The Bible’s Most Misunderstood Book – And Its Most Sensual
Introduction: Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is the Bible’s Pre-Marital Counseling Course. I wish I had realized this much earlier in my ministry, because I would have based pre-marital counseling around it. It is shockingly graphic. Solomon veiled his sensuality in figurative language, and earlier generations simply used it as an analogy for Christ’s love for His bride, the church. But Song of Songs is the Bible’s definitive book on love, sex, and marriage, and it is filled with sexually colorful images. I would use the word “erotic” but that term has negative connotations. I would use the word “steamy,” but that doesn’t sound right either. Yet Song of Songs is highly sensual in a sanctified and God-blessed way. Since God invented love, sex, and marriage, He intends His people to enjoy the blessings He invented; and Song of Songs leaves no doubt about that. No generation has more needed a Song-of-Solomon view of love and sex and marriage.
Background: Solomon wrote 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32), but this is the best—the song of songs. Three speakers assume roles in this epic poem, as if in a play: Solomon; the bride; and their friends. It helps to have a modern Bible that identifies the speakers. The story involves Solomon, who owned vineyards in the Galilee (8:11), and a peasant girl from Shulam (6:13), who was working among the vines and was bullied by her brothers (1:6). When Solomon came into the area to check on his flocks (1:7) he saw the girl in the vines and it was love at first sight.
The Couple Falls in Love: 1:1 – 2:7
The book opens with the Shulammite longing to be kissed by the handsome king (1:2); and he is smitten with her, declaring her is as beautiful as one of Pharaoh’s mares, which, in those days, was high praise (1:9). But they are cautioned not to become physically intimate until the time is right, that is, until they are married (2:7).
The Couple is Engaged: 2:8 – 3:5
With great anticipation, the Shulammite looks forward to the next visit from Solomon and can hardly believe it when he shows up (2:8). He says, “Come with me… Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me” (2:10, 13). She accepts his proposal, exclaiming, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (2:16). She can hardly wait for her wedding day and she badly misses her beloved when he is not near her (3:1-4); but again, the couple is cautioned against yielding to the temptation of premarital sex (3:5).
The Royal Wedding: 3:6-10
The day final dawns when Solomon comes for her in a carriage escorted by 60 warriors (3:7). It is “the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced” (3:10).
The Honeymoon: 4:1 – 5:1
This is where the book gets steamy (in a sanctified sense). The groom describes his wife’s body in exquisite detail (4:1-7), and he calls her his “bride” five times (4:9-15). The bride invites her groom to “come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” He does. He tells us, “I have come into my garden, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk” (5:1). Their friends encourage them to drink they fill of love (5:1). Notice how explicit the Scriptures are, and yet how discreet. Throughout this honeymoon passage, the language is very graphic yet veiled in figurative terms that appropriately covey the beauty of the intimacy of marriage without being at all vulgar or course.
The Falling Out: 5:2 – 6:3
After the honeymoon, the couple has a falling out. One night, Solomon wants to make merry with his wife, but she is too tired (5:2-3). He storms out, apparently headed to the royal harem. The bride chases after him but can’t find him, and, to make matters worse, she is mugged in the nocturnal streets of Jerusalem (5:6-7). That doesn’t deter her, and she gives a rather explicit physical description of his body to her friends, asking them to watch for him (6:10-16). She fears her husband has “gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens and gather lilies,” and yet she knows their marriage must be kept sexually exclusive (6:3).
They Make Up—and How! 6:4 – 8:4
The husband quickly realizes his mistake he returns to her, confessing she is “my dove, my perfect one… unique.” The friends beg the Shulammite to return to him (6:13), and the husband launches into another graphic description of her body, lingering on every part of her form, from her feet to her hair (7:1-5). He longs to enjoy her pleasures again (7:8-9). She reciprocates his feelings (7:9-10), and they go on a second honeymoon to the countryside villages (7:11) where they resume their passionate partnership (8:1-3). Their love is so stirring that they end with another warning to readers about yielding to the temptation of premarital sex (8:4).
Conclusion: 8:5 – 14
The final paragraphs of the book summarize the sweep of their relationship from the opening meeting to the concluding lesson. The couple met in Solomon’s vineyard in Baal Hamon, and the overriding teaching of the book is summed up in verse 7, the key verse of Song of Songs: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” Song of Solomon pictures God’s ideal for marriage—an exclusive marital relationship of deep friendship; emotional bonding; physical pleasure; and enduring permanence. Misunderstandings and conflicts may occur, but when a couple is committed to God’s perfect plan for marriage and life, nothing can quench the love God gives them, one for the other. In a good marriage, a couple is always wanting to get away to enjoy each other’s intimacy, saying, as we read in the last verse of the book: “Come away, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the spice-laden mountains” (8:14).
PS – Earlier generations viewed this book primarily as an analogy for Yahweh’s love for His bride, Israel; or Christ’s love for HIs bride, the Church. There are certainly lessons there, but the primary purpose of Song of Songs is to covey the pleasure God intends to bestow through His invention of love, marriage, and sex.