Everyone agrees that love must be central to marriage. The question we must ask is, What kind of love? The Bible shows us that it must be Christlike love—selfless, committed, contented, intimate, and joyous.
The Wedding Day Is Here!
The Song of Solomon 3:6–5:1
On our last Wisdom Journey in The Song of Solomon, we were introduced to the love-struck couple—Solomon and his soon-to-be bride. Solomon’s love song allows us to listen in on their courtship.
We begin this study in chapter 3 and verse 6. It is the couple’s wedding day, and it seems to be trouble free. There is no mention of any Bridezilla moment or of a jealous bridesmaid, or a late groomsman, or even the bride’s dad over in the corner trying to figure out how he is going to pay for everything.
What strikes our attention first is the arrival of the groom in verse 6:
What is that coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of a merchant? Behold, it is the litter of Solomon!
The litter is the shoulder-carried couch of King Solomon.
Solomon has spared no expense to show his bride how much this wedding means to him. His coach is described in verse 10: “He made its posts of silver, its back of gold, its seat of purple; its interior was inlaid with love by the daughters of Jerusalem.”
Solomon is going to escort his bride away in style. This description reminds me of the carriages used by the royal family as they arrive at Buckingham Palace.
Now chapter 4 opens with a little speech Solomon has prepared for his bride. He says to her in verse 1, “Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.” Man, I am glad I didn’t say that to my bride on our wedding day! “Your hair looks like a flock of goats.”
Well, in Solomon’s day this was a poetic compliment. Mount Gilead is a beautiful mountain range of eastern Israel around the Jabbok River, providing beautiful pastures. A flock of long-haired goats in green pastures would make any red-blooded Hebrew man stop and take in the sight. His bride’s hair has made Solomon stop and take in the sight—it just takes his breath away as she walks toward him!
He continues his little speech here in verse 2:
Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes [female sheep] that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young.
In other words, she is not missing any teeth—in fact, she has perfect teeth. Evidently, Solomon is not going to need dental insurance.
He continues his speech in verse 4, saying, “Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors.” That sounds like she is either dressed up to play football or to go to war! But Solomon actually sees his bride wearing dazzling jewelry around her neck, and he describes it in terms of power and dignity and honor.
Now up to this point, Solomon has not used the word bride at all. But beginning in verse 8 of chapter 4 and going through the first verse of chapter 5, he is going to use that term six times—and this signals a clear change in their relationship.
The courtship is over, and the wedding ceremony is completed—one of the bridesmaids has probably edged her way to the front to catch that bouquet! But I can tell you this: Solomon’s mind is somewhere else.
He describes his bride here in verse 12: “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed.” These are references to his bride’s virginity, which is a wonderful wedding gift to any husband today—as is the husband’s virginity to his wife.
In this section, you will notice that Solomon uses nearly a dozen garden metaphors to describe the moment of consummation. He uses poetry in order to write with discretion—this is not off-color or vulgar in any way. This is certainly how God intended it to be; in fact, the book of Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4 KJV).
At this point, Solomon’s wife makes it clear the garden gate is now unlocked, so to speak. She says in verse 16, “Let my beloved come to his garden.” She is entirely his, and he is entirely hers. This is what the Lord meant in Genesis 2:24, when He said of a husband and wife, “They shall become one flesh.”
Now we arrive at chapter 5, where Solomon uses past-tense verbs in verse 1—four of them, in fact. He says, “I came to my garden . . . I gathered . . . I ate . . . I drank.” These verbs communicate not only sexual union, but also contentment, closeness, and commitment.
Well, now the marriage has been consummated, and we read at the end of verse 1 that their friends start singing, “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” In the ancient Hebrew culture, it was customary for the wedding party to stick around celebrating until the marriage had been consummated. That would be rather awkward for us, but it was the custom in that day to signify that all was well.
Now let’s leave the marriage bedroom and take some time to step into God’s throne room. The Holy Spirit led Solomon to write a celebration of the marriage bed, but there is a broader illustration here of God’s love for us.
In fact, you can’t find a better picture of the love a bridegroom should have for his bride than what we find in the love of Jesus Christ for His bride, the church.
The apostle Paul wrote this to the Ephesians:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
He then adds, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it [marriage] refers to Christ and the church” (verse 32).
And let me tell you, beloved, this kind of self-sacrificing love is humanly impossible. That is why Solomon wrote a psalm that has been recorded for us—Psalm 127—where he puts it plainly in verse 1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Listen, the most important thing you could ever do for your marriage is love the Lord. Love the Lord, and the Lord will enable you to love your spouse and to build your home on the strength of your Lord and Savior. The Lord Jesus is the one who makes possible both that vertical love for God and that horizontal love for your spouse.
Let me sum it up with two statements. First, Jesus makes true love possible. That is because He shows us how to love. Just read about His life in the Gospels, how He demonstrated humility and sacrificial love. You will not find that kind of example anywhere on television or social media or at work or at school. This is unique love, which the Lord modeled for us when He died for us.
Second, Jesus not only makes true love possible; Jesus also makes true love permanent. The apostle John, wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God . . . because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). His love is permanent.
The very nature of the Lord is love. And when you love your spouse like the Lord loves you, you have every hope in the world that your marriage will last a lifetime. It might not—because it takes two people committed to the same Lord and the same kind of love—but you are doing your part.
If sacrificial love instead of selfish love supports your courtship, your engagement, your wedding ceremony, and your home, you are building a path toward the Lord, rather than away from the Lord.