How Do You Build a Love Like Theirs?
5 “Who is this coming up from the wilderness
Leaning on her beloved?”
Some people are chatting and notice in the distance Shulammith walking arm-in-arm with Solomon. They are so close, you could say she is leaning on him, not for support but to get even closer to him. As they come closer, you can overhear these lovebirds talking about their feelings for each other.
5 “Beneath the apple tree I awakened you;
There your mother was in labor with you,
There she was in labor and gave you birth.
6 “Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.
7 “Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised.”
Recall the warnings not to awaken love before the proper time? Shulammith confidently states that she has awakened Solomon’s love. The apple tree is seen as the sweetheart tree and their love was awakened in romance, just as Solomon was born in romance. His parents were as deeply in love as she and Solomon.
She then gives a beautiful description of what is love. She wants to be like a seal. In those days a person did not sign documents with an ink pen. Each person had a personal seal – usually a small cylinder of stone with etchings on it. The stone was rolled over soft clay to make an impression and indicated that it was from the person. Seals were valuable possessions. If someone else acquired it, it was possible for them to forge documents in their name. To keep a seal safe, it was typical to bind it close to the body, such as strapping it to the chest or tying it around the upper arm. By comparing herself to a seal, she is saying that she wants to be Solomon’s valued personal possession – someone he treasured (Ephesians 5:29) and does not want to lose. A binding above the heart shows an emotional bound between them. A binding on the arm shows a strong relationship that is not easily broken.
True love is strong. Paul said it never fails (I Corinthians 13:8). Shulammith states it is as strong as death. Death is irreversible as far as man is concerned. The grave does not easily give up its dead.
Love is also jealous. This is not the evil jealously of a man who sees competitors for his wife’s attention around every corner. This is the person who will not let go of his bound with his wife, just as the grave holds tightly to those within it boundaries. When a man leaves his family, he is supposed to cleave to his wife (Genesis 2:24). Too often, people give up on marriages too easily. Things change, events happen, and, before you realize it, the two of you are drifting apart. True love will not sit by and let that happen (I Corinthians 13:7). It is the type of jealousy God had for His people when He saw them drifting into sin (Exodus 34:14, Zechariah 8:2).
Shulammith also compares love to lightning – the flashes of fire from the sky. By this she means that love is intense in the depth and strength of its feelings. It is so intense that dowsing it with the waters of problems will not put out the feeling. True love cannot be easily overcome.
Finally, this type of love cannot be bought. Love doesn’t come by the spending of money or the showering of lavish gifts. Love’s power is built from spiritual foundations and not from this in this material world.
8 “We have a little sister,
And she has no breasts;
What shall we do for our sister
On the day when she is spoken for?
9 “If she is a wall,
We will build on her a battlement of silver;
But if she is a door,
We will barricade her with planks of cedar.”
The people standing by are impressed with this example of love before them. They would like advice for their younger sister. She has not yet started developing into a woman, but they would like to give her the best chance to finding true love when she does mature. “What preparations,” they ask, “should we make for our sister?”
They continue by describing their current plans. If it turns out that she shows a strong strength of character and she will not easily give her love to any man, then they plan to enhance her beauty by showing off her best features. They will reward her sound judgment. However, if it turns out that she “man-hungry,” pursuing every handsome body that comes her way, then they will protect her by preserving her virtue. Some women grow up desiring to be promiscuous and, while they are young, they need to be protected from themselves.
10 “I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers;
Then I became in his eyes as one who finds peace.
11 “Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;
He entrusted the vineyard to caretakers.
Each one was to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit.
12 “My very own vineyard is at my disposal;
The thousand shekels are for you, Solomon,
And two hundred are for those who take care of its fruit.”
Shulammith recalls that in her youth she was a wall. She had the strength of character to repel the advances of men. She kept her resolve until the day she married Solomon. The phrase “Then I became in his eyes as one who finds peace” is a pun in Hebrew. Solomon means peace and she found peace in her Solomon. This is why she is known as Shulammith, the female version of the Hebrew word for peace.
Recall from chapter 1 that Shulammith mentioned that she used to work in a vineyard. That vineyard was located in Baal-hamon and was owned by Solomon. Caretakers were hired to tend the vineyard and expected to turn a good profit from its fruit. It was there, while Solomon was inspecting his vineyard, that she and he first met. It echos the meeting of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth chapter 2. Perhaps her own stepbrothers were the primary caretakers of Solomon’s vineyard.
Though Solomon owned the vineyard, Shulammith owned herself. She chose whom she would marry, but she owes a great debt of gratitude to her husband for noticing her. He gave her the chance to blossom as no one else would have been able to do. She also recognized a debt of gratitude to her stepbrothers, though not as greatly as that for Solomon. Even though she did not like working in the vineyard, without being there, she would have never met Solomon. She may have thought her stepbrothers were mean, but she sees now that they had protected her.
1) How can you tell you are really in love?
2) Is the love a couple has well into a marriage like the love they had at the beginning of their marriage?
3) Can a person fall in and out of love?
4) Can you make someone love you?
5) Even though Shulammith calls herself a wall, did that mean she had no desire for sex when she was young?
6) Will people see their family in the same way when they are old as they do when they are young? Why?
7) How protective should parents be of their children? Does the child’s personality make a difference?