Song of Solomon 3.6–11
By Don Ruhl
We can easily identify this new poem in the Song of Solomon, as David A. Dorsey shows (The Literary Structure of the Old Testament, p. 205):
Shift in scene: from the private, nighttime setting of the woman in Jerusalem to the public, daytime setting outside Jerusalem
Shift in perspective: from the woman’s to someone unknown
Shift in theme: from her private search to their public wedding
Shift in dramatic mood: from troubled, anxious mood to a festive mood
Dorsey points out the sudden question in verse 6, alerting us to a new scene, “Who is this coming out of the wilderness…?”
Yet, this seems familiar when we reread 2.8, “The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes Leaping upon the mountains, Skipping upon the hills” (Song 2.8). “Both feature an abrupt shift from a scene of private intimacy to a public, eyewitness account of one of the lovers approaching” (Dorsey).
In keeping with the literary nature that the Song has been following, this could very well be the bride approaching, and she arrives in a palanquin that Solomon made for her. Someone heads toward Jerusalem, where Solomon would be waiting. Remember the Shulamite was a vineyard worker in the country.
This poem follows a similar pattern found in the first three poems:
- The lovers are separated.
- The lovers long for one another.
- The lovers finally come together, which is more obvious in 4.1–5.1.
Song of Solomon 3.6–8 – Love’s Approach
Who is this coming out of the wilderness
Like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
With all the merchant’s fragrant powders?
Behold, it is Solomon’s couch,
With sixty valiant men around it,
Of the valiant of Israel.
They all hold swords,
Being expert in war.
Every man has his sword on his thigh
Because of fear in the night.
Love’s question. How does her approach in verse 6 compare to his approach in 2.8–9? Notice the high expectation and anticipation of verse 6. Why was there this excitement? The people in Jerusalem could see pillars of smoke. What was the smoke? It was myrrh and frankincense burning. The arrival of the bride catches everyone’s attention, at least far more than the groom’s.
Love’s answer. It is the arrival of the bride in style. It was Solomon’s couch. Something that he had made, and he used his personal carrier for her. What did that show? Did it not show what he thought of her?
Love’s fear. Why did sixty valiant warriors with their swords accompany the bride? If the enemy wants to attack, this was the time to do it. While we are not kings and queens of this world, weddings can still be times of conflict. Is that why preachers in the past have typically asked, “If there is anyone here who has a reason why these two should not marry, speak now, or forever hold your peace”? Weddings are also majestic events. Even today when an American warrior marries, he dresses in his uniform. Why? Your answer applies to this wedding also.
Song of Solomon 3.9, 10 – Love’s Construction
Of the wood of Lebanon
Solomon the King
Made himself a palanquin:
He made its pillars of silver,
Its support of gold,
Its seat of purple,
Its interior paved with love
By the daughters of Jerusalem.
(Song 3.9, 10)
Love’s best. Where did Solomon get the wood for the temple? First Kings 5.6, 8–10 shows that Solomon used cedar and cypress from Lebanon. First Kings 4.33 singles out the cedar tree of Lebanon as among the things Solomon wrote about. There are also several references to the House of the Forest of Lebanon that Solomon built. How then did Solomon think of her? What other materials did he use? He used silver, gold, and purple. Who did the work on the interior? The daughters of Jerusalem made the interior. People enjoy working for two people who love one another.
Love’s workmanship. With what did they pave it? They paved it with love, showing that they were not jealous or envious. They rejoiced with those that rejoice. See Rom 12.15; 1Co 13.4–7. Does the attitude affect one’s workmanship? Yes, it does.
Song of Solomon 3.11 – Love’s Crown
Go forth, O daughters of Zion,
And see King Solomon with the crown
With which his mother crowned him
On the day of his wedding,
The day of the gladness of his heart.
Love’s crown. This would not be his coronation crown, but his wedding crown.
Love’s gladness. Can you not see joy on the faces of the bride and groom? It is easy for me to tell whether a photo is of a true bride, or just a model.
What shall we do with this section of the Song of Solomon?
The union of a man and a woman in marriage is not an isolated event. Love one another and others will lovingly do things for you.