Together Again (Song 4:1-5:1)
I took a 6-month hiatus from the Song of Songs, but, fear not, I have returned. Last December, I walked through Song 3:6-11, which depicts a bride and her groom excitedly approaching one another on their wedding day. I suggested that the beautiful moment of unity shared between the two lovers can be read as an allegorical depiction of Israel returning to a state of spotless, sinless purity before God. In chapter 4, the man and the woman finally consummate their marriage in, of all places, a garden.
Garden imagery is a prominent feature of the Song of Songs. Throughout the book, the writer awakens the reader’s senses with images of lush vegetation, vibrant flowers, plump, succulent fruits, majestic trees, sweet honey, and invigorating spices. This highly sensuous poetry is meant to capture and celebrate the physical thrill of human love as God intended it.
Song 4 is a lengthy poem from the man’s perspective as he gazes upon his bride in all of her spotless perfection. His euphemisms leave little to the imagination – though I would not recommend trying to read this poem as a romantic gesture to your significant other today. Comparing her hair to a flock of goats probably would not achieve the desired effect. But I digress.
Throughout Scripture, garden imagery represents much more than mere physical pleasure. Israel’s tabernacle and later her Temple were ornately decorated with plants, flowers, and fine wood; a reminder of the paradise God created for man to cultivate. From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, the garden represents a deeply intimate meeting place between man and God. Humanity’s story began in a garden before sin banished them from it. The people of Israel longed for the day when they would return to it.
If one were to read Song of Songs allegorically (which I believe is a more than acceptable approach) Song 4-5:1 is a fitting follow-up to the wedding scene in 3:6-11. Israel has returned as a spotless bride from her wilderness sojourn and is finally united with her groom in paradise.
From the desert, to the garden. This was Israel’s eternal hope. It is a hope that we share. One day, we too will be presented before God in spotless perfection by Jesus, who has made us new, who advocates for our salvation, and who invites us again into God’s presence.