“There are those who treat this Book as a song of human love. There are those who consider its only value is that of its mystical suggestiveness. Personally, I believe that both values are here.” (Morgan)
God’s love to Israel is illustrated in Holy King Solomon marrying and redeeming an enemy slave girl Song 1:6. Thus giving us an illustration of Christ love to the church. Arguing from the lesser to the “greater then Solomon” Matth 12:42
Clearly one can see that the physical illustration of marriage, a man loving his wife is but a mere reflection of Christ’s love to the individual believer. Earthy marriage is an outward illustration of the inward reality of the souls union with Christ.
Oneness. The two become one flesh. Two souls becoming one, yet starting off they were worlds apart. It’s the idea of two becoming one through union and communion in a covenant relationship meant to reflect the glory of God in Christ.
To arrive at my view
- Know the context of the stigma at the time around a person having a sunburn meant she was an enemy of God to get a clearer idea of her life before she desired marriage to her newly loved king, because he is the greatest type of Christ to live thus far. Song of Solomon 1:5-6 and 1 Kings 9:20-23, 2 Chron. 8:8
- Clearly the one she loves is both a king and a shepherd. Song 1:4, 1:7-9, 1:12 This is not a “trio” where Solomon is trying to woo the shulamite away from her true shepherd lover with flattery, but a Song about Solomon wooing his bride by his love. The metaphors are used to build context and understand certain aspects of the marriage so Song 1:2-4 Wanting to be under the authority of the greatest king to ever live thus far.
- That Solomon is not flattering her but praising her inner beauty in metaphors to encourage her. Song 1:9-10, most of chapter 4 and 7 are outward physical illustrations used by Solomon that are nothing but an outward reflection of her inner beauty or holiness, which consists in Love to God. Which was written on her heart.
- King Solomon loving a servant enemy Song of Songs 1:6, 1 Kings 9:20-23. 2 Chron. 8:8 in marriage is the best earthly illustration of Christ’s love to the church, God’s love to Israel or Christ’s love to the individual believer. Im saying it was Solomon’s intent to but a reflected lesser wisdom is on display as Solomon loves his wife. It is a love Song so the Love of God the Flame of the LORD is also illustrated in each person of the union doing their role in the relationship. It the perfect illustration of covenantal love in marriage. Song 8:6 “the very Flame of the LORD” Yahweh.
- Solomon never meant for us to just take his name out and put Jesus there in the text and allegorize it. Arguing from the lesser Christ to the greater is the better way to do it Matt 12:42. Although only spiritualizing the text will not lead you to believing anything untrue or that is a lie about Christ’s love to the church or individual believer because whatever right principal or idea of truth you come up with must be confirmed by good reason and logic or somewhere else in Scripture. This is why every puritan allegorical version that has other Scriptures to support their interpretation will still sanctify you because the end truth is true but how you got there was more than likely not intended by Solomon for you to do so. Solomon’s skill to love his wife perfectly is meant to be explained best by arguing from the lesser to the greater Christ, not taking Solomon out and putting Jesus Christ there. Christ’s love to the bride is greater because Eternal, immutable and infinite and other attributes I can’t think of right now can be used to describe the Love of God. Matthew 12:42 For example you could say “Christ infinetly loved the church”
- Always interpret what is clear first.
- The Song is a love poem in a marriage context. The Song is about union and communion in love and grace Song 8:6. Covenantal love from a holy wise king to an enemy slave girl is on display.
- Understand how that love is on display in the text and context then you can see parallel themes, idea’s, principles and truth’s that are similar in various relationships like that of Adams love to Eve, God’s love to Israel, Hosea’s love to Gomar, a man to his wife, Christ to the Church and Christ’s love to the individual believer. And by way of further application of each principle in the text you could also apply union principles to a bosses love to employee’s and a pastors love to his church. Principles of love and union are illustrated in the Song then you can argue from the lesser to the greater Christ Matt 12:42.Therefore similarities can be seen anywhere anyone is loving provided when talking about a husband to a wife we understand that Solomon is a lesser Christ and argue from the lesser illustration in the Song to the Greater True Love of a Husband. Song 8:6 Says this love is the very flame of God NASB. Clearly it is a marriage Song. Clearly their love grows. Clearly then she is growing in sanctification. Clearly Solomon uses the “jewel” metaphor in Song 4:8-9 as an illustration of her obedience. Her listening to him to “Come down” is precious and valuable to him like a jewel. These acts of obedience then can be seen as being complimented by Solomon in Song 1:10 and Solomon promises to make her more morally beautiful in Song 1:11 in this way Solomon is not flattering her but is encouraging her by praising her noble character consistent with Proverbs 31:
- Once the similar idea from the text is known then you argue from the lesser to the greater Christ. Meaning if that is how much she loved Solomon then how much more so is Christ worthy of greater love.
- Poem. The Song is a poem. So some interpretations are artistic and not literal. It is a poem. Things need not be true in a poem. Like her on top of multiple different mountains in Chapter 4 and I doubt she is actually in a cleft of a rock or hiding in the mountains in Song of Songs 2:14 when he was just outside her house Song 2:9
- The metaphors then are interpreted based on the context. All metaphors must match the context of the sentence, section, book in its intent. And also the Bible as a whole.Since the Song illustrates God’s Love in a marriage relationship then we can ask the question “How does this portion of scripture give us insight into how Christ loves the soul?” by way of application. How does this portion of Scripture help me to better understand my covenant relationship with God? Solomon loving his bride thus illustrating Christ’s love to the church.
For example lets look at the “jewel” metaphor of Exodus. 33:1-4, Song 4:8-9, Song 1:10-11
If we take the Jewel that Solomon thinks to be precious and valuable to be her obedience, her love, her listening to him. He said “Come down” she looks his way and that one glance his way is precious and valuable to him and ravishes his heart. Surely Solomon is not attracted to a jewel around her neck. Although a jewel around her neck would add to her overall external beauty. Solomon is talking about the inward beauty of a wife obey her husband when he wants something from her. Solomon wanted her to “Come down” she obeyed and that ravished his heart, stole his heart away, like a precious jewel is desirable and draws our affections to it, so her listening to Solomon draws his affections for her.
So does Solomon use the “jewel” metaphor somewhere else in the Song or Proverbs? Could Solomon have the same idea in mind for us to interpret his use of the jewel metaphor as obedience in other passages of the Song like in 4:9?
Israel considered having ornaments on as an illustration of God’s presence with them. Not having them on was a sign of mourning and sorrow for sin and that God’s presence was gone. The adorning presence of God was gone and so they didn’t outwardly adorn themselves Ex. 33:1-6
The Expositor’s Bible on the “jewels” Song 1:10-11. Is it “FLATTERY” they say. Solomon is flattering the woman away from her shepherd lover, rather than Solomon praising her noble character consistent with what a husband is supposed to do Proverbs 31:28, 1:9, 6:20-21, Song 4:8-9
- The thought of him is fragrant as the bundle of myrrh she carries in her bosom, and beautiful inside and out as the henna-flowers that bloom in the vineyards of far-off Engedi.
- The context of the Song is a courtship and marriage during Solomon’s messianic reign. It was a Theocratic monarchy with the north and south united.
- It is not a common marriage, it is a marriage between a type of Christ and a slave girl in forced labor Song 1:5-6, a born enemy of Solomon’s father 1 Kings 9:20-21, needing redemption. We don’t have kings marrying enemy slave girls today. It is about as unheard of today as it was back then.
- God’s purpose in the institution of marriage is seen here more glorious than anywhere else. The Song of Songs. The purpose of what a marriage Song is supposed to do, well this one does it best!
- It is a perfect example of a unmeasurably wise king, shepherd, husband loving his sinful and rebellious but getting better wife to full spiritual maturity. Eph. 5:25ff
- As an example then we can use this perfect example as an illustration 3 ways
- One is as an example for husbands to follow in leading their wife to full maturity or as a guide on how to present her blameless by his flawless actions and sweet precious words of adoration, praise, value and encouragement.
- As an illustration of God’s covenantal love for sinful Israel
- As an illustration of Christ’s love for the church his bride meaning that if this is a perfect illustration of a flawless husband loving his sinful wife, then how much more so does Christ love us, so every principle act of love in the Song is only a reflection of God’s love for us through Christ. God/Christ being the True Husband and all other husbands only a reflection pointed to and glorifying the original.
- In principle then, it illustrates the love of God through Christ’s union with the individual soul of a believer. Meaning the illustrated union of a husband and wife helps to reveal the unseen union of Christ and the soul of the believer. So that as God woo’s the believer by his love Jer. 31:3 closer and closer to himself. This union is understood to some degree in the mind and felt in the heart. So when a believer is thinking and feeling a certain way, they may find a corresponding illustration in the song, thus knowing what to do now as God draws them closer.
- King Solomon is not trying to “flatter” or woo the woman away from her true shepherd lover. Solomon is the King represented and he woos her, not flattering her but complimenting her godly character in metaphoric language. He woo’s her in the praises. Praising both external and internal beauty at the same time. Both are true. For example “neck” in Song 1:10 is her heart and the jewels are the commands on her heart. Song 4:9 also has her listening to him say “Come” she glances at him and this is a Jewel as well. In context, after praising her on top of the mountains as she overlooks her newly inherited kingdom, Solomon asks her to come down from this overlooking glorious view of his kingdom, she glances her doves eyes toward him. So her love in listening to his voice to “come down” from the mountains is what God would want her to do because her husband asked her to. God would want her to listen and obey at the sound of her husband voice. She listens and obeys so Solomon compares this one act of obedience to a jewel that steals his heart away. So Solomon is praising her noble character consistent with Proverbs 31:28-29
- The book is divided into 5 parts or phases of growth. Similar to 1 John 2:12ff
- The infant or babe phase 1:2-2:7
- The child phase 2:8-3:5
- The young man 3:6-5:1
- The strong young man 5:2-8:4
- The fully mature mother 8:5-14
- Knowing the phases and how to move to the next one will keep you moving forward at a steady pace, you will never be lost!! If you think you are lost then the good shepherd in the book will lead you to quiet waters and green pastures. Basically, finding out where you are then repeating that phase will cause you to slowly merge into the next phase, always practicing the previous stage just with greater intensities, frequencies and durations of practice in godliness. Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. If solid food is not for the babe then maybe you are feeding them meat and they are not growing. Knowing what to feed each person in accordance with each stage of growth is key to growing the fastest. In this way you have a map and clear direction.
- I understand a lot of the arguments that it is okay to allegorize this book. I think it not necessary to the point of the book and actually slows your progress down allegorizing the book. Here is why. If you just say Christ……. then the mind has no real object to associate with whatever spiritual reality you are trying to communicate to the heart, your mind will and emotions, or understanding and will. A physical illustration is needed first in order to a greater understanding of the spiritual. Nicodemus should have understood what Jesus was talking about. 9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? If Nicodemus was born again according to Ez. 36:26. And he knew what a new life was like. Then the association given to him by Jesus would have been understood by Nicodemus. The meaning of the illustrations and parables are hidden from nonbelievers because they do not have progressively greater sanctifying light entering their soul. So Nicodemus took Jesus literally. The same is with the Song, you will only see it literally if you don’t have the flame of God in you growing, which every believer does. And if your not growing then you are either not saved, a confused or ignorant babe, a lost child or rebellious young man.
“Let us for a moment consider the different opinions held on this book, without entering into the discussion of their propriety or impropriety. They are the following: –
I. It is a plain epithalamium on the marriage of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and is to be understood in no other way.
II. It is an allegory relative to the conduct of God towards the Hebrews, in bringing them out of Egypt, through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
III. It is intended to represent the incarnation of Jesus Christ, or his marriage with human nature, in reference to its redemption.
IV. It represents Christ’s love to the Church or elected souls, and their love to him.
V. It is an allegorical poem on the glories of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
VI. It is a collection of sacred idyls; the spiritual meaning of which is not agreed on.”
unquote (VII. MY VIEW, The Song is intended to illustrate God’s Love in parabolic form in a marriage context. Therefor having a variety of application depending on the context you are in. Wether you are a Jew 3,000 years ago, Hosea or Mary and arguing from the lesser to the greater Christ, you will then see the Love of Christ better by way of illustration.)
quote “Whom then are we to follow in the interpretation of this very singular book? The Targumist, who applies it to God and the Hebrews, in their journeyings from Egypt to the promised land? Origen, who made it a Christian allegory? Apponius, who spiritualized it? Gregory the Great, who in the main copied them? The good man, who in 1717, at Paris, so illustrated it as “to induce men to devote themselves to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary?” Mr. Durham, Mr. Robotham, Mr. Ainsworth, Mr. Romaine, and Dr. Gill, who endeavored to prove that it concerns Christ and the elect? Or Mr. Harmer and others who acknowledge it to be an inimitable composition, and to be understood only of Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter? Or, finally, Dr. Mason Good, who considers it a collection of sacred idyls, the spiritual interpretation of which is not agreed on?
I had for a long time hesitated whether I should say any thing on this book; not because I did not think I understood its chief design and general meaning, for of this I really have no doubt, but because I did not understand it as a spiritual allegory, representing the loves off Christ and his Church. I must own I see no indubitable ground for this opinion. And is it of no moment whether the doctrines drawn from it, by those who allegorize and spiritualize it, be indubitably founded on it or not? The doctrines may be true in themselves, (which is indeed more than can be said of those of most of its interpreters), but is it not a very solemn, and indeed awful thing to say, This is the voice of Christ to his Church, This is the voice of the Church to Christ, etc., etc., when there is no proof from God, nor from any other portion of his word, that these things are so?”
What other’s have said and what I think:
The Allegorical View
“The notion that the Song of Songs should be understood in its plain normal sense has been firmly resisted throughout most of history. Advocates of the allegorical view have been adamant that there must be some “spiritual” message to the book that exceeds the supposed earthly theme of human sexuality.(12) As a result, the allegorists have stressed a spiritual meaning that goes beneath the surface reading. The outcome of this method, however, has been a host of interpretations as numerous as those who follow this approach. Jewish interpreters understood the text as an allegory of the love between God and the nation of Israel, and Christian interpreters have suggested that the book depicts love between Christ and His bride, the church. The interpretation of the details, however, became quite varied and fanciful.”
- I understand , the above author, thinking that people must see a “spiritual” message as he says beyond sex in the Song of Songs. I think anyone who says this hasn’t experienced the book in it’s intended purpose of spiritual growth. Should any person use the book who has a burning desire for a closer relationship with God, should they use it for spiritual growth, they will find the book revealing the Love of God to them better than anywhere else then this person will not see any literal meaning in the text at all. I think it to be that those who see it allegorically see the spiritual message and therefore deny the story and see the song as a parable or allegory. To me I see the illustration of God’s Love in the marriage and argue from the lesser to the Great Christ and get a most glorious view of the Love of Christ, so beautiful. The puritans that saw the song as allegorical never came up with anything untrue from the text. How they get to that truth is what is debated. Anyway, it’s not they they try to read the text to find a spiritual meaning. The fact that the spiritual meaning is so clearly the meaning to the one who see’s it that they can’t deny it. It seems so clearly true. The things anyone who see’s and enjoys the spiritual meaning of the text are understanding the Love of Christ in their mind, this understanding is true, whatever the puritans came up with as a truth as to the principle idea of the text was always confirmed with other portions of scripture. The closer that truth communicated to the mind and heart is to the True Husband than the better the use of the text.
Okay, Im not picking on the author here, Im just commenting on what he said in order to bring clearer ideas as to the interpretation of the Song and how people see it. I have viewed it from both sides and therefore have seen where one group misunderstands another group. Like in the 1st comment above. Paul thinks they find a spiritual meaning because its in the bible and has to do with something spiritual and not just holy sex. When it is just the opposite myself and other’s see the spiritual meaning as so clear that it is impossible for there to be a literal story.
Jewish Allegorical View
Traces of the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Songs are found as early as the Jewish Mishnah (Ta’anith 4.8). This approach was also followed in the Targum, the Midrash Rabbah, and by the medieval Jewish commentators Saadia, Rashi, and Ibn Ezra. The Targum on the Song interpreted the book as expressing the gracious love of God toward His people manifested in periods of Hebrew history from the Exodus until the coming of the Messiah (these historical periods were “supposedly discernible” in the Song of Songs).
“Supposedly discernible” You know that one of the hardest things to ever do when studying this book is to not be bias. I am sure I am bias in many ways, we all are. When bring only a limited background of knowledge in understanding the text. So what is discernible for one person may look not discernible to another. Although I may not agree with all the historical allegorical meanings of the old rabbis like Rashi. But I have read Rashi and he gets many things right in principle. In principle the Jews did get more and more revelation of God to them as time went on. Progressive revelation. So Israel as a whole by the time of Solomon had greatly matured. From babes in the Exodus and red Sea, to children at Mt. Sinai then like a young man tested in the wilderness, then like a strong young man fighting against enemies with the full amour of God on and overcoming the evil one, then the father of them of Solomon. Spiritual Growth of Israel is depicted in illustrations and stories. The idea’s transfer. Like the idea of a woman becoming more holy. Is similar to a nation not holy becoming more holy. The idea of a christian babe growing then becoming a child, then young man, strong young man and Father. The idea of Growth in Progressive knowledge of God increases one love for God is true with Adam and Eve before and after the fall, It is true with God when He covenanted with Isael, It is true when Hosea loves Gomer, it is true in a christian man loving a christian woman, spiritual growth will happen. Phil 2:13, Romans 8:28-30, 1 thes 5:23-24, Song 1:11. It may take a while to be able to discern how someone understands the book as Rashi does.
The Song became easier to meditate on once I saw it as a parabolic allegory. There are good people who believe it to be a historical allegory like the stories of Abraham etc. I just see it as parabolic mainly because the Song never mentions her name and other reasons.
It is a parable, which makes divine things more difficult to those who do not love them, but more plain and pleasant to those who do, Mt. 13:14, 16. Experienced Christians here find a counterpart of their experiences, and to them it is intelligible, while those neither understand it nor relish it who have no part nor lot in the matter.
Lowth defines an allegory as “a figure, which, under the literal sense of the words, conceals a foreign or distant meaning.” (Christ’s love for the Church)
A parabolic allegory “consists of a continued narration of fictitious events, applied by way of simile to the illustration of an important truth.”
An allegory is either, an extended metaphor, parabolic or Historical. The Historical allegorical view is fine and will generally not lead to anything untrue if not abused. Because the point of either parabolic or Historical is the spiritual application.
Fairborn’s def. of allegory “a narrative, either expressly feigned fro the purpose, or, if describing facts which really took place, ( like a real woman or wife), describing them only for the purpose of representing certain higher truths or principles than the narrative in its immediate representation, wether real or fictitious, could possibly have taught.”
“This book is, by design, to extol the love between Christ and His Church, though expressed in an allegorical parabolic way. It appears to me that just as the Lord’s parables make good sense even when read on the surface; so the Song does make good sense when read on the surface. Yes, as the Lord’s parables have their intended lessons and/or didactic meanings in the spiritual realm, so too in the Song. Though on the surface, the Song speaks about the love between the Shulamite woman and her lover, it is intended to point to the love between the Church and Christ. And just as it is necessary to understand the surface meaning of a parable before the spiritual meaning can be derived.”
We tend to have an immediate bias against something that goes against what seems to us to be clearly wrong. If I could argue the other guy’s point and make all the connections he made to get to a certain truth, and find a mistake in them then judge their opinion as false and justify it. Yet also, now there is so much information accessible to us that how could one ever say they know all the views out there on a book so controversial. And rightly so, no one really has come up with an understanding of the text that clear as day is the true understanding. ( I think this will never be resolved because the book has to be experienced parabolically as an illustration in order for the Song to do it’s job of transforming the soul.) ( The person who believes the book to be literal will never meditate on the spiritual idea in way that will transform them, they have to first believe this will transform them over and over again), even if the spiritual idea being meditated on is true. They will not meditate on it because they see it literally. One has to switch his mind to being totally unbiased in order to believe and enjoy the spiritual meaning. If I think literally and the meaning that transforms me best is the meaning that is closest to the intent of the author be it Solomon and or God. Obviously the idea closest to truth that transforms is an allegorical view. Literal truth may transform but the clearest reflection of the Glory of God revealed to the mind will be more beautiful to the eye of the beholder and thus have more attractiveness in the Truth. For instance Song 1:2 literal, a kiss from the king, many kisses she wants. King Solomon kissing a slave girl and marrying her. Love is on display. Now if you think from the lesser king to the greater King Jesus who is LORD of LORDS and King of Kings. This thinking from the lesser to the greater is how we are designed to understand spiritual truths. John 3:11 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Jesus said earlier that Nicodemus had to “be born again” Nicodemus took this literally. Jesus meant something spiritual to Nicodemus, he should have gotten it. Jesus gave an illustration of getting a new heart. Getting a new heart is like being born into the world again. Nicodemus could meditate all he wanted on being born again and he would never come up with what Jesus meant. Nicodemus like many reading the Song then took Jesus literally for what He said. Thinking He must go back into his mother’s womb again. Nicodemus didn’t see the spiritual meaning because He didn’t have happening in his heart what Jesus said. If Nicodemus had a new heart then Nicodemus would have understood Jesus to mean a new heart is needed from God a new spirit. It blows as it wishes, salvation is by Grace not works and you get a new heart.
So what happens when reading the Song is that anyone who has a burning desire for a close relationship with God will understand only the 1st chapter and maybe only the first half for quite a while but they only progress as far as they have understood and experienced.
Taking the view that it is literal and the brothers are in Chapter 8
“In her seemingly apologetic address to the “daughters of Jerusalem” (1:5-6), the bride attempts to explain the cause for her darkened skin: “Do not stare at me be- cause I am swarthy, for the sun has burned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard.” The brothers reappear in 8:8-9 in what amounts to a flashback that bears out their commitment to defend the integrity of their younger sister: “We have a little sister, and she has no breasts; what shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we shall build on her a battlement of silver; but if she is a door, we shall barricade her with planks of cedar.”
The Song of Songs goes from her being miserably separated and enemies to being the closest of friends and lovers yet she is ignorant of how to get closer, so he helps by giving instruction, encouragement through praising her when doing it right to the level or degree of her holiness and humility, lovingly disciplining her, and staying faithful to his promises. In the process she goes from spiritual babe, to child, to young man, strong young man and then fully mature spiritual mother by the end of Chapter 8 in the Song of Solomon.