Seeing The Path to Jesus in the Song of Solomon
Reading Song of Solomon can be awkward. Even though I’m a married woman who has taught on the goodness of sex, I can still get uncomfortable reading it. Some of the metaphors sound ridiculous, and others can sound R-rated when I attempt to nail down the body parts and actions the poet is referencing.
But in all honesty, I haven’t valued the book as much as I should. With my Western mindset, I often want to analyze, outline, and diagram the phrases. I push to see how it points me to redemption without waiting to see what it points me towards first (which will then ultimately, by design, lead me to Christ).
I’m not the only one to lose interest in the famously scandalous book. I heard one preacher tell a crowd that he originally tried to read the book historically as poetry, but then after further consideration, he concluded that there was no other way for the book to point him to Jesus that way. Thus, in light of Luke 24 and the other teachings of the New Testament of the christocentricity of each book of the Bible, he announced that it must be an allegory.
While there is a history of debate over the allegorical interpretation of the book, I think that preacher spoke too soon. Just because we believe that all of Scripture must be taught in relation to the work of Jesus doesn’t mean we have to make it into allegories. When we read the poetry well, paying attention to the essence of what it’s saying instead of the strange visuals, taking in the passion and fervency of the couple, and appreciating the Biblical view of marriage and sexuality, we see two beautiful Bible-permeating doctrinal truths. In view of Hebrew culture, we can rejoice in what the book teaches us, and we can also see the good gift of the work of Christ.
The Goodness of God’s Creation
Even the observers in the book of Song of Solomon rejoice with the couple in their love. Their seeking and finding, their longing and hoping, their delight in each other is clearly seen as good. It reveals the goodness of God’s creation—God made it this way. We see women and men are made to be sexual people, longing for each other within a relationship that is married or about to be. We notice the woman’s desires, which, surprisingly, are more frequently described than the man’s, as good and normal in this relationship. We see the value of each person in the relationship.
And in case we don’t see this as a beautiful description of what God has made, there are cues of a garden setting throughout the book. It is meant to remind us of the goodness of God’s creation put together in the garden in the very beginning. Original readers of this book would relish the thought of the perfect garden but not forget what happened soon after. There is a fallen, sinful world waiting for God’s promises of renewal to be fulfilled. This is where we live. God has promised rescue, and even as they see the beauty of what God made in a couples love, they wait with all creation for redemption.
The Goodness of Love
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine…” Song of Solomon 1:2
Romantic love is a good thing, the Hebrew listeners of the poems hear. It is designed to be passionate, reciprocal, and responsive. Each side responds with love for the other, seeking and wanting to find. It doesn’t remain in perfect intimacy. There’s a cycle, a working and longing as the couple interact with each other. And in it all, this kind of love is shown to be praised. The goodness of love is on display.
Love as a theme in the Scriptures is devoted and faithful, just like the love in Song of Solomon. And like most themes in the Bible, it teaches us and points us to God—to his great love. Romantic love is a joyous gift to be celebrated, but it also gives us a taste of God’s true, devoted, and faithful love for people, untainted by sin and drawing us to himself. And He is willing to pursue, act and seek.
It Leads us to Jesus
As we look at the beauty of the creation in the Song of Solomon, we see that Jesus is the redemption of broken creation. He is the one who paid for the sin of the garden and the sin since then. To begin the renewal, he came, and though creation still waits for the finishing of the regeneration, we look forward to that re-creation.
As we bask in the love of the book, we know that devotion and faithfulness is a reflection of what God is like. Jesus is the greatest manifestation of the greatness of God’s love. His incarnation. His life. His sacrifice. He shows us the devotion and goodness of love that seeks after us.
Love with a husband is a gracious gift from God, giving us a glimpse into the goodness of creation and the power and joy of love. Song of Solomon doesn’t need to be resented or reformatted. It’s a book, like the other wisdom books, that teach us about God’s world, and ultimately about his plan for redemption.