Song of Songs Bible Study (Instructions For Romantic Love)

Song of Songs 2:1-3:11, A Proposal To Marriage

The second chapter of the Song of Songs continues where the first chapter left off. She has been describing the beauty of her beloved and the strength of the relationship that they are building together. The first verse of chapter 2 is the woman describing herself. She says, “I’m just an ordinary flower.” “Rose” is not a proper translation, but KJV translators didn’t know what flower it was referring to. But the translation stuck. “Rose” does not fit because she is not glorifying herself. Rather she is speaking to how common and ordinary she is. According to the NET Notes, the location of this flower in Sharon suggests that a common wild flower would be more consonant than a rose. The term appears elsewhere only in Isaiah 35:1 where it refers to some kind of desert flower — erroneously translated “rose” (KJV, NJPS) but probably “crocus” (NASB, NIV, NJPS margin). Appropriately, the rustic maiden who grew up in the simplicity of rural life compares herself to a simple, common flower of the field.

However, he disagrees with her self-assessment. He says that she is a flower among thorns. You are not like anyone else, according to him. Spouses need to let each other know this. We may feel ordinary in our relationships. But we need to express that love we have for the other. I do not want anyone else because you are distinct, unique, and special to me. You are a flower that stands out in the middle of thorns.

The Banner of Love (2:3-7)

She now exclaims her love for him and praises him. He is distinguished among the others. Everything about him shows me love and protection. This is his banner over her. He provides her safety, someone she feels safe to be with. He puts her safety above his. He shows protection. Notice the context really includes emotional protection, not merely physical protection. He cares for her and provides what she needs emotionally. This has caused her to be “love sick” (2:6).

The declaration is made to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (3:7). This is a repeated instruction in this book. The NASB for some reason and without warrant adds “my,” changing the meaning to “Do not stir up or awaken my love until he pleases.” But “my” is not in the text. It is better to keep the reading that is in the manuscripts. Even in love, desire must be kept under control (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). The NET Notes summarizes the possibilities of what it means to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” “There are three major views: (1) to force a love relationship to develop prematurely rather than to allow it to develop naturally; (2) to interfere with the experience of passionate love; or (3) to stir up sexual passion, that is, to become sexually active. As noted above, “love” probably denotes “sexual passion” and “awaken…arouse” probably denotes “to stir up, excite.” Likewise, the verb “awake” is used in Song 4:16 and Hosea 7:4 in reference to stirring up sexual passion to excitement.”

I believe that a combination of these three is the meaning. The beloved is being carried away by her passions. She relishes the joy. Yet she knows that love should have its own rhythm and its proper progression. Too fast and too soon would spoil it all. So she adjures the women of Jerusalem not to encourage love beyond its right and proper pace (v.7). This is important for dating. Relationships hit a certain point where they cannot progress further until marriage. Therefore, speeding those milestones up only increases sexual temptation. Physical actions must be accepted slowly (e.g. Holding hands, hugging, kissing). Starting these actions too quickly leaves the relationship with no where else to go. When the relationship is not ready for marriage, then the crushing weight of physical desire hampers the relationship or leads to sin.

Invitation To Marriage (2:8-17)

Verse 8 appears to be a natural break and the beginning of new action. We see the couple separated but longing for each other. By “leaping” and “bounding” we see him approach her with eagerness. He wants to spend time with her. He does not avoid her or reluctantly spend time with her. His love motivates and empowers him to do whatever is necessary to be with her. He is willing to overcome all obstacles to be together. Many of us have driven long distances to spend time with the person we were dating. When I was dating April, she was at Florida College and I was at Western Kentucky University. I drove through Hurricane Opal as it moved through the panhandle of Florida and into Georgia, just to be able to visit her for a weekend. In Song of Solomon, we see this man committed and determined to be with her. Verse 9 reveals how much he wants to see her. He is eager to see her. In dating there should be a time of the man wooing the woman to be with him. The effort to win her heart. He does not barge in uninvited or as if by right. He remains outside, waiting to see if the one he loves will come out to him.

In verses 10-13 he calls for her to come away with him. It is spring. Spring represents love and fertility. Think about Bambi. It’s spring time and love is in the air. It is spring and it is the right time for love. The spring holds the hope and optimism for the future of this relationship. Let’s go spend time together. He calls to her in a tender appeal, not of force or demand. He woos her for a greater, deeper relationship. There is a time where a relationship moves from friends, to dating, to exclusively together, to fiancé. Let’s be together, just you and me, is his call. It is spring. Let us move forward in our relationship. I believe this is his proposal of marriage to her. Let’s take the next step in our relationship.

In verse 14 we see the man continuing to call out to her. It seems that she is responding with some shyness and hesitation to his proposal. She is at the very least a little reserved and he is calling for her to come out. She is to be pursued. She is not the pursuer. We need to teach our girls this. You are not to pursue but to be pursued. You are to decide who you want to be with and you determine the speed at which this relationship moves. Women must not fail to understand that they control these keys to the relationship. Love does not run roughshod over the feelings of others. One must be considerate of these fears and hesitations. She is pictured as living in the clefts of the rock. She is being reserved and is not quickly receiving his invitation to marriage.

There seem to be some issues or problems that still need to be ironed out in the relationship. The call in verse 15 is to catch the foxes. Foxes ruin vineyards. Foxes are threats to the relationship. The appeal is made here to outsiders to prevent “the foxes,” those forces that could destroy the purity of their love, from defiling their vineyards, which are blossoming. In 1:6 the maiden uses “vineyard” as a metaphor for her own person (see Carr, p. 79; Murphy, p. 60). So they plead for protection for the love that blossoms between them that nothing will spoil it. What are the forces that ruin marital love? Name some threats to your relationship. There are so many things that mess up a happy marital love life. Address those issues. Catch those foxes. You have to overcome these problems, not give up. Today too many have a Cinderella picture of marriage, living happily ever after with no problems. But there are foxes that will try to harm and ruin the relationship. Identify those foxes and overcome those issues before the marriage relationship deteriorates.

The chapter concludes with her thinking about the security she has with this man in the relationship. The lovers may accept restraint on the pace of love’s development, but there is no denying that they belong to each other. In 5:13 his lips are called “lilies” so this may be a reference him kissing her lips. She certainly desires him but has been hesitate to go forward in the relationship.

The Dream (3:1-5)

The third chapter of the Song opens with a new scene. She is on her bed at night. Therefore it seems like that this is a dream. She says she is in her bed but she is running through the streets worried. So a dream seems to be the most likely picture. She is worried about something concerning their romance and upcoming marriage. She is concerned about losing him. Perhaps her hesitation to his marriage proposal has made her nervous about losing him. Sometimes space is useful for relationships. It helps both parties determine if they truly want to be together. Sometimes the constant presence of the other can cause one to take the other for granted or remain in infatuation, unable to see if they are willing to make a true, godly commitment to love the other person. Her separation has caused her to realize that this man is truly the one she wants to marry. The dream sequence continues. She is moving through the streets in her dream trying to find her beloved. But she cannot find him. She even asks the watchmen if they have seen him. The point is that she is recognizing that he truly is the one she wants to be with.

In verse 4 she is finally able to find him and she realizes that she never wants to let him go. She is not going to hesitate about this proposal any longer. She seems to bring him home to meet the parents in some respect to use language that we understand today. She is indicating her desire for him to become part of the family. But more to the point, she does not want to let him go and is ready to be with him in marriage. She cautions the daughters of Jerusalem again to not speed up love. It is not yet time for physical intimacy. Do not stir up or awaken love until it is time.

The Wedding Song (3:6-11)

Verse 6 begins the wedding parade and festival (see 3:11). Many scholars note that while this is Solomon’s litter/royal travel couch, it is not him riding in it but the woman. An escort party was sent to pick up the bride and bring her to him in ancient near eastern culture (see also Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24). But this is something writers argue over whether the woman or the man is riding on the litter. Either way, this is a royal wedding procession. The rest of the chapter describes the beauty and majesty of this processional as the two are joined together in marriage.

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