Chapter 2: Love Makes Everything Beautiful
1 I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.
2 Like a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
The Shulamite (the Issachar Woman)
3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in the shade with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
The Shulamite to the Daughters of Yahrushalom
4 He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love. 5 Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick. 6 His left hand is under my head and his right hand embraces me. 7 I charge you, O daughters of Yahrushalom by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.
The Beloved’s Request: Winter is Past
The Shulamite (the Issachar Woman)
8 The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. 9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall. He is looking through the windows, gazing through the lattice. 10 My beloved spoke and said to me, “Rise up, my love, my beautiful one and come away. 11 For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12 The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13 The fig tree puts forth her green figs and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up my love, my beautiful one and come away! 14 O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face. Let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.”
15 Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.
The Shulamite (the Issachar Woman)
16 My beloved is mine and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies.
(To Her Beloved)
17 Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of Bethel (literally separation).
Chapter 2: Lovestruck: The Deepening of Desire: verse 1: Still she had trouble believing him and she voiced her insecurity again in chapter 2. At first glance we might think she was comparing herself to a beautiful flower but it was far from it. The actual plants referred to as the “rose of Sharon” and “lily of the valleys” are bulb-type plants, lotus flowers or common field flowers. We might think of it as her saying, “I’m just a dandelion in a field of weeds.” In other words, “I’m so ordinary.” What woman hasn’t felt that way? We look in the mirror and think, Humph, I’m just a plain old girl, getting older by the day. Nothing special here. But notice how the Shulamite’s suitor disagreed with her estimation of herself (in v.2)! (He was saying), “You’re no ordinary flower at all! “As a matter of fact, every other woman looks like a bramble bush of thorns compared with you!” Solomon gave her the gift every woman longs for…the gift of being preferred. He complimented her in the one area in which she felt most insecure. Once again Solomon was saying to his Shulamite, “Let me be your mirror.” And what did the Shulamite say to him in return? (Read v. 3). In other words, “If I’m no ordinary flower, then you’re no ordinary tree. You’re a fruit tree among all the ordinary fruitless trees in the forest.” Apple trees or as some commentators translate the original word, apricot trees, were very rare in the Near East. So she let him know that he was rare among men…that he gave nourishment for her soul, shade from the scorching heat and protection from the elements. His kisses were sweet and his love was shade and security itself. She felt completely safe with him. He was everything she could have ever dreamed of. Paul wrote that a husband should nourish, protect and cherish his wife (Ephesians 5:29 AMP). That is exactly what the Shulamite found in her man…and she let him know it. (pgs 21-27)
In a growing relationship it’s so important that a woman not only receive compliments but also give them…Did you know that your husband questions his manhood on a regular basis? Guys often feel a need to prove themselves in their work, in their play and in their marriage…Men operate under the burden of performance that leads them to question their ability and impact constantly. From boyhood to manhood, they hold themselves to a self-imposed measuring stick that rarely says they’re enough. I don’t want my husband (says the author) to have to go somewhere other than home to be affirmed. I bet you don’t either. Let your husband know that, among all the ordinary trees in the forest, he is an apple tree that produces extraordinary fruit. Give him the gift of being preferred…One of the most effective ways to grow and maintain intimacy happens way before we get between the sheets. It starts with what happens between the lips, the words that come out of our mouths. The bible says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21 ESV) and the death and life of a relationship are in the power of the tongue as well. Let’s make sure our words are speaking life, says the author. (27-28)
Chapter 2: Growing Desire: The author starts this section by telling a story of a friend who found it hard to stop at just kissing (her fiancée)…That is the growing passion we see happening between the Shulamite and Solomon in this chapter. Their romance was heating up and it was getting harder and harder to wait. At this point in the couple’s relationship, the beloved only praises his beloved’s head and neck because that is all he can see. Sure, he can make out her shape beneath the working woman’s robe but he was doing what I recommend to dating folks all the time: keeping his attention above the neck. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb in the dating phase of a relationship. Don’t let the phrase “our bed is verdant” (NIV) “our couch is green” (ESV) in Song 1:16 throw you. Yes, the Hebrew word used here is translated “bed” however, the couple had not gone to bed yet. We’ll have proof of that later in the Song. Her mentioning that their bed was verdant (green) is most likely a metaphor comparing their growing love to the shade of a spreading tree and the fruitfulness of the love that the couple enjoyed. She saw their love as growing deep roots, spreading branches and reaching to heights not yet known. The author also believes that the Shulamite was flirting with her man, perhaps pointing to a time when the bed metaphor would become a reality. Just as she teasingly mentioned the bed, Solomon followed her tree analogy by referencing the beams of their future home, reflecting on the strength and stable support of their love canopy (1:17). They were both dreaming about the day when the bed would not be a metaphor of sexual intimacy but a reality. One thing is for sure, the Shulamite was LOVESTRUCK (Me: or lovesick) for her man. She was just about to faint at the mere thought of him. (2:5 NLT). She was what we might call weak in the knees over this guy “Somebody help me,” she could have cried. “Give me a glass of water (or raisins and apples will be fine).” In ancient times, raisins and apples were considered the fruits of love or aphrodisiacs, these are a couple more code words in the poem. No doubt her comparing Solomon to an apple tree stirred her desire to enjoy his fruit. She went on to imagine the day when he would touch her…every part of her (2:6). The ESV has a more literal translation: “His left hand is under my head and his right hand embraces me!” (emphasis added). One expert explained, “The Hebrew word translated embrace usually means to embrace lovingly, to fondle or stimulate with gentle stroking.” She was picturing them lying side by side with his left arm under her head and his right hand caressing her or touching her body…Yep. She was dreaming of making love. (pgs 29-31)
Romantic love stirs up sexual desire. (Yah) planned it that way. However, sexual desire does not prove romantic love. Those stirrings can be just lust. That’s not the way (Yah) planned it. A person can have sexual desire or lust without romantic love but romantic love that does not stir up feelings of sexual desire is in trouble. The Shulamite was naturally anxious for the day she could be with her man in every way but she also knew the importance of waiting for the right time, of setting good boundaries to contain the kindling of romance before it burst into flames. You might wonder how I know she’s simply dreaming about being physically intimate rather than actually engaging in foreplay. The next verse tells us. (verse 7). This was a splash of water on the Shulamite’s steamy imaginings. She was reminding her friends (and herself) about the importance of timing and we’ll see the same reminder come up two other times later in the Song (5:8, 8:4). Many men and women bring sexual baggage into a marriage…suitcases of regret that open up in the heat of passion and litter the marriage bed with images time can’t erase. The Shulamite resolved not to pack that bag but to wait until the time was right. I think she was also reminding herself. Levi Lusko, in his book Swipe Right, wrote, “Unfortunately when you take a bite from what (Yah) has told you not to eat, it can keep you from experiencing what he wants you to have (Genesis 2:17).” That’s what the Shulamite was reminding her friends and herself. Sex outside marriage is in the bible plenty of times but never with a good outcome. (Yah) wants men and women to have the best sex possible…lifelong intimacy at its best and he knows that only happens within the boundaries (Me: or covenant) of marriage between a husband and wife…So we have to remember what Lusko said succinctly: “NOW yells louder but LATER lasts longer. Besides, there’s more to the journey to the kind of relational intimacy (Yah) wants us to experience than just jumping straight to sex. There is an aspect of discovery at play, as we spend time together, grow closer spiritually and emotionally and learn each other’s true character. While it takes only a few minutes to decide if we like the package, it takes more time to lift the lid and explore the heart…If reading about the Shulamite’s plea for her friends to wait is causing your heart to hurt because of the time (or times) you didn’t wait, stop right now and ask (Yah) to forgive you of your past sexual encounter…Don’t let the devil condemn you for what (Yah through Yahoshua) has already forgiven you for. If you have asked for (Yah’s) forgiveness and are still feeling condemned, know that condemnation is not coming from (Yah). (Me: But remember that you can’t repeat that same sin again, in order to be forgiven like Yahoshua told the adulterous woman, “go and sin no more”). (pgs 31-34).
Chapter 2: The Invitation to Lifelong Love: Romantic relationships tend to progress with predictable milestones. In chapter 2, Solomon was ready to take the next step and present the Shulamite to his family and friends…It sounds like the Shulamite’s introduction to King Solomon’s clan was a little bit more positive as he made what had once been a private relationship a public one. She certainly felt good about it. The Shulamite didn’t have to worry that Solomon was ashamed of her humble beginnings or that he wanted to keep their relationship a secret. He made his intentions perfectly clear when he took her hom to meet his family. (Song 2:4). I love how another translation interprets her words: “It’s obvious how much he loves me” (NLT). Yes, meeting the family takes any relationship to a deeper level and these two were ready. Shortly after that celebration, they separated for a time. Most likely he returned to the palace and she to her home in Shumen. But then the snow of winter (their time apart) melted and the spring came again. Solomon was on the move. (Song 2:8-9). Solomon was leaping across the mountains and bounding over the hills like a giddy schoolboy…The Shulamite’s heart skipped a beat so to speak when her man came back after a time apart. She saw him coming and she couldn’t wait! At the same time, it seems the Shulamite was still struggling with her insecurities, so she was hiding. “Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice, ” she said. There’s something a little scary about love during the dating days, don’t you think? Is he serious? Will this grow into marriage? Am I hearing (Yah) correctly? What am I doing? What are his intentions? What if we do get married? Will it last? Solomon was calling her to come out from hiding so he could reassure her that he wasn’t going anywhere. He was taking the initiative not standing by idly, as Adam did in the garden of Eden when Eve conversed with the serpent. (Me: The devil was giving her doubts about Solomon). (Solomon) was taking charge, something we women love in a man of strong character and I imagine her heart was pounding in her chest. (Song 2:10-13)…As Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “What was the first effect of love but to associate the feeling with every object in nature, the trees whisper, the roses exhale their perfumes, the nightingales sing, the very sky seems in unison with the feeling of love; it gives to every object in nature a power of the heart.” …Solomon had wooed his Shulamite. (pgs 34-37).
When I think about the Shulamite and all of us in the early days of love, I think of the newness of spring. Solomon surely did. He beckoned his rayati to romp through the fields bursting with new life. The words captured the beauty of the season and the excitement of their love as the black and white of winter gave way to the radiant color of spring. Many commentators think this could be when Solomon actually proposed to the Shulamite. He asked her to come away with him twice. (Song 2:10-13). But even with all her longing and desire, she seemed to be a bit hesitant. He was everything she’d ever dreamed of but when fantasy became a reality, she froze. Here’s what I love about Solomon: he didn’t give up! He came bounding over the hills to see the Shulamite and even when she suddenly became hesitant, he continued pursuing her. (Song 2:14 ESV, let me see your face and hear your voice). (pgs 37-38)
Solomon didn’t just want to talk to the Shulamite. He wanted to listen to her. Listening is a big part of any courtship and a building block for any marriage. That’s how we learn about the other person. If we’re the one doing all the talking, then we’re not learning anything about the one we’re talking to…(paraphrased) Solomon wanted to know all about the Shulamite…A couple who has lasting intimacy is a couple who has learned to communicate beyond the surface of verbal exchange necessary for daily function. Great listeners don’t simply listen with their ears; they listen with their entire beings. We listen with our eyes as we make eye contact to show that were paying attention. This lets our spouses know that they are more important than anything else at the moment. They have our full attention. We listen with our facial expressions to let our spouses know we’re engaged in a positive way, not judging or condemning. Our faces don’t say, Hurry up and finish this story so I can get back to what I was doing. They don’t say, I’m not really interested in what happened between Bob and Brad at work. The wise wife’s facial expression says, Tell me more. There’s no one in the world I would rather listen to than you. We listen with our minds by asking good questions when our husbands are telling us about something that is on their hearts. Responses such as, “I’m so sorry that happened,” “How did that make you feel?” and “What happened next?” show that you’re listening and inviting deeper conversation. Judging responses such as “You shouln’t have said that.” “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “I think you’re wrong” will shut down the conversation and lock down his heart. That husband will wish he’d kept his mouth shut and be reluctant to voice his feeling in the future. (pgs 38-39)
We listen with our hearts by listening beyond the words spoken, to the hurt behind them. Are your spouse’s words being filtered through the sieve of a hurtful past? Are your husband’s words tainted by past abuse or trauma? Rejection or abandonment? Sexual exploitation or shameful experimentation? Dig deeper to move beyond the words to discover the wounds. You might be (Yah’s) instrument in his ultimate healing…Above all, your husband needs to know that you are his safe place. He needs to have absolute confidence that no matter what he tells you, you will not repeat it to someone else, you will not judge him because of his feelings and you will never think less of him for his story. Wrap his word in the tender blanket of your understanding and love. His ability to open up to you will be determined by your compassionate reaction and unconditional acceptance. Yes, men and women are different but when it comes to being listened to, we’re from the same planet. Contemporary stereotypes would say that women are more interested in emotional intimacy than men, while men are more interested in physical intimacy than women. Isn’t it interesting that so far we’ve seen the Shulamite be the one showing the most interest in the physical aspects of the relationship and Solomon being the one who wanted her to come out from behind the cleft and have a conversation? You might think that I’ve deviated from the theme of lifelong intimacy but here’s the deal: honest, open communication is the catalyst for a meaningful sexual relationship. When we share our hearts, we are more inclined to share our bodies. It is extremely difficult to be sexually intimate with a spouse who is emotionally frigid or verbally aloof…Many times men get nervous when you say you want to talk because they fear you want to discuss some problem in the relationship or a flaw in his manhood. Make sure that when you do initiate conversation, you’re not doing it just to fuss at him; come to him with a desire to learn what’s on his heart. Then when he answers, listen with your whole being. (pgs 39-41)
Chapter 2: My Beloved is Mine: Even though the Shulamite all of a sudden became a bit shy about her outward demonstration of affection, her inward desire was still just as strong as ever. Solomon’s continual pursuit of her heart, even in her hesitancy, made her love him even more (Song 2:16-17). Nine times Solomon refers to the Shulamite as “mine.” He didn’t mean it in a domineering way, as if he owned her but in a loving way because she had given herself to him. There is a sense of equality in the Shulamite’s words, “My beloved is mine and I am his.” They knew they belonged to each other and with each other. Notice that she called him a shepherd that browses among the lilies. I love that she saw him not as a king to rule over her but as a shepherd to care for her, love her and guide her tenderly. And those lilies? That’s code for her body. We’lll see that imagery come up time and time again. All of this pondering stirred up sexual longings once again. The girl dreamed about a time when he would make love to her and they would revel in an entire night of passion. She pictured her future husband as a virile, strong stag friskily navigating the mountainous terrain of her body. I have a feeling she didn’t let him know how she was feeling but kept it to herself. Let’s see why. Page-turner! (pgs39-42)
Chapter 3: Little Foxes and Pesky Fears: If the Song of Solomon were a Broadway play, then it would need to stop right here for an intermission and a scenery change. In chapter 3 of the Song, everything was about to change. The everyday fields would give way to extravagant flamboyance. The Shulamite was getting dressed (for her wedding) and Solomon was placing the finishing details on the processional. Let’s give the stagehands a moment to set up for the Grand Celebration…the wedding. Meanwhile, we’ll talk about foxes and fears. (pg 43)
In chapters 1 and 2 of the Song, we caught a snapshot of the initial attraction, growing love and deepening desire in the courtship between Solomon and his Shulamite. The closer their relationship grew, the more difficult time apart became. The poetic symbolism we’ve read is SENSUAL yet MODEST…At the same time, there is no doubt that these two lovers couldn’t wait for the moment when they could give themselves fully and freely to one another. Even though the couple was lovestruck (lovesick) beyond reason, they were not blind to the potential problems that could sneak into any relationship. (Song 2:15), (Commentators) are not sure if these are the words of Solomon or the Shulamite. (Me: Although, the NKJV insinuates that Solomon is speaking about the Shulamite’s brothers. Remember, the Shulamite said her mother’s sons were angry with her in 1:6. The devil could be using them against this marriage-to-be). Either way, the words speak of watching out for and capturing anything that could sneak in and ruin the budding vineyard of their love. (Paraphrased) The author says doubts or questions before marriage could possibly be foxes but she prayed right then and there so (Yah) would show her husband and herself anything or anyone that could sneak into their marriage and sully their love…It’s the same way with the “little foxes” that Solomon warned about in chapter 2. (pgs 43-45)
Vineyards bloom in late spring and the fruit isn’t ready to be harvested until late summer. By then the grapes have been sweetened by the sun and plumped by the rain; they’re mature and ready to be picked. Solomon’s reference to the “vineyards that are in bloom” lets us know that their love was still in the courting stage. But just as little foxes can sneak in and ruin a blooming relationship, they can also creep in and wreak a mature marriage. Foxes are stealthy and devious little animals that steal eggs from chicken coops, vegetables from gardens and in this case, grapes from vines. They actually love the tender buds that form before the grapes emerge. Even though they are small and seemingly insignificant animals, left unrestrained and unfettered, they can ruin an entire crop. In the same way, Solomon was on the lookout for anything that could sneak in and sabotage the blooming vineyard of their love (Me: He was on guard for satanic attacks). In most relationships it isn’t the big problems that tear a couple apart but the daily deterioration from little annoyances that chip away at the firm foundation and ruin intimacy. So what are the little foxes that sneak into and attempt to destroy a relationship? Here are a few: disrespect, dishonesty, jealousy, complacency, irresponsibility, guilt, selfishness, mistrust, self-centered-ness, bitterness, poor-communication, anger or irritating habits. Foxes could be too much time at the office, too little time alone as a couple, too many hours reclining with the remote or too many nights cuddled up with a good book. (pg 45)
Those are the ones you would expect to undermine a relationship but here are a few others that might not seem as obvious: making motherhood a priority above the marriage, serving the (assembly) more than serving your mate, caring more about a spotless house or an weedless lawn than a happy spouse. The truth is, the list of little foxes is endless and every couple will have their own version. A little fox is anything or anyone that could potentially sneak into your marriage to eat away at the fruit of lifelong love and intimacy…Remember, at the end of chapter 2 (the Shulamite) was hiding in the cleft of a rock. The author states that she was hiding emotionally. Solomon called to the Shulamite to come out of the cleft, to open up and talk about what was bothering her…(The) tendency to withdraw was a little fox that could cause big problems in the long run…The best thing we can do is to pick up on its scent before it sneaks through the front door. Sniff out the tendency to control, the proclivity toward jealousy, the propensity to pout, the bent to bully, the inclination to intimidate or manipulate. You wouldn’t expect a cute little fox darting about in a massive vineyard to cause much trouble. I’d be more prone to think Oh, he’s just a cute little thing. So what if he eats a few grapes? But with that attitude in marriage, the next thing you know a few grapes ends up being an entire vineyard and you end up with not a grape of admiration, respect or love on the vine. There’s certainly not a lot of hugging and kissing going on in a vineyard that’s been picked clean. (pg 46)
Solomon recognized the Shulamite’s tendency to hide and its potential to cause trouble. But he didn’t run away from it; he worked through it. Solomon continued pursuing her and let her know that he wasn’t going anywhere. Did you notice that Solomon said, “Catch for us the foxes” (v. 15)? Who was he talking to? Catch for us” sounds as if he were asking someone else to catch the foxes. I think Solomon was whispering a prayer, asking (Yah) to help them both recognize and remove anything that could damage their relationship. He was petitioning (Yah) to protect and preserve their love, as we all should. (HalleluYah)…If they aren’t dealt with, little foxes become big foxes with fangs of disappointment and claws of resentment. Yes, foxes come in all shapes and sizes, from dysfunction to dissatisfaction, selfishness to possessiveness, jealousy to flippancy. The key is to catch them while they’re still little before they have time to tear the marriage apart. (pg 47)
Appendix of Lovestruck: Breaking the Secret Code (Symbolism) for Song of Solomon:
2:1 Rose of Sharon—A bulb flower like a crocus, narcissus, iris or daffodil growing in the fertile watered areas; An ordinary flower (definitely not a rose as we know it)
2:1, 16 Lily of the Valley—Possibly a six-petal flower that grew in the fertile watered areas. Lotus flowers were symbols of fertility and sensuality in Egypt and Canaan.
2:4—Banqueting house—Literally “house of wine”; Not actually a banquet hall but “the place of the delights of love’
2:4—Banner—A military banner or standard used as a symbol of possession, raised when a land was conquered
2:5 Raisin—A food associated with a (ceremonial) festival, having possible erotic significance; Metaphor for love’s caresses and embraces
2:9 Gazelle—(Here I omitted part of what she wrote, this gazelle had nothing to do with any gods, more than likely symbolism for its swiftness and beautiful body like Yah compared those in the tribe of Naphtali who were known to be swift runners Genesis 49?)
2:14, 5:2, 6:9 Dove—A shy bird that mates for life; A common symbol of love
2:17 Mountains of Bether—A ravine or rugged hills that separate two areas in an unidentifiable location in Israel