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Thursday, February 20, 2014

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Chapter 4 (and the first verse of chapter 5) portrays the wedding ceremony of Solomon and his bride.  Only in this chapter does Solomon call her “my bride” (verses 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; and 5:1).  Both bride and groom describe their lover’s beauty with exuberant praise, here and later in the Song (4:1–7, 8–15; 5:10–16; 6:4–10; 7:1–9), similar to the praise songs (called wasfs), in modern rural Syrian weddings.  The mutual descriptions of the beauty of the beloved do not always refer only to physical beauty, but also often portray admirable moral qualities of the lovers. Solomon’s description of his bride as “all fair. . .no spot in you” (verse 7) is alluded to by Paul in his description of Christ’s bride, the church (Ephesians 5:27).   

The imagery of the “locked garden” used of Solomon’s bride in verse 12 denotes virginity.  This indicates that at the time of the wedding she is still a virgin.  In the Song of Songs sexual intercourse between the lovers occurs only within the context of the marriage covenant.  This verse is a strong affirmation of abstinence from sex until after marriage.

Song 4:16 and 5:1 constitute the exact center and highpoint of the entire Song, with equal number of poetic lines on each side of these two verses. Here the bride invites her groom (Solomon) to come and partake of the fruits of her (now his!) garden (verse 16), and the groom accepts her invitation (5:1)—the equivalent of the public covenant-making ceremony, the marriage vows, and the invitation by the bride and acceptance by the groom to willingly complete their marriage covenant through sexual union. In the final part of 5:1 the authoritative Voice of God Himself pronounces a blessing upon the completion of the marriage union, just as He officiated and blessed by His presence the first Garden wedding in Eden (Genesis 2:22–24).

“Lord, we pray for our young people, that they may remain pure and save themselves for their marriage partner. Thank you, God, for affirming the beauty of married sexual love. Amen.”

Richard M. Davidson

Professor of Old Testament Interpretation

Andrews University Theological Seminary