I arose to open for my lover and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the lock. I opened for my lover, but my lover had left; he was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer. The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. They beat me, they bruised me; they took away my cloak, those watchmen of the walls.
By the time she opened the door, Solomon had already departed. The Hebrew word is a strong one meaning to turn aside, to take a different direction, to run oneself away. It points to the fact that Solomon completely turned away from Shulamit in utter disappointment over her failure to open to him as well as her giving such flimsy excuses. (24) page 45
The night watchmen find her and mistaking her for a prostitute, treat her roughly. In order to escape arrest, she leaves her upper garment and manages to get away from them. (24) page 45
The guards would treat a woman wandering the streets at night as a roving adulteress (Prov. 7:11-12) or as a prostitute. According to a Middle Assyrian law book from the twelfth century B.C.: “A prostitute dare not veil herself; her head remains uncovered. Anyone seeing a veiled prostitute should arrest her, gather witnesses, and bring her to the entrance of the palace. Her jewelry may not be taken, but the one who arrests her receives her clothing. She should be given 50 blows with a club and have asphalt poured over her head.” This mentality might have spread into Israel under the influence of Assyrian domination. But even if Israel’s practice were less brutal, the Assyrian background helps explain the rough treatment of the woman and above all, the fact that they took away her mantle. (29) page 195
Previously in chapter three, she ran into the watchmen and asked where her lover was. They ignored her, but they didn’t take her mantle or beat her. I think the difference is that the first time she went out in the morning. They didn’t see her as a prostitute. It was the wrong time of day for prostitutes. This night it is late evening or night. Each society has its own way of dealing with prostitutes. Usually policemen in our country don’t work too hard at disrupting their work, but they hassle them, and arrest them occasionally. The men who visit them normally get lighter treatment.
Anyway, a respectable woman in the time the song was written, didn’t walk around alone at night. She knew it, but was panic mode — she wanted to find him before he did something they both would regret.