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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Song of Solomon 2

Praise of one another 1:12-2:6

1. Mutual admiration 1:12-2:7

In this section, the love of Solomon and his beloved continues to intensify.

Verse 1

The Shulammite described herself as a rather common, albeit attractive person. The "rose of Sharon" probably refers to the crocuses (possibly narcissuses, lilies, or meadow saffrons) that grew on the plain of Sharon that bordered the Mediterranean Sea south of the Carmel mountain range. Other less likely locations are the area in Galilee between Mt. Tabor and the Sea of Galilee, [Note: Delitzsch, p. 40.] or the Sharon in Transjordan (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:16). Lilies grew and still grow easily in the valleys of Israel. She did not depreciate her appearance here as she had earlier (Song of Solomon 1:5-6), though she was modest. Perhaps Solomon’s praise (Song of Solomon 1:9-10) had made her feel more secure.

Verse 2

Solomon responded that in comparison with the other single women, she was not common but a rare beauty.

"It is the essence of poetry that it employs symbolism to express nuances beyond the power of exact definition. This is particularly true of love poetry." [Note: Gordis, p. 37.]

Verses 3-6

The girl responded that Solomon, too, was a rare find. He was as rare as an apple (or possibly quince or citron) tree in a forest of other trees: sweet, beautiful, and outstanding.

"’Shade,’ ’fruit,’ ’apple tree’ are all ancient erotic symbols, and erotic suggestions are what she has in mind (Song of Solomon 2:3-4). . . . ’Shade’ speaks of closeness." [Note: Hubbard, p. 286.]

". . . if the lotus [lily, Song of Solomon 2:2] enhances the pleasure of visual form and beauty, the apple tree stimulates the taste and olfactory senses." [Note: Hess, p. 77.]

"The shadow is a figure of protection afforded, and the fruit a figure of enjoyment obtained." [Note: Delitzsch, p. 42.]

Jody Dillow understood the phrase "his fruit is sweet to my taste" (Song of Solomon 2:3) as referring to the girl having oral sex with Solomon. [Note: Joseph Dillow, Solomon on Sex, p. 31.] However, "fruit" never appears elsewhere in the Old Testament as a euphemism for the genitals, and neither the Hebrew Bible nor the Egyptian love literature refer to oral sex. [Note: The NET Bible note on 2:3.] Probably simple kissing is what is in view.

The metaphors that follow show that Solomon satisfied three needs of this woman: protection, intimate friendship, and public identification as her beloved. A woman’s lover must meet these basic needs for the relationship to flourish.

The word "banner" in "his banner over me" may be from an Akkadian word that means "desire" or "intent." If so, the clause may mean "his intent toward me was lovemaking." [Note: Hubbard, p. 286; Pope, p. 376; and Carr, The Song . . ., p. 91.]

"Lovesick" means faint from love. She needed strengthening (Song of Solomon 2:5-6; cf. Song of Solomon 5:8). She felt exhausted from her love for her loved one.

"In the Song, as in much of the other ancient Near Eastern love poetry, the woman is the one who takes the initiative, and who is the more outspoken. Similarly, in the Mesopotamian Ritual Marriage materials, much is placed on the girl’s lips. Our contemporary attitude, where the girl is on the defensive and the man is the initiator, is a direct contrast with the attitude in the ancient world." [Note: Ibid., pp. 88-89.]

Verse 7

The refrain 2:7

This charge by Solomon occurs again later (Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4) and serves as an indicator that one pericope has ended. The point of Solomon’s words is that others desiring the kind of relationship he and his beloved enjoyed should be patient and "let love take its natural course." [Note: Ibid., p. 94.]

"Wait for love to blossom; don’t hurry it." [Note: Longman, p. 115.]

The gazelle is a member of the antelope family, and the hind is a female deer. Both animals are skittish, and anyone who wants to get close to them must wait patiently. One cannot approach them aggressively. Similarly a man cannot awaken a woman’s love clumsily.

Verses 8-9

The girl described her young lover coming for a visit in these verses. He was obviously eager to see her.

Verses 8-17

2. Increased longing 2:8-17

Whereas the setting so far had been Israel, it now shifts to the Shulammite’s home that was evidently in Lebanon (cf. Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 4:15).

Verses 10-13

She related his invitation to take a walk in the countryside. His invitation, "Arise . . . come along," (Song of Solomon 2:10; Song of Solomon 2:13) brackets a beautiful description of spring that was as much a feeling in Solomon’s heart as a season of the year.

"Whenever any couple falls in love, it is spring for them because their lives are fresh; everything in life has a new perspective; what was black and white is now in color; what was dark is light." [Note: Glickman, pp. 46-47.]

Verse 14

The desire to be alone with one’s lover is both natural and legitimate. Unfortunately it sometimes departs after marriage.

Verse 15

Probably the Shulammite began speaking here. She was evidently urging Solomon, poetically, to deal with some problems in their relationship, rather than telling him to clear literal foxes out of her family’s vineyards. "Foxes" may refer to "the ravages of the aging process that can sap the beauty and vitality of persons (the ’vines’ or vineyards)." [Note: Hubbard, p. 293.] They may refer to the other women in Solomon’s life and court. [Note: Tanner, "The Message . . .," p. 149.] Probably they refer generally to hostile forces that could spoil their love. [Note: Kinlaw, p. 1224; Delitzsch, p. 54; Glickman, pp. 49-50; Hess, p. 97; and Longman, pp. 124-25.] All couples encounter some potentially destructive situations in their relationships that need dealing with occasionally. Often the woman senses these first, as here, but the man should take the initiative in dispelling them and thus protect his loved one.

Verses 16-17

Even though they faced problems, the Shulammite rejoiced in the security of her beloved’s love and in the assurance that he would take care of his responsibilities to her (Song of Solomon 2:16 b).

Song of Solomon 2:17 probably looks forward to their wedding and to its physical consummation. "Bether" is a transliteration rather than a translation. Since no Bether mountains apparently exist in this part of the Middle East, it seems preferable to translate the Hebrew word (bater) as "cleavage" or "separation." The mountains of cleavage then may be an allusion to the Shulammite’s breasts. Another possibility is that Bether refers to the cleft in the mountains where the deer suddenly appears. [Note: Patterson, p. 57.]

"Contrary to some commentators, the Song does not portray sex as the great and final goal in order to experience true joy. Nor does it suggest that mutual admiration of the lovers, their physical bodies and sensuality, is the source of joy. Rather, the Song directly associates the joy of the heart with the final commitment of marriage. It is only within this commitment that all the joys of the male and female lovers come together, for it is only here that they realize the freedom to express those joys without restraint, knowing that the marriage bond seals their love in a lifetime commitment to each other." [Note: Hess, p. 123.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/song-of-solomon-2.html. 2012.