Tag Archives: Commentary on Song of Solomon 8:1

Rise Up, My Love (256): Afraid of Being Despised

Song of Solomon 8:1 What keeps the bride from immediately acting on her inspiration in this verse? Fear of being despised by others. How true the proverb: “The fear of man bringeth a snare.” Her lament is the core thought as the bride begins to paint this last poetic picture, and it should cause us to pause for serious introspection.

What keeps us from public displays of affection for our Lord? What keeps us from coming away with him during the day for a time of communion? Is it the fear of public ridicule? Are we afraid of being despised? Immediately verses begin to swirl through my brain, such as those prophetically spoken of Jesus: Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected of men… he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” and Psalm 22:6, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”

Jesus was clearly despised by those who rejected him. But…what about the New Testament admonitions such as 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity,” and Titus 2:15: “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”

Those two lines of thought seem incongruous. What exactly does it mean to be despised? Is it something to be avoided, or is it something that we will inevitably suffer for the Lord’s sake? If Jesus, perfect as he was, was despised, how shall we escape such degradation? According to the dictionary, to despise something is to regard it as “unworthy of interest or concern” or worse yet, to regard it with “utter contempt (1)”. Our Lord was regarded as something unworthy of interest by those who rejected him. How often we find that true among unbelievers today!

How often I’ve tried to share Christ with those I love, and their response is often something like this, “I’m too busy. I don’t feel a need. There are too many other things going on in my life right now! Who cares?” Wow! I believe it is against this calloused indifference that our Lord admonished us to be examples of true faith and to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). Don’t let people ignore their need! Speak. Tell them. If they refuse to listen, then exhort them: “urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal (2).”  If they still refuse to acknowledge their need of the Savior, then rebuke them: “criticize or reprove sharply; reprimand (3).” Point out to them their sins “with all authority”…based on the authority of the Word of God!

So, in the final analysis, it looks like the bride is afraid of being despised but should not be. King Solomon wrote in his proverbs that “the fear of man bringeth a snare,” but “whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Perhaps he taught these very lessons to his wife long before they were recorded for posterity, because—happily—as the next three verses unfold, we see that the bride overcomes her fears in order to bring her husband into communion. And, for us as believers today, we should take heart, not fearing the ridicule of man, but rather pursuing our Lord…morning, noon, and night!

(1) The American Heritage Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992, 507.
(2) Ibid, 642.
(3) Ibid, 1507.

Rise Up, My Love (255): Holy Fire

Song of Solomon 8:1 “O that thou wert as my brother…” Although Solomon has used the term of intimate endearment, “my sister my spouse” four times in the Song, this is the first and only time that his wife uses the word “brother,” and then…she doesn’t really call him brother, she simply expresses the desire to be as affectionate with him in public as one can be with a true biological brother.

The  complete phrase (which I’m going to ask you to look up lest it sound inappropriate for anyone who reads on Face Book) implies a full, rather than only a half brother, since multiple wives but not multiple husbands sometimes occurred during that period. This is a significant differentiation since we know from the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Amnon and Tamar, etc. that half brothers and sisters could and sometimes did marry in ancient times, and therefore—apparently—public affection was socially uncensured only between true biological offspring of the same couple.

I was surprised to find that there is precious little commentary from anyone on this verse. Is it because we—as products of modern western culture—find it hard to understand what she’s feeling? From the remainder of the section (verses 1-4), it seems clear that her desire is not simply to be able to give him a sisterly greeting in public places, it is the desire to be able to draw him away from the public concourses into the privacy of home and initiate intimate communion without incurring public ridicule.

A biological sister could greet her brother affectionately in the market place and take him home to their mother’s house without arousing any suspicion or derision because it would be assumed that she had come on a legitimate business errand. But, this bride was on a romantic errand instead!

Why did she experience such a passion for intimacy during the day, and was the fear of being despised good or bad? As a wife, I can think of times when I’ve daydreamed about “kidnapping” my husband to carry him off for a romantic interlude. There are two common motivations, one selfish and one unselfish.

On the selfish side, such fantasies are often the result of feeling overwhelmed by present responsibilities or burdened by present griefs and trials. There is something almost irresistibly appealing about the thought of escaping to “somewhere” away from the fray with “someone” who loves you and will make you forget your worries. Haven’t you felt that sometimes too?

Although there are proper places and times for coming apart for refreshment (as modeled by our Lord Jesus, who would go apart with his Father and pray), I suspect the Lord doesn’t intend them nearly as often as we imagine! On the unselfish side, the ardent desire to be in communion with the one who is the object of our affection is ever a good thing, and although the pressures and responsibilities of the day often keep us apart for long periods of time, the eagerness of our hearts for reunion is simply an indication of the depths of our love.

Since the text gives no indication that outside pressures are distressing the bride, it seems reasonable to assume that her passion for union is driven simply by the intensity of her love. I wonder, do we share a similar unselfish passion for communion with our Savior…just to be with him not because we need something but because we want him? What about in our marriages? Do we long to be with our mates—not to get something from him or her such as help, reassurance, or sexual release, but “just because”…just because we love being together?

Dear God, please give us a passion for communion with our mate and with our Savior! Please grant us a passion for Christ like the passion we feel for physical union! Please develop in us a hunger and thirst for Christ that’s even greater than our drive for food and water! May we burn brightly with your holy fire.   PS—It didn’t occur to me 15+ years ago when I first studied this verse, but I think a very high percentage of adulterous relationships develop when people feel overwhelmed by life and work stresses but fail to go to God and their mate for help. As mates, we really need to be available to listen and soothe one another. If we’re always busy complaining and adding to our mate’s stress level, then pretty soon our mate will be tempted to go somewhere where they can feel less pressured, not more. However, that’s absolutely WRONG! If spending time with your mate makes you feel more stressed, tell your mate! Work together to find times when you can declare a “no stress zone,” and have times when you concentrate on bonding and having fun together instead of always grinding through issues and problems. The problems ye have with you always!