Beloved: 1:2-4: The bride expresses her desire for the love of her husband, as it is physically expressed to her (chambers is the term for bedroom). She finds his presence and love enjoyable, and the admiration of other women for him not a threat to her relationship but the confirmation of the desirability of her husband.
- The principle of enjoyment of the spouse:
The example of the Shulammite shows that the woman of God is in the will of God in being passionate for her husband and enjoying the love of her husband.
Contrast the Misery of Counterfeit Love!
(Source: the oral teaching of Barbara Cook: expanded in her book, Love and Its Counterfeits)
These are the characteristics of counterfeit love. It is the type of infatuation and wrong direction that involve women in destructive and immoral relationships with men. Contrast these with the enjoyment of the spouse throughout the Song of Songs.
- You have given another person power over your emotions.
- You have given away control of your identity to another person.
- You have violated your moral standards and beliefs.
- You have assisted another person in the continuance of a destructive behavior by allowing that person to escape the destructive consequences of that behavior.
- You have been victimized, manipulated or used.
- You have submitted to treatment that makes you feel worthless, treatment that ignores your God-given human value and right to respect.
- You have been refusing to take a serious look at reality.
- You have repeatedly endangered your physical health and safety and endangered your life.
It is important for a husband to know that he pleases his wife, and that she wants him because she finds him desirable (not because she is “stuck with him,” or because “no one else would have him”). Love is based upon choice, and although you may be certain that he made the best choice in choosing you, your husband needs to know that you believe that you made the right choice in choosing him in return.
1. Let your husband hear you express for him how you enjoy his expression of love to you and how you enjoy being with him.
2. Express to him that he is a desirable man, and that you made the right choice when you married him. If you do not feel that you did so, consider your relationship in the light of Romans 8:28-30. Wrong choices in entering marriage can become right ones in the bond of marriage.
3. For those not yet married, do not be satisfied with someone with whom you are not in spiritual and moral harmony in following Christ, and for whom you do not have admiration as a person and passion as someone of the opposite sex.
Friends: 1:4b: the friends of the bride express their approval of the husband and his romantic expression toward his wife. The identity of these friends is not always clear throughout the Song of Songs. Perhaps they were the young women of Jerusalem who had befriended the bride of Solomon. They might not have been other women of the harem but other women of the household: the sisters and nieces of Solomon as well as other young women of the Israelite/Jerusalem court.
- The principle of positive support from friends for a good and sound married life, especially from others in the body of Christ
This is the reflection of the true love of Christ in them: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (I Corinthians 13:6).
Each wife should choose close friends who also admire her husband, and avoid those who denigrate him. This includes approval of their romantic side of their marital relationship.
1. Determine, moreover, to speak highly of your husband to other women, and to avoid discussion of anything that annoys you about him with others.
2. Moreover, have friends who speak positively of your husband in particular and who avoid denigrating men in general. Sometimes women’s conversations turn into the sharing of complaints about husbands, even of grumbles of lack of romantic fulfillment.
3. Therefore, if you find your desire for your husband lacking, consider whether you have been accepting denigrating evaluations from others about him, or passing them on in conversations with other women.
Beloved: 1:4c-7: Though the women of Jerusalem have befriended Solomon’s new bride, they stare at her, perhaps wondering what it was that Solomon saw in her. She then gives her response. Apparently her marriage to Solomon was something of a “Cinderella story.”
The Shulammite then corroborates her friends’ approval of her husband, and explains her kind of physical beauty. She is still such a new bride that her tan from her premarital life and family/vocational responsibility has not faded. (Tents of Kedar: the Bedouin tents made of black goat hair).Her tan means that she does not measure up to the cultural standard of white skin for feminine beauty, but it is the mark that she has been a working woman and not an idle woman who could feed her own vanity. She is separated from her husband who is at present fulfilling his responsibilities as king (shepherd was a metaphor for kings, and speaking of him as grazing his flocks and resting them would be a natural extension of that metaphor to his leadership responsibilities as king). She is wearing her wedding veil, and playfully wonders why he should prefer to be where he is rather than with her. The Hebrew of verse 7 is more definite than “you whom I love”: rather, it is “you whom my soul loves.” The addition of “my soul” indicates that this is more than a physical attraction but a regard for the total person and a response from the total person.
- The principle of the longing for each other’s presence
“[Love] always hopes” (I Corinthians 13:7).
1. Let your husband know that you anticipate eagerly his return home from work every day. What steps can you take to express this? Could you take a few minutes to spruce yourself up before his return if you need to?
2. What do you do to make being home with you more enjoyable than being at work?
Friends: 1:8: her friends playfully suggest that she go to his place of responsibility and make an appearance to satisfy her curiosity.
The principle of positive advice from friends
Seek friends who encourage you to take an active interest in your husband and who approve the romantic side of your relationship. If there is visible envy or undue embarrassment at a loving marriage, avoid their advice, especially if there are attempts to pass on unscriptural inhibitions and hang-ups to you.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
Lover: 1:9-10: the husband speaks; apparently she has just arrived from the judgment hall of the palace from the women’s quarters (the harem), where she has gone to seek him. He calls her by a name of endearment (darling), and admires her beauty immediately by an apparently flattering and witty metaphor. The mare among (not harnessed to) Pharaoh’s chariots would naturally be exciting to the war stallions who normally drew the chariots. Apparently this is a way to describe the exciting effect upon the court the appearance of his bride has upon all.
Next, Solomon notices her jewelry, and thinks of more that he would like to see her wear. Notice that when he speaks to her, she has his entire attention even in that place of great distraction and responsibility.
- The principle of full and immediate attention to the partner
One of the key things for a man to learn in communication with a woman is to give her his undivided attention. This is a part of the expression of the love of Christ to her, since,“[Love] is not rude . . .” (I Corinthians 13:5).
1. Give your wife have your full and immediate attention when you return from work, as soon as you can, and when you speak to her when you are together in public. If she has taken special effort to make herself presentable to you, notice and compliment her.
2. Do you call her by endearing names?
3. Do you notice if she changes her hair style or anything else in her appearance to make herself more attractive to you? Do you compliment her taste in clothes and jewelry? Is there ever anything that you buy for her or take a special effort to show her because you “would like to see her in it”?
4. For men contemplating marriage: learning how to communicate is part of learning to “push the right buttons.” Learning how to listen and give your attention to a woman who is a marital prospect is one of the most genuine demonstrations of love that you can give. Practice this with the women in general that you meet so that you can give it entirely to the one woman in particular who will be your own.
Beloved: 1:12-14: apparently they have entered the bed chamber and are together on the bed (the bedroom is called the banquet hall in 2:4 and the table the bed for their “feast of love” as their time of romantic and sexual indulgence shall be described elsewhere throughout the Song). The metaphors delicately describe her responses to him without being overly graphic. En Gedi was an oasis on the shore of the Dead Sea.
The principle of privacy: this is necessary within the limits of good sense and consideration toward others, as well as the spouse. “[Love] always protects” (I Corinthians 13:7).
Lover: 1:15: he begins his admiration of her beauty with her eyes. One can imagine them sitting on the side of the bed or lying beside each other on the bed and gazing into each other’s eyes as he speaks. Although he will soon describe his admiration of all his wife’s physical features in detail, he begins modestly, to build up gradually to his admiration of her body (one of the most appealing creations of God to him).
- The principle of expressing admiration
FLATTERY IS INSINCERE, BUT A GENUINE COMPLIMENT SHOWS GENUINE LOVE. (It is interesting that Proverbs, also from Solomon, has so much to say about true and false praise of another person, whether in or out of the marital relationship.)
Charlie W. Shedd, Letters to Philip, p. 31: “IF YOU LIKE IT, SAY SO!”
1. Part of the admiration of a woman’s beauty involves describing what you find appealing, and longing, loving gazes into each other’s eyes. Do you spend time looking lovingly into your wife’s eyes? Do you describe what you find appealing about her? Can you start with her face?
2. For men preparing for marriage: learn how to give genuine, tactful, tasteful compliments.
Beloved: 1:16: she echoes his admiration of her with her admiration of him. She then describes their bed as verdant (Hebrew green). This is probably not a reference to an actual color but a use which means rather fresh. Not only did they admire each other, but the bedroom and the bed itself was an inviting place for them.
- The principle of response
Do you echo back your admiration of your husband when he compliments you, or do you accept it in silence or with courteous thanks? If he speaks to you courteously and romantically, do you express your enjoyment of his verbal lovemaking?
- The principle of the inviting love nest
Compared to the security and morality of marital sexuality, premarital and extramarital sexuality runs a poor second. What excitement there often comes from the sexual risk taking, the sexual competition, the sexual conquest and the sexual exploitation. What is described here is what is missed in premarital, extramarital sexuality: a safe haven for mutual enjoyment and satisfaction.
Lover: 1:17: the husband remarks on their bedchamber. Apparently he had spent some time and expense to make it a special and private place for their intimate moments.
1. For married men: One place not to skimp on expenses is the bedroom, to make it a private and inviting place. Have you invested in good quality furniture, bedding, etc.? Have you taken the steps to insure your privacy, i.e., a lock on the door (especially if there are small children in the family), curtains, etc.?
2. For unmarried men: privacy is part of intimacy. Security is important to long-term intimacy. Learn and work to be able to provide both.
Reading assignment: Read through the Song of Solomon in a translation different from that which you normally read.
All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.