The Bible’s Song of Love
Verse by verse through the Song of Songs
All references RV unless otherwise specified
CAC refers to “An outline of the Song of Songs” by C.A. Coates
1:1 The book opens with a sub‑title "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s." The Hebrew writers of the Old Testament often intensified the meaning of their words by repetition. Thus we read of "the holy of holies" (Exo.40:10 mar.) or "the heaven of heavens." (1 Kings 8:27) So it is with this gem of the Hebrew scriptures—it is not just a song—it is the Song of Songs. As one writer has pointed out: "The mystic union (of Christ and His Church) is involved in attributing the Song to Solomon— the antitypical Christ—for it is uttered mutually by Christ and by His Church but is attributed to him, the Head only." "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." (Eph.5:32 KJV)
PART 1–CHAPTERS 1:2‑2:7
1:2 The maiden opens the song with a soliloquy as she meditates upon her Beloved. Like Mary at the Sepulchre she is so wholly engrossed with the thoughts of her Beloved that she does not explain of whom she speaks. "LET HIM KISS ME WITH THE KISSES OF HIS MOUTH" she says, thus telling in the language of love how the words of Jesus come to His faithful followers. The Psalmist foretold this loving adoration in the words "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips" (Psa.45:2) but the prophet Isaiah foretold that the multitude would say "...he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Isa.53:2 KJV) and so to the multitude He spoke in parables but to His own His words are as intimate kisses of affection. "...he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21)
"It would seem strange if we knew about the love of Christ, and did not desire some personal token of it...The tokens of His love are asked for on the ground that they are valued." (C.A.C.*) "FOR THY LOVE IS BETTER THAN WINE."
The Song is a book of symbols of which the maiden’s reference to kisses and wine are the first two. Wine in scripture is a symbol of doctrine. (See Matt.9:17; Isa.28:7) Here the maiden speaks in the spirit of the Apostle Paul’s words "Knowledge" (of doctrine) "puffeth up, but love buildeth up." (1 Cor.8:1 mar.) This does not minimise the value of sound doctrine; in fact in Chap.2 verse 4, the maiden is brought to "the banqueting house" but her satisfaction is not in the wine "that maketh glad the heart" (Psalm 104:15) but rather in His love. Are we content with the wine of doctrine or do we value something better—the love of Him who has provided the feast? Those who love Him and His appearing (2 Tim.4:8) have the assurance of our Lord that they will be well served with doctrine. "Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and shall come and serve them." (Luke 12:37)
1:3 But our Lord does more than serve His loved ones. He brings with Him what can only be described as spiritual fragrance and so the maiden recognises a fragrant quality in the symbol of our Lord’s anointing and also in His name. "THINE OINTMENTS" (i.e. anointing oil) "HAVE A GOODLY FRAGRANCE" she says, "THY NAME IS AS OINTMENT" (Anointing Oil) "POURED FORTH."
In Isa.11:3 we read a prophecy concerning our Lord which in the literal Hebrew means "and his fragrance shall be in the fear of Jehovah" (see RV mar.). His name—Christ—means anointed–for "Thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." (Psa.45:7) "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" quoted our Lord "because he anointed me to preach good tidings." And elsewhere we read that "All...wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of His mouth." (Luke 4:18,22)
A perfume poured forth yields up all its fragrance for enjoyment. The seal of the casket containing the perfume that was to fill heaven and earth with its fragrance was fully broken on Calvary—the culmination of a fragrant life on earth. After Pentecost the name "Messiah" (which also means anointed) which had been shut up among the Jews streamed forth over all the world. This fragrance which is so dear to His loved ones is as ointment poured forth, the odour of which fills the whole household of faith.
The anointing oil, poured upon the Head, flows over the whole Body. (Psa.133) The original was most precious and costly–"For you therefore which believe is the preciousness" (1 Pet.2:7) of sweet odour—"Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odour of a sweet smell." (Eph.5:2) It was compounded of a variety of spices–"Christ Jesus...was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor.1:30) Nothing was to be made like it–"and in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) "THEREFORE" or for this cause, "DO THE VIRGINS LOVE THEE." "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear." The fragrant name of the anointed is appreciated and loved by all sincere believers,—by both wise and foolish virgins—by the espoused and also by "the virgins her companions that follow her..." (Psa.45:14)
1:4 With deep earnestness the maiden then says to her Lord "DRAW ME." Our Lord told us that it is the Father who draws us to Jesus but the maiden’s request has a different meaning. Literally it should read "Draw me out." Thus she expresses her need of Christ to draw her out of the entangling influences of the world, but, not content that this should apply to her alone, she adds "WE WILL RUN AFTER THEE." "As a forerunner Jesus entered for us." (Heb.6:20) The running is ours; the power to run is Christ’s. "...even so run, that ye may attain" (1 Cor.9:24) "...forgetting the things which are behind...press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil.3:13,14) Christ can draw us out of "the sin which doth closely cling to us" so that we may "run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith." (Heb.12:1,2 mar) But we are permitted not only to follow after but to "sit with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus," (Eph.2:6) and so the maiden says "THE KING HATH BROUGHT ME INTO HIS CHAMBERS."
Her words "WE WILL BE GLAD AND REJOICE IN THEE" anticipate our Lord’s promise that the treasuring of His words will ensure that "my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fulfilled." (John 15:10,11 & John 16:24) The maiden then goes on to emphasise the love of Him who "first loved us." A more literal translation of the next phrase reads "WE WILL MAKE MENTION OF THY LOVE MORE THAN OF WINE."
"Let love be without hypocrisy" says the Apostle. (Rom.12:9) This same thought is embodied in the closing phrase of this verse "IN UPRIGHTNESS DO THEY LOVE THEE." (mar.) "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." (Eph.6:24 KJV)
1:5 Every devoted follower of the Lord must feel as the maiden "I AM BLACK," but, realising that all who belong to Him partake of the inner beauty of His spirit, she adds "BUT (I am) COMELY, O YE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM, AS THE TENTS OF KEDAR"—dark and weather‑beaten on the outside but often luxurious within—or–"AS THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON" which hung in glorious beauty in the House of the Lord. Of himself Paul could say "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given." (Eph.3:8) "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves." (2 Cor.4:7) "So shall the King... desire thy beauty: for...the King’s daughter is all glorious within." (Psa.45:11,13 KJV)
1:6 "LOOK NOT UPON ME, BECAUSE I AM SWARTHY, BECAUSE THE SUN HATH SCORCHED ME. MY MOTHER’S SONS WERE INCENSED AGAINST ME, THEY MADE ME KEEPER OF THE VINEYARDS: BUT MINE OWN VINEYARD HAVE I NOT KEPT." The searching rays of the sunlight of God’s word make us sensible of our own lack of comeliness but, as if that is not enough, we are warned that we may expect heated criticism from others of the Lord’s family. As the Psalmist said with sorrow "...it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it...but it was thou… We took sweet counsel together, and walked into the house of God in company." (Psa.55:12‑14 KJV)
How often others in a mistaken zeal soon find activities for believers— other vineyards to cultivate—whereas the consecrated Christian should cultivate his own vineyard. "Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." (2 Pet.1:10) "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil.2:12)
1:7 The followers of the Lord are concerned to break free from those who would keep them away from communion with Jesus and so the maiden addresses her Beloved again "TELL ME," she says, "O THOU WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH, WHERE THOU FEEDEST THY FLOCK, WHERE THOU MAKEST IT TO REST AT NOON: FOR WHY SHOULD I BE AS ONE THAT IS VEILED BESIDE THE FLOCKS OF THY COMPANIONS?" Some might feel that they are near enough if they are beside the flock of His companions. Are we content to be beside some earnest and devoted servant of Christ or do we share the Apostle’s earnest desire "That I may know Him?" (Phil.3:8‑10)
1:8 The Bridegroom’s response invites her to effort. "IF THOU KNOW NOT, O THOU FAIREST AMONG WOMEN, GO THY WAY FORTH BY THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE FLOCK". "Seek and ye shall find." We are not to expect some new and extraordinary direction—we are to "Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." (Jer.6:16) "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know..." said our Lord for "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:4,6 KJV)
Then comes the further guidance "...FEED THY KIDS BESIDE THE SHEPHERDS’ TENTS." We are to be "imitators of them" (the shepherds) "who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb.6:12) or, as the Apostle advises "Be ye imitators together of me, and mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an ensample" (Phil.3:17) The maiden is also told to "feed thy kids." Christ is most likely to be found by us when we are diligently attending to the charge committed to us—to be found in actual duty as well as private devotion.
1:9 But all this is of grace and abounding love and so our Lord does not merely point the way, He gives us confidence to draw nearer to Him and so the Bridegroom encourages the maiden with the words "I HAVE COMPARED THEE, O MY LOVE, TO A STEED IN PHARAOH’S CHARIOTS." The beauty of the horse suggests a comparison strange to western minds but it is frequently used in Oriental poetry where it is intended to express the highest praise. Thus we can say that in the eyes of our Beloved Lord His true followers have beauty of grace (derived from "the beauty of holiness" Psa.96:9) and a liveliness of spirit (based on "a lively hope" 1 Pet.1:3 KJV). Moreover, as the courage and endurance of horses is implied by the frequent references in scripture to their being used in battle, so His followers will have courage and endurance (for "the LORD is my strength and my shield"—Psa.28:7). Just as the horses trained to draw a king’s chariot must be obedient, in subjection, and harmonious and united in action, so does our Lord look for such qualities in His own ("bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ"—2 Cor.10:5).
"It is a feature in this book...that the King does not speak of the beauty which He sees in her until it has manifested itself. It is her capacity to appreciate His excellence and peerless worth that makes her attractive to Him. And His expressions of love follow upon the expression of hers...it is a discriminating love which is attracted by lovable features in its object." (C.A.C.)
1:10 To the maiden her checks are black but to her Lord, "THY CHEEKS ARE COMELY WITH PLAITS OF HAIR, THY NECK WITH STRINGS OF JEWELS." Her neck is no longer burdened with the yoke of Satan but adorned with the chains of heavenly wisdom (Prov.1:9) "as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." (Isa.61:10) Believers are made comely as God said of Israel "perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee." (Ezek.16:14 KJV)