The Song of Solomon

Discovery for Students

The Song of Solomon

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Song of Solomon 1:1 through 8:14

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4)

BACKGROUND

The Song of Solomon is a poetic work with romantic love as its theme. Perhaps the most enigmatic book in the Bible, it contains no direct reference to God or religion. However, since we know that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for us (see 2 Timothy 3:16), this book’s inclusion in the Word of God is no accident.

Commentators offer a wide variety of interpretations of the Song of Solomon. It has been viewed as an allegory, a typification of the love of Christ for the Church, a collection of Hebrew love lyrics, and a factual narrative. (See the Song of Solomon Overview for a more detailed description of the various interpretations.)

Along with many holiness scholars, we have chosen to regard the book as a factual narrative. Adam Clarke suggests that the plot concerns Solomon and his bride, who was the daughter of Pharoah; this interpretation provides a framework for the passages which present intimate details of the physical relationship between a husband and his wife. Another prominent holiness commentary views the narrative as a description of Solomon’s love for a Shulamite maiden who had already given her heart to a young shepherd. In this approach, the intimate passages are part of the Shulamite’s dreams of her beloved. This approach is the one used in the outline presented in Daybreak and Discovery. However, in view of the wide range of explanations of this book, we do not take a fixed position as to its interpretation.

Understanding the book is made even more complex due to the absence of indicators within the text as to who is speaking. Depending upon whom the passage is ascribed to, the interpretation of many passages can be quite diverse. In addition, the extravagant language and imagery within the Song of Solomon comes from another culture and era, and agricultural and botanical comparisons are frequent. Overall, ancient Eastern phraseology can be challenging for contemporary minds to grasp.

Difficulties notwithstanding, the Song of Solomon offers a beautifully descriptive celebration of love, marriage, and the physical relationship between a man and a woman. In our society, human sexuality frequently is exploited in books, movies, and advertising. Sexual relationships are regarded as temporary and are often based on personal gratification. By contrast, the relationship portrayed in the Song of Solomon is one of fidelity, self-giving, and bonding. There is much to be learned and understood in a study of this book.

QUESTIONS

  1. There are many comparisons in the Song of Solomon which describe love, including those in chapter 1. To begin our overview of this book, how would you summarize the nature of love within the context of God’s plan for marriage?
  2. In verse 3 of chapter 1, the Shulamite refers to her beloved, saying, “Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth.” Like many statements in the Song of Solomon, her words could be interpreted in a number of ways. What message or attitude of heart do you think she might have been conveying?
  3. Many of the passages in Song of Solomon employ images and descriptions that were extravagantly complimentary. What are some of the word pictures given in Song of Solomon 1:9-17; 2:1-3? What part do words of praise and appreciation play in building a successful relationship?
  4. While many of the verbal exchanges in the Song of Solomon allude to physical intimacy, a contrasting message occurs in Song of Solomon 3:5. What behavior does this passage enjoin?
  5. In Song of Solomon 4:12, Solomon referred to the Shulamite maiden as “a garden enclosed,” and “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” Bible scholars agree that this passage was an affirmation of the maiden’s purity. While virginity is considered out-of-date in today’s culture, it has always been God’s plan for those who are unmarried. What impact can moral integrity have when it comes to our Christian testimony?
  6. In response to the question posed in Song of Solomon 5:9, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” the Shulamite described the man she loved. She ended that description by saying, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (Song of Solomon 5:16). Why is friendship such an important element in a courtship and then in a healthy marriage?
  7. In chapter 5, the Shulamite maiden stated, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” How does this statement, which emphasizes belonging to one another, contrast with the “put yourself first” mindset so prevalent in our day?
  8. What characteristics of love did the Shulamite maiden describe in Song of Solomon 8:6-7?
  9. Many commentators compare the love relationship described in the Song of Solomon to the much deeper love relationship that exists between Christ and His Bride. Throughout the Song of Solomon, we see verses that refer to the fact that those in love desire to be together. What do these passages teach us about the appropriate attitude of the Bride toward Christ the Bridegroom’s ultimate return?

CONCLUSION

The Song of Solomon is a beautiful picture of love, and it can teach us much about the fulfillment and joy that marriage can bring.