James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.Songs 6:1-8:14
Acts 4, SCENE 1 This subsection corresponds to the afternoon of the fourth day, and carries us through chapter 6. The occasion looks like a formal visit of the bridegroom, with his courtiers, to the bride and her maids of honor. The place is a room in her future palace. Solomon begins his praises (Song of Solomon 6:4-12), when the bride rises to retire, but the courtiers beg her to remain (Song of Solomon 6:13). The ladies inquire, “What will ye see in the Shulamite?” or “Why do ye desire her to tarry longer?”
Acts 5, SCENE 1 On this, the morning of the fifth day, the bridesmaids are describing the nuptial wardrobe as they assist the bride in her toilet (Song of Solomon 7:1-6). Compare the wardrobe in Isaiah 3:16-24. See also a parallel in Psalms 45.
Acts 5, SCENE 1 The afternoon of the same day (Song of Solomon 7:7 to Song of Solomon 8:3), is a representation of a more private interview between the two, when they avow their attachment for each other. As the week advances they are thus gradually brought into closer acquaintance with one another and their affection increases. The bridegroom begins the conversation (Song of Solomon 7:7-9), and the bride responds in an undertone (Song of Solomon 7:10), but subsequently reverts to the rural haunts of her maternal home, whither she would invite him (Song of Solomon 7:12-13 and continuing into the next chapter).
The warmth of these expressions seem to many too amatory for spiritual interpretation, but following Strong, we keep two considerations before us: (1) It is the bride who speaks in the most ardent terms, not the bridegroom, and it is only right to assume a pure and refined nature behind them appropriate to her sex and innocence; and (2) It is no cold “platonic” love which the Bible employs as the emblem of Christ’s feeling for His church, but something very different. See Ephesians 5:28-33.
Acts 6, SCENE 1 This is the wedding day. Song of Solomon 8:4-7 may be taken as corresponding to the formal espousal in the presence of witnesses after the manner of the Hebrews.
Solomon arrives early (Song of Solomon 8:4), but the bride soon joins him, and then the guests are represented as asking the question in Song of Solomon 8:5.
The bride is pointing out to the bridegroom the scene of their earliest acquaintance (Song of Solomon 8:5-7). (See the Revised Version for an improved rendering of this and other passages referred to.) Compare Jeremiah 2:2 for Jehovah’s reference to the warmth of the early zeal of His people toward Him.
Acts 6, SCENE 1 This synchronizes with the afternoon of the sixth day, and gives an account of the dower portion of the bride. The matter is negotiated by her brothers, who, in their deliberations aside, speak depreciatingly of her as they had been accustomed to do ever since her tender age. It is they who speak in Song of Solomon 8:8. When they say, “If she be a wall” (Song of Solomon 8:9), they refer to her external appearance suggesting to them the blank and unadorned structure facing the street in oriental houses.
The bride overhears, and interrupts indignantly in Song of Solomon 8:10, reminding them that she has found favor in the eyes of her beloved. She then takes the negotiation into her own hands, settling the income of her private estate upon the bridegroom (Song of Solomon 8:11-12).
The bridegroom now calls to her in Song of Solomon 8:14 and she responds in the closing verse, which has been compared with the final invocation of the Apocalypse to the Lord Jesus, “Even so, come!”
ANSWERS TO CRITICISM AND OBJECTIONS
At the close of Strong’s exposition there follows his vindication of the book in which he deals with criticism and objections, some of the answers to which are here in a condensed form.
There are those who speak of the song as indecent, but this is explained by ignorance of the plot and its language. Even the bare outline of the plot largely disproves this, to say nothing of the better translation which accompanies it and which space does not permit us to give except a word here and there. There is a profound and hallowed instinct at the foundation of the marriage state, and where no sin is, it may be alluded to by lips of purity.
Some object that it is purely a love song, nothing more, and therefore unworthy of a place in holy writ; but Jews and Christians in all the ages have maintained its spiritual interpretation. They may have differed in the details of its application, but they have seen in it a foreshadowing of the relation of Jehovah to Israel, or Christ to His church.
Of course, a love scene is the ground of the song, but its final import is of a higher significance. Figurative language has a two-fold application, the literal and the symbolic, a present physical scene which is the type of a distant event or a spiritual principle. The physical is usually depicted with particularity, but it is not proper to pursue the parallel into all the minuteness of the application. A parable does not run on all fours.
A third class have considered the book irreverent, and deprecated addressing God in such familiar intimacy as its dialogues involve when considered symbolically. But the answer is first, that the language is not thought of as used by individuals in their personal capacity, but by the Jewish nation collectively, or the church considered as the bride of Christ. Charles Wesley, and other hymn writers, employ the same sentiments in their lyrics intended for public worship. Secondly, the bridegroom typified here, is not God in His sovereign capacity, but the Redeemer in His revealed relation as partaker of our human nature. Moreover, the bride is not the church in her present weak and defective life and experience, but as presented unto Him, “not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27).
A fourth class speak of the book as unedifying, which they think is justified by the fact that it is so little used. But there are other parts of the Bible of which the same might be said, and yet they are inspired, and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness’’ (1 Timothy 3:16), even though not as much so as other Scriptures. Strong maintains that the fault in this case lies largely in our poor version of the Song poor not only in translation but arrangement. This is true not only of the King James Version but of more modern ones in English. The foregoing exposition furnishes a hint as to the possibilities in the book, if it had a better literary form.