Why interact with a verse from Song of Solomon, especially one that addresses the “daughters of Jerusalem” with a request they not awaken love until it pleases. What relevance does such a passage have for us today?
Such questions are understandable, especially since many avoid reading the Song of Solomon or because it is not a text from which many sermons are given. The neglect of this book of the Bible is quite unfortunate, especially in our sex driven and depraved culture that treats something of beauty created by God to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage as nothing more than a passing fancy to be distributed as one pleases regardless of the consequences.
Furthermore, even within the Church, we find the so-called hook up culture being encouraged with random dating and purposeless “relationships”, in particular among our youth being something that is viewed as the normal process of growing up. Such relationships are promoted rather than discouraged despite the modern dating model being flawed from top to bottom.
We find in a verse such as Song of Solomon 8:4, the request to not stir up or awaken love until it pleases. This is a repeated statement found in Song of Solomon at key points in the book. Some translations “do not awaken love until its proper time” which seems to capture the underlying idea even better. Let’s take some time to break down what some of these terms mean and how they can be applied.
To stir is translated from the Hebrew verb `uwr meaning “to rouse, stir up; to act in an aroused manner, awake”. This of course begs the question as to what actions can lead to the stirring up or arousal of love. In reality, this can be something as simple as a kind word, a gift, or physical touch. Admittedly it does not take much for most human beings to have their emotional tank begin to start bubbling up. This is especially true when it comes to the arousal of sexual appetites and desires. Furthermore, when it comes to young and impressionable hormone driven youth, things can get out of control rather quickly.
In case there is any question as to what kind of love is being described in this passage, the meaning of the word translated as love in this context is that of a love between a man and a woman, specifically sexual love. As we conclude our journey through this passage, we find the timing of when love should be awakened, namely “when it pleases” or “at the proper time”. When is the proper time? Whenever the two parties decide it is time? Whenever it feels right? When your heart tells you it is okay? None of those suggestions can be found in the meaning of the Hebrew verb chaphets.
The woman recognizes the intense state of passion she is in and thus adjures the daughters of Jerusalem to come alongside her to help quench the fires of passion before they rage out of control. Dennis Kinlaw rightly states “The beloved is being carried away by her passions. She relishes the joy. Yet she knows that love should have its own rhythm and its proper progression. Too fast too soon would spoil it.”
As the saying goes, “True love waits.” There is certainly nothing wrong with loving desire for the one you are madly in love with as demonstrated by the back and forth descriptions given by the man and woman in this passage. They truly longed to be in one another’s embrace. Additionally, they recognized the roles they would play in that time when it was proper for them to engage in the physical contact that comes in the bonds of holy marriage. The man will one day be the protector, provider, and source of love and security for the woman as the husband. The woman will one day be able to taste of the fruits of her beloved and to sit under his protective covering. Until that day comes, properly checked longing and anticipation is what they have to look forward to as they follow God’s perfect design for male/female relationships.
We need parents to be the “daughters of Jerusalem” with their children, ensuring that love is not stirred up before its proper time. The modern dating model that focuses on children following their hearts, a part of our makeup by the way that Scripture declares is exceedingly wicked, is completely flawed. Letting your children find their own way in this area of their life is not biblically sound parenting.
Additionally, when it comes to adults, the need for mentoring and accountability is also of the utmost importance. The “daughters of Jerusalem” could be a trusted brother or sister in Christ. Don’t think that just because you are an adult that you are somehow immune to the impulses of the flesh.
We live in a world that seeks at every turn to encourage people to awaken love outside its proper time. There is nothing wrong with being physically attracted to someone of the opposite sex. Such feelings are God given; however, the cart must never go before the horse as they say. Just because you may have feelings for or you may say you love someone does not give either party the freedom to engage in activities meant to be enjoyed within the confines of covenant marriage between a man and woman.
If you are engaging in behavior or words that are intended to awaken love before its proper time I encourage you to cease and desist immediately. Do not defraud anyone with such unrighteous behavior. For many, this may require the need to avoid kissing or other physical interaction. Certainly that may seem to be a bit overboard to some but often a little kiss can quickly lead to a little more and a little more and just a little more physical interaction. Why try to toe the line as close as you can when avoiding that line completely is a much better and wise approach.
The next time you are tempted to toe that line, keep Song of Solomon 8:4 in mind and think twice about awakening love before its proper time. Love that is stirred up in its proper context and God given timing is beautiful. Conversely, love stirred up outside the proper time is nothing more than a pursuit of the desires of the flesh.
 Dennis Kinlaw. “Commentary on Song of Songs” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.5: Psalms through Song of Songs. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1222.