Song of Solomon 5:3 “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” The word for coat is kutonet, and refers to a tunic or a garment worn next to the skin. She is not saying that she has taken off her overcoat and is now resting at home; she is saying that she has totally undressed and gone to bed, and she’s using this as an excuse: It would be inconvenient to have to redress in order to meet his needs.
“I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” In ancient times, there were often public baths for cleansing, but even walking home along the dusty roads would make the bather’s feet dirty again, and so, after returning home, people would wash their feet again. Opening the door would not have truly required rewashing her feet; it was just another excuse.
Besides, even if it had been necessary, would that have been too great a price to pay in order to receive her husband? On the very night of his death, our Lord was more concerned about washing his disciples’ feet than caring for his own needs (John 13:5). Could we ever be as heavy-hearted and weary as Christ was on the eve of his death? Can we feel the tender appeals of the husband and the vain excuses of the wife! Are we guilty of such carelessness with our Lord or our mate?
The modern version of this heartless response might go something like this: “Look, I got ready for bed a long time ago. Now you come and expect me to wake up and be available to you? I’m beat! Do you really think you can stay out late working and then expect me to jump up and take care of you? What do you take me for…your servant? I’m sleepy. Go away.”
Now, that’s harsher than what the bride really said, but I’ve heard women express similar sentiments. Does it ring any bells? I’m sure many wives feel frustration over how much their husbands work—and how much they need physically—at some point in marriage, but if you find your heart resonating with the attitudes expressed in the preceding paragraph, then it might be time to do some serious introspection and problem solving so that you can go to bed close enough to the same time and with close enough to the same energy so that you have something left for each other.
Also, the contrast in thinking between the husband and his bride over what constitutes defilement is striking. The wife was thinking about the outside of her body being clean, but the husband was thinking about her heart. Look back at verse three; the husband appeals to her on the basis of her being his “undefiled,” his true-hearted, faithful lover. He had been out in the night working, doubtless looking forward with joy to being able to come home and being invited into her bosom and bed. His heart was true and eager… “undefiled,” and he appealed to her on the basis of her heart also being pure and undefiled.
Are our hearts undefiled towards our Lord? Towards our mate? Doubtless the husband would not have considered himself to have been “defiled” just because he was exhausted and dirty from labor. Was our Lord defiled by shedding perspiration like great drops of blood? No, that which arises from a labor of love is holy…like the tears of weary saints that God tenderly gathers up in his bottle (Psalm 56:8).
It’s really honoring to our mates to wash our bodies and be clean at night, but that’s not the most important definition for “undefiled.” The bride would not have gotten so dirty skipping across the floor to unlock the door that she would no longer appeal to her husband! Jesus denounced the Pharisees for washing the outside of their cups but not their minds (Matthew 23:25-27) and likened them to whitewashed tombstones: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” May we never grow so callous and indifferent to the needs of our spouse (heavenly or earthly; husband or wife) that we appear beautiful outwardly but are dead on the inside! May we be constrained by love to reach out and meet the needs of our spouses, even when it’s hard…and sometimes even sacrificially.