My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is purest gold; his hair is wavy and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves by the water streams, washed in milk, mounted like jewels. His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume. His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh. His arms are rods of gold set with topaz. His body is like polished ivory decorated with lapis lazuli. – Song of Solomon 5:10-14
I have been “stuck” on this passage for two days. It is time to get paddling and move on. This passage is truly a confusing morass of mixed metaphors…”his lips are like Lillie’s dripping with myrrh”? “Eyes washed in milk and mounted like jewels?” It is almost as if these metaphors were strung together for effect rather than to describe an actual person. How could his head be purest gold and his hair raven black at the same time?
I am not sure I can glean any nuggets from this stretch of river, but I will give it my best shot. At least there are a lot of minerals to satiate my geological interests. The passage begins by describing a man who sounds a bit like King David – “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand”, but then the description begins to sound more like Solomon – his arms of gold set with topaz.
I am not sure what “eyes like doves by the water streams” look like. Maybe doves have a cultural significance at this time of which I am not aware. The most memorable reference to a dove I have encountered so far was when Noah sent out doves to see if God’s Rain was ended. In that instance, the doves became a sign of peace. Perhaps the male figure being described here is intended to contain contrasting characteristics. For example elements of being a military leader “outstanding among ten thousand”; and a man of peace with “eyes like doves”.
If we take this description to be allegorically describing the bridegroom, God, then it would mean that God has contrasting and seemingly contradictory characteristics. This certainly fits with the complicated picture of God that I have encountered in my float so far. A God who can both carry us like a son and daughter and refuse to allow Moses to cross over the Jordan River into the promised land. It also fits with the seemingly contradictory statements we floated through in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 — a time for everything.
I am not sure I have plumbed the depths of this passage, but rather than spin in this whirlpool I will press on down the river and see where God leads.
Prayer: God my understanding of You is imperfect and sometimes confusing just like this passage. Help me to faithfully follow You despite my confusion.