The fourth chapter appears to move the scene to the wedding night. The third chapter concluded with arrival of the wedding carriage. Song 3:11 reveals that this is the day of his wedding. Though nothing specifically says that chapter 4 is the wedding night, what we read in this chapter compels the reader to this conclusion. Remember that this is a song of love as these two long to be together. They are now married and continue to use love imagery to describe their coming together. We must appreciate this chapter because the wedding night is not described crassly or crudely. Nor is this described clinically with medical terms. Just as a red rose, twilight, and fire in the fireplace conjure up romance and lovemaking in our culture, these images conjure the same romance and lovemaking in ancient near eastern culture. Allow your mind to embrace this love language.
Describing The Bride (4:1-7)
These first seven verses provide an opportunity for the man to affirm his lover in her beauty. You will notice that there are seven descriptions: eyes, hair, teeth, lips, cheeks, neck, and breasts. Scholars have observed this behavior in the Middle East. They have seen weddings where the groom and the bride would describe one another’s physical beauty as a prelude to lovemaking (Longman, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 140). Notice that she is wearing a veil (4:1) which is common for brides in the scriptures (Genesis 24:65; 29:23-25; 38:14). While these images may seem humorous to us, these were statements that would make a woman melt. I believe cultures thousands of years from now would fine our imagery of beauty to be humorous also. But know that he is praising her physical beauty.
We must consider the impact of what he is doing for her. His words of praise and adoration set aside any feelings of insecurity and uncertainty she might have. This is a common characteristic in women that men must understand. Most women are insecure about their beauty. I personally think our culture has played a significant role in this problem. The standard of beauty in our society is set so high that none can attain it, even the models themselves. Perhaps you have seen more actresses come out against the magazine that are airbrushing everything about their photos. I hope there will be a continued response against the false definition of beauty that is set before our eyes. It is important for women to reject it and for men to reject it. What you see on television, magazines, and movies is false. We noted in our first lesson on this book that your standard of beauty is what you married. We see the man affirm her beauty. She needs to know that you find her attractive. Think about how he identifies seven traits of beauty for her. Consider that this implies that, to him, she is perfect. She suits his desires perfectly. I think women should understand this about men. If a man dated you and married you, I guarantee you that man thinks you are beautiful. Men must praise their wives for their beauty, as he see the man in this Song doing. He is going to praise her beauty three times (4:1-7; 6:4-6; 7:2-8) which tells us that this is important for a man to do for his wife.
Verses 6-7 describe his desire to be with her sexually through this night. There is nothing for her to fear. He desires her and they will enjoy this night together. It is not hard to see that verse 6 is sexual imagery. Song 1:13 already placed myrrh as a necklace between her breasts. He says that he is going to go to the mountain of myrrh all night. The imagery is clearly sexual.
The Garden of Love (4:8-5:1)
Verse 8 describes his commitment to her. He is going to protect her and take care of her. This is the offer of marriage, men. You are saying to her that she can trust you, come away with you, and you will provide. Men must consider what women are doing when they obey the command to submission. Guys, women are trusting you be provide and protect. Submitting to your leadership and your decisions to be your life long partner is to entrust their heart and body to you. You have a responsibility to care for her now with understanding. This is what the apostle Peter is teaching in 1 Peter 3:7. You are to live with her in an understanding way, showing deference to her. She has entrusted your life to you. You do not lead with fear or intimidation. You are to be the place of safety. So the man in verse 8 is telling her that you can come with me. Whatever her worries are, the man will take care of them.
Please notice that the text emphasizes that these two are married for he calls her “my bride.” Four times from verses 9-12 he calls her his bride. You will also notice that he calls her his sister. This was a term of endearment in ancient near eastern times. It is a similar term of affection that a man may use of his wife, calling her “honey,” “darling,” or “baby” or something like that. One day people will read our writings and wonder why men kept calling women “baby.” Again, these are terms of endearment and “sister” was such a term in the Near East.
The language that we read from verses 10-15 is not entirely different from songs today. He is saying that when he looks at her, it drives him crazy. She is so beautiful that every move you make causes excitement. Our songs today make the same analogies, often more crassly unfortunately. But we are able to understand the idea easily enough.
The images in verses 12-15 were used in the ancient Near East as well as in the Bible as very sexual images (cf. Proverbs 5:15-20). He praises her for her purity and virginity. This shows that this book is not praising sex before marriage. She is praised for keeping herself for marriage. She is not a fountain open to everyone who passes by. Our society needs to hear this and women today really need to hear this. This is the picture of you in the scriptures. You are to keep your garden locked and your fountain sealed. Sexual activity is not for anyone else but the one you marry. This is a beautiful gift for your husband. He praises this gift. “Sexual pleasure is diluted when it is given prematurely to others, but it is concentrated when it is saved for one’s marriage partner, and then given to that one person with a full and open heart” (Estes, Apollos OT Commentary, 363). Since she has remained sexually pure, verse 8 may also include his call to her that they are married and there is no need for her to be guarded. They can experience any aspect of each other’s bodies that they want.
In verse 16 she invites him to enjoy what she has saved for him. In marriage, husbands and wives are to enjoy each other’s bodies. The writer of the Proverbs says you are to be intoxicated by the physical love and enjoyment of marriage (Proverbs 5:15-20). Within the boundaries of marriage, sexual intimacy is free to be enjoyed fully and completely. One of the great things about keep oneself pure until marriage is that there is no comparison. Magazines today have titles about having great sex and how to make sex better. There is talk about “sexual compatibility.” If you have not been with anyone else, then you do not know any better. You are instantly compatible because there is no other point of reference. Any sex becomes great sex. God protects us from this nonsense in the world by commanding physical purity. Paul commanded full sexual enjoyment in marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:2-4.
2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:2-4 NLT)
Her invitation is that her body, which was kept pure from other men, is now given to him to enjoy. Carefully notice the words she uses. She says that her garden is now “his garden.” She has the right attitude about how she understand her body in the marriage relationship. As Paul declared to the Corinthians, his body is now hers and her body now belongs to him. In chapter 5 and the first verse he partakes of this gift. The first verse of chapter 5 concludes with a chorus singing that this is right. This is what is to happen. We are to enjoy each other’s love physically. This completely defeats the religious argument that sex is only for procreation. What these two are doing in lovemaking is praised as good by God. This is the picture of a healthy marriage that God created for a husband and wife.