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The Song of Songs: Chapter 5

In the second verse of chapter 5, we don’t know how much time has passed. Solomon opens this next passage after the wedding and honeymoon night. We can gather that what takes place here is sometime after they are married.

The reality of marriage is that most of the time is spent in the fundamental work of survival: going to our jobs, paying the bills, serving God, fixing the house, keeping clean, doctor’s visits, laundry, preparing food, eating the food, cleaning up after the food, taking care of kids. That doesn’t mean that the bedroom cannot still be as exciting as the wedding night, but a couple realistically cannot spend all of their days in the bedroom.

And then there is conflict; it is an unavoidable reality of marriage. If a couple does not experience it, then something is wrong. A marriage unifies two individuals. They have become one, but their individuality does not disappear. If there is no conflict, then someone is probably swallowing it; the person might be going about with low self-esteem or seething and resenting or will vomit it up later in an ugly mess. Or all of the above. Conflict happens. We should not be taken by surprise when it does happen. The key then becomes how to handle it.

Verses two through six portray a typical scene between a married couple. The woman is sleeping when she hears the man. She is the speaker in the dialogue at this point, but half of verse two is in quotes; Solomon the author is putting words in the mouth of the woman who is quoting the man.

The husband was out and is just now coming back. He says that “his head is drenched with dew;” since dew comes out in the early morning, we might conclude that he was up early and went out, maybe working, checking on his fields, surveying his vast property (he is a king, after all) or perhaps he had been traveling and was just now returning home, early in the morning, crossing dew-drenched fields.

Whatever the reason for his absence and return, the woman seems to be miffed. Verse three is truly classic. It is timeless in its description of her reaction to him; it sounds just like what married couples might say to each other today: ”What? You mean I have to get up and let you in? I’ve got to put on my robe and get my feet dirty?” No sooner does she say it, then she begins to regret it: “…my heart began to pound for him.”(4) She acknowledges that she was wrong by going after him. In order to work out a conflict, both parties have to be willing to look at themselves, their own attitudes and actions, and then to approach the other, reach out to the other, come together, listen, forgive and work through it.

The passage that follows mirrors the one in which the woman missed the man and went looking for him (Chapter 3). However, in this chapter, what unfolds takes a decidedly different twist: she cannot find him this time, and the watchmen act as a type of judge and jury for her ungracious reaction to her spouse. They appear to represent the guardians of God’s people: they wound her and bring her shame by taking her veil. She already seems to have recognized her wrong; they confirm it. Notice how Solomon isn’t the one to call her to account. He seems to have backed off until things cool off. Couples can take a cue from him: if a person feels wronged, often the best thing to do is step back, pray first and let God work in the other’s life. That doesn’t mean the conflict is avoided; it just allows God to be at work before any harsh and hurtful words can be said. This allows the other person a bit of time to see his or her wrong, and a healthy, honest reconciliation can take place.

The chapter closes with her reflecting on all of her husband’s good qualities. Notice how these are not just physical qualities (i.e., he is handsome), but show his strength as a person (pillars of marble), his wisdom (a head of purest gold) and more. When conflict ensues, it can help soften and change an attitude if a spouse can pause to remember all the good qualities in the other.

Key Verse:
“I opened for my lover, but my lover had left; he was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer.” ~ Song of Songs 5:6

Questions to ponder:

  • How ready or able are you to examine your own attitudes and actions in a conflict and be willing to admit your wrongdoing? What will help you in this process?
  • How might prayer be an active part of helping to resolve conflicts in your relationships?
  • How do you respond when you have been wronged? How can you grow in avoiding retaliation?
  • What do you think it means to “fight fair” in a relationship?
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