All Is Not Happily Ever After
I suppose the story could stop right here and we could float away on the clouds from the beauty of this marriage, but then the picture would be incomplete. Every marriage faces problems. Every husband and wife relationship must overcome difficulties, some of them of their own making.
Some indefinite period of time has passed after the wedding. Our new scene opens with Solomon approaching a locked bedroom door while his wife sleeps on the bed inside.
2 “I was asleep but my heart was awake.
A voice! My beloved was knocking:
‘Open to me, my sister, my darling,
My dove, my perfect one!
For my head is drenched with dew,
My locks with the damp of the night.”
Shulammith was sleeping soundly when a knock caused her to stir. She was groggy, but she heard the voice of her husband outside the door. He gently called through the door, asking her to let him in. He apologies for being late, but he just got in from the outdoors. We realize that it must have been early in the morning because his hair is damp from the dew that had settled.
3 “I have taken off my dress,
How can I put it on again?
I have washed my feet,
How can I dirty them again?
She groans to herself. The thought of getting up is too much. You never know who is in the hall, so she will have to get dressed before unlocking the door. Floors in those days were not covered with plush wall-to-wall carpets. To get up meant having to wash the dirt off your feet again before climbing back into bed. Oh, the misery of an interrupted sleep!
4 “My beloved extended his hand through the opening,
And my feelings were aroused for him.
5 “I arose to open to my beloved;
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
And my fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the bolt.
As she heard him at the door, she was embarrassed at her careless attitude. She saw his hand reach through an opening near the door, perhaps attempting to unlock it for himself. The sight of just his arm stirs her into action and she jumps out of bed. When she touches the lock, she was startled to find it wet with his favorite cologne made from an expensive spice called myrrh. Paper was less common in those days, so instead of love-notes, couples sometimes poured a little of their favorite perfume on an object their beloved would be sure to fine. It was a simple way of saying, “I was here and thinking of you.” Solomon wasn’t trying to force his way in, he was quietly leaving a message before he left.
6 “I opened to my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and had gone!
My heart went out to him as he spoke.
I searched for him but I did not find him;
I called him but he did not answer me.
7 “The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
They struck me and wounded me;
The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.
She quickly opens the door, but Solomon had already left. Now he will think that she didn’t care enough about him to even open the door of their own bedroom. He didn’t know she came, but just too slowly.
Shulammith begins to search for him, calling his name, but getting no answer. Her search takes her out into the city, where the night watchmen find her wandering aimlessly through the streets. The situation brings to remembrance the young woman’s nightmares before her wedding of losing Solomon and not being able to find him. She did lose him, not because he left, but because she had become too complacent in her marriage.
The guards mistake her for a prostitute or some other low-life looking for trouble. They start to rough her up, but when her shawl is removed, they discover they were striking the queen. Shulammith doesn’t see to care or to notice. The only thing on her mind is that she has to find Solomon.
She goes to the noblewomen, Solomon’s other wives, to see if they know what has happened to him.
8 “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved,
As to what you will tell him:
For I am lovesick.”
She pleads with the women that if they find Solomon before she does to let him know that she has become ill from desiring him.
However, before these ladies will agree to help her in her search, they ask her two very pointed questions that open her eyes to her own fault in this matter.
9 “What kind of beloved is your beloved,
O most beautiful among women?
What kind of beloved is your beloved,
That thus you adjure us?”
Their first question is “What kind of man are you claiming to love so deeply that you want us to deliver a message to him on your behalf?” The question is wise and telling. It was Shulammith who did not want, at first, to get out of bed just to open the door for her husband. It is a frequent problem between couples. We put all our energies into winning the love of our spouse, but once we have committed ourselves to our spouse, we begin to take the relationship for granted. “Of course, he loves me!” “Of course, she will always be there for me!” Instead of thinking about fulfilling the needs of our spouse we begin to think about our own needs. The question of why is he so special is important for Shulammith to remember.
Yet, there is a second barb to this question as well. Why does Shulammith want the noblewomen to tell Solomon how much she loves him? If the relationship is as it is supposed to be, why isn’t she able to tell Solomon herself? Sure, she can’t find him, but why not just find out where he is at and go directly to him?
10 “My beloved is dazzling and ruddy,
Outstanding among ten thousand.
11 “His head is like gold, pure gold;
His locks are like clusters of dates
And black as a raven.
12 “His eyes are like doves
Beside streams of water,
Bathed in milk,
And reposed in their setting.
13 “His cheeks are like a bed of balsam,
Banks of sweet-scented herbs;
His lips are lilies
Dripping with liquid myrrh.
14 “His hands are rods of gold
Set with beryl;
His abdomen is carved ivory
Inlaid with sapphires.
15 “His legs are pillars of alabaster
Set on pedestals of pure gold;
His appearance is like Lebanon
Choice as the cedars.
16 “His mouth is full of sweetness.
And he is wholly desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.”
Her answer echoes Solomon’s description of her on their wedding-night. He is important to her because he is the handsomest man around. She describes him from head to toes. He has the golden complexion of an outdoors man with raven black hair of tightly packed curls. His eyes are a peaceful gray and the whites of his eyes are like milk. The cologne he wears on cheeks is wonderful to enjoy and his kisses are tender, soft, and fragrant. His hands are solid and beautiful. His abdomen looks like it was carved and he is lovely to behold (in other words, he is in great shape). He has strong legs that carry him with great endurance.
These are all physical things. Sure, Solomon has a great body, but that cannot be the reason Shulammith wants him so badly.
Well, he says the sweetest things to her and he really is desirable in every way.
But again, this doesn’t really answer the question. It is not until we get to the very end that we reach the real reason for her love. He is her beloved and her friend. Life doesn’t have much meaning without the companionship of a close friend (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).
6 1 “Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
That we may seek him with you?”
On the surface, the noblewomen’s second question seems odd. They ask the woman where she thinks Solomon may be. Shulammith came to them asking for help in finding Solomon so why are they asking her where he is?
As with the first question, the point being made is astute. They are hinting that Shulammith knew in the depth of her heart where Solomon would most likely be, but she was avoiding confronting him. Her fear that Solomon had rejected her for her shameful behavior has been keeping her from seeking him out directly. That is why she wanted the noblewomen to approach him on her behalf. She wanted someone else to cushion the blow.
It is here that we see that the women are not totally without heart. They offer to go with her for moral support, but they insist that she go to Solomon.
2 “My beloved has gone down to his garden,
To the beds of balsam,
To pasture his flock in the gardens
And gather lilies.
3 “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,
He who pastures his flock among the lilies.”
Shulammith was able to answer the question. She knew in her heart where Solomon would be. Before they were married, Solomon would spend time among the sheep in his garden when he needed time away from the hectic life of a king (Song of Solomon 1:7, 2:16). Her rejection of him would send him to a quiet place where he could think. Balsam is a herb used for healing wounds and he needed time to heal the wounds she gave to his spirit.
She repeats the phrase she said in Song of Solomon 2:16 to say that they belong to each other. However, there is a subtle difference. Before, her hold on his love was foremost. Now, his hold on her love occupies her first thoughts.
1) Why would Shulammith become careless in her treatment of her husband?
2) How does having someone change the nature of your relationship?
3) Does a good marriage have no problems?
4) Why was Solomon’s “love note” a better way to handle the problem and getting angry? How did it help lead to a resolution?
5) Why did Shulammith look in the wrong places for Solomon?
6) When couples fight, what interferes with solving the problem?
7) What causes Shulammith’s love to be rekindled?
8) What does Shulammith find attractive in Solomon?
9) Often after marriage, you see couples letting themselves go – not dressing up, getting out of shape, slacking off in grooming practices. Will that help or hinder the relationship? Why?
10) Why did the women refuse to act as a go-between for Shulammith? Why did they insist that she go herself?
11) What was Shulammith afraid of? Was it reasonable? Did her fear need to be reasonable to be there?