Solomon has a great feast V. 3:6 - 5:1

This is nothing out of the ordinary. In this case, he is using the feast as an occasion to further woo the Shulamite to become his wife.

Solomon is polygamous and seeks to woo as many women as he can. He enters into marriage relationships as a recreational pursuit of his pleasure lust. Ec. 2:8, "I provided for myself . . . the pleasures of men -- many concubines. Many of the marriages were probably for political reasons, but in either case, Solomon was simply pursuing, as he called it, "testing his heart with pleasure," (Ecc. 2:1).

By the end of his life he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Kngs 11:1-3).

At the time of our story, he had 60 queens and 80 concubines and a multitude of maidens (ripe for the picking). Song of Songs 6:8

Scene 1 - Solomon arrives at the palace, Verses 3:6-11

The scene opens with the chorus bringing attention to the arrival of Solomon into the city in festive formality. He has organized a great feast in hopes that it will convince the Shulamite to accept his marriage proposal. During this feast, Solomon will continue to woo her but she will continue to soliloquize about her shepherd lover and reject Solomon's advances. As he comes into the city, he is wearing his "wedding" crown which his mother gave to him, apparently at the time of his first marriage. Apparently, he has continued to use the same crown for the other 59 weddings and intends to turn this feast into wedding celebration number 61.

(chorus) verses 6-11

Song 3:6, "What (NASB) is this coming up from the wilderness Like columns of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all scented powders of the merchant?

The word WHAT is the interrogative pronoun, miy, which is usually used for a person. "It is rarely used of things, and usually where persons are understood or implied" (Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, page 566). This then, suggests the translation, "WHO is this," especially since the word THIS is a feminine demonstrative pronoun. For that reason, some commentators have felt the necessity to apply it to the Shulamite woman, and translate the interrogative pronoun as WHO (as with most translations). However a demonstrative pronoun will agree with its antecedent in number and gender, and in the Hebrew, gender is not simply a matter of female and male, but of word formation. There are many nouns that are feminine in form, and not because there is some "female" idea associated with it. In the case before us, the noun that THIS refers to is the traveling couch of verse 7. The word for couch is mittAh, and is a feminine noun. Accordingly it is quite appropriate, although rare, to translate the interrogative pronoun (miy) as WHAT (with the NASB translation), rather than WHO. Another reason for suggesting this understanding, is once again, the overall context that would make it quite out of place for the Shulamite to be a bride coming into town with Solomon. In further support of this, it should be noted that nowhere in this section (verses 6-11) is there a focus on anyone other than Solomon himself, and the "columns of smoke" mentioned in verse 6, certainly applies more to observing the arrival of a retinue rather than a person.

However, there is the mention of the many perfumes associated with this observation FROM A DISTANCE, which might suggest, again, a reference to a woman. But this observation is probably concessive on the part of the observers since they were seeing it off in the distance, and it would be a known fact that the traveling couch of Solomon would indeed be smothered in the specified perfumes and spices.

Song 3:7 "Behold, it is the {traveling} couch of Solomon; Sixty mighty men around it, Of the mighty men of Israel.

Song 3:8 "All of them are wielders of the sword, Expert in war; Each man has his sword at his side, {Guarding} against the terrors of the night.

His arrival into the city is as formal as it can be, with his special perfumed traveling couch and the retinue of soldiers.

Song 3:9 "King Solomon has made for himself a sedan chair From the timber of Lebanon.

Song 3:10 "He made its posts of silver, Its back of gold {And} its seat of purple fabric, {With} its interior lovingly fitted out By the daughters of Jerusalem.

His traveling couch was made from the best wood available and decorated by the daughters of Jerusalem (the maidens without number of verse 6:8).

Song 3:11 "Go forth, O daughters of Zion, And gaze on King Solomon with the crown With which his mother has crowned him On the day of his wedding, And on the day of his gladness of heart."

The festive occasion is advertised to the people of Jerusalem so they can bask in Solomon's glory and honor him as their king.

It seems that this announcement is formal and would be given to the city as a whole by a traveling messenger. Although this is a minor issue, I suggest that the formal invitation is simply echoed by the chorus as they relate the scene of Solomon's arrival into town.

Scene 2 - Solomon continues to woo the Shulamite at the feast

Verses 4:1 - 5:1

The scene opens at the feast. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary agrees with the location, "the place of the conversation is, as verse 1 shows, the marriage hall," (page 1196). The guests are either mingling or are actually gathered around the table as Solomon begins his public wooing of the Shulamite. He draws attention to her physical beauty and then invites her to join him on a wedding trip to Lebanon (V. 8). The Shulamite will once again reject Solomon's advances and call out in soliloquy for her beloved shepherd to come to her.

(sol) Verses 1-5

Solomon describes her physical beauty in non-intimate sexual language. He uses common imagery of the day to extol her and hopefully win her affections by his enthrallment with her beauty. I also suggest that he is simply using empty flattery in an attempt to convince her of his affection.

By way of comparison, refer to chapter 7:1-9a, where Solomon is describing one of his queens and uses a much more intimate sexual language toward her.

Song 4:1

1. How beautiful you are, my darling, How beautiful you are:

Repetition for emphasis as he begins to detail her physical appearance by referencing her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, mouth, temples, neck, and breasts.


Your eyes are {like} doves behind your veil: The mention of the veil certainly supports the idea that this is in a public gathering. It was common for the unmarried women to wear veils in public, and there is no necessity to make this a marriage veil that a bride would wear. Apparently, this veil covers the upper part of the face only, for Solomon is able to see clearly enough to describe in detail the facial features below her eyes. From beneath the veil, her eyes remind him of the pleasant softness and color of doves eyes.


Your hair is like a flock of goats That have descended from Mount Gilead.

Imagine the spreading out a flock of goats as they descend from a narrow mountain pathway into a valley. So do the strands of her hair, descending from her head, cover her shoulders and back.

Song 4:2, TEETH

Your teeth are like a flock of {newly} shorn ewes Which have come up from {their} washing, All of which bear twins, And not one among them has lost her young.

Smooth and bright and none are missing.

Song 4:3,

1. LIPS: Your lips are like a scarlet thread.

However slight, the lips stand out from the rest of the face as a narrow strand of color. This too, Solomon uses as an occasion to praise her beauty.

2. MOUTH: And your mouth is lovely.

The word, lovely, is nAweh, as at verse 1:5, and simply means that it is attractive or pleasant to look upon.

3. TEMPLES: Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate

Behind your veil.
The slight indentation of the temples is still quite distinct from beneath the veil and Solomon finds it yet another feature to praise as he seeks to captivate this woman's fancy.

Song 4:4, NECK

Your neck is like the tower of David built with rows of stones, on which are hung a thousand shields, all the round shields of the mighty men.

A local landmark that comes to Solomon's mind as he seeks to "pour it on."

Song 4:5. BREASTS

Your two breasts are like two fawns, Twins of a gazelle, Which feed among the lilies.

This seems to be simply a recognition of her female symmetry. Again, it is far different than the intimate sexual language Solomon uses with the queen at verse 7:7-8.

At this point, it seems that Solomon is interrupted by more soliloquy from the Shulamite.

(sw)Song 4:6 "Until the cool of the day When the shadows flee away, I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.

Again, she desires to be somewhere else. She wants to get away from Solomon and find a place of comfort and security. The words mountain and hill speak of such security, and based on our overall context, it seems reasonable that she is again thinking of the presence of the shepherd.

(sol)Verses 7-15

Song 4:7 "You are altogether beautiful, my darling, And there is no blemish in you.

Solomon continues where he left off with a general statement that basically says, "you are perfect in beauty."

And then, since he perceived her desire to leave, invites her to go with him on a wedding excursion.

Song 4:8 "{Come} with me from Lebanon, {my} bride, May you come with me from Lebanon. Journey down from the summit of Amana, From the summit of Senir and Hermon, From the dens of lions, From the mountains of leopards.

Here he invites her to join him as his wife and go to Lebanon where they will "honeymoon" and enjoy some of the extravagant sites of his kingdom.

The use of the term, "bride" is the terminology of intent rather than the actual fact of the situation, and is quite presumptuous of him. Notice that at verses 2:10-14, when the shepherd talks to the Shulamite, he does not use the presumptuous term bride, even though the two of them share a mutual romantic attraction. It is obvious that she has consistently rejected his advances and continues to do so at this present time.

The significance of "from" Lebanon is easily understood by the geography of the region and is amply explained by Keil and Delitzsch as follows: "He seeks her to go with him up the steep heights of Lebanon; for while ascending the mountain one has no view before him, but when descending he has the whole panorama of the surrounding region lying at his feet."

Song 4:9 "You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, {my} bride; You have made my heart beat faster with a single {glance} of your eyes, With a single strand of your necklace.

He is really excited - thinking that she has expressed interest in leaving with him, but he is still ignoring the reality of her words.
The use of the term SISTER in a romantic context, is not unusual in this culture. In fact, it communicates an aspect of intimacy (friendship and closeness) that would only be experienced by a brother - or a lover.

As the NASB indicates, there is not a second MY in the construction, and it should read, "my sister-bride" each of the three times it occurs.

In verses 10-15, he intensifies his praise of her beauty and uses sexual imagery that honors her virginity and his desire to love her.

Song 4:10 "How beautiful is your love, my sister-bride! How much better is your love than wine, And the fragrance of your oils Than all {kinds} of spices!

More flattery that assures her how highly he thinks of her affections that could be shown to him.

Song 4:11 "Your lips, {my} bride, drip honey; Honey and milk are under your tongue, And the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

He tells her that loving her would be wonderful.

Song 4:12 "A garden locked is my sister-bride, A rock garden locked, a spring sealed up.

This image speaks of virginity, but it also speaks of great sexual potential. The garden locked (virginity) is still a garden of wonderful promise. The spring sealed up is still a potential of bliss for the one who unseals it.

Song 4:13 "Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates With choice fruits, henna with nard plants,

The "shoots" refers to that which springs forth from the garden soil, and together with what follows, ascribe the greatest natural beauty to the Shulamite woman and speaks of the wonderful pleasures available to the one whom she loves.

Song 4:14 Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, With all the trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.
Song 4:15 " {You are} a garden spring, A well of fresh water, And streams {flowing} from Lebanon."

The waters flow down rapidly from the slopes of Lebanon and are constantly fresh and bubbling. These images are common expressions of sexual pleasure and can be found again at Proverbs 5:15-18. Keil and Delitzsch think that "all these figures understood sensuously would be insipid," but I disagree as Solomon has reached the point in his continued praise and wooing of this woman, that he now speaks of the intimacy of his anticipated marriage and the pleasures of that intimacy.

The Shulamite is well aware of her own beauty and well aware of the joys and pleasures of the married life. However, she is totally unresponsive to Solomon and his ever-increasing intimacy of speech. The audience too, is well into the mood as they observe Solomon's advances in this wedding-feast context.

Next, we hear the Shulamite soliloquizing toward her shepherd lover as she desires the beauty of her "garden" to be wafted abroad. She is not expressing herself toward Solomon. He has already recognized and praised her beauty. She wants her garden to be made available to the shepherd; she wants to be with him. She says, "May he come into his garden," to indicate her desire to have him with her. This does not refer to sexual activity, but to physical presence.

(sw)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!"

Upon this, Solomon, still oblivious to her rejection, says, "I have come." He uses the same expression, "come into," and it should be obvious that sexual activity is not involved. Rather, it simply indicates physical presence. Solomon says, "I am here, in answer to your plea.

(sol)Song 5:1

1. "I have come into my garden, my sister, {my} bride; I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk."

Solomon really becomes presumptuous with these words and although this language sounds like someone who has actually partaken of the delights of the garden, as in sexual activity between Solomon and the Shulamite, I trust that my development of the context thus far has made such an occurrence highly unlikely. There is absolutely no way that Solomon has had sex with the Shulamite. Accordingly, it seems more likely that he is laying claim to the Shulamite as "my garden" and is basically saying that he has seen all her delights (her physical attributes) and has embraced them with his senses, and is inviting her to join with him in the physical pleasures of married sex. His presumption is seen in the terms, "my garden," "my sister, bride," for these assume a reciprocity from the Shulamite that simply does not exist. Accordingly, we can imagine her becoming quite upset with these words, to such an extent that it causes a brief disruption in the feast. Everyone stops eating to gaze upon this woman who has consistently verbalized her indifference toward Solomon and has now visibly expressed her anger at his words. Accordingly, Solomon pleads with the guests to continue eating and enjoying the feast.

2. Eat, friends; Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers."

The word for friends is, rāa, and refers to companions and associates. The word for lovers is, dōd, and refers to more intimate relationships such as family members. It would better be translated as loved ones.

After Solomon encourages the guests to continue in the festivities, act 3 ends. The curtain falls and the audience is left once again with the clear impression that the Shulamite has successfully resisted the temptation of Solomon's advances.

Continue to Act IV

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