Continuing with Dillow's book
A DREAM OF LOVE REFUSED - A PROBLEM
(Reflection #9, Song 5:2-8)
Let's review the first part of the book for a moment. From
1:1 to 5:1, Shulamith's reflections deal with the wedding day and
the wedding night. These chapters portray the ideal - the
beauties of youthful and romantic love. Now, in the second major
section of the book, a series of seven reflections portray the
reality of married love. There are problems and adjustments that
must be made if two people are to learn to live together in a
vital marriage. The Bible is quite realistic, it doesn't leave us
with an idealized picture of them living happily ever after.
There were two major problems that affected the early years
of this marriage. The first concerned some problems related to
sex. Solomon's job apparently kept him away from Shulamith more
than she liked, and he was in the habit of approaching her
sexually late at night after she was already in bed. She, in
turn, continually displayed a lack of interest in sex and often
rejected his advances.
The second problem surfaces in chapter six. Shulamith is a
country girl at heart. She longs for the freedom of the country.
Even though she loves Solomon, she would still like to visit her
country home in the Lebanon mountains. The first part of this
section of the book (5:2-8:4) reveals how they resolved their
sexual differences. The second part gives the solution to the
longing of Shulamith's heart, a vacation to the Lebanon mountains
The first part of this section consists of five reflections.
It begins with "A Dream of Love Refused" (5:2-8) and ends with
"The Dance of the Mahanaim" (6:136-8:4). It can be
diagrammatically set forth like this:
From "A Dream of Love's Refusal" to "The Dance of the Mahanaim"
THE PROBLEM: LOVE REFUSED
ASSUMING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
A Dream of Love Refused
A Change of Attitude
A Thoughtful of Interlude
A Change of Action
My Beloved and Friend
The Return Solomon
Shulamith in the Garden
The Dance Mahanaim
"I have taken off my dress,
how can I put it on? (5:3)
Concerning: thinking about sex
Concerning: her husband's availability.
What kind of beloved is your beloved?
Where has your beloved gone?
"You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling" (6:4)
"Come back come back, O Shulammite" (6:13a)
5:2 8 9 16 6:1 3 4 10 11 13a 13b 8:4
The section begins with her passive apathy toward her
husband's late-night advances and ends (after a decisive change
of attitude, 5:9-6:3) with her active aggressiveness in
initiating sexual play(6:13b-5:4). The problem is sexual
adjustment and many pertinent applications are suggested by this
chapter to twentieth century marriage.
This song opens with Shulamith in a semi-conscious dream
state. She is troubled and restless; her "heart is awake."
Sometimes a restless dream of an unpleasant event reflects a
degree of inner distress concerning the event. Many have found
themselves dreaming about things that upset them during the day
or about a particularly disturbing problem they are faring. The
poet may have included the dream as a way of telling his readers
that the problem troubling Shulamith is very upsetting to her.
Insofar as the dream seems to contain a scene in which she is
being punished (beaten by the palace guards) perhaps we are to
assume she was feeling guilt over ignoring Solomon's sexual
5:2 SHULAMITH: I was asleep, but my heart was awake.
To sleep while the heart is awake is to dream. The Hebrew
text reads more literally, "I sleep and my heart keeps on
waking." It was a restless and dream-filled night for Shulamith.
She evidently tossed throughout the night in a restless sleep,
stirring oft-times in a troublesome dream.
This section of the Song reveals two possible causes for her
restless night. First of all, she and the king have had
difficulties resolving some sexual problems (5:2,3). Secondly,
she seems to have developed a longing for life in the country
once again, and she has had trouble fully adjusting to palace
life (6:12,13; 7:12).
The sexual problems are the focus of attention in the dream.
A person only keeps on dreaming and has a restless night if there
is a recurrent problem underlying the dream. In this case she
seems to be upset with herself for her refusal of Solomon's
late-night approach to sex. He had approached her after she was
already in bed, and she had refused him; apparently she feels
guilty about it. In the fantasy of her dreams, she imagines
that she refused him, and after he left she could never find him.
A voice! My beloved was knocking: Open to me, my sister, my
darling, My dove, my perfect one!
For my head is drenched with dew, My locks with the damp of the
During some months in Palestine, dew falls so copiously that
it saturates the clothes like rain (Judges 5:38). Solomon,
apparently at an affair of state, comes to her bedroom in the
dream and asks to make love. We know it is late at night because
the dew has already begun to fall.
It could be that in the dream she is thinking of herself as
back at her country home. This at least makes the reference to
dew and the opening in the window (5:4) easier to explain. But
dreams are very subtle, and not too much should be made of this.
As she dreams the scene shifts back to the streets of Jerusalem -
an impossibility, of course, in real life.
Now she gives two reasons why she is not interested in
5:3 SHULAMITH: I have taken off my dress, How can I put it on
If this seems like a strange reason to you for not making
love, it seems strange to me also. She says she would have to put
her robe on, get up and walk to the door, and open it. In effect,
she's saying something like, "Oh Solomon, can't it wait? Can't
you see that I'm tired and in bed?" Then she gives her second
excuse. This time she gets religious about it.
I have washed my feet, How can I dirty them again?
The soiling of the feet was counted as a symbol of moral
contamination from the petty transgressions of everyday life
(John 13:10). They would often wash their feet ceremonially at
night to symbolize their need for daily cleansing from sin, just
as Jesus illustrated to His disciples (John 13:10).1
She is saying, "If I get up to let you in to make love, I'll
get my feet dirty walking across the floor. Then 1 would have to
wash them again before I could go back to bed."
Now both of these statements are obviously excuses! "I'll
have to put my bathrobe on, and I'll get my feet dirty!" What
she's trying to convey to her late-night lover is that she's
tired, already in bed, and just not in the mood. The dew suggests
it's pretty late at night, about the time of the conclusion of
"The Late Show" on TV.
Shulamith now awakens thoroughly and finally begins to
respond to Solomon's interests.
My beloved extended his hand through the opening,
And my feelings were aroused for him.
It was the ancient custom to secure the door of a house by a
cross bar or by a bolt, which at night was fastened with a little
button or pin.2 In the upperpart of the door, there was a round
hole through which any person from the outside might thrust his
arm and remove the bar, unless the hole was sealed up. As
Shulamith saw Solomon's hand, she realized his desire for her,
and she had guilt feelings about her lack of availability. Then
she decided Solomon didn't have such a bad idea after all, and
"her feelings were aroused for Him."
I arose to open to my beloved; And my hand dripped with myrrh,
And my fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the bolt.
In the fantasy of the dream, she associates her husband's
approaches toward her sexually with scented lotions. In their
culture, a lover would leave this fragrant myrrh at the door as a
sign he had been there.3
I opened to my beloved
But my beloved had turned away and had gone!
My heart went out to him... but 1 did not find him;
I called him, but he did not answer me.
In her dream she is grieved to see Solomon has left. He had
come to make love (an inappropriate time, his fault); she refused
him (her fault), and now he has left with wounded pride. There is
nothing more deflating to a persons ego than to have one's mate
continually reject his or her sexual advances.
Her discovery that her husband has left compounds her guilt,
and she now imagines that as she searches for him, the watchmen
The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
They struck me and wounded me;
The guardsmen of the wails took away my shawl from me.
As Shulamith dreams, she fancies herself out in the sheets
of Jerusalem searching for Solomon after refusing him. Obviously,
the watchmen would not in reality lay a hand on Solomon's queen,
but this is a dream. The fact that the guards beat her may
indicate she is plagued with guilt because of her rejection of
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved,
As to what to tell him: For I am lovesick.
The exact chronology of this dream sequence is difficult to
follow. There seems to be no definite agreement among
commentators as to when the dream ends and reality resumes. It
appears to me, however, that due to the shift in tone and
personal address in 5:8, the dream is over and a new scene is
introduced. The chorus and the Shulamite girl have a conversation
pinpointing the implications of the dream and some keys to
solving their problems.
Others say the dream continues all the way to 6:3. It makes
little difference, however, to our understanding of the main
thrust of the poet's message. Thus, 5:8 could either be viewed as
the conclusion of the dream (inserted by the poet to make a
transition to the next scene), or as the introductory verse to
the following scene.
She addresses the imaginary, non-existent chorus,
instructing them to help her locate Solomon and tell him she is
"lovesick." This is the same word used in 2:5, and it carries the
notion of being highly aroused sexually.
The dream has now ended, but the powerful feeling of
repentance and separation the dream left behind causes Shulamith
to awaken, observe that Solomon is not beside her, and seek the
aid of the chorus in finding him. The effects of the dream were
so strong she remembers it as an actual experience.
Apparently, the dream has set her desires in motion, for she
awakens "lovesick." The chorus is to tell Solomon that Shulamith
deeply desires to make love with him. This would obviously be
inappropriate if the daughters of Jerusalem really existed. In
this case, this literary device enables Shulamith to express
herself when no one is there.
As she awakes, she realizes her husband is away on affairs
of state (Song 6:2-3). This causes her to reflect on the
understanding she had before she married Solomon. She had counted
the cost before they were married and had anticipated that
separation could be a problem; she was not caught by surprise.
Instead of reacting with bitterness or resentment, she
designed a creative alternative that would meet her needs as well
as Solomon's within the framework of life they had chosen. That
alternative partly involved periodic vacations in the country
It seems apparent there is an intentional contrast with the
dream of 3:1-4. In both dreams, Shulamith seeks her husband (3:3;
5:7). The first dream is just before the wedding night, and the
second dream is just after it.
In the first, she seeks her husband and finds him. In
Chapter 5:2-8, she searches only to be beaten by the night
In the dream of separation, we find Shulamith longing for
her husband; in the dream of love refused, the emphasis is on
taking her husband's sexual interest for granted. This contrast
serves to heighten the import of her rejection.
These passages illustrate that sexual adjustment is not
automatic. Too often young married couples think they will get
married and fall into bed and immediately experience a beautiful
sexual relationship. The Bible realistically portrays that such
is not always the case. One study revealed that marriage failures
due to sexual problems could be as high as 75 to 80 percent.4
Several common problems relating to sexual adjustment in
marriage are suggested here.
The following letter is written in jest, humorously exposing
the issue of rejection.
"To My Loving Wife"
During the past year I have tried to make love to you 365 times.
I have succeeded only 36 times; this is an average of once every
10 days. The following is a list of why I did not succeed more
It will wake the children ....27 times
It's too late .... ...........23 times
It's too hot .... ............16 times
It's too cold ................ 5 times
It's too early ...............15 times
Pretended to be asleep........46 times
neighbors will hear ..........9 times
Backache ....................26 times
Headache .............. ......18 times
Toothache ....................13 times
Giggles .......................6 times
Not in the mood.............. 36 times
Too full ... .........:.......10 times
Baby is crying ...............17 times
Watched late TV show .........17 times
I watched late TV show .......15 times
Mud Pack .....................11 times
Company in next room .........11 times
You had to
go to the bathroom ...........19 times
TOTAL ........................329 times
During the 36 times I did succeed, the activity was not entirely
satisfactory due to the following:
1. Six times you chewed gum during the whole time.
2. Seven times you watched TV the whole time.
3. Sixteen times you told me to hurry up and get it over with.
4. Six times I tried to wake you to tell you we were through.
5. One time I was afraid I had hurt you for I felt you move.
Honey, it's no wonder I'm so irritable!
YOUR LOVING HUSBAND
This letter reveals that "rejection" can be both physical
and psychological. It is just as much rejection of your mate to
seem passively uninvolved as it is to actively reject. I read of
one lady who gives her husband a check list of things she wants
done around the house every Saturday morning. If he does
everything on the list, he gets a "reward" Saturday night. Talk
about rejection! That is psychological rejection. Note the
command of Scripture:
The husband should fulfil his married duty to his wife, and
likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong
to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the
husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his
wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for
a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come
together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your
lack of self-control (1 Cor.7:305).
The Word here is quite strong. It is sin to reject your
mate's sexual interests (actively or passively). This may seem
harsh, but extensive counselling in numerous situations have
borne this out in my experience. I have heard some of the most
involved and sincere reasons for rejecting one's mate physically,
but when we eventually got to the root of it, there was generally
a problem of selfishness and sin somewhere.
This passage gives only three conditions lawful under God
for a married couple to abstain from regular sexual relations.
(1) When there has been mutual consent
(2) When it is only for a short period of time, and
(3) When the purpose is to devote oneself to prayer.
In the above letter, numerous excuses were offered for
rejection, but prayer wasn't on the list. I don't know of anyone
who has offered that reason to his mate!
In this passage, Shulamith rejects her husband but the
reverse situation is also common. The notion that men are always
the ones interested in sex and women don't have a great need is
not well-supported by recent studies. Miles, in a survey of 150
Christian couples, asked, "How often would you like to have
intercourse and orgasms if you could have this experience every
time you really wanted to?" The husbands replied they would like
it every 2.7 days (average), and the wives every 3.2 days.5
Thus, there is virtually no difference revealed in this
particular study. In fact, up until the modern era, it was women
who were considered to have the greater sexual appetites.6
It is interesting that throughout the Song of Solomon and in
1 Cor.7 there seems to be an underlying assumption that there is
no real difference in the sexual needs or drives between men and
women. As far as the Bible speaks to the issue, a woman's need is
viewed as equal with a man's.
There are significant differences in psychological outlook,
timing, and other factors, but the capacity and desire for sex is
Shulamith's rejection of solomon raises the question of
One woman sputtered with defiant frustration to a
counsellor, "Why my husband is so oversexed he would insist on
making love to me at least twice a month if I'd let him."
The couples Miles interviewed revealed they enjoyed
intercourse to orgasm an average of 3.3 times per week.
However, these statistics are really quite meaningless to a
specific couple's situation. The issue is what is appropriate for
your unique relationship and not some "national average."
Based on 1 Cor. 7:3-5, Shirley Rice gives these dangers of
rejecting your mate's sexual initiatives.
(1) Your fellowship with the Lord is in jeopardy because it
is a sin to violate a command of Scripture.
(2) You relationship with your mate can be damaged or
(3) You will perhaps tempt your mate to adultery through the
resulting anger and frustration.8
One reason so many men appear to be obsessed with sex is
because they get so little of it from their wives. If a man has
not eaten in five days, every time he passes the refrigerator
food is all he can think about. Like food, sex isn't the most
important thing in life, but if you are not totally available, it
can become an obsession to your husband.
(The modern science fact is that men have about 10 TIMES more the
sexual hormone than women. Surveys show that men think about sex
about every one minute, while women about twice a day. One woman
was given by mistake the male sex hormone that put her on the
level of sexuality as the average man. She exclaimed, "How do men
manage to function in the work-a-day world of women around them,
having been given the male sex hormone by mistake, I could only
think of sex, sex, sex, all day long!" - Keith Hunt)
The reason for Shulamith's lack of sexual interest is simply
that she was tired and already in bed. In a recent survey by
Christian Family Life, 10 percent of the women indicated their
number one sexual problem was tiredness.9 It is quite likely a
much higher percentage would have listed tiredness had the
question included the first, second, and third major problems.
There are times a wife will be exhausted because of sick
children, etc., and will perhaps be unable to climax. But as one
loving wife put it, "she can still glory in pleasing her
husband." If you are too tired to make love, there is nothing at
all wrong with occasionally saying, "Honey, I just don't think I
can climax tonight, but I'd love to make you happy." Then take
him in your arms, give yourself to him, and whisper in his ear
that you love him and are thrilled you can give him pleasure.
Furthermore, he should not be made to feel selfish if he
makes such a request. You are not being "used" when you respond
in this way (unless he makes a regular habit of it). You are
showing your self-giving love. Can't you just enjoy being in his
arms? There is no rule that a wife must reach orgasm every time.
The central issue in sexual love is not having an orgasm; rather
it is sharing mutual love.
Obviously, this kind of response would be a normal response
in a vital and healthy marriage. However, if there are complex
communication barriers, this response could seem foreign.
The Problem of Late-Night Sex
Solomon's late-night approach leaves much to be desired.
Likewise, the late-night approach of many twentieth century
husbands could stand some variation. Consider the following
Typical Elmer, the average American husband, comes home from
work just about the same way he left that morning - sparkling
conversation, amorous embrace and all. He enters, nods briefly to
the kids, grunts to his wife, ask if there was anything in the
mail and then lets his mind be stimulated by blankly staring at
the six o'clock news. "Shhhh," his wife says to the children,
"don't make any noise. Daddy is trying to watch TV."
At exactly the right time, his wife tiptoes into the TV room and
says, "Dear, dinner is ready." (Elmer gets very upset when his
dinner isn't ready on time.) He shares the latest moves in the
office games, and she describes the latest neighborhood gossip
and the children's misbehaviors, Wow! Exciting evening! Elmer
burps his way through dinner and then leaves his wife to clean up
the kitchen, diaper the kids, do the laundry, vacuum the house,
write letters to his parents, and she falls asleep totally
exhausted about nine-thirty. In the meantime, Elmer dozes off in
front of "Tuesday Night at the Movies."
Suddenly, about 1:00 AM the "Star-Spangled Banner" jolts
Elmer awake. He turns off the TV set, runs for his trusty
javelin, dons his Roman toga, puts on a crown of ivy leaves,
crashes into the bedroom and shouts, "Let the games begin." Elmer
wants "play-time" before he goes "nite-nite" And of course she's
supposed to be aroused and excited. Being very considerate,
Elmer may even give her sixty seconds before "favoring" her with
his "let's get down to business" virility. Good old hard-working
Elmer just cant understand why his wife isn't passionately
responding to his every initiative!
And even if she submits to her 1:00 A.M. husband with his
spur-of-the-moment big ideas, she isn't likely to throw herself
into it with the greatest of ardor.10
Elmer is typical of many men who never seem to give their
wives any attention until they want sex late at night. They
demonstrate absolutely no involvement in their wives' problems or
in their lives except when they are physically aroused.
Page Williams cites a humorous conversation he had with a
little boy. He had asked the little lad what his dad did for a
living, and the boy replied, "He watches." Williams asked, "You
mean he is a night watchman?" "Oh, no," the little boy exclaimed,
"He just watches." "Well, what does he watch?" Williams asked.
"I don't know if I can tell you everything," he continued "I can
name a few things." "Well, tell me," Williams replied.
"He watches TV, he watches Mom do the housework he watches for
the paperboy, he watches the weather, and I think he watches
girls, too," he said, with an impish grin on his face. "He
watches the stock market, football games, all the sports, he
watches mother spank us, and he watches us do our homework. He
watches us leave to go to church and PTA and shopping. He watches
my brother mow the lawn, and he watches me rake. He watches my
sister clean up the dirty dishes, and he watches me play with my
dog. He watches Mom pay the bills. He watches me a lot - but
mainly he just watches," said the little fellow, with a note of
sadness in his voice.
If you are a "typical Elmer" or a "watcher" don't expect
much of a response sexually from your wife.
(YES, IT IS TIME MEN GOT A LIFE, AS THEY SAY, AND GOT TO KNOW
WHAT GOD WANTS A MAN TO BE IN THE HOME, AND SEXUALLY WITH THEIR
WIVES. THERE ARE BOOKS UPON BOOKS TODAY ON THE NITTY-GRITTY OF
BEING A REAL MAN - A MAN OF GOD, BOTH IN THE PHYSICAL REALM AND
THE SPIRITUAL REALM, AND BEING THE RIGHT KIND OF LEADER IN THE
HOME. TIME MEN TO TURN OFF THE TV AND GET OFF YOUR BACK-SIDE AND
PITCH IN WITH ALL THE DUTIES THAT MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN DEMAND -
Solomon may not have been a "watcher," but he definitely
needed some instruction on some appropriate times to approach his
wife. I don't know if anyone has made a study of it, but my guess
is that 90 percent or more of the times most couples make love
are late at night after everything is done. They've eaten a full
meal, cleaned up the kitchen, read the newspaper, helped the
children with homework, discussed the family budget and stared
blankly at the tube for three hours. Then they fall into bed for
five or ten minutes of "ho-hum" sex followed immediately by
snoring. After several years of this, sex "is just not that
important to us." The vitality and spark of their sexual love is
A gynecologist in Houston counsels young brides, "Never
under any circumstances make love to your husband after 7:00 at
night" This is an exaggeration, but Solomon could have profited
from this information.
A late-night routine can kill sexual love. While many
lovemaking experiences can "just happen," some of the most
meaningful often are pre-planned. A phone call to your wife
letting her know you love her and would like to set the evening
aside for making love will go a long way toward getting her in
the mood. A lingering good-bye kiss in the morning lets her know
how much you'd rather stay home with her than go to work, and
goes miles toward setting up an interesting evening.
While it's true Solomon was inconsiderate in his approach,
her reaction is inspiring. Instead of sitting around feeling
resentful, accusing him of wanting to "use her," and turning off
sexually, she begins to work on her attitudes and actions. In
Song 5:9-6:3 we see a decisive change of attitude, and in Song
7:1-13 we see a decisive change of action.
1. Otto Zockler, "The Song of Song" (Lange's s Commentary, 12
Vols; Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1960), V 103.
2.Ibid., V, 103.
3. S.Craig Glickman, " Song for Lovers" (Downers Grove: Inter-
Verity, 1976), p. 63.
4. "Dallas Times Herald," Nov.12, 1973, p.6-B.
5. Herbert Miles, "Sexual Happiness, in Marriage" (Grand Rapids:
Zondevan, 1967), p.137.
6 Professor N. Junks, "Sex and Love Today" (New York: Vala,
7. Miles, p.137.
8. Shirley Rice, "Physical Unity in Marriage" (Norfolk:
Tabernacle Church of Norfolk, 7120 Granby St., Norfolk, Va.
23505, 19731, p.7-8.
9. Survey compiled by Christian Family Life, 9210 Markville,
Dallas, Texas, 75231.
10. This illustration was adapted from a book by Lois Bird,
Doubleday, Inc. Pub.
11. H. Page Williams, "Do Yourself A Favor, Love Your Wife"
(Plainfield: Logos International, 1973), p.5.
To be continued with "Solving Sexual Problems"
Entered on this Website August 2007