The Song of Solomon is probably the most neglected book in the canon of Scripture. When was the last time you heard a sermon series covering these 8 chapters? It is not like this is some short document that can easily be overlooked. But it deals with a subject that makes many Christians uncomfortable – the graphic description of female beauty, romantic love and sexual passion. It also presents serious challenges regarding definitive interpretation. Some of these challenges I detail here:
– The Hebrew text contains many words and expressions that are fairly unique in Scripture and lack the cultural context and background that would help commentators.
– As wisdom poetry, the various love poems can be highly symbolic with a variety of possible references. For those accustomed to more logical and analytical or even historical biblical accounts, this can be frustrating.
– There is considerable controversy over the speaker of any particular segment. This creates obvious complexity and uncertainty.
– There are a wide variety of approaches taken to the book – see “Theories of Interpretation” below.
But God has included this book in the canon for our investigation and benefit. With all of the sexual confusion promulgated by our culture today and the profaning of God’s good gift of sex, it is important to study a biblical perspective on the topic. Certainly in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve experienced God’s good gift of a romantic relationship in idyllic fashion. This same sense of recovered idealistic romantic love and God-blessed sexual passion is portrayed in the various love songs penned here by Solomon. We do well to pause from our analytical studies to stop and smell the roses.
I would like to commend several commentators for their unique contribution to my studies:
– Daniel Akin
He provides very practical and insightful pointers for anybody looking for a godly perspective on courtship, on improving their marriage relationship, on communication overall. He quotes a number of helpful lists from other sources that make his book a good study manual for couples in various stages of their relationship. He also tries to keep the focus on the relationship between Christ and His Bride the Church without going overboard on some of the allegory and spiritualizing of other commentators.
– Duane Garrett and Paul House
They provide expertise in the Hebrew text and offer solid suggestions regarding the structure and form of each particular section. I have largely followed their guidance regarding how to divide the book into different segments.
– Richard Hess
His observations on individual words and verses are among the most comprehensive and germane.
ROMANTIC LOVE FINDS ITS ULTIMATE CONSUMMATION IN UNBRIDLED AND SATISFYING SEXUAL UNION AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME
2:16 “My beloved is mine; and I am his;”
6:3 “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,”
7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”
I. (1:1 – 3:5) LOVE LESSONS RELATED TO PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE
A. (1:1-4) ENVISIONING THE ECSTASY OF ROMANTIC LOVE –
THE INCOMPARABLE ECSTASY OF ROMANTIC LOVE MAKES IT DESIRABLE (Female)
1. (:2) The Longing for Romantic Love
2. (:3) The Attraction of Romantic Love
3. (:4a) The Satisfaction of Romantic Love
4. (:4b) The Rejoicing in Romantic Love
B. (1:5-6) SELF-CONSCIOUS INSECURITY –
WOMEN CAN STRUGGLE WITH INSECURITIES REGARDING PHYSICAL APPEARANCE – ESPECIALLY AS JUDGED BY OTHERS (Female)
1. (:5) Tension over Physical Appearance
2. (:6a) Tension over Unfavorable Judgments of Others
3. (:6b) Tension over Conflicting Priorities
C. (1:7-8) THE PURSUIT — SEEKING THE LOVER TO SPEND TIME TOGETHER —
BE AGGRESSIVE AND INTENTIONAL IN SPENDING TIME TOGETHER
1. (:7) Investigative Question – Where Can We Rendezvous at Noon? (Female – Addressing the Shepherd)
2. (:8) Intelligent Advice – Follow the Common Sense Trail (Chorus – Advising the Female)
D. (1:19 – 2:7) SONG OF MUTUAL ADMIRATION AND ATTRACTION —
RESPONSIVE EXCHANGES OF MUTUAL ADMIRATION ENHANCE THE PROGRESSION OF THE ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP
1. (1:9-11) First Stanza – The Admiration of the Groom for His Bride – Her Sensuality and Exquisite Beauty
2. (:12-14) Second Stanza – The Admiration of the Bride for Her Groom – The Fragrance of Love
3. (:15-17) Third Stanza – Mutual Praise of the Other’s Beauty
4. (2:1-3) Fourth Stanza – Uniquely Attractive
5. (2:4-6) Fifth Stanza – Progression of Display of Affection (Bride)
(2:7) Refrain – Don’t Rush Love (Bride)
E. (2:8-17) LONGING FOR THE CONSUMMATION OF ROMANTIC LOVE —
ANTICIPATION AND INVITATION TO ROMANTIC LOVE CLIMAXES IN PASSIONATE CONSUMMATION
1. (:8-9) Eager Anticipation – Here Comes My Stud (Female)
2. (:10-13) Urgent Invitation – Rendezvous with Me (Male)
3. (:14) Longing for Intimacy (Male)
4. (:15) Obstacles to Love Must be Eradicated – Blossoming Vineyards Must be Protected (Couple)
5. (:16-17) Satisfy Your Sexual Passion in the Context of Mutual Relationship (Female)
F. (3:1-5) HOLDING TIGHT —
THE BRIDE’S DREAM OF LOSING HER LOVER LEADS TO AN ANXIOUS SEARCH AND RECOVERY
1. (:1) Seeking and Not Finding in the Bedroom
2. (:2) Seeking and Not Finding in the City
3. (:3-4) Inquiring, Finding, Holding
4. (:5) Refrain – Don’t Rush Love
II. (3:6 – 5:1) LOVE LESSONS RELATED TO ENTERING INTO MARRIAGE
A. (3:6-11) IMPRESSIVE BRIDAL PROCESSION —
THE IDEALIZED BRIDAL PROCESSION WOWS EVERYONE WITH ITS DISPLAY OF ROYAL WEALTH AND POWER (Chorus)
1. (:6) Impressive Wedding Procession of the Bride
2. (:7-8 ) Impressive Wedding Procession of the Groom
3. (:9-10) Impressive Traveling Couch for King Solomon
4. (:11) Impressive Reception by the Daughters of Zion
B. (4:1-15) CELEBRATION OF BIBLICAL SEX —
PRAISE FOR YOUR BRIDE’S FLAWLESS BEAUTY OPENS THE DOOR FOR CELEBRATING THE SENSUALITY AND EXHILARATION OF INTIMACY
1. (:1-7) Foreplay for Biblical Sex (Intimacy) = Praise for Your Bride’s Flawless Beauty
(:8) Hinge – Summons to Join Him – Biblical Sex is by Invitation Only within the Context of Marriage
2. (:9-15) Biblical Sex is Sensuous, Exotic and Exhilarating
C. (4:16 – 5:1) THE CONSUMMATION OF SEXUAL UNION —
THE CELEBRATION OF ROMANTIC LOVE REACHES ITS CLIMAX IN PASSIONATE SEXUAL UNION
1. (4:16a) Stirring Up Sexual Passions (Male)
2. (4:16b) Inviting Sexual Union (Female)
3. (5:1a) Reveling in Sexual Satisfaction (Male)
4. (5:1b) Affirmation of Sexual Union (Chorus)
III. (5:2 – 8:4) LOVE LESSONS RELATED TO NURTURING THE MARRIAGE
A. (5:2 – 6:3) TENSION BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE SEX DRIVES —
SEXUAL COMPATIBILITY CAN BE A STRUGGLE – GIVEN THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN
1. (5:2-8) The Struggle for Sexual Compatibility
2. (5:9-16) The Sensuality of Attractiveness
3. (6:1-3) The Satisfaction of Renewed Sexual Compatibility
B. (6:4-10) RENEWED PRAISE FOR THE INCOMPARABLE BRIDE —
THE GROOM VIEWS HIS BRIDE AS INCOMPARABLE AND EXQUISITE
1. (:4) Incomparable
2. (:5-7) Exquisite
3. (:8-10) Incomparable
C. (6:11-13) BEAUTY AND PASSION IN THE NUT GROVE AND THE PALACE —
SEXUAL PASSION AND PHYSICAL BEAUTY ARE TRANSFORMATIVE AND ALLURING
1. (:11) Investigation of Intimate Relations (Female)
2. (:12) Transformation to State of Power and Passion (Female)
3. (:13a) Desire for a Public Viewing of the Bride’s Beauty (Chorus)
4. (:13b) Desire for a Private Viewing of His Bride’s Beauty (Male)
D. (7:1 – 8:4) NOURISHING OF MARRIAGE PASSION —
NOURISHING MARRIAGE PASSION REQUIRES INTENTIONALITY AND FEEDS ON MUTUAL PRAISE
1. (7:1-5) Praise for Her Captivating Beauty (Onlookers)
2. (7:6-10) Pursuit of Sexual Passion
3. (7:11-13) Planning a Romantic Getaway (Female)
4. (8:1-4) Pining for Freedom of Sexual Expression (Female)
IV. (8:5-14) CLIMAX AND EPILOGUE
A. (8:5-7) CLIMAX: CELEBRATION OF THE UNQUENCHABLE FLAME OF LOVE —
ONCE AWAKENED, ROMANTIC LOVE PROVES POWERFUL AND PRICELESS
1. (:5) Remembering the Awakening of Romantic Love
2. (:6-7) Celebrating the Power and Value of Romantic Love (Female)
B. (8:8-14) EPILOGUE: PAST REFLECTIONS AND FUTURE ANTICIPATION OF LOVE —
HEALTHY SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT PROTECTS VIRGINITY UNTIL YOU CAN ENJOY YOUR PARTNER IN A COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP
1. (:8-10) Importance of Guarding the Gift of Virginity
2. (:11-12) Incomparable Value of Exclusive Love Commitment– Recalling Her Initial Commitment
3. (:13-14) Intimacy of Sexual Union is an Unending Journey – Reveling in Their Ongoing Journey
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
To exult in the beauty of the romantic sexual relationship within marriage and learn practical lessons about the husband-wife relationship. We need to view marriage as a sign of God’s goodness and beauty at work.
To help sort out some of our cultural confusion surrounding love, sex and marriage and to prepare couples for courtship and marriage.
Donald Curtis: So the lessons for the body are to honor chastity and virtue, to enjoy the physical union in marriage, to be devoted exclusively to one another, and to be discrete.
Aaron Menikoff: The Song of Songs is an explicit but tasteful love song designed to point singles to patience, spouses to each other, and everyone to Christ. It is not an allegory nor is it a sex manual. It is the poetic description of a romance between a husband and a wife.
To demonstrate how commitment and intimacy are foundational in marriage.
To learn lessons about the relationship between Christ and His Bride the church by applying the lens of Ephesians 5:31-32 to the love poem.
To view the romantic relationship equally from both the man’s and woman’s perspective. There are not many Scriptural insights provided from the woman’s point of view.
Jay Harvey: 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.
Donald Curtis: It is enigmatic; it is about a subject that makes many Christians and Jews uncomfortable; it does not seem to be a religious book, and making sense out of it is hard and controversial.
John MacArthur: In contrast to the two distorted extremes of ascetic abstinence and lustful perversion outside of marriage, Solomon’s ancient love song exalts the purity of marital affection and romance. It parallels and enhances other portions of Scripture which portray God’s plan for marriage, including the beauty and sanctity of sexual intimacy between husband and wife.
ESV.org: The author has presented the Song of Solomon as a series of exchanges, mostly between the shepherdess and the shepherd, with the chorus-like “others” sprinkled in. These others usually pick up items from the lovers’ speeches and urge the two forward in love. There is also a refrain, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, . . . that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (2:7; 3:5; 8:4; variation in 5:8), spoken by the shepherdess. This is understood as her urging the other women not to push this love too fast.