FLIRTING 1:1 – 2:7
- Who calls her ‘most beautiful of women’? 1:8
- Is She describing an action or a wish? 2:6
- Is she following her own advice? 2:7
Song of Solomon.
When God wanted to communicate to us how love, sex, romance, marriage, and relationship work. When he wanted us to know how he designed them and great they could be, he didn’t write out a list of do’s and don’ts. He inspired this group of songs that form one ultimate song. A song that illustrates how great a relationship between a man and a woman can be.
Let me tell you the story, reading from a translation by Dr Craig Glickman, and bringing in various wording from over 40 translations/paraphrases that are available through www.biblegateway.com. The story was written about people in a different time, and culture. But see if the story could be told about a couple today in our culture.
God created us with minds, bodies, emotions, feeling, desires. He knows how to use what he created to the greatest benefit in a relationship between a man and a woman. He also knows that if we can learn how to understand and deal with the different ways that men and women think, respond, and feel, that we can start to get an understanding of how we can have a relationship with him.
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
Much time can be spent on debating if this is about Solomon and written by Solomon, and I can enjoy the debate, but it is a side issue. Who ever wrote it writes about what she said, and what she is thinking, and about what she says that he said. More is written in the woman’s voice in this book than in any other book of the Bible.
Enough introduction, let’s jump into the story.
Some girls are standing around and they see a guy approaching. One of the girls is very attracted to the guy, and he has apparently been showing some attention to her.
First she speaks to her friends.
How I wish he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
I would say that she is attracted to him. Then she speaks, but not to the other girls. If this was a play, she would take a view steps toward the audience to show that this is what she is thinking. You can tell that she is very attracted to him. She also realizes that there are good reasons why the other girls would have feelings for him too.
Because your lovemaking is better than wine. For fragrance your perfumes are wonderful, and perfume poured fragrantly is your is your name. Therefore young maidens love you. Draw me after you! Let us run together! How I wish the king would bring me to his chambers.
other translations thy love is better than wine, your love is more delightful than wine
the king has brought me into his private rooms GW be my king and take me to your room GNT oh, that the king would bring me to his chambers HCSB May the king bring me into his bedroom chambers! NET
She certainly is thinking about being alone with him and making love. That is what is on her mind, but they haven’t done that yet. Keep this in context of the story and see if you agree with me on this.
He arrives, and her friends are the first to speak.
We will rejoice and delight in you. We will celebrate your love more than wine.
Girls can be such…. interesting people. They can see the attraction between their friend and this guy. But they can’t resist. They will flirt with the guy– oh I was just testing him to see if he would be faithful to you. Whatever the excuse they want to see if they could get the guy if they wanted him. Kind of like fishermen who catch and release.
She needs a way to cool off her friends and have him focus his attention on her. First she takes their comments and says
How right they are to love you.
or with good reason, the young women love you ERV It is only right that they adore you HCSB the upright love thee KJV
She turns it back to say that because of his looks and his character all the girls find him attractive, hot, eligible, worth pursuing. Nothing special about my friends, all the girls would like to go out with you. Then she tries to turn his attention back to her. She does this by speaking to the girls, but really wanting him to jump him and make a comment about her looking good.
Dark am I, but lovely, O young women of Jerusalem, like tents darkened, but like curtains of Solomon. do not stare at me because I am dark, because the sun has gazed upon me. The sons of my mother burned in anger toward me. They appointed me caretaker of the vineyards, but of my own vineyard, which belongs to me, I have not taken care.
She isn’t talking about race, she is saying that she her skin is darker than normal because she had to work outside. In societies this can vary. If you have to work — and the work is inside, then she would be saying it isn’t my fault my skin is so light, I have to work inside and can’t spend time getting a tan. Notice how she slides in ‘but lovely’. And it isn’t her fault, her brothers made her do it. Plenty of good openings for the guy to step in and say something positive about her. It isn’t your fault, you do look lovely, I like the way you look, your brothers are mean to make you do that work… So what does the guy say –NOTHING. She is working hard to pull a complement out of him and he just stands there saying NOTHING.
But this is her guy — at least the one she wants to be her guy. So when she doesn’t get a response she jumps in before her friends can get started talking. She asks two questions. Not as subtle and harder to avoid answering.
Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you graze your flock, and where you rest them at noon; for why should I be like a veiled woman by the flocks of your close friends.
Where will you be during the noon break today? If you don’t tell me I’d end up appearing to act like a veiled woman, like a prostitute going around talking with all the other guys. She would be asking where to find him, but guys would feel free to make comments and offers and suggestions since she is just chasing after a guy.
She succeeds in getting a response out of him. Many translations attribute this next line to the young maidens. And they do use a phrase from this line twice later in the story. But I’m going with those that attribute the line to him. (Note that Chapters and verse and headings and in this book names for who is speaking: these have all been added to the text to try to help us. Sometimes they help, other times they distract.)
Anyway, here is the response:
If you do not know, O fairest among women, go forth on the trail of the flock and graze your flock of female kids by the dwellings of the shepherds.
Or most beautiful of women
She came as close as she could to asking him out on a date. His response starts with a flirt — if you do not know. He knows she has been keeping her eye on him, and that she really knows where he will be. But he isn’t brave enough to call her out on it and say that he knows she is watching him and checking on him. So a flirting answer is safer at this point when the relationship is barely started. Then he blurts this out — fairest among women, or most beautiful of women — and he does it right in front of her friends. He probably didn’t think this one through. He might have been surprised to hear himself say it, although it was true. He kind of drew a line in the sand. Her friends are hearing a message loud and clear. If she is the fairest, the most beautiful, then they are something less. That can sting to hear it. And I think they threw this term back at her later on in the story. The he gives her directions. Bring your flock (so you have a purpose for being there and the guys won’t be so quick to hit on you), and graze them in this location. He is setting up a meeting. She had already picked the time and day. She navigated through the maze of having him around her friends. She had hoped to get a compliment about looking good. Instead he called her most beautiful of women. If they weren’t actually in a relationship before, they were in one now.
It takes a little getting used to when they jump from scene to scene. There isn’t any commentary in the text. But after a few readings you can tell when time has passed and they are in a new setting.
They are up in the hills somewhere that could be in plain site from people in the surrounding area, but they are alone and they can talk without any one else hearing the conversation. The first line seemed really odd to me. He goes from calling her the most beautiful of women to comparing her to a horse.
to my mare among the chariots of Pharaoh, I like you my darling companion. Lovely are your cheeks with ornaments and your neck with strings of jewels.
To a person raised in the city, the reference to a mare went right past me. They only used stallions to pull the chariots. Stallions were useful in battle, they went straight ahead into the conflict. In history class you may have heard about someone trying to slip a mare in among the enemy forces. The Stallions would lose focus especially if the mare was in heat. One version puts it this way:
You, my love, excite men as a mare excites the stallions of Pharaoh’s chariots. GNT
He is referring back to her reference about being thought to be like a prostitute. He is saying all the guys would be excited by her. And yes I gave you directions so that they wouldn’t feel free to express their baser feeling toward you. He didn’t directly say: you turn me on, you excite me, you make me hot — but he is saying that just like one mare among the stallions, excites all the stallions, that she would excite all the guys. Since he was a guy he was including himself. They are flirting, they are new in the relationship and people tend to be careful not to say too much at first.
He continues the comparison with the reference to ‘cheeks with ornaments and your neck with stings of jewels. Pharaoh would use ornaments and jewels on the bridles of his favorite horses. So he is sliding into this compliment about her looking lovely. But he isn’t stopping with a compliment he adds this:
ornaments of gold we will make for you with beads of silver.
Guys like to take some actions to show a girl that she is special. One time I had in mind a necklace that I wanted to give my girlfriend. I couldn’t find one, so I went to a specialty jeweler and told him what I wanted. He was able to make it the way I envisioned it. My idea his skill, we made it. It is still one of her favorites 30 years later. This seems to be what he is saying to her when he says ‘we will make for you’.
She is enjoying their time together. She shares her thoughts:
While the king was in his realm, my nard gave its fragrance. A pouch of myrrh is my beloved to me which lies all night between my breasts. A cluster of henna blossoms is my beloved to me in the vineyards of En Gedi.
Or other versions:
The king is lying on his couch, enchanted by the fragrance of my perfume NLT
When the king was relaxing at his table, the seductive fragrance of my perfume filled the air. VOICE
They are up in the hills. She talked about meeting around noon (in their society this was a longer period of time than our lunch time at work). Translations refer to a couch or a table. She is using images to paint a picture. They are together, her perfume is spreading its scent. The women would wear a bag/pouch/sachet filled with the kind of spices that they could afford. It would be fastened around her neck and hang between her breasts. This would blend with her natural smell and create her special aroma (that society didn’t have the custom that we currently have in the United States of everyone expected to take a shower everyday). Anyway this pouch would be special to the woman. Some versions read that the guy is lying between her breasts at night. Like this version:
A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. KJV.
I think she is saying that like this special pouch of spices, he is special to her. There is a lot of sex coming, but it hasn’t started yet.
Now he speaks:
Behold, you are beautiful, my darling companion. Behold, you are beautiful. Your eyes are doves.
Behold, you are beautiful my beloved. Indeed, you are delightful and our resting place is in the flourishing branches. The beams of our houses are cedars, our rafters cypresses.
She returns his compliment then describes their location like a nest for birds. Of a place where they are together. Sounds like they are laying down under some trees, or at least laying back and looking up.
Then maybe she is feeling a little insecure and she says this to him:
I am a flower of the Sharon plain, a lotus flower of the valleys.
Either one refers to a flower that is just like thousands of other flowers around them. She isn’t saying she is great, she is saying that she feels like she is the same as all the other girls. Guys, women like to be reassured, to be complimented. They especially want the special guy in their life to think they are beautiful and smart and fun.
He responds well. Notice he doesn’t disagree with her, but redirects what she says:
As a lotus flower among thorns, so is my darling companion among the young women.
If you are like one of these common flowers, then in comparison the other young women are like the thorns. Honest praise that is accurate and true is very well received and appreciated by the special girl in your life. It is better to err on the side of too much, than too little praise.
Listen to her response to him:
As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.
And then listen to her thoughts as we are able to hear not only what she says, but what she is thinking:
In his shade I longed to stay, and his fruit was sweet to the taste. He has brought me to the house of wine and his banner over me is love. Sustain me with raisin cakes and refresh me with apples, because I am faint from love.
Oh may his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me.
The raisin cakes and apples were used in their society for stamina when it came to love and love making. I don’t know if it helped. Every society comes up with something that is suppose to help provide strength and stamina. She wants these because she states she is ‘faint from love.’ The next line is one that can provide some controversy.
Oh may his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me. The controversy isn’t about what she is picturing. Image two people lying side by side. He reaches out to his left and puts his hand under her head. He rolls toward her and puts his hand into the area above the legs below the belly. The word translated here is translated embrace, grope, fondle. What she is describing is very obvious. What isn’t clear is weather she is expressing a wish or describing an actions. Here are different versions:
oh may his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me KJ21
I can feel his left hand under my head and his right hand embraces me AMP
I wish his left arm were under my head, and his right arm around me CJB
His left hand pillow y head; his right hand, even now, ready to embrace me KNOX
His left hand caresses my head, and his right hand stimulates me
The versions I looked at 31 said his left hand is under my head and 7 phrased it as a wish. You can decide which one you think is correct. I’m going with it as a wish and drawing my conclusions from three observations.
First, when she is looking for him after a fight (spoiler alert, this is after they were married). She enlists the help of some young women to help find him. They ask what they should say to him if they find him. Her answer: tell him that I am faint with love. She is trying to get back together with him after a fight. It is really doubtful that she would be saying, I’m worn out from making love (obviously it would be with someone else). I think in both cases that she is saying the though of being in love and the thought of making love with him is enough to wear her out. She isn’t saying I’m to tired to continue, she is asking for apples and raisin cakes to help her continue. If she isn’t having sex when she is ‘faint from love’, then she wouldn’t have to be having sexual activity when she is talking about him embracing her. She could be thinking about it, or wishing for it.
Second, the wording describing the wedding night shows that they haven’t had sex yet. It seems very unlikely that he could be embracing her on this day when the relationship is barely started, and then not actually having sex until they were married. The law of diminishing return comes into play. It works like this. The first time you hold hands, it is exciting and new, but after a few times it is enjoyable but not exciting or new. But putting your arm around their waist is exciting and new, then kissing, touching. I don’t think they would have lasted until the wedding night if they had started out with this much activity early in the relationship.
The Third observation comes from her warning in the next verse. She says:
I want you to promise me O young women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and by the does of the field, not to arouse, not to awaken love until love please to awaken.
I think she is giving this warning to herself as well as to the other young women. She could be saying: Do as I say and not as I do. But it doesn’t sound like this to me. I think she is starting to feel how strong and overwhelming love can be. She is honestly warning them that these feelings and emotions and desires are coming fast and strong and that you really have to be careful. She is telling herself this as much as she is telling them.