The Shulammite Woman

Women of the Bible

The Shulammite Woman
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Her character: Hers is the only female voice that speaks directly and
extensively to us in Scripture. Ruth’s, Esther’s, Hannah’s, and Mary’s voices,
for instance, are all mediated through narration. The Shulammite woman boldly
declares her longing and desire to be united to her lover in marriage. / Her
sorrow: To have been separated from her beloved at times. / Her joy: To enjoy
so passionate a love. / Key Scriptures: Song of Songs 1-8

Her Story
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She was young, beautiful, and desirable. He was handsome, strong, and agile, a
shepherd or a king who lavished strange praise upon his beloved: He compared
the Shulamite woman’s hair to a flock of goats running down a mountain slope,
her nose to the tower of Lebanon, and her teeth (“each with its twin”!) to
sheep that have just bathed. We smile at such images. But we are fascinated by
this beautifully written collection of love songs. And though we know it is
not merely some ancient Valentine’s Day card, we are not quite certain what to
make of it.

Unlike any other book in the Bible, the Song of Songs is full of erotic
imagery. The Shulammite woman was as passionate as her lover, initiating
contact with him, openly declaring her feelings. She yearned for kisses from
his mouth, so in love that even his name smelled sweet to her. She wandered
the city at night (or dreamt of wandering it) searching for him. She wished
she could pass him off as her brother so that she could kiss him publicly
without creating a scandal. Each declaration from her elicited a passionate
response from her lover, who sang of her,

Your stature is like that of the palm, / and your breasts like clusters of
fruit. / I said, “I will climb the palm tree; / I will take hold of its
fruit.” / May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, / the fragrance
of your breath like apples, / and your mouth like the best wine. — Song of
Songs 7:7-9

Despite the ancient imagery, we get the message. The story of the Shulammite
woman and her lover isn’t properly a story, one with a clear narrative line,
but a poetic expression of love in all its emotional ups and downs. The songs
capture the desire, the anguish, the tension, and the ecstasy of love. But
speakers and scenes shift so quickly that it can be difficult to understand.
No wonder there have been so many different interpretations of the Song of
Songs, more than any other book of the Hebrew Scriptures.

What makes this portion of Scripture even more enigmatic is that it never once
mentions God. But if God has nothing to do with these love songs, how did this
material ever make it into the canon of Scripture in the first place?

The Jews believed the book was not primarily about individual lovers but about
God’s love for his people Israel. Christians initially read it as a parable of
Christ’s love for the church and later as a parable of his love for the
individual soul. Modern commentators tend to view it more literally, as an
expression of the sacredness of married life, the fullest expression of love
between a man and a woman. They praise its inclusion in the Bible because it
celebrates marital love and the sexual expression of that love. Anyone
inclined to believe the Bible teaches a negative view of sex should read this
book of Scripture before drawing such a conclusion.

But who wrote these eloquent love songs? Some say various poets, while others
say they were written by Solomon in praise of one of his many wives. Yet
others have suggested they were written by a woman. Whatever the case, most
admit that the poetry of the Song of Songs can be understood in more than one
way. The story of the Shulammite, mysterious as it is, touches our longing to
love and be loved.

Her Promise
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God doesn’t promise the Song of Songs kind of erotic, intimate, earthly love
to everyone. He blesses many marriages with it, but it is not something
everyone enjoys. However, he does promise to love his people with the same
depth of love described here. That includes you. You are his treasured one,
his beloved, and he delights in you just as these lovers delight in each
other.

– Bible Gateway.Com

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