Goal: My goal for tonight is to paint a beautiful picture of love making within marriage, how to get to where Solomon and Shulammite are, and how marriages and relationships can turn sour very quickly.
The Song of all of Solomon’s songs! The Song that will unlock unknown desires in you that you never knew you had. The Song that paints a picture of love that everyone who is normal would want. This song paints a biblical picture of what real and satisfying love looks like. I want to open up this treasure of a book and my prayer is that your heart would be open to pursuing love and loving in the healthy way that Solomon describes.
Since the consummation of the fullness of love begins at the wedding night, I thought it would be good for us to begin our series here. The speech here paints a picture of the wedding night of Solomon and Shulammite and the lyrics are crucial for us to understand if we are going to absorb the rest of this Song. And since this is a picture of their wedding day, I thought I’d share some pictures of our wedding day over 12 years ago…
The setting in this passage is as such: Their engagement is over, the wedding just ended, the guests have gone home, evening is here, and the two lovers are all alone and completely taken by one another. Solomon says this as he stares at his bride:
1 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. 2 Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young. 3 Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. 4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. 5 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. 6 Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. 7 You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. (4:1-7)
Who talks like this anyways? I mean come on, he has already won his woman, why the need for all the baby talk. And besides, the picture we get of Shulammite after this passage, is a woman who would look like this picture below:
But because we know Shulammite was beautiful to Solomon, we need to unpack what these words would have meant to Shulammite, because they reveal an appreciation for every aspect of her beauty. But before we do that, we need to understand the background of this evening a little bit better.
By way of Hebrew culture of repeating things (3 times), Shulammite has entered into an oath; an oath of purity (an oath is a solemn appeal to God as clear evidence of the truth of a statement or the binding character of a promise): I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases (2:7; 3:5; 8:4).
The taking of an oath in the Hebrew culture involved the truthfulness and integrity of the individual’s character. It was considered an important act when an individual swore an oath, unlike the days we live in, where oaths are easily broken and unkept with little to no consequences. An oath was an affirmation of a promise.
So when the Shulammite entered into these oaths (and the fact that she takes an oath three times), tells us that Solomon (the author) is driving home a particular point concerning the arousal of love in these oaths. Throughout this book, Solomon is making a point to the reader of the danger of awakening love (sexual passion) before the proper time. This is something, because of the words “I adjure you” (I urge or solemnly or earnestly request “someone” to do something), because of this phrase, we know that the author is taking this very seriously.
In all of these three instances, Shulammite is showing wisdom and love for the ladies of the court not to plunge rashly into sexual passion before it’s time (marriage). She is appealing for premarital purity. This is clearly one of the main themes of the book.
So with this in mind, let’s turn to Song 4 and indulge:
(v. 4:1a): Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil.
Solomon is overwhelmed with his bride and her beauty and begins by repeating himself, and not out of nervousness. He wants to make sure she knows he is smitten by her beauty. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Everything about you is so beautiful, I don’t even know where to start…. your eyes, your smile, your hair, your breasts!”
As I can imagine that they are embracing one another, observing the contours of each others bodies, and their eyes keep meeting up and they glare deeply into one another and Solomon knows where to begin: “Your eyes are doves behind your veil.”
This is a good start! Doves are the ultimate romancers. In every culture where they appear, they represent romantic affection, purity, beauty and innocence. After the good start, Solomon says this (v. 1b): “Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.”
If a dude said this to his new wife on their honeymoon, he’d been alone in the bed or would have a firm hand going across his face. Don’t quote this kind of poetry because it was only meant romantically in Solomon’s context, not yours. In this particular case he is referring to black haired goats with long silky hair that is actually beautiful and shines upon the reflection of the sun. This would have actually been quite romantic. A modern day equivalent may sound like this: “Hey baby, nice hair! It flows like the Colorado river.”
Solomon gets on a roll from here (v. 2): “Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young.” In other words, he is saying “I’m really glad you have straight white teeth!” This is a good thing just don’t say it the way Solomon did and you’ll be fine.
(v. 3a): “Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely.” Basically saying, “Your lips are very sexy, my heart is beating really fast and I want to make out with you.”
(v. 3b): “Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.” This alludes to Shulammite probably smiling really big and blushing because of Solomon’s words. In Solomon’s day, pomegranates were thought to be aphrodisiacs that helped arousal, like wine.I could imagine it sounding like this to Shulammite: “Your luscious and beautiful smile and your blushing cheeks are sweet and moist; and you taste like a pomegranate when I kiss you.” Solomon is killing it!! But it gets better…
(v. 4): “Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors.” In Solomon’s day, references to necks describe aspects of one’s character and strength (seen in the reference to the rows of stone and a thousand shields). “I love your very long neck baby!”
When Solomon said, “All of them shields of warriors.” Shulammite would be hearing that her elegant demeanor reflects a character that Solomon deeply respects, seeing her as a strong woman who will resist anyone who would attempt to cross her physical boundaries. He goes on as her neck naturally flows down to her breasts:
(vv. 5-6): “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.” This imagery suggests that her breasts are uncovered or he sees some cleavage and Solomon is enjoying them.
Proverbs 5:18-19: “18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” “Honey, this is a godly… and biblical thing!”
He goes on. (v. 7): “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” There is no way he can say this unless his spouse is the standard of beauty for him. Take notes husbands. There is no one who is flawless unless they are your standard of beauty, then they are everything to you because it is them, not their body in particular that you love.
Here he is reiterating what he said at the beginning. “Behold you are beautiful my love!” In case you didn’t know, I think you’re beautiful and I am taken by you. Single women, listen, this is the way you should be spoken to by your new husband. If your boyfriend now cannot appreciate you with words or speaks to you in a demeaning or disrespectful way, or only wants you for certain things, do not settle. This is what you deserve. You are made in the image God and you are beautiful. Set your standard high, men will catch up if you demand more. God desires to give this to you in the context of marriage. Save yourself for this!
Solomon’s praise of his country princess wife leads way to their passion together:
(v. 8): Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.”
Solomon here is being a man! A man who is giving to his wife and not taking from her. He has showered her with words of affection to reassure her of his attraction to her, and now is reassuring her of his protection of her. The snow-capped peaks of Amana, Senir and Hermon, the den of lions and leopards are all dangerous. Those peaks are dangerous to climb and lions and leopards will kill you if given a chance.
Perhaps she has some fear of being completely vulnerable with him in her nakedness. Or maybe she fears her husband will not find her sexually fulfilling as he anticipates. Solomon’s initial praise has helped calm those fears, and as their lovemaking begins, he begins to address those fears more directly. I AM FOR YOU! I WILL PROTECT YOU!
Husbands, boyfriends, friends, are you protecting women’s hearts by the way you touch them, speak to them, look at them, treat them?
Now as they begin making love, he is thinking of her above himself. Listen to the heart and words of Solomon towards his bride:
(vv. 9-11): “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. 10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! 11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
Then he describes the sweetness of her kisses and the joy and satisfaction that he finds in her. “Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue” This is sexual gratification in marriage at its finest! You got all ready and cleaned up for him and he is saying, “I like it! Thank you!”
(v. 12) A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed. For the third time Solomon calls Shulammite, “My sister, my bride”, which is referring to the intimacy in which they are in body and soul.
“A garden locked… a spring locked, a fountain sealed” refers to her virginity before marriage, something they both shared. A private garden is locked saved for the one who has a key. A public park is for anyone. You want to be a private garden that is saved for your spouse; not a public park open to anyone!
Shulammite has kept the fruits of her garden and the refreshment of her fountains just for Solomon and he is celebrating that! Again, he is saying, “Thank you my love for waiting for this beautiful moment of love making that we can share for the first time!”
Solomon continues to marvel at her body: (vv. 13-14) Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, 14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices—
Everything about her seduces his senses (sight, touch, smell and taste). This is the way that God intended it to be. This moment is so glorious and beautiful because of the purity with which each saved themselves for.
This is the world of beauty God had in mind in the beginning in the garden, so it’s no wonder Solomon is using all of the garden and fruit analogies. He is reminded of the shalom of sex that God planned from the beginning, and he is tasting of it.
“15 a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.”
At this point, Shulammite reaches the pinnacle of her arousal and she speaks for the first time tonight: 16 Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow.”. Up until this point, the refrain has been, don’t awaken love until the proper time, and now is that proper time. She says, Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
This is a woman who feels safe and protected. She is not forced or coerced to do anything. Instead she says, “I am yours!”. “I’ve saved this for you, now take pleasure in what I have to offer you. This is yours! Come to me my love and enjoy your paradise!” And Solomon happily responds to her: 5:1a: I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk.
They have just enjoyed a beautiful night of uninhibited love. Could this kind of happiness be too much? Is this more than they have a right to expect? No way! Their happiness is not about a right to expect but a gift to enjoy. Listen to what the last voice in this refrain says: 5:1b: Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!
This is the only time that someone speaks to both lovers. This is also quite a thing to say to two lovers just after very passionate love making in a private chamber. Who in the world would be there to say that? To say “Eat, friends, drink” is only something that someone who threw the party would say. Then that means this is the very person who invited all the guests to the wedding party.
It must be the very voice of THE Songwriter, the very One who created this kind of passion and joy for married couples. What a transforming view of God, our Creator! How crazy is it that He would be there in the midst of their most intimate moment. This is lovemaking not being god (everything in the world); this is not lovemaking being gross. This is lovemaking as it should be. A man married to a woman, sharing their bodies, naked and not ashamed. A celebration of marriage is sex.
All of this will be a reality to those who submit to God and obey Him and His institution of married love and intimacy, not without work though. They’ve done the work, enjoyed an amazing night… so how in the world could Solomon ever take this woman and add her to his harem in the Temple? How could this amazing love story turn south this bad? How could Solomon ever take 700 wives and 300 concubines. What went wrong?
Turn to 1 Kings 11:1-4:
1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.
And just how do you think God felt about all this. v. 9: And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Let’s make some observations to learn from his foolishness:
1. Believers, don’t marry unbelievers. And don’t tell me that you and yours are the exception. You’re not! No one is the exception. God has told us in Scripture that we are not to be unequally yoked because our hearts will be turned from God by unbelieving spouses. Play by God’s rules, or feel free not to play!
2. Fight for the last day of your marriage to be better than the first. The first day of your marriage is fun and all, but what will the last day of your marriage look like? We are after the last day of marriage being better than the first.
3. If you walk away from God, the limit of sin that you could commit is endless. Some of you say, I could never do that? Well, walk away from God and you are capable of anything; even the murder of your own child. And you say no way. And I say, just look at the abortion rates. We should never look at anyone with self-righteous eyes.
4. Vigilantly battle against sexual sin; run from it. Some of us would look at Solomon and say, “That is disgusting. How could he have so many wives and sex slaves? I just can’t fathom that!” The truth is, the average man has a mental harem from digital images much bigger than Solomon. Jesus says in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” We have harems today, maybe not like Solomon, but our harems can hold way more than Solomon ever could. Women are hot, but hell is hotter!
5. The longer you wait to repent for your sin, the more destruction your sin will cause you and others. We learn this from Solomon who waited too long to repent and the kingdom was ripped from his hand never to be the same again. At the end of Solomon’s life, he writes Ecclesiastes as a sort of repentance book and says this: Eccl. 12:13: The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Instead, we need to realize that good marriages don’t just happen by chance or because you are a Christian. The stat that tells us that 50% of marriages end in divorce for non-Christians and Christians alike. Well, this stat is true when the questions is posed like this: “Do you consider yourself a Christian?” and then there is no other context for whether or not they are following Christ. Fair weather Christian have the same divorce rate as the world, but Christians who actually follow Jesus have a different stat that is much more encouraging to those of you in marriage or wanting to get married. The future isn’t bleak for everyone.
One of the leading sociologists in the area of marriages, Bradford Wilcox from the University of Virginia, did one of the largest research efforts in this area and has published a book about his findings called Soft Patriarchs, New Men. His research has expose 3 main factors that won’t promise marital success, but will cut the 50% divorce rate in half for those who are Christians:
1. Regular church attendance together. Plugged in to a church, having fellowship with believers at the same church. Do not underestimate the necessity of fellowship with believers, being taught the word, submitting to godly authority, and the tension of relationships with people who love you but are different. For those of you who have kids, it is so important to have them see mom and dad going to a church service together, for them to be taught at church (at home too), have friends with kids who have believing parents, and to see that mommy and daddy make it a priority to go to church.
2. Shared theology. You agree on who Jesus is, who created the world, the reconciliation of all things, the sovereignty of God, the Bible is God’s perfect word, the law exposes sin, we need to submit to Jesus because He is Lord, therefore we need to forgive each other, repent for our sin to one another, etc…
3. Bring your faith home. Read the Bible together. Talk about what God’s doing in your life. Pray together. Ask questions to each other. Challenge one another. Worship together. Do this with your children as well.
Want to help divorce proof your marriage or be sure to marry the right person? Go to church together. Share the same theology or work on figuring out what you believe together, as one unit. Talk about Jesus together, at your over dinner, in bed, pray before you make love. God’s way to a fruitful marriage still works. Don’t neglect Him and His standards. Turn to Him. Submit to Him. Walk with Him. Run to Him. Cry out to Him. By God’s grace, your marriage will endure until the end. You joy will increase by God’s grace. And God will be magnified in your marriage.
Learn from Solomon. Don’t be ignorant to God in this area of your life. If sex is your god, you will pay. Guard yourself. Find a godly boyfriend/girlfriend who doesn’t just know God, but one who walks with God. If you’re married, get some help. We have resources for you. Don’t waste what God has given you and make a mockery of His institution.