"Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the young men. In his shade, I took great delight and sat down, And his fruit was sweet to my taste. He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love."
In verse 3, the girl now blesses her lover with similar words of praise, as she says he is like an apple tree among the other trees of the forest. This is probably an apricot tree in mind here or one of the citrus trees since the apple was not native to Israel at this time. Regardless of the type of tree in view, this is a parallelism with the previous verse in that just as he said she was a beautiful flower among thorns, she says he is the sweet lover that in comparison with all other men is the greatest and most refreshing. But what if the beloved is making reference to an apple tree? Since the apple is said to be very refreshing, perhaps she is adding the strong analogy of verse 2 by saying that finding you is like finding a rare apple tree among the other trees available. He is to her, the refreshment that no other lover could ever give. The song mentions apples in other places with a connection to their lovemaking. In Song of Songs 2:5 we see her say, “Sustain me with raisin cakes, Refresh me with apples Because I am lovesick.” Something about his sweetness would refresh her and take her lovesickness away. Then in 7:8, we find, “I said, 'I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks.' Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine And the fragrance of your breath like apples.” Finally, in 8:5, we see the following, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness Leaning on her beloved?" "Beneath the apple tree I awakened you; There your mother was in labor with you, There she was in labor and gave you birth.” The girl has in mind the sweet kisses that she desired in 1:2, when she says, “his fruit was sweet to my taste”. The point that she is trying to make is that he is delightful to her and their lovemaking is sweet and as refreshing as apples! Also in verse 3, we see her desire to sit in his shade. The interesting wordplay is scattered throughout this part of the text. Since he is her apple tree and there is no one to compare to him, she finds shade under his tree. This is likely a reference to how the man is to protect the woman in a love relationship. He provides food and shelter for her and is not merely a lord over her or simply a masculine figure in the relationship. He is to look into her emotional and psychological feelings and try his very best to be understanding and fulfill her needs. A woman without a male figure to protect her was viewed as most pitiable in the day in which this was written. A girl was always under the protection of their father until they were given in marriage. She is saying to her lover that she trusts him to care for and provide for her not only financially, but also emotionally or physically. One commentator said, “Let us make sure there is much to stimulate us in our partners, seeing in them a rich vein of precious rock, to be explored and mined in an ever-deepening relationship.” As we have already noted the desire for deep kissing in our text, verse 4 states that the girl mentions the lovers invite to the banqueting hall. Here he takes the initiative. While some have said that this was a hall associated with their wedding, we have seen no hint of the wedding up to this point. Others suggest a place in the city for drinking since “house of wine” is the literal rendering of the halls mentioned in the text, but they are still in their wooded paradise. Since we have seen that wine is a symbol of the kissing and she mentions the sweetness of his taste, the picture here is of an invitation to intimate kisses. The mouth is referred to as the place of eating or drinking. He wants her to come and have her fill with kisses, tasting the sweetness of his love. No scene changes are necessary. They have all that they need in one another. The second part of verse 4 is a little more difficult as we see that the word for “banner” is used primarily in Scripture to refer to a flag in a time of war. In Song of Songs 6:4, he says, "You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling, As lovely as Jerusalem, As awesome as an army with banners”, then continues in verse 10, “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?'. Certainly, the lover in our text is not staking his claim over the girl for love in a militant sense. He is speaking to the majesty and pristine appearance of an army decked out in their finest with flags (banners) flying. If you have ever beheld such an organized platoon, you know the feeling of amazement that he has in mind. What I believe we have here is another poetic piece with parallelism between the shade of the tree and the love banners. The way that he covers her is with the shade of his love and the provisions that he makes for her are all out of affection for his beloved girl. They have laid claim of belonging to one another and each will acknowledge the banner of love in this Song. SPIRITUAL APPLICATION: Many will read this portion of the Song and immediately the old hymn comes to mind, "He brought me to His banqueting table. His banner over me is love." This common children’s hymn offers a set of lyrics that certainly accepts that the Song of Songs is allegorical and applies directly to the love of the Lord Jesus for His people. The goal is not to take this illustration too far in our application. The Lord is certainly to be tasted and we are to realize that He is good. We will be satisfied when we partake of Him and enter into His eternal wedding feast someday. We certainly rest in His protection at all times. He covers us. We are interested in a close intimate relationship with the Lord. The main point of difference is that we anticipate these blessings in a spiritual fulfillment, as opposed to the physical intimacy of the two lovers in our Song. God is intimate with His people, but merely for the purpose of romancing the soul and wooing us to heaven above. While there is symbolism in the Scriptures to substantiate a type of romantic intimacy, we must remember that the banner of love that is in place over us is one that redeems us from sin and stands waving to assure us of our future marriage to the Lord in heaven. We will find the truest intimacy there, where beyond this temporal body, our souls will be completely ravished by true Love and satisfied with the sweetness of His goodness. QUESTIONS: 1. Name one way that you could make your spouse feel like they are a delight to be with each day.
2. Why is it important to mention that there are others that you could compare your lover to, but then provide clear examples of how they excel them all?
3. With all of the changes in our culture, do you still think that it is important for a woman to find solace in the shade of her man? Do you think that this is obsolete with the expanded roles of women in society and the way that relationships have changed?
4. What is your insight into what the banner represents in this text? Why?
5. In what ways can we deepen our spiritual relationship with the Lord through praise?