We continue with Mr.Dillow's book, and what a fine chapter it is
for those choosing to be married.
A TIME OF PREPARATION
(Reflections #4, 5, 6, Song 2:8-3:5)
The Song of Solomon, as we have seen, contains a series of
reflections of a married woman, Shulamith, in which she remembers
certain events leading to her marriage with Solomon as well as
some problems they experienced in the early years of their
The first half of the book (1:1-5:1) consists of reflections
on the wedding day. These reflections are stated in a series of
poetic songs. In the first three we see Shulamith's reflections
on the wedding day, the wedding banquet and her remembrances of
the beauty of their first night together. This section closes
with a warning against pre-marital sexual involvement (2:7).
The next three reflections close with the same warning
(3:5). Thus, one of the controlling thoughts of both groups of
reflections must relate somehow to the avoidance of sexual
relations prior to marriage. In the first three reflections
(1:1-2:7) the message seems to be that it is wise to abstain from
pre-marital sexual involvement because to do so may jeopardize
the beauty of sex in marriage.
The message of the second group of reflections (2:8-3:5)
seems to be that it is wise to abstain from pre-marital sex
because it tends to obscure one's objectivity in making the
correct choice of a life partner.
The engagement period has three basic proposes according to
First, it is a time of getting to know one another in ways
other than sexual (2:8-14). Secondly, it is a time of coming to
grips with the potential problem areas of a couple's relationship
and establishing problem-solving procedures (2:15-17). Third, it
is to be a time of seriously counting the cost of being married
to this person (3:1-5).
Some important advice
Too frequently young people today get married on a wave of
sexual passion, with no clear picture of the person they are
committing their lives to. Consider the following vignette by
Russell Dicks, a marriage counselor n Florida.
Assuming that sexual expression is irresistible, like a
flood, many couples inevitably find themselves standing
before a minister to be married. Minister. "Do you take this
woman with all her immaturity, self-centeredness, nagging,
tears, and tension to be your wife, forever?" The dumb ox,
temporarily hypnotized by the prospect of being able to
sleep with her every night, mumbles, "I do." Then the
preacher asks the starry-eyed bride who is all of eighteen,
"Do you take this man with all his lust, moods,
indifference, immaturity, and lack of discipline to be your
husband, forever?" She thinks that "forever" means all of
next week, because she has never experienced one month of
tediousness, responsibility, or denial of her wishes, so she
chirps, "I do," in the thought that now she has become a
woman. Then the parent minister parrots, "By the authority
committed unto me as a minister of Christ, I pronounce you
man and wife. . ." As he does, he prays a silent prayer for
forgiveness, for he knows he lies. They are not now husband
and wife and he knows that few of them ever will be. They
are now legally permitted to breed, fuss, bully, spend each
other's money, and be held responsible for each other's
bills. It is now legal for them to destroy each other, so
long as they don't do it with a gun or a club. And the
minister goes home wondering if there isn't a more honest
way to earn a living.
It is apparently to avoid this situation that this
particular section of the Song of Solomon is written. Shulamith
has been reflecting about the wedding day (1:1-5:1). As she
daydreams about their first night together, her thoughts wander
back to their dating relationship. She reflects on her thoughts
as she awaits the wedding procession (Song 3:6-13).
In her daydreaming, she focuses on a walk in the country
which seems to be the subject of the first two reflections of
this section (2:8-14 and 2:15-17). She then recalls a dream she
had during their engagement period (3:1-5) in which her concerns
about being married to a king surface in her thinking.
A SPRINGTIME VISIT
(Reflection #4, Song 2:8-17)
It is possible that Shulamith is reflecting on her thoughts
as she awaited the bridal procession of 3:6-11. She is recalling
her memories of a springtime visit Solomon made to her mountain
home in Lebanon.
Listen, my beloved.
Behold, he is coming,
Climbing on the mountains,
Leaping on the hills!
These mountains are distinguished by a white limestone ridge
and glittering snows that cap their peaks for six months of the
year. For the Phoenician coastal cities the Lebanon mountain
ridge formed a natural barrier to invaders from inland?
The lower mountain slopes support garden cultivation such as
olive groves, vineyards, fruit orchards and small cornfields. It
was in a vineyard on one of the slopes in southern Lebanon and in
northern Galilee that Shulamith worked.
As she sits in her country home on the slopes of these
beautiful mountains she sees Solomon eagerly
Climbing on the mountains,
Leaping on the hills!
to visit her during their courtship.
My beloved is like a
Gazelle or a young stag.
These animals suggest speed and often sexual virility.
Apparently Solomon is running to see his love.
Behold, he is standing behind our wall,
Solomon stands outside the wall of the house and looks at
her through the windows.
He is looking through the windows,
He is peering through the lattice.
The windows in poor homes were boards arranged like a
lattice. They could be turned open and shut by turning the
My beloved responded and said to me,
'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along.'
She now remembers Solomon's words in these prior meetings
and recounts them here.
2:11 For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
It is springtime and Solomon is asking her to go for a walk.
The flowers have already appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for pruning the vines,
And the voice of the turtledove
has been heard in our land.
2:13 The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have
given forth their fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!
2:14 O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret place of the steep pathway,
Solomon describes her as a dove, a common symbol of
gentleness and purity. The phrase "clefts of the rock" is a
figurative reference to her home in the mountains. She apparently
lived in a mountain defile. The wood pigeon builds its nest in
the clefts of the rocks and other steep rock places. When Solomon
designates the Shulamite as a dove in the clefts of the rocks, he
is referring to the fact that she is far removed from the world
around. This suggests her naivete and rustic simplicity.
But note again, her remoteness from the world does not seem
to affect her sexual relationship with her husband. She has not
been exposed to any of the Hollywood images, the sexual
temptation of the world, or the pressure to conform in the girls'
dorm. She has not had the "benefits" of a liberal education to
free her from her "primitive religious conceptions," or the
"benefits" of living in a co-ed dorm so she could learn to
"relate" to the opposite sex as "real persons." Even though she
has missed all these tremendous "educational" opportunities, she
has no problem relating to her husband.
Let me see your form,
Let me hear your voice;
And your voice is sweet,
And your form is lovely.
Solomon tells her why he wants her to join him in these
springtime walks: he simply enjoys her presence. He loves to see
her beauty and to hear her voice.
THE LITTLE FOXES
(Reflections #5, Song 2:15-17)
This reflection presumably occurs while they are on that
springtime walk. As mentioned before, the lower slopes of the
mountains where Shulamith grew up were covered with gardens and
vineyards. As they are walking on these slopes, they pass a
vineyard and see some foxes ruining one of the vineyards by
digging up the roots of the vines.
Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.
The foxes burrowed and gnawed at the roots of the vines.
Here the foxes seem to be a symbol of the little problems that
gnaw at Solomon's and Shulamith's vineyard (their blossoming love
for each other). Shulamith sees these foxes and uses them to ask
Solomon to "catch" or help work at the little problems that
threaten to hinder their love.
Delitzsch describes it this way: "This is a vinekeeper's
ditty, in accord with the Shulamite's experiences as the keeper
of a vineyard, which, in a figure, aims at her love relations.
The vineyards, beautiful with fragrant blossoms, point to her
covenant of love; and the little foxes, which might destroy these
united vineyards, point out all the great and little enemies and
adverse circumstances which threaten to gnaw and destroy love in
the blossom, before it has reached the ripeness of full
These littlefoxes are seldom more than fifteen inches tall
and in digging their holes and passages they loosen the soil so
the vines do not grow well. They are proverbial symbols of
destroyers (Neh.4:3; Ezek.13:4).
How important it is that both big and little differences are
resolved before marriage. If you cannot work out problems you do
know about before you are married, it is almost certain you will
not be able to resolve problems you do not know about until after
you are married. This rural country girl has a lot of practical
wisdom! Before marriage a husband and wife are often able to
agree on the basics of life such as religion, education, and the
meaning of the universe. After marriage, however, they discover
they disagree on hundreds of subjects such as mealtime and
This business of keeping foxes out of vineyards is more
difficult than it sounds. Vineyards in Palestine were surrounded
by stone walls topped by a hedge. The families stayed in villages
in the middle of the vineyards to protect them from wild animals.
This demanded much perseverance; if the people failed to watch,
the foxes would begin their work of destruction.
So then, Shulamith is not only encouraging Solomon to deal
with problems they might already be experiencing but to take a
firm stand against any further difficulties by nipping them in
In 2:15 she speaks of their love as a vineyard in blossom.
She now continues her praise of their love in verse 16 and at the
same time alludes to a problem she anticipates once they are
married, Solomon's attendance to the affairs of state and the
possibility of his neglect of her.
My beloved is mine, and I am his;
He pastures his flock among the lilies.
No shepherd would feed his sheep among lilies; that would be
thieving! This must be another symbol referring to Solomon's
attention to his flock, Israel. Shulamith, drawing on her
background as a shepherd girl, uses the language of the country
to give Solomon the highest praise she knows: he is a shepherd
who feeds his flock among the lilies.
Lilies are an emblem of purity and beauty and of kingly
stature. She is saying Solomon is a king who feeds his people,
Israel, the best food available - righteousness, purity, and
wisdom. He has the best interests of his people at heart. He
leads Israel in the way of prosperity. The description of the
king of Israel as a shepherd was so common in this agrarian
society that Ezekiel even used it of the Messiah (Ezek.34).
The verse brings together the basic tension she feels; the
potential conflict between their commitment to each other (My
beloved is mine, and I am his) and Solomon's commitment to the
affairs of state (He pastures his flock among the lilies). This
tension mushrooms into a major crisis later in their marriage
(5:2-6:10). The next scene (3:1-5) indicates she had recurrent
dreams about this problem.
This brings us to the question of what brought Solomon to
her home for the springtime visit. It seems unlikely he would
come all the way from Jerusalem just for a date. It seems more
reasonable to assume the king was combining business with
pleasure. While adending to some business of state in the
mountains, he stops to spend a few hours with the woman he loves
and hopes to marry someday. At the end of verse 16 their morning
walk is about to end, and Solomon must attend to whatever
business brought him north. The problem of separation is here
illustrated again; she requests that he come see her again before
he returns to Jerusalem after completing his business for the
Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee
Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle
Or a young stag on the mountains of Bether.
Return this evening when your work is through, says the
Shulamite, and hurry back, (be like a gazelle, an animal noted
for its speed). Bether is not a proper name. It literally means
mountains of division or separation. It probably refers to the
intervening mountains Solomon must cross once again to get back
to her that evening.
Before we leave this springtime visit, one final point of
application is suggested. Solomon was the richest man in the
world at this time. He could have spent hundreds of dollars on
the Shulamite girl. But instead of spending money, he took her
for nature walks in the Lebanon hills. When he appeared for their
"date," there is no indication he brought her any elaborate
The important thing during courtship and engagement is not
spending a lot of money in order to try to impress your partner
or to purchase a good time. A dating relationship can be
structured around inexpensive and creative fun (such as picnics
by a river) that provide opportunities for each partner to really
get to know one another and to talk out in detail their feelings
about life, their commitment to Christ, and their basic views and
backgrounds. The purpose of the engagement period should be
related to getting to know your future mate well.
A DREAM-COUNTING THE COST
(Reflections #6, Song 3:1-5)
In the first scene she reflects on Solomon's arrival and the
happiness she enjoyed when they were together. Perhaps as she
reflected on Solomon's temporary departure until evening, her
mind was drawn back to a recurrent dream which was so vivid that
she remembers it as a real experience.
It is a dream of the painful longing that seized her when
she lost the nearness of the presence of her beloved.
The dream occurred "night after night" (3:1) while she was
in bed at her mountain home in Lebanon.
On my bed night after night I sought him
Whom my soul loves;
I sought him but did not find him.
She had a recurrent dream of what life would be like after
she married Solomon. The dream reveals a nagging uncertainty as
to whether she would be happy with a king whose time would be
occupied with the affairs of state and who would often be away on
I must arise now and go about the city;
In the streets and in the squares
I must seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him but did not find him.
In her dream, of course, she is living at the palace in
Jerusalem. She goes into the streets to seek Solomon, but she
cannot find him, so she asks the palace guards:
The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found
And I said, 'Have you seen him whom my soul
Scarcely had I left them
When I found him whom my soul loves;
I held on to him and would not let him go,
Until I had brought him to my mother's house,
And into the room of her who conceived me.
In the dream she pictures her home in the mountains and
Jerusalem as close together. She finds her lover immediately upon
leaving the guards and refuses to let him go until she has
brought him to her home in the mountains. To this country maiden
the most secure place she can think of is her mother's home where
she was raised.
She wants to marry Solomon and live in Jerusalem, but she is
not sure she can be happy away from her mother's home in the
countryside. The dream seems to suggest that she would like to
"have her cake and eat it too." In the city she feels she might
be a country girl out of place. This could cause many feelings of
insecurity and tend to cause her to be more possessive of
Solomon's time than she knows she has a right to be. She has been
seriously counting the cost of marrying Solomon.
The issue she is concerned with is, "Will I be happy married
to a king?" The fact that the king desires her and that she would
attain much prestige as a queen seems to play an insignificant
part in her thinking.
The second group of reflections of the love song closes with
a repetition of the warning against arousing sexual passion with
any man other than the man God wants you to marry.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you will not arouse or awaken my love,
Until it pleases.
(See discussion on 2:7.)
At this point in the Song she turns from her reflection on
the dream and speaks to the imaginary group once again.
The first time the exhortation was given (2:7) was at the
conclusion of a joyful and passionate love scene on their wedding
night. By joining the love scene with the warning, the message
seemed to be this: "If you desire to have the maximum sexual
relationship in marriage, avoid any pre-marital arousal of sexual
passion other than with the man God has led you to in
But what connection does the exhortation have to her
reflection on their engagement days described here in the second
group of reflections? The connection seems to be this. The
arousal of sexual love with the wrong man can tend to hinder
objective evaluation of whether or not he is the man that God has
chosen for you.
Sexual passion has a way of sweeping a person into marriage
or an emotional tie without getting to know each other first of
all in ways other than sexual. The obsession of sexual desire
tends to tempt a girl and guy to spend more time petting than
working out the "little foxes" and problems that need to be
worked through before the marriage commitment is made. Also, the
power of aroused sexual passion can drive a couple to get married
without giving serious thought to the problems of life with that
person after you have said "I do."
Thus in view of the dangers involved and the seriousness of
a marriage commitment, Shulamith warns not to arouse sexual
passion until you have worked through the "little foxes," have
thoroughly gotten to know one another in ways other than sexual,
have counted the cost of marrying that particular person and have
committed yourself to go through with the ceremony. Then and only
then can sexual passion be aroused outside of marriage with the
one whom God has brought into your life.
The message of these reflections can be summed up on the
chart on the following page.
The relevance of this section of the Song to contemporary
dating and engagement is obvious. There are, perhaps, four
central points emphasized here that deserve expanded comment.
These four points constitute four objectives of engagement as
taught by the Song of Solomon.
GOD'S PURPOSES IN ENGAGEMENT
to get to know each other
to work through problems
to consider the cost
"A springtime visit (2:8 2:14)
"Catch the little foxes" (2:15 2:17)
"I sought him but did not find him" (3:1 3:4)
3:5 - In view of these factors, be sure not to arouse sexual
passion until you are sure he/she is God's man or woman.
To get to know one another in ways other than physical
As pointed out in the commentary, all these objectives of
engagement are in some way related to the dangers of
over-involvement in premarital sexual play. In the springtime
visit (2:8-14) we find Solomon and Shulamith enjoying a walk in
the vineyards without any sexual involvement (3:5). The Song
expresses enjoyment of one another's company and delight to be in
the presence of the beloved. It was, then, a time of simply
getting to know each other.
One of the questions asked most frequently by young people
is, "How do I know if he (or she) is the one?" The dating
relationship is designed to help make that decision. There are a
number of questions to which any young man or woman should give
careful consideration before counting a particular person as
First of all, there are questions about qualifications for
marriage in general. Secondly, there are questions a young woman
would want to have answer to in regard to a particular man she is
considering marrying. Thirdly, there are some questions that a
young man should ask that relate specifically to his potential
Before reading this list of biblical characteristics of a
future mate, a word of caution. After I showed this chapter to my
wife, she commented, "If I had abided by this fist, I never would
have married you!"
Allow room for growth and maturity. There is no one who
meets these standards, yet we should still use them to evaluate a
future mate. Teddy Roosevelt once said, "It is not so important
what a man is but what he is becoming, for he shall be what he is
now becoming." When Jesus chose his men, he certainly had the
standards of perfection in mind, but they were in many respects
as far from the standard as one could imagine.
What they had was something of even more importance to Jesus
- a devoted heart. The same is true in considering a list for
evaluating a future mate. Is there a disposition of heart to be
this kind of person?
Some general questions
First let's consider some general questions about any
person's qualifications for marriage.
(1) Is he or she totally committed to Jesus Christ? The
Bible prohibits marriage to non-believer (2 Cor. 6:14ff.). It
also discourages "missionary" dating. Dating a person in order to
"win him for Christ" rarely works out. Generally people end up
marrying someone they date. Therefore, if you date non-Christians
you'll probably end up marrying one.
How can you tell if he or she is committed to Christ? Simply
by observing his or her priorities. What consumes this person's
life? Does he simply give lip service to being a Christian or
does it consume his thoughts, time and actions? This quality is
your only sure basis for a vital, growing, and trusting marriage
relationship. Usually you can see where a person's heart is by
looking at his closest friends. Are they excited about Christ? If
they aren't, he or she probably isn't either. Of course, this
doesn't mean a Christian won't have non-Christian friends, but
usually his or her most intimate friends will be Christians.
(2) Does this person make you feel unconditionally accepted?
If you feel you are on a performance basis now, it will get worse
when you are married. The love described in 1 Cor.13:4-7 is
foundational to Christian marriage. It is an unconditional love.
One way you can tell whether this girl or guy will accept you
unconditionally after you are married is to observe how he or she
responds to the weaknesses of others right now. Right now you may
experience unconditional acceptance; but if this person reacts
negatively to the weaknesses of other people, then when you are
married he will tend to react negatively to your weaknesses. If
your weaknesses are met with negative responses, you will tend to
clam up and not share your problems. As a result your desires for
a sense of intimacy will be shattered.
With amazing regularity, men tend to treat their wives in a
way similar to the way they treat their mothers, and women tend
to respond to their husbands the way they did to their fathers.
While there are many exceptions to this, it does suggest a
careful look at the relationship this person has with his or her
(3) Is this person able to respond with a blessing when hurt
or offended by you or someone else?
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with
a blessing, because to this you were called so that you may
inherit a blessing (1 Pet.3:9).
Peter's exhortation sums a section of his epistle in which
he is dealing with marriage relationships. Many marriages get
locked into an "insult for insult" type of reaction to each
other. She hurts him; he hurts her back, etc. If you are dating
someone who consistently renders insult for insult, be wary of
marriage to that person.
(4) Is this person committed to God's priorities of family
life? Briefly, a married person's priority list, according to
Scripture (see discussion to follow) is God first, mate second,
children third, job and ministry responsibilifies outside the
home fourth. Consider what Moses said in regard to a new husband.
When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the
army, nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home
one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has
taken (Deut. 24:5).
God is saying in no uncertain terms that a new husband's
number one priority is his marriage - not a ministry for Christ
or a vocation of a secular nature. That first year was so
important that men were exempt from the draft. God saw it as more
important for the country's welfare than fighting for her defense
on the battlefield! That's because strong marriages make strong
nations. That first year in particular is to be a building time
for the rest of your lives together.
(5) Is this person financially responsible? Jesus taught
that you can tell a lot about a person's inner spiritual life by
how he or she handles money.
So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly
wealth, who will trust you with the true riches? (Luke
In other words, there is a direct correlation between a
person's receiving of "true riches" (spiritual vitality and
insight) and his attitudes toward money. When you find a man who
is faithful in financial matters, you generally find that the
rest of his life is in order. And conversely, when you find a man
or woman who is undisciplined financially, this generally
reflects on his or her whole life.
(6) Is this person committed to God's viewpoint on sex? Does
this person demonstrate sexual control before marriage and does
he or she have any views of sex that could cause you pain later
on? This needs to be explored in a frank and open manner.
Suggestions follow in the next section.
(7) Is this person submissive to constituted authority? Paul
says husbands and wives should:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph.
A person who does not have a submissive spirit will not
fulfill this command in marriage. A man considering marriage to a
Christian girl should ask whether she is willing to submit to
Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22).
If she will not "let any man tell her what to do," and seems
generally bent on her career and socalled equality (which for the
Women's Liberation Movement means equality of authority), and
doesn't demonstrate a submissive spirit, think carefully about
Even more important, if this man you are considering
marrying does not demonstrate a submissive spirit toward
constituted authority, you may be in for a life of pain if you
marry him. As a Christian wife you are to submit to him in
everything. If he is not submissive himself, you will resent this
imposition and begin to fear yielding to him. You will become
tired, due to nervous strain, your trust in him will decline, and
you may even lose your sexual interest. It happens all the time.
You can tell if he has a submissive spirit by observing his
attitudes toward the school or university, government (Rom.
13:14; 1 Pet.2:12ff), church (Heb.13:17), parents (Eph.6:1,2) and
employer (1 Pet.2:18-25; Col.3:23,24).
Questions for young women
Assuming these general considerations that apply to any
person have been considered, there are several specific questions
a young woman might ask from a scriptural viewpoint as she
considers marriage to a particular man.
(1) Does he demonstrate that he has truly died to
selfishness? (Eph.5:25, Mark 8:34,35). One of the most important
things a girl needs to do during a dating relationship is listen.
Get that man to talk about anything and everything. As you
listen, be sensitive to any evidence that he is selfish, living
for himself, and prideful.
The Bible instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ
loved the church and gave Himself for her. Christ was totally
dead to his own desires and lived only for the will of the Father
and for the good of his bride. If this man is incapable of
unselfish love, do not let the relationship develop into a
personal commitment. If he hasn't truly died to himself, you will
find it extremely difficult to follow the biblical injunction to
submit to him in everything. You will fear that your needs and
the children's will not be met, and you will find it difficult to
trust his decisions.
I have counseled too many women who married on a wave of
sexual passion and are now regrettably locked into a paralyzing
relationship with a man who is deliberately insensitive and
selfish. The emotional pain these women endure is sufficient
warning to any young woman not to be deceived on this point. You
will not be able to hear the evidence of his selfishness if you
are involved in a physical relationship with him. You can't
"listed" very well "parking" in the back seat of a car!
(2) Does he set a spiritual example? (Mark 10:45; John
20:21; Deut.6:4-10). If he doesn't do it now, it is highly
unlikely that he'll begin to do it after you marry him. This will
become extremely important to you when you have children and
desire a genuine spiritual atmosphere in your home.
(3) Does he express a desire to protect you from dangers and
difficulfies? (Song 1:7; Rom.7:2). In the Song, Shulamith refers
to her husband as a "shepherd." The central emphasis of this
imagery is leader and protector. When Paul speaks of a wife in
Rom.7:2, he uses a Greek word which means "a woman under a man."
It caries the notion of being under her husband's authority and
hence under his protection. A woman has a right to a "protective
shield" provided by her husband. The male role is to be a kind of
shock absorber. When things go wrong in the neighborhood, with
the kids, with the finances, with the job, with the in-laws,
etc., who absorbs the pressure? According to Scripture the
husband is to absorb that pressure and remove it from his wife.
When he doesn't (and too few men do), certain inevitable results
follow. A wife begins to develop tension headaches, she cannot
respond sexually, and she is plagued by fatigue.
Does this man you are considering marrying lean on you for
emotional support all the time, or do you have a freedom and
confidence to lean on him? Are you always pumping him up
emotionally, or is he a source of strength for you? If he's not
your protector and shock absorber now, he won't be after you've
said "I do." It will be extremely difficult for you to fulfill
the responsibilities God has designated to you as a Christian
wife unless he has this kind of ability.
(4) Is he able to provide for his future family? (1 Tim.
5:8; Gen.2:24; 3:19). In order to maintain your respect and feel
he is the leader in your home, he must have the confidence he can
provide for his family's needs without depending on parents or
others to do the job.
(5) Does he assume leadership responsibility in your
relationship now? (Song 1:7; 1 Tim.3:4,5). The notion of a
shepherd also involves the notion of leader. God commands you to
be a follower to your husband after marriage; can you imagine the
frustration you'll be up against if you always have to prod and
push? It may not bother you now; but after you're married it can
be devastating. Many women begin to nag as a result.
(6) Does he demonstrate sympathetic understandIng? (I Pet.
3:7). Are you the one who always seems to have to be the
understanding party? Does he communicate he really understands
your deepest needs? If you don't have that feeling now, you'll be
in for trouble after you're married.
(7) Does he give you honor? (1 Pet.3:7). Is he proud of you?
Do you get reports about how wonderful you are or about some
accomplishments of yours? Many men do not make their wives feel
queenly. They criticize and make cutting remarks in public.
(8) Does he cherish you? (Eph.5:29). This is the word used
of a mother tenderly caring for her baby (1 Thess.2:7). The
strong he-man types, loaded with "macho," are great fun to watch
in the movies, but they often make lousy husbands. It is
indispensable to a woman to know her husband is aware of her as a
person, that she is cherished and valued and tenderly cared for.
This involves small acts of chivalry; it involves noticing you
when you walk into the room, and regular indications of
thoughtfulness, such as gifts, flowers, etc. (Song 1:11).
(9) Does he demonstrate concerned involvement with your
problems? (Matt.11:28; Eph.5:27). If you find his problems always
seem to be the topic of discussion, and his depressions or moods
always seem to take precedence over your concerns, then you need
to re-evaluate your commitment. After you are married and you
have emotional problems, or conflicts with your boss, or
difficulties with the children, and he never seems to be helpful,
you'll understand what I mean. If he's not involved with you now,
he may not be later.
(10) Is he at ease in demonstrating romantic love? (Song 4).
I know a marriage right now that is on the verge of divorce
simply because this man will not give his wife romantic love. He
is emotionally paralyzed. Men are harmed by a lack of romantic
love much less than women, and therefore cannot appreciate its
importance to them. If a man is denied romantic love, he
generally throws himself into his work and finds fulfillment
there. Not so with a woman. A man may find an adequate life
elsewhere, but a woman's whole existence shakes at the
foundation. She suffers as no man can comprehend.
Many girls are shocked to find their boyfriends and fiances
were tender, romantic and affectionate prior to marriage, but
within one month after the ceremony all the romance is gone. A
girl needs to understand that for many men, much of the romance
and affection they demonstrate prior to marriage is directly
connected to the sexual reward they get by either holding you in
their arms or petting. He may not be necessarily naturally that
way at all. Consequently, when the sexual reward is no longer a
"reward" but an ever-present item, he slips into taking you for
So don't misread him on this point. Is he romantic when
there is no sexual passion aroused in your relationship? Many
wives complain, "I can always tell when he wants sex; he begins
to get romantic. The only time he gives me any affection is when
he wants to take me to bed."
These questions make the selection of a future life partner
much more objective and rational. Obviously, intense physical
involvement will seriously hamper your ability to think
objectively about these crucial issues that can affect you and
your children's happiness for the rest of your lives. Hence, God
warns against pre-marital involvement.
Questions for young men
What are the questions that a young man should ask himself
concerning a future wife? Solomon probably had a number of
factors in mind during his springtime visits. He wanted to get to
know her thoroughly before committing his life to her. He
probably wanted to know at least these six things:
(1) Would she make a good mother to your children? If she
doesn't ever want children or is offended by children, you could
be in for some painful times. The average woman spends about 32
percent of her life (25 years out of 70) as a mother.
(2) Does she seem to respect you?
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves
himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Eph. 5:33).
If she doesn't respect you, it could be your fault; you may
not have the qualities that command a woman's respect. But if she
is simply unable or unwilling to respect you, it will be
difficult for you to derive a sense of self-confidence and
self-esteem from her love. Likewise, it will be difficult for her
to follow your lead.
(3) Is she willing to find her primary identity as your wife
and the mother of your children and her secondary identity as a
woman with a job or ministry outside the home? The husband's
primary identity is outside the home and his secondary identity
is in the home, according to the Bible. In other words, when she
asks herself the question, "Who am I" her first answer should be,
"I am Bill's wife." This is what Paul meant when he said the
woman was to be the glory of the man. To "be the glory of" is to
derive one's significance from:
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and
glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man (1 Cor.
I realize that this runs counter to much modern thinking,
but then modern thinking is resulting in a 50 percent divorce
rate in the United States. Only when marriage is set up along
God's principles of headship and submission will men and women be
able to achieve their full potential as persons and be "all they
were meant to be."
(4) Does she have a free and healthy attitude about sex like
Solomon's wife Shulamith? Much marital pain occurs because wives
take rather prudish and unscriptural attitudes about sex into
marriage. They never work to overcome their inhibitions,
requiring that a man perform like a super-sensifive romanticist,
and demanding the "right to be left alone." Their lack of
fun-loving response to their husbands' creative sexual
imagination generates barriers, pain, and breaks up numerous
(5) Can she find joy in being a competent homemaker? (Prov.
31:11-31). Keeping house and being an expert at it can be a
challenging and important job. Too many wives leave their homes
in a shambles, dishes never done, and then lie around all day
watching soap operas and wallowing in depressive fantasies.
Running an efficient home is a challenge and is some of the most
important work of any member of the human race. That home sets an
atmosphere in which children grow up - she creates "child soil."
If you want that soil to be rich, be careful who you marry.
Housework can be done quickly after the children are in school,
but many women turn it into a forty-hour a week drudgery and then
complain about it.
Does this woman you are considering marrying look forward to
creating a lively and warm home? If she thinks a career is more
important, it could be a painful experience ten years from now.
(6) Is she industrious and a self-motivatior? Consider in
this connection the woman of Proverb 31.
31:13 She looks for wool and flax,
And works with her hands in delight.
31:16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is a competent woman in business and real estate. She
doesn't let the home "trap her," but she reaches outside the home
into business interests.
31:20 She extends her hand to the poor;
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
31:24 She makes fine garments and sells them, And supplies
belts to the tradesmen.
About 95 percent of the so-called "housewife syndrome" is
self-imposed and has nothing to do with the traditional role
relationship structure of the Bible as claimed by the Women's Lib
Movement. All it takes is initiative and motivation to reach out.
It may be with the poor, helping at a hospital, teaching Bible
studies, speaking to women's groups, running child evangelism
classes, helping with charities, or running a small business (or
a large one!) If she's not industrious and self-starting, she can
become moody and depressed and tear down the entire atmosphere of
a home. When a man comes home from the battle at the office all
day, he wants a cheerful wife - not one who is moody and
This endless list of questions needs some qualification.
There is probably not a man or woman alive who meets all of these
standards. The issue isn't perfection, but where the heart's
attitude is! It's not where you are, but the direction in which
you are moving. Furthermore, it is probably just as important (if
nor more so) to focus on being the right person rather than
choosing the right person. This list, then, also gives guidelines
for being the right one.
To discern and resolve potential problems
The second objective of engagement suggested by the
discussion of the little foxes (2:15-17) is that little problem
areas must be resolved before the marriage. Frequently, these
little problems can become major difficulties. May I suggest
several little foxes that any engaged couple would do well to
(1) Take a careful look at temperament differences. She may
have a "leader," aggressive type temperament, and he may have a
"follower" type temperament.
For a very valuable test to help open guided discussion in
this area, seek out a pastor who can give you the Taylor Johnson
Temperament Analysis test. (Published by Psychological
Publications, Inc., 5300 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles,
California 90027). This test will visually map on graph paper
nine basic temperament patterns and enable you to realistically
see how you view yourselves and one another.
Also, It would be extremely beneficial to take the Stuart
Marital Pre-Counseling Inventory. This is primarily geared for
resolving marital problems, but it can be used to surface
attitudes about various aspects of marriage and desired changes
in one's future mate. This should be administered by a qualified
pastor or Christian counselor. (Published by Research Press, 2612
N. Mattis Avenue, Champaign, IL 61820).
(2) Take a careful look at background differences. The man
may come from a large, rollicking family with easy-going, untidy
ways, and virtually no discipline. She, on the other hand, might
come from a small family where there was stern discipline and
little affection shown.
Now these two have decided to spend their lives together.
They are going to share a bed, bathtub, and a tube of toothpaste.
This small, neat girl who has always had her own small, neat bed
and who always sleeps on her right side finds herself sharing a
bed with a person twice her size who is used to fighting for the
blankets with a younger brother. So he revolves like a windmill
all night, winding the blankets tighter and tighter around
himself. He continually leaves his clothes lying around the house
and leaves the wet towel in a heap on the bathroom floor after
taking a shower. He wakes up at six every morning raring to go.
Her eyes don't even come into focus until ten, and he wants
breakfast at six!
This is not just a nice visit this is for keeps. They have
to live together. Spend one of your "springtime visits" listing
everything characteristic of your backgrounds, home environments,
and economic statuses. Then spend the evening talking about each
item on the fist.
(3) Discern one another's aspirations and goals. An
extremely profitable and enlightening evening can be spent
discussing one another's dreams and goals. As an exercise, each
of you write out a personal philosophy of life. Include your
value system, your ambitions, what you consider the most
important things in life, how you feel about entering into role
relationship (submission for the wife, headship for the husband),
what your fears about marriage are, and what you consider your
strengths and weaknesses.
In view of the new emphasis on women's liberation, the
question of role relationship takes on added importance. Is she
willing to find her primary identity as wife and mother and her
secondary identity in activities outside the home? Is she willing
to acknowledge that her husband's career and job always takes
precedence over hers?
(4) Discern one another's feelings about children and child
discipline. How many children do you want? Many a young bride is
shocked to find that her husband doesn't even want children.
Perhaps she came from a background where she was beaten
continually, and the discipline was overbearing. He, on the other
hand comes from a background where there was no discipline. Thus,
when they formulate their philosophy of child discipline, he
wants a lot of discipline, and she doesn't want any.
Numerous barriers develop over these issues. Talk about it
before you get married. Read some good books on child discipline
and discuss them. "Help I'm a Parent," by Bruce Narramore
(Zondervan, 1975) is a good one. Two of the best are "Hide or
Seek," by Dr.James Dobson (Revell, 1974) and "You and Your Child"
by Charles Swindoll (Thomas Nelson, 1977).
(5) Discuss present relationships with parents and in-laws. All
the jokes about in-laws have some basis in fact. You are not just
marrying a man; you are marrying into his family. Has he really
left? Is he still dependent upon his family, and will he stand
with you against them if need be? Is she likely to run back to
Mommy every time there is a problem? Has she decided to totally
break dependency on her family? If these decisions are not made,
there can be a lifetime of trouble ahead.
Moses said, "For this cause a man shall leave his father and
mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall become one
(6) Are either of you financially in debt? Most judges will
tell you the number two problem in marriages today, as evidenced
by complaints filed in the divorce courts, is conflict over
finances. If you are starting a marriage in debt, you are
starting with some potentially problematic tensions.
(7) What are your attitudes about sex? Several dates could
be spent discussing chapter by chapter "Sexual Happiness in
Marriage" by Herbert Miles (Zondervan, 1967) or "The Act of
Marriage" by Tim LaHaye (Zondervan, 1975). Frank, open discussion
of the issues raised in these chapters is a must for beginning
the marriage with open sexual communication. The number one cause
of marriage breakup as far as complaints filed in the divorce
court is sexual problems.
For a more technical exploration of this subject, I would
suggest that you both take the"Sex Knowledge Inventory" published
by Famfly Life Publications, Inc., Box 6725, College Station,
Durham, North Carolina. This test surveys sex knowledge and sex
attitudes and can be a very helpful tool in surfacing potential
problem areas. Again, it must be administered by a pastor or
To count the cost of marriage to this particular person
The third objective of engagement is suggested by the dream
of separation (3:1-5). The dream reflects that Shulamith has been
quite concerned about the possibility of being frequently
separated from Solomon after they are married. This troubled her
so much that she even dreamed about it. All this indicates she
was seriously counting the cost of what it would be like to be
married to a king. Before committing yourself for life, count the
cost! There are at least three "cost factors" that everyone
should objectively consider before entering into marriage.
(1) Since no one is perfect, you need to honestly evaluate
your capacity to absorb the difference between where your
potential mate is and where he or she ought to be, between the
ideal of Scripture and the reality of his or her present state of
maturity. If you are unable to absorb that difference, don't
marry that person. Sexual passion tends to obscure these issues.
Many young people marry thinking, "I'll change him or her." The
difficulty of actually living with that person is totally
overlooked because of the sexual anticipation created through
continuous petting and/or intercourse before marriage.
(2) Do you have the capacity to embrace his or her lifestyle
and calling? Here is a young couple, very much in love. She comes
from an upper-class, socialite home. She was introduced as a
debutante and has always moved in the circles of the very rich.
She falls in love with a country boy who will never make the kind
of money to support her in the style to which she has been
accustomed. Nor will he ever move in the social circles she
enjoys. Should she marry this man?
Or here is a young woman considering marriage to a medical
doctor. She needs to count the cost of many lonely nights and
midnight calls. Can she really be happy living that kind of life?
If not, Shulamith warns, don't let a flood of sexual passion
sweep these considerations under the carpet with the blindly
naive notion that it will all work out somehow.
(3) Are you prepared to count the cost of re-arranging your
personal time and priorities according to God's priorities to
marriage and family life? God's priorities are as follows:
First, the development of a personal walk with the Lord
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all
these things will be given to you (Matt.6:33).
To put the Lord first does not mean putting your ministry
before your wife and family. To put the Lord first means you put
the development of personal fellowship with Him before your wife
and family. It means you put your ministry and job after your
wife and family.
Second, you must meet the needs of your mate.
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man
is concerned about the Lord's affairs - how he can please
the Lord. But a marred man is concerned about the affairs of
this world - how he can please his wife (1 Cor.7:32-33).
Your mate comes before your job or any business interests.
Paul specifically commands husbands to:
Love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave
Himself up for her (Eph.5.25).
Besides his relationship to the Father, Christ's number one
priority was the church. He gave Himself for her on the cross.
Thus, a husband is likewise to place his wife as number one on
his fist of priorities (1 Tim.3:5-8).
Third, you must meet the needs of your children. Your
children come after your mate. Child-centered homes have
destroyed numerous marriages and just about as many children. The
best thing you can do for your children is to love your mate.
Many sociological studies have confirmed it is more important to
a child that Mommy and Daddy love each other than it is that
Mommy and Daddy love the child.
Fourth, you must fulfill any job or ministry
responsibilities outside the home. According to the Bible, the
vitality of the home life is what gives a man the qualifications
to have a ministry (1 Tim.3:1-8). If your job is such that you
cannot fulfill these other priorities to your wife's
satisfaction, you should consider another job. God never asks a
man to be a success on the corporate ladder, but he does ask him
to be a success in his home. As far as working wives are
concerned, the Bible is not against it as long as she meets the
requirements of the other priorities to the mutual satisfaction
of husband and wife.
If you don't think you would be able to commit yourself to
these marriage priorities, that's fine, but you should realize
that God may therefore be calling you to a single life.
1. Reprinted by permission from HIS, student magazine of
Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, @ 1974.
2. New Bible Dictionary, ad. J.D.Douglas (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
3. Franz Delitzsch, "The Song of Solomon" (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, n.d.), p.49.
To be continued with "The Wedding Procession"
Entered on this Website June 2007