With the beginning of chapter four of the Song of Solomon, the man admires the beauty of the one he loves, yet again. The two lovers seem to have unending praise for the beauty of each other. This section begins with his description of her eyes and moves downward as he praises her every physical feature. He compares her eyes to doves and her hair to a leaping flock of goats. In verse two, he praises her teeth which he compares to “a flock of shorn ewes…all of which bear twins”. This is praiseworthy because having all of her teeth was “a not-so-common occurrence in the ancient world”(ESV Study Notes). The fact that he compares her specifically to “shorn” sheep, suggests that her teeth were white. Using animals in this way to illustrate beauty encapsulates a raw beauty she has, of which is at one with mother nature, making her beauty appear natural.
The male speaker continues to paint a vivid picture of his lover, comparing her lips to scarlet threat and her cheeks to halves of a pomegranate. This helps the reader to picture the woman the way he sees her, with soft eyes, red lips, rosy cheeks, and and full set of white teeth.
Song of Solomon Chapter 4 Analysis and Summary
In verse four, he describes her long and beautiful neck as the “tower of David”. Biblical scholars reveal that while little is known about the tower of David, being in association with King David, it would have been a symbol of strength and dignity. Thus, within his praise of her physical beauty, he also praises her character, namely, her dignity and strength.
This praise of her strength, likely a material as well as immaterial strength, is continued when he compares her neck to “rows of stone” on which “hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors”. While this clearly suggests that she is wearing a necklace, it also has a deeper meaning. Stones and shields of warriors are both symbols of strength, and it is clear that the woman holds her head high and walks in such strength and dignity so as to merit his comparison of her neck to a tower of David adorned in warriors shields.
In verse five, he continues his descent and moves from describing her neck to her breasts, which he describes as “two fawns” suggestion the “youthful appearance of her two breasts” (ESV Study notes). When he refers to her breasts as “twins of a gazelle” it implies that the form of her body is “appealingly sleek” (ESV study notes).
In verse six, he simply expresses his desire to spend time with the woman he loves when he wants to be with her “until the day breathes and the shadows flee”.
In verse seven, after having praised her individual features, he says, “You are altogether beautiful, my love, there is no flaw in you”.
In verse eight, the man calls out to the woman to come away from various distant and perhaps dangerous lands, into the shelter that he will provide.
In verse nine, the man calls her “bride” which either indicates anticipation for their wedding day, or a memory of their recent wedding day. The former is more likely, as later verses suggest that the couple is still looking forward to the consummation of their wedding with eager anticipation. At this point, the reader must also remember the possibility that this chapter could have been taking place within the woman’s dream, where she remembers the praises that her lover has spoken to her, and she dreams of them. In the following chapter, the woman claims, “I slept but my heart was awake” (5:2) and then goes on to describe her dream. It is unclear whether the man’s praises of her in chapter four are also a part of this dream, or whether the are actual occurrences, and the woman’s dream begins directly afterward.
In verse ten, the man also calls the woman his “sister” which does not suggest incest, but rather was used as a term of endearment. In Jewish culture, the word that translates to our word “sister” simply implies his affection for her and his belief that they are both children of God and therefore spiritual siblings.
Verse ten also reveals the power of the love he feels for her when he tells her that “with one glance” of her eyes, she’s captivated his heart. Some Biblical scholars have suggested that this is not only a love story between two human beings, but is symbolic of God’s love for people, and that He is captivated by and enthralled with His children.
At the end of verse ten, the man compares her love to wine which implies that her love is more intoxicating than wine, and that he craves her more than drink.
In verse eleven, he tells her, “Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue”. The use of honey, milk, and nectar contribute to the metaphor of her being nourishment to him. He craves her as one thirsty and famished would crave food and drink.
In verse twelve, he reaffirms that this woman he longs to have is a virgin who has reserved herself for her husband on their wedding night. This is revealed when he describes her as “a garden locked” and “a fountain sealed”. In ancient eastern culture, gardens and fountains were often symbols of a woman’s sexuality. The description of them as “locked” and “sealed” reveals her chastity.
He continues to describe her “garden” as containing “all choicest fruits”.
Verses thirteen and fourteen extend the garden metaphor with descriptions of the garden’s contents, including “henna” and “nard” both herbs considered to have an erotic effect. He also lists various fragrances to heighten the description of her effect on him.
In verse fifteen, he moves from the garden metaphor to a continuance of the “fountain” metaphor, in which he describes her as a “garden fountain, a well of living water” which implies that she is refreshing to him as a spring of water is to one who thirsts.
In verse sixteen, the woman resumes the position of speaker. This chapter ends with the woman extending an invitation to her lover to “come to his garden and eat its choicest fruits”. The fact that she refers to her own sexuality as “his garden” reveals her willingness and even eagerness to give herself to him in a sexual way. This reveals that she is longing for the consummation of their wedding.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version: The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print.