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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 3:3 The watchmen

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, November 5, 2023

3 The watchmen who walk around the city found me.
  “Have you seen the one my soul loves?”

Who are these watchmen, Hebrew shomerim? In Judges 1:24, this is a word for “spies.” In Judges 2:22, it is a word for “carefully keeping.” In Judges 7:29, it is “the guard,” similar to “the gatekeepers” of Nehemiah 11:19. This seems to be the meaning here, men, probably armed men, assigned to patrol the city at night to keep the peace. In Israel in the days of David and Solomon, enemies were still a danger, especially from the Philistines in the southwest and from the Arameans in the northeast. If the Song is set in Galilee, guards would be watching for Arameans as well as thieves; if in Judah, they would be watching for ruffians and Philistines.

So in the context of the Song, the watchmen find the bride as she hurries out into the night, looking for her husband. She asks them if they have seen him, but she doesn’t stop to listen to their answer. Who do these mysterious watchmen represent?

1, They might simply be passers-by; unhelpful voices that add confusion or tension to a marriage, and the sort of teachers who add little or nothing to the Christian’s pursuit of Christ as each believer “hungers and thirsts for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).

2, They might be servants of the devil. In a marriage, these are all those Tenth Commandment breakers who lust after other men’s wives and who love to belittle marriage as a mere social construct (whatever that means) rather than a divine institution of God for mankind for all time. In the world, these are like the Beast that comes up out of the sea in Revelation 13:1, the antichristian government that seeks to destroy the church, “to blaspheme God and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven” (Revelation 13:6).

In the Church, these are false teachers, like the Beast that comes up out of the earth in Revelation 13:11, who is all antichristian religion, philosophy, propaganda, and so on. He “makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast” (the secular world, 13:13), and deceives the inhabitants of the world (13:14).

3, Another possibility is that these watchmen are the actual watchmen commanded by God through Moses; the Levites who were to guard the tabernacle. These were “the gatekeepers, with duties for ministering in the temple of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 26:12). Sometimes gatekeepers also reported important news (2 Kings 7:11). They reported danger (Ezekiel 33:6), and often were themselves in danger (Hosea 9:8). They allowed those authorized to enter into the city or temple to pass through (John 10:3). In a marriage, who would these men be? They might be anyone in the couple’s circle of friends, those who keep the Tenth Commandment properly and pray for and encourage the success of the marriage. In the church, these might be the very Levites that could be represented; the teachers of the true Israel. Is it a subtle comment on the sad state of faith, then, that these Levites have nothing helpful to say when the true church is looking for Christ? Even Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were part of the Sanhedrin, were secret disciples of Jesus because they feared the Jews (John 19:38-39). But the Levitical priesthood and the Levites who served under the priests were, in their time, the legitimate and true worship leaders of God’s people, and in our Confession we maintain that their various slaughters and sacrifices “symbolized both the [sacrificial] death of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel, which should kill this old flesh and begin a new and eternal life in us” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession).

4, Finally, they might be the correct authorities—but in this case the bride does not bother to stop and listen, just as the believer does not always consider the wisdom of their pastor. But since Christ searches for his lost sheep and delights to find them, sometimes the lost are found even though they avoid the Great Shepherd’s under-shepherds.

The delightful phrase in this verse is the woman’s admission that her husband is the one “her soul loves.” We already touched on this in 1:7, but the soul possesses everything that the mind and heart possess. Like the body, the soul possesses faith, emotions, memories, desires, and love. Friendship and love are not idle fantasies of this life only, but they endure forever. The love of God endures forever, just as his mercy endures forever, and our love endures as well. But there will be no seeds of jealousy or lust in eternity, and for that as well as every other blessing and promise of bliss, we praise God, and thank him. He knows what is best for us, and he has prepared for each of us a place with him in Paradise.  We sing with David, “Let all who take refuge in you be glad. Let them sing for joy forever” (Psalm 5:11). And God surrounds us with his grace like a shield.

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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