The King’s Appreciation of her Beauty (7:1-9)
1How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O noble daughter! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand. 2Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. 3Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. 4Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, which looks toward Damascus. 5Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses. 6How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! 7Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. 8I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, 9and your mouth like the best wine.
In the previous section (6:11-13), the king had informed the woman as to what he was doing during the period when they were separated as a result of her refusal to have fellowship with him. He had gone down to the garden (the church) because he knew eventually she would return there. Her return would be achieved through his own endearing methods depicted in the fourfold use of the word ‘return’.
Meanwhile, an aspect of his activity in the garden was to prepare other visitors to the garden for her return. These visitors we have identified as two groups: there are those who belong to the retinue of the king (they depict the angels) and there are the daughters of Jerusalem (her fellow believers). He says that when she returns to the garden, she will perform a dance before the observing groups and the king (6:13). This imagery depicts the joy of a restored disciple. The preparation was essential because the members of the groups were to experience a pleasant surprise. Instead of observing a suppressed, fearful disciple, they would see a liberated, rejoicing disciple.
In passing, we may note that dancing was part of the culture of Israel and it had both positive and negative usages in the Bible. Positively, when the army of Israel returned from their victories over their enemies, they were met by dancing women (1 Sam. 18:6). David danced before the Lord with all his might as the ark of the covenant came into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:14). Dancing is mentioned as part of the praise at the temple (Pss. 149:1-3; 150:4). Jeremiah, when predicting the restoration of Israel from captivity, describes the celebrations as including dancing (Jer. 31:13). Jesus described the joy associated with the returning prodigal as feasting along with music and dancing. Negatively, dancing occurred when the Israelites worshipped the golden calf (Exod. 32:19). It was a response to a dance that led to the execution of John the Baptist. Basically dancing was performed at occasions of public rejoicing and did not involve both sexes dancing together. Solomon is using a common situation to depict the manner of the return of a backslider.
7:1-9 are the descriptive words of the king as he, along with the retinue and the daughters of Jerusalem, watches her performance. His words indicate that he is greatly pleased by what he observes as he describes her beautiful appearance and fine movements.
Dignified title (v. 1)
Firstly, consider the dignified title that he gives her; he calls her a ‘prince’s daughter’ (a similar title – ‘King’s daughter’ – occurs in Psalm 45:13). This title is not referring to her family background but to her current status. She had belonged to a family that kept vineyards, but now she belonged to royalty. Every disciple, including recovered backsliders, have this elevated status of belonging to the family of God. As the king observes the joy of his restored disciple, he enhances her assurance by addressing her according to her present status and not according to her previous folly.
As we have noted, this long poem within the Song is concerned with a repentant believer and the manner of her restoration. When she spurned his fellowship, she found herself without the personal assurance that she longed for. She is now back in conscious fellowship with the king, but given her folly we might anticipate words of rebuke, perhaps an allusion to where she came from as being the reason for her unseemly behaviour. It is true that the reason why we refuse to have fellowship with Christ is because of our remaining sin. The connection we have to our old family (of Adam) prevents us enjoying the privileges of our new family (of Christ). It is not surprising that when we have recovered from times of backsliding we anticipate being reminded of our past. Yet the king instead stressed her permanent position as a prince’s daughter.
Part of our problem is that we have great difficulty, even as believers, of appreciating the wonder of grace. We find it hard to accept that restoration means restoration. Instead we imagine that there has to be a lengthy process of penitence after we have repented, by which we earn the right to be once again addressed as ‘Prince’s daughter’. We can accept that we are forgiven, but seem to listen to the language of the prodigal (‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son’) instead of listening to the words of the father (‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found’).
As a prince’s daughter, she has great privileges. She belongs to a wealthy Master, she has his resources to meet her needs, she has his promises to maintain her sense of security. Although she is subject to him, she is not merely a servant. In addition to her responsibilities to live according to the family name, she possesses the blessings that accompany the relationship. And she is discovering that she is never cast out of his family, even when she behaves foolishly. This is the experience of all believers. They sin and turn away from Jesus for one reason or another. He brings them to repentance, and when they return to his presence they hear him say to each of them, ‘Prince’s daughter.’ He doesn’t reduce their status because they have sinned. They are not children on a lower level of sonship than those who haven’t sinned (the latter groups does not exist, of course).
Delightful spectacle (vv. 1-7)
The poem depicts the woman as performing a dance. There are two details of this picture that stand out: one is the harmony of movement and the other is the beauty of every part. Obviously, when a person dances well, the hands, feet, head and eyes work together. If one of these bodily parts fails, then the movements of the whole are impaired. Just as in a physical dance, so the dance of the heart requires the contribution of all its parts. The mind, the emotions and the will have to be involved. Because she has been instructed or enlightened regarding the fullness of restoration, she understands how she has been treated. She is aware of the welcome, of the forgiveness, of the forgetting of her folly by her Beloved. Having grasped this wonderful reality, her emotions are affected. Her love is increased, her peace is overflowing, her joy is boundless. With her mind and heart working together, her will joins in and she expresses what she knows and loves. As we look at her, we see the attractiveness of each part and the beauty of the whole.
The king gives expression to his delight by comparing the various features of her body to notable sites and locations. (It has been observed that he mentions ten of her features, which is the same number of features that she had mentioned of him in 5:10-16; this number points to the attention to detail that each had given to the other.) I don’t think we have to identify precise spiritual meanings to her ankles, her waist, her head or the other bodily parts. The writer is using the actions of a physical body to depict the spiritual movement of the heart of a believer who is enjoying the grace of restoration. His point is that the Beloved enjoys observing the details in each faculty of her penitent soul. He sees nothing unbecoming in her; indeed he is transfixed by her (he is bound by her beauty, verse 5).
As we suggested, the lady is being observed by the two groups as well as by the King. They also observed his delight in her. Beautiful lessons are taught in the garden to the King’s heavenly retinue and to the restored backslider’s companions.
Determined affection (vv. 8-9)
Having watched this wonderful activity by the disciple, the king intimates his intention to enjoy her company. Through this imagery we are being told that Jesus desires fellowship with such a disciple. As he promised the overcomer in the spiritually-bankrupt church of Laodicea, so he informs his disciple that he will draw near to her. She is not only going to enjoy his company when others are present, but she is going to discover that there will be personal communion as well. In a sense, Jesus says in these verses that he is going to do what she had prevented him doing when she had refused to let him in when he knocked at her door. In her company, he will find rest and refreshment.