Daughters of Jerusalem: Where has your lover gone, most beautiful of women? Which way did your lover turn, that we may look for him with you?
She: My lover has gone down to his garden,to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my lover's and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies.
He: You are beautiful, my darling, as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem, majestic as troops with banners. Turn your eyes from me; they overwhelm me.Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing. Each has its twin, not one of them is alone. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number; but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The maidens saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines praised her. NIV
Even at this early stage, Solomon's harem already has 60 queens (wives) and 80 concubines. But by the time he is done, he would have 300 queens (wives) and 700 concubines! Solomon must have a way with women to keep such a large harem happy, despite the fact this particular Shulammite wife is his favourite.
What is surprising is the lack of destructive jealousy and competition among the "daughters of Jerusalem" (apparent reference to the harem). Their constant refrain is admiration for this Shulammite: "Where has your lover gone, most beautiful of women? Which way did your lover turn, that we may look for him with you?" Even Solomon affirms this observation: "Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number; but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The maidens saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines praised her." In this days of one-man-one-wife, such mutuality and support is quite unthinkable. Who have not heard of constant rivalry and jealousy in the house of the Chinese tycoons of previous generations, who kept more than one wives and numerous mistresses? Or even the palace intrigues and infighting among the ladies of the harems of Chinese emperors. How then are the women in Solomon's harem able to be mutually supportive instead of mutually destructive?
I believe the answer may lie in Solomon's generous attitude towards all the wives and concubines: he was generous in his praise of his wives and concubines as an expression of his love for them. His praise towards the Shulammite expresses his overall attitude towards women in general. Perhaps, the reason for a happy harem is that Solomon uniquely values and affirms everyone of them verbally. The fruit of this attitude is reflected in the harem's generous attitude towards the Shulammite, despite Solomon's special praise for her.
A lesson can be drawn here regarding Christians and churches. Where churches experience the affirming love of Christ daily "poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5), they are likely to be affirming and positive towards other churches or Christians. A church that is not filled with the love of God through the Spirit will become a quarrelsome and cantankerous congregation. We can only be loving and generous towards others as we have experienced the love and generosity of our heavenly Bridegroom.
Father, pour out Your Spirit into our hearts daily so that we may hear Your loving words of affirmation: "you are my child in whom I am well-pleased." Amen.