Rise Up, My Love (213): Dancing Armies?

dancing-at-peterhoff-palace-russiaSong of Solomon 6:13 “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” What did they see in this daughter of peace? The answer: the meeting of two hosts. What exactly does that mean? The Hebrew word for “company” is mehola. It is used thirteen other times in the Old Testament, all in reference to dancing of some kind. The Hebrew word translated “armies” is mahanayim. It is used over 200 times in the Old Testament, and it literally means “to encamp” although it normally refers to an army, such as in Exodus 14:20: “And it [the pillar of the cloud] came between the camp [mahanayim] of the Egyptians and the camp [mahanayim] of Israel.” When Jacob met God’s host of angels before returning to the land of Canaan, Jacob named the site Mahanaim (Genesis 32:2), and some commentators believe that in this verse they are referencing the geographical site known as Mahanaim.

I loved trying to envision what the Solomon meant by the simile of the bride appearing like two armies “dancing” or being in company with one another! Armies are meant for war, not peace. Dancing is associated with peace, not war. In the Bible, dancing is usually mentioned in connection with the joyful celebration of marriage or worship and is often used antithetically with mourning, as in Matthew 11:17 where Jesus likened his fickle generation to unpleasable children: “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” Dancing conjures up images of levity, harmony, and joy…a whole community of people together in cheerful celebration of life. Armies conjure up images of heaviness, conflict, and mourning: the menacing thunder of a advancing troops, the sickening clashes and booms of weaponry, and battlefields strewn with dead corpses. Armies are meant to kill opposing forces, not join in a dance with them!

But, what is seen in the Shulamite…this daughter of peace (not war) is “as it were the company (or dance) of two armies.” What are the “two armies?” Just three verses prior, the bride herself is described as “terrible as an army with banners.” She is doubtless one of the armies. What is the other army? Perhaps…as with Jacob at Mahanaim…the other army is the host of the Lord. A lovely picture develops when all these puzzling pieces are fit together.

It’s hard to imagine two armies “dancing” together…but what happens when two people dance together? Think of ballet dancers or a couple in a ballroom. They move together…work together to create a beautiful pattern of movement. One leads and the other follows—sometimes so closely intertwined they seem as one, and sometimes farther apart—but always working together and totally intent on one another and what they’re doing. What would happen when the “army” of the bride danced with the “army” of the Lord? It’s easy to imagine that such a breathtaking ballet would ensue that all the onlookers would stand transfixed.   golden-pillarsThe text does not say that the daughters of Jerusalem actually see the bride dancing; it says “as if.” What they see is something that they can only describe by simile. I believe they are trying to put a spiritual reality into terms that people can understand. What they see is a beautiful union between the Spirit of God and the soul of this daughter of peace. They see that she has become so much one with him that she is moving at his impulse as perfectly and enigmatically as if two powerful hosts were choreographing a ballet. The “army” of the Lord and the “army” of the bride had become one compelling, amazing, awe-inspiring force.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we as individuals could be so flawlessly guided by the Spirit’s impulses in our lives? Oh for the day when the Church becomes united to the Lord’s hosts of angels in an invincible army of peace! Even so, come Lord Jesus.

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