“[Love’s] flames are a blazing fire, the flame of Jah.”—SONG OF SOLOMON 8:6.
1, 2. Who can benefit from the Song of Solomon, and why? (See opening picture.)
THE bride and groom looked into each other’s eyes and smiled. Everyone could see that they were in love. The brother who had given their wedding talk noticed how tenderly they held each other, and he wondered: ‘As the years go by, will their love deepen? Or will it slowly fade away?’ When a husband and wife truly love each other, their relationship can endure even the most difficult problems. But sadly, many married people become unhappy and break up. So you may wonder, ‘Can love really last?’
2 Even when King Solomon was alive, true love was not common. Why? Solomon explained: “One upright man out of a thousand I found, but a woman among them I have not found. This alone I have found: The true God made mankind upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:26-29, footnote) Immoral foreign women who worshipped Baal were living among the Israelites. As a result, many Israelite men and women had also become immoral.* (See footnote.) But about 20 years earlier, King Solomon wrote a poem about a man and a woman who were truly in love. Whether we are married or not, the Song of Solomon can help us to understand what true love is and how we can show it.
TRUE LOVE IS POSSIBLE!
3. Why is true love between a man and a woman possible?
3 Read Song of Solomon 8:6. Love is described as “the flame of Jah.” Why? Because Jehovah’s greatest quality is love, and he created us with the ability to imitate his love. (Genesis 1:26, 27) After Jehovah created the first man, Adam, he gave him a beautiful wife. When Adam saw Eve for the first time, he felt so happy that he just had to describe how he felt about her. Eve also felt very close to her husband. After all, Jehovah had created Eve from Adam. (Genesis 2:21-23) From the beginning, Jehovah made it possible for a man and a woman to have true and lasting love for each other.
4, 5. What is the story in the Song of Solomon?
4 The Song of Solomon beautifully describes the love that a man and woman can have for each other. The song is about the love between a country girl from the village of Shunem, or Shulem, and a young shepherd. This is their story: The girl was working in her brothers’ vineyards close to where King Solomon and his soldiers were camped. He noticed the girl and ordered his servants to bring her into the camp. Then he told her how beautiful she was and offered her many gifts. But the girl was in love with a shepherd and insisted that she wanted to be with him. (Song of Solomon 1:4-14) The shepherd looked for her and went into the camp. When he found her, they expressed their love for each other with beautiful words.—Song of Solomon 1:15–17.
5 When Solomon returned to Jerusalem, he took the young woman with him, and the shepherd followed her. (Song of Solomon 4:1-5, 8, 9) Nothing that Solomon said or did could change the girl’s love for the shepherd. (Song of Solomon 6:4-7; 7:1-10) So Solomon let the girl go back home. Finally, the Shulammite called to her dear one to come running to her “like a gazelle.”—Song of Solomon 8:14.
6. Why can it be difficult to know who is speaking in the Song of Solomon?
6 The Song of Solomon is a beautiful song. In fact, it has been called “the song of songs.” (Song of Solomon 1:1) But in the song, Solomon did not include the names of the characters when they were speaking. He wanted the beauty of poetry and song to stand out instead of adding many details. Even though the song does not include names, it is still possible to know which character is speaking by what he or she says.*—See footnote.
“YOUR EXPRESSIONS OF AFFECTION ARE BETTER THAN WINE”
7, 8. How did the shepherd and the girl express their love for each other? Give examples.
7 The young woman and the shepherd said beautiful things to each other to express their love. Some of their “expressions of affection” may sound strange to us because they were written over 3,000 years ago. (Song of Solomon 1:2) Even though their culture was different from ours today, we can understand how the couple felt about each other. For example, the shepherd said that the girl’s eyes were like “those of doves,” which meant that he loved her kind eyes. (Song of Solomon 1:15) And she said that his eyes were as beautiful as doves. (Read Song of Solomon 5:12.) To her, the color of his eyes stood out against the white, like blue-gray doves bathing in milk.
8 The shepherd and the young woman praised each other’s good looks, but that is not all. For example, he loved the kind way she spoke to other people. (Read Song of Solomon 4:7, 11.) So he told her: “Your lips, my bride, drip with comb honey. Honey and milk are under your tongue.” To him, her words were as sweet and good as milk and the most delicious honey. When the shepherd told the girl “you are altogether beautiful” and “there is no blemish in you,” he was talking not just about her beauty but also about her lovely qualities.
A husband and wife reassure each other of their love by what they say and do
9. (a) What does the love between a husband and wife include? (b) Why is it important that a husband and wife express their love to each other?
9 Today, for a husband and wife who serve Jehovah, marriage is much more than just a formal agreement. They truly love each other and express their love. But what kind of love should it be? Is it the unselfish love that the Bible teaches us to have for all people? (1 John 4:8) Is it the natural love that we feel toward our family? Is it the closeness between two good friends? (John 11:3) Or is it romantic love? (Proverbs 5:15-20) Actually, as a married couple, you need to express true love for each other in all these ways. By what you say and do, you can reassure each other of your love and be happy in your marriage. Yes, it is very important to do so, no matter how busy your life may be. In some cultures where marriages are arranged, the husband and wife may not have known each other before the wedding day. So as they get to know each other and their love grows, they need to tell each other of the love they feel. This will bring them closer together and strengthen their marriage.
10. How else can expressing affection to each other strengthen a marriage?
10 When a couple express their affection to each other, they strengthen their marriage in another way. In the song, King Solomon offered the young woman “gold ornaments studded with silver.” He praised her, saying that she was “as beautiful as the full moon, as pure as the sunlight.” (Song of Solomon 1:9-11; 6:10) But the young woman had already found the one she truly loved. What helped her to stay loyal to the shepherd? What comforted her when they could not be together? (Read Song of Solomon 1:2, 3.) She remembered how happy his words of love had made her feel. His expressions of affection had been “better than wine” to her, and there in the palace they comforted her like “fragrant oil” on the head. (Psalm 23:5; 104:15) It is important for a husband and wife to express their affection for each other often because it helps their love to grow. And their memories of these expressions will help their love to stay strong.
DO NOT AWAKEN LOVE “UNTIL IT FEELS INCLINED”
11. What can we learn from the Shulammite’s words to the women in Solomon’s palace?
11 If you would like to get married, what can you learn from the Shulammite? She felt no love for King Solomon and firmly told the women in the palace: “Do not try to awaken or arouse love in me until it feels inclined.” (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5) So would it be right to start a romantic relationship with just anyone? No, instead it is wise to wait patiently and marry someone you can truly love.
It is wise to wait patiently and marry the one you can truly love
12. Why did the Shulammite girl love the shepherd?
12 Why did the Shulammite girl love the shepherd? She thought he was handsome, like “a gazelle.” His hands were strong like “cylinders of gold,” and his legs were beautiful and strong like “pillars of marble.” But he was not just strong and handsome. The girl knew that the shepherd loved Jehovah and had beautiful qualities. That is why he was special to her, “like an apple tree among the trees of the forest.”—Song of Solomon 2:3, 9; 5:14, 15.
13. Why did the shepherd love the Shulammite girl?
13 The Shulammite was very beautiful. Even King Solomon was attracted to her, although he already had “60 queens and 80 concubines and young women without number.” Was her beauty the only reason the shepherd loved the girl? No. She also loved Jehovah and had beautiful qualities. For example, the girl was humble and compared herself to a common flower, “a saffron of the coastal plain.” But to the shepherd she was unique, “like a lily among thorns.”—Song of Solomon 2:1, 2; 6:8.
14. If we would like to be married, what can we learn from the shepherd and the Shulammite?
14 Jehovah commands his servants to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) This means that we would only date or marry someone who is a baptized servant of Jehovah. How will this help a marriage? A husband and wife will have to cope with the stress of daily life. But when they both have a close relationship with Jehovah, their marriage can be peaceful and happy. So if you would like to be married, follow the example of the shepherd and the Shulammite. Look for someone with beautiful qualities who really loves Jehovah.
MY BRIDE “IS LIKE A LOCKED GARDEN”
15. How is the loyalty of the Shulammite girl a good example for unmarried Christian couples?
15 Read Song of Solomon 4:12. Why did the shepherd say that his Shulammite girl was like “a locked garden”? A garden with a locked gate is not open to the public. The girl was like that garden because she loved only the shepherd. She planned to marry him, so she ignored any attention from the king. And she would not change her mind. She was like “a wall” and not “a door” that could be easily opened. (Song of Solomon 8:8-10) In the same way, a Christian couple who are planning to get married will be loyal to each other. They will not give romantic attention to anyone else.
16. If you are dating, what can you learn from the Song of Solomon?
16 When the shepherd asked the girl to go for a walk with him, her brothers did not let her go. Instead, they sent her to guard their vineyards. Did they not trust her? Did they think that their sister and the shepherd wanted to do something immoral? No. Her brothers wanted to protect their sister from a situation that could tempt her to do something wrong. (Song of Solomon 1:6; 2:10-15) If you are dating, how can you avoid anything that could lead you into sexual immorality? Decide ahead of time what you will avoid so as to keep your relationship clean. Never be alone together where no one else can see you. Express your affection for each other only in a clean way.
17, 18. How has this study of the Song of Solomon helped you?
17 Jehovah wants marriages to last. He wants a husband and wife to love each other. It is natural for them to be in love when they get married. But for their marriage to last, they must keep their love strong, like a flame that never stops burning.—Mark 10:6-9.
18 If you would like to be married, look for someone you can truly love. When you find that person, work together to keep your love for each other strong. As we learned from the Song of Solomon, true and lasting love is possible, for it is “the flame of Jah.”—Song of Solomon 8:6.
See the “Outline of Contents” of the Song of Solomon in the New World Translation, pages 926-927.