Text: Song of Songs 1:1-2:7, Psalm 45:1-17, Isaiah 11:1, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
I am such a fan of love poetry. At root, all love poetry is aiming for the same thing: connection. Although ancient love poetry has a different flavor than modern love poems, we can see the same longing for intimacy in both.
For centuries, Song of Songs was primarily read as an allegory for Christ’s love for His Church. And while a purely spiritual interpretation of the poem certainly does seem possible, we can also see from other passages of Scripture that God celebrates married love (Ephesians 5:25), and He values our human connections (John 15:17). So it is safe to read this poem as a human love story, while also noting that we can only love because we are loved by Christ (1 John 4:19). And indeed, in the history of Israel, the theme of marital unfaithfulness is a common one.
As we look at this poem, it’s helpful to have a little roadmap to give structure and understanding. Many Bible commentators point out that Song of Songs was written using a chiastic structure, meaning the poem sort of mirrors itself when it’s folded in half. So the first day parallels the last day, beginning and ending with an invitation to enjoy a spring day and culminating in the middle with the marriage.
Beyond that, this love story is also structured like a play, with speakers given for each role. As you read, it might be helpful to imagine this as a stage play and see each of the speakers as characters distinct from the others.
And finally, we can consider Song of Songs in light of God’s covenant with King David, who was Solomon’s father. God had promised David that his people would be God’s people.
Unfortunately, his son Solomon didn’t have a great reputation when it came to fidelity. But through Solomon’s marriage to Shulamith, she was joined to the same covenant God had promised to David. Once an outsider, she was brought into the fullness of all the blessings afforded to David’s people, and therefore, God’s people. In this way, the poem also illuminates the beauty of God’s covenantal blessings.
The layers of imagery and complexity are rich indeed. But even without all these tools, we can look into this intimate love poem between two lovers who lived thousands of years ago and find the truth, goodness, and beauty of the gospel.
How wonderful that God tells us the story of His love for us not only in commandments, in teachings, in lessons of history, and in the very person of His Son, but also in a love poem. God’s design for love is both intimate and grand in scale, presenting love in the context of marital fidelity and covenantal blessing. The central idea is an intimate tie: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” He protects us under His banner, and that banner is love (Song of Songs 6:3; 2:4).
In this Song, God provides us with a rich celebration of faithful love between the bridegroom and the bride. It’s about a couple on their wedding night, and it’s about a God who loves His people more than they can understand. “It is a profound mystery,” the love Christ has for the Church (Ephesians 5:32).