Song of Solomon 5-7: Second Night of Separation

After the wedding, the couple is once again separated and searching for each other. In between the compliments and longing, we can find much symbolism and meaning.

Introduction

As mentioned in my introduction to Song of Solomon, the book follows a chiastic pattern, which means the text is essentially mirrored. After the wedding, we begin to see reflections of the previous scenes in the opposite order from which they were presented. The last thing to occur before the wedding was the night of separation and thus, the first thing to happen after the wedding is another night of separation.
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Second Separation

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Beto Galetto
Once again, the scene begins with the speaker attempting to rest in bed. Now that the couple is married, there is an allusion to intimacy that was not present before the wedding, however this is cut short due to the disappearance of the lover. It seems as though when the lover attempts to instigate intimacy, the speaker does not oblige.

Like the previous section in which the couple was separated, the searcher enlists the help of watchmen to find the missing lover. In the previous section, the watchmen knew who was being sought after, and though they were not helpful in locating the missing lover, they did not stand in the way. However, Song of Solomon 5:7 tells us that when they found the seeker, they abused her (since they took away the veil, I assume this is the bride speaking).

Confusion

From a literal interpretation, this is quite a bizarre scene. The watchmen are charged with taking away the bride's veil, which implies it is still the wedding night. Why would the groom disappear on his wedding night? Further, why would the watchmen choose to harm the bride who is searching for husband? When I first read this I was completely confused as to what was happening and why God found his important to His overall message of salvation.

Christ's Absence

One of the interesting things I dwelled on, is the difference in behavior of the watchmen before the bride is married versus after. Suddenly they are brutish and injuring a helpless woman for seemingly no reason. What changed?

One of the reasons I don't go out at night is because I fear for my safety. Similarly, if my mom decides she wants to go shoe shopping at 10pm my dad will accompany her. In general, people are less likely to bother a woman who is in the company of a man. This is likely because men are generally expected to be the protectors of their family. Right or wrong, when this woman was seen without her protector, the watchmen suddenly thought it was ok to abuse the woman.

While someone might argue that this could be a statement of the importance of a man staying close to his wife to protect her, I believe this series of events it meant to be looked at from a spiritual angle.

The Israelites waited for the appearance of the Messiah the way a bride waits for her wedding day. When Christ appeared, those who followed Him were left in sorrow and disappointment to see Him die on the cross. However, each of the disciples were considered criminals in the eyes of Rome. Even after Jesus' resurrection and ascent to Heaven, the church continues to seek a connection with Him. These people were heavily persecuted by Rome and many were put to death. Remember, God's true church will be the most heavily persecuted right before He comes back. Perhaps this passage in Solomon is actually prophetic and meant to prepare us for the fate of the church.

Fear of Change

After reading commentaries on this section to clarify what seemed so bizarre, my attention was drawn to several key parts of the story that I had missed! One of the most important things to remember when reading the Bible, is to keep in mind the time period.[1]

When the woman awakes, the husband is not in the bed with her, he is at her door knocking for permission to enter. At his request to enter, she does not want to get dressed to answer the door. When she finally does decide to give him permission to enter, he has slipped away. This understanding brings about critical details we should pay attention to, both spiritual and literally.

Getting Up

We've all been in that comfort zone where you're nice and toasty in the bed, but something requires you to get up. It takes something of great importance to move you when you're comfortable. We exhibit similar behavior in our lifestyle. When we are use to behaving a particular way, it is difficult to make a change. When God calls us to change (i.e., the husband knocking at the door), we don't want to take the actions necessary to open ourselves to that change (i.e., put on our robe and get our feet cold/dirty).

First Time

Today, people are less likely to actually wait until marriage to have sex, but in Solomon's day the bride was most certainly a virgin. Not only would she have been a virgin, but this was an era in which sex wasn't discussed. Who knows how much, if anything at all, she knew about sex. There was likely a fair amount of nervousness and anxiety about what would happen next. From her own words, we see that while she is hesitant, she is also excited. This also explains her hesitancy to open the door.

His Response

Up until recently, forcing your wife to have sex with you was not legally considered rape, but this passages shows that a man of God would not force his wife. There were many ways in which he could have reacted to her rejection, but he chose to be calm and collected. The husband didn't beat down the door and force his new wife to come to him after being turned down; instead, he gives her time.

A tradition of the time was to mark the bride's door with a scent, which explains why the bride mentions myrrh at the door. This would have been seen as a note to the bride that he had been there.

We receive a similar response from Jesus when we reject Him. He never forces Himself in to our lives. Instead He allows us the opportunity to choose to receive Him. In the case that we reject His call or are slow to answer, He simply leaves us to choose to come to Him.

A Conversation Among "Women"

The bride charges the daughters of Jerusalem to pass along a message to her love, and they respond with a series of questions that basically boil down to asking why is her beloved so special. Is this not the same question we get about God? People often ask why they should serve God and what makes Him the Supreme Authority. People what to know why they should subscribe to these beliefs over those beliefs. Here, the bride is being put on the spot to proclaim what is special about her lover just as the church is always on the spot to speak up for God and proclaim His supremacy.

When seen in visions, a woman represents a church. As the bride is speaking to these women, it could double as a spiritual message in honoring and praising the name of God among churches of all faiths.

Compliments and Praise

Earlier in the book, the lover bestowed 7 compliments on his bride, now we see the bride praise her husband in response to the daughters' of Jerusalem's inquiry to what makes this lover so special.

White and Ruddy

Many of us associate the phrase "white and ruddy" with the literal description of a white person. The first thing in my mind is pale skin with rosy cheeks, but I'm not certain this is what is being described. Throughout the book and especially the compliments given, most things are symbolic or metaphorical. When you think of symbolism, white usually symbolizes purity and ruddiness was a symbol of youth and vitality.[2] It is quite possible that instead of giving us a physical description of her lover, she is telling us that he is pure in heart and retains the strength of his youth. This is furthered by the compliment's end, which exalts the lover over 10,000 men.

Head of Fine Gold with Bushy Black Hair

It's interesting that previously, she described her lover as white and ruddy, but now refers to his head as gold; most likely each of these descriptions is symbolic and not indicative of actual coloring. Gold is a precious metal which implies his head is extremely valuable. The head is general synonymous with the mind, thus I believe her likening his head to fine gold is an appreciation of his mind.

Some translations of the Bible refer to his hair as wavy, but the KJV describes his hair as "bushy." As a Black female, I am very familiar with term "bushy" hair and it is definitely not the same as wavy. I read this to mean he has a full head of thick curly hair. The color of this hair is described as black. This again tells us that the man is in his youthful prime because he is not balding nor is his hair turning gray.

Dove's Eyes

If you google "dove's eyes" you'll see that there's a prevailing belief that doves can only focus on one thing at a time. It is thought that doves are innocent and peaceful, thus adding the idea that they have such focus only makes their eyes all the more wholesome. In describing his eyes to be like those of a dove, she is calling attention to his focus and innocence.

Cheeks & Lips

In Song of Solomon 5:13, she praises both his cheeks and lips. She compares his cheeks to spices and flowers. When she describes his lips, she adds that they smell of myrrh. Notice that myrrh is also the scent she found at the door. This again ties into the assumption that the scent on the door is a message of sorts for his bride. Interestingly, myrrh is also what is brought to anoint Jesus' body after the crucifixion. It's a bit odd to see the extreme difference of use, but then, today flowers are the hallmark of romantic relationships and when people die, they bring flowers to the body—I guess it does make sense.

Hands

When discussing his hands, she mentions gold rings set with beryl. Despite my desire to relate the mentioning of rings to their recent wedding, the tradition of wearing rings to symbolize marriage was not popular at the time.[3] Instead, I guess the focus should be on gold (wealth) and beryl. Beryl is a blue green mineral that comes in several varieties, one of which is emerald.[4] Both of these represent wealth, but the addition of a precious stone like beryl brings about the connotation of beauty. Since hands are symbolic of action (e.g., get your hands dirty), this may be a statement about his actions. It seems be saying that he is able to create beautiful and valuable things. This definitely makes sense in the context of Solomon being the owner of these hands. One commentary suggests this is referencing his ability to complete God's mission for him.[1] Other translations of the Bible compare his arms to rods of gold, and the NIV uses topaz instead of beryl.

Belly/Body

She describes his belly as being bright like "ivory overlaid with sapphires." The belly, or stomach, is pretty much the base or foundation of the body, at least for me it is. If my leg hurts, I can usually muster the strength to continue, but if my stomach hurts, I'm down for the count. Because of it's location and sensitivity, it controls the rest of me. In other translations, body is used instead of belly, reaffirming that she is speaking of his whole self.

Some may argue that her comparison of his body to ivory infers that he is white, but the fact that she adds the notion of being overlaid with sapphires (or lapis lazuli in some translations) tells me this is purely a metaphor. So, what do they represent? In today's society, ivory is very valuable. Unfortunately people hunt and kill elephants just for their ivory tusks.[5] Ivory has been popular for quite some time and is often used for statues, sculptures, and jewelry.[6] Sapphire and lapis lazuli are both blue stones used for decorative purposes. Both are expensive.[7] Based on this understanding of the gems, we could say she if calling the person valuable.

I didn't want to miss any meaning, so I also checked to see what the Bible says about these stones. In 1 Kings 10:18 we see the king made a throne out of ivory. Thus, this was not only considered a luxury material even in Solomon's era, but it was a sign of royalty. Sapphire is closely associated with God. In Exodus 24:10, Sapphire is seen below God's feet. Ezekiel sees sapphire in his visions of Heaven in Ezekiel 1:26 and 10:1. Thus, Biblically it would seem to point to godliness and kingship. This directly correlates to the interpretation that the groom is meant to be Jesus and the bride, the church.

Strong Legs

She describes his legs as pillars of marble set upon fine gold. It's easy to gloss over "pillars" and dwell on the luxury and lavishness of marble and gold, but I believe pillars is a better clue to the meaning than marble or gold. Pillars are strong architectural features whose sole purpose is to hold up a building. They are strong and hold up heavy burdens. Marble and gold are rich materials, that are both beautiful and enduring, so it makes sense that you would use such materials to build such important features.

Countenance

She likens his countenance to Lebanon, referencing their cedars. The cedars of Lebanon are what the Temple was forged from, so we know they were associated with worth and holiness. Cedars are tall, strong trees that are not easily blown down, which further solidifies the strength and power of the lover.

Mouth

Once again, she comments on his mouth. At first, she specified his lips, but now, she speaks of his mouth as whole. In the first reference to his lips, coupled with the mentioning of his cheeks, it seems sensual. When I think of lips and cheeks, I think of kisses, but now that she refers to his mouth being sweet and him being altogether lovely, I think more on his words. Your words and thoughts come out of your mouth and what you say combined with what you do (hands=actions) is what make you a lovely person.

Friend

The last thing she says isn't really a compliment, but I thought it was interesting. Disney and Hollywood promote this idea of love at first sight. The focus of relationships in movies is often on romance and passion, but after being asked what's so special about her beloved, she states that he is her friend. Friendship is clearly apart of the relationship, which I think is important to remember.

Concubines and Queens

In Song of Solomon 6:8-9, the lover mentions concubines and queens. Solomon was known for his many wives and concubines, which makes me wonder if these women are the other wives of Solomon? He mentions 60 queens and 80 concubines which would be near the beginning of his collection of wives (in total he had 300 wives and 700 concubines).

Feeding the interpretation that Song of Solomon doubles as an allegory for the love between Christ and the church, verse 9 makes mention of daughters, a mother, and the bride being undefiled. In a literal sense, we take this to speak of her virginity. Most likely she was the only daughter, perhaps even the only child and the other women of the city praised her for purity. Spiritually, we can make connections to churches. Just as there is the bride of Christ, which is His church, Revelation 17 talks about the Whore of Babylon and the mother of harlots. Here we see a false church and her daughters in direct contrast to the faithful (i.e., undefiled) church of God.

The Lover's Response

Song of Solomon 6 seems to be the lover's response to being rejected by his new bride. He is not angry, but rather hopeful that she will come to him soon. He praises her and beckons for her to return to him.

Reunited

Song of Solomon 7 reunites the couple. When he greets his beloved, he is not upset about whatever miscommunication they had previously but instead, showers her with compliments and praises.

References

  1. David Guzik. "Song of Solomon 5 Commentary". Enduring Word.
  2. Holman Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 1118. 2014
  3. Noreen. "The Origins of Wedding Rings and Why They're Worn on the 4th Finger of the Left Hand". Today I Found Out. September 27, 2010
  4. "Beryl". Wikipedia; visited December 2017
  5. Sasha Mushegian. "Appalled by the Illegal Trade in Elephant Ivory, a Biologist Decided to Make His Own". Smithsonian Magazine. May 10, 2017
  6. "Ivory". Wikipedia; visited December 23,2017
  7. Lee Milby. "Blue Sapphire and Lapis Lazuli | A brief history of stones". Soho Gem. August 31, 2014

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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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