The World’s Lust Confounded
A Sermon Manuscript on Song of Solomon 6:4–8:4 by Brian Mann
[Audio sermon available at sermonaudio.com/sermon/52922157444047]
One dictionary defines “confounded” in terms of the Exodus as follows:
overthrow (an enemy): God chose to use natural disorders to confound Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. (New Oxford American Dictionary)
Here the matter deals with Solomon’s lust for the Shulammite. Everyone seemed to want her (6:10, 13) and even her own desires led her into danger (Song 6:11–12). Nonetheless, the world’s lust is here portrayed as confounded by the Shepherd’s interruption and then by the Shulammite’s (or Church’s) repentance.
The Shepherd’s Interruption
Solomon continued to objectify the Shulammite in 6:4–7, but is interrupted in 6:8–9 by the Shepherd-lover. Solomon again (cf. 4:1–7) continues to objectify the body of the Shulammite (6:8–9).
He describes her “as beautiful as Tirzah.” Tirzah was a city that Joshua conquered in Joshua 12:24. Tirzah was also associated with the divided kingdom after Solomon’s time. It is located just East of Samaria, and is associated with idolatry due to the record in Kings. Solomon saw the Shulammite as a woman to conquer, as an enemy. The reason that God set forth the law for kings not to take many foreign wives, but only one wife, was because it would turn his heart away from God (cf. Deut. 17:17). This woman was a challenge for Solomon. He describes her as “lovely as Jerusalem” (v.4). The word “lovely” simply means desirable. The Shulammite was a woman to be desired like Jerusalem, the city of God. Many desire the church today, they find the church beautiful to have. But he also describes her as dreadful, “awesome as an army with banners” (v.4). The Hebrew word for “awesome” here only appears in one other place in the Bible describing the dread and fear of the Chaldean (I.e. Babylonian) army (Habakkuk 1:7). When Solomon says “awesome as an army with banners” coupled with calling the Shulammite “desirable: and like the enemy “Tirzah” that was conquered by Joshua, he is speaking of the woman in terms of being an object to possess not a woman to love—and she knows it. Her look at him tells him that she knows it in v.5, “Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me.” The word “overwhelm” means insolent like in 1 Timothy 1:13 which says,
1 Timothy 1:13 ESV “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,”
Solomon viewed this woman as looking arrogantly at him with insolence because she would not acknowledge his rightful place in her life in similar terms of Paul who in his past did not acknowledge God’s rightful place in his life. In Isaiah 3:5 the word speaks of insolence toward an elder. Solomon expected respect from the Shulammite. He expected her to simply lay down and be conquered. But her eyes looked at him with everything but such surrender. So, the church today is never to surrender to the wiles of Satan and the world, but wait for her Shepherd-deliverer!
The battle rages against the church. Solomon is acting in defense to the woman’s eyes. The only thing he knows to do is what he has already done—continue to admire her body. He goes on describing her hair, and then her teeth (vv.4–6). The mention of “twins” is likely a seductive offer—a hint that you could have twins (Seerveld)! The world always offers something attractive to the church which likely it will never deliver, but if it did, it would cost her soul! He goes on to her cheeks behind her veil (v.7); something which the Shepherd-lover knew by way of kisses of betrothal (1:2) but which Solomon only lusted after. Solomon’s pattern here follows that of what he did in 4:1–7, but he is interrupted by the Shepherd-lover in v.8 before he ever gets to describing her breasts. The Shepherd-lover will have no more of Solomon’s lustful objectifying of his bride! He steps in and says,
Song 6:8–9 ESV “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.”
The numbers indicate that this poem was written in an early period of Solomon’s harem gathering. The Shepherd-lover simply points out you have all these women, but you can’t have my woman—she is my only one, and she is praised by all as such. She is not like the rest. She doesn’t belong to you Solomon! In 2 Samuel 12:3 Nathan similarly describes the wife that David took as a little ewe lamb the only one of a poor man whom David took and killed, to which David unbeknownst it was him who was guilty, cried that such a one deserved to die. Here the Shepherd-lover describes his bride as “the only one…pure…blessed…praised” (v.9). In Genesis we read Adam pre-fall say,
Genesis 2:23 LSB “Then the man said, “This one finally is bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called Woman, Because this one was taken out of Man.”” (emphasis mine)
Even the harem women in v.10 describe her, though downcast it seems—they see her god-like—for the dawn, moon, and sun were often used to speak of deities. And the bookend is stated out of their mouths as it was out of Solomon’s “awesome as an army with banners” (v.10). They ask “Who is this?” and the answer ultimately is the church of the living God. Christ will not allow his bride to go perpetually being objectified by this world or in captivity to this world. He steps in and interrupts the crude talk of the world about the church, and exalts her as she is to him. The words “My dove, my perfect one” are significant. The bride is said to have eyes like a dove (1:15) and they are eyes just like his (5:12). The eyes of the bride terrify the world because they are so much like the eyes of Christ (comp. 1:5). Solomon wants this woman to stop looking at him so. He wants to change her, but she will not be changed by him. She will in fact change the world in which Solomon lived. Her Shepherd will take her back out of the patriarchal society she existed within to the Garden she was meant to occupy and tend with him alone.
The Shulammite’s Repentance
A second thing that confounds the lust of the world is the church’s repentance. The Shulammite is said to be looking down (v.10) by the harem women. She answers their question telling of when she was abducted to be put into the harem in vv.11–12,
Song 6:11–12 ESV “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.”
She describes her journey to look for blossoms, vines, and pomegranates. She says this desire set her in a very dangerous place, and explains how she ended up there in the harem of Solomon. (She was looking for these things for herself it seems—the essence of sin—but later we shall she her desires more fully expressed in bearing fruit for God.) Many people end up in the same place as the Shulammite in this world, captive by it due to their desires; just look at 1 John 2:15–17 where the church is told to not love the world or the things in the world…all that is in the world, the desires of the eyes, the desires of the flesh, pride in possessions is not from the Father but from the world, and the world is passing away! (emphasis here is that the world cannot win her or take her ultimately from her Shepherd)! Or in 1 Chronicles 21:1 where we read David had a desire to number Israel and what that led to. Or look at James 1:14 where sinful desire is described and where it leads you. The Shulammite apparently as a result of her Shepherd-lover’s interruption has stepped away from Solomon and the world and gone in another direction. The harem women are calling out after her to “return” (v.13). The word “return” (sûbi) is repeated 4x in v.13. The word is first used in Genesis 3:19 to refer to the result of the curse returning man’s dead body to the ground. Lot’s wife was forbidden to do—look back (Gen 19:17ff). Ruth’s sister went back to her idolatrous family (Ruth 1). The Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt in their grumbling (Exodus 14:11), and God was not pleased with them (1 Corinthians 10). The church will not retreat. The true church will not go back to captivity because she is being led by her ascended Lord from heaven to bring the law to the coastlands on the earth. The world typified by Solomon and his harem girls are still insistent on lusting after the church typified by the Shulammite and endeavoring to get her to leave the God she loves! The Shulammite retorts,
“Why should you look upon the Shulammite as upon a dance before two armies?”
And with this she clearly indicates there is a battle of two armies in this text, the armies of Solomon and the Shepherd-lover, but the Shepherd-lover has won her heart, and she is on her way out. The Spiritual battle is real, but already determined. The church will conquer by the interruption of her Shepherd and by the grace of repentance, because though the world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, because God has willed the truth to triumph through us. That’s just another way that Luther said, the truth is stronger still. It is the way this text says the lust of the world is confounded! Confounded by Christ’s love for his church, and by the Church’s love for her Christ!