The Agora
Bible Commentary
Song of Songs

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Song of Songs 4

Song 4:1

Vv 1-7: The shepherd/king, the Beloved, describes the beauty of the Bride: "Song 4:1-7 is often compared to ancient Near Eastern songs sung by the groom to his new bride, praising her beauty from head to foot. Examples have been found in Egyptian, Syrian, Sumerian, and Arabic love literature. The song is a poetic celebration by the groom of his bride's physical beauty. The typical form has three parts: (1) introductory words by the wedding guests, (2) invitation by the bride to the groom to celebrate her physical beauty, and (3) the groom's poetic comparative praise of his bride's beauty from head to foot -- comprising the bulk of the song. The groom's praise typically is characterized by three movements: (1) introductory summary praise of his bride's beauty, (2) lengthy and detailed figurative description of her physical beauty, and (3) concluding summary praise which reiterates the introductory words of the song. Although the introductory words of the wedding guests and the invitation by the bride are absent, the form of the Lover's praise of his bride is identical, as are the types of comparative praise" (NETn).

"The sweetest song of all! The intimate emotions of the divine Bridegroom and his Bride are contained in this wonderful and inspiring book. Song 4 is almost all the voice of the Groom (excepting v 16) as he extols the qualities of his Bride. He speaks of her seven gracious qualities: Her eyes (v 1) reveal her to be mild, harmless, chaste, intelligent and faithful. Her hair (v 1) is exquisite in its covering, showing her to be obedient in subjection to her Groom. Her teeth (v 2) reveal her practice of good habits in diet. Her lips (v 3) proclaim sound words of Truth and Wisdom. Her temples (v 3) demonstrate an attitude of reflection, a meditative and intelligent mind. Her neck (v 4) displays good deportment, and reveals that she carefully supervises the care of her own. Her breasts (v 5) indicate her maturity and show she is capable of feeding her spiritual progeny. Then, after extolling the beauty of the Bride (vv 1-7), the Groom describes their inheritance, as he shows her the Land of their marriage: v 8. Finally, he portrays her future elevation, as the Queen in her Glory: vv 9-12. The chapter concludes with the Communion of Love (Song 4:16 to Song 5:1). The Bride prays for consummation of the vision of glory given to her, seeking the Groom's pleasure in the fruits she is developing. The Groom replies that he has every confidence in her, having already gathered some of the fruit. The emotion of this song, must become the emotion of our present preparation. Let us sing this song in our hearts and prepare it in our lives" (GEM).

"This chapter is about Love and Beauty. In fact, this is the subject of the whole Song. These are the qualities that are eternal. Love and Beauty are inseparable, and are essential to each other. There cannot be Love without Beauty. There can, of course, be love in the sense of kindness and compassion and desire to help, but not in the sense of affection and communion and unity of heart. There can be no true mutual Love without spiritual Beauty on both sides. We speak of course of spiritual Love. All that is natural and animal will fade and wither and pass away. That which is spiritual will endure forever: Love and Beauty: Affection and Perfection" (GVG).

General observation: the Bride is described almost always in terms of agricultural symbols -- the Land itself! Hers is a pastoral motif: a fertile land -- well-watered, its trees and rocks providing shelter, and its fruits providing sustenance for man and animal. A land of beautiful flowers, and inhabited by lovely creatures. A land wherein the "seed" of God's word has been planted, to bring forth further fruit to His Glory. While each of the constituent parts of the Bride may be examined and studied for spiritual lessons, it is well not to lose sight of the fitness and great beauty of the description of the whole; it is a delightful picture of an utter paradise. (By contrast, the king/bridegroom is described in terms symbolic of a temple and a city: Song 5:10-16. if the bride represents the Land and, by extension, the people who dwell there, then the bridegroom represents the Temple and, by extension, the high priest who serves there -- and the city of Jerusalem, and the king who dwells there -- and finally, by further extension, the God who oversees both glorious temple and beautiful city.)

Another observation: certain passages describe the state of the "bride" by NATURE: eg Isa 1:6 ("no soundness... wounds... open sores... not cleansed or bandaged"), and Eze 16:4-6 (not washed, but rather naked and filthy and covered with blood, having been left to die). But this passage (Song 4:1-7) describes her state by GRACE -- the way in which her beloved "husband" sees her, and what, therefore, she becomes... in him! In him, her wounds have been healed, she has been bathed and perfumed, and now there is no blemish or flaw to be found in her (cp Eze 16:14). She has been cleansed and purified and prepared -- and all through the labors of her beloved husband. And now, in her radiant perfection, she is presented, by him, to himself (Eph 5:25-27; cp Jud 1:24). She is his handiwork truly, but hers as well, inasmuch as she has enthusiastically participated in every stage of the cleansing and purifying process, "by the washing with water through the word" (Eph 5:26; cp Rev 19:7,8).

And this vision of the bride-to-be, seen as it were through rose-tinted spectacles, is the prerogative of the King, which no one may question! "Look at the mother's joy in her babe. Whence comes that? Is it not largely the loving onlook she takes into the future of that child? She sees, or at least believes she sees, that child grown up in purity, intelligence, goodness, and all that is lovely and lovable. She is a believer, and you cannot move her, in imputed righteousness; for what is she doing but imputing all that righteousness to her babe. See the shipbuilder in his yard. There is a ship in its earliest stages of construction. You can see nothing but chips and dirt and confusion. But he sees that ship in her completion -- in all her strength, the beauty of her lines, and all the perfectness which he intends shall belong to her. And he 'imputes' to her all that. And so with our Lord. He sees all that the soul shall be when he has perfected the 'good work' which he has already begun for and in it. This is why, even now, it is fitting that he should see and say, 'There is no spot in thee' " (Pulpit).

HOW BEAUTIFUL... OH, HOW BEAUTIFUL!: The repetition is for surety, and emphasis, and importance. The phrase is repeated again in Song 4:7, at the conclusion of the "inventory" of her beauty. Similar expressions have already occurred in Song 1:8,15; 2:13 -- and will recur in Song 6:4. See also Psa 45:11,13.

MY DARLING: Also occurs in Song 1:9,15; 2:2,10,13; 4:7; 5:2; 6:4. The Hebrew is "ra'ah": fellow, companion, associate, friend -- emphasizing unity of mind and purpose and character, for this is absolutely essential in Bride and Bridegroom.

YOUR EYES: Eyes imply light and understanding, intelligence, discernment, and perception (cp Mat 6:22; Eph 1:18). For a fuller discussion of the eyes as doves, see Song 1:15n.

BEHIND YOUR VEIL: Not "within thy locks" -- as KJV. The veil (literally, 'that which is fastened on') suggests submission (cp, generally, 1Pe 3:3,4; 1Ti 2:9-11), modesty, and timidity -- like the dove hiding in the crannies of the cliff, and needing to be coaxed out into the open. "Yet the veil, which is intended to discourage unauthorized glances, has in some ways the opposite effect, making the eyes mysteriously more attractive and enticing" (Davidson). The veil is mentioned also in v 3 and Song 6:7.

Women in this culture did not always wear a veil. But before her wedding the bride-to-be would put one on and not remove it until the wedding night. So Rebekah veiled herself when first she met Isaac (Gen 24:65). And such a veil undoubtedly was instrumental in the deception practiced upon Jacob by Laban and Leah (Gen 29:19-25), as well as that practiced upon Judah by Tamar (Gen 38:14).

The veil here must be a very small one -- not the large one that covers the whole head, since the hair is described too. For that matter, with all the other physical descriptions given in vv 1-7, it seems that either (a) the veil, as well as other garments, are being removed as he speaks... or (b) the husband is describing her in some detail from his memories of their earlier encounters.

ARE DOVES: Symbols of simplicity, sincerity, gentleness, harmlessness, purity. The dove is the only sacrificial bird (Psa 74:19). The Holy Spirit is likened to the dove in Joh 1:32; 3:16. Cp Leah, "tender eyed" (Gen 29:17). Cp Song 1:15; 5:12. Here is clarity of spiritual insight; discerning of the Truth; seeing with gentleness and understanding, and sympathetic desire to help and not destroy.

YOUR HAIR: Suggestive of a multitudinous unity, alongside the One Head. The hair of goats in the East is fine like silk. As the woman's long hair is her glory, and marks her subjection to man (1Co 11:6-15), so the Nazarite's hair marked his subjection and separation, and dedication to God (Num 6:2-6; cp Jdg 13:3-7; 16:17). The consideration of the hair reminds us that Jesus Christ cares for the minutest concerns of his saints: "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Mat 10:30; cp Luk 21:18; Psa 40:12). Mary Magdalene used her hair -- a symbol of subjection -- in loving and humble devotion to her Lord: "And as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them" (Luk 7:38).

IS LIKE A FLOCK OF GOATS DESCENDING: Cp Song 6:5. Goats' hair protected the tabernacle (Exo 25:8; 26:7). Goats were a sin-offering under the Law, especially at the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). The bride's hair is compared to a flock of glossy, long-haired goats descending a distant hillside -- hopping, leaping, gliding, bounding -- bringing the whole landscape to life in their movements; they are "comely in their going" (Pro 30:29,31, AV). The picture is a pastoral motif expressing beauty and animation. The bride's hair ripples and shimmers in the light, when it is released from its restraints, and tumbles down and moves alluringly with the turning and tossing of her head. It has been noted that, while the Palestinian or Syrian sheep are mostly white, the goats are mostly glossy black, or dark brown (LB 271; cp Rev 6:12); and so the color of the goats answers to the bride's hair as well -- she has long waves of beautiful dark hair. [The fact that Michal used goats' hair to substitute for David's head, in the image she improvised to fool the soldiers (1Sa 19:13), implies that his hair, as well as the bride's hair here, were dark.]

FROM MOUNT GILEAD: "Mount Gilead" refers to the high plateau east of the Jordan River, across from Galilee and Samaria; the region was known for its balm (Jer 8:22; 46:11) and was very well suited for animal husbandry (cf Num 32:1). "Gilead" signifies "heap of witness" (Gen 31:48,49), and is related in the Bible to the making and keeping of covenants -- the bride's hair is her "heap of witness" that she is attending to her part in God's covenant.

This description of the bride may at first seem -- to us -- bizarre or outlandish, but once the color of the hair and the collective movement of the whole flock is emphasized, the allusion is quite striking, and lovely.

Song 4:2

This image is repeated in Song 6:6.

YOUR TEETH: The quality of teeth is affected by the food we eat (Heb 5:12-14; cp 1Co 3:2). And, as JFB puts it, "Faith is the tooth with which we eat the living bread (Joh 6:35,54)" -- as well as the commands of God (cp Jer 15:16; Eze 3:1-3; Rev 10:9,10).

"The beauty of the Bride is in the balanced evenness of her eating of the Word, and of the balanced result in her character and conduct. How hard it is to keep a proper balance in our studies, in our judgments, in our treatment of others! How rare is balance: how rare is intense zeal without hyper-criticism: how rare is gentle kindness without weakness and compromise! But how important to the Bride's beauty in the eyes of her Lord. It can only come by balanced assimilation of the Word, day in and day out, eschewing crotchets" (GVG).

Contrast the teeth of sinners, which, instead of chewing and eating the bread of life, bite and devour others (Psa 57:4; Pro 30:14). The end of such sinners is one of destruction too: there will be angry and remorseful in the gnashing of their teeth (Mat 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luk 13:28); and this will be followed by their teeth being broken out in judgment (Psa 3:7).

ARE LIKE A FLOCK OF SHEEP JUST SHORN: Cut or formed to a uniform shape and size. The beauty of the Bride is in her balance in digesting the Word of God, and in the resultant balance displayed in her character and conduct. How rare is balance! An intense zeal without an intensely critical attitude; a gentle lovingkindness without an insipid weakness of character and will.

COMING UP FROM THE WASHING: As the sheep are newly washed, so her teeth are clean and white. [Middle Eastern sheep are white or light-colored (Isa 1:18; Dan 7:9; Rev 1:14), in contrast to the goats, which are black or dark-colored (v 1).] This points to the laver of water and the word (Eph 5:26), which cleanses the bride of sin (Isa 1:18).

In the NT application, the redeemed are pictured as having washed their "garments" and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:13,14,17). As JFB puts it again, "Faith leads the flock to the washing (Zec 13:1; 1Co 6:11; Tit 3:5)."

EACH HAS ITS TWIN: This word for "twin" (Heb "tah'am") is rendered "double" (or "coupled together": AV), concerning the boards of the Tabernacle (Exo 26:24). We are told that twins are very uncommon among sheep. But surely the main intention is to describe the teeth -- to say that each one has its twin is to say that there are none missing, and that corresponding top and bottom teeth match perfectly (which, to be honest, may also have been quite uncommon in Bible times).

As to the spiritual application: perhaps the "twins" signify Jew and Gentile standing, side by side, rejoicing in the same hope. Or perhaps, in the individual believer's life, the "twins" are the reciprocal qualities of faith and works, or of prayer and praise. And, on another figurative note, Hall adds, "It would appear then that the regularity of the teeth working in conjunction with each other should indicate to the members of that body or ecclesia the necessity of the integration of members working in unison to sustain the spiritual life of the community of the Bride."

NOT ONE OF THEM IS ALONE: Or "barren" (KJV), as those who are not fruitful of good works (2Pe 1:8). Heb "shakul" is always elsewhere translated "bereaved" or "robbed" (Jer 18:21; Hos 13:8; etc). Barrenness was one of the curses pronounced by God upon those who were unfaithful in Israel (Exo 23:26; Deu 7:13,14).

Song 4:3

YOUR LIPS: Also noted in Song 4:11; 5:13,16 (the groom); Song 7:9 (the groom again); and Psa 45:2 (the groom). And so the lips, and speech, of the young shepherdess are the same lips, and speech, of her lover, the shepherd-king -- because, in spiritual terms, they proclaim the same message of salvation!

ARE LIKE A SCARLET RIBBON: The lips, whether enhanced cosmetically or not, would resemble a scarlet thread against a lighter background of skin. Scarlet wool was used in the cleansing of the leper, and in the preparation of the red heifer's water of purification (Lev 14:4,9; Num 19:6; cp Heb 9:19). Curtains for the tabernacle (Exo 26:1,31,36; 27:16; 36:35; Num 4:8) and priestly garments (Exo 28:5,8,33) were made of scarlet or crimson cloth.

Most importantly, the scarlet cord/thread/ribbon was an especially beautiful token of salvation: it was the means of identifying the firstborn son of Tamar in Gen 38:28, and of protecting Rahab and her house from death in Jos 2:18 (cp Jam 2:25). In both these instances, the scarlet thread is reminiscent of the blood of sacrifice, and it especially points to the blood of the passover lamb -- which was spread on the doorposts of the Israelites in Egypt.

The twin nature of the two lips, like that of the teeth, top and bottom, in v 2, may suggest, once again, other spiritual "twins" -- such as Jew and Gentile, or prayer and praise. But perhaps most especially it suggests the twin virtues of faith and works, especially in view of the lesson that James develops from the experiences of Rahab: "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?" (Jam 2:24,25).

SCARLET: We are told, firstly, that the color "scarlet" in the Bible is more like what we would call crimson, a bright (and not necessarily a dark) red. Scarlet dye was obtained from the "toolath", the coccus or cochineal insect, which, having been processed through being subject to heat, crushing and grinding, brought forth a beautiful scarlet dye -- such dye is still manufactured in the same way today. Incidentally, the sw is used by David in Psa 22:6: "I am a worm ('toolath') and not a man"; prophetically, Jesus was such a "worm", despised and crushed by his enemies -- yet a "worm" that -- in his death -- brought forth, like blood, the scarlet dye of purifying and cleansing.

YOUR MOUTH: Or "speech" (AV), that which comes from the mouth.

IS LOVELY: Heb "naveh" = "comely" (AV, ASV), "delightful" (NEB), "lovely" (NIV, RSV); the sw occurs in Song 1:5; 2:14; 6:4, as well as Psa 33:1; 147:1; Pro 17:7; 19:10; 26:1; Jer 6:2. "How often we see a really beautiful woman who loses her attractiveness as soon as she opens her mouth. Not so the Bride of King-Messiah" (Ask). The bride has lovely lips, from which come charming words (see Psa 37:20; 119:13; Pro 10:13,20,21,32; 16:21-24; Luk 4:22; Eph 4:29; 1Pe 3:10; Jam 3:2; and many, many other references -- especially in Psalms and Proverbs). In other words, the fruit of her lips is praise to God (Isa 57:19; Hos 14:2; Heb 13:15). And with her mouth profession of faith is made (Rom 10:10; cp Mat 12:37; Pro 31:26), and by this means -- ie, faith in the scarlet blood of Christ -- the believer is cleansed and purified and saved from death.

We quote, as something of a curiosity, the words of Ironside on this verse: "This is different from that abominable custom of today that leads so many women, of course not consistent Christian women, but those of the world and Christians living on the edge of the world, to put that filthy stuff upon their lips that makes them look like a cross between poor, low women of the street and circus performers. Here it is the red lip of health, of spiritual health. 'Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely.' Why? Because it is speech that has to do with him! The bride loves to speak of the bridegroom, as the Christian loves to speak of Christ, and her lips are like a thread of scarlet, for she exalts that blood by which she has been brought nigh to God. Every real Christian will have lips like a thread of scarlet, for he gladly confesses that he owes everything for eternity to that precious atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not only when we gather at the table of the Lord, when we bow in worship as we take the bread and cup as from his blessed pierced hand, that we love to sing and speak and think of the blood; but always, everywhere, at all times, the believer delights to remember that he has been redeemed to God by the precious blood of Christ. You will find the scarlet thread running right through this Book."

Fair enough, Ironside's is a totally uncompromising statement, from an earlier and old-fashioned age, and one that might well hurt the feelings of some sisters today. But he surely is not the first and only Bible expositor to remark that spiritual beauty need not be enhanced by cosmetics, and in fact may be diminished by such artificial additions. Peter did the same, when he wrote to sisters, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment" (1Pe 3:4). As did Paul, when he wrote: "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God" (1Ti 2:9,10). No dogmatic pronouncement here; just something to think about!

TEMPLES: "Cheeks" (AV). The Heb word "raqqa" occurs only here; in Song 6:7 (a parallel text); and three times in Judges (Jdg 4:21,22; 5:26) -- where Jael killed the Canaanite general Sisera by driving a tent-peg through his temple.

The temples are the center of thought, judgment, character, resolution. Just as God's households in Egypt were sealed with the blood of the passover lamb, so God's servants are sealed in their foreheads (Rev 7:3; 14:1; Eze 9:4) -- stamping the mind with indelible impressions of that which is holy and pure and divine.

The temple is the upper part of the cheek, so to speak. In Bible terms, it may signify the ability to blush, or to be ashamed, and thus a red cheek or temple is the mark of true repentance (Ezr 9:6; Eze 16:63). "Humility and modesty, blushing to lift up our faces before God, blushing at the remembrance of sin and in a sense of our unworthiness of the honour put upon us, will beautify us very much in the eyes of Christ" (Henry). By contrast, "the brazen look of a prostitute" suggests one who refused to blush, or one who is unable to blush, having no shame (Jer 3:3; 5:3; 6:15; 8:12). It is interesting to note, in view of Ironside's comment above, that one use of cosmetics today is to produce an artificial "blush" upon the cheeks, when none exists naturally. Is there a commentary here, on the hardness of heart, and stiffness of neck, so common in our own age? All around us, women (not to mention men) do and say many things that SHOULD make them blush... but the true blush of shame at crude jokes, or lascivious suggestions, or open immorality, seems to have been lost altogether! If true believers live in today's world, they shouldn't have to fake a blush!


ARE LIKE THE HALVES OF A POMEGRANATE: See the parallel text in Song 6:7. The pomegranate was found on garments of the high priest (Exo 28:33,34), and atop the great pillars at Temple entrance (1Ki 7:42). Its many seeds point to the word of God, fruitful (1Pe 1:3), like Christ's "seed" (Isa 53:10). The pomegranate has 12 sections, arranged around the center (cp the 12 camps of Israel in the wilderness, arranged around the tabernacle of the LORD). The pomegranate is full of white, pearl-like seeds in a red liquid; this suggests a pure multitudinous unity, purified and made white by the blood of the Lamb. It also suggests the Lamb himself, "as if it had been slain" (Rev 5:6; 13:8) -- "radiant and ruddy", describing the white of its wool and the red of its bloody wounds together (cp Song 5:10).

"The eastern pomegranate is light golden brown with a tinge of pink, and would not unfittingly represent the temple of the Bride. But the word 'halves' ('pelakh'), which implies 'to break, pierce or cut', points rather to the interior of the fruit. At first consideration, it may not seem appropriate to compare the temple to an opened pomegranate, with its bright red and white; but the thought is not a direct comparison of appearance, but rather the impression of the beauty of the brilliant, jewel-like shining freshness that is revealed within when the pomegranate is opened up. This is especially fitting in that the temple represents the mind within. Again, reverting to the veil (the flesh?), the pure white forehead showing through the heavy meshes of a red veil could have the striking appearance of a freshly opened pomegranate" (GVG).

Song 4:4

This is the one element in the description of the bride that uses a metaphor of city life -- all else is sheep and doves and gazelles and pomegranates and lilies. In this one aspect, however, she is shown as being connected with the city -- and this is important too, for it reminds us of her dependence upon the King who dwells there. As pointed out in Song 4:1n, he is described (especially in Song 5:10-16) in terms generally appropriate for a city or a temple: in fact, he is king in the city of Jerusalem, and also priest in the temple of God which is erected there (a passing allusion, surely, to the Melchizedek king-priest: Psa 110; Heb 7). And she is lovely, in all the pastoral comparisons which he can conjure up, but only because of what he -- the king of the city, and the priest of the temple -- has done and continues to do for her!

It is a lovely allegory all of its own, an allegory within the larger allegory of the whole Song: she is a young woman of the country, and he is a young man of the city and the temple. Yet he seeks her in the country, and takes upon himself country ways -- one might even say, a "country" disguise. He becomes a shepherd, though he is also a king and a priest. As a shepherd he courts her and wins her, only afterward to reveal his true, royal identity. And so she becomes a part of the city and temple which are the province of her husband, whilst never losing her pastoral aspects. The lovely, natural, and fresh aspects of country, land, and field are imported into the city; and the divine glory of the city (and especially of the temple) are exported into the country (for ultimately, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD!), from whence she came, and where he goes to find her.

And so the natural and the spiritual, earth and heaven, are "married". The seed of the divine, sown in the "soil" or "womb" of human nature, grows to its full flower, and -- even in its "dying" -- produces a glorious harvest. The natural, the earthly, is raised and purified and elevated, to become part of the spiritual and heavenly. That nature, when fully glorified, will differ infinitely more from the same nature seen in its germ in the babe of Bethlehem, than the loveliest flower differs from the humblest seed. It is right that Jesus should thus honor the nature that is incorporated into the divine and the eternal by making it the highest possible development of beauty, splendor, and glory. Or, to put it another way, the "country girl" -- at first shy and embarrassed by her country ways and appearance, becomes -- through the love of the Perfect Man -- not only a royal dweller in the City of the Great King, but finally the epitome of the City itself (Rev 21:1,2,10-21)! And all because He who was the perfect City and Temple of Yahweh came out into the country to seek her, to find her, to love her, and to glorify her.

YOUR NECK: See also Song 1:10n; 7:4. The carriage of the neck suggests grace and firmness and strength. An erect neck is freedom and joy (in contrast to a stooped neck, which indicates servitude: Jer 27:8,11,12; Act 15:5,10). Adorning the neck with jewelry signifies the bestowing of glory and honor, which are again parts of this picture. It is suggested that a long neck, which gives a stately appearance, may have been a mark of beauty in the ancient world (Kinlaw, cited by Const). It is worth noting, however, that ancient towers did not resemble modern skyscrapers -- neither the technology nor the materials existed then to build very tall, and relatively very narrow, towers. Instead, ancient towers were terraced, like the ziggurats of Babylon, with a broader base relative to their height. Such towers would more closely resemble the human neck and head than might a modern high-rise building.

From a spiritual perspective, the neck connects the Head to the Body (see Eph 4:16; Col 2:19); therefore, above all things, it must be firm and strong like the tower of David.

IS LIKE THE TOWER OF DAVID: The word for "tower" ("migdal") here seems to be a military structure, such as a stronghold, arsenal, or defensive tower on the walls of a city (Jdg 8:9,17; 9:51; 2Ki 9:17; 17:9; 18:8; 2Ch 14:6; 26:15; 27:4; 32:5).

What "tower of David" this was we do not know. It was not David's citadel that now stands on the west side of old Jerusalem, just outside the Jaffa Gate, because that tower did not exist at this time; that tower, in fact, dates only to the Herodian period. Some point to the tower of Neh 3:25: "the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard", or to Neh 3:16: the "House of the Heroes ('gibborim': warriors or mighty ones)". "The tower ('migdal') of Edar (flock)" (Mic 4:8) was a watchtower near Bethlehem (Gen 35:21), David's birthplace, where shepherds watched over their flocks of sheep destined for sacrifice in the Temple; it could well have been called "the tower of David".

Figuratively, a tower suggests that which is inaccessible or impregnable, that which is shut up and sealed, like the "garden locked up", the "spring enclosed", and the "fountain" "sealed" of Song 4:12; all these figures point to the purity, or virginity, of the young woman, and to her faithfulness to her lover.

Symbolically, "the name of Yahweh is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe" (Pro 18:10). It is because the woman has the name of Yahweh named upon herself that she resembles a strong tower, and is safe from defeat or corruption.

BUILT WITH ELEGANCE: The Heb word "talpiyah" occurs only here; its meaning is uncertain, and it has been given many interpretations. The LXX simply transliterates it, apparently assuming it is a proper name. The NIV's "elegance" is basically unsubstantiated. Some scholars think it means "tall and slender". The NEB has "built with winding courses" -- with the layers or courses of stones resembling a necklace consisting of row upon row of beads or jewels. However, the KJV has "for an armoury" (KJV), and the RSV uses "arsenal" -- this meaning is arrived at by assuming that the mysterious "talpiyah" is composed of two words, "tael", a hill, and "piyoth", swords. This translation suggests a military motif (cp, generally, Song 3:6-8; 6:10,12), which is certainly in keeping with the "shields" also mentioned here.

The Bride is sometimes pictured as an army, which is incongruous on one level, but quite understandable on another. The bride will celebrate her marriage with the Lamb only when the Kingdom of God is literally established on the ruins of men's kingdoms: see also Rev 19:7-9,11-16; 21:1-3; 2Co 10:4,5.

ON IT HANG A THOUSAND SHIELDS, ALL OF THEM SHIELDS OF WARRIORS: The tower is surrounded by a "necklace" of shields. The shields may have been captured from vanquished enemies, and preserved as tokens of a thousand victories (cp 2Sa 22:51)! It was customary to hang rows of brilliantly-polished shields on the central defense tower of a city (see Eze 27:10,11). Also, ornamental or ceremonial shields of gold, and of bronze, are mentioned in 1Ki 10:16,17; 14:26,27; cf 2Ki 11:10; 2Ch 9:15,16; 12:9-11; 23:9. From a distance these shields, hanging around the tower, would appear as chains of gold or jewels worn around a neck (the Bride was actually wearing a necklace: see v 9 here).

Among the Christian "soldier's" armaments, the "shield" represents faith (Eph 6:16). Just as the neck joins the head to the body, so faith joins our spiritual head Christ to his spiritual body (cp Eph 4:16; Col 2:19).

"Some make the shields of the mighty men, that are here said to hang up in [or 'on'] the tower of David, to be the monuments of the valour of David's worthies [2Sa 23]. Their shields were preserved, to keep in remembrance them and their heroic acts, intimating that it is a great encouragement to the saints to hold up their heads, to see what great things the saints in all ages have accomplished and won by faith. In Heb 11 we have the shields of the mighty men hung up, the exploits of believers and the trophies of their victories" (Henry).

Here is the combined aspect of both spiritual and actual warfare. the Bride has lived through a thousand trials and struggles, but around her neck hangs the necklace commemorating a thousand victories! Victory is the hallmark of the Bride, marking her past and her future: victory -- through her Lord -- over temptation and sin and death, victory in that others believers have been won to the cause of Christ (similarly, Paul calls his converts his "crown" in Phi 4:1; 1Th 2:19), and -- finally, when her Lord returns -- victory over all the kingdoms of this world.

THOUSAND: "Eleph". Not necessarily a literal number, but a round number, meaning "very many": cp Song 5:10. Other obviously symbolic numbers are also used to represent the faithful: Gen 15:5; Psa 68:17; Rev 7:4,9; 14:1,3.

SHIELDS... SHIELDS: The first usage -- the Heb "magen" -- refers to the small round shield said to be used by officers. The second usage -- the Heb "shelet" -- occurs only a few times in the Bible; its meaning is uncertain, but the parallel nature of this phrase suggests that it should be equated with the earlier "magen", and not with the "tsinnah", the larger oval, full-body shield mentioned elsewhere (eg, Psa 5:12; 35:2; 91:4; etc). Also, the smaller round shields would -- from a distance -- more closely resemble beads or jewels in a necklace.

WARRIORS: "Gibborim": see Song 3:7n. As David was gloriously "adorned" with his many and great "mighty men" (2Sa 23:8-39) who followed and served him, so the multitudinous bride of Christ -- like the "tower of DAVID" -- is "adorned" with the many shields of the "mighty men" who have been conquered by the truth and converted to the cause which she exemplifies.

Song 4:5

It has been said before, but at this point it ought to be said again: the Song of Songs is not prudish about nakedness or about the human body. Nor is it an erotic or pornographic poem. Understood in its proper setting, it gives a divine affirmation of physical, sexual love in marriage. And -- for those with spiritual discernment -- it points forward to the most wonderful expression of spiritual love, of which the natural is but the palest reflection.

YOUR TWO BREASTS: The mention of the breasts indicates that the bride is fully developed and mature (ct Song 8:8). Breasts suggest nourishing milk of word (1Pe 2:2).

"The breast is the seat of the emotions. It also represents sustenance and fruitfulness, and nurture and care of the young and helpless. Perhaps maturity, and gentle, concerned, loving consideration and provision for others, are the principal indications here. And motherhood: the New Jerusalem, mother city of the Millennium, nurturing all the earth in the law of the Lord. Isaiah's glorious closing picture is -- 'Rejoice ye with Jerusalem... that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations' (Isa 66:10,11). The two-fold aspect irresistibly points to Jewish and Gentile components of the Bride. In fact, the whole natural body is almost entirely two-fold and symmetrical: though its fundamental unity is emphasized by its most vital elements -- the mind and heart -- being single. There must be just one mind and heart in the multitudinous Body" (GVG).

As a contrast, it may be noted that the first instance of natural "twins" in the Bible -- Rebekah's Jacob and Esau -- bore no evidence of affinity between the two, but much the reverse (Gen 25:21-34). Nor is there any special affinity suggested between Perez and Zerah (Gen 38:27). But, in a spiritual sense, Paul does speak of a twin-like union when he speaks of brothers and sisters in Philippi who truly yoked themselves with him (Phi 4:3).

As to the breasts indicating the nurture and care of young, see Gen 49:25; Isa 28:9; Joel 2:16; Psa 22:9; Job 3:12; and Song 8:1. As to the female breasts as objects of sexual attraction to the male, see also Eze 16:7; 23:3,21; Hos 2:2; and cp Song 1:13; 7:3,7; 8:8,10.

The two breasts may designate the two Testaments, Old and New, both of which contain the whole sincere milk of the word (1Pe 2:2). Like "twins", they are alike, agreeing in their teachings concerning Christ. The type, shadow, prophecy, and promise of the Old have their completion in the antitype, substance, fulfillment, and realization of the New.

The duality of the breasts could also, in the individual believer, point to the twin qualities of faith and love -- ie, hearing the word (faith) as well as keeping it (love). This is not as fanciful as it might first seem, for Paul in 1Th 5:8 speaks of faith and love as a "breastplate"!

TWO FAWNS, LIKE TWIN FAWNS OF A GAZELLE THAT BROWSE AMONG THE LILIES: The well-formed breasts, when bared, suggest -- visually -- tan fawns grazing among white lilies.

FAWNS: The mention of fawns, the young of a gazelle (cp Song 2:7), suggest youthfulness, freshness, tenderness and joyful, guileless grace. Cp also Song 7:3.

LILIES: Temple flowers! There are many species that might generally be referred to as "lilies". In this instance, though not necessarily in the others (and because of the metaphor employed, which requires whiteness), the "lilies" referred to are probably chamomiles, white daisy-like wildflowers (see Song 2:1n). See also similar phrases in Song 2:16; 6:2.

Consider these links with Pro 5; 7: (a) Song 4:5 / Pro 5:19: two breasts; (b) Song 4:11 / Pro 5:3: lips as a honeycomb; (c) Song 4:14 / Pro 7:17: cinnamon, myrrh, aloes. Whilst the bridegroom can view the bride in loving terms such as these, Proverbs reminds us that the harlot is an ugly "counterfeit" of the true. Using the "weapon" of sexual pleasure (which in its right place is a wonderful gift from God), she can mimic the same characteristics as the loving bride! But while the one is a God-blessed portion of a righteous life, the other is an alluring gateway that leads only to death. Mature wisdom and discernment are necessary to distinguish the one from the other -- both in natural terms and in spiritual terms (Pro 14:12; 16:25; Mat 7:13,14)!

Song 4:6

UNTIL THE DAY BREAKS AND THE SHADOWS FLEE: Cp Song 2:17n. The darkness of the night provides covering and protection and privacy for their shared love... until the morning dawns.

I WILL GO TO THE MOUNTAIN OF MYRRH, AND TO THE HILL OF INCENSE: Mountains and hills are also metaphors for the girl's breasts. Since myrrh and incense are very expensive, this may indicate that his wife's breasts are precious to him as well as attractive (cp Pro 5:19).

MYRRH: In addition, myrrh suggests bitterness, and sacrificial death (Song 1:13n).

INCENSE: See Song 3:6n. Prayer (Psa 141:2; Rev 5:8; 8:2; Luk 1:10). An ingredient in the holy anointing oil (Exo 30:34).

"Historically, the hill of frankincense is Calvary, where, 'through the eternal Spirit he offered himself' [Heb 9:14]; the mountain of myrrh is his embalmment (Joh 19:39) till the resurrection 'daybreak' " (JFB). Along these same lines, the two "mountains" or "hills" could be, first Christ's "lifting up" on the cross (Joh 3:14; 12:32), and secondly his "lifting up" from the grave. And similarly, Hall suggests that the "mountain of myrrh (Heb 'mor')" means Mount Moriah, with Gen 22 and the sacrifice (and "resurrection") of Isaac in mind; and the "hill of incense" means the Temple Mount -- the very same site -- where at a later time clouds of incense arose daily to God: once again, the two figures together pointing to sacrifice and praise and resurrection and prayer.

Are such interpretations reasonable, in what is -- to all natural appearances -- a wedding song? Yes, surely, when we remember that, spiritually speaking, the bride is lovely (vv 1-5) and without flaw (v 7), not because of her own physical traits, but only through the redeeming work of her husband.

Once again, we have only to look at Paul's words in Eph 5:25-27, where the bride, the wedding itself, and the groom's sacrificial love for her are all juxtaposed: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."

Then, also, there is the allegory in the Garden of Eden, where the first Adam was caused to fall into a deep sleep, resembling death, so that -- when he awoke -- he found there in his presence the one who had been literally created out of the wound in his side (Gen 2:21,22), whom in the sight of God he then married: "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh... for she was taken out of man" (Gen 2:23).

There is surely fitness, too, in Gen 2:25: "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." Here are other echoes of the Song of Songs, the wedding song of joy -- the deepest spiritual joy, that with the blessing of the Heavenly Father the true Bride becomes one flesh and one spirit forever with her Eternal Husband. Now they truly "know" one another, with no shame, no modesty, no qualms, and no reservations, in the purest ecstasy of communion. All that we can know, or imagine, of the physical pleasures of marriage, in oneness of body and mind and heart and spirit, is raised to an infinitely higher level -- beside which all other remembered pleasures will seem as insubstantial as a fleeting night mist.

Song 4:7

ALL BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE, MY DARLING: The detailed description of the bride ends as it began, with this inclusive and encompassing phrase (see Song 4:1n) -- made even more so by the addition of "all" in v 7. Similar expressions have already occurred in Song 1:8,15; 2:13 -- and will recur in Song 6:4. See also Psa 45:11,13.

MY DARLING: Also occurs in Song 1:9,15; 2:2,10,13; 4:1; 5:2; 6:4. The Hebrew is "ra'ah": fellow, companion, associate, friend -- emphasizing unity of mind and purpose and character, for this is absolutely essential in Bride and Bridegroom.

THERE IS NO FLAW IN YOU: "Flaw" is the Heb "muwm" -- which means blemish or defect or deformity. The word occurs 13 times in Lev, Num, and Deu, almost always describing (in the negative, as having "no flaw") the sacrifices to be offered on the altar to Yahweh (cf Mal 1:12-14). It occurs in Dan 1:4 to describe the physical appearance of the young men, including Daniel, who were brought into the palace and court of the king of Babylon. It occurs also in 2Sa 14:25 to describe the physical appearance and beauty of Absalom -- ironically, it turns out, since Absalom's "flaws" were all moral and spiritual, not physical! In just 3 or 4 instances, the same word is used (in the negative) to describe a moral flaw or blemish (Pro 9:7; Job 11:15; 31:7; Deu 32:5).

This phrase is cited by Paul as description of the Bride of Christ: "Not having spot or wrinkle" (Eph 5:27). Now all fair, she has -- like Esther -- completed her time of purification (Est 2:12). It is the work of Christ the husband to cleanse (Eph 5:26) the "bride" by giving himself for her (Eph 5:25; Col 1:22; Tit 2:13,14; 1Th 5:23; Rev 21:2). Nor should it be overlooked that it is the duty of the Bride, as well as her privilege, to work along with Christ in keeping herself unspotted, or unflawed, from the world (2Co 6:17; 1Th 3:13; Jud 1:23; Jam 1:27). So Peter exhorts, "So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him" (2Pe 3:14). In this way, both by the redeeming blood and her own God-aided endeavors, the Bride is made "like him" (1Jo 3:2) -- and she becomes, to him, the greatest "wedding present"! The words spoken to the bride in Psa 45:11 are surely appropriate here: "The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord."

The absolute nature of this last commendation -- "all beautiful... no flaw whatsoever" -- demonstrates that, though the husband has not attempted to enumerate all the rest of her attributes, it is not at all because there may be some unmentioned flaw therein. Rather, it is much the reverse: there is, in fact, no flaw. All of her parts, those not named as well as those named, were lovely. "As if the thought occurred to the Bridegroom that the carping world would insinuate that he had only mentioned her comely parts, and had purposely omitted those features which were deformed or defiled, he sums up all by declaring her universally and entirely fair, and utterly devoid of stain. A spot may soon be removed, and is the very least thing that can disfigure beauty, but even from this little blemish the believer is delivered in his Lord's sight. If he had said there is no hideous scar, no horrible deformity, no deadly ulcer, we might even then have marvelled; but when he testifies that she is free from the slightest spot, all these other forms of defilement are included, and the depth of wonder is increased. If he had but promised to remove all spots by-and-by, we should have had eternal reason for joy; but when he speaks of it as already done, who can restrain the most intense emotions of satisfaction and delight?" (CHS).

And the fact that there is no flaw in the bride does not mean that she has -- ever and always -- been without sin. Not at all! "[This does not mean] that the saints have no sin in them; nor any committed by them; nor that their sins are not sins; nor that they have no spots in them, with respect to sanctification, which is imperfect; but with respect to their justification, as having the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, and covered with that spotless robe, they are considered as having no spot in them... God sees no sin in them, so as to reckon it to them, and condemn them for it; and they stand unblamable and unreproveable in his sight; and will be presented by Christ, both to himself and to his father, and in the view of men and angels, 'not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing', Eph 5:27, upon them" (Gill).

"Are we part of the Bride? Is it our utmost and constant effort to be WORTHY to be so, to the exclusion of everything else? If not, why not? Where is wisdom? Where is plain ordinary common sense? There IS a Bride, and she IS ever spotless. She was made white and pure in the blood of the Lamb, and she is kept spotless by dedicated, loving obedience; and striving, and repentance, and prayer. The wise will give their whole lives and energies to becoming and being part of this glorious and joyous community. That is what manifests that they are the wise. All who do not are the foolish. 'He sanctifieth and cleanseth it by the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Ecclesia, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish' (Eph 5:26,27). 'Keep yourselves in the love of God... Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy' (Jud 1:21-24)" (GVG).

What a glorious thing is true love! It not only hides a multitude of sins (1Pe 4:8), but it covers a multitude of flaws. How beautiful, and spiritually instructive, is the love of a man for his wife, or a woman for her husband! It is a love that grows and deepens over the years, as each grows closer to the other. It is a love that grows and deepens as each helps the other in a life's work -- of raising children, of serving God and their fellows. It is, especially, a love that grows and deepens even as each grows older, and the externals that first prompted physical attraction subtly change. Dark hair has turned to gray. Wrinkles have mysteriously appear where none existed before. Yet the light in the eyes remains the same, and the love continues unabated.

And so God loves us, not for some merely passing frill of outward appearance -- which is at any rate like the spring flowers of the field (Isa 40:7; 1Pe 1:24), fading so quickly -- but for what is in the heart and mind and soul and spirit, and for what grows more real and true and right in ourselves day by day, as we show our continuing love for Him. The step may not be as steady; the hand may tremble; joints may creak. But the eye is bright and far-sighted, like that of Moses looking onward to the Land of Promise: "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" (Pro 4:18).

We are carried, in our visions, far away... to a wonderful city, to a beautiful garden, resplendent with lovely plants. In its cool shades, by a quiet stream, a handsome man -- forever young -- rests with his bride.

She speaks to him: "What did you ever see in me? I was so rough -- a vessel coarse, unhewn... but you did not despise me."

And he replies: "I saw you as you are now, MY finished work. I fashioned you so that you might share my joy and honor in the service of our Father."

Again, she speaks: "Oh, how I loved to contemplate that theme, that we should be one, to serve one Father. But when I tried to reach that ideal, following your example, I trembled in fear, I tripped, I fell. The high rocks terrified me. I shivered in the damp, cold shadows, and then again grew faint in the sudden heat. And O, the sharp stones, and the thorns along the way, what pain they gave me, what bleeding feet!"

His voice again, strong and sure: "I watched your every step. No danger of the journey befell you, but that I gave my angels charge, lest you should slip. By night, by day, they encircled you... your life was mine. I grieved for all your pain and agony, for I had suffered too. And knowing in myself that trial is the wellspring of eternal joy, I did the only thing I could... I helped you through... Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh..."

Song 4:8

Song 4:8,9,15,16: Is this a "flashback", in which he proposes to her, and she accepts? Or is it a continuation of their marriage, soon after the wedding night, when he shows her the great realm over which they will now jointly rule?

COME WITH ME: Cp Song 2:13. "The beloved has come to her lover. Her beauty is overwhelming. She has captured his heart. He wants her to be his forever. The Hebrew of this invitation is even more impressive in its simplicity than our English. The 'come with me' (v 8) of our translation is in Hebrew 'itti' ('With me...'), twice repeated, a simple prepositional phrase used as an invitation! He wants her with him. 'With me...' sums up his desire" (EBC).

COME WITH ME FROM LEBANON: "Come, and LOOK from Lebanon." (The AV conveys this same sense, by using "look" instead of the NIV's "descend" in the next phrase.) "Some of the finest scenes, the most glorious landscapes the world can show, are to be seen from the mountain summits named here. The view is entrancing, so travellers say" (Pulpit).

The king offers his bride a panoramic view of the Land of Promise, as Abraham had received, when God told him: "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever... Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you" (Gen 13:14,15,17; cp Gen 15:18). And, similarly, Moses shortly before his death was granted such a view of the same land (Deu 34:1-4).

This is the sense in which John Thomas understood this verse, for he quotes it in Eur 1:127: "When Messiah is enthroned king of the land, and proceeds to take possession of it to its utmost limits, he will then say to his companions, 'Come with me from Lebanon, my Spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lion's dens, from the mountains of the leopards': Song 4:8. Taking up their position upon that commanding border, the Sons of Zion may view the landscape of a goodly and glorious land, fragrant of rich odors, and flowing with milk and honey, outstretching eastward in all the length of Euphrates to the East Sea."

LEBANON: This land was included in the original land of promise (Gen 15:18), but never was it truly occupied by Israel in earlier times.

MY BRIDE: For the first time the lover calls the maiden his bride. In ten verses (Song 4:8 -- 5:1) he uses this term of her six times. Carr suggests that "bride" (Heb "kaliah") is derived from "kalal", to complete or make perfect -- and thus is a way of saying that the marriage has now been consummated. (Other passages in which Israel is portrayed as, or implied to be, the "bride" of God are Jer 7:34; Isa 49:18; 61:10; 62:5.)

DESCEND FROM THE CREST OF: Or, simply, "look down from..." (cp AV). There are two separate Hebrew roots with identical form, but different meaning: one means "to go down", and the other means "to look at". The second is preferable here.

AMANA: The feminine of "amen" (truth). This is probably a mountain in the eastern Lebanon range -- and the source of Abana River that flow eastward from the top of the Lebanon mountains (2Ki 5:12).

SENIR: The word in Hebrew signifies "interwoven" or "glistening". Mount Hermon, called Senir (or "Shenir", AV) by the Amorites (cf Deu 3:9), is the highest peak (approx 9,200 feet) of the Lebanon range. From its foothills flows the Jordan River.

HERMON: The same peak as Senir, signifying either "high" or "devoted". Hermon is indicative of the unity of brethren dwelling together, and of resurrection and glorification (Psa 133). Possibly this was the Mount of Transfiguration (2Pe 1:18) -- although Mount Nebo is also suggested by some. These are the new and purified high places, or ruling places, of the earth to which the Bride is exalted: the New Heavens to go along with the New Earth!

FROM THE LIONS' DENS AND THE MOUNTAIN HAUNTS OF THE LEOPARDS: These beasts were known in Palestine from the earliest times (1Ch 11:22; Isa 11:6; Jer 13:23; Hos 13:7; Amo 3:4). They were of course wild, but now -- in our story -- they may have been tamed, since they seem to inspire no fear. The coming of Messiah's kingdom of peace and goodwill is described as a time when even the wild predators will be at peace with one another and with man, as described in the lovely Kingdom prophecy of Isa 11:6-9. The lions (Jer 4:7; 5:6; Dan 7:4; Hos 5:14; 13:7; Joel 1:6; Rev 13:2) and leopards (Jer 5:6; Dan 7:6; Hos 13:7; Hab 1:8; Rev 13:2) represent the former dominions of the evil beast nations, the present Sin-Powers of the world -- for ages the ravenous marauders of the earth, but now subdued and pacified by the Lamb and his flock, when the meek shall inherit the earth. "No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders" (Isa 60:18). "No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there" (Isa 35:9). "They [the wolf, the leopard, the lion, the bear, and the poisonous serpents] will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:9).

Song 4:9.

After the break in v 8, vv 9-15 return to his description of her beauty.

YOU HAVE STOLEN MY HEART: "Thou hast ravished my heart" (AV); the Hebrew "libabtini" may signify to excite or inflame or arouse -- as in a sexual passion -- although "to steal away" (as NIV and NEB) is also possible.

"Here is overflowing intensity of affection and emotion of Christ for his brethren and sisters. This is the satisfaction of the travail of his soul (Isa 53:11); the 'joy set before him' for which he endured the suffering and the shame (Heb 12:2). It is the Bride's beauty that overcomes him. Let us note this well. If there is no beauty, there can be no love. Sympathy, perhaps, and pity, and kindly sorrow for what might have been. But no eternal, spiritual Love. That is only for those who concern themselves above all else to develop the spiritual beauty" (GVG).

MY SISTER: In addition to his "bride", the lover also calls his beloved his "sister" four times (vv 9,10,12; Song 5:1). No incestuous relationship is intended. "Sister" is not uncommon in ancient Near Eastern love poetry as a term of endearment, with no regard to actual blood kinship. It is simply lovers' talk, to express the closeness and permanence they desire in their union. To the passion of his love for a wife is added the tenderness of his love for a sister (cp Mat 12:48-50; Mar 3:33-35; Heb 2:11-14). Elsewhere the girl has spoken of her desire that he, her lover, were also her brother (Song 3:4) -- to this same effect.

MY SISTER, MY BRIDE: In several Mesopotamian societies husbands actually could legally adopt their wives for a variety of reasons, ie: (1) the upper classes sometimes adopted their wives as "sisters" in order to form the strongest of all possible marriage bonds; a man could divorce his wife but he could not divorce his "sister" because she was "family"; (2) a husband could adopt his wife to give her a higher status in society. (This might be the circumstance behind Sarah's being a "half-sister" of Abraham; possibly she was adopted by her father-in-law Terah: Gen 12:13,19; 20:2,5,12,13.)

However, it may be said that, spiritually, this couple have a common ancestry -- like Adam and Eve (cp 1Co 15:45; 2Co 11:1-3): they are both children of Almighty God, and they were both "born" of the same sacrificial death and resurrection. The "sister-wife" motif of the Song of Songs might be behind Paul's statement about a "sister-wife" (1Co 9:5, AV).

YOU HAVE STOLEN MY HEART WITH ONE GLANCE OF YOUR EYES: Literally, "...with one of your eyes", but "glance" is added to give a reasonable sense. As to her eyes, see Song 1:15n; 4:1n. And as to their power to captivate, see Song 6:5.

WITH ONE JEWEL OF YOUR NECKLACE: The jewels symbolize spiritual "ornaments" of grace (Pro 1:9; 3:22) and modesty (1Pe 3:4) and glory (Isa 62:3; Mal 3:17) and obedience (Pro 25:12). See also Song 1:10n; 4:4n.

However, Ask, following the older scholars Good and Percy, takes this phrase to mean "one turn of your neck", and thus concludes: "It is not an ornament that ravishes the Bridegroom's heart; it is the charming way she turns her neck [toward him]." If this translation cannot be sustained by the text itself (later scholars seem to take no notice of this possibility), then surely it is at least a reasonable paraphrase, expressive of the true sense of the passage: could the Savior ever be as delighted with an outward bauble as he is with the Bride herself? Of course not!

The Bride is looking delightedly upon the lovely and glorious Land that is her inheritance, along with her Husband. She turns her neck and looks up at him, and with but one liquid, glistening eye conveying her love and gratitude she captures his heart. "I am my Beloved's, and he is mine... and this... all this... is ours!"

Song 4:10

HOW DELIGHTFUL IS YOUR LOVE, MY SISTER, MY BRIDE!: "Delightful" is the Hebrew "yapah" -- "beautiful" (NEB) is closest to the right meaning (cp Song 1:8n). "Love" is actually plural: signifying many tokens of her love.

HOW MUCH MORE PLEASING IS YOUR LOVE THAN WINE: Now the man uses words of the woman which she has earlier used of him (cp Song 1:2,4). Her love for him is so much more pleasing precisely because it is a reciprocation of his love for her (cp 1Jo 4:19: "We love [him] because he first loved us"). The substance of her sacrificial love for him, following his example (1Pe 2:21), is far greater than any shadow or symbol or type.

The LXX (followed by the NEB) has "breasts" instead of "love" here, apparently changing the Masoretic Text "dodeyka" ("your love") into "dadyk".

AND THE FRAGRANCE OF YOUR PERFUME THAN ANY SPICE!: Once more, he responds to her earlier praise of him with even greater praise in return: cp Song 1:3n (also cp Song 3:6; 5:5). "The LXX has... 'your garments', apparently reading 'salmoth ayik' instead of the Masoretic Text's 'shemanayik' ('your perfume')" (EBCn) -- this seems to be under the influence of v 11, where the word does occur in the Masoretic Text.

"Spice" is "besamin", specifically the balsam tree or shrub, and the sweet-smelling oil it produces (cp sw Song 4:14,16; 5:13; 6:2; 8:14). Her ointments are the means of purification and preparation, so that she is pleasing to the King when she goes into his presence (cp Est 2:12).

Fragrant ointments and perfumes also figured greatly in the ministry of Jesus: Mary's anointing of precious nard was welcome indeed to him (Joh 12:1-7), as was the anointing of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luk 7:37-50). [These two anointings may in fact have been one and the same, but that question is really beside the point here.] On this anointing in Luk 7, Durham comments: "There is no such refreshful thing in all the work of creation to Christ, no such feast, as the warming of a sinner's heart with love to him; this is thought more of by Christ in a poor woman, than all the great feast he was invited unto by the rich Pharisee." And in the same way, the two mites of the poor widow are of far greater value than the lavish donations of those who are far wealthier (Mar 12:41-44; Luk 21:1-4).

Precious were the gifts of the wise men (Mat 2:11), for the incense and myrrh they brought expressed their recognition of the babe in the manger as the coming king, as in humility they bowed themselves before him. Precious also -- at the other end of his mortal life -- would be the anointing of Jesus' body by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (Joh 19:38-40; cp Mat 27:57-60; Mar 15:42-47; Luk 23:50-52), for the smell of those perfumes would suffuse his senses when first he was raised up from the dead -- and would be a lovely token of their love for him, and their confessing of themselves to be his disciples, even in his death.

The old expositor, Matthew Henry, writes: "The ointments, the odours wherewith [the Bride] is perfumed, [are] the gifts and graces of the Spirit, her good works, which are an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God (Phi 4:18). 'The smell of thy ointment is better than all spices', such as the queen of Sheba presented to Solomon, camel-loads of them (1Ki 10:2), or, rather, than all the spices that were used in compounding the holy incense which was burned daily on the golden altar. Love and obedience to God are more pleasing to Christ than sacrifice or incense." And to this proposition we find agreement, of course, in such passages as 1Sa 15:22; Psa 50:8-15,23; Pro 21:3; Isa 1:11-17; 58:5-7; Jer 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Amo 5:21-24; Mic 6:6-8; Mat 5:24; 9:13; 12:7; and Mar 12:33.

All good works, then, are as incense or perfume which arises with a sweet-smelling savor to the throne of grace. And especially is this true of prayer, which is particularly symbolized by the incense offered at the altar of incense (Psa 141:1,2; Rev 5:8; 8:3,4; Luk 1:9,10; Pro 15:8). Prayer to God through His Son and our mediator, prayer expressive of our great love for the Father and the Son, is truly a great "work" that we might do in service to them -- and all the more so because such prayer is a continuing confession that we can of our own selves do nothing by which we may be saved: it is altogether by and through the sacrifice of our Lord and Master and Husband, and we can but glorify and exalt the One who made it possible.

Song 4:11

YOUR LIPS: Cp Song 4:3; 5:13; 7:9.

DROP SWEETNESS AS THE HONEYCOMB, MY BRIDE: Once again, the bride is described in agricultural terms -- as connected with the Land itself. Honey symbolizes wisdom in Pro 24:13,14. Also, it suggests purity, instant energy, and a soothing effect. Cp Song 5:1; Pro 16:24; 27:7; Psa 19:10; Isa 7:15. Ct Pro 5:3 for the "counterfeit" to the bride -- the seductive honey-like blandishments of the harlot!

In the first place, this is plainly describing the sweetness of the girl's kisses. In a spiritual vein, it describes the sweetness of the words and communications of the "bride" (cp also Pro 24:13,14; Psa 119;103; Jer 15:16). This is very similar, in fact, to the Targum -- which sees the bride, of course, as Israel; and applies the sweetness of her tongue to the prayers of God's priests, and the fragrance of her garment to their anointed robes of office (Pope).

MILK AND HONEY ARE UNDER YOUR TONGUE: Milk, like honey, is a healthful food, and therefore symbolic of God's Word, which brings spiritual health to those who ingest it (1Co 3:2; Heb 5:12-14; 1Pe 2:2,3). The phrase "a land flowing with milk and honey" is used some 25 times to describe the Land of Promise. The phrase obviously underlines the fertility of the land; it has also been suggested that "milk" points to pasturelands, for milk-producing animals; and that "honey" points to forests (cp 1Sa 14:25-27) and rocky areas (cp Psa 81:16; Deu 32:13), where bees build their hives. The two together thus imply that the Land offers a pleasing combination of open and wooded areas, and of flat and elevated lands.

UNDER YOUR TONGUE: By contrast, trouble and evil, in the form of curses and lies and threats, are to be found under the tongue of the wicked (Psa 10:7; Job 20:12; cp also Jam 3:9,10), just as poison is found under the tongue of the serpent (Psa 140:3; Rom 3:13).

THE FRAGRANCE OF YOUR GARMENTS IS LIKE THAT OF LEBANON: As noted in Song 4:8, the young king and his bride seem to be standing on the heights of the mountains of Lebanon, surveying the Land of Promise. Lebanon (cp Song 3:9) was proverbial (cf Hos 14:6,7) for its aromatic perfumes, and for its incorruptible cedars. This is an echo of Gen 27:27: as Jacob's raiment brought to his old father Isaac the fragrance of a field which God had blessed, so here to the King the garments -- of the faultless and pure one whom he loves -- give forth a heart-strengthening savor like the fragrance of Lebanon, ie, of its fragrant herbs and trees. We may generally compare also Psa 45:8, where the bride's garments had the scent of precious perfumes. Also, in Psa 133:2, the holy anointing oil of the high priest is said to run down even to the hems of his garment.

GARMENTS: Heb "salmot" is not the usual word for "garment" (that is "beged"); this word describes the heavier outer wrap, which is used as a coat by day and a blanket by night. In the story, it may mean the blanket on which the bride and her husband spent the night whilst in the mountains of Lebanon; of course it would smell of the cedars!

More generally, garments are the symbol of those outward acts and deeds which "clothe" and characterize the man. Good deeds are like clean, pure, white garments (Psa 132:9; Job 29:14; Eph 4:24; 1Pe 5:5; Eph 6:11,13-15,17; Isa 11:5; Exo 28:2; Rev 19:7,8), pointing to the faith and righteousness of those who "wear" them.

Two men were riding on top of a bus in London, England. As they came down a poor-looking street with a big factory on one side, they were halted, and they noticed the doors of the factory had opened and hundreds of girls were pouring out and making their way across the street to a lunch room. Suddenly the air was filled with a sweet delightful fragrance. The visitor said, "Isn't that remarkable in a factory district here in London? Such a wondrous fragrance! It seems like the odor of a great garden. You would not think of finding such fragrance in this district."

"Oh, you don't understand," said his friend; "this is one of the largest perfume-factories in all the British Isles, and these young people are working constantly among the perfumes, and everywhere they go the fragrance remains upon their garments."

If only we could live in such close proximity to our Lord -- that the fragrance that graces him might saturate our garments and follow us wherever we go! So it might be said of us, as it was said of the disciples, that others "were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus" (Act 4:13).

Song 4:12

V 12: The bride has honored her pledge of purity, by preserving her virginity before marriage. We notice that her lover and husband continues to describe her in land-based and agricultural terms.

Interestingly, gardens and parks and orchards and pools of water are all mentioned together in Ecc 2:5,6 as well. Some scholars and historians believe that there was an extraordinarily beautiful enclosed garden, near Jerusalem, fed by a spring -- created at the command of Solomon for his own personal enjoyment. ("The so-called Pools of Solomon, three in number, situated about 10 miles by road from Jerusalem [near Bethlehem: GB], are of large proportions and are fed by surface water and by aqueducts from springs. The water from these pools is conveyed in a wonderfully engineered course, known as the lower-level aqueduct, which searches the winding contours of the Judean hills for a distance of about 15 miles, before reaching its destination in 'the great sea' under the Temple area. This aqueduct is still in use, but its date is uncertain" (ISBE). Although these reservoirs are of a later date, they may well be improvements upon other reservoirs first constructed in an earlier time, ie that of Solomon, or Hezekiah. Around these reservoirs there may have been cultivated the gardens of legend.) Some such garden -- which could have been kept up also by Solomon's successors -- may well furnish a pattern for the garden described in this Song of Songs.)

YOU ARE A GARDEN LOCKED UP... A SPRING ENCLOSED: "The twin themes of the enclosed garden and sealed spring are highlighted by the wordplay... between the Hebrew expressions 'naul gan' ('a garden locked up') and 'naul gal' ('an enclosed spring')" (NETn). "The verb 'naul' is used of bolting or locking a door from the INSIDE" (Pope); examples of this use are Jdg 3:23,24; 2Sa 13:17,18. This little tidbit suggests, quite beautifully, that the young woman is a virgin (and, later, the young wife is faithful) of her own free choice -- she has locked herself in (she has control over her own spirit: cp Pro 16:32; ct Pro 25:28); she has not been coerced and imprisoned and locked in by someone else!

YOU ARE A GARDEN LOCKED UP: This verse marks the first occurrence of the "garden" in the Song, but this theme (which will reappear in Song 4:15--5:1; 6:2,11; 8:13) has already been introduced, in Song 1:8, with "my vineyard". The image of a garden, behind its walls, and with the gate locked, suggests the unapproachableness to the area of all but the one to whom it rightfully belongs. Metaphorically, the young woman is a virgin before marriage, and afterward she is a faithful wife -- utterly desirable but also unattainable, saving her sexual favors for her husband alone.

Symbolically, in the OT, the nation of Israel is pictured as a garden, or a vineyard, in Isa 5:1-7 (cp Psa 65:9-13; 80:8-11; Isa 27:2,3; 58:11; Jer 2:21; 31:12), watched over by God, and hedged about, and watered. Spiritually, the ecclesia or church is a garden (cp 1Co 3:9: "God's field"; Mat 13:3-9,18-30: the seed sown in the field; and Joh 15:1-8: the vine and the branches) that has kept herself free from the corrupting influences of the world, and seeks the joy of serving her Lord Jesus Christ alone.

The idea of a garden, or a paradise (for such is the meaning of that word), is carried from the beginning of Scripture to the end, the symbol of perfect blessedness. "Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed" (Gen 2:8,15). By its very definition, such a place was fenced or walled off from the surrounding territory; it was in this place that the woman was first created, out of the side of the man as he slept (Gen 2:20-25). And so she was intended to be, just as the garden of Eden itself, a place "locked up" to outside, defiling forces and circumstances, a place where fruit would be brought forth to the glory of her Creator. But this she was not, for the serpent's tempting speech beguiled her (Gen 3:1-6; 2Co 11:1-3), and her actions introduced sin and death into the garden and the world (Gen 3:16-19). The result was that Adam and Eve were driven out of the lovely garden, and now the garden was truly locked up, for a cherubim with a flaming sword closed the way to the tree of life in its midst (Gen 3:24).

So, following this pattern, the bride has become the epitome of the "garden locked up"; through the help of her husband, who is the "tree of life" -- who died so that she might have life -- she has resisted the temptations of the "serpent", her sins have been forgiven, and she has remained a chaste virgin, locked up against the corruptions of the world. In her "garden" she has produced fruit -- the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-25) -- all to the glory of her husband. Such are the fruits which are enumerated, symbolically, in Song 4:13,14, which she now enjoys with her lover and friend and husband and lord. As Burrowes puts it, "Holiness requires that the soul be as exclusively devoted to God as the enclosed garden, or bolted spring, to its lord; or the temple, to him who dwelt between the cherubim. Over the door of the heart bolted against every one but Jesus, is written, 'Holiness to the Lord'."

And in the Age to Come, the garden of Eden will be reproduced in and around Jerusalem: the bride pictured in Rev 21 will be a city, the New Jerusalem, beautifully attired in gold and jewels, with great high walls ("a garden locked up": cp Rev 21:27). But she will be a city like no other; for she will be a "city" in a garden. Through the garden will flow a life-giving river, and in the garden will grow a great forest, the forest of the tree of life, collectively producing twelve crops of fruit, month by month. And the leaves will be for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:1,2). Such is the NT counterpart, and the glorious completion, of the lovely "garden" which is the bride of Christ, described in Song 4:12-16.

The garden is surely an extended metaphor of salvation: in Eden, a garden, Adam and Eve fell from grace. In Gethsemane, another garden, Jesus wrestled with the impulses of sin which his first parents had introduced into mankind -- wrestled and overcame! And in the garden tomb (Joh 19:41; cp Joh 20:15), he slept -- "sealed" with a stone (Mat 27:66) -- and then awoke to a new, glorious life; and met the woman who is the prototype of the faithful bride of all ages. A garden: site of the fall, site of the struggle, and site of the victory!

"A garden is the epitome of organized beauty and productiveness and fruitfulness and new life, and is a perfect type of the glorified Bride. An area is carefully selected for site and favorable conditions, separated, marked off and protected with a wall or fence, cleared, leveled, the soil tested, enriched, broken up, worked over, sown, watered, weeded, tended, sprayed, pruned -- to bring forth at last to the patient gardener an abundance of beauty of sight and smell and sound (for living creatures are part of a garden), and bountiful provision of food and healing medicines" (GVG).

A SPRING ENCLOSED, A SEALED FOUNTAIN: There were springs in the East, over which an edifice was built, so that no one could reach the springs except those who knew the secret entrance. Such a spring would be secure, and protected from pollution, from birds and beasts, and from unwanted intrusion (eg, the well secured by the great stone in Gen 29:8,10). The fountain of it might be sealed as a token of ownership, exclusive right, such as a husband would expect to have over the affections of his wife (cp sw twice in Song 8:6).

This figure of speech, as applied to a faithful wife, is employed more graphically in Pro 5, where the "wife of your youth" is compared to a fountain (v 18), or a well and spring (vv 15,16), never to be shared with strangers (v 17); and in this exclusivity her husband rejoices. (Pro 5:19, following immediately after these verses, supplies a number of other links with the Song of Songs as well: "A loving doe, a graceful deer -- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.")

"So is the Bride protected by the watchful care of the Beloved. She is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise until the redemption of his purchased possession. [Eph 1:13,14; cp 2Co 1:22; Eph 4:30] In that day 'the Spirit and the Bride shall say, Come, and whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely' [Rev 22:17] From that spring, now shut up, shall flow an ever-increasing volume, a stream of blessing that shall spread to all the desert places of the earth, causing them 'to bloom as the rose' [Isa 35:1] until at last the earth 'is filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.' [Num 14:21; Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14] That is the purpose of God with the earth, that it shall be filled with His glory through the willing obedience of the creatures He has made. 'For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody' (Isa 51:3)" (Atwell).

FOUNTAIN: Heb "ayin", or eye! A subtle and provocative figure of speech is hidden behind this word: as the eye is the place of tears flowing forth from the body, so the fountain is the place where the earth itself "weeps"!

SEALED: The Heb "chatham" means to seal a document for purposes of authentication (1Ki 21:8), as with a signet ring (Est 3:12; 8:8,10; Isa 8:16; 29:11; Jer 32:10,11,14,44; Dan 12:4,9). So here, in contrast to the word "naul" ("locked up" and "enclosed"), the protection is not by physically barring access, but by a royal "seal" of warning. It is as if the king say, 'This one whom I have sealed belongs to me exclusively. Break the seal if you choose, but know that if you do, the full force my wrath will fall upon you!' (cp, more generally, 1Ch 16:22; Psa 105:15; Eze 9:4-6; Rev 7:3,4).

A SEALED FOUNTAIN: And such was Jesus too: a fountain of the water of life (Joh 4:10,14; 7:37-39). When, on the cross, his side had been pierced, there flowed out water and blood (Joh 19:34). This "fountain" was "sealed up" in the garden tomb until his resurrection. Then afterward, he becomes a cleansing fountain for Israel and all mankind (Rev 1:5; 7:14; Zec 13:1):

"There is a fountain fill'd with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

"The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, as vile as he,
Wash'd all my sins away.

"Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransom'd church of God
Be saved to sin no more.

"E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die"
(William Cowper).

This verse may offer some further evidence as to the background of the whole Song -- as pertaining to the time of Hezekiah. Such a spring and fountain as described here was, historically, the Gihon Spring (also called the Virgin's Spring!) at Jerusalem. In earlier days this well was accessible from outside the city walls, which was a weakness in the defense of Jerusalem. But with great foresight, King Hezekiah enclosed the spring, so that the invading Assyrians would not be able either to capture it or to use its waters when they approached the capital city. And he also saw to the construction of a lengthy tunnel, a masterpiece of engineering, under the city itself, so that the waters of the spring might be collected and preserved to sustain his people in the event of a siege (2Ch 32:2-4; 2Ki 20:20; and see Lesson, Hezekiah's tunnel). Nothing like this incident can be found anywhere else in OT history. By this means, through the grace of God, Jerusalem was saved from the Assyrian army. Like a "garden locked up", the city remained unviolated, and impregnable.

"In this metaphor, which has reference to the inner life of a believer, we have very plainly the idea of secrecy. It is a spring shut up: just as there were springs in the East, over which an edifice was built, so that none could reach them save those who knew the secret entrance; so is the heart of a believer when it is renewed by grace: there is a mysterious life within which no human skill can touch. It is a secret which no other man knoweth; nay, which the very man who is the possessor of it cannot tell to his neighbour. The text includes not only secrecy, but separation. It is not the common spring, of which every passer-by may drink, it is one kept and preserved from all others; it is a fountain bearing a particular mark -- a king's royal seal, so that all can perceive that it is not a common fountain, but a fountain owned by a proprietor, and placed specially by itself alone. So is it with the spiritual life. The chosen of God were separated in the eternal decree; they were separated by God in the day of redemption; and they are separated by the possession of a life which others have not; and it is impossible for them to feel at home with the world, or to delight in its pleasures. There is also the idea of sacredness. The spring shut up is preserved for the use of some special person: and such is the Christian's heart. It is a spring kept for Jesus. Every Christian should feel that he has God's seal upon him -- and he should be able to say with Paul, 'From henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.' [Gal 6:17] Another idea is prominent -- it is that of security. Oh! how sure and safe is the inner life of the believer! If all the powers of earth and hell could combine against it, that immortal principle must still exist, for he who gave it pledged his life for its preservation" (CHS).

Song 4:13

Song 4:13 -- Song 5:1: These verses continue the "garden" metaphor. On a natural level, the "garden" represents the maiden's sexuality, preserved and only to be enjoyed with her one beloved husband, in this the consummation of their marriage. On a spiritual level, the "garden" represents the ecclesia, or church, producing the "fruits" of the Spirit (see Gal 5:22,23; cp Phi 1:11; Eph 5:9; Col 1:6,10; Heb 6:7; 12:11; Jam 3:17,18), and offering the "incense" (Psa 141:2; Luk 1:9,10; Rev 5:8; 8:3,4) of prayer to God.

YOUR PLANTS: The Heb "selahayik" occurs only 10 times in the OT. The root "selah" means "to send out", as in an arrow which is shot from the bow, or a messenger sent on an errand, or (as here interpreted by AV and NIV) a branch or twig springing forth from a tree or shrub (cp the usage in Isa 16:8). Alternatively, Neh 3:15 mentions "the wall of the Pool of Siloam (literally, "selah" = one sent: cp Joh 9:7)". Waters from the Pool of Siloam sprang from the Gihon Spring, also called the Virgin's Spring, coursing through Hezekiah's tunnel and into the pool. It is possible that the special enclosed garden of Solomon (and later kings of Judah) was watered from this pool; in which case, this phrase might mean: 'The waters of Siloam nourished the special orchard of the king, which produced...'

ARE AN ORCHARD: The noun "pardes" ("garden, parkland, forest") is a foreign loanword that occurs only 3 times in the OT (Song 4:13; Ecc 2:5; Neh 2:8). The original old Persian term "pairidaeza" designated the enclosed parks and pleasure-grounds which were the exclusive domain of the Persian kings and nobility. The Babylonian term "pardesu" means "marvelous garden," in reference to the enclosed parks of the kings. The term passed into Greek as "paradeiso" ("enclosed park, pleasure-ground"), referring to the enclosed parks and gardens of the Persian kings (LS). The Greek term was transliterated into English as "paradise" (Luk 23:43; 2Co 12:4; Rev 2:7).

POMEGRANATES: See Song 4:3n.

WITH CHOICE FRUITS: Cp Song 7:13. Does this mean: (a) other choice fruits in addition to pomegranates, or (b) the choicest of the pomegranates? It is difficult to say, although the general sense of the passage is scarcely changed either way.

HENNA: See Song 1:14n.

NARD: See Song 1:12n ("nard" here is sw as "perfume" there).

Song 4:14

Ingredients of the holy anointing oil: Exo 30:23.

NARD: Same as v 13. Mentioned twice in this list, probably because it was commonly mixed with saffron.

SAFFRON: Heb "karkom": the word occurs only this once in the OT. Saffron is a condiment, coloring material, and perfume which is a product of several species of crocus, especially the saffron crocus, Crocus. The stigmas of this flower, which are narrow, thread-like and a vivid orange, are dried and pressed into small cakes. The stigmas are so small that it takes 4,000 of them to make one ounce. Cake saffron has a peculiar aromatic odor and a bitter taste. It was widely used medically as well as a cosmetic and flavoring. The petals in ancient times were used to perfume banquet halls and the clothes of guests.

CALAMUS: This is introduced for the first time in the Song. It is thought to be a wild grass with a gingery smell and taste, and from which an oil is extracted. Such might have been used with sacrifices: Isa 43:24; Jer 6:20. The word itself, "qaneh", simply means a stalk or reed (the "canon", ie a measuring reed, is derived from this); so identification here with any single plant is somewhat problematic.

CINNAMON: The inner bark of the cinnamon tree was prized as a spice both for perfumery and for cooking, as it is today. It is a 25 to 30 foot high tree of the laurel family. It is native to the islands of Ceylon and Java, but cultivated in other tropical lands, and the spice was a costly import in Bible times. It was used in the holy anointing oil (Exo 30:23). Its fragrance perfumed the bed (Pro 7:17) and described the beauty of the beloved here. Cinnamon appears in Rev 18:13, along with myrrh and frankincense, as one of the luxury items traded by fallen Babylon.

WITH EVERY KIND OF INCENSE TREE: "All trees of frankincense" (AV). See Song 3:6n; Song 4:6n.

MYRRH AND ALOES: These occur rarely together in Scripture (Psa 45:8; Pro 7:17; John 19:39). The link with Psa 45 -- a psalm of the resurrection -- points to the bride prospectively in the kingdom, having been raised from the dead.

MYRRH: See Song 1:13n.

ALOES: Hebrew "ahalim": Num 24:6; Pro 7:17. The sandalwood was a large tree with a very fine wood, containing a resin, and an essential oil, constituting a perfume greatly prized. It was used, along with myrrh, in the burial of Christ (Joh 19:39,40). The Heb signifies "tents", suggestive of the wilderness wanderings and trials of the children of Israel. Not the same as the medicinal aloes widely used today.


HPM compares the nine "fruits" of the garden in Song 4:13,14 with the nine "fruits" of the Spirit in Gal 5:22,23. Quite reasonably, it would seem, the one group collectively suggests the other. Perhaps a bit more fancifully, or more ambitiously, he takes each of the nine in Song as the symbol, in the order listed, of each of the nine in Gal: thus, (1) pomegranates = love; (2) henna = joy; (3) nard = peace; (4) saffron = patience; (5) calamus = kindness; (6) cinnamon = goodness; (7) frankincense (incense tree) = patience; (8) myrrh = gentleness; and (9) aloes = self-control. Imaginative, but not necessary convincing.

Song 4:15

YOU ARE A GARDEN FOUNTAIN: He repeats the figures of v 12, but now blending them together! She is not just a garden AND a fountain -- she is a garden growing up around a fountain, and a fountain springing forth in the midst of a garden (or, more literally, as the AV, in the midst of "gardens", plural). "The term 'fountain' ('mavyan') denotes 'source, headwaters' as the place of origin of water streams (HAL). The term does not refer to a water fountain such as commonly found in modern cultivated gardens or parks; rather, it refers to the headwaters of streams and rivers, such as Banyas... the headwaters of the Jordan" (NETn).

A WELL OF FLOWING WATER: Not an ordinary "well" where water is collected, but a "wellspring" out of which water flows (see previous note). "Flowing water" is, in the Hebrew, literally "living waters" -- by which is suggested everlasting life (Joh 4:14; 7:37,38). In Joh 4, Jesus met the Samaritan woman (his "bride", figuratively!) by a well, and introduced himself to her -- in contrast to the water she was drawing forth, HE was the true wellspring of living water. (A lovely thought: Jesus was like Eleazar -- for Isaac -- and Jacob, and Moses, also meeting his future "bride" at a well!) Flowing, fresh water symbolizes life, in ct to standing, stagnant water which symbolizes death (Gen 26:19; Lev 14:5-6,50-52; 15:13; Num 19:17; Jer 2:13; 17:13; Zec 14:8).

STREAMING DOWN FROM LEBANON: Formed from melted snow on the mountain peaks, such a stream would contain the purest of waters (Jer 18:13-15). The bride has previously viewed the Promised Land with her husband, looking southward from the peaks of Lebanon upon its whole expanse (v 8). Now she is as a well of living water, bursting forth into a fountain, and a river which streams down from the north -- as far as all the rest of Israel and Judah.

The same idea is suggested by the prophecy of Zec 14, where the Jordan River, arising in these northern regions, no longer flows into the Dead Sea, but continues as a river of life, replenished apparently by other waters flowing out from Jerusalem, and refreshing all the lands of the whole region. Living and life-giving waters all, so that the sea of death is no more! (The river of the water of life in Rev 22, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb -- in Jerusalem -- and watering the garden of the tree of life, is another similar beautiful allegory of the Kingdom of God: which is not to say that there will not be a literal fulfillment of all this as well!)

This reminds us too of the waters of Mount Hermon in Psa 133, which as refreshing and life-giving dew are said to descend on Mount Zion, far to the south. Literally speaking, of course, this would be incongruous: the dew of Hermon does not come down on Zion -- it is simply too far away. So it would seem a meaning beyond the literal is intended. Hermon is in the far north, whilst Jerusalem sits in the middle of the southern tribes. Thus the figure, of north and south being joined together, represents a joyous union of all the tribes of Israel (as KIng Hezekiah worked for): those from the north, gladly coming to share fellowship in Zion, where the God of Israel had His dwelling place (Psa 132:13,14), all sharing the same living water. The meaning? The return to Zion, in Hezekiah's day, of many thousands of captives of Israel, carried away to Babylon by the Assyrian invaders, but released in the aftermath of the great destruction of Sennacherib's host. This, the initial fulfillment of many wonderful prophecies in Isaiah, becomes also a pattern and Last Days prophecy of the revived, and reviving Kingdom of God! (These ideas are developed in much greater detail in WIsa and WHez and BSD.)

Alternatively, "from Lebanon" might mean: "from the Temple of Solomon", which was constructed, in significant part, with the famous cedars of Lebanon (1Ki 5:2-9; 2Ch 2:1-16), or even "from the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon" (1Ki 7:2; 10:17,21; 2Ch 9:16,20), also in Jerusalem, and which bears the name of "Lebanon" for the same reason. In either case, the picture of the "bride" being a stream flowing down from "Lebanon" might suggest that she, along with her husband, will in the Kingdom Age be resident at Jerusalem (where these great buildings were), and that the waters flowing down from there symbolize their teachings and beneficent influences which will nourish the whole land (cp generally, Isa 2:2-4; 32:2; Mic 4:1-3; Psa 87:7; Eze 47:1-12; Rev 22:1-7).

Song 4:16

The bride picks up the metaphors that her beloved has used in vv 12-15, and offers herself fully and completely to him. Has she been inviolate, impregnable, before? She is no longer! Now the "garden", which is her body and her soul, is no longer "locked up" (v 12); now it is opened and its fragrances waft forth (v 16). And the "spring" and "fountain" are no longer enclosed and sealed (v 12); now their waters flow forth (v 15)... but only for her beloved! Possibly this is a prelude to the simple wedding described in Song 5:1.

What we have here is a picture, in the loveliest and most discreet language, of the continuing blessing of chastity before marriage. The young woman keeps herself, pure and virginal, from all other would-be lovers. She does so, not because sexual matters are distasteful to her, and not even just because she has been commanded to refrain. She keeps herself pure until the time of her marriage because she knows and believes that this will be the right and proper time and place truly to experience sexual pleasure. Here, in marriage to her husband, her pleasure will be so much more complete and satisfying -- because there will be no feeling of guilt, no fear of unwanted pregnancy, no fear of discovery, and no fear of being used and abandoned by selfish lovers. Like the young woman of Pro 5:15-19, the "waters" of her fountain will not flow forth wantonly into every alley and byway and gutter, to be befouled by strangers -- but will satisfy only her one lord and master. And the flowers and fruits and herbs of her "garden" will not be trampled and crushed by unthinking animals and unlawful intruders -- but their aroma and taste will please and nurture her husband only.

AWAKE, NORTH WIND, AND COME, SOUTH WIND! BLOW ON MY GARDEN, THAT ITS FRAGRANCE MAY SPREAD ABROAD. LET MY LOVER COME INTO HIS GARDEN AND TASTE ITS CHOICE FRUITS: The winds are subject to God's will (Psa 78:26; 135:7). In God's own time they will be sent, so that the garden's fruits will be ripened and perfected at the right season. Then they may be enjoyed, but only by her lover.

AWAKE: The injunction that concluded earlier sections, "Do NOT arouse or awaken" (Song 2:7; 3:5) now turns positive, as she invokes the winds to awaken her love -- and her lover!

NORTH WIND... SOUTH WIND: Is this simply a parallelism, wherein "north wind" and "south wind" mean essentially one and the same thing? Or is there a spiritual lesson? JFB offers: "The west wind brings rain from the sea (1Ki 18:44,45; Luk 12:54). The east wind is tempestuous (Job 27:21; Isa 27:8) and withering (Gen 41:23) [coming in, as it does, from the desert: GB]. These, therefore, are not wanted; but first [comes] the north wind clearing the air (Job 37:22; Pro 25:23), and then the warm south wind (Job 37:17)" -- causing the fruits to ripen. Alternatively, the "north wind" may mean Spirit-directed trials, which produce "fruit" in the believer by stiffening the resolve and driving one to trust in God alone; whereas the "south wind" may mean Spirit-provided comfort and nurture. (The north and the south winds are mentioned together in Ecc 1:6 also.)

Possibly the "winds" may symbolize the Holy Spirit (as plainly in Joh 3:8), by which -- after the resurrection of their Lord and Master -- the believers were renewed and reinvigorated, and inspired in their service of Christ (John 20:19-22; cp Acts 2:4,38; 4:31; 8:15; 10:47; 19:2). The idea of the wind, or spirit, of God awakening from the dead -- a resurrection for believers to the final consummation of God's kingdom on the earth -- is also suggested in Eze 37:5,9.

FRAGRANCE: Sw Song 4:10,14; 5:1,13; 6:2; 8:14.

MY LOVER: Cp Song 1:2.

LET MY LOVER COME INTO HIS GARDEN: "It is a sign of spiritual health when we heartily desire God's best gifts; when our prayer is the prayer of faith; when we ask and have. But it is a sign of higher attainment yet when we have but one desire, viz, the desire to have the Giver with us rather than his gifts. A wife highly prizes the love tokens she receives from her absent lord, but she values far more highly his personal return. So, if we are wise, we shall more desire to have Christ in our hearts than any gift of light or strength. 'Let my Beloved himself come.' To have the source of life is better than having the streams. If Christ is with me I shall want nothing" (Pulpit).

"The world has gone completely astray on the subject of sex. It has made the experience as something to be desired of itself, whether or not a person is married. It is regarded as a form of experiment, pleasure or indulgence to which anyone is entitled, as though it were food or recreation. No conditions are attached to it provided that the participants 'consent'. No responsibility is incurred, no promises are given or recognized, and no obligation arises. So people climb into a bed which is neither marital nor undefiled, and share a squalid taking and giving in which the mind is usually excited by mere eroticism and the body by sheer physical stimulation. The meaning and beauty of true union are trailed in the dust and a shabby degradation of the gift of God is the result. Science has made it 'safe', but there is still an increasing toll of disease and unwanted children cast upon the waters of life by the selfish indulgence of the thoughtless or irresponsible. Our young people are put under pressure to accept what society accepts, and have constantly to find ways to resist the creeping tide of sin in thought and deed.

"Thus there are around us a bewildering array of trial marriages, exchanges of marriage partners, bed-sharing by consent, untold promiscuity and the like, all fed by the forsaking of Christian principles and by the sensual messages of the media, the provocativeness of some kinds of dress and by the foolish romanticism and fairy tale imaginations which some young people substitute for true love by indulging in passionate and ephemeral associations.

"All these things and many more are destructive of the sanctity and permanence of marriage. Many of them prepare the mind beforehand to forsake marriage should difficulties or trials arise, or should there be a temptation for a change of heart or a wish for something or someone different. Convenience and not commitment, selfishness and not selflessness, and temporary partnership instead of complete and unreserved giving of one man and woman to each other for life are the expedients of all parts of society...

"Of course, the world around us thinks nothing of pre-marital relations. Indeed, how can it when it tolerates or encourages intercourse between those who have no intention to marry? But it should not be so among us: 'Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid' (1Co 6:15). Intercourse is intended only for marriage and is an expression of heart and mind by one person for one person. Pre-marital relations destroy the proper joy of marriage. Indiscriminate intimacy, apart from being wholly unChristian and loose, makes nonsense of the sanctity of the marriage bond and encourages unfaithfulness after marriage. Right behavior begins in the mind. Christian behavior follows the precepts of Christ" (HT, Xd Nov 1978).

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