In Song of Songs 3:6-11 we find,
“What is this coming up from the wilderness Like columns of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all scented powders of the merchant? “Behold, it is the traveling couch of Solomon; Sixty mighty men around it, Of the mighty men of Israel. “All of them are wielders of the sword, Expert in war; Each man has his sword at his side, Guarding against the terrors of the night. “King Solomon has made for himself a sedan chair From the timber of Lebanon. “He made its posts of silver, Its back of gold And its seat of purple fabric, With its interior lovingly fitted out By the daughters of Jerusalem. “Go forth, O daughters of Zion, And gaze on King Solomon with the crown With which his mother has crowned him On the day of his wedding, And on the day of his gladness of heart.”
In chapter 3 and verse 6 we begin the third cycle of the Song. It commences with the glorious appearance of the girl to her lover. It is not certain who is speaking these words as many conclude it’s either the man in the Song or a chorus (perhaps the daughters of Jerusalem). It is interesting to note that this is a rhetorical question that never really receives any answer. Whoever asked the question knew the answer, but it is mentioned for the sake of drawing attention to the object of our text. Again, since we are viewing song lyrics, it is not uncommon to allow for a freestanding question to capture the listener’s attention. While some would argue that this verse is connected with the next (vs. 7) and that the question is addressing the couch of Solomon, I understand this to be referring to the beloved girl. In Song of Songs 6:10, we find, “Who is this that grows like the dawn, As beautiful as the full moon, As pure as the sun, As awesome as an army with banners?’ She can appear all by herself like the dawn of a day, like the full moon or pure sun, or like an army with banners. Then in chapter 8:5, we see imagery of the girl emerging from the wilderness, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” Every other time the rhetorical question like this is asked, the text is describing the girl, in her beauty, and this is most likely what we are seeing at this point in the Song.
Since most translators have struggled with this verse, they tend to render verse 7, as if it were an answer to verse 6. Since she is from the countryside, it would not be strange to say she is coming up from the desert or wilderness, which refers to the rural areas, as contrasted with the city of Jerusalem at a much higher elevation. While we do not want to take the symbols very literal, the text seems to show an unbelievable sight, in that this girl is beaming with beauty and she is covered in the most wonderful fragrant scents and powders. We see myrrh and frankincense used in 4:6, 10-14 and again the girl in our Song is always wearing them or represented by them. For example, we read statements like “I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense… And the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a rock garden locked, a spring sealed up. Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, henna with nard plants, nard, and saffron, calamus, and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes, along with all the finest spices.” She is the one bringing this aromatic entourage to her king. As far as the usage of the smoke pillars is concerned, it is safe to say that this has reference to the fragrance that she is dispensing, since the description of these spices, follows the mention of these columns of smoke. She is a smokestack of the most fragrant and desirable incense, oils and powders, and spices. Verse 6 calls us to look at our beloved girl, while verse 7 exclaims a “Behold” in drawing our attention to the lover. In the next few verses, we will see the name Solomon used both to describe the possessor of the couch and the lover in Song. While this may have some connection with what might have taken place in one of Solomon’s weddings, I don’t believe in the context of this Song that we are viewing one of Solomon’s ceremonies. While many have concluded that this is a Song about one of Solomon’s ceremonies, it would be more in harmony to recognize the difficulty with how the lover is a shepherd and a king, and realize that these are terms that show how they feel like royalty in the midst of their simplistic backgrounds and as they approach their own wedding ceremony. How many of us felt like royalty the day we were married? You should continue to strive and make each other feel honored and special like kings and queens every day. Again it is still common in some parts of the ancient east to call the bride and groom, king, and queen on their special day.
Some would have to wonder why a country girl and a shepherd would have 60 armed men around their carriage. It is good to notice that David only had 30 men around his chariot (II Samuel 23:8-39), and this again is an analogy of his royal protection for his beloved girl as if she were a queen. These men all carry swords and are experts in war and it is for the purpose of defeating the terrors of the night (see Psalm 91:5 for terrors of the night). Due to the beloved’s insecurities, it is not unfit to see this kind of protection prescribed for her in this poetic Song. Men will often promise the girl that they love: “I will protect you even if I have to die; I will care for you and provide for your every need.” This is the Song's way of expressing the level to which the lover will go to protect the beloved girl of his heart in honoring her. In this text, the couch or carriage is described in terms that our two young lovers could never afford unless they were literally king and queen. Just as we have mentioned the value of the costly perfumes and fragrances as being that which is used as an analogy of how her scent and beauty attracted the lover, here it is right to view this carriage in the same light. The couch is heavily glamorized with gold, silver, leather, and royal purple fabric and certainly is paralleled in its analogous use with the original mention of the king’s chambers and the couch of love (1:4; 1:16 see also gold and silver at 1:11). I sincerely believe that we are not looking at a wedding ceremony of Solomon, but rather a wedding ceremony of what would be fitting for every woman and every man in love. While some have made a big deal out of the mention of the crown in verse 11, it should be mentioned that this was probably a wreath or garland of some kind that would traditionally be worn on the wedding day, and not the king’s royal crown. It was not customary for the king’s coronation to take place on his wedding day, even if this were King Solomon. In Isaiah 61:10, we learn, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” I want to backtrack and make mention of the usage of the daughters of Jerusalem and the daughters of Zion. We have mentioned how the daughters of Jerusalem were not literally on the scene of the romantic moments of our young couple, but rather they served as a sounding board for the thoughts and insecurities of the beloved girl. But just as every wedding has its guests, decorators, and those who are a part of the wedding party, we see the daughters of Jerusalem in this poetic Song as those who took part in the procession of this chariot. Notice that the use of daughters of Zion is paralleled with the use of daughters of Jerusalem (See this parallel between Jerusalem and Zion in Psalm 51:18; 102:21; 135:21) We do in fact see other daughters mentioned in Psalm 48:11, “Let Mount Zion be glad, let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Your judgments”. While the daughters of Jerusalem are said to be involved with the couch of Solomon, the daughters of Zion are told to go forth and view the bridegroom with his garb on his wedding day. I want to take the time in this section of our notes to talk about one final phrase in this chapter. The phrase is, “On the day of his wedding, And on the day of his gladness of heart.” The wedding day should be the day when the heart is full of delightful joy. In Proverbs 5:18 we find, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Then in Ecclesiastes 9:9, it is stated, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.” The gladness of heart that we have on our wedding day is something that should grow every passing day, as we continually enjoy the love of our spouse to which we have been joined as one flesh. We need to be exhilarated with the love of our life every day (Proverbs 5:19).
In the next chapter, we will see what is called a "wasf", which is used here as a symbolic description of the beauty of a person’s body. These were not uncommon in ancient love poetry as this helps to paint a picture of why they find each other so attractive and pleasurable. I hope you will join us for that study as well.
SPIRITUAL APPLICATION: The gladness that we feel while in love is only multiplied by entering into marriage with our spouse. If our level of joy is ever found to be decreasing, we need to reflect on what has changed and renew and revive the passion of our relationship. These truths also apply to our love for the Lord. There is no way to describe the overwhelming gladness that will be experienced by those that hear the Lord invite us to enter into the joys that He offers and then we are married eternally. In the meantime, we are betrothed to Christ and develop our love for Him. We certainly are madly in love with the Lord now and we are glad to know Him spiritually. This gladness will be transformed into joy inexpressible and full of glory when we are forever one in heaven. The Lord will usher you into His presence when life on earth is done and you will be seated with Christ and exalted to His glory. One of the first experiences will be the marriage and the marriage supper of the Lamb, where the glorious bride, the church, will be filled with everlasting gladness that knows no end. This is to be contrasted with the sadness and misery of those that are not welcomed to enter into the joys of the Lord but are banished to eternal damnation away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. Be glad now as you share in a love for the Lord, but anticipate a joy beyond measure that will be your everlasting treasure. In the meantime, we are the aroma that serves as a sweet-smelling savor that rises before Him, as we express love for Him through prayers, service, and unending devotion.
QUESTIONS: 1.When you reflect on the gladness that you felt in your relationship when you were engaged and leading up to your wedding day, wherein you also had immense joy, how does that compare to how you feel now about your spouse?
2. Has the gladness grown between you and the love of your life or has it diminished? Why or why not?
3. What can we do to keep the joyful love alive in our marriage?
4. Compare the previous question to your love for the Lord. We love Him and are glad to have His salvation, but do we often let that love dwindle and grow cold?
5. Knowing that the Lord has promised us everlasting joy, what should our level of gladness look like in anticipation of being married to Christ?
This brings our episode for today to a close. Please join us next time as we examine Song of Songs 4:1-7 in a message titled, “Revealing Beauty”