Their First Night Together
Now comes the time for which our heroine has long desired. Now is the time that they can share their love in a more physical way. The scene opens with Solomon speaking.
4 1 “How beautiful you are, my darling,
How beautiful you are!
Your eyes are like doves behind your veil;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Mount Gilead.
2 “Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes
Which have come up from their washing,
All of which bear twins,
And not one among them has lost her young.
3 “Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
And your mouth is lovely.
Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate
Behind your veil.
4 “Your neck is like the tower of David,
Built with rows of stones
On which are hung a thousand shields,
All the round shields of the mighty men.
5 “Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle
Which feed among the lilies.
6 “Until the cool of the day
When the shadows flee away,
I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh
And to the hill of frankincense.
7 “You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
And there is no blemish in you.
Solomon has nothing but praise for his bride. He doesn’t just use vague flattery, but enumerates each captivating feature he sees.
He lifts her veil and once again compares her eyes to doves. (See the comments on chapter 1 verse 15.) The choice of the dove is important. The name “Solomon” means “peace.” His new bride is later called “Shulammith” which is the female form of the word for peace. The dove is often used as a symbol of peace. As with much of the Song of Solomon, there are many layers of meaning which can be mined from the words.
Solomon then moves to her hair that was revealed with her veil was removed. He compares it to flock of goats coming down a mountain. To our modern day ears, this almost sounds insulting. Who would want to hear that her hair reminds someone of goats? Goats in that region were dark-haired, almost black in color. This gives us a clue as to the color of Shulammith’s hair. Goat herds in those days were often quite large. Watching shepherds leading their flocks down a distant mountain, you could not see each individual goat, but you could see a flow of dark color moving and bouncing down the hillside. To Solomon, his bride was the mountain where her dark hair flows and bounces gently down.
The praise brings a smile to his bride’s lips and Solomon begins to praise her teeth. Continuing with the shepherding theme, he compares her teeth to a flock of newly shorn sheep who have just been bathed. Sheep wool is normally white, but the wool becomes gray from the dirt in the outdoors. Shearing the sheep exposes the clean, fresh wool underneath and a freshly bathed sheep is even whiter yet. So in a poetic way, Solomon is saying her teeth are pearly white. He also says they all have twins (they are even and matched), and none of them are missing. This is very noticeable in a country that did not benefit from modern dentistry.
One cannot mention teeth without mentioning their frame. Her lips, Solomon says are like scarlet thread. This is not to say they were thin like a thread, but that their color was deep red of the scarlet thread. He finds the shape of her mouth lovely, and perhaps takes opportunity to place a kiss there upon.
All this praise and attention brings a blush to her cheeks, to which Solomon gives notice. Her complexion is compared to a slice of ripe pomegranate. The flesh inside of a pomegranate is rosy color. His praise is much like an American saying she has a peaches-and-cream complexion. The blush of the peach reminds one of the blush of a woman, embarrassed but pleased with the things being said about her.
Solomon moves his eyes down to her neck which he compares to the tower of David. By this he means that her neck is impressive and shows a strength of character. The tower of David was decorated with shields around it sides that from the distance looks like a necklace. Not only is he complementing her jewelry, but he is also alluding to the fact that she had the integrity to shield herself. She kept herself pure for her husband.
Opening her robe, Solomon gives praise to her breasts. He compares them to twin fawns of a gazelle. By calling them twins, he says they are evenly matched. By referring to them as fawns, he conjures the allusion of soft, gentle creatures that fills one with a desire to hold. But as gazelles, he acknowledges that he must approach quietly and gently or they may be frightened off.
Remember, shortly before the wedding, our young woman expressed her desire for Solomon to be like a young stag playing upon her breasts? (Song of Solomon 2:17.) Here Solomon answers her request by promising to stay with her all night, until the dawn comes, enjoying the delights of her fragrant breasts. (See also Proverbs 5:18-19.)
He sums up his praise in saying she is altogether beautiful – perfect and without a flaw. If you go back and count, you will find that Solomon has praised seven features of his wife. The Hebrews considered seven to be a number that represented perfection.
8 “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
May you come with me from Lebanon.
Journey down from the summit of Amana,
From the summit of Senir and Hermon,
From the dens of lions,
From the mountains of leopards.”
The region of Lebanon was wild country. Great forests of cedars covered the mountainsides and they were the home of many wild animals.
Though she long desired to have sex with Solomon, as is befitting the right of a wife, the idea was frightening when the actual time approached. Her thoughts scattered in her fear. Solomon gently calls her back to him and calms her fears. He will not behave as a wild animal. Intercourse will come when she is ready for it.
Weddings are stressful events. So many preparations must be made and you hope they will turn out as planned. Yet the wedding is hardly over before you are in the arms of your love and nervous about this thing called sex that you heard so much about. Will you do all right? Will it hurt? Will he enjoy it? Will I enjoy it? The very anticipation of it can make a person ill. In fact, most couples are nervous. They become ill and experience headaches. Instead of rushing things, take your time. When I counsel couples before a wedding, I recommend that they not get married late in the day, nor should they plan on traveling far that first evening. Plan on having time together to unwind before you jump into bed.
9 “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride;
You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes,
With a single strand of your necklace.
10 “How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
And the fragrance of your oils
Than all kinds of spices!
11 “Your lips, my bride, drip honey;
Honey and milk are under your tongue,
And the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
Events are now progressing to more serious matters. Solomon and his bride have begun the foreplay of sexual intercourse. He is aroused by his wife. His heart is beating faster. Just a glance from her is giving him a rush. It doesn’t take much; even a glimpse of a link of her necklace causes his heart to race.
Solomon calls her his sister, his bride. It was considered a term of endearment to refer to your wife as your sister. Your sister was close to you. She knew everything about you. She was a good friend as you grew up. Now she has been replaced by your wife, the woman who is your best friend and companion.
As their passions arise, Solomon extolls that her love is more intoxicating than wine. The Hebrew word here appears to refer to the physical actions that result from the desire of two people. In Song of Solomon 1:2, the young woman used a similar phrase to complement Solomon’s kisses. The use of the same word in Ezekiel 16:8 and 23:17 also focuses on the physical expressions of love’s desire. Hence, Solomon is saying he is becoming giddy as she kisses and caresses his body.
As their bodies warm, the aromas of her perfumes smell better to him in his passion than all other fragrances combined.
Their kisses become deep and compassionate. No longer content with just her lips, his tongue joins her tongue and he finds the result very sweet. Today, this is called “French kissing.”
As the last of her garments come off, he takes time to enjoy their fragrant aroma of cedars. Notice that time is being taken to enjoy each phase of the lovemaking. Solomon is not in a rush to enter into his wife, even though the desire is strong. As any woman will tell her man, lovemaking is more than coupling together. A woman needs to know she is loved in order to fully express love physically. Her body needs to adjust and prepare for the actual joining. Too often the husband rushes through the preparatory time and the result is not enjoyable as it could be for either the wife or the husband. Especially during the first time a husband and wife share their bodies, the husband needs to exercise restraint and enjoy every moment.
12 “A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
A rock garden locked, a spring sealed up.
13 “Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates
With choice fruits, henna with nard plants,
14 Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
With all the trees of frankincense,
Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.
15 “You are a garden spring,
A well of fresh water,
And streams flowing from Lebanon.”
Two imagines are combined to describe Shulammith’s passion. Solomon describes it in such beautiful words that it seems almost crass to describe what is happening in plain words.
The first image is that of a private garden, walled off from others, locked behind a garden gate. Behind that gate is an orchard filled with many delights for the sight, the taste, and the smell. The garden Solomon is referring to is Shulammith’s body, in particular, her genitals, which she has kept locked up from men – saving herself for her husband. As her passions flare, her garden gate is opening up. With that opening come odors of her passion to which some husbands are sensitive. It is the fragrance of the delights that are about to come.
The second image is that of flowing water. Water is sometimes used to describe sexual intercourse in the Scriptures. For example, in Proverbs 5:15-20 Solomon warns of the unreasonableness of seeking sexual satisfaction with someone who is not your wife. One should drink water (have intercourse) with his own wife. The water in your own well is clean, pure, and refreshing. In those days enclosed sewage systems were not commonly in use. Instead, gutters were made along the sides of the streets. When you were done with washing the dishes or had completed your bath, you opened up a window and poured out the used water. No one in their right mind would quench their thirst by drinking from the street gutters. It is disgusting and unhealthy! Yet there are men who will seek to quench their desire for sex with women who have been used by countless men prior to them – and it is just as disgusting and unhealthy!
Notice the progression of the waters in this passage in Song of Solomon. It starts as a sealed-up spring, becomes a small spring in a garden still enclosed, then a deep well of fresh water, and finally a roaring stream flowing down a mountainside. It is a picturesque description of her growing readiness for intercourse both in her passion and in her physical body. It is critical for a husband to wait for his wife’s readiness for sex before he enters into her body.
When a naive husband moves too quickly to enter his wife, the intercourse at first becomes too uncomfortable for the wife. By the time she does become lubricated enough to enjoy the sexual movements, the husband has already reached his climax. The proper thing to do is continue foreplay until the wife is ready to move onto intercourse. New husbands may feel like they’re dying waiting for the proper moment, but it is well worth the wait. The experience of sexual intercourse will become much more satisfying for both the wife and the husband.
16 “Awake, O north wind,
And come, wind of the south;
Make my garden breathe out fragrance,
Let its spices be wafted abroad.
May my beloved come into his garden
And eat its choice fruits!”
Though silent up until now, the woman speaks at this critical moment. She is fully aroused with the desire for intercourse. Her garden gate is wide open and fragrance of her desire is evident. She invites her husband to enter in to enjoy the pleasure of her body. Notice that she calls it his garden and not her own (I Corinthians 7:4).
Newlyweds take note. Make it a rule that whenever you engage in sex that you husbands wait until your wife tells you she is ready for intercourse. She will know when her body is prepared better than you. Both of you will benefit from the better timing.
5 1 I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk.
The actual climax of intercourse took place between the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5. Solomon describes what happened in the past tense. He entered into his wife. No longer is it her garden, but his to share as well. Their fragrances have blended together. His firmness has combined with her sweet liquidity. Their fluids have come together. Truly they have become one flesh (Genesis 2:24, I Corinthians 6:16). Even though he is using his-and-her images, they are all called his to emphasize the unity.
As this tender scene closes, two lines are heard.
1 “Eat, friends;
Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.”
The speaker is neither Solomon nor his bride, as the tense has changed from first-person to third-person. Some commentators see this as the well wishing of their friends, but this would imply that some of their friends were looking on during this most intimate of times between a husband and wife. A more likely source is that these are the words of the narrator, more specifically, God who gives his blessing to their union (Proverbs 18:22). God is always present, even at our most intimate moments. It was He who created us and created sex for the enjoyment of husbands and wives. We expect our merciful Father to approve of the joining of a man and woman in marriage and to encourage them to fully enjoy the delights of that union (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
1) After the long wait an the obvious desire, why would our heroine be nervous about sex?
2) Do only women fear the first time for sexual intercourse?
3) What can the husband do to help calm the situation?
4) Why does Solomon use so many flattering descriptions of his bride?
5) Notice that Solomon focuses on the upper parts of her body for his complements. Why?
6) Why is it important to wait until the wife is ready before intercourse?
7) Should sex be fun?
8) Why does our heroine make so few remarks in this scene?