The Divine Pursuit: Seeking Love and Holiness in the Song of Songs (part 5)

Read Part 4 here

“Have You Seen This Man?” (Song 3:1-5)

Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to the two lovers in the Song and establish (in no uncertain terms) that, 1.) the man and the woman adore one another and are hopelessly lovesick for each other, and 2.) the man and the woman are anticipating a day when their romantic journey will end in sexual intimacy. However eager the lovers may be, the woman insists that their love is a journey that must be completed in its own timing; it is not be rushed (hence the woman’s refrain in vv. 2:7, 3:5, 5:3, and 8:4).

And a journey it is. The two lovers’ relationship does not begin and end with their fawning over one another. Song 3:1-6:3, often taken as a distinct literary unit, tells the tale of the two lovers repeatedly yearning for, seeking, and finding one another. The fantastical imagery in the poems and the two references to sleeping and awakening (vv. 3:1, 5:2) have lead many readers to interpret this section as a dream being recounted by the woman.

Song 3:1-5 begins the sequence with a stunningly beautiful poem in which the woman recounts her dream of a desperate search for her lover in the middle of the night. She awakens suddenly and reaches for her lover next to her, but finds that he has gone and she is alone.

I will seek him whom my soul loves;

I sought him, but found him not.

Song 3:1b

The woman then jumps out of bed and goes out into the city in search of her beloved, but again laments:

I will seek him whom my soul loves;

I sought him, but found him not.

Song 3:2b

The woman comes across a group of city watchmen and desperately asks,

Have you seen him whom my soul loves?

Song 3:3b

Does her lover not have a name? Does she not know his name? Does she not know any other way to describe her beloved? At least one commentator [1] suggests that “him whom my soul loves” encompasses all that we need to know about the identity of whom the woman is in search of: In Deuteronomy 6, God commands Israel,

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:4, emphasis mine

Perhaps the beloved, the one whom the woman’s soul loves, has no name or appearance worthy of human description. Perhaps he is Yahweh our God; Yahweh who is Father, Son, and Spirit.

The woman eventually finds her beloved and clings to him, stashing him away in an intimate place so as to not be separated from him again. Perhaps her beloved was not the one that strayed. Her sudden discovery of him after her desperate search seems to suggest that her beloved was always within reach, yet she woke up one evening to find that she could not see him.

I am in a season of life much like this. I’ve woken up to find myself separated from the one whom my soul loves, stumbling in the darkness, desperate to find Him. Yet the pattern we see in Scripture reminds me that it is not God who runs from us. After all, it was Adam and Eve that ran, and it was God who searched. It was not the lost who sought Jesus; it was Jesus who sought and saved the lost.

I am, as the old hymn says, “prone to wander; prone to leave the God I love.” More and more I am realizing that the journey of faith is a continual pattern of wandering from, yearning for, and reuniting with, the one whom our soul loves – not unlike the life of the lovers in our Song. May we recognize that we are prone to wander, and cling to God all the more.

[1] Robert W. Jenson. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, “Song of Songs”. (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville 2005), 38.

One response to “The Divine Pursuit: Seeking Love and Holiness in the Song of Songs (part 5)”

  1. […] poem which bookends what many scholars understand to be a distinct poetic unit beginning with Song 3:1-5 and ending with 6:3. There are obvious similarities between the poems in 3:1-5 and 5:2-8, but more […]

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