The Loved Woman of the Superlative Song
“You are altogether beautiful, O girl companion of mine, and there is no defect in you.”—Cant. 4:7.
1. What love can surpass that of a man for a woman, and how much did Christ love the group that he formed about him?
LOVE for a woman can be surpassed by love for an organization of men and women. In turn, the love of an organization for a man or for its leader can be so strong that nothing in this world can overpower it. The most outstanding man ever on earth, the leader that more than 800,000,000 believers around the earth claim to follow, was Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem in the Middle East over 1900 years ago and who suffered a martyr’s death in the year 33 of the Christian era. Did he ever fall in love with a woman and take her for his wife? No; he died unmarried and childless, at the age of thirty-three and a half years. However, he formed an organization of men and women around himself, and these he dearly loved as members of the organization. In fact, he laid down his life for those men and women and for the men and women who are yet to become members of the organization.
2. With what sayings did Jesus acknowledge the one who gave him the organization of followers?
2 Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth, who acted as an earthly father to Jesus, did not give him this organization of followers. God his heavenly Father was the one that gave him the organization. Jesus himself acknowledged that fact. He said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) “What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father.” (John 10:29) To his heavenly Father Jesus said in prayer: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me.” (John 17:6) The heavenly Father gave them to his Son Jesus in the relationship of a girl promised in marriage to her future husband.
3. With what figure of speech did John the Baptist and Paul speak about this organization of followers?
3 So the organization or congregation of men and women was spoken of as his bride, an organizational woman that was to be married or inseparably united to him in the future in the home of his heavenly Father. His cousin John, the son of priest Zechariah, spoke of matters in this way, saying: “He that has the bride is the bridegroom. However, the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. This, indeed, has been fulfilled as my joy.” (John 3:29) The Christian apostle Paul, who won many followers for Jesus Christ, used language like John’s and talked like the Bridegroom’s friend to these followers, saying: “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2) The apostle Paul urged them to be faithful in their love and devotion to their Bridegroom, Christ.
4. (a) To what extent has Christ’s love for the organization been proved? (b) How far must the congregation’s love for Christ be proved, and as against what organization?
4 The love of Jesus Christ for the organization or congregation that his heavenly Father gives to him as a wife has been proved by his own death. Paul says: “Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. . . . Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:23, 25-27) However, the love of the congregation for Christ the Bridegroom must be proved till the last of these 144,000 members of the congregation has met all the tests. There are many religious organizations that call themselves Christian and that profess to love Christ. In the United States alone 265 of such religious sects have been listed; in South Africa there are more than a thousand of such. But by their works they prove that they love this world more than Jesus Christ and the kingdom for which his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, has anointed and enthroned him to be King. These religious sects court the good will of this immoral world. The disciple James asks all Christians having such a divided love: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.”—Jas. 4:4.
5. How many congregations are truly espoused to Christ, and how will those that remain of the espoused ones prove their loving devotion?
5 But there is only one congregation that is truly espoused or engaged to marry Jesus Christ in the royal heavens, and to these Jesus said: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15:18, 19) The true congregation of 144,000 faithful ones has no love for this corrupt passing world. It gives to Jehovah God, the heavenly Father, exclusive devotion and to his Son Jesus Christ the full love that is due its heavenly Bridegroom. For the past 1900 years the heavenly Father has been begetting truly dedicated believers by this holy spirit and in this way espousing them to his beloved Son. Today, when all the evidences indicate that he enthroned his Son, the Bridegroom, in the heavenly kingdom in the year 1914, there is merely a remnant of the bridal congregation on earth. As long as this old world, now in its troublous “time of the end,” stands, they have yet to prove the full measure of their loving devotion to their heavenly Bridegroom, Christ. They will do so because of the ardent, unquenchable love that they have for him. The beautiful book of the Bible known as The Song of Solomon makes this certain.
THE SONG OF SOLOMON
6. Is The Song of Solomon a part of inspired Scripture, and what evidence do we have upon the matter?
6 In Jesus’ days on earth The Song of Solomon was accepted by the Jewish congregation as a part of the inspired writings and was included in the catalogue of their sacred Hebrew manuscripts. It was likewise accepted by the early Christian congregation as a genuine part of the Holy Scriptures. Rightly understood, it is a book beneficial for us to study. The apostle Paul included The Song of Solomon when he said: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Said the Jewish rabbi Akiba, who lived in the first century of the Christian era, in expressing his appreciation of the book: “The whole world was not worthy of the day in which this sublime Song was given to Israel; for all the Scriptures are holy, but this sublime Song is most holy.”—Mishnah, in the Sixth Division under “Yadaim,” section 3, ¶5.
7. What is the so-called Song of Solomon, when was it written, and what is its theme?
7 However, the writer of the song, King Solomon of Jerusalem, says in the opening verse Cant 1:1 of his poem: “The superlative song, which is Solomon’s.” According to the Hebrew text, word for word, it is “the song of songs,” that is to say, the most beautiful, the most excellent song. It is not a collection of songs, but is one song, though usually divided into eight chapters. It was written by King Solomon after he had built the wonderful temple to Jehovah God at Jerusalem and after he had married. So the date of the Song was about the year 1010 before the Christian era. It has one theme running throughout, that of the love of a country girl of the village of Shunem, or Shulem, for a shepherd boy. King Solomon fell in love with the same girl, but her love for her dear one, the shepherd, held true and the king lost out. It could therefore be rightly called The Song of Solomon’s Frustrated Love.
8. What meaning did the ancient Hebrews attach to the Song, but what does history show regarding the correctness of this?
8 The ancient Hebrews attached a symbolic meaning to the book. They understood the girl to picture the Jewish church from the days of the prophet Moses onward. The object of that church’s affection was Jehovah God, who was accordingly pictured by her shepherd lover. But an examination of the Jewish church over the past 1900 years bears out the sad fact that it has proved untrue in its love to Jehovah as its God; it has long ceased to be the church of witnesses for Jehovah God. Their own history, as written down in the Hebrew Scriptures, testifies that they rejected the prophets whom he sent in his name; and the Christian Greek Scriptures show that they reached the high point in their course of rejecting God’s spokesmen when they refused Jesus Christ, who came and preached to them in Jehovah’s name, and finally had him put to a horrible death on a torture stake. This displayed no true, unswerving love for Jehovah, the great Shepherd of his flock.
9. What written warning does Paul call to our attention, and so in connection with whom does the Song find its fulfillment?
9 Writing to the Christian congregation in the first century, the apostle Paul tells of a number of occasions where the Israelites fell away from the love of Jehovah God, and then comments: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning.” A warning to whom? “To us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Cor. 10:11) It must be, then, that The Song of Solomon finds its fulfillment in connection with the Christian congregation of which the apostle Paul was a member in that century when the Jewish system of things no longer found favor in God’s eyes and it ended, Jehovah God now transferring his loving-kindness to the Christian congregation that he espoused to his Bridegroom-Son, Jesus Christ.
10. Whom does the loved girl of the Song picture, and whom her shepherd lover, and whose example must the remnant today copy?
10 So the loved girl of the Song must be the true Christian congregation of 144,000 espoused members; and her shepherd lover must be the Lord Jesus Christ now glorified in heaven for his burning love for his heavenly Father. The third day after he was killed on the torture stake Almighty God raised him from the dead, a spiritual Son again but now immortal, highly exalted above the human flesh that he once had. After forty days Jehovah God had him ascend to the heavens, where he has his throne. He had him sit at his own right hand to await, among other things, the marriage in heaven to his bridal congregation in his heavenly Father’s due time. Since his ascension to heaven the members of his bridal congregation have been espoused to him in faith. To such ones the apostle Peter wrote: “Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you are not looking upon him at present, yet you exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy, as you receive the accomplished end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8, 9) This same thing applies to the small remnant of his congregation today, who must prove their love for the unseen Christ as the Shulammite girl did to her lover.
11. What did Solomon find by experiment concerning man as contrasted with woman, and whom must the congregation copy in the faithful quality of its love?
11 Telling of what he found by experiment in the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, as the congregator of his people, wrote: “‘See! This I have found,’ said the congregator, ‘one thing [taken] after another, to find out the sum-up, which my soul has continuously sought, but I have not found. One man out of a thousand I have found, but a woman among all these I have not found.’” (Eccl. 7:27, 28) If, however, in the Song King Solomon describes his own unsuccessful love attempt toward the Shulammite girl, then to his own disillusionment he did find in her a woman of integrity in her love toward a man not outwardly so glamorous as Solomon. If he had lived in the first century of the Christian era King Solomon would have had to confess that in Jesus Christ he found the “one man out of a thousand,” yes, outstandingly the man of all men ever on earth. The congregation espoused to Jesus Christ must copy him. In the faithful quality of her love to him she must prove herself to be like an outstanding woman of integrity, a rarity among women, the only bridal organization among all the religious systems of Christendom that stays loyal and maintains her chastity in this world that she may be judged worthy of heavenly marriage with Christ.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE PLOT
12. Who are the characters mentioned or having speaking parts in the Song?
12 In the Song Solomon introduces himself and plays the part of the king of Jerusalem, the city that was also called Zion because of its fortress or citadel bearing that name. The chief character in the Song is the unnamed country girl from Shunem, or Shulem, whom King Solomon calls the Shulammite. (Cant. 6:13) The village of Shunem, today called Sôlem, lay at the southwestern border of the territory of the tribe of Issachar, about fifteen miles southwest of the sea of Galilee, or about fifty-five miles north of Jerusalem. The beautiful girl named Abishag was found at Shunem and was taken to the palace of Solomon’s father, King David, to act as a nurse toward him in his old age. (1 Ki. 1:1-4; 2:17-22) It was at Shunem that the prominent woman, a childless wife of an old man, provided lodgings in a little roof chamber for the prophet Elisha, whenever he was passing through. (2 Ki. 4:8-10) The mother of the Shulammite girl lived at Shunem. She is mentioned in the Song, but not the Shulammite’s father. The girl has a number of brothers who take part in the dramatic Song. Another prominent character is the beloved shepherd. Others with speaking parts in the Song are ladies of Solomon’s court, called “daughters of Jerusalem,” and also women residents of the city, who are called “daughters of Zion.” (Cant. 1:5; 2:7; 3:5, 10, 11) The characters in the Song are identified by what they say or by what is said to them.
13. Where did the shepherd meet the Shulammite girl, and with what reactions?
13 How did the Shulammite girl meet the shepherd? She recalls it to his mind, saying: “Under the apple tree I aroused you. There your mother was in birth pangs with you. There she that was giving birth to you experienced birth pangs.” (Cant. 8:5) It was a tree that would remind the shepherd of his own humble birth, out in the field, away from the comforts and conveniences of home. But his mother was strong and brought him up to be the handsome youth that he was. On meeting at the place of his birth the shepherd lad found what was lovable in the Shulammite girl, and she found what was altogether lovely in the shepherd.
14. What was the attitude of the Shulammite’s brothers toward her, and why did they once get angry with her?
14 But, like the apostle Paul toward the Christian congregation, the Shulammite’s brothers were very jealous of their sister. They were anxious to safeguard the virginity of their sister about whose steadiness they were not too certain. They tried to shield her from temptation. Once they felt they had reason to get angry with her. Evidently this was when the shepherd sped to her side and suggested that they go out strolling to enjoy the beauties of early spring. To quote her words to the women of King Solomon’s court: “The sound of my dear one! Look! this one is coming, climbing upon the mountains, leaping upon the hills. My dear one is resembling a gazelle or the roe of the stags. Look! this one is standing behind our wall, gazing through the windows, glancing through the lattices. My dear one has answered and said to me: ‘Rise up, you girl companion of mine, my beautiful one, and come away. For, look! the rainy season itself has passed, the downpour itself is over, it has gone its way. Blossoms themselves have appeared in the land, the very time of vine trimming has arrived and the voice of the turtledove itself has been heard in our land. As for the fig tree, it has gained a mature color for its early figs; and the vines are abloom, they have given [their] fragrance. Rise up, come, O girl companion of mine, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove in the retreats of the crag, in the hiding place of the steep way, show me your form, let me hear your voice, for your voice is pleasurable and your form is comely.’”—Cant. 2:8-14.
15. What did her brothers do to prevent her private stroll with the shepherd?
15 The Shulammite’s brothers become angry at her desire to respond to his invitation. To prevent her and the shepherd from going out hiking together alone and coming into temptation, they now see the urgent need for guards to be stationed in their vineyards against the little foxes that cause damage to the vines by burrowing holes beneath them. So the brothers cry out: “Do you people grab hold of the foxes for us, the little foxes that are making spoil of the vineyards, as our vineyards are abloom.”—Cant. 2:15.
16. What effect did her guard duty in the vineyards have upon her, as stated to the “daughters of Jerusalem”?
16 Taking advantage of the seasonal need, the brothers require their sister to keep herself in the vineyards, standing on guard against the ruinous little foxes. As she herself tells it to the “daughters of Jerusalem” who are in King Solomon’s court: “The sons of my own mother grew angry with me; they appointed me the keeper of the vineyards, [although] my vineyard, one that was mine, I did not keep.” (Cant. 1:6) This explains why she lost the fairness of her skin: “A black girl I am but comely, O you daughters of Jerusalem, like the [black hair] tents of Kedar, [yet] like the [beautiful] tent curtains of Solomon. Do not you look at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has caught sight of me.” (Cant. 1:5, 6) Vineyard guard duty exposed her to the sun’s rays.
17. What other danger, however, did the Shulammite come into in connection with King Solomon’s encampment?
17 But this safety measure of her brothers, while keeping her from her shepherd lover in the springtime, led her to being found in the way of another danger. King Solomon himself came to the neighborhood of Shunem, or Shulem, and pitched his tents with their beautiful curtains not far from her home and the vineyards. One day the Shulammite found herself near the camp of King Solomon. She had not gone there to parade her charms and to show off her beauty either to King Solomon or to the sixty mighty men of Israel, all of whom were trained warriors armed with swords at the thigh, or to the charioteers. (Cant. 3:7) She had not in fickleness forgotten her shepherd lover and that her charms belonged only to him. But as she herself later explained it to King Solomon: “To the garden of nut trees I had gone down, to see the buds in the torrent valley, to see whether the vine had sprouted, whether the pomegranate trees had blossomed. I did not know [what, but] my own soul had put me at the chariots of my willing people.” (Cant. 6:11, 12) Because of going on an errand of service, she had come unintentionally upon the encampment of the king of Israel.
18. How did the Shulammite get into Solomon’s encampment, and with what effect upon her?
18 Then either King Solomon himself saw her directly or she was recommended to him by his camp servants who saw her. Solomon then took her away from her mother and brothers and their vineyards and brought her into his stately camp. There, amid the eye-filling dignity and splendor of the royal camp that could be expected to overawe a modest country girl, glorious King Solomon expressed his admiration for her and proposed that she come with him back to Jerusalem and become one of his wives. Unimpressed by the royal richness all about her, feeling strange and out of place in the midst of it, she feels no attraction toward the king. With longing for her only love she speaks out as if talking to him there:
19. What did she say in address to her absent shepherd lover?
19 “May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your expressions of endearment are better than wine. For fragrance your oils are good. Like an oil that is poured out is your name. That is why maidens themselves have loved you. Draw me with you; let us run. The king has brought me into his interior rooms! Do let us be joyful and rejoice in you. Do let us mention your expressions of endearment more than wine. Deservedly they have loved you. Do tell me, O you whom my soul has loved, where you do shepherding, where you make the flock lie down at midday. Just why should I become like a woman wrapped in mourning among the droves of your partners?”—Cant. 1:2-4, 7.
20. How do the “daughters of Jerusalem” reply to her, and how does she react to Solomon’s advances?
20 To this question the court ladies, “daughters of Jerusalem,” reply: “If you do not know for yourself, O you most beautiful one among women, go out yourself in the footprints of the flock and pasture your kids of the goats alongside the tabernacles of the shepherds.” They knew she would have to leave the camp of Solomon and go out to where her lover fed his sheep. But Solomon was unwilling to let her go. He began expressing his admiration for her and to make promises of how he would adorn her in the city palace. To her he said: “To a mare of mine in the chariots of Pharaoh I have likened you, O girl companion of mine. Your cheeks are handsome among the hair braids, your neck in a string of beads. Circlets of gold we shall make for you, along with studs of silver.” But the Shulammite resists Solomon’s advances and lets him know that the only love she can feel is for another. She says: “As long as the king is at his round table my own spikenard has given out its fragrance. As a bag of myrrh my dear one is to me; between my breasts he will spend the night. As a cluster of henna my dear one is to me, among the vineyards of En-gedi.” (Cant. 1:8-14) The Shulammite yearns to have her shepherd lover within her embrace.
21. In view of what took place in 1914, what must the remnant do now as regards their affections?
21 In all this, what may we see of likeness to the faithful remnant of Christ’s bridal congregation today? Jehovah God enthroned his Son Jesus Christ in the heavens in 1914, but still he has not taken the remnant to himself. So these espoused ones are absent from him. They find themselves in the world, but they dare not make themselves a part of this world, going back to the world out of which they were drawn to Christ. They must keep themselves as chaste virgins, not spotted by this world. Corresponding with King Solomon’s outward glory as king, this world has much outward attractiveness. By this it tries to win away the affections of the espoused remnant from Christ. But the remnant obey the command not to love the things in this world, “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:15, 16) In Paul’s day some Christians were enticed by the thought of now ruling as kings, like Solomon, not waiting for the reigning King, Jesus Christ, to exalt them to a seat in his throne at the end of their earthly course. “You are rich already, are you? You have begun ruling as kings without us, have you?” asks Paul.—1 Cor. 4:8.
22. How do the remnant show their preference now for the Shepherd rather than for kingship?
22 But the remnant today know that we are not called to reign on this earth during this present wicked world. Our calling is to follow in the footsteps of Jehovah’s Right Shepherd, the Master Jesus Christ, who found the lost sheep and fed them and protected them and even laid down his earthly life for them. The remnant do not yield to the materialism of this world, nor to the outward glory of the political rulerships of this world. They follow, not the kings of this world, but Jehovah’s Right Shepherd, imitating him by doing shepherd work as he did on earth, gathering his sheep, feeding his sheep because they love him, keeping the sheep together in peace and unity and protecting them against selfish, wolfish men of this world who would oppress the sheep and make gain from them. (John 21:15-17) The remnant fix their minds on the things above, not on the things on the earth, and thus continue to seek the things above, seeking first the kingdom of God and the righteousness that comes from him through Christ. Their wholehearted love for their heavenly Bridegroom makes them spurn the seductive advances that this world makes toward them with its materialism.
23. How are the remnant like the Shulammite as regards the love expressions of the shepherd, and how does she show how she feels toward Solomon’s encampment?
23 The remnant are like the Shulammite in seeking the loving expressions of their Shepherd, Jesus Christ. This counterbalances the hatred of this world. They are overjoyed to have the evidence that he is with them, though unseen, just as when the Shulammite’s shepherd lover made his way into Solomon’s camp and got in touch with her and poured out his love upon her in these words: “Look! you are beautiful, O girl companion of mine. Look! you are beautiful. Your eyes are [those of] doves.” The Shulammite prefers nearness to her dear one, oneness with him out in the fields and woods, under the cedar and juniper trees. The splendid camp of King Solomon had no appeal for her. Showing that she is not flattered or impressed by being in the royal camp of such outward material glory, she says to the shepherd: “Look! you are beautiful, my dear one, also pleasant. Our divan also is one of foliage. The beams of our grand house are cedars, our rafters juniper trees.”—Cant. 1:15, 16.
24. (a) How does the Shulammite regard herself, but how does her lover regard her? (b) How does she regard him, and so what does she charge the “daughters of Jerusalem”?
24 In the Shulammite we find a humble woman, not aspiring to any greatness on this earth. Says she: “A mere saffron of the coastal plain I am, a lily of the valleys.” Just a mere flower of the field that grows without cultivation! Her shepherd lover thinks her to be without compare, saying: “Like a lily among thorny weeds, so is my girl companion among the daughters.” The Shulammite shows how she esteems him above all others, likening him to a fruitful, shady, airy tree among the general run of trees of a forest: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my dear one among the sons. His shade I have passionately desired and there I have sat down, and his fruit has been sweet to my palate. He brought me into the house of wine, and his banner over me was love. Do you people refresh me with cakes of raisins, sustain me with apples, for I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, and his own right hand embraces me.” With a love like that for her dear shepherd, how could she in fickleness shift her love to another? So she strictly charges the women of King Solomon’s court: “I have put you under oath, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the female gazelles or by the hinds of the field, that you try not to awaken or arouse love [in me] until it feels inclined.” (Cant. 2:1-7) Thus by all that is beautiful and graceful, she solemnly obligates the court women not to try to arouse love in her for King Solomon, to make her prove untrue to her first love, her love for her shepherd.
25. Of what do the remnant have a fine example in the constancy of the Shulammite’s love, and how do they deal with persuasions by materialistic persons?
25 In the constancy of her love toward the shepherd the remnant today have a fine example of how changeless, how irremovable their love for Christ, the Right Shepherd of Jehovah God, should be. Nothing in this world or on this earth should be able to lessen or turn aside their love from Christ. Attempts at persuasion by materialistic persons should all fail to arouse love or selfish desire for anything outside of the Right Shepherd and his dear sheep. We should be found reminding persons who use worldly persuasion that our affections are fixed upon Christ the Right Shepherd, the Bridegroom, and we will follow him and not this world of materialism and outward glory.
26. How must the remnant be a faithful vineyard guard like the Shulammite, and how must they have a report outside like hers?
26 The Shulammite was a reliable worker, keeping guard over the family vineyards. Her present-day counterpart, the espoused remnant, is likewise charged with abiding in the Vine, Jesus Christ, and serving as branches to bring forth much fruit to the glory of the great Cultivator, Jehovah God. This is for their safety. (John 15:1-8) The Shulammite had a good report from those outside the family. The courtly “daughters of Jerusalem” called her the “most beautiful one among women.” Even King Solomon said she was beautiful, “like Pleasant City, comely like Jerusalem, awesome as companies gathered around banners.” The women of the city, the queens and the concubines, remarked that she looked “like the dawn, beautiful like the full moon, pure like the glowing sun.” (Cant. 1:8; 6:1, 4, 9, 10) No less must the espoused remnant “have a favorable testimony from people on the outside.” They must be “walking decently as regards people outside,” thus bringing no cause for finding fault with the truth but, rather, commending it by their lives.—1 Tim. 3:7; 1 Thess. 4:12.
27. Despite the Bridegroom’s beginning to reign, why must the espoused remnant continue to walk by faith, and the great crowd of their companions with them?
27 The reign of the Bridegroom-King is an invisible heavenly reign. It is at his heavenly Father’s right hand. It is far above the spirit angels and all other levels of rulerships, “angels and authorities and powers [being] made subject to him.” (1 Pet. 3:22) We must therefore continue to walk by faith, although the evidences of his reign on the heavenly Zion since the year 1914 make his being on the throne and his wielding the scepter of power very real to us. (Ps. 110:1, 2) We joyfully hail him as reigning King, and the great crowd of the espoused remnant’s companions wave palm branches, as it were, in loyal public acknowledgment of him. But still there is a separation between the espoused remnant and their Bridegroom-Shepherd, like a big mountain in between them and him, because the remnant are still in the flesh and not yet resurrected from the dead with glorious spirit bodies.—1 Cor. 15:42-44; 2 Cor. 5:1-8.
28. How do the remnant feel with the Shulammite in expressing her desire toward her shepherd lover?
28 For this reason the espoused remnant must still keep longing for the Bridegroom to come and take them to him by a heavenly resurrection, thus ending their separation from him. They feel with the Shulammite when she said: “My dear one is mine and I am his. He is shepherding among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows have fled, turn around, O my dear one, be like the gazelle or like the roe of the stags upon the mountains of separation.” (Cant. 2:16) As the apostle John expresses the longing at the very end of the Bible: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”—Rev. 22:20.
29. In these days of his second presence, where may we find him, and where may we have fellowship with him?
29 In these days of his second presence since the year 1914, we may search for Christ where we will, but we shall find him nowhere on earth. He is present in his heavenly throne and has extended the ‘rod of his strength’ to this earth, making his power felt here on earth among his enemies. We can find fellowship with him, however, by going out to meet with his followers in their gatherings, for he said: “Where there are two or three met together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20) This may often require our going out nights to attend meetings of his followers and also to visit the “other sheep” whom he is now gathering, in order to carry on Bible study with them, that they may be fed in the name of the Right Shepherd.—John 10:16.
30. How does the Shulammite describe the remnant’s getting to enjoy special fellowship with their Shepherd in a congregational way?
30 In this manner the espoused remnant enjoy a special fellowship with their Shepherd-King in a congregational way, within the organization of their spiritual mother, the heavenly Zion, the “Jerusalem above.” The Shulammite, detained in King Solomon’s camp, describes it in this way: “On my bed during the nights I have sought the one whom my soul has loved. I sought him but I did not find him. Let me rise up, please, and go round about in the city; in the streets and in the public squares let me seek the one whom my soul has loved. I sought him but I did not find him. The watchmen who were going around in the city found me: ‘The one whom my soul has loved have you men seen?’ Hardly had I passed on from them until I found the one whom my soul has loved. I grabbed hold of him and I would not let go of him, until I had brought him into my mother’s house and into the interior room of her that had been pregnant with me. I have put you under oath, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the female gazelles or by the hinds of the field, that you try not to awaken or arouse love [in me] until it feels inclined.” (Cant. 3:1-5) All our fellowship with Christ in a spiritual way, at cost of effort, strengthens us in our determination to let no other love on earth replace our whole-souled love for him.
THE TEST IN THE CITY OF JERUSALEM
31. Where is the Shulammite taken for a further test, and how is the procession to that place described?
31 The test of the Shulammite in the camp of King Solomon near her village of Shunem failed, such was the intensity of her love for a mere shepherd. How would the making of attractive proposals by the King in the midst of the regal palace within the capital city of Jerusalem affect her? When his camp moved back to Jerusalem, about fifty-five miles to the south, King Solomon had the Shulammite taken with him. The womenfolk of the capital city, the “daughters of Zion,” see the procession approaching the city. Says one: “What is this thing that is coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, being perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, even with every sort of scent powder of a trader?” Another answers: “Look! it is his couch, the one belonging to Solomon. Sixty mighty men are all around it, from the mighty men of Israel, all of them in possession of a sword, being taught in warfare, each one with his sword upon his thigh because of dread during the nights.” Exclaims still another: “It is the litter that King Solomon has made for himself from the trees of Lebanon. Its pillars he has made of silver, its supports of gold. Its seat is of wool dyed reddish purple, its interior being fitted out lovingly by the daughters of Jerusalem.” Another woman of the city calls out: “Go out and look, O you daughters of Zion, on King Solomon with the wreath that his mother wove for him on the day of his marriage and on the day of the rejoicing of his heart.” (Cant. 3:6-11) A final test faces the Shulammite!
32. How are the remnant prepared to resist the tempting offers of this world, and how is this now shown in the case of the Shulammite?
32 In this “time of the end” the test because of the materialism of this world increases. To resist the tempting offers of this gaudy old world our Shepherd prepares and strengthens us by assuring us of his continued love for us and by expressing his admiration for our right kind of Christian works. This is just as the shepherd lover did by following Solomon’s cortege into Jerusalem and there getting in touch with the Shulammite, now veiled, to say to her: “Look! you are beautiful, O girl companion of mine. Look! you are beautiful. Your eyes are [those of] doves, behind your veil. Your hair is like a drove of goats that have hopped down from the mountainous region of Gilead. Your teeth are like a drove of freshly-shorn [ewes] that have gone up from the washing, all of which are bearing twins with none among them having lost its young ones. Your lips are just like a scarlet thread, and your speaking is agreeable. Like a slice of pomegranate are your temples behind your veil. Your neck is like the tower of David, built in courses of stone, upon which are hung a thousand shields, all the circular shields of the mighty men. Your two breasts are like two roes, the twins of a female gazelle, that are feeding among the lilies.” The Shulammite tells her shepherd she wants to get free and leave the city: “Until the day breathes and the shadows have fled, I shall go my way to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.”—Cant. 4:1-6.
33. How can the Shepherd say to the remnant that their lips are like a scarlet thread and their speaking is agreeable, and to what is all this form of expression like to him?
33 In the midst of the worldly temptations of materialism today, can the Right Shepherd say to his espoused remnant: “Your lips are just like a scarlet thread, and your speaking is agreeable”? Yes; because with their mouth the remnant are making public declaration to the name of Jehovah, the course that leads to salvation and to union with their Bridegroom. (Rom. 10:8-10) Their lips are beautiful with the praises of Jehovah, whose glory has risen upon them and is reflected from them to this dark world. They are Jehovah’s witnesses. (Isa. 43:10, 12, AS) Their speaking is most agreeable to their Right Shepherd, because they are speaking in fulfillment of his own prophetic command to them: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) This is like expressions of endearment, like a delightful fragrance, like the sweetness of honey to the heavenly Bridegroom. In the shepherd’s words to the Shulammite he says: “You are altogether beautiful, O girl companion of mine, and there is no defect in you. . . . How beautiful your expressions of endearment are, O my sister, my bride! How much better your expressions of endearment are than wine and the fragrance of your oils than all sorts of perfume! With comb honey your lips keep dripping, O [my] bride. Honey and milk are under your tongue, and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.”—Cant. 4:3, 7-11.
34. By such witnessing for the Kingdom, what do the remnant invite their Shepherd to do, and in giving what encouragement do friendly persons imitate the women of Jerusalem?
34 By loving, courageous witnessing for the kingdom of God’s dear Son the remnant invite their dear Shepherd-Bridegroom to come and eat of the Kingdom fruits that they hold forth. He does come and enjoy these public expressions of endearment for him, saying: “I have eaten my honeycomb along with my honey; I have drunk my wine along with my milk.” Like the women of Jerusalem, many friendly persons who discern the public expression of devotion by the remnant for their heavenly Bridegroom encourage the remnant along in their loving work of gathering the Shepherd’s “other sheep,” that the remnant and the Bridegroom may continue to enjoy each other’s love. They say: “Eat, O companions! Drink and become drunk with expressions of endearment!”—Cant. 4:16; 5:1.
35. How was the remnant’s slowness of response during World War I met with trialsome experiences like those of the Shulammite in her bad dream?
35 Once since the Bridegroom became present in his Father’s kingdom in 1914 the remnant did not respond quickly enough to the Bridegroom’s invitation to have fellowship with him in the gathering of his sheep, because of the inconvenience of the darkness of the time. It was in the time of the climax of World War I, particularly in 1918. The experience is now like the bad dream that the Shulammite related to the court women at Solomon’s palace: “I am asleep, but my heart is awake. There is the sound of my dear one knocking!” In the dream she hears him plead outside the door: “Open to me, O my sister, my girl companion, my dove, my perfect one! For my head is filled with dew, the locks of my hair with the drops of the night.” She answers that she is in bed: “I have put off my robe. How can I put it back on? I have washed my feet. How can I soil them?” When she finally got up to open to him he had disappeared into the night. Then, in her words, “I sought him but I did not find him. I called him but he did not answer me. The watchmen that were going about in the city found me. They struck me, they wounded me. The watchmen of the walls [impudently] lifted my wide wrap off me.” Like the Shulammite, the remnant became heartsick when their hope of becoming united in the heavenly kingdom was not realized and they met up, instead, with persecution at the hands of the guardians of Christendom.—Cant. 5:2, 3, 6, 7.
36. How have the remnant given public evidence that they are lovesick for their heavenly Bridegroom, and what question does this excite in persons of good will?
36 Since that nightmare of an experience the remnant, like the Shulammite in her dream, have given public evidence unashamed that they are lovesick for their heavenly Bridegroom. By going out in obedience to their Shepherd’s command to preach the Kingdom good news to all the inhabited earth for a witness they have served notice, especially upon Christendom, that they love the Shepherd-Bridegroom: “I have put you under oath, O daughters of Jerusalem, that, if you find my dear one, you should tell him that I am lovesick.” They want to gather his sheep, that such gathered sheep may be as written “letters of recommendation” testifying to their undying love for him. (2 Cor. 3:1-3) Persons of good will wonder and ask why the remnant want them to seek Christ and to show in themselves the result of the loving witness work of the remnant: “How is your dear one more than any other dear one, that you have put us under such an oath as this?”—Cant. 5:8, 9.
37. Why do the remnant have no fear of confessing Christ before men, and what reason do they give for loving him?
37 The remnant are warned not to be ashamed to confess Christ before men. Having love for him, they have no fear of doing so. To the sheeplike persons who want to seek Christ with them they describe him as the Shepherd and as God’s anointed King now reigning in heaven since 1914. They give reason why they love him, describing him in the most attractive way. In the Shulammite’s words:
38. How did the Shulammite describe her lover to “the daughters of Jerusalem”?
38 “My dear one is dazzling and ruddy, the most conspicuous of ten thousand. His head is gold, refined gold. The locks of his hair are date clusters. His black [hair] is like the raven. His eyes are like doves by the channels of water, which are bathing themselves in milk, sitting within the rims. His cheeks are like a garden bed of spice, towers of scented herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping with liquid myrrh. His hands are cylinders of gold, filled with chrysolite. His abdomen is an ivory plate covered with sapphires. His legs are pillars of marble based on socket pedestals of refined gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice like the cedars. His palate is sheer sweetness, and everything about him is altogether desirable. This is my dear one and this is my boy companion, O daughters of Jerusalem. . . . I am my dear one’s and my dear one is mine. He is shepherding among the lilies.”—Cant. 5:10-16; 6:2, 3.
39. (a) How does making such public declaration of Christ benefit the remnant? (b) What final test now comes upon the Shulammite in Jerusalem, and with what question by her?
39 When the remnant make such a public declaration of Jesus Christ, who is now gathering together his “other sheep,” it keeps him and their espousal to him in mind. It strengthens them to resist the seductions of earthly glory and the pleasures of worldly riches. Such a test of love to the Shepherd and his gathering work has come upon the remnant in this materialistic day, just as it came upon the Shulammite detained in Jerusalem by King Solomon. At that time Solomon was already married to queens and concubines. His love for the Shulammite would be neither his first love nor an undivided love. He wanted her as another of his secondary wives, not as the only woman of his marital affection. He could not offer to her what her shepherd lover offered her. After she has told the court ladies of her belonging only to her shepherd lover and finding only him “altogether desirable,” King Solomon approaches her. He expresses his admiration of her, finding her exceptionally lovely, more so than sixty queens and eighty concubines. He would place her first in his affections. Such expressions from world-famous King Solomon could turn the head of many ordinary girls, but not the Shulammite’s. She tells him she had not tried to seek his company, and she turns away. “Come back, come back, O Shulammite! Come back, come back, that we may behold you!” cries out Solomon. The Shulammite then asks what he and his people see in a village girl from Shunem as she is!—Cant. 6:4-13.
40. How does Solomon answer her question, and what example does the Shulammite give to the remnant today to meet such an appeal?
40 Taking advantage of this innocent question, King Solomon tells how lovely she appears to him from the soles of her feet to the crown of her head: “How beautiful you are and how pleasant you are, O beloved girl, among exquisite delights!” He wants to have her as his own to enjoy. (Cant. 7:1-9) It would be such an opportunity for her to enjoy luxury in the chief city, with honor and glory and position as a wife of the king himself! How well this pictures the appeal of materialism today! So what example does the Shulammite give to the espoused remnant to meet this appeal?
TRIUMPH BY THE “FLAME OF JAH”
41. In reacting to Solomon’s wooings, what does the Shulammite do, and what does Solomon then do?
41 In the supreme moment of her life the Shulammite repels the wooings of the chief dignitary of the land. “I am my dear one’s and toward me is his longing,” she courageously replies. Turning from the glorious king before her, she bursts out in a call for her shepherd lover to come and take her away. O that he were as her own brother who had sucked the breasts of her mother! Kissing him without fear of public scorn, she would bring him to the house of her mother, who used to teach her the principles of integrity and faithfulness. She has made her decision, and she calls upon the court ladies not to join King Solomon in trying to awaken or arouse love for Solomon when it does not feel inclined to come forth spontaneously. (Cant. 7:10 to 8:4) Mighty King Solomon has lost. It is hopeless to try further to win her over. He lets her go home.
42. When her brothers saw her approaching Shunem, what question flashed through their minds that they had once asked concerning her, together with what determination on how to deal with her?
42 Her brothers at Shunem see her approaching, but not alone. They ask: “Who is this woman coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her dear one?” They had not realized that their one-time little sister had such integrity and constancy in love. In earlier years one brother had said of her: “We have a little sister that does not have any breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day that she will be spoken for [in marriage]?” To this question another brother replied: “If she should be a wall, we shall build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she should be a door, we shall block her up with a cedar plank.” (Cant. 8:5, 8, 9) Her experience with King Solomon was a searching test to make sure whether she was unsteady in love and virtue, like a door turning on its pivot and that needed to be barred shut with a sturdy cedar plank to prevent its swinging open to someone unwelcome, unwholesome.
43. In no self-admiration, what could she now say regarding herself, thus obliging her brothers to take appropriate action?
43 Having triumphed over all the enticements of a glorious king, having stood like a wall against all the attractions of the artificial material things of this world, she has proved her stature, that she is a fully matured woman with breasts, and firm in the virtuous principles that her mother has taught her. In no self-admiration she could rightly say: “I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers [on the wall]. In this case I have become in his eyes like her that is finding peace.” (Cant. 8:10) So now let her brothers build upon her a battlement of silver, in recognition of her integrity. Let them consent to her marriage to her shepherd lover.
44. (a) The remnant must meet the test of love for Christ down till what event? (b) How will they be able to triumph in the test, according to the expressions of the Shulammite?
44 Down till the battle of Armageddon destroys the materialism of this old world the espoused remnant of Christ the Shepherd must meet the test of unswerving love for him. How will they triumph in this searching test? By having a love for him as the Shulammite had for her dear shepherd. Let King Solomon have his thousand vineyards; such material possessions do not tempt her. She is content with her own vineyard. (Cant. 8:11, 12) Why? Because she loves one really dear to her, and such love cannot be bought with material things of value. “Place me,” she says to him, “as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; because love is as strong as death is, insistence on exclusive devotion is as unyielding as Sheol is. Its blazings are the blazings of a fire, the flame of Jah. Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish love, nor can rivers themselves wash it away. If a man [even King Solomon] would give all the valuable things of his house for love, persons would positively despise them.”—Cant. 8:6, 7.
45. What does the shepherd lover now want to hear, and what desire toward him does she express?
45 Such an unconquerable love assured her of the shepherd’s love for her. He wants to hear her voice that speaks out of a faithful heart: “O you who are dwelling in the gardens, the partners are paying attention to your voice. Let me hear it.” At this invitation she expresses the desire that he come leaping, crossing the mountains that separate them and transforming them into fragrant mountains of the glorious heights of union with him: “Run away, my dear one, and make yourself like a gazelle or like a roe of the stags upon the mountains of spices.”—Cant. 8:13, 14.
46. For holding true to her lover, with what was the Shulammite crowned, and for what will the remnant be likewise crowned, and who will share in their crowning experience?
46 Crowned with joy is the loved Shulammite woman of this superlative song of King Solomon. Crowned with joy will the espoused remnant also be by resisting worldly materialism and holding true to the Shepherd-Bridegroom. All the “other sheep,” like the “virgins in her train as her companions,” will share in the faithful remnant’s joy. Thanks be to Jehovah God for this inspired Song that stirs us all to integrity in our love toward his Right Shepherd, Jesus Christ.