Song of Solomon 8:13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” In my Bible, verses 10-13 are all listed under the heading, “The bride speaks.” For forty years, as I’ve read my Bible through almost every year, I’ve assumed that verse 13 was the bride describing her husband—the mighty King Solomon—as one who dwelt in gardens. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Her king, not high and mighty on his throne, but tender and touchable in the intimate seclusion of their gardens:
“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And I walk with him and I talk with Him, and He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.”
—C. Austin Miles
Hold that thought, because such tender communion is indeed real, but in this passage I do not believe it’s the bride seeking the husband…it is the husband desiring communion with his wife! “Thou that dwellest” is actually just one word in Hebrew, a verb written in the feminine form which could be translated as “She who inhabits” (Jonathan Armstrong: I can now—fifteen years into this study—quote my son, who has become an ancient languages scholar!). “Thou that dwellest in the gardens…” This is our Lord’s last description of us. This is where he wants his bride to be waiting for him. Are these literal gardens? “Should I be carried to the skies on flow’ry beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?” (Isaac Watts). For King Solomon and his bride, the gardens were doubtless literal…the wondrous gardens Solomon developed as described in Ecclesiastes 2. However, even as Jesus declared that his kingdom was not of this physical world yet (John 18:36), even so are we to be dwelling—not necessarily in paradisal gardens here on earth—but in spiritual gardens. As John Milton points out to us so poignantly in Paradise Lost, the paradisal Garden of Eden that our greater than Solomon made for us has been lost to us on this earth, and even our Lord was driven from his sanctuary, the Garden of Gethsemane, when he dwelt here below with us. We may be physically surrounded by beauty or bareness during our tenure on earth, but spiritually we should be dwelling “in the gardens.” How do we do that? When we are surrounded on every side by tribulations, testings, trials, heartaches, pain, and insecurities…not only our own, but those encountered by our loved ones who are near to us, and those suffered by the body of Christ worldwide…how do we do that?(To be continued next Sunday, but the answer is to center our minds on Christ and experience “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” [Matthew 6:10] as the present spiritual reality of our lives.)