Song of Solomon is one of those books either we simply ignore or we somehow over-interpret. If you go through a study of the book, which is rare, you will either find somebody making it totally symbolic or you will find someone making it nearly pornographic; or, just maybe, you will find a person who handles it simply, literally, and respectfully.
Since the book can be so difficult, we often miss some of the beauties that are there. And I do not want to miss them in my read through this text for this year. Here is an example of something that we will miss if we are not careful.
Song of Solomon 1:6
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
because the sun has looked upon me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
they made me keeper of the vineyards,
but my own vineyard I have not kept!
In this account of a man and woman who marry, early on, the young woman is ashamed. Her skin is darker than was considered beautiful in her culture. Her brothers made her work outside instead of sitting under a shade all day. And this has cost her the complexion she wanted; she has a tan. The woman does not want her lover to think about her skin.
In this section, the man will not be put off by the woman’s dark complexion. She is lovely to him. And what’s more, she has character to match.
The woman had to work because her brothers made her work. She is worried about how her brothers have cost her. WE won’t see the woman’s brothers mentioned again until the end of the book. Between this scene in chapter 1 and the close of the book in chapter 8, the woman and the man appear to date, marry, grow in love, and work through conflict.
Then, in the end, the woman recalls her brothers.
In chapter 8 verse 9, the brothers are asked what to do with a young sister. They say something interesting.
Song of Solomon 8:9
If she is a wall,
we will build on her a battlement of silver,
but if she is a door,
we will enclose her with boards of cedar.
As strange as this poetry is, the issue here is one of character. A wall and a door are two types of behavior that could befit the brother’s young sister. A door here is dangerous behavior, open to far too much. If she acts like that, the brothers will work to protect her from her dangerous impulses.
A wall, on the other hand, is strong and steady. A sister who is a wall has solid character, clear standards. If she is firm of character, uncompromising in things that matter, the brothers will adorn her, decorating her with praise.
In verse 10, the woman declares that she was a wall. Her character was firm. She grew up, and she loved and married.
Then, at the end, the woman thinks back over her life. She thinks about her body which she called a vineyard in chapter 1. She thinks back to those mean brothers who made her work and did not let her just sit around and fixate on her physical appearance. She considers those brothers who watched to see that she be a woman of character, firm of purpose, a wall and not a door.
Song of Solomon 8:12
My vineyard, my very own, is before me;
you, O Solomon, may have the thousand,
and the keepers of the fruit two hundred.
The woman thinks of herself and carries the vineyard metaphor to its conclusion. Now that she is grown, her love is her own to give. Her husband, Solomon, receives the fruit of that vineyard. But, in a sweet moment, the woman acknowledges that her brothers deserve her thanks. Thousands go to Solomon, but a proper nod of appreciation goes to the brothers who watched out for their sister and helped her grow in character.
O, I know, all this might sound weird to you. But, Song of Solomon is three-thousand-year-old poetry. It will feel a little weird. We need to grasp that it is worth it to guard a young woman’s character and protect her virtue. Our world screams at every young woman that she should be a door, swinging open to all opportunities, all ideas, all lusts. And as we protect our daughters and our sisters from such thinking, it is not always welcome.
But, godly men, let us never stop doing all we can to protect and treasure the women around us. These ladies, our sisters in the Lord, are worth protecting. They are not worth any less than us. Nor are they worth more. WE are different. We have differing roles to play. We have differing strengths and weaknesses. As men who love the Lord, we must strive to use our strength to protect, to preserve, and to provide. We must be willing to risk disappointing women around us by not promoting worldly thinking just as they must sometimes risk disappointing us by calling us back to the way of the Lord.
And all believers can learn from this account. Early in her young life, the woman resented her brothers. I am sure this included their protection and the fact that they did not let her be lazy. All of us, men and women, need people to speak into our lives, to challenge us, to call to account, to press us toward growth, to change our thinking from worldly to godly. May we have friends and family who will invest in us. May we welcome all that points us to the word of God and Christlike character.