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Solomon’s Song of Songs Chapter 3 Notes

Posted by lehunt on June 18, 2015

Song of Solomon Vineyards // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Chapter 3

Vs. 1-4: Note that this scene takes place at night; I believe it is the sequel to the previous one.  The girl has coyly refused the invitation of her Beloved and has sent him away, but afterwards, as she is lying in her bed, she misses him horribly and regrets sending him away.  Vs. 2-4 either recall a dream in which she goes to search for him, or they tell of her actual nighttime search for him in town.  In either case, she finds him and is so unwilling to be parted from him anymore that she immediately proposes to take him to meet her mother in anticipation of marrying him.

v. 5: See note on 2:7.

Vs. 6-11: Concerning this passage, Barnes writes, “Two or more citizens of Jerusalem, or the Chorus of youths, companions of the bridegroom, describe the magnificent appearance of the bride [the Shulamite girl] borne in a royal litter, and then that of the king in festive joy wearing a nuptial crown.”

Gordis writes that “the court poets” describe  “the ceremonies connected with King Solomon’s marriage to a foreign princess, perhaps from Egypt, across the desert.”

Murphy does not believe that Solomon is the Beloved in the poem.  Rather he believes that the beloved is just a regular man and that “the mention of Solomon is to be interpreted in line with the king fiction that dominates the entire work.”  In other words, the verses describe a marriage, but a marriage between a regular man and woman.  The royal references are fictional: the author calls the groom “Solomon” and portrays the bride as riding in a royal litter to emphasize the spiritual dignity and wonder of the real ceremony, however simple it might have been.

I am inclined to believe Barnes’s interpretation.  I do not believe that this girl is a princess of Egypt[1] or any other realm.  True, she is called a prince’s daughter in 7:2, so one could justifiably make the argument that she is literally a princess, but I suspect that the appellation “prince’s daughter” is a poetic flourish, the same type of flourish that Murphy sees in the references to Solomon.  Why do I believe that the descriptions of her as a common shepherdess and vineyard dresser are factual while the one that describes her as a princess is figurative?  My main reason for believing this is that the descriptions of her as a commoner include the detail about her burnt skin (1:6).  Such an unflattering feature sticks out in a poem so occupied with sumptuous descriptions of beauty and idyllic sensuality; thus, that particular feature has the tone of realism.  The only other reason one might believe that the girl is an actual princess is derived from the fact that she rides in a royal litter, but this is clearly Solomon’s, not hers, so it should not be taken as a sign of her royal status.  As for why I interpret the references to Solomon as literal, see my notes in the Introduction.

Thus, the scene follows naturally from the previous one, in spite of Murphy’s claim that it “has nothing to do with the woman’s search in vs. 1-5” (151).  Verses 1-5 describe the woman’s desperate search for her Beloved Solomon and end with her bringing him to meet her mother, presumably in anticipation of marrying him.  Verses 6-11 then begin by describing the royal wedding procession from the girl’s home to Jerusalem, where the ceremony will take place, and end with the ceremony itself, wherein Solomon’s mother crowns him with a nuptial garland.  The thematic link of the two mothers and the easily deduced narrative thread are good arguments for connecting the two sections.

v. 6: According to Barnes, the word rendered “wilderness” or “desert” here need not be a wasteland.  It could simply be pasture land, as distinct from city land, and pasture land would describe the Shulamite’s home.  Thus, I believe this verse describes the procession from the girl’s home to Jerusalem in a litter provided by Solomon for this very purpose.

v. 8: I cannot help but wonder if the “fear in the night” here alludes to the girl’s earlier fear of separation (vs. 1-5).  She did experience the fear at night, and the purpose of this escort is to see her safely to her wedding, where such fears will be put to rest.

v. 11: Barnes calls this a “nuptial crown,” and Gordis says that “crowns were worn even by ordinary grooms and brides, until the defeats sustained in the War against Rome in 70….”  Thus, this crown should not be confused with Solomon’s kingly one.  It is a crown which his mother places on his head on the day of his wedding to the Shulamite.  I also think that Solomon, as the author of this poem, means to connect this short narrative (vs. 6-11) with the previous one (vs. 1-5) by ending each with a reference to mothers, first the Shulamite’s (v. 5) and then his own (v. 11).


[1] Solomon does marry a princess of Egypt (1st Kings 3:1); I just do not believe that the bride in  the Song of Solomon is that princess.

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