Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Song of Songs - Part 1


Song of Songs



The book is perhaps the most difficult and mysterious book in the entire Bible.  One expositor noted, “There is no book of Scripture on which more commentaries have been written and more diversities of opinion expressed than this short poem of eight chapters”. 


Different Views


Allegory:  Jewish tradition, the Talmud, and the Targum, viewed the book as an allegorical picture of the love of God for Israel. Following the days of the apostles, various “Church leaders”, such as Origen, Jerome and Augustine, viewed the book as an allegory of Christ’s love for His bride, the church.  Origen, for example, wrote that the beloved’s reference to her being dark (1:5-6)means the church is ugly with sin, but that her loveliness (1:5) refers to spiritual beauty after conversion.  Others said the cooing of the doves (2:12) speaks of the preaching of the apostles, and some have suggested that 5:1 refers to the Lord’s Supper. These examples show that the allegorical approach is very subjective with no way to verify that any of the interpretations are correct.  This Song nowhere gives an interpreter the suggestion that it is should be understood as an allegory.


Extended Type:  Some view the book as an extended type, with Solomon typifying Christ and the beloved being a type of the church.  This differs from the allegorical approach in that the typical view sees Solomon as a historical person and does not seek to discover a mystical meaning for every detail in the book.  However, the Scriptures give no indication that various aspects of Solomon’s life are divinely intended types of Christ. 


Literal View:  Solomon and a Shulammite:  Song of Songs 1:1 attributes the authorship of this book of Solomon.  Six other verses in the book refer to him by name (1:5; 3:7,9,11; 8:11-12).  In this view there are only two main characters, Solomon and the Shulammite, and this book records the marriage of Solomon with a shepherd maiden of Northern Palestine, by whose beauty and nobility the great king had been captivated.  In this view, some see Solomon disguising himself as a Shepherd to woo this young woman, that this might have been his first marriage, which would seem to conflict with (6:8), or that Solomon finally learned to love a woman with a depth of affection which transcended purely physical attraction. 


Literal View:  The Three Character View:  Also known as “The Shepherd-Lover” view, sees this book as describing the efforts of Solomon to woo a country Shepherd girl from Shunem who is in love with a Shepherd.  Thus Solomon is more of the villain in the story, rather than the hero.  Thus the theme of the book is the contrast between “fidelity which is inspired by true love and the allurements of flattered vanity”.  Here are the following evidences for this view:  1.  The lover is depicted as a shepherd (1:7,8).  2. “In 6:8-9 of the Song, as Solomon woos the Shulammite, he says that she is better than the sixty queens and eighty concubines that he already has available to him.  “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one..”  And yet Solomon would go on to have 860 more wives and concubines!” (Berry Kercheville, Self-Study Guide, p. 2).  3.  Solomon is hardly a good example of marital love, in fact, the Bible condemns his multiple marriages (Nehemiah 13:26-27).  In addition, 1 Kings 11:1 makes it very clear that Solomon“loved many foreign women” and he “held fast to these in love” (11:2), that is, it cannot be argued that all these marriages were nothing more than political alliances and that the women really never meant anything to him.    



Why Study This Book?


“What is the basis for true happiness in a marriage?  What kind of attitude should a couple have toward the sexual relationship? How can a girl know if she is marrying the right man and if she will be a good wife?  How can a boy know the answer to similar questions?  The Song depicts courting love by contrasting true love with sensuous love.  For those already married, the Song teaches what should be the foundation of marriage.  The Song can teach a couple to properly base their marriage on true love and not sensuous love with the wisdom to know the difference.  The book clearly demonstrates  that many women cannot satisfy a man if the marriage is built on the wrong foundation.  On the other hand, only one wife can easily captivate her husband all of her life if the marriage follows God’s laws” (Kercheville pp. 1-2).  One writer noted, “I believe that Solomon was infatuated with the girl’s charm and beauty, but that she was in love with a shepherd lad.  In the struggle within her own heart, true love triumphs. When Solomon unwittingly revealed the sensual nature of his infatuation (7:7-9), the die was cast:  her mind was completely determined to return to the shepherd.  The poem is God’s commendation of true love and His condemnation of Solomon’s polygamy” (Bible Class Notes, Hailey, p. 24). 



Chapter One


1:1  “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s”:  As Israel’s third king, Solomon ruled from 971 to 931 B.C.  The Bible says he wrote 3000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32).  This is one song out of many songs; the reader therefore is not to view the work as a collection of songs but rather as one unified song.  The words “Song of Songs” is a superlative title and may mean that this is the best of Solomon’s 1,005 songs.


The Overall Story


The story is mainly from the standpoint of the Shulammite maiden and runs something like this.  There lived at Shunem a humble family consisting two or more sons and a younger daughter (1:6).  The family seems to have had a double occupation, besides shepherding flocks they had the care of certain vineyards, which they may have owned or held simply as tenants (8:10-12). During the course of her duties in caring for the young of the flock the maiden became acquainted with a shepherd youth.  Mutual vows of fidelity appear to have been exchanged.  At some point the maiden comes upon King Solomon with his retinue returning from an excursion to his northern territories where he possessed gardens and vineyards.  The king’s observant eye lights upon the damsel and, struck by her unusual beauty, determines to make her a member of his already large harem.  It is probable that she returned to flee, but by royal command is seized and committed to the care of the court ladies, then conveyed to a royal residence or to the king’s pavilion at a nearby encampment.  At some point in the story the scene changes from the country to Jerusalem.  Solomon promises the Shulammite gifts of jewelry, advancement of station, however, her resolve is unshaken.  All the king’s gifts and all the luxuries of court life mean nothing to the pure soul of this country maid.  Her thoughts constantly dwell upon her absent beloved.  Impressed by her virtue, Solomon allows her to return home, and joyfully she sends word to her beloved to come and escort her there. 


1:2-4  This text, as it describes the feelings of the Shulammite, is a good test of the quality of love.  1.  What has to take place in a marriage for a wife to desire her husband’s kisses?  2.  Notice that the man should be the initiator, “May he kiss me”, and he should demonstrate leadership even in the area of affection.  3.  A man’s love is described as “better than wine”.  That is, his affection is more desirable than any celebration.  His affection is refreshing, exhilarating, and a great source of joy.  “Even the wines of Solomon cannot make her forget her beloved” (Kidwell p. 318).   4.  She says, “Your name is like purified oil”:  A person’s name represented his character or reputation, which means that his character was pleasing and attractive, in fact, for this reason, many were attracted to him.  Warning:  If your friends do not like the person you are dating that is a good indication that something might be wrong.   It is very important that your friends respect the person you are dating or planning to marry.  One is in love if they are attracted by the personality and character of the person they are dating  (Ecclesiastes 7:1).  Someone has called this, “the smell of the heart”.  5.  “Draw me after you and let us run together!”  When you are in love, you treasure the moments alone.  You cannot wait to be together, away from other people.  When his or her companionship is more desirable than the company of all others, you are in love. 


Are You In Love?


I find my spouse’s inward spirit, attitudes, and character more attractive than his or her outward appearance, including clothes, cosmetics, and physical body. I would rather be alone with my spouse than enjoy the company of anyone else on earth.


1:4  “The king has brought me into his chambers”:  Some see in 6:11-12  that she had been brought into the king’s chambers by force however even though she is in the king’s chambers, her heart is with someone else.  1:4  “We will rejoice in you and be glad”:  Elsewhere this group is described as the “daughter of Jerusalem” (1:5; 3:10; 5:8,16).  Some view them as female wedding guests, ladies of the royal court, and concubines in the harem, or female inhabitants of Jerusalem.  1:5-6  “I am black but lovely…. Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, for the sun has burned me”:  The beloved’s suntanned appearance revealed that she worked in the fields, she knew that people stared at her, yet she also knew she was beautiful.  1.  She knew she was beautiful even though she did not look like everyone else.  The daughters of Jerusalem were probably raised in the courts, not the fields. They were accustomed to elaborate surroundings, expensive clothing and jewelry, and soft skin that was unexposed to the rays of the sun.  They had been sheltered and protected, but her life has been different.   The “tents of Kedar” (Genesis 25:13) were covered with black goat’s hair, like the Bedouins still used today.  We should note that while the Shulammite feels some pressure of being like these other women, she does not give in to their way of thinking.  She sees her own value and is comfortable with being her own person.  She recognizes her limitations, but also knows her strengths.  In addition, she realizes that many things are beautiful, like the tents of the nomads.    References to her mother are found in 3:4; 6:9; and 8:1-2.  Since her father is never mentioned, many assume that he had died.  This would explain why her brothers are telling her what to do.  They had kept her in the fields during the early years of her life.  The statement, “I have not taken care of my own vineyard” is seen as a reference to her own physical appearance, that is, she did not have time or opportunities to pamper herself.  1:7  “Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where do you pasture your flock?”:  “She wants to know where he rests his flock so that she can go straight to him without embarrassing herself by wandering from flock to flock seeking him.  Under such conditions the other shepherds would consider her a harlot.  In the dating relationship young people often play games with each other.  If the woman seems to be chasing too much, the man withdraws from  her and will not make himself as available.  The woman will do the same if it seems that the man is chasing too much” (Kercheville p. 6).  A couple of questions:  1.  Why is it important to a woman to know the whereabouts of her husband?  2.  What does the daydreaming of the Shulammite tell us about some of the important needs we should provide for our wives?


Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017