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Exploring Romantic Themes in Song of Songs Chapter 3

Andrea has been an online writer for over five years. She's a dating consultant who gives advice on relationships and couples' issues.

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Researching Ancient Texts: Song of Songs

Song of Songs Chapter 3 has two unique scenes in it. A woman is awake in bed, and she desires her lover -- but he isn't there. She goes out into the streets to find him. She runs into watchmen and asks about her partner's whereabouts. She eventually finds her man and brings him to her home. She then charges the daughters of Jerusalem to wait for love until it so desires. The whole scene could be a dream.

The next scene takes place in the desert. A king appears escorted by sixty warriors. It's King Solomon in a luxurious carriage made of wood from Lebanon. He is wearing a crown for his wedding day.

These two sections may seem odd right next to each other. I think it's best to juxtapose them, so I have a table to help make it clear.

Chapter 3 Comparisons

3:1-53:6-11

Focus on the Feminine

Focus on the Masculine

Night

Day

In the City

In the Desert

Searching at Night for a Lover

A Procession in Broad Daylight

Mother's House

Mother Crowned Him for His Wedding Day

Watchmen on Patrol

Warriors in Procession

Privacy, Secrecy

Declaration

A Bed

A Carriage

Heart Loves and Searches

Heart Rejoices

Daughters of Jerusalem told to not awaken love early

Daughters of Jerusalem told to look at the king in his crown

No Color Mentioned

Silver, Gold, Purple

Maybe a Dream

Public Event

Humble Lifestyle

Lavish to the Max

Learn More about the Text from an Expert

Stylistic Shifts

I'm not confident Chapter 3 connects to Chapter 2. I think these could be separate poems. If it connects to Chapter 2, it appears the beloved has woken up from a dream. She is searching for her lover and yearns for him. She is willing to go out into the streets at night. She talks with the watchmen who protect the city. It's dim. She's exploring in the shadows. She likely has very little with her to protect herself.

Whenever I read this passage I always wonder -- where did this man go? What was he doing outside? The beloved is clearly scared that her partner isn't there. The absence is noticeable and it disturbs her. A good deal of ancient literature and religions refer to women as the night or the moon and men as the day or the sun. I feel Chapter 3 of this book is also making these comparisons.

The woman searches at night and in secret to procure love. It's unclear whether she is dreaming or awake the whole time. Her section ends where it begins, the bed.

The king, however, is shown distinctly in the light of day. He is in a desert full of sunlight and heat. He is seen in a huge display for his own wedding processional. His prospective bride isn't mentioned at all in this processional -- it is only him. Isn't that unusual?

That's because we're looking at the energy and the portrayal of masculinity here. He gets to be seen -- and loudly so. There are details about his carriage and the colors and precious metals used. There are details about the crown on his head. He isn't running into the watchmen -- the warriors are with him protecting him and guiding him.

This chapter comes from the voice of the beloved. Her own tale is in secret and wrapped in mystery. Her king's tale is made public before all. He is seen as glorious and powerful. The chapter makes it seem as though she is observing the wedding and not part of it. The chapter doesn't go on about a bride's wedding jewelry or attire, but it does go on and on about King Solomon. He is meant to be seen as impressive. She is meant to be seen as mysterious -- we're not really sure who she is.

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Poem Plays to Differences

I think it's important to see how this chapter operates in a completely different way than the two proceeding it. In the first two chapters, the lovers mirror each other. They have similarities in the way they feel about each other. They have mutual attraction.

In the 3rd chapter, the couple's actions are obscured. The beloved mentions a possible dream she had or an adventure into the streets to find the one she loves. Then she talks about a royal wedding.

The woman is described as moving at night with the stars. The king has more description than the lover. The king belongs to the day, to fire, to celebration, and display. The beloved's searching for her lover is compared to the king's extravagant display of wealth. She shows her love by action; he shows his grandiosity by display.

Potentially the first two chapters of Song of Songs were a dream, and in the 3rd chapter she wakes up and realizes she is missing her lover. It's not very clear what exactly is happening.

The king, on the other hand, is portrayed at midday when people have already been awake for hours. It's hard not to be caught up in the king's display: he is headed to his own royal wedding. People have always been caught up in the displays of the royals whether in ancient or modern times. It's those secret moments in the cold of night that we don't really get to see that really define a relationship. We see in one poem the way people viewed night and day in ancient Israel.

I encourage those of you who want to study out this poem to keep thinking about the contrasts, what would naturally happen to you and your surroundings at different times of the day. It was no accident that the writer of this text wanted to describe such opposite points in time to help describe feminine and masculine differences.

Yin and Yang

This kind of energy exchange is similar to Traditional Chinese teachings. Yin energy is seen in the feminine, darkness, shadows, water, earth, otherness, emotions, it is receiving, and it is submissive. Yang energy is seen as masculine, day, sunny, fire, air, powerful, it is giving, and it is dominant.

Yin and Yang are seen as binaries but on a spectrum -- for you cannot automatically switch from day to night without sunrise or sunset. Without those magical transitions, people would panic every time night began and day began. The shadows on a mountain move as the sun changes its position in the sky. Yin and Yang switch places gradually to keep things in harmony. Yang is white and Yin is black, but both have a tadpole of the other's color.

Though the Bible isn't from Chinese teachings, I think there is something universally human about Yin and Yang that can help us to better understanding something like Song of Songs. It's clear that the writer wanted to describe the feminine and the masculine in different ways.

The woman in this story is often seen as Israel or the church. She does not have the lavish gifts of the king, of God, nor Christ. He is made lovely with perfumes and incense. She is darkened by the sun and hidden in the shadows. He is a symbol of eternity and his gift to her and their union begins a new chapter.

Yang is seen as life Yin as death. Through Yang sharing of his gift of life, Yin can overcome death. A union of these two forces is hinted at through Chapter 3 of Song of Songs. It is about the marriage of two people, the different worlds those two people have, and that magic of sunrise or sunset when the two converge. The most beautiful and transformative colors take place in the sky during those times. Wedding photographers look forward to taking pictures at sunset when they can get some of the most lovely pictures.

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Who Was King Solomon?

This is the first real chapter that we get a sense of King Solomon. I think it's totally normal to wonder who was this monarch.

What's tricky about people who are this far back in history is being able to separate truth from myth. Historians for the most part agree King Solomon was a real person, but to what degree is the literature written about him factual is up for debate.

Here are some interesting tidbits about the famed king that might help you understand Song of Songs better.

  • King Solomon's reign was from about 970 BCE to 931 BCE.
  • He was the son of King David and Bathsheba.
  • Rehoboam was his successor.
  • According to the Old Testament, Quran, and Hadiths he was a fabulously wealthy king of the United Kingdom of Israel.
  • The Hebrew Bible identifies him as the builder of the First Temple of Jerusalem.
  • The Israelite monarchy experienced its greatest period of wealth under Solomon.
  • He helped foster trade in Tyre, Egypt, Arabia, and South India.
  • He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He married the pharaoh's daughter.
  • Marrying the pharaoh's daughter may have cemented a relationship with Egypt.
  • The only wife mentioned by name was Naamah the Ammonite, the mother of Rehoboam.
  • There are a long list of legends associated with King Solomon. He is even mentioned in One Thousand and One Nights.