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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Song of Solomon 6

 

 

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 6:1-3

"Whither is thy beloved gone,

O thou fairest among women?

Whither hath thy beloved turned him,

That we may seek him with thee?

My beloved is gone down to his garden,

To the beds of spices,

To feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.

I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine:

He feedeth his flock among the lilies."

What we have here is: (1) a question and (2) the answer. The question is from "the daughters of Jerusalem," whether understood as God's people generally, or as the members of Solomon's harem. The question:

Where is your lover that we also may seek him?

The lover described by the maiden was so glorious that the "daughters of Jerusalem" desired also to find him. This clearly denies any possibility that "the beloved" in this passage was Solomon. Nobody had to hunt him. The whole world knew exactly where he was.

Now, what is the answer to their question?

He has gone to his garden to gather lilies and to pasture his flock.

Can any stretch of imagination behold Solomon in this reply? Ridiculous! Solomon a gardener? Who could believe it? Or Solomon a shepherd pasturing his flock? A million times NO. The maiden's lover is clearly a shepherd, the Shepherd.

The rest of the Song of Solomon carries the following message:

King Solomon Fails in His Pursuit of the Shulamite[1]


Verse 4

UNWAVERING FIDELITY OF THE BRIDE TO THE SHEPHERD

(Song of Solomon 6:4-8:14)

THE KING ADMITS HIS DEFEAT

"Thou art fair, O my love, as Tirzah,

Comely as Jerusalem,

Terrible as an army with banners.

Turn away thine eyes from me,

For they have overcome me.

Thy hair is as a flock of goats,

That lie along the side of Gilead.

Thy teeth are like a flock of ewes,

Which are come up from washing;

Whereof every one hath twins,

And none is bereaved among them.

Thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate

Behind thy veil.

There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines,

And virgins without number.

My dove, my undefiled, is but one;

She is the only one of her mother;

She is the choice of the one that bare her.

The daughters saw her, and called her blessed;

Yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

Who is she that looketh forth as the morning,

Fair as the moon,

Clear as the sun,

Terrible as an army with banners?"

"Terrible as an army with banners" (Song of Solomon 6:4,10). "This refrain is the key to the passage."[2] The purity and fidelity of the Shulamite have rebuked the king and his artificial flattery.

"Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me" (Song of Solomon 6:2). Solomon cannot bear to look this precious virtuous woman in the eyes; and he pleads with her not to look at him, admitting that she has overcome him. We are still looking for some commentator who is able to explain this scene as that of Solomon addressing a woman who is madly in love with him!

"Thy hair ... thy teeth ... thy temples" (Song of Solomon 6:5-7). Solomon continues his flattery, still unable to think of any suitable comparisons except those that see the maiden as an animal, especially as a female animal.

"Thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate" (Song of Solomon 6:7). Solomon looked upon her exactly as he might have looked upon a piece of bread, or fruit, something to eat, devour and to satisfy his desire.

"Threescore queens and fourscore concubines" (Song of Solomon 6:8). Delitzsch considered this an indication that the events covered by this Song took place early in Solomon's reign, at a time when he had only threescore queens and fourscore concubines.[3] Others have supposed that the author was some other than Solomon; and Carr also denied that this is actually a reference to Solomon. "No particular harem is being considered."[4] Solomon is clearly meant; and one may find the balance of those 700 wives and 300 concubines in the adjacent phrase, "Virgins without number." What Solomon was saying here is that there were threescore queens and fourscore concubines of his who were, in one sense or another, special, and that even these praised the maiden (Song of Solomon 6:9).

"Yea, queens and concubines praised her" (Song of Solomon 6:9). The maiden was different in some very dramatic and sufficient sense from any of the women in Solomon's seraglio; and it was undeniably that difference which was praised. What was it? She was the only one who would not submit to Solomon's advances. She overcame him (Song of Solomon 6:5).

There are all kinds of interpretations suggested for these verses; but we have cited here the one that makes the most sense to this writer.


Verse 11

"I went down into the garden of nuts,

To see the green plants of the valley,

To see whether the vine budded,

And the pomegranates were in flower.

Before I was aware, my soul set me among the chariots of my princely people."

Before attempting to interpret this, one should be aware that, "It is very difficult to explain the relation of these verses, either to the context, or to each other. They are possibly misplaced";[5] or they may be a fragment of another song. The meaning of some of the words is disputed. The margin reads, "desire" instead of "soul."[6]

She may be referring to the story of her capture. "Innocently and unsuspecting she had gone down to inspect her garden, when she was whisked away by the king's men."[7] If this interpretation should be allowed, then we may paraphrase the verse: "I had gone down to the garden when desire (not her desire, but that of the king), `Set me in a chariot beside my prince.'"[8]

Redford thought the passage means, "That she lost her heart immediately when she saw king Solomon."[9] Waddey understood it to say that, "She had taken a stroll in the royal park, and remembering the folks back home, she longed to leave the palace and journey back to see her family."[10] Orr gave this ambiguous interpretation: "It is the bride's reminiscence of the moment when she suddenly realized how much she loved the youth who was destined to be her prince; her imagination rushed ahead; she would his queen at his side."[11] At least, he left Solomon out of it! Obviously, there is hardly room for dogmatism on what this means; however, Balchin's comment is in line with our interpretation of the allegory as a contest between two lovers, a king, and a shepherd, for the love of the Shulamite maiden, with Solomon standing for Satan in the analogy, and the shepherd standing for Jesus Christ our Lord. The maiden, of course, is the Church of our Lord.


Verse 13

"Return, return, O Shulamite;

Return, return, that we may look upon thee.

Why will ye look upon the Shulamite,

As upon the dance of Mahanaim?"

Cook read this as a call from the chorus for the bride to "come back," when "she was about to withdraw."[12] Delitzsch saw the passage as the words of the, "Daughters of Jerusalem."[13]

"Why should you look upon the Shulamite?" (Song of Solomon 6:13b). This has been read as a query from Solomon regarding the Shulamite's popularity in his harem, or as a modest protest by the Shulamite declining their admiration. We cannot find any connection at all with the rest of the Song. Bunn read the verse as an appeal, "By the shepherd and his companions for the return of the maiden (during the time when the king retained her in his harem), asking, "Why should she dance, and be looked upon by the monarch's company like a camp follower who danced before the lascivious eyes of the troops"?[14] The reader is invited to take his choice of interpretations. This is reasonable enough except for the chronological misplacement of it.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 6:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/song-of-solomon-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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