Song of Solomon 1-4
Song of Solomon has many different interpretations. Some interpret the book solely as a figurative portrayal of the love of God for his people. Others interpret it literally as the love story between Solomon and a Shulammite woman. Still others argue that since the Bible has no record of Solomon marrying a Shulammite woman, that it is the love story between an unnamed shepherd and a Shulammite woman with Solomon as a background figure.
No matter what your interpretation, this is a beautiful book of love poetry that reminds us that the love shared between a man and his wife, specifically erotic love, is holy and good. Song of Solomon is full of erotic images that quench the old notion that sexual desire is sinful.
In our two, brief days in this book, I am using Tommy Nelson’s sermon series as my primary resource. He teaches that Song of Solomon is the literal love story between Solomon and his Shulammite bride. (You can listen to his six-part sermon series on Song of Solomon at his church’s website, dentonbible.org.)
The first three chapters describe the courtship between Solomon and the Shulammite woman. Notice how the woman is initially attracted to Solomon’s character:
…your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you! (Song of Solomon 1:3, NIV)
His name is sweet like perfume. His name refers to his reputation or character. She was initially attracted to his sweet and tender nature, not necessarily to his physical appearance.
We learn from the woman that she, unlike other women, did not protect her skin from the sun with a customary veil, but was forced to labor in the vineyards – making her skin dark from the sun (vs. 5-6). From her words, we can infer that she was submissive to authority, hard-working and responsible. She, like Solomon, was a woman of noble character.
In verses 1:9-3:4, we read of how they relate to one another. Above all, they are tender. The man calls her “darling,” the Hebrew word for “an intimate buddy,” or “best friend.” He esteems her in public and speaks tenderly to her in private. His tenderness awakens her sexual desire (2:5-6), but he stops the fire of her desire with the refrain,
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5).
Chapter 3 ends with the exciting scene of King Solomon arriving to his wedding. The imagery is anticipatory and vibrant,
Go out, O daughters of Zion,
and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of the gladness of his heart (Song of Solomon 3:11).
Which brings us to Chapter 4!! The first seven verses are Solomon’s thoughts toward his bride. And then we read of the honeymoon!!
(He) A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
a spring locked, a fountain sealed. (4:12)
(She) Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits.
(He) I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
I drank my wine with my milk (5:1).
This, friends, is the consummation of their love.
Interpreting this book as a literal love story can leave the unmarried or unhappily married feeling despondent. But no matter your personal interpretation, your marital status or degree of marital bliss, we will all experience the joy of this wedding scene!!!
We, as members of Christ’s church, wait expectantly for our bridegroom, Jesus Christ. At the end of the age, we will be united with the lover of our souls – the one who fulfills our deepest longings – who loves us tenderly and passionately.
In verses 3:1-4, the Shulammite woman searches the city for her lover because she cannot bear to be separated from him. This is the love we are to have for Christ. We are to seek his presence with the passion of a lover. He is our bridegroom, and we are his radiant bride!