I don’t know how many of you have ever read Song of Solomon, and gone, huh? If so, your not alone I have definitely never found it very helpful or even understandable. That was until one night as I was meditating on the phrase “dove’s eyes” from chapter 2 that God laid out the interpretation of Song of Solomon for me. To really understand what God showed me you have to understand different historical interpretations of Song of Solomon.
The first interpretation takes a literal approach, and says that Song of Solomon is a story of King Solomon wooing a young shepherd girl, or “the Shulamite.” Therefore the book was held in high regard by Jewish people as sort of a marriage manual, and in fact Jewish males were often forbidden to read it before they were thirty. The problem with this interpretation as we shall see through this series of posts is that Solomon takes a very externally focused path to woo this girl, and furthermore acts more like a ladies man than a man of God.
Another interpretation explains the Song of Songs as an allegory of Jehovah’s love for Israel, or in a New Testament context Jesus’ love for the Church. While I believe this is a good application for Song of Solomon, it is not the primary interpretation. While it is an excellent picture of our intimacy with God it was primarily written about real people with an interpretation that implies to us in concrete, not abstract or allegorical ways.
The correct interpretation in my opinion is that Song of Solomon is not about Solmon at all. Rather it is a story about a young woman trying to find God’ will for her life, and discover her destiny. Along the way she is severely opposed by the flesh the world, and the devil in her choice of the right calling, and right mate. So lets look at the choices this young lady was faced with, and in so doing understand how to determine God’s will for our lives.
To understand this story you must first know the characters which are as follows:
The Shulamite- this is the young shepherd girl who is trying to determine God will for her life. She is in love with the Shepherd, but the strong advances from the rich, and powerful King solomon are very confusing to her. She must finally make a decision between her shepherd lover, and the wordly king. In this story the Shulamite definitely represents us.
The Shepherd- the Shepherd is a picture of God’s will for our lives, he was the Shulamite’s destiny. Throughout the story he is actively wooing the Shulamite, and trying to protect her from the advanced of King Solomon.
The Sovereign- Solomon is the King of Israel, and the Shulamite catches his eye not because of her virtue, but because of her extreme external beauty. Throughout the entire story Solomon uses flattery, power, and wealth to try to lead the Shulamite into a decision that will ultimately land her in a harem given to heathen idolatrous worship.
The Silly Women- these are the women of Solomon’s court they are deeply focused on sex, security, and silly talking as such they are a powerful representation of the world. These women repeatedly try to tease, and tantalize the Shulamite into unguarding her heart.
The Siblings- Ultimately in this story we discover that the Shulamite does not have a father in her life, but she has placed herself under the authority of her Brothers. These brothers represent our godly authority, and are an important part of a spiritual decision making paradigm.
Now let us explore each characters role in discovering our destiny or finding God’s will for our life.
Shulamite- The Shulamite was a shepherd girl from Shunem who was betrothed to the love of her life who was also a shepherd. When Solomon was returning from his summer palace in Megiddo he aparently was taken by her beauty, and tried to woo her with promises of wealth, and security. When he was unsuccessful in his first attempt he took her to Jerusalem to try to overwhelm her with His regal splendor.
Throughout the entire process the Shulamite carefully guarded her heart, and stuck to what she knew was right. There are many valuable lessons we can learn from this narrative let’s look at what made this young lady so special.
Her love was deeper than some flashy worldy mans attention- In Song of Solomon 1:2-4 the Bible says,
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee”
In an effort to woo this young girl Solomon calls her into his tent, and begins his coarse flatteries, and alcoholic beverages. Isn’t funny how the tactics of the world never change? Still to this day worldly people use flattery, and alcohol to lure innocent people into sin. But the Shulamite wasn’t deceived, and states to her Shepherd love, “thy love is better than wine.” You see when we God brings us a relationship that is pure, and holy, and saturated with Agape love no amount of attention from a worldy person will distract us.
Her confidence was in things that matter- In chapter 1 verses 5, and 6 we see that the Shulamite’s confidence was in things that matter, “I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.”
Solomon always traveled with a full court, soldiers, advisers, and ladies in waiting, or his court. These women began to make fun of the Shulamite for the dark color of her skin. To which she replied, “I am black, but comely.” In other words she said I may not have the traditional look, but I’m still attractive. These wordly court women had bought into the same lies Satan has been selling for millenia.
Night and day through television, magazines, and the internet Satan communicates to young ladies a certain weight they should be, certain brands they should wear, or, a certain way their face or body should be shaped. This has led to epidemic levels of anorexia, and bulemia, and even drug, and alcohol abuse for those who feel like they just don’t measure up. Nothing could be further from the truth the Bible says we are fearfully, and wonderfully made, God formed us in the womb, and loves us just how he made us. So stop insulting God by denigrating your appearance, and be confident in who you are in Christ.
The Shulamite Goes on to tell the court women that not only was she attractive, but her appearance came by obeying her authority. Her widowed mother, and brothers seeing that her relationship with the Shepherd was moving a little to fast for their taste moved her from shepherding to the vineyard. In obeying her authority she had acquired her tan while doing what God called her to do. Someone who is under authority, sure of their of their calling, and confident of who they are in Christ will always be more attractive then some ditzy, “beauty queen!”
Her dealings were open to scrutiny- In verse 16 of chapter 1 we see that her dealings were open to scrutiny. Oftentimes in a wordly romantic relationship there is a lot of sneaking around as couples are doing things that should be rightfully saved for marriage. However the Shulamite states in verse 16, “Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.” In other words we are not going to hang out in some dark corner, but rather in the open fields where are actions are open to scrutiny. Beware of any relationship, action, or habit that requires secrecy it is probably sinful, because God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. So if your in the dark God is probably not involved.
The Shulamite knew that what she had with the shepherd was right, and thus she was not afraid of scrutiny or accountability. Is your life an open book for your authorities to read, or do you shirk accountability any chance you get?
She Guarded her heart- In chapter 2 verse 7 we see that the Shulamite carefully guarded her heart. Guarding your heart is another way of saying protect your meditations! You can’t just allow yourself to think on anything because your heart is a deceiver (Jer. 17:9), and it can be deceived if you dwell on wrong thoughts.
Lets look at how she guarded her heart verse 7 says, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.” I used to think she was perhaps talking about her shepherd lover sleeping in, but upon closer scrutiny the verse in the Hebrew is completely in feminine gender. So that this verse might be literally translated, “stir not up nor wake the love till she please!” What was she saying? These court women were trying to excite unlawful passions in Her heart for the wordly King.
She was saying I’m sensing that my heart is being deceived, and I won’t allow you to stir up inappropriate meditations in my heart. Plain, and simple she was guarding her heart. Satan, and the world are constantly trying to excite wrong passions, and mediations in our heart we must constantly avoid meditating on wrong things.
She didn’t go on feelings alone but relied on the truth In chapter 6 verse 11 we see that the Shulamite did not rely on her feelings, but rather clung to truth. The Bible says, “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished and the pomegranates budded. Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” The Shulamite finding herself in Jerusalem far from home decided to venture out into the vineyards, do what she loved to do, and was called to do. You see through the guidance of God, and her authority she had determined that herding sheep, and working in agriculture were her life’s calling.
However while she was pursuing her calling Solomon came upon her suddenly in his chariots, and tried to woo her. She immediately tried to leave to guard her heart. To which he responded, “return!” Solomon tries to make more out of the moment then is there. Satan is that way from time we are little kids he paints for us what I call the “disneyland romance” in other words a romantic love story that causes us to “fall in love.”
As if we didn’t have a choice, and we just fell into a hole or a trap. Love isn’t something you fall into it is a daily choice. A daily choice to yield to God’s agape love for this person, and love even when it’s not “romantic.”
Solomon tried to make this “chance” meeting into something it wasn’t, but the Shulamite didn’t buy it , and responded wisely. She said, I didn’t come out here to the gardens for romance, but rather to pursue my calling. You see this young lady was called of God to be in agriculture, and so you could whisk her away to Jerusalem, but she was more interested in her calling than the coarse flattery, power, and wealth of Solomon.
She was under authority- In Chapter 8 the Shulamite returns home after Solomon realizes she is too virtuous to choose him over God’s best for her life. She immediately returns home, and tries to get her authority to approve the marriage. You see when your in God’s will your life is completely available to your authorities for guidance, and correction. The Shulamite could of said my dad is dead, and your not my boss: to her mother, and brothers. Instead she embraced her authority.
The brother respond to her request for the blessing of her marriage with a question. Are you a door, or a wall? If you are a door then your heart is available to anyone who wants to turn the knob, and have a piece. If you are a wall this means you are virtuous, and your heart is guarded from choices that are less than God’s perfect plan. Isn’t sad how are modern philosophy of dating turns us into doors? We often have given away dozens of pieces of our heart before we actually find God’s perfect mate for our life. The Shulamite could honestly say however that she had guarded her heart from the most powerful man in the land, and saved herself for the shepherd.
The end of this story finds the Shulamite right in the center of God’s will with the full blessing of her authority on her decisions. We can all learn some lessons from the Shulamite, and find God’s best for our life.
The Shepherd is a picture of God’s best for our lives. Let us examine some attributes of the Shepherd, and we will learn more about determining God’s will.
The Shepherd- The Shepherd was the Shulamite’s one true love, and he had a number of attributes that set him apart from Solomon. Let’s look at what made him so unique.
Found God’s Choice doing God’s will- The will of God is discovered by doing what we already know to be the will of God. For instance when Eleazer was seeking a bride for Isaac he said, “I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.” What this means is that we have made the will of God far too complicated if we were to do the things we know are God’s will then God would lead us from there.
The Shulamite did not necessarily know God’s will for marriage, but she definitely knew that the Shepherd had a shared calling with her because he was a shepherd. Solomon on the other hand was from a completely different walk of life, and had different goals, dreams, and ambitions. If someone has a definite calling they should never consider choosing a spouse, a job, town, relationship etc. that would take them one step away from that calling.
Unfortunately Satan will often offer a relationship with someone who is headed a different direction in life then you. To make things worse because they are different he will tell you that they are exotic, interesting, in short way better than what you have experienced before. This inevitably is deceitful men, and women are already so different in so many ways why would it be better to add to that. So that you not only have the standard differences, but a different calling, and different direction. Amos the prophet said, “how can two walk together except they be agreed?” The simple answer is they can’t. Different isn’t exotic it’s erroneous avoid it at all cost.
Looked at the countenance and words not outward attributes- Song of Solomon 2:14 says, “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” The next thing that made the Shepherd God’s choice was his correct focus. As you study Solomon you quickly see that his primary ways of wooing were: alcohol, flattery, coercion, peer pressure, harlequin romance, power, and promises of security. He starts with flattery of her shape, proportions etc. The Shepherd on the other hand does not start with the physical, or external, but rather looks at her character.
One of the marks of a worldly suitor is their focus on the externals. The problem with this approach is that physical beauty is transitory, fleeting, and time has a way of taking it away from us. Character on the other hand is who we really are under the skin, and it is what will make a great marriage decades later. The shepherd started with the eyes, and the countenance. It has been said eyes are the windows to the soul, and I think that is very accurate. Someone’s eyes can reveal whats in their heart. Take for instance a disobedient child, inevitably they can’t look their parents in the eye because of what’s in their heart.
When the Shepherd looked into the Shulamite’s eyes it caused him to declare, “thou hast dove’s eyes”. What does that mean you may wonder. The following attributes that the Shepherd saw in his beloved made her an ideal mate.
Dove’s mate for life- He saw a woman that was commited to a lifelong relationship for better or for worse
Dove’s are very pure- A dove will never rest on a dead carcasse. He could see her commitement to purity
Dove’s can fly long distances- He could see in her a commitment to the long term vision
Dove’s are transparent- Dove’s have transparent eyelids , and this is a picture of the Shulamite’s honesty, and transparency.
Was under authority- The last that made the Shepherd an ideal mate was the fact that he was under authority. From the story we get the impression that the Shepherd was an older man, and furthermore the story tells us that the Shulamite’s father was dead. So the Shulamite could have said, “your father’s dead, and I’m an older wiser man so lets just get married”.
However the Shepherd was a man under authority. In the beginning of the story when the brothers moved the Shulamite to the vineyards to slow their relationship they accepted that. They could have said, “we know this is God’s will, let’s just go for it” instead they waited patiently for God to reveal to their authority the will of God. In the last chapter likewise they have a willingness to share their story with the family, and ask for marital blessing.
If you are considering a course of action that requires you to go against your God ordained authority, preachers, teachers, parents, employers, goverment. Then you are probably about to make a mistake, God leads through authority, and the king’s heart is always in the hand of the Lord. So today let’s analyse our decision making paradigm, and make decisions like the Shepherd, and Shulamite today.