What’s With The Song Of Solomon?

Before I get into my rant complaint discussion about the Song of Solomon, I want to mention that I once again participated in the Christian Carnival, hosted this week by Keyboard Theologians.

It’s kind of funny because I submitted my post entitled “Pollen,” in which I used pollen and its affect on me as an allegory for suffering and its affect on the Christian. And how does the description of the post appear in the Carnival? “Over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, Rebecca LuElla Miller speaks of Pollen.” 😆

Not surprising, I haven’t noticed a great surge of readers rushing to devour that post. Regardless, I recommend you check out the other articles in the Carnival. It’s a good way to find out what people outside our normal circles are saying about issues we’re interested in.

And now, what’s with the Song of Solomon?

A couple years ago I dubbed the book of Ecclesiastes as my least favorite book of the Bible, but I think I’m going to revise that. I no longer care for the Song of Solomon. Not that God has asked me if it’s OK to leave it in the Bible, and not that I doubt it too is part of Scripture and therefore will instruct in righteousness or reprove or correct or teach doctrine.

But here’s what I’m dealing with. For the longest time, I bought into the idea that this book was a metaphor of Christ with His Church. The New Testament refers to the Church, after all, as the Bride of Christ, so it seems plausible that the Song of Solomon, a love song between a bride and groom, would have an allegorical meaning.

Last year I abandoned that view. Quite frankly, a close reading makes it seem more likely that this is a song celebrating physical intimacy. You know, sex.

Am I horrified that the Bible has a book in it that isn’t about God but about a man-woman relationship? Not at all. Sex is God-given. Too often people forget, God told Adam and Eve to procreate (be fruitful and multiply) before they sinned. How about that for turning the notion that God is a grand kill-joy on its head? He not only designed sex to be pleasurable, He gave the command to go make babies.

So what’s wrong with the Song of Solomon celebrating physical intimacy, if in fact that’s the focus of the book? Nothing. Except apparently Solomon wrote it. About whom, I wonder? About himself and which of his 300 wives or 700 concubines? YUCK!

I’m sorry, but the luster is off this sweet love story in song.

Ah, but some people think Solomon wrote it, just not about himself. Well, OK, that is possible I suppose, but this groom, according to the text itself, was no monogamous lover either:

There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
And maidens without number;
But my dove, my perfect one, is unique:
She is her mother’s only daughter;
She is the pure child of the one who bore her.
The maidens saw her and called her blessed,
The queens and the concubines also, and they praised her (6:8-9)

So I’m having a hard time appreciating this song. It seems a little like a moment from the Bachelor. This is what old Solomon (or whoever) sang to this girl, but what, oh what, might he have sung to the next woman he took to bed?

You see my problem?

So why is this book in the Bible? I can think of a couple reasons. It’s a reminder that sex isn’t sinful (in case anyone is still under the influence of Victorian mores on the subject).

It’s also a reminder of what went wrong in Solomon’s kingdom — his many wives led him away from God. The “many” part may have been an issue since God clearly commanded the kings not to amass wives or riches or horses. But specifically a number of Solomon’s wives were women from foreign countries, most likely part of some political alliance. He built them their own palaces and then temples for their gods.

He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.(1 Kings 11:3-8)

A sad, sad passage of Scripture.

The Song of Solomon, then, reminds me that no pleasure, no relationship, no matter how right it seems, can substitute for walking humbly before our God in obedience.

It’s an important lesson and I’m sure there are others in the Song of Solomon. But I’m an incurable romantic and would rather have a song written by a man who was faithful to one wife. That’s just me.

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5 Comments

  1. You know, I think I’m agreeing and disagreeing all at once!

    I love Song of Solomon, and specifically because it’s not only an allegory. It’s about a real human marriage, with real human friendship, love, and passion. However, I’m sure that also shows us some about Christ and His Church, the ultimate template for all human marriage (even involving non-Christians), the “mystery” finally revealed in Ephesians 5.

    Maybe that’s why I’m okay with Solomon, even with his sordid future — presumably after this one true love account? — being the author. At one time, he did have true love, even if he later “got over” that. It’s a reminder and a caution all at once. Solomon, you perv, you could have continued to have, with work, all that you enjoyed.

    And yet, perhaps we’ll find out the book has been mislabeled. Would that interfere with the inerrancy of Scripture, to suggest that we’ve misidentified the author? I’m not sure; after all, we still don’t know for sure the author of the book of Hebrews. Perhaps even better, we’ll learn this was another “Solomon” who wrote the book, who remained committed to his lover, his sister, his best friend — all in the same person! Of course, all this might be silly speculation, as I haven’t overviewed why church leaders and/or modern scholars believe the book should be labeled, and the author attributed, as the traditional King Solomon, as contrasted with not some literate and creative Israeli poet who was merely named after the celebrity king.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Stephen. I now see the book as more of a caution than anything.

    The text doesn’t claim Solomon as the author, but rather “The Preacher.” However Solomon’s name comes up in several places, so it surely is set in the time of Solomon, leaving the door open to Solomon being this Preacher.

    But as I mentioned, the text itself refers to this person having 60 wives and 80 concubines, so Solomon at the time of the writing, or whoever the central character was, was not a monogamous husband. It makes me sad.

    I do agree, though, that there are places where I can see parallels with Christ and the Church. But that’s to be expected since Christ is the Head of the Church in the same way that the husband is head of his wife.

    Becky

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  3. For your consideration: Try reading through the book and seeing if it could be a tale of two men’s competition for the woman’s heart. Perhaps this particular relationship stood out in the king’s view because here, shockingly enough, was someone who ultimately turned down all of his advances in favor of her shepherd lover.

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  4. Thanks for that suggestion, Tegid. I’ve tried to read it as someone other than Solomon but never as if there are two different men. That’s an interesting idea.

    Becky

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  5. […] even declared his book of Ecclesiastes my least favorite book of the Bible . . . until his book of Song of Solomon edged it out this […]

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