First Soliloquy of the Lover: a Pattern of Gentle, Tactful Wooing: 4:1-15:
This is a scene of sexual arousal. It happens within the bonds of marriage, and is therefore in line with the purpose of God for the way in which he has made men and women to respond to each other.
Solomon begins his soliloquy with the admiration of the beauty of his bride. He admires:
- In verse 1: the softness of her eyes (the comparison is to the common wood pigeon)
- In verse 1: the beauty of her black hair (goats in the Middle East are usually black)
- In verse 2: her perfect white teeth (unusual in an era before dentists)
- In verse 3: the appeal of her mouth (red with lip coloring)
- In verse 3: her forehead under her veil (olive skinned and tanned like the skin of a pomegranate). Note here also her wearing the veil (or rather, headdress or “hair covering” ) of a married woman. This further confirms the legal marriage of the man and the woman here.
- In verse 4: her neck with a necklace of teardrop shaped plates of silver (looking like a tower hung with shields).
- In verse 5: he continues with his admiration of more intimate features of her body.
Note that he begins with his gaze into her eyes, and begins to describe her beauty from her face downward. In the privacy of the bedroom then he begins to describe the beauty of her body whose modesty is normally shielded by clothes.
The graphic sensuality and sexuality of this chapter is fatal to the allegorical view of the Song of Songs as a depiction of the love of Christ and his church. The love of Christ and his people is not of this nature. Note also the visual arousal of the man by seeing his wife. Here the way in which he has been created to experience his arousal finds its fulfillment. She is God’s masterpiece for his private admiration and enjoyment (as he is for her also).
In verse 6 Solomon signals that he is willing for this time of intimacy to last all night. In verse 7 , moreover, with the eyes of love, he sees no flaw in her. All this is noteworthy for its gentleness, delicacy and care with which he deals with his bride.
Solomon may well have been in his thirties during the time that this was supposed to have taken place. The Shulammite bride may have only been in her early to mid teens — the usual age for women to be married among the ancient Israelites.Thus, the Song of Songs depicts his wisdom, delicacy and tact in dealing with a beautiful teenage bride. The possible age difference seems strange to a modern reader, but it would have not been unusual in the Biblical era. It does demonstrate the kind of masculine gentleness and tenderness which a husband can imitate just as well with a woman more his age, as is more usual in our day and age.
In verse 8 Solomon gives an invitation to his bride which is admittedly difficult to interpret. Since the areas which he refers to were forested areas with wild animals, it could be a playful way of saying, “Come to me, you wild country woman.”
In verses 9-11 Solomon goes on to declare his romantic infatuation with his bride. Much has been written about the pitfalls of infatuation by evangelical writers, but one thing is clear here: its existence within the bonds of marriage is in line with God’s purpose.
Verses 12-15 are Solomon’s comparison of his bride with a garden and a flowing fountain. Verse 12 is noteworthy for its declaration of her exclusivity for him. (Although Solomon has already professed his utter infatuation with her, it is unfortunate that he could not have likewise professed his exclusivity for her.)
Excursus: The Christian man as a loving husband: God’s provision of an example
One of the problems of men becoming loving husbands is often their lack of an example to follow. One of the most influential images of a man upon a man’s understanding of his own identity over the past generation has been that of man as provider. Thus, many men have considered their duties fulfilled as husband and father with the provision of a steady paycheck. Another image prevalent is that of man as hero (either in war or in sports). Biblically, the image of manhood is man as a son of God by faith in Jesus Christ. This adds another dimension onto that ruling metaphor for the Biblical definition of a man’s identity, to man as loving husband. The married man who follows Jesus Christ is not fulfilling God’s purpose for his marriage or his manhood unless he begins to allow himself to be molded into the kind of loving husband that he can be by the grace of God. Here God gives an example of marital wooing of a woman as a part of that image.
Single men can likewise find something to learn here about becoming a loving husband, not in action, but in developing and demonstrating the potential. This is the purpose of premarital wooing of a woman: not in seeking any sort of sexual intimacy before marriage but in wooing her toward the commitment of marriage by giving her the assurance of the potential of being a loving husband after marriage.
1. Seek to be gentle and delicate in your admiration of the beauty of your wife.
2. Protect her modesty by being careful to admire in the bedroom what should only be exposed there.
3. Compliment her strong points (and ignore/overlook her weaker points).
4. Express admiration of her and your feelings about her in making the loving invitation to intimacy.
The sweet surrender of the bride: 4:16: The bride gladly expresses her surrender to the loving invitation and advances of her husband. Use your imagination for what tone of voice these words would have been spoken.
Wives: consider how you respond to your husband’ advances. Have you been pettishly rejecting? Or have you been tiredly apathetic? Or joyfully enthusiastic?