Song of Solomon 2:4 (ESV) … “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”
Solomon was Israel’s most flamboyant and extravagant king. His wisdom was proverbial even in his own day. The historical books of the Bible describe at some length his enormous wealth and tireless industry. He had the Midas touch; everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. He built a temple in Jerusalem that rivaled for splendor, costliness, and magnificence any of the Seven Wonders of the World. He reigned in opulence and oriental magnificence. Ambassadors from scores of lands crowded his courts. His lectures on psychology and natural history drew audiences from as far as distant Sheba. In his pursuit of knowledge, he wrote, collected and edited, and published numerous proverbs, wise sayings, and songs. In his early years, he enjoyed singularly the rich blessings of God.
But Solomon’s armor had one fatal crack: he loved many strange and foreign women and ended up with a thousand women in his harem. The Song of Solomon is concerned with the one woman he could not have. She turned him down cold!
This song involves three main characters: Solomon; the Shulamite, a lovely country girl who had caught the king’s roving and appreciative eye; and the shepherd, the Shulamite’s true beloved. As the story opens, she has already given her heart to him, and she remains true to him. The real romance in the Song revolves around the mutual love of the shepherd and the Shulamite. The shepherd himself, however, remains largely in the background. He is absent, but the shepherdess loves him, longs for him, and looks constantly for his coming. Solomon uses all of his worldly pomp and power to impress and dazzle the Shulamite and to draw away her affections from her beloved to himself.
Thus, the allegory begins to emerge. The Shulamite represents the church, the betrothed of Christ. She also represents the individual Christian in the world today.
The shepherd pictures the Lord Jesus, who has already won the believer’s heart. He is absent right now; however, He visits us from time to time and makes Himself real to us in our moments of communion. Moreover, He has promised to come again to receive us to Himself.
Solomon depicts the tempter, the enemy of our souls. The enemy uses all of the allurements of the world and the flesh to try to seduce us from our loyalty to Christ.[i]
The deeper meaning of our verse is this. That one of these days, we are going to sup with our Beloved in the glory land and, when that day dawns, He will set before us a banquet the likes of which this world has never seen. Right now, however, He sets before us a banquet of a different sort. He spreads a table for us in the wilderness. It is not a table loaded with the things that the children of this world would much desire but the things the children of the Lord desire, that being His love.
We come to His banqueting house. Our hearts are full because He has spread a table for us! The highest archangels of glory would surely vacate heaven for the privilege that is ours to gather in His name, to know Him present in our midst, to sit down in His presence, and to address ourselves to the bread and wine upon the table, those rich emblems of His body broken and His blood poured forth.
Finally, we must recall that each of the tribes of Israel had its own ensign and its own standard (Num. 2:2). According to one of the Jewish Targums, each of the twelve tribes had as its ensign one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Judah, for instance, the royal tribe, the tribe to which Solomon belonged, was said to display the sign of the lion. Dan was to carry the sign of the eagle, and Asher was to carry the sign of Sagittarius the Archer. Flapping over Solomon’s pavilion, perhaps, were the ensigns of all of the tribes over which he ruled, the banners making a notable showing against the blue of the sky. Perhaps, too, as his own personal standard, Solomon displayed the star of David. It was all very impressive.
Yet here, the Shulamite, had a banner that meant more to her than all of the banners of Solomon. Her beloved had a banner too. “His banner over me was love,” she said. Beneath that banner, she found all that her heart desired.[ii]
For the Christian this verse means simply this, we are loved by the Lord Jesus in a way this world can never love us. So thus, we love Him and eagerly await that day when we are with Him.
[i] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Love Song of Solomon: An Expository Commentary. Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.
[ii] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Love Song of Solomon: An Expository Commentary (So 2:4–6). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.