17 January 2013

Song of Solomon 5:2 – 6:3

"This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." (v. 16)


In today's passage we find the couple now married and possibly hitting a rocky patch in their relationship. The maiden is asleep in her bed and her husband has come to her, either for an unexpected rendezvous or after a long day of seeing to his duties. But she is tired and settled in her rest - she doesn't want to get out of the warmth of her bed and have to get robed to answer the door. And by the time she manages to shake herself up, he's gone.

It's interesting to note the continued references to myrrh throughout the Song of Solomon. Readers familiar with the New Testament may recognise the spice from the gifts given to the infant Jesus by the magi (eg Matthew 2:11). In the Gospels it is usually understood to symbolise Christ's death as it was often used to anoint dead bodies. But the reference in today's reading seems to have no such sinister meaning: myrrh was also commonly used as a perfume, especially by new brides, to prepare them for their bridegrooms.

So having opened the door only to find that he's given up, the maiden entreats her friends to go and search for him - essentially to tell him that she's sorry and she is faint with her love for him. But she must first convince them that he's worth all of this effort. "What is your beloved more than another beloved?" they demand (v. 9), so she launches into a poetic description of all that is outstanding and perfect about her man. We not only get a top-to-toe description of his physical attributes, we even hear that "his speech is most sweet".

Now convinced, her friends resolve to help return him to her side.

To Ponder

  • It's often said that 'you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.' How true have you found that to be in your life?
  • There is, perhaps, some parallel between today's passage and Revelation 3:20: "Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me." Do you ever feel that you've been sluggish in responding to God's call, as if woken from a deep sleep? 

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.