Print This Page Print This Page

THE STORY OF HOW LOVE BEGAN – Song of Solomon 1:5-17

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on August 23, 2017 under PM Bible Study |

PM Bible Study Group; August 23, 2017 from Song of Solomon 1:5-17

Theme: The beginnings of the love between the Shulamite and Solomon illustrate how our love story with our Savior began.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

In our first time together in this remarkable Old Testament book, we learned that a good way to look at it was as a photo album of the love and marriage of King Solomon and the Shulamite. We likened each section of the book to a particular division of the album—with particular snapshots of life and love displayed within that division. And we also considered that the first four verses constituted the cover of the album—with a photo featured on the cover that looked ahead to the loving contentment that the woman enjoyed in her husband’s love. We called this initial ‘introductory’ division, “The Declaration of Love.”

And now, we open the photo album to the first division. It’s a section of the book that goes from 1:5 to 3:5; and it’s one that tells the story of how Solomon and the Shulamite woman met and fell in love. We might call this first division “The Courtship”. And we might call the first portion of this first division—one that goes from verses 5 to 17 in the first chapter—”The Story of How Love Began”.

It takes our attention away briefly from the satisfied state of love that we find described in the first five verses, and sends us back in time to how it was that Solomon and his bride first met and began to fall in love. It has much to each us about our relationship with our own Beloved groom—the Lord Jesus; and about how our love for Him grew as a response to the way that He first graciously loved us. Ours is truly the ‘Cinderella’ stories of all ‘Cinderella’ stories!

We can divide this ‘How Love Began’ story into three stages: (1) the first encounter, (2) the first exchange, and (3) the first date. It illustrates much to us about how we have grown to love the Savior who so loves us.

* * * * * * * * * *


You’ll perhaps remember that we suggested that this book can be legitimately approached from four perspectives: (1) the romantic perspective (that is, as a work of Hebrew poetry about love), (2) the natural perspective (that is, as a description of a genuine historic relationship), (3) the typological perspective (that is, as a type that illustrates to us God’s covenant love with Israel; and ultimately, Jesus’ love for His ‘Bride’, the church), and (4) the spiritual perspective (that is, as a description of our personal relationship of love with the Savior by faith). This is the story of how the Shulamite and Solomon first met; and so, much of this initial story fits well with the first two perspectives. It is a poetic expression of love; but also the description of a real relationship. It is a story of the first encounter between the Shulamite and her future husband (who was, perhaps unknown to her at the time, King Solomon).

Now; we call this young woman the Shulamite (which is a name taken from 6:13). But did you know that we might know her actual name? Dr. Henry M. Morris suggested that we compare 2 Chronicles 9:30-31 with 12:13. In that first reference, we’re told, “Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.” In the second reference, we’re told that his son Rehoboam–the only of Solomon’s sons that is mentioned by name—began to reign at the age of 41. That means that Rehoboam was born one year before Solomon began to reign. Solomon would have been a young man when he began to reign—perhaps no more than 20 years old or so. And when he began to reign, he already had a son; and therefore, he already had a wife.

Who was this wife of Solomon? 1 Kings 14:21, tells us: “And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king. … His mother’s name was Naamah, an Ammonitess.” Dr. Morris wrote,

Now the Ammonites were idol worshipers, but they had been conquered by David, so that Ammon had been incorporated in the Davidic kingdom. Evidently many Ammonites had been converted to the true God. One of them, Zelek, was even one of David’s “mighty men” (2 Sam 23:8, 37), and it is intriguing to wonder whether Naamah was his daughter. That might explain how Solomon met her. That is, perhaps Zelek lived in a small rural village in Ammon named Shulam, where he had flocks and vineyards, sons and daughters. He had been somehow chosen by David, and so almost certainly was acquainted with Solomon. The latter, deeply interested in nature anyway, could well have visited Zelek’s rural home, where he met and fell in love with Naamah.

That is speculation, of course, but it does at least make sense. The name Naamah means “pleasantness,” and she evidently was aptly named. She undoubtedly, like her father, was a believer in Jehovah, rather than the Ammonite god Malcom, or else Solomon would never have married her, as young and faithful to God as he was at that time.1

It’s interesting to note that the Shulamite even mentions the vineyards of En Gedi in verse 14 of our passage; and that’s a place located along the shores of the Dead Sea not too far from the regions of Ammon. So this is a very plausible scenario; and it helps us to perhaps appreciate the context of this first meeting.

As we suggested in our first study, it would seem that the Shulamite’s father had died; and her brothers had taken over the care of this vineyard—owned apparently by Solomon (see 8:12). Somewhere along the way, she had somehow displeased her brothers; and they were not kind to her. They had put her to labor in the vineyard—almost like a Cinderella sweeping among the ashes. She begins in verses 5 by saying,

I am dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not look upon me, because I am dark,
Because the sun has tanned me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
They made me the keeper of the vineyards,
But my own vineyard I have not kept (vv. 5-6).

Do you remember how we said before that the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ are an ever present company in this story—standing as it were in the sidelines? They often offer comments of support or instruction. We heard from them in verse 4, when they expressed their support of her love for her husband. And now—looking back in time—its as if she expresses to them how unworthy she initially felt of his love.

She said that she was “dark, but lovely”. And this wasn’t meant to say that she was a dark-skinned person by ethnicity. Rather, it meant that though she was beautiful, no one could know; because she had been made to labor in the hot sun. She was “dark” because she had become tanned by her many days of hard labor in the vineyards; and in those days, it was not considered a sign of beauty to be tanned by the sun. (Consider, from 5:10, how she admired her husband because he was untanned.) Untanned skin was considered a a sign of wealth and honor; and yet, she had become tan through her hard labor. It was viewed by her as a cause for embarrassment.

She described this condition of hers in poetic terms. She said that she is ‘dark’, but like the tents of Cedar (which were known for their blackness but exquisiteness), and like the curtains of Solomon (which also were dark but beautiful). But she was very self-conscious of her condition. Perhaps a handsome young shepherd had come traveling by (who was, unbeknownst to her, Solomon himself); and they had exchanged glances. But she said—as if to him—”Do not look upon me, because I am dark, because the sun has tanned me.” She had tended the vineyards of others; but her own ‘vineyard’—that is, her own attractiveness—was something that she had no opportunity to tend.

By the way; isn’t this something of a picture of the covenant people of God? Israel had no natural attractiveness to promote her in the sight of God. Yet, as God says in Deuteronomy 7:7;

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

In much the same way, there was nothing attractive about us that would make us worthy of our Savior’s love for us. We ourselves have been made humble by our sinfulness. There have been many ways in which we have rebelled against God’s holy standards, and have become tainted with sin. Our first encounter with the holy Son of God might be one in which we feel a sense of shame and sorrow over our sin. We might be attracted to Him; and yet, we might find ourselves turning away to hide ourselves—as if to say, “Don’t look at me. I’m a terrible, unworthy sinner.” And yet, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:4-7;

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

How grateful we should be that Jesus’ love for us in our first encounter with Him was not based on our own worth, but rather on His own unmerited grace!

* * * * * * * * * *


Perhaps the Shulamite saw this handsome shepherd’s glances at her. And perhaps she had stood along the sidelines for some time and saw how his eyes followed upon her and his smile toward her graced his face. And because of these expressions that he made toward her, she worked up the courage to speak. She said,

Tell me, O you whom I love,
Where you feed your flock,
Where you make it rest at noon.
For why should I be as one who veils herself
By the flocks of your companions? (v. 7).

It was as if she was saying, “If I have caught your eye, O handsome and noble shepherd, then please tell me what I can do to bridge the distance between us. I am just a poor and humble country girl; but why should I go on being just like the others who hide their face from you? If you are drawn to me, and I am drawn to you, then is there a way I can draw close to you?—even in spite of my humble condition? Could it be that I could at least go and see where you care for your flocks?” And her bold and courageous words paid off! How it must have thrilled her heart when the shepherd responded with a very flattering invitation:

If you do not know, O fairest among women,
Follow in the footsteps of the flock,
And feed your little goats
Beside the shepherds’ tents (v. 8).

That was his gracious invitation for her to get to know more about him. And here again, we see a picture of our Savior’s approach to us. He didn’t force Himself into our lives when we had no relationship with Him; but rather, He gently attracted our attention to His love and invited us to grow to know Him better. It was very much like the picture we see in John 1; when the two disciples of John the Baptist first met Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi … where are You staying?” And He said to them, “Come and see” (John 1:38-39). That’s the way our Savior works in drawing us to Himself. He gives us the invitation, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 38:4); and then waits as we take up the invitation and learn more about Him.

But our Lord’s invitation is not because He is aloof. Neither was Solomon’s. Solomon was very much drawn to the Shulamite girl. Solomon—being the wonderful poet that he was—used language to describe her that may not work in a love-poem today; but it truly expressed the beauty he saw in the Shulamite:

I have compared you, my love,
To my filly among Pharaoh’s chariots.
Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with chains of gold (vv. 9-10).

Fellas; if you’re going to write a love note to your girl, it’d probably not be a good idea to tell her that she reminds you of a horse. But in Solomon’s case, it was different. He was famous around the world for his equestrian collection; and his ‘filly among Pharaoh’s chariots’ was an animal that was particularly magnificent for beauty, grace, strength, and liveliness. A really magnificent animal like this was truly Solomon’s love-language. It was meant as a high compliment; and that’s truly what it indeed was. It would have been like telling her that she was as sleek and stunning as a bright-red Lamborghini Countach. And it seems obvious that he saw far beyond her present humble condition and looked ahead to the glorious beauty that he—in his love and with his matchless wealth—could make her to be; decking her with the beauty of his own glory and riches. That’s what the Lord Jesus sees in us. We are far today from the glory and beauty He will perfect in us. Today, we are far short of glory; and it would be hard to imagine that He could ever love us. But the Bible tells us that He places His love upon His bride (that is, us),

that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:26-27).

How glad we should be that the Lord Jesus loves us and welcomes us to Himself just as we are. But He doesn’t ultimately love us for what we are, but rather for what He has purposed to make us to be—as His eternal bride and sharers together with Him in His glory.

And that’s when the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ chime in. You may remember that we suggested that they sometimes play the role of the Holy Spirit in the love story of the Lord Jesus for us. And it certainly seems as if that’s the case in verse 11. They declare to the Shulamite;

We will make you ornaments of gold
With studs of silver (v. 11).

It’s not only the Holy Spirit’s role to shine the spotlight on the Lord Jesus for us, but also to sanctify us and prepare us for Him. We may be unlovely now; but the Holy Spirit is continuing to beautify us for our Savior/Husband; and the good work that has been begun in us will be completed until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6).

* * * * * * * * * *

III. THE FIRST DATE (vv. 12-17).

Apparently, the Shulamite took the shepherd up in his loving offer. She drew near to him, and followed after him, and grew to know him. A next photograph we find then, in this photo album of love, is one in which she is drawn very close to him, and he to her; and together, they bask in their delight in one another.

And now, in the photograph that the album opens up to, it seems that she is at his table—perhaps reflecting retrospectively that he is king, but not yet truly knowing it in the scene set before us. She nevertheless declares first her delightfulness to him—and her own delight in him:

While the king is at his table,
My spikenard sends forth its fragrance.
A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me,
That lies all night between my breasts.
My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms
In the vineyards of En Gedi (vv. 12-14).

En Gedi is a very lovely and refreshing spot in a very dry and barren place. It is an oasis—with a beautiful pool and lovely waterfall—right in the midst of the desert shore of the Dead Sea. Even today, you can find young lovers walking along its paths and sitting by its babbling brook. Apparently, the Shulamite feels like ‘vineyards’ are not so negative in her mind anymore; and she sees her beloved as a cluster of henna blossoms in the midst of that beautiful place.

And the kingly shepherd also responds:

Behold, you are fair, my love!
Behold, you are fair!
You have dove’s eyes (v. 15).

He’s getting pretty close to be able to comment on her eyes like this! But as you can see, it’s not just her that is drawn to him. This handsome king is drawn in love to this hidden-beauty—this ‘Cinderella’ that he has purposed to glorify for himself.

And she responds:

Behold, you are handsome, my beloved!
Yes, pleasant!
Also our bed is green.
The beams of our houses are cedar,
And our rafters of fir (vv. 16-17).

There is nothing inappropriate in this. The ‘bed’ is a couch; and the ‘house’ and ‘rafters’ describe the meeting place in the beauty of the outdoors. What a lovely scene!—perhaps in En Gedi itself. And would you like to know a surprising secret? She says that he is ‘pleasant’ to her.; and that happens to be the meaning of what may have actually been her real name. Naamah means “pleasantness”; and that’s what he was to her—and what she was to him.

It makes a wonderful difference in our relationship with the Lord Jesus to know that not only is He beautiful to us, but we are beautiful to Him. We not only take delight in Him, but He takes delight in us. He is thrilled and enthralled with His bride. He eagerly waits the command from the Father to go and bring us to Himself. We are, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “the joy that was set before Him” for which He “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). The apostle Paul prays that we would know “what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18); and that

… being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Once we allow the magnitude of His love for us to grip our hearts, it will change everything about us.

* * * * * * * * * *

What great lessons there are for us in the first section of this biblical photo album of love! May our delight in our Lord Jesus grow more and more every day; and may we—by the grace of the Holy Spirit; and because of our Savior’s great act of redeeming love on the cross for us—grow more and more to be ‘Naamah’ to Him!

Henry M. Morris, The Remarkable Wisdom of Solomon (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, Inc., 2001), p. 36.

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.