Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentSONG OF SOLOMON 7
THE KING RENEWS HIS FLATTERING APPEAL
How graceful are your feet in sandals, O queenly maiden! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand. Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rab'bim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, overlooking Damascus. Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses. How fair and pleasant you are, O loved one, delectable maiden! You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches. Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your kisses like the best wine that goes down smoothly, gliding over lips and teeth.F1
(As in RSV)
Once more we have Solomon's flattery, but there can be little wonder why the maiden rejected it. As plainly evident in what he said, he looked upon her, as he looked upon every woman, as something to be eaten or consumed, simply a means of satisfying his appetite (lust). He saw her body as a goblet of mixed wine (Song of Solomon 7:2), her breasts as clusters of dates in the palm tree (Song of Solomon 7:7), like clusters of grapes (Song of Solomon 7:7). Her breath smelled like apples (Song of Solomon 7:7), and her kisses were like wine. All of this says in tones of thunder: "You look delicious, and I'm ready to eat you!"
Delitzsch and other scholars attribute the first part of this paragraph (Song of Solomon 7:1-5) to the women of the king's harem who are praising the maiden's beauty. This theory is based upon the alleged mutual love and admiration among the women of the harem; and we reject it, because it is contrary to human nature and is absolutely unsupported by anything in the Bible. The attitude which is characteristic of women involved in a polygamous situation is represented by the hatred of Sarah for Hagar, and that of Penninah toward Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-6).
The king is held captive in the tresses (of her hair)
(Song of Solomon 7:5). The use of the third person here is not a denial that the king is the speaker. Monarchs frequently spoke of themselves in the third person.
Whatever may be correct regarding the first five verses here, Cant. 7:6-9 were very probably the words of the king, making his last attempt to win over the Shulamite; but it was of no avail."F2
THE SHULAMITE'S FINAL REJECTION OF THE KING
I am my beloved's; And his desire is toward me. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; Let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; Let us see whether the vine hath budded, [And] its blossom is open, [And] the pomegranates are in flower: There will I give thee my love. The mandrakes give forth fragrance; And at our doors are all manner of precious fruits, new and old, Which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.
There are very powerful reasons for seeing these verses as a rejection of the king by the Shulamite. Chief of those reasons is the dramatic word HIS that stands at the head of this paragraph. "I am my beloved's, and HIS desire is toward me" (Song of Solomon 7:10). This contrasts with the sixteen personal pronouns in the second person which dominate the king's flattering appeal. They are the equivalent of you, you, you, you -- sixteen times! Yet the very first words of the Shulamite were addressed to the king standing right there in front of her; and yet she spoke of her beloved in the third person! and it is impossible to refer the word his to Solomon. The Shulamite's lover was not present. She spoke of him, not to him. He was the shepherd, not the king.
Furthermore, the balance of the paragraph fully harmonizes with that understanding.
(Song of Solomon 7:11). This could not possibly refer either to a palace or to a harem.
Let us lodge in the villages
(Song of Solomon 7:11). The Shulamite is definitely not speaking of Jerusalem.
Let us get up early
(Song of Solomon 7:12). Even a fool knows that farmers get up early; kings don't!
Let us see whether the vine hath budded, etc…
(Song of Solomon 7:12). The employment mentioned here is that of rural dwellers, not that of urbanites.
There will I give thee my love
(Song of Solomon 7:12). The use of the second person pronoun here cannot change what she has already said. In these words, she is speaking of her true love, the shepherd, who will accompany her in their inspection of the vineyard. Can anyone imagine Solomon going with one of his concubines on such a mission?
We have somewhat elaborated the exposition of these verses, because our interpretation differs sharply from that which is advocated by most of the commentators we have consulted.
Waddey: "The queen gently requests that her husband take her for a visit to her old home place."F3
Bunn: "The maiden now invites her lover to receive her love."F4
Delitzsch, while rejecting it, fairly stated the hypothesis which we have accepted: "Advocates of the shepherd-hypothesis believe that the faithful Shulamite, after hearing Solomon's panegyric, shakes her head (negatively), saying, `I am my beloved's.'"F5
Cook: His whole comment on this last paragraph was; "All his affection has me for its object. The bride proceeds to exercise her power over his loving will."F6
Woodstra: "This is the king extolling the beauty of his bride and her love for him."F7
Meek: "This is repeated in part from Cant. 2:16 and Cant. 6:3.
Here, as frequently elsewhere in the book the lovers are represented as separated, with the girl longing for her beloved."F8
Robinson: "The Shulamite speaks here in reply to the king. Her heart is set on her native fields and vineyards. These are more attractive to her than the splendor and ceremony of a court."F9
Willard: "The first nine verses of this chapter are held to be evidence of decadence and lust on the part of the aging Solomon. It is probably the most difficult portion of the book for those who interpret Solomon and the maiden to mean Christ and the Church."F10
Adam Clarke: "Here the bride wishes to accompany her spouse to the country and spend a night in his country house."F11
This writer's acceptance of the shepherd-hypothesis in our interpretation is influenced substantially by what is written in Cant. 2. See our comments there. Also a key factor in our interpretation is our utter inability to find anything in the Biblical record of Solomon's life that is fit to be compared to the sinless Son of God.
The allegorical interpretation has been favored throughout the centuries since the destruction of Jerusalem, in spite of the fact that there is no hint whatever in the Song itself that the production is, in any sense, an allegory; and no inspired writer ever indicated such a thing. This writer confesses that the principal reason for accepting an allegorical interpretation lies in the near-impossibility of the book's presence in the Bible by any other means.
Many questions about the Song of Solomon remain unanswered in this writer's mind; and it is our prayer that further study may shed more light on it.
Footnotes for Song of Solomon 7
1: The two lines in parenthesis are a separate paragraph in the American Standard Version, and are rendered differently in the Revised Standard Version.
2: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 586.
3: James Waddey, p. 122.
4: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), Vol. 5, p. 146..
5: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. 6c, p. 134.
6: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989 reprint of 1878 Edition), Song of Solomon, p. 135.
7: The Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 602.
8: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 5, p. 139
9: The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, Vol. 14b, p. 117.
10: The Teachers' Bible Commentary, p. 389.
11: Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, (London: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837), Vol. III, p. 869.