The Daughters:8We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for? 9If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver, but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.
The woman: 10I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace. 11Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver.12My vineyard, my very own, is before me; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit two hundred.
The king: 13O you who dwell in the gardens, with companions listening for your voice; let me hear it.
The woman: 14Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.
In the poem the king and his beloved have now arrived at the location where he is going to leave her. The daughters of Jerusalem had been looking out of the house as the king and his love were drawing near, and the daughters had heard the closing words of the couple’s conversation. In verses 8 and 9 the daughters speak to both the king and the woman and she begins her reply in verse 10.
The dedication of the daughters (vv. 8-9)
The concern of the daughters is for their younger sister, to help make her ready for future meetings with the king. I would suggest that the little sister depicts a convert who has been a believer for a shorter period than the ones depicted by the daughters. The daughters, who speak as maturer believers, are concerned about her spiritual development. They proceed to say what their intention is, under the imagery of either a wall or a door. Probably they have in mind a wall that would go round a city or a door that gives entrance to a large building. These walls and doors could be unattractive to look at, and it was common to build palaces or turrets on the walls or to use beautiful wood to make the doors in order that the walls and the buildings would be pleasing to the eye. The illustrations show how they would help her develop into a mature believer. A turret would not be built overnight, it would take time. In addition to the commitment, there is also the suggestion of costly sacrifice (purchasing silver for the palaces or cedar for the doors). Prolonged commitment that is genuine is accompanied by cost and such should mark the involvement of maturer believers in the lives of younger believers. Often, there is an element of concern when we don’t see sufficient signs of growth. Yet concern is not enough; in addition there has to be involvement in order to bring about the change.
The daughters had in mind what their little sister would look like when her marriage day came. Perhaps she had been promised to Solomon. Whether she had or not, it was love for her that caused them to want her to look her best when that day arrived. Similarly, believers should have in mind what other believers will look like on their marriage day, when they and the Saviour sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The devotion of the disciple (vv. 10-12)
The lady responds in verse 10. She takes one of the daughter’s images (the wall) and applies it to herself. Towers have appeared on her wall, the evidence of development. She is aware of this change in her, but she knew something else as well – she had brought delight to her Beloved and had experienced his favour as a result. Her words are not merely a description of her progress; they are also an encouragement to the daughters concerning what can be achieved by mutual involvement in another believer’s life.
The disciple then proceeds to describe her dedication to the king. She alludes to Solomon’s agreement with some tenants who leased a vineyard from him. It is likely that the vineyard had a thousand vines, with a shekel being paid for each. She then describes herself as a vineyard that should be dedicated to her Beloved. As she thinks of what he has done for her she desires to give everything she has to him. (In passing, we can note Spurgeon’s comment that the 200 shekels that were given to the keepers of the vineyard refer to the benefits that come to ministers who attempt to guard the church. While he regarded the vineyard as depicting a congregation, it is also the case that a pastor gets benefit when he sees the development of grace in an individual believer. The minister, and others who watch for the souls of disciples, know spiritual joy and peace when they see progress.)
We have here a picture of how a disciple should respond to her Master as they come to the end of a period of sweet fellowship together. She has been with Jesus enjoying his company and now he has brought her back to the house where her fellow disciples live. Coming back with him, she resolves to (a) be an encouragement to her fellow believers and (b) to dedicate herself to her Lord. This is how we should respond to Jesus after we have been to a conference or a communion, or after a private time when he revealed himself to our souls.
Spurgeon observed that the woman does not focus on other vineyards. ‘The next time you are tempted to complain of some brother or sister, cheek yourself, and say, “It is my vineyard which is before me; there are some ugly thistles in it, and some great nettles over there in the corner. I have not trimmed my vines this summer; I have not taken the little foxes, which spoil the vines; but, henceforth, I will attend more diligently to ‘my vineyard, which is mine’.” A blessed way of keeping from finding fault with other people is to look well to your own vineyard.’
The departure of the king (v. 13)
The king is about to leave, so he says to the woman, ‘O you who dwell in the gardens, with companions listening for your voice; let me hear it.’ With great delight he has listened to the conversion between the lady and the daughters. It is like the situation described in Malachi 3:16: ‘Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.’
But he is not only delighted in hearing their conversation with one another. He also wants to hear her speaking to him. One of the dangers that can occur after a time of rich experience of Jesus is that we can become so absorbed in describing to others what took place, resulting in us forgetting to speak to him. Jesus wants to hear our voice. We can speak to him secretly, one to one; we can speak to him simultaneously, when we are speaking also to his disciples; we can speak to him sorrowfully, when we have sinned against him; we can speak to him submissively, when he has denied us our desires; we can speak to him lovingly, as we thank him for his mercy.
And we can note where he wants her to speak to him; he wants to hear her voice in the gardens. The gardens speak of cultivated places, where rest and refreshment can be found. They are a picture of the visible church with all its means of grace. Through these, the believer obtains everyday experiences from the Lord while he withdraws away from extraordinary encounters. In the gardens, they obtain the strength to continue serving the Lord.
Jesus wants to hear her voice in each part of the gardens. He desires to hear us in all the means of grace: at the prayer meeting, at the Sunday services, at the Lord’s Supper, at other times of fellowship. The Saviour never tires of hearing what each of his people has to say to him.
The desire of the disciple (v. 14)
Having heard the king’s parting exhortation, she now utters the longing of her heart. Yes, she will remain in the gardens, enjoying his provision, but she will also be longing for him to return for another special encounter. She likens him to a speedy deer, able to cross rapidly the mountains that are between her and him: ‘Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.’ In what ways can King Jesus appear?
Jesus will come suddenly to our souls. The imagery of the leaping deer suggests this. He may come in a special way at the next conference we attend or the next communion we enjoy; he may come as we are reading the Bible by ourselves or are speaking to him in prayer.
He will come sweetly when he draws near. These barriers will become mountains of spices because in order to cross them he will come from the mountain of myrrh (6:4), heaven. Whatever these mountains are, they become mountains of spices because the feet of Jesus run across them and the fragrances of the heavenly world perfume the atmosphere. Mountains that seemed dangerous will become sweet. As we look at these mountains from the gardens, we can be apprehensive. For example, ahead of us is the mountain of death, and what a dreadful fear it can cause. But when Jesus comes across this mountain, when its frightful appearance is made fragrant by his coming, then it will not be a source of terror. Or Jesus will come to deliver us when we feel that all is lost, when the breath of the devil is in our face, as we fear the worst, when providence seems against us, when we imagine that we are about to be overcome by danger. Then Jesus appears, and all is calm, just as it was for his disciples in the boat in the midst of the storm when he came to them walking on the sea.
He will come finally at the end of the age. What a wonderful visit that will be! It will be the time when this prayer will cease to be offered because from then on all believers will be forever with the Lord. When he comes in this most spectacular manner, we will see his great delight as by his almighty power he raises his people from the dead and transforms them, as well as those still alive, into his likeness. We will see him create the new heavens and the new earth and we will hear him say to us, ‘Come and share my inheritance.’
‘It is good to conclude our devotions with a joyful expectation of the glory to be revealed, and holy humble breathings towards it. We should not part but with the prospect of meeting again. It is good to conclude every sabbath with thoughts of the everlasting sabbath, which shall have no night at the end of it, nor any week-day to come after it. It is good to conclude every sacrament with thoughts of the everlasting feast, when we shall sit down with Christ at his table in his kingdom, to rise no more, and drink of the wine new there, and to break up every religious assembly in hopes of the general assembly of the church of the first-born, when time and days shall be no more: Let the blessed Jesus hasten that blessed day. Why are his chariot-wheels so long a coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?’ (Matthew Henry).
It is precious to Jesus to recall that the closure of his time of special nearness with a disciple was marked by an affirmation of her love. She addresses him as ‘my beloved’. He, too, longs for his second coming. But until then, may we have special visits from him, and may we entreat him lovingly to repeat them as often as he sees fit.