The woman tells her friends about a midnight rendezvous she once had with her lover. The chapter ends with a glorified description of King Solomon.
The woman is glorified in v. 6: “Who is she that comes up from the desert Like columns of smoke, In clouds of myrrh and frankincense, Of all the powders of the merchant?”
III. Important Verses
vv. 1-4: Upon my couch at night I sought the one I love — I sought, but found him not. “I must rise and roam the town, Through the streets and through the squares; I must seek the one I love.” I sought but found him not. I met the watchmen Who patrol the town. “Have you seen the one I love?” Scarcely had I passed them When I found the one I love. I held him fast, I would not let him go Till I brought him to my mother’s house, To the chamber of her who conceived me.
v. 11: O maidens of Zion, go forth And gaze upon King Solomon Wearing the crown that his mother Gave him on his wedding day, On his day of bliss.
1-4. The woman seeks and finds her lover
5. Lesson about love (enigmatic)
6-11. Solomon’s procession
Chapter 3 contains two distinct sections. The first section is a narrative in which the female describes a nighttime search for her lover (vv. 1-4), and the second is a song in praise of King Solomon (vv. 6-11). The two sections are divided by v. 5, which is identical to 2:7 and related to 5:8. In terms of structure, the chapter contains many repetitions. For example, both of the words biqqeish “search” and metza’ah “find” appear four times in the first four verses, and Solomon’s name is mentioned three times (vv. 7, 9, and 11).
Vv. 1-2 begin a description of the woman’s search for her lover: “Upon my couch at night I sought the one I love — I sought, but found him not. ‘I must rise and roam the town, Through the streets and through the squares; I must seek the one I love.’ I sought but found him not.” The woman goes on to describe how she finds her lover and brings him to her mother’s house: “I met the watchmen Who patrol the town. ‘Have you seen the one I love?’ Scarcely had I passed them When I found the one I love. I held him fast, I would not let him go Till I brought him to my mother’s house, To the chamber of her who conceived me” (vv. 3-4). These verses seem to relate how an unmarried woman (she is living with her mother) brings her lover into her home, ostensibly for sexual purposes. This poses a problem for commentators who would like the book’s heroine to have more self-control. Some, like Hakham, interpret this entire episode to be a dream (apparently for this reason). He writes (p. 26, translation my own): “While the woman spoke of real events in the previous song, here she speaks about what happened to her in a dream… Everything happens quickly, as is fitting for a dream.” Yet, while this approach solves the “moral problem” of an unmarried girl enjoying a sexual rendezvous with her lover, it must be pointed out that there is no textual support for this episode being a dream.
After relating her story, the woman addresses the “Maidens of Jerusalem” in v. 5: “I adjure you, O maidens of Jerusalem, By gazelles or by hinds of the field: Do not wake or rouse Love until it please!” (cf. 2:7, 5:8) What is she telling them? While he admits that this phrase isn’t clear, Hakham gives three interpretations in regards to the oath: (1) the friends shouldn’t curse her for her dreams, (2) the friends shouldn’t try to uproot her love, (3) the friends shouldn’t fall in love with her lover. Garrett thinks the woman is speaking to her friends about their virginity. He writes (p. 175): “[She admonishes] her friends to hold on to their virginity until they are certain that the proper time has come. The parallel event, Song 5:2–8, describes not her anxiety over the loss of her virginity but the event itself. The message of Song 3:1–5 appears to be that the virgin who has not faced the emotions of this issue prior to her wedding night is not prepared for marriage.”
The second part of the chapter speaks about King Solomon and his procession, and many scholars believe that section is a wedding song. Garrett writes (p. 182) that the “marriage of a man and woman is here represented as an event that is both regal and divine. Of themselves, the man and woman are ordinary mortals, but the ceremonial bringing of the bride to the groom exalts both of them to the status of royalty.” That is why Solomon (i.e. the groom) is mentioned and glorified. Also, note that in v. 11 we find the only explicit mention of a wedding in the entire book: “O maidens of Zion, go forth And gaze upon King Solomon Wearing the crown that his mother Gave him on his wedding day, On his day of bliss.”
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Hakham, Chamesh Megillot: Shir Hashirim (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])
Garrett, Song of Songs (Word Biblical Commentary)
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