The groom’s call to “come away” and the bride’s response

Bride2:8 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
2:9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
2:10 My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Groom2:10 Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
2:11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
2:12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
2:13 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
2:14 O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Companions2:15 Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Bride2:16 My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
2:17 Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.

Having just expressed her unquestionable love for her beloved, the bride commences this third song by telling us that her beloved is coming. It is a scene of delight and animation. It is springtime. The gloom of winter is gone and the pristine beauty of new growth can be seen. There is joy and happiness. She hears his voice and sees him as a roe leaping upon the mountains and skipping upon the hills. The Hebrew word tsebiy is not only translated as ‘roe’ 14 times, it is also translated the same number of times as ‘glory’, ‘beauty’ or ‘pleasant’. How appropriate is the double meaning behind this word. When the groom finally comes to meet her, he is so delighted in her presence that he comes with the exuberance of a roe or a young hart, but she sees his glory and his beauty. Indeed, this groom is unique. In the words of John 1:14, “(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.”

She firstly gains a glimpse of him through an opening in the pavilion in the palace gardens. While there is no close contact as yet, she is delighted to hear his invitation to “come away”with him. This is the call to a new day. It has not yet arrived but the description he gives to her only increases her desire and adds to her great expectation of the joy that will come when the marriage takes place.

On one occasion she is in a house while her beloved shows himself through the lattice windows. On another occasion we find her as a dove nestling in the clefts of the rocks and taking refuge in secret hiding places amongst the terraces (2:14). Yet all the while he wants to see her countenance and hear her voice. The grey of winter is past and the joy of spring is bursting around them in the appearance of the wild flowers, the voice of singing and the new growth of the fig tree and the vine. In this fresh, fragrant setting she sees her beloved arriving with great vigour, leaping upon the mountains in his strength (2:8).

When he arrives he stands “behind our wall”. The Hebrew word is kothel and is only used in this place. Its Chaldean equivalent, however, is used to describe the wall of a palace (Ezra 5:8; Dan 5:5). The bride is part of the royal household and the groom is like a prince waiting without. He has come like a gazelle over the mountains bringing “good tidings” (Isa 52:10). He comes bearing good news for anyone who will listen and only those “in the house” are able to hear his voice. It is here, in the ecclesial house, where we can behold him (2:9). We see him; we know he is with us in spirit, yet we must await the time when we will be in his presence. Having been called, we are hidden with him in the ‘secret places’ or the hiding places of the heaven lies in Christ Jesus (Col3:3). We are just like the dove hiding in the cleft of the high rocks for security (2:14; Eph 2:6). Like the bride, we are no longer filled with doubts but keenly anxious to be in the presence of the groom when “the day breaks and the shadows flee away”.

This is a very moving scene that we would do well to reflect upon. The groom wants to “see [her] countenance, [to] hear [her] voice, for sweet is [her] voice, and [her] countenance is comely” (2:14). There are few words of scripture that are as touching as these. Can we appreciate that, as the antitypical bride, our Lord deems our voice to be “sweet” and our countenance “comely”? He wants to hear us. He wants us to come into his presence through prayer to the Father. He wants us to be heard on high. Have we ever thought that he would hold our relationship with himself in such endearing terms? It is one thing to know that he desires prayer; it is another to accept that when we do pray to the Father, our Lord yearns to hear our pleasant words!

The bride concludes this song with the picture of her beloved as “a roe or a young hart” feeding among the lilies. The lily or showshannah speaks of God’s care (Mat 6:28-34) and is referred to eight times in this book. It comes from a root meaning “to exult or rejoice”. While as watchmen awaiting the call, we remain in the “pavilion” (the ecclesia), and watch with concern as we witness the foxes spoiling the vines. These foxes destroy the vineyard and represent those who would undo the work of God. In NT times one such “fox” was Herod (Luke 13:32). He beheaded John the Baptist, knowing that it pleased the Jews. Whether it is the foxes in our Lord’s day or the ravening wolves that followed, we must be ever vigilant to protect the vines with their tender grapes.

The song concludes on a wistful note. The bride has heard the invitation to come away, but she knows that the present is dark and foreboding. She yearns for the day he has promised when the dawn will break forth and the shadows will retreat before his presence (2:17). She will not claim him for herself until he has accomplished his work as the roe upon the mountains of Bether (RSV: “upon the rugged mountains”; Young’s Literal Translation: “on the mountains of separation”).

What a wonderful privilege is ours, to be elevated in mind to the top of the craggy rocks, to be with our Lord upon the mountains of separation, to be there to witness the coming dawn when all the shadows will flee away (Col 3:1; 2 Cor 6:17).

(to be continued)