Introduction to the Song of Solomon

INTRODUCTION

In this session, we will give introductory information about the Song of Solomon and principles of interpretation. This will give us a road map so as to understand the big picture in the Song.

King Solomon is the author of this eight chapter love Song in approximately 900 BC. It was probably written before his spiritual decline (1 Kings 11:3-4).

The two primary sections of the Song are Song 1-4 and Song 5-8.

The first four chapters of the Song focus on the Bride understanding and enjoying her inheritance in Christ. These chapters emphasize how God views and desires her.

The last four chapters focus on Jesus’ inheritance in the Bride. We seek something from Him, but He also seeks something from us. He wants us to love Him with all our heart (Mt. 22:37). The focus of the book completely shifts in the middle (4:16-5:1).

MY PERSONAL MANDATE AND JOURNEY WITH THE SONG

The Lord spoke to me by His audible voice in July 1988. I was in my office and I was reading Song of Solomon 8:6 and began to pray, “Let Jesus seal my heart with the seal of His love.”

The Lord said that He would release grace to walk in Song 8:6-7 across the Body of Christ worldwide and that I was to focus on this theme throughout my ministry.

My first response was to be perplexed after I read the Song of Solomon that day. My next response was to study the Song by faith without enjoying it. I was initially intimidated by the symbolic terminology. I soon began to find much delight and pleasure in studying the Song as I encountered Jesus the Bridegroom and felt the power of His love.

THE SONG REVEALS THE PATTERN OF HOLY PASSION

This Song reveals God’s pattern in how we grow in passion for Jesus. It touches the significant principles and practical realities needed to develop mature love for God.

Understanding this Song helps us identify the issues that God is specifically dealing with in our lives. It equips us to discern what God is doing in the different seasons in our lives. Through our life, we ebb and flow in and out of the testing and blessing described throughout the Song.

People often find themselves in two different places in this Song in the seasons of their life. I re-visit the same place in the Song again and again.

HOW TO INTERPRET THE SONG OF SOLOMON

Natural interpretation: this view depicts a natural love story between King Solomon and his bride, the Shulamite maiden. It emphasizes biblical principles that honor the beauty of love within marriage. This view has grown in popularity in the last 100 years and has many good commentaries. There are two basic story lines when interpreting the Song as a natural love story.

The first tells of a Shulamite maiden who was wooed by the handsome and wealthy King Solomon who progressively wins her heart as the storyline unfolds.

The second is the story of a godly Shulamite maiden who deeply loves a poor shepherd in her hometown (Shunem). King Solomon passed through her town and noticed her working in a vineyard. He was struck by her extraordinary beauty. Thus, he sought to steal her heart away from the poor shepherd that she loved. She remained loyal to the poor shepherd in the midst of the temptations of King Solomon’s wealth and power.

Spiritual interpretation: this is a symbolic interpretation to see the spiritual truths in our relationship with Jesus behind the natural love story. This is the approach I will use in this study course. We study the Song to gain deeper understanding of our relationship with Jesus. This is the most common interpretation over the last 3000 years (since Solomon wrote this Song).

Jesus is exalted in the Song. He spoke of Himself from all the Scriptures to the disciples on the Emmaus road. He went through all 39 books of the OT to speak of Himself.

27 He expounded…in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Lk. 24:27)

The Spirit inspired all Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) and exalts Jesus in all that He does.

14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (Jn. 16:14)

The Spirit has deep friendship with Jesus and a fierce loyalty to fill people with love for Jesus. They have been together from eternity past. Thus, it is inconceivable for the Spirit to inspire a book in the Bible without Jesus being the predominant theme.

THE SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION: 3 COMMON APPROACHES

First, is the relationship between Jesus and the individual believer. This approach gives spiritual principles that aid us in our progression of holy passion. This is the way we approach this study.

Second, is the relationship between Jesus and His corporate Church throughout history.

Third, is the relationship between God as the Bridegroom and ethnic Israel as His Bride (Jer. 2:2; Hos. 2:16-20; Ezek. 16:8-14, 20-21, 32, 38; Is. 54:5-6). This was the primary approach of the scribes in OT times as well as Jewish rabbis today.

We bless different interpretations as long as they exhort others to grow in love for Jesus.

ALL BELIEVERS ARE INCLUDED IN THE BRIDE

Theologically, all believers on earth are betrothed (engaged) to Jesus. In Hebrew tradition, an engaged couple was legally married and needed to be divorced if they broke their engagement.

2 For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:2)

The consummation of the marriage relationship occurs in the age to come (Rev. 19:7).

7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7)

A working definition of the Bride is one that includes all those who are mature in love.

I believe that the Bride of Christ is the entire Church from history that is filled with mature love. In the resurrection, the Spirit will bring God’s work to completion in the whole church. In other words, every believer will experience a mature bridal relationship with Jesus.

First, the maturity of the Bride is ultimately the fruit of Jesus’ work on the cross.

31 If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:31-32)

Second, in heaven there will be only one unified people, rather than two classes of believers. Jesus prayed that His people would be unified like the Father and the Son.

21 That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You… (Jn. 17:21)

Third, we will be like Jesus when we see Him in glory. The impact of seeing God will release great power that will transform all believers in the age-to-come.

2 When He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)

Fourth, the Bride’s destiny is ensured by God’s ravished heart for her. His heart is ravished for all of His people. God’s heart is ravished for all the redeemed, not just for those who are spiritually mature during their brief time on the earth. Jesus is not more ravished for one group in the Church than He is for another group.

9 You have ravished My heart, My sister, My spouse… (Song 4:9).

Summary: the maturity of the Bride is based primarily upon Jesus’ work on the cross, His intercession, the revelation of His glory and His ravished heart for us.

THE THREE MAIN CHARACTERS OF THE BOOK

King Solomon: in the spiritual interpretation he is a picture of the triumphant resurrected Jesus Christ who is King of Kings.

Shulamite maiden: in the spiritual interpretation she is a picture of the Bride of Christ. She is introduced as a young maiden who grows up to become a Bride in mature partnership with King Jesus. The Shulamite is mentioned once by name (6:13). She lived in Shunam (north of Jezreel).

Daughters of Jerusalem: in the spiritual interpretation they speak of sincere yet spiritually immature believers. They look to the Shulamite for answers on how to grow close to the King. They are not an actual group that we can identify in history (but personify immature believers).

COMPARING ECCLESIASTES AND SONG OF SONGS

Solomon wrote 3 books in the Old Testament: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. It was common for the Jewish fathers to relate the 3 books of Solomon to the temple he built.

They related the book of Proverbs to the outer court of Solomon’s temple.

They related the book of Ecclesiastes to the inner court of Solomon’s temple.

They related the Song to the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple.

In Ecclesiastes, he wrote, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” This book proclaims that life without obedience to God is vanity. Therefore, it is impossible to be satisfied with even the most desirable circumstances. This book speaks of man’s endless wanderings until he finds rest in God. We can have everything but if we lack reality with God then in reality we have nothing.

In the Song of Solomon, Solomon shows forth the joy of life that can be attained without regard to how our circumstances are going. In this book, the Holy Spirit is calling us to make intimacy with God the goal of our life. The Song highlights how full our life is when our consuming passion is to love and know Jesus. Even with hard circumstances, our spirit can be alive in God.

Ecclesiastes teaches us that no matter how great our accomplishments are in man’s eyes they will not ultimately have any value if they are not pleasing to God. When Ecclesiastes is understood it awakens us to the fervency that begins the journey in Song 1:5. Thus, Ecclesiastes prepares us to understand the Song of Solomon.

The philosophy in Ecclesiastes tells us to “assert ourselves to gain more worldly experience as the way to enjoy life.” Song of Solomon speaks of entering fulfillment through humility, obedience and the impartation of God’s love.

Ecclesiastes speaks of the vanity of pursuing the best things found in earthly life, while Song of Solomon speaks of the spiritual pleasure of pursuing the best things found in heavenly life.

THE CANTICLES OR A SERIES OF SONGS

The Song of Songs is sometimes referred to as the Canticles. The Latin noun “canticum” means “a Song”. Canticles mean a series of Songs.

The Vulgate was a popular Bible translation written in the 4th century by Jerome who translated the Scripture into Latin so that the common people could understand it.

In the Vulgate, the Song of Solomon is called the Canticles. The following references may be rightfully used: Cant. 4:9 or Song 4:9 or SS 4:9 or SOS 4:9.

ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION

23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic (figurative in NIV; allegorically speaking in NAS). For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar– 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai…and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Gal. 4:23-26)

The allegorical interpretation has been used in different ways through history. Paul’s treatment of the Hagar-Sarah story “is described by Paul as symbolic by the NKJV, as figurative by the NIV and as an allegory by NAS.

Paul’s use of the Sarah-Hagar story in Gal. 4:21-31 is more “figurative” (typology) instead of an “allegory.” Paul’s use of allegory differed greatly from Alexandrian allegory (first-century Philo as well as the third and fourth century Origen and Chrysostom).

The Alexandrians used allegory in a way that ignored its historical context and meaning. In 1 Cor. 9:9-10, Paul used an allegorical interpretation of the “muzzled ox” (Deut 25:4) to apply to the full-time workers in the gospel receiving finances.

An allegory is a fictional story with symbolic meaning without historical facts as its basis. An experience of this type of an allegory is seen in the book, The Chronicles of Narnia.

An allegory is a literary form where people or objects symbolically represent truths. Allegories illustrate truths to make them easier to understand. Our primary interpretation of Scripture must be the historical grammatical that takes the Scripture at face value. We approach the Scripture this way unless the Scripture indicates otherwise (Gal. 4:24; Jn. 15:1-6; Rev. 11:8; Isa. 5:1-7; Hos. 2:1-14; Ezek. 16; Dan. 7:2-8, 16).

Allegorical interpretations are helpful if we only use them to illustrate truths that are clearly established throughout the New Testament.




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