King Solomon and the Shulammite’s Dilemma

Patsy Rae Dawson

People today head blindly towards greater sexual inhibitions than their grandparents experienced through Victorian morals. Many men cannot respond to a real, live, flesh and blood woman, because they are addicted to sex like King Solomon was. While women claim the feminists' sexual freedom to discover themselves with multiple partners, many perform with frigidity.

Yet 3000 years ago, King Solomon tried the 21st-century's sexual experiment better than any couple can execute it today. Today's society has lost the wisdom of the Shulammite maiden that the emotional bond is the most powerful aphrodisiac of all for both men and women.

“Christians make the best lovers? You've got to be kidding!” is the reaction of many people. Yet lovemaking originated within the mind of God. Did he create captivating sunsets and undersea wonders only to mess up when it came to figuring out what sex was all about? Surely not! He used that same astonishing ability to design people for deep intimacy and the ability to speak a beautiful language of love in the arms of the chosen mate. And he preserves the greatest sexual thrills for those who dare to listen and learn his secrets.

But lovemaking is in crisis. Cohabitation has replaced dating and slowly getting to know the other person to build an emotional bond. Supposedly, casual sex and cohabitation allow people to test whether or not they've found an agreeable mate and if they'll enjoy a great sex life.

Marriage is also in crisis thanks to cohabitation. An Alabama Policy Institute (API) study of more than 1,300 married couples compared couples who cohabited with those who did not. The cohabiting couples tended to be “more depressed, more dependent, and more likely to believe their relationship would end” as the other couples. In addition, spouse abuse in the form of intimidating anger, hitting, and throwing objects was more common among the cohabiting couples. According to USA Today, couples live together about two years and then either marry or break up. (Ed Litton, “First-Person: The Truth About Cohabitation,” Baptist Press, January 9, 2007.)

The sexual revolution of the latter 20th century failed miserably to liberate its believers. As a result, people of the 21st century head blindly towards greater sexual inhibitions than their grandparents experienced through Victorian morals. Many men cannot respond to a real, live, flesh and blood woman. They require flat paper women, dancing computer graphics, or multiple partners to feed their fetishes and self-pleasuring. Psychologists call this enslavement of their minds sexual addiction.

Perhaps women suffer the most in spite of the feminists preaching on college campuses the ideal of take-it-and-leave-it sex. “Sexually active teenage girls are more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to attempt suicide, than girls who are not sexually active…They cannot sleep, they mutilate themselves, and exhibit every symptom of psychic distress.” (Danielle Crittenden, “Unprotected,” Wall-Street Journal, December 14, 2006.)

While these young women claim the sexual freedom to discover themselves, many perform with frigidity. Their lovemaking with a man requires special manipulations for arousal and sex toys to experience an orgasm. Many numb their minds with alcohol and drugs to override the damage done to the beautiful, loving femininity God bestowed upon them.

Yet three thousand years ago, King Solomon tried the 21st-century's sexual experiment better than any couple can execute it today. He didn't require grants to fund his experiments--he enjoyed such great wealthy that he treated silver like gravel. He didn't need an MP3 player, he frolicked to live bands and singers. No magazine foldouts or computer porn turned him on, with his political power and prestige; he sampled the most beautiful and sexually knowledgeable women of his day, from peasants to king's daughters to slaves.

And guilt? Each time he tired of one woman, Solomon simply married another one to add to his harem. At the time of the Song of Solomon, he sported one hundred and forty wives, and virgins without number awaiting his attention. Eventually, he went through one thousand women, an average of 25 wives per year of his 40-year reign. The ancient historian Josephus says Solomon was 14 when he became king (Josephus, Antiq., VIII, 7). Other historians say he was no older than 18. He quickly married the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt.

At the rate of 25 wives per year, Solomon would have been into his sixth-year reign as king unless he was marrying his wives at a faster pace in his youth. This would make Solomon probably be in his early 20s when he proposed marriage to the young Shulammite maiden. Just as sexual addiction today often begins in the teen years when a young man must deal with relentless, hot surges of lust, the readily available young women for Solomon to marry fueled his own downward spiral into total sexual addiction and debauchery.

If ever the 21st-century experiment was going to work, Solomon should have succeeded. He delighted in worldly-wise sex in all its glory--unlimited partners, uninhibited sexual techniques from bringing in wives from all over the world, wild music, beautiful bodies, and hookup attitudes without guilt.

Then in Ecclesiastes, where Solomon reviewed the results of all of his social experiments, he confided his disappointment in 1000 women (Eccl. 7:28). Contrary to his own life, Solomon admonished a man to “enjoy life with the woman [not women] whom you love all the days of your fleeting life” (9:9).

God inspired the Song of Solomon to tell the true story of a beautiful young vineyard keeper who was probably 13 to 14-years-old since the Jews considered girls as old maids by the age of 16. Solomon provides a perfect representative of the sensuous, smooth-talking, rich playboy who is addicted to sex, while the Shepherd represents the poor, hard-working, honest man who offers true love to a woman. The problem? Both men love the same woman, but for different reasons. And she doesn't know whom to marry--she loves the one, but the other excites her. Thus, the Song of Solomon presents an exciting triangle of personalities to capture the emotions and intelligence of its readers as it explores the Shulammite's dilemma.

Thirty centuries ago, God inspired the captivating Song of Solomon to bless the lives of every man and woman regardless of their age or upbringing by teaching them how to find true love, enjoy a lifelong sexual partner, and build a successful marriage. Yet only within the last thirty years has medical science and psychologists finally discovered what God has said all along--that the brain is the most powerful sexual organ of all.

In spite of this modern-day breakthrough, the 21st-century experiment seeks to numb the mind, falsely assuming that being brain dead in sex gives thrills. Couples turn off their emotions with alcohol, drugs, and multiple partners. They disconnect their heads by hooking up, shacking up, and then waking up to depression and confusion. Lovemaking originated with God, and his preservation of this beautiful, true story demonstrates his love for his people as he shares his secret of the power of the brain as the greatest sexual organ of all.

Written as a Drama

The story takes place over three action-packed days. Written as a drama, each day represents an act that contains several scenes. Each scene depicts a change in location or characters. Each scene is introduced as if watching a stage play and the curtains open to reveal the change in setting. While a narrative introduces the settings, a careful study of the dialogue shows where that scene takes place.

Many modern screenplays contain only dialogue and leave the stage scenery, props, and character positions to the director's imagination. God's wisdom shows in the way he inspired the Song of Solomon to read like a modern play. Therefore, to help readers visualize this true dramatized story and bring it to life, suggestions for stage settings are given. These artistic ideas are only the author's thoughts of how a director might produce the play.

Day One: Act One, Scene One: The curtains open to reveal a backdrop of vineyards dotting the countryside of the town of Shunem, the Shulammite's hometown. King Solomon camped there while he inspected his vineyards that he leased to farmers (Song of Solomon 6:10-11 and 8:11-12). Always on the lookout for a pretty face and gorgeous figure, Solomon immediately noticed the young Shulammite working in her family's vineyard. The teenager so captivated him that his servants brought her to his chambers.

Thus, in the foreground of the scene sit the tents of Solomon's camp. Oriental tents contained many rooms used for different purposes. The sides are drawn back on one inner room to show the Shulammite and Solomon's maidens. Since the Shulammite self-consciously refers to her appearance and lack of personal grooming and the maidens speak of adorning her with gold and silver, no doubt, the maidens hover around her, preparing her to meet King Solomon later in the evening (1:12). Like a modern screenplay, the story opens in the midst of the drama.

The Shulammite's Dilemma

The Shulammite loves a shepherd. And although Solomon woos her, she cannot stop thinking of her shepherd boyfriend and remembering what her mother told her about love. She continually compares the Shepherd to Solomon to see whom she should marry. This is the story of the Shulammite's heart-felt search for the answer to her dilemma:

Memories of the Shepherd

Song of Solomon 1:1-4a: “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's. `May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, your name is like purified oil; therefore the maidens love you. Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers.'”

Never has the Shulammite maiden seen anything so beautiful and luxurious as the King's chambers. Even when he camped during his inspection trips, Solomon always surrounded himself with great wealth (II Chronicles 9:13-27).

After her father's death, the whole family worked hard just to survive. Now she sits in the middle of shining splendor. If the maidens weren't so busy pampering her, she'd like to run her hand over the gleaming surfaces. Can this really be happening to her--a poor nobody?

In a strange place and overwhelmed with her new situation, the Shulammite wishes for someone to hold her hand and to confide in. Her mind races to the Shepherd--her best friend. She longs for his soothing kisses to still her nervousness and fears. She feels torn between her desire for his comfort and the flattery of being brought to the King and surrounded with his wealth. Not an ordinary boy--many girls would be glad to belong to the Shepherd.

Still, the King didn't invite just any girl to his chambers for his personal inspection. He invited her! This might be the chance of a lifetime for both her and her mother. If she married him, he'd probably take her mother to live in the palace with her like he did his other mothers-in-law.

Even so, the Shulammite can't push the Shepherd out of her mind. She explains to the maidens that she is emotionally involved with the Shepherd--his love is better than wine. Society drinks wine as a tranquilizer for the problems of life. True love does the same thing. It pacifies a person and offers more relief than alcohol. If she chooses the Shepherd, she won't need to numb her mind with drink before she can offer her body to him. Her mind will enjoy its own peace and delight because of the emotional relationship they've built with each other.

Everything about the Shepherd appeals to her, from his after-shave lotion to his name. The Shulammite fits the picture of a young girl dreamily writing the Shepherd's name over and over with a “Mrs.” in front of it. She will proudly wear his name--no “Ms.” title for her!

When my mother was in high school in California, one of her teachers married a man by the name of Snodgrass. My mother and her schoolmates talked about what a horrible name Snodgrass was. How could anyone ever love a man with that name? The next summer my mother went to Oklahoma to help her grandmother cook during wheat harvest. Her grandfather employed a young hand by the name of Snodgrass who always wore clean white coveralls. My mother fell in love with him and became Mrs. Snodgrass. And through the years, she has proudly worn the name of Mrs. Ray Snodgrass. True love makes a man's name seem like “purified oil” to the woman who loves him, even if his name happens to be Snodgrass.

As the Shulammite thinks of the Shepherd, she pleads to him in her mind, “Draw me after you and let us run together! The King has brought me into his chambers.” How frightening to suddenly be the focus of the King's attention when he could choose anyone he desired. Ah! But exhilaration momentarily overcomes her fear.

The Maidens' Excitement

Song of Solomon 1:4b: “We will rejoice in you and be glad; we will extol your love more than wine. Rightly do they love you.”

This speech obviously comes from a plurality of speakers since it says “we” twice. The Shulammite identifies the speakers in verse 5 when she addresses them as “O daughters of Jerusalem,” who are probably the same maidens in 6:8. At this time Solomon's harem consisted of sixty queens (free women he married), eighty concubines (slaves he married), and maidens or virgins without number who waited upon Solomon for an opportunity to become one of his wives.

At first reading, it seems as if the maidens are exclaiming over the Shulammite--that she is the perfect bride for Solomon. However, the masculine, singular pronouns “you” and “your” refer to a man, not a woman.

The maidens do not know the Shepherd, so they cannot rejoice in him or extol his love more than wine as the Shulammite has. They know and love King Solomon. But the Shulammite treasures memories of the Shepherd whom she loves, while the maidens gush excitedly over Solomon. What a dilemma! She loves the Shepherd, while everybody else loves Solomon. The maidens' urging presents tremendous peer pressure for the young girl to marry someone she doesn't know and hasn't fallen in love with.

The maidens tell the Shulammite, “You think you love the Shepherd, but we rejoice in King Solomon.” There's no comparison! “We will extol your love, Solomon, more than wine.” Everyone knows Solomon's love is better than the poor Shepherd's though he's spread it out over a harem full of women.

Throughout the Song of Solomon, the different characters often make plays on the previous speaker's words. Thus, the maidens mock the Shulammite as they conclude, “You say the virgins or maidens love your boyfriend, that he's special, but rightly do all the maidens love King Solomon.”

Black But Lovely

Song of Solomon 1:5-6: “I am black but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, for the sun has burned me. My mother's sons were angry with me; they made me caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard.”

Obviously, with her sun-blackened skin, the Shulammite is a working woman as she took care of one of Solomon's vineyards (8:11). During this time, many young women worked in the fields (common labor for everyone) while their mothers cared for their children, even nursing the grandchildren. The Shulammite displays a good understanding of finances, as she pays Solomon his share of the harvest. This corresponds with the description of the woman of great price in Proverbs 31:16, 24 who worked and skillfully managed money and property.

When Solomon became king, he divided the twelve tribes into twelve geographical regions that did not honor their tribal lineage. He then installed a deputy over each providence. These deputies oversaw each providence as they completely provided for running the government for one month of the year, including furnishing food for the huge number of people who ate at Solomon's table, wives and relatives, government workers, and slaves (I Kings 4:1-7). This taxation eventually became a heavy burden for the people as God warned through the prophet Samuel in I Samuel 8:7-22 when the people demanded a king.

As Samuel had warned, Solomon also required the young men of Israel to continually serve one month out of every three on his construction projects which including building the temple, then a magnificent home for his himself and his first and dominant wife, the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt (I Kings 3:1; 6:1; 7:1, 8). Solomon was known for his great building projects that continued for most of his reign. So the Shulammite's brothers would have been gone on this forced labor duty once every three months, which would have left the work totally to the women. Perhaps the brothers' anger toward the young maiden results from her not doing something exactly as they wanted while they were gone. No doubt, a lot of the Jewish people resented this time away from taking care of their own homes, flocks, and vineyards.

The Shulammite's deep tan from her life of hard work contrasts starkly with the fair-skinned maidens who serve in Solomon's tents and palace. Like young women today, these maidens of long ago employed many ways to make themselves more beautiful:

Women and men alike had been doing their best to improve on nature throughout most of recorded history. As far back as Sumerian times they had painted kohl around their eyes to enlarge them and tinted their cheeks with red dyes. Athenian women, said Aristophanes, used grease paint, antimony ore (mascara), red paint, white lead (as face powder), seaweed paint (possibly as an eye shadow), and beauty plasters (face packs). Many of these preparations were unfortunately not waterproof. “When you go out in the summer,” said Eubulus nastily, “two black rivulets flow from your eyes, the sweat from your cheeks carries trickles of rouge right down to your neck, and your hair turns gray from the powder on your forehead.” . . . For gray hair, Mespotammian experts recommended a mixture of opium with a dash each of the gall of a black ox, a scorpion, and a pig, brewed up with the head of a black raven and the head of a stork. The Egyptians preferred a blend of laudanum, oil, cat's womb, and raven's egg. For baldness, they said, it was best to rub into the scalp a salve made from the fat of a lion, a hippopotamus, a crocodile, a cat, a serpent, and an ibex. (Reay Tannahill, Sex in History [Briarcliff Manor, NY: Scarborough House, 1980], pp. 113, 115.)

While many of these exotic cosmetics came from different countries, Solomon married women from all over the known world. His wives, concubines, and maidens without number enjoyed the latest beautifying techniques. However, working hard in the vineyard for her brothers, the Shulammite found no time for personal grooming.

The Shulammite demonstrates typical teenage self-consciousness by telling the maidens not to stare at her because she is swarthy. How many times do young girls wilt under the gaze of others, assuming they are noticing all their flaws of body, clothing, and makeup? How many times do young women inspect themselves in the mirror only to sob about what their genes bestowed upon them?

The Shulammite's self-acceptance contrasts with girls today who let rock and porn stars set the standards for outward beauty. Even some grade-school girls expose their crotches by refusing to wear panties. They degrade themselves to lure male attention their way. Yet, the Shulammite respects herself with her makeup-free burned skin. And the world's greatest judge of female flesh, Solomon, sees and admires her genuine inner glow.

While physical loveliness attracts a boy's attention, appearance will not ensure his devotion if beauty of character does not go with it. Solomon's one thousand women prove for all time the fallacy of exposing one's genitals to gain a boyfriend. Lust lasts for a season, then moves on to the next lovely young body.

The Love of Her Soul

Song of Solomon 1:7: “Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where do you pasture your flock, where do you make it lie down at noon? For why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?”

Flattered that the King desires her country beauty, the Shulammite still loves the Shepherd. She yearns for him and wishes she could go with him instead of the King. What a dilemma! Can her love for the Shepherd compare with an exciting life with the King? And all those riches for a poor girl! Why would any one think twice about Solomon's offer?

The Shulammite asks, “Should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?” In other words, “Should I do what all the girls do?” Single girls often try to wander accidentally on purpose to where the boys congregate. Then maybe one of them will happen to notice them. Girls seek boys the same from generation to generation. So the Shulammite asks if she should act coy and uninterested? Should she just happen to walk by the place where he pastures his flocks with her veil innocently in place? Or should she just openly declare that she is ready to marry him, putting an end to their courtship and the intentions of the King? Before King Solomon came along, she knew what she wanted--now she isn't sure.

The expression “make it [his flock] lie down at noon” shows how successfully the Shepherd takes care of his sheep. For example, sheep refuse to lie down at noon to rest if they feel the least bit hungry, if some disease or insects bother them, if danger lurks nearby, or if friction exists between their own social orders. A shepherd who makes his flock lie down at noon must meet all four of these conditions. (Philip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970], p. 35.) Thus, the Shulammite describes the Shepherd as a dependable worker. Besides, what better time to visit than when his flocks lie down, and he can give her attention?

This verse shows that Solomon and the Shepherd are not the same man--they are two distinct individuals. The Shulammite asks where is the one whom her soul loves. King Solomon tells where he is at this time in 6:11: He is inspecting his vineyards in the orchard of nut trees. The Shulammite knows where King Solomon is because Solomon says this is where he found her. She also tells where the vineyard is in 8:11-Solomon owned a vineyard at Baalhamon that he entrusted to caretakers. Then she pays Solomon a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit. Both Solomon and the Shulammite are at the vineyards; the Shepherd or the beloved is the only one missing.

Yet the Shulammite knows where the Shepherd is--pasturing his flocks. Later in the story when the maidens ask the Shulammite where her beloved is, she does not tell them where Solomon is. Instead, she says in 6:2 that he is pasturing his flock among the lilies. Unless Solomon can be in two places at the same time, the King and the Shepherd must be two different men, both in love with the Shulammite.

In these two verses, the Shulammite also introduces the Shepherd as “you whom my soul loves” and “my beloved.” This is noteworthy because these two expressions appear thirty-four times in the Song of Solomon. Since the Shulammite says that the Shepherd is also the one her soul loves and her beloved, all of the beloved passages logically refer to the Shepherd--not to King Solomon. Therefore, rather than arbitrarily deciding if a speaker is Solomon or the Shepherd, the beloved passages establish a clear pattern for determining when the Shepherd is referred to. (For more in-depth discussion of the two-man position versus Solomon being the Shepherd, see Appendix A: “Evidence that King Solomon Was Not the Shepherd.”)

Freedom to Choose

Song of Solomon 1:8: “If you yourself do not know, most beautiful among women, go forth on the trail of the flock, and pasture your young goats by the tents of the shepherds.”

Many people think Jewish parents forced their daughters to marry whomever they choose. That's not true. For example, Rebekah's mother and brother gave her a choice about marrying Isaac after Abraham's servant discussed it with them (Genesis 24:57-58). Each girl made her own choice to either accept or reject the arrangements her parents made.

For this reason, the maidens, who wait upon the King, assure the Shulammite that she is free to leave Solomon's tents and go to the shepherds' tents. If she really wants to leave, the King won't force himself upon her. She must make the choice. But since the King already showers his attentions upon her, wouldn't it be better to find out what he wants before she makes her decision? The Shulammite lingers.

Just as modern screenplays break for a commercial after a cliff hanger, the scene ends with the Shulammite not knowing who to choose.

Day One, Act One, Scene Two: The Shulammite is now beautifully adorned to formally meet King Solomon as he notices that her cheeks are lovely with ornaments and her neck with strings of beads. The maidens did their makeover of her well. Song of Solomon 1:12 shows that this meeting takes place in another chamber of Solomon's tent--in his dining room. Thus, the curtains close on scene one and open again for scene two, showing the first chamber closed and another one opened. The maidens serve dinner to Solomon and the Shulammite and attend to their every need. Solomon begins to court the young maiden and boldly tells her exactly what he thinks of her--she is no ordinary beauty.

Solomon's First Proposal

During the three days of this drama, Solomon proposes to the young Shulammite maiden four times. All of his proposals show that he cares about only one thing--sexual contact with her stunning body. His first proposal comes across as very daring for a first meeting.

Like His Mare

Song of Solomon 1:9-10: “To me, my darling, you are like my mare among the chariots of Pharaoh. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of beads.”

The first words out of Solomon's mouth praise the Shulammite's great sex appeal: “You are like my mare among the chariots of Pharaoh.” This expression skips all the niceties of a first introduction and leaps into the middle of lewdness as Solomon tells her how strongly he craves sex with her.

As a king and owner of many horses and chariots, Solomon knows exactly the power of a mare in heat distracting the stallions of Pharaoh. Marcia Falk explains in her book, The Song of Songs, the full significance of Solomon's praise:

A woman is compared to a mare in Pharaoh's chariotry--a puzzling image, for in that context only stallions, never mares, drew chariots. But the Egyptians' enemies set mares loose in war to drive the pharaoh's stallions wild, and this is the crux of the metaphor. The woman is not simply a beautiful creature; she is as alluring as “a mare among stallions.” Seen in this way, the image is striking and perhaps even daunting: the beloved possesses a captivating power over her admirer. (Marcia Falk, The Song of Songs [San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993], p. xxii.)

Solomon's relationship to horses makes this interpretation reasonable: Solomon didn't own a single little mare, or even just a few mares. Rather, in I Kings 4:26 Solomon required 40,000 horse stalls for his chariots and for his 12,000 horsemen. Solomon acquired chariots and horses on a national scale and built cities to keep them in (I Kings 9:19). He also imported droves of horses from Egypt (I Kings 10:29; II Chronicles 9:28). The horses of the Bible are almost exclusively war-horses and the property of kings and not of the common people.

Every time Solomon speaks directly to the Shulammite in the Song of Solomon, he praises her sexual charms. He never sees her as a person with a brain and a personality, she is only the most ravishing body he's ever seen and she drives him wild. His metaphor of comparing her to a mare and himself to the war-horses pulling the chariots of Pharaoh is appropriate. No doubt, as the owner of 40,000 stalls, Solomon had observed the actions of horses. His choice of metaphor amplifies the truth of God's description of a sex-crazed nation: “They committed adultery and trooped to the harlot's house. They were well-fed lusty horses, each one neighing after his neighbor's wife” (Jer. 5:7-8).

Solomon's flattery describes the effect of a sexy babe walking through a singles bar with all the male heads turning to appraise the exquisite creature in their midst. “Hey, Beautiful,” they call, “You must be a model with those curves! You're hot!” With whistles and husky descriptions of her body, they jockey for position to buy her drinks while hoping to score before the night is gone.

As such a captivating creature, Solomon assures the Shulammite that nothing about her goes unnoticed. The earrings and necklaces that the daughters of Jerusalem adorned her with only make her more desirable. Solomon fully appreciates the ability of her sexual charms to stir mind-consuming lust within his loins.

The movie Shallow Hal creates humor around Hal's fascination with perfect feminine bodies. As expected with total attraction to bodies, any little imperfection in an otherwise beautiful woman is a complete turn-off to Hal and his nightclub-cruising buddy. Then when a personal trainer hypnotizes him so that he's blind to the physical and only feels the woman's heart and sees what's inside, he goes to the opposite extreme. The movie concludes with Hal coming out of the trance and realizing that his years of frustration came from his obsession with perfect bodies. The movie provides humor with wild extremes to make its point about the value of emotional love.

Sometimes simple truths are easier to understand by looking at extremes. For example, God uses the extreme of the harlot's attitudes in Proverbs 7 that warn wives about making the same mistakes with their husbands. (See Chapter 5: “The Sexually Frustrated Woman” in Vol. II: God's People Make the Best Lovers for a complete discussion of these verses.) Rather than being a comedy, Solomon's real-life extreme in his pursuit of the Shulammite's youthful beauty presents a study in tragedy.

Promises of Luxuries

Song of Solomon 1:11: “We will make for you ornaments of gold with beads of silver.”

The maidens enhance the King's sensuous offer with promises to make her even more enticing with designer jewelry made from both expensive gold and common silver. A life of luxury, ease, and splendor awaits this poor vineyard keeper. How can she turn down the chance of a lifetime? In Solomon's palace she will never worry about loading the dishwasher or vacuuming the floors as servants pamper her. She can spend her time primping, reading, or engaging in social activities. What a life with Solomon!

Memories of the Shepherd

Song of Sol. 1:12-14: “While the king was at his table, my perfume gave forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh which lies all night between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.”

As King Solomon wines and dines the young maiden, this is no ordinary meal. I Kings 10:21 says that all of Solomon's drinking vessels were gold since silver was too common. Bakers knew how to make pastries that make modern gourmet food look like a peasant's rations (Prov. 23:1-3). Luxury and culinary delights beyond description surround the Shulammite.

Before modern screenplays made flashbacks popular as a way to bring in past details, the Shulammite remembers what it was like with the Shepherd. In the midst of grand splendor and Solomon's sensuous proposal, one whiff of her perfume propels her mind back to her beloved--the Shepherd. He is as “a pouch of myrrh which lies all night between my breasts.” At night, the Jews often tied a small sack of flower petals or herbs around their necks. This gave off a pleasant smell during the night to replace the unpleasant odors of their hot, sweaty land promoting better sleep on suffocating nights.

She describes the Shepherd as a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi. The Jews planted flower gardens outside their cities. Then in the evening they would stroll through them to meditate. They also picked clusters of flowers to carry home with them. Then if they passed something with a bad odor, they could smell the flowers instead. Like these soothing smells, the Shepherd surrounds her with comfort.

While Solomon used a metaphor of lusty horses neighing wildly after a mare, the Shulammite, in her innocence, used a contrasting metaphor of pleasant, everyday smells that calm both the body and the mind. As a country virgin, the Shulammite probably did not know about the mating habits of the warhorses of Kings. Her naivety would have prevented her from fully understanding the coarseness of Solomon's first greeting. Later in the drama when her eyes open to the fact that all Solomon cares about is sex, she responds to him much differently than at this time.

Her Great Beauty

Song of Sol. 1:15: “How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves.”

Solomon interrupts her thoughts to tell the Shulammite again how beautiful she is. He consistently refers to her as “my darling” or “my love,” which refers to a female associate or love. His expression shows his shallow involvement with her as a person as the term resembles the word “honey” that sales clerks sometimes use lightly with their customers to make a sale.

Every girl wants to be told she is attractive, and when a man notices her, his compliments make her more desirous of pleasing him. Not immune to the charms and flattery of Solomon, the Shulammite struggles with his appeal to her feminine vanity and pride.

Memories of the Shepherd

Song of Sol. 1:16-17: “How handsome you are, my beloved, and so pleasant! Indeed, our couch is luxuriant! The beams of our house are cedars, our rafters, cypresses.”

Consistently, the Shulammite calls the Shepherd her “beloved.” The expression means “properly to boil, i.e., (figuratively) to love; by implication, a love-token, lover, friend,” which demonstrates her strong emotional bonding with him.

The young girl faces a big decision. She must choose between two completely different kinds of love, lives, and husbands. Before Solomon came to inspect the vineyards, the Shulammite knew she loved the Shepherd and planned to marry him someday. Now the King offers her a life in his palace with glamour and luxuries beyond description.

But the Shulammite can't get the Shepherd out of her mind. Even in the presence of Solomon's grand offer, she still refers to the Shepherd as “my beloved,” showing her deep emotional attachment to him. She remembers how handsome and pleasant he is.

Every bride enjoys dreaming about her future home and how she will decorate it. In like manner, the Shulammite compares the house the Shepherd will give her to the opulence that now surrounds her. She knows the Shepherd can only provide her with a humble home constructed from rough planks of wood. Yet their love will transform the outdoors into a magnificent showplace in which to play, live, and work. True love converts even the most humble dwelling into a palace, while sensuous love gives a castle all the warmth of a drafty shack.

No doubt, the luxurious attention of the maidens and the King's approving look of anticipation overwhelm all of her senses. Yet even in this strange environment and temptation to yield to the King's excitement, the Shulammite stops to examine the situation intellectually. Over and over, the young maiden reacts to the new offers from Solomon by taking time to think and to compare it to what she knows--her relationship with the Shepherd.

And by not allowing herself to be sweet-talked into fulfilling Solomon's fantasy without fully analyzing the situation, God is able to use her to teach mankind wonderful truths about lovemaking. That an inexperienced country maiden, the object of Solomon's lust, might grow to understand more about sex and love than the worldly-wise king offers hope to 21st-century couples where magazines, books, movies, video games, and television bombard innocent minds with the lure of the sensuous.

Study Exercise

Answer all questions in your own words.

1. What value does the Song of Solomon have for teenagers?

2. What value does the Song of Solomon have for married couples?

3. What advice would you give the Shulammite about being self-conscious about her sunburned skin and lack of makeup?

4. How would most girls feel if a rich playboy asked them to marry him?

5. Should girls or women feel obligated to give sex to pay for an expensive meal?

6. How would you define the Shulammite's dilemma?

7. Can you think of situations other than at single bars and night clubs where boys or men might act like lusty horses around beautiful girls? Do girls or women ever act like lusty horses? Explain.

8. How did the peer pressure of the daughters of Jerusalem affect the Shulammite when she wanted to leave Solomon's tent?

9. How does peer pressure affect courting couples today?

10. Do you disagree with anything in the lesson? If so, explain in detail giving scriptures for your reasons.

Research Exercise

Each week as you study the Song of Solomon, begin with chapter one in the Bible, verse one and read the story through to where you finished at the last class. Rather than busy work, this exercise helps make the Song of Solomon belong to you. Doing this on a regular basis instead of just one time for class makes the words and the story more familiar. It also helps you better understand the overall story line.

Then as you go about your daily life, your mind will automatically recall passages from the Song of Solomon. The events of life will remind you of the Shulammite, the Shepherd, or King Solomon. When that happens, the Song of Solomon belongs to you. This will enable you to use it effectively to guide your own life and to teach your friends and children how to choose a lifelong sexual partner and how to lay the proper foundation for a happy marriage.

Want more information? See:

For more resources, see:

Marriage and Lovemaking Booklets and Chapters by Patsy Rae Dawson

Male and Female: God's Genius! A tremendous amount of evidence surfaced in recent years to prove God's genius in designing the male's and the female's bodies and minds and the way they work together.

Why God's People Make the Best Lovers: Surveys prove that practicing God's rules for lovemaking liberates both the man and the woman for total rapture in the arms of the mate.

Adultery & Sexual Addiction: A Plan for Healing the Soul and the Marriage: Sexual sin is rapidly becoming the number-one marriage problem facing Christians, but God offers a 3-part formula for overcoming it.

Safe Sex: What They Don't Tell You: Since public schools leave God out of sex education, the subject is approached from the viewpoint of a person who just wants to have fun without consideration of God's laws.

The Victims of Victorian Morals: Chapter 3 in Vol. II: God's People Make the Best Lovers shows how Victorian morals continue to victimize sexual love and to cheat countless couples out of the truly happy relationship God desires.

Would you like to learn more about Patsy Rae Dawson's publications? Visit our Bookstore and Free Online Materials. Return to Top

Permission to Reproduce Song of Solomon: The Shulammite's Dilemma

Song of Solomon: King Solomon and the Shulammite's Dilemma by Patsy Rae Dawson. Copyright © 2007 Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. All rights reserved.

King Solomon and the Shulammite's Dilemma by Patsy Rae Dawson is available at PatsyRaeDawson.com. It may be copied for noncommercial use only, provided you do the following: 1. Retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices; 2. Make no modifications to the materials; 3. Do not use the materials in a manner that suggests an association with Patsy Rae Dawson LLC; and; 4. Do not download quantities of materials to a database, server, or personal computer for reuse for commercial purposes. You may not use this material in any other way without prior written permission. For additional permissions, contact Patsy Rae Dawson LLC at Patsy@PatsyRaeDawson.com.

Adapted from chapter 9, "The Woman's Search for True Love" in Marriage: A Taste of Heaven, Vol. I: God's People Appreciate Marriage copyright © 1995 by Patsy Rae Dawson LLC and the audio album The Song of Solomon: God's Sex Education copyright © 1990, 2007 by Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. Used by permission.

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