Question: "Who are the daughters of Jerusalem in Song of Solomon?"
Answer: The “daughters of Jerusalem” are mentioned seven times in the Song of Solomon. These persons are obviously female, but who exactly are they?
The most likely identification of the daughters of Jerusalem is that they were the young, unmarried women of Jerusalem, the city where Solomon lived. Some translations say “maidens,” “virgins,” or “young women” instead of “daughters.” A look at this term’s use in the book helps to strengthen this interpretation. In Song of Solomon 1:5 the Shulammite states, “Dark am I, yet lovely, / daughters of Jerusalem.” In contrast with the “dark” skin of Solomon’s lover, it seems that the daughters of Jerusalem were lighter-skinned. This may indicate the daughters of Jerusalem were more affluent or worked indoors, since the Shulammite attributes her dark skin to working in the heat of the sun (verse 6).
Song of Solomon 2:7 says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you / by the gazelles and by the does of the field: / Do not arouse or awaken love / until it so desires.” This is an important passage in the book, since the command not to “awaken love” is repeated twice elsewhere. Again, the Shulammite addresses the other women of the area, advising them not to force love until the appropriate time—love comes when it comes. This same command is also seen when the daughters of Jerusalem are mentioned in Song of Solomon 3:5 and 8:4. The Shulammite is giving her advice to the other girls in town.
In Song of Solomon 3:10–11, the Shulammite again speaks to the young girls of Jerusalem: “Daughters of Jerusalem, come out, / and look, you daughters of Zion. / Look on King Solomon wearing a crown, / the crown with which his mother crowned him / on the day of his wedding, / the day his heart rejoiced.” The context speaks of a royal carriage Solomon had made (verse 9). Some translations indicate that the interior of Solomon’s carriage was decorated “by the daughters of Jerusalem” (e.g., NASB, ESV, NET, ISV). This may give us an additional clue: the daughters of Jerusalem could be the female household servants of King Solomon.
Song of Solomon 5:8 also mentions the daughters of Jerusalem, saying, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you— / if you find my beloved, / what will you tell him? / Tell him I am faint with love.” This charge to the daughters of Jerusalem also supports the idea that they were household servants. If they happen to see the king during the day, they are called on to report the status of Solomon’s new wife as being lovesick and wanting to be with him.
Song of Solomon 5:16 ends a description of Solomon with “he is altogether lovely. / This is my beloved, this is my friend, / daughters of Jerusalem.” The Shulammite’s husband is both her lover and her friend, something she declares openly to the young women of the city.
There are several places in the song that are spoken by a group of people in response to what Solomon and the Shulammite say (Song of Solomon 1:4, 11; 5:9; 6:13; et al.). The speakers could very well be the daughters of Jerusalem whom the Shulammite addresses so often.
In the New Testament, Jesus speaks to a group of women whom He calls “daughters of Jerusalem” on one occasion. As Jesus carried His cross to Calvary, many women followed in mourning. He says to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). Jesus was speaking generally to all the women in the city of Jerusalem and specifically to those near Him.
The daughters of Jerusalem play a small but important role in the Song of Solomon. As the young maidens of the city listened to advice from Solomon’s wife, they received wisdom about romance. If they were indeed servants in Solomon’s household, they would have been a natural audience as they made preparations for the wedding and waited on their new queen.