By Dr. Mark Scott
We should always interpret the Bible in light of the genre used because that sets expectations for interpretation. If I say, “Roses are red and violets are blue,” then I am using the genre of poetry. The reader interprets appropriately, expecting to see things like figures of speech, rhyme, and parallelisms.
Song of Songs (also known as Song of Solomon) is the genre of love poetry. We expect to see many figures of speech, and Song of Songs does not disappoint us.
Similes of Beauty
Song of Songs 6:4-7
In this section of our text there are many similes: the word as is used six times, and the word like is used three times. In the next section of our text, the other women also compare Solomon’s bride with the use of as three times and the word like one time in just one verse.
Solomon’s bride is compared to beautiful cities. Tirzah was a city in northern Israel that was located in a beautiful area and whose name meant beautiful. Jerusalem was the city of stone that was the place of Solomon’s reign. In fact Jerusalem was the city of highest joy (Psalm 137:6).
Solomon’s bride is compared to soldiers dressed in their military regalia and marching in precision. Picture something like a military parade: As majestic as troops with banners.
Solomon’s bride is compared to animals. This hardly seems complimentary to us at first. But who has not thrilled to see a horse run across the prairie or see a dolphin leap out of the ocean or see the dog competitions on television? Goats and sheep are used for Solomon’s comparisons. The bride’s hair is compared to the beauty of seeing a flock of goats coming down the slopes of Gilead (think green pastures with rock fences on the rolling hills of the highlands of Scotland). The bride’s teeth are compared to sheep freshly washed—her teeth shine brightly, are perfectly symmetrical, and are all there!
Finally Solomon’s bride is compared to luscious fruit—her temples are perfectly shaped and slightly pink like a pomegranate. One could say that Solomon is grasping every figure of speech and pushing language to the breaking point to describe his bride.
Praised for Beauty
Song of Songs 6:8-10
Solomon is not the only one who notices her beauty. The other queens, concubines, virgins, and young women all affirm the bride’s beauty. It is hard to imagine that there was not some rivalry between Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). But this bride’s beauty is noted by others. By this point Solomon has 60 queens, 80 concubines, and virgins beyond number. It is hard for us not to moralize here, but that is not the point of the poetry. The point is that others recognize the bride’s beauty as well.
The women praise her beauty and compare it to a fresh new day and to the astrological beauty of sun, moon, and stars. Solomon joins the chorus by calling her a dove. The dove is a bird of beauty and makes a gentle cooing sound. Solomon affirms her uniqueness by calling her perfect, acknowledging that she is the only daughter of her mother and the favorite of the one who bore her. All of this is high praise.
Honor by Beauty
Song of Songs 6:11, 12
These two verses are not hard to interpret. The difficulty comes in tying them to the context. They say something very simple. Solomon goes to the tree groves and vineyards to check out the fruit. Somehow that desire to check out the fruit acquired some honor for him.
Since context is king, could it be that Solomon gains some clout and honor by virtue of the beauty of his bride? Is it derived honor? A president’s honor is heightened by the first lady. Prince William looks better with Kate beside him. Solomon was wise for many things (1 Kings 4:32-34)—not the least of which was horticulture. His brilliance was matched by his bride’s beauty, which added to his honor. He was set among the royal chariots of his people.
God’s people are often likened to the bride. God speaks tenderly to his people. He praises their beauty. Husbands would do well to follow the heavenly Father’s example with regard to their wives. And we all would do well to find the beauty in one another.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College and has held preaching ministries in Missouri, Illinois, and Colorado.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.