“His Banner Over Me is Love” Song of Songs 2:1-4
by Barry Pendley
The Song of Songs (a.k.a. Song of Solomon) is a collection of love poems. The book begins with poems written by those who were dating. It progresses to poems written by newlyweds, then concludes with poems written by those who have matured in love. Solomon may have written this after he had been married for some time.
Song of Songs 2:1–4 is located in the section of dating poems. As Solomon wrote about his courtship, we should reflect back on ours. When I counsel young dating couples, I remind them that they are seeing the best of each other. The young man tries his best to woo the young woman into marriage and the young woman does the same. On certain occasions, my wife reminds me that during our dating life, I often bought her flowers, teddy bears, and showed her unique, thought through kindnesses. She has been known to ask, “What happened?” There are at least two lessons we can learn from Solomon’s courtship:
Lesson 1: You bring stability to your relationship by expressing your love in private. The couple is praising one another, most likely when they were alone. Some have suggested that since the couple refer to various flora, they are alone during a walk in the forest.
Interestingly, the book begins with a statement of love by the woman. Likewise, this section begins with a statement from the woman. Of the 117 verses in this book, over half of them are spoken by the woman. In much poetry of the times, the woman initiated the conversation. This is not to suggest some feminist agenda whereby the woman is always to take the initiative. I would say, this does suggest that communication is a two-way street. The woman has just as much right to speak her mind as her husband. And when she does, it should be as Solomon’s girl:
[She says] I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. [He says] As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. (vv 1–2)
She describes herself a “the rose of Sharon” and the “lily of the valleys.” The identification of both flowers are not definitively known. The word “rose” is not the kind of rose of which we usually think. This was a wildflower which grew in Sharon. Sharon was a low swampy area which produced heavy vegetation including many varieties of wildflowers. It was a common wildflower.
The “lily of the valley” is not to be confused with our Easter lily, but rather it was another common flower, the lotus or water lily. Emphasis again is on its commonality.
Solomon quickly takes her description and makes a compliment out of it. Whereas she figuratively identifies herself with common flowers,1 He calls her a “lily among the thorns.” He is not pejoratively implying that all other women are “thorny.” Rather, he is merely pointing out that she stands out from the rest.2
The dialogue continues and she gives him a compliment:
[She says] As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
She calls him an “apple tree among the trees of the wood.” The precise nature of this tree is not known. It may have been an apple tree, but the Hebrew does not demand this. Some believe that it may have been an apricot tree for 7.8 refers to its fruit as being aromatic, a more fitting description of an apricot. Whatever the type of fruit tree it is, we do know that this particular tree received special attention in that it was cultivated, pruned, and harvested.
Latter on, the prophet Joel warned Israel that her orchards would be destroyed. Among the cultivated trees were fig trees, pomegranate trees, and the apple tree. The point she makes is that Solomon is a rare find. He is like finding a cultivated tree among those that are wild and unpruned.
As Solomon and his wife-to-be were walking in the forest, they expressed their love to one another with genuine compliments. Loving words bring stability to a marriage. They ought to flow from our lips when we are with our intended or spouse.
At least one marriage about to dissolve was rescued when a wife practiced loving words. She and her husband were on the verge of divorce. The wife suggested that they go to counseling. The husband would not hear of it. So, the wife went by herself.
One night, after the woman went to counseling, she diligently worked on her homework. The husband saw her writing and thinking. Wondering what she was doing, he blurted out, “So, what did you tell the counselor about me? Did he tell you to write everything out that I have done wrong?” His wife told him, “No, quite the opposite. He told me that we would not talk about you.” The man said, “Then what are you writing?” She handed him the slip of paper. He stopped talking for over a minute, tears began to stream down his face. She was told by her counselor to go home that evening and list all of the things she appreciated about her husband. She had written nearly 50 things when her husband picked up the sheet. By the time she turned in the homework, she had identified over 75 things she appreciated about her husband.
Lesson 2: You bring stability to your relationship by expressing your love in public.
[She says] He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (v 4)
She notes that Solomon expresses his love to her in public. He makes it widely known that she is his. Usually a “banqueting house” was a banquet hall where celebrations were held. Her point is that Solomon’s love for her was apparent to all who dined in the banquet hall. He made it apparent as if he was holding a banner over her.
Banners were flags raised high above a group of people to identify their group. These were used in times of peace to identify the tribes of Israel. They were also used in times of war to identify certain troops.
Solomon made his love for her so evident to all that there was no question in her mind, nor the minds of others, that he loved her. As one writer says:
“He does not say one thing in private and another thing in public. He is not warm and considerate when they are alone but cold and sarcastic when they are with others. He is not ashamed of his love for her, so he is glad for all to see it.”3
We live in a dangerous age. We must hold our banners high so others and our spouses will never question our love. Some married Christian businessmen do not see any difficulty in having a private business lunch with women who are not their wives. I know a Christian lawyer who helped his client, a single woman, by giving her rides to the court house, taking her to different legal offices, etc. His wife was suspicious, but he had the audacity to blame her for jealousy and “making something out of nothing.” Nothing ever happened physically, yet he ended up in his pastor’s office confessing to an emotional attachment. We ought never create a situation where we give our spouse reason to doubt our love. We need to hold a banner over us announcing quite clearly that we have one love, and room for only one love, our own spouse.
Conclusion We need to show mutual love and respect for our spouses and spouses-to-be. We are to do this in private as well as in public places. Do you treat your spouse poorly in private and well in public? Do you treat your spouse well in private and poorly in public? Do you treat your spouse poorly all the time? What banner are you flying over your spouse one of ridicule, one of jest, or one that displays your mutual love and affection for all to see?
- Duane Garrett, Song of Songs in The New American Commentary (Broadman, 1993) 390.
- Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon in Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Moody, 1986) 46.
- S. Craig Glickman, A Song for Lovers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976), 43.