Moving from chp 2 to chp 3 in Song of Songs moves us from a scene where the young woman has invited her lover into her home for the night … and suddenly she declares to the women of Jerusalem (either in a dream or in reality):
3:1 Upon my bed at night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
If we think this book is a continuous narrative, we might think we’ve skipped the love scene and now discover that the Shulamite’s lover has left the bed. She awakes to find him gone and now pursues him. Or, we might think this yet another poetic section of the young woman’s yearning for her lover. That “at night” could be translated “night after night” (Bloch) would suggest the latter interpretation. Either way, she longs for him on her own bed.
In 3:2 she turns the language into how she experienced that awakening and longing:
“I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.”
And then back to memory: “I sought him, but found him not.”
The scene is powerful … this young woman, awakened and stirred to love, discovers her lover gone and longs to find him. Searching for him through the city, she encounters the sentinels who are protecting the city. “Hey,” she says to them, “did you happen to see the most beautiful man in the city?” She doesn’t report their answer — why? Probably because she found him before they had a chance to speak. Or perhaps because she had no time to pause for an answer. She was determined and intent on finding her lover and that meant an all-out search.
Ah, she finds him whom she loves:
3:4 Scarcely had I passed them,
when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
until I brought him into my mother’s house,
and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
And now she turns to the young women of Jerusalem: “Do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!” Why does she say this to them? Perhaps because she knows the pain of absence of what total delight in your lover brings. She longed for her lover; he was absent so she searched for him. When she found him she “held him” (seized him for good) and “brought him into my mother’s house.”
The love scene is again absent. We move on.