Basic Introductions: The Song of Solomon
[In an ongoing effort to provide a jumping-on point for new readers, over the next few weeks on Fridays I’m going to write a series of posts entitled “Basic Introductions.” Each post will focus on a seldom explored realm of Christianity that we will focus on regularly here at Pursuing Glory.]
This post also builds off a previous “Basic Introductions” post called “Basic Introductions: The Bridal Paradigm.” I would encourage new readers who are unfamiliar with the Bridal Paradigm to read that post, and then return to this post.
In my experience, the Song of Solomon is probably one of the most neglected books in the entire Bible. The reason why is different for different groups of people. For some the book is overflowing with symbolism, which makes interpretation and application difficult. For others who can see through the symbolism, the book seems so erotic that the idea that God could have ever inspired it is difficult. Between these two reasons are a host of smaller reasons but the bottom line is that the Song of Solomon is a neglected book.
This is tragic because as Paul wrote, “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching” the church (2 Timothy 3:16). That includes this poetic, romantic, passionate book. The question that we have to deal with is how does God use the truths in this book to build up other believers. I would like to suggest two ways that this book has been used historically and argue that both of them are appropriate as long as we don’t ignore the other.
First, this book is a love song that describes a literal, holy relationship between Solomon and the Shulamite (see Song of Solomon 6:13). Though the book is filled with symbols that are difficult to interpret, it’s easy to see a very passionate but holy romance blossom between Solomon and the object of his affection. Because this book is part of the Bible we can use it as an endorsement for pure romance that occurs in the confines of courtship and marriage. God is not an enemy of either and He demonstrates that by giving us this Song. This view of the Song is called the natural interpretation. Insight from reading the song this way has helped many pursue romance in purity and has helped cultivate deeper intimacy in marriage.
The second view of the book, called the spiritual interpretation, looks at the book from the perspective of the Bridal Paradigm. More people have held this view through church history than any other view. In this approach, the Song is an allegory of Christ’s pursuit of the Church. This approach makes sense when you understand that Paul would look back at the relationship of Adam and Eve and see Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:28-32). The benefit of this approach is we gain an understanding of God’s deep heart of love for us. If we believe the truths that can be mined here, we begin to see God and ourselves in a totally different light. We are changed when we see how much God loves us and begin to love Him back in a new way.
It’s only as we read this book both ways that we gain insight into what God intended the book for. He intended it as a natural love story. And God uses natural love stories to speak volumes about the nature of Christ’s love for His Church. To only read it one way or the other weakens the whole book. Now, the book is in your court. What will you do with this book of the Bible God has given you for the building up of the church?
Help Other Readers Out (Leave a comment about the following questions below):
- How do you read the Song of Solomon?
- How does reading the Song of Solomon promote holy romance couples?
- Has reading the Song of Solomon ever changed your view of intimacy with God? Describe it.
Some Helpful Books on the Topic
The Song of Songs-Watchman Nee provides an excellent resource that examines the Song of Solomon verse by verse. I don’t always agree with everything Nee sees in the book as symbolic, but he goes into more depth than just about anyone else. If you’re looking for a deep resource on understanding the book as a revelation of Christ’s love for His Bride, this is a good start.
The NAC: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs-This commentary provides an excellent look at the Song of Solomon from the perspective of a love song. It’s written by one of themore outstanding Old Testament Scholars of our day. If you want to develop some depth in understanding the natural interpretation of the Song, this is a good place to start.
The Song of Solomon-While this isn’t a book, this CD/MP3 series is well worth any time or money spent on it. Mike is the foremost expert on the Song of Solomon as an allegory for Christ’s love in our generation. I’ve been incredibly helped by Mike in many areas, but this is the place where he really shines. His 24 session teaching on the book can be found here.
Other Posts In the “Basic Introduction” Series: