The Agora
Bible Commentary
Song of Songs

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Song of Songs 5

Song 5:1

The shepherd/king speaks. His response is as joyous and willing as her request (Song 4:16). As has been discussed when dealing with similar language in earlier verses, the figures of speech here are obvious euphemisms for their lovemaking.

I HAVE COME INTO MY GARDEN: Christ comes to dwell with believers, which can have both a present and a future application: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him... If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (Joh 14:21,23).

Cp Mary Magdalene coming to the Garden Tomb, seeking the one she loves (see also the ideas and parallels in the notes, Song 2:14-3:4).

MY GARDEN: "The heart of the believer is Christ's garden. He bought it with his precious blood, and he enters it and claims it as his own. A garden implies separation. It is not the open common; it is not a wilderness; it is walled around, or hedged in. Would that we could see the wall of separation between the church and the world made broader and stronger... A garden is a place of beauty, it far surpasses the wild uncultivated lands. The genuine Christian must seek to be more excellent in his life than the best moralist, because Christ's garden ought to produce the best flowers in all the world. Even the best is poor compared with Christ's deservings; let us not put Him off with withering and dwarf plants. The rarest, richest, choicest lilies and roses ought to bloom in the place which Jesus calls his own. The garden is a place of growth. The saints are not to remain undeveloped, always mere buds and blossoms. We should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. [2Pe 3:18] Growth should be rapid where Jesus is the gardener... A garden is a place of retirement. So the Lord Jesus Christ would have us reserve our souls as a place in which he can manifest himself, as he doth not unto the world... The Lord grant the sweet showers of his grace to water his garden this day" (CHS).

MY SISTER, MY BRIDE: See Song 4:12.

I HAVE GATHERED MY MYRRH: Song 1:13n. Of Jesus it may truly be said that he "gathered myrrh" -- experiencing the bitterest of deaths (see Mat 15:23; Joh 19:39).

WITH MY SPICE: "Balsam" (Song 4:10n). Myrrh with spices might have been an ointment with which the guests at the wedding were anointed (cp the anointing of Jesus himself in Luk 7:38,46).

So, for Jesus, the bitterest of deaths, as well as the burial that followed (cp Joh 19:39,40; Mar 16:1; Luk 23:56), was transformed into the most pleasant of experiences -- even a sweet smelling savor!

I HAVE EATEN MY HONEYCOMB AND MY HONEY: Song 4:11n. "Honeycomb" is the Heb "ya'ar": "a copse of bushes; hence a forest; hence honey in the comb (as hived in trees)" (Strong). It may mean the bushes or thickets or trees where the beehive is found, or the comb itself. The sw is used in conjunction with the honey in the comb which Jonathan ate, in 1Sa 14:25-27. When the resurrected and glorified Jesus appeared in the midst of his disciples, he demonstrated his physical reality by eating a honeycomb (Luk 24:42,43, AV).

I HAVE DRUNK MY WINE AND MY MILK: See Song 1:2n; 2:4n. The language in Isa 55 shows that this is speaking, not about natural food, but about the things pertaining to the divine promises to David.

EAT, O FRIENDS, AND DRINK: The bridegroom (and bride?) graciously welcome their guests to the marriage, and encourage them to enjoy themselves. A marriage requires guests and witnesses. Why is this so? "Biblically, when a lover gives himself to his beloved as these two have done, the relationship of each has changed to all the rest of the human race. That is why traditionally in our culture a wedding cannot be performed without witnesses. That is the reason behind the publishing of wedding bans. The taking of a woman by a man is a public matter.

"Furthermore, what one does with one's sexuality is of concern to God (Exo 20:14). Likewise, it is a concern to everyone else. The woman now belongs to the man and the man to the woman. This changes all other personal relationships. Thus the witnesses present at weddings represent the larger society. This is why weddings are considered legal matters.

"The public aspect of marriage helps explain the presence of 'the daughters of Jerusalem' (Song 2:7; 3:5; 5:8,16; 8:4). It also explains the role of the 'friends' as seen in the NIV (Song 1:4b,8; 5:1c,9; 6:1,10,13; 8:5,8,9). Self-giving love between the sexes is of social significance. Society must know. How else can marriage be a witness and testimony to the relationship of Christ and the church? One Savior, one spouse!" (EBC).

Even now, the mind, or soul, of the believer is the place where Christ may abide, and revel in the communion. Or, as expressed in Isa 57:15: "For this is what the high and lofty One says -- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.' " God is indeed everywhere present, but He especially abides in those places where His glory may be most fully displayed. For this purpose, size and prominence of place are of no consequence; the dimensions of the temple on Mount Zion is -- for this purpose -- no different than the "temple" of the human heart: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?... This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" (Isa 66:1,2).

Prophetically and typically, this invitation also sounds like a call to believers to eat and drink with Christ in the Father's kingdom: Isa 25:6-8. "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Rev 19:9). It is interesting that, in his first recorded miracle, Jesus -- though one of the guests -- acted the part of the host at a wedding banquet, supplying (miraculously) the finest wine (John 2:1-11).

This invitation here may also be a fulfillment of the promise in Rev 3:20: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" -- which passage may be said, for believers, to have both present and future aspects.

FRIENDS: The use of this word reminds us of Joh 15:14,15: "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

DRINK YOUR FILL, O LOVERS: This sounds like a ritual response by the friends and guests and witnesses to the married couple. "Jesus joins the company of brethren and sisters; they together hold sweet communion; they rejoice in each other's presence; they mutually give thanks to God. Jesus enjoys the delightful companionship of all his saints... There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents. How they will delight in the company of this vast number of the redeemed, and will praise Him through whom it has been made possible" (Ask). "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: 'Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!' " (Rev 7:9-12).

Song 5:2

Song 5:2-8: While seeking her "Beloved", the young maiden is mocked and beaten by the "watchmen" (vv 6,7). She suffers much because of her love, while the object of that love is absent. Cp the same theme, Song 3:1-4. (Again, as in Song 2:8 -- 3:5, there is a request/denial/search/find sequence in the relationship between "Solomon" and "Shulamith".) Most likely this sequence is all a dream, recalling her earlier, and "actual", experience in Song 3.

Another alternative (since the marriage has clearly been consummated, in Song 4) would be to take these separate songs as being out of sequence chronologically, which is certainly possible.(HPM, following some earlier writers, takes Song 5:2, to the end of the Song of Songs, to be the a second complete sequence, telling the very same story, but now from the perspective of the Gentiles, whereas the first story was a Jewish one. This theory gives a reason for the non-sequential and repetitive aspects of some of the songs, but it is hard to see the difference in imagery to account for a Jew-Gentile dichotomy.)

Yet another alternative -- from the viewpoint of a spiritual allegory -- would be to see the first "marriage" as the result of the first advent of Christ: the creation of a church, or ecclesia, "married" to Christ in belief and baptism... yet once again separated from her "Husband" and yearning for his return, the Second Coming.

On a much more naturalistic level, EBC sees this section as indicating the problems of adjustment that might arise in any marriage, once the "honeymoon" phase is over: "So our maiden dreams that her lover comes for her. He comes knocking and calling. It is inconvenient for her to respond. She has already undressed, washed her feet, and is now in bed (vv 2,3). She is slow to acknowledge his overture. Her hesitancy reflects a paralysis that we often experience both in dreams and in real life. Then the opportunity is gone. She finally rises to open to him, but he has departed (vv 5,6). Love's chance is lost.

"This is a remarkable picture of the kind of adjustments that are necessary in life style in marriage. Our natural sloth, the differences between a man and a woman, our uncertainty about the other's thinking, the variations in our life rhythms, our unwillingness to alter our preferred patterns for the other, our own self-consciousness -- all contribute to the problem of reading each other's advances. The lover misunderstands and departs. She is sick now with longing for him...

"There is a realism in the Song that merits our respect. The course of true love seldom runs smoothly for long. For every moment of ecstasy, there seems to be the moment of hurt and pain. The openness that lovers experience with each other makes possible both extremes. Not even love can guarantee perfect performance in personal relationships. Time and humility help. Our poet is dealing with such in this passage."

This last is not the approach that Christadelphians usually take to the Song of Songs, and so we feel that we are on unfamiliar ground here. But there may well be merit, and value, in taking this point of view and working through it.

I SLEPT BUT MY HEART WAS AWAKE: That is, it was a dream! "My mind was dreaming" (NET). The full dream sequence would be either (1) all of vv 2-8, or (2) less likely, vv 2-5, with real-time action starting again in v 6.

LISTEN: The term "qol" is translated "voice" in the AV, but more often refers to a loud or unexpected sound, of any kind, that arrests the attention of a character in a narrative (Gen 4:10; Isa 13:4; 40:3; 52:8; Jer 3:21; 4:15; 10:22; 50:28; 51:54; Mic 6:9; Zeph 1:14; 2:14; Song 2:8). The speaker/writer uses it here as a rhetorical device to portray dramatically the girl's own startled reaction to an unexpected sound that came to her attention. She is startled from her sleep by the unexpected sound of "Solomon" loudly knocking at her bedroom door late at night. (But how could a wife be startled by her husband calling for her? Surely, in a dream. But perhaps also if he were on a long journey, and now returns home early and somewhat unexpectedly. To say that various expositional possibilities exist would be an understatement.)

MY LOVER IS KNOCKING: "OPEN TO ME": The verb "dafaq" ("to knock, pound, beat") occurs only three times in Biblical Hebrew, twice in reference to knocking at a door (Jdg 19:22; Song 5:2) and once of beating cattle in order to drive them along (Gen 33:13).

This sequence is echoed by Jesus in his words to the Laodiceans: "I stand at the door and knock" (Rev 3:20) -- this verse is connected, also, with eating together: "I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (cp Rev 3:20 with Song 5:1).

These verses may also provide the basis for Jesus' words in Mar 2:19,20: "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast." If these words are an interpretation of Song 4 and Song 5, then they suggest that Jesus saw the first "consummation" of the marriage as fulfilled in his ministry among the disciples, and the "separation" as his death and burial.

Then again, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Mat 25:1-13), who were waiting for the Bridegroom to appear, the meanwhile some falling asleep (cp 1Th 5:5-8; Rom 13:11,12; Eph 5:14; Mat 26:40,41; Luk 9:32) and others neglecting the necessary preparations for his coming, may also be based on Song 5:2-8. (One should not miss the dramatic contrast between the girl's eagerness to see her lover in Song 2:8–11 and what looks like apathy or at least surprise about his approach on this evening in Song 5:2–8.) This view of the matter, alongside Mat 25, seems to identify the husband's return here with the Second Coming of Christ.

OPEN TO ME: There is a real urgency in this command; it is brief and earnest and almost brusque. "Let me in!"

The call of the gospel may, in the first instance, be a call to "open and let me in!" Durham writes: "In the exercise of faith (Acts 16:14) the Lord opened the heart of Lydia... [meaning] she gave heed unto those things which Paul spoke." When Christ calls by his word, then it is our duty to open the doors of our heart and mind and receive him -- no matter the hour nor the inconvenience!

At Christ's return, he will utter the cry to the watchers and gatekeepers on the walls of the city of Jerusalem: "Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in" (Psa 24:7-10; cp Isa 26:2).

MY SISTER: See Song 4:9n. He addresses her as one of equal rank to his own.

MY DARLING: See Song 1:9n. He addresses her as one whom he loves and has freely chosen.

MY DOVE: See Song 1:15n; 2:14n. He addresses her as one who is pure and lovely in her simplicity and virtue.

MY FLAWLESS ONE: "Flawless" here is Heb "tam", which signifies "perfect" (as RSV) or "complete". The AV translates "undefiled". ["Tam" is not related to the Heb for "flaw" (spot or blemish) in Song 4:7.] Similar expressions are used in Gen 25:27, in the sense of "peaceful" or "quiet", and in Psa 37:37, in the sense of "righteous" or "upright". Job is described as a "perfect" man in Job 1:1,8; 2:3.

One more time, we must pause to remind ourselves that the bride is "my perfect, or righteous, one" only because of the perfect atoning sacrifice of the Truly Righteous One, her Lord and Master and Husband (Eph 5:25-27). And what an extraordinary "perfect one" is the multitudinous bride! She is composed of harlots and sinners of every sort; of the lepers and the lame, the deaf and the blind; of Gentiles of every variety, including the hated Samaritans; of Jewish zealots side by side with Roman-sympathizing tax collectors; of adulterers and murderers! All made perfect together in Christ -- never of themselves, but only through faith in his shed blood.

MY HEAD IS DRENCHED WITH DEW, MY HAIR WITH THE DAMPNESS OF THE NIGHT: "The cool Palestinian nights produce heavy dew which during the long summer dry season provides the necessary moisture for the vineyards" (Carr). "Between May and October the night dews can drench a person's clothing (Jdg 6:38; Dan 4:33)" (Waddoup). This describes one who has spent the night out of doors -- one who is tired, homeless: with no place to lay his head (Mat 8:20; Luk 9:58; cp Isa 53:3-5; Joh 1:11)... or one who has been traveling some long distance, and at night, to reach his home... or even one who, though a great and mighty king, is also a shepherd to his flock -- braving the night chills to care for them (cp Gen 31:40,41 along with Mar 1:35 and Luk 6:12)!

DEW: Possibly referring to resurrection (Psa 110:3; Isa 26:19). One who has been raised from the dead, and now comes looking for his beloved? Or one who, being himself "the resurrection and the life", has -- as part of his advent -- been involved with raising others from the dead? Again, many possibilities exist -- each of which may be considered with profit.

Song 5:3

There is both a comparison and a contrast between Song 2:8-11 and Song 5:2-8. In each case the section begins with "Listen! my lover." But in Song 2 the woman is desperately eager for her lover, whereas in Song 5 she seems (as the words of v 3 indicate) to be apathetic (or distracted? or simply asleep -- and thus not ready for his return?). If this is a dream, then she seems to express what are really quite trifling reasons for not getting up to admit him; such minor inconveniences are insurmountable only in dreams, not in real life. Does the dream express a subconscious and irrational fear that when he does come to her, she will not be able to see him? So perhaps, to be fair, this sequence -- which is so obviously a dream -- expresses not what the bride does when her lord comes, but what she is afraid she might do!

The "excuses" given sound very much like Jesus' parable, in the answer of the man to the late-night request for help from his neighbor: "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything' " (Luk 11:7; cp Pro 3:28). More generally, they also sound like the excuses given for not following Christ in Luk 9:59,61: "Lord, first let me go and bury my father" (the feebleness of this excuse is explained in that his father had not yet died!) and "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family"; as well as in Luk 14:18-20: "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' "

"Frivolous excuses are the language of prevailing slothfulness in religion; Christ calls to us to open to him, but we pretend we have no mind, or we have no strength, or we have no time, and therefore think we may be excused, as the sluggard that will not plough by reason of cold [Pro 20:4]" (Henry). One more such frivolous excuse may be noted: in Pro 22:13, "the sluggard says, 'There is a lion outside!' or, 'I will be murdered in the streets!' " (cp also Pro 26:13).

I HAVE TAKEN OFF MY ROBE -- MUST I PUT IT ON AGAIN?: Taking off the clothes is an evidence of preparing to rest, and keeping them on is a sign of alertness, as in Neh 4:23: "Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes." Thus keeping on of the clothes is used to signify a spiritual watchfulness, and a hiding of spiritual nakedness: "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed" (Rev 16:15). "Buy of me... white raiment, that you may be clothed" (Rev 3:18).

In the context of the historical background, this typifies the reluctance of the northern tribes to resume their worship of Yahweh. Cp Amo 6:1: they are "at ease in Zion"... they are relaxed, and not disposed to think of tomorrow, or trouble; in short, they feel they have no need for a Saviour.

ROBE: Heb "kethoneth": "shirt" (Strong), "coat" (AV), "dress" (NEB), "garment" (RSV). The sw is used of Joseph's coat in Gen 37:3, and of the high priest's tunic in Exo 28:4. It is also used of the coats of skins made for Adam and Eve in Gen 3:21. It seems to signify the inner garment, worn closest to the skin, not the outer robe ("salmah") mentioned in Song 4:11, which served as a bed-covering at night.

I HAVE WASHED MY FEET -- MUST I SOIL THEM AGAIN?: In the East, whether one walked barefooted or wore sandals, the feet always became soiled so that they required frequent washing (cp Gen 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; 1Sa 25:41; 1Ti 5:10). Hence the practical reason for the washing of the apostles' feet by Jesus in Joh 13:4-8.

This "excuse" looks something like a silly desire to avoid a small, ritual defilement -- as the priest and Levite, who both walked by on the other side of the road, so as not to be contaminated by the dying man (Luk 10:31,32). If the feet -- or hands -- be dirtied, they can easily be washed again!

By contrast, Jesus willingly underwent every defilement in order to serve those whom he loved: he touched lepers, and dead bodies, and prostitutes, and women with issues of blood; and finally he endured, in love, the grossest defilement -- and curse -- of the cross, and a brutal death, being hanged on a tree (Deu 21:23; Gal 3:13; 1Pe 2:24), all for others!

"It is when we are asked to do unusual things that we find out the scope and the value of our Christian profession. How difficult it is to be equally strong at every point! How hard, how impossible, to have a day-and-night religion: a religion that is in the light and in the darkness the same, as watchful at midnight as at midday; as ready to serve in the snows of winter as amid the flowers of the summer-time! So the Shulamite breaks down. She has been rhapsodizing, calling to her Love that he would return to her; and now that he has come she says: 'I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?' What a refrain to all the wild rhapsody! When the Shulamite cries that her loving and loved one may return, always add... 'Oh that he would come at regular times, in the ordinary course of things, that he would not put my love to these unusual and exceptional tests: for twelve hours in the day I should be ready, but having curtained myself round, and lain down to sleep, how can l rise again?' Thus all mere sentiment perishes in the using; it is undergoing a continual process of evaporation. Nothing stands seven days a week and four seasons in the year but reasoned love, intelligent apprehension of great principles, distinct inwrought conviction that without Christ life is impossible, or were it possible it would be vain, painful, and useless. Have we any such excuses, or are these complaints... unknown to us in their practical realization?" (Parker, BI).

Song 5:4

"Several scholars suggest a subtle double entendre in Song 5:4-6. The imagery of Solomon thrusting his 'hand' through the 'hole' in the door, and the Beloved 'opening' to her lover, while her fingers dripped with 'myrrh' on the 'handles of the lock,' might have a double reference -- primarily, to the literal attempt of Solomon to gain entry to her bedroom, and secondarily, his desire to make love to her" (NETn). [For starters, the Heb "yod", or "hand", is sometimes used as a euphemism for the male organ of procreation (Isa 57:8,10; and possibly Jer 5:31; 50:15).]

Can we be sure of this secondary meaning? No. Ought we to be sure? Of course not. It is in the very nature of a double entendre that even its presence is subject to some doubt in the first place. Yet the story continues here as well -- proceeding on at least two separate, but parallel, courses: (1) a parable of the developing, and then fully realized, love of a young man and a young woman; and (2) an allegory of God's love for His people Israel, and ultimately, Christ's love for his body, or ecclesia.

We need not be offended by such sexual innuendo in the Song of Songs, although we should consider it discreetly and modestly, and not flaunt this element of divine revelation in some unseemly fashion, or for its "shock value" -- for to do so might easily make a mockery of the Bible. As we have noted several times already, God has given mankind the gift of sexual expression and pleasure, to be enjoyed in its right and proper place; and one of the reasons is surely to communicate to us, in a lovely and profound spiritual allegory, the depth and the beauty and the pure joy that should be -- and will be -- ours in spiritual communion with His Son and Himself.

MY LOVER THRUST HIS HAND THROUGH THE LATCH-OPENING: He was attempting to open the door from the outside by extending his hand inside the door through some kind of latch-opening: "he put in his hand by the opening of the door" (KJV); "he extended his hand through the opening" (NASB). (The RSV is simply wrong: "he put his hand to the latch.") Thomson describes such keys and locks in LB 317: "These locks are placed on the inside of the doors of gardens and outer courts, and even on those of inner rooms in some places. To enable the owner to unlock them, a hole is cut in the door, through which he thrusts his arm and inserts the key... Such must have been the custom at Jerusalem..."

MY HEART BEGAN TO POUND FOR HIM: "My heart was moved for him" (ASV). "My heart was thrilled within me" (RSV). Or, in keeping with the double entendre alluded to above: "my feelings were aroused for him" (NASB).

Here the AV has "my bowels were moved for him" (cp NEB too) -- which, given the change in meaning of certain phrases since the 17th century, may now be the single most infelicitous translation in all the Bible! Sadly, or humorously, it is in fact the title of a book of sermons based on Canticles 4 -- 6 by a Dr. Sibs in 1639: "Bowels Opened", with the subtitle "A Discovery of the Neere and deere Love, Union and Communion betwixt Christ and the Church". Marvin Pope writes that a copy of the book has been found in the Yale Medical Library, classified as "medical history"; the librarian apparently ignored the subtitle and assumed that the doctor's concern was for the relief of constipation!

Atwell takes this sequence as an allegory, of the oft-disappointed desire of believers for their Lord's return: "These verses seem to speak of the experience that has been common to the saints at various times during the Lord's absence. He has given us many signs to guide us as to when we may expect him. All down the centuries his followers have believed him nigh; the apostles themselves seem to have lived in the hope that they would be alive at his coming. Every generation since has shared that hope. They have believed him to be at the threshold, and some event has occurred that seems to indicate that he is about to appear; expectant love has thought to see his visible hand thrust through the hole of the door (which is the method of gaining entrance to an Eastern house), and to hear his voice. But expectation proving premature (for 'of the day and the hour knoweth no man...'), disappointment is apt to follow. The Beloved seems to withdraw himself, and the Betrothed looks in vain."

Song 5:5

I AROSE TO OPEN FOR MY LOVER, AND MY HANDS DRIPPED WITH MYRRH, MY FINGERS WITH FLOWING MYRRH ON THE HANDLES OF THE LOCK: Through the latch-hole the bridegroom puts his hand in order to open the door. Seeing this, the bride is greatly thrilled (v 4); overcoming her reluctance, she rises to open the door. Touching the handles of the bar, her fingers and hands drip with the myrrh which the bridegroom has gathered (v 1) and poured on it (or possibly, with which she had anointed and perfumed herself, in preparation for his coming).

Under the assumption that the bridegroom had left the myrrh behind, Henry writes: "He that put in his hand by the hole of the door left [the myrrh] there as an evidence that he had been there. When Christ has wrought powerfully upon a soul he leaves a blessed sweetness in it, which is very delightful to it."

MYRRH: See Song 1:13n.

FLOWING MYRRH: "Liquid myrrh is either that which flows out by itself from the tree (so Delitzsch) or a mixed unguent of a creamy and oily consistency" (Carr).

She arose to open the door for her lover, but apparently not quickly enough. For her might be the exhortation of Luk 12:35-37: "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes."

Song 5:6

I OPENED FOR MY LOVER, BUT MY LOVER HAD LEFT; HE WAS GONE: "I opened [past action] for my beloved, but my lover had already turned and gone away [past perfect action]" (NETn). The lesson is clear: be prepared to greet your Lord when he "knocks". This scene may be the basis for Christ's words in Rev 3:20: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (cp Mat 25:1-13: the Bridegroom cometh!).

MY HEART SANK: "The term 'naphshi' ('my soul') is a synecdoche of part for the whole person. The term 'nephesh' ('soul') is used over 150 times as a metonymy of association with feelings: sorrow and distress, joy, love, desire, passion, hatred, loathing, avarice (HAL; BDB). The phrase 'naphshi yatzea' (literally, 'my soul went out') is a Hebrew idiom connoting great despair (eg, Gen 35:18; Jer 15:9) [even leading to death: GB]... Vv 6,7 clearly indicate that the Beloved fell into despair when [her Lover] had departed" (NETn). "I nearly died" might, in fact, be a good translation. 'When he had gone, I felt as though my very life had departed!'

AT HIS DEPARTURE: "Alternately, 'spoke'. Traditionally, the term 'vedavro' (...from the root 'davar'...) has been related to the common root 'to speak' which occurs nearly 1150 times in verbal forms and nearly 1500 times as a noun. This approach is seen as early as the LXX (although the LXX treated 'davar' as a noun rather than an infinitive construct because it was working with an unpointed text: 'en logoi autous', 'in his word')... Many translations adopt the same basic approach as the LXX: 'when he spake' (KJV), 'as he spoke' (NASB), 'when he spoke' (NIV margin)... However, many recent scholars relate 'vedavro' to the homonymic root 'dabar' ('to turn away, depart') which is related to Arabic 'dabara', 'to turn one's back, be behind, depart, retreat'. Several examples of this root have been found (Psa 18:48; 47:4; 56:6; 75:6; 116:10; 127:5; 2Ch 22:10; Job 19:18; Song 5:6; Isa 32:7) (HAL 209,210). Several recent translations take this approach: 'when he turned his back' (NEB), 'at his flight' (JB), and 'at his departure' (NIV). This makes better sense contextually, and it provides a tighter parallelism with the preceding line that also describes his departure: 'My beloved had turned away; he was gone' (NIV)" (NETn).

I LOOKED FOR HIM BUT DID NOT FIND HIM. I CALLED HIM BUT HE DID NOT ANSWER: The "searching" motif from Song 3:2 is again introduced here. "But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand... then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me" (Pro 1:24,28). JFB adds the perceptive comment: "Weak faith receives immediate comfort (Luk 8:44,47,48); strong faith is tried with delay (Mat 15:22,23)." Here was a great trial, but the bride would be able to bear it, and her faith -- sorely tested thereby -- would ultimately be strengthened.

The backsliding of the bride (if so it was), though painful, was not final. "She did not go to bed again, but went in pursuit of him... She might have saved herself this labour if she would but have bestirred herself when he first called; but we cut ourselves out a great deal of work, and create ourselves a great deal of trouble, by our own slothfulness and carelessness in improving our opportunities. Yet it is her praise that, when her beloved has withdrawn, she continues seeking him; her desires toward him are made more strong, and her enquiries after him more solicitous, by his withdrawings. She calls him by prayer, calls after him, and begs of him to return; and she not only prays but uses means, she seeks him in the ways wherein she used to find him" (Henry).

Following the God/Israel scheme of interpretation, the Jewish Targum takes this verse as a prophecy of the departure of the Shekinah Glory from Israel, as outlined in Eze 10:4,18,19; 11:23; the woman's finding of her lover again would be the return of that Glory to Jerusalem, in the Kingdom Age to come (Eze 43:4,5). Taking up the NT, Christ/church scheme, it would be easy to see this as prophetic of Christ's ascension into heaven (Act 1:9-11); and, of course, the bride's later reunion with her husband would correspond to his Second Coming.

Consider the following passages (there are many more like them, each of which bears reflection on this point): "O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed" (Psa 30:7). "I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob" (Isa 8:17). "When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you?" (Isa 50:2). "When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them... Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me" (Hos 5:6,15). " 'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty" (Zec 7:13). "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent" (Psa 22:1,2). "Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer" (Lam 3:8).

And especially relevant are these verses, in the context of a husband and wife: "The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit -- a wife who married young, only to be rejected... For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, says the LORD your Redeemer" (Isa 54:6-8).

Song 5:7

THE WATCHMEN FOUND ME AS THEY MADE THEIR ROUNDS IN THE CITY. THEY BEAT ME, THEY BRUISED ME: Her first search, in Song 3, seems to have gone much more easily: then she found her lover/husband more quickly, and she was not beaten or abused by the city's watchmen (Isa 62:6,7). Also in the first dream, she posed a question: "Have you seen the one my heart loves?" (Song 3:3) -- which she never even has the chance to repeat here. If this is a dream, as v 2 suggests, then the fact that the watchmen beat her may indicate that she subconsciously felt that someone should punish her for refusing him.

Cp the Jewish "watchmen" who persecute the early Christians, all in the name of God's glory (Isa 66:5; Joh 16:2; Luk 6:22; Act 5:40,41). Such pseudo-watchmen do not deserve the title, for in this case "Israel's watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain" (Isa 56:10,11; cp Act 20:29,30; 2Co 11:13; Rev 17:6). Of this number, before he repented, was Saul of Tarsus (1Ti 1:12-16; 1Co 15:9; Act 26:9,10; Phi 3:6).

THEY TOOK AWAY MY CLOAK: The word -- which occurs elsewhere only in Isa 3:23 -- is "redid", which means something like a light summer garment; The KJV has "veil"; possibly such a light outer garment could be used as a veil. What must the watchmen think of a young woman wandering the streets at night? "To be out after curfew in an eastern city, particularly a woman alone, could only have met with one rather unsavoury conclusion" (Hall). Hence the abuse she suffers. To take away the cloak of an eastern woman would be the greatest indignity possible (cp Eze 16:37,39; 23:26,27,29; Jer 13:22; Hos 2:3,9,10; Rev 17:16). The veil, if that is what this garment was made to be, would be especially a token of subjection and modesty (Gen 24:65; 1Co 11:6-10) -- and to remove such a covering would be to suggest that this woman had no modesty at all!

Song 5:8

O DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM: Cp Song 1:5n. The bride turns from the unsympathizing, and even persecuting, "watchmen"... to her friends and companions, whom she expects will be more amenable to her questions and pleas for help.

I CHARGE YOU: The LXX adds here, "by the hinds and gazelles of the field" (as in Song 2:7; 3:5), but the Hebrew text does not have that phrase.

IF YOU FIND MY LOVER, WHAT WILL YOU TELL HIM?: The dream introduces a separation between the two lovers. This separation now becomes the basis for her renewed declarations of love and devotion to the one whom she loves. Contrast with Song 2:7; 3:5: in the earlier story, and dream, the Shulamite urges her friends and companions not to hasten love -- but now she pleads with them to help her find her lover -- for his absence has left her eager with anticipation for his love.

And so, in the spiritual application: (1) the earlier dream sequence -- describing the first meetings, and her awakening awareness of how lovely her "lover" is -- symbolize the believer's first introduction to Christ and the gospel; while (2) this last dream sequence -- vividly describing the separation after marriage -- symbolize the fully committed believer's deep and even desperate desire for the return of Christ.

TELL HIM I AM FAINT WITH LOVE: That is, that I am tired of waiting; sick with unrequited love. "I am sick of love" (KJV) gives -- to our modern ears -- entirely the wrong impression. "Not as loathing it, but as wanting it" (Gill). She does not desire less of love, but more (cp Song 2:5n)! And so she told her friends to tell her husband if they saw him that she wanted his love again.

In the natural sense of the story itself, the bride has been sexually aroused (cp vv 2-4n); but then her husband has gone away, and she still longs to be satisfied. Earlier, when they were first courting, his presence has brought her excess of delight, which needed to be restrained; but now that they are married his absence has brought her excess of pain, which cries out to be assuaged. Davidson comments: "In this case we are dealing with a woman who has been sexually aroused and is desperately longing for further gratification of her sexual desires. It is strange how certain older commentators, aware of this meaning, tended to dismiss it as 'obscene'. This is to read our perverted sense of values into the Biblical text, instead of allowing the text to speak to us frankly of sexuality as one of God's good gifts to man and woman."

The OT allegory is transformed into a NT allegory, to the same effect, in John 20:11-13: here we see Mary Magdalene, desperate to find her Lord (even, as she expects to see it, his dead body -- so deep is her love!)... that coming to the tomb while it is still dark (cp the young woman wandering about the streets at night, looking for her husband), she finds the "watchmen" (in this case, the angels): "Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?' 'They have taken my Lord away,' she said, 'and I don't know where they have put him.' " And thus her eager longing for her beloved becomes the purest joy when he appears to her, first of all his followers.

In the spiritual sense, this eager desire of the woman for her husband/lover is a parable of the believers' eager desire for the joy of Christ's presence, both now and much, much more in the Age to Come. The believer never knows true joy, except when she sits (like Mary) at Jesus feet. What the sun is to the day, the moon to the night, and the nourishing dew to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What the dove is to his mate, what the husband is to his spouse, what the head is to the body, such is Jesus Christ to us. This is to be "sick with love" -- to recognize that in this broad, alluring world there is no other remedy for the emptiness of heart that we feel... no remedy but our Lord himself, and his love. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Mat 5:6). And especially blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the Righteous One, for him who in the highest perfection embodies pure, spotless, and loving righteousness.

And beyond this love, and supplementing it, is the yearning for the return of Christ, expressed by Paul: "The [new?] creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the [new] creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8:19-23). [Through this whole passage it is plain that in using "creation" Paul is referring to all believers -- who are the "new creation in Christ".] And again, more succinctly, he writes: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for [or 'who love'!] his appearing" (2Ti 4:8; cp 2Pe 3:12; Rev 22:20). To this may be added the quaint advice of the old writer Henry, who said: "It is better to be sick with love of Christ [and his appearing!: GB] than at ease with love of the world."

Song 5:9

Song 5:9-16: The "daughters of Jerusalem", her companions, question the young woman. Being separated from him (again?), she describes her "Beloved" in terms of unrestrained enthusiasm. (Does this report an actual conversation, or is this part of the dream? The probability of such a midnight conversation seems fairly unlikely.)

HOW IS YOUR BELOVED BETTER THAN OTHERS, MOST BEAUTIFUL OF WOMEN? HOW IS YOUR BELOVED BETTER THAN OTHERS, THAT YOU CHARGE US SO?: Literally, "how is your lover better than (another) lover?" In reply to her loving description, there seems to be only doubt and mocking from her companions. "We might hear this attitude expressed in these words today: 'What is so great about him? Surely you could find someone who would treat you better than he does!' " (Const). Nevertheless, they do not beat her, as did the "watchmen" (v 7), and they do ask her questions.

The cynicism suggested in the companions' questions is echoed by the prophet Isaiah, who speaks prophetically about Jesus Christ on behalf of an ultimately unbelieving nation: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isa 53:2). Also, thinking of the narrative story of Song of Songs, it looks as though the companions at this point still have in mind the lowly shepherd and not the glorious king (although the bride's description will certainly depict for them a royal figure).

MOST BEAUTIFUL OF WOMEN: This term here (and in Song 6:1?) may be a somewhat mocking reference to her lover's words in Song 1:8.

HOW IS YOUR BELOVED BETTER THAN OTHERS?: Who are the "other beloveds"? To this there are many answers:
(1) To the Jews, the other "beloveds" surely included Moses (eg, Joh 1:17), and Abraham (eg, Mat 3:9), and Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Mat 16:14). Each good and righteous, in his place, but all looking forward -- themselves! -- to the One who was yet to come. As Peter expressed it, "You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mat 16:16).
(2) To the wide, non-Christian world, there are many other "beloveds": Baal, or Ashtaroth, or Mohammed, or Buddha, or a thousand other "spirits". Some are bright and beautiful; some are austere and frightening; some are just plain silly. They all make promises, or threats, that they cannot keep. But none but Jesus Christ has the remedy to the one problem that besets all humanity: sin and death!
(3) To the "nominally Christian" world, there are many other "beloveds" also: "Every person has some leading object of affection, on which the heart is devotedly set. For instance, the soldiers of Napoleon found this object in their emperor; and should they put this question, what must be the answer? What is Christ Jesus, the beloved of the saint, more than the beloved of those soldiers? Others have the heart set on a cherished husband, wife, or child; what is Christ more than these? Again, some, like the fair youth Narcissus, who became enamoured with the beauty of his own form seen in a pellucid fountain, makes self the idol of their hearts; others fix their hearts on a heap of dust, called gold [Judas!]; while others in love with the beautiful, entwine around a work of imagination, a picture, or a statue, the warm affections of the heart. What is the beloved of the saint, Jesus, more than the beloved of these?" (Burrowes). Likewise, Durham points out that some "think other beloveds as good as [Christ], and other lives as good as the life of holiness; therefore they go to the farm, plough, market, and make light of Christ (Mat 22:4)." It may be added that some even return to their fishing, and have to be asked again, "Do you love me more than these?" (Joh 21:15)! Praise God that Peter did, indeed, love his Master more than anything else!
(4) Again, for us as constituents of Christ's "Bride", the question may come from other serious Christians, and take the form: "How is your view of Christ better than ours?" To this question, there is of course an answer which is doctrinal -- "My Christ is truly a man, born of the virgin Mary by the power of God's Holy Spirit, and as such he was truly tempted -- like every other man -- yet in his overcoming of sin he became a true Saviour... in reality, not in pretense. Is this your Christ?" Or... "My Christ is the future King of the World, and he has told me that he will literally return in glory to establish a new age of peace and righteousness on this earth. Will your Christ do this?" Or... other like statements, all good and right and suitable. However, there must surely be a personal element in our answer: in all modesty, yet with truthfulness, we must be able to say, "Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). For if THIS Christ does not live in you and me, so that others may see that we have been with him (cp Act 4:13) -- no matter how imperfectly that lovely image may be reflected -- then the doctrinal statements alone will not be enough!
¶ The bride's answer, in vv 10-16, will surely reveal -- to any and all who take heed -- why her lover is better than all other "lovers"!

Song 5:10

Vv 10-16: Hers is an answer of indignation and unrestrained enthusiasm. "This question, implying that her Beloved was no more than any other [v 9], stirs her soul to its deepest depths; and, forgetting herself, she pours out from the fulness of her heart a soul-ravishing description of the glory and beauty of her Lord" (Taylor).

Love songs, or wedding songs, describing the physical beauty of the woman were common in the ancient Near East; this song is extraordinary because it describes, in more or less physical terms, the beauty of the man. Thus this wedding song praises his role in the whole story (in fact, as we have seen, in Song 4 especially, she is spiritually beautiful only because he has shared with her his own "beauty"). And this song also gives a voice to the woman -- more than other similar works of literature: the story of salvation is her story, equally as it is his!

Parts of her description seem to be that of a real man, a king (or a priest!), whilst other parts seem to describe a building -- such as the Temple at Jerusalem, with its furniture and functions. Following the patterns that had been developed already, the man she describes may be: (a) in the story itself, her husband, whom she loves and worships as though he were a temple; (b) in the historical background, King Hezekiah -- through whom the Temple worship has been renewed and made available to all of Israel (cp Isa 62); (c) more generally, God Himself -- who is Husband (eg, Isa 54) and King to Israel, and whose representative was the High Priest; and (d) in the NT context, Jesus Christ of course -- the man who is king AND priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 7), the king of Israel, who is greater than Solomon (Mat 12:42), the truest priest of the highest order, and the one who in his very body exemplifies the perfect temple: "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days'... But the temple he had spoken of was his body" (Joh 2:19,21); "I tell you that one greater than the temple is here" (Mat 12:6). (It may be noted that this description of the bridegroom, in Song 5, bears a very general likeness to the description of "the Ancient of Days" in Dan 7:9,10, as well as the "one like the Son of man" in Rev 1:13-16.)

MY LOVER IS RADIANT AND RUDDY: "White" (KJV) and "red", taken together, suggest that he is pure and undefiled (Heb 7:26), or dazzling white in his appearance (Mat 17:2; Mar 9:3; Luk 9:29; Dan 7:9; Rev 1:14,16; etc), even while possessing our sin-red nature (Heb 2:14; 4:15)! Or, to put it another way, he is pure and sinless and WHITE because, in shedding his RED blood, he was and is the perfect sacrifice for sins (cp Isa 1:18; 63:1-3; 2Co 5:21; Rev 7:14; 19:13). Similarly, the white and the red come together in the descriptions of him in the Apocalypse, where he is the "Lamb, looking as if it had been slain" (Rev 5:6; 13:8; cp Rev 5:9,12; 7:14; 12:11) -- a white lamb with bloody, red wounds!

For there -- at that dreadful, but glorious time, when he was delivered up -- he was, first, the "high priest" in the white seamless garment (Joh 19:23); then the "sacrifice" as his blood, from his head and back and side and wounded hands and feet, flowed down his body; and finally the High Priest again, raised from the dead, and doubtless seen by his disciples in clean and white robes, bringing to them the High Priest's blessing of "Peace" from the presence of God (Luk 24:36; Joh 20:26).

RADIANT: Heb "tsach". This and related words are ordinarily used to describe clear, bright, hot air (Isa 18:4) and wind (Jer 4:11), clear or lucid words (Isa 32:4), and the shining surface of precious metals and jewelry (like the gold and jewels in these verses) or of smoothed rocks -- as the "bare" rocks (Eze 24:7,8; 26:4,14; Neh 4:13) -- shimmering in the bright sunlight (like the ivory and marble in these verses).

RUDDY: "Admoniy" is from the root word for "Adam", or "red"; it is the color of blood (2Ki 3:22); of the juice of grapes (Isa 63:2); of beans or stew (Gen 25:30); and of a horse (Zec 1:8; 6:2). Here the word signifies either "manly" -- the epitome of masculinity and virility -- or "ruddy," with the emphasis upon his health, evidenced by his ruddy complexion. The young man David was so described (1Sa 16:12; 17:42). Or perhaps here this is a comparison between his ruddy coloring and the redness of rubies (Lam 4:7).

OUTSTANDING: "Dahgal" ("the chiefest" in KJV) actually means a military standard or flag (Num 2:3,4, etc; 10:14,15, etc; cp Psa 20:5; Song 2:4; 6:4,10). Even among a huge multitude, he is the one who stands out about all the rest; he is a "paragon" (NEB) (cp, generally, Psa 45:7; 89:6; Job 33:23). Particularly, he is a standard-bearer (cp Isa 11:10; 49:22), a commander (Isa 55:4), the captain of their salvation (Heb 2:10), and -- like a standard-bearer leading an army into battle -- the one "who went before us", or "the forerunner" (Heb 6:20). This "lover" is the one who is "lifted up", by which others are drawn to him (Joh 3:14,15; 12:32; cp Song 2:4), as warriors might rally round their battle standard.

This preeminence of Jesus Christ is described in many different ways in Scripture. He is, among other designations: (a) "the firstborn over all creation", because "the firstborn from among the dead" (Col 1:15-18); (b) "the great high priest" (Heb 4:14); (c) "the great Shepherd of the sheep" (Heb 13:20); (d) "a great rock in a thirsty land" (Isa 32:2); (e) "the Chief Shepherd" (1Pe 5:4); (f) "a chosen and precious cornerstone" (1Pe 2:6); (g) "the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom 8:29); (h) "the heir of all things" (Heb 1:2); (i) "the Name above every name" (Phi 2:9-11; cp Heb 1:4); (j) the one in whom all the fulness of the Divine dwells (Col 2:9); (k) "the most exalted of the kings of the earth" (Psa 89:27); and (l) all through the NT... simply but profoundly, "the Lord", "through whom all things came and through whom we live" (esp 1Co 8:6)!

AMONG TEN THOUSAND: The numeral (Heb "ribbow") translated "ten thousand" -- or a "myriad" (from the Greek: see Mat 18:24; 1Co 4:15; 14:19) -- is the highest number used in comparisons in Hebrew poetry (1Sa 18:6,7; 21:11; 29:5; Psa 91:7). The redeemed are myriads, or tens of thousands (Jud 1:14; Deu 33:2; Psa 68:17), 144,000 (Rev 7:4), or even "myriads or myriads", or "ten thousand times ten thousand" (Dan 7:10). This multiplying of thousands is a means of signifying a large, unspecified (or even unknowable) number (Gen 24:60; Num 10:36; Psa 3:6; 1Co 4:15; 14:19); cp this with the more prosaic "thousand" in Song 4:4, which means essentially the same thing. It was said of David in 2Sa 18:3: "You are worth ten thousand of us." In keeping with the military motif (the banner, or flag, above), the great number is suggestive of a great victory: it was said that Saul had slain his thousands; and David his tens of thousands (1Sa 18:6,7; 21:11; 29:5).

Song 5:11

Vv 11-15: Christ is described in figures reminiscent of tabernacle and temple throughout: lilies, ivory, pillars, cedar, incense... because he IS the Temple of God: cp Joh 1:14; 2:19-21; Mat 12:6.

HIS HEAD IS PUREST GOLD: "Purest gold" is "khetem faz". "Literally, 'gold of pure gold'... 'faz' ('pure gold') [modifies] 'khetem' ('gold'). The repetition of two different words for 'gold' suggest that the phrase should be nuanced 'the most pure gold' " (NETn). "Faz" is the sw as "Uphaz" in Dan 10:5, AV: "the gold of Uphaz". " 'Faz', with the Arabs, signifies gold; the city of Fez had its name from hence; in a place where it was built, a quantity of gold was found in it, which gave it its name" (Gill).

Since the lover/king does not have blond hair (as per the next phrase), this is probably a reference to the crown of gold worn by him as king, and/or the golden plate on the forehead of the High Priest, upon which was engraved "Holiness to Yahweh" (Exo 28:36; 39:30). Also, the mercy-seat (the covering of the Ark) is of pure gold; it was something like a crown to the whole Temple complex, for there was where the Head of Israel, the LORD Himself, resided. And so, taking the High Priest's crown along with the crown of gold on the king's head, this may suggest that the High Priest and King are being considered together, in one person! Here, then, is the priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 7). (Here also is the true head of gold, in contrast to Nebuchadnezzar's false, presumptuous "head": Dan 2. Also, in contrast to the Image of Dan 2, Christ is gold, from head to foot: v 15!)

"His head the finest gold excels,
There wisdom in perfection dwells;
And glory like a crown adorns
Those temples once beset with thorns" (Watts).

GOLD: In the OT gold is frequently used in comparisons to emphasize the idea of beauty, value, nobility, and rarity (Job 28:12-19; Psa 19:10; 119:127; Pro 8:19; 25:12; Isa 13:12; Lam 4:2). Palestine had no known sources of gold, but had to import it, making it a rare and precious commodity. Here, the "purest" or "finest" gold means gold that has been refined in the fire, and thus represents a tried -- and genuine and triumphant -- faith (1Pe 1:7).

HIS HAIR IS WAVY AND BLACK AS A RAVEN: Cp Song 5:2, where the bridegroom's hair is also mentioned. Black suggests vigor and youth (cp Hos 7:9; Ecc 11:10 -- where "vigor" is sw "black" here; Ecc 12:5). Black hair is a sign of health after leprosy has been healed (Lev 13:31,37): so here is one who has endured the "leprosy" of sinful flesh (even as Hezekiah, the antitype, was smitten with this dread disease: Isa 38!) -- but has been healed and made new again!

The bride's hair is long and flowing (Song 4:1), thus providing more of a covering of modesty and subjection (cp 1Co 11:7,10). By contrast, the king's hair is "bushy", thick but mounded up on his head, thus symbolizing a crown of authority and rulership (cp Col 2:9; Eph 1:21,22; 4:15; 1Co 11:3).

WAVY: "Taltalim" ("wavy" or "bushy", as AV) may signify "waving palm branches" (and so it is in the LXX) -- denoting victory, peace, and joy.

The hair is another symbol of multitudinous unity. It is a further 'crown' of glory on the king/priest's head. It seems not to have been cut, and thus points to the vow of the Nazarite also (Num 6:5) -- a vow of separateness and dedication, imitating the High Priest; for Samson, such unshorn hair seemed to be a source of strength (Jdg 16:17).

Following up on this, it may be remembered that, when the lover appeared suddenly in the night, his hair was covered with dew (Song 5:2), and thus it was a symbol, not just of youth and vigor, but of his own resurrection (Psa 133:3; Isa 26:19)! This calls attention to the great OT prophecy of the Melchizedek priest/king in Psa 110, cited frequently in Hebrews: "Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek' " (Psa 110:3,4). Jesus the priest/king of Israel, cut off in the prime of life (see Isa 53:8; 38:10,12 -- as was the prototype Hezekiah!), is raised from the dead. His dark, bushy hair -- still fresh with the morning dew -- underlines his youth and renewed strength and vigor, and (being a symbol of a multitude as well) also points to those whose life will be renewed through him (cp Isa 53:10-12): thus the NIV mg for Psa 110:3 has, for the last phrase, "Your young men will come to you like the dew"! (The bride has rich, black hair as well -- she is the counterpart of the bridegroom: see Song 4:1n.)

AS A RAVEN: This seems to be the only time that "raven" is used symbolically in the OT. The raven was conspicuous for its jet black feathers. Noah sent out a raven first from the ark (Gen 8:7); it did not return, but must have fed on floating victims of the Flood. The raven is essentially a scavenger and thus was ceremonially unclean (Lev 11:15; Deu 14:14); it prefers desolate uninhabited areas as its home territory (1Ki 17:4,6; Isa 34:11). Ravens brought food to Elijah in time of drought (1Ki 17:6). They are specifically mentioned as birds which God feeds (Job 38:41; Psa 147:9); so they are actually compared with disciples in Luk 12:24. Both the raven and the "dove" (a much more common symbol in the Song of Songs) were with Noah in the ark (cp Gen 8:11); the raven's failure to return to the ark told Noah that the flood waters were unabated, whereas the dove's returning with an olive leaf told Noah that the waters were receding. Taken together, then, they are emblematic of, firstly, judgment and, then, mercy.

"In the complementary description in Revelation we are told 'his head and his hairs are white like wool, as white as snow' (Rev 1:14) [cp Dan 7:9]. There is no disagreement between [this and Song 5:11]. Black, as we have seen, in one aspect refers to his eternal youth; white to the essential eternity of holiness resident in him. They will rest side by side with him until time is no more in the everlasting unity of spirit life with the Father" (Hall). In summary, Jesus Christ may be the "Ancient of Days" (Dan 7:9), and the "Alpha" or "First" One (Rev 1:8,17; cp Isa 41;4; 44:6; 48:12), because he comes from the Eternal Father (cp also Isa 9:6), and because -- relative to the rest of humanity -- he is and will be the oldest of men. The Father's Name has been placed upon him, and under this Name he will rule, and the snow-white hair is thus a symbol of wisdom and experience and judicial bearing. On the other hand, he is also the "Omega" or "Last" One (same references as above), the one who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born in the fulness of time (Gal 4:4), and the one who -- because he overcame -- will be gloriously youthful and handsome and strong forever and ever: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8). "If there be a season (to speak so) wherein these perfections may be conceived more lovely and shining than another (for in themselves they are ever the same) they are so in our Lord Jesus Christ; it is ever harvest, summer and youth with him; he is that tree spoken of, Rev 22:2, which bears fruit always: this Sun is ever at the height, and never goes down. Christ's perfections are continuing perfections; he is a Beloved that never decays, that never waxeth sick, weak, nor old" (Durham). And the raven-black hair is a symbol of this eternal physical perfection.

Song 5:12

HIS EYES ARE LIKE DOVES: His eyes "answer" to her eyes, which are doves also (Song 1:15n; Song 4:12n; cp also Song 2:14; 5:2; 6:9), for her eyes are the reflection of his eyes -- his own gentle, submissive, lovely character. It is as if one were to say, on meeting two relatives for the first time, 'There is a family resemblance; you can see it in their eyes!' And, as we know, the "family" likeness alluded to here may transcend, and supersede, that of mere natural relations (Mat 12:48-50; Mar 3:31-35).

BY THE WATER STREAMS: Or "pools". In keeping with the Temple motif of these verses, the picture of doves by pools of water might be evoked by so many white-robed priests in the Temple precincts, washing and purifying themselves in the great bronze laver (1Ki 7:23-26; 2Ch 4:2-5; cp also Exo 30:18-21; 38:8; 40:32).

WASHED IN MILK: Probably this means the color contrast between the darker iris, and the surrounding clear whiteness of the rest of the eye. Thomson writes: "All Oriental poets are fond of doves' eyes... Doves delight in clear water-brooks, and often bathe in them; and then their limpid, loving eyes, 'fitly set' within a border of softest skyey blue, do look as though just washed in transparent milk" (LB 271).

"Milk" refers to the word of God in Isa 55:1; 1Pe 2:2.

As to his eyes, Atwell writes, "Nor can we dissociate 'eyes' from our Lord's divine perception and discernment -- his perfect knowledge and understanding of all things, past, present, and future. The incident of Nathanael (Joh 1:47-50) and of the woman of Samaria (Joh 4:18,19) are cases in point. 'He knew what was in man' (Joh 2:25). [cp Joh 21:17] He read the innermost thoughts of Simon the Pharisee (Luk 7:39,40) and of other Pharisees on many occasions. At the age of twelve he was 'of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD' [Isa 11:3] and confounded the doctors and lawyers by his understanding and answers. The Jews questioned among themselves, 'How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?' [Joh 7:15] Jesus himself claimed that he had both said and done the things he had seen with his Father. [Joh 8:28,29,38] Truly 'all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.' He is 'the Word of God, the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart' (Heb 4:12,13)."

Doves and pools, or streams, of water recall Christ's baptism, in Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove (Mat 3:13-17; Mar 1:9-11; Luk 3:21,22). Eyes being washed in streams, or pools, of water recall the man born blind (John 9:1), who was told by Jesus to go and wash in the pool of Siloam (Joh 9:7). "Siloam" means, John tells us, "One Sent", ie, Christ himself. Even as HIS eyes are eyes of perfect discernment, being washed in pools of water, and enhanced by the "dove" of the Holy Spirit (Song 5:12), so we -- like the blind man -- are commanded to wash in the pool which is Christ himself; then we may rejoice to declare, "I was blind, but now I see" (Joh 9:25)! And not only must we wash in pools of water (Eph 5:26), but also -- as here -- in pure spiritual milk (1Pe 2:2), which is the Word of God! So may all the Scriptural imagery of this verse blend together, to present a picture of husband and bride, cleansed and purified and made white side by side.

MOUNTED LIKE JEWELS: The verb form "malle" is probably related to "millau", used for the "mounting" (or "setting", AV) of precious stones in Exo 25:7; 28:17,20; 35:9,27; 39:13; 1Ch 29:2; etc. It is as though the iris is the "jewel", mounted upon the white of the eye. The sw is translated "set" in Song 5:14.

The "jewels" are "fitly set" (AV, RSV), or "sitting in fullness", as a gem in a ring, or as the precious stones in the high priest's breastplate. Figuratively, the "jewels" (meaning the believers: Mal 3:16,17) are resting at the end of their labors, each in his or her own perfect setting, each having his or her own suitable work to do, having reached the perfect state for which they were intended: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Col 1:19,20; cp Eph 1:23).

Song 5:13

HIS CHEEKS ARE LIKE BEDS OF SPICES: The reference may be to the use of perfumed oils on the head, and running down the beard, as that with which Aaron the high priest was anointed (cp Psa 133:2).

HIS CHEEKS: Cheeks are related to submission to evil, smiting and affliction: Mic 5:1; Mat 5:39; Isa 50:6. Christ's patient submission to abuse for righteousness' sake gives him this "beauty" (Mar 14:65; ct Isa 52:13,14; 53:2-7). Indeed, the cheeks of our Lord could scarcely be more lovely -- from a spiritual perspective -- than when stained with the contemptible spittle of brutal men; as the brightest jewel is best shown in a dark setting, or the most beautiful picture highlighted by shadows, so the sinless purity of Jesus is best seen against the contrasting backdrop of extraordinary wickedness.

Cheeks are used elsewhere in Song of Songs only in Song 1:10, where they belong to the bride.

ARE LIKE BEDS OF SPICE: "Garden beds full of balsam trees" (NET). The same phrase occurs also in Song 6:2, in parallel with "his garden" (Song 4:16). The "beds" {"aruwgat") are plainly garden plots, as also in Eze 17:7,10 (the only other occurrences of the Heb word). For "spice" = "balsam", see Song 4:10,16; 5:1.

YIELDING PERFUME: "Yielding" is, in the Masoretic Text, the Heb "migdalot", which signifies a tower or stronghold. Thus the AV mg has "towers of perfumes", pointing to the temple at Jerusalem, where the smoke of the incense arises in a towering cloud of sweet savor: cp the "column of smoke... and incense" in Song 3:6. (An alternate pointing of the Heb, "megadlot", means "yielding, increasing, or producing"; this explains the NIV and RSV translations.)

HIS LIPS ARE LIKE LILIES: Cp Song 2:1,2,16; 4:3,5,11; Song 6:2,3; 7:2. Lilies almost always seem to have connection with the temple as well (1Ki 7:22,26; 2Ch 4:5); one writer referred to them poetically, as "those floral high priests which daily send up their fragrance to heaven". Certain "lilies" are white, and others are red; probably, since these are compared to lips, they are the anemone, a bright scarlet wildflower (Song 2:1n).

DRIPPING WITH MYRRH: Cp v 5. "Myrrh" has the same root as "Marah" or "Mary", ie "bitter". "An expensive luxury item, which had to be imported into Israel. In liquid form it could be carried in small bottles like nard, but it was also used in solid form in which it was carried in a small cloth pouch or sachet worn next to the body. The myrrh was mixed with fat and shaped into cones and as the fat melted from the body heat, the aroma of myrrh and the anointing oil would perfume a woman's body. Because it had a very strong aroma which would last for long periods of time, women often wore it to bed to perfume themselves for the next day. Because of its beautiful fragrance, it is associated with romance (eg Isa 3:24)" (NETn). Myrrh signifies purification (Est 2:12), and crucifixion (Mar 15:23). The bitter taste and sweet odor of the myrrh point to the sacrificial trials of affliction, that beautify the character of Christ.

"[His lips] drip sweet-smelling myrrh. As was foretold, 'Full of grace are thy lips.' [Psa 45:2] The Bride herself listened to those lips as they brought their delightful message of love and redemption. 'They marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded from his lips.' [Luk 4:22] 'Never man spake like this man.' [Joh 7:46] As he said himself, 'The words that I speak unto you are spirit and life.' {Joh 6:63] How sweet were these lips to the sick, the lame, the blind, and weary. To them it would be like sweet-dropping myrrh, a delightful perfume, life-giving, bringing health, happiness and redemption" (Ask). And so was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary" (Isa 50:4). "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isa 61:1).

And even those lips, when they spoke not a word, were lovely... lovely in their absolute submission to the Father's will, even in the direst circumstances. "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1Pe 2:23). And so was fulfilled, once again, the prophecy of Isaiah: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth... he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" (Isa 53:7,9).

Song 5:14

HIS ARMS: More literally "hands" (AV, NEB), but (as Jer 38:12 indicates) the term could apply to any part of the arm; thus NIV and RSV translate "arms". If the next phrase is taken to mean "rings", then obviously "hands" would be more appropriate -- and, if so, then the "hands" of course would not BE rings, but would be WEARING rings. But if the next phrase is taken to mean "rods" or "columns", as in a building, then "arms" would be the better translation.

More generally, the "arms" of Christ would be the source of strength and support, of lifting up and embracing and comforting... of bearing burdens. And the "hands" of Christ would suggest the many wonderful works he did -- of healing, of multiplying of loaves and fishes, and of blessing. And especially they would suggest the death he died: so Thomas desired to see "the nail marks in his hands", and "Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands' " (Joh 20:25,27). "They have pierced my hands and my feet" (Psa 22:16). "They will look on me, the one they have pierced" (Zec 12:10; cp Rev 1:7). "If someone asks him, 'What are these wounds in your hands ?' he will answer, 'The wounds I was given at the house of my friends' " (Zec 13:6).

ARE RODS OF GOLD: The word for "rods" ("gelilim") is from the root "gillal" -- which means "a circle" (cp "Galilee", the "circle" of the Gentiles); thus the AV renders "rings", circles of gold worn on the fingers. "Rings of gold" is very logical, since rings have many Scriptural allusions, and rings may more easily be "set" with precious stones. A ring is the token of sonship (Luk 15:22); a slave was not allowed to wear a gold ring. A ring is also the token of authority (Gen 41:42; Est 3:10,12); the signet ring was used to impress a royal seal in soft wax on correspondence and other documents. The Father has imparted His authority to His Son (Phi 2:9-11; Joh 6:27), and the Son has freed us from slavery, and given us the authority of "sons of God" (Gal 4:7). He seals us in the name of God with His signet ring (Rev 7:2-4; cp Eze 9:4,6) -- which is a "seal" of love, strong as death, and unyielding as the grave (Song 8:6)! The signet ring is also mentioned in Hag 2:23 and Jer 22:24, and alluded to in Isa 49:16. Gold rings and bracelets may also be "seals" of love and betrothal (cp Gen 24:22; 38:18-25), which is quite appropriate here in the Song of Songs.

But this word "gelilim" could also mean circular rods (NIV), cylinders (RV mg), columns, or pillars; and, in keeping with the Temple motif, this may be a possibility as well. Many parts of both tabernacle and temple were covered, or overlaid, with gold: eg, in the tabernacle, the ark (Exo 25), the bars of acacia wood (Exo 26), and the altar of incense (Exo 30); and in the temple, all the interior (1Ki 6:20-22), the cherubim (1Ki 6:28), the floors (1Ki 6:30), and the carvings (1Ki 6:35).

SET WITH CHRYSOLITE: "Set" is sw "mounted" in v 12. The gem intended here is by no means certainly determined. "Chrysolite" (NIV) -- the yellow "topaz" (NEB), found primarily in Spain and India -- and the blue-green "beryl" (KJV), and simply "jewels" (RSV) are various translations of the Hebrew "tarshish". The root means "to break, or subdue" (ie, as Christ will do to the nations). JB transliterates the phrase as "jewels of Tarshish".

"Tarshish" was a stone in the breastplate of the High Priest (Exo 28:20; 39:13), and one of the foundation stones of the city walls of New Jerusalem (Rev 21:20). The wheels of the Cherubim are of "tarshish", and they are mighty in subduing the nations (Eze 1:16; 10:9). The body of the glorious divine "man" in Dan 10:6 is "like a tarshish stone" (Dan 10:6), for to him shall be given "power over the nations" (Rev 2:26).

HIS BODY: "Belly" (KJV); "abdomen" (NET). "The term 'me'eh' is used in reference to several things in the OT: (1) the womb of a woman (Gen 25:23; Isa 49:1; Psa 71:6; Rth 1:11), (2) a man's loins (Gen 15:4; 2Sa 7:12; Isa 48:19; 2Ch 32:21), (3) the 'inward parts' of a person, such as the stomach or intestines which are used to digest food (Num 5:22; Job 20:14; Eze 3:3; Jon 2:1,2), and (4) the external stomach or abdominal muscles: 'abdomen' (Song 5:14)" (NETn). Here it probably signifies the inner parts, with the same idea as Psa 51:6: "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." So "me'eh" could signify the inner working of the person, where the character is developed. And especially, the inner parts were thought to be the seat of compassion, and sympathy -- hence the KJV's "bowels of compassion" (simply, "pity" in the NIV) in 1Jo 3:17 (cp the same ideas, 1Ki 3:26; Gen 43:30; Isa 63:15; Jer 31:20; etc -- where the same part of the body is mentioned n the KJV text, although obscured in more recent translations). So the Lord's compassion is particularly in view here: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mat 9:36). "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (Luk 15:20). "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God... because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Heb 2:17,18). "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb 4:15,16).

IS LIKE POLISHED IVORY: Ivory (the Heb "shen" here is literally "teeth" -- thus the teeth of the elephant!) suggests whiteness and purity. Solomon's royal throne was inlaid with ivory (1Ki 10:18,22; 2Ch 9:17,21), as was his royal palace (1Ki 22:39; Psa 45:8). The "great white throne" of judgment in Rev 20:11 is probably overlaid with ivory. Also, the great Temple of Solomon, constructed of very large white stones, might give the appearance -- from some distance -- of a house of ivory. (And its worshipers, wearing their garments bordered in blue -- as implied in Num 15:38 -- might resemble sapphires inset upon the white ivory.)

DECORATED WITH SAPPHIRES: "Overlaid" (AV) with sapphires. " 'Sapphire' (Heb 'sapir', LXX 'sappheiroi') is not our modern 'sapphire' which is a blue corundum (aluminium oxide coloured with titanium), but the azure-blue lapis lazuli (NEB) (sodium aluminium silicate), which is a much softer, less durable mineral. The true sapphire was uncommon in the ancient Near East, while lapis lazuli was prevalent" (Carr). The sapphire was another stone in the breastplate of the High Priest (Exo 28:18; 39:11); it was also another foundation stone in the city walls of New Jerusalem (Rev 21:19; cp Isa 54:11).

The blue of the "sapphire" points to heaven and God (cp Num 15:38): Moses and Aaron saw the Elohim of Israel in vision in Exo 24; under his feet was "something like a pavement made of sapphire" (v 10), suggesting the blue of heaven. Ezekiel saw God's Cherubim on "the likeness of a throne of sapphire" (Eze 1:26; 10:1), surely suggesting the same idea. These were all visions of the glory of the coming Kingdom: the pavement and throne -- as well as the city foundations -- will be dedicated to the manifestation of Divine glory in the earth.

Song 5:15

Song 5:15.

HIS LEGS: The Heb word seemingly includes the whole leg, from the thigh to the ankle. The word is used only this once in the Song of Songs, but 18 times elsewhere in the OT; twelve of these of the right shoulder or leg of the "heave offering" (AV), or "fellowship offering" (NIV) (Lev 7:32,34; etc). Legs are the symbol of strength (Psa 147:10); man's legs ("the strong men" of the body) may ultimately grow weak and stoop as man ages (Ecc 12:3), but this man's -- never! Jesus Christ's "legs" were not broken on the cross, though the thieves' were; on his legs rests the weight of our salvation (cp Psa 75:3).

ARE PILLARS: Cp Song 3:10. The word may signify columns (RSV) of a building (Jdg 16:25,29; 1Ki 7:2) or poles of a tent (Exo 27:10). These were frequently elaborately decorated (1Ki 7:22), or, as here, set off with gold. Pillars may symbolize the saints, who stand upright in the house of God (cp Gal 2:9; Eph 2:20; 1Ti 3:15; Rev 3:12).

OF MARBLE: "Shayith" is mentioned also in 1Ch 29:2 and Est 1:6. Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of calcite or dolomite. It is hard enough to withstand weathering in a dry climate, yet soft enough to work easily. Its crystalline forms can receive a high polish. It is found in attractive colors, white, light brown, and light gray. For these reasons it was the favored stone for buildings and statuary in the ancient world. Jurassic limestone, a type of marble, was quarried in Lebanon for Solomon's temple (1Ki 5:13-18); it was used "in large quantities" (1Ch 29:2). The best marble is pure white, and translucent: light can penetrate its surface and be reflected from myriads of crystals embedded underneath. (This speaks to us of the light of God's Word, which penetrates the person and reflects the character within!)

"Alabaster" (RSV), or alabaster gypsum, has also been called marble and used in its place; however, being softer and not nearly so resistant to weathering, it is not as durable.

SET IN BASES OF PURE GOLD: "Bases", or "sockets" (AV), are mentioned often in Exo and Num; they refer to the socketed bases into which the framing of the tabernacle was put. If the pillars or columns are "legs", then the feet (as well as the sandals) thereof -- on which they stand -- are the "bases"! "Pure gold" is "faz" (see v 11n).

HIS APPEARANCE: Heb "mareh" ("countenance" in AV) refers to the whole aspect and appearance. Not just the face, but the whole carriage and bearing and conduct and attitude and presence of the individual.

IS LIKE LEBANON: Cp Song 3:9n; Song 4:8; 7:4. Lebanon's primary feature is its mountains -- which as a figure of speech suggest eminence, power, and majesty. Mountains seem to possess great dignity; they are stable, immovable, and not "in a hurry" -- like all the living things, animals and men, that scurry about under or upon them! They seem to be timeless, as God Himself, and His purposes.

"There are higher mountains than Lebanon, but none more truly deserving the epithet of Moses, 'that goodly mountain, even Lebanon.' [Deu 3:25] Towering to a height of ten thousand feet above the sea, and deriving its name, not from the snow lying continually on its summits, but from the whiteness of its limestone rocks, 'Lebanon presents us everywhere with majestic mountains. At every step we meet with scenes in which nature displays either beauty or grandeur. When we land on the coast, the loftiness and steep ascent of this mountainous ridge, which seems to enclose the country, those gigantic masses which shoot into the clouds, inspire astonishment and awe' (Volney)" (Burrowes).

CHOICE: "Excellent" (AV), "noble" (NEB), and "distinguished" (KD) are reasonable variations here. Others might be "select" or "stately".

AS ITS CEDARS: The mountains are covered with cedars, which suggest imperishable glory. Like the king/shepherd/husband, they are tall, strong, majestic, and handsome. See Song 1:17n. Cedars were used to a considerable degree in Solomon's temple (1Ki 5:8), and in the temple of the restoration (Ezr 3:7).

Song 5:16

HIS MOUTH IS SWEETNESS ITSELF: "Mamtaqiymit" is, literally, "sweetnesses" -- plural; presumably the plural of intensity. Cp Song 1:2n, and Song 2:3n. His "speech" is sweet with the truth of God. Or, "taste" (the Heb "hek" is the word for "palate"): this could mean the unerring discernment of what is wholesome and good, and the rejection of all that is evil or impure (cp Isa 7:15,16). Taste is not a blind, unchanging force to be catered to, but a capacity and potential to be refined and developed to spiritual ends. "Taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psa 34:8; cp 1Pe 2:3). "The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb" (Psa 19:9,10). "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psa 119:103).

HE IS ALTOGETHER LOVELY: "The term 'machamadim' ('desirable') is the plural form of the noun 'machmad' ('desire, desirable thing, precious object') (HAL; BDB). Like the plural... in the preceding parallel line, this use of the plural is probably an example of the plural of intensity: 'very desirable' " (NETn).

The power and beauty of Christ is this: that there is nothing out of harmony with the whole, that there is nothing to detract from the beauty of the whole. There is no danger of flaws to be discovered later, causing disillusionment. Nothing to fear from the unsparing microscope of intimate familiarity: the more minutely we examine him, the more beautiful he is revealed to be -- this is an unfailing characteristic of all of God's creation, but never of man's inventions. This is the pattern God has set before us -- the ideal to which He wishes us to strive -- and the ultimate to which He will finally elevate His children.

The beauty of Christ is this also: that, even as we ponder his many virtues (as enumerated in vv 10-16), we do not fall into the trap of MERELY looking at them one by one, detaching each one from the others. But also we must remember that... taking these qualities all together... he is lovelier still. He is not this flower or that, but he is the whole garden of perfection. He is not a star here or a constellation there, but he is the whole of the glorious heavens. There simply is no excellency which is not him. He is "shepherd" AND "king", "lover" AND "friend", glorious Potentate AND awe-inspiring Judge. He is the Sun in the heavens, AND the babe in the manger. He is the express image of the Father's person, the exact representation of His being... AND he is the tender-hearted friend who weeps at the grave of the one whom he loves. He is -- altogether -- lovely! For his loveliness is found in every aspect of his character and life, blended in one person.

Paul therefore prays that the ecclesia, collectively and as a single unit, may "all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ... speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together... grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Eph 4:13-16).

An alternate translation is this: instead of "He is altogether desirable", we might read, "He is ALL desires!" Meaning, perhaps: Jesus Christ is the desire of all mankind... Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor, free and slave, ancient and modern. (" 'I will shake all nations, and the DESIRE of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty": Hag 2:7.) And he is the fulfillment of every legitimate, worthy desire that any man or woman might have. Or, put another way, in the whole wide world, there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- worth having, that does not include Christ.

THIS IS MY LOVER, THIS MY FRIEND, O DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM: Shulamith has now concluded her detailed answer to the question of the daughters of Jerusalem in v 9. There is, as it were, a triumphant finality in her conclusion: 'There you have it! Is that not enough for you to understand? Can you imagine a lover and friend remotely like the one I have described? He is mine, and there can be no other to take his place. Can you see now why I am so eager for his touch, his glance, his presence?'

THIS IS MY LOVER: This description first appears in Song 1:13.

THIS MY FRIEND: "The word 'friend' ('rea') is the masculine counterpart of his regular designation of her ('raah'; cf Song 1:9,15; 2:2,10; 4:1,7; 5:2). Its root meaning is 'to associate with', and it came to mean 'friend' or 'companion' (cf Song 1:9). The Song is unabashedly erotic. Yet it is never satisfied to be content with the physical alone. A normal person finds the erotic ultimately meaningful only if there is trust and commitment, delight in the other's person as well as in the body. The writer of the Song understands this. Our hero is her lover, but he is more: he is her friend" (EBC).

Here is a further deepening and enlarging of the picture, with regard to Christ. "My friend" is perhaps the fullest, richest, and most inclusive term by which the Bride may describe her Husband... and he is her "friend", even as he himself said: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:13-15).

"Those that make Christ their beloved shall have him their friend; he has been, is, and will be, a special friend to all believers. He loves those that love him; and those that have him their friend have reason to glory in him, and speak of him with delight. 'Let others be governed by the love of the world, and seek their happiness in its friendship and favours. This is my beloved and this is my friend. Others may do as they please, but this is my soul's choice, my soul's rest, my life, my joy, my all; this is he whom I desire to live and die with' " (Henry).


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