The book of Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs)

At the start of reading the Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) you should know that you are reading more than a teaching on lovemaking within a marriage relationship. There are approximately three major schools of thought with regard to interpreting the song: those looking for spiritual meaning, those looking for practical teaching, or those looking for poetic mastery.

The Song of Songs should be considered to be a type of perfect illustration or metaphor. It should be taken at literal face value – a book of love songs where the writer enjoys describing the many aspects of romantic and sexual love. But the Song is believed to be more than just a love song. It is ‘wisdom via entertainment’ and should be interpreted typologically.

Typology is where the text is allowed to speak literally but also illustrates a spiritual teaching. There is rich spiritual teaching that comes from allowing the in-built metaphor to work. Scripture itself indicates that the husband wife relationship is parallel (a type, a picture) of the relationship Christ has with his Church.

As you would have learned by now we need some experience and skill to help us get more out of reading the Bible. The poetry in the Song is quite difficult to get a message from if you have not tried before. To simplify it a bit, try reading the poems considering you (and us as the church) to be the woman and the man to be Jesus. This won’t solve all the difficulties but will help with many of them.

One troublesome phrase can sometimes be, ‘Arouse or awaken love till it pleases?’ Maybe Michael Eaton’s interpretation as an example will help. He says, “Once again the poem ends with the words that we have already seen in 2:7. It is a warning not to do anything that is artificial.

Daughters of Jerusalem, I ask for an oath!
By the gazelles and the wild deer of the field,
promise not to arouse or wake up this love until it pleases (3:5).

“It is as if the girl is saying to her friends: ‘Do you want a love like this? Be ready for some surprises and let this kind of love develop in its own way’. The Christian life has great heights and depths in it! It is wonderful when it is easy, but sometimes we must work at finding God in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Read it slowly. Ask many questions about who is saying what and why. You will find that ‘new glasses’ appear as you get into the language and style more closely.

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