Song of Songs 3
Song 3:1-4: Having dreamed her "Beloved" has been with her
(Song 2:8-17), the maiden wakes to find that he is gone. Then, while seeking
him, she is mocked (and beaten?: cp Song 5:7) by the "watchmen" (Song 3:3). She
suffers much because of her love, while the object of that love is absent. (This
theme repeats itself in Song 5:2-8.)
Or -- instead of in a dream -- has he actually been with her?
This is a possible interpretation, and whether we choose such will depend on how
we read the whole section, and where we place it chronologically. However, the
"dream" approach here seems more likely when we see that she is searching for
him "night after night": this looks like a continually recurring
Another possibility is that her "Beloved" was not with her,
yet she was waiting for him to come, and when he had not come, she retired for
the night -- still hoping that he would arrive soon.
Throughout this section she refers to her beloved as "the one
my heart (literally, 'nephesh' or soul) loves". This expresses an especially
emphatic intensity -- 'the one whom I love with all my being' -- 'with all my
emotions and passions'! "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mar 12:30; citing
ALL NIGHT LONG: Heb "nights" (plural), signifying "all
night long" or more probably "night after night" (NEB). Night is the time of
seeking, separation, weeping, and distress; the coming of the morning is a
renewal of life and hope and joy: cp, generally, Psa 30:5; 42:1-3 (the deer
seeking for water); Psa 90:5; 130:6; Joh 9:4; 13:30; 16:20.
In a historical sense, Israel experienced a long "night" of
darkness and silence, when "the sun set for the prophets, and the day went dark
for them" (Mic 3:6). " 'In that day,' declares the Sovereign LORD, 'I will make
the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your
religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make
all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like
mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. The days are
coming,' declares the Sovereign LORD, 'when I will send a famine through the
land -- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the
words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to
east, SEARCHING FOR THE WORD OF THE LORD, BUT THEY WILL NOT FIND IT' " (Amo
In a symbolic sense, night relates to the time when Jesus
Christ is absent from the earth (Joh 9:4,5). The "hours" of waiting during the
"night" seem interminable to those who are waiting for the "dawn" of his
appearing (2Ti 4:8). And so they watch expectantly and eagerly for the rising of
the "Sun of righteousness", with healing in his beams (Mal 4:2).
ON MY BED: Heb "mishkab": The common term for marriage
bed (BDB), in distinction from the common term for "couch" in Song 1:16. Several
uses of the term "mishkab" have plain sexual connotations, denoting the place of
sexual intercourse (Gen 49:4; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Num 31:17,35; Jdg 21:11,12; Pro
7:17; Isa 57:7-8). The noun is used in the expression "love-bed", with obvious
sexual connotations, in Eze 23:17. Whether this is the point here -- and how
explicitly this is to be read -- depends, once again, on our view of the whole
More generally, the believer seeks her Lord on her bed at
night, through trials and sorrows and tears (Psa 4:4; 6:6; 63:6-8; 77:2-4;
130:1,2; Isa 26:9).
I LOOKED FOR HIM BUT DID NOT FIND HIM: The verb "to
seek" denotes the attempt, literally and physically, to find someone (1Sa 13:14;
16:16; 28:7; 1Ki 1:2-3; Isa 40:20; Eze 22:30; Est 2:2; Job 10:6; Pro 18:1).
However, since this "search" seems to take place upon her bed, it probably
describes a dream (as in v 2) -- or possibly an eager longing for him to appear
To seek for the LORD (or the Lord), but not to find Him (or
him) is echoed by: (a) Samson, who in his straitened circumstances "did not
know" -- but soon discovered -- "that the LORD had left him" (Jdg 16:20); (b)
Job, who looked for answers to his sufferings, but found them not (Job 23:8,9);
(c) Peter, who in his fear lost sight of his Lord and began to sink into the sea
(Mat 14:30); and (d) Peter again, who lost sight of his Lord while in the palace
and thus denied him three times (Mat 26:69-75).
Yet sometimes God's loving purposes may be served by an
absence from Him or His Son -- when all we want is the presence instead: "As
nights and shadows are good for flowers, and moonlight and dews are better than
a continual sun; so is Christ's absence of special use, and it hath some
nourishing virtue in it, and giveth sap to humility, and putteth an edge on
hunger, and furnisheth a fair field to faith to put forth itself" (Rutherford).
The NEB, as an explanatory note, adds "I said..." at the
beginning of the verse.
Cp Joh 20: Mary Magdalene seeks for Christ (ie, his body)
early in the morning (see Song 2:14n).
I WILL GET UP NOW AND GO ABOUT THE CITY, THROUGH ITS
STREETS AND SQUARES: It looks as though she is now acting on the earlier
invitations, of Song 2:10,13. But the Bride cannot find her Beloved in the
"broad ways" (AV), the open market places and squares, the wide places near the
gates, of the city -- where there was only "destruction" (Mat 7:13; Pro 1:21;
8:2,3,34) and apostasy. "The Beloved is not to be found in the preoccupied
business of a world that is 'at enmity with God' " (Atwell).
I LOOKED FOR HIM BUT I DID NOT FIND HIM: Jesus is not
to be found among the multitudes of the world, but in the secluded recesses --
in the lonely wilderness realms -- of the prophets and apostles. He is to be
found in the pages of Scripture, not very much traversed by modern men. There,
hidden from public view, in Old and New Testaments, in Law and history and
prophecy and gospel and letters all, he shines forth in his perfection. Don't
follow the crowd to find Jesus -- he is not in the "broad way" (Mat 7:13);
rather, look for him in the byways and the corners of this world -- there you
will find him... for now.
THE WATCHMEN: See Isa 21:11,12; 62:6,7; Jer 6:17; Eze
3:17; 33:7; Psa 122:6,7. Some watchmen are faithful, but others are less so: Isa
56:10; Jer 14:3,4; Mat 15:14; 23:16-26. These seem to be of the latter class,
since they seem to offer no assistance to the young woman; in Song 5:7, as a
matter of fact, these watchmen -- or others like them -- beat her!
FOUND ME AS THEY MADE THEIR ROUNDS IN THE CITY: And
presumably asked, "Whom are you seeking?" (cp Joh 18:7; 20:15). What must they
think of a young woman wandering the streets every night? One can only imagine
what they tell others about her. "To be out after curfew in an eastern city,
particularly a woman alone, could only have met with one rather unsavoury
"HAVE YOU SEEN...?": She accosts them with her
question: "And I asked, 'Have you seen...?' " (NEB).
THE ONE MY HEART LOVES: Will the watchmen even know
whom she means by this statement? (Perhaps it depends on what kind of watchmen
SCARCELY HAD I PASSED THEM WHEN I FOUND THE ONE MY HEART
LOVES: Like the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price
(Mat 13:44-46)! "The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and
tell him, 'We have found the Messiah' (that is, the Christ)" (Joh
I HELD HIM AND WOULD NOT LET HIM GO: She "clutched him
and refused to slacken her embrace" seems to catch the urgency and relief here.
This is Mary Magdalene clinging to the feet of Jesus (Joh 20:17) -- as it is the
other women too: "They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him" (Mat
28:9). The OT counterpart is Jacob's desperate grasping of the angel of the
LORD, while seeking his blessing (Gen 32:26; Hos 12:3,4).
I HELD HIM AND WOULD NOT LET HIM GO TILL I BROUGHT HIM TO
MY MOTHER'S HOUSE: It may be that the reference to the maiden's bringing her
lover to her mother's home reflects Gen 2:24, where the husband is to leave
father and mother, but no like command is given to the woman. The mother's house
is where marriage plans and arrangements are often made (Gen 24:28; Rth
In a spiritual sense, 'Until I took the news to the ecclesia'
(cp Gal 4:26; Heb 3:6; 12:22,23; Isa 54:1-3; cp also Song 8:2). Or... 'Until I
had brought Jesus into the innermost recesses of my home and my family and my
life.' Christ Jesus is not our Lord only on Sundays or special occasions, but
every day. He is not our Lord until we take him into ourselves, and into every
aspect of our lives -- until he becomes the unseen guest at every meal, the
unseen listener to every conversation, and the unseen partner in every
Following along these lines, Jesus often took his closest
disciples and withdrew from public scrutiny -- so as to enjoy a time of deeper
communion and fellowship with them (Mat 14:13; 20:17; Mar 3:7; 6:31; 10:32; Luk
6:12,13; 9:10; 18:31; Joh 11:54).
TO THE ROOM OF THE ONE WHO CONCEIVED ME: Or 'to the
very room, and bed, where I was conceived.' This suggests a sort of completion
of the life cycle (cp Song 8:5).
In the spiritual sense, this room or house or place would be
"Jerusalem that is above (or exalted), the mother of us all" (Gal 4:26) -- as
though all saints are treated by God as having been "born in Zion" (Psa 87:4,6).
Perhaps more especially the Temple and the Temple Mount is intended, for it is
here that the saints will receive the blessing of immortality (see Psa 133; Rev
ROOM: Bed-chamber (sw Song 1:4).
There comes a time in the live of saints when the cares,
worries and difficulties of our lives press heavily upon us. Then we become
impatient for the end of all our troubles, and for the coming of the Lord. We
seek every avenue to gain knowledge as to the day of that coming; we consult
God's watchmen to that end -- especially those whose words are recorded in the
Bible. And perhaps as we develop wisdom to go with our knowledge, we begin to
appreciate that -- although he is absent physically -- he is nevertheless "with
us until the end of the age" (Mat 28:20), that his unseen presence sustains us
and consoles us by the Spirit of God. And so we learn, or remember, or are
reminded, that he has never really left us -- that we may find him, and hold
him, in our hearts... and that we need never let him go: " 'You will seek me and
find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares
the LORD" (Jer 29:13,14).
The Bridegroom speaks again: cp Song 2:7n; Song 8:4.
DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM: See Song 1:5n.
The Bride's companions speak now...
Song 3:6-11: She is almost "surprised" (when at last she finds
him) that her "Beloved" (the "simple" shepherd) has been transformed into the
great "Solomon" (the King of Peace). The shepherd has returned in his true
character, as a great and mighty king! Cp Song 6:11,12.
The marriage procession begins; onlookers describe it (cp Psa
24; Psa 45; Isa 63:1-6; Rev 19:7-19). These last three passages are
extraordinarily similar to the Song under consideration here (Isa 63 especially,
with its "Who is this that comes?", perfectly echoes Song 3:6). These passages,
too, bring together the seemingly incongruous elements of a wedding procession
and a great military campaign. In the spiritual fulfillment of this vision, the
saints with Christ will be not only a "bride" but also a conquering army.
Certain portions of the Song of Songs imply this same striking and arresting
combination (see Song 3:8; 6:4). The Divine Mind, it seems, sees no peculiarity
in the closeness of these two elements of war and love!
In Bible times, the order of the ritual of marriage was
extremely important. Bits and pieces of this traditional order are observable in
the parables of Jesus. Putting them all together...
1. First, the bridegroom comes to the home of the bride. The
bride's maids, or virgins, await his coming, their lamps burning to light the
way (Mat 25:1-13). (This is Christ returning from heaven, while his faithful
ones prayerfully await his coming.)
2. The bridegroom is accompanied by his friends. (In the
working out of the pattern, this would be his angels.)
3. Taking his bride, he leads the wedding company from her
home to his home (Jerusalem!).
4. Other friends join the procession along the way, to attend
the wedding dinner (cp Mat 22:1-14). (This could represent favored peoples, the
Jews especially, who join themselves to their Messiah after he
5. The marriage feast is celebrated at the home of the
bridegroom. (Here is the marriage supper of the Lamb, at Jerusalem: see Rev 19
6. Still more guests may simply come to his home. (The gospel
message is preached to the world as the kingdom begins, and during the
Millennium the mortal nations begin to make their treks to the city of the great
king: Rev 14; Zec 14.)
The whole of the literal marriage "event" might last for some
days, even a week or two. It may be seen, then, as a divinely-arranged pattern
or prophecy of the return of Christ, the gathering together of his chosen ones,
the judgment, and the establishment of God's Kingdom on the earth.
In this and the following section the writer seems to be
describing the wedding procession (Song 3:6-11) and the consummation of the
marriage (Song 4:1 -- 5:1).
"The pomp and beauty of this procession were wholly
appropriate in light of the event's significance. The Scriptures teach that
marriage is one of the most important events in a person's life. Therefore it is
fitting that the union of a couple be commemorated in a special way. The current
practice of couples casually living together apart from the bonds of marriage
demonstrates how unfashionable genuine commitment to another person has become
in contemporary society. This violates the sanctity of marriage and is contrary
to God's standards of purity" (Deere, cited by Const).
The magnificence of the vision beginning in this verse
contrasts vividly with the rustic simplicity of the previous Idyll, and its
majesty with the humility of the Shulamite maiden -- and designedly so! Instead
of the song-birds we now hear the tramping of feet of "sixty warriors"; Instead
of the scent of vineyard blossoms we are now aware of a cloud of incense,
perfumed with "myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the
WHO IS THIS?: Feminine, probably referring to the Bride
(as in Song 6:10 also), who is accompanying her husband (cp the same scene in
Song 8:5). So this would suggest that this describes the wedding procession
coming from northern Israel or Lebanon (v 9; Song 4:8) back to the bridegroom's
home in Jerusalem for the wedding.
The awe that is implied in the question is not just at the
beauty and majesty of the bride, but at the bride as a monument to the matchless
mercy of God which she exemplifies -- the clouds of sacrifice and incense
pointing to the great and glorious work by which she was redeemed, delivered
from her enemies, and glorified!
Strictly speaking, it appears that the answer to the question
is not the bride, but "Solomon's carriage" (v 7). Of course, this is not a
problem at all, because the bride would be resting on the carriage or
COMING UP: The importance of Jerusalem, as well as its
location atop the mountains as a fortified city, are both indicated by the
direction "up". (In contrast, going to Egypt is always characterized in the
Bible as "going down".)
FROM THE DESERT: The NIV translation "desert" suggests
the vast expanses of Arabian sands, but the word "midbar" (AV "wilderness") may
mean no more here than the open country of uncultivated pastureland, as distinct
from inhabited villages and cities.
Historically, the "wilderness" was the place of Israel's
sojourning for 40 years (as well as the sojourning of the tabernacle itself --
which was a fit symbol of the body of believers). And the entrance of the people
(and the tabernacle and ark) into the Land of Promise under Joshua would be the
consummation of God's promise to them and their forefathers, and the true
marriage of Himself to Israel (Deu 8:2; Jer 2:2). Also historically, this verse
could echo the circumstances of David's bringing the Ark of God to its resting
place in Zion, or Jerusalem -- this was a sort of "wedding" too, for Yahweh was
"marrying" Israel (2Sa 6; 1Ch 13). Finally (as perhaps related to the context of
the Song), this could be a picture of the exiles, previously enslaved by the
Assyrians, returning to the land of Israel (and perhaps especially to Judah and
Jerusalem) after the overthrow of Sennacherib's host (see introduction, OT
background; cp, possibly, Isa 43:19).
And prophetically, the "bride" of Christ may be pictured as
being redeemed and brought out of the "wilderness" of the nations and the world,
to the glorious consummation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb at Jerusalem.
(Just as the most precious spices are to be found, not in the great cities, but
in the barren and unfruitful and desolate wilderness -- so the most precious of
Christ's possessions, his glorious "bride", is to be found -- not among the rich
and learned and powerful of this world -- but among the poor and despised! Cp
Rev 7:14: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation" -- the
"wilderness" is typical also of bondage and humiliation, and sin and misery;
from all these the "bride" has come out.)
LIKE A COLUMN: Heb "tiymarat": literally "pillars" -- a
cloud of smoke rising. The "smoke" could simply be dust rising up from the great
number of travelers through a dry land. Or it could mean a cloud of incense
being burnt -- as the immediate context in this verse suggests.
In the spiritual sense, it could be the cloud of the Shekinah
Glory (cp Exo 13:21; 14:20), the presence of God accompanying this august and
dignified assembly. Or it could be a cloud of smoke ascending from the
destruction of the enemies of the king -- this is implied in vv 7,8 here; the sw
occurs only in Joel 2:30, where the context implies the terrible judgments of
God upon His foes in the Last Days.
SMOKE: That is, of sacrifice (Isa 4:5), and incense
(Rev 8:4). This also suggests the hiding of the Glory on the Day of Atonement
PERFUMED WITH: "Like a fragrant billow of..." (NET).
Parallel to previous phrase. A similar Hebrew phrase occurs many times to
describe the ascending of smoke from the altar of burnt offering, and the altar
of incense. It was customary for vessels of perfume to be carried before
marriage processions, so that the air would be impregnated with the delightful
MYRRH: Cp Song 1:13n; Song 4:6.
INCENSE: Heb "labonah" = "white stuff". Frankincense is
an amber resin covered with white surface dust, that is exuded from the bark of
several species of trees which abound in India and southwest Arabia and the
northeast coast of Africa. Frankincense was one of the ingredients of the holy
oil (Exo 30:34), and was extensively used as an incense for burning (Lev 2:1,15;
5:11; 24:7; Num 5:15; Isa 43:23; 66:3; Jer 6:20; 17:26; 41:5; Neh 13:5,9; 1Ch
9:29). It was one of the gifts brought by the wise men to Jesus (Mat 2:11). The
word occurs in the Song of Songs only here and at Song 4:6,14. This incense
represents the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8; 8:3).
MADE FROM ALL THE SPICES OF THE MERCHANT: Probably
refers to other powdered spices, used in manufacture of the holy anointing oil
(Exo 30:23-25; cp 1Jo 2:20). Much of the wealth of Solomon's empire was derived
from the taxes levied on the income of such spice traders (1Ki 10:15). Eze 27:22
mentions traders of "Sheba and Raamah", two territories in southwest Arabia,
bringing in "the finest of all kinds of spices".
Paul, in writing to the Corinthian saints, sees the church of
Christ as a "bride" being carried in triumph through the "wilderness",
accompanied by the precious cloud of fragrance, which represents the grace of
God revealed in His Son and that Son's sacrifice: "But thanks be to God, who
always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads
everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of
Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one
we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal
to such a task?" (2Co 2:14-16; cp generally Phi 4:18). In using such figures of
speech, he may well have had in mind this passage from the Song of Songs. Then,
in adding "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit" (2Co
2:17), Paul may also have been commenting on the "spices of the merchant" -- as
if to say, 'But of course we cannot buy or sell such "incense" -- it is the free
gift of God through Christ!'
"If some fancy we have drawn too much upon imagination as we
have sought to picture the real background of these lovely lyrics, let me ask,
Is it possible to mistake the picture when all Scripture tells the same story?
What was the marriage of Adam and Eve intended to signify? What shall be said of
the servant seeking a bride for Isaac, and what of the love of Jacob as he
served so unweariedly for Rachel? Of what 'great mystery' does Asenath, the
Gentile wife of Joseph, speak? And what shall be said of the love of Boaz for
Ruth? Hosea who bought his bride in the slave-market gives a darker side of the
picture, yet all is in wonderful harmony. All alike tell the story that 'Christ
loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it
by the washing of water by the Word, and present it unto himself a glorious
church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing' (Eph 5:26,27)"
Solomon has been mentioned already, in the title (Song 1:1),
and in a passing allusion in Song 1:5. Now for the first time in the whole of
the Song, this verse (along with vv 9,11) introduces Solomon as though he were
be a character in the narrative. (Solomon's name will reappear only one other
time, toward the end of the whole, in Song 8:11,12.) Is this the real Solomon?
Or does the name signify a "son of Solomon"? Or is Solomon a "typical name", by
which is introduced a concept or prototype -- ie, something akin to the "man of
peace" (for such is the significance of the name), or the "greater than Solomon"
of Jesus' teachings (Mat 12:42; Luk 11:31)? The introduction has given reasons
for the view that the underlying narrative is not really about Solomon at all --
but rather about a later king, Hezekiah, who was among Solomon's successors and
ruled on his throne; and also (as is Psa 72) about the Messiah himself, the
"prince of peace" and the "greater than Solomon".
There is a further possibility that should be considered.
First of all, the whole of the Song of Songs seems to consist of a number of
individual songs woven together. There are some common themes which knit these
several songs together, but a chronological narrative is difficult to come by.
And so it has be suggested that some scenes or songs are flashbacks, and others
are dreams or anticipations ("day-dreams") of what is yet future; by such a
method one may impose a semblance of order on the whole.
Following on from this, it may also be supposed that this
particular small song (Song 3:6-11) may by itself have been an actual
description of a procession organized by Solomon, to bring one of his Gentile
brides safely to Jerusalem. Further, it might also be supposed that this
fragment was incorporated by a later writer (Hezekiah?) into the more elaborate
Song which we now have -- as one piece of a larger picture, and for the typical
themes to which it points: of exiles being brought back to God at Jerusalem, and
of the "bride of Christ" being conducted to a rendezvous with her
Some might be reluctant to view inspired Scripture in this
way. But they must acknowledge that, in fact, many portions of the OT bear marks
of having more than one writer or composer -- the historical narratives, for
example, and portions of the books of Moses. It should be clear that God in His
providence can work in many different ways to produce divinely-inspired
messages. A Hezekiah, or an Isaiah perhaps, could certainly use an earlier
portion written by or about Solomon as a component part of a later work -- with
a larger and more spiritual and far-sighted theme.
LOOK! IT IS SOLOMON'S CARRIAGE: The NEB has "Solomon
carried in his litter", but this cannot be right: the litter belongs to Solomon,
but it is the bride who is carried in it (cp v 6n). Heb "mittah", or portable
"litter" (RSV). The Heb in v 9 here is different, although plainly describing
the same conveyance. The term here may refer to a "royal portable couch" spread
with covers, cloth, and pillows (HAL, BDB), although other instances of the sw
refer to stationary beds as well. Here, of course, the context makes it plain
that this "bed" was being transported. Some such beds were very lavishly
appointed (Amo 6:4; Eze 23:41; Est 1:6).
"In Asiatic lands wheeled carriages were rare, and are rare
still. This is accounted for by the absence of roads. To construct and maintain
roads through a hilly country like Palestine required more engineering skill
than the people possessed; and further, there was a general belief that to make
good roads would pave the way to military invasion. Hence all over Palestine the
pathways from town to town were simply tracks marked out by the feet of men and
beasts. Over the level plain of Esdraelon Ahab might ride in a chariot; but if
Solomon brought up wheeled chariots from Egypt he had a prior undertaking, eg,
to make a road from Beersheba to the capital. Therefore travelling princes rode
in a covered palanquin, which served to screen from the hot sun by day, and
became a bed at night" (Pulpit).
The carriage, or bed, described in vv 7-10 may also be seen to
resemble, or indeed to be, the chariot of the cherubim (cp Eze 1) -- which, in
all its glory, is the means by which Elijah was miraculously transported away,
and the means by which the Glory of God was conveyed from the temple and back to
the temple (Eze 1; 43; etc). Therefore, it represents the spiritual ministration
of the angelic host, in military array, by which the saints are brought, first
of all, through the wilderness of this life unto the time of the Kingdom of God
(cp, eg, Heb 1:14; Psa 34:7; 91:5,11; 2Ki 6:17), and secondly, the means by
which, at his coming, they are brought specifically to their meeting with him
and to glorious enthronement in that Kingdom (cp, eg, 1Th 4:17; Mat 24:31; Psa
ESCORTED BY SIXTY WARRIORS: These warriors would be
part of the king's bodyguard; in the case of Christ they will be his holy
angels. "Of course when travelling through a wilderness, a royal procession was
always in danger of attack. Arabs prowled around; wandering Bedouins were always
prepared to fall upon the caravan; and more especially was this the case with a
marriage procession, because then the robbers might expect to obtain many
jewels, or, if not, a heavy ransom for the redemption of the bride or bridegroom
by their friends" (CHS). The scene pictured here reminds us of the tabernacle,
which also journeyed through a hostile wilderness, and which was surrounded by
60 pillars (Exo 27:10-16; cp Rev 3:12: believers as "pillars" in the temple of
God). The sixty "mighty men" are double the thirty "mighty men" of David (2Sa
THE NOBLEST OF ISRAEL: Heb "gibborim" = mighty
warriors. "Gibbor" is a military term -- from a root meaning "to be strong"; it
is a component of the angelic name "Gabriel", and "the Mighty God" of Isa 9:6.
Actually, "gibborim" occurs twice here; the NIV translates the two occurrences
first by "warriors" and then by "noblest". (The AV translates, more
consistently, "valiant men" and "valiant".) Probably, combining the two usages
of "gibborim", the intended sense is the superlative: these warriors are the
"mightiest of all the mighty ones", the elite corps!
Like the "daughters of Jerusalem", who at times seem to be the
companions and confidants of the bride, the "mighty men" may serve the same
roles to the bridegroom. Jewish marriage traditions -- whether for royalty or
commoners -- mandate such companions, who fulfill like functions. For example,
there are the "virgins" in Mat 25:1-13, and the "friend of the bridegroom" in
Joh 3:29. Our modern, and non-Jewish, counterparts of bridesmaids and groomsmen
follow this same pattern.
ALL OF THEM WEARING THE SWORD, ALL EXPERIENCED IN BATTLE,
EACH WITH HIS SWORD AT HIS SIDE: Cp the more-or-less parallel song, Psa
45:3: "Gird your sword upon your side [thigh, as here], O mighty one [gibbor: cp
Song 3:7]; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty."
Earlier Israelites used the short, cubit-long sword or dagger
of Ehud (cf Jdg 3:15-21), which could be fastened on the thigh, and even
concealed there. But after David conquered the Philistines, Jewish warriors
might have adopted the great iron swords used by those peoples (cf 1Sa 17:51;
2Sa 8:1-12; 24:9); such swords might still be worn on the thigh, but could
scarcely be concealed.
Spiritually, this is the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:13-17),
bringing minds into subjection to Christ. This form of spiritual warfare is also
the theme of Pro 16:32; 2Co 10:4,5; and 2Ti 2:3,4.
EACH WITH HIS SWORD AT HIS SIDE: More literally, "on
his thigh" (AV). The same phrase occurs in Psa 45:3. In Rev 19, Christ -- called
"Faithful and True", and "the Word of God" -- is pictured as returning from
heaven, accompanied by an army of heaven. He wields a sharp "sword" with his
mouth (for the Word of God IS a sharp sword: Heb 4:12!), and "on his thigh" is
the name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.
PREPARED: Though sheathed at the moment, the sword is
ready for use at a moment's notice.
FOR THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT: This refers, quite
reasonably, to marauding bands of Bedouins (cp Neh 4:12,13) or other robbers; or
possibly even wild beasts. The NEB, however, translates this phrase "the demons
of the night" -- reminiscent of some fanciful tales in the Apocrypha of evil
demons that inhabit the night, and attack the unsuspecting. This translation is
unsubstantiated. Nor, of course, is it good Bible teaching. Nor, for that
matter, is it logical: if such imagined "demons" were the night "terrors", the
mightiest of warriors with the greatest of swords could offer any protection
THE NIGHT: "Owing to the scorching heat, much of the
journey would be taken during the cool hours of night, and hence the need for a
strong bodyguard" (Pulpit).
KING SOLOMON MADE FOR HIMSELF THE CARRIAGE: The KJV has
"chariot", which does not do justice to the word, or the context. The Hebrew
"appiryon" is a word of uncertain derivation. This vehicle is similar to the
"carriage" of v 7, but it is a more stately means of transport: a royal
carriage; a portable sedan-chair; a "palanquin" (RSV). KD suggests that there
are two separate carriages described in these verses: the one in which the bride
is brought (vv 7,8), and the one in which the king -- having come out to welcome
her -- awaits (vv 9,10).
"A palanquin was a riding vehicle upon which a royal person
sat and which was carried by servants who lifted it up by its staffs. Royalty
and members of the aristocracy only rode in palanquins. McKenzie describes what
the typical royal palanquin was made of and looked like in the ancient world:
'Only the aristocracy appear to have made use of litters in Israel. At a later
period, in Greece, and even more so in Rome, distinguished citizens were carried
through the city streets in splendid palanquins. In Egypt the litter was known
as early as the third millennium BC, as is testified by the one belonging to
Queen Hetepheres, the mother of the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), which was found at
Gaza. This litter is made of wood and inlaid in various places with gold
decorations. Its total length is 6 feet 10 inches, and the length of the seat
inside is 3 feet 3 inches. An inscription on the litter, of gold set in ebony,
lists the queen's titles' (JL McKenzie, 'The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the
Living Bible' 55)" (NETn).
HE MADE IT OF WOOD FROM LEBANON: "Lebanon" signifies
"white"; with its snow-capped peaks, it is a symbol of purity: cp the cedars of
Song 1:17. The great cedar of Lebanon was in great demand throughout the Middle
East (1Ki 4:33; 5:7-11; 6:14-19; 7:1-8). Extrabiblical accounts from Egypt and
Assyria speak of the cedars of Lebanon in similar fashion (Carr).
ITS POSTS: Cp Song 5:15. The word may signify columns
of a building (Jdg 16:25,29; 1Ki 7:2) or poles of a tent (Exo 27:10). These were
frequently elaborately decorated (1Ki 7:22), or, as here, covered with an
overlay of silver or gold. The posts here probably supported a protective
canopy. Pillars may symbolize the saints (cp Gal 2:9; 1Ti 3:15; Rev
ARE MADE OF SILVER: Which signifies redemption (Song
ITS BASE OF GOLD: "Base" occurs this once in OT; its
meaning is uncertain. It may signify "support," referring to the back or arm of
the chair of palanquin (BDB). Several translations take this view, eg, NRSV and
JPS: "its back", NEB: "its headrest". and NJPS: "its back". HAL suggests "base,
foundation of a saddle, litter"; several translations follow this approach, eg
KJV: "the bottom," NASB: "its base" (mg: "its support") and NIV: "its
"Base" may be derived from the Hebrew for "rest" or "resting
place", and may answer to the base of the ark of the covenant, which was the
"mercy seat", the place of atonement for Israel. This was the "resting place" of
God in Israel (Psa 132:14),and it was covered with gold (1Ki 6:30). In like
manner, the New Jerusalem will be paved with gold (Rev 21:21). Gold is the
symbol of a tried faith (see Song 1:11n).
ITS SEAT WAS UPHOLSTERED WITH PURPLE: "Seat" (AV
"covering", Heb "mercab") occurs only here and in Lev 15:9, where it appears to
some sort of seat or saddle. Purple cloth and fabrics were costly (Eze 27:7,16);
they were dyed with an expensive purple dye manufactured from shellfish found
along the Phoenician coast. Such clothes were commonly worn by kings as a mark
of their royal position (Jdg 8:26; cp Mar 15:17; Luk 16:19; Joh 19:2). Thus,
this was a sedan-chair fit for a king. Even so, the saints will rule along with
Christ in the age to come (Rev 5:9,10).
Purple was lavishly used in decoration of the tabernacle (Exo
26:1,36; 27:16), and the vestments of the high priest (Exo 28:5-8,15,33). The
veil of Solomon's temple was made of purple, crimson, and fine linen,
embroidered with cherubim (2Ch 3:14). And the saints are the "temple of the
living God" (Heb 3:6; 1Co 3:16; 6:19; 2Co 6:16; Eph 2:21,22; 1Ti 3:15; 1Pe
ITS INTERIOR LOVINGLY INLAID: The verb occurs only once
in the OT. Possibly, "its lining was of leather" (NEB); the NEB follows the
suggestion that the Heb "ahaba" ("lovingly" here) instead signifies "hide", from
the Arabic "ihab". Other guesses as to the precise meaning have been made by
various scholars. But -- despite the other possibilities -- "love" certainly
BY THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM: That is, 'by GIFTS FROM
the daughters of Jerusalem.' This would follow the pattern of the tabernacle in
the wilderness -- constructed of materials which were voluntarily given --
"love" offerings -- by the children of Israel (Exo 25:1-9). Were these
"daughters of Jerusalem" some of those addressed in v 11, or others who loved
him (cp Song 1:4)?
It may be that the interior of the carriage, or chariot, was
inlaid with offerings of love by or "from" the daughters of Jerusalem. But it
certainly is true that the mercy seat, the ark of the covenant, is inlaid with
the greatest offering of love, which is the precious blood of the Lord Jesus
Christ (Rev 1:5): this inlaying was done "for" (see the AV) the daughters of
Jerusalem! It is Christ's love, and the Father's love shown through him, that
makes all this possible (John 3:16). And so in figure -- by gold and silver and
purple -- is revealed "the riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7,18; 2:7; 3:8,16; Phi
4:19; Col 1:27; 2:2) lavished upon us.
COME OUT... AND LOOK: Reminiscent of the crowds who
greet Jesus upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem before the last Passover
(Mat 21:1-11; Mar 11:1-11; Luk 19:28-44). "The multitude of the spectators adds
to the beauty of a splendid cavalcade. Christ, in his gospel, manifests himself.
Let each of us add to the number of those that give honour to him, by giving
themselves the satisfaction of looking upon him. Who should pay respects to
Zion's king but Zion's daughters? They have reason to rejoice greatly when he
comes: Zec 9:9" (Henry). "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and
gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phi
YOU DAUGHTERS OF ZION: For the fourth time the
daughters of Jerusalem are addressed (cp Song 1:5; 2:7; 3:5). This time they are
called "daughters of Zion" rather than "daughters of Jerusalem". This expression
occurs only here in the Song. It is found in Isa 3:16,17; 4:4, where it is
rendered "women of Zion". The singular "daughter of Zion" is used 23 times in
the OT; it normally refers to Israel as a nation. This is the passage that most
definitively attaches the Song of Songs to Israel. In fact, this is the only
passage where the name "Israel" occurs (v 7).
AND LOOK AT KING SOLOMON: Cp Song 3:7,9.
WEARING THE CROWN, THE CROWN WITH WHICH HIS MOTHER CROWNED
HIM ON THE DAY OF HIS WEDDING: Solomon's crown was a special one his mother
Bathsheba gave him for this occasion. It evidently represented his joy as well
as his royalty. This may have been a crowning that preceded Solomon's coronation
as king, since the high priest actually crowned him then (cf 1Ki 1:32-48; cp 2Ki
11:11-20; Psa 21:3). Could it be that this is an indication that, if the Song
did come from Solomon, it originated before his ascension as king, ie, in his
most innocent period?
However, his mother Bathsheba had played a prominent role in
his royal coronation as well, since she diligently sought the royal crown on
behalf of her son when David was near death (1Ki 1:16,17).
Generally, "crowns, usually wreaths of flowers rather than
royal crowns, were frequently worn by the nuptial couple in wedding festivities"
(Patterson, cited by Const). According to rabbinical traditions, every groom was
treated as a king, and every bride as a queen, they being ceremonially crowned
at their wedding; this tradition ceased -- quite reasonably -- after the Roman
destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
While this may refer to an actual event in the life of Solomon
(as discussed earlier), it is surely intended also as a typical prophecy: the
"day" of Messiah's coronation as King of Israel, and of the world, will be the
"day" of the joyous celebration of his "marriage" to his glorious multitudinous
Bride. [It is interesting, in view of the introduction -- which suggests a link
with Hezekiah's times -- that the most beautiful prophecy of a royal wedding,
involving the Messiah and Israel, is found in Isa 62 (see also Isa 61:10), which
is plainly based on Hezekiah's own wedding to Hephzibah.]
Jesus the Messiah has in fact already been "crowned" with a
crown of thorns, and has celebrated his wedding, prospectively, with the cup of
wine which prefigured his shed blood. His mother -- who so crowned him -- is the
human race, for he is "the Son of man" -- or perhaps more specifically Israel.
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with
glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might
taste death for everyone" (Heb 2:9). And those whom he has redeemed, and will
yet redeem, will constitute his crown of rejoicing (Phi 4:1; 1Th 2:19,20) in the
last day, when his marriage is consummated.
HIS MOTHER: The shepherd-king's mother is also
mentioned in Song 8:5.
THE DAY HIS HEART REJOICED: "Let us fix our eyes on
Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before him
endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the
throne of God" (Heb 12:2). "After the suffering of his soul, he will see the
light of life and be SATISFIED; by knowledge of him my righteous servant will
justify many, and he will bear their iniquities" (Isa 53:11).
On some level, there is an ironic undertone in this passage.
If this describes a real marriage of Solomon, then surely it was at a very early
age -- before the multiplication of wives and concubines (1Ki 11:3) surely left
him jaded and distracted, and no longer able to experience the innocent joy
suggested here. In the spiritual antitype, it is true that Jesus will have a
multitudinous bride -- even as Solomon had many, many brides; but the spiritual
joy is such that it is in fact multiplied (and not divided and subtracted) by
its sharing amongst all the faithful ones.
"Look, ye saints; the sight is glorious;
See the man of sorrows now,
To the earth returned victorious;
Every knee to him shall bow.
Crown him, crown him;
Crowns become the victor's brow."