The Word Made Fresh
1Solomon’s Song of Songs:
2“Kiss me. Kiss my lips,
for your love is better than wine.
3Your anointing oils are fragrant
and your name is like perfume filling the air.
That is why all the maidens love you.
4Take me with you, and let’s hurry,
for the king has brought me into his bedroom.
We rejoice in you in exultation
and praise your love more than wine;
that is why they all love you.
5I am dark and lovely, daughters of Jerusalem,
dark and lovely like the tents of Kedar
and the curtains in Solomon’s chambers.
6Don’t stare at me because I am dark.
I am dark because the sun has looked upon me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
and made me tend the vineyards.
But my own vineyard is untended.
7Tell me where you graze your flocks,
you whom my soul loves.
Tell me where you make them lie down at noon.
Why should I be hidden from your flocks
and those of your friends?”
8“You are the most beautiful of all the girls.
If you don’t know where to pasture your own kids,
graze them beside the shepherds’ tents.
9You, my love, are lovely as a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
10Your face is adorned with jewelry,
your neck draped with strings of valuable stones.
11We will fashion ornaments of gold for you,
ornaments of gold studded with silver.”
12“The fragrance of my perfumes surrounded the king
while he lay on his couch.
13My lover is like a bag of myrrh between my breasts.
14He is like a cluster of henna blossoms
from the gardens of En-gedi.”
15“You are beautiful, my love.
You are beautiful. Your eyes are like doves.
16You are beautiful, truly beautiful,
reclining on our green couch
17beneath the cedar beams and pine rafters of our house.”
1: Solomon is said to have composed 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32). The Song of Solomon is a lyrical romantic poem which tells the story of a love affair between a man and a woman, consisting of several encounters described unabashedly. God is never mentioned in the book, a troubling fact it shares with the book of Esther. But while in Esther God is standing just off stage, in the Song of Solomon God’s presence is not as readily sensed. Still, God, the author of life and creator of human beings, male and female, looks out from between the lines.
There is no escaping the fact that the Song of Songs is a rather erotic poem, and the edification of the believer is not uppermost in the mind of the author. It is a frank presentation of human romantic imagination. Erotic as it may be, it is unarguably and thoroughly grounded in an understanding of how God made us. As such, it is a welcome antidote to the cynicism of Ecclesiastes.
2-4: Some have interpreted the Song of Songs as an allegory celebrating the love affair between God and Israel; or, as in medieval times, between Christ and the Church. Others have noted that there are more verses for the woman’s voice than for the man, leading them to ponder whether the poem could be the composition of a woman, or perhaps a collaborative effort. Verse 4 puts the setting of the encounter within the king’s palace, identifying the couple as a royal pair.
5-8: On the other hand, she is presented as a dark-skinned keeper of vineyards and he a shepherd rather than a king. Perhaps in their culture everyone perceived their lover to be a king or queen much as our own culture speaks of a “knight in shining armor.” In any case the plot is quickly established; she is seeking to arrange a tryst.
9-11: He compares his lover to a mare in Pharaoh’s stalls, meaning a very fine horse indeed, but hardly flattering to a modern girl. He plies her with jewelry, an approach as ancient as men and women.
12-14: Using highly suggestive and inviting language she describes their meeting. En-gedi could be a number of places, but the name itself simply means a spring or perhaps an oasis and is likely to be intended as a reference to such a spot in the southern desert not too far from Jerusalem. Nard and myrrh were used in perfumes. Myrrh is specifically mentioned as part of the ritual of a woman preparing for lovemaking with her husband (Esther 2:12).
15-17: He in turn compliments her beauty. It seems they are in an outdoor setting, upon a couch of green grass with cedar and pine boughs above them.
Chapter 1 immediately moves to the attraction between a particular man and woman, and although it is apparently referring to a royal couple it is a description that may well apply to any pair of lovers.