It has been stated that concerning Solomon's words in Song
of Solomon chapter 4:3, they should not be taken at face value,
but should be understood as "exaggerations" on his part.
This is not the first time I have heard that Solomon wrote
things other than truth.
I've heard he wrote uninspiredly, words while unconverted, human
ideas, words as the natural mind could speculate and ponder.
When living and pastoring a congregation in southern Ontario
during the 80's, we would enter religious messages on the weekly
"church page" of the local news paper. Some messages were quite
strong and doctrinally plain. We wrote one concerning the state
of the dead and what happened to the mind of man when he died.
Many scriptures were given, including some from the book of
Ecclesiastes, that state the dead know not anything.
A local retired school teacher, a man in his 70's would
often reply disagreeing with our teachings. On that particular
message, he voiced his thought that Solomon often wrote from a
natural carnal "well this might be the way it is, it's just my
opinion that the dead know not anything."
Well how to do counter such an argument when someone
believes the Bible with that kind of theology, that parts are
just private opinions of the writers.
Did Solomon use exaggerations in verses such as in chapter
4:3 of the Song of Solomon? Did the lady in question not really
have red scarlet lips, because they were painted, but just mere
natural pink? And did she not really have rouged cheeks, but just
a healthy glow? Were the examples he used exaggerations of the
actual truth of the matter?
What was Solomon using here? Was it an allegory or parable
example? Was it a symbol example? It there a difference?
A parable is defined by the World Book Dictionary as: "....a
brief story, teaching some moral lesson or truth......" The word
symbol is given as: ".....1. something that stands for or
represents an idea, quality, condition, or other
abstraction......." They give more meaning for the word "symbol"
but the first one gives us the basic idea where the word symbol
differs from the word parable.
Looking at verses one to four in chapter 4 of the Song of
Solomon, was Solomon using parables to express his thoughts or
was he using more of what we would say were "symbols"?
I do not think he was telling a story for each item he was
describing about his love.
I think we would have to go with the word "symbol" as the nearest
word to convey the type or figure of speech he was using in these
verses. He was picking out some picture image that his readers of
his time and culture would be very familiar with, and trying to
convey a certain basic truth from that image about a truth that
was part of his love - the leading lady of the book.
He hopes of course that his readers will ascertain the basic
single truth he is wanting to portray from the use of his chosen
symbol picture, for each descriptive entry of certain parts of
his love's anatomy.
This was not an exaggeration for exaggerations are a form of
"lie." It was a truth put forth in a figure of speech that uses
a commonly known picture with a basic main image, to convey to
the mind a likeness of the reality on the main object of the
context. In this case the main object of the context is his lady
Let's take the symbol picture he uses for her hair. He sees
and describes her hair as like a flock of goats, that appear from
mount Gilead(verse one).
This would have been a very common sight to him and his
readers. Is he thinking about the fact that some goats have
"horns" and saying his love's hair had hard stands sticking out
of it here and there? I do not think so for one moment! Was it
the style of her hair he was trying to convey to us? No, I do
not believe so, for it would really say little to us as far as
that symbol picture would go. How do you get a style of hair from
the picture of a flock of goats?
Goats come in certain colors, that would have been known.
Maybe goats coming from mount Gilead had an established color
that all would have instantly thought of when mentioned. Because
of the color of her hair he probably thought of the goats from
Gilead as a flock, and so that became the symbol picture he used
for the main thought about her hair.
Now look at the symbol picture he uses for her teeth in
verse two. Think of a flock of sheep grazing as one in the
setting of green pasture lands. Now was Solomon trying to convey
to us that his love's teeth were white set in gums of green? No,
of course not! That picture would be quite laughable. Was he
wanting to get across to us that his love had white teeth
splashed with specks of green? Again I do not think so. Now some
flocks of sheep have a few black sheep among them(at least they
can have at times). Was Solomon saying his love had a few bad
black teeth among all the white? No! For he is not dealing with
exception flocks of sheep, but the common general flock of sheep
that most think about when given that picture to their mind.
He is likening his love's teeth to clean, neat, shorn, white
sheep that produce as they should and not one is unhealthy. None
is barren, no spaces, all as they should be.
This is the first and natural interpretation and truth we think
about when given such a symbol picture as Solomon presented to
us, in using a real life scene to describe the beauty of his
lover's teeth. No exaggeration! No lies! Her teeth were
perfect, healthy and white. Her set of teeth within her mouth was
full and nothing missing, no spaces, no missing teeth, all
producing where they should be. This was the truth he was
teaching us by the representing picture he chose in describing
Take verse four and how he likens her neck. Was he thinking
about the color of her neck? I doubt it. I do not see his concern
here about thinking the color was important or beautiful. The
color of stone is not that attractive, to me anyway. He is seeing
her neck as being strong, and covered with rich expensive
jewelry, and that not sparingly either.
At this time, on this occasion, she was decked out with plenty of
neck jewelry. Some events in life call for more than mere modesty
and "just a little." This was obviously one of those times and
No exaggeration here, no lies, just a symbol picture to
convey a literal truth of the stately beauty and strength of his
lover's neck covered with jewels.
So now to verse three. I covered the technical aspects of
this verse in a previous study.
No exaggeration here either, no lies, just the use of some
literal objects of common everyday life that his readers were
well acquainted with. The dyed scarlet thread of the clothing
trade(the color very vivid), and the bright rosy red of the
inside of the pomegranate. Such color of the picture symbols he
chose were the lips and cheeks of his beloved. More than natural
normal pink. Remember as we saw in the previous study, she was
very sun-tanned, very brown and dark. She would have had no
natural pink in her cheeks, let alone red like the inside of the
This beloved lady that Solomon pictures for us was very
beautiful. Some of that beauty was very natural like her teeth.
Then again some of her beauty was helped by adding some
decoration - cosmetics and jewelry.
To be continued