Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Shulammite shepherdess

Did you finish your reading? (Grin)
I know, right? I'm doing good to read a chapter or two, much less EIGHT!! But I think this was a good assignment . . .
I'm hoping that since this is a passage of much discussion over the years, that we'll have some comments and discussion here. If you don't agree with my take on things, please feel free to chime in and say so! We all learn from each other!

So, why is this the Song of songs? There are many songs that speak in tender terms of the love between a man and a woman, but this particular song was incorporated (at the Spirit's guidance) into the Scriptures. The same One Who created man and woman wanted us to have this Song -- and I think that it reveals the heart of God to us, too.

Let's dive in!

In the Bible, we find the subject of sex is handled very frankly, and very honestly. I believe that is how God intended us to view it. We can see that the Song is a love song, and that it describes frankly, but with purity, the delight of a man and a woman in each other's love, and in each other's bodies. It's not obscene, nor is it pornographic.

These eight chapters are almost like what we would call a musical, in our era. The characters who speak or sing these lines are Solomon, the young king of Israel; the Shulammite shepherdess; and sometimes the chorus ladies -- could be those in the city, or those in Solomon's harem. Yeah, I know, God told him not to get tangled up that way, but it happened. Remember what I said about the Bible being frank and honest? (Grin)

Let's lay the background for this musical, before the players get on the stage, shall we?
Over in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us that he undertook expeditions to find out what life was like on various levels. Instead of hunkering down and never leaving his palace, he went out into the world to see things for himself. Once, it says, he disguised himself as a simple country lad, working as a shepherd or vineyard hand. From my studies, I think this is when he met the shepherdess. They fell in love, and after they had promised themselves to each other, he went away. When he has been gone for some time, she cries out to him in loneliness.

Suddenly, the announcement comes that the king, in all his splendor, is coming to visit the region. The girl may have listened with interest, but it doesn't really distract her, for she is longing for her lover. But then words comes that the king wants to see her -- why? She goes into his presence, and discovers with joy that he is her beloved. He takes her back to the city and they are married in the palace.

Did ya know that the word "Shulammite" is actually the feminine form of Solomon? I guess we could call this lady we are studying Mrs. Solomon!

Did ya know, also, that even in the very poetic and figurative language here, we can always tell who is speaking (or singing)?  The bridegroom always refers to her as "my love," and the bride calls Solomon "my beloved."

And speaking of poetry, this truly is figurative and flowery language, no? If any young man today were to say this:
Your teeth are like a flock of ewes    that have come up from the washing;all of them bear twins;    not one among them has lost its young. (Song of Solomon 6:6)
I kinda think he'd be misunderstood, don't you? (Smile) It's obvious that this is the language of love among the ancient peoples.

Song of Solomon, in its eight chapters, describes married love as God intended for us to enjoy it. The full freedom to share mutual satisfaction, such as is described here, is possible only within the total "one-ness" that marriage permits. Total fulfillment can only happen when there is total commitment to each other. And that is emphasized in the book, when the bride gives her advice to the ladies of Jerusalem . . .
adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,    by the gazelles or the does of the field,that you not stir up or awaken love    until it pleases. (Song of Solomon 2:7)
Being able to experience love like this in marriage is the result of not rushing into love. (Remember the song, "You can't hurry love"?) Waiting for love to develop on its own, and not rushing into relationships is the secret to the commitment and delight that is described here.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,    as a seal upon your arm,for love is strong as death,    jealousy is fierce as the grave.Its flashes are flashes of fire,    the very flame of the Lord.Many waters cannot quench love,    neither can floods drown it. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7a)
God planned for all of the delights in this passage, to be part of the experience that committed men and women share as a part of marriage. So, this whole book is a plea for purity in life, and chastity in relationships, until the time of marriage comes.

But as scholars have noted, this book is also a beautiful picture of the delight of a committed Christian and the love of a holy God. We'll explore that tomorrow!

1 comment:

Cathy said...

I can understand the emphasis on teeth in ancient times.... with no dental care, I would imagine they could look quite bad, and no orthodontists to give the beautiful smiles. (grin) Seriously, though, this is a wonderful picture of marriage as it ought to be. How often through the ages has it been anything but. Marriages may start out as the one described, but as soon as something changes,
or maybe feelings aren’t so intense, divorce seems to be the instant answer. In our lives the intensity of the feeling of love doesn’t always remain the same, and so the thought is that they have fallen out of love. But love in marriage, or anywhere else for that matter, isn’t primarily an emotion, it is a choice, it is actions as in the famous 1Cor.13.