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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 2:3-4 In his shade

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, October 8, 2023

The Wife

3 Like an apple tree among the trees in the woods,
so is my lover among the young men.
I yearn to sit in his shade.
His fruit tastes sweet to me.
4 He brought me to the banquet hall,
and his banner over me is love.

The husband just compared his wife to a lily among thorns, and now his bride compares him to an apple tree among other trees in the woods. There a plenty of good trees, just as there are plenty of good men, but for her, the only tree she cares for is the apple tree, its fruit, and its shade, just as the only man she longs for is her husband—his fruit, and his shade. Of all the fruit trees, she judges the apple tree to be king. Perhaps it’s because the fruit is hardy and grows in more places than most other fruit trees. It is also taller, and its branches give more shade than many other fruit trees. Some trees like the date palm are taller still, but give a lot less shade. No, for her the apple tree is the greatest of the trees, and so she compares her husband to it.

New students of the Bible should be careful not to associate the apple in the Bible with the almost mythical apple eaten by Eve and Adam when they fell into sin. I say “almost mythical” not because the story is a myth. The account of the fall into sin in Genesis chapter 3 is absolutely true, but the name of the fruit is never given. We don’t know if it was an apple or not. I think that the usual claim, that the Latin malum (the word for apple) is identical with the accusative singular malum of the word for “evil” in Genesis 3:5, etc., and that this led many people to associate “apple” with “evil fruit.” But the Bible wasn’t written in Latin, only translated into it, and there is nothing to associate Hebrew taphuach “apple” with ra “evil.”

Returning to the bride and her apple-tree of a husband, she loves his shade and his fruit. A wife loves the protection of her man, the feeling of being cared for so that she can focus on other aspects of her life apart from simply surviving. Early in the Song (1:6) she complained that her brothers made her work and toil out in the sun and that got her sunburned. Now she delights in the shade of her husband. Everything about him makes her happy and brings her joy.

She specifically mentions his fruit. While this is a reference to love and intimacy in marriage, it also calls to mind all of the benefits and delights that makes each man an individual. Apart from obvious differences of one man to others (appearance, heighth, weight, voice, and so on), men are different in their interests, experience and experiences, abilities, tastes, joys, dreams, and many other things. The couple will learn that each of them has abilities and gifts that, when put together in their marriage, make them far stronger and successful together than they ever could have been as single individuals.

She finds that when she considers their marriage, she yearns for him. The word “yearn” here occurs in the intensifying verb form known as the piel. In the ordinary (qal) stem, “yearn” is often a sinful ache for pleasure, or a sinful thirst for something wicked: “The wicked desire the plunder of evil men” (Proverbs 12:12). But in this intensive form, it carries the idea of busying oneself with or being eager about the action of the verb, which in this case is the desire the woman has for her husband. This fills her life. She yearns for him, desires him, and plans her life around him and around their marriage together. Obviously she is happy that he does the same for her, and together they build their marriage just as builders build a house together.

Spiritually, the Christian yearns for Christ and begins every new activity with Christ in mind; our actions come from faith, we desire to walk in his way and according to his word. To be under the shadow of his wings is our prayer, which is the study and learning of the Scriptures.  The Christian truly knows peace and rest when he understands the will of God according to his word and walks according to God’s will. This is the walk we will continue in heaven forever, when we will no longer be subject to the Old Adam, but will only and always do the will of God without a single misstep.

In verse 4, we hear a somewhat cryptic way of describing their marriage. He has already brought her into his “banquet hall,” literally “house of wine,” where they love each another privately and enjoy their intimacy. What does she mean by “banner”? This is a word for a military ensign, a long strip of colored cloth with a symbol or design that can be read and recognized from far away. A captain raises such a banner over his brigade to show they are his soldiers. A king raises such a banner over his walls to show that he commands this place. But the husband does not raise a banner like those; his banner is love, and she delights in being his entire troop, as it were. There is no one else under that banner of his except her. This is the faithfulness and devotion of their marriage.

Spiritually, the banner of Christ is over all his people. His compassion extends out to all the nations, to everyone who puts their trust in him. “This is what God the LORD says. Look, I will lift up my hand to nations, and I will raise my banner for peoples. Then they will bring your sons in their embrace, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders” (Isaiah 49:22; and Isaiah 18:3 is like this, too).

Love is the surprise in the message of the gospel. Pity we might understand (Matthew 18:27). Compassion is very much like it (Nehemiah 9:19). But love? Why would God love us? Why would he unfurl his banner of love over us? The Scriptures only tell us the fact: God loved us, sent his Son for us, and through him we are saved (John 3:16). “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with mercy,” he tells us (Jeremiah 31:3). He invites us to join in his happiness, and he even shows us that this is his will. He forgives us our sins, sending them out of his sight even out of his own memory (Job 11:6), and then he proclaims to us: “You will pick up your drums again, and you will go out to dance with those who are joyful” (Jeremiah 31:4).

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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