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“Behold, you are fair, my beloved, yes, handsome (‘pleasant), Also our couch is green. The beams of our house are cedars, And our rafters are firs. I am a crocus of Sharon, A lily of the valleys.”
The young country maiden replies with similar compliments, and then speaks of her hopes to lie with her beloved on the green grass and herbs beneath the boughs of the great cedars and firs. That will be their house. This is her view of courting, for she is not yet acclimatized to her new role. After all she is but a crocus of Sharon, on the coastal plain in the north, and a lily of the valleys, enjoying a Northern beauty. She was not to know, when she described herself in this way, that one day a greater than Solomon would declare, ‘Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not neither do they spin, and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these’ (Matthew 6:28-29). Yet she is certainly aware of their beauty. She is not denigrating herself, but pointing out that she is of the valleys and the hills. So she is content with simple things, and with country life. She is not concerned with grandeur and fine palaces, only with being with her beloved and enjoying him in beautiful country surroundings. She does not yet quite appreciate whom her beloved is.
‘Also our couch is green.’ Greenness was seen as resulting from the activity of the sun and as indicating fullness of blessing (Job 8:16). It was an indication of restoration after the barren summer, resulting from the effects of rain and sun, when God had blessed the earth. Note also the reference to cedars as a roof over their head. In Song of Solomon 8:9 it will be boards of cedar wood that possibly enclose her little sister in order to prevent her from straying, but here the protection for her is from the heat of the sun.
The prophets regularly looked back to the time in the wilderness as being a time when Israel were purer and sought their God more truly (Jeremiah 2:2-3; Jeremiah 2:13). Thus the song reminds God’s people that He can be found in the simple things of the countryside, as Jesus would later. The great cities were regularly looked on as the sources of evil and idolatry. And it is noteworthy that when Jesus came He avoided the great cities, and tended more to minister in the country towns and the open spaces. He too felt that men and women were nearer to God there than in the cities. It is a reminder to us that we need regularly to get away from the demands of life into a quiet place where we can meet with Him. And it is interesting that when He sat down the people to eat the bread of His new covenant that too was on ‘the green grass’ (Mark 6:39). Perhaps Mark had in mind these words from the Song of Solomon.
Like the young maiden we too find it difficult to become acclimatized to the fact that our Beloved is a King, and more. That is why we worry so much. And we seek to bring Him down to our level. And very graciously, as Solomon did with this maiden, He comes to us where we are and meets us on our own ground, spending time with us in our own surroundings, and assuring us of His love, waiting for a full recognition of all that He is to dawn on us.
The BELOVED again speaks.
The First Assignation of The Lovers (Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7 ).
In this first section a young Northern maiden is thinking about the handsome young shepherd king, Solomon, who has won her heart, and has clearly shown her some depth of affection. She is filled with expectancy because he has invited her to a feast in his palatial tent, and it soon becomes apparent that, initially at least, she has no real idea of the splendor of his position, but rather sees him as a glorified shepherd (possibly like her own tribal chieftains to whom she may well have been related - compare Exodus 3:1).
THE YOUNG MAIDEN (visualizing her beloved in the light of the fact that she will shortly be seeing him).
“As a lily among thorns, So is my love among the daughters.”
He now tells her lovingly, that compared with all other women he has known, she is like a lily among thorns, a flowering beauty among the briars. That is how he sees her. She is ‘his pure, true love’, in contrast with them.
And in such terms God often pleaded with His people Israel (see Exodus 19:5-6). He wanted them to know the love that He had for them. ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3), which He connected with ‘the virgin Israel’ (Jeremiah 31:4). Indeed He would cry, ‘How can I give you up, Oh Ephraim? How shall I hand you over, Oh Israel’ (Hosea 11:8). And it is as a similar kind of admirer that our Lord, Jesus Christ comes to us, as He gently whispers, ‘you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His most glorious light’ (1 Peter 2:9). That is why we are to be as lights in the world, and like a city which cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16), revealing our spiritual beauty to the world
We have in this reference to her as a lily an indication of the significance of the continual mention of ‘feeding among the lilies’ found later (Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 4:5; Song of Solomon 6:3). It signifies being in her environment and among her kind of people, that is, among the people of the land, the country folk, and the humble and poor.
The YOUNG MAIDEN replies to his compliment,
“As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, So is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, And his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting-place, And his banner over me was love. Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples, For I am ailing from love. His left hand is under my head, And his right hand embraces me.”
The maiden shyly responds and likens her beloved to an apple tree. The apple tree both provides ample shade and is fruitful. Thus it outdoes other trees. And so to her it is like ‘her beloved’ in comparison with other men. For in her eyes he outshines them all. We note that she does not compare him with a tall cedar or a mighty oak. Her thought here is more on the fact that she can feast on him. That is why she wants to partake of his apples (verse 5). We learn later that outside her house was an apple tree that had great significance for her, which adds weight to the thought here (Song of Solomon 8:5).
So she has sat under his shadow, out of the sun, with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to her taste, for he is now her protector and provider, and it is a wonderful position to be in. What is more he has brought her to his banqueting tent (his ‘house of wine’ where she can drink of his love to the full - Song of Solomon 1:2), and the banner flying over it indicates that it is the place of ‘love’. Indeed she is so swept away by the thought of his love, and her own given in response, that it even makes her feel weak and faint, and so she calls on the servants for raisin-cakes and apples, the food of love, to sustain her (compare 1 Samuel 30:12). And when she faints and then comes back to consciousness she finds that his left hand is under her head, and he is embracing her with his right. No wonder that she is quivering with emotion. But she is not afraid. She is confident that she is safe in his arms. The innocence of her position comes out in that the servants are still present to meet her requests, and the daughters of Jerusalem are still around them. And so is ending her first romantic meeting with her beloved.
What a wonderful picture we have here of our Lord Jesus Christ and His love for us. He too is a shadow from the heat, and a covert from the tempest (Isaiah 32:2), and the one Who supplies all our need, and feeds us with the fruits of delight, for He promises, ‘He who comes to Me will never hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’ (John 6:35). And we too have come to His house of wine (Luke 22:18). To us the wine is not only a picture of rejoicing and plenty and future blessing (Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 26:29), but also of the blood that He shed for us as He gave Himself for our salvation, bearing on Himself the sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2), and through which He brings us into His new covenant (Matthew 26:27-28). Unless we partake of Him we have no life in us (John 6:53).
Over His house of wine proudly flies the banner of love, for it is there that we are found within His arms. Indeed it is even better for us for we are rooted and grounded in His never failing love so that as His church we might experience its length, breadth, depth and height and know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge as we are filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19). And we have His promise that if we, ‘Seek first the Kingly Rule of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added to you’ (Matthew 6:33). He will make full provision for us because we are His. When we think of the vastness of His love we too should surely be feeling emotional in His presence.
Her cry for apples can be seen in the light of Proverbs 25:11, ‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in baskets of silver’, which fits aptly here, for it is through His words fitly spoken that we receive His guidance and words of love. Our desire also should thus constantly be to hear His voice speaking to us.
“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the roe-deer, or by the hinds of the field, That you stir not up, nor awaken love, Until he please.”
So overwhelmed is the young maiden by her thoughts of love that she cries out to the young women of Jerusalem, the young women of the court who are enjoying the feast with her, and most solemnly adjures them by the wild creatures who enjoy such mating, to do nothing to stir up or awaken love until he pleases. She is already aware of love’s power, and is afraid of arousing his love, or even her own, too quickly, for she knows what an overwhelming force love is. Indeed we will learn later that it is the very flame of God (Song of Solomon 8:6).
We note again the indication of her country background, for when she makes her adjuration it is in terms of the things that she knows so well, the roe-deer and the hinds in the wild which she has seen so often engaged in their mating.
There is certainly a timely warning for all Christian lovers in these words, lest their passion for each other take them beyond the bounds that God has set ‘do not awaken love until He please’). And it is a reminder to us as His church that when our love is awakened it is because it is at His pleasure. It is He Who is to make the first move. For in contrast to our love, His love has already been awakened and revealed and is actively at work (John 15:9; John 15:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 3:4; compare Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10-11), and it is reaching out towards us continually. God has commended His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)
THE YOUNG MAIDEN speaks.
‘The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, Leaping on the mountains, Skipping on the hills. My beloved is like a roe-deer or a young hart, Behold, he stands behind our wall; He looks in at the windows, He glances through the lattice.’
Here we have a beautiful picture of the fervency of love. Her beloved might be a king, but when it comes to love he is like other men. It commences with her hearing his call as he speaks her name. And she pictures him ‘leaping on the mountains, skipping on the hills’ for all the world like a roe-deer, or a young hart in spring time, his heart full of life, and of thoughts of love (compare Proverbs 5:19).
And then there he is. First standing behind the wall, and then looking in at the window, and glancing though the lattice which protects it (it would have no glass). This is not the behavior of a king but of a heart in love that dares to do anything, and cannot be restrained, and will not be denied.
It was like God’s love for Israel. How often He called their name (Isaiah 50:2). How often He sought them and looked for them (Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 35:17). He, as it were, stood behind their wall, and even looked through the lattice. But they kept Him outside. They did not want Him interfering in their daily lives.
We are reminded here also of another Shepherd-King, Who came into the world that He might seek and save the lost. He too loves His true people. And we are reminded here of His persistence when He begins to seek us. One moment we are aware of Him behind the wall of our unbelief, then of Him looking in through the window. We cannot escape Him. He just will not let us go until we are sought and found. For He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4), and loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). In a similar way He had called to Jerusalem but in their case they would not hear Him (Matthew 23:37). For they were not of His sheep (John 10:26).
And once we are His He regularly calls to us and tell us that it is the time for love, a time for renewal. But how often we leave Him standing behind the wall, or looking in through the lattice of the window. We are too busy with other things, and the moment of opportunity passes us by.
The Follow Up Visit By Her Beloved, And Her Subsequent Nightmare (Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5 ).
In this section we now have described in vivid terms a picture of how the young maiden’s beloved seeks her out and calls her to come away with him into the countryside. The courtship is advancing and he is here not acting as a king but as a lover. And while she does not respond, for it would not have been seemly for a maiden of her quality to go off alone with her lover, she delights in the assurance it brings her of their love. However, that night the fact that she has had to gently rebuff him results in her having a nightmare that she has lost him, and so in her dream she commences a desperate journey to seek him out, which again ends with an adjuration to the daughters of Jerusalem not to awaken his love until it pleases.
THE VOICE OF THE BELOVED.
‘My beloved spoke, and said to me, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone, The flowers appear on the earth, The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove, Is heard in our land. The fig-tree ripens her green figs, And the vines are in blossom, They give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
The plea of her beloved comes to her. It is unavoidable. He tells her that it is now spring, and the time for love. The winter is gone, the rainy season is over, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and the trees are blossoming and showing signs of fruit. Their fragrance fills the air. It is time then too for their love to blossom as they walk together in the countryside in the sunshine enjoying the delights of nature.
Here was a picture of what God was calling Israel to. He wanted to share His love with them (see Isaiah 2:5; Jeremiah 31:9). And He was ready to come to them where they were at the time of spring renewal. The prophets even told them what to do. ‘Come and let us return to the Lord, for He has torn and He will heal us. He has smitten and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us, and on the third day He will raise us up, and we will live before Him’ (Hosea 6:1-2). But they still refused. We can compare with this the idyllic picture of life in Isaiah 11:5-9. That was what He wanted for them. It could be theirs if only they would respond.
And how often the voice of our Beloved calls to us to leave behind what is past and come aside with Him and look forward to the future, and all the delights that He has in store for us. He calls for the non-Christian to experience the time of rebirth (John 1:12-13; John 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17) and to us all to enjoy a time of renewal. He wants us to enjoy our lives in His presence and walk with Him in the springtime in our lives, in the time when all is renewed. God has done all the necessary groundwork, and it is now time for us to enter into it. ‘Do not be conformed to this world,’ He calls, ‘but be renewed in the spirit of your mind, that you might prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God’ (Romans 12:2). We are being called on to enjoy continual spring times with Him, even when the going is hardest.
When she does not respond THE VOICE OF THE BELOVED continues.
“O my dove, who is in the clefts of the rock, In the covert of the steep place, Let me see your face, Let me hear your voice, For sweet is your voice, And your face is comely.”
But he received no response and discovered that it was as though his love had flown away like a shy dove and had taken shelter in the clefts of the rocks. However, the voice of the beloved will not be silenced by her unresponsiveness. She may be like a shy dove hiding from him in the clefts of the rock in the mountains, and in the coverts of the steep precipice, but he does not want her at a distance. He wants to see her beloved face close at hand, and to hear her sweet voice, for he knows how sweet her voice is, and how comely is her face.
The story of Israel is full of them hiding away in the clefts of the rock and in the steep places where, as it were, God could not reach them. ‘Why, when I called, was there none to answer?’ (Isaiah 50:2), He asked. They were like a silly dove without understanding who looked elsewhere (Hosea 7:11). If only Israel had let Him see her face and hear her voice. He gave her every opportunity, speaking to her again and again through the prophets. But she was deaf to His call. She preferred the tents of the other shepherds. And in the end, apart from for the faithful few, He left her in order to seek out the remnant of His people among the Gentiles
Are we too hiding in the clefts of the rocks? Sheltering on the precipice? His voice calls constantly to us, in such tender tones and with the offer of such delights. He wants to see our face and to hear our voice. He wants us to walk with Him and share with Him our lives. And so the only question is as to whether we will leave our safe shelters and go with Him as He pastures His sheep among the mountains, or whether we will turn away from the window and fail to hear His call.
THE YOUNG MAIDEN replies.
“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, That spoil the vineyards, For our vineyards are in blossom. My beloved is mine, and I am his, He feeds his flock among the lilies. Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away, Turn, my beloved, and be you like a roe-deer or a young hart, Upon the craggy mountains (mountains of Bether).”
The young maiden determines to prove his love. It is all right for him to call her away from her responsibilities to run wild across the mountains, but if he really is so concerned for her, let him do something practical. She has a personal problem to deal with as the keeper of the vine gardens (Song of Solomon 1:6). Let him and his friends (plural verb) deal with the problem of the foxes that are spoiling the family vine gardens, for they are causing her great concern. The vine gardens are her responsibility and are in blossom and the foxes are causing havoc. If he does love her, here is a practical way in which he can demonstrate it, and ease her mind at the same time.
The contented words that follow are probably intended to indicate that he has carried out her wishes, for she is now fully satisfied that he loves her, and she feels that she can say with confidence, “My beloved is mine, and I am his”.
And one of the evidences that he is still hers, and concerned about her, is that he is still feeding his sheep among the lilies. He has still remained in the near vicinity. ‘Feeding among the lilies’ is similarly closely connected with the phrase, ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine’ in Song of Solomon 6:2 after they have fled back to her tribal lands. It indicates that he is willing to be near her where she is, in the lily fields of her homeland, away from the stifling atmosphere of the big city. And she does not want him to go away. She wants him to continue with his courting, being like a roe-deer or a young hart, even though it be temporarily in the mountains of ‘separation’.
For she is still shy, and while she sees him as truly hers, ‘my beloved is mine, and I am his’, and wants him to be feeding his flock among the lilies, (a woman’s view of the pasturage in her own land), until the cool of the day is reached and the sun goes down so that there is no more shadow. And even wants him to turn back and return to the mountains, to leap like a roe-deer and skip like a young hart to his heart’s content, in a mood for mating, rather than disappearing out of her life, she is not yet ready to commit herself, for he must know that she cannot come with him yet, however much she might wish to do so. ‘Bether’ means ‘division’, and thus the idea may be of divided mountains, the crags. But it is also a reminder of the separation between them (later they will enjoy instead the mountains of spices together - Song of Solomon 8:14).
Israel in a similar way called on God to deal with the foxes. Let Him deal with the day by day problems that they faced, and especially the problem of troublemakers who spoiled their possessions. But like her they did want to have to respond to God’s continual call to them. That was expecting too much. They wanted Him to be close, but not too demanding. So they turned Him away, and the inevitable result was that they were separated from Him, and love grew dim.
We also desire that He will remove our troubles and our problems, the little foxes that disturb our vines. We want Him to be involved with our lives and our individual needs, and we want Him to remain close by. But we only too often do not want to become too involved with Him in His work. We do not want to be out with Him feeding the flocks. Nor do we want Him disturbing our lives. Let Him feed His flocks on His own, let Him release His energies on the mountains, for although He is our Beloved, and we are His, we prefer to not to become too involved or to be disturbed. Like the young maiden we are often not yet ready to face up to the demands of love. It is asking too much.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany