The earliest use of the term picnic in the English language referred to feasts associated with medieval hunting outings, but today’s picnics are often linked to romance. A basket filled with wrapped sandwiches and cheeses . . . a blanket to spread under a tree on a warm summer day. What better way to celebrate love? The description in today’s passage uses the image of a picnic in the fields. The couple is drawn together and the presence of the man is a great comfort to the woman who delights in being in his presence.
She compares him to an “apple tree” (v. 3) in the forest. Unlike other trees that simply provide shelter, his love both shelters and nourishes her. Commentators note that in this society that depended on grains for nourishment, fruit was an unexpected and treasured delight. To eat fruit was not just a basic part of the four food groups, but a source of tremendous pleasure. It is interesting, then, to notice the number of times the lovers compare one another’s love to fruits, including apples and raisins. Fruit was a symbol of sensual pleasure. The food here is not limited, but abundant; the banquet mentioned here suggests lavish and unlimited provision.
His love provides shelter or comfort in a calm and strong way to the woman. With him, she feels comfortable relaxing and sitting down. She depends on him for sustenance and is sheltered by his “banner” of love (v. 4). In all these ways and more, her lover offers security and protection.
Verse 4 is often used by believers to describe God’s love for His people. Certainly, God speaks of His role in our lives as comforter and a shelter in the storm (Ps. 20:5; 32:7–8). While Song of Songs is not simply an allegory of God’s love, it does reflect the perfect and all-consuming love God has for His children.