Henna is a shrub or small tree, but when cultivated henna can be grown in rows like small hedges. Because of its thorny branches, these cultivated hedges were often used to surround a vineyard to protect crops from wild prey. The bride in the Song of Solomon likens her Beloved to the henna in the vineyards; that is to say He is like One who surrounds, protects and defends her from harm. The Lord often referred to His people as His vineyard; and it is He who watches over us, His cherished bride, to protect and defend us.
Another aspect of the henna shrub is its clusters of beautiful and fragrant flowers. Henna blossoms contain an essential oil used to make perfume, and is also used to make cosmetics to enhance beauty. The fragrance of Jesus is intoxicating to those who love His presence! A cluster expresses the abundance and diversity of the Beloved’s beauty, grace, mercy, and love. Songs 5:16 says, “He is altogether beautiful…” There is none that compare to our Lord!
En Gedi is an oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. There are many springs around the Dead Sea, but most of them have a high salt content. En Gedi is one of only two sites located on the western shore where fresh water springs are found. It is a desert oasis with waterfalls, springs of water, botanical gardens, and thriving date palms.
The bride not only likens her Beloved to the intoxicating fragrance of the henna blossom with the protective qualities of the hedge, but the setting she describes is an oasis in the desert. The Lord draws us with His fragrant love and promises to be our keeper, defender, and protector. He desires that we lean upon Him for our every need (Songs 8:5) and sustains and refreshes those who abide in Him, our everlasting spring of Life. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
I believe it was significant that En Gedi was one of the main places of refuge for David as he fled from Saul. 1 Sam 23:29 tells us that “David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.” David often referred to the Lord as his “stronghold” throughout the Psalms. Our Beloved delights for us to run to Him as our stronghold and place of refuge from our adversaries.
As a closing thought, it is interesting that the lowest point on land on earth is at the Dead Sea, which lies at 1,312 feet below sea level. While I don’t believe the Shulamite in the Song of Solomon had this in mind when she thought of En Gedi as the place where she encounters the beauty and fragrance of her Beloved, I can’t help but to think of how low Jesus went as He humbled Himself (Philippians 2:6-8) to redeem us as His cherished bride for all eternity. It is from this lowest place that His extravagant beauty and fragrant love are revealed!
Jesus, how intoxicating is the fragrance of Your beauty and love! The diversity of Your attributes is unsearchable. I thank You, Lord, that You delight to tend to Your vineyard, Your bride, and You nourish and protect me. You are the pursuer in our relationship and You draw me closer by Your fragrant love. Your love and presence refresh me like one who drinks from a pure spring; You are the sustainer of all life! Help me to run to You for refuge in the heat of the day, for You alone are my shelter, defender, protector, and provider. May I always be found leaning into You, my Beloved!