongruous elements of a wedding procession and a great military campaign. In the spiritual fulfillment of this vision, the saints with Christ will be not only a "bride" but also a conquering army. Certain portions of the Song of Songs imply this same striking and arresting combination (see Song 3:8; 6:4). The Divine Mind, it seems, sees no peculiarity in the closeness of these two elements of war and love!

In Bible times, the order of the ritual of marriage was extremely important. Bits and pieces of this traditional order are observable in the parables of Jesus. Putting them all together...

1. First, the bridegroom comes to the home of the bride. The bride's maids, or virgins, await his coming, their lamps burning to light the way (Mat 25:1-13). (This is Christ returning from heaven, while his faithful ones prayerfully await his coming.)

2. The bridegroom is accompanied by his friends. (In the working out of the pattern, this would be his angels.)

3. Taking his bride, he leads the wedding company from her home to his home (Jerusalem!).

4. Other friends join the procession along the way, to attend the wedding dinner (cp Mat 22:1-14). (This could represent favored peoples, the Jews especially, who join themselves to their Messiah after he returns.)

5. The marriage feast is celebrated at the home of the bridegroom. (Here is the marriage supper of the Lamb, at Jerusalem: see Rev 19 and 21.)

6. Still more guests may simply come to his home. (The gospel message is preached to the world as the kingdom begins, and during the Millennium the mortal nations begin to make their treks to the city of the great king: Rev 14; Zec 14.)

The whole of the literal marriage "event" might last for some days, even a week or two. It may be seen, then, as a divinely-arranged pattern or prophecy of the return of Christ, the gathering together of his chosen ones, the judgment, and the establishment of God's Kingdom on the earth.

In this and the following section the writer seems to be describing the wedding procession (Song 3:6-11) and the consummation of the marriage (Song 4:1 -- 5:1).

"The pomp and beauty of this procession were wholly appropriate in light of the event's significance. The Scriptures teach that marriage is one of the most important events in a person's life. Therefore it is fitting that the union of a couple be commemorated in a special way. The current practice of couples casually living together apart from the bonds of marriage demonstrates how unfashionable genuine commitment to another person has become in contemporary society. This violates the sanctity of marriage and is contrary to God's standards of purity" (Deere, cited by Const).


The magnificence of the vision beginning in this verse contrasts vividly with the rustic simplicity of the previous Idyll, and its majesty with the humility of the Shulamite maiden -- and designedly so! Instead of the song-birds we now hear the tramping of feet of "sixty warriors"; Instead of the scent of vineyard blossoms we are now aware of a cloud of incense, perfumed with "myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant"!

WHO IS THIS?: Feminine, probably referring to the Bride (as in Song 6:10 also), who is accompanying her husband (cp the same scene in Song 8:5). So this would suggest that this describes the wedding procession coming from northern Israel or Lebanon (v 9; Song 4:8) back to the bridegroom's home in Jerusalem for the wedding.

The awe that is implied in the question is not just at the beauty and majesty of the bride, but at the bride as a monument to the matchless mercy of God which she exemplifies -- the clouds of sacrifice and incense pointing to the great and glorious work by which she was redeemed, delivered from her enemies, and glorified!

Strictly speaking, it appears that the answer to the question is not the bride, but "Solomon's carriage" (v 7). Of course, this is not a problem at all, because the bride would be resting on the carriage or litter.

COMING UP: The importance of Jerusalem, as well as its location atop the mountains as a fortified city, are both indicated by the direction "up". (In contrast, going to Egypt is always characterized in the Bible as "going down".)

FROM THE DESERT: The NIV translation "desert" suggests the vast expanses of Arabian sands, but the word "midbar" (AV "wilderness") may mean no more here than the open country of uncultivated pastureland, as distinct from inhabited villages and cities.

Historically, the "wilderness" was the place of Israel's sojourning for 40 years (as well as the sojourning of the tabernacle itself -- which was a fit symbol of the body of believers). And the entrance of the people (and the tabernacle and ark) into the Land of Promise under Joshua would be the consummation of God's promise to them and their forefathers, and the true marriage of Himself to Israel (Deu 8:2; Jer 2:2). Also historically, this verse could echo the circumstances of David's bringing the Ark of God to its resting place in Zion, or Jerusalem -- this was a sort of "wedding" too, for Yahweh was "marrying" Israel (2Sa 6; 1Ch 13). Finally (as perhaps related to the context of the Song), this could be a picture of the exiles, previously enslaved by the Assyrians, returning to the land of Israel (and perhaps especially to Judah and Jerusalem) after the overthrow of Sennacherib's host (see introduction, OT background; cp, possibly, Isa 43:19).

And prophetically, the "bride" of Christ may be pictured as being redeemed and brought out of the "wilderness" of the nations and the world, to the glorious consummation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb at Jerusalem. (Just as the most precious spices are to be found, not in the great cities, but in the barren and unfruitful and desolate wilderness -- so the most precious of Christ's possessions, his glorious "bride", is to be found -- not among the rich and learned and powerful of this world -- but among the poor and despised! Cp Rev 7:14: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation" -- the "wilderness" is typical also of bondage and humiliation, and sin and misery; from all these the "bride" has come out.)

LIKE A COLUMN: Heb "tiymarat": literally "pillars" -- a cloud of smoke rising. The "smoke" could simply be dust rising up from the great number of travelers through a dry land. Or it could mean a cloud of incense being burnt -- as the immediate context in this verse suggests.

In the spiritual sense, it could be the cloud of the Shekinah Glory (cp Exo 13:21; 14:20), the presence of God accompanying this august and dignified assembly. Or it could be a cloud of smoke ascending from the destruction of the enemies of the king -- this is implied in vv 7,8 here; the sw occurs only in Joel 2:30, where the context implies the terrible judgments of God upon His foes in the Last Days.

SMOKE: That is, of sacrifice (Isa 4:5), and incense (Rev 8:4). This also suggests the hiding of the Glory on the Day of Atonement (Rev 15:8).

PERFUMED WITH: "Like a fragrant billow of..." (NET). Parallel to previous phrase. A similar Hebrew phrase occurs many times to describe the ascending of smoke from the altar of burnt offering, and the altar of incense. It was customary for vessels of perfume to be carried before marriage processions, so that the air would be impregnated with the delightful scent.

MYRRH: Cp Song 1:13n; Song 4:6.

INCENSE: Heb "labonah" = "white stuff". Frankincense is an amber resin covered with white surface dust, that is exuded from the bark of several species of trees which abound in India and southwest Arabia and the northeast coast of Africa. Frankincense was one of the ingredients of the holy oil (Exo 30:34), and was extensively used as an incense for burning (Lev 2:1,15; 5:11; 24:7; Num 5:15; Isa 43:23; 66:3; Jer 6:20; 17:26; 41:5; Neh 13:5,9; 1Ch 9:29). It was one of the gifts brought by the wise men to Jesus (Mat 2:11). The word occurs in the Song of Songs only here and at Song 4:6,14. This incense represents the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8; 8:3).

MADE FROM ALL THE SPICES OF THE MERCHANT: Probably refers to other powdered spices, used in manufacture of the holy anointing oil (Exo 30:23-25; cp 1Jo 2:20). Much of the wealth of Solomon's empire was derived from the taxes levied on the income of such spice traders (1Ki 10:15). Eze 27:22 mentions traders of "Sheba and Raamah", two territories in southwest Arabia, bringing in "the finest of all kinds of spices".

Paul, in writing to the Corinthian saints, sees the church of Christ as a "bride" being carried in triumph through the "wilderness", accompanied by the precious cloud of fragrance, which represents the grace of God revealed in His Son and that Son's sacrifice: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?" (2Co 2:14-16; cp generally Phi 4:18). In using such figures of speech, he may well have had in mind this passage from the Song of Songs. Then, in adding "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit" (2Co 2:17), Paul may also have been commenting on the "spices of the merchant" -- as if to say, 'But of course we cannot buy or sell such "incense" -- it is the free gift of God through Christ!'

"If some fancy we have drawn too much upon imagination as we have sought to picture the real background of these lovely lyrics, let me ask, Is it possible to mistake the picture when all Scripture tells the same story? What was the marriage of Adam and Eve intended to signify? What shall be said of the servant seeking a bride for Isaac, and what of the love of Jacob as he served so unweariedly for Rachel? Of what 'great mystery' does Asenath, the Gentile wife of Joseph, speak? And what shall be said of the love of Boaz for Ruth? Hosea who bought his bride in the slave-market gives a darker side of the picture, yet all is in wonderful harmony. All alike tell the story that 'Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word, and present it unto himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing' (Eph 5:26,27)" (Ironside).

Song 3:7

Solomon has been mentioned already, in the title (Song 1:1), and in a passing allusion in Song 1:5. Now for the first time in the whole of the Song, this verse (along with vv 9,11) introduces Solomon as though he were be a character in the narrative. (Solomon's name will reappear only one other time, toward the end of the whole, in Song 8:11,12.) Is this the real Solomon? Or does the name signify a "son of Solomon"? Or is Solomon a "typical name", by which is introduced a concept or prototype -- ie, something akin to the "man of peace" (for such is the significance of the name), or the "greater than Solomon" of Jesus' teachings (Mat 12:42; Luk 11:31)? The introduction has given reasons for the view that the underlying narrative is not really about Solomon at all -- but rather about a later king, Hezekiah, who was among Solomon's successors and ruled on his throne; and also (as is Psa 72) about the Messiah himself, the "prince of peace" and the "greater than Solomon".

There is a further possibility that should be considered. First of all, the whole of the Song of Songs seems to consist of a number of individual songs woven together. There are some common themes which knit these several songs together, but a chronological narrative is difficult to come by. And so it has be suggested that some scenes or songs are flashbacks, and others are dreams or anticipations ("day-dreams") of what is yet future; by such a method one may impose a semblance of order on the whole.

Following on from this, it may also be supposed that this particular small song (Song 3:6-11) may by itself have been an actual description of a procession organized by Solomon, to bring one of his Gentile brides safely to Jerusalem. Further, it might also be supposed that this fragment was incorporated by a later writer (Hezekiah?) into the more elaborate Song which we now have -- as one piece of a larger picture, and for the typical themes to which it points: of exiles being brought back to God at Jerusalem, and of the "bride of Christ" being conducted to a rendezvous with her Lord.

Some might be reluctant to view inspired Scripture in this way. But they must acknowledge that, in fact, many portions of the OT bear marks of having more than one writer or composer -- the historical narratives, for example, and portions of the books of Moses. It should be clear that God in His providence can work in many different ways to produce divinely-inspired messages. A Hezekiah, or an Isaiah perhaps, could certainly use an earlier portion written by or about Solomon as a component part of a later work -- with a larger and more spiritual and far-sighted theme.

LOOK! IT IS SOLOMON'S CARRIAGE: The NEB has "Solomon carried in his litter", but this cannot be right: the litter belongs to Solomon, but it is the bride who is carried in it (cp v 6n). Heb "mittah", or portable "litter" (RSV). The Heb in v 9 here is different, although plainly describing the same conveyance. The term here may refer to a "royal portable couch" spread with covers, cloth, and pillows (HAL, BDB), although other instances of the sw refer to stationary beds as well. Here, of course, the context makes it plain that this "bed" was being transported. Some such beds were very lavishly appointed (Amo 6:4; Eze 23:41; Est 1:6).

"In Asiatic lands wheeled carriages were rare, and are rare still. This is accounted for by the absence of roads. To construct and maintain roads through a hilly country like Palestine required more engineering skill than the people possessed; and further, there was a general belief that to make good roads would pave the way to military invasion. Hence all over Palestine the pathways from town to town were simply tracks marked out by the feet of men and beasts. Over the level plain of Esdraelon Ahab might ride in a chariot; but if Solomon brought up wheeled chariots from Egypt he had a prior undertaking, eg, to make a road from Beersheba to the capital. Therefore travelling princes rode in a covered palanquin, which served to screen from the hot sun by day, and became a bed at night" (Pulpit).

The carriage, or bed, described in vv 7-10 may also be seen to resemble, or indeed to be, the chariot of the cherubim (cp Eze 1) -- which, in all its glory, is the means by which Elijah was miraculously transported away, and the means by which the Glory of God was conveyed from the temple and back to the temple (Eze 1; 43; etc). Therefore, it represents the spiritual ministration of the angelic host, in military array, by which the saints are brought, first of all, through the wilderness of this life unto the time of the Kingdom of God (cp, eg, Heb 1:14; Psa 34:7; 91:5,11; 2Ki 6:17), and secondly, the means by which, at his coming, they are brought specifically to their meeting with him and to glorious enthronement in that Kingdom (cp, eg, 1Th 4:17; Mat 24:31; Psa 24:7-10; 68:17).

ESCORTED BY SIXTY WARRIORS: These warriors would be part of the king's bodyguard; in the case of Christ they will be his holy angels. "Of course when travelling through a wilderness, a royal procession was always in danger of attack. Arabs prowled around; wandering Bedouins were always prepared to fall upon the caravan; and more especially was this the case with a marriage procession, because then the robbers might expect to obtain many jewels, or, if not, a heavy ransom for the redemption of the bride or bridegroom by their friends" (CHS). The scene pictured here reminds us of the tabernacle, which also journeyed through a hostile wilderness, and which was surrounded by 60 pillars (Exo 27:10-16; cp Rev 3:12: believers as "pillars" in the temple of God). The sixty "mighty men" are double the thirty "mighty men" of David (2Sa 23:8-39).

THE NOBLEST OF ISRAEL: Heb "gibborim" = mighty warriors. "Gibbor" is a military term -- from a root meaning "to be strong"; it is a component of the angelic name "Gabriel", and "the Mighty God" of Isa 9:6. Actually, "gibborim" occurs twice here; the NIV translates the two occurrences first by "warriors" and then by "noblest". (The AV translates, more consistently, "valiant men" and "valiant".) Probably, combining the two usages of "gibborim", the intended sense is the superlative: these warriors are the "mightiest of all the mighty ones", the elite corps!

Like the "daughters of Jerusalem", who at times seem to be the companions and confidants of the bride, the "mighty men" may serve the same roles to the bridegroom. Jewish marriage traditions -- whether for royalty or commoners -- mandate such companions, who fulfill like functions. For example, there are the "virgins" in Mat 25:1-13, and the "friend of the bridegroom" in Joh 3:29. Our modern, and non-Jewish, counterparts of bridesmaids and groomsmen follow this same pattern.

Song 3:8

ALL OF THEM WEARING THE SWORD, ALL EXPERIENCED IN BATTLE, EACH WITH HIS SWORD AT HIS SIDE: Cp the more-or-less parallel song, Psa 45:3: "Gird your sword upon your side [thigh, as here], O mighty one [gibbor: cp Song 3:7]; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty."

Earlier Israelites used the short, cubit-long sword or dagger of Ehud (cf Jdg 3:15-21), which could be fastened on the thigh, and even concealed there. But after David conquered the Philistines, Jewish warriors might have adopted the great iron swords used by those peoples (cf 1Sa 17:51; 2Sa 8:1-12; 24:9); such swords might still be worn on the thigh, but could scarcely be concealed.

Spiritually, this is the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:13-17), bringing minds into subjection to Christ. This form of spiritual warfare is also the theme of Pro 16:32; 2Co 10:4,5; and 2Ti 2:3,4.

EACH WITH HIS SWORD AT HIS SIDE: More literally, "on his thigh" (AV). The same phrase occurs in Psa 45:3. In Rev 19, Christ -- called "Faithful and True", and "the Word of God" -- is pictured as returning from heaven, accompanied by an army of heaven. He wields a sharp "sword" with his mouth (for the Word of God IS a sharp sword: Heb 4:12!), and "on his thigh" is the name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.

PREPARED: Though sheathed at the moment, the sword is ready for use at a moment's notice.

FOR THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT: This refers, quite reasonably, to marauding bands of Bedouins (cp Neh 4:12,13) or other robbers; or possibly even wild beasts. The NEB, however, translates this phrase "the demons of the night" -- reminiscent of some fanciful tales in the Apocrypha of evil demons that inhabit the night, and attack the unsuspecting. This translation is unsubstantiated. Nor, of course, is it good Bible teaching. Nor, for that matter, is it logical: if such imagined "demons" were the night "terrors", the mightiest of warriors with the greatest of swords could offer any protection from them!

THE NIGHT: "Owing to the scorching heat, much of the journey would be taken during the cool hours of night, and hence the need for a strong bodyguard" (Pulpit).

Song 3:9

KING SOLOMON MADE FOR HIMSELF THE CARRIAGE: The KJV has "chariot", which does not do justice to the word, or the context. The Hebrew "appiryon" is a word of uncertain derivation. This vehicle is similar to the "carriage" of v 7, but it is a more stately means of transport: a royal carriage; a portable sedan-chair; a "palanquin" (RSV). KD suggests that there are two separate carriages described in these verses: the one in which the bride is brought (vv 7,8), and the one in which the king -- having come out to welcome her -- awaits (vv 9,10).

"A palanquin was a riding vehicle upon which a royal person sat and which was carried by servants who lifted it up by its staffs. Royalty and members of the aristocracy only rode in palanquins. McKenzie describes what the typical royal palanquin was made of and looked like in the ancient world: 'Only the aristocracy appear to have made use of litters in Israel. At a later period, in Greece, and even more so in Rome, distinguished citizens were carried through the city streets in splendid palanquins. In Egypt the litter was known as early as the third millennium BC, as is testified by the one belonging to Queen Hetepheres, the mother of the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), which was found at Gaza. This litter is made of wood and inlaid in various places with gold decorations. Its total length is 6 feet 10 inches, and the length of the seat inside is 3 feet 3 inches. An inscription on the litter, of gold set in ebony, lists the queen's titles' (JL McKenzie, 'The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Living Bible' 55)" (NETn).

HE MADE IT OF WOOD FROM LEBANON: "Lebanon" signifies "white"; with its snow-capped peaks, it is a symbol of purity: cp the cedars of Song 1:17. The great cedar of Lebanon was in great demand throughout the Middle East (1Ki 4:33; 5:7-11; 6:14-19; 7:1-8). Extrabiblical accounts from Egypt and Assyria speak of the cedars of Lebanon in similar fashion (Carr).

Song 3:10

ITS POSTS: Cp Song 5:15. The word may signify columns of a building (Jdg 16:25,29; 1Ki 7:2) or poles of a tent (Exo 27:10). These were frequently elaborately decorated (1Ki 7:22), or, as here, covered with an overlay of silver or gold. The posts here probably supported a protective canopy. Pillars may symbolize the saints (cp Gal 2:9; 1Ti 3:15; Rev 3:12).

ARE MADE OF SILVER: Which signifies redemption (Song 1:11n).

ITS BASE OF GOLD: "Base" occurs this once in OT; its meaning is uncertain. It may signify "support," referring to the back or arm of the chair of palanquin (BDB). Several translations take this view, eg, NRSV and JPS: "its back", NEB: "its headrest". and NJPS: "its back". HAL suggests "base, foundation of a saddle, litter"; several translations follow this approach, eg KJV: "the bottom," NASB: "its base" (mg: "its support") and NIV: "its base".

"Base" may be derived from the Hebrew for "rest" or "resting place", and may answer to the base of the ark of the covenant, which was the "mercy seat", the place of atonement for Israel. This was the "resting place" of God in Israel (Psa 132:14),and it was covered with gold (1Ki 6:30). In like manner, the New Jerusalem will be paved with gold (Rev 21:21). Gold is the symbol of a tried faith (see Song 1:11n).

ITS SEAT WAS UPHOLSTERED WITH PURPLE: "Seat" (AV "covering", Heb "mercab") occurs only here and in Lev 15:9, where it appears to some sort of seat or saddle. Purple cloth and fabrics were costly (Eze 27:7,16); they were dyed with an expensive purple dye manufactured from shellfish found along the Phoenician coast. Such clothes were commonly worn by kings as a mark of their royal position (Jdg 8:26; cp Mar 15:17; Luk 16:19; Joh 19:2). Thus, this was a sedan-chair fit for a king. Even so, the saints will rule along with Christ in the age to come (Rev 5:9,10).

Purple was lavishly used in decoration of the tabernacle (Exo 26:1,36; 27:16), and the vestments of the high priest (Exo 28:5-8,15,33). The veil of Solomon's temple was made of purple, crimson, and fine linen, embroidered with cherubim (2Ch 3:14). And the saints are the "temple of the living God" (Heb 3:6; 1Co 3:16; 6:19; 2Co 6:16; Eph 2:21,22; 1Ti 3:15; 1Pe 2:5).

ITS INTERIOR LOVINGLY INLAID: The verb occurs only once in the OT. Possibly, "its lining was of leather" (NEB); the NEB follows the suggestion that the Heb "ahaba" ("lovingly" here) instead signifies "hide", from the Arabic "ihab". Other guesses as to the precise meaning have been made by various scholars. But -- despite the other possibilities -- "love" certainly fits here!

BY THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM: That is, 'by GIFTS FROM the daughters of Jerusalem.' This would follow the pattern of the tabernacle in the wilderness -- constructed of materials which were voluntarily given -- "love" offerings -- by the children of Israel (Exo 25:1-9). Were these "daughters of Jerusalem" some of those addressed in v 11, or others who loved him (cp Song 1:4)?

It may be that the interior of the carriage, or chariot, was inlaid with offerings of love by or "from" the daughters of Jerusalem. But it certainly is true that the mercy seat, the ark of the covenant, is inlaid with the greatest offering of love, which is the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5): this inlaying was done "for" (see the AV) the daughters of Jerusalem! It is Christ's love, and the Father's love shown through him, that makes all this possible (John 3:16). And so in figure -- by gold and silver and purple -- is revealed "the riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7,18; 2:7; 3:8,16; Phi 4:19; Col 1:27; 2:2) lavished upon us.

Song 3:11

COME OUT... AND LOOK: Reminiscent of the crowds who greet Jesus upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem before the last Passover (Mat 21:1-11; Mar 11:1-11; Luk 19:28-44). "The multitude of the spectators adds to the beauty of a splendid cavalcade. Christ, in his gospel, manifests himself. Let each of us add to the number of those that give honour to him, by giving themselves the satisfaction of looking upon him. Who should pay respects to Zion's king but Zion's daughters? They have reason to rejoice greatly when he comes: Zec 9:9" (Henry). "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phi 2:9-11).

YOU DAUGHTERS OF ZION: For the fourth time the daughters of Jerusalem are addressed (cp Song 1:5; 2:7; 3:5). This time they are called "daughters of Zion" rather than "daughters of Jerusalem". This expression occurs only here in the Song. It is found in Isa 3:16,17; 4:4, where it is rendered "women of Zion". The singular "daughter of Zion" is used 23 times in the OT; it normally refers to Israel as a nation. This is the passage that most definitively attaches the Song of Songs to Israel. In fact, this is the only passage where the name "Israel" occurs (v 7).


WEARING THE CROWN, THE CROWN WITH WHICH HIS MOTHER CROWNED HIM ON THE DAY OF HIS WEDDING: Solomon's crown was a special one his mother Bathsheba gave him for this occasion. It evidently represented his joy as well as his royalty. This may have been a crowning that preceded Solomon's coronation as king, since the high priest actually crowned him then (cf 1Ki 1:32-48; cp 2Ki 11:11-20; Psa 21:3). Could it be that this is an indication that, if the Song did come from Solomon, it originated before his ascension as king, ie, in his most innocent period?

However, his mother Bathsheba had played a prominent role in his royal coronation as well, since she diligently sought the royal crown on behalf of her son when David was near death (1Ki 1:16,17).

Generally, "crowns, usually wreaths of flowers rather than royal crowns, were frequently worn by the nuptial couple in wedding festivities" (Patterson, cited by Const). According to rabbinical traditions, every groom was treated as a king, and every bride as a queen, they being ceremonially crowned at their wedding; this tradition ceased -- quite reasonably -- after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.

While this may refer to an actual event in the life of Solomon (as discussed earlier), it is surely intended also as a typical prophecy: the "day" of Messiah's coronation as King of Israel, and of the world, will be the "day" of the joyous celebration of his "marriage" to his glorious multitudinous Bride. [It is interesting, in view of the introduction -- which suggests a link with Hezekiah's times -- that the most beautiful prophecy of a royal wedding, involving the Messiah and Israel, is found in Isa 62 (see also Isa 61:10), which is plainly based on Hezekiah's own wedding to Hephzibah.]

Jesus the Messiah has in fact already been "crowned" with a crown of thorns, and has celebrated his wedding, prospectively, with the cup of wine which prefigured his shed blood. His mother -- who so crowned him -- is the human race, for he is "the Son of man" -- or perhaps more specifically Israel. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (Heb 2:9). And those whom he has redeemed, and will yet redeem, will constitute his crown of rejoicing (Phi 4:1; 1Th 2:19,20) in the last day, when his marriage is consummated.

HIS MOTHER: The shepherd-king's mother is also mentioned in Song 8:5.

THE DAY HIS HEART REJOICED: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2). "After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be SATISFIED; by knowledge of him my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities" (Isa 53:11).

On some level, there is an ironic undertone in this passage. If this describes a real marriage of Solomon, then surely it was at a very early age -- before the multiplication of wives and concubines (1Ki 11:3) surely left him jaded and distracted, and no longer able to experience the innocent joy suggested here. In the spiritual antitype, it is true that Jesus will have a multitudinous bride -- even as Solomon had many, many brides; but the spiritual joy is such that it is in fact multiplied (and not divided and subtracted) by its sharing amongst all the faithful ones.

"Look, ye saints; the sight is glorious;
See the man of sorrows now,
To the earth returned victorious;
Every knee to him shall bow.
Crown him, crown him;
Crowns become the victor's brow."

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