The book Song of Songs is also called Song of Solomon and the Canticles. The title, Song of Songs, is a Hebrew idiom meaning “the most exquisite song” (MacDonald, 1995). The Song is a dialogue between the Beloved (a maid) and her Lover (Solomon), with minor input from Friends. An advantage of reading Song of Songs in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) is that each speaker is clearly marked. Song of Songs includes erotic analogies that can be uncomfortable if considered outside the belief that sexual desire is God-given, beautiful, and to be celebrated in the context of a heterosexual, committed and loving relationship. According to Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote the Song in his youth prior to becoming entangled in polygamy and concubinage. This traditional view is consistent with Song of Solomon chapter 2:3 in which the Beloved compares Solomon to other young men.
The name of the Beloved is not given and her lineage is unclear. In one place Solomon refers to her as “O, prince’s daughter!” (Song of Songs, 7:1); however, this reference could allude to the nobility of her beauty and character rather than her birth. In another place, Friends call the Beloved a Shulammite (Song of Songs 6:13). Shulammite could indicate that the Beloved was from Shunen, a territory allocated to Issachar in the division of tribal lands (Joshua 19:18). Alternatively, Shulammite could be a feminine form of Solomon in which case the Friends named her “Solomon’s girl” (Song of Solomon 6:13). Finally, possibly Shulammite does not refer directly to the Beloved; but to a type of dance in which two groups of dancers weave in and out with one another.
The Beloved called herself a rose of Sharon. The Sharon Plain was located along the Mediterranean Sea south of Mount Carmel. Sixty miles long and 10 miles wide, the Sharon Plain was one of the largest valley-plains in ancient Israel. In the time of Solomon, the Sharon plain was well-known for its fertility, beauty, and majesty, having many flowers and trees. Clearly, the Beloved adored her Lover (Song of Songs 1:4). At the same time, she did not underrate herself. In giving herself, she offered her Lover the most perfect flower known — a rose of Sharon.
Rose of Sharon
In the United States scholars have debated the exact Rose of Sharon flower. The popular Rose of Sharon bush (see above) is the Hibiscus syriacus; however, the hibiscus is not the ancient Israel Rose of Sharon. Past professor of Biblical Botany at the Hebrew University, Dr. Ephraim HaReubeni claimed that the Rose of Sharon was a tulip. Most likely the tulip species is the Tulipa agenensis subspecies sharonensis, also known as the Sharon tulip and sun’s-eye tulip.
In Israel the Tulipa agenensis is considered a wildflower and at one time grew abundantly across Israel. Now, because of real estate develop, the Sharon tulip is harder to find in the wild. The Sharon tulip is salt resistant and prefers a neutral to acid soil and full sun. It thrives where summers are dry and winters are cold. It grows 8-12 inches tall. The Sharon tulips color and shape make it unique and add to its seeming perfection. Outer petals are longer (up to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide) and more pointed than inner petals. The outer surfaces of tulip petals are uniformly red. Inside, the tulip petal has a distinct black area at the base that extends about the half way up the sides of each petal. A yellow halo surrounds the black on most petals. In most cases tulips spread through asexual reproduction with bulbs producing small bulbs or bulblets.
The rose of Sharon refers to perfection. For the ancients a rose – in this case a tulip – was the most perfect of all flowers. Perhaps not inconsequential, the tulip is a perfect or complete flower having stamens and pistils on the same flower. When flowers or persons are perfect, they lack no essential detail and are without fault or defect. Although the Beloved identifies that she is dark skinned from working outside in the sun, nonetheless, she is perfect for her mate.
My husband is the perfect husband for me and I am the perfect wife for him. After 20 years of marriage and continued reinforcement from Bruce, finally I believe he sees me as perfect. In the 20 years, I have acquired wrinkles and sags, but to him I am still perfect. His unswerving love and belief in my perfection gives me security even with characteristics the world identifies as defects. Because Bruce views me as perfect does not mean that he doesn’t gently coach me when I am moody, or whiny, or my thinking is off track.
God is perfect and his ways are perfect (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:32; Matthew 5:48). When Christ lived on earth, he was without fault or defect and lacked no detail in his personality to be the perfect human (Hebrews 4:15). Because I have been redeemed by Christ, when God looks at me, he sees Christ’s perfection, not my defects. Even more than Bruce seeing me as the perfect wife, God sees me as his perfect child.
Saint Paul talked about perfection in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 3:10-14). He wrote how much he wanted to know Christ and become like the perfect Christ. Paul admitted that he was not yet perfect, but he was going to keep trying to be like Christ. Paul believed it was important to forget what he was like and did in the past and strain forward to what was ahead.
Paul seemed to have a keen understanding of perfection in the Christian life. It means being committed fully to Christ and modeling our lives after Christ’s life. Perfection is about forgetting past inadequacies that the devil gleefully uses to keep us feeling insecure in our relationship with Christ. Perfection focuses on the present and future. For Christians the future is home with Christ in heaven.
Reflection: Reflect on your perfection in God’s sight. Doesn’t is allow you to take a deep breath and relax securely in His care?
Copyright: January 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth; Update March 26, 2017