The Agora
Bible Commentary
Song of Songs

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Song of Songs 7

Song 7:1

Vv 1-9: As she dances before him and the wedding guests (Song 6:13), the king describes his bride once again. She is clothed, probably, in a very light, loose-fitting robe -- which enhances her form while not interfering with her movements. This description may be seen as his response to her description of him in Song 5:10-16. (Some textual commentators believe that the first five verses are actually the words of the bride's companions and the wedding guests, with the king only speaking again starting with v 6; either way, the sense of the whole is not impaired.)

"It should be noticed that, though the Song [as a whole] is really the bride's song, there are three occasions when the groom describes her beauty in detail and only one where she reciprocates. If the Song has any allegorical significance, it should indicate that God finds us much more delightful than we find Him. If this seems strange, it should be remembered that His love is pure and eternal. His capacity for love and joy is greater than ours even though the object of our affection is greater and infinitely more worthy.

"This poem reflects the perpetual charm of the female form to the male. This song has been sung an almost infinite number of times. There is repetition here. Some of his figures are the same as those used in Song 4:1-15 and Song 6:4-10. But that is the nature of love. Our language has its limits. Our love pushes those limits and falls back in frustration at the inability of our words to communicate our ecstasy" (EBC).

The story progresses: the wedding and the consummation of the marriage, described in this and the last chapter, take the eroticism of the Song of Songs to a higher level, as expectation and longing give way to the fullest realization of their love. Our God, who created the magnificence of nature, with its almost infinite variety, also created the human body in such a way that it is a marvel of His handiwork. Physical beauty and the pure desire of husband and wife (and bridegroom and bride) for each other are God-given gifts to man. It is not the proper enjoyment of these gifts (Pro 5:15-19), but the perversion of them that is base (Pro 5:20-23; cf Heb 13:4; 1Co 7:2; Rom 1:26,27), and therefore to be condemned.

Again, we should remind ourselves that the love of a husband and a wife, spiritually and physically bound together, is of the purest order... and has been chosen by God as the best expression, in a typical sense, of the wondrous eternal communion which He and His Son will enjoy with all believers in the Age to Come!

HOW BEAUTIFUL: Heb "yapheh": sw Song 1:8; 5:9; 6:1,4,10.

YOUR... FEET: The feet and the legs are engaged in movement, the movement of the dance; and it is in this movement especially that they are described are beautiful. [While all the detailed descriptions in the Song of Songs begin with the head and proceed downward (see Song 4:1-7; 5:10-16; 6:4-10), this description alone starts with the feet -- the most noticeable feature in the dance -- and proceeds upward.]

The feet are singled out here as indicative of the spiritual walk of the believer: many passages in the AV use "walk" in this sense (eg, Rom 6:4; 8:1,4; 13:13; 1Co 3:3; Eph 2:10; Gal 6:15,16; Eph 4:17; etc), whereas other, more modern versions give the sense as "live" or "act" or "do" or the like. (Also, cp the sense of Psa 37:23; 119:59,101,105 and other OT passages as well.)

With this may also be compared the idea of the feet running to proclaim the gospel, as in Isa 52:7: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' " (cp Rom 10:15). Thus, these are not feet that are bare and idle, but "feet fitted (or 'shod': AV) with readiness of gospel" (Eph 6:15).

Finally, the feet of the bride will also be militant and fierce, in the coming day of the LORD: "Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet" (Mal 4:2,3; cp Mic 4:13).

YOUR SANDALED FEET: The dancing feet of the Shulammite (Song 6:13) were sandaled. Bare feet suggest shame (Isa 20:4), mourning (2Sa 15:30), poverty (Eze 16:10), and unreadiness to travel (Exo 12:11). Sandaled feet, therefore, suggest joy, happiness, rejoicing, wealth, and readiness to travel (to her new home, with her Beloved? to carry the message of peace: Eph 6:15?). When the prodigal son returned, and was ushered back into the family fold, one of the father's first orders of business was to see that he was fitted with suitable sandals (Luk 15:22). "Magnificent sandals constituted, in the East, a part of the dress of both males and females, who could afford to have them peculiarly costly; the oriental ladies were especially attentive to this fashionable ornament" (Burrowes).

"The shoe, or sandal, in ancient times, and in Oriental countries, was the badge of freedom and honour. The crouching slave never wore a sandal. The unsandalled feet was the badge and mark of subjection, if not of degradation. When the Lord, therefore, in the text speaks of His betrothed bride's feet being 'beautiful with shoes,' what is this but to proclaim that she -- type of every believer -- is translated from the bondage of corruption into 'the glorious liberty of the children of God' [Rom 8:221]?

"Shoes or sandals were emblems of joy: while the want of these was equally recognized and regarded as a symbol of grief and sorrow. And is not the Christian called to be joyful? Yes, God's children are indeed, really, and in truth, alone of all, in this sin-stricken world, entitled to the epithet of 'happy.'

"The sandals on the feet speak of activity and duty, and preparedness for Christ's service. They point to the nature of the journey the believer is pursuing. Though a pleasant road, and a safe road, and a road with a glorious termination, it is at times rough; a path of temptation and trial. Unshod feet would be cut and lacerated with the stones and thorns and briars which beset it. The figure, moreover, suggests, that there can be no loitering or lingering on the way" (Macduff, BI).

O PRINCE'S DAUGHTER: The word for "prince" is "nadib", which has just appeared, as part of "Ammi-nadab" in Song 6:12, NIV mg. This phrase suggests a comparison with the king's daughter of Psa 45:9-17. But, more generally, "nadib" may mean one who -- even though she is a commoner -- is nevertheless a "noble daughter", ie one of noble, gracious, and virtuous character (sw Pro 17:26; Isa 32:5,8; cp 1Sa 2:8 and Psa 113:8,9, where the sw described the "noble" Hannah). Therefore it is not necessary to see this girl as literally of royal blood, nor a Gentile princess -- as some commentators have assumed.

On the other hand, the multitudinous bride, composed of many men and women, are all the children of the King of Heaven (2Co 6:18; cp Hos 1:10; Luk 12:32; Joh 1:12; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 3:26; 1Jo 3:1,2; Rev 21:7; 1Co 3:22,23) -- and therefore, through Christ, they are of the most royal blood imaginable!

YOUR GRACEFUL LEGS ARE LIKE JEWELS: "Legs" ("yarek") are "thighs" (as AV) -- the outside of the thigh from the hip down (Exo 32:27; Jdg 3:16,21; Psa 45:4; Song 3:8). The term "chammuq" ("graceful") describes the shapely curvature of her legs (HAL, BDB). The term here has been translated in various ways: "[thigh] joints" (AV), "rounded [thighs]" (RSV), "curves [of thighs]" (NASB), and "graceful [thighs]" (NIV).

"Graceful" is the opposite of "lame" or "disabled" (Heb 12:13; ct Jacob in Gen 32:24,25). She who was once "lame" has been healed and made strong by the Saviour, and can now "dance" with love and joy (Isa 35:6; Mic 4:7; Zep 3:19)!

THE WORK OF A CRAFTSMAN'S HANDS: The body of Christ, symmetrical and finely fitted together (Eph 4:15,16; Col 2:19). Cp Psa 139:14 ("fearfully and wonderfully made") ; Exo 26:1; 28:15; 31:1-11; 35:30-35; etc (she is skillfully constructed, like the tabernacle and its furnishings). "For we are God's workmanship... a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (Eph 2:10,22).

Song 7:2

These verses contain both physical and metaphorical compliments. V 1 seems to refer to the Shulammite's body, but v 2 goes beyond that. It seems to convey the idea that she was Solomon's drink and food, that her physical expressions of love nourished and satisfied him.

YOUR NAVEL: Strong says "shorer" means the navel, and by extension the umbilical cord, which is the source of life and strength [sw Pro 3:8: "navel" in AV; "body" in NIV; Eze 16:4 ("navel" in AV; "cord" in NIV)]. But some modern scholars say that the Hebrew word is related to the Arabic "sirr", which means literally "the secret place"; this may broaden the area identified. In the interest of modesty and politeness, we need say no more: "secret place" tells us enough. (KD suggests a different root word meaning a valley or a place to be farmed; ie a fertile field -- which may be easily seen as another euphemism for the same body parts.)

IS A ROUNDED GOBLET THAT NEVER LACKS BLENDED WINE: "The expression 'agan hasahar' refers to a vessel used for mixing wine. Archaeologists have recovered examples of such large, deep, two-handled, round bowls. The Hebrew term 'agan' ('mixing bowl') came into Greek usage as 'aggos' which designates vessels used for mixing wine" (NETn). Without getting into more graphic description, suffice it to say that he is "intoxicated" by her "secret place" and hips and -- the next phrase -- her abdomen.

BLENDED WINE: Mixed wine was the most intoxicating type of wine. This refers to the practice of mixing stronger wine with weak wine (eg, Isa 5:22; Pro 9:1,2; 23:30), so as to enhance its potency. For the same figure of speech, see Pro 5:18,19. At other times, wine was mixed with water to lessen its alcoholic content -- but that is surely not the case here.

YOUR WAIST: Probably the stomach, or abdomen. Strong defines "beten" as "belly" [as does the AV], and even as "womb" (cp sw Job 3:3-11; 31:18; Psa 22:9,10; 139:13; Jer 1:5; etc).

IS A MOUND OF WHEAT ENCIRCLED BY LILIES: The description of the bride continues, keeping to the agricultural motif. "The reference to the lilies that encircle the stomach reminds us that we are dealing with figures whose very ambiguity enrich the eroticism of the passage" (EBC). Of course, it may be that the images described here are embroidered on the bride's garments, and not to be seen, but only imagined, of her body itself.

The "heap" or mound of wheat denotes that which has been harvested. In the spiritual sense, the church is the great harvest produced when the one kernel of wheat -- the Lord Jesus himself -- has died and sprung to life again (Joh 12:24).

LILIES: This is probably, not the red, but the white "lilies" or "shoshannim", answering to the lightness of her skin. Presumably the previous "blackness" or darkness of her sun-burnt skin (see Song 1:5) has somewhat faded away by now.

"Heap of wheat" along with "wine" suggests she is "food" and "drink" to him! "Wheat" suggests also fruitfulness and harvest; bread was the staple of life to the Hebrews ((Deu 32:14; 2Sa 4:6; 17:28; 1Ki 5:11; Psa 81:16; 147:14). "Wine" also suggests joy and pleasure (Jdg 9:13; Psa 104:15; Pro 31:6; Ecc 10:19; Jer 31:12; Zec 9:15-17). Going further, to the NT symbolism, bread and wine may refer to the means by which the bride, the ecclesia of Christ, remembers and celebrates her Lord; and so she is identified by her showing forth, or proclaiming, so long as he is absent, her Lord's sacrificial love for her (1Co 11:23-27).

Song 7:3


Song 7:4

YOUR NECK IS LIKE AN IVORY TOWER: Her husband had previously compared her neck to a tower (see Song 4:4n). In both cases the most obvious point of comparison has to do with size and shape: that is, her neck was long and symmetrical. Archaeology has never found a tower overlaid with ivory in the ancient Near East and it is doubtful that there ever was an actual tower overlaid with ivory. The point of comparison might simply be that the shape of her neck is mindful of a tower, while the color and smoothness of her neck was like ivory (or else she wore a beautiful necklace of ivory: cp Song 1:10). Her lover is mixing metaphors: her neck was long and symmetrical like a tower; but also elegant, smooth, and beautiful as ivory. (In this she resembles her husband, whose body is like polished ivory: Song 5:14.)

"Gleaming white, polished ivory speaks of the pure whiteness and holiness of Divine nature, unchanging, unbending, perfect in strength and holiness" (Hall).

TOWER: A watchtower (cp Luk 21:28).

YOUR EYES ARE THE POOLS OF HESHBON: Heshbon was built on two small hills on the Transjordan tableland, overlooking the lower Jordan Valley, and not far from modern-day Amman in Jordan. Heshbon was the capital city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had captured it from the Moabites (Num 21:25-30). Taken by the Israelites from Sihon when he would not allow them to pass through his land (Num 21:23-24), Heshbon was among the cities rebuilt and populated by the Reubenites and Gadites (Num 32:37; Jos 13:17,26). It was one of the cities assigned to the Levite (Jos 21:39). Heshbon was recaptured by Mesha of Moab and held by the Moabites in the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isa 15:4; 16:8-9; Jer 48:2,34).

The city was evidently famous for its large, refreshing pools. "One of the pools of Heshbon still survives, measuring 191 ft by 139 ft, and is 10 ft deep. The walls however have been rent by earthquakes, and now no longer retain the water" (ISBE).

Eyes compared to pools of water suggest clear, bright, deep, shining, or liquid eyes. The soft glance of her eyes reflects the peace and luminous beauty of the Heshbon pools. There is a natural progression here, as her eyes have previously been compared to "doves" in Song 4:1, and then to "doves by the water streams" in Song 5:12; now the "dove" aspect of the analogy gives way altogether to the "water" aspect. The comparison of eyes with pools is natural enough, since the Heb "ayn" denotes the "eye" as well as a water source or supply; the "eye" is in Hebrew the "fountain" of tears (cp Psa 119:136; Jer 9:1; Lam 2:11,18; 3:48,49)! (There is no Scriptural justification for referring to these pools -- in Hebrew, "berekoth" -- as "fishpools", as does the KJV.)

BY THE GATE OF BATH RABBIM: The exact location of this is unknown today, but it is clearly near the pools of Heshbon -- probably providing access to the water from the city itself. The name signifies "daughter of a multitude", or "daughter of the great ones" (the Hebrew "plural of majesty or greatness" would change this last to "daughter of THE Great One"). Symbolically, the "multitude" may point to Rev 7:9: "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" (cp also the "palm" in Song 7:7). In a symbolic sense, "daughter of THE great one" is surely self-explanatory.

Pools of clear water by the gate of a great city may imply that baptism is the means of gaining entrance to the city of the "multitude of great ones", the New Jerusalem: "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city" (Rev 22:14). Placid pools also suggest the New Jerusalem, with an appearance clear as crystal, pure as glass (Rev 21:9-11,18,21), presiding over a world at peace, seen as a "sea of glass" (Rev 15:2; cp Rev 4:6).

YOUR NOSE IS LIKE THE TOWER OF LEBANON: The nose adds to her stateliness, although very prominent noses were not considered especially attractive. (A flat nose, however, was considered a defect: Lev 21:18.) Perhaps her nose was not unduly large, but strikingly beautiful, seeming to dominant her face.

LOOKING TOWARD DAMASCUS: To look back toward Damascus would be to remember one's past deliverance: "My father was a Syrian in bondage", or "a wandering Aramean", who "became a great nation, powerful and numerous" (Deu 26:5-9).

For the second time in this verse, the bride is compared to a tower (Heb "migdal"). Perhaps the intended meaning here is of a watchtower, on a mountain in Lebanon, and her neck and especially her nose turned toward Damascus suggests that she is on guard at a frontier outpost, sensing or even "smelling" danger that might approach from the camp of the enemy. Watchfulness is always a good trait in the follower of Christ (Mat 24:42; 25:13; Mar 13:33-37; Luk 12:37-40; 21:36; 1Co 16:13; 1Pe 5:8). On the other hand, she may be pictured as standing on a tower in Lebanon, with her lover and king, surveying the Land of Promise which he has given to her (cp Song 4:8n).

DAMASCUS: Damascus, the chief city of ancient Aram, or Syria (Isa 7:8), has had a long history. It is first mentioned in the OT in Gen 14:15 as the scene of Abraham's rescue of Lot. His servant Eliezer may have come from there (Gen 15:2). By the time of David, Damascus was an influential city-state and the focal point of various coalitions. When the town sent troops to help Hadadezer of Zobah against David, David captured the city and placed a garrison there (2Sa 8:5-6; 1Ch 18:5). In Solomon's day Rezon of Zobah captured Damascus and made it the capital of the city-state of Aram, or Syria (1Ki 11:24). His successors Hezion and Tabrimmon strengthened the city.

Asa of Judah made an alliance with Ben-hadad, son of Judah Tabrimmon, when Baasha of Israel attacked him (1Ki 15:18,19). Either the same king or Ben-hadad II restored to Ahab cities which had been taken from Israel, and gave Ahab concessions in Damascus, perhaps to secure Ahab's help in an anti-Assyrian coalition (1Ki 20:34). At the great battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, Ahab of Israel fought beside Ben-hadad and ten other kings against Assyria. Some time later Ahab was killed fighting the "king of Aram" (1Ki 22:29-36).

The prophet Elijah was sent by God to anoint a certain Hazael as the future king of Aram (1Ki 19:15). Later, Elisha, who had healed the general Naaman (2Ki 5), went to Damascus and the sick Ben-hadad sent Hazael to inquire whether he would recover. Hazael slew the old king and ruled in his place (2Ki 8:15). In the years that followed Hazael invaded Israelite lands. When Joram of Israel opposed him he was wounded in battle (2Ki 8:29).

For some years prior to 800 BC Damascus suffered from repeated Assyrian attacks. In 843 BC Shalmaneser III besieged Hazael in Damascus. He withstood the siege but suffered badly. When the Assyrian withdrew, Hazael attacked Israel again and occupied all of Transjordan (2Ki 10:32-36). He even reached the coastlands of Judah in the days of Joash of Judah (2Ki 12:17; 835-796 BC). In 805-803 BC the Assyrians attacked Hazael and again in 797 BC. King Shalmaneser IV attacked Damascus. These repeated assaults so weakened the city that Jehoash of Israel was able to recover the towns Israel had lost to Hazael (2Ki 13:25).

During the years that followed, Aramaean states were at war with one another while Assyria was occupied elsewhere. Then in 739 BC both Menahem of Israel and Rezin of Damascus became vassals of Tiglath-pileser of Assyria. They broke free for a time and sought to form an anti-Assyrian coalition. When Judah refused to join, Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Damascus marched on Judah (2Ki 16:5; 2Ch 28:5-8). Ahaz appealed to Tiglath-pileser for help and the latter launched a series of attacks in 734-732 BC which ended in the death of Rezin, the fall of Damascus in 732 BC, and in the loss of areas of Israelite territory (2Ki 15:29; 16:9). This result had been foretold by Amos (Amo 1:4,5) and Isaiah (Isa 8:4; 17:1). Thereafter, Damascus was a town in the Assyrian province of Hamath and lost all political significance, although it was a center of trade (Eze 27:18).

Song 7:5

YOUR HEAD CROWNS YOU LIKE MOUNT CARMEL: The NIV adds "Mount", which is not in original; but surely the place identified here is Mount Carmel, and not the town of Carmel in the far south, on the border of the Negev -- which is not nearly as beautiful or luxuriant as the northern site. "The Carmel mountain range is a majestic sight. The mountain range borders the southern edge of the plain of Esdraelon, dividing the Palestinian coastal plain into the Plain of Acco to the north and the Plains of Sharon and Philistia to the south. Its luxuriant foliage was legendary (Isa 33:9; Amo 1:2; Nah 1:4). Rising to a height of approx 1750 ft, it extends southeast from the Mediterranean for 13 mi. Due to its greatness and fertility, it was often associated with majesty and power (Isa 35:2; Jer 46:18). The point of the comparison is that her head crowns her body just as the majestic Mount Carmel rested over the landscape, rising above it in majestic and fertile beauty" (NETn). "Carmel" itself means "fruitful". "When covered over with vineyards, olive-groves, and orchards of figs and almond-trees, not on the sides alone, but also along the table-land of its summit, would not Carmel, worthy of the name, appear an immense hanging garden in the midst of the land?" (Burrowes). It was on this mountain, moreover, that the prophet Elijah had his famous confrontation with the priests of Baal, and emerged victorious (1Ki 18); so Carmel would be emblematic of the victory of the One God over all pretenders.

Or, "head" here may mean, particularly, her headdress or crown -- a crown of righteousness (2Ti 4:8) and glory (1Pe 5:4), obtained from Christ her ultimate "head" (cp 1Co 11:3; Eph 1:22; 4:15,16; Col 1:18; 2:19). The crown may also signify the believers converted by her (eg, 1Th 2:19,20) -- being a token of her fruitfulness (cp 2Pe 1:8). Of course, even the long hair itself could be a sort of "crown" of glory (1Co 11:15) -- and for that matter representative of the multitude of saints that constitute the bride of Christ: "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Mat 10:30; cp Luk 12:7).

YOUR HAIR: As in Song 4:1, her lover describes her hair. The word "dala" refers to dangling locks or loose hair that hang down; it is a rare word, found elsewhere in this sense only in Isa 38:12, where it refers to the threads that hang down from a weaver's loom as she works. (Otherwise, the same word appears several times to describe the "poor", in the sense of hanging down, or being lowly: 2Ki 24:14; 25:12; Jer 40:7; 52:15,16.)

IS LIKE ROYAL TAPESTRY: "Like purple" or "like purple fabric" -- Heb "argaman" = wool dyed with purple; used in reference to purple threads (Exo 35:25; 39:3) or purple cloth (Num 4:13; Jdg 8:26; Est 8:15; Pro 31:22; Jer 10:9; Song 3:10). NASB translates it as "purple threads". The comparison is between hair which entangles "Solomon" like binding cords and, therefore, it seems most likely that the idea here must be purple threads. Purple cloth and threads were considered very valuable (Eze 27:7,16) and were commonly worn by kings as a mark of their royal position (Jdg 8:26). Also see Song 3:10n.

Earlier references inform us that her hair was literally black (see Song 4:4; 6:5). "Purple", of course, is a distinctly different color, but it need not mean that she had dyed her beautiful black hair purple (as some commentaries suggest)! Rather, this may point to lustrous natural highlights in her dark hair, which shimmer and ripple as she moves in the dance (see the "tresses" note below).

THE KING IS HELD CAPTIVE BY ITS TRESSES: A king (no definite article here) is spellbound by the beauty of her hair (cp Song 1:4). The verb "asar" is commonly used of binding a prisoner with cords and fetters (Gen 42:34; Jdg 15:10-13; 16:5-12; 2Ki 17:4; 23:33; 25:7; 2Ch 33:11). "Similar imagery appears in an ancient Egyptian love song: 'With her hair she throws lassoes at me, with her eyes she catches me, with her necklace she entangles me, and with her seal ring she brands me' " (WK Simpson, cited in NETn; also, Davidson); this sounds very much like a Western cattle roundup!

The idea of being bound, willingly, on account of love for another is found in Exo 21:5,6 (and Deu 15:16,17): the bondslave who loves his Master and his wife and children so much that he has no wish to be free from them. And so his ear is drilled through, as a sign that he will be his Master's servant for life (cp Psa 40:6-8; Heb 10:5-12). The acted parable is very beautiful: a holy dedication to the perpetual service of a much-loved Lord, symbolized by a pierced ear at the door of God's house, emphasizes a willingness to hear and obey every word of instruction and command.

Jesus Christ, the perfect slave or servant of God (Isa 42:1,6; 49:1-7), is at the same time the "husband" of his spiritual "bride" and the "father" of spiritual "children" (Isa 53:10). This family has been given to him by his "Master" (John 17:2,6). When confronted with the choice of personal freedom or self-inflicted bondage, Jesus chooses to stay in his Master's service because of his great love for his Master, his "wife", and his "children". He says, in effect, in Gethsemane and upon the cross, "I will not go out free, or alone!" And therefore, symbolically, his ear is pierced or opened at the door of his Master's house, he being ever attentive to his Master's will (Psa 40:8).

BY ITS TRESSES: The Hebrew is "rehatim": channels, or canals, or troughs, for water (sw Gen 30:38,41; Exo 2:16); this suggests that her long hair -- especially as she dances and twirls -- has the appearance of running, rippling water, cascading down from her head.

In her hair, and her intimate company, the king may be refreshed, as if by fresh water. And in the company of his disciples, the Messiah may be refreshed by continual recourse to the "water of life", which they share.

The KJV has "galleries", for which there seems no justification -- unless it be that galleries or aisles or hallways in a great building bear a general likeness to long, narrow water channels. Nevertheless, following this translation, commentators have spoken of the bride of Christ, or body of believers, as a great building -- like Solomon's temple -- wherein the "galleries" are the various meeting places and sites within its precincts, which may be used for contemplation and worship of the LORD God. As one might make his way down the long galleries of a great museum, observing and studying and enjoying the works of art displayed there, so the believer may stroll through the "galleries" of God's revelation -- finding entertainment and pleasure and sustenance in first one and then another of the divine "works" to be found there. A lovely picture indeed, and permissible on that account alone, whether accurate to the sense of the Hebrew in this verse or not!

Song 7:6

HOW BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE AND HOW PLEASING, O LOVE, WITH YOUR DELIGHTS!: Of all the things that a person may desire, there is nothing that can compare with this beautiful bride. We should not miss the element of near-adoration in our lover's depiction of his beloved, nor should we be unmindful of the high value placed on the flesh in Scripture. The body is not an unworthy shell to be shucked in death. Rather, it is destined for resurrection -- in some form, it will survive forever. It may be, sadly, the instrument for sin, but it can also be the very clothing of Divinity, as it is in Christ, and as it will be in Christ's beloved "bride". If the devotion of our two lovers is but a type or shadow of the relationship of the true Bridegroom and his bride, it is fitting that there should be an almost worshipful air in the words of the husband.

BEAUTIFUL: The Heb "yaphah" appears for the last time in the Song of Songs, as the king sings to his beloved his last song of endearment. See Song 1:8n.

PLEASING: Heb "na'am" usually means good or gracious. The related "naim" in Song 1:16 is translated "charming" in the NIV.

O LOVE: Heb "ahaba" -- with emphasis on the physical expression of love (cp Song 2:4,5,7; 3:5,10; etc).

WITH YOUR DELIGHTS: A variant reading (actually a simple redividing of two words) changes this from "batta'anugim" ("with the delights") to "bat a'anugim", yielding the rather suitable "daughter of delights". This is followed by the NEB, as well as the RSV ("delectable maiden").

DELIGHTS: The term "ta'anug" ("luxury, daintiness, exquisite delight") is used in reference to: (1) tender love, as of a mother for a child (Mic 1:16); (2) the object of pleasure, as a home to a woman (Mic 2:9); and perhaps to (3) erotic pleasures (Ecc 2:8) -- although the translation of "harem" in this last passage is somewhat uncertain. Nevertheless, the whole tenor of this section (esp vv 7-9) points toward the intimate pleasures of marriage now experienced by the man and woman.

In the same way the husband takes delight in his bride, so Yahweh takes delight in Jerusalem and Zion (Isa 54:7,8; 62:4; Zep 3:16,17).

John Gill summarizes this verse: "She was all delight to him; her words, her actions and gestures, her comely countenance, her sweet and pleasant voice in prayer and praise, her ravishing looks of faith and love, her heavenly airs, and evangelic walk; in all which she appeared beautiful and delightful, beyond all human thought and expression." And Matthew Henry adds, "Holiness is a beauty beyond expression; the Lord Jesus is wonderfully pleased with it; the outward aspect of it is fair; the inward disposition of it is pleasant and highly agreeable, and the [comfort] he has in it is inexpressible."

Song 7:7

YOUR STATURE: The term "stature" ("qomatekh") indicates the height of an object, eg, a tall person (1Sa 16:7; Eze 13:18), a tall tree (2Ki 19:23; Isa 10:33; Eze 31:3–5,10–14), and a towering vine (Eze 19:11). Tallness is considered an indication of, or an enhancement to, great beauty; and a suggestion of majesty (cp 1Sa 9:2).

On a spiritual plane, this suggests "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ": Eph 4:13.

IS LIKE THAT OF THE PALM: "The term 'tamar' refers to the date palm tree... that can reach a height of 80 ft. It flourished in warm moist areas and oases from Egypt to India. Ancient Iraq was the leading grower of date palms and dates in the ancient world, as today (Pope). There is also a hint of eroticism in this palm tree metaphor because the palm tree was often associated with fertility in the ancient world. The point of comparison is that she is a tall, slender, fertile young woman. The comparison of a tall and slender lady to a palm tree is not uncommon in love literature" (NETn). "The palm tree grows slowly, steadily, uninfluenced by those alterations in the seasons that affect other trees. It does not rejoice overmuch in winter's copious rain, nor droop under the drought and burning sun of summer... (nothing) can sway it aside from perfect uprightness" (LB 48,49).

"The righteous will flourish like a palm tree" (Psa 92:12). The palm tree is upright, useful, beautiful, strong, stable, fruitful, permanent, victorious: "They took branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord... Blessed is the King of Israel" (Joh 12:13; cp Rev 7:9).

AND YOUR BREASTS LIKE CLUSTERS OF FRUIT: Perhaps dates, considering the palm tree analogy. Or perhaps "clusters of grapes" (KJV), in echo of Num 13:23 (the vine being mentioned in v 8 which follows) -- referring to the land in its fruitfulness. The picture is not of multiple breasts as in the famous statue of Artemis or Diana of the Ephesians, nor of their very large size as in the clusters of grapes from the Eshcol Valley, which required two men to carry (Num 13:23,24) -- but more simply to their "sweetness" to him, and their refreshing quality.

Song 7:8

Vv 8,9a: The bridegroom expresses his desire to embrace his beloved bride and fully enjoy her love and beauty.

I SAID, "I WILL CLIMB THE PALM TREE; I WILL TAKE HOLD OF ITS FRUIT": A Palestinian palm tree grower would climb a palm tree for two reasons: to pluck the fruit, and to pollinate the female palm trees. Because of their height and because the dates would not naturally fall off the tree, the only way to harvest dates from a palm tree is to climb the tree and pluck the fruit off the stalks. This seems to be the primary imagery behind this figurative expression. The point of comparison here would be that just as one would climb a palm tree to pluck its fruit so that it might be eaten and enjoyed, so too the young lover wanted to embrace his beloved so that he might embrace and enjoy her breasts (cp generally Song 4:16; 5:1).

It is also possible that the process of pollination is behind this figure. A palm tree is climbed to pick its fruit or to dust the female flowers with pollen from the male flowers (the female and male flowers were on separate trees). To obtain a better yield and accelerate the process of pollination, the date grower would transfer pollen from the male trees to the flowers on the female trees. This method of artificial pollination is depicted in ancient Near Eastern art. The point of this playful comparison is clear.

On a spiritual basis, this would be similar to God as the great Gardener pruning and cleansing the vines so that they bear more fruit (John 15:2).

MAY YOUR BREASTS BE LIKE THE CLUSTERS OF THE VINE: Cp Song 2:13; 6:11. Also cp Psa 80 and Isa 5.

THE FRAGRANCE OF YOUR BREATH LIKE APPLES: Cp Song 2:13; 7:13. And see 2Co 2:14: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him."

APPLES: Or "apricots" (NET). See Song 2:3n.

Song 7:9

The first phrase of v 9 appears in actuality to be the completion of the last phrase of v 8.

AND YOUR MOUTH LIKE THE BEST WINE: Or, as the AV, "the roof of thy mouth like the best wine." "Which," says Gill, "may intend, either her taste, as the word is rendered in Song 2:3; by which she can distinguish good wine from bad, truth from error; or her breath, sweet and of a good smell, like the best wine; the breathings of her soul in prayer, which are sweet odours, perfumed with the incense of Christ's mediation; or rather her speech, the words of her mouth; the roof of the mouth being an instrument of speech; the same word is sometimes rendered 'the mouth' (Song 5:16; Pro 5:3; 8:7); and may denote both her speech in common conversation, which is warming, refreshing, comforting, and quickening; and in prayer and praise, which is well pleasing and delightful to Christ; and especially the Gospel preached by her ministers, comparable to the best wine for its antiquity, being an ancient Gospel; for its purity, unadulterated, and free from mixture, and as faithfully dispensed; its delight, flavour, and taste, to such who have their spiritual senses exercised; and for its cheering, refreshing, and strengthening nature, to drooping weary souls."

THE BEST WINE: That which is usually brought out first, but which Christ brings out last (Joh 2:10)! The words the young woman used in her opening wishes, directed toward the shepherd (Song 1:2; cp Song 5:16), are now turned back toward her by him.

MAY THE WINE GO STRAIGHT TO MY LOVER, FLOWING GENTLY OVER LIPS AND TEETH: Now she speaks again... This "voices the wife's eager response. All these verses reflect the increased freedom in sexual matters that is a normal part of the maturation of marital love. A husband has the freedom to enjoy his wife's body (cf Song 5:10-16; cf 1Co 7:3-5), though not to abuse this privilege, of course" (Const).

LIPS AND TEETH: The MT reads "lips of those who sleep" (hence NIV mg). NET has: "gliding gently over our lips as we sleep together". (However, an alternate Hebrew reading is suggested by the Greek tradition -- ie, the LXX: "lips and teeth".) Even while he is sleeping, her love is flowing out to him.

Or, symbolically, those faithful ones who were sleeping the sleep of death will awake to drink anew the fruit of the vine with their Lord in their Father's kingdom (Mat 26:29); it will truly be "a banquet of aged wine... the finest of wines... [for] he will swallow up death forever" (Isa 25:6,8).

Song 7:10

The bride continues to speak of and to her husband.

Song 7:10 -- 8:14: A series of vignettes: pictures of the "honeymoon".

I BELONG TO MY LOVER, AND HIS DESIRE IS FOR ME: This is the third in a series of similar expressions to be found in the Song of Songs:
(1) Firstly, in Song 2:16, the girl exclaims, "My lover is mine and I am his." In this passage her initial thought of her lover was of HER claim upon him, while his claim upon her was secondary.
(2) But later, with more maturity, she says, "I am my lover's and my lover is mine" (Song 6:3). At this point she is thinking first of HIS claim, and only afterwards mentions her own. Now she sees that the true primacy is his!
(3) And there is yet a still further development of character in her similar words here in Song 7:10. Finally, she has at last lost sight of her claim altogether, in the rapture of belonging, solely and exclusively, to him: "I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me." Here is the fullest attainment of faith, indicated in joy and peace: her lover is now her "all in all"!

"Far from being the objectionable condition alleged by many women today, Shulamith obviously basked in her position of subordination. This does not suggest that her personality had been dissolved in Solomon's like a drop of honey in the ocean or that she considered herself mere chattel. This is apparent from her self-assertiveness documented in Song 5:3. However, it does suggest that she found in her position sustaining comfort" (Patterson, cited by Const).

HIS DESIRE IS FOR ME: "Desire" is "teshuwqah", found in the OT only here and in Gen 3:16; 4:7. In these words there is a primeval Edenic purity, as the Shulammite echoes God's words: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (Gen 3:16). In this case, however, it is not just her desire to be subordinated to the will of her husband; it is his desire to serve her needs. This expresses a desire to return, a desire for oneness, a desire that the individual will (even HIS will!) should be subordinated to the needs of the unit which is the couple: "And the two will become one flesh" (Eph 5:31; cp Joh 17:21; Act 4:32; 27:23; 1Co 6:19,20). It obviously is a very strong, almost overpowering, urge. His desire for her easily equals hers for him (cp Psa 45:11; Job 14:15). She is at no disadvantage. She relishes the security of her relationship to her husband.

It may be that, in the sentence of Gen 3:16, "your desire will be for your husband" expressed the incompleteness of the marriage bond: the man, under sentence to earn a living by the sweat of his brow (Gen 3:17-19), could not -- and would not -- give all his attentions to satisfying his wife's desires. Her "desire" for him would, sadly, be greater than his "desire" for her. But in the relationship described here, pointing forward to the perfect spiritual "marriage" between Christ and the church, his "desire" for her would equal -- and even exceed -- hers for him. (This was the sort of desire expressed by Christ in Luk 22:15: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.") And she thinks of his "desire" toward her not as his will to dominate her, but rather his commitment to do whatever he can so as to share his joy with her. In this setting, her submission to him is no burden, but a surpassing gratitude and an intense pleasure.

"It is her greatest desire to belong to him, who on the mountain of myrrh [Song 4:6] has redeemed her unto himself, and it is understandable even to our finite minds that, in that beauty of holiness, the perfections of which the beloved has been singing, she indeed will be desirable to him, now fully attuned in heart and mind unto the Divine, she having set her mind upon him" (Atwell).

"Had he not proved [that his desire was for her] all along in their association together? Had he not revealed himself to her? Had he not taught her? protected her? provided for her? healed her? forgiven her? restored her? made her? Had he not presented her faultless before the throne of his glory with exceeding joy [cp Rom 8:28-39; Jud 1:24]?" (Hall).

All this is expressed most succinctly in Psa 119:94: "Save me, for I am yours." Our attempts to explain this may falter, in the multiplying of phrases and descriptions -- but these six simple words may come as close as anything to the heart of our faith. Here there is the confession that we are lost, that we cannot save ourselves. Here there is the absolute abandonment of self, which is the essence of sacrifice: "I am yours!" In this there is the profoundest relief: 'I don't have to carry this burden alone... he... who carried the cross will carry it with me!' And here there is the most complete confession of faith -- not bound up in creeds nor dependent upon the precision of our own formulation, but a faith that has dug down deep enough to find bedrock... "Save me!" "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but 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).

Song 7:11

Vv 11-13: His desire for her, and her reciprocation, leads her to beg that he take her to the countryside, where they may more fully enjoy one another's love. (Her request here is similar to his earlier one in Song 2:11-14.)

COME, MY LOVER: This could refer to her desire for his return (Hab 1:2; Rev 6:10; 14:14-16), at the time of "harvest" (v 12). But what "return" is in mind, since -- it would seem -- the marriage has been consummated, and thus this cannot be the Second Coming of Christ?

One answer presents itself. RW Ask sees this, rightly it would seem, as relating to the time, after the "marriage" of the Lamb and his Bride, when the Kingdom of God has been established in the earth: "King-Messiah reigns over all the earth, and the Bride, his Queen, [has] many duties to perform which claim her attention and time, as does also her husband. The Bride... lays down her heart's desire that she would have a quiet time with her husband, without interruption by State affairs." But the ruling, and teaching of the mortal nations during the Millennium will occupy so much time. "This will prevent mass meetings of the saints with Christ, only at certain intervals. It is for one of these periods of brief communion that the Bride pleads. How beautiful the language and how intense the love they express."

In this context, then, the visit to the country and the inspection of the vineyards and gardens would symbolize the joint review, by Christ and his saints, of the ongoing work of the Millennium, that is, the care and nurturing of the tender young growth of new believers during the Kingdom Age. Atwell adds, "The Holy Pair will delight in tending the newly planted vines and orchards, providing a willing people with all spiritual nourishment and refreshment, loving, watching over, and providing for both temporal and spiritual welfare. So shall the whole earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, and wheresoever the consecrated feet shall tread there shall joy, love, and hope like flowers spring in their path to birth."

LET US GO TO THE COUNTRYSIDE: On a more natural level, this could express her desire for privacy, and a "getting back to nature". This too, more generally, has a suitable spiritual counterpart: "As my beloved is full of worshipping affection, and I am wholly his, let his love have free course, and let us retire together away from all the distractions and artificiality of the town life to the simplicity and congenial enjoyments of the country, which are so much more to my taste. The more real and fervent the religious emotions of the soul and the spiritual life of the Church, the more natural and simple will be their expression. We do not require any profuse ceremonies, any extravagant decorations, any complicated and costly religions services, in order to draw forth in the Christian Church the highest realization of the Saviour's fellowship. We want the Christianity we profess to take possession of us, body and soul. And so it will be as Christians learn more of Christ" (Pulpit). So, quite often, have prophets and other men and women of faith sought the solace of quiet pastoral settings, or even the emptiness of the wilderness, or the terrible isolation of mountain caves, so as to commune with the Eternal. Isaac "went out to the field one evening to meditate [or 'pray']" (Gen 24:63). "Let us, then, go to him outside the camp" (Heb 13:13).

LET US SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE VILLAGES: "Villages" (NIV, AV, ASV, RSV, and NET) is the Heb "kepharim", which is practically identical with the word for "henna" (see NIV mg). Given the agricultural background of this section (as of many others in the Song of Songs), it is understandable that some (like the NEB) would prefer to translate "henna bushes" (sw Song 1:14; 4:13). Nevertheless, "villages" suits the development of the story, and the picture, perfectly well.

Notice that the bride will gladly lodge in the least comfortable of accommodations, if only it be with her husband! At any rate, the solitude and glory and reality of the world of nature are dearer to her than the bustle and splendor of the city and of the court. The village or little town surrounded with vineyards and gardens was the scene of her early life, and would always be delightful to her. She has little use for the loveliest palace or richest mansion. A night in the fields, on a blanket under the stars of heaven, is most suitable to her, and especially so when her husband, lover, and friend is there with her!

Song 7:12

LET US GO EARLY: "It has been well observed that all men in Scripture who have done earnest work rose up early to do it. The dew of the morning, before the smoke and dust of the world's business have tainted the atmosphere, is a choice and special season for all holy work" (CHS). Cp Gen 21:14; 22:3; Psa 5:3; Hos 5:15 (where "earnestly" signifies literally "early"); Mar 1:35; Luk 4:42; etc. "Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb" (Mar 16:2). Contrast the sluggard in Pro 24:30-34.

TO THE VINEYARDS: Cp Song 1:6,14; 2:15n. Symbolizes Israel (Isa 5), or the nations to be judged (Rev 14:18).


POMEGRANATES: See Song 4:3n.

THERE I WILL GIVE YOU MY LOVE: There, in the countryside, in seclusion and with privacy, they will enjoy their lovemaking all the more.

Song 7:13

THE MANDRAKES SEND OUT THEIR FRAGRANCE: The Hebrew here is "duwday", from the same root ("dowd") for "love"; hence mandrakes are also called "love apples". The mandrake brings forth flat dark green leaves to cover the ground and creamy-yellow flowers with purple veining. The fruit ripens in May, and gives forth a strong smell which was pleasing to people in the East. The unusual shape of the large forked roots of the mandrake resembles the human body with extended arms and legs. It is traditionally considered to be an aphrodisiac, and an aid to conception (cf Gen 30:14-16).

AND AT OUR DOOR IS EVERY DELICACY: The bride invites the king to revisit the country home of her childhood and the scenes of their early acquaintance and attachment. At her old home she has carefully laid up, especially for him, all manner of precious fruits, new and old. "This reflects an ancient Near Eastern practice of storing fruit on a shelf above the door of a house. In the ancient Near East, fruits were stored away on shelves or cupboards above doorways where they were out of reach and left to dry until they became very sweet and delectable. The point of comparison in this figurative expression seems to be two-fold: (1) She was treasuring up special expressions of her love for him [at his return?], and (2) all these good things were for him alone to enjoy" (NETn).

The "fruits" gathered, and treasured, and "stored up" for her husband (Joh 15:8), are enumerated in Gal 5:22,23: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"; and in Eph 5:9: "all goodness, righteousness and truth"; and in 2Pe 1:5-7: "faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love".

DOOR: Referring, perhaps, to the gates of the Holy City, the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:2,25-27).

EVERY DELICACY: The "tree of life" will yield, month by month, twelve crops of fruit (Rev 22:2).

BOTH NEW AND OLD: Same as Mat 13:52: "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." This suggests Immeasurable wealth of resources: spiritual treasures from both OT and NT. Cp also Lev 26:10: old and new storehouses of "grain": last year's harvest alongside the new.

THAT I HAVE STORED UP FOR YOU, MY LOVER: Our age seems, sadly, to have lost almost totally the concept that certain good things are to be "stored up", and their enjoyment deferred, until the right season. Young girls are encouraged to dress and act older than they are, and are pushed -- or else they push themselves -- into the dating arena, long before they are ready for such enterprises. "Use it, or lose it!" "You only go round once in life; so grab for all the gusto you can!" "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow..." -- well, who knows about tomorrow! Let's get on with life -- don't miss anything! The quaint picture of a young woman, or a young man for that matter, who has "stored up" the treasures of intimate love, and is saving them for the one true spouse and the marriage bed... all this is an object of ridicule to the thoughtless world. Why, there must be something terribly wrong with you, if you choose to live by some outdated, "Puritanical" code of behavior!

How many frightful consequences follow in the train of such a disdainful philosophy? Early and unwanted pregnancies. Abortions. Sexually transmitted diseases. Guilt. Confusion. And, when marriage is finally entered upon, how much has been lost? How do I know, the young woman asks herself, if I can remain faithful to THIS one -- when I've had so many lovers before, and none of them lasted for long? And how can I know that he will want me, after the first baby, or after the first exciting bloom of this latest "love" has faded only a little?

The young woman of the Song of Songs has "stored up" her love. It is a "delicacy", a rare and valuable plant, not to be trodden under foot by the heedless crowd -- a "pearl" not to be cast before swine. She has, in her virginal purity, so much stored up to give; and she will give it... but only to her one true love. In her marriage, once it comes, it will be released like a pure and blessed fountain, and in it he will find refreshment, pleasure, and comfort. He will want no one else, nor will she -- for what they will have shared with one another has been special and unique and precious.

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