Song of Songs 5-8
(Garden of Love)
July 14th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

To the walnut grove I went down,
to see the young growth of the valley;
To see if the vines were in bloom,
if the pomegranates had blossomed.

- Song of Songs 6:11 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

The lovers and their friends continue their dialogue in this second and last group of chapters in the Song of Songs. Chapter 5 is mostly a monologue from the Beloved (the woman lover), in which she describes a blissful encounter followed by a search for her Lover after he departed. She asks the Friends (daughters of Jerusalem) for help, but they taunt her, asking why she thinks her lover is better than any others.

The Beloved responds by describing him from his head of pure gold to his legs:

    My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

    His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

    His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

    His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

    His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

    His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

    His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

    - Song of Songs 5:10-16 (KJV)

The Beloved and the Lover re-unite in the subsequent chapters. The Lover once again describes all of the beautiful features of his Beloved and expresses his desire to taste the sweetness of her lips and explore her body. The two lovers discuss going to the countryside, the vineyards, and under the apple tree where they can express their love for each other.

In the middle verses of chapter 8, the Beloved asks for commitment from the Lover and describes her own steadfast devotion:

    Set me as a seal upon your heart,
      as a seal upon your arm;
    for love is strong as death,
      passion fierce as the grave.
    Its flashes are flashes of fire,
      a raging flame.
    Many waters cannot quench love,
       neither can floods drown it.
    If one offered for love
       all the wealth of one’s house,
     it would be utterly scorned.

    - Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NRSV)

In the final verses, the brothers of the Beloved claim she is too young and vow to protect her. The Beloved responds by refuting the notion that she is too young for love and declares her mature state of readiness. The Lover calls to her, asking to hear her voice and the Beloved concludes the book by calling back to him “Run to me, dear lover. Come like a gazelle. Leap like a wild stag on the spice mountains (Songs 8:14-MSG).”

Reflection and Application

There is a lot of study required to truly understand this book. I reckon that the more one studies it, the more one realizes how much mystery there is – thus vindicating one of the underlying claims from Proverbs that the more one understands a topic, the more one realizes just how little he or she knows.

Marcia Falk’s book, The Song of Songs, A New Translation and Interpretation, provides an interesting interpretation from the perspective of a poet and English professor. Falk studied the original Hebrew verses and then created her own translation that she believes is as true as possible to the original text. She firmly asserts that the primary purpose of the Book is to provide verses of love poetry.

When describing the garden scene that carries from the end of chapter 4 to the beginning of chapter 5, Falk notes that “One cannot unravel the interwoven layers of meaning in the poem without rending the fabric as a whole….Because I am nourished by my Beloved, implies the male speaker, my Beloved is my garden. But since she possesses the particular pleasurable and sensual qualities of water, flowers, fruits and spices, she is also, at various times and in various ways, each thing in the garden (1)."

The final description in chapter 5 of the Lover as a friend is a good indication of the strength of the relationship that she perceives, and is a good reminder, for those of us who are married, to nurture the friendship with our spouse. On the level of allegory, this verse is reminiscent of the statement from Jesus in John 15:15, “I call you friends.” He loves us so much that he is willing to sacrifice himself for us, but he is also our friend.

We ought to seal ourselves to our spouses in our hearts and arms as well, just like the Beloved requests from the Lover in verse 8:6. We can seal ourselves to each other by committing to serve one another with all of our heart and strength. Serving each other includes putting time aside for conversations, encouragement, and dates. When we sincerely serve one another, then we fully appreciate the pleasures of our spouse, and will seek to run away together to the countryside, sit under the apple tree, and be fully satisfied just to be in each other’s company, as these two ancient lovers have done.

One final obstacle to address: This book is a bit troublesome from the perspective that Solomon had many wives. He may be one of the central characters, so we may wonder how a polygamist can teach us anything about monogamy. There may be no easy answers to this dilemma. However, the language of love described in this book transcends that unsolved question. Married people can apply it to the sole spouse with whom God has joined them. All of us can apply the language of love to the God that created us and loved us so much that he sent his only son to be our friend and sacrifice himself for us.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. What are some of your favorite flowers, fruits, or vegetables from the garden?
    2. How can we be more attentive to the important people in our lives in ways that are more like the Beloved and the Lover, and less like the distracted modern man and woman?
    3. What do you think was the intent of this book?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you love us unconditionally and we understand that you love us so much that you sent us your only son. Help us accept this love and share it with others.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Older Married Couples


    (1) Falk, Marcia, The Song of Songs, A New Translation and Interpretation, Harper San Francisco, 1990, p.183

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 1-3 (Swords to Plowshares)

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