1. Song of Solomon 5:7 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Why do the watchmen find the woman, beat her, and strip her?

Song of Solomon 5:7 (ESV)

7 The watchmen found me as they went about in the city; they beat me, they bruised me, they took away my veil, those watchmen of the walls.

Just as she does in her poem in Song of Solomon 3:1–5 before the marriage, the woman again encounters the watchmen as she searches the city. On this occasion they respond very differently. They beat her and strip away her veil. Presumably, they took her to be a prostitute. What the woman feared in Song of Solomon 1:7 has now happened. Her search, which in Song of Solomon 3:1–11 was an uncomplicated and relatively rapidly successful quest, has now become a much darker and more difficult journey. The watchmen of the walls, part of whose job was apparently to guard against illicit sexual encounters, now punish her for her unwillingness to pursue a lawful sexual encounter with her own husband. Of course, since this is a dreamlike episode, the watchmen are themselves a product of her own imagination, yet their symbolic significance is enormous.1

It is the fumbling, anxious side of male-female relationships that is in view here as the lovers fail to connect with each other and alienation enters their relationship. Absence, not presence, is the reality with which the passage ends, and longing, not fulfilment, is the governing theme. We are confronted here with an aspect of the darker side of love, hinted at already in Song of Solomon 2:7 and Song of Solomon 3:5. True love is wonderful and good, but true love also involves vulnerability, insecurity, and loss.2