The Believer’s Love Book
Dr. George Mair, Specialist in General Surgery at Toronto, Canada, directs our attention in these new articles to values greater than that of wealth or health. There will be three article in this series by this “beloved physician.” Be sure to read them all.
“The song of songs, which is Solomon’s. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (S. of Sol. 1:1-2). The Song of Solomon is obviously a love story and being an Eastern love story some parts of it are so direct that they almost offend our Western sensitivities. Many have wondered why it was ever included in the Bible, and the question has been raised, “Is it inspired?”
What Is Its Message?
Through the ages, and even today, the rabbis have viewed the Song of Solomon as showing the love between Jehovah and Israel. In fact, this is a common theme in the Old Testament — Jehovah the husband of Israel. For instance, Isaiah 62:5 reads: “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” And in Jeremiah 2:2 it is recorded: “Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.” However, the book that really deals with this theme is Hosea, and this is why God referred to Israel’s idolatry as adultery. In Hosea 2:2 it is revealed that He divorces her for a time, when He says: “Contend with your mother, contend; for she is not My wife, neither am I her husband,” but in verse 14, 15 and 19 He says: “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness .. . I will give her vineyards there. And the Valley of Achor for a door of hope … and I will betroth thee unto Me forever.”
In our day, it is all a picture of the Lord and His bride — the Church.
What Is Its Story?
The Song of Solomon is a series of poems and, as you might imagine, it is not always easy to discern a story in poems. Yet there must be a story in it.
Some time ago a German scholar named Ewald suggested that the Shulamite had fallen in love with a shepherd, but that Solomon saw her and tried to win her. However, she was true to her lover and finally he had to let her go. It is to be wondered if Ewald, who has been called the “father of higher criticism,” ever had the spiritual insight to understand such a devotional book. Also, this would make Solomon a villain, yet so often, especially in the Psalms, he is a type of Christ in His millennial splendor. It just isn’t like Scripture to mix such illustrations.
The story goes like this:
Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon and leased it to keepers (S. of Sol. 8:11). Baal-hamon is north of Jerusalem in Ephraim. The family seems to have consisted of a mother, sons, and perhaps two daughters. Since the father is not mentioned, the mother may have been a widow, and as the word “children” should be translated sons (1:6), they may have been the Shulamite’s stepbrothers, for they were obviously unkind to her. They made her look after the lambs and kids as well as the vineyard (1:6-8), and she was evidently out in all kinds of weather, for she says: “Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me” (1:6). She had neglected her appearance because she never had time, saying: “My own vineyard have I not kept” (1:6).
Solomon said that there was nothing new under the sun, and how right he was, for here we have a Bible “Cinderella story.”
To continue the story, one day a stranger came along. It was Solomon, perhaps inspecting his vineyards incognito, and surely it is to him she speaks in verse 6. They fall in love, and when he goes away again he doesn’t tell her who he is or where he’s going. She thinks he’s a shepherd, and asks: “Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon … ?” (1:7), but he doesn’t tell her and asks her to trust him and wait (1:8).
In the subsequent chapters they meet from time to time and enjoy each other’s company. He promises one day to come and make her his bride. No doubt she told all of this to her family and the country people, only to become the object of their laughter.
Don’t people laugh at us when we tell them that the Lord is coming back again? Peter reminds us that there will be scoffers, saying: “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).
Then one day he came to claim his bride. ‘“ Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness … Behold his bed (travelling litter or bridal car, this obviously being a military procession), which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel … Go forth O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon with the crown with which his mother crowned him in the days of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart” (3:6-11).
Indeed, this is the greatest love story of all time, and I like the surprise and joy of the Shulamite on that day and the happiness of Solomon. We readily think of the fact that Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. One day He will present His bride before a wondering world and universe.
What Does It Teach?
At the Lord’s Supper we often use the Song of Solomon to express the Church’s appreciation of the Saviour: “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand” (5:10), but the book also tells us what the Lord thinks of the Church and what He’d really like the Church to be.
In 4:1-7, in Solomon’s sevenfold description of the Shulamite, we also see the Church.
Eyes. “Thou hast doves’ eyes” (4:1). The dove was the bird of innocence and sacrifice; its eyes are gentle, submissive, and pure. When Noah, released the dove from the ark it returned because it would not, unlike the raven, live on dead bodies, of which there would have been plenty. Do we feed on the filth all around us in the world today, or have we eyes only for what is wholesome?
Hair. “Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Mount Gilead” (4:1). These goats were Syrian goats with beautiful long black, soft, silky hair. A woman’s hair is her glory and she (who represents the Church) covers it in the presence of her husband (who represents Christ). Do we hold that which is our glory (e.g., wealth, skill, even beauty) subject to His will and available for His use?
Teeth. “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing, of which every one beareth twins, and none is barren among them” (4:2). The Shulamite’s teeth were white and even, twins speaking of the two sets, and there were no gaps for none were barren. Teeth are for chewing, and the Lord sees His Church as a body of people in an indifferent world who feed upon His Word and are capable of digesting it.
Lips. “Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely” (4:3). Scarlet, like Rahab’s scarlet cord, would speak of blood, suggesting salvation. The Church’s speech is comely when it speaks of Christ and His salvation.
Mind. “Thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks” (4:3). Pomegranates speak of fruitfulness, and our thoughts are fruitful when they dwell on Christ and work for Him.
Neck. “Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armory, on which there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men” (4:4). How strange to describe a woman’s neck like this! The Shulamite could hold her head high; she had done nothing to be ashamed of. Can we do the same? Certainly we need not fear judgment, but will we have cause to be ashamed at His coming?
Love. “Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies” (4:5). When the Lord looks on this scene He sees a group of people who love Him, and this, midst a world that hates Him and blasphemes His holy Name.
And so the Bridegroom says in 4:7: “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.” Here, He is speaking of our position before Him in grace, yet don’t you feel that we are given this description as a standard to aim in our daily conduct and conversation?