There are a number of reasons which allow us to conclude that the twelve songs we are considering are divided into two groups of six songs each. The first reason relates to the change of atmosphere and mood. We move from the joy and excitement of the sixth song to one of melancholy and violence in the seventh song. This alone would suggest a break in the narrative.

We also find a change in circumstances. The groom is with his bride in the sixth song, but he is no longer with her in the seventh. The watchmen were caring in 3:3, but now they are cruel and sadistic in 5:7.

The companions are quite different, too. The companions in the first section have an intimate and empathetic knowledge of the bride and groom whilst the companions in the second part do not. They are depicted as enquirers; people who are seeking the truth concerning the uniqueness of the beloved (5:9).

There is also a noteworthy repetition in the description given of the bride and, in some cases, it is word for word. You will note this by comparing the fifth song (4:1-5) with the seventh song (6:4-9). The character of the bride, whether Jewish or Gentile, does not differ and the holiness reflected by the saints of all ages is consistent.

This second cycle of songs presents some difficulties in relation to the chronology of events. For example, it is difficult to state at which point in the songs the Lord returns, the groom and bride marry and the kingdom is ushered into being. This difficulty arises, in part, from the fact that we are dealing with poetry, which is portraying emotion and feeling, rather than more factual matters such as a straight forward, chronological narrative.

With this in mind, the following is suggested as the events covered by these six songs.

Song 7: The Truth goes forth to the Gentiles.

Song 8: The subjugation of the nations concludes with a victory dance performed by the bride.

Song 9: The bride is commended. She is compared to the palm tree; a tree which has particular relevance to scenes in the kingdom.

Song 10: The role of the saints in preaching the “everlasting gospel” to the world.

Song 11: A treatise on love; the theme of the book.

Song 12: A further development of the bride during the Millennium as the “little sister”.

The song, in allegory, provides in sequence the vicissitudes of the ecclesia from the first advent of the Lord onward.

  1. The sleepy attitude of the bride at Christ’s first coming; she does not recognise his true identity: 5:2-3 (Christ’s ministry).
  2. By the time she does realise who it was that knocked at the door, he had withdrawn himself: 5:4-6 (Christ’s ascension to heaven).
  3. The bride is molested: 5:7-8 (Persecution of the ecclesia).
  4. In answer to a question, the bride describes the beauty of the beloved: 5:9-16 (Preaching the Gospel).
  5. A further question and answer, where has he gone? 6:1-3 (Response to the preaching).
  6. A description of the bride’s beauty: 6:4-9 (Requirements to be developed in those who accept the Truth).
  7. A chorus of praise: 6:10 (General acknowledgement of the virtues of the true ecclesia).

Part 2: The Bride Selected from the Gentiles (5:2 – 8:14)

7th Song: 5:2 – 6:9
The First Advent – The Call and The Response

Bride5:2 I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
5:3 I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
5:4 My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
5:5 I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
5:6 I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.
5:7 The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.
5:8 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.
Interested enquirers5:9 What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?
Bride5:10 My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.
5:11 His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.
5:12 His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
5:13 His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
5:14 His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.
5:15 His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.
5:16 His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem
Interested enquirers6:1 Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.
Bride6:2 My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
6:3 I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.
Groom6:4 Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.
6:5 Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.
6:6 Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them.
6:7 As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.
6:8 There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.
6:9 My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

We left the bride and groom delighting in the presence of each other in a wonderful garden enjoying a banquet of pleasure together with their invited friends. Now the scene turns to one of melancholy and violence.

The bride is both asleep and awake. When Jesus came he found a nation where many were asleep (Mark 13:36; Rom 13:11; 1 Cor 11:30); but some with honest hearts such as Anna, Simeon, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Bartimaeus and many others, were awake and receptive to his message. This gospel message was then taken up by the apostles as they spread the Truth to the Gentiles living in darkness and gross ignorance. It is out of this darkness that the bride is drawn with her head wet with dew. The dew is described as the “drops of the night” because it is developed in darkness but brings refreshment in the morning.

She first hears a knock on the door and then hears the call of her beloved: “open to me”. It is a universal invitation to all and sundry: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). As such it is a call to his sheep, particularly to those “not of this (Jewish) fold” (John 10:16). This same calling was made clear to Pilate: “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37; 3:29).

He calls and she responds, but she first tells us that she has removed her clothes for the night and washed her feet (5:3). This is emblematic of her preparation to meet him. She has put off the old man, whether it be the ordinances of the law or the motions of the flesh (Col 3:8-9), and is now washed, sanctified and justified, having no desire to defile her walk further (1 Cor 6:11; 2 Pet 2:22; John 13:4-14).

Next she searches for him but he cannot be found because he has “withdrawn himself ” (cp 7:6). In the parable before us he has now ascended to the Father as he said in John 7:34, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come”.

In seeking him she comes into conflict with the authorities (5:7-8). She suffers violence at the hand of the watchmen in the same way that the first century ecclesia was cruelly persecuted by the elders of the Jews (Acts 7:52; 11:19; 22:4-5; Phil 3:6).

Her love for him is just as intense as the Jewish bride’s: “her bowels are moved for him” (5:4). She manifests the character of her heavenly Father who, when reflecting upon an Israel in dispersion because of their habitual sin, said when “earnestly remembering him” that His “bowels are troubled for (Ephraim); I will surely have mercy upon him” (Jer 31:20). This outpouring of the Father’s sentiment gave expression to the saying used by Paul, “bowels of mercy”.

Not only were her deep affections moved for him but her soul failed her so that she is described as being “sick with his love” (5:6,8). Once again we have a description of her love for her Lord that leaves us spell-bound. “Her soul (nephesh) failed”; that is her breath went from her and she became “sick with love”. These are the same thoughts expressed in 2:5. Her yearning is so intense that she becomes weak and faint. When we consider our Lord and what he has done for us, let us bear the responsibility that comes from knowing the depth of that love and be moved to respond just like the bride is depicted here doing.

The bride is asked by the daughters of Jerusalem what (her) beloved is “more than any other beloved” (5:9)? Her answer in 5:10-16 once again extols the virtues of his character but this time the description is followed up with another query: “whither is thy beloved gone” (6:1)? These companions don’t know her beloved but are genuinely interested in knowing more about him and where he is that they “may seek him”. She responds by saying that her “beloved is gone into his garden”; the paradise of 4:12–5:1—for “this same Jesus is taken up into heaven” (Acts 1:11). This is one of the many searching questions made of those who know not our Lord but are genuine seekers of the Truth. In fact, the questions, “what is different” about Jesus and, “where is he” form the very basis of Peter’s address on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:22, 32-33.

Some of the unique differences the bride points out about the groom (who by the way is depicted as being all of gold from head to toe) relate to a comparison between him and the dove and the raven. The dove identified him as the Son of God at his baptism whilst the raven spoke of the Father’s overshadowing care for him (Luke12:24). He was also “white and ruddy” (5:10). The word for “ruddy” is the same word adom used of the red heifer which was offered without blemish and of David who was “ruddy and beautiful of countenance” (1 Sam 16:12). Moreover, the groom is described as being “chiefest among ten thousand”. “Chiefest” or dagal, speaks of ‘being conspicuous’ and is rendered “banner” in all other occurrences. It has the idea of “being lifted up” just as Jesus was “lifted up” to draw all men (10,000) unto him ( John 3:14; 12:32). What was different about him? He was the Son of God; without blemish, and was lifted up to draw all men to him.

“This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” concludes this section of the bride’s description of her Lord in 5:16. The “friend(s) of the bridegroom which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” ( John 3:29). Surely John the Baptist’s words are not without coincidence when speaking of the joy of the groom and his friends. This joy is reinforced in the next scene, where we witness the groom in his garden gathering lilies (6:1-3). The word shoshannim or “lilies” means “to rejoice and be glad”. A similar thought connecting the lily with joyfulness can be found in Psalm 68:3: “But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice”(suws root for shoshannah) and the reason for the rejoicing is given in the Psalm. It is a scene of the enemies of Yahweh being scattered just as smoke is driven away by the wind. It is a scene where kings of armies flee before the Lord and his saints as they present themselves to the world as “terrible as an army with banners” (6:4).

The song concludes with the groom describing once again the character of his bride—words which are very similar to the description of the bride given in the fifth song in chapter 4.This description includes the simile of the bride being likened to “a flock of goats that appear from Gilead”.

The bride is also likened to Tirzah. This was the name of the early capital of the northern tribes for a short period before it moved to Samaria. More importantly, though, the only other mention of a Tirzah in the Scriptures refers to one of the five daughters of Zelophehad. These sisters were noted for two things: their determination to receive an inheritance in the land (Num 27:8) and marrying only in the Lord, or in their case, marrying “only to the family of the tribe of their father” (Num 36:5-6). What faithful sisters they were and worthy to be identified with the bride of Christ.

Just as emotional as the words of the bride for her groom in 5:6,8 are those words uttered by the groom when he says, “turn away thine eyes from me for they have overcome me” (6:5), and when she looks him in the face he becomes totally overwhelmed by her beauty, such is his regard for her. In 4:9 he said that she has ravished his heart with one glance of her eyes. What mutual love is shown here! She is “but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her” (6:9). Praise comes to her from all quarters even from those regarded as having the highest status.

(to be continued)