Unit: Song of Songs
Theme: Speaking of Love
Lesson Text: Song of Songs 1:4b-8; 3:1-11
Supplemental Texts: Hebrews 10:23-25; 13:4
Aim: Honor marriage in your community by spurring your friends on to desire and love their spouses.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_Sept17_2023.
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By Mark Scott
They call them the best man, the maid of honor (or matron of honor), and the witnesses for a reason. The people who stand by a bride and groom in a wedding witness firsthand that the couple loves each other and are making a commitment to one another. When people notice an elderly married couple holding hands in the mall, they usually assume the right things (i.e., that one needs the other to avoid a fall—just kidding—they really witness the couple’s love for one another).
The husband and wife in the Song of Songs have friends (it would seem mostly female friends) who watched them and helped them. They were known by various titles. Maybe they were the wife’s female wedding guests, or ladies of the king’s court, or perhaps even concubines. More likely, they were simply any of the females of Jerusalem (since they are called daughters of Jerusalem or daughters of Zion). Not only did the wife admire her husband, and not only did the husband describe his wife, but the friends of the couple also spoke about the couple’s love for one another.
They Witness Her
Song of Songs 1:4b-8
The friends of the woman affirmed her love for her husband. They rejoice (exult or be glad) and delight in her (and maybe for her). They realize the love she has for her husband is better than wine.
This affirmation brings out a self-disclosing paragraph from the woman. She confessed that she was thoroughly suntanned from having to work outside. Today, that complexion is greatly desired. People who work outside in the Middle East do not need tanning booths. But long ago, untanned skin was cherished. The woman told her friends that because her brothers made her work in the vineyard (to the exclusion of being able to work in her own vineyard), her skin was as dark as the tents of Kedar. These tents were made from black goat’s hair and were as dark as the curtains of Solomon inside the temple.
She suffered some insecurity because of this. As she searched for where her man fed his sheep, she did not want to have to veil herself (and thus her dark skin). Veiling might have implied prostitution. The woman’s friends were real friends, however. They told her where she could find her husband, which was by the tents of the shepherds.
They Witness Desire
Song of Songs 3:1-5
Dreams can be vehicles of God’s revelations. Dreams can be silly and meaningless. Or dreams can coincide with our longings and desires. It may not have been the case, but it makes sense to suggest the woman told her friends about a dream she had. After all, the chapter starts, “All night long on my bed.” Perhaps she dreamt she could not find her husband. The phrase, the one my heart loves, occurs four times. In her dream she looked and looked—even going up and down the streets and squares. In desperation, she asked the city watchmen if they had seen him.
Moments later, she found her husband. She held him tight and would not let him go. She brought him to a safe place (her mother’s house). Even if it was just a dream, she instructed her friends (the daughters of Jerusalem) not to bother the couple until they finished their lovemaking. Via the dream, the friends witnessed the desire she had for her husband.
They Witness Him
Song of Songs 3:6-11
In light of how verse 6 begins, it would seem the woman’s dream has ended. The narrator turned his attention to Solomon himself. He was described in incredible ways. And he was coming to get his bride. He came from the wilderness like a column of smoke. But he looked strong and smelled good (perfumed with myrrh and incense) from spices that he had purchased from other lands.
Solomon’s entrance and chariot got good press and a thorough description. Warriors accompanied the great king. There were sixty of them, and they were battle ready so as to protect the king. The carriage chariot itself was impressive. It was made from wood, silver, and gold. It was upholstered with purple, and then came this interesting phrase, “its interior inlaid with love.”
The friends were invited to gaze on the great king. His crown was garnered by his mother (cf., 1 Kings 1:1–2:19). He showed up to take his bride. The friends of the bridegroom realized the king and his bride must increase while they must decrease (cf., John 3:30).