This article is part of the Why Study the Book? series.
Where to Begin
Confusion about love, sexuality, and marriage abound in our culture. We need the whole counsel of God to teach us. The Song of Solomon is God’s gift to the church for such a time as this. And yet, while the Song of Solomon has garnered more attention in recent years, it is still rarely taught, preached, or studied.
The hesitancy to study the Song is understandable. As a collection of poetic exclamations and exchanges between two lovers, the intimate nature of the material causes some to shy away. As Hebrew poetry, the Song employs parallelism with images and metaphors that are not always easy to grasp. And, some are not sure how to read the Song. Should this book be read primarily as an allegory of Christ’s love for the church? Or, should it be read as wisdom literature that teaches us about romantic love on a course to full sexual expression and cultivation in marriage?
If these are reservations and questions that you have about studying the Song of Solomon, consider that studying the book is the best way to address them. It is Scripture, “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Studying the Song as part of the whole counsel of God is good for our souls. As with any other portion of God’s Word, we neglect it to our peril.
Studying the Song of Solomon as part of the whole counsel of God is good for our souls.
If you venture out to study this short but challenging book, you will become a better student of Scripture. The Song is filled with rich Hebrew poetry: images, metaphors, and literary devices. Studying the book will force you to slow down and ponder the text, and you will be blessed as a result. Of the many insights to be gained from studying this book, there are four that seem especially important for our cultural moment.
A Deeper Appreciation of the Gospel
The Song of Solomon is part of the wisdom literature of the Bible. It gives us a godly perspective on the love between a man and a woman. As we encounter God’s ideal, our shortcomings, sins, and failures become evident. Our appreciation for the gospel grows even deeper as we see new ways that we need the grace of God in Christ. One need not delve into speculative allegory for the Song of Solomon to teach us about Christ’s love for the church. A primary purpose of marriage is to reveal the mystery of Christ’s love for his Bride, (Eph. 5:32). When the Song presents an ideal picture of love in marriage, we have a unique glimpse into the relationship between Christ and the church that leads us to love our Savior and his gospel all the more deeply.
A Woman’s Voice
The Song of Solomon is unique because the voice of the shepherdess is most prominent in this book. The body of the poem begins (1:2) with a bold declaration of her desire for her beloved, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” Likewise, the poem ends with her calling out to her beloved, “Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices” (8:14). From beginning to end, the reader encounters the woman’s perspective more than any other.
Christianity is, in certain quarters, stylized as marginalizing women, especially when it comes to sexuality. The fact that the majority of the Song is from the woman’s point of view is significant. Divine wisdom makes it plain that a healthy romantic relationship will be one in which the woman’s voice is cultivated, heard, and fully considered.
A Revisioning of Sexual Intimacy
Sexual imagery is powerful. Our culture abounds with images and paradigms that corrupt more than they instruct and wound more than they heal. So much of the culture’s presentation of sexuality is crass, lacking the beauty and mystery that should characterize the physical consummation and enduring love of marriage. A study of the Song of Solomon can revise our understanding and help us reclaim in holiness the sexual expression that God has created and declared good.
This inspired poem encourages husbands and wives are to share their adoration for each other with joy. The Song of Solomon contains sexual imagery in parts and is full of declarations of love and adoration. But the language is tasteful, poetic, and beautiful. It is ancient, divinely inspired language from another time. We need the fresh perspective on love and sexuality that the Song of Solomon offers.
A Realistic Perspective on Love
The Song of Solomon is not one sensuous scene after another. It is a series of love poems that capture the joys, insecurities, sorrows, and frustrations that accompany the journey of love. Through patient Bible study, the reader will follow the bride and her beloved on a journey from courtship to consummation and beyond. The voices of friends are there. The fears and insecurities are there. The temptations of the world are there. Most of all, God is there. He is superintending it all. The relationship captured in this poem is his Word for his children’s understanding of love, marriage, and sexuality. The love that they share is “the very flame of the Lord” (8:6).
While the Song of Solomon provides much-needed wisdom from God on love and marriage, this wisdom is not attainable apart from Christ. At times, the Song puts forward the ideal portrait of human love. We are spurred on in these times, but also humbled. And, we are called once again to live a life of “faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us” (Gal. 2:20).
Jesus is our beloved, and we are his bride.