Troublesome Topic: He Browses among the Lilies

Song of Solomon 6:3


I am a source of refreshing encouragement for my Love, and my Love is the same to me;

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he browses among the lilies.


I meet his needs

and he

meets mine;

I let him satisfy his needs with my beauty.

This is one of the primary reasons I do not think the Song of Solomon was written as an allegory of our relationship with God, for God does not come to me to have His needs met. The Song presents a strong and consistent message that they both do a good job of meeting each other’s needs. That is not true of my relationship with God; I don’t meet His needs, He meets mine. Sometimes He is pleased with me, but most often He bears with my weaknesses in great patience and kindness. My relationship with God is not a two-way street where we meet in the middle, it is mostly God doing His part, with me relying on help from His Spirit to do my small part. The Song presents the two partners in the marriage as equals, although they fulfill different roles, yet no Jew of ancient times would have dared say that we are equal with God. Many people know the first part of verse 3 because one or more songs that we sing that are taken from these words. However, how many people know the last part of the verse (“he browses among the lilies”)? We don’t memorize that part because it sounds too sexual. It is not intended to be sexual, but rather to be a general statement that includes the meeting of emotional, relational and, to some degree, spiritual needs, as well as the physical needs.

Notice that it is an “enclosed garden” (v. 2), for the Hebrew word means “enclosure.” Her ability to meet certain needs he has is directly related to her commitment and discipline in the area of keeping those things exclusively for him. This refers to more than the act of sexual intercourse. This also relates to sharing certain bits of information, leaning on one another for encouragement and reassurance, joking and finding joy in one another’s presence, and any other behavior that onlookers might consider flirting. Why are these things wrong? These are also things that the wife should provide, so when a man goes to someone else for them he eventually convinces himself that his wife is not the right person for him and then, even if he wasn’t thinking about sex to begin with, he begins to let his mind go there. That is why flirting is the first step to having an affair; it all has to do with not protecting (keeping enclosed) all the aspects of the relationship which should remain carefully protected.

In verse two, I think the choice to use the words “go down” communicates that there is a difference between point A and point B. They are not just different locations, or different options to choose from, rather they have radically different qualities. That may not always be true of statements like this, but in this case I think it was chosen purposefully and that the meaning has a significance beyond simple movement. Applied to the marriage situation we see that there is a huge difference between the husband having certain needs met by his wife or by some other means.

Note how revolutionary their relationship was in a society where women were not often considered part of the “team.” Here we see them working together, and respecting each other, while fulfilling their unique, God-given roles. While their roles remained different, they considered the other an equal. That was almost unheard of in those days, and that may be one reason The Song had, and has, so much appeal. It is also one reason why the Shulammite was so amazed, for she, a commoner from the working class, was married to a wealthy, powerful king, and he considered her his equal in many ways. We sometimes hear the accusation that the God of the Bible values men and women differently. That is not an accurate charge, for God values all people equally; it is their roles that are different. Even the members of the trinity have different roles, while being equally God. Then there is the issue of leadership; every team needs a team captain. In soccer I consider the single most important person on the field to be the goal keeper, and this because his role is so different than the other roles. However, the goal keeper is seldom the captain of the team. The title “captain” says nothing about value, it is an issue of role.

The next lesson is: Your Hair Is Like a Flock of Goats



In Hebrew it reads “I am my Love’s, and my Love is mine.”  Something is left out of this sentence and must be inserted; context is what guides the translator to know what to insert. “I am ______ of my Love, and my Love is _______ to me.” Or another option would be, “I am my love’s ___________, and my love is my __________.” Leaving things out like this is quite common in Hebrew. Many assumptions must be made and context is almost always the determining factor. The KJV translation is what most of us are familiar with; it reads “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Many of you have assumed, as I did in the past, that it communicates belonging and commitment, i.e. “I belong to my beloved and my beloved belongs to me,” or “I am devoted to my beloved and my beloved is devoted to me.” I no longer think that is the intended idea because it is not found in the immediate context. Such devotion is an underlying truth for the entire Song, but it is not specifically mentioned in the preceding phrases. What is found in the preceding phrases is the idea of meeting each other’s needs, of being a source of refreshing, reviving encouragement. Therefore I have translated this sentence with that context in mind. You will notice that the translation column emphasizes being a source of refreshing encouragement while the paraphrase column emphasizes meeting each other’s needs. In that way I try to cover the various aspects of a multifaceted concept.