Song of Solomon is a unique book of the Bible. It is love poetry. In fact, when the metaphors are properly understood, it is very sexually explicit. But why should such a book be in the Bible? Why is it important for God’s people? Here are some of my thoughts on the book.
Like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon is wisdom literature. It really helps to think of it in that light. It is included in our Scripture collection, not because it is about one particular relationship, but because it is about one particular kind of relationship. It is a book about a sexual relationship between a husband and wife.
There is a phrase used multiple times in the book, “awaken and stir up love.” I’ve been thinking about that phrase and about the wisdom of those words. The bride in the story makes the women of Jerusalem promise not to awaken or stir up love until it is time. Presumably, she knows it is unwise to stir up her sexual desire for her betrothed before those desires can be consummated. Once they are married, however, her love should be awakened and stirred up for her beloved.
Metaphors About Love
The metaphor that love is something which can be stirred up and awakened, is incredibly helpful. But consider how it is in conflict with the way our culture thinks about love and sexual desire.
In our culture, we see love as something into which–or out of which–a person simply “falls.” We talk about “falling in love” and “falling out of love.” We think of it as something that just happens, like tripping and falling into a hole on the ground. “I fell in love,” we say, “I didn’t plan to, it just happened.” Or, we say something like, “Over the years, we just sort of fell out of love with each other.” This is a metaphor for love that we have allowed to shape our thinking and our behavior.
Another way people in our culture think of love is like two magnets. We talk about “attraction” like there is a strong invisible force that pulls people together. This is another metaphor that has shaped our thinking and our behavior.
But the poetry of Song of Solomon invites us to change our metaphors about love. This poetry pictures love like a part of us that is either awake or asleep. A person’s love can be awakened with certain thoughts and ideas. Like waking up from a deep sleep, it happens gradually as those thoughts call out to love, “Wake up! Wake Up!” And by keeping those thoughts away, like a sleeping baby, love can be allowed to stay in a dormant state.
This would mean that instead of thinking, “I am very attracted to that person” (as if you were one magnet and they another), you might say, “My love for them is being awakened.” Then, in light of that revelation, you must decide whether or not it is wise to allow your love to continue to be stirred up for that person. Or instead of thinking, “I have fallen in love with that person,” you might think, “My love has been stirred up,” and you must decide whether or not it is wise for your love to remain stirred up for that person.
Of course, when we think about love in this way, it helps us to understand that love can be stirred up for various people. In our culture we have all kinds of labels for people’s sexual proclivities and preferences. We tend to believe that “heterosexual males” are simply “attracted” to females. That’s just how it works, we think.
But the reality is, I should NOT be “attracted” to every female in the same way. I should not “fall in love” with random women, just because I am a “heterosexual male.” I should awaken love for my wife and not allow love to be awakened for anyone else. And that is what the Song of Solomon is all about.
This book helps us understand God’s will for human sexuality. A man should allow his love to be stirred up and awakened for the one woman to whom he commits himself in marriage; and a woman should allow her love to be stirred up and awakened for the one man to whom she commits herself in marriage. Love for other people should not be awakened; and even love for that particular person should not be awakened until marriage.
It seems possible for just about anyone’s love to be stirred up toward anyone else, if you allow it to be; if you entertain thoughts and ideas to awaken those feelings of love. And, conversely, it’s possible to allow a love you feel for someone to go to sleep if you do not keep those feelings of love awake.
Faithfulness in Marriage
Finally, one thought about the role of Song of Solomon in marriage. This poetry isn’t just about a particular set of lovers. It’s about any husband and any wife. These are the thoughts a husband ought to entertain about his wife and the thoughts a wife ought to entertain about her husband, in order for love to be awakened and stirred up. That’s why this book is not pornographic, because it is not a picture of someone else. It’s a picture of your spouse.
Every husband ought to think of his wife as the most beautiful and glorious woman in all creation. And every wife ought to think of her husband as the pinnacle of manhood. The wisdom of this book will help you entertain the kinds of thoughts that will keep love awakened for your spouse and only for your spouse.
I love you and God loves you,