Most Beautiful of Women - 1v8-14 - 16th December 2001
Song of Solomon 1v8-14
The Most Beautiful of Women
Continue to listen to the reflections of the bride to be as she contemplates her wedding. She glories in her lover.
1. The Path of Duty v8
2. In Praise of Beauty v9-11
Is the Lover speaking
a. The Best v9
1:9. mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. A tactic of battle attested in Egyptian literature was to release a mare in the vicinity of the chariots so that the stallions pulling the chariots would become distracted and confused. The word “harnessed” (niv) does not occur in the Hebrew text.
b. Appealing v10
1 Timothy 2:9-10
9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
16 The Lord says,
“The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
tripping along with mincing steps,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles.
17 Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion;
the Lord will make their scalps bald.”
18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces,19 the ear-rings and bracelets and veils,20 the head-dresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms,21 the signet rings and nose rings,22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses.
“However much grace the Church may have received and may exhibit, Christ has more to bestow, to make her more acceptable to himself” W J Cameron quoted by Stuart Olyott – A Lord Worth Loving – Evangelical Press – 1986
c. Special Jewels v11
17 “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.
1:11. earrings of gold studded with silver. As in Proverbs 25:11 the biblical writer uses the image of a finely crafted piece of precious jewelry to demonstrate devotion and affection. In this case the earrings probably had pendants of silver or studs embedded in the gold setting
3. Loving Desire v12-14
a. Fellowship v12
b. Intimacy v13
1:13. sachet of myrrh. Myrrh bushes grow in the arid region just north of the coastal mountains of Yemen and Oman in the rain shadow of the southwest monsoon. The reddish myrrh resin, extracted by gashing the thorny stems and exposing the inner bark, appears as juicy drupes. It was crushed for use in making perfume or as a medicinal ingredient. Its natural fragrance, somewhat like turpentine, was long-lasting enough to be placed in a sachet to enhance sexual pleasure or serve as an aromatic mask to the odors often present in ancient homes. Pouches worn around the neck containing various elements were worn as amulets in Egypt.
c. The Best v14
1:14. henna blossoms. Henna is a flowering shrub, Lawsonia inermis L., with fragrant white blossoms. It grows in many areas of the Middle East, and has been discovered in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamen. The leaves and twigs produce a red, yellow or orange dye that can be used to color the hair and other parts of the body. Their fragrance is similar to roses.
1:14. En Gedi. This is an oasis located thirty-five miles southeast of Jerusalem and nestled within a ravine on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The name means “spring of the young goat,” and the excavation of the fourth-millennium temple within its precincts attests the antiquity of its refreshing character. In this metaphor the peculiar location of the oasis between the ridges of the surrounding hills makes it an apt parallel to the sachet of myrrh and the bouquet of henna blossoms between the “beloved’s” breasts.
We must love the Lord as he loves us.
Sexual Metaphor The explicit nature of portions of the Song of Songs may be a bit shocking to some readers. However, metaphorical erotic literature was not uncommon in the ancient Near East, as is seen especially in Egyptian Love Songs. Fertility was a major issue for the people of these cultures, since their lives revolved and relied upon the harvest. Most of their religious festivals and holidays centered on the agricultural calendar, and it was an easy step to employ these images of plowing, seeding, cultivation and harvest to human relations. As a result, the sexual metaphors that appear in the text express the high emotions of a loving couple, who find it difficult to be separated and who in sometimes flamboyant terms describe each other’s merits and beauty. It would be impossible in the light of their passion to speak in anything other than sensuous and intimate terms.
There is a celebration of life here, both in the natural world and amongst humans. So when the “beloved” speaks of her lover as being graceful as a gazelle, leaping over hills (2:17) and thus demonstrating his energy and athletic skills, it is easy to enter into her passionate realm. He equates her with all that is beautiful, “a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots” (1:19), with eyes like doves (1:15; 4:1) and lips a “scarlet ribbon” (4:3). She in turn describes him as a fragrant sachet of myrrh worn around her neck and close to her heart (1:13–14). Such comparison masks the thorns of everyday life and for a time restores a sense of the idyllic essence of Eden.
Most English translations disguise some of the most blatant erotic imagery with euphemism and metaphor, as is appropriate considering the poetic nature of the literature and the need to preserve a certain propriety for a general audience.