THE SONG OF SOLOMON CHAPTER 1.
The Church’s Longing for Christ.
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s. This superscription clearly names Solomon as the author of the prophetic poem contained in this book, and the many references throughout the book fully substantiate his authorship. V. 2. Let Him kiss me with the kisses, with one of the kisses, of His mouth; for Thy love is better than wine, that is, sweeter and more pleasant in every way. V. 3. Because of the savor of Thy good ointments, rather, “As to odor, Thy ointments are good,” Thy name is as ointment poured forth, one taken from its box or vial; therefore do the virgins love Thee, their attention being arrested by His costly perfume’s diffusing a wide fragrance. V. 4. Draw me, we will run after Thee, all the hearts devoted to the King hastening after Him with eager longing; the King hath brought me into His chambers, into the royal palace. We will be glad and rejoice in Thee, we will remember, and therefore duly praise, Thy love more than wine, for its pleasant, agreeable qualities. The upright love Thee, or, “they love Thee rightly,” with the best of reasons. V. 5. I am black, browned by exposure to the sun, but comely, still attractive and engaging, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, those of the Bedouins, darkened by the heat of the sun, yet, at the same time, as the curtains of Solomon, the precious hangings, the beautiful tapestry with which the wealthy king decorated his house. V. 6. Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me, thereby causing her tanned appearance. My mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards, giving her the position of a servant; but mine own vineyard have I not kept, she had not been faithful to her chief charge. V. 7. Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, pasturing His sheep, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon, the sheep being given an opportunity to rest during the heat of the day; for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions? straying away from His presence in desolation, to be disgraced. The King’s answer to this question is immediately given: v. 8. If thou know not, if she is really lacking in knowledge, as she states, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, following its tracks, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents, in the role of shepherdess. V. 9. I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots, which fitly represented his royal power. V. 10. Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, with strings of pearls, thy neck with chains of gold, little disks of precious metal or corals pierced and strung together. V. 11. We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver, golden chains studded with silver ornaments. The bride now answers upon the King’s praise: v. 12. While the King sitteth at His table, while the meal was in progress, my spikenard, an aromatic perfume made from an Oriental herb, sendeth forth the smell thereof, a delightful and pleasant odor. V. 13. A bundle of myrrh, which was kept in a small sack or receptacle and carried in the bosom, is my Well-beloved unto me; He shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. V. 14. My Beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire, the cyprus-flower of India, cultivated for its strong perfume, in the vineyards of Engedi, where Solomon had probably brought some of the Indian plant. V. 15. Behold, thou art fair, my love, or companion, friend; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes, or, “thine eyes are doves,” as lustrous and shimmering as the iridescence on the plumage of doves. And the bride answers: v. 16. Behold, Thou art fair, my Beloved, yea, pleasant, sweet and charming; also our bed is green, they were sitting on a couch in a shady grassplot or in a summer-bower. V. 17. The beams of our house are cedar, rather, our houses, and our rafters of fir, rather, our wainscoting of cypress, which is of a reddish hue, hard, durable, and fragrant.
The interpretation of this chapter, at least in its general outlines, is not difficult in the light of clear passages of the Bible. The woman Shulamith, the Church, feels the need of her Bridegroom’s love, although she realizes that she is not worthy of His caresses, wherefore she pleads for but one kiss of His mouth. Her desire restores the relation of true faith, and therefore she praises the blessings of His companionship, especially the fact that His name, He Himself breathes a savor of life unto life, which causes all the members of the Church to be inflamed with love toward the heavenly Bridegroom. At the same time, the bride is fully conscious of her own weakness, which is shared by all the members of the Church. Therefore she pleads that Christ Himself would draw her by the power of Him love, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. She realizes and confesses her own lack of righteousness, so that her appearance is indeed like that of filthy rags. Moreover, men, her own relatives in this world, hate and despise her; they inveigle her into the business of this world, so that she neglects her own vineyard, the work in the Church. That is her guilt, by reason of which she feels forsaken and desolate in herself; she cries out for the love of Christ, unworthy in herself though she is. And the mercy of Christ answers her. Rebuking her for her lack of knowledge, He nevertheless gives her the advice she needs, He admonishes her to seek true rest and food on the green pastures of the Gospel. At the same time He acknowledges her as His bride, He praises her as His pride and His might, He wants to decorate her with the riches of His merciful blessings. The Church agrees to this promise, confessing, at the same time, that the perfume of His love delighted her as long as He was with her, but that without His presence the finest jewelry had no value. This confession having restored the proper relation between Christ and the Church, especially since she praised His gifts of grace only and not her own worthiness, He now praises her beauty, her holiness and purity, while she, in turn, points out the happiness of being united with Him in true bridal love, this fact holding true of all the members of Christ’s Church, no matter in which earthly homes they may be at the present time. Every Christian congregation, according to her true essence and nature, consists of elect, saints, beloved of Christ.