Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Song of Solomon 4:12-16

My sister, my bride, you are a locked garden—a locked garden and a sealed spring. 13 Your branches are a paradise of pomegranates with choicest fruits; henna with nard,14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the best spices. 15 You are a garden spring, a well of flowing water streaming from Lebanon.

16 Awaken, north wind; come, south wind. Blow on my garden, and spread the fragrance of its spices. Let my love come to his garden and eat its choicest fruits.

The Original Intent

1) What is the setting of this passage and why should we believe it is more than allegorical?

An allegory is defined as a “a story, poem, or picture that uses symbolism to reveal a hidden meaning of a deeper moral or spiritual truth.” Although there are several Bible commentators (many from the Puritan era of history) who believe this book is allegory, it is best interpreted as a poetic, but powerful description of the deeply romantic and sensual love between a husband and his wife.

The structure and setting of the book do not provide a chronological story, but instead give the reader “snapshots” of a couple’s pre-marital and marital relationship. ( It is true that God uses marriage as a gospel illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32), but it seems apparent to most Bible scholars that the literal meaning should be the primary way the book is interpreted.

The straightforward way in which chapter 4 contains specific details of the sexual love demonstrated by a husband and a wife reveals the beauty of sexual intimacy in Christian marriage. It seems unnecessary to allegorize these passages that present a marital love consistent with Scripture’s other teachings about marriage and sex.

The Everyday Application

1) What is the setting of this passage and why should we believe it is more than allegorical?

In considering how we apply these verses, I am enlisting Pastor David Guzik’s help. His sermon on chapter 4 is so well stated, I can’t improve on it, “When you think of the many crude terms that men use to refer to women’s body parts, isn’t there something so beautiful and powerful in this poetic, intimate, and dignified way of expressing love. It is a celebration of the strength and purity and goodness of marital love. There’s nothing insecure here … or dirty … or crass about it. There is simply nothing like this in ancient literature.”

So, friends, we can celebrate this love story!

As women who desire to live with a godly, biblical perspective regarding purity, we need not back away from the passion we read in the Song of Solomon. The poetry in these passages should be seen as sincere devotion and deep affection between man and wife. We can approach this book with the reverence it deserves, and with an understanding of the high value God places on intimate passion in marriage.

The Original Intent

2) Why does Solomon refer to his bride as his sister? (verse 12)

Solomon uses the term “sister” three more times in his book in addition to verse 12. (4:9-10 and 5:1) No conservative Bible commentators believe this is a reference to him marrying his biological sister, and no Scriptural evidence provides reason assume familial relations.

“Sister” was a common expression in the Hebrew language of familiarity and closeness. As in many cultures, Egyptian love songs included lyrics which call one another ‘brother’ and ‘sister’. Years later, Solomon is using familiar language drawn from then-modern-day poetry.

Theologian Charles Spurgeon writes, “‘My sister’ – that is, one by birth, partaker of the same (human) nature. ‘My spouse’ – that is, one in love, joined by sacred ties of affection that never can be snapped. ‘My sister’ by birth, ‘My spouse’ by choice. ‘My sister’ in communion, ‘My spouse’ in absolute union with myself.”

By referring to his bride as his sister, Solomon was showing her double honor. He loved her with the physical desire of a spouse and with the natural love of a sibling. It is significant to understand the deep affection Solomon had for his bride, and how he demonstrated that to her.

The Everyday Application

2) Why does Solomon refer to his bride as his sister? (verse 12)

There is an interesting parallel in Song of Solomon 8:1 where the bride says to her lover, “If only I could treat you like my brother, one who nursed at my mother’s breast, I would find you in public and kiss you, and no one would scorn me.

This sweet bride craves the freedom to publicly convey her love for her husband. In that day, outward expressions of affection were considered distasteful except for close kin. She wishes for the same opportunity to show her love to her husband as she would to her own brother.

Today, there are jokes and memes about PDA (public displays of affection). Sadly, we have become shameless as a society as we have left behind honor for our bodies and brought every lewd display into the public eye. As wives, we would do our marriages a favor by praying for a desire toward our husbands that is appropriately expressed in public.

One of the most beautiful displays I see that almost always brings me to tears, is a couple well into their later years, walking along arm in arm or holding hands tightly. Oh, sweet married friends, let’s show our spouses double honor with physical and natural love!

The Original Intent

3) What is the meaning of the garden in these verses?

Bible teachers and commentators who take the book literally, not allegorically, believe this “locked garden” represents a sort of separation and privacy regarding the bride herself. This likely refers to her being a virgin on her wedding night. (

As he has done previously, Solomon expresses his admiration for her. Specifically, he is enthralled with her beauty and purity that reminds him of the “choicest fruits and best spices”. (verses 13-14) As his bride, the fact that she had remained sexually pure was deeply attractive to him. Her sexuality was sacred, and as husband and wife, they both recognize this.

The Bride both acknowledges her virginity and agrees it is right for him to find pleasure in knowing that. (verse 16) We see a beautiful picture of the bride’s trust in her new husband. She is freely and gladly unlocking herself to him, inviting him into this sacred act of sexual intimacy.

As we dig deep into the meaning of these verses, it may appear they are infringing on moments that should be kept between a married couple. This may be the hesitancy among Bible scholars to see them as literal. But an honest study of the book renders it difficult to interpret this as anything but a biblical and literal picture of godly love and passion that honors both spouses and God, the creator of sexual intimacy.

The Everyday Application

3) What is the meaning of the garden in these verses?

The literal reading of Song of Solomon may be difficult for some women. Maybe you feel it’s an intrusion on what should be a sacred trust between a married couple.

Women who strive for holiness are encouraged by the church to be pure and modest in our dress and demeanor. Reading such an explicit passage could possibly leave someone feeling exposed or embarrassed. Sisters, I get it! I have often wondered why God would include in His inspired Word such an intimate exchange between a man and his bride for all to read.

If not understood correctly, it may seem that God is advocating for women to be viewed as objects to be displayed like a trophy. Or maybe you are feeling shame because you did not enter marriage as a virgin, and you wonder if your husband can ever see you in the way described in this passage.

I plead with you, dear married friend, to keep praying and digging into the difficult passages and find the joy. Pray to the good and gracious Father who desires to reveal to you the garden of God-ordained sexual fulfillment. Allow the Spirit of God to inspire and equip you to experience the holy intimacy He desires in your marriage.

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