The Song Of Solomon 6.1-3

With another infinitely practical piece of relationship advice, we now read of the value of really knowing our partners:

Where has your beloved gone,

O most beautiful among women?

Where has your beloved turned?
Tell us, that we may seek him with you.

My beloved has gone down to his garden,

to the flowerbeds of balsam spices,

to graze in the gardens,
and to gather lilies.

I am my lover’s and my lover is mine;
he grazes among the lilies.”

(The Song Of Solomon 6.1-3, NET)

Carrying on, it seems, the search for the beloved from the previous chapter, help is now offered (v.1b). Whether this is sarcastic or not (cf. 5.9) we don’t know for sure, but when the bride stops and thinks of her husband, when she pauses to ponder what she knows about him, the answer as to where he is and what he will be doing becomes clear:

My beloved has gone down to his garden,

to the flowerbeds of balsam spices,

to graze in the gardens,
and to gather lilies.”

Speaking more literally of his garden here than in 4.16 and 5.1, we see that when the bride stops and thinks about her partner and her relationship her anxiety as to his whereabouts seem to disappear.

Relationships and marriages contain a great deal of feelings, for sure, but we should also really know our partners: who they are, what they are, how they act and react in given situations, where they are drawn to spending time…really knowing them.

Take a moment today to take onboard the Scriptural relationship advice we are getting from The Song Of Solomon and specifically here the call to really know our partners.

Double-Tongued

During the sermon on Friday at Saar Fellowship I mentioned experiencing the comfort of God (2 Corinthians 1.1-5) last year. 2022 was, honestly, the hardest year of my to-date five year pastorate. Taking stock at the end of the year, replaying the troubles of the previous twelve months over in my mind, I know that I was at fault many, many times and, honestly, could have made better decisions in many situations. Thankfully, the grace of God in the lives of His people is real and so is the forgiveness and restoration to right relationship that they offer. 

The times that hurt the most and the times that were not-so easily rectified in a Scriptural and edifying manner (cf. Matthew 18.15+) contained a case of what Paul describes in 1 Timothy as double tongued:

“…must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre…”

(KJV, emphasis added)

The Spirit working through Paul chose the word there ‘δίλογος‘: δί, meaning double, or two, and λογος, meaning words, speeches, or subjects. Practically, it means saying one thing with one person on a given subject and another with another person (specifically with the intent to deceive one or more of those parties).

On multiple occasions in 2022 an act of double tongue-ness (is that a word?) was in play and the damage it caused to relationships was real, the hurt it caused me personally was (at times) devastating, and the impact it had on certain areas of the church family was tangible. It is unbelievably frustrating, and upsetting, to find out that a relationship you perceive as friendly, polite, supportive, and mutually respectful is simply a veil as the other party is actively saying otherwise to other people. For another look on gossip and why that’s such a big deal, try this.

Friends, it must not be like this among those who claim the same Lord and Saviour in the risen Jesus.

Writing on the conduct expected of believers and demonstrated by our Lord, Peter quotes Isaiah 53 and says:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.””

(1 Peter 2.21-22, NIV, emphasis added)

There should be no deceitful double-tongue found coming forth from the mouths of those who profess to follow Jesus;

We should speak the truth in love to and about one another (Ephesians 4.15).

We should speak highly of one another to one another for the good of one another (Ephesians 4.29-31).

We should speak to one another for one another’s strengthening, encouragement, and consolation (1 Corinthians 14.3).

To find out that you have been spoken about to another in ways that completely contradict how you have been spoken to face to face is personally heart-breaking and potentially community-splitting.

I hope and pray that you will join me now in committing to doing our earthly best to avoid this in 2023 and beyond.

The Song Of Solomon 5.10-16

In what looks like a reply to 4.1-7, here the bride praises her beloved:

My beloved is dazzling and ruddy;
he stands out in comparison to all other men.
His head is like the purest gold.
His hair is curly—black like a raven.
His eyes are like doves by streams of water,
washed in milk, mounted like jewels.
His cheeks are like garden beds full of balsam trees yielding perfume.
His lips are like lilies dripping with drops of myrrh.
His arms are like rods of gold set with chrysolite.
His abdomen is like polished ivory inlaid with sapphires.
His legs are like pillars of marble set on bases of pure gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as its cedars.
His mouth is very sweet;
he is totally desirable.
This is my beloved!
This is my companion, O maidens of Jerusalem!”

(The Song Of Solomon 5.10-16, NET)

Poetry and literature praising the appearance and virtues of women was very common in this place and at this time, but the same extolling men was much rarer.

What’s happening here is that the bride is declaring that she is attracted to both the physical appearance and the character of her beloved. Take v.10 as an example:

My beloved is dazzling and ruddy;
he stands out in comparison to all other men.”

She goes on to say, in summary, that

“…he is totally desirable.
This is my beloved!
This is my companion, O maidens of Jerusalem!”

The total [desirability] comes with the multi-faceted relationship that the bride and her husband share: there will be physical attraction and there will be genuine friendship (my beloved…my companion…).

For you and for me, The Song Of Solomon might not be the first text to come to mind when searching for Scriptural relationship advice, but, more than once we have seen the virtue and the value of having a multi-faceted relationship with our prospective partners or spouses.

To attach ourselves to someone we are attracted to by appearance alone is shallow and leaves us in a relationship devoid of substance.

To gravitate towards those whose character we admire but feel no physical attraction for is to forge a relationship that leaves out a significant part of who we are as people.

A healthy relationship will have both attractions present, and so, in a sense, The Song Of Solomon is a wonderful piece of Scriptural guidance on relationships.

I would encourage you to think on the relationship you keep with your partner: is there an area you have neglected recently? Are you too focused on one area at the expense of another? A healthy relationship will (work to) maintain attraction in all areas:

“…he is totally desirable.
This is my beloved!
This is my companion, O maidens of Jerusalem!”

(Emphasis added)

The Song Of Solomon 5.2-9

We find ourselves again reading of a dream or a dreamlike state, as in ch.2:

I was asleep, but my mind was dreaming.

Listen! My lover is knocking at the door!

“Open for me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one!
My head is drenched with dew,
my hair with the dampness of the night.”

 “I have already taken off my robe—must I put it on again?
I have already washed my feet—must I soil them again?”
My lover thrust his hand through the hole,
and my feelings were stirred for him.
I arose to open for my beloved;
my hands dripped with myrrh—
my fingers flowed with myrrh
on the handles of the lock.
I opened for my beloved,
but my lover had already turned and gone away.
I fell into despair when he departed.
I looked for him but did not find him;
I called him but he did not answer me.
The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city.
They beat me, they bruised me;
they took away my cloak, those watchmen on the walls!

I admonish you, O maidens of Jerusalem—
If you find my beloved, what will you tell him?
Tell him that I am lovesick!

Why is your beloved better than others,

O most beautiful of women?
Why is your beloved better than others,
that you would admonish us in this manner?”

(The Song Of Solomon 5.2-9, NET)

In her dream the bride is awakened by the sound of her lover…knocking at the door (v.1). He calls out to her using many titles that reflect the many roles we each play in our relationships (v.2). The bride seems to give reasons why she cannot open the door just yet (v.3) and the lover tries to open the door himself (v.4). Finally the bride opens the door but in taking too long her lover has gone (vv.5-6). She searches and is reprimanded by the watchmen in her dream (v.7) and then calls out for help in finding her lover, but to no avail (vv.8-9).

There are some passages in Scripture that we read and quickly see a clear and cogent point for ourselves (2 Corinthians 1.3-5 and the call to comfort one another, for example) and there are others that simply add to the context in which it sits.

We could draw a conclusion and say that when in relationships, we need to be less self-centred (v.3).

We could say that guilt about things we have done wrong will come back to haunt us (v.7).

We could even say that whilst our relationships are profoundly special to us, to others they are absolutely not (v.9).

Rather than over-interpret passages like The Song Of Solomon 5.2-9 it is better to see it as an interesting part of the book in which it sits. We are seeing sides and scenes to a relationship that we would not if this passage were not included. Enjoy reading it, think on it, and apply what you see to your own relationships.