Category Archives: Meditations on the Song of Solomon

Rise Up, My Love (247): Up Early

Song of Solomon 7:12 “Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.” Have you ever had orange juice that was fresh-squeezed from the trees outside your door? I have on a few very rare occasions. The first time was at a bed and breakfast overlooking the pounding Pacific coast. That breakfast, with its array of home made delights, will ever live in my memory! This verse, with its promise of sweetness at the end of labor, makes me think of such a feast. Let’s look at each phrase and squeeze out the bursting goodness, as if we’re making our own refreshing glass of orange juice.

“Let us get up…” You can’t “get up” unless you’ve been lying down. The couple had been enjoying the communion of love and rest, but the wife now understands that relaxation and refreshment are for the purpose of restoring energy for labor. Jesus went apart to pray, but always with the purpose of strengthening himself for the stresses and strains of physical ministry and spiritual warfare.

As frail humans, it is often said that we must come apart sometimes, or we will fall apart! When our youngest son, Joel, was a child, he had rechargeable batteries for his little hand-held computer games. One night he was so tired that he sighed, “I wish I could get plugged in and be recharged too.”

“Let us get up…” We’ve been recharged by drinking from the wells of living love and a restful season of sleep…now let us get up and go! Getting up is ever hard work; it’s an uphill battle! How easy it would be to pull a dark cover of excuses over our heads, shut off the alarm clock of the Holy Spirit’s urging, and roll over for another round of spiritual lethargy. How easy when our senses are dull, but not when our senses are sharp! The bride’s senses are tingling with the sensations of love, joy, and peace, and she is exhilarated and ready to go…not just sometime, but— “Let us get up early!”

It was early in the morning when Abraham rose up for his ultimately difficult job of sacrificing Isaac (Genesis 22:3). It was early in the morning when Jacob took a stone pillow and built his first altar to the Lord (Genesis 28:18). It was early in the morning when Moses went before Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20) and when he climbed Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:4). It was early in the morning when Joshua and the children of Israel camped at Shittim before passing over the mighty Jordan River (Joshua 3:1). It was early when Samuel’s parents worshiped the Lord (I Samuel 1:9)…early when Saul was anointed and sent away (I Samuel 9:6)…early when Job prayed for his children (Job 1:5)…when David went to the battlefield and slew the fearful giant Goliath (I Samuel 17:20)…, and when Hezekiah led all the people in a great revival and restored worship in the temple (2 Chronicles 29:20).  Much of the most earnest work—the most difficult jobs—are accomplished early in the morning. Solomon’s father, King David, cried, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1). “Oh satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Indeed, it was King Solomon who penned the response of wisdom: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me”(Proverbs 8:17).

I wonder, could Solomon have had such a thought on his mind as he heard his beloved bride exclaim, “Let us get up early to the vineyards!” Did he indeed think to himself, “I love her, and now she loves me… and I love her even more for loving me. I sought her, and now she is seeking me…and I will let her learn more of me because she wants so desperately to be a part of everything I am and do.”

I wonder, do we seek the Lord early and desperately…our souls thirsting for him as the deer pants for the water brook? Are we willing—even so eager that we do the inviting—to rise up early and be about our bridegroom’s business? In the New Testament, there is one last ultimately significant occurrence of someone rising early in the morning: our Lord Jesus Christ at his resurrection! Mark 16:9-10 relates, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.”

Jesus was up and about his Father’s business early in the morning, and what was he doing? Tenderly comforting and strengthening his own; working in his Father’s vineyard. Oh, Lord, please give us such passion that we wake up with joy in our hearts, a spring in our step, and a song of praise on our lips…eager to be about our beloved’s business!

(Not that you’re interested, but the first photo was taken at sunrise just outside my window through the woods a few years ago, and I took the other on a foggy morning along the Danube River.)

Rise Up, My Love (246): Passionate Devotion

Song of Solomon 7:11 “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field: let us lodge in the villages.” As we discovered earlier, “my beloved” is the wife’s favorite term of endearment for her husband. After reflecting on her position in her beloved, the wife now invites her husband to go forth into the fields and villages.

In chapter 2, it was the husband who invited: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Now it is the wife who initiates. She no longer has to wait for an invitation to understand what he needs and desires. His love has produced in her such overwhelming devotion that she has become sensitive to his needs and has learned to anticipate his desires.

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32:8). He had taught her, and now she knew him so well that all she had to do was look into his eyes to see what he wanted. Oh, to become a wife who understands and anticipates the needs of my husband so well! Oh, to see so clearly the countenance of my beloved Christ…to be able to see reflected in his eyes the desires of his heart!

There are many wonderful aspects of this courageous suggestion that should be considered. Notice first that intimate, personal love is the great motivation that has aroused the bride to action…a love that recognizes the person of Christ: “My beloved.” The beloved one is not an imaginary hero. This is no Super Man drawn with pen and ink on a comic strip. He is no teen idol adored from the distant corners of darkened auditoriums or admired from airbrushed photographs. He is not even an inspirational leader broadcasted live on worldwide TV or internet and quoted widely in global newspapers.

This person was a real, living man she knew with great intimacy…someone with whom she could walk and talk; someone upon whose shoulder she could lean; someone who loved her and had taken her for his own, forever. This is the love of Christ for us. If you have never looked into his eyes and felt his arms around you, open your spiritual heart and allow yourself to know him in this way! Christ is alive. He is a real person who can be spiritually discerned and known. Take upon yourself the challenge that God gave King Solomon in I Chronicles 28:9: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”

What a command, and what an awesome responsibility! But, I believe by faith we can grasp this promise for ourselves even today. To do so, we must learn to understand and abide in his love. It is this passionate love that will cause us to say, “Come, my beloved, let us go forth.” This is the explosive love, the “dynamite” power that Paul spoke of in Romans 1:16 when he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power (dynamite) of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” This is the “perfect love” that “casts out fear” (I John 4:18)—fear of anything that man might do to harm us—fear of ever being separated from our beloved again.

It is a passion so hot that it will melt our hearts into his and weld us together in true unity of purpose. We need never fear separation, because we will always want to be at his side, and he has promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Notice also that true love cannot be rushed or forced. The husband invited but never forced. He waited until his bride was ready. When she was not willing, he left until she sought him out. But, when she found him, he received her immediately to himself, not rebuking her, but rather encouraging her with lavish praise (chapter 5). His amazing love reaped great rewards, because it generated passionate and permanent devotion in his wife.

Finally, we see that it is this type of love—intimate, passionate, carefully nurtured but freely developed—which leads the bride to go afield for her husband: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.” Husbands: If you want a wife who fully supports you in your work…try loving her with this type of love and see how the Lord blesses! (Obviously, not all women will respond with such enthusiasm, but God still wants us to imitate him: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” [Romans 2:4].)

“Let us!” The bride is now eager to leave the comforts of home to further her husband’s interests because she senses the stirring within his heart to go afield, and she wants nothing more than to be with him no matter where he goes. She will not be going alone; she will be going with him! My mother used to always say, “Home is where the heart is.” The bride’s heart was with her husband-king, and so home had become wherever his heart was…be it the palace or the villages. She no longer cares if she sleeps behind the curtains of Solomon or in the tents of Kedar… so long as she sleeps with her beloved!

I wonder, is it the burning passion of our hearts to go afield with Christ? Am I prepared to leave home for the discomfort of sleeping in the “villages?” Are you? If you are, then why not invite the Lord to take you, just as the bride enjoined her husband: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages…”

Rise Up, My Love (245): The Joy of Being Desired

Song of Solomon 7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” This is the third declaration of belonging that the bride has uttered, and there is a beautiful progression in the development of her love. In 2:16, after a time of dealing with all the insidious problems that could have destroyed the tender vine of their love, the young wife declared, “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” Here, in the springtime of their love, the bride states her first confidence that the one she so ardently longed for has indeed become her own possession, and she his.

The second declaration comes after a season of separation and struggle…after she has learned to appreciate his beauties in a deeper way and their fellowship has been restored. Song 6:3 states, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.” Here the emphasis has changed. She is not predominately interested in her own acquisition of him, but rather in belonging to him. It is now more a delight to her to be possessed than to possess! Do you sense the difference? She is more interested in his feelings and needs than in her own. Whereas the first declaration was “I…and also you,” the second one was “you, and also I.”

Then, after the husband reveals the depths of his love through his magnificent praises from 6:4—7:9, the wife’s focus changes again. In the security of his amazing love, she loses all awareness of self interest and she sees only him. She no longer cares about what is hers; she cares only that she belongs to him and that he desires her: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.”

I wonder, where are our hearts? Is my only concern that I belong to Christ and he passionately desires me? How about you?

“I am my beloved’s.” I couldn’t help but notice the dark connotation in some of the meanings given for dabab from the previous verse. The bride’s praises aroused the sleeping ones to “plot; plan; tell tales.” As we go about sharing the wonderful news of Christ, many are aroused…some to search and find Christ, but others to envy…to plot and plan against him. We are not only a “savor of life unto life” to those who desire God, but to those who reject him, we are a savor of “death unto death” (2 Corinthians 2:16), and we find that while some love us and are drawn to our message, others hate our Lord and therefore us as well.

Perhaps this dark aspect of our pilgrim walk through this world was not troubling the bride at this particular moment, but perhaps there was some awareness of it in her exclamation: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” I belong to him…the world’s most powerful sovereign (and indeed—in Christ—we belong to the universe’s most powerful sovereign!), and he desires me, so I know he will protect me from all those who may “plot” or “plan” or “tell tales” against me! I belong to him…why should I fear what man may do to me?

“…and his desire is toward me.” Since he desires me…us…, why should we not find our perfect contentment in him? Do we find ourselves searching desperately for the love or approval of anyone else? Why should we care if those of this world either love or hate us? If we could truly enter into the wonder of belonging to him and his incredible desire for us, it would give us great peace in facing aloneness and perfect courage in our witness to the world about us. “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).

As our praises flow like a fountain of water, we have no need to fear the response of men. Look to him and remember only this: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” One last thought on the fact that our Lord’s desire is “toward” us. This is an amazingly strong statement. In James 4:5, what is translated in the KJV as “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy” has been alternately translated “desires us enviously,” i.e.: the Lord has a tremendously intense, jealous desire for us to be his, and his alone. His desire for us is so much more passionate than ours for him! The Hebrew word for desire is only used one other time in the Old Testament, in Genesis 3:16. The word is teshuka and carries with it the meaning of “strong desire that impels to action”* or that “seeks loving approval and adoration.”**

Marvel with me for a while over the power of God’s love for us. After Eve sinned by doing the only thing her beloved Creator told her not to do, God pronounced this solemn judgment: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16). Three millennia later (or perhaps even more), the power of God’s passion reverses this judgment, so that the lover takes on the “punishment” (if you will) for the woman’s sin. The wife’s understanding that “his desire is toward me” marks the end of the effects of the curse from Genesis 3:16 on the marriage love relationship.

Instead of the woman longing for her husband to love her and desperately seeking for his approval…instead of finding that her husband takes advantage of his superior strength by oppressing and enslaving her…instead of experiencing all the heartbreaking results of her own sin, the bride is enraptured with the security of knowing that her beloved husband passionately loves and desires her! She is not his slave, she is his queen. She is truly bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. She is his, but praise God, she can entrust herself freely to him because he loves her so utterly that he will not “lord” his lordship over her. What an astonishing proclamation of love’s triumph over sin!

*G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 164.

**Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 110.

(The wedding dance is from the recent live-action Beauty and the Beast, which we enjoyed together this past month.)

Rise Up, My Love (244): What’s Hidden Under Your Palate?

Song of Solomon 7:9 “…that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” What in the world (or in heaven!) does this mean? The verb translated “goeth down” is the Hebrew halak, also rendered “flowing, going, or walking” in other passages (Carr, 163). The Hebrew word translated “sweetly” is meshar, more literally translated as “evenness; equity; smoothness; uprightness; righteously.”* It is the same Hebrew word used in 1:4, “We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.”   I believe there is a key in this repetition from an earlier theme, but let’s come back to it in a few moments. What the KJV renders “cause…to speak” is the Hebrew dabab, and is unknown in Hebrew apart from this use, although the Akkadian dababu “plot; plan” and the Arabic dabub, “talebearer” may be cognates according to Carr (163).** Other translations use such alternate terms as “gliding” or “flowing gently” (although why…I don’t know!). The last two Hebrew words in the passage are sipte (literally rendered “lips”) and yesenim (“sleeping ones”). Perhaps one of the more accurate alternate translation for this portion of the phrase is: “stirring the lips of sleepers”.*** (Gordis, 97).   This seems consistent with both the literal meaning of the Hebrew words and the KJV but does not shed much additional light on what the text means. So, put it all together, and what do we have? First, the subject is “the roof of thy mouth,” i.e. the wife’s palate. Everyone knows what the literal roof of the mouth is, so physically there’s no mystery. It seems most likely that King Solomon was indeed commenting on how much he loved french-kissing his wife (although the pleasure didn’t yet have such a name, since there were no “French” in those days!)   The rest of the verse is still somewhat of a puzzle in the physical realm, although the best explanation I found was this: “…one thing emerges as certain: Shulamith’s kisses have an intoxicating effect on Solomon. However, there were no ill side effects, and Solomon could enjoy this ‘wine’ continually.”* (Patterson, 109).

Spiritually, I would hazard a guess that the palate refers to the highest subject of the wife’s speech…and I can think of no loftier subject than the praises of her Lord and God, which “flow sweetly…uprightly.” Expanding a little on the thoughts of Henry van Dyke, what is a more noble delight than taking the colors and forms of our life’s experience and weaving them into a beautiful garment to clothe our thoughts of God? So, the taste of his wife’s praises are like the “best wine,” i.e. his greatest joy. Perhaps it is the husband’s use of this imagery that reminds the bride of her earlier exclamation: “We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” (1:4). His love is even more wonderful than her greatest earthly joy, and all those who are “upright” (true believers?) love him too.

Gary Smalley, in his wonderful series, Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships, points out that men need to feel “adequate.” Let’s add that to our list of “A” words: assure him that he’s more than adequate! Adulate him, even as our Lord loves adulation and praise! Could it have been such a thought that caused her to join him at this point and add, “for my beloved!” Her praises are all for him! There is no one else—there is nothing else—that causes her lips to overflow with such joyous speech. Her praises flow “sweetly” and “smoothly,” in righteousness and uprightness. There is nothing rough or sullied or impure about the praises or the one being praised; all is holy and beautiful…as is our Lord!    “Causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” After a month of asking everyone wise friend I knew, even “men in high places”…although no one spontaneously interpreted the passage the same way I did, no one refuted my interpretation either. Could it be that the “sleeping ones” are those who are “sleeping” in sin, i.e. the unbelievers, or at the least those who because of sin have become insensible to spiritual things?  It is the bride who is speaking. She is speaking in praise of her bridegroom husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. She is extolling his wonders. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the highest thoughts of her heart—her adulation of her wonderful savior and king—will be so irresistibly sweet that it will arouse those who have been stupefied into lethargy by their sinful lives to speak…to “plot,” to “plan” to “tell tales”…to ask questions…to be aroused into dissatisfaction with their existential lives and search for this marvelous love and lover? Oh, Lord, may our speech be as sweet to you! May our praises cause even the lips of those who are sleeping yet in their sins to speak of you and search for you!

(All photos taken a few days ago at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.)

*Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 108-109.

** G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 163.

*** R. Gordis, The Song of Songs and Lamentations, (KTAV, 1974), 97.

Rise Up, My Love (243): Wedding Vows

Song of Solomon 7:9 “For my beloved.” Yes, all that we are and have is for our beloved. In this physical world we give such allegiance to our beloved spouse, but in a deeper sense—in a way that encompasses both the physical and the spiritual—we give all that we are and have to our beloved bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ…for time and for all eternity.

Tell me, have you kept your wedding vows? Do you remember them? Perhaps you wrote your own and had them all memorized…can you still repeat them? It would be a good exercise to keep a written copy somewhere special—maybe in your family Bible—and repeat them every year on your anniversary. My husband and I used the aged formula that we had heard so oft repeated from our earliest childhood memories of weddings… “and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him/her so long as ye both shall live…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.”

Our first, ever continuing obligation is to forsake all others. It is also God’s first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Just as every wife wants her husband to have eyes for only her (and visa-versa), so God wants us to only have eyes for Him! Do you ever allow your eyes to stray when a pretty woman or a handsome man walks by? You will break your beloved’s heart and trust.

In our country, we aren’t typically tempted to worship literal, handmade image-idols from other nations. You don’t hear of many people converting to Buddhism or Shintoism. Do you know why? Because the god that appeals to Americans is the “almighty” dollar. Money and leisure have become national gods, and Americans who don’t worship Jesus typically chase materialistic pleasures. So, don’t be tempted to relax and say, “Well, at least I’ve forsaken all other gods! I don’t have eyes for anyone but God.” The real test is not, “Do you keep figurines on an idol shelf?” but, “Do you find yourself tempted to make decisions based on material gain or selfish pleasure rather than on your perception of its being God’s will…being right and for His pleasure?”

“To have and to hold.” Yes, Jesus, above all else, I am yours to have and to hold. Isn’t it strange that during the easy times of life many hearts are tempted to wander, but during the hard times, we are more likely to seek the comfort and support of a companion? Why is that? “For better or worse.” When things are “better,” it should be simple to remain faithful, but how easily people grow careless with each other and become intent on pursuing idle pleasures that distract rather than bind them together. When things are “better,” how easily people forget God and go their own way!

How much like sheep, who wander off on the sunny days until they have stumbled and fallen…and then bleat pitifully in their helpless pain and fear as the night falls! When it’s “for better,” humans tend to grow selfish and not want to be “bothered.” When it’s “for worse…” well, if it’s our problem, we want help and compassion…now!! But, if it’s our spouse’s problem…do we rush to his aid…and then endure patiently as needed? Our ability not only to “endure” but to take joy in being able to show love for our spouse through sacrifice is a rare and noble quality indeed.

“‘Joy is a duty’—so with golden lore
The Hebrew rabbis taught in days of yore.
And happy human hearts heard in their speech
Almost the highest wisdom man can reach.
But one bright peak still rises far above,
And there the Master stands whose name is Love,
Saying to those whom weary tasks employ:
‘Life is divine when Duty is a joy.’”
—Henry van Dyke

What a comfort it is as we grow older “to have and to hold” a life mate. I often used to tell my children that getting married is like putting money in a bank. Our oldest, shrewd financial steward that he is, tucked away $20,000 from his first year’s salary for his retirement, knowing that if all continues for the next fifty years as it has for the past fifty (which it probably won’t), that small (but significant) investment will grow into an ample retirement pension. Now, a twenty-five year old young man could think of many ways to spend 20K, but he will be very happy for his sacrifice in years to come.

Likewise, young adults may find it very difficult…even painfully sacrificial… to pour their time, energy, and money into developing a strong marriage and rearing a family. How much easier it would be to just “do their own thing.” But, all the sacrifices we make in our youth pay tremendous spiritual, emotional, and even physical benefits as we age.

Although it was simply by faith that my husband and I invested in a large family (based on believing Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward”), there is nothing on this earth that brings us more genuine pleasure now than our family. If you asked my husband, “Was it hard?”, I’m sure he would say, “Harder than I could have ever imagined when I asked Kathi to marry me!” When I asked him if it was worth it, he said, “Next to getting saved, it’s been the greatest joy of my life.” To which I would add a hearty “Amen!”

“For my beloved.” Yes, keep all you have and are for your beloved, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death” parts you! And for our beloved, let us keep all we are and have for him until death brings us to his arms forever!

Rise Up, My Love (242): The Best Wine

Song of Solomon 7:9 “And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” Some verses appear difficult at a distance but easily yield their meaning when studied. Other verses appear simple with a cursory reading but actually become very difficult to understand when scrutinized carefully. This verse has been extremely difficult to “cut open.” At first reading, my tendency was to paraphrase it something like this: “I love french-kissing you! It’s better than the best wine, which flows down so smoothly that it even wakes up those who are sleeping.”

But, is that what the verse is really saying, and even if it is…what spiritual truth is the Lord conveying? One thing that complicates trying to understand the verse’s meaning is the little phrase “my beloved.” Does “my beloved” refer to the husband, or his wife? The husband has obviously been talking. “And the roof of thy mouth” is a continuation of the husband’s description of his wife; i.e.: the roof of her mouth. The suffix on the Hebrew noun translated “your mouth” is feminine, so it is definitely the wife being described up to that point.

But if the husband actually says that the roof of her mouth is like the best wine “for my beloved,” a proper continuation of the thought would demand that “my beloved” is the wife, so the husband is not saying that the wine slides smoothly down his throat, but hers. In other words, he would not be saying that he responds to french-kissing his wife as if he were drinking the best wine, but rather that her taste is like wine for herself. What’s the problem with that?

Well, first, most people assume that the intended imagery is that the wife’s sweet kisses are as pleasurable to the husband as drinking the best wine. But, if the wine is going down her throat, not his, then he is describing her pleasure, not his, which has not happened heretofore in the book. The second problem is simply one of usage. The term “beloved” is used 103 times in Scripture, and twenty-six of those usages (fully one-fourth of all instances) are in the Song of Solomon. In every other instance, “beloved” clearly refers to the husband. The term “my beloved” is similar. It is used forty-two times in Scripture, and over half (twenty-two) of the instances are in Song of Solomon…always speaking of the husband unless 7:9 is an exception.

“My beloved” is used elsewhere nine times to refer to Christ, nine times by Paul and James to refer to Christian brethren or sons in the faith, once in reference to God, and once—only once in all those occasions…but still, once—of Israel, in the feminine form, as the adulterous wife of God (Jeremiah 11:15). Commentators don’t just split the ballot over this issue, they splinter it! Because the most ancient Hebrew had no punctuation marks (those written in present day texts were added centuries later), it isn’t possible to reason that verses eight and nine all had to be spoken by the same person “because it’s all one sentence.” This is true in the King James Version’s English translation,  but the original text doesn’t have any demarcations.

No one doubts but that the wife picks up the conversation in verse 10. Although some commentators ascribe verses eight and nine to the husband in their entirety, many modern translations, including the New King James and the NIV, now punctuate the text with “And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine,” as the husband’s concluding comment, and have the wife begin her speech with, “For my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.”

After prayerfully wrestling with the text for three weeks, I now believe that verse nine should indeed be split. Hikek is the Hebrew word here translated “roof of thy mouth.” Some translations render it as “kisses,” but this is somewhat interpretive, since the word is common and used elsewhere with the more straightforward meaning of palate (as in this verse), mouth (5:16), or taste (2:3) . “…like the best wine…” The value and symbolic significance of wine in the Bible have already been discussed at length. Wine is symbolic of joy and abundant living. In chapter one, verse four, the bride declares, “We will remember thy love more than wine.” Here the husband returns the compliment and makes it superlative by saying that his wife’s kisses are “like the best wine.” Loving her produces a joy in him that is the very best of the best! “…for my beloved.”

Given that in every other instance in the entire book “my beloved” is a name used as a term of endearment by the wife for her husband, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that at this juncture the husband’s praises end, and the wife begins her response. In that light, it is easy to understand the husband’s final comment as a beautiful capstone on his delicate adulation of this most wondrously intimate experience of marriage. The couple had just enjoyed sexual union, and lying in each other’s arms during the quiet glow that followed— breathing in her very breath and drinking in her kisses—he summed up his delight in her as if he’d just partaken of the world’s most highly prized and delectable beverage.

Use a more general definition of hikek and you have: “Your taste is like the best wine!” Oh, beloved of God, meditate on the marvel that Christ has no greater joy than our yielded union with him. It is to us that he declares, “Your taste is like the best wine!”

Rise Up, My Love (240): Perfect Breath and Perfect Foods

Song of Solomon 7:8 “…and the smell of thy nose like apples.” As the husband draws into union with his wife, he becomes so intimately entwined with her that he can smell her face and finds he is breathing the very air she breathes. No bad breath here! I wonder if the bride just brushed her teeth…and if so, what type of toothpaste she used, because the word for “smell” is the Hebrew riah, which is used earlier in the book to describe the fragrance of perfumes and garden spices.

How does one get breath so fresh and appealing? I don’t suppose three thousand years ago they had toothpaste and mouth wash (although they may have had their own versions that have not as yet been discovered). Perhaps her breath was the natural result of proper hygiene and good nutrition. Whatever…I would love to have breath as fragrant as apples, wouldn’t you?

Although I may not know the secret to delectable breath, I believe our heavenly bridegroom is trying to teach us a secret about spiritual attractiveness in this passage, because—as compelling as the imagery of sexual union is—the insight into spiritual oneness is even more overwhelming.

Let’s consider these two aspects of union: breasts as clusters of grapes, and breath like apples. First, the king describes her breasts as clusters of grapes. The breasts only develop in a woman as she matures, and the anatomic function of the breasts is to provide nourishment for the offspring of her union with her husband. Spiritually, the breasts…those clusters of the vine…the “fruit of the Spirit”… also develop as we mature by “abiding in the Vine” (see John 15:1-5).

We have already considered the fruit of the Spirit, but let’s read the passage thoughtfully again: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice that there are nine qualities mentioned, but one “fruit.” Does that ring a bell? It makes me think of the breast…just one breast, but multiple lobes within that breast producing milk. “The fruit of the spirit is…” Singular. The breasts take lactose, protein, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin, vitamins (particularly A, B1 and B12), water, and milk fat to produce one glorious, perfectly balanced product: milk, which is considered nature’s most perfect food because it contains almost all the nutrients essential for human growth.  The Spirit likewise develops in us the essential qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, and self-control to produce one glorious character: Christ’s, which will equip us for nurturing the spiritual offspring that result from our joyful union with Him. Oh, Lord, please develop in us a passion for you that results in spiritual maturity, fullness, and truly Christ-like character!