Summary: Solomon used the phrase "go thy way" twice, but in very different situations. Here is a glimpse at both of them.
Introduction: Solomon. The son of David, the king of Israel, he was the wisest man who ever lived. Sadly, he was also the first king of Israel to forsake his heritage, promises, and faith in order to please his pagan wives.
Which picture of Solomon is right?
Both of these are right. It’s simply because each of these “portraits” was taken at a different time, or at a different phase of his life, we could say. Some have observed that Ecclesiastes was Solomon’s musings about how he had lived his life for his pleasures, in his old age; Proverbs, his advice and sayings on many topics, written, perhaps, in his middle age; and the Song of Solomon in his youth. This could be true but we’ll never know for sure.
It’s interesting that Solomon used the phrase “go thy way” one time in two of these books. Although Ecclesiastes comes first, in order, the Song seems to be portraying a much earlier time of his life. So we’ll look at the “song” passage first, then the one in Ecclesiastes.
The verses we’ll use for texts are provided below, and they’re both from the King James version:
Ecc 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
Song 1:8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.
1. Solomon’s words from the Song of Songs
One of the beauties of the Song of Songs is that it’s written as a narrative. Some of the commentators, from J. Vernon McGee to John Phillips, and others, have given some varying opinions about who’s saying what, and when. There is also some difference of opinion regarding who is the focus of the Song. Is this a song Solomon wrote about himself? If not, who did he have in mind? According to 1 Kings 3:1, he had already married Pharaoh’s daughter when he began his reign, and had brought her to Jerusalem. I don’t think Pharaoh’s daughter would have loved the life of a shepherdess, especially if she had been raised in a royal environment!
As is also true of Asenath, the wife of Joseph (see Genesis 41) and Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh (see 1 Chronicles 4:18), Scripture does not record one single word that she ever spoke. Regardless of his home life, though, Solomon wrote a beautiful song or series of songs about love. We can learn a lot about true love from reading this book.
But we do have many words, spoken by the Shulamite girl, the heroine, shall we say, of this story. Solomon seems to have structured the book—or song—about her and her love for the man she loves. The first few verses of this book have some of her musings in that regard.
Her story begins by stating she had been living a very hard life! She spoke of how her skin had become black (KJV) because she had been forced to work out in the sun for a long time. According to verse 6 of chapter 1, she had to work hard at keeping at least two vineyards, to the neglect of her own. As if that isn’t enough, she apparently had a flock of goats to take care of as well! All of this takes a lot of hard work, and she didn’t seem to have any help in any of this.
Now we come to her question and the unusual response from her beloved one. In verse 7 of chapter 1, she asks her beloved, “Where do you feed your flocks?” I’m not sure why she asked him this question: was she just starting out as a shepherd girl (goat keeper, actually) and didn’t know where to find food? Or was she simply making conversation, looking for a way to share a moment of time with her beloved?
Col, Robert Scott wrote in his book “God Is My Co-Pilot” that when he was going through pilot training in Texas, he would drive home to Georgia every weekend, just to spend some time with “my girl”, as he called her. The time he could spend varied from a few hours to as little as ten minutes, he said, but for him it didn’t matter. The time he got was worth the drive!
The reply from her beloved, as mentioned earlier, seems somewhat unusual to me. He told the Shulamite girl, “If you don’t know (did she know?), go thy way and follow the follow the footprints!” Something that also I find puzzling is that the beloved didn’t offer to lead the Shuamite’s flock himself. He simply said, follow the footprints.
The rest of the Song describes the various words, musings, and interactions between the Shulamite girl, her beloved, and others. This is a beautiful book, and we would do well to study what it means to be genuinely in love with the ONE person you love. Solomon wrote a masterpiece with this work, and we can be grateful for his musings here.