I hope everyone is having a wonderful and safe Fourth of July weekend. Welcome to our study of “Song of Solomon”, “Song of Songs” or “Canticles”!
The date of writing for this book is likely during Solomon’s reign (appx 970 – 930 BC). Its theme is a celebration of love between a man and woman, which is akin to God’s love for His people. Interpretations of the book vary widely . . .
- some say its a literal love poem about Solomon and his bride
- others believe a love triangle is being described in which a shepherd figure is the true lover and wins the woman’s hand over against the advances of Solomon
- still others think it is an anthology of unrelated love poems (with no overall story to tell)
- and yet others believe the literature is an allegory depicting God’s love for Israel or Christ’s love for the church (His bride)
On its face, Song of Songs is a beautiful and striking statement about human love. It suggests that all life (including human sexuality) is holy because God has created it. There is in the song a celebration of life simply for its own beauty and experience. Because of its occasional eroticism, many attempt to over-spiritualize its lyrics. One also notices that the book conveys a very different atmosphere from most modern love songs:
- The explicit lyrics never become dirty.
- The love expressed is tender, natural and filled with delight.
- You sense no shame or guilt.
- You feel that God is with the two lovers as they love. The lovers act as equals; both man and woman take the initiative in praising each other. But they show caution and dignity in their love. And they recognize the dangerously explosive side of love (Song of Songs 8:6).
Hints to keep in mind when studying
Since love songs are always popular, we modern readers have great expectations when approaching this book. There are two main problems that may hinder your study if you are not aware:
(1) Song of Solomon is hard to follow.
One part doesn’t seem connected to the next. It’s like a collection of snapshots of a couple in love – but the photos are not in order. Put together in one photo album you can envision their larger experience. Keep bringing back your mind to the totality (1) of the theme of the book and (2) the experience of these two people.
(2) The poetic imagery of the text sound strange to modern readers because most of the comparisons aren’t visual or literal – they are emotional.
For example,“your two breasts are like two fawns” (chapter 4 verse 5). He isn’t saying that her breasts look like deer. He is saying that they bring out the same tender feelings baby deer do. When you read strange-sounding metaphors, don’t ask, “what did these things (myrrh, a flock of sheep, etc.) look like?” but ask, “what did the lovers feel when they thought of them?”