This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.
A Lyrical Poem
The Song of Solomon 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” (Song 2:7; cf. Song 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” (Song 6:3; cf. Song 2:16; 7:10).
This Song tells us what God values: a loving marriage, fidelity to another, protection of another, and the valuing of another. . .
What God Values
Through the centuries various allegorical interpretations of the Song of Solomon 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.
The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.
And yet, because the Song is found in the Bible, we must read it alongside the other Wisdom Literature (Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes) and in light of the 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).
This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.
Genesis • Exodus • Leviticus • Numbers • Deuteronomy • Joshua • Judges • Ruth • 1–2 Samuel • 1–2 Kings • 1–2 Chronicles • Ezra • Nehemiah • Esther • Job • Psalms • Proverbs • Ecclesiastes • Song of Solomon • Isaiah • Jeremiah • Lamentations • Ezekiel • Daniel • Hosea • Joel • Amos • Obadiah • Jonah • Micah • Nahum • Habbakuk • Zephaniah • Haggai • Zechariah • Malachi
Matthew • Mark • Luke • John • Acts • Romans • 1 Corinthians • 2 Corinthians • Galatians • Ephesians • Philippians • Colossians • 1 Thessalonians • 2 Thessalonians • 1 Timothy • 2 Timothy • Titus • Philemon • Hebrews • James • 1 Peter • 2 Peter • 1–3 John • Jude • Revelation
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