Second Song: 1:9–2:7

The groom and bride exchange messages of mutual adoration

Groom1:9 I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.
1:10 Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
Female companions1:11 We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.
Bride1:12 While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
1:13 A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
1:14 My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyard of Engedi.
Groom1:15 Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.
Bride1:16 Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. 1:17 The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
2:1 I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
Groom2:2 As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
Bride2:3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
2:4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
2:5 Stay me with agons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
2:6 His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
2:7 I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir
not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

In the first song, the groom was not present. In this second song, the courtship of the espoused couple continues. The groom “sitteth at his table” (1:12) whilst the bride is in the palace garden, the banqueting house (2:4). It appears that they cannot communicate directly with each other; they can only send messages.

In the first message, the groom compares his bride with the beauty and majesty of an Egyptian chariot horse; a mare. The horse was known for strength and fearlessness in the face of the enemy ( Job 39:19-25; Psa 33:17). The Egyptians were noted for being one of the best horse breeding nations in the ancient world and for the groom to describe his bride as being harnessed to Pharaoh’s chariot would be to elevate her to becoming the best of the best.

He then comments on how comely are her cheeks and neck. The companions of the bride, on hearing the groom’s comment and being true to character (1:5), want to enhance her beauty, so they offer to furnish her with an ornament of gold and silver (1:11). The bride then muses about her beloved in the most delicate and affectionate terms while he, as the King, “sitteth at his table” (1:12-14). She makes special reference to spikenard, myrrh and camphire. She says: “while the king sitteth at his table my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof ” (1:12). Spikenard is the Hebrew word nerd. It is transliterated into the Greek and is only found in the New Testament in John 12:3 and Mark 14:3. It should be noted that the marginal comment found in Mark’s account refers to “pure nard” or nardos pistikos. The word “pure” is derived from the Greek word for faith. What Mary was doing was performing an outworking of her faith. She takes her spikenard and fills the house with “the odour of the ointment” ( John 12:3) and the next day Jesus is heralded as “the King of Israel” to shortly sit at “his table” with his disciples (Luke 22:21, 30). We have two women of faith, Mary and the bride, both of whom have gone down in history as a result of the odour of their spikenard. What a wonderful connection that faith brings.

While the songs use delicate language to describe the relationship between the bride and groom, it should be noted that in 1:13 Rotherham renders the “he” as “it”. Hence the ESV has: “My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts.” She places the “bundle” there to be reminded of her groom because myrrh was associated with his whole life. It was a gift at his birth; it was given to him on the cross and an overabundance of it was associated with his death (Matt 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39).

Then follows a further exchange of loving messages between the groom and the bride in 1:15-2:2. He says that she is beautiful with “doves’ eyes” (1:15). She replies that he is also beautiful of countenance and contemplates the matrimonial home they are yet to enjoy together. She then compares herself with the common wild flowers that appear: the “rose of Sharon”and the “lily of the valley”(2:1). The groom, continuing with the metaphor, responds that she is “as a lily among thorns” (2:2). He sees the beauty of other women as thorns in comparison to her beauty. She then concludes these exchanges comparing her beloved with “the apple tree” (2:3) and then muses about him to the “daughters of Jerusalem” (see v7).

In her concluding remarks, the bride speaks of his care and provision for her. She sits down under the apple tree, under the shadow of his wings (Psa 17:8, 63:7; Ruth 2:12) and is moved by the intensity of his love for her: “his banner over (her) was love” (2:4). In full realisation of this love she cannot help but reciprocate it. So strong is this love that she charges the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up and awake love until they are ready to delight in it and accept the commitment that it brings (2:7).

As was mentioned in the introduction to this series, we arrive at the first occurrence of these important charges. Each one concludes a song (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). To be the recipients of our Lord’s love we must be prepared to accept the “charge” and burden of the Truth which we promised to perform at our baptism. In the bride’s case, her love is so strong that she is faint at the very thought of him (2:5).

It is worth just meditating on her expressions. She is so moved by his love that it has made her “sick” or faint. We would say she becomes “weak at the knees” at the very thought of him. This is the intensity of her love. What of us? How do we view our Lord? What does he mean to us? Is he a living reality; one whom we love or is he merely a name in the Bible; a mere expression we use in our worship? Do we appreciate all that has been done for us? Although he benefitted from his obedience, never let us forget that he made the supreme sacrifice for us: “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”, and “ye are my friends” (John 15:13-14). As our Judge and Mercy Seat, he will return to remove all blemishes from the multitudinous bride. As our bridegroom, he will take to himself “his wife who hath made herself ready”(Rev 19:7). To this end, let us draw closer to him, so that we can enjoy sweet communion with him.

Though absent from her, the bride is with her beloved in spirit. He is the very centre of her life. She freely confesses her love, and has little time for anything else but her absent groom. Is that how we feel about our absent Lord?

(to be continued)