At the end of chapter four of the Song of Solomon, the woman invited the man to come to “his” “garden” and enjoy its “choicest fruits”. At the beginning of chapter five, he responds to that invitation. It is important to note that when the woman invited him to come to “his” garden, she was referring to her own sexuality. Referring to her sexuality as belonging to him shows her eager anticipation to give herself to him on her wedding night. It also shows her lifelong commitment to him. It also reaffirms what has already been implied multiple times throughout the song- namely that she has kept her virginity and is eager to give this gift to her husband at the consummation of their marriage.
Song of Solomon Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
In his response, he acknowledges that she has called her own sexuality “his” when he says,
“I came to my garden, my sister, my bride”
The next verse is the reason many biblical scholars agree that the woman has been dreaming or recounting a dream.
She says, “I slept, but my heart was awake”. In her dream, she has now lost her loved one, and she sets out to find him.
She dreams that he knocked at her door and called to her, “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”
But when she opens the door to let him in, he is gone. This is when the woman’s dream becomes a nightmare. She searched for him, but in vain. She “called him but he gave no answer” (6).
She was then found by the watchmen, and the nightmare becomes even more frightening because they leave her in the streets bruised and beaten. This reveals the woman’s inner fear that without her lover, she is in danger. This was referred to in former chapters when she recounts her lover telling her to come in to find safety with him from the dangers of the world.
Here, the woman pleads with the other sons and daughters of Jerusalem, asking them to take a message to her lover if they should find him. She wants them to tell him that she is “sick with love”. This part of the woman’s dream reveals that if her lover were to disappear, her life would not be the same without him. In fact, she believes that her life would be somewhat of a nightmare without him there to protect her. So she begs for the help of friends and family to find him and to tell him that she is not well without him. She wants him to know that without him, she is “sick with love”.
The others respond to the woman’s plea, asking her “What is your beloved more than another beloved that you adjure us?” This is a challenge to her. The others essentially put her love for him to the test. They want to know what makes her unable to love another. They want to know why she cannot go on without him, should he disappear. In the woman’s dream, when her lover disappears, the people around her challenge her love for him. They want to know why she can’t simply move on and love another. The woman does not hesitate to consider this. Rather, she immediately gives them an answer which reveals that her heart is set upon her lover and her lover alone.
This causes the woman to go into a long speech about what makes him so wonderful to her. She praises his every feature, beginning with his head and moving down toward his feet. She describes his appealing complexion as “radiant and ruddy” like the “finest gold”. She then describes his hair with wavy locks “black as a raven”. She describes his eyes as soft like doves “beside streams of water”. She describes his eyes as “bathed in milk” which reveals that his eyes are soft and beautiful.
She describes his cheeks as “beds of spices” and his lips as “lillies dripping liquid myrrh”. The continued use of herbs, spices, and other fragrances in the lover’s descriptions of one another heightens the sense of longing for one another. They long for the taste and smell of one another, and that is revealed through their continued description of various fragrances and sweet-tasting food and drink when longing for one another.
As the woman begins to describe his arms and legs, the picture she paints begins to look like a statue. Biblical scholars reveal that the precious stones and materials she uses to describe him were often used in statues in the temple. She describes his arms as “rods of gold” that are “set with jewels” and his body as “polished ivory bedecked with sapphires”. His legs she describes as “alabaster columns set on bases of gold”. She claims that his appearance is like that of Lebanon. In the ancient world, Lebanon was a land that was well known and revered for its majestic beauty, especially because of its large and fragrant cedar trees.
The woman ends her thorough description of her lover as “altogether beautiful”, thus answering the question of the others when they asked her what makes her lover so different from the rest. The woman’s description of every detail of his physical features reveals that she finds him unique and attractive in a way that she could find no other man. This is why she is “sick with love” when she cannot find him in her dream.
Although this chapter in the Song of Solomon occurs within the woman’s dream, it is important to remember that her dreams reveal her innermost desires. This dream reveals that her love for him is not merely outward. Her marriage to him is not for financial gain or any other reason except for love. She is totally and completely in love with him, and her dream reveals this. Her fear of losing him, her plea to others to help them find her, her fear of being in danger without him, and her detailed description of his physical beauty, all reveal the genuine nature of her love.