Bible: What Does the Song of Solomon Teach Us About Romantic Love?
The Shulamite and Her Beloved
The Song of Solomon 1
Solomon's next work, a song, details the romantic involvement between a certain young Palestinian woman (the Shulamite) and her beloved.
She rejoices in her man’s love for her, and confesses that the daughters of Jerusalem also love him for good reason (vv. 1-4).
The Shulamite describes herself as having dark skin as the result of keeping others' vineyards, but not her own (vv. 5-6).
[Does 'vineyard' have a figurative or literal sense here?]
By inquiring where her lover’s sheep are, the woman expects preferential treatment (v. 7).
Her beloved tells her to follow their tracks and feed her goats where they stop for the night (v. 8).
He compares her to an Egyptian mare (?) that has been adorned with gold and jewels (vv. 9-10).
The daughters chime in with an offer to deck out their mistress in gold and silver (v. 11).
The Shulamite's aromatic scent attracts the beloved; she, on her part, compares him to fragrant flora and spice of the near East (vv. 12-14).
He drinks in her fairness (v. 15), and the Shulamite likewise his handsome appearance (v. 16a).
Then suddenly her thought turns to their "green" bed and wooden homes (vv. 16b-17).
The Rose of Sharon
The Song of Solomon 2
Contrary to the popular song, Jesus does not appear to be the rose of Sharon or the lily of the valleys; according to the divisions in the text, the Shulamite describes herself with these names (v. 1).
Comparing her to her companions, the beloved underscores her superlative beauty (v. 2).
The mutual admiration continues, as the young woman gushes that he is much more delightful and sweeter than all the sons (v. 3).
She tells her friends about his romantic love for her and her weakness from lovesickness (vv. 4-6).
Warnings for the daughters to keep silent and to let their love mature naturally occur elsewhere in the Song (v. 7; cf. 3:5; 8:4).
The Shulamite hears her beloved's voice, requesting that she leave with him (vv. 8-10).
Now that spring has come, he desires to see her face and hear her voice (vv. 11-14).
Her brothers intervene here (if the NKJV interpretation is right), endeavoring to prevent their elopement or meeting (or so it seems) [v. 15].
She advises her love to flee to the hills right away, but to return to her in the morning (vv. 16-17).
The Song of Solomon 3
In a night reverie, the Shulamite diligently seeks her lover, but is unsuccessful at first (v. 1).
Then while combing the streets, she finally finds him, embraces him, and takes him to her mother's house (vv. 2-4).
Again, she charges her friends to refrain from “awakening" love (v. 5).
Solomon arrives on the scene in resplendent fashion, being carried on his costly palanquin and guarded by sixty armed servants (vv. 6-10).
The Shulamite exhorts the daughters of Jerusalem to gaze upon his Majesty wearing the crown given to him on the day of his espousal (v. 11).
Description of Shulamite
The Song of Solomon 4
The Beloved commends the Shulamite's fairness, surveying her top half (vv. 1-5).
She seems to have long, dark hair, a full complement of white teeth, dark red lips, an elegant neck, and delicate, well-formed breasts.
Verse 6 is reminiscent of 2:17 ("until the day breaks and the shadows flee away . . . .").
He declares her physical perfection, and tries to persuade her to go away with him (vv. 7-8).
[Though he addresses her as “my sister,” no hint of incest resides here; it probably just refers to their national kinship (v. 9)].
Her physical beauty and love for him obviously greatly attract the man (v. 10).
Her scent and kisses are sweet as well (vv. 10-11).
He compares his young spouse to a fragrant spice garden as of yet unused (vv. 12-15).
The Shulamite calls upon the north and south winds to waft her "scent" toward her beloved so that he would come to her for love (v. 16).
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The Song of Solomon 5
The Beloved comes to her and invites his friends to feast with him (v. 1).
[Verse one, of course, concludes the scene depicted in chapter four].
Then a new episode begins.
Verses 2-16 record a troubling night for the young woman.
Her Beloved, after having knocked at her front door, had departed while she was debating within herself whether she should open the door (vv. 2-6a).
She pursued him until the "keepers of the walls" injured her (vv. 6b-7).
Her instructions to the daughters: if you find my Beloved, tell him that I am lovesick (v. 8).
In response to their query "What makes him so special?", the Shulamite issues in highly poetical language a glowing physical description of him from head to foot: black, wavy hair, beautiful eyes, cheeks and lips, strong hands, sculpted torso, muscular legs, and attractive face and mouth (vv. 10-16).
The Shulamite Maiden
The Song of Solomon 6
The daughters of Jerusalem ask the Shulamite where the Beloved is (v. 1), and she tells them that he is feeding his flock and gathering lilies (vv. 2-3; cf. 1:7).
Then the poem revisits the Beloved as he praises his spouse's beauty (vv. 4-7; cf. 4:1-5).
She is the fairest of hundreds in the king's harem (vv. 8-10).
This young woman travels to “the garden of nuts” to see the beauty and growth in the valley (v. 11).
Her spouse and his friends plead for her to return (v. 13).
[What do the 'chariots of my noble people' (v. 12) and 'the dance of the double camp' mean]?
The Song of Solomon 7
In this chapter, the most intimate of the eight, the Beloved again praises the Shulamite for her beauty.
Starting at her feet and ending at her hair, the man describes her naked body, using figurative language (vv. 1-5).
Verses 6-9 picture intimate contact.
The Shulamite rejoices in his love, and suggests that they go to the vineyard early to see if the plants are in bloom; there she promises to give him her love (vv. 10-13).
The Shulamite's Protectors
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The Song of Solomon 8
Continuing the speech that concluded chapter seven, the Shulamite yearns to love her Beloved openly and entertain him in her mother's house (vv. 1-2).
After the familiar charge/refrain (vv. 3-4), the scene shifts to the words of a relative who asks rhetorically the identity of the woman who approaches (v. 5a).
Her answer suggests that she was present at the Shulamite's birth (v. 5b).
Addressing her Beloved, the young woman asks for a pledge of his love, that he would love her jealously with unquenchable passion (vv. 6-7).
Enter her brothers who, appearing to be very protective, ask what they should do when it comes time for their little sister to marry (vv. 8-9).
Verses 10-12 suggest that Solomon has already proposed to the Shulamite; she and Solomon seem to be exchanging gifts.
He issues a final call to hear her voice (v. 13), and she responds by urging him to "Make haste" to come to her (v. 14).
[The Song of Solomon is one of the most difficult books to understand because of its cultural symbols and imagery].
1. Do you think "spiritualizing" this song has any legitimacy? Should we understand the main characters as depicting the love relationship between Christ and His church? Why or why not?
2. What does the Song teach us about romance?
3. How does this book depict intimate sexual situations?
4. Is Solomon the Beloved?
5. Why does Jesus not appear to be the rose of Sharon or the lily of the valley, according to the translations?
6. Who are the daughters of Jerusalem?
7. What role does Nature play in this song?
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