Reading through the Bible together

Monday, February 17, 2014

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The famous Rabbi Akiba stated:  “For in all the world there is nothing to equal the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the writings [of Scripture] are Holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies!”  The most sublime of Solomon’s 1005 compositions (Song 1:1; 1 Kings 4:32), the Song of Songs (also called “Song of Solomon”) was most likely written during the first half of Solomon’s reign while the king was still faithful to God.  

The Song depicts the intimate love relationship between Solomon and “the Shulamite” (“Mrs. Solomon”, probably Pharaoh’s daughter who became a believer in Yahweh; Song 6:13; 1 Kings 3:1; 7:8). The dialogues follow the basic story line of (1) courtship (1:2—3:5), (2) bridal procession and wedding (3:6—5:1), and (3) the life of love after the marriage (5:2—8:14).  

Many interpreters down through history, embarrassed by the forthright intimate language in the Song, have rejected its literal meaning and regarded the book as merely a symbolic description of the spiritual love relationship between God and His people.  While there are indeed spiritual lessons to be learned, there is no hint in the Song of Solomon that the literal sense of the book should be spiritualized away.  Rather, it seems clear that God inspired a whole book of the Bible which first and foremost in creation celebrates the beauty and joy of a wholesome love relationship between a man and a woman!  The Sublime Song constitutes a return to Eden, an inspired commentary on Genesis 1-3, a veritable guide for courtship and marriage.  

In chapter 1 the woman extols the virtues of her beloved in the presence of her female companions (“the daughters of Jerusalem”), and Solomon responds with acclamations of the Shulamite’s beauty.  May we express more often to our loved ones how much we love them!

“Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of human love which You have created for our happiness!  Amen.”

 

Richard M. Davidson

Professor of Old Testament Interpretation

Andrews University Theological Seminary