1. Song of Solomon 3:6–11 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

What is the purpose of the description in Song of Solomon 3:6-11 (in relation to Song of Solomon 4:1-15)?

Song of Solomon 3:6–11 (ESV)

6 What is that coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of a merchant?

Song of Solomon 4:1–15 (ESV)

1 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.

There are a number of parallels between the two parts of the young man’s poem in Song of Solomon 3:6–11 and Song of Solomon 4:1–15. He uses the Hebrew word hinnah (behold!) at the start of both parts (Song of Solomon 3:7 and Song of Solomon 4:1). In Song of Solomon 3:7 he uses the word to draw the attention of his listeners to the litter of Solomon, which he goes on to describe in Song of Solomon 3:7–11. In Song of Solomon 4:1 he uses the word behold to draw attention to the beauty of his young bride, which he too goes on to describe in great detail in Song of Solomon 4:2–15. In Song of Solomon 4:2–15 he also uses myrrh, frankincense, and other spices to describe his beloved (Song of Solomon 4:14), as he did in Song of Solomon 3:6. He also calls her to come to him from the wild and untamed regions of Lebanon (Song of Solomon 4:8), as he described her coming from the desert in Song of Solomon 3:6.

These parallels seem to suggest that the young man gives two contrasting answers to the question he has asked in Song of Solomon 3:6 (Who is that...?). We have already mentioned that it is the young woman who is approaching the young man on her wedding day. These two contrasting parts of the young man’s poem give two very different perspectives on how her approach could be perceived by the young man. This contrast serves to highlight the nature of his delight in, and love for, his young bride.

In this first part of his poem, the young man is therefore drawing the listeners attention in particular to the glory of Solomon’s bed on his wedding day.1 How the young man goes on to describe Solomon’s bed in Song of Solomon 3:7–11 will serve as a contrast to how the young man perceives his approaching bride in Song of Solomon 4:1–15.

There is a deep irony to what appears to be a day of great happiness and splendour for Solomon as described in Song of Solomon 3:6–11. It is in fact a day that has none of the real love and intimacy that the day represents because he has abused marriage in disobedience towards God (1 Kings 11:1–6). The young man wants the opposite with his new bride, and this is described in Song of Solomon 4:1–15.