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. Listener 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 have your Bible opened to the Song of Songs, take a moment to focus on 1:7-8 which reads,
“Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, Where do you pasture your flock, Where do you make it lie down at noon? For why should I be like one who veils herself Beside the flocks of your companions?”
If you yourself do not know, Most beautiful among women, Go forth on the trail of the flock And pasture your young goats By the tents of the shepherds.”
Separation anxiety and the idea of losing a lover, and never seeing them again, is a constant theme in any good love song or story. It is the distance between lovers and the pursuit of lovemaking that heightens the anticipation of the sweet reunion. We have all heard the expression, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". The questions that surround that absence are often the reasons for our fears of loss or what could happen while we are apart. In chapter 1, verses 7-8, the uncertainty of the young girl continues, but now she is concerned for her lover and the time that he spends among his companions at work. She asks him a question in verse 7 and he responds in verse 8. We will look at these two verses together for that reason. Some translators have taken the liberty to point out that verse 8 is some kind of chorus speaking, but she asks this question to the one that her soul loves. She seems to be asking him about where he resides or fulfills his trade work. Since this lover of hers is called a shepherd, it may be that he indeed had a literal flock that he tended to each day in the nearby hills. The location was either unknown or as it was a regular practice for the flocks to feed in varying pastures that they were led to by the shepherd. The girl inquires of the place where his field labor occurs at midday. We have all asked this question of the one we love. “What will you be doing this time tomorrow and where are you going to be, so that I can meet you there?” Every young man or woman inquires similarly in anticipation of the answer, which will then initiate a reuniting. But there is also a hidden poetic wordplay with the words “pasture” and/or “graze” in that these words also are used for darling or intimate companion, and metaphorically the idea of grazing is used in the erotic activity. The girl wants to be with her lover and she inquires for the time and place they can share their love. For example in Song of Songs 6:3, we hear the following words, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, He who pastures his flock among the lilies.” It was not uncommon for a shepherd to have time in the middle of his day where he is able to rest in a place where his flocks will graze in an open pasture. It is during this time that he will lie down. She wants to meet up with him on his afternoon break so that they can lie down together and be intimate. If she wanders around veiled in search of her lover without directions, she may be considered a harlot. In Genesis 38:14-15 we learn why she was concerned about wandering around with a veil as it states, “So she removed her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gateway of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face.” While not every woman who covered her face was a harlot (it was actually a cultural tradition), she was concerned with others seeing her and wondering if her intention was to draw attention from onlookers. Today, we might say to a young lady, “don’t wander the streets alone because there could be bad people out there that try to take advantage of you or mistake you for a lady looking to provide favors.” If you see a lady dressed provocatively and walking along a street acting as if she is in search of attention from a man, she may just attract the wrong one. The other shepherds would perhaps begin whistling at her or make a pass at her. She wanted to avoid this situation and is almost saying to her lover, “You do not want me to fall into their allurement, so tell me where you are going to be on break today.” She also seems to desire her lover’s total companionship as he may find some camaraderie in the professional field. She is trying perhaps to enter his masculine world causing him to feel overwhelmed by her desires. This is certainly the struggle that is often had in finding balance in togetherness and in finding time alone for responsibilities or personal matters. We must have time together, but we must also be personally responsible for other tasks in our life, so as not to neglect duties that are assigned to us (earning an income, meeting deadlines, family obligations, etc.). In verse 8, he answers almost jokingly, yet he doesn’t want to push her away. It seems as though he wants this relationship to flourish, and if she really wants to find him, she can. At the same time, he realized that this starry-eyed romanticism needs to be tempered with a degree of private space that gives time for a realization of a growing courtship. So he basically tells her to come and find him, in a romantic game of hiding and seeking. He also is helping her to understand that she cannot avoid the other shepherds and their tents. Some say that this verse is the chorus as well, but I believe with the items of praise found at the beginning of verses 7 and 8 that we are looking at a discussion between the man and the woman of our Song. According to him, she needs to avoid the appearance of evil and appear to be shepherding her own flocks of goats. The fact is in real life, whether male or female, we will have to have the determination to pursue love with our lover without falling into the trap of infidelity with others who may make a pass at us or approach us with every intention of leading us out of love with the one with whom we vowed to be true. If you are truly faithful, you will not go into another tent with another shepherd but you will wait until you have located the love of your life. The seek and find game, is part of the build-up for love, which is very healthy in a relationship. Love must be worked, or to put it another way, love is made. When we make love, most of the lovemaking will take place in what leads up to the actual moments of intimacy. The foreplay, as it is often called, is the little jokes we make or the games that we initiate that create the anticipation of finally being able to fulfill the desires that we longed for during the search. Go, locate your lover! Understand that there will be obstacles, but use them as part of the challenge to make love. Know that you are desirable to other onlookers, but that only one should have your love and constant devotion. SPIRITUAL APPLICATION: Every day we are to pursue love with our Lord in the midst of an onslaught of worldly temptations pulling at our hearts. We are being called to walk a straight path that is narrow which leads to life and all along the way there are potential pitfalls and detours that we can take that do not direct us to our first love. Many people choose to fall in love with the world and if we love the things of this world that entice us, we cannot love the Divine at the same time. This divided love is not acceptable. Just as we at times feel distanced from the Lord, I can only imagine as we step out each day if the Lord is waiting with anticipation to see if we will remain faithful to our relationship with Him. God is willing to play the game. If we seek Him, we will find and be found by Him. If we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He tells us that He is not far from any one of us if only we will grope for Him and then we will find Him. Are you in passionate pursuit of time alone with God? Are you avoiding the calls to infidelity made by the passerby's, and are you avoiding the allurement of the distractions that are placed in front of you, so that you can devote yourself to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ? These are as much a part of our spiritual walk as they are a factor in our physical earthly love relationships. Be faithful unto death applies to marriage and to our betrothal and spiritual union with Christ. QUESTIONS: 1. When it comes to being playful and having fun with your lover, what do you feel is a safe balance between physically being together and spending too much time apart?
2. Do we need to have a defined amount of time together and also a specific time to be alone to manage the responsibilities of life?
3. While we may not relate to shepherding a flock and passing by the tents of other onlookers, do you find it challenging at times to avoid falling prey to the pursuit of other people or things seeking your attention?
4. How do we show love while we manage such responsibilities as work, school, spiritual life, etc?
5. What are some of the natural anxieties about being separated from our lover and what can be done to reassure a lover that the time away is not an attempt to abandon love?