If you do not know,
O most beautiful among women,
follow in the tracks of the flock,
and pasture your young goats
beside the shepherds’ tents.
9 I compare you, my love,
to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
10 Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
your neck with strings of jewels.
11 We will make for you ornaments of gold,
studded with silver.
On Wearing Ornaments
The man in the poem tells the woman how he may be found. There is a quest for intimacy which the woman must follow. Having given her the guidance to reach his destination he compliments his woman. To be compared to a horse doesn’t sound like much in our language. However, to compare a woman to an expensive car might hit closer to the mark. A mare among Pharaoh’s chariots would be classy and expensive. It expresses the both the woman’s worth and her beauty. The beauty she has is enhanced with jewels and ornaments.
Some people might object to a woman using make-up or jewelry to enhance her natural beauty. The New Testament has been read in ways that seem to contradict the praise in this passage. 1 Timothy 2 reads, ” 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” How do we harmonize the two?
The women that Paul addresses were not exhibiting control or restraint. With the resources that were available to them, it seems that they were squandering finances on adornments that should not have been a priority. The warning of Paul is not against adornment but against vanity. The main focus for all women, as for men, should be a focus on God. As we saw in Genesis, man and woman are caused to work together for the glory of God. If the work of God is accomplished in tending for the work she has been given and she also has the resources to tend her own garden to the glory of God then so be it. If, however, she focuses on her looks and is overcome with such a vanity that God is lost in the mix something terrible has happened.
The Song of Songs passage praises a woman for spending a little time tending the beauty that God has given her. The man appreciates her beauty and her efforts and gives her an appropriate compliment. We might do well to style our hair, tidy ourselves up, make ourselves presentable. People who take a little care with what God has given them are good stewards.
May I take a little time to tend the body and the appearance that you have given me. May I not take it too far and obsess on how I look or sink resources into keeping up with fashions and fads. May I be appropriate in what I wear and how I wear it. May it speak of beauty because you are beautiful.
- What direction does the man give the woman?
- What does he praise?
- What make-up and jewelry might an Israelite woman in Solomon’s harem have worn?
- How do you synthesize Song of Songs with 1 Timothy?
- How do you choose what is appropriate to wear?