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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Song of Solomon 5

III. THE WEDDING 3:6-5:1

Weddings in Israel took place in front of the local town elders, not the priests (e.g., Ruth 4:10-11). They transpired in homes, not in the tabernacle or temple (or synagogue, in later times). They were civil rather than religious ceremonies.

There were three parts to a wedding in the ancient Near East. First, the groom’s parents selected a bride for their son. This involved securing the permission of the bride’s parents and the approval of both the bride and the groom themselves. Though the parents of the young people arranged the marriage, they usually obtained the consent of both the bride and the groom. Second, on the wedding day the groom proceeded to the bride’s house accompanied by a group of his friends. He then escorted her to the site of the wedding ceremony, and finally took her to their new residence accompanied by their friends. Physical union consummated the marriage the night after the wedding ceremony took place. Third, the couple feasted with their friends-usually for seven days following the wedding ceremony. [Note: See Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World," Bibliotheca Sacra 135:539 (July-September 1978):241-52.]

In the section before us (Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1), the writer mentioned the wedding procession (Song of Solomon 3:6-11) and the consummation (Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1).

". . . the book is framed by an inclusio involving the ’brothers’ and the ’vineyard,’ and at the heart of the book is the wedding day, framed by two ’dream’ sections with noticeable parallels." [Note: Tanner, "The Message . . .," p. 152. See pages 152-57 for further discussion of the Song’s literary structure.]

Verse 1

B. The Consummation 4:1-5:1

Our attention now turns from the public procession that took place on the wedding day to the private union that followed that night.

5. The bride’s surrender 4:16-5:1

Verse 1

Solomon exulted in the joy that union with his beloved had brought him, and he commended it to others. This interpretation seems preferable to the views that "the onlookers[?!] and guests," [Note: Carr, The Song . . ., p. 129.] or God, [Note: Deere, p. 1020.] or the poet (not Solomon) [Note: Glickman, p. 163.] spoke the words, "Eat . . . O lovers." The metaphors used express the fully satisfying nature of his sexual experience (cf. 2 Samuel 13:15).

"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 [i.e., proclamations]. 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 (Exodus 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.

"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!" [Note: Kinlaw, pp. 1230-31.]

"These bold but tender scenes from Song of Solomon point up a major difference between the world’s concept of love to what was created and endorsed by God. In the former case the focus is on self-gratification. In the latter the emphasis is on the well-being of the loved one and the extolling of his or her virtues. No wonder Jewish and Christian interpreters alike have seen this kind of love as a type of God’s great love for His own dear ones." [Note: Merrill, p. 515.]

Verse 2

Again the woman dreamed (cf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4). In her dream, her husband came to her-having been outdoors in the evening. His mind appears to have been on making love in view of what follows.

Verses 2-4

IV. THE MATURING PROCESS 5:2-8:4

In this last major section of the book, the married love of Solomon and the Shulammite is in view. [Note: Delitzsch, p. 91.] This stage of love is not without its share of problems. However, the king and his bride worked through them, and these chapters provide insight into dealing effectively with basic marriage difficulties.

"Here we are given the beloved’s perspective. Of the 111 lines, 80 in this section are the words of the girl. This is really her book." [Note: Carr, The Song . . ., p. 130.]

Verses 2-8

1. Indifference and withdrawal 5:2-8

Verses 2-13

A. The Problem of Apathy 5:2-6:13

Sometime after the wedding, the Shulammite failed to respond encouragingly to Solomon’s demonstration of affection. This led him to withdraw from her. Shortly after that, she realized that a gap had opened up between them. They were no longer as intimate as they had been.

Verses 3-4

However, she had lost interest. She gave a weak excuse: she had already gotten ready for bed (and may have had a headache!). When he tried to open her door but found it locked, he gave up and went away. It may be that "the opening" is a euphemistic reference to the entrance into the woman’s private parts. [Note: See Pamela J. Scalise, Jeremiah 26-52, p. 120, listed in the bibliography under Keown, Scalise, and Smothers; and Carr, The Song . . ., pp. 134-35.] If so, this is probably only an implied allusion, a double entendre, since the hole in a literal door is clearly evident in the context. It was not long before she knew she had erred in discouraging him.

"An ancient keyhole would form a large enough opening to place an adult’s hand through because the key would be large." [Note: Hess, p. 172.]

Verses 5-7

She went to the door and found that he had been ready to make love (Song of Solomon 5:5; cf. Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 4:6; Song of Solomon 5:13). She opened it but discovered he had gone. The fact that in her dream the watchmen beat her may indicate that she subconsciously felt that someone should punish her for refusing him.

"If the redid ["shawl"] was a loose cloak that was removed by the watchmen, they may be pictured here as gazing on the ’wall’, i.e. the girl in her state of semi-nakedness." [Note: Carr, The Song . . ., p. 137.]

Verse 8

She told her friends to tell her husband, if they saw him, that she wanted his love again (cf. Song of Solomon 2:5-6).

"’Lovesick’ here seems to describe frustration from sexual abstinence rather than exhaustion from sexual activity (cf. on Song of Solomon 2:5). [Note: Hubbard, p. 317.]

Verse 9

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!"

Verses 9-16

2. Renewed affection 5:9-16

This pericope contains the most extensive physical description of any character in the Old Testament, namely: Solomon. Of course, it is poetic and so not a completely literal description.

Verses 10-16

Nevertheless, the Shulammite still loved Solomon very much, as is clear from her description of him here. The comparisons illustrate his value and attractiveness to her, more than just giving us a picture of his actual physical appearance. For example, his hand (Song of Solomon 5:11) was not the color of gold, but his dealings with her symbolized by his hand had been of the highest quality. Some features in her description may be purely physical, such as his black hair (Song of Solomon 5:11). These verses show that a woman has the right to enjoy her husband’s body (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:4).

"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." [Note: Kinlaw, p. 1234.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/song-of-solomon-5.html. 2012.