“Hurry, my dear one,
And be swift like a gazelle
Or a young stag
Upon the mountains of spices.”
~Song of Songs 8:14
The Song of Songs is a love story written by an unrequited king infatuated with an engaged country girl.
It was obviously intended to be performed.
This is my conclusion due to the complexity of reading the verses straight from the page.
It is a true story involving several people.
Here I will relate the story in simplest of terms in chronological order:
The country girl from Shunem meets a handsome shepherd boy.
He visits her at home and calls at her through the lattices, inviting her to come explore the spring valley with him.
Her brothers have asked her to guard the vineyards and she has been negligent.
They worry about her chastity and whether she will become a woman who is marriage material.
Now she is not given permission to go with the shepherd boy, but sent to scatter foxes
(Ca. 1:6; 2:9-15; 8:8,9)
This evidently throws her into the proximity of King Solomon’s camp.
At the time, he has 60 queens, 80 concubines and many young women.
The Shulammite girl is beautiful and is involuntarily taken into his camp.
She tells the other women there that she wishes to run away to her shepherd.
They tell her to follow his tracks.
The King promises to give her fine jewelry, but the Shulammite girl keeps the shepherd boy close to her heart. (Ca. 1:13)
The shepherd boy sneaks into the camp and showers her in compliments.
The girl confesses she’d rather be lying down in the forest with him. (Ca. Chapter 1)
She tells the other women what their courtship is like, that she is lovesick, and insists they not push her to like King Solomon. (Ca. 2:5,7)
Meanwhile, the shepherd boy is working “among the lilies.”
She wishes he would quickly return to her at day’s end. (Ca. Chapter 2).
At night, she dreams that she is roaming the city looking for him.
She finds him and takes him into her mother’s bedroom.
The next day, the women of Jerusalem see the Shulammite girl being brought into Jerusalem with the King’s procession. (Ca. Chapter 3)
The shepherd boy has followed the procession into the city.
He finds her and again flatters her.
The Shulammite asks him to take her back to her mountain in the evening, when it has grown breezy and shadows cannot follow them. (Ca. 4:6)
He tells her he will take her to several beautiful mountains.
At this point, he calls her his bride and compares her to a locked garden.
He beckons the wind as if to hurry the night on.
She consents to his proposal by inviting him into her “garden.” (Ca. 4:12,16).
The couple engages in public displays of affection which are witnessed by some of the women in Jerusalem.
Back in the rooms by the King’s palace, she tells the girls about her nightmares.
She dreams she looks for the shepherd boy on the streets and is struck by the guards.
They ask her how he is any better than other guys.
She replies: “His mouth is sweetness itself, And everything about him is desirable.” (Ca. Chapter 5)
The girls say they’ll help her find him, but she says he is out shepherding.
The king tries to hit on her again and says that she is the favorite (in Hebrew, literally “the pure one”) of her mother and that she is as pure as sunlight. (Ca. 6:9,10)
Instead of procuring the king during the day, she wanders down to one of his gardens and before she knows it, starts leaving the premises.
The king orders her to return.
She asks what he sees in her.
He seizes the opportunity to hit on her again, this time more explicitly. (Ca. 7:8)
The Shulammite girl, who has developed into a woman, can only think of her shepherd.
She imagines herself with him in a garden, pleasure just at their doors.
In her mind, she tells him, “The new as well as the old […] I have kept in store for you.” (Ca. 7:13).
She tells the girls in the king’s court that if the shepherd were like her brother, she could be seen with him publicly or bring him into her mother’s bedroom, like in her first dream.
Again, she insists they not try to arouse feelings in her toward King Solomon. (Ca. 8:1-4).
Finally, the king releases her,
She is seen by her brothers walking back into town, as she leans on her beloved.
Talking to him, she makes reference to having met him under an apple tree and she poetically describes her conclusions on the enduring love she has for him.
She assures her brothers that she is chaste and at peace. (Ca. 8:10)
Unswayed, she has flat out rejected King Solomon’s monetary gifts and will content herself with her own vineyard.
The song ends by alluding to a prior scene in which the shepherd sought to hear the girl’s voice in the garden.
Except this time, instead of asking him to wait til nightfall, she urges him to hurry to her.
The Song teaches us to reflect on the value of enduring love between a man and a woman, as well as the qualities that make a person merit such love.
“For love is as strong as death is, And exclusive devotion is as unyielding as the Grave. Its flames are a blazing fire, the flame of Jah. Surging waters cannot extinguish love, Nor can rivers wash it away. If a man would offer all the wealth of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.”