“I am black, but comely...” Song of Solomon 1:5
Historically, this statement is to be taken literally: this beautiful love poem is between a Jewish king and his dark-skinned wife. Where Solomon’s Bride is from is not given – we are simply told that she was a Shulamite (Song 6:13) This designation along with the color of her skin would indicate that she was not Jewish, but a Gentile.
This typology fits in well with Jesus and the Church. Although there are many saved Jews in Christ’s church, the vast majority are Gentiles. Throughout the Old Testament many notable Jewish men who picture Christ took wives from outside of Israel – compare Isaac and Rebekkah, Moses and his Ethiopian wife as well as Boaz and Ruth.
Even though God has “made of one blood all nations of men,” (Acts 17:26) throughout history the dark skinned races have faced much prejudice and intolerance. As a color, black is often associated with darkness and evil and the darker races have often unfairly suffered from this association. The Bride almost seems to imply she has faced such intolerance when she says that she is “black, but comely.”
If we set aside the racial overtones and simply focus on the spiritual truth that sin and its blemishes and spots are often differentiated from holiness by comparing black and white or dark and light, several important spiritual applications arise. Compared to the glorious, perfect holiness of God Almighty, we might as well admit the obvious – “I am black!” Even the whitest, smoothest piece of paper looks imperfect under a strong light. Likewise, when we are compared to the perfect Son of God, our imperfections and sins are glaringly magnified.
Comeliness? We have no lasting, natural beauty in this flesh. Anything desirable in us exists only because of God’s grace and his view of us through the finished work of Jesus Christ. “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4) God’s covering of us with Christ’s righteousness is literally compared to the finery of a Bride in Isaiah 61:10. God says of his own people in Ezekiel 16:14 that their beauty, “was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee…”
This verse also describes our positional and practical states before God. Positionally we stand before God in his sight comely – forgiven, clean and spotless. See Eph. 5:25-27 and II Cor. 11:2. Practically however, on this side of the Rapture, we still regularly sin and are in need of daily cleansing. (I John 1:9) In God's sight we are ALL black – but we are comely to our King – and this is all that really matters!
Do you ever get frustrated with your sins and imperfections? Remember that once you trust Jesus as your Saviour, there is nothing you can do that will make God love you any more or any less than he does today. His love for you is perfect and unchanging!