Song of Songs, as its name shows, is the best of love songs. It is a poetic portrayal of the romantic relationship between a young man and a young woman. As one of the most intriguing books of the Bible, it is a celebration of sexual love—and marital fidelity—between a woman and a man. The song is sexually provocative and yet spiritually pure. As a part of Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the Song instructs how God’s covenant, which commands sexual purity, provides just the right framework (marriage) within which his people may properly enjoy the gift of sexual intimacy (cf. Gen. 2:23–24). God’s people honor him and commend him to the world when they demonstrate with their lives that obedience in such matters brings genuine delight. The song also reveals how marriage is a gift of God, and is to be founded on loyalty and commitment (see Gen. 2:24, “hold fast”), which allows delight to flourish. As such, it is a fitting image for God’s relationship with his people; in both the Old Testament and the New Testament God is depicted as the husband of His people and Christ as the bridegroom.
Advice for reading SOS:
- Recognize that it comes to us basically in three voices:1) the woman,who plays the leading role throughout; 2) the man, who especially celebrates the beauty of, and his love for, the woman; 3) the woman’s companions, called the “daughters of Jerusalem” [NIV headings “Lover” (=the man); “Beloved” (=the woman); “Friends” (=the woman’s companions). ESV headings “She,” “He,” “Other”]. Other characters are present basically as helpful props (the shepherds, 1:7-8; the city watchmen, 3:3; 5:7; the woman’s brothers 1:6; 8:8-9).
- This poem should be read in light of Genesis 1 and 2.Following the command to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28), God plants a garden(2:8) in which he placed the man and woman he created in his own image. The narrative concludes with the words, “A man will… be united to his wife and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (2:24-25). The picture of sexual love in this book recaptures that scene, where the woman and the man take utter delight and pleasure in each other’s bodies and do so without shame. This is thus God’s way of recapturing both the fidelity and the unity and intimacy of marriage, which the enemy has tried to take away from God’s people by making it seem either titillating outside of marriage or something shameful and unmentionable within marriage. This inspired author has a different view.
a Opening words of mutual love and desire (1:2-2:7)
b Young man’s invitation to the young woman to join him in the countryside (2:8-17)
c Young woman’s nighttime search for the young man (3:1-5)
d CENTER: Their wedding day (3:6-5:1)
c’ Young woman’s nighttime search for the young man, and their speeches of admiration and longing (5:2-7:11)
b’ Young woman’s invitation to the young man to join her in the countryside (7:12-8:4)
a’ Closing words of mutual love and desire (8:5-14)
The author’s structuring designs reinforce and enhance the Song’s main themes. The most prominent of these themes is the idea of reciprocity, or mutuality of the lover’s love. The carefully designed alternation of speeches, initiations, and invitations underscore the mutuality of the lovers’ passion for one another. Such mutuality in romantic love is virtually unparalleled in ancient Near Eastern literature. In a world that was strongly patriarchal, where love lyrics often portrayed the man as a ‘bull’ and the woman as something less than his equal, the Song of Songs represents a surprisingly high view of woman and remarkable vision of the ideal of equality, complementarity, and delightful reciprocity in the marriage relationship.
This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:
|Monday: Psalms 106||☐||Thursday: Songs 3||☐|
|Tuesday: Songs 1||☐||Friday: Songs 4||☐|
|Wednesday: Songs 2||☐||Saturday: Songs 5||☐|