A Love Story
I Am My Beloved’s
I am my beloved, and his desire is toward me.—Song of Solomon 7:10
A verse by verse Bible study in the second chapter of the Song of Solomon.
Nowhere is the mutual love of Christ and his church more initimately shown than in the beautiful love poem of the Song of Solomon. The term “beloved” is used no less than thirty-three times in this short book. Here we see both the tenderness and the passions of a full-blown love relationship. In vivid imagery we trace a picture of the ever-deepening love of Jesus and his spiritual bride.
In the second chapter we find the opening sentiments of the two lovers. A brief statement by the male is followed by a more lengthy description of him and their relationship by his companion.
Verses 1 and 2
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the beauty of flowers in the springtime, so does the beloved present himself to his church. Unpretentious, yet their color and aroma fill the fields of northern Palestine. According to Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, the rose of Sharon is different from the roses of which we know: “Most authorities think that the rose referred to . . . is not what we know as the rose today, but a low-growing bulbous plant producing from two to four yellow flowers on each stalk. This flower is noted for its fragrance.” Similarly, the lily referred to is not the large water lily, but a small white field flower. It’s simple attractiveness is remarked in the New Testament as well (Matt. 6:28). These simple floral illustrations not only call attention to his beauty and the sweet fragrance of his life but to the time of year as well—springtime, when life springs up anew from its winter rest.
He notes a similarity between himself and the woman he loves. He is “the lily” and she is “as the lily”—so closely does she seek to emulate his beauty. Her beauty is highlighted in his eyes by his comparison with those around her: “as the lily among the thorns.” The comparison here is between the good and the bad. “Thorns” is better translated “thistles,” referring to weeds that grow next to the lilies in the field, a similar illustration to that of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. This seems evident by the use of his word, translated “thistle,” in Job 31:40: “Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.”
Matthew Henry grasps the thought well: “God’s people are as lilies among [thorns], scratched and torn, shaded and obscured, by them; they are dear to Christ, and yet exposed to hardships and troubles in the world; they must expect it, for they are planted among thorns (2:6), but they are nevertheless dear to him; he does not overlook nor undervalue any of his lilies for their being among thorns, When they are among thorns they must still be as lilies, must maintain their innocency and purity, and, though they are among thorns, must not be turned into thorns, must not render railing for railing, and, if they thus preserve their character, they shall be still owned as conformable to Christ.”
The Bride’s Response
Verses 3 to 7
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. 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.
As the Lord had compared her to a lily among thorns, so she compares him to the apple tree among the trees of the wood. Here the contrast is not between good and bad, but between good and the best. The excellence of the apple is shown in the simple analogy of Proverbs: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (25:11). Some authorities believe it is the apricot that is here referenced. The apricot was thought to be an aphrodisiac and was often called “the love apple.”
It is not the fruit alone to which she refers but also to the shade of the tree. Shade is a welcome blessing in the heat of Palestine. Metaphorically, the shade also gives the thought of protection. Taken from the apple tree of the wilderness into the banqueting house she notes with pleasure the banner over the festive table bearing but one precious word: “Love.” Here she is feted with the apples falling from her apple tree (v. 3) and flagons of wine, that fruitage of the spirit which will revive her in her fainting [“sick of love”] condition. Her beloved gently wraps his arms around her and there, still embracing, he falls asleep in the joy of giving comfort to the one he loves.
The daughters of Jerusalem in this poem appear to represent natural Israel (see 5:8). Once the church of Christ is complete, the next phase of God’s plan is to restore Israel to the position of prominence which she will occupy in the kingdom of Christ (Acts 15:16, 17). Thus the petition here is that natural Israel not rush the work of God until he please—until he has completed the work of selecting the church. The charge is given by, or for, the “roes” and “the hinds of the field,” symbolically representing the completion of the work of restitution.
The Lord Returns
Verses 8 to 13
The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice. My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Once again the scene changes. The beloved is now awake. He is returning from a journey, like the nobleman in the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:12). There is no dawdling here, but he runs and skips like the roe and the hart. Her whole being is aroused to his coming, yet she cannot see him. He is standing beind a wall, the wall of invisibility. But though we cannot see him, we can discern him for he peeps in at the windows and shows himself through the lattice work, giving us hints of his arrival. It is through the interwoven lattice work of prophecy that he must be discerned for, as he told his disciples of old, “Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more” (John 14:19).
“Rise up!” What beautiful words! What a welcome sound! For nearly two millennia the church has awaited these words: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Rise out of your graves for, at my return, “the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
“Rise up!” Awaken for it is springtime, the time for the resurrection to begin. The signs are there. “The winter is past” (see Matt. 24:20; Jer. 8:20). “The rain [both `the early’ and `the latter’ (see Joel 2:23)] is over and gone.” Not only is it time for the flowers to reappear and the birds to sing their odes to spring, but even the voice of the turtle dove, a migrant that returns to Palestine in early April, is heard once more.
It is significant that the turtle dove is singled out from among the other birds, for it was also a dove that announced the beginning of a new age to Noah (Gen. 8:8-12) and it was a dove that announced the beginning of the Christian dispensation at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16). It not only symbolizes the holy spirit, but also the advent of peace on the earth. Nelson has the following to say about the dove: “Doves appear to express affection, stroking each other, and `billing and cooing.’ They mate for life, sharing nesting and parenting duties. They are gentle birds that never resist attack or retaliate against their enemies. Even when her young are attacked, a dove will give only a pitiful call of distress.”
Other signs also portend the return of her Lord from his wilderness wandering. “The fig tree putteth forth her green figs”—Israel once again is restored to divine favor and begins to produce spiritual fruitage (See Matt. 24:32; Jer. 24:1-8). “The vines with the tender grape give a good smell”—the church has brought her “fruits of the spirit” to full ripeness (see John 15:1-5; Gal. 5:22, 23).
Once again he repeats his invitation, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” The invitation is sincere, the response is up to us.
The Final Prayer
Verses 14 to 17
“O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.”
The attention of the church is now turned to the one she loves. He is now the dove for he has come as the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). He is also the lawgiver, dwelling as Moses before him “in the cleft of the rock” (Exod. 33:22, 23), waiting for God to give him the law of the New Covenant as he gave the law of the old covenant to Moses.
Now is the time for the church to see his countenance. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This will be the time to hear that sweetest of all voices which up to now we have heard by faith alone.
Yet one task remains to be accomplished, the removal of the small flaws, the secret faults, “the little foxes,” which can so easily spoil the fruit of the vine. It is the tender grape, the newly formed fruit, that is so tasty to the young predators. And, wily as the sly fox, how easily the small sins creep in to rob the Christian of his fruitage..
My Beloved Is Mine
Then the cry of triumph, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” How wonderful to consummate our love for our Bridegroom. This has been the dream of the Christian all through the age. But this is only chapter two, and there is still much room for growth. Now the cry is possessive, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Our priorities must change. It is not until the sixth chapter that she improves on this expression. Here the call is: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (6:3). We must grow until we realize that is is more important that we are his than that he is ours.
Yet there is still room for more growth. She arrives at her final stage of development one chapter later when she calls out, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (7:10). Now the possessiveness is gone. It is enough to belong to him and to be assured that he looks upon us thoroughly.
“He feedeth among the lilies.” While the love of Christ is individualized to each Christian, there can be no jealousy of one individual against another. They are content that he loves them each, with no desire for one to have a preeminence of that love over another. As the disciples battled with the wish to be the nearest to him and, thus, the greatest; so has this battle continued down through the age.
Such is the union of Christ and his church at the present time. But this is only the beginning. How we long for that perfect day when “the day break” and the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in his beams (Mal. 4:1); when the shadows of the past flee away, fully absorbed into the realities of the future. With what eagerness we await that day, looking for and “hasting” its arrival (2 Peter 3:12).
How we join with the prayer of the Shulamite, “Turn, my beloved, and be like a roe or young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” Haste with the speed of a gazelle. Come, my beloved, and be at my side.
Bether means division or separation. These mountains were so named because they separated Jerusalem in the north from Bethlehem and the shepherd’s fields in the south. It is to this period of time, between the nativity and the first advent and the Jerusalem reign at the second advent, that our lessons apply. Soon these mountains will be topped and the Lord will assume his rightful throne on the Temple mount.
“Haste, O my beloved, for I am sick of love.”