Three times in the Song of Solomon, the daughters of Jerusalem are given this charge: “Do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4, ESV). The NIV’s wording is similar: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” With the three-fold repetition, this command can be considered a refrain and becomes a theme running throughout the song.
The speaker addresses the “daughters of Jerusalem”—young, unmarried women in Israel’s capital city—and gives them some wise advice. Do not awaken love until it pleases. It’s a solemn charge, given by one who has found true love and is experiencing its joys. Do not attempt to arouse or awaken love. Don’t stir it up. Love should be allowed to “rest” until it awakes on its own accord.
The meaning seems to be this: true love, that which is worthy of being called “love,” should be spontaneous. There is danger in trying to “force” love or to stir up passions before their time. There is a tendency, especially among the young, to fall victim to “puppy love” or to mistake infatuation for true love. The speaker in the Song of Solomon would save us much grief. The charge not to awaken love until it pleases is a warning against entering romantic relationships too young. It is a warning against becoming so desperate to find love that we start looking for it in all the wrong places. It is a warning against trying to manufacture feelings of love where there were none to begin with.
The NLT translates Song of Solomon 2:7 in a way that emphasizes the need for proper timing: “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, . . . not to awaken love until the time is right.” Waiting is never easy; in matters of the heart, waiting may be even more difficult. But waiting for the right one, at the right time, has prevented many a broken heart. Let love rise naturally; let affection be without affectation. The result will be beautiful.
If a relationship is to move on to the next level, then it will do so without artifice or stratagem. If romance is God’s intention, then romance will come. No need to press it. True love is special. It cannot be ginned up, and it cannot be manipulated. Romantic feelings should not be stirred too early. Let them sleep until it’s time for them to awake.
The wording of the adjuration is interesting and quite significant. In two instances, the charge makes an appeal to fauna. Here is the whole of Song of Solomon 2:7: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (ESV). Using beautiful imagery, the speaker underscores the truth that love must have freedom. Just as gazelles and deer are free to roam, so love should have freedom to move in our hearts in its own time and in its own way. Love should not be manipulated any more than a gazelle should be fettered or caged.
When the time is right, love will bloom. Until then, wisdom advises us to guard our hearts. It will be worth the wait.