Tag Archives: Commentary on Song of Solomon 7:4

Rise Up, My Love (228): Would You Like Eyes of Peace?

“Thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim” (Song of Solomon 7:4). A gate where multitudes passed by for water suggests a broad gate and an extremely busy thoroughfare. For the husband to experience his wife’s eyes as deep reservoirs of water beside a busy gate brings to mind a husband who—in the midst of the press and rush of business—could stop to drink in his wife’s beauty and find himself refreshed by the placid, unruffled serenity reflected in her eyes. There is nothing so appealing and calming as bright, clear, peaceful eyes in the midst of a world of confusion…not eyes that have been blurred by staring at earthly possessions, fired by anger, or clouded by guilt, but eyes with clarity, depth, and purity…eyes like the reservoirs of Heshbon—deep calling unto deep (Psalm 42:7)—reflecting the radiant image of the Son of God. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Dear Lord, please give us such eyes…eyes that “are ever toward the Lord” (Psalm 25:15). Give us eyes that sparkle and shine with eternity’s “I love you” and hold heaven in their heart. Eyes that reflect the depth of your character and can guide blind travelers searching through the trackless deserts of this world for reservoirs supplied by your springs of living water. Please give us eyes that reflect the perfect peace of one whose mind is stayed on you (Isaiah 26:3)…whose eyes are calm with the quietness that only you can give. “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29). Oh, Lord, teach us to open that door which separates soul from spirit in our inmost being and retreat to the spiritual world, closing the door on the yearnings of our flesh so that we might focus without interruption on you. Please give us “eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim.”

There is a peace which cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled:
A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on the tempest that is stilled.
A peace which lives not now in joy’s excesses,
Nor in a happy life of love secure;
But in the strength the heart possesses—
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
A peace that is in Sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passions free;
‘Tis not the peace which over Eden broodeth,
But which triumphed in Gethsemane.” —Jessie Rose Gates
( Found in Lockyer, Dr. Herbert. Love Is Better Than Wine. Harrison: New Leaf Press, 1981, p. 116)

Song of Solomon (227): Fish Eyes? Fishy Eyes?

Song of Solomon 7:4 “Thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim…” Although we have probably all been privileged at some point in our lives to enjoy an oriental fish pool and catch the glimmer of goldfish darting about in the clear, green waters, there is much in the imagery of this praise which the western mind would miss without studying the ancient city of Heshbon and the culture of the times.   Heshbon was located about fifty miles east of Jerusalem. It is mentioned thirty-seven times in Scripture and was a powerful city in ancient Palestine. In Numbers 21:25-30 we learn that Heshbon was originally a Moabite city but was conquered by Sihon, the king of the Amorites, who made it his capital. Later (Numbers 32:37) it became part of the inheritance of the tribe of Rueben, and although it eventually reverted back to Moabite rule (and both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied of coming judgment because of its evil), during the reign of King Solomon it was part of the inheritance given to the Levites as a city of peaceful refuge for the families of the priests. It was a beautiful city, a powerful city, and a city of peace.   The name Heshbon means “he that hastens to understand or build.”1  Already we find rich ore for the mining! For the bride to have her eyes compared to the fishpools in Heshbon would have brought to the ancient eastern mind thoughts of beauty, power, peace, and a heart to understand and build. Oh, that in our eyes our Lord might see beautiful spirits…peaceful spirits, but spirits with a passion to eagerly pursue wisdom and growth!   Recent excavations of Heshbon (now in Jordan) have uncovered the remains of large reservoirs near the city. The word for “fishpools” is the Hebrew berekot, which does not refer to springs or fountains, “but the deep reservoirs which the springs supply. The sense here is one of still, deep calmness rather than the sparkle and shimmer of flowing springs”(2).   The translation “fish pools” followed the Latin Vulgate rendering piscinae, referring to pools for fish, but there is no actual intimation from the Hebrew text that the pools were so used (3). Fish pools were typically shallow, and the deep reservoirs near the gate of Bath-rabbim were more likely used for the city’s water supply, particularly in light of the name Bath-rabbim, which means literally “the daughter of multitudes.” Ah, and here is another resting spot for meditation!  How often the names in Scripture tell a story in themselves. The deep reservoirs supplied life-giving water for multitudes. The task of carrying water from the city well to the family dwelling place was one of the housekeeping responsibilities of the women and was normally assigned to daughters (if there were any) who were old enough and strong enough for such work. (For examples, Rachel, Rebekah, and the woman at the well in Sychar.)   So, the reservoirs supplied water for the “daughter(s) of multitudes…” and through them, the entire city. Anyone who came to the wells could drink. Everyone who came could drink. It didn’t matter if the person was a beautiful and virtuous young virgin like Rebekah or a five-time has been with no real family of her own like the woman Jesus redeemed by the well of Sychar… everyone who came was allowed to drink. Oh, to be a woman whose eyes are deep, peaceful, reservoirs of life-giving spirit, open in compassion to the poor and prepared to minister to the needs of all the daughters of this earth!

(1) Lockyer, Dr. Herbert. Love Is Better Than Wine. Harrison: New Leaf Press, 1981, p. 113.
(2) Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984, p. 158.
(3) Patterson, Paige.  Song of Solomon. Chicago:  Moody, 1986, p. 105.


Rise Up, My Love (227): A Neck Like a Tower of Ivory

auguste-rodin-madame-roll-musee-rodin-parisSong of Solomon 7:4 “Thy neck is as a tower of ivory.” In the Song of Solomon, there is a wonderful progression in the character and praise of the wife’s neck. In chapter 1:3 the groom mentions how lovely the bride looks adorned with chains of gold around her neck, and in 4:4 he comments that her neck is like a tower built for an armory to display beautiful golden shields. However, in 7:4 what the husband notices is no longer the adornments he has given his bride, but her beautiful neck itself! What made the difference? marble-statue-of-a-woman-paris-musee-dorsayHow did the wife go from being praised for the husband’s beautiful gifts to being praised for what she was? How did her neck change such that it became so beautiful in its own right that it was more captivating than adornments…and more pleasing uncovered? The changes mentioned are in color and consistency: from a “black tent” to a tower…and then, to a tower of ivory.  auguste-rodin-eve-musee-rodin-parisThink back to the beginning the Song. The bride shrinks from view: “Look not upon be, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me”(Song 1:6). And, in the preceding verse, the bride likens herself to being as black “as the tents of Kedar.” A woman who is blackened by the sun is a perfect picture of the natural man…the Ecclesiastical sinner who toils “under the sun” and finds that all is “vanity and vexation of spirit”(Ecclesiastes 2:26). A woman “under the sun” is like the daughter of Zion described in Isaiah 1:5-6: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” Repulsive as this is, it is a true picture of what each of us looked like spiritually at the time the Lord called us to be His own.  musee-dorsay-paris-looks-like-a-woman-reading-her-bibleHere is another thought. The bride likens herself to the “tents of Kedar.” What were the tents of Kedar? They were the dwelling places of those nomads who were roving the arid wilderness areas of the Middle East. The tents were made out of the tanned hides of goats…leathery and weatherbeaten…blackened by the smoke of a thousand sooty fires where nightly meals were being prepared. The tents were tough and rugged, but still they could be blown over by a heavy wind and certainly could not provide protection from enemy invasion! A blackened tent is almost an antonym for an “ivory tower.” This bride was the original “red neck…” rough and tough, sunburned and uncared for…her neck as dark and leathery as a sun-baked tent, not upright and elegant, but all too oft bent down from the heavy labors of tending her brothers’ vineyards. Spiritually, this is the picture of one whose neck has been bowed under the yoke of Satan, the blackened soul enslaved by sin, the morally frail one who could be blown about by “every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness” (Ephesians 4:14). Think back to the Song of Solomon 1:4. “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers.” The king draws us, we run after him, and he weds us to himself.  musee-dorsay-claude-monetAbsolutely incredible! We cannot resist running to him, and yet we are utterly amazed that he will take us in. We are as dark as the tents of Kedar. We are ashamed to be seen! Our hearts are black with sin and we cry out in brokenhearted anguish, “Don’t look at me!” Yet, our Lord loves us and takes us to himself. He washes our wounds, dresses us in robes of white, and places around our neck the golden chains of his ownership—his forgiveness, mercy, and grace. How they sparkle in the sunlight of his love! He cherishes us, praises our feeble attempts to please him, decks our cheeks with jewels and lavishes us with the gifts of his Spirit. He anoints us with perfumes and seats us at his banqueting table. “How lovely you look with those dazzling chains about your neck!” He praises. “How well you wear my graces and gifts!” We are not spiritually beautiful yet, but our heavenly lover encourages us by saying we appear lovely dressed in his robes of righteousness and adorned with his graciousness.  musee-dorsay-claude-monet-1866-femmes-au-jardinBy chapter 4, the bride has grown tremendously. No longer the young bride who is ashamed by her utter failure, now the bride has learned to walk uprightly. She has taken her place publicly as the queen and holds her head erect, walking with the demeanor fitting one who has become one of the nation of kings and priests.jardin-des-tuileries-paris She is walking in his steps and following in his ways. She has become a tower to display his graces and glories (4:4). Now, at last, by chapter 7, her neck is like a tower of ivory…erect, smooth, and lily white. Ivory speaks of purity, beauty, strength, costliness, stateliness…lustrous solidness. No longer suffering from overexposure to the deadly rays of this word’s sun and stooped from the weary round of her forced labor, the bride’s skin has taken on the prized sheen of ivory.  rebrandt-bugatti-chevaux-de-trait-musee-dorsayHer stance is statuesque; her neck is regal. Never again will her neck bow under the yoke of Satan or honor the idols or axioms of this world; it will bow only to honor her Lord and King! Her neck, which once drooped under the burden of shame, now supports her head like an ivory tower. auguste-rodin-diane-musee-rodin-parisShe has taken on not only the air but the essence of her royal husband, of whom it was said, “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women; upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir” (Psalm 45:8-9). This queen in gold is us—his beloved bride—no longer the backdrop for His treasures, but the treasure itself. At last the neck is like an ivory tower…needing no adornment…beautifully captivating in its own right.  henri-fantin-latour-charlotte-dubourg-musee-dorsay-parisTell me, dear wife, does your husband find more pleasure in you dressed or undressed? A beautiful neck needs no adornments to allure. And spiritually? The neck made straight… fashioned from the living sacrifice of Christ’s pure ivory…turning neither to the right or left, nor turning back…is a precious treasure to our Lord, and one He will delight in more than all the gold of Ophir!auguste-rodin-the-kiss-musee-rodin-paris

(All photos taken at Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, and Jardin des Tuileries in Paris last spring.)