Have you ever felt embarrassed by the Song of Solomon? Have you ever felt unsatisfied by over-spiritualizing the Song of Solomon? Have your ever thought why this book is a part of the Bible? Then you have not understood what the story of Song of Solomon is. Read this excerpt from Walter C. Kaiser Jr.’s book The Old Testament Documents.
Shulammite, Shepherd girl from the city of Shunem, was tending the vineyards and the nut orchards in the valley of Jezreel by the great road that ran through that area when she noticed Solomon’s entourage passing through (Song 6:11-12). When she ran to see this caravan with all the princely people and Solomon being carried on a palanquin born by sixty men, her natural impulse was to run away. But the people in the procession called to her and urged her to “come back” (Song 6:13). Thus, a shepherd girl, swarthy from working in the fields of her brother’s vineyard, was somewhat forcibly taken to Jerusalem to be prepared by others called the daughters of Jerusalem (Song 6:9-10).
As the book begins, Solomon is promising this Shulammite maiden anything her heart desires, while she, instead recalls her beloved back home in the fields (Songs 1:1-2:7). She dreams her boyfriend from the country-side visits her (Song 2:8-3:5). Meanwhile Solomon puts on the pressure trying to woo her with embarrassing terms of affection (Song 3:6-4:7) but she is unmoved (Song 4:8-5:1). It is this passage that the connection with Proverbs 5:15-23 appears, for the fountain, garden, and spring themes reappear with the same meanings of sexual intimacy; the same writer is often credited with writing both Proverbs and Song of Solomon. Once more the maiden dreams about her lover back home (Song 5:2-6:3) while Solomon makes one more effort to win her (Song 6: 4- 7:9), but all to no avail as the maiden longs all the more for her absent lover (7;10-8:3). Finally the maiden is released and she returns home to her lover and is united to him in marriage. (Song 8:4-14).
The oft-repeated theme is “My beloved is mine and I am his (Song 2:16, 6:13, and 7:10). This is an expression of the tenderness that the Shulammite maiden and the shepherd boyfriend have for each other.
But what about Solomon? Indeed, his presence is magnificent; a column of smoke, a palanquin made of wood from Lebanon (supports of silver, back of gold, seat of purple and its interior of inlaid ivory) borne by the sixty valiant men (Song 3:6-11). Solomon also has an ode given over to his physique in Song 5:10-16, but the Shulammite maiden has three such odes praising her beauty, all dedicated to her (Song 4:1-7, 6:4-9, 7:1-8).
So what is the point of the Song for moderns? It is meant to show how God meant marital love to be invincible, intimate, intense, indestructible, and ineluctable (Song 8:5-7). Marital love within the marriage bond is not a secular or embarrassing act, but a gift from the creator who formed both the human physique and the physical and emotional desire of husband and wife for each other.
Should someone, such as the extraordinarily wealthy King Solomon, attempt to quench it or to purchase this love with gifts, it would be utterly despised. It is just impossible to wash it away or to extinguish it (Song 8:6-7). Ask Solomon: he tried and lost. And the Spirit of God has him record how badly he lost even with all the anticipated gifts of the wealth he had gathered and the promises he proffered. Thus, what Jesus who is the Living Word, did for marriage by attending the marriage feast in Cana in John 2, so the written word now does in the Song of Songs (i.e., the best of all songs). Scripture does this by elevating the sanctity of marriage in the dace of this would-be intruder and finally loser-Solomon.
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