Song of Solomon 1:5-6 reads: “I am black but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, for the sun has burned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me caretaker of the vineyards, But I have not taken care of my own vineyard” (NASB). The Song of Solomon is a beautiful love story. Solomon and his Shulamite bride are the main characters and in our passage she is in the “royal court,” comparing herself with the “daughters of Jerusalem.” Let’s take a close look at this interesting passage.

In verse 5 she declares, “I am black but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem.” When she states that she is “black,” she is NOT referring to her race, but to the fact that her skin has become darkened by the sun. She likens her dark skin to the “tents of Kedar.” Kedar means “black” and was the name given to the descendants of Ishmael who were nomads living in tents made of black goats’ hair. She no doubt felt insecure in the company of such “fair-skinned” maidens in Solomon’s court. This is borne out in verse 6 where she says, “Do not stare at me because I am swarthy (dark), for the sun has burned me.”  She has become black by spending so much time in the sun and she elaborates on this by saying, “My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard.” Her brothers forced her to work out in the sun all day long. When she adds, “I have not taken care of my own vineyard,” she is probably referring to not having time to take care of herself, including her appearance.

I purposely left something out in my remarks above. Though she obviously had a measure of insecurity when it came to her appearance, she could say, “I am black BUT LOVELY.” Ah, though she couldn’t compare with the ladies in the court with their fair complexions, she knew that Solomon loved her and that in his eyes, SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL! Throughout this “love story” Solomon praises her beauty. In 1:8 he calls her the “most beautiful among women.” Then, in verses 9-10 he employs Oriental imagery to describe her beauty: “To me, my darling, you are like my mare among the chariots of Pharaoh. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of beads.” In verse 15 he adds, “How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are love doves.” The lesson here is clear; even though OTHERS failed to see her beauty, it is enough that her beloved Solomon cherished her, including her physical appearance.

There is a simple yet very important “spiritual lesson” in this for all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The world may not see any beauty in us, just as they didn’t see any beauty in our Savior. (In Isaiah 53:2 it says, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him”.) But the Lord Jesus, our “heavenly Bridegroom,” loves us and sees a moral beauty in us that His grace has produced. In Ephesians 5 we read of this love that Christ has for His church, the “bride of Christ,” and we learn in verse 27 that the day is coming when He will “present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” So, like the Shulamite we can say, “I am black BUT LOVELY!”  (217.5)  (DO)