(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)
In chapter 5 we read about the Beloved’s longing for her Lover, and we see her fantasize about his return. At the beginning of chapter 6 we hear the Chorus ask: where has your Lover gone?
Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
that we may seek him with you?
And the Beloved responds that her Lover has returned, using flowers again as a sexual metaphor. What is the Lover’s garden? Where is he grazing? I think you know.
My beloved has gone down to his garden
to the beds of spices,
to graze in the gardens
and to gather lilies.
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies.
As a parallel to the Beloved’s praising of her Lover in chapter 5, we now see the Lover’s admiration for his Beloved.
You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love,
lovely as Jerusalem,
awesome as an army with banners.
Turn away your eyes from me,
for they overwhelm me—
Your hair is like a flock of goats
leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
that have come up from the washing;
all of them bear twins;
not one among them has lost its young.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
behind your veil.
There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
and virgins without number.
My dove, my perfect one, is the only one,
the only one of her mother,
pure to her who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.
“Who is this who looks down like the dawn,
beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun,
awesome as an army with banners?”
The Lover is overwhelmed when he meets his the eyes of his Beloved! As beautiful as the Moon and as bright as the Sun, she is the only one for him. You’ll also notice a technique common in Hebrew poetry: the passage ends by repeating the same metaphor it began with — the Beloved is as awesome as an proud army flying its banners. Definitely an image drawn from the mind of a military man.
In response to this praise, the Beloved is stirred with passion and… goes down… to see if there’s any budding or blooming going on…
I went down to the nut orchard
to look at the blossoms of the valley,
to see whether the vines had budded,
whether the pomegranates were in bloom.
Before I was aware, my desire set me
among the chariots of my kinsman, a prince.
And she is overcome by desire to ride the Lover’s chariot.
The chapter finishes with a reflection of its beginning — the Chorus is now asking, where is the Beloved?
Return, return, O Shulammite,
return, return, that we may look upon you.
And the Lover responds:
Why should you look upon the Shulammite,
as upon a dance before two armies?
Sorry Chorus, my Beloved is currently unavailable. Two armies are dancing.