Song of Solomon 6:4 “Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.” Solomon gives three similes to describe his wife’s beauty: as beautiful as Tirzah, as comely as Jerusalem, as terrible as an army with banners. Let’s consider what each of these compliments mean. The name Tirzah means “she is my delight.” In Solomon’s day, it is thought that Tirzah was a large, rural city in the Galilean Hills where modern-day Tell el-Far’ah now exists. Tirzah became the capital of the Northern Kingdom after Jeroboam led his successful revolution against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam (I Kings 14:17; 15:33), so even in the days of Solomon, Tirzah probably had some political significance. However, Solomon was most likely thinking of its physical appearance, because Tirzah was in an area of great natural beauty. It was well watered and thought to be filled with gardens and orchards. To compare his bride to Tirzah was to praise her great natural beauty. “Comely as Jerusalem…” The Old Testament describes Jerusalem as “the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth” (Lamentations 2:15). In Psalm 48:1-2 it is called “the city of our God…beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.” It was the dwelling place of God on earth…and as God indwelt Jerusalem, so He indwells us and His beauty shines out from us. As Tirzah was a city of great physical beauty, so Jerusalem was a city of great spiritual beauty. Solomon’s bride was beautiful outwardly in her body, but she was also beautiful inwardly in her spirit. Jerusalem was not only the beloved city of God spiritually, it was also the center of all the affairs of state. The Hebrew word translated “comely” is na’wa meaning “that which is well becoming or pleasing.” In contrast, the word describing Tirzah is yapa, which carries the singular meaning “beautiful.” It is as if Solomon is saying, “You possess all the intrinsic mystique and beauty of the acclaimed garden city far away to the north, and yet you are as pleasing and well-beloved to me as the city which is my own home town…my place of worship and refuge of safety.” This touches on the emotional side of Solomon’s response to his bride. Jerusalem would have been the city where Solomon felt most at home and content. Perhaps his praises also held some sentiment such as, “Outwardly you are as refreshing to me as an exotic northern resort, and yet inwardly your character and personality stabilize me and make me as content and peaceful as I feel in my own home.” Something like that! At any rate, she was outwardly lovely and inwardly pleasing…the way all women should strive to be. The last comparison, “terrible as an army with banners,” is a startling description. The LXX translates this passage as: “a terror as a ranked phalanx.” The Hebrew text reads “as terrible as bannered” and does not actually include the word “army,” although it is implied, since the armies were bannered to march out to war. The word translated “terrible” is the Hebrew yumma and is only used one other time in the Scriptures: in Habakkuk 1:7 where it was prophesied that the invading Babylonian army would be “terrible and dreadful.” This is strong language indeed for describing a woman! It brings to mind God’s name in Exodus 17:15: Jehovah-nissi, “the Lord our banner!” When the king looked into his bride’s face, he saw her as not only beautiful outwardly and pleasing inwardly, but as enduringly rugged and strong. He saw her as a someone prepared for battle! She was one whose fierce love had made her fearless…more fierce even than a mother bear protecting her cubs. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phililppians 4:13). She had given up everything to find the one she loved, and having found him, nothing could ever tear her from his side! She had indeed made God her refuge and fortress. The burning power of the Holy Spirit was in her face—power like that which shone out from Stephen, the first martyr, on the day he was stoned: “And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). Have you ever noticed the Lord and angels are also described as “terrible?” Nehemiah 9:32 declares that our Lord is “our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God…” Samson’s mother told her husband, “A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible” (Judges 13:6). I wonder, what do people see when they look into our faces? What does our Lord see? The bridegroom saw the light and power in his wife’s face, and he stood in captivated awe. May the Lord’s radiance shine out through our countenances in such a way that people recognize God in us and know there is a living God in this world…a God who is terrible and wonderful!
(*I took all the photos while in Israel during October, 2011.)