Keith Hunt - Solomon on Sex #11 - Page Eleven   Restitution of All Things

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Solomon on Sex #11

A Vacation in the Country

The last chapter of Dillow's book 
before the detailed Appendix 1 and 2



A VACATION IN THE COUNTRY

(Reflection #14, Song 8:5-14)

CONTEXT

     One mark of a good writer is his wisdom in selection of his
material. In portraying this love story, our poet could have used
many incidents in the lives of Solomon and Shulamith. The fact
that out of many possible experiences he selects the ones he does
naturally leads us to ask, "Why?"
     He selects material in order to accomplish his purpose. He
has something to tell us and chooses to do it without directly
telling us what he wants to say - by stringing a series of
reflections (small love songs) together in such a way that a
message is revealed. With great artistry, the poet selects
several fitting incidents with which to conclude his love song.
Since the theme of love has been the burden of the book, he tells
us in the concluding verses how this love can be attained and of
what it really consists. The following chart summarizes the
poet's craftsmanship.



     A VACATION IN THE COUNTRY

     LOVE AWAKENED

     WHEN

     under the apple tree
     8:5

     LOVE DEFINED

     it is...

     INTENSE
     8:6
     8:7a

     it is

INVALUABLE
     8:7b

LOVE DEVELOPED

     by...

     a caring family
     8:8
     8:9

     by...

responsible choices
     8:10
     8:12

LOVE ENJOYED

"Hurry my beloved"
     8:13
     8:14


COMMENTARY

Love awakened

     In the preceding reflection, Shulamith had spoken of a
vacation in the Lebanon mountains. As this reflection opens, we
find the royal couple walking down a country road. Shulamith has
just warned, for the third time, against the premature awakening
of love's passions (8:4). As the poet allows us to eavesdrop on
their conversation, the theme of the timing of her sexual
awakening is discussed.

8:5 CHORUS: 

          Who is this coming up from the wilderness
          Leaning on her beloved?

     Apparently, Solomon and Shulamith have just mine from the
forest where they shared their love. They are now at peace and
their love has been reconfirmed. The chorus provides a transition
into the next scene.

SOLOMON: 

          Beneath the apple tee I awakened you There your mother
          was in labor with you There she was in labor and gave
          you birth.

     The text associates the apple tree here with Shulamith's
home and birthplace. Her home may have been shaded by the apple
tree to which Solomon referred. Thus, the apple tree does double
duty here as a symbol for the awakening of physical life at birth
and the awakening of sexual life on the wedding night (to which
she had referred in her warning to the daughters in the preceding
verse-8:4). By calling the reader's attention to the awakening of
sexual passion once again, the poet introduces us to the theme of
the last reflection - the development of the love of which the
book speaks. Before that can be explained, however, he leads us
into her comments about the nature of the love they share which
leads her to so commit herself to him.

Love defined

8:6 SHULAMITH: 

          Put me like a seal over your heart 
          Like a seal on your arm.

     The seal of a king was commonly a sign of his ownership. It
signified something of great value. She desires to be set as a
seal on her husband's heart the place of his affection. To be set
like a seal on his arm is to be in the place of his strength or
protection. Why does she desire to be placed as a seal on his
heart and arm? The basis for her request is found in the
following verses. As long as she resides there (near his heart)
she knows the love of the king will keep her and give her
security. This is because his love is "as strong as death;" and
beyond purchase; it is invaluable. 

(1) Love is intense. 

     She wants to be near his heart always, because she first of
all knows the intense nature of his love for her.

     For love is as strong as death 
     Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; 
     Its flashes are flashes of fire, 
     The very flame of the Lord.

     His love is like death because of its finality and
irreversibility. Frequently in the Old Testament, God is
presented as jealous in His love for His people, Israel. To say
God is "jealous" simply means he has intense love and concern. He
desires Israel's exclusive devotion to Him and not to other gods.
In a similar way, true love, says the bride, is like this. It is
exclusive and it is intense. Such is Solomon's love for her and
that is why she desires to be near his heart and under his
protection.

     She even likens Solomon's love for her to "flashes of fire,"
the very "flame of the Lord." The fire of God's love for His
people is often described as an unquenchable fire in the Bible.
It bums so intently a river could not put it out.

8:7 SHULAMITH: 

          Many waters cannot quench love 
          Nor will rivers overflow it;

     Certainly "waters"  (trials, hurts, problems) will attempt
to squelch this love and drown it, but such perfect love cannot,
be deadened by these factors. Run a river over it and it still
burns.
     This kind of love, of course, is only rarely (if ever)
obtained by fallen men. It is God's ideal.

(2) Love is invaluable.

SHULAMITH: 

          If a man were to give all the riches of his house for
          love,
          He would be utterly despised.

     Why would this man be despised? Because he erroneously
thinks love can be earned (purchased with riches) or in some way
deserved. The poet is not being so obvious as to say that true
love can't be bought with money. That was dearly known. He is
emphasizing the fact that worthwhile love is never earned, but
can only be freely given. If you set a price of a million dollars
on it, it still couldn't be purchased. It comes the same way
God's love for us comes - when it is freely given. Like the
riches of Christ, such love is invaluable. A love that is "freely
given" creates a sense of security in the one loved. If the
person being loved senses he must earn or deserve love, he or she
lives on a performance standard. Solomon did not put his wife on
a performance basis. She knew she was loved regardless of how she
behaved.
     How is this ideal love to be obtained? It is to this
question that our mind naturally wanders after such a glowing and
beautiful description of committed love. While many ingredients
are involved, our poet singles out two for special mention. Such
love is obtained when one is raised by a caring family and when
one makes responsible choices.

Love developed

     In order to find satisfactory answers to the question of the
source of this quality of love, one must go way back to the
beginnings of character development, back to the home. Thus in a
kind of "flashback" the poet takes us back to Shulamith's
childhood as she was approaching puberty. Of all of the events he
could have related to us, he singles out one, a conversation
young Shulamith's brothers had among themselves. Apparently,
then, we are to see in this conversation something central to the
development of intense and unconditional love.

     The basis for believing this is a "flashback" is in 8:10
where Shulamith dearly speaks of her adolescence: "I was a wall 
..." referring to her inaccessibility sexually during that time.

8:8 BROTHERS: 

          We have a little sister, And she has no breasts, 
          What shall we do for our sister on the day she is
          spoken for?

     Shulamith's brothers are concerned for their sister's future
marriage and happiness. They want to prepare her for the "day she
is spoken for" - the day of her marriage. At this point, she is
without breasts (still entering puberty). Soon she will develop
into a mature woman and the boys will begin to call; her brothers
want to prepare her for that. Their strategy is simple and wise.

8:9 BROTHERS: 

          If she is a wall,
          We shall build on her a battlement of silver;
          But If she is a door,
          We shall barricade her with planks of cedar.

     Their strategy depends on her character. If she is a wall -
impervious to the boys advances - they will simply encourage and
praise her for her virtuous stand. To place a battlement of
silver on a wall is to decorate it to make it more beautiful.
Just as this battlement of silver increases the beauty of the
wall, they will attempt to increase her good character by praise.
     There is, however, another possibility. It could be that
Shulamith will turn out to be a door - easily entered, easily
seduced. Should that prove to be the case, they will take a
different approach. They will barricade her with planks of cedar.
     In other words, they will be very strict with her and
protect her from the boys' advances.

     In essence the brothers were committed to a little of both
approaches. Surely they would praise her, and surely they would
restrict and protect her when necessary. Encouragement and
discipline were the characteristics of this caring home. Such
things take love and time and careful attention. Yet the poet
singles out this kind of an environment as one factor in
Shulamith's ability to develop an intense and unconditional love
for her husband.
     But there is more. No matter what kind of home environment
one is provided with, he must begin to make responsible choices
regarding his sexuality that represent his own values and not
simply those of his parents. Shulamith informs us she made such
responsible choices in the following verses.

8:10 SHULAMITH: 

          I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers;
          Then I became in his eyes as one who finds peace.

     It was unnecessary for her brothers to build a plank of
cedar around her, she chose to be a wall. And when she matured,
her breasts were "like towers." The towers on the walls of the
city were the first things an enemy saw. But because of the
ability of the tower to provide a defense for the wall and the
city, the sight of those towers discouraged an attack.
     In a similar way, Shulamith's fully developed breasts, ready
for love, were inaccessible. She was impressive to look at, like
the towers of the city, and was one of the first maidens to be
seen (due in part to her lovely figure). But any enemy of her
virtue was quickly repelled.
     The next phrase is emphatic in the Hebrew: "THEN I became in
his eyes as one who finds peace." When? After deciding to be a
wall. As a result of assuming responsibility for her virtue, she
found favor in "his eyes" (Solomon's). The phrase seems to be a
play on words. The Bible uses a similar expression for a man
finding grace in the eyes of the Lord (Noah). She is saying she
found grace, favor in Solomon's eyes. The idea is that Solomon
fell in love with her.

     But why was the normal biblical usage of finding "grace"
changed in this instance to finding "peace." Her name, when
pronounced out loud, sounds like "Shulamith." Solomon's name in
the original Hebrew sounds like "Shulomoh." The Hebrew word for
peace is "shalom." Thus, she says, "Shulamith had found shalom
with Shulomoh." She found love and romance when she found
Solomon. Her responsible behavior for her own sexuality revealed
a character that was able to attract the king's love.
     The theme of responsible choices, freely made (not forced by
her brothers) is now elaborated more fully in a parable of a
vineyard.

8:11 SHULAMITH: 

          Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; 
          He entrusted the vineyard to caretakers; 
          Each one was to bring a thousand
          shekels of silver for its fruit.

8:12      My very own vineyard is at my disposal; 
          The thousand shekels are for you, Solomon, 
          And two hundred are for those
          who take rare of its fruit.


     Shulamith now takes us back to the time she and Solomon
first met. Solomon owns many vineyards all over Palestine, and
one is located in the north of Palestine at Baal-haman near
Shunem, her home town. It was customary for the owner of a
vineyard to lease it out. In return for their work, those to whom
it was leased received 20 percent of the total profit. In this
case the vineyard that belongs to Solomon is leased to
Shulamith's brothers; hence it becomes a fitting analogy of
Shulamith's person who was also, for a time, under the care and
protection of her brothers. Shulamith often refers to herself as
a vineyard 12:15) and earlier complains about the workload
imposed on her by her brothers that had kept her from tending her
own vineyard-her feminine charms-1:5. As Solomon's vineyard had
been entrusted to Shulamith's brothers, so was Shulamith. After
caring for the vineyard the brothers produced a 1,000 shekel
profit for their king. But the "profit" they produced for Solomon
in their care for Shulamith was even greater, and she feels they
deserve a reward. Thus when she says, "My very own vineyard is at
my disposal," she is asserting that their work is done and she
now discharges her person, freely, to whom she desires. Her
vineyard is now under her authority and control, and she freely
gives of herself to her lover, the king. In the analogy, her way
of saying she gives all the profits of her brothers' care to
Solomon is by saying, "The thousand shekels are for you,
Solomon." That is, the entire profit of the vineyard she gives
him. However, since caretakers of a vineyard received 20 percent
of the profit, she asks Solomon to give her brothers 20 percent
of 1,000 shekels, or 200 shekels, for their efforts in preserving
her "fruit" for the king alone. It is probably not a request for
literal money, but simply that they be remembered and
appreciated.

     Thus, not only did her brothers protect her and prepare her
to make personal choices when she came of age, she made them
responsibly. The poet, then, by selecting these two scenes, tells
us something of the development of an intense and unconditional
love, 
     It is, first of all, usually rooted in a home in which love
is coupled with discipline. 
     Secondly, it is a result of responsible behavior and is
freely given. 
     Throughout the Song, both lovers illustrate beautifully the
principle of giving freely and of assuming responsibility for
their own actions.

     But now the conclusion of our love story has come. As it
began with a longing for sexual embrace (1:4) It is fitting that
it ends with the enjoyment of love.

Love enjoyed

     As the lovers prepare to leave Shulamith's country home,
Solomon turns to his beloved and whispers:

8:13 SOLOMON: 

          O you who sit is the gardens, My companions are
          listening for your voice
          Let me hear it.

     The Hebrew text does not have the word "My" in front of
"companions;" it just reads "companions." It certainly doesn't
refer to Solomon's companions, as that would make little sense.
The "companions" refer to those who knew Shulamith as a friend
and keeper of the vineyard. The playmates of her youth long to
hear her speak a farewell.
     But while her old friends desire to hear her say something,
Solomon says there is something he wants to hear from her also.
She understands what he is getting at and playfully turns to him
and says, privately, so no one can hear,

8:14 SHULAMITH: 

          Hurry, my beloved,
          And be like a gazelle or a young stag 
          On the mountain of spices.

     The figures of a young stag and a gazelle picture
playfulness and sexual potency. The mountains of spices refer to
the "mound of myrrh and hill of frankincense" (4:6) - her
perfumed breasts and garden. Thus she invites Solomon to make
love.


COMMENT

The senior panic

     As a college student I recall the fears that came upon many
of the seniors on campus as they faced graduation and the
assumption of responsibilities in the real world. We used to call
it "senior panic." However, the phrase was often used humorously
of girls who came to college for the purpose of getting husbands
and who now, as seniors and without any prospects in sight, were
going to be thrust out into society minus that anticipated mate.
In some cases the "panic" became rather amusing as girls would
woefully lament that now that they had arrived at the ripe old
age of twenty-two, they had lost their chances for marriage.
     In a more serious vein, what of the woman who is widowed or
divorced, left with several children and anxious to remarry, but
due to age and circumstances feels her opportunities are slim?
     In many respects Shulamith faced a similar situation. While
all the other girls were caring for their own vineyards and out
meeting boys, she had been forced into relative seclusion by her
brothers, working all day in the vineyards under the scorching
sun. How unlikely that such a girl would ever end up married to
the king of the nation! Yet the God who plans our lives causes
all things to work together for good. The lesson is this: no
matter how impossible the circumstances, God has no problem
bringing a future mate, selected by Him, into your life. You may
be shut up in the back of an office, forty years old, with four
kids to care for. Yet the Lord can bring the right person into
your secluded "vineyard" at the appropriate time. Can you trust
Him for that?

"Freely given" love

     The last section of the book (8:8-12) is really an answer to
the question, "How can this love be attained?" She has specified
in 8:7 that it cannot be purchased; how then is one to acquire
it? Her answer is twofold. 
     First of all, she says it cannot be demanded or deserved; it
must be freely given. This, as explained in the commentary, seems
to be her meaning when in 8:12 she says, "My very own vineyard is
at my disposal." I am not under obligation, but I give freely she
says.
     Too many couples think they deserve their mate's love. Too
many men adopt the attitude that since they provide a paycheck
and a home and security, their wives owe them love in return
Little do they realize a wife doesn't define love in terms of a
paycheck, but rather as a total relationship.
     What is involved in this "freely given" love? It appears
Shulamith has come to this conclusion through experiences she has
described earlier in the book. How is love attained? Answer: by
freely giving to one another in the midst of problems and not
insisting on ones own way. Their love was attained by growth
through trials. Their struggles and their personal decisions to
freely give of themselves during their struggles knit them
together in a deeper bond of love.
     Specifically, what did they "freely give?" As we observed in
chapter 9, they did two things. They both assumed responsibility
for their own behavior and did not focus on their mates error. We
saw Shulamith choosing to change her attitude about Solomon's
late-night approach to sex and his preoccupation with his job.
Instead of sitting around sulking about how neglected and taken
for granted she was, she committed herself freely to increasing
her own sexual desire and thinking on her husband's positive
qualities (5:9-6:3). Furthermore, she changed her actions by
aggressively taking the initiative in their sexual love (7:1-9).
     
     The second thing they both freely gave in the midst of their
struggles was blessing for insult (1 Peter 3:9). We see this
clearly in Solomon's responses to her continual rejection of his
late-night approaches. He praises her exactly as he did on the
wedding night and loves her unconditionally (6:4-10)! Thus, they
freely gave of themselves in two ways; they assumed
responsibility for their own behavior, and they rendered blessing
for insult,      
     Many would like to experience the kind of love described by
Shulamith in Chapter 8. Yet few are willing to pay the price, and
end up in the divorce courts blaming each other or "traditional
role relationship teachings in the Bible" as the cause. The real
cause is something the Bible calls selfishness or sin. Love like
this is only fashioned in the anvil of adversity. This type of
love is forged in free choosing to love your mate unconditionally
when you are hurt, or when you are having problems in your
relationship.

     Solomon and Shulamith didn't enter marriage with this kind
of love for each other. Their love deepened and grew as they
applied God's principles to their problems.

     Yours can too!
 
                          ......................

Appendix to follow


If you have taken the time to really study the Song of Solomon
with the study Joseph Dillow has given us, you can truly
appreciate the fine study it was and still is. This Bible book is
indeed God's handbook on love and sexuality for the married
couple - Keith Hunt

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