The bridal procession, the wedding and the groom’s wedding speech

VoiceNarrative
Female companions3:6 Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?
Male companions3:7 Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.
3:8 They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.
3:9 King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.
3:10 He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.
Bride3:11 Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.
Groom4:1 Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
4:2 Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
4:3 Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
4:4 Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
4:5 Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
4:6 Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
4:7 Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.

This fifth song, as with the previous song, finds its setting in the night. It describes 60 valiant men, all with swords (3:7), providing protection “because of fear in the night” (3:8). In 4:6 we have, repeated, the words of 2:6, speaking of a new day about to dawn, which will cause the shadows of the night “to flee away”.

The setting for this song is also “in the wilderness”. The scene opens with the groom and the bride being conveyed towards their companions. There are several groups of companions. The first group are the “daughters of Zion” (3:11) who, upon noticing the bride ask, “Who is she?” The second group are the male companions of the groom who, upon seeing him, describe the 60 valiant men who are ready to defend the couple. These companions also describe in detail the royal carriage used for their conveyance (Psa 45:3-15).

We are told that this carriage contains a bed, pillars (or columns) of silver, a base of gold, coverings of purple and a “midst” (or an interior) paved with love (3:10). All these symbols are well known to us; silver is a symbol of redemption; gold a symbol of tried faith; purple a symbol of royalty. In verse 9 this vehicle is described as “a chariot” and, although this is the only occurrence of the Hebrew word, it basically refers to a “carriage” or a “palanquin”. As a chariot, it reminds us of the cherubim in which the Spirit rides on in judgment. Of the cherubim, Bro Thomas in Phanerosis says that “it is derived from the root rachav, to ride” and in Eureka he suggests that it means “to waste, to destroy, from which comes, kherev, a sword”. Both definitions are so appropriate here. The carriage is conveying the royal couple to Zion and they feel secure with the protection of 60 valiant men who are there to defend them and to destroy any enemy with their swords.

The daughters of Zion (v11) see the palanquin coming towards them from the wilderness. This journey is equivalent to the march of the Rainbowed Angel in the book of Revelation, in which Christ journeys with his multitudinous bride from Sinai into the Holy Place, ready to subjugate the nations with “wonders … blood and fire, and pillars of smoke” (v6; Joel2:30). The wilderness was the place where Yahweh first took Israel for His bride (Jer 31:32). It was where John, as the friend of the bridegroom, introduced Jesus to the nation crying, “in the wilderness prepare ye the way of Yahweh” (Isa 40:3; John 3:29); and it is the place where our characters are currently being developed so that we may learn to live by the word of Yahweh (cp Deut 8:3-4).

The groom in this scene is identified as Solomon in verses 7, 9, and 11. His name is not mentioned again until the last song in 8:11. Why Solomon? Not only was he the author of these songs but he is depicted in Scripture as the quintessence of glory and wisdom. As his name suggests, he was the king of peace, typical of the greater than Solomon (Matt 6:29; 12:42). The bride, on the other hand, is addressed later as the Shulamite, which is the feminine form of Solomon (6:13). This is because she takes her husband’s name. It is interesting to note that this fifth song closely parallels Psalm 45 – a psalm which describes Solomon’s marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter.

Once again, the basis of this scene is love, because the attention of the daughters of Jerusalem is drawn to the royal carriage “paved with love”. This love provides protection from every fear the bride faces in the night (3:8). She believes that the Lord is her helper and therefore she will not fear what man can do unto her (cp Heb 13:6).

The virgins, now addressed as the “daughters of Zion”, are instructed to behold the king, now crowned on the day of his “espousal” (or as the RSV renders it, “on the day of his wedding”).

As we progress through the songs, we will find that the distinction between betrothal and marriage is not clearly defined. This would explain why the wedding itself seems out of sequence with later songs. In our western society, courting, engagement, and marriage are clear, sequential, and progressive steps. These distinctions are less apparent in a Jewish relationship, where betrothal was seen as almost equivalent in many ways to marriage.

The groom is there ready to describe the beauty of his bride in his wedding speech. It is a wonderful eulogy, given by the beloved about his “fair one”. He describes her in detail this time (4:1-7), in terms that equate her with doves, goats, sheep, and scarlet – all wonderful symbols describing her beautiful spiritual character and comely speech.

In one expression she is likened to “a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead” (4:1). This description is repeated in 6:5. Gilead was famous for its herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. It is the place in the future age where Israel will dwell in security and abundance (Mic 7:14, Zech 10:10). In this place, the bride’s soul will be satisfied (Jer 50:19).

Everything about her is fair and beautiful. Her intelligence (eyes), speech (teeth and lips), her mind (temples), her strength against the enemy (neck), and her capacity to nourish (breasts). The similes and metaphors present a woman in all her spiritual fruitfulness and beauty.

You will also note the frequent reference to incense and spices in 4:6. We have come across this language on a number of occasions in these songs. These olfactory delights are another metaphor for an activity that delights the Father. In this case, the hyperbole of a “mountain of myrrh” and a “hill of frankincense” are used to make the point. What better description of an acceptable offering can there be than for one that is accepted as a sweet-smelling savour (cp Gen 8:21)?

You may wonder why there is another somewhat similar description of the bride given in the seventh song in 6:4-7. This is where it is essential to recall that in the first six songs, we are dealing with the Jewish bride and in the last six songs, we move to the Gentile bride (refer to the table in Part 1 of the series in Lampstand Vol 23 No 4). The similarity in description is to indicate that the character of the bride, whether Jew or Gentile, does not change.

So beautiful is this bride in the eyes of her beloved that he concludes this song with the wonderful words: “Thou art fair my love, there is no spot in thee”. Here is another wonderful example of how the songs are integrated within the rest of Scripture. Just as the groom has brought his wife to himself and found her to be “without spot,” so Paul encourages husbands to present their wives to Christ “as a glorious ecclesia, not having spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27).

(to be continued)