Bible Highlights The Song of Solomon 1:1–8:14
True Love Is Triumphant!
There is love that never fails. It is constant, enduring, triumphant. Such unswerving love exists between Jesus Christ and his “bride,” or spirit-begotten congregation. (Revelation 21:2, 9; Ephesians 5:21-33) And how beautifully this love is portrayed in The Song of Solomon!
Composed some 3,000 years ago by wise King Solomon of Israel, this “superlative song” (1:1) tells of the love existing between a shepherd and a country girl from the village of Shunem (Shulem). With all his wealth and splendor, the king was unable to win the Shulammite’s love, for she was loyal to her beloved shepherd.
When this poetic book is read with due care and appreciation, it gives single and married servants of Jehovah much food for thought regarding the purity, tenderness, loyalty, and abiding love that should be hallmarks of Christian wedlock. Indeed, all of us can benefit from this song about the triumph of true love.
The Shulammite in Solomon’s Camp
Please read The Song of Solomon 1:1-14. In the royal tents, the Shulammite spoke as if her beloved shepherd were present. Solomon extolled her beauty and promised to adorn her with articles of gold and silver. But the maiden resisted his advances and let him know that she had true love only for the shepherd.
◆ 1:2, 3—Why were these comparisons with wine and oil apropos?
Wine gladdens the heart and strengthens the depressed soul. (Psalm 104:15; Proverbs 31:6) Oil was poured out on favored guests for its soothing properties. (Psalm 23:5; Luke 7:38) Thus the distressed Shulammite was strengthened and comforted by recalling the shepherd’s “expressions of endearment” and his “name.” Similarly, the remnant of Christ’s anointed followers are encouraged by meditating on the love and assurances of their Shepherd, Jesus Christ, although they are yet in the world and separated from him.
Lesson for Us: Solomon would have decked the Shulammite with “circlets of gold” and “studs of silver,” but she resisted these material temptations and affirmed her unfailing love for the shepherd. (1:11-14) Reflecting on her attitude can strengthen the resolve of the “bride” class to spurn the world’s seductive materialism and remain faithful to their heavenly Bridegroom. If our hopes are earthly and we are contemplating matrimony, may this maiden’s example move us to make spiritual, not material, interests our prime concern.
Read 1:15–3:5. The shepherd entered the royal camp and voiced his love for the modest Shulammite, who esteemed him above all others. When they were separated, the maiden recalled joyful times with her beloved and pleaded that he hasten to her side. At night, she longed for him.
◆ 2:1-3—What is meant by these figures of speech?
The Shulammite called herself “a mere saffron of the coastal plain” because she was a humble, modest young woman who viewed herself as only one of many common flowers. The shepherd, however, realized that she was “a lily among thorny weeds,” for she was comely, capable, and faithful to Jehovah. To the maiden, the shepherd was “like an apple tree among the trees of the forest” because he was a spiritually inclined young man similarly devoted to God and having very desirable traits and abilities. An unmarried Christian seeking a partner in life should be looking only for a faithful fellow believer having qualities like those of the Shulammite or her beloved shepherd.
◆ 3:5—Why was this oath associated with these animals?
Gazelles and hinds are gentle, graceful, and beautiful animals that are also swift and surefooted. In essence, then, the maiden was binding the “daughters of Jerusalem” in an oath by all that is graceful and beautiful. By these creatures, she was obligating these women to refrain from trying to arouse love in her for anyone other than her beloved shepherd.
Lesson for Us: The maiden put the “daughters of Jerusalem,” or court women who waited on the king, under oath ‘not to arouse love in her until it felt inclined.’ (2:7; 3:5) This indicates that it is not possible to have romantic love for just anyone. The maiden herself felt no attraction for Solomon. How wise it is, then, for an unmarried Christian contemplating wedlock to consider only an eligible and faithful worshiper of Jehovah who can truly be loved!—1 Corinthians 7:39.
The Maiden in Jerusalem
Read 3:6–6:3. Solomon returned to Jerusalem in splendor. The shepherd got in touch with the maiden there and strengthened her with expressions of endearment. In a dream, she belatedly responded to the knock of her beloved and was mistreated by watchmen as she made a desperate search for him. Asked what made her dear one outstanding, she gave the “daughters of Jerusalem” a glowing description of him.
◆ 5:12—How were the shepherd’s eyes ‘like doves bathing in milk’?
Earlier, the Shulammite’s eyes had been likened to those of a dove because of being soft, gentle. (1:15; 4:1) For that matter, the shepherd had called the maiden herself his “dove.” (5:2) Here the lovesick young woman likened the shepherd’s eyes to blue-gray doves bathing in pools of milk. (5:8, 12) Likely, this simile referred to the shepherd’s dark iris surrounded by the gleaming white of his eyes.
Lesson for Us: The Shulammite was like “a garden barred in.” (4:12) Often a garden in ancient Israel was parklike, a veritable paradise with a good water source and a variety of vegetables, flowers, and trees. Usually, it was enclosed by a hedge or a wall and could be entered only through a locked gate. (Isaiah 5:5) To the shepherd, the Shulammite’s moral purity and loveliness were like a garden of rare beauty, fine fruitage, delightful fragrances, and exhilarating pleasantness. Her affections were not available to just any man, for she was chaste, like “a garden barred” to unwelcome intruders and open only to its lawful owner. In moral rectitude and loyalty the Shulammite thus set a fine example for yet unmarried Christian women today.
“The Flame of Jah”
Read 6:4–8:14. Solomon praised the maiden’s beauty, but she rejected him and declared her devotion to the shepherd. Unable to gain her love, Solomon let her go home. With her “dear one” at her side, she returned to Shunem as a mature woman of proved stability. The love between her and the shepherd was as strong as death, and its blazings were as “the flame of Jah.”
◆ 6:4—What was “Pleasant City”?
This expression can be rendered “Tirzah,” meaning “Pleasantness, Delightfulness.” Tirzah was a city of renowned beauty that became the first capital of the northern kingdom of Israel.—1 Kings 14:17; 16:5, 6, 8, 15.
◆ 7:4—How was the maiden’s neck “like an ivory tower”?
Apparently it had the smoothness of ivory and the slenderness of a tower. Earlier, her neck had been likened to “the tower of David,” perhaps the tower of the King’s House along Jerusalem’s east wall. Upon it ‘were hung a thousand circular shields of mighty men,’ suggesting that the Shulammite’s stately neck was graced with a necklace strung with round ornaments or jewels.—4:4; Nehemiah 3:25-27.
◆ 8:6, 7—How is love “as strong as death”?
Death has unfailingly claimed the lives of sinful humans, and true love is that strong. In its insistence on exclusive devotion, such love is just as unyielding as Sheol (gravedom) is in demanding the bodies of the deceased. Since Jehovah God put the capacity for love within humans, this quality emanates from him and is fittingly termed “the flame of Jah.” Not even rich King Solomon could buy such love.
Lesson for Us: The Shulammite’s experience with King Solomon was a searching test that she passed successfully. She was not unsteady in love and virtue, like a door easily turning on its hinges and needing to be barred with a cedar plank to prevent its swinging open to someone unwelcome or unwholesome. No, the maiden triumphed over the enticements of the king, standing like a wall against all the material attractions of this world. With reliance on God and by recalling the Shulammite’s fine example, Christian women today can similarly prove their stature as individuals firm in virtuous principles to Jehovah’s praise.—8:8-10.
Surely, this “superlative song,” having love as its theme, heightens our appreciation for the bond existing between Jesus and those chosen to be his heavenly “bride.” But all young men and women as well as husbands and wives devoted to Jehovah can benefit from seeking to imitate the integrity of the Shulammite and the shepherd in the face of trials and temptations. And this splendid portion of God’s Word should move all of us to remain ever loyal to Jehovah, the Source of triumphant love.