The Art of Repairing a Broken Relationship
We can see Shulammith almost cringing as she approaches Solomon with her head hanging down. The noblewomen are standing nearby, but not close enough to hear what she and Solomon need to say privately. Before she can open her mouth, Solomon greets her.
4 “You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling,
As lovely as Jerusalem,
As awesome as an army with banners.
5 “Turn your eyes away from me,
For they have confused me;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Gilead.
6 “Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
Which have come up from their washing,
All of which bear twins,
And not one among them has lost her young.
7 “Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate
Behind your veil.
8 “There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
And maidens without number;
9 But my dove, my perfect one, is unique:
She is her mother’s only daughter;
She is the pure child of the one who bore her.
The maidens saw her and called her blessed,
The queens and the concubines also, and they praised her, saying,
10 ‘Who is this that grows like the dawn,
As beautiful as the full moon,
As pure as the sun,
As awesome as an army with banners?’
What an unexpected and beautiful greeting! There is not one word about the insult she gave him. There is no mention of the tension between them. All that Solomon talks about is how much he loves her.
Solomon shows the type of love all husbands should have for their wives. Paul told men to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). The Greek word translated as love is the word agape. It is a love of devotion – a love that continues to give even if it is not returned. This is the love that Christ had for us. He loved us so much that even when we were sinners – enemies of God – Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The physical make-up of a man allows him to give love even when he does fully feel like it. Men’s hormones are stable for most of their life. They tend to see the world in a consistent manner. This makes it possible for a man to make the first move to repair a broken relationship.
Too often a man wants to solve the problem, figuring the relationship with his wife will follow along after it. What Solomon shows is that it doesn’t matter what is the problem. Once the relationship is repaired, any problem can be addressed and overcome. But if two people are unwilling to get along with each other, then no amount of problem-solving will help because there will always be another problem waiting to drive a deeper wedge between them.
Solomon begins by comparing his wife’s beauty to the cities of Tirzah and Jerusalem. These were the two leading cities of Israel in the glory days of Solomon’s reign. Jerusalem was the capital of Solomon’s kingdom in the south and Tirzah was a mighty city in the north. When Solomon’s kingdom was split after his death, Tirzah became the capital of the northern kingdom for many generations.
He also found her beauty to be as awe-inspiring as a great army in full military dress with colorful banners flying above them.
He asks that she not look directly at him because her eyes arouse him, keeping him from making connected thoughts. She is still desirable to him. He is still a giddy schoolboy in her presence.
Solomon then begins to enumerate the specific features of his wife that he finds especially attractive. Many of these qualities are the same as the ones he praised on their wedding night. It demonstrates that his love has not changed in the years that have followed. Her hair is still dark, flowing, and bouncy like a flock of goats coming down off a mountain. Her teeth are still white, even, and matched with none missing. Her complexion is still as rosy as the flesh of pomegranate fruit. But here he stops. He doesn’t move on to more erotic descriptions because he doesn’t want to leave the impression that the only reason he wants this relationship repaired is so he can get in bed with her.
It is a delicate balancing act. He lets her know she is still his desire, but he doesn’t push it to leave her thinking that is the only thing on his mind.
Even though Solomon now has sixty wives, eighty concubines, and many maidens desiring him, he finds Shulammith unique. She is the only one that he wants. There is no one else like her. Her mother only had one daughter and she didn’t need another daughter for her first and only daughter was the best that there could be.
Though you might think Solomon is biased, he points out that even the women who would be inclined to not like Shulammith – the other wives, concubines, and maidens – have only praise for her. She is beautiful in form, pure in character, and awe-inspiring in presence.
This speech has left Shulammith shaking her head in wonder.
11 “I went down to the orchard of nut trees
To see the blossoms of the valley,
To see whether the vine had budded
Or the pomegranates had bloomed.
12 “Before I was aware, my soul set me
Over the chariots of my noble people.”
She originally came down to the garden to see if there were any blossoms left on her vineyard of love. Remember the concern in Song of Solomon 2:15 that the small problems would knock the delicate buds of love off before they had a chance to form? Now she was faced with a seemingly large problem that could have destroyed all the fully formed blossoms. But not only did she find the love intact, but before she realized what was happening her husband, her soul, had greatly honored her before everyone (Ephesians 5:28-29; I Peter 3:7).
She begins to move off – perhaps to contemplate the change in her position and in her heart. However, the women who came along with her are not ready for her to leave just yet.
13 “Come back, come back, O Shulammite;
Come back, come back, that we may gaze at you!”
Most likely they want to know what happened. Did he accept her apology? Are they back together again? What did he say?
13 Why should you gaze at the Shulammite,
As at the dance of the two companies?
We are not absolutely certain who replied to the ladies. Shulammith could be referring to herself in the third person or Solomon could be the speaker. It doesn’t matter for the message is the same. The women want to know what happened, yet the evidence is plainly before them. What more can they expect of Shulammith? Should she perform a festive dance like they have when two large groups camp near each other? She and Solomon are back together again and that is all that matters.
- What did Solomon not do when Shulammith approached him?
- Is there something about men that allow them to act as Solomon did?
- Why were the complements Solomon gave important?
- Why did Solomon wait for her to come to him? Yet, when she did come why did he not wait for an apology before speaking?
- Why was it important at this time to express desire, but not too strongly?
- What does Solomon find attractive about his wife?
- Why was Shulammith dumbfounded by Solomon’s reception of her?
- What caused their relationship to be strengthened?
- Why are the women curious about the outcome? Why is there no mention of Solomon’s male companions?