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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 1:12-14 The Incarnation

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Wife

12 While the king was on his couch,
my nard gave off its fragrance.

This verse should not be taken by itself, but be read together with what follows, because the wife is making a comparison between what her husband, her lover, truly is in one sense (the king on his couch) with what he is in another sense (a little dear bundle between her breasts). Her king is to her both her lover and her little child. But this is not a child in the sense of certain men who, deprived of a mother’s love in childhood, unwittingly seek a mother’s love from their spouse, and all of the confusion and frustration that brings along with it. Here Solomon is contemplating the inevitable joy of that woman who would one day give birth to a king. Solomon’s mother Bathsheba did this, and Solomon’s wife Naamah did this as well. But Solomon is thinking of Mary without knowing her name. There would be a woman who would worship the King of kings, the Son of God, and yet be his humble mother as well.

Nard is a weedy plant that grows in Northern India and in the east as well. “The hairy part of the stem immediately above the root,” Delitzsch says, “yields its perfume” (Commentary on Song of Songs, p. 36). Can the country girl of the Song be claiming to have such a costly thing? Mary of Bethany poured pure nard from an alabaster jar because she had scrimped and saved for it. What the very wealthy may not understand about the very poor, especially the poor among Christians, is that so often the poor use the most extravagant things—mere playthings to the wealthy—as gifts in the Lord’s service.

13 My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh,
spending the night between my breasts.
14 My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
from the vineyards of En Gedi.

En Gedi is an oasis on the west side of the Dead Sea—as much a tourist attraction in ancient times as it still is today.

A sachet is a small bag of perfume. Here, the wife talks about wearing one around her neck, hanging down between her breasts. But how would she get hold of some? Myrrh is not native to Palestine, but comes from Arabia and the coast of Somalia. The flowering balsam branches have a sap or resin, thick and light colored, which hardens quickly when it comes into contact with air. The flowers might be gathered as a pleasant bouquet, but the resin was used for many things including the special anointing oil for the use of priests and which was forbidden to everyone else (Exodus 30:38). It was also used for preparing a body for burial.

The bride does not compare her love to a heavy branch or a stone with the weight of a man. She compares him at this time to a little bundle of something that smells pleasant, like a cluster of flowers or the little bag of myrrh (or myrrh blossoms?). We don’t need to go into any more detail because the application is the most serene and deeply spiritual of the whole Song. She is not only comparing her king with a baby, but she is imagining what it would be like to be the mother of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Lord Jesus, after all, came out of the true church, the true Israel. He was not a baby born to Caiaphas the high priest, or to his daughter, but from the dead stump of the line of Jesse and King David. He was born to a virgin girl from Nazareth so distantly separated from life at court or in the city of Jerusalem that the wife or daughter of Caiphas the high priest would never even have considered her as a serving girl to wash the dishes or walk the dogs.

Yet there he is with her! The One who so recently was reclining on his couch, on his throne in heaven and in the loving arms of his Father, and yet he diminished himself to be born into the fallen and sinful world, to be held in the arms of this loving mother. He is for her this “this little bundle of myrrh.” “God born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Why would God do this? The mystery is answered by the inexplicable: He loved us. In John 3:16 we learn the love of the Father who sent him. In John 19:26 we learn the love of the Son who is also a son. On the cross, he thought of his mother and the love she gave to him, the care, and even the obedience of a mother to her God-given role as a mother. On the cross, with unbelieving brothers nowhere to be seen (John 7:5), he gave her into the care of an apostle he loved and who would indeed care for her. “Dear woman, here is your son.” Those words came down from the cross along with, “Here is your mother” to that disciple. The disciple, John, had left his own father in the care of servants to follow Jesus (Mark 1:20), and now Jesus, dying, left his mother in the care of his servant John.

It was love that brought the Lord God into the flesh of a human descended from Eve, from Abraham, from Judah, and from David. He came to take away the sin of the world, and the sin of the world was wiped completely away with his suffering and death. Put your trust in this, the only Savior, and you will have everlasting life.

When the bones of the ancient monk St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) were examined in 1855, a wooden tablet was discovered with his body, the tablet faced with a piece of parchment, and on it the words of this passage (Song 1:13) in Latin. One of the verses of Bernard’s great Lenten hymn, O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, touches the comforting doctrine of Christ with us throughout all our troubles, a teaching he drew from this verse (taking the myrrh as bitterness):

My Savior, then be near me
When death is at my door.
And let your presence cheer me;
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish
Oh, leave me not alone
But take away my anguish
By virtue of your own!

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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