16 January 2013

Song of Solomon 3:1-11

"Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the wild does: do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!" (vv. 4-5)


We've all heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder. At the start of today's passage we find the maiden again pining for her lover, from whom she has been separated. She continues yesterday's dream of him while trying to rest at night, but she knows that dreaming just will not do - she needs to see him, to be reunited.

So she takes to the city streets to search for "him whom my soul loves", asking people as she goes whether they have seen him. We see clearly in the poetry of the passage the deep longing and the pain of separation that are part of the package of true love. There's even a slightly dark warning in verse 5, where the maiden cautions her friends not to "stir up or awaken love until it is ready". As far as she is concerned, such separation is simply intolerable.

But she believes that their loveisready and that the timeis right, which is why she brings her lover to the house of her mother. Far from being a naughty premarital tryst, this action is a sign that their love is legitimate. The maiden's familial home is a place where their love can be sanctioned and approved in preparation for their marriage. This is not the illegitimate or reckless passion of a childish fling, but the love of a true union - one that is honours moral tradition and family life.

The arrival of King Solomon and his men (verse 6) signals the beginning of the wedding procession, with an ornate 'palanquin' (or couch, comparable to a sedan chair). Much like arriving at the church in a Rolls Royce or limousine, this bride is travelling in style!

To Ponder

  • What do you long for? Is it time to go out and make the dream real?
  • Do you ever feel estranged from God, as if from a lover? How might you bridge that gap?
  • Is there someone you would describe as the person "my soul loves"? Why? 

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.