Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentSONG OF SOLOMON 3
THE SHULAMITE'S DREAM
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth I sought him, but I found him not. I said, I will arise 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. The watchmen that go about the city found me: To whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? 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. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the roes, or by the hinds of the field, That ye stir not up, nor awaken my love, Until he please."
The question regarding this paragraph is whether or not it relates an actual event, or the Shulamite's dream of searching for her lover. "This passage and Song of Solomon 5:2-7 are usually interpreted as dream sequences."F1 "The maiden relates a bad dream she had experienced."F2 "She is probably relating a dream."F3
Nevertheless, this dream substantiates the statement that prevails in the whole book that the love-struck maiden's lover is a shepherd, not king Solomon. By no stretch of imagination could it be supposed that the maiden would have taken the king of Israel into her mother's bedroom, not even in a dream. Another function of this dream is that it stresses the physical absence of the Shepherd lover, i.e., Christ's absence from his Church until the Resurrection.
Verse 5 is the quadruple refrain that appears in the Song. (See a comment on this above, under Song of Solomon 2:7. The next paragraph represents the glittering blandishments of Solomon as a type of worldly temptations to the Church. The wealth, extravagance, ostentation and pride in this was an eloquent type of such allurements.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant? Behold, it is the litter of Solomon; Threescore mighty men are about it, Of the mighty men of Israel. They all handle the sword and are expert in war: Every man hath his sword upon his thigh, Because of fear in the night. King Solomon made himself a palanquin of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the seat of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, from the daughters of Jerusalem. 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."
We have encountered all kinds of explanations that scholars have applied to these verses.
Question: If Jerusalem is the destination of this extravagant display of Solomon's glory. How could he be bringing the maiden to Jerusalem, when she is already in his harem? Furthermore, if the maiden is in the midst of this ostentatious display of Solomon's glory, "Where is she"? There's no mention of any woman in this parade.
- "The maiden's meeting with Solomon and her subsequent removal to the harem are related here."F4 Question: How can this be reconciled with the clear statements in Song of Solomon 1 that the maiden is already in the harem?
- "It is not clear whether this journey of Solomon depicted here is 'to Jerusalem,' or "to the residence of the Shulamite in northern Israel.' If it is Jerusalem, the girl is being taken to Solomon's residence; if it is northern Israel, it means that Solomon with great and pompous splendor is on the way to impress the maiden with his wealth and magnificence in an effort to overawe her and win her love."F5 This is a great contrast to the simplicity of the shepherd whom the maiden really loves.
In the light of all these considerations, we must confess that the evidence, as far as we are able to read it, strongly favors the understanding that there are two lovers in the Song of Solomon, the king himself and the shepherd sweetheart of the Shulamite.
- "The palanquin here is probably the royal litter upon whom the bride is borne."F6 What bride? How does one get a `bride' into this paragraph?
- Who is the speaker here? Redford suggested that it might very well be, "The whole population going out to see the splendid sight"?F7 This certainly fits northern Israel better than Jerusalem, because the citizens of Jerusalem had probably witnessed such Solomonic parades so often that they would hardly have turned a head in order to see it again. On the other hand, in some out of the way place such as that where the shepherd had taken the maiden, the people would have turned out for miles in all directions. Also, the total absence of any mention of `a bride,' or `the maiden,' or any other damsel in this procession is a strong indication that Solomon was in pursuit of such a woman, not that he already had her in his possession. This also would fit perfectly into the fact of the Shulamite's having already been rescued by her shepherd lover and carried to their northern residence.
Therefore, we read these verses (Song of Solomon 3:6-11) as Solomon's grand parade to the northern residence of the Shulamite with the purpose of bringing her back to Jerusalem.
We must also confess that there are some things in this whole Biblical book that appear to be totally out of harmony with what is generally understood regarding ancient kings and their wives and concubines. The account which we reviewed in the Book of Esther, indicated that the young women taken into the harem were, in fact, conscripted. Their consent was never considered necessary; and they were not courted or solicited by the king; they were merely commanded. What appears here does not fit that pattern. We have found no explanation of this, nor for that matter, not even any mention of it.
- "These verses are generally taken to describe the king with his attendants coming to the wedding."F8 What wedding? Has any such thing as a wedding been mentioned? How do the commentators make the Shulamite "a wife" rather than a concubine?
(1) "Solomon's coming up out of the wilderness represents Jesus Christ coming from the wilderness filled with the Holy Ghost; and the bride being borne along represents the Church on her way to glory with Christ."F9 (2) "It is typical of the children of Israel coming up out of the wilderness of wanderings into the land of Canaan."F10 (3) "Solomon's palanquin, the litter prepared for himself and his bride, represents the Covenant of Grace between Christ and his Church."F11 (4) "Solomon's bed represents the Temple of God in Jerusalem, and the sixty armed guards stand for the sixty letters in the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26)."F12
This writer is unwilling to accept any explanation that considers Solomon a type either of God or of Christ. If he had been any such type, some New Testament writer would surely have mentioned it; and furthermore, Christ would never have contrasted himself with Solomon, which he most certainly did in the words, "Behold a greater than Solomon is here."
"It is repugnant to apply the name of Solomon to Yahweh, or to make his name a Messianic title."F13 Yes indeed it is true that marriage and conjugal love have often been represented in the Old Testament as a figure of God's marriage to Israel; and the apostle also wrote, "Husbands love your wives as Christ also loved the Church"; but the sensual delight of sex has no part whatever in that metaphor. Paul was commanding husbands to die for their wives, even as Christ also died for the Church. See Eph. 5:25f.
This writer finds the bed of lust and sensuality which Solomon built for himself and his thousand women to be utterly unsuitable as a symbol of any thing whatever, either holy, sacred or desirable. Yes, we are familiar with the plea on Solomon's behalf that his marriages were customary, accepted by the people of that day, political in nature, aids in establishing the security of his kingdom, etc., etc., -- although we do not accept that as a sufficient justification of his seven hundred wives, we shall waive that view for a moment; but what about those three hundred concubines? We have never heard, nor can we even imagine, any explanation of these on any other valid basis than that of Solomon's excessive licentiousness.
Solomon in all his pompous glory appears in these verses as an effective type of the devil himself and the temptations by which the evil one seeks to destroy souls.
Footnotes for Song of Solomon 3
1: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), Vol. 5, p. 138. <2> James Waddey, p. 107.
3: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 9d, p. 73
4: Broadman Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 138.
5: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 583.
6: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989 reprint of 1878 Edition), Song of Solomon, p. 127.
7: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 75.
8: Peake's Bible Commentary by Arthur S. Peake (Edinburgh: T.C. and E.C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 421.
9: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 420
10: Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, Vol. 14, p. 61.
11: Ibid., p. 63.
12: The Anchor Bible Commentary (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1972), Vol. 7c, p. 434.
13: Ibid., p. 432.