Today we begin the Song of Solomon. There are those who believe this poem was written by Solomon near the end of his life. Others believe this was a poem written to Solomon by one of his many wives. Either way, it is a poetic celebration of the love between a man and a woman and the physical expression of that love through sex. I do not adhere to the school of thought that says this is about Christ and His church. This is very obviously an ode to physical love between a husband and wife, which is a gift from God. What we have in this first half of the book is a description of the first sexual encounter between Solomon and his bride, whoever she is, on their wedding night. Based on the Hebrew words used (gender and number), there are three speakers in the book. A woman/wife of Solomon, a man/husband (Solomon), and a group of others that speak with one voice (the choir).
We begin with either a claim to authorship, or a dedication (1:1). Does it belong to Solomon because he wrote it, or is it his because it is about him and dedicated to him? The bride starts the poem. She desires her husband’s kisses, which are better than wine (v. 2). His name alone is enough to change the mood of the room, as if fragrant oils filled the air (v. 3). Solomon had this effect on women. But she asks that he take her away from everyone else into a private setting (v. 4). This is the bride’s desire to leave the wedding celebration and be alone with her husband. The choir rejoices in Solomon, and agrees with the bride about his love. Note that “we” (plural) extol his love and “they” (plural) love him. Remember, 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Solomon had no lack of “love”.
The point of view comes back to Solomon’s bride. She is a dark-skinned woman (v. 5). In verse 6 we see that her skin has been tanned by exposure to the sun in the vineyard. She regards her tan as a reminder of her working-class heritage. She worked the vineyards of others. This is likely a poetic way of self-abasement in comparison to the king, as in, she is undeserving to become royalty. Verse 7 may be descriptive of her first undressing in the presence of her husband and her nervousness over what’s about to happen. Note that in ancient Israel (as with many ancient Near Eastern cultures) a king was called a shepherd. This shepherd language here is her acknowledgment of his royalty.
And Solomon answers (v. 8). He calls her the most beautiful of all women, and tells her to follow his lead. He is encouraging her to not be nervous. He then extols her beauty and worthiness (vv. 9-10). The choir adds that they will adorn her in precious metals, a nod to her royalty as a wife of the king. In verse 12, we see that she overcomes her nervousness and joins him in bed. Verses 13-14 speak of the intimacy of this relationship (the myrrh between her breasts is a picture used by Solomon in 4:5-6). The fragrance (v. 12), myrrh (v. 13), and henna blossoms (v. 14) speak of perfumes that metaphorically speak of her sexual desire for Solomon. In verse 15, Solomon calls her beautiful and says her eyes are doves. This was a Near Eastern metaphor for a woman seducing a man with her eyes. In verse 16, she calls him beautiful and speaks of their couch being literally “flourishing,” a reference to love making on the bed.
Chapter 2 begins with the woman calling herself a beautiful but wild flower. In verse 2, Solomon picks up on this flower metaphor and says that she stands out as beautiful among all other women. She then returns the compliment calling him an apple tree among the other trees, meaning he is desirable above all other men. Apples (along with raisins – see v. 5) were also considered an aphrodisiac. From the second half of verse 3 through verse 6 we see the lovers start to show their affection physically. Verse 7 speaks of the bride’s happiness that they waited for the right time for initial sexual encounter, and is an exhortation for others to wait until the right time.
Verses 8-15 metaphorically describe the lovemaking. Verses 8-9 describe the movement of Solomon’s body. Verses 10-15 describe the “language” of Solomon’s body as they are together. He encourages her to enjoy their love (vv. 10-13). He extols the joy of sex between a husband and wife. He let’s her know how beautiful she is (v. 14). He invites her to give up any inhibitions she may have (v. 15). Verses 16-17 are her desire that this encounter would continue until morning.
Chapter 3 recounts the woman’s search for her true love. She dreamt of him (3:1). She searched for him (vv. 2-3). Suddenly, she found him (v. 4). She was not going to let him go; they would be married. Verse 5 is another exhortation to wait for “the one” and for the marriage bed (see 2:7). Beginning in 3:6, the wedding ceremony is described. Solomon arrives with all the pomp of a king (vv. 6-8). He arrives on an extravagant “litter” (the couch he would be carried on by his servants – see v. 7 – it is also the “carriage” of verse 9). The couch and his person are the epitome of royalty (vv. 10-11).
Chapter 4 begins a description of the wedding from Solomon’s point of view. He describes that first look a groom gets of his bride on their wedding day. It is a moment a man never forgets. He remembers every detail as his eyes caught hers, and then as he sees every detail of her beauty (4:1-6). He describes her eyes, her hair, her lips and teeth, her cheeks, her neck, and her breasts. She was perfect (v. 7). In verse 8, we see that Solomon talks about her coming from distant lands, high mountain peaks, or dangerous places. He is metaphorically speaking of her as the prize he would go to the ends of the earth to find, and face any danger to win.
In verse 9, Solomon tells her he is completely smitten. In verse 10, He uses similar descriptions of her that she used of him in 1:2-3. He loves everything about her and is all he could ask for (v. 11). Verse 12 speaks of her virginity. He describes the joys awaiting him on their wedding night (vv. 13-16a). And she invites him to enjoy (v. 16b).