1 Kings 4:32: And he (Solomon) spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. Of those 1,005 songs, the only one we still have was originally titled Shir Hashirim, perhaps preserved due to its profound title, the Song of Songs. Today we simply call it the Song of Solomon.
It is a peculiar book, not quite like any other in the Bible. It was likely a gift for Solomon’s queen, based on their own love story, and is structured like a play, with three speakers taking turns reciting lines of dialogue. Many plays of the time (especially Greek) would have not just actors on stage, but a choir of sirens that would sing exposition between each act, moving the plot along. The Song of Solomon has two principle characters: the Beloved (Solomon), the Shulamite woman (his wife), interspersed with songs from the Daughters of Jerusalem (serving the same purpose as a Greek chorus).
As ruler of Jerusalem, he could have had any woman he wanted; the fairest daughters of noblemen or princesses of any kingdom would be happy to be his. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee (verse 3). But she was a lowly shepherdess (verse 8); clearly he had left his throne and the safety of his palace, journeying alone through danger to find her tending to her family’s sheep in the fields by the moonlight.
Filthy and with ragged smelly clothes, she cried to her majesty Look not upon me, because I am black (dirty), because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. But the king looked beyond her dirty skin and unkempt hair, and calls her thou fairest among women (verse 8). To him, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and he immediately knew she was to be plucked from obscurity to become his queen. Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold. We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver. While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof (verses 10-12). She was to be taken to the palace, bathed, and dressed with royal garments and priceless jewels and gold chains placed around her neck. The sweet smell of her perfume would emanate from the king’s table.
We were the Shulamite woman, toiling alone in the fields, covered with filth and the stench of sin. But He came down from the grandeur of Heaven to this decrepit world, living among us. He took on our sins and found each of us in the darkest nights. We were ashamed and hid our faces from Him, but He looked beyond our sins and saw what we could become. The Lord sees the potential in people; even the worst among us can be made into His greatest servants. He longs to take us into His glory and wash our sins away, adorning us with royal clothing and beautiful golden decor. We are the Bride of Christ.
The Daughters of Jerusalem sang in response to the good news for the Shulamite woman: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee (verse 4). Likewise, the angels watch our Lord sweep us into His kingdom, singing and rejoicing in a heavenly chorus. Luke 15:10: Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Revelation 19:7: Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. His bride will be taken at the Rapture and will partake in the great wedding ceremony where she will be truly joined together with Christ, made bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. Then for 7 years, the heavenly host will celebrate at the marriage supper of the Lamb while all hell is breaking loose on the earth. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb (verse 9).
Would that the passion between Solomon and the Shulamite woman had lasted; but after a few years, the newness of their relationship had faded. By chapter 5, they are even sleeping in different bedrooms when the king attempts to rekindle that love. Verse 2: I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. She awoke to him knocking and his voice calling for her to let him in. Rather than joyously running to the door, she hesitated, making excuses. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them (verse 3)? It seemed too much trouble to arise from the warm sheets and get her feet dirty by touching the floor again. But he knocked again, and her heart suddenly yearned for him. Verse 4: My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
Forgetting her coat and feet, she raced to the door, but it was too late. I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock (verse 5). The king had left, and only the fragrance of where his hands had touched the knob lingered. Verse 6: I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.
Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Jesus stands at the door. He knocks. He longs to fellowship with us, but will not force Himself in. We don’t have time to make excuses. We are in danger if we put Him off, thinking we have plenty of time. When we finally decide to open the door, He will have already departed and we will be left behind. Only the holiness of where He once stood will linger. We will cry out into the dark corridor, “Come back, Jesus! Now we’re ready to receive you!” But the only response will be the echoes of our own wails ringing back to our ears.
Jesus tells a story in Matthew 25 of ten virgins, or bridesmaids. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom (verse 1). In ancient Judah, weddings were carried out differently from today. Families lived in large communities; when a man became engaged to a woman, he had to leave for his father’s property to build a place to live. When Jesus said In my Father's house are many mansions: (John 14:2), a more accurate translation of “mansions” is “rooms.”
While the groom-to-be was away building, his bride had to wear her wedding garments at all times, because he could return at any moment. Her hair had to be fixed up and her dress kept without spots or wrinkles. Her bridesmaids also had to be on hand, ready to escort her whenever her beloved came. Matthew 25:2-3: And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. The groom could even return in the middle of the night, and the bridesmaids had to have their lamps filled with oil and ready to burn to light the way for them.
In this particular story, he did in fact come at midnight for her. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept (verse 4). The custom in Jerusalem was for people to shout a cry of celebration when they saw a groom approaching. Verse 5: And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. This is why the Rapture is sometimes referred to as the “midnight cry.”
Five virgins were ready with lamps trimmed. But the other five clearly didn’t believe he was coming in the middle of the night, and thought they had plenty of time. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves (verses 8-9).
Because they were not ready, they were left behind. Verses 10-12: And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. When Jesus returns, He will look at so many so-called Christians and say “I know you not” and leave them behind, with only the fragrance of where He once stood and knocked to linger.
Jesus concluded the story with the ominous warning: Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh (verse 13).
The oil represents the Holy Ghost, which often appears in the form of fire in both the Old and New Testaments. On the Day of Pentecost, He gave the disciples tongues of fire (Acts 2:4). That fire is going to be a torch in this last hour; as the night grows darker and the midnight cry approaches, we must have our lamps burning bright to light the way for us. Without it, we’ll be lost in the darkness and left behind when the trumpet sounds.
Like the bride, we must keep our wedding garments pure. He is only coming back for a bride that is ready to meet Him. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).