Tag Archives: Song of Songs

The Rose of Sharon

Tulipa sharonensisSong of Songs describes the love between a man and a woman; the reference to Rose of Sharon is in chapter 2.

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.

Symbolism:  Perfection

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?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: January 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth; Update March 26, 2017

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Desire among a Walnut Grove

Walnut tree, JBGSolomon in his grove of nut trees is described in Song of Songs 6:1-12.

Solomon had an expert knowledge of plants (1 Kings 4:33).  He described plant life from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop implying he studied not only the most majestic of plants, but those of little economic significance.  He had a flower and an herbs/spice garden and a grove of nut trees.  In this Song of Songs entry, Solomon is speaking.   His words seem more reflective than addressed to the Beloved.

Solomon went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley.  Possibly, Solomon was looking for the first signs of spring (Song of Songs 6:11 note).  Solomon wrote that while in the nut tree grove, “my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people” (Song of Songs 6:12, NIV-SB, 2002).  According to the NIV-SB notes, this verse is the most obscure verse in Song of Songs.  Yet, the meaning could be as simple as, the budding garden reminded Solomon of spring, a time of love.  With thoughts of love, Solomon accessed a chariot to speed to his Beloved.  Solomon was famous for his chariots which for him were a regular means of transportation.

The Walnut Tree

The nut trees in Solomon’s grove were most likely walnut trees. The species name is Juglans regia L., commonly called the Persian walnut.  Those of us living in England and United States call it the English walnut.  Controversy surrounds this walnut’s origin.  While some botanists claim it originated in the Carpathian Mountains of Europe, others assign its origin to the Himalayan Mountains of China and India.  In 2012, the walnut tree was not present in the three data bases allocated to the study of Israeli plants. The English walnut tree  grows well in temperature climates. When the tree matures, often the canopy is as wide as the tree is tall.  Walnut trees are valuable for their walnuts and for high quality wood used in the manufacture of cabinets and gun stocks.  The heavy green rind encasing the walnut can be steeped in boiling water to produce a rich brown dye.  In Jesus time, walnuts grew around the Sea of Galilee.  Walker (1979) proposed that Jesus’ coat was a rich brown, dyed by the leaves and nut of the walnut tree.

Symbolism: Fertility

In ancient times, the walnut symbolized fertility. Fertility is the manifold and copious ability to grow and develop, or to produce fruit.  This image of fertility is consistent with descriptions used in Song of Songs.  Details of the beauty and abundance of the land were provided; e.g., spice beds, flower gardens, and groves of nut trees.  At the same time, fertility in the sense of producing off-spring was revealed in the love and attraction between Solomon and his Beloved.  God planned for his people Israel to enjoy the land’s fertility — to eat its fruit and rich harvests (Jeremiah 2:7) and to produce strong children in the land.

In the Bible, fertility and abundance are linked with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit causes the desert to become a fertile field (Isaiah 32:15) and Jacob’s descendents to spring up like grass in a meadow (Isaiah 44:3-4).  The Holy Spirit is the source of prophesies, dreams, and visions in men and women of all ages and rank (Joel 2:28-29; Galations 3:28-29).

My back garden is on a slope with good drainage. Over the past years, I planted several types of flower seeds and transplanted healthy nursery stock.  We installed a soaker hose to provide a regular water source in dry weather and fertilized the plants.  Yet, some plants did not flourish there.  After a particularly frustrating spring and summer, I decided to have the soil tested. To my surprise, the soil was alkaline (basic) in pH rather than neutral or acidic.  Most of the perennials e.g., rhododendrons, azaleas, and annuals that I planted preferred neutral to acid soil.  Plants do not flourish in the wrong type of soil. They remain the same size or even decline in size.  Some enter a vegetative state where few if any blooms are produced.

God wants us to be fertile like Solomon’s grove of walnut trees.  The Holy Spirit flourishes in us so that we produce fruit, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galations 5:22-23).

Reflection:  I was trying to grow flowers in the wrong type of soil.  How’s your soil?  Is your life’s garden a fertile place for the Holy Spirit to produce fruit?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright February 8, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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My Lover, a Cluster of Henna Blossoms

Lawsonia inermis, JBG The Beloved comparing Solomon to a cluster of henna blossoms is described in Song of Solomon Chapter 1.

Throughout this beautiful love poem, the Beloved appeared to be Solomon’s equal.   Although Solomon declared his love and admiration for her, the poem seemed her love story more than his.  The Beloved spoke first.  Of the 117 verses in the Song, 55 were definitely spoken by the Beloved and she was possibly the speaker of another 19 verses. The Beloved proclaimed the overwhelming power of love, e.g., love rivals death, burns with intensity, is precious, and it cannot be purchased. God’s intention is that intense love be a part of the marital relationship.

The Beloved described almost every aspect of her Lover, e.g., his appearance, odor, and grace.  Often she compared him to plants, e.g., he was like a sachet of myrrh resting between her breasts (1:13), his fruit is sweet to my taste (2:3), his cheeks are like beds of spice and his lips were like lilies (5:13).  In verse 1:14, she described Solomon as a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi.  Thirty miles south of Jerusalem, En Gedi was one of two fresh water springs on the western shore of the Dead ) Sea.  En Gedi’s year around temperate climate and available water made it well known as an agriculture center.

When the Beloved described her lover as a cluster of henna blossoms, she averred that he was beautiful and smelled good.  Henna blossoms contain an essential oil used to make perfume.

Although not mentioned in Song of Songs, henna is best known as a cosmetic used to enhance beauty.  For the past 6000 year, henna has been used to stain or dye hands, feet, nails and hair. In ancient times Egyptian women in particular used henna as a cosmetic.  Moses’ requirement that female war captives shave their heads and trim their nails prior to marrying an Israelite man probably was to remove all henna beauty-enhancements from the woman (Deuteronomy 21:11-14).

The Henna Plant

The henna plant in Song of Solomon was the Lawsonia inermis L, also known as the Lawsonia alba. The Latin word inermis means unarmed or without spines. In the King James Bible henna is called “camphire.”.  Probably henna was native to Iran from where it spread throughout the Middle East.  Henna grows mainly along water courses and in semi-arid regions.  When the henna plant is five years old, it begins to flower and reaches its peak between 6–12 years.  Henna plants have been known to produce for as long as 25 years.  The plant will grow in containers as long as it is well watered and repotted as needed. Henna is a perennial shrub or small tree that grows 6–23 feet tall.  Hair, skin and nail dyes are made from dried, crushed leaves and young shoots; the active pigment is lawsone. In Old Testament times, the henna plant was known for its beautiful flowers and intriguing smell.  Fragrant flowers are used as a perfume; the main flower oil is beta-ionone.

Symbolism:  Beauty

Henna has been associated with the rites of womanhood, representing fortune, seduction and beauty; also henna symbolizes prosperity, fertility, and happiness. In Song of Songs, henna symbolized the beauty that the Beloved saw in Solomon.  Frequently the Bible, poets, and today’s mass media associate beauty with the physical attributes of women.  I am going to look at beauty from a different point of view – that of how a woman evaluates her husband as beautiful.

A woman sees a man as beautiful if he gives pleasure to her senses, her mind, and her spirit.  He is beautiful whenever he excites her keenest pleasure and stirs her emotions through her senses.  It is good for a wife to be stirred emotionally by her husband’s physical appearance — the shape of his face, a dimple in his cheek, the wave of his hair, his broad shoulders, his trim waist, and muscular thighs.  At the same time, these male characteristics may not last, e.g., men age, experience illness or accident, go bald, or decide to grow a beard.  A woman whose senses are not stimulated by other than her husband’s physical characteristics may have difficulty viewing her husband as beautiful over the many years of a marriage.

When woman list characteristics desirable in a prospective husband, they rarely list spiritual beauty.  Many women do not evaluate whether or not a prospective husband will fill the role of spiritual head of the family.  Yet, a spiritual husband gives keen pleasure to a woman.  She admires, respects, and honors him, all of which stimulate her emotions and allow her to see him as beautiful.  When I married Bruce, he was a redeemed Christian who was beginning an intentional walk with Christ.  Over the past 20 years, I experienced mental and spiritual pleasure watching him emerge as the spiritual head of our home.  He is a beautiful Christian man and husband.

Christ directed us to look on the inside not on the outside for beauty in men.  He called the Pharisees “hypocrites” because they were like whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27-28).  They look beautiful on the outside with their elaborate robes and righteous words, but on the inside they were unclean and wicked.  Christ cared deeply about what was on the inside of men.

Sometimes, I wonder if the Beloved really saw Solomon.  Did she look at his character sufficiently or was she deluded by his beauty and kingship?  Nothing in her exuberant descriptions suggested that the Beloved anticipated she would be one of 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).

Reflection.  What do you consider beautiful about your husband?  When did you last give him flowers?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright January 28, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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