Song 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? How 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. Think 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. Here 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. Absolutely 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. By 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. 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. Her 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. She 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. Tell 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!
(All photos taken at Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, and Jardin des Tuileries in Paris last spring.)