Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Song of Songs

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine" (Song of Songs 1:1–2).

The Song of Songs, also called “Canticles” or the “Song of Solomon,” has a history of controversy. It is clearly a song about love between a man and a woman, including the physical dimension. Indeed, it celebrates the joys of the marital relationship. Because of this, there have been those through the centuries who have questioned whether or not it belongs in the Bible. It does not seem to be spiritual enough to be included in the canon of Scripture; indeed, in places it is downright embarrassing.

Early on Jewish expositors decided that what the Song was really talking about was the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. According to them the marriage of the Lord and His people was set forth in the book as an allegory. Early Christian expositors continued to look at the book allegorically, seeing it symbolically describing Christ’s love for His church, and her’s for Him. But while certainly the Song can be applied, in a general way, to the relationship of Christ to His bride, there is no reason to believe that such a symbolic application is the book’s primary focus.

One of the worst results of the influence of Greek and pagan philosophy on the early church was the idea that sexual love is always tainted with evil. Perpetual virginity came to be prized more than marriage. This represents a departure from the Bible, where virginity is a gift to be given away to the beloved on the wedding night. Many in the church came to believe that sex, even in marriage, is sinful, and should be endured only for the sake of having children. Naturally, a book like the Song of Songs which celebrates the joy of physical love had to be reinterpreted.

According to the Bible, however, the marital relationship in all of its aspects, including the physical, is a great gift of God. It is not to be despised but enjoyed. God did not create anything bad. Genesis 2 explicitly says that it was “not good” for the man to be without a wife. From the biblical perspective marriage is good and the act of marriage is good. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find a book in the Bible that celebrates this union, setting forth one of the benefits of God’s grace to us as His children.

The Song of Songs can help us have a healthy view of the goodness of romance in courtship and marriage. If you are married, consider doing a study of the book with your spouse. If you are single, read it with the view of preparing to commit yourself totally to the one God might give you in marriage.