The Song of Songs is a lyrical poem that celebrates marital love. Through beautiful sensory scenes and sensual imagery, it provides us with God’s wisdom on sexual intimacy. For those unmarried, the exhortation is to wait until marriage to express and enjoy such intimacy—“I adjure you . . . that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (2:7; cf. 3:5; 8:4). For those married, it is an admonishment to grow in intimacy—“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (6:3; cf. 2:16; 7:10).
Through the centuries various allegorical interpretations of the Song of Songs have sought to identify the groom as Christ and the bride as the church (or, the groom as God and the bride as Israel). But we are on safest interpretive ground to recognize that this “poem” of idealized love (probably used in ceremonies related to marriage in Solomon’s time), while representing a marriage that God approves, is more a representation of the love he values than an extended metaphor of Christ and his church (or the soul of a believer). As such, this Song tells us what God values: a loving marriage (including its expressions of physical and emotional affection), fidelity to another, protection of another, and the valuing of another—who may even consider herself undeserving of such love. Thus, we gain insight into the loving nature of the God who inspired this Song, and are made able to love him in return although we constantly require his fidelity, protection, and undeserved love.
And yet, because the Song is found in the Bible, we must read it alongside the other Wisdom Literature (Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes). The primary target audience is the unmarried, specifically single young women, “the daughters of Jerusalem” who are the “virgins” mentioned in 1:3 or “the young women” in 2:2. They may be bridesmaids or women of marriageable age who desire marital intimacy, but are still unmarried. These girls are admonished to wait for sexual intimacy. Their bodies are saying, “yes.” Their instincts for intimacy are saying, “yes.” Their suitors might even be saying, “yes” (or at least, “please”). But they are admonished to say, “NO!” The wisdom message to these young women is to wait. Virgins, stay virgins… not forever, but for now. Wait for marriage. That’s wisdom. The Proverbs can be called “a book for boys.” There the word “son” is used over forty times; the word “daughter” is never used. “My son, stay away from that kind of girl, and don’t marry this kind of girl. But marry and save yourself for that girl—Proverbs 31:10-31.” That’s how the book ends, quite intentionally, for Proverbs is a book for boys. The Song is a book for girls. And its message to girls is, “patience then passion” or “uncompromised purity now; unquenchable passion then.” In Proverbs the young boy is told to take a cold shower; in the Song the young girl is told to take a cold shower.
We must read Song of Songs in light of the gospel—ultimate revelation of wisdom and love—our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is called both “the bridegroom” (John 3:29) and our “one husband” (2 Cor. 11:2). His kingdom and consummation is like “a wedding feast” (Matt. 22:2; cf. Rev. 19:9). Read in light of Jesus, the Song, like all Scripture, makes us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). That is, it reveals to us something of how the “mystery” of marriage (Eph. 5:32) relates to “the mystery of the gospel” itself (Eph. 6:19). “For marriage is itself an institution that displays the gospel of grace (Eph. 5:22–33).
*Adapted from ESV Gospel Transformation Bible & The Song of Solomon by Douglas O’Donnell.
This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:
|Monday: Song of Songs 6||☐||Thursday: Psalm 108||☐|
|Tuesday: Song of Songs 7||☐||Friday: Psalm 109||☐|
|Wednesday: Psalm 107||☐||Saturday: Psalm 110||☐|