WARNING: The following material is intended for mature audiences. While this is a Bible study, the Song of Songs is written with references to sexual themes, intimate textual innuendos, and suggestive figurative language that may not be suitable for some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised. It is recommended that you approach this book from God with pure motives and pray that His will in preserving these song lyrics can be a blessing to you. It is advisable that if you have been enjoying this podcast with young ears present that you refrain from doing so at this time. Wait until you are in a private setting to continue. Thank you for taking this word of caution into consideration as we begin today’s episode.
If you were asked to describe an oasis, what would it look like and how would you envision it?
I remember as a young boy watching cartoons on Saturday morning. It was inevitable that one of the characters would eventually find themselves stranded in a desert land with no water or food and they were wasting away to nothing. Then as they reach the crest of a sand dune, there is a faint resemblance of a pond of water surrounded by shade trees. Unfortunately, when the character would finally drag their tired body toward the refreshing water, they would find that they were only seeing a mirage. They were still lost in a desperate situation with no relief in sight. Love can be like that for many people. We have a longing for fulfillment and we want our deepest desires met. Sometimes love can feel like a desert, where we struggle to find any relief for our needs. We all have an ideal image or fascination with what would break a dry spell of love and provide a refreshing oasis for all of our wildest dreams. Sometimes our love life turns out to be like a Saturday morning cartoon, where we run into mirage after mirage and it feels hopeless. We have all expressed what our happy place would be. For some, it might include a Hawaiian beach at sunset with our special someone. For others, the escape would be a cabin in the Rockies, next to a lake in the fall. We all have the perfect getaway that would make us feel at peace and completely contented. We have expressed at times fantasies about where we would go with a lover and what we could do together.
In verses 12-14 we begin a series of thoughts from the beloved girl to her lover. As he intended to make her feel royal with his words and deeds of gift-giving in the previous episode, she in turn reminds him of the fact that he is her king and she loves to be with him. He is her romantic getaway and the actual place and plot are secondary to being together. While our surroundings can certainly add to a romantic atmosphere, nothing matters when two lovers get lost in one another and complete satisfaction is found when they are together.
In Song of Song 1:12-14, the lyrics to our love Song read,
"While the king was at his table, My perfume gave forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh Which lies all night between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms In the vineyards of Engedi."
One discrepancy that may not give us a correct image of what is occurring here, is the word “table” in this text. Some versions translate this Hebrew word as “couch“. In this time period, this particular piece of furniture would be used to eat from or to sleep on. It was like our modern couch, and yet it sat low to the ground. The ancients would eat from this couch and that may account for the renderings of most translations as “table”. The reason that this is important is that the beloved girl has some romantic activity in mind. The word “table” does not particularly fit a place for them to be close. It seems that when the king was on the couch, she was wearing a very costly fragrance In Mark 14:3, we find a scene unfold where Jesus is said to be reclining at a table in the house of Simon when a woman anoints him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head. One alabaster flask costs a man’s yearly wages [300 denarii]. In Song of Songs 4:13-14, nard is mentioned as a part of the maiden’s luscious garden, “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.” Since Origen says that the spikenard plant would not give off its scent unless it was rubbed or had heat applied to it, there seems to be a very close romantic event on her mind in the Song. Myrrh and henna blossoms are two items that give off pleasant scents in the spring. In Psalm 45:8, we find, “All Your garments are [fragrant with] myrrh and aloes [and] cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.” Here we find that the garments worn were enhanced with the popular fragrances of the day. In a more familiar passage in John 19:39, we learn that Nicodemus used similar spices to prepare the body of Jesus for burial, “Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds [weight.].” These were used here to cover the scents often associated with death.
Whether our beloved can afford these costly fragrances is beside the point. She is dreaming of the time when they will be able to lie together and fulfill their feelings for each other. It was also not uncommon for the woman to wear a bag of scented flowers or some fragrance tied around the neck, which would fall between the breasts. In Isaiah 3:18-22, there is a list of things that were used to enhance beauty among the women of Jerusalem which included the sashes and perfume boxes, as it reads, “In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of [their] anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans, and veils.” The Lord was punishing them by bringing a stink instead of beauty in this context. Generally, at night time the ladies would take off a highly scented necklace and lay it aside. Here we see that the king is said to replace the necklace as he wraps his arms around her and lies between her breasts. The young girl says that her lover serves as that sweet scent that is so close to her heart when longing for love. She describes a time when her lover will lay with her for sexual intimacy through the night, between her breasts. Engedi was an oasis in a desert place where exotic cosmetics and fragrances were made. It was an aromatic and well-watered place, full of special plants. In Joshua 15:62, we see a reference to the city of Engedi with its village. Then in Ezekiel 47:10, we learn that the place was abundant with food resources. Finally, we learn a more accurate location for Engedi from II Chronicles 20:2, where the text states, “they are in Hazazon-Tamar (that is Engedi)”. This was Hazazon of the palm trees. It was a land of fertility amidst barrenness, near the Dead Sea.
The parallelism is clear when we see that the lover is represented by the pouch and the blossoms, and the girl is represented by the mention of the breasts and the vineyard. She describes herself to her lover as his oasis, but her lover adds the sweetness to that special place of refuge to which she wants him to come and dwell. She is his cistern or wellspring from which only he is permitted to drink. In Proverbs 5:15, this imagery is used, “Drink water from your own cistern And fresh water from your own well.” Find your lover and commit to them that you will only drink of each other's love, sharing your special fragrance with one another. This is important beyond all things in a godly relationship!
SPIRITUAL APPLICATION: We all know the lasting benefits of being alone with the Lord. The place doesn’t matter when we are with Him. If you have ever spent the night praying to the Lord or spent a day in His Word, you know the value of finding an oasis to be together. Our true Engedi will be in heaven, where the ideal conditions exist for our eternal romance with the Lord. We will be in His arms and tender care forever. There is no room for other lovers as we will be totally devoted to Him. That commitment begins here on earth as we demonstrate faithfulness to Him. He will be King to us and we will find every spiritual fulfillment and blessing in His presence, surrounded by the glory of God, the river of life, fruit trees, etc. in an Eden-like environment. When you are feeling tired, hungry, or thirsty, or you just need a break, we can actually get a foretaste of glory Divine, by getting alone with the Lord even here on earth. Learn to meditate, fast, pray, and seek His face. It will be intimate and well worth the effort to get away from it all. You will not get any closer to heaven than when you are alone and spending time in spiritual devotion to the Lord.
QUESTIONS: 1. We mentioned that the young girl is reciprocating praise after her lover clearly explained how crazy in love that he was with her. What is the value of this mutual sharing of kind words and actions? 2. When describing the "table" as more of a couch, what do you think is the value of understanding the piece of furniture being referenced in the Song? 3. We suggested that women would wear pouches around the neck that would fall between their breasts. What do you think is the meaning of saying that her king is the poetic pouch of flower blossoms or spices that would then rest between her breasts? 4. What illustrations do we use today that would show the importance of a lover to us, that is comparable to the poetic language, "a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi"? 5. Do we have commonly used phrases to connect places and the things that can be found there? For example, "she is as sweet as a Georgia peach". Why is this important to better understanding this text?