In Song of Songs 3:1-5, we find, “On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him. ‘I must arise now and go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves.’ I sought him but did not find him. The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, And I said, ‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?’ Scarcely had I left them When I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go Until I had brought him to my mother’s house, And into the room of her who conceived me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, That you will not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases.”
As we begin chapter 3, it is important to specify how the text at the end of chapter 2 coincides with the words or lyrics found here. If we take the text to be one continuous lyrical narrative, then our explanation of the end of chapter 2 as a refusal to pursue love too early, will not mesh with the waiting of the girl upon her bed all night for her lover. There has to be a clear break here or we are left in a state of confusion.
We are forced to ask what is actually taking place as we enter this part of the Song? This sudden mood change has led many to see both the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 as a dream that portrays the girl’s deepest affections and anticipations with her lover. Dreams are always heightened in emotion and have strong dramatizations of what we feel strongly about in the deepest parts of our subconscious mind.
I believe that our interpretation of the end of the second chapter of lyrics is correct and that the chapter break is also correct, in that, with the beginning of chapter 3, we start a new unit in our Song that is separate from that which we have already seen. The first is a depiction of what is real while fully awake, while the latter is a display of a very lucid dream while in a deep sleep. The girl is alone on her bed, but at the same time, she is in wild pursuit of love. We have all been here before where we are on a journey to find someone and we never leave our bed. We are dreaming and our mind is inviting us to explore the things we are passionate about. It should be mentioned that she continues to have unfulfilled desires. This means that the end of chapter 2 is most likely not an invitation to intimacy, but is a loving restriction to not awaken love until she pleases. What we find in chapter 3, is a mood swing from the previous chapter. While the girl seemed to be distanced and controlled near the end of chapter 2, now we see her fretting over the inability to find her lover and fulfill her desires with him. I believe the girl is having a dream that becomes a nightmare over the course of time about the concern of being away from and losing her lover. It was not commonplace to find a young girl roaming the streets at night. Also, the speed at which the event unfolds seems to be too swift for any series of frames stemming from something real. This is another example of her insecurities in the Song. This time they are expressed in her dreams. We will see the daughters of Jerusalem in verse 5, just as we did at 2:7, used as a literary device to not awaken love. As we begin looking at our text we see that “night after night” (which is the literal rendering that we see appropriately translated in NASB Updated), the beloved girl would desire for her lover to be there to give her the love that she deeply desired. It seems as though she fades in and out of sleep, and when she falls into sleep with love‘s desire fresh on her brain, she dreams of the insecurities that she feels in real life, and they are portrayed in the worst-case scenario. We will see a similar text from 5:2 through 6:3. It is obvious from this text that they are not married yet, nor have they been sexually involved since his absence is the cause of her deep yearnings for love. There comes a point in every relationship where you cannot seem to wait any longer for the fulfillment of love and the pleasures that are involved in being intimate with a lover. She experiences this place in her dreams and determines to arise and find her man. She searches streets and squares and will not stop until she holds him in her arms. While making her search, the night watchmen are making their rounds like a cop on the beat, and they find her in her search for love. She asks them about her lover, as if they are to know his whereabouts, but they give no response. She has to know where the one that her soul loves can be found. As dreams often do, she goes from no hope of finding him to having her arms around him. She tells how soon after leaving these watchmen, she runs into her lover and embraces him and will not let him go until they make it to the bedroom to make love with each other. Notice though that the same statement from 2:7 is here stated regarding the need to wait and not enter into sexual intimacy until it is an appropriate time.
If you have been listening to this series you have probably noticed that the theme woven into the fabric of this Song is that these lovers are constantly being kept from one another when all that they want is to be together. You may become weary of hearing me emphasize the need to wait. Our society today has zero standards when it comes to entering into sexual passions and desires with a lover. This Song needs to be sung from the housetops and in the streets. People need to be reminded that you don’t get to treat love and sex in a frivolous manner. God created marriage and marriage is to be held in honor and its bed is to be undefiled. Young people running around with no moral compass in the area of how to treat the opposite sex are merely playing with fire when they invite the fulfillment of lusts before marriage. I will not apologize nor water down the message to make it more pleasant for listeners. If this Song portrayed a modern view of sexual passion and desire there would be nothing left to be pursued, for this young couple would have already been promiscuous and entered into every fleshly desire imaginable. We need to raise the bar by getting back to the standards of God for our love life. As we return to our text, it is probably good to understand what is meant here by, “my mother’s house”, since this may seem to us to be a weird place for love’s fulfillment, if taken literally. Why would you take a lover back home and into the bedroom of your mother? The translated word literally means “mother-house” and certainly has some wordplay with “the room of her who conceived me.” This probably refers to the place of childbearing, or her womb. If we compare this to 8:2-4 and notice the context, we find, “I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, who used to instruct me; I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates. Let his left hand be under my head And his right hand embraces me. I want you to swear, O daughters of Jerusalem, Do not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases.” The house mentioned here, could be like the “chambers” that the lover brought his beloved to in 1:4. But since she is dreaming, this all is a frustrating scene that provides no fulfillment. This is a sign that all of the feelings that she has must be put in check until marriage. The lack of love and the pain of separation are both felt in her dream. That which embodies our subconscious mind is the concepts that appear in our dreams. The “watchmen” in her dream may very well be the society that she often fears are involved in watching her in order to judge her appearance or those that could be taking away her lover. They could also represent her stepbrothers as well. They could be emblematic of the little foxes from the previous chapter. In reality, anything that stood in the way of passionate lovemaking represents the watchmen here. But the watchmen are necessary for the moment in that they stand as an interruption to make us consider our ways as we pursue a lover. As an aside, we should do a comparison of Proverbs 5:15-19 with the phrase found at 2:7, 17, and 3:5. In Proverbs 5:15-19, we hear, “Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love.” While some would suggest that the language of the Proverb sounds like a gratifying message of love’s fulfillment, we can see in verse 18 that the people mentioned are also married, unlike our young couple in the Song. When we see the similarities with the female deer in the Proverb and the Song of Solomon references, we can understand that maybe some sexual ideas are in mind, but then is added the qualifying statement, do not awaken love until she pleases, which is a squelching of love until the time is right. In other words, the girl in our Song is saying, I want you, and I need you, but I am aware that I cannot have you until in marriage we can become one flesh. This is the cause of her nightly love dreams. SPIRITUAL APPLICATION: Lying in bed alone can certainly start the mind to wander and make us contemplate the matters that are important to us. This is especially true of intimate relationships and associated longings. When we consider spiritual intimacy, it is not uncommon for people to end a long day with a prayer before they close their eyes in sleep. Some have even confessed to falling asleep while speaking to the Lord. The psalmist in Psalm 63:3 stated, "When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches." Many have also expressed vivid dreams of being in heaven with the Lord but then woke to discover that the blissful experience was merely a dream. In other song lyrics in the Bible, we see such spiritual longings expressed as in Isaiah 26:8-9, where we read, "Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O LORD, We have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently..." This is a spiritual mirroring of the nightly physical desires that the beloved girl in our Song experienced on her bed. Our longing for the Lord can often meet watchmen in the street as we pursue Him. Satan and the evil influences of the world can get in our way and try to impede our progress toward heaven or even worse, cause us to stumble into sin and be separated from the Lover of our souls for eternity. When the marriage of the Lamb comes, it is our aim to be in the church, the Bride of Christ, so that we can be one in spirit with the Lord. Then all of our spiritual dreams will come true. QUESTIONS: 1. Do you feel that it is normal for a maturing female or male to lie in bed and have physical longings for the one that they love? Is it healthy? What are the negatives of contemplating these feelings too often and too deeply?
2. When our longings cause our subconscious mind to produce dreams about our feelings, how do you think we should handle the disappointment of coming back to reality and comprehending that the events really did not occur?
3. In your spiritual longings for the Lord, do you find yourself meditating on Him day and night? Do you dream of the day when you are taken away into spiritual intimacy with the Lord?
4. Taking note of the fact that even in the dream, there are restrictions placed on the desires of the girl (the search for the lover, the watchmen in the way, and the vow to not awaken love), how should we temper our dreams in order not to lose patience for the coming wedding and the intimacy to follow?
5. How can we be certain not to allow our physical longings to override our deep desires for spiritual intimacy with the Lord? Can we spend too much time contemplating physical fulfillments in the flesh and miss out on a deeper spiritual longing and urges for love from the Lord?