He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Song of Solomon 2:4

Consider with me the appealing Old Testament story of the beautiful young woman in the Song of Solomon. Deeply in love with the young shepherd, she is also actively sought out by the king, who demands her favor. She remains loyal to the simple shepherd, who gathers lilies and comes to seek her and calls to her through the lattice.

In many ways, this is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus, of His love and care for His Bride, the Church. In the scriptural account, she does turn her loved one away with simple excuses. But condemned in heart, she rises to go out and search for him. As she seeks, she is asked: “What is he above others that you should seek him?” (see 5:9).

“Oh, he is altogether lovely,” she replies. “He came and called for me, and I had not the heart to go!” (see 5:16).

But at last she is able to confess, “I have found him whom my soul loveth!” (3:4).

He had been grieved but He was not far away. So it is with our Beloved—He is very near to us and He awaits our seeking!

Lord, You are “altogether lovely.” Thank You for pursuing the human race even in our state of unloveliness.[1]

4 The movement towards consummation intensifies. He has brought her to the “house of wine,” another identification of love with alcohol (and the vineyard of the previous vignette). The “banner” is a military standard that signals the identity of an encampment. Pope, 2, glosses, “His intent toward me Love.” The unmistakable design of the boy when he brought her to the house of wine, she says, was concupiscence. A literal banquet hall is as unnecessary to postulate as the houses of 1:16–17; perhaps the “wine-house” is part of the fantasy.[2]

2:4 banquet hall. The scene continues in the outdoors. This “house of wine” symbolizes the vineyard, just as the beams and rafters of 1:17 refer to the forest. his banner. As a military flag indicates location or possession, so Solomon’s love flew over his beloved one (cf. Nu 1:52; Ps 20:5).[3]

2:4 banqueting house (ESV footnote, “house of wine”). This is the only occurrence of this phrase in the OT (although there are similar expressions in Est. 7:8; Eccles. 7:2; Jer. 16:8). The exact location of this house is not critical. Rather, it is a place where wine is drunk and thus a place of love (see note on Song 1:2). This Hebrew term for banner is used elsewhere in the OT only in Numbers (Num. 2:2), where it is a standard flown at camps and carried into battle. Its use here would thus seem to indicate a public display of the lovers’ identity, namely, that they belong to and are committed to each other.[4]

2:4 the house of the wine The Hebrew phrase used here, beth hayyayin (meaning “the house of wine”), may describe a vineyard where grapes for wine are grown, or a banquet room in a palace (Esth 7:8).

his intention Banners were used for military purposes. Each unit would gather under their banner (Song 6:4; Num 1:52), which represented the army and often included the name or image of a deity (Exod 17:15). Here, the man’s banner represents a declaration of his love.[5]

2:4 banqueting house. Lit. “house of wine” (text note). The setting is outdoors (1:12 note). The lover’s “house” to this point has been the forest (1:16, 17). Now they move to a different “house,” namely, the young man’s vineyard, his “house” of wine. The expression continues the royal imagery from 1:4, 12 (the shepherd is a king) and the comparison of love and wine from 1:2.

his banner. An emblem typically used to mark out one tribe from another (Num. 2:3, 10, 18, 25). Banners were also used to muster troops for battle. It has been suggested that the word is used here for something like a sign for an inn. The young man is unabashedly advertising his love for the young woman.[6]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Schwab, G. M. (2008). Song of Songs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 385–386). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (So 2:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1218). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (So 2:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1099). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


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