Who is the Shulamite mentioned in the Song of Solomon 6:13? By Jack Kettler
“Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” (Song of Solomon 6:13)
In addition, what does “As it were the company of two armies” Mean?
To start, how is the reader to approach the Song of Solomon? There are four approaches to the book. Two of the most popular will be briefly considered.
The Jews used the metaphorical method as a symbolic picture of the affection of God for Israel. The metaphorical approach is used by Christians but picturing Christ and the Church.
Another approach is literal and says the “Song” is a romantic poem to exalt human love and marriage.
With this introduction, consulting some commentary sources will be prudent.
From the Benson Commentary on the first part of the passage:
“Song of Solomon 6:13. Return — Christ recalls his spouse, who, as when Christ was gone, she pursued after him, so now, when Christ was coming to her, she was ready to wander from him. Return — This word is repeated four times, to signify both Christ’s passionate love to her, and her backwardness. O Shulamite — This title signifies the wife of Solomon, thus called after her husband’s name; see Isaiah 4:1; and as Christ is called by the name of Solomon, (Song of Solomon 3:7,) so the church is fitly described by the title of Solomon’s wife. That we may look upon thee — That I and my companions may contemplate thy beauty. What will you see — But what do you, my friends, expect to discover in her? Christ proposes the question, that they might take special notice of this as a very remarkable thing in her.” (1)
In the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, on the second part of the passage regarding the “two armies,” Andrew Harper, the commentator, says:
“13. As it were the company of two armies] The R.V. gives as upon the dance of Mahanaim? and probably this is the right translation. As she endeavours to escape, the Shulammite asks, would they stare at her as at a public spectacle. Some have thought that there is a reference here to the angel hosts from which Jacob is said to have named the place (Genesis 32:2). But there is no hint that there was anything resembling a dance in their movements. The probability, therefore, is that after Jacob’s vision Mahanaim became a holy place, if it was not one before, and that God was there praised in the dance (cp. Jdg 21:21), and that these dances had become famous either for their gracefulness or for their splendour. That Mahanaim was a place of importance, whether for political or for religious reasons or for both, is clear from the fact that Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, set up his kingdom there, and that David fled thither when he was driven away from Jerusalem by Absalom. It was also a Levitical city. It lay to the N. of the Jabbok not far from the valley of the Jordan, on the heights above that valley. Its exact site is unknown, as it can hardly have been
el- Michne as Robinson supposes, for that is too far both from the Jabbok and from the Jordan. That places were famed for dances is shewn by the name Abel-Mecholah = ‘Dance meadow.’ The R.V. has in the margin, “a dance of two companies.” This might be supposed to be a dance specially worth seeing. Such a dance is described by Wetzstein, who says that in the Gof, or as Palgrave writes it, the Djowf, a region of N. Arabia, there is a variety of the dance called Sahqa, which is danced by two companies of men standing opposite each other, as in our country dances. But these Bedouin and Arab customs have no known connexion with the people west of the Jordan. Budde would change the dual into the plural and would read machanim and translate “as upon a camp dance,” i.e. ‘a sword dance,’ which forms part of the marriage customs Wetzstein describes. But a camp dance would be a very odd name for the sword dance, and though it is true that the place-name Mahanaim does not occur with the article, the article here may quite well define the dance, not Mahanaim.” (2)
To answer the starting question, the Shulamite can be understood to be the wife of Solomon, and spiritually is a type of Christ’s Church. So, therefore, Solomon would be a type of Christ.
Answering the second question, Andrew Harper, the commentator, says:
“As it were the company of two armies,” “the R.V. gives as upon the dance of Mahanaim? And probably this is the right translation.”
Many additional commentators agree with this.
Speaking metamorphically, the Shulamite girl is taken as a form or type of the Church, and the phrases stated by her lover (Solomon) are understood to be Christ speaking to His bride.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Benson, Joseph, “Commentary on Song of Solomon,” Benson's Commentary, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/song-of-solomon-1.html. 1857.
2. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Song of Solomon, by Andrew Harper, Publisher: Cambridge University Press, 1902.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com