Part 1: Introduction
Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) may be a bit perplexing upon reading it for the first time. It is an enigmatic collection of Hebrew love poetry nestled between the books of Ecclesiastes and Isaiah in the Old Testament. It’s not very difficult to follow; the fictional poetic tale of two lovers explores themes of physical attraction, sexual desire, and human longing in a simple yet artfully crafted series of scenes, images, and vignettes; but its uniqueness among other scriptures in the canon of biblical literature tends to raise a number of questions.
The Song of Songs concludes the wisdom literature portion of the Old Testament, which itself is a pretty intimidating chunk of the Bible: The book of Job explores the theology of suffering and asks the vital question: “shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (2:10); the Psalms document the worship, laments, and prayers of God’s people as they interpreted their circumstances in light of their standing as a holy nation before God; the Proverbs contain practical wisdom for daily covenant living; Ecclesiastes discusses the mysteries, troubles, and vanities of life against the true hope and meaning found in an enduring faith in God… and Song of Songs is a collection of erotic poetry. One of these things is not like the other.
This has led many people of faith to ask, Why is the Song of Songs included in the Bible? What does it teach us about God and the human experience? How can it help us understand how to better love, obey, and worship God? How is it relevant to the overall narrative of the Bible? Is it an allegory? Is it a symbolic representation of something greater, such as the relationship between God and the nation of Israel, or maybe Jesus and the Church?
Over the next series of posts, I will be exploring and reflecting on the Song of Songs in order to better understand and respond to these questions. I will look into the historical background, early interpretations, and controversy surrounding the Song of Songs as the Christian canon was being put together, as well as reflecting on insight from modern day scholars, commentators, and pastors. This will be a challenge and a learning experience for me, and my posts will document what I am discovering. If you follow along, I hope it will be a learning opportunity for you as well as you dive into this book with me. We’re going to start right from the opening line, which certainly piques the reader’s interest like no other passage in the Bible:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!Song of Songs 1:1-4
For your love is better than wine;
3 your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore virgins love you.
4 Draw me after you; let us run.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
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