Jesus—Rose of Sharon
The song leader stands before the congregation and announces the number of the next hymn he wants the audience to sing. As you turn the pages, you quickly realize that the song is a familiar old favorite—“Jesus, Rose of Sharon.” But if you are anything like most of the people who sing this song, you probably do not know what the term “rose of Sharon” means. So, what does it mean?
This may come as something of a shock, but the term is used only once in the entire Bible, and in that instance it does not refer to Jesus. In Song of Solomon 2:1, Solomon’s beloved Shulamite bride referred to herself as the “rose of Sharon.” From her description, we can conclude that it is a complimentary term intended to express a certain beauty that the people of Solomon’s day would have recognized.
The word “Sharon” (sometimes spelled Saron) means a level place or plain. The Bible uses the term to describe one of the largest valley plains in all of Palestine. The term is found in numerous verses, including Acts 9:35, 1 Chronicles 5:16, and 1 Chronicles 27:29. If you were to examine a map of Palestine (the maps in the backs of most Bibles should suffice), you could locate this valley by finding the city of Joppa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa, and the Aijalon section to its southwest, were the approximate southern borders of the valley. It extended west from the Mediterranean Sea for about 10-15 miles, and north for about 30 miles. Topographical maps distinctly show this region to be a low valley bordered by higher mountains.
From all indications, the Sharon valley was a wild, fertile plain that was the home to a host of beautiful flowers. Isaiah 35:2 lists Sharon in a context discussing blooming vegetation, and describes the valley as “excellent” (NKJV). Sharon was renowned for its majesty and beauty. But what about its “rose”?
A true rose, like the one sweethearts exchange on Valentine’s Day, probably is not a good candidate for the flower described as the “rose of Sharon,” the primary reason being that these flowers are uncommon in Palestine. In fact, although no one can say for certain which flower is the actual “rose of Sharon,” many scholars think the best guess is the cistus or rock-rose. The cistus blooms in various parts of Palestine, and is well known for its soothing aroma and pain-relieving qualities.
When and why the title “Rose of Sharon” was given to Jesus is rather vague. But at least two reasons as to why it might have been assigned to our Lord seem fairly clear. First, Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of beauty and splendor. Of course, His earthly body could not boast of such attributes (Isaiah 53:2), but His spiritual beauty and majesty remain unsurpassed by any created being in Heaven or on Earth (2 Peter 1:16). Second, Christ’s healing powers and pain-relieving actions find a definite point of comparison with those of the rock-rose. Is it any wonder that the “Great Physician,” Who came to heal those who were physically ill as well as those who were spiritually sick, should be given the name of a flower known for its sweet aroma and soothing medicinal qualities?
Although the Holy Spirit never chose to inspire the Bible writers to refer to Jesus as the “Rose of Sharon,” it nevertheless is a name we can employ to speak of the majesty, beauty, and healing power of our Lord.