The Shulamite was betrothed to marry Solomon the great king of Israel. In chapter 1 of Song of Solomon she moves from excitedly asking for kisses to suddenly doubtful in verse 5.
5 I am very dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
like the curtains of Solomon.
6 Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
because the sun has looked upon me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
they made me keeper of the vineyards,
but my own vineyard I have not kept!
She is tan because she worked as a keeper of vineyards. The vineyard she knew so well then becomes a personification of her own form and person. She doesn’t feel like she has taken care of herself. Yet, she still declares herself to be lovely.
This back and forth of thoughts is a natural response when in the presence of her beloved.
How many of us have fumbled with our hands and over our words when our crush walks into the room? I have done this many… many times. I’m not good enough for her, and yet I know that I am! How do I express all of this and more without making things awkward?
Love is a very awkward thing. It is disarming, it is an opening up, a bearing of the soul. It is not safe at all. Love is soft and yet when unrequited, it suddenly becomes very hard. When returned, the hardness is immediately softened into joy!
The problem with this post-modern world is that so many are trying to find true love but none are willing to pay the toll.
Be open and awkward towards your beloved. Be blushing and open. Be honest and very afraid, all at the same time.
But this post will be about who she blames her tan on, which would be her mother’s sons or her brothers. She says that they were angry with her. They forced her to work outside. Because of this, she didn’t have time to make herself presentable.
Can you imagine working outside in the hot sun and suddenly your crush comes walking by?
Her brothers stand for the authority that God has placed over her, they are to protect her and it seems, they made her work too hard.
She is angry because she fears that this overwork has made her undesirable to Solomon. Were her protectors too harsh? Did they shelter her too much?
Let’s look into the philosophy behind how they protect and treat their sister. The brothers explain this in the final chapter 8.
Disclaimer: I know that the language here in our time will come across as crude. Open your mind to how they spoke back then. This is the only way we can glean some knowledge from the situation. I will try my best to explain each verse.
This is found in Chapter 8 beginning in verse 8. The brothers are speaking.
We have a little sister,
and she has no breasts.
What shall we do for our sister
on the day when she is spoken for?
Our sister who we protect has not yet hit the age of marriage. What should we do when she reaches that age and a man asks for her to marry him?
9 If 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.
If she is modest we will boldly proclaim her virtues to all around. If she is a flirt we will protect her from guys who might take advantage of her.
Now listen to the Shulamite’s response.
10 I was a wall,
and my breasts were like towers;
then I was in his eyes
as one who finds peace.
She was not a flirt back then during the courtship, and yet she was also fully grown up. Because of this, Solomon found peace in her modesty and womanhood.
Notice how much she takes charge of herself here. Back in chapter 1 she was very sheepish about her looks, afraid her brothers had made her work too hard in the fields to ever be looked upon by King Solomon.
And in chapter 8 her brothers explain their philosophy behind why the were so hard on her. They are protecting her. In this protection is a deep fear that she will stray.
But she responds that they need not worry. She is no longer under the protection of her brothers, but she is under Solomon’s.
I should add that she and Solomon have been married. Chapter 8 is a reminiscence of the courtship process, looking back through older and wiser eyes.
11 Solomon 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.
In Song of Solomon the vineyard is symbolic for the woman’s person. The Shulamite is comparing the natural dealings of one of Solomon’s real vineyards and those who work for it. They are doing it for money and not for love.
12 My vineyard, my very own, is before me;
you, O Solomon, may have the thousand,
and the keepers of the fruit two hundred.
“Keep your money,” she is saying. Her person and form are hers to give as she pleases. And she has chosen to give it freely to her husband who finds peace in her modesty and womanhood.
13 O you who dwell in the gardens,
with companions listening for your voice;
let me hear it.
14 Make haste, my beloved,
and be like a gazelle
or a young stag
on the mountains of spices.
This peace has led them to a great and powerful love.
Parents and brothers. There is a time for protection over those of yours that you fear are too open. But if they are walls then be true to the word of the Shulamite’s brothers. Build open her ramparts of silver. Adorn her and show her off in honor.
But the Shulamite is saying that even though her brothers promised to do this, they were instead angry with her. Out of fear, they were overprotective of her, but in this she feared that they would push the true love of a king away.
In the end, the Shulamite is the one to choose. In the Lord she says that she was modest, and yet she had become a woman. Her beloved found peace in her eyes. They waited until marriage (Song of Solomon 3:6-11). Then, they consummated their love (Song of Solomon 4:9-16).
This is the model that the bible has set up for us. Be modest and yet, be one that finds peace in his eyes. But even before any of that, be sure that he is an honorable man, willing to wait until marriage.