There are two interesting variations of this story line, both of which have to do with the dream sequences and other signs of trouble in the relationship. The first and most popular variation regards the bride as being shy and not fully comfortable with this king who is suddenly showing such attention and affection to her. Evidences of her reticence include her hiding in a rocky cleft Songs 2: The imagery also lends itself to the allegorists and typologists, since Jesus would be the faithful seeker of the unsure bride.
When she is not fully open to Him, she gets herself into difficult and even dangerous situations. The second variation views the bride as being devoted, but struggling with the relationship she has with a polygamous king. Those who propose this variation come the closest to drawing a coherent teaching purpose for the Song of Songs. She is unsure of her status within the harem Songs 1: Her speech and thoughts include both physical and emotional aspects of their relationship, but he talks primarily of her beauty. Her dreams are symptomatic of one who is adjusting to a troubling relationship.
Here she calls for the same heart and dedication from her husband that she has shown for him. Either variation of this story line would be strong, were it not that some story elements make difficult the identification of the bridegroom as a king. This leads us to a third story line. To state it simply, King Solomon falls in love with a young, virtuous vinedresser and marries her, but she really loves a shepherd.
This story line is only useful for explaining the ambiguous references to the bridegroom as a king, and it suggests some really bad outcomes. Although the book opens in the court, it ends in the country. Does the girl leave Solomon and escape to her shepherd lover? Does she finally get fed up and run away at Songs 6: Perhaps the two lovers in Song of Songs are not royals at all, just peasants. In their mutual admiration and young love, they refer to each other using royal terms.
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He is as King Solomon in her eyes, and she is as a princess in his. The young newly-weds playfully pretend to be part of the court life. However, they soon see the shortcomings of palace life and settle down in their pastoral setting. This view frames Songs 8: Having made the case for the difficulties of the book, I must now make the case for your making it your own. Difficulties aside, Song of Songs is a refreshing book that grows on you. Discovery builds on discovery, and a distinct beauty emerges from its chapters and verses. Let me start you off with the most important clue to understanding it: It is a feminine book and, like a woman, she only reveals her secrets to those who love her and listen with their heart.
Here is a second important clue: The book defies western-style logic; it must be understood holistically — not as a collection of parts. All the diverse story lines come from different conclusions about these three items, but do not let that discourage you. Rather let it give you the freedom to explore your own ideas. Although I have not read anyone else who makes this claim, I actually ascribe much of the book to her private thoughts. I would not even know to whom she would be speaking.
Most translations provide help with speaking assignments. In some cases, the translation identifies the speaker in the marginal notes. Others identify the speaker in a heading above the text. My own taste is to have the speaker identification close by in order to get a better feel for the exchange. To this end, I have actually copied the book into a word processor and color coded the text and made other changes to the fonts. When I guessed that the bride was thinking rather than speaking, I used pink italics. The effect was quite dramatic.
There is no looking back to the heading or over to the margins to reconnect with the speaker. The drama of 8: I have already covered this a little, but it is worth repeating: To appreciate this book, we must stretch our imaginations and relate the images to love and romance. In others words, we need to visualize the imagery from different angles until something romantic, or even erotic, emerges.
The Song of Songs is not western literature, which has a strong sense of sequential flow, time, and logic. Hebrew literature is not so fascinated with time ordered sequences and prefers more exotic arrangements. Time, in the Song of Songs, is all over the clock and calendar. Before I go further with the structure of the Song of Songs, I want to show the structure of a section in Daniel. This will set the stage for a similar arrangement in Songs. A King is Humbled Nebuchadnezzar goes insane.
Besides having an unfamiliar structure, the Song of Songs consists of Hebrew poetry, whose elements are the relationship of themes and ideas instead of rhythm and rhyme. Some of the poetic elements that you will notice as you read are:. Like a lily among the thorns, So is my darling among the maidens Songs 2: I am the rose of Sharon, The lily of the valleys.
Like a lily among the thorns, So is my darling among the maidens. Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down Songs 2: Beneath the apple tree I awakened you; There your mother was in labor with you, There she was in labor And gave you birth Songs 8: Like Daniel, the Song of Songs has a chiastic structure, but one that is freer and looser.
By this I mean that it is hard to draw an unambiguous line separating the parts. You can step back and see it, but when you get close, it almost disappears. What you see from a distance is this:. As with Daniel, the nested segments invite comparisons. There are several themes in the first and last chapters that are clearly parallel, and the chiasm gives us good reason to compare them.
We can surmise, therefore, that the two sections tell the same childhood events from different points of view. So why is the Song of Songs in the Bible? There are two errors people have had regarding sexuality, and the Song of Songs corrects both. The first says that sex is for making children and any other use is carnal and at best tolerated. The second says that sex is a recreational activity that should have limited restraints. The union, then, of male and female for the purpose of procreation is the natural good of marriage.
But he makes a bad use of this good who uses it bestially, so that his intention is on the gratification of lust, instead of the desire of offspring. The Song of Songs clearly teaches that Saint Augustine was wrong. There is no hint anywhere that the delight of the young married couple is in the seeking of children. Rather, we see the bonding effect that the physical union creates between them.
Sex is entertainment, and sex education seems to consider abstinence among young people to be impossible. But the lovers in the Song of Songs rejoice in their chastity. She tells us that she was both virtuous and sexually attractive. Both pleased her husband, who could trust her to be faithful to him.
Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.
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What is the seal in this refrain? According to some, it is a cylinder seal worn around the neck or a stamp seal worn on the wrist. Alternatively, the seal could be an imprint on the heart made as one would make by rolling a cylinder on wet clay. This speaks of the desire to be a permanent impression on the heart.
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Either way, Songs 8: Perhaps the frankness of the Song of Songs could bring it back. As I stated previously, the language of the Song of Songs is discrete. As we read, we know what is going on, but the privacy of the young couple is preserved. We share in their joy and their feelings, but we are not assaulted with graphic images. The discretion is achieved by the artistic use of images and double entendre. So the lessons for the body are to honor chastity and virtue, to enjoy the physical union in marriage, to be devoted exclusively to one another, and to be discrete.
As such, the Song of Songs could be very useful in pre-marriage counseling and maybe college and young singles classes. The Song of Songs is good for the soul because the poetry it contains is beautiful, and beauty is good for the soul. Much of evangelical Christianity has promoted left-brained rationalism over right-brained artistry. The Holy Spirit does not work just on the left brain.
He also works on the right brain: Few Christians are engaged and fully committed to the arts today. Where are the hymn writers? Where are the novelists? A very high-powered editor of a Christian magazine told me two weeks ago that he knows of only one exceptional Christian fiction writer.
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What are our seminaries doing to encourage these right brainers? What is the Church doing to encourage them?
The Song of Songs is a completely right-brained book and is, therefore, good for the development of the right brain. It will be the right brain that will delight in the language. Take the following picture of spring:. My beloved responded and said to me: For behold, the winter is past,. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.
The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along! This is food for the soul as one feels no longer the cold wet of the winter rains, sees the fields colored with the flowers, hears the sound of the turtledove, tastes a ripe fig, and smells the fragrance as one walks with a loved one.
All five senses plus the emotions of young love are alive here. What I am saying is simply this: Must we conclude that the Song of Songs has nothing to say about God and spiritual matters? Not necessarily, but we will not find it in the simple meaning of the text. Nevertheless, I have noticed that as people read the book, they seem to experience the love of God in a special way. I have studied and it taught from it, and still continue to see something new in it every time I re-read it. It is one of the best books I have read other than the Bible.
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