As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. — Song of Solomon 2:3
As children, many of us heard fairy tales which featured a prince falling in love with a beautiful princess, overcoming obstacles to win her hand in marriage, and the two of them living happily ever after. However, love is more than just a fairy tale! Devotion and true love between a man and a woman can be a reality, and when it exists, it creates a bond that grows stronger with time.
Over twenty-five years ago I attended one of our church dedications. During the day, many of the young people gathered in a field outside the cabins where we were staying. One young lady in this group stood out to me. I was a shy individual and found it hard to converse with people I didn’t know, but later that evening, as we sat in the swings, the two of us started to talk. We shared opinions and thoughts, and began to get acquainted. Though we did not date until five or six months later, a longing to be with her started to develop in me. By the end of the year, even though we lived about a four-hour drive apart, we were seeing each other regularly, and it wasn’t long before we realized we were in love. Eventually that lovely lady became my wife, and we now have four wonderful children.
Were there romantic “sparks” in the early years of our relationship? Yes there were. Are we still deeply in love now? We certainly are! After more than twenty-four years of marriage, my wife and I still prefer each other’s company to anyone else’s. Sometimes I have gone to the airport to meet her after she has been away for a while. As the passengers disembark and start coming through the gate, I watch for her. Dozens of people pass by but I pay little attention to them. However, when I spot my wife, see her face light up with a smile, and she steps into my embrace, my world once again seems complete.
In today’s text, we find a beautiful description of a relationship between a man and a woman that was alive with passion and love. The Shulamite maiden regarded her beloved as unique and desirable — as our focus verses reveals, he was the one who claimed her attention in the crowd.
True and committed love between a man and a woman is becoming less and less common in our society today. Relationships commonly fizzle out and ultimately dissolve. In fact, many people even regard marriage as little more than a temporary social agreement. However, love and romance still exist. Faithful and committed love is still possible! Perhaps the Song of Solomon was placed in the Word of God to prove just that.
God’s Word makes it clear that marriage is of divine origin and is a holy and binding covenant. Unchanging commitment, devotion, and faithfulness to one’s spouse still is possible in our day, and that is God’s intention for those who unite in marriage.
The first two chapters of Song of Solomon describe the Shulamite’s arrival at the king’s summer home, the first visit of the king, and the Shulamite’s memories of a visit by her beloved.
Verse 1 of the first chapter lets us know that of the one thousand or more songs by or about King Solomon (see 1 Kings 4:32), this song perhaps was the greatest.
In the next two verses, as the Shulamite maiden arrived at the summer home of the king, she recounted memories of her shepherd’s love. Her heart was filled with longing for him, and she referred to their love being better than wine. While verse 4 implies that wine can be memorable, the effects of true love are far more lasting.
Verses 4–8 are an exchange between the Shulamite and the “daughters of Jerusalem” (members of the king’s harem). Then the king appeared on the scene (verses 9–11), paying the young woman a compliment on her beauty and grace by comparing her to one of his steeds. She seemingly shrank from the king’s advances, letting him know that she loved another. (References in these chapters to “my beloved” always refer to the Shulamite’s shepherd lover, and offer indicators throughout the text as to the proper interpretation of the dialogues.)
In Song of Solomon 1:15–17, and 2:1–7, Solomon continued to attempt to woo the young woman, but she responded by restating her longing for her absent lover. She then requested that the women of the harem bring her “flagons” (cakes of raisins and citron) as she felt in need of reviving.
In 2:8–14, the Shulamite addressed the court women who were trying to convince her to respond to the king’s wooing, telling them of the beginnings of her love relationship with the shepherd. She compared her absent lover to a “bundle of myrrh” (verse 13), alluding to a scent bag that women of that region wore from a cord suspended around their necks. The Shulamite recalled the words of the shepherd as he urged her to come away with him — words which used the beauty of nature and the awakening spring season to portray the shepherd’s love for the Shulamite.
Then the young woman shared her response to her lover’s entreaty (verses 15 -17). Commentators differ on the meaning of the description of the “little foxes” that spoil the vines. This may have referred to a minor disagreement between the Shulamite and her shepherd lover; other sources suggest that this passage recounts the response of the woman’s brothers, who instructed her to go to the vineyard to catch the foxes in order to forestall any further meeting between the Shulamite and the shepherd. Based upon the interpretation of verse 15, verses 16 -17 either describe the lovers’ reunion after the quarrel, or the maiden’s reply to her brothers.
I. Introduction (1:1)
II. The Shulamite’s longing for her beloved (1:2-4a)
III. The initial meetings (1:4b — 2:7)
A. Meeting of the Shulamite and the daughters of Jerusalem (1:4b-8)
B. Meeting of the Shulamite and the king (1:9 — 2:7)
1. The king’s compliments (1:9-11)
2. The Shulamite’s refusal (1:12-14)
3. The king presses his case (1:15 — 2:2)
4. The Shulamite references her true love (2:3-4)
C. The Shulamite’s plea to the daughters of Jerusalem (2:5-7)
IV. Memories of the shepherd’s visit (2:8-17)
A. His approach (2:8-9)
B. His appeal (2:10-14)
C. Her response (2:15-17)
In spite of being wooed by the king, the Shulamite’s heart and thoughts were fixed upon her beloved shepherd. What an example of the strength of love and commitment which can exist between two individuals!