The SONG OF SONGS is one of the five Biblical books written in Hebrew poetry. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.

There are many and varied ways that this book has been interpreted, but the "literal system of interpretation" is the best approach as always.

The allegorical approach, which makes the "literal" people, events and things in the story have specific "spiritual" counterparts is forced and fabricated being so totally arbitrary that the intended purpose of the story loses any connection to reality. As written in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary of the Old Testament, "These are the aberrations of individuals." Sadly, as with the rest of the bible, these "aberrations" simply distort moral and spiritual truth with the fantasies of an undisciplined mind that finds greater satisfaction in emotional journeys of the imagination than in the principles that help to defeat the passions of the sin nature.

Another difficulty arises when attempting to place a "typical" application to the story. Since there is no stated intent to find an application to Christ and the church, nor an inspired commentary in the New Testament that assigns such an application, it once again becomes arbitrary to think that God intends that some such correlation be made.

We must allow this story to stand on its own, presenting as it does, the moral character of a young woman and her faithfulness to the man she loves while being romantically pursued by the king of Israel. Accordingly, the personal application we can find in this book revolves around principles of courtship, sexual fidelity and a moral value system.

This book of poetry must be interpreted according to the time in which it was written. Solomon is the villain, out of fellowship with God and pursuing the lusts of the sin nature as per his life style which is described in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon lived most of his life in a frantic search for happiness but never found it until the end, when he let go of his worldly pursuits and returned to fellowship with God. One of his many pursuits was the collecting of women. As the king of Israel, he was easily able to build a harem that at its height, contained 700 wives, 300 concubines, and a multitude of virgin maidens who served around the palace, from among whom, Solomon frequently chose some for his sexual pleasure. But Solomon's conclusion of all his worldly pursuits was, "vanity of vanities; all is vanity," (Ecc. 1:2). One of his greatest disappointments was his failure to win the love of a very beautiful woman from the plains of Sharon, along the Mediterranean Coast in Galilee.

This play, written in Hebrew poetry, records Solomon's attempt to woo this Shulamite woman and make her a queen. But he fails and instead of appearing as a kingly nobleman, is portrayed as the immoral, womanizing villain of the story. The Shulamite woman, on the other hand, is the heroine of the story since her personal integrity and faithfulness to both God and to moral virtue is exemplified in the events dramatized in the play.

The story finds its place in our canon of Scripture in order to provide an example of moral integrity, a teaching aid for courtship, and an instrument of divine discipline for Solomon. What unique wisdom and humor from God, that he would choose to publicly display Solomon's failure while extolling the virtues of this young Shulamite woman -- firstly, to all the nation of Israel, and then to the whole world by inspiring its telling as part of His written revelation to the human race.

The book is written in a manner that presents it as a play to be acted out in front of an audience. This is determined by the structure of the story as it moves from scene to scene with specific parts spoken by specific players. In fact, it is perhaps the greatest challenge of the book to find the proper identification of the players and when they speak their lines. The key to this is found in a close observation of the Hebrew pronominal suffixes which identify the "you" as either feminine or masculine. However, there are a few places where it is not perfectly clear who the speaker is, and a certain amount of personal judgment is required to make the identification. But for the most part, the players are clearly separated one from another and identified by the content of their lines.

The two most common views of the book are diametrically opposite to each other. One view, the most commonly accepted today, sees Solomon as a noble husband and the Shulamite woman as his loving wife. It is thus claimed that we have a story of true love in marriage which provides examples for married people of all times. A typical application that flows from this, is that Solomon represents Jesus Christ and the Shulamite woman represents the church, and we have portrayed a physical illustration of the spiritual relationship and rapport that exists between Christ and His church. There are many problems with this view, among which are:

(1) Solomon is a polygamist and cannot represent either masculine nobility nor Christ as a "spiritual" husband to the church.

(2) The lines assigned the Shulamite woman speak of Solomon as a "third" party and another man as the specific object of her affection.

The other view, which has already been stated, sees Solomon as the womanizing, immoral villain of the story, and the Shulamite woman as an unwilling recipient of his sexual advances.


THE PLAYERS in order of their speaking:

1. Daughters of Jerusalem comprised of the women of the palace including wives, concubines and virgin maidens. (dj)

2. The Shulamite woman, a country girl from a family of grape farmers. (sw)

3. Solomon (sol)

4. Brother(s) of the Shulamite (bros)

5. Chorus, which describes the scenes and makes commentary throughout.

6. A jealous queen (qu)

7. The Shepherd with whom the Shulamite woman is in love. (sh)


ACT I The Shulamite is brought to Solomon's palace V. 1:2 - 2:7

Scene 1 - The Shulamite and the daughters of Jerusalem meet.

V. 1:2-8

Scene 2 - Solomon tries to seduce the shulamite

V. 1:9 - 2:7


ACT II The Shulamite remembers events that led up to her present situation.

V. 2:8 - 3:5

Scene 1 - The shepherd visits her at home and is rejected by her brothers.

V. 2:8-17

Scene 2 - The Shulamite recalls a dream of searching for the shepherd.

V. 3:1-5


ACT III Solomon has a great feast

V. 3:6 - 5:1

Scene 1 - Solomon arrives at the palace

V. 3:6-11

Scene 2 - Solomon continues to woo the Shulamite

V. 4:1 - 5:1


ACT IV The Shulamite continues to focus on her shepherd

V. 5:2 - 6:9

Scene 1 - The Shulamite recalls another visit from her shepherd.

V. 5:2 - 6:3

Scene 2 - Solomon continues to woo the Shulamite.

V. 6:4-9


ACT V The Shulamite is rescued from Solomon's palace

V. 6:10 - 8:4

Scene 1 - The shepherd arrives at the palace

V. 6:10 - 7:9

Scene 2 - The Shulamite and the shepherd converse on the way home.

V. 7:10 - 8:4


ACT VI The Shulamite and the shepherd arrive at her home

V. 8:5-14

Scene 1 - The arrival

V. 8:5-7

Scene 2 - Acceptance by the family and a formal engagement

V. 8:8-14



Song 1:1 The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.


ACT I The Shulamite is brought to Solomon's palace

V. 1:2 - 2:7

How does the Shulamite get into Solomon's palace?

It is possible that she was kidnapped, as this was a common practice, but there is no evidence that would suggest that Solomon did this. At the same time, it must be recognized that in his condition of being out of fellowship with God, it is very possible for him to have usurped the woman's freedom and had her brought to his palace.

It is also possible that Solomon met her since her family had probably leased the vineyard from him and he then had her invited to the palace to serve with the many other women who dwelled there. It is clear that she was assigned to manage and guard her family's vineyard (s/s 3:15). It is also very possible that that vineyard was leased from Solomon (s/s 8:11) and it is possible that he saw her when he was visiting it. But it seems more likely that he would have instructed some of the other women of the palace to find out who she was and to invite her to the palace. Although, the information at Song 8:11-12 suggests that he had offered to forego the lease payment in exchange for having the Shulamite visit him at the palace. She certainly would not have agreed to give him her favors in exchange for release from the payment, but she would probably have welcomed a visit to the palace to "escape" the laboring in vineyards, in the sun and the dust, to which her brothers had assigned her. They had done this as a preventative to her associations with the shepherd, but it did not change her feelings for him in the least.

The next issue to address is, who exactly is the Shulamite woman?

The geographical clues in the story are ambiquous and nothing absolute can be determined, but I suggest that the woman lived in Shunem, just a little southwest of the Sea of Galilee, within just a few miles of Nazareth. Also, a few miles to the Southeast is the city of Baalhamon (or Belmen), where the family vineyard was leased from Solomon. Just to the South and West of them is the plain of Sharon, which was always so saturated with the wild flower called, "rose of Sharon," at verse 5:1.

The designation, Shulamite, at Song 6:13, is rendered in the LXX as Sounamitis for shunammite (The Greek not using an "sh" sound). Although some manuscripts (Aleph and A) have, soulimitis. There is a Shunnamite woman named Abishag at 1 Kings 1:3, 2:17, 21, 22 and at 2 Kings 4:8, 12, which is rendered in the Greek as, sōmanitis. The city is found at Joshua 19:18 where it is rendered in the Greek, as sounam; and at 1 Samuel 28:4, where it is rendered, sōnam; and at 2 Kings 4:8, as sōman. Since both sounam and sōnam are used in the Greek to represent the city of shunem, it is likewise to be understood that both sounamitis and sōmanitis are used to represent a Shunammite woman. It has been suggested that the designation, Shunammite, in the Hebrew, was changed to Shulammite in order to provide some assonance with Solomon, but there is no proof available for this theory. And in fact, the Greek translation of the LXX, did not preserve that assonance except in the two manuscripts mentioned above.

As mentioned in the introduction, there are a few places where the identification of the speaker is ambiguous. The first statement is one such example. Some claim that the first line spoken is by the Shulamite who is thinking of her shepherd lover. However, even though the Shulamite's occupation with her "beloved" is the central theme of the play, it seems more likely that the first scene opens with the daughters of Jerusalem all agog about the presence of Solomon as he escorts the Shulamite back to the women's living quarters.

Another important factor mentioned in the introduction, is the need to "visualize" the actions of the players as the scenes open, progress and close. Thus we need to "speculate" to a certain degree concerning the visual progress of the play from scene to scene. My suggestions in this regard are to be viewed in that sense, as my attempt to give the play a clarity, continuity and vitality that is absent otherwise.

Scene 1 - The Shulamite and the daughters of Jerusalem meet

V. 1:2-8

The text will be analyzed using the NASB as the launching pad, with changes being made as appropriate.

As the scene opens, we see the living quarters of the daughters of Jerusalem, where the wives, concubines and maidens all probably reside together. The curtain rises and we see a group of these "daughters" engaged in casual activity until Solomon enters, followed quickly but inconspicuously by a young woman, very sunburned but quite beautiful. We know that Solomon is present, because he is personally addressed by the daughters of Jerusalem and because he speaks in scene 2 in the same environment as is presented in scene 1. Those who want to make the Shulamite the first wife of Solomon must explain away (albeit, inadequately) the presence of ALL these other women and in so doing must "post-date" the statement at verse 6:8 to a time long after the monogamous marriage relationship that they claim is represented by the language in chapters one through 5.

The daughters begin to muse to one another as expressed by the first line:

(dj)Song 1:2a, "May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!

Each one longs for Solomon's attentions, hoping that they would be the next one chosen to spend some intimate time with him. The wives and concubines are anxiously awaiting their "turn" while the maidens (virgins) are wishing to be noticed by him. This is expressed verbally so the audience is aware of their feelings and we should visualize actions conducive to their speech.

Next they speak directly to and about Solomon as he stands surveying his harem.

(dj)Song 1:2b, For your love is better than wine.

The "your" here is a 2nd MASCULINE singular pronominal suffix and leaves no doubt that they are speaking to and about Solomon. The term "your love" refers to his physical attentions given to the women. It is this that they deem to be "better," as in more pleasurable, than wine.

(dj)Song 1:3a, "Your oils have a pleasing fragrance,

Solomon's personal fragrance, as produced by his use of perfumed ointments, is very attractive to the women. Again, the "your" is a 2nd masculine suffix.

(dj)Song 1:3b, Your name is {like} purified oil;

In fact they are so enthralled with Solomon that his very name is music to their ears that spreads far and wide for all to hear. The word "purified" is better rendered, "poured out," as with the KJV and NIV. The idea seems to be that as perfumed oil is poured out in order for its fragrance to spread far and wide, so the very name of Solomon exudes its greatness throughout the kingdom and the world.

(dj)Song 1:3c, Therefore the maidens love you.

The maidens are the almAh of the harem; the virgin maidens who serve around the palace, attending Solomon and the various festivities and daily tasks required to keep the palace fit for royalty. The word almAh occurs only 7 times in the Old Testament, two of which are found in this book (V. 1:3 and 6:8) and always refers to a virgin maiden, in spite of attempts to prove otherwise (Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; Psalm 68:25; Prov. 30:19; Isaiah 7:14). From this group, Solomon also chooses as he desires, those who are next to become the object of his physical affections.

(dj)Song 1:4a, "Draw me after you {and} let us run {together!}

The NASB represents essentially what the Hebrew expresses even with the {additions}. The daughters again express their individual (me) personal desires, collectively, to be chosen by him and to follow him. This is the dramatic way to communicate to the audience that it is the wish of each of those admiring the king.

(sw)Song 1:4b, The king has brought me into his chambers."

Here, the Shulamite speaks for the first time, kind of "introducing" herself to the others by announcing what Solomon has done with her. We should be able to see this player take center stage and address the daughters as they are gathered around. Again, the movements of the players on the stage will assist us in picturing the flow of the play.

Solomon had brought her into his private chambers to woo and seduce her into complying with his physical advances. This is of course what each of the women have been desiring for themselves and instead of an overt expression of jealousy, they together express their joy for her, that she was the one chosen. We know that it is she who speaks, for the daughters reply and address her personally in the next line. The "new" woman, however has expressed no interest in Solomon as she will express to the daughters as soon as they stop "oohing and awing" over Solomon.

(dj - turning toward the Shulamite)
Song 1:4c, "We will rejoice in you and be glad;

Here, the daughters address themselves to the newcomer "you" as is indicated by the feminine singular pronominal suffix.

(dj - directing their attentions to Solomon)
Song 1:4d, We will extol your love more than wine.

Immediately after congratulating the young woman, they return to their praise of Solomon who is still present, observing the interaction between the women. Again, we know this because the daughters express themselves to a masculine "you," as in indicated by the pronominal suffix. Picture the daughters altering their attention from the woman back to Solomon.

She got their attention for only a moment, but since Solomon is present, they are far more interested in focusing on him than anything else.

(dj)Song 1:4e, Rightly do they love you.

The praise continues as they acknowledge the reason for the love directed toward Solomon from the maidens. "you," once again is a masculine form. It is only proper that these maidens are so enthralled with Solomon because he is, for a variety of reasons, very attractive to them.

(sw)Song 1:5a, "I am black but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem,

The woman interrupts again in order to clarify her situation. She acknowledges her beauty (lovely) as an expression of genuine self-esteem and confidence; true humility rather than prideful conceit, but she recognizes also that she has been extremely sun burned and may not appear as one would expect of a "maiden" in Solomon's palace. The word, "black" is shechorAh and is used, not for the blackness of night, but rather for the dark or gray that precedes the dawn. She is thus describing a discoloration of her natural skin rather than a natural skin color, as is confirmed by her words in verse 6. The word for lovely, is nAweh and simply means, attractive. Also recognize that by addressing this group of women as the "daughters of Jerusalem," she purposely excludes herself from their number and chooses to remain distinct from them and their sensual desires toward Solomon.

(sw)Song 1:5b, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon.

She uses two illustrations to communicate to the daughters and to assist the audience in understanding her situation.

The tents of Kedar refers to a group of Arab nomads (descendants of Ishmael, Gen. 25:13) who would be regularly encountered by both the vine keepers of Galilee as well as the shepherds and goat herders. this reference then speaks of her home town and informs the daughters that she is from the country.

The second illustration tells them that she has indeed seen the personal chambers of the king as she references his curtains. Her point is to clarify that she has indeed been chosen by the king but she has also chosen not to accept his advances.

(sw)Song 1:6a, "Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, For the sun has burned me.

As she is speaking, the daughters give her a closer look than before, and she takes advantage of their attention to explain further the events that led up to her presence in the harem.

As I suggested earlier, the audience should observe the daughters paying very close attention to the physical appearance of this woman, expressing an air of curiosity and puzzlement. She explains the reason for her condition as the sun's rays which have done her damage. She then explains how it is that she was exposed to the damaging rays of the sun.

Incidentally, she uses the 2nd masculine PLURAL form of the verb whenever she addresses the group designated as the daughters of Jerusalem. This normally means that the group addressed is all male or contains both male and female. In this case we do not see a "mixed" company of men and women unless the group contains several eunuchs. This possibility could explain the use of the masculine plural since the eunuchs would be "officially" identified with the daughters of Jerusalem, being ever present and attending them.

There is no major significance to this other than it helps us determine the recipient of words spoken at various places, such as at verse 2:5.

(sw)Song 1:6b, My mother's sons were angry with me;

Some suggest that the impersonal manner by which she references her brothers indicates that they are step-brothers. Contributing to this is the fact that her father is never mentioned in the story at all, but for that matter, neither is a step-father, so I don't place much confidence in that theory. Besides, if they are her "mother's" sons, then they are truly her brothers, albeit, half-brothers, but certainly not step-brothers. Perhaps it is better to view her impersonal reference to them because it is they who "banished" her to the vineyards and she does not hold them very dear to the heart at the present moment. I do not want to suggest that she is being petty or unforgiving, but simply expressing a genuine and bona fide displeasure toward what they did.

The next issue to discuss is the reason for their anger and her banishment to the vineyards. We learn later in the play that her brothers do not approve of the man she loves, a shepherd from the hills of Galilee. Later the Shulamite woman relates an incident where the shepherd visited her at home and they went for a walk, after which, the brothers sent her into the vineyards to watch over the vines. This is presented in the play in Act 2, scene 1 (Verses 2:8-3:15). Another incident that probably contributed to her "banishment" is recorded in Act 4 at verses 5:2-7, where she went looking for the shepherd late at night and was abused by the watchmen of the city.

(sw)Song 1:6c, They made me caretaker of the vineyards,

This is clearly given to orient the daughters and the audience to the situation "at home," which is related to how she ended up at the palace.

This is confirmed by the information at verse 2:15, "Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom."

This vineyard is probably not owned by her family, but rather leased from none other than Solomon himself. This seems to be the only basis for the reference at Song 8:11-12, where we see the fact that Solomon leases out a vineyard and expects payment in return. It appears that in his attempt to woo the Shulamite woman that he was willing to forego the payment from her family in exchange for her favors. However she clearly refuses the "trade" and tells Solomon that he can have his lease payment, but her body ("own vineyard") is hers to give to whom she pleases.

It is probable that Solomon first encountered the Shulamite when he was inspecting his "property" or arranging for receipt of the lease payment.

He arranged for her to be brought to the palace so he could woo her, and her compliance to this move was probably to get out of working outside in the vineyards. However, it does not indicate any positive attitude toward Solomon's advances nor any compromise of her love for the shepherd.

(sw)Song 1:6d, {But} I have not taken care of my own vineyard.

Because she has been "put out" to the vineyards to work outside, she has been unable to care for her own body as was customary for those who were not involved in constant physical labor. The change from the literal, "vineyards" to the symbolic "my own vineyard," is given to communicate the sexual context for courtship and marriage. The picture is of a woman who has something to share with the right man and which he "gathers" when ripe. It expresses a mutual sexual interaction that is referenced throughout the play, but which is denied Solomon since this woman is totally devoted to the shepherd whom she loves and for whom she is "saving" the fruits of her personal vineyard.

This sexual imagery is seen using the term, "garden" at Song 4:16.

"Awake, O north {wind,} And come, {wind of} the south; Make my garden breathe out {fragrance,} Let its spices be wafted abroad. May my beloved come into his garden And eat its choice fruits!"

And "the clusters of the vine" at Song 7:8, "I said, 'I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks.' Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, And the fragrance of your breath like apples."

And "vineyard" again at Song 8:12, "My very own vineyard is at my disposal."

(sw - looking off into the distance) Song 1:7, "Tell me, O you whom my soul loves,

She now looks beyond the daughters and off into an "unseen" distance in reference to which she speaks to her absent shepherd lover. In this manner, she emphasizes her occupation with someone other than Solomon who is still present. She is expressing a desire that she might learn where her shepherd lover is located so she could join him. Again, picture her point of focus off into the distance and away from those who are present.

(sw)Song 1:7b, Where do you pasture {your flock,} Where do you make {it} lie down at noon?

She is basically asking the question, "Where are you?" Her desire is to join him and become his wife. As was the custom, the virgins would remain veiled when out in public, but a married woman was not required to do so.

When she expresses the question in the next line, she is basically saying that there is no reason why she should remain as one who must veil herself in public. If they were married, then she would not have to veil herself when the "gang" is around.

(sw)Song 1:7c, For why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?"

It is clear that this person is not only a shepherd, but has friends and associates who are also shepherds. They spend time together, and the Shulamite has probably visited her lover when his friends were present. If she were his wife, she would not have to remain veiled.

A further point to address the claim that Solomon himself is the "shepherd" whom she addresses. It is claimed that Solomon "posed" as a shepherd in order to be inconspicuous among his people. But if this were the case, the Shulamite would be well aware of it now and not be addressing "him" in this manner. No, it should be clear that she is looking far beyond Solomon who is present, to another who is not present.

(dj)Song 1:8, "If you yourself do not know, Most beautiful among women, Go forth on the trail of the flock, And pasture your young goats By the tents of the shepherds.

Here the daughters answer her by basically telling her to go look for him if she does not know where he is. They have either been informed or are assuming that she and her family have a herd of goats that would need tending. They tell here to join the shepherd and his friends by herding her own flock of goats along with them and their sheep.

Notice the address they use in reference to this woman. They recognize her natural beauty and praise it with this emphatic title, "most beautiful among women." This praise does not seem to be empty flattery nor sarcasm, since they use the title two additional times over the course of their interaction (Song 5:9; 6:1).

Scene 1 ends with both Shulamite and the daughters thinking about someone other than Solomon who is standing right there. Scene two will open with Solomon once again addressing the Shulamite woman with his seductive speech.

Scene 2 - Solomon tries further to seduce the shulamite in the presence of the others. V. 1:9 - 2:7

The curtain opens and we see the same location. Solomon is standing before the Shulamite woman with the daughters of Jerusalem looking on.

He continues his attempts to woo the Shulamite and convince her to join him. He is quite aware of her rejection and her "occupation" with someone else. His only hope is to convince her that he is better for her than the one whom she loves. He certainly has much to offer and it is the very nature of that "much" that can be a great source of temptation to a young woman. However, the primary point of application in this story is the nature of temptation and the believer's success in resisting it.

I will develop that application at the end of scene two.

(sol)Song 1:9, "To me, my darling, you are like My mare among the chariots of Pharaoh.

The use of the term, "darling" is a term of affection in an attempt to endear him to her.
In those days, horses were very valuable and here, Solomon mentions his prize mare. The comparison is a serious compliment. He is saying again, that she is the best, most beautiful of all the women he has seen. Whether this is empty flattery on his part or not is not clear. But he is consistent with his compliments and the daughters are in agreement with his evaluation, as we have already seen.

(sol)Song 1:10, "Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, Your neck with strings of beads."

He describes her physical beauty and the enhancement produced by the jewelry she is wearing. He employs flattery to enhance his attempt to win her favor. Another source of serious temptation comes when we are flattered by others who would seek to influence us toward a specific course of action.

(dj)Song 1:11, "We will make for you ornaments of gold With beads of silver."

Here the daughters speak and suggest that they would add to that enhancement by providing some gold and silver trinkets. They are happy for her and Solomon's interest in her, and want to assist in getting them together. This is one of the indications that the daughters are trying to get the Shulamite to accept Solomon's advances and helps us to understand why the Shulamite tells them not to "awaken or arouse my love until it desires," (Song 2:7).

Another source of temptation is the temporal attraction of material things. Nice clothes, jewelry, etc., can be the final blow to a person's attempts to resist temptation.

(sw)Song 1:12, "While the king was at his table, My perfume gave forth its fragrance.

The Shulamite replies to his advances by basically ignoring them; speaking of him, impersonally, in the third person (since he is present) and again speaking about the shepherd whom she loves. The daughters are still present and the Shulamite addresses them instead of acknowledging Solomon even in the least.

While the king was at his table, refers to an incident while she was in his chambers. The word, "table," is māsabh, and means something that is around you or something that is round. It apparently refers to something that is in his chamber that he would relax around, and thus indicates either a table or lounge or couch of some kind. The point is, the Shulamite is in Solomon's private chambers and her perfume was attractive to him. However, she resists his advances and thinks only of her shepherd by describing him as one who is ever present in the mind and soul of she who loves him.

(sw)Song 1:13, "My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh Which lies all night between my breasts.

Solomon is occupied with her aroma, but she is occupied with the treasured memories of her shepherd.

My beloved is the word dōd, with a 1st common singular suffix (my), which would be seen as dōdi (my beloved). It is used 31 times in the Song and all but three times for the shepherd whom the Shulmite loves. One time by the chorus; 2 times by the shepherd for the Shulamite; 6 times by the daughters; 1 time by a queen, for Solomon; and 23 times by the Shulamite for the shepherd. The first image she gives us is that of the perfume bag that was commonly kept around the neck in order to exude a pleasant fragrance. Solomon is smelling the perfume, but she is thinking of her beloved as ever present in her mind. He is so "close" to her in her thoughts, that she likens him to that very bag of perfume and spices that was worn around the neck -- as "close" as something could be to one's body.

(sw)Song 1:14, "My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms In the vineyards of Engedi."

The second image is that of beauty and fragrance. She thinks of the henna blossoms in Engedi, which she had visited. Engedi is located about 30 miles S.E. of Jerusalem on the west shore of the Dead Sea. She thinks of her shepherd as one who is beautiful and attractive. If we designate her "home town" (Shunem) to be in Southern Galilee, then Engedi would be a place to visit and not where she lived.

(sol)Song 1:15, "How beautiful you are, my darling, How beautiful you are! Your eyes are {like} doves."

Solomon continues to woo her with more flattery and she continues to ignore him. Some want to make this a verbal "exchange" between Solomon and the Shulamite, but the context does not favor that. Solomon uses a personal "you" when talking to the Shulamite, but she has spoken in the 3rd person, impersonally, to a man who is not present, but clearly very visible in her own mind. This "impersonal" address already established, dictates the recipient of her words in verses 16-17, where she does use a 2nd masculine pronoun. Although she uses the 2nd masculine, the context reveals that she is not talking TO Solomon, but to the one of whom she has been thinking in verses 7 and 13-14.

The word, beautiful, is the verb, yAphAh, and refers to physical attractiveness either of men, women, things, etc. There is no distinction in the Hebrew between "pretty" and "handsome" as in the English. Thus, the adjective from this word is used by the Shulamite in verse 16, to describe the physical attractiveness of her shepherd lover.

(sw - looking off into the distance) Song 1:16-17

Although it appears that the woman "answers" Solomon in kind, as I have already suggested, she is not thinking of Solomon but of the one whom she loves. One way to combat the attack of flattery is to focus on one's value system and one's actual personal relationships. It is quite reasonable to picture our heroine verbally addressing the one whom she loves, and in a way that reminds her of his value to her in order to de-value the words of her tempter.

1."How handsome you are: This is a focus on the shepherd's physical attractiveness, using the adjective (yApheh) of the verb that Solomon used of her.

2. my beloved: The 3rd time "dodi" is used and it refers to the very same person as in verses 13 and 14 where the Shulamite is thinking of someone other than Solomon.

3. {And} so pleasant!: The word, nAiym, focuses on his personality.

4. Indeed, our couch is luxuriant!: Here she begins a description of country homes and the country environment which she values far above the palace environment of what Solomon offers to her. Couch (eres) is a different word than what occurs at verse 12 and refers to a place of relaxation and sleeping. It does not mean that the Shulamite and her shepherd share a bed, but that there was a special place where they would relax together out in the country. The word luxuriant is raanAn and indicates something that is luxuriantly green and fresh. This further indicates that she is remembering a special place out in the country.

Song 1:17

1. "The beams of our houses are cedars: Notice the plural "houses," which suggests that she is speaking of country homes in general. She is remembering them and soliloquizing about them because she is focusing on the contrast between them and the more comfortable dwellings within the palace. She is using the memory of her "home" to counter the temptations of Solomon's palace. Cedar (erez) refers to the type of wood used to build these country homes.

2. Our rafters: This refers to the covering of the homes.

3. cypresses: The word, berothiym, only occurs here and refers to branches rather than planks or logs. The word used for the "wood," is berosh.

She finds the quality of her country life far more attractive than the palace life that Solomon offers her.

At this point, although the "man-made" chapter division ends, the actual scene continues through Song 2:7.

(sw)Song 2:1

1. I am the rose of Sharon, The lily of the valleys: The "rose" is a simple, common flower that thrived in the Valley of Sharon along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The "lily" is also a common wild flower of the region. The Shulamite is attempting to direct Solomon's attention away from her by telling him that she is a plain 'ol country girl and should not be the recipient of the king's interest.

Another common error in interpretation, usually in poetic form (songs, poems, etc.) is to apply both of these "flowers" to Jesus and to call Him the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. This is inappropriate.

(sol)Song 2:2

"Like a lily among the thorns, So is my darling among the maidens."

Solomon answers her with more flattery, and basically says that she is far more beautiful than all the others. The comparison is between the "lily" and the thorn BUSHES, not thorns. One does not compare flowers with thorns, but flowers with flowers.

(sw - looking again off into the distance) Song 2:3

The Shulamite continues her soliloquy, recalling a time when the shepherd took her "out to dinner."

She is not talking about Solomon. I repeat this for emphasis. The basis for this interpretation has already been presented and adequately established.

1. "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the young men.

The Shulamite is still occupied with her shepherd lover and speaks of him as having great VALUE. The issue in comparing the apple tree to other trees is not one of "beauty" but one of worth and benefit. The apple tree, being a food producer is far more valuable and "beneficial" to people than the other trees. In this recollection, she is not focusing on his physical attractiveness, but on his character.

2. In his shade I took great delight and sat down:

The imagery continues as she describes a time when they were together. She found great pleasure in his company and was able to be comfortable, knowing that his protection (shade) would take care of her.

3. And his fruit was sweet to my taste:

This refers to the demonstration of his character (the apples themselves) and how "fulfilled" she was by being with him.

Song 2:4,

1. He has brought me to {his} banquet hall:

Notice that the word, "his," is not in the original Hebrew text. It literally reads, "He brought me into a house of wine (an inn)."

The change from "has brought" to "brought" is an interpretive choice based on how one views the story. She is not saying that "he" HAS done something, so that the result is "right now" we are there. She is recalling an excursion that is in the past. The Hebrew word, bo, in the hiphil perfect CAN be rendered either way, for it communicates a "completed" idea to the action. The determination of whether it is a "past" or a "present" action that took place depends on the context.

The "banquet hall" is literally, a house of the wine, and occurs only here in the entire Old Testament. Accordingly, its meaning must be deduced from the context without placing a preconceived idea upon it. Since it has been established that the Shulamite is not thinking about Solomon, then Solomon's "banquet hall" would not be in view. It could refer to the "house" where the wine was made; after all, this is a "wine oriented" community since they are growing grapes. However, we then need to suggest a "reason" for the shepherd to take her there. A more likely possibility is that the "house" refers to a public dining place, and the two of them went there for relaxation and refreshment. The choices are a matter of speculation except that the "banquet hall" choice seems less likely, since that would make Solomon the object of her recollection and that is ONE thing he is not.

2. And his banner over me is love: The banner speaks of protection and that fits well since they are "out" in a public inn where a young woman would need protection. Again, she focuses on his character as demonstrated in his love for her. Such a character and love that she describes cannot possibly apply to Solomon since he is in a frantic search for happiness as is described in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon does not have the capacity to truly love anyone. At one time, yes, his understanding (wisdom) of the divine value system was phenomenal, but long before his encounter with the Shulamite woman, he lost all focus on God's character and plan, and began his "all is vanity" pursuit of pleasure. At this time he has collected 60 of the 700 wives he ends up with, and 80 of the 300 concubines; not to mention all the maidens who are not even counted (Song 6:8; 1 Kings 11:1-6).

As a result of thinking about her shepherd lover and his love for her, she is emotionally exhilarated and "overcome" to such an extent that she needs some physical refreshment. The next line is addressed to the group of "daughters of Jerusalem" who are present and listening to her.

Observe the scene on the stage -- the Shulamite will falter a bit, look directly at the group of women and plea for something to eat.

(sw - looking toward the daughters) Song 2:5, "Sustain me with raisin cakes, Refresh me with apples, Because I am lovesick.

She is not "lovesick," but literally, "weak from (of) love."

The Hebrew word for weak is, chAlAh, and it means to be weak or sick, depending on the context. Here, the word occurs as a piel participle in the construct state, which requires that it be translated as "weak OF . . ." However, the understanding of the helping word "of," depends on context. She is not saying that she is "sick OF love," nor do I suggest that she is even "sick" at all. However, it is quite reasonable to see her as being emotionally drained (weak) as she thinks about this man's character and her own love for him. Thus, the idea of "weak" FROM the love that is between them does better justice to the context.

She is so overcome by the wonder of this man's character and love for her that she is emotionally drained. She breaks from her recollection of the event and requests from the group of people present, some food for refreshment.

The two imperatives she uses are 2nd masculine PLURAL forms with the 1st common singular suffix (me), so that "literally," she is addressing a group of people. As pointed out at verse 1:6, the use of the 2nd masculine plural is the standard form she uses to address the daughters of Jerusalem. The importance here is that it tells us that she "breaks" from her story about the inn and asks of the "daughters" who are present that they provide her with some refreshment.

Thus, the form of the verb is quite consistent with the scene that is presented to us and also means that it would not refer to something she is saying to the shepherd while they are at the inn.

She then thinks of a physical embrace from him -- either one that occurred in the past, or one that she desires to occur in the future.

(sw)Song 2:6, "Let his left hand be under my head And his right hand embrace me."

Notice the rendering of the NASB, "let," although being in italics, the editors recognize that it is an optional translation. Compare with the NIV, which renders it as a simple present tense (" under ... embraces me."), as does the King James Version. In the Hebrew, we have two phrases.

(1) His left hand under my head: This is the first phrase and it has no verb. There is no "past" or "present" connotation that can be determined by this phrase all by itself. The word, under, is a preposition (tachath) and the verbal "help" (is, was, will be, let) is supplied based on the context, which will be determined by the verb that occurs in the 2nd phrase.

(2) and his right arm embraces me: The word, embrace, is the verb, chAbhaq, and occurs as a piel imperfect. The imperfect tense can be either present action or a "future," anticipated action. It can be either one.

To view it as a simple present, requires that she be thinking of what they did while together during this outing. In other words, while they were together they held each other close in a loving embrace -- and this, she recalls and relates to emphasize her present occupation with him "whom my soul loves," rather than any interest in Solomon. This can also be rendered as an anticipation and desire for the expression of physical affection in the future when they would again be together. In either case, the force is not significantly different. She has enjoyed physical affection with her shepherd lover and anticipates it for the future. Her "love," that is, her affections are directed to the shepherd and not to Solomon, and she rebukes the daughters of Jerusalem for trying to get her interested in Solomon. Thus, the adjuration of verse 7.

(sw)Song 2:7, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, That you will not arouse or awaken {my} love, Until she pleases."

The word, adjure, is an uncommon but proper rendering of the verb, shAbha, which usually means to swear or take an oath. It occurs as a hiphil perfect, first person singular, and is used to make a strong impact on the hearers. With the personal pronoun, you (plural) as the object of the verb, we have the literal translation, "I swear to you." It expresses the idea of putting the hearers under an oath, thus the translation here (adjure), and at verse 8:4 (which is the exact same construction and should not be translated differently) - "I want you to swear." Either one is acceptable, but each of the four occurrences should be translated the same (2:7; 3:5; 5:9; 8:4). The intent is to make the hearers think seriously and take solemn responsibility for the desire they are expressing - to force love upon or from another person.

The mention of the gazelles and the hinds (DOES is better) speaks of the freedom and beauty of love. In this context, one of the underlying principles is that romantic love should be mutual and un-coerced. Thus, the use of these two animals in the Shulamite's adjuration, communicates to the hearers the fact that, no matter how much they are attracted to Solomon, there is no virtue in coaxing and pushing her to express the same feelings.

The phrase, "do not arouse or awaken," communicates the idea of influencing someone's emotions of romantic love to be expressed. It counters the frequent attempt by people to force love out from someone or on to someone.

The word love, is a noun with the definite article (THE love). It refers then, to the IDEA of love and the principle that no love should be forced onto or from another person. The implication made by the NASB and the KJV by adding (although in italics) the possessive pronoun, my, restricts the meaning. Although the Shulamite most certainly has HER own love in mind, she is also speaking in principle to communicate one of the main points of the play.

The daughters of Jerusalem are trying to get the Shulamite to accept Solomon's advances and express her love for him. She says that her "love" is not inclined toward him and should not be stirred up "until it pleases." And of course, it will never be stirred up toward Solomon because she is in love with the shepherd.

The words, arouse and awaken, are the same in the Hebrew (ur), but occur in different stems. Arouse, is a hiphil imperfect and awaken, is a poel imperfect. Hiphil communicates a causative idea and indicates a stirring to activity. The poel is intensive, and is used in the same way. However, when they both occur together, then the poel goes deeper than the action and indicates a stirring of the soul and the emotions.

The phrase, "until she pleases", comes from the verb, chAphåts (qal imperfect, 3fem. sing.), and means to delight or have pleasure in something. The idea of delight here, refers to readiness and volitional compliance.

The reason it is translated, "she," in the NASB, is because the noun, "love," is a feminine form and the pronoun that points back to it will agree in gender. But "love" is an idea and should be referenced by "it" rather than "she." The NIV recognizes this and translates it, "until it so desires." What is really strange is the KJV translation, "til he please," which is totally inconsistent with the grammar. The translation that best expresses the idea here is either "pleases" or "desires."

The first act ends giving the audience a clear picture of the Shulamite's faithfulness to her shepherd lover and her ability to resist the seductive advances of Solomon and the pressure from the women in the harem.

CT: "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and by the does of the field, that you don't arouse or awaken the love, until it desires."



The Nature and Power of Seduction

1. There is an attraction to the material things of this world that Moses viewed as "the passing pleasures of sin," (Heb. 11:25).

2. That does not mean that participation in the material things is sin in and of itself, for in actuality, these "material" things have been provided to us by God for our enjoyment while living in this physical domain (1 Tim. 6:17).

3. But in a physical world where "physical" comforts are important, they can easily become the main focus in life. Mat. 13:22, "the worry of the world" and "the deceitfulness of riches." (Lk. 8:14, riches and pleasures).

4. Jesus taught about this when he said that life does not consist of (ie, revolve around) one's possessions (Luke 12:15).

5. A great challenge to one's value system comes from the lure of physical comfort found through material possessions (Luke 21:34).

6. But that lure brings with it many pitfalls that can actually destroy one's spiritual quality of life.

Paul summarizes these dangers at 1 Timothy 6:9-10. "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into (inner) ruin and (bodily) destruction. For the love of money is a root of all the evils, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many pains."

7. It takes a great deal of integrity to cling to one's moral and spiritual value system in the face of material dependence. The Shulamite woman did just that.

A lesser woman -- the hundreds in similar situations as the Shulamite -- would give in, finding not only material security for life, but the attentions of a very attractive man as well.



1. Seduction is a very real temptation for the moral believer.

A. If the temptation is attractive, it makes it all the more difficult.
B. The key to having a consistent victory over any temptation is a value system that finds no attraction in the temptation.

C. This requires the knowledge of spiritual and moral truths that keep reality under the microscope of Divine viewpoint.

D. In our context, the woman is in love with a man from her home town. She is protected from seduction by others because of that love and because of her occupation with Divine viewpoint.

E. Her love for the shepherd makes the advances of any other man UNATTRACTIVE.

F. Her occupation with divine viewpoint makes the side temptations of wealth and material comforts unattractive.

G. The attitude of contentment, based on occupation with God's character and plan, protects from every type of temptation. Prov. 2:10-14.

H. The Shulamite woman was able to resist the social pressure from the other women because of her mental control. Song 2:7

I. Attacks on the M.A. of contentment are faced daily - and are defeated by keeping one's focus on God's character and plan. Prov. 6:20-23

2. Sexual interactions between men and women are natural and healthy.

A. They fall into two categories: premarital and marital.
(Rape does not qualify as an "interaction.")

B. Premarital interactions fall into categories: courtship and seduction

1. Courtship is normal and to be encouraged.
It is the respectful search for a soul-mate to be one's spouse.
The emphasis is on the soul and not the body.

2. Seduction is self-gratifying and animalistic.
It is the search for physical or mental pleasure at the expense of another person.

3. God has designed a system of morality that not only protects the individuals within the human race, but preserves the overall stability of society as well.

3. God has designed a system of morality that not only protects the individuals within the human race, but preserves the overall stability of society as well.

A. The morality of courtship and marriage revolves around a very solid and wonderful foundation; the foundation of human love. Any culture that de-emphasizes the value of love in marriage relationships, loses both a stabilizing and a happiness factor.

B. That foundation, built with the bricks of a union of SOUL rather than a union of body, cannot be destroyed while that union exists. Song 8:6-7
The sin nature is the enemy of that soul union.


4. There are also subtle attacks that attempt to use that union of soul to undermine the foundation of human love.

A. The biggest attack is that which rationalizes social and moral protocol based on intensity of affection rather than the purity of love. 1 Cor. 7:1-2, 8-9

B. Material needs, health concerns and physical protection are things that can become a reason for the compromise of human love and the divine morality that God has designed.

C. A man or a woman may be tempted to compromise morality in order to protect or provide material needs for the love partner. As noble as that may appear on the surface, it is never the divine viewpoint solution. Sometimes this attack also targets one's family relationship such as in the case of the Shulamite. Song 8:11-12

D. For the believer, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ and we need never fear the physical consequences that may result when we maintain spiritual and moral integrity.

5. If the believer maintains his focus on spiritual and moral integrity, there will be no attraction from the temptations of the world, because they will all fizzle out as UNATTRACTIVE. Heb. 12:26; Philip. 3:7-8

A. The divine value system provides a quality of life (peace, joy and even pleasure) that far exceeds anything this world can offer. Prov. 3:13-18.

B. Solomon could offer the Shulamite nothing that was attractive, because her value system was based on moral and spiritual truth (looking on the INSIDE). Song 8:11-12


Continue to Act II

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