Question: "What is the Rose of Sharon?"
Answer: The Hebrew word sharon means “a plain or a level place.” The Plain of Sharon is the coastal plain between the mountains of central Palestine and the Mediterranean Sea, north of Joppa to Mt. Carmel. The area is mentioned in Acts 9:35 in conjunction with the town of Lydda, which is about eleven miles SE of Joppa and is called “Lod” in the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 8:12). Modern Israelis have reverted back to the Old Testament name. This town is located in the midst of the Plain of Sharon. This area was proverbially fertile and known for its flowers. The “rose of Sharon” is found in the Song of Solomon 2:1. Therefore, we can surmise that the rose of Sharon flower is named for the district of Sharon.
Webster’s says that the “rose of Sharon” is a hardy plant of the mallow family with the name “Hibiscus Syriacus” and has white, red, pink, or purplish flowers. However, the Rose of Sharon mentioned in the Song of Solomon is a crocus-like flower and the source of saffron. The Hebrew word habaselet as used in Song of Solomon 2:1 is translated twice as “rose,” once here in the Song of Solomon and once in Isaiah 35:1. The translators may indeed have used the word rose to refer to the meaning of the Hebrew word, which is a flower similar to what we now know as a crocus or a bulb flower like a tulip. The NIV uses a footnote that says, “Possibly a member of the crocus family.” Therefore, the “rose of Sharon” is not really what we would classify today as a “rose,” but it could be a plant similar to the hibiscus or it could be a crocus or tulip.
Some Bible expositors see the rose of Sharon as Christ and the lily as the church, His bride. Some of the early church fathers were fond of this analogy as well. There are some parallels that may be drawn between Christ and the rose of Sharon, but most of them fall apart when we realize the rose is not a rose at all, but a crocus or tulip. In addition, the church is never portrayed as a lily in the Bible. In fact, the word “lily” doesn’t even appear in the New Testament. Some say that because the rose of Sharon grows in dry, unfavorable conditions, it symbolizes Jesus coming from the root of Jesse and David (Isaiah 11:1; Revelation 22:16), but labeling the house of Jesse and David as “dry” has no basis in Scripture, either. Of course, Jesus is as lovely and fragrant as a rose, but that is insufficient to definitively identify Song of Solomon 2:1 as symbolic of Christ.