Song of Solomon 6:13 “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee.” “Come back! Halt! Stay! Come back!” These are all alternate translations of the Hebrew word subi, which is repeated four times. Nowhere else in the book is such an imperative repeated so insistently. Who is speaking; to whom are they speaking; and what exactly is their request?
The request is made in the plural, not the singular (“that we may look upon thee), so it is clearly not Solomon speaking at this point. Her exaltation has not been confined to the private praises of her Lord. No! As with Gladys Alward, the bride has been publicly exalted.
In The Song of Solomon, there are only three speakers identified by name: Solomon, his bride, and the daughters of Jerusalem. The most reasonable explanation for the “we” is that the daughters of Jerusalem—who had followed every detail of the marriage so closely—were the ones on hand to observe the bride’s exaltation. Surely it must have been the daughters of Jerusalem who stood transfixed before her and begged her to come back so they could see her again.
And, who were the daughters of Jerusalem? From the previous passages where they are mentioned, it seems that a literal interpretation is the right one. Just as Solomon and his bride were real people, so the daughters of Jerusalem were doubtless those young women from the capital city (his home town) who loved their king ardently.
On a spiritual level, the daughters of Jerusalem seem to expand to include all of those from the nation of Israel who worship God and look on in wonder at the marriage between Jesus Christ…this “greater than Solomon”… and his gentile bride…who is—so to speak—the daughter of an unknown stranger from far away (called out from the ends of the earth and grafted into the family tree). And, who is the Shulamite? This is the only time in the entire Old Testament that this particular word appears. Various attempts have been made to associate the word with an already known place or proper name in an effort to positively identify the bride as someone previously mentioned in Scripture (e.g. Abishag) or as being from some known place in particular (e.g. Shunem). Although many commentators take sides and positions on the issue, their views are only speculative. With no connection to any other place or person in the Bible, we are left with the most beautiful of all thoughts proposed, which is that hassulammit, “Shulamite,” is simply the feminine form of the name Solomon, which means “son of peace,” making Shulamite mean “daughter of peace,” or—put in modern analogy—Solomon’s “other half.” This nameless, unknown bride with no apparent pedigree or station in life had become so much like her husband…so much “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh”…that she had gained his identity.
This isn’t a negative thing, as if she’d lost her own identity or had her name changed—because she had been nameless and without identity; it was a great tribute to her resulting from her exaltation. In fact, it was the first time she was addressed by name by the daughters of Jerusalem, and they recognized her—not as who she had been—but as who she had become: the “help meet” of Solomon.
What a challenge for us as believers today! Are we “help meets” for our Lord Jesus? Are we helpers who lovingly give our lives as the “hands and feet” of Jesus here on earth? Does the world recognize us by our given name, or for our position in Christ? Are you “Ms. Evans, who’s the best sales rep. on our team” or “Ms. Evans, you know—that Christian who’s always offering to help new employees;” “Mr. Anderson, the C.E.O. of our company,” or “Mr. Anderson, the one who holds a Bible study during lunch breaks on Thursday.” “Mrs. Smith, who’s the head of the P.T.A.,” or “Mrs. Smith, who watched Molly while her mom was in the hospital last week.” Oh, to be so like Christ that we lose our own identity and become associated with our Lord. Oh, to be like Jesus, always busy about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49). As the Bible says, “And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts. 11:26). Are we so consumed by sharing the gospel wherever we go that people around us recognize us as “Christians”…“sons of Christ” or “little Christs”?
Finally, the last question: What exactly is it that the daughters of Jerusalem requested? Paraphrased, it was something like this: “Look, and see! How can this one who had no father to care for her have become the glorious one we see before us? Come back! Turn around and let us behold you again! We cannot believe our eyes, and yet it’s true! You are all glorious. How did it happen? Come back to us, for we cannot take our eyes off you. How did you become what you have become?” This is the secret key to all successful fruit gathering for the Father. Our light must so shine before men that they will see our good works…and glorify our Father in heaven. Our lives must be so transformed by the glory of Christ that the world beholds us in wonder and asks, “How did this happen? I recognize you. You are a son of Christ. How did it happen? I am so amazed by you that I watch you constantly; in fact, I can’t take my eyes off you. Come back and let me see more of you! Come…tell me…how did it happen?