What kind of beloved is your beloved, O most beautiful among women? What kind of beloved is your beloved, That thus you adjure us?” My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, Outstanding among ten thousand. His head is like gold, pure gold; His locks are like clusters of dates And black as a raven. His eyes are like doves Beside streams of water, Bathed in milk, And reposed in their setting. His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, Banks of sweet-scented herbs; His lips are lilies Dripping with liquid myrrh. His hands are rods of gold Set with beryl; His abdomen is carved ivory Inlaid with sapphires. His legs are pillars of alabaster Set on pedestals of pure gold; His appearance is like Lebanon Choice as the cedars. His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
In 5:9 the daughters of Jerusalem ask about her lover. Some have interpreted this to be a taunting question in paraphrasing this “what makes your lover so special?” They most likely don’t view her as the most beautiful among women as they call her in this text. They are merely repeating some of the loving words that her lover has spoken to her as if to make fun of their relationship. This interpretation fits the insecurities of the girl. Whether you take this view or not, there is certainly a call being made for the young girl to provide a reason for why she is so in love.
Whatever is meant by their question, the beloved has a long list of wonderful things she can say about her lover that begins our second wasf (Arabic poetry describing the human body in love lyrics) of the song. When she finishes this description, she will be able to say, “This is my lover, this is my friend”. While the girls probably couldn’t take these fanciful qualities and locate the lover, it demonstrates how enthralled the girl is with her lover.
Radiant and ruddy is her overall view of her lover. The beloved will take us from head to legs and leave us with an astounding view of why she is completely in love with this man. We must try and see him through her eyes as our perception of him may not be like hers. Being radiant and ruddy, we first learn that her lover is young, energetic, healthy, and strong. When gathered with other men, he is the finest.
His head is described as pure gold. Since some translators have called him “tanned” (not “white”) where the word “radiant” is found, this could have reference to the color of his skin as “golden”. Yet, since his head is referred to as gold and a price is usually put on one’s head, she is giving great value to her lover. He is “outstanding” (NIV) among all others.
His hair is also a dark black and here it is referred to as the black of the raven. There is a black in the raven that glistens with a shiny glare. While one translation mentions “flowing” as if to give us the idea that the hair is similar to the long wings of the bird, others say “thick”, when in reality she is interested in the dark color that his hair gives off.
We hear her say that his eyes are like doves. Does she mean the same thing that he meant when he said her eyes were like doves? Yes and no. While the point applies more to the dove than his eyes, we could say yes in that she wants to apply the ideas of purity, and the other qualities that are found in the dove (peace, tranquility, and gentleness). On the other hand, we were more focused on the shape of the dove when dealing with her eyes and yet with him we are looking at the white clarity that is found in the dove and the perfect way in which his eyes are placed within his head like gems. For example in Exodus 28, there are instructions given for setting precious stones carefully in the garments that Aaron was to wear in service to God. There we find, “You shall mount on it four rows of stones…” This idea of mounting precious stones is the same idea offered here in setting his eyes in his head. His eyes are set perfectly like a precious stone in a piece of jewelry. One final detail we can take from her description is that his eyes are shining with water and are white, not dried and yellowed. You can determine much about the health and wellness of someone by the coloring of eyes. If they are jaundiced, red, dry, or burdened with a disease or other medical conditions, it is obvious at a glance. When she looks at him in the eye she sees health and vitality.
His cheeks and lips are mentioned next with descriptions of sweet towers of spices and perfumes in banks of flowers as lilies dripping liquid myrrh. Wow! What a description. What we see is that she views his lips and cheeks as a sweet feature. His face is full (could be referencing the cheekbones which tend to square up the face) and fragrant (he is pleasant to get cheek to cheek with and kiss). She enjoys his facial features, but even more, getting close to him and taking him all in.
The hands which some have translated as “arms” are rods of gold. While we could see the arms as the rods, it is most likely a reference to his fingers and his touch. Like his head, the chrysolite stone on the hands gives off a gold color. While some have commented that these are actual rings set on his hands, this is another way of referencing the skin color, while also showing how she cherishes his touch. For those who argue for the rods being the arms, they are also right, in that when the hands had references made to them, the arms were included. She loves to be in his arms and feel the touch of his strong hands. Each of these body parts are an extension of the heart.
The lover has flat hard muscular abs that show his strength and vigor. His upper body is like ivory formed perfectly and spread with precious stones set in place on his body. He is cut, we might say in modern language. In this case, the ruby seems to be a redundant visual except to show his special place in his beloved’s heart. The ivory is solid and firm while the rubies are a precious stone of the ancients. The word for belly here has reference to the body from shoulder to thighs. His core is solid overall.
The legs of the lover are said to be like alabaster or marble columns. As we have seen already, gold is an element she likes to use when referring to the qualities of her lover. His legs are said to rest in sockets of gold. All of this has reference to how well he is put together. He is immovable like a set of the mountains of Lebanon. While his legs are like these tall columns of marble, the last mentions of cedars of Lebanon do not refer to his sturdy stature but his special quality that causes her to choose him. When people wanted quality items they went to Lebanon. He is the top choice/grade to his beloved girl.
While the last mention of his qualities has to do with his mouth, we should not think our wasf is somehow out of order. Notice how the real point is not the mouth but the actual words that he speaks. The wasf actually ends at the legs and this final comment is a bonus feature to explain how wonderful the lover really is. Lilies were mentioned as a part of his mouth back in 5:13 and this has reference to his ability to give sexual pleasure. Lilies, as we have seen, are used in the book when expressing some sexual quality about one of the people in our Song.
We have an image of a well made and greatly loved young man. As the friends were skeptical at first, by the end of her description they are ready to help and search for him while it seems that even they hope to catch a glance at this handsome lover for themselves.
When we are called upon to give a testimony about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we have an opportunity to explain Him and His love in intricate detail. This is part of our effort to prove that He is worthy of love and that He is the greatest Lover of all time. When we are confronted by those who question our relationship with Him, we should be able to describe the Lord in a way that would make the hearers want to seek and find Him.
1. Take a moment to write song lyrics describing the Lord and what He means to you, spiritually. What kinds of attributes did you include?
2. What benefit is there in talking openly about our spouse in a positive way before others?
3. When you think about the lyrical description of the lover from the perspective of this desperate young girl, why do you think the other hearers were convinced to join the search party?
4. What could you say about Jesus and what his love means to you that would pique the interest of those listening to you?
5. How can we incorporate that way that we speak about the Lord in sharing the gospel with others?
This brings today’s episode to a close. Please join me next time in a study of Song of Songs 6:1-3, in a message titled, “Where is My Beloved?”