Song of Solomon 2: Spring Invitation

Reading Song of Solomon is kind of like watching a period love story. I imagine if it were made into a movie, it would look like a Shakespearean play... The second section of Song of Solomon features a conversation between the young lovers that centers on enjoying a spring day together. Once again we see significance for our literal love lives, as well as, significance for our spiritual lives.

Introduction

The second section of Song of Solomon features a conversation between the young lovers that centers on enjoying a spring day together. Once again we see significance for our literal love lives, as well as, significance for our spiritual lives.
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The Excitement of Spring

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Andrea Reiman
Since it's currently winter, I related to the speaker's excitement about the return of Spring easily. While some people love Winter, many struggle with depression through the cold, rainy (or snowy), and bleak months. I am lucky to be living in South Florida, where it is green year-round, but when I lived in South Carolina, the trees would go bare and the grass would turn a little brown. It looked like the Earth had died. So during those days, I would wish for Spring because it brings back warmth and beauty.

The Biblical Significance of Spring

11For, lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone;
12The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
13The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.Song of Songs 2:11-13 KJV
In the Western world, we consider the first of the year to be January 1. This is odd, because off the top of my head, January doesn't really have any celestial or religious significance. After doing some digging, I found out that January is named for the Roman god Janus (well, I kind of knew that, but I didn't know anything about Janus). Janus was said to be a two-faced god with one face looking back into the past, and one face looking forward to the future. The tradition of celebrating New Years on January 1 started with the adoption of the Julian calendar which is where the name of January was introduced.[1][2] Astronomically, the beginning of January represents perhihelion, the point at which the Earth is closest to the Sun—not the Romans would have known that when they chose the date.[3] Since January is in the dead of the winter, we technically experience winter twice each year, which is pretty depressing to me.

In contrast, the Israelite's religious calendar starts in the Spring. Their fist month of the year was Nissan, which is symbolic of their escape from Egypt. The year is counted from this month because this is the month they gained freedom and truly became a nation. Nissan begins either in what we call March or April,[4] which is also when Spring begins. This time of the year symbolizes the beginning of Israel's relationship with God.

Spring as it's Related to Life

Spring has always been a symbol of new life, or rebirth. Many people are probably familiar with the phrases "April showers bring May flowers" and "spring chicken." Similarly, in pagan religions, spring time was associated with fertility goddesses. Why? Because the Earth comes to life in spring. Trees regrow their leaves, flowers bloom, and most animals (like chickens) give birth to their young during this time. Despite our tradition of making New Year's resolutions in January, Spring is the true symbol of renewal.

Spring Love

The speaker in Song of Solomon 2:11-13 is clearly excited for spring to come and asserts it to be some sort of beginning or renewal in the relationship. The transition from winter is explicitly stated and much of the above symbolism is referenced.

From the point of view of two lovers, it makes sense to plan a "date" in the spring. This would be the perfect time for a romantic walk or picnic. All though I'm sure that during Solomon's era marriages were arranged and there probably wasn't any dating, I imagine this would have been a prime season for courting once dating did become common.

It's also interesting from a spiritual point of view. The speaker is requesting that the lover arise and come away now that spring has come. Generally I associate "arise" with waking up, but really it is just a command to stir us to action. We see this with the request to "come away." When God delivered Israel from Egypt (in the Spring), He essentially say arise and come with me, just as the speaker says to their lover. Further, in the New Testament, we (the church, a.k.a the Bride of Christ), are commanded to come out (or come away) from Babylon.
Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Laura College

Animal References

Sometimes we compare people to animals, but the references in Song of Solomon make it clear that there's a generational and cultural difference between how we think today versus back then. Someone is compared to a roe or young hart, not once, but twice.

Let's start by defining "roe" and "hart," because if you're like me, you know they're animals but you aren't sure what they are specifically. There are several definitions of roe, but the most likely candidate given the context of it's usage here, is that it is synonymous with doe.[5] A doe is typically thought to be female deer, but can refer to several animals in which the female is referred to as a doe and the male is referred to as a buck.[6] A hart, on the other hand, is definitely a male deer.[7]

It's not a typical comparison, but it did make me think.

First, by using a roe and a hart, we see an example of an equally yoked couple. Roe is likely referencing a female deer, which would naturally be the mate of a hart. In today's society, women are typically compared to things that are cute and fluffy like bunnies and kittens, while men are compared to more dominate animals. Solomon's comparison is more in line with God's description of man and woman in the Bible. If you research the origins of the word helpmeet—the word used to describe Eve at Creation—you learn that Eve was to be "directly corresponding to" Adam. In the New Testament, we are warned not to be unequally yoked or mismatched with our spouse. I think we an all agree that a male and female deer directly correspond to eat other and are more equally yoked than, say, a bunny and a bear.

Second, the imagery is actually quite nice. I've seen plenty of deer over my lifetime and while I've never tried to woo someone by comparing them to a deer, I can definitely see why it's a complement. Deer are beautiful creatures. They are graceful and elegant, but they are also fast and strong. The male deer have antlers which give them a look of power and might, but in general deer are very peaceful.

Mountains of Bether

The woman in the song places her lover—as a deer—on the mountains of Bether. Naturally, I asked the question: what's significant about Bether and it's mountains? Bether, actually means separated or divide.[8][9] Why would she compare her love to a deer on a mountain meant to separate or divide? After reading an exposition by C.H. Spurgeon,[10[ I realized this is once again both literal and spiritual.

In general, there will be division in relationships at some point. No matter how much you love each other, disagreements will arise. There will also be times when you are physically separated—perhaps one person has to go on a business trip. We should approach these situations gracefully, like a deer, and take time to reassess the situation (in the case of an argument). The author of Believer's Bible Commentary suggests that Song of Solomon 2:15 is actually spoken by the woman's brothers. Based on this, he paints a scene where the lover is essentially standing at her window seeking to see her only to be caught by her brothers and shooed away.[11] While I can clearly see the scene play out the way they describe, I think it is adding to the word. There is no mention of the brothers nor is there any indication that the words spoken are from someone other than the man or woman of the couple.

Spiritually, it's interesting that the lover is a peaceful and gentle deer standing on a mountain meant to set boundaries and divide or separate countries. Similarly, when Jesus, who we think of as gentle, returns, He will be dividing. From the beginnings of Israel unto this day, God's people still argue about doctrine. These doctrines create dividings line in the church. When we speak the truth about God, whether to fellow believers who may not have accepted certain truths yet, or to non-believers, it often has the effect of causing a stir and dividing. Similarly, when we refuse to accept God's truth, we are separated from Him.

His and Hers

Possessiveness is not new to our generation. In Solomon 2:15, the woman in the song makes it clear that the man she loves is hers and she belongs to him. I don't think it's hard to parse out this statement, but I wanted to call attention to the spiritual parallels. Our relationship with God is the same way. He is our God and we are His people. We do well to remember this.

While I think Believer's Bible Commentary adds to the story in many instances, the author makes a point about the woman in Song of Solomon conveying her love as voluntary, spontaneous, and free. The issue the Israelites, and many of us today, think of loving God as required, religious, and structured. This is where we fail to understand the point, how we take things out of context, and why we find it hard to cultivate our relationship with God. Jesus constantly reminds us that love is the most important thing. Many people seem to old the belief that because we do what God commanded or because we go to church each week, we love God. However, the truth is that we do things to please God voluntarily because we love Him. It seems like such a minute changing of words but it really is a profound difference.

There was a man who was in love with a woman. They were married. When things in the relationship became strained, he decided to buy her flowers often to show his love. They still ended up in divorce court. When the judge dug into the issue, the woman complained that she had explained over and over that she didn't like flowers, she wanted time and thoughtfulness. The man thought that if followed a generic, preset script, without really trying to understand his wife, it was the same as loving her. This is the major difference that happens when we act out of love verses acting to imply love. In the first case we move because our lover (God) has told us what He wants and we want to please Him. In the latter, we do things hoping to please God without consulting Him, come up short, and are confused as to why the situation doesn't turn out the way we hoped.

References

  1. "January". Time and Date; visited December 1, 2017
  2. "45 B.C. New Year’s Day". This Day in History, via History. 2010
  3. "Perihelion, Aphelion and the Solstices". Time and Date; visited December 1,2017
  4. "The Jewish Months". Chabad.org; visited 2017
  5. "Roe". Merriam Webster; visited December 1, 2017
  6. "Doe". Merriam Webster; visited December 1, 2017
  7. "Hart". Merriam Webster; visited December 1, 2017
  8. Bether". Bible Hub; visited December 1, 2017
  9. Andrew Robert Fausset. "Bether". via Bible History; visited December 1, 2017
  10. C.H. Spurgeon. Over the Mountains". via Bible Bulletin Board; visited December 1, 2017
  11. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 923-924. 1995

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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