The book of Song of Solomon is a unique and challenging book for the modern mind. The language sounds strange and forces the listener to wonder what the authors intent could have been.
If Psalms is worship-oriented, and Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are wisdom literature, what is the Song of Solomon? The book itself offers no help or suggestions which led some to conclude that it stands alone. One person suggested that perhaps it was meant to be “wedding day literature.”i In recent years, scholars have recognized the book as wisdom literature meant to express the joy of love and marriage; and since love is a basic human experience it seems only fitting.
Most would be shocked to realize just how popular and widely used this little book has been. One person commented that there have been more books, more sermons, more time spent with this book than all the other books of the Bible combinedii. In fact, Rabbi Aqiba (d. AD 135) summed it up by saying: “In the entire world there is nothing equal to the day on which the Song of Solomon was given to Israel. All the writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is most holy.”iii
The English, as well as the Hebrew, name of the book, comes from the opening words “sir hassirim.” It is a Hebrew idiom that expresses the idea, “Of all the songs, this is the song,” or “The song of songs, that is Solomon’s.”
There are basically 4 different ways of interpreting the book: 1) the typical Hebrew interpretation sees this as an allegory about God’s love for Israeliv, 2) the traditional Christian interpretation sees it as an allegory about Christ’s love the churchv, 3) the modern (19th century) interpretation that it is a love song expressing the joys of marital blissvi, and 4) the shepherd boy approachvii. Each approach has merit and reveals some wonderful truths to us yet, the modern approach of interpreting it as a love song expressing the joys of marital bliss is the most appropriate and faithful to the text itself.
My purpose has been to ignite a burning desire to read and study this wonderful, God-given book. It is especially relevant to our experiences, to marriage, and the excitement marriage and our spouse is meant to elicit in us. God never intended for us to experience shame and fear within our marriages (Gen. 2:24-25).
If you’re married, read it with your spouse. If you’re a parent take the time to read with your older children. Use the book as an opportunity to learn more about your marriage, and as an opportunity to teach your older children about God’s expectations concerning how they should express their desires. Just remember that sometimes the language and imagery of the book is easily seen. In fact, Jewish children were not allowed to read the book until after their bar-mitzvah or bat-mitzvah.
In our modern, sex-crazed, over-sexualized culture; the message of Song of Solomon needs to be heard. More importantly, God’s will for the fulfillment of our desires needs to be heard.
i. Smith, J. E. (1996). The wisdom literature and Psalms. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.
ii. Bland, D. (2002). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs (p. 401). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.
iii. Carr, G. L. (1984). Song of Solomon: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 19, p. 76). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
iv. This helps us understand why Rabbi Aqiba thought so highly of it.
v. An interesting idea that is an obvious carryover from the Hebrew interpretation.
vi. After much study and reflection, this is my personal view of the book.
vii. This interpretation says that the woman was in love with an unknown shepherd boy and that Solomon was the interloper, trying to win her heart.