Monday, October 26, 2009

Terrible as an Army With Banners

Who is she
that looketh forth
as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? Song of Solomon 6:10

In the verse above, Solomon is making comparisons to his bride's beauty. It is interesting that this question is answered in modern scripture D&C 109:73:

That thy church [Zion] may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners; .

A cultural and Hebraic perspective on this verse adds additional insight. In Everyman's Bible Commentary, Paige Patterson tells us:

"Solomon asked, "Who is this that looks forth as the dawn or the morning?" "Looks forth" is literally "to bend forward" and hence "to look down," like the rays of the sun that look down on the earth in the early hours of the day. The reference is to her radiance. "Fair as the moon" (beautiful) and as "clear" or pure "as the sun." "Terrible" (Hebrew: 'ayom) also means "formidable"- an influence that must be exercised with responsibility."(pgs.95-96,99)

In terms of Zion being the Lord's Church and therefore his Bride, I love the consistency of this verse:

And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand. D&C 45:70

From these three verses combined, we learn that the Lord's Church (Zion) is not only radiant, beautiful, and pure, but that she has a formidable power that causes the wicked to flee. It is the shining power of goodness and purity.


  1. This is wonderful imagery. We can glean another small insight through realizing that in order to "look down" and "bend forward" as the rays of the sun looking down upon the earth, we as Zion too must be separate from the earth, rising above it and overcoming it.

    That obviously isn't meant to elevate ourselves in a prideful way, but instead to elevate in the sense of arising, becoming closer to God and separating ourselves from the world in order that our light may be shown and radiate unto it.

    D&C 82:14 For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.

  2. This verse has long puzzled me because while I understand that Joseph Smith did not consider the Song of Solomon as inspired, there was still this exact imagery repeated in the Doctrine and Covenants. Thanks to Donna this is now reconciled for me. Todah rabbah!

  3. I have wondered about that verse for some time

  4. Donna,
    Thank you for the post! I have wrestled over these verses since Monday---maybe I am just missing something that everyone else understands. In D&C 5:14 and 105:31, we find that this verse from the Song of Solomon (SS) is quoted also, except for a difference in the adjectives (clear as the moon and fair as the sun). I find it interesting that while in the dedicatory prayer (section 109) we find the wording to be consistent with SS, the two revelations from Christ to Joseph are different in wording but consistent with each other. The question that is lingering with me is this: If the JST states that "The Songs of Solomon are not inspired writings", why do we find this verse quoted in not only the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, but also in two revelations received from Christ? Also, why the inconsistency in the adjectives? There are a few different varients that I have thought of:

    1. The Song of Solomon is not inspired as a whole, and SS 6:10 is an inspired verse which is answered and repeated in modern day revelation.

    2. SS 6:10 is not inspired, but just beautiful language that applies to the metaphor as you have stated in your post.

    3. Due to the changing of the order of the adjective, Christ is showing a correction in the wording of the verse in SS (that's considering that the revelations were received word-for-word).

    4. The revelations were not received word-for-word, or at least those verses quoting SS 6:10, but were thoughts and feelings that Joseph received and put in words using the verse in SS to express the message given him by Christ.

    5. While Joseph put the revelation in words on paper, he either did not refer to the Bible but just quoted SS 6:10 from memory and in so doing swithed the adjectives. Then for the dedicatory prayer, he refered to the Bible and quoted it exactly.

    These are options that I have thought of. Like I stated previously, maybe I just missed something everyone else understood. Is there more clarification that you could offer?