Song of Solomon 6:12 “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.” Commentators are almost unanimous that this verse is the most difficult to interpret in the Song and one of the most difficult in the entire Old Testament. Various proposals to emend the text, remove the verse altogether, or ignore the problem have tempted translators and commentators from the days of the Septuagint to the present. The words themselves are all common, and all words but the last are used over 100 times each in the Old Testament. However, the syntax is unusual, and both verses 12 and 13 are very hard to understand. (As a young believer, I assumed the scriptures were “simple” to translate. However, about ten years ago I tried helping my son Jonathan make sense out of some of the esoteric passages he was translating from Eusebius’s commentary on Isaiah and quickly found myself totally out of my depth! There is nothing simple or unequivocal about translating ancient texts and syntax!)
The first four words of the Hebrew text are clear. Shulamith declared that she had not anticipated (“Or ever I was aware”) the turn of events. Before she could understand what was happening, her soul had been exalted “like the chariots of Amminadib.” The term “Amminadib” may be a proper name (Exodus 6:23; Numbers 1:7; Ruth 4:19; and I Chronicles 2:10). However, evidence seems to point away from this. No significance known to commentators is attached to the name. More probably, two words are involved— ‘ammi, meaning “my people,” and nadib, meaning “princely” or “noble,” and is a statement of surprise at the exaltation that had taken place. Although commentators agree on what the text appears to say—that before the bride knew what was happening, she found herself being highly exalted—many commentators seem bewildered by what the text could possibly mean.
I believe this is because they have missed the spiritual message of the passage. They do not understand what transpired in verse eleven. The bride was not seeking for her husband in the garden, she was seeking her husband’s pleasure. She was seeking fruit for him. She had forgotten herself in her passion to bring him pleasure, and for this, he exalted her. Why does this never cease to puzzle and amaze people? The Bible is full of reminders that God exalts those who humble themselves.
Let’s consider just a few of these precious encouragements: Job 5:11, [God sets] “up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.” Psalm 112:9, (A good man) “hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.” Isaiah 52:13, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. Matthew 23:12, “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Luke 1:52, “He hath put down the mighty from [their] seats, and exalted them of low degree.” The bride was exalted because she humbled herself and became the willing servant of her Lord. She went down to the garden seeking fruit for him.
Now, it doesn’t surprise me that the bride herself was amazed at the exaltation. She was caught off guard because she wasn’t thinking about herself. She had long since stopped caring for her own pleasure and position. How true it is that real love has no eyes for itself. Her bed of ease and hands dripping with myrrh meant nothing to her now. She had become St. Augustine’s “prudent lover” who “does not consider so much the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver.” Or, as C.S. Lewis describes it in The Four Loves, she had truly fallen in love: “In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our self hood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being.” Such was the love that had developed in the bride…eyes only for her Lord, filled with His love, concerned only with attending him.
This verse also reminds me of Gladys Alward, the intrepid single missionary who led a hundred orphans on a trek across the war-torn mountains of China to reach safety. When they finally arrived at their destination, people were lining the streets cheering for them, but Gladys wondered in amazement, “For whom are they cheering? Surely not for us?” She had no idea that any of the people in the city were even aware of her life and death struggle. She had become a heroine without realizing that anyone even knew of her existence. Similar accounts are recorded of David Livingstone, who went to Africa to preach the gospel of Christ, but “accidentally” and incidentally…and completely unintentionally… became a hero in the eyes of the world because of his amazing persistence in “exploration.” A news reporter went in search of Livingstone, and when he’d found the faithful missionary who was buried so deep in the heart of Africa, Livingstone marveled—he had no idea that the English press even knew of his existence…much less considered him a lost hero deserving of being found and “rescued!” So it is with the bride! She went in search of fruit for her master and suddenly she found herself as exalted as one of the noble princes of the land, returning victorious from battle in his mighty chariot! As Thomas a Kempis said, “He that loveth, giveth all for all, and hath all in all.” She loved, gave all she had for love, and found that in giving all, she also received all. Oh Lord, may it be so with us: may we truly love Jesus and give him all we are and have!