Basic Introductions: Characters and Plot in 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 previous “Basic Introductions” posts called “Basic Introductions: The Bridal Paradigm” and “Basic Introductions: The Song of Solomon.” I would encourage new readers who are unfamiliar with the Bridal Paradigm or the Song of Solomon to read those posts, and then return to this post.
In our last Basic Introductions post, we looked at the necessity of understanding the Song of Solomon as a literal love story and as an allegory describing Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church. While both views are important and necessary, I want to focus on the spiritual interpretation because I believe it will deeply benefit those who begin see God as a Pursuer of Love. Because this interpretation has largely been abandoned in the last hundred years, I want to introduce a couple of key principles that will help people new to the Song understand enough to gain revelation.
First, it’s important to understand the basic characters in the Song:
Solomon– Solomon represents Christ as revealed as the Bridegroom. If you watch closely throughout the Song, Solomon will actually manifest different aspects of the nature of God. In Chapter 1, He’s a Shepherd, In Chapter 2 He’s a conquering God, in Chapter 3 He’s the safe Savior, etc. Wherever you see Solomon, see Jesus pursuing His Bride. What Solomon says and does in the book you can generally interpret as something Christ says or does to us.
Shulamite- The Shulamite is the woman of the Song. She’s only called the Shulamite one place in the entire book (Song of Solomon 6:13) but she’s never given a name or any other identifying information. She represents the Bride of Christ, the Church, who begins the song dark but lovely (Song of Solmon 1:5) but ends the song coming out of the wilderness victoriously leaning on the one she loves (Song of Solomon 8:5). What the Shulamite says and does throughout the book you can generally interpret as something we do in our journey to love Christ more.
Daughters of Jerusalem- This group of women appear periodically through the book (Song of Solomon 1:5, 2:7, 5:8, etc.) and represent spiritually immature believers who truly love Jesus. They don’t understand the situations that the Shulamite finds herself in, so she is constantly having to explain herself. However, they look into the relationship with the curiosity of one who truly loves Jesus.
Watchmen- Two times the watchmen appear in the Song (Song of Solomon 3:3, 5:7). Both times they represent those who have authority and oversight in the Kingdom of God. Think of them as elders, older brothers, those further along the journey. They should be the ones helping the Shulamite, however, sometimes her encounters with them are mixed.
Next, it’s important to understand some basic structure of the Song. If you don’t understand the general timeline, the story get’s very complicated. What follows is a simple sketch that I would encourage you to flesh out with more study.
Song of Solomon 1- The Shulamite begins her journey realizing sinful but beautiful to Jesus. Solomon only sees her pursuit and encourages her by affirmation.
Song of Solomon 2- The Shulamite is overwhelmed by Jesus’ love. He comes and invites her to spiritual adventure on the mountains but she declines Him out of fear.
Song of Solomon 3- Jesus leaves, but the Shulamite realizes her mistake in refusing Him. She searches for Him and when she finds Him, he reveals to her His attention to her safety.
Song of Solomon 4- The Shulamite decides to join Jesus on the mountains. Jesus, seeing her sincerity, praises her character. She ends the chapter asking for Him to make her His alone.
Song of Solomon 5- Jesus comes again to invite her with Him. This time she obeys but still cannot find Him. In His absence she is abused but still loves Him. When asked why, she praises Him to the daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Solomon 6- The daughters desire to find Jesus too and the Shulamite finds Him. Jesus praises her in a way that reveals her growth through these tests.
Song of Solomon 7- This chapter continues Jesus’ praise of the Shulamite. She desires to go see the harvest (think souls), which is the place she actually gives Him her love.
Song of Solomon 8- The Shulamite is mature in love, leaning on Jesus. She asks Him to guard her heart and her actions and to come back quickly to her.
When you read the Song of Solomon, you gain an incredible insight into the heart of Christ. We begin to see Christ as a pursuer of a Bride, the Church, who will not be turned away by her sin or distraction. His love proves to be so transformational that this Bride begins to love Christ in the same way He loves her. By taking these truths and applying them in our lives we mature and begin to love God the same way He loves us. I encourage you to crack open Song of Solomon, read the book, and pray some of the truths you find there back to God. It will change you.
Some Helpful Books on the Topic
The Bride- The Bride is incredibly helpful from the standpoint of understanding the story that lies behind the Song of Solomon. It is fictional, but will help those new to the Song of Solomon understand much of the symbolism that they will find in the Song.
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. You can also get his material for free at Mikebickle.org.
The Song of Solomon-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.
Other Posts In the “Basic Introduction” Series: