In the introduction to Song of Songs I explained that the book is a story, set in six scenes that describe the development of the relationship between Solomon and his unnamed lover – the Shulammite woman (6:13).
The first scene I’ve described as wooing, waiting and winning. Here is the Shulammite woman in her quest to win her man. It’s the longest of the seven scenes in the book – three chapters (1:1-3:5). So rather than try and cover everything in one post, I’ll split this first scene up.
All I’m going to do in this and future posts is to retell the story in the text, and make a few applications as I go along. It would be good for you to have a Bible handy.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the maidens love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers. (1:1-4)
1:1-4a: It’s very easy to identify with the Shulammite woman – she’s quite taken with this man, Solomon, isn’t she? She’s imagining all the things she would love to do with him. She wants to kiss him, and she wants him to take her away. Perhaps she’s letting her imagination run away with her a little bit as she sees this knight in shining armour coming to whisk her off her feet! And it appears there’s quite some competition for Solomon (“no wonder the maidens love you”), but she wants to be alone with him (“let the king bring me into his chambers”), as all lovers do.
1:4b: In response to these powerful thoughts, comes the chorus – this group of friends who seem to sit on the sidelines and interject occassionally. They underline the fierceness of the competition for Solomon’s heart. (“We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine.”) So how can the Shulammite woman triumph over the multitude of would-be admirers. How can she woo a prince?
1:5-7: She’s particularly concerned she won’t catch his eye – she’s too tanned (“I am darkened by the sun”). Nowadays, the ladies of leisure who take the time to make themselves look beauty have the time to lie on beaches becoming bronzed, whilst ordinary mortals say indoors slaving over the stove. In Solomon’s day, the opposite was true – it was fashionable to be fair-skinned. The upper classes would spend the day in the cool indoors, with the working-class girl sent out into the fields to work. But despite insecurity about her looks, she wants to be with the one she loves (v7). She’s not going to do anything special – just be with him. That’s what love is, isn’t it? It’s not just about going to cinemas or theatre, wining and dining, or walking hand in hand down the beach. This is real love! She wants to be with him when he’s doing the normal things of the day. She just wants to be “where you graze your flock”. And not only is she going to share her time with his sheep, but also “the flocks of his friends”. She’s not going to take him alone, yet. It’s too early for that – she’s got to win him, and woo him. And she’s going to do it whilst in the company of others. There’s real wisdom there. If you want to win a girl or a boy, then be with his or her friends. Safety in numbers. Take things carefully. And bear in mind too that the Shulammite woman has a definite plan of action. Boys, beware! Girls often have plans of action! If they happen to bump into you somewhere, and a few days latter happen to bump into somewhere again, it might be planned!
1:8-11: With the help of the chorus (v8), the Shulammite finds her man, and now it’s Solomon’s opportunity to speak for the first time (vv 9-11). Men – don’t try this at home: “I liken you, my darling, to a mare”. Don’t tell your girlfriend she looks like a horse! But it is a compliment. 1 Kings tells us that Solomon loved his horses – and they were quite a rarity. They were seen as a beautiful, elegant, strong and noble creature, and he sees those qualities in her. And now Solomon starts to imagine her (“Your cheeks are beautiful with ear-rings, your neck with strings of jewels.”) I’m not sure she was even wearing those things at the time, as verse 11 tells us “We will make you ear-rings of gold”. But he’s imagining what she would look like. After all, she’s working now, isn’t she – she’s with her young goats (v8). She’s not all dolled up for a night on the town, she’s in her jeans and baggy t-shirt. There’s another lesson here, isn’t there? True beauty shines doesn’t need tight tops and short skirts. True beauty can be seen in all circumstances.
1:12-17: Now we start to see a bit more of the Shulammite woman’s plan unfolding. She’s perhaps a bit shy to approach him, so she’s put on her best perfume, and just quietly walked past his table (v12). It worked – Solomon notices her (v15)! And he sees her at close range, noticing the beauty of her eyes – not just her face generally as before. Their eyes have met across the crowded room. It seems then that Solomon takes her away from the tent, and they sit down together on the grass, looking up at the trees where “the beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are firs”, just enjoying being with one another on their first date.
We’ll find out how their date went tomorrow, but before we leave the passage, what does this show us of Jesus Christ?
Does the dark-skinned (must be the blackness of sin) church catch the eyes of Jesus by putting on sweet-smelling perfume (OT incense, perhaps)? No, this is not allegory. But look at the esteem that Solomon is held in by the Shulammite woman. Look at how she pursues him. Look at how she wants to be with him – how much she wants to be with this sinful, fallen creature.
Then think of Jesus. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. The Son of Righteousness. The Lamb of God. And reflect on your own heart. Do you see His beauty? Do you want nothing other than to be with Him? Do you spend your time thinking of Him?
King of all days,
oh, so highly exalted.
Glorious in heaven above.
Humbly you came
to the earth you created
All for love’s sake became poor.
And here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you’re my God
You’re altogether lovely.
altogether wonderful to me.