I. Courtship (Song of Songs 1:1–3:5)
I. Courtship (1:1–3:5)
1:1 Given what we know of King Solomon, it might seem strange that he would be the author of the Song of Songs, a love poem about a monogamous romance. After all, someone who had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines by the end of his life should hardly be offering marital advice! Moreover, his lack of self-control led to his downfall. His many wives turned his heart away from the Lord and led him into idolatry (see 1 Kgs 11:1-10). Nevertheless, God sovereignly used this man to give us a divine perspective on what real romance ought to look like.
1:2-4 The storyline of this book is presented as a poetic exchange between a man (“the king,” 1:4) and a woman (the “Shulammite,” 6:13), although a few other characters make appearances along the way. It begins with their courtship, leading up to their wedding.
The woman speaks first. She is captivated by her man and by the fragrance of his perfume. Yet, even better than how he smells is the kind of man he is: your name is perfume poured out (1:3). In this sense, “name” refers to character, to reputation. His has a pleasing aroma; therefore, the young women adore him and rightly so (1:3-4). Regardless of how appealing a man is on the outside, he’s of little worth if his character is flawed.
1:5-7 Twice the woman describes her complexion as dark (1:5-6). Of special note here is the spirit of legitimate pride associated with her recognition of her color: I am dark like the tents of Kedar, yet lovely (1:5). She saw herself as black and beautiful.
Importantly, she is not like one who veils herself—a reference to a prostitute. So not only does she admire her man’s character, she also has her own standards that she won’t compromise. She is a woman of dignity. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised” (Prov 31:30).
1:8-17 The man’s character is revealed in his response. Regardless of what she thinks of her own beauty, he affirms her as the most beautiful of women (1:8), comparing her loveliness to amazing creatures that God has made (1:9, 15). He says, How beautiful you are, my darling (1:15). Men have power to build women up or tear them down. So, husband, when was the last time you told your wife how beautiful she is?
2:1-3 As a result of his praise, the woman sees herself through his eyes: I am a wildflower of Sharon, a lily of the valleys (2:1). She can consider herself a lily because that’s what she is to him (2:2). He is her apricot tree, and she delights to be in his shade (2:3). No matter how difficult her circumstances, she trusts that with him there is rest and refreshment.
2:4-5 He looked on me with love can be translated, “His banner over me is love” (2:4; see CSB note). I like that phrasing because banners are used to promote our allegiance. They advertise for all what we value. Solomon, then, makes no secret of his love. He wants everyone to know the woman is his treasure. She is his, and he is hers. In fact, his love for her is so powerful that her knees are weak, and she needs to be sustained because of how lovesick he makes her (2:5).
2:6-7 That she longs for his left hand to be under her head and his right arm to embrace her (2:6) means she desires the deepest of intimacy with him, sexual intimacy. But they are not yet married. Therefore, she tells the young women of Jerusalem (and herself), do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time (2:7). She’s willing to be patient. The consummation of their love must await their wedding, when the time will be right.
2:8-9 He also longs to be with her. He is leaping over the mountains and moving like a gazelle because nothing will stand in his way or delay him. After all, she is waiting at the end of his journey.
2:10-14 He calls her to join him. It’s springtime. The winter is past, and everything is blossoming (2:10-13). Husband, you are to be the spring to your woman’s winter. The wife in Psalm 128:3 is “a fruitful vine” within the home. So if you want a summer wife who consistently bears good fruit, don’t bring home winter weather! As springtime brings new life, so this man brought new joy to his darling (2:13).
2:15-17 Catch the foxes for us . . . that ruin the vineyards (2:15). This is a vivid way of addressing the fact that little things can wreck a relationship. Marriages aren’t usually destroyed by major issues or events. Rather, they are harmed by the little things that go unaddressed. Over time, they will grow and cause a relationship to decay. So deal with them early. Seek counseling together, if necessary, to identify and catch your own “foxes” before it’s too late.
3:1-5 The woman’s longing caused her to dream of her love in her bed at night. Her intoxication with him drove her to envision herself searching for him through the streets (3:1-3). When she found him, she would not let him go (3:4). Once again (see 2:7), though, she urges the young women not to awaken sexual desires until they can be legitimately enjoyed in the marriage bed (3:5). So single men and women, don’t play with fire. God created sex, but he means for us to delight in it within the covenant bonds of marriage. Avoid immorality so that you may honor your Creator and enjoy his gift as he intended.