(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)

Song of Solomon, Chapter 5.

Chapter 4 was all about the Lover’s admiration, love, infatuation, and joy for his Beloved; he compares her to a secret garden, and in the final verse of the chapter she beckons him to enter:

Let my beloved come to his garden,
    and eat its choicest fruits.

Chapter 5 begins with the Lover’s entrance and exhortation by the Chorus. The Lover enters his garden and enjoys its fruits.

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
    I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
    I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
    I drank my wine with my milk.

Others

Eat, friends, drink,
    and be drunk with love!

The chapter then continues with the Beloved’s description of her heartache when her Lover is absent. Perhaps she is dreaming, or fantasizing about his return. She plays coy and worries about her modesty, but eventually hurries to greet her Lover before he can admit himself.

I slept, but my heart was awake.
A sound! My beloved is knocking.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
    my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is wet with dew,
    my locks with the drops of the night.”
I had put off my garment;
    how could I put it on?
I had bathed my feet;
    how could I soil them?
My beloved put his hand to the latch,
    and my heart was thrilled within me.
I arose to open to my beloved,
    and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
    on the handles of the bolt.
I opened to my beloved,
    but my beloved had turned and gone.
My soul failed me when he spoke.
I sought him, but found him not;
    I called him, but he gave no answer.

The imagery is evocative: both the Lover and the Beloved are wet, and the Beloved’s fingers drip with fragrant perfume from her fantasies of longing for her Lover. Perhaps her dream ends here and the next portion is a metaphor for her longing, or perhaps the dream continues into nightmare and despair.

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.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    if you find my beloved,
that you tell him
    I am sick with love.

However it is interpreted, the Beloved is sick with grief at the absence of her husband and Lover. The Chorus asks her, what’s so special about him?

Others

What is your beloved more than another beloved,
    O most beautiful among women?
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
    that you thus adjure us?

The Beloved goes on to describe her absent Lover in intimate detail.

My beloved is radiant and ruddy,
    distinguished among ten thousand.
His head is the finest gold;
    his locks are wavy,
    black as a raven.
His eyes are like doves
    beside streams of water,
bathed in milk,
    sitting beside a full pool.
His cheeks are like beds of spices,
    mounds of sweet-smelling herbs.
His lips are lilies,
    dripping liquid myrrh.

His head, his hair, his eyes, his cheeks, and again myrrh dripping from his lips.

His arms are rods of gold,
    set with jewels.
His body is polished ivory,
    bedecked with sapphires.
His legs are alabaster columns,
    set on bases of gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
    choice as the cedars.
His mouth is most sweet,
    and he is altogether desirable.

Apparently the Lover lifts. And finally, ultimately, why is the Lover so precious to his Beloved?

This is my beloved and this is my friend,
    O daughters of Jerusalem.

Not only are they lovers, husband and wife, but friends. How sweet is that?

(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)

Song of Solomon, chapter 4. In chapter 3 we spied on the Beloved’s dream on the night before her wedding and we saw her reaction to her Lover’s approach on their wedding day. Chapter 4 opens with the Lover’s admiration of his Beloved’s beauty as he arrives at the wedding. He begins at the top of her body and works his way down…

 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.
Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
    that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twins,
    and not one among them has lost its young.
Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
    and your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
    behind your veil.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
    built in rows of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
    all of them shields of warriors.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
    twins of a gazelle,
    that graze among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
    and the shadows flee,
I will go away to the mountain of myrrh
    and the hill of frankincense.
You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

The Lover is completely entranced with the beauty of his Beloved! He compliments all the features we men notice in modern times, and he grows more intimate as he moves down her body. Eyes, hair, teeth, lips, neck, breasts… but what’s this about a mountain and a hill? Some commentaries suggest that the mountains in the metaphor refer to the Church, and that the myrrh and frankincense refer to the scented incense that was used in Jewish temple rituals. Maybe! Song of Solomon is a metaphor for Christ’s love for the church, just as the institution of marriage itself is.

But! It’s not that hard to follow the Lover’s progression down his Beloved: head, neck, breasts, and then a heavenly-scented mountain that is perhaps too intimate to name directly. “Until the day breathes and the shadows flee”, the Lover will be caught up in his Beloved’s girly bits. It’s a lovely picture, and in my mind’s eye I can see the Beloved blushing in coy arousal. The intimacy and love described here are beautiful — the Lover is utterly smitten.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
    with one jewel 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 any spice!
11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride;
    honey and milk are under your tongue;
    the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

The Lover then describes his Beloved as garden of delight.

12 A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
    a spring locked, a fountain sealed.
13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates
    with all choicest fruits,
    henna with nard,
14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
    with all trees of frankincense,
myrrh and aloes,
    with all choice spices—
15 a garden fountain, a well of living water,
    and flowing streams from Lebanon.

The garden is locked, the spring is locked, the fountain is sealed. The Beloved belongs to her Lover alone, and the intimacy of their relationship is tightly guarded from outsiders. This intimacy is sexual, but not only sexual. It is their whole relationship, uniquely protected for just the two of them. The Lover ends with an evocative exhortation that is not difficult to interpret:

16 Awake, O north wind,
    and come, O south wind!
Blow upon my garden,
    let its spices flow.

The Lover’s words drip with erotic intimacy, and upon hearing her Lover’s profession of desire the Beloved does what any sensible woman would do:

Let my beloved come to his garden,
    and eat its choicest fruits.

To paraphrase: Come get some.