By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
Verse 1. - By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The bride is probably relating a dream. The time referred to is the close of the day on which she had been visited by her lover. She is retired to rest, and dreams that she searches for the beloved object in the neighbouring city (cf. Job 33:15). It is another way of telling her love. She is always longing for the beloved one. She had been waiting for him, and he came not, and retired to rest with a heart troubled and anxious because her lover did not appear as she expected at the evening hour. The meaning may be "night after night (לֵילות)" (cf. Song of Solomon 3:8), or the plural maybe used poetically for the singular. Ginsburg observes that "by night on my bed" is opposed to midday couch (cf. 2 Samuel 4:5), merely to express what came into her thoughts at night in her dreams or as the result of a dream. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the bride intends to represent herself as suffering from self-reproach in having grieved her lover and kept him away from her. In that case the typical meaning would be simple and direct. The soul grieves when it is conscious of estrangement from him whom it loves, and the sense of separation becomes intolerable, impelling to new efforts to deepen the spiritual life.
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
Verse 2. - (I said) I will rise now, and go about the city, in the streets and in the broad ways; I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. Delitzsch renders, "So I will arise, then." The words of the maiden are quite inconsistent with the hypothesis of a shepherd lover, for in that case she would seek him, not in the streets, but outside the city. Some think the city referred to is Jerusalem, with its markets and streets - the royal city (cf. Proverbs 7:11). If it is a dream, it will be unnecessary to decide to what city the words refer. The idea of the speaker would seem to be either that she was at the time within the walls of the city referred to, or that she was in some dwelling near. But a dream is not always consistent with the real circumstances of the dreamer. Taking it as a reminiscence of first love, it seems better to understand the city as only imaginary, or some neighbouring town in the north.
The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?
Verse 3. - The watchmen that go about the city found me: (to whom I said) Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? The simplicity of these words is very striking. They confirm the view that the bride is recalling what occurred in her country life. The watchmen make no reply, and do not treat her ill, as in the dream related in Song of Solomon 5:7, where they are keepers of the walls, and smite her and wound her. In a small country town she might have been recognized, or known to be really in trouble. But such incidents must not be pressed too much in a poem. The allegorical view finds considerable support in the fact that it is difficult on any hypothesis exactly to explain the language as descriptive of real occurrences. In such instances as Psalm 127:1 and Isaiah 52:8 the reference to watchmen in the city shows that such a metaphor would be familiarly understood. Whether adopted from Solomon's Song or not, the figure of a city watched and guarded, and the people of God as watching for the glory of Zion, was common in the prophetic writings. The soul seeking for its object and for the restoration of its peace calls in the aid of the faithful guardians of the holy city, the friends alike of the Saviour and of those who desire to be his.
It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
Verse 4. - It was but a little that I passed from them, when I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. This verse plainly points to the search referred to in the previous verse being limited to the neighbourhood of Shulamith's home. The lover was not far off, though he had delayed his coming. Possibly it is a real occurrence which is related. In that case we must suppose that the night was not very far advanced. But the hypothesis of a dream is the most natural explanation. The word cherer, which is used of the house, denotes the inner part, penetralia. The modesty of the last clause is very beautiful. The mother would, of course, at that time be in her sleeping chamber. There alone would the maiden receive her lover at such a time. The mother would gladly welcome the young man, and thus the love which Shulamith declares is set upon the ground of perfect chastity and homely purity. The object of this little episode introduced by the bride into her song as she lies in the arms of Solomon is to show that, ecstatic and intense as her devotion is, it is not the lawless affection of a concubine, but the love of a noble wife. The religious emotions are always presented to us in Scripture, not as wild fanaticism or superficial excitement, but as pure offering of the heart which blends with the highest relations and interests of human life, and sanctifies home and country with all their ties and obligations. The mother and the child are one in the new atmosphere of bridal joy. No religion is worthy of the name which does not bring its object into the chamber of her who conceived us. We love all that are bound with us in life not the less, but the more, because we love Christ supremely. We revere all that is just and holy in the common world the more, and not the less, because we worship God and serve the Lord. What a rebuke to asceticism, monasticism, and all unsocial religion!
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
Verse 5. - I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awaken love, until it please. This is the refrain which divides the poem. We thus perceive that the whole of the preceding passage has been uttered by the bride in the presence of the ladies. There is no occasion to connect a refrain very closely with the words which go before it. Like the ancient Greek chorus, it may express a general sentiment in harmony with the pervading feeling of the whole composition. In this case it seems to be a general note of praise, celebrating the preciousness of pure, spontaneous affection. There have been several beautiful and celebrated imitations of this first part of Solomon's Song, though they all fall far short of the original. Paul Gerhard has caught its spirit; Laurentius has copied it in his Advent Hymn. Watts, in bk. 1:66-78 of his 'Divine gongs;' 'Lyra Germanica;' Schaff's 'Christian Song;' and Miss Havergal, in some of her compositions, will furnish examples. Delitzsch quotes an ancient Latin imitation -
"Quando tandem venies, meus amor?
Propera de Libano, dulcis amor!
Clamat, amat, sponsula. Veni, Jesu;
Dulcis veni Jesu." This ends Part II., which sets before us the lovely beginning of this ideal love. We must then suppose that the writer imagines himself in Jerusalem, as though one of the court ladies, at the time that Solomon the king returns from the north, bringing with him his bride elect. We pass, therefore, from the banqueting chamber, and recall the scenes which accompanied the arrival of Shulamith at Jerusalem. The remainder of the poem is simply the celebration of married love, the delight of the bridegroom in the bride and of the bride in her husband. The whole book concerns a bride, and not one who is about to be made a bride. Here the dream which is introduced is not the dream of a lover awaiting the beloved one, but the dream of a young wife whose bridegroom tarries. The third part is the nuptial rejoicings; the fourth part is the reminiscence of love days or of the early married life; and the fifth part, which is a conclusion, is a visit of Solomon and his bride to the country home of the latter, pointing to the depth and reality of the influence which this pure maiden had upon his royal nature.
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?
Verse 6-ch. 5:1. - Part III. NUPTIAL REJOICINGS. Verse 6. - Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant? This may be taken as spoken by a single voice, one of the ladies or inhabitants of Jerusalem, or it may be regarded as the exclamation of the whole population going out to see the splendid sight - a gorgeous procession coming towards the city. "Who is this coming?" (עֹלָה, feminine); that is, "Who is this lady coming?" There could be no difficulty in discerning that it was a bridal procession which is seen. Curiosity always asks, "What bride is this?" "Who is she?" not, "Who is he?" A maiden from Galilee is being conducted to Jerusalem; the procession naturally passes through the valley of the Jordan (Ghor). There is splendour and majesty in the sight. It must be some one coming to the royal palace. The censers of frankincense are being swung to and fro and filling the air with fragrant smoke. Columns of dust and smoke from the burning incense rise up to heaven, and mark the line of progress before and after. "The spices of Arabia" were famous at all times. Hence the names of the perfumes are Arabic, as murr, levona, and the travelling spice merchant, or trader, was Arabic (cf. the Arabic elixir). We can scarcely miss the typical colouring in such a representation - the wilderness, typical of bondage and humiliation, sin and misery, out of which the bride is brought; the onward progress towards a glorious destination (see Isaiah 40:3; Hosea 1:16; Psalm 68:8). The Church must pass through the wilderness to her royal home, and the soul must be led out of the wilderness of sin and unbelief into everlasting union with her Lord.
Behold his bed, which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.
Verse 7. - Behold, it is the litter of Solomon; three score mighty men are about it, of the mighty men of Israel. The litter, or palanquin, is easily recognized. The word is mittah, which is literally "bed," or "litter," but in the ninth verse we have another word, appiryon, which is a more stately word. "the royal car." It is the bringing home of the bride which is described. In the forty-fifth psalm the idea seems to be that the bridegroom betook himself to the house of the parents and fetched his bride, or that she was brought to him in festal procession, and he went forth to meet her (see 1 Macc. 9:39). That was the prevailing custom, as we see in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). In this case, however, there is a vast difference in rank between the bride and bridegroom, and she is brought to him. The long journey through the wilderness is implied in the mention of the bodyguard (cf. Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 25:4). The intention evidently is to show how dear the bride was to Solomon. His mighty men were chosen to defend her. So the Church is surrounded with armies of guardian attendants. Her Lord is the Lord of hosts. The description reminds us of the exquisite lines in Shakespeare's 'Antony and Cleopatra,' in which he describes the lovely Egyptian in her barge "like a burnished throne," lying "in her pavilion (cloth of gold, of tissue)," with the smiling cupids on each side, while
"... from the barge,
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs."
(Acts 2, sc. 2) The word mittah, "a bed, or litter," comes from a root "to stretch out," and is also used of a bier (see 2 Samuel 3:21). The idea is that of a portable bed, or sitting cushion, hung round with curtains, after the manner of the Indian palanquin, such as is still found in the Turkish caiques or the Venetian gondolas. It was, of course, royal, belonging to Solomon, not to any nobleman or private person; hence its magnificence. The bearers are not named. The bodyguard, consisting of sixty chosen men, forming an escort, were one tenth part of the whole royal guard, as we see from 1 Samuel 27:2; 1 Samuel 30:9. Delitzsch suggests that in the mention of the number there may be a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel - 60 being a multiple of 12. The term, "mighty men," is explained in the next verse as warriors, that is, men "held fast by the sword" (אֲחֻזִיִ חֶרֶב), i.e., according to Hebrew idiom, men practised in the use of the sword; so it is explained by some; but others take it as meaning that they "handle the sword;" hence our Revised Version.
They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.
Verse 8. - They all handle the sword, and are expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night. The guard of warriors round the litter secured the bride from any sudden alarm as she travelled through the wilderness, and so gave her quiet rest. The journey from Shunem to Jerusalem would be about fifty miles in a direct course, and it was therefore necessary to pass at least one, if not two, nights on the way; the course being through a wild and solitary region. The Church of God may be often called to pass through dangers and enemies, but he that loveth her will provide against her destruction - she shall have rest in the love cf. her Lord. He will surround her with his strength. "My peace I give unto thee" - provided by me, coming from myself, the fruit of my self-sacrificing love.
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.
Verses 9, 10. - King Solomon made himself a palanquin of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the seats of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, from the daughters of Jerusalem. The palanquin is described, that the attention may be kept fixed awhile on the bridal procession, which, of course, forms the kernel of the whole poem, as representing the perfect union of the bride and bridegroom. The Greek versions translate φορεῖον: the Vulgate, ferculum. We read in Athenaeus (5:13) that the philosopher and tyrant Athemon showed himself on "a silver-legged φορεῖον with purple coverlet." There probably is some connection between the Hebrew appiryon and the Greek phoreion, but it is exceedingly doubtful if the Hebrew is merely a lengthened form of the Greek. Delitzsch derives the Hebrew from a root parah, "to cut or carve" anything of wood. The Greek would seem to be connected with the verb φερω, "to bear," "carry." The resemblance may be a mere coincidence. The rabbinical tradition is that the Hebrew word means "couch, or litter." Hitzig connects it with the Sanscrit paryana, meaning "saddle," "riding saddle," with which we may compare the Indian paryang. "bed." Others find a Chaldee root for the word, פָרָא, "to run," as currus in Latin, or from a root גָּאַר, "to shine," i.e." to be adorned." At all events, it would not be safe to argue the late date of the book from such a word as appiryon, on account of its resemblance to a Greek word. The "wood of Lebanon" is, of course, the cedar or cypress (1 Kings 5:10, etc.). There may be a covert allusion intended to the decoration of the temple as the place where the honour of the Lord dwelleth, and where he meets his people. The frame of the palanquin was of wood, the ornaments of silver. The references to the high value set upon silver, while gold is spoken of as though it was abundant, are indications of the age in which the poem was composed, which must have been nearly contemporaneous with the Homeric poems, in which gold is spoken of similarly. Recent discoveries of the tomb of Agamemnon, etc., confirm the literary argument. The palanquins of India are also highly decorated. The daughters of Jerusalem, i.e. the ladies of the court, in their affection for King Solomon, have procured a costly tapestry, or several such, which they have spread over the purple cushion. Thus it is paved, or covered over, with the tokens of love - while all love is but a preparation for this supreme love. (For the purple coverings of the seat, see Judges 5:10; Amos 3:12; Proverbs 7:16.) The preposition מִן in the last clause is rendered differently by some, but there can be no doubt that the meaning is "on the part of," that is, coming from. The typical interpreter certainly finds a firm ground here. Whether we think of the individual believer or of the Church of God, the metaphor is very apt and beautiful - we are borne along towards the perfection of our peace and blessedness in a chariot of love. All that surrounds us speaks to us of the Saviour's love and of his royal magnificence, as he is adored by all the pure and lovely spirits in whose companionship he delights.
He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.
Verse 11. - Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother hath crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart. This seems to be an appeal to a larger company of those who will rejoice in the bride and her happiness. The daughters of Zion are perhaps intended to represent the people generally as distinguished from the ladies of the court, i.e. let all the people rejoice in their king and in his royal bride. The mention of the royal mother seems to point to the beginning of Solomon's reign as the time referred to. The crown, or chaplet, with which the proud mother adorned her son, was the fresh wreath round a young king's head, a wedding coronet, no doubt made of gold and silver. It was not the crown placed on the head of Pharaoh's daughter, which would not be so spoken cf. According to the Talmud, the custom remained even to later times. There can be no doubt of Bathsheba's special delight in Solomon (see 1 Kings 1:11; 1 Kings 2:13). We must not, of course, push too far the typical interpretation of such language, which may be taken as the poetical form rather than the spiritual substance. And yet there may be an allusion, in the joy and pride of Bathsheba in her son's gladness, and the consummation of his nuptial bliss, to the Incarnation and the crowning glory of a Divine humanity, which is at once the essential fact of redemption, and the bright expectation which, on the head of the Saviour, lights up eternity to the faith of his people.