The Big Book–Cover to Cover: Song of Solomon

Michael teaches an overview of Song of Solomon. The Song of Songs or Song of Solomon is a complex, mysterious, and somewhat uncomfortable book.

As the Bible is meant to serve as a guide in all aspects of life, it is a gift to look at this text and derive from it God’s intentions and design for sexual intimacy.

Show Notes

The Song of Songs or Song of Solomon may be one of the more interesting and mysterious books of the Bible. Students and scholars read the book resulting in a wide variety of explanations.

Title:

(שִׁ יר הַשִׁ ירִׁ ים, shirhashshirim)

The title is a little cumbersome. Some of your Bibles will say “Song of Solomon,” some will say, “Song of Songs”

NB the repetition of the words hir and the im ending construction is a superlative expression, “THE SONG of songs”, i.e., it has no equal. Think, King of Kings, Lord of Lords – it has no equal. The ultimate song of all the songs.

It was a song, which means it was meant to be sung.

This is the first of five festival scrolls called Megilloth

  1. Song of Solomon, read at Passover
  2. Ruth read at the Feast of Weeks
  3. Lamentations of Jeremiah read at the anniversary of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem
  4. Ecclesiastes read at the Feast of Tabernacles
  5. Esther read at the Feast of Purim

Structure

Our western minds would prefer a straightforward outline, some form of organization. Like other wisdom literature, The Song of Songs cannot be confined to a simple structure – but it’s themes are clear if we have the language for it.

Think of social media. It’s a disaster of language with its abbreviations and hashtags – idk – if you don’t have the mindset for it, or if you show a tweet to your grandparents, they may not have any idea what it says.

When we read a piece of literature, our western minds are looking for “home plate,” but in this portion of Biblical literature it’s hard to organize. Are there two characters or three; is it a drama, or play, or song?

There are no simple answers to this.

The Jewish tradition teaches, to this day, that this book is a song of God’s love for His people.

Others would say no, this is more than this allegorical text of God’s love – but as we noted from our study of Proverbs, you can’t put a clean structure on it the way our western minds want to.

Meaning and Message

Proverbs is a list of principles that are eternally true. It’s witticisms that are easily remembered.

Ecclesiastes is the stuff of life, how you manage life and its absurdity, utility, and vanity. And, as we learned last week, enjoy the good stuff God’s given you.

Song of Songs is a heightened sexual book. It makes the phrase, “Scripture is sufficient for all life and godliness,” come to mind and that’s a good thing to remember.

“One reason for the rise of the allegorical interpretation of the Song is that many felt that a simple love song had no place in the Bible and that, unless it was allegorized, no theological message could be found in it. This concern, however, is misguided. Song of Songs conveys important meaning if left as it is, a love song, and not turned into something it is not.” (1)

First, The Bible is meant to serve as a guide in every aspect of life.

Second, although the Song teaches by example and not by decree, its message is clear: the love the couple shared was exclusive and binding (Song of Songs 7:10).

Third, the Song celebrates the love between man and woman as something that is valid and beautiful, even in a fallen and sinful world.

Fourth, The Song is unlike its ancient Near Eastern counterparts in one significant respect: it does not turn sexuality into a sacred ritual.

“In this way the Bible avoids the two pitfalls of human religion. It neither condemns sexual love as innately evil and dangerous (as do legalistic cults) nor elevates it to the status of religious act (as do sensual cults and religions).

Song of Solomon, therefore, should be taken as it stands. It is a song of love and an affirmation of the value of the bond between a man and a woman. In this way it adds greatly to our appreciation of God’s creation.” (2)

 

“The purpose of the book is to extol human love and marriage…”

(One Possible) Outline

This is a challenging book to outline and I would consider this outline to be in “pencil.”

I.Courtship(1:2–3:5)
II.Wedding(3:6–5:1)
III. Maturing in Marriage(5:2–8:4).
IV.The Song concludes with a climactic statement about the nature of love(8:5–7) and an
V. Epilogue explaining how the love of the couple in the Song began (8:8–14)

Some scholars say the book involves three characters, not two. Those three are the beloved, her shepherd-lover, and Solomon who wooed her away from the shepherd. No problem exists, however, with Solomon also being a shepherd (the two-character view) since he owned many flocks (Ecclesiastes 2:7).

A careful study observing themes, characters, language (beloved, maiden, lover, daughters of Jerusalem), and figures of speech such as:
-Your love is better than wine
-Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, i.e., perfumes noted several times
-The lover’s cheeks, eyes, teeth, lips, neck… with the focus on one’s facial feature with which all agree, the physical attraction you have toward your husband / wife
-Garden is easily missed. 8 times in the Song of Solomon, 14 times in Genesis NB in Genesis, 13 of the 14 occurrences are in chapters 2-3 (Eden); the last one in Genesis 13:10 when the author explains that love goes back to the garden.

  • Is God concerned for your salvation?
  • Is God concerned for your sanctification?
  • Is God concerned that you / I worship Him in Spirit and in truth?
  • Is God concerned for our finances?
  • Is God concerned about our marriage, children, family?
  • Is God concerned about __________?

The answer to all is a resounding YES.

Then why, pray tell, would we think that God is not concerned about our sexually intimate life?

Do you think that the Sovereign Sustainer of the universe is somehow unaware, disinterested, or even appalled at our design for intimacy?

It’s from Him!

Genesis 2:21–25:
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,“ This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

In a wedding ceremony, why does the father give the bride away? That’s not an idea we came up with in a western marriage book or from an ancient tradition, it’s because God gave Eve away. It’s a reenactment of the first wedding.

In Closing

How Solomon describes his wife-to-be: Song of Solomon 4:1-7

His focus is mainly on her physical attributes and he expresses admiration for her overall beauty.

Were you attracted to your husband or wife when you first started hanging out? I hope you were. That’s natural, it’s not bad – don’t let the world teach you theology!

Will that attraction sustain a marriage relationship? Nope. That’s part of why pornography is so rampant. Because it’s insatiable.

A satiated sexual intimacy requires God’s lens, not the world’s lens.

Adam’s summary conclusion about Eve is that she is altogether beautiful.

How the bride describes her husband-to-be: Song of Solomon 5:10-16

Her focus is also on physical attributes, but it’s nuanced. She calls him wholly desirable, but here’s what strikes me, the woman talks about her husband as her friend. He’s her friend. She’s his friend.

When I encourage young couples I just remind them, at the end of the day, if I’m going home to do nothing – I want to be with Cindy. She’s my friend.

The cryptic line I want to look at in conclusion, the last strophe of a longer verse, is:

“Eat, friends. Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.”

This is God’s design. It’s a beautiful thing.

Done in God’s way, sexuality is not prohibitive – it’s a wonderful gift.

 

Resources:

  1. Dr. Duane Garrett, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, Meaning and Message.
  2. Duane A. Garrett, “The Poetic and Wisdom Books,”in Holman Concise Bible Commentary, ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 254–255.
  3. Jack S. Deere, “Song of Songs,”in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1008–1010.
  4. Not referenced in the notes, but suggested in the episode: Sexual Intimacy in Marriage
Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.



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