By the time my daughter was just a few years old, she could navigate an iPhone and an iPad better than her grandmother. By the time today’s millennials are teenagers, they will truly be digital natives–seamlessly navigating technology. They will intimately know both the intricacies of how technology works and the dangers to avoid. But will the same be said of their level of knowledge when it comes to dating?
In part 1 (chapter 1:1-8), Solomon explained the art of attraction. Very few need explanation on physical attraction but biblical attraction is another story. In part 2 (1:9 to 2:7), he will describe the art of dating.
Solomon Enraptured (1:9-11)
Solomon compares his love to a mare, a female horse. Understandably, this might take some aback, but in Solomon’s days, horses were not just seen as an animal, albeit a graceful one. It was one of the most noble, prized possessions. On top of that, mares were sometimes sent out to distract (and attract) Pharaoh’s stallions in battle, who were pulling chariots of men. This was his way of describing her as the most beautiful woman on the planet whom everyone would want. She was beautiful, and Solomon was acknowledging that he was one lucky man.
Solomon Retells his Love Story (1:12–2:6)
Now, Solomon begins to retell their love story. The Shulamite girl had quite a reaction to seeing Solomon at the banquet table. He was as sweet as the perfume that she wore around her neck and as attractive as henna, a beautiful, white-flowering plant that grows at the Engedi oasis (right). An oasis in the midst of a dessert was life to the weary. She was the fruit of that life, displayed only for those lucky enough to find her.
They then stare deeply into one another’s eyes—Solomon describing her beauty and character to that of a dove. Doves represent both tranquility and sexuality. She calmed him, and excited him at the same time. She then mirrors his affection. She too is attracted to him physically but highlights his pleasant or charming personality. She enjoys spending time with him.
Boldly she describes herself as “the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys,” seeing herself as beautiful, albeit common. Interestingly, she did not deprecate herself as before. Perhaps Solomon’s praise of her had boosted her confidence.
Solomon disagreed with her description of herself as common. To him, she was a rare beauty (v2). And the feeling was mutual (v3). This is when we witness their first act of love, their first kiss: “And his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
Finally, in verses 4-6, the Shulamite girl affirms Solomon by describing her three needs that he fulfills: protection, intimate friendship, and public identification as her beloved. He provided her with safety (his banner was over her), quenched her lovesick heart, and displayed his love for all to see—showing her the same level of love at the banquet hall as in private.
One interesting thing to note about this passage and the book overall,
In the Song, as in much of the other ancient Near Eastern love poetry, the woman is the one who takes the initiative, and who is the more outspoken. Similarly, in the Mesopotamian Ritual Marriage materials, much is placed on the girl’s lips. Our contemporary attitude, where the girl is on the defensive and the man is the initiator, is a direct contrast with the attitude in the ancient world (Carr, The Song of Solomon, 88-89).
We commonly teach that the man should be the initiator, the pursuer, and the conqueror in the relationship. This is not consistent with this passage or the book as a whole. She does not sit idly back and wait for Solomon to pursue her. She takes initiative too.
Solomon closes this section with some sage advice. He implores his readers to let love blossom in its own time. As anyone who has ever tried to approach a deer knows, just like a gazelle (v7), they scare easily. If you want to get close, you must move slowly, quietly, and advance patiently. Any slight move will quickly awaken the beast, and in a flash it will disappear. Likewise, a man should not try to awaken a woman’s love hastily.