Song of Solomon

The union and communion of love between Jesus Christ and His church.

Purpose: To stir up the affections of believers to seek experiential fellowship with their King.

Synopsis: The Contribution of the Song of Solomon to Redemptive Revelation

The Song of Solomon is given by the Spirit of God to stir up the affections of believers, whether of the Old Testament or of the New, to seek to cultivate secret communion with Christ in prayer and in all the other means of grace. Such spiritual delight was enjoyed by such Old Testament saints as Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets. This book uses the language of love to draw Christians to yearn for experiences in our heart of assurance, joy, and rapture of soul as we taste something of Christ's love for us, even here in this world.

Although believers, symbolized by the fair young woman (1:8), have weaknesses and sins (5:2–3), they genuinely love Jesus as Lord and Savior and yearn for a taste of His love as something "better than wine" (1:2). This book uses the language of physical beauty to express the mutual delight that Christ and the believer have one in the other. This delight will be consummated one day in Heaven, when Christ will at long last present His church to Himself as "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27). So this lovely book aims to stir up Christians to seek communion now with Christ and to yearn for His second coming in glory.

The inward delights that a true believer may at times enjoy exceed the pleasures that worldly men find in such material things as "wine" (1:2). The pleasures of believers are not sensual but spiritual, and they are poured into their hearts by Christ, whom they love.

Christ's presence is not felt by the believer at all times in the same measure of intensity. At times the believer senses that Jesus has "withdrawn himself" (5:6). At such times he or she earnestly seeks once again for the felt presence of Christ. When Jesus again draws near, the believer's soul is like "the chariots of Ammi-nadib" (6:12)—alive with excitement and energy to live and fight for our blessed Lord.

The best experiences of Christ's love in this world are all too short. The souls of the saints yearn for the day when their Lord will come at last in all His glory to lift them from the grave and bestow endless divine affection upon them. The Song ends fitly with the anguished cry, "Make haste, my beloved, and be you like to a roe or to a young deer upon the mountains of spices" (8:14). The Bible voices this same yearning cry as it closes: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).


Special Problems of Interpretation:

For centuries the dominant view of this book took it as a poetic representation of the spiritual relationship between the Lord and His people. This view appears in the ancient Jewish traditions and also in the Christian writings spanning the early church, the medieval church, the Reformation, and the Puritan and modern eras.

However, since the nineteenth century the romantic reading has gained popularity, taking the Song as a collection of entirely human love poetry. At times this is a reaction against the fanciful allegorizing by some traditional interpreters who did not root their interpretation in the text and context. There are still considerable variations among interpreters of this school as to who the characters are, whether Solomon and an unnamed bride, an unnamed shepherd and shepherdess, or a more complex cast of characters. There is also a lot of debate as to what the interactions of the characters signify. Some interpreters in this school see the Song merely as a collection of poems that do not present any coherent storyline. The romantic reading in its various forms sees the Song as divine wisdom for human romantic relationships, marriage, and sexuality.

Several arguments may be advanced against the romantic reading in favor of the traditional, Christ-centered interpretation of the Song.

First, the Lord Jesus taught His disciples to read all of the Old Testament as a revelation of Christ (Luke 24:27, 44–47). To say that an entire book of the Old Testament says nothing of Christ conflicts with the apostolic approach to Scripture.

Second, the Song presents itself as "the song of songs" (Song 1:1), a Hebrew idiom meaning the supreme or greatest song. While the Bible has a high view of marriage and the sexual love between a husband and wife (Genesis 2:18–25; Proverbs 5:15–23), it is difficult to understand how a song on romance would rank above the songs of God's glory and love.

Third, the Song identifies itself as "Solomon's" (Song 1:1). Christ spoke of Solomon as a type of Himself, for Jesus is the great Son of David (Matthew 1:1; 12:42). The name "Solomon" means "peace" (see notes at 1 Chronicles 22:8 and 9), and thus he represents the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). The term "Shulamite" (Song 6:13) is the feminine form of Solomon, representing his counterpart in peace.

As a fourth argument we may consider that Scripture often uses marriage as a metaphor for the Lord's union with His beloved people (Isaiah 54; 61:10; 62:5; Ezekiel 16:1–63; Hosea 2:1–23; Matthew 22:1–2; 2 Corinthians 11:1–4; Ephesians 5:22–33; Revelation 19:7–8; 21:9). Christ referred to Himself simply as "the bridegroom" (Matthew 9:15; cf. Matthew 25:1–10; John 3:29).

Fifth, it may well be that Christ alluded to the Song when He said to a church, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20; cf. Song 5:1–2).

Sixth, Psalm 45 provides a significant parallel to the Song in the way it points to Christ, as the New Testament teaches (Hebrews 1:8–9). The psalm is titled "A Song of loves"; depicts the King who is both God and in covenant with God; speaks, as does the Song, of oil, spices, ivory, and gold; and exhorts His bride to give herself entirely to Him.

Seventh, a Christ-centered reading of the Song need not indulge in wild, highly imaginative interpretations that may rightly offend thoughtful readers. The Song is poetry, and its figures of speech and doctrines are to be understood in the context of Scripture as a whole.

There are two basic approaches to the Song that take it as a revelation of Christ: the typological and the allegorical.

The typological reading begins with the recognition that a significant person in the Bible may be by divine design a "figure [or type] of him that was to come" (Romans 5:14). Typology begins with a real, historical person, event, or institution and recognizes the shadow of Christ in him or it (Colossians 2:16–17; Hebrews 7:1–17; 10:1). The typical view is based on a proper, literal interpretation because all true types are based in history.

While recognizing that the Song is rooted in the historical figure of Solomon and presents the beauty and sanctity of human marriage, we understand that it looks ahead to the One greater than Solomon. Just as Paul took Adam's paradigmatic marriage with Eve as a foreshadowing of Christ's union with the church (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31), so we should read the Song of Solomon as the Song of Christ. As we think of the most precious love relationships, we must think also of that love that supersedes all human love.

An alternative typological reading held by Martin Luther sees the Song as a poem celebrating the love between Solomon and the people of his kingdom, foreshadowing the love between Christ and the people of His kingdom. In either case, the typological reading starts with Solomon and ends with Christ.

The allegorical reading is the traditional reading, which has dominated among both the Jewish and Christian interpreters throughout the centuries. It holds much in common with the typological approach but believes that the Song refers directly to the Lord, not to Solomon. The language of love is entirely symbolic, as it is in the story of the Lord and His bride in Ezekiel 16.

There is a difference between interpreting an allegory and allegorizing a text.

An allegory is a form of writing in which the author intended to write an extended comparison, such as Christ's parable of the soils (Mark 4:1–20). John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is a well-known example of an allegory.

Allegorizing, in contrast, means reading all sorts of hidden meanings into what was never meant to be an allegory.

Both the typological and the allegorical interpretations end in the love that exists between the Lord Jesus Christ and His precious, blood-bought people who, in this life and the next, are in union and communion with Him as their beloved Savior and Lord.

This deeply spiritual and beautiful book uses the language of marital affection and delight to express the love that our Savior has for all true believers and that they, notwithstanding their many sins and failings, have for Christ in this life. The book looks wistfully to the future day when our Lord will return in all His glory to marry His beloved church and take her home to everlasting glory. Such is the meaning of the sigh, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away" (Song 2:17).

These study notes approach the Song according to the allegorical reading, where the bridegroom is understood as Christ and the bride as His church.

The "virgins" (1:3), also called "daughters of Zion" (3:11) and "daughters of Jerusalem" (1:5), are godly, converted people who love Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 14:1–4).

The "watchmen" (Song 3:3; 5:7) represent ministers and pastors of the church (Ezekiel 3:16–21; Hebrews 13:17).

The "mother's" (Song 1:6; 3:4, 11; 6:9; 8:1–2, 5) is the universal church of Christ in which are to be found the means of grace and of salvation (Isaiah 54:1–3, 13; Galatians 4:26; Revelation 12:1–6, 13–17).

(The above was taken from: Beeke, J. R., Barrett, M. P. V., & Bilkes, G. M. (Eds.). (2014). The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible (p. 941). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.)