Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon poses some interesting problems for some readers. There is much symbolism in the writing. Most have approached this Old Testament book through one of two filters:

1. The book is an illustrative book of marital love between Solomon and one of his wives, furnishing an exciting example of the joys of monogamous love for all of us who follow; or

2. The book is an allegory of the relationship between Christ and the church.

Those who find it impossible to think that God would ever write a book to excite the sexual passions of humans gravitate immediately to the second explanation. They also point to Ephesians 5: 25-33 that describes the relationship of Christ to the church as being like that of a groom to a bride. But certain problems exist with that explanation: (1) Christ had not come yet, and wouldn't be there for over 900 years, this book being dated during the time of Solomon and written by him; (2) it is difficult to totally discount the powerfully erotic language such as in 1: 2 and continued at high intensity throughout the book as being totally figurative (if to some degree it doesn't mean anything of what it says, why was it written?); (3) the Christ who said that those in heaven do not marry nor are they given in marriage (Matthew 22: 30)-why then would he be so interested in the details of physical relationships? Is heaven going to be a huge orgy of sex with Jesus? Since this is not mentioned anywhere else in scripture-and had not been mentioned anywhere prior to the time of the writing of the Song-why does it show up here?

It is the point of view taken here that the first explanation of the book is the more parsimonious. To say that this book, with its powerful erotic symbolism, is God's gift to married couples, seems consonant with passages such as Hebrews 13: 4 and I Corinthians 7: 1-7 which sanctify and purify sex within the context of marriage. Sex is not dirty or wrong; mankind makes it impure when he takes it outside the marriage relationship (also Hebrews 13: 4; I Corinthians 6: 9-11; Galatians 5: 16-26).

If this is the filter through which the reader is straining the Song of Songs, chapter one describes a virgin who had not yet known man. She is suntanned because she works in the family vineyard. Until chapter 4: 12, she is a garden locked; she has not been promiscuous. The allusions to sexual love until that point have been the fantasies of every young unmarried woman-of sexual fulfillment but under the right circumstances. In chapter 4: 16, the new bride invites Solomon to come into her garden with its special smells and tastes. In chapter 5: 1, Solomon has come into her garden-he has come into intimate circumstances.

In Eastern style, the book is not entirely sequential in time. In fact, if it had been entirely sequential, much of the power of its verbal imagery would have been lost. In chapter 8: 8, 9, the virginal situation of the bride (before marriage and its intimacies) is discussed. If she had been a door but rather had been a gate (allowed men to have her before she was married) her brothers would not have been protective of her (verse 9).

Chapter 2: 1-7 is the single girl's fantasy of what married love will be like. The imagery of what is to come is present not only in the sights but also the smells, tastes, and sounds of what fulfillment will be like when the right man is found. Verse seven's admonition is repeated in 3: 5 and 8: 4. "Disturb not love until it pleases" is an injunction to allow marital passion to go to its full extent and for both husband and wife to experience climax in lovemaking. "Let his left hand be under my head, and his right hand embrace me" (2: 6, 8: 3) was a favorite lovemaking position and the "embrace" could and has been translated "fondled" to describe a particular act of foreplay.

The husband should be one capable of providing necessities and protection (SS 3: 6-11). He should be well established economically, able to provide for a wife. He should be one who is steady emotionally. In the couple's first real argument, he leaves the house for a few minutes when he senses that it is time to do so (SS 5: 2 - 16). When her door is locked-when she refuses him sexually-he does not make arguments about his rights as a husband, but rather gives her some time along to deal with her own emotions. As soon as she realizes that these are the reactions of a true gentleman, she is no longer angry with him, but seeks to be with him and to share her sexual favors. She is incomplete without him, as he is also without her. They re-unite and taste of the joys of pure married life once again (chapter 7).

Even during the couple's first "fight," they fight fair. They do not name-call, except to prize each other's highest virtues. They do not make threats. They do not demand their rights. They communicate and strive to understand each other.

In this most frank of all Biblical writings about human sexuality, no particular technique of foreplay is criticized; rather, the sanctity and intactness of the marital relationship is prized. Only in the purity of marriage can such deep emotions be shared without danger of betrayal.

We hope that by visiting this website, you have been blessed.

Sid Womack, webmaster

[ Click on the doorway to return to the sermons index page