We begin chapter 4 by looking at Song of songs 4:1-7
Note: When the shepherd praises the Shulamite’s appearance (which he does more so in this chapter than in any other) he describes her in a very unique way. We need to realize that there is nothing sensual or erotic in his descriptions of her. He describes her beauty in a way that is not necessarily always a physical beauty, but also includes the inner beauty of what her life conveys to him.
v1: (The Shepherd): Love: (literally: Spouse): Relates to a special relationship, probably a covenantal relationship.
- Fair: Beautiful. Repetition shows emphasis. He emphasises that she is beautiful to him. This could mean that he sees her as beautiful in a visual way, but it can also mean that he sees her as appropriate, fitting, or suitable. She completes him.
- Doves: Doves are attractive and usually found in pairs.
- Behind your veil: A veil speaks of her modesty.
Note 1: Your eyes are doves behind your veil can also be translated as “Your eyes are doves behind your lock of hair.”
- Hair: We know Biblically that the covering of a woman’s head is indeed her hair (1 Cor 11:5-15) – it also alludes to her modesty. She does not promote or call attention to herself.
- Going down: A word of movement, her hair is flowing down.
- Mount Gilead: This is an area of Jordan today.
Note 2: The Shepherd finds her beautiful and describes her in terms of what he finds beautiful. We must not allow others to dictate to us what is beautiful, fitting, appropriate or right for us.
v2: Shorn: Shaved, properly groomed.
- Washing: Clean, white.
- Bears twins: An image of fruitfulness.
- Barren (Missing): Caused to be bereaved, suffering a loss. She has not lost anything – her teeth speak of that which is fitting (they are paired up symmetrically) with nothing missing.
v3: Scarlet: Scarlet yarn was part of the temple service and had to do with purifying (Lev 14:3-7). The Shulamite speaks clean, pure words. She speaks words that are soothing and words that heal.
- Mouth: Referring to the place where words go forth from. Her words are lovely.
- Pomegranate: Speaks of fruitfulness, something that is pleasing.
v4: Neck: The neck is a type of foundation for the head. In the Bible, the neck can also refer to a person’s character – e.g. If someone is stiff necked it refers to a lack of humility and stubbornness (Ex 32:9, Isaiah 48:4, Acts 7:51). The Shulamite is not stiff necked. She has a strong foundation. She holds her head up despite what she has been through.
- An armoury: Holding her head up is likened to an armoury -she has defensive weapons at her disposal.
v5: Breasts: Biblically speak of womanhood.
- Two young (strong) fawns: The image here is not so much a description of her body but alludes to something about her womanhood. Like her, young deer are beautiful, but they are very skittish and shy.
- Twins: Twin deer are rare – they are not seen every day. Deer make sure that they are not being watched, and are constantly looking out for others. Most scholars see this as an image of her womanhood – she is very private. She displays modesty.
v6: The day breaks: A Hebrew idiom for the passing of a day until its end.
- Myrrh…frankincense: They are fragrances that are part of the temple service and relate to holiness – things that are set apart for a specific purpose.
Note: She is a woman of modesty. Intimate times are rare, but they occur at the appropriate time and have been set apart for a specific purpose. Reading these descriptions of her do not draw our attention to her physical beauty but focus our attention on how wonderful the very essence of her is. Her inner beauty and character are what is predominantly attractive to him.
v7: Spot: Blemish. This is a word used, in other places of Scripture, in regard to examining an animal for sacrifice – if it is without blemish it can be offered up to G-d (Lev 22:17-22). The shepherd is not saying that the Shulamite is a woman who is perfect in appearance. What he is saying is that she is appropriate, and that there is nothing in her that disqualifies her before G-d. G-d affirms her (she is a G-dly woman), so he does as well.
Men, particularly, need to affirm their wives in this regard – recognizing that she is the one that G-d has selected for him, and, because of that, she is fitting and appropriate for him. Women desire and need to hear these words from their husbands.