Why is the Song of Solomon, which is so obviously concerned with human sexual love, a part of Scripture? There are some possibilities: God wants us to know that He is concerned about everything in our lives, including sexuality; He wants us to see it as an allegory of Christ’s love for His Church (Eph. 5:22-32); He may want us to view it both ways. One commentator, J. A. Balchin, in the New Bible Commentary,1 explains why the allegorical interpretation is so widespread: “Owing to its apparent eroticism, the book for centuries has been understood as an allegory of Christ’s love for the Church.” But he himself does not accept the allegorical interpretation. Many have written about the Song as an allegory of Christ’s love for His Church and this is very useful in promoting love for the Lord Jesus.
Pure Human Sexuality
This article, however, will concern itself with the Song as a poem about pure, erotic human love as God created it. Let’s begin with Genesis: “God created man … male and female He created them … and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’” (Gen. 1:27-28 NIV). Thus He commanded that they exercise the pure sexuality that He created.
Balchin writes that the Song “is unique in Holy Scripture in that it is the only book that deals solely with human love and it does this incomparably.” 1 It begins with the sexual response of the bride to the caresses of her husband. She says they are “more delightful than wine” (Song 1:2). Wine produces a warm feeling, and she says, “Take me away with you – let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (1:4).
Then we are told that the husband courts her by speaking of how beautiful are her cheeks, her neck (1:10) and her eyes (1:15). She responds by telling him he is “handsome … my lover … charming” (1:16). She says he is “my lover … resting between my breasts” (1:13).
The husband then compliments her by comparing her to other women in a delightful way, calling her “a lily among thorns” (2:2). She responds by sharing a dream she has had, in which she could not find him, and the consternation this caused to her (3:1- 5). She thus indicates how much he means to her.
Now he courts her with a love song (4:1-5) whose “lyric is still used at Syrian weddings today.” 2 He describes her endowments that please him – from her eyes to her breasts – and concludes by saying, “All beautiful you are, my darling, there is no flaw in you” (4:7). No wife finds it boring to have her body so well spoken of! He continues with how pleasing it is to make love to her saying, “How much more pleasing is your love than wine … the fragrance of your perfume than any spice” (4:10). Then he says of her kisses that “lips drop sweetness … milk and honey are under your tongue” (4:11).
Of their wives breasts, God’s Word says to husbands: “may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated … by an adulteress” (Prov. 5:19-20). God intends a man’s erotic love to be directed towards his wife alone.
For This Reason
Jesus said, “Haven’t you read … that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’” (Mt. 19:4- 5; Gen. 1:27; 2:24). God makes it clear that the sex drive is a powerful force that makes a couple into a separate family to provide love and care for each other and the children that result from the union. no clearer imagery could be used to speak of the sexual union than the two becoming one flesh. The same imagery is used of fornication in 1 Corinthians 6:16.
The power of the sex drive is recorded in Old Testament examples so that we might learn from them. For example, Tamar succumbed to the drive and got herself pregnant by Judah at a time when he, a widower, also succumbed to his drive and sought her out, thinking her to be a prostitute (Gen. 38:12-26). And then there is the story of Jacob’s non-favorite wife, Leah and his favorite, Rachel (Gen. 30:14-17). These examples of women who seek after men when they are ovulating should serve as a warning to young women that they are especially vulnerable at such a time when they can become pregnant. David is an example of a man succumbing to the sex drive. He “saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful.” He was strongly drawn to her and committed adultery with her while her husband was away at war. In so doing, he brought calamity upon himself for the rest of his life (2 Sam. 11:2-12:11).
What is chastity? It is not, as some may think, merely abstaining from sexual relations; but it is abstaining from them outside of marriage. In biblical terms, it is purity. Thus, we are told, “It is God’s will … that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust” (1 Th. 4:3-4). We are also told, “If you do marry you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned” (1 Cor. 7:28). Even then, there were those who would “forbid people to marry” but Paul warns us that such teachings are “taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
However, it should also be made clear that Paul does, in fact, advise “the unmarried and the widows … to stay unmarried” (1 Cor. 7:8). Thus, it is noteworthy that he does not command celibacy, but advises those with a strong sex drive to marry because “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9).
A Needed Book
In this connection, the following statement by Balchin1 is well worth quoting: “If the nature of the book is an extended dramatic poem or poems on human love, its purpose is to indicate the righteousness and value of true love in all its aspects between man and woman. God in His wisdom has included in the Canon of Holy Scripture one whole book on this important matter which, in every generation, suffers such tragic abuse … its presence indicates the completeness of Holy Scripture, for God is concerned with every aspect of our lives.”
The allure of sexual immorality is graphically described and warned against in much of Scripture; the Song serves as a counterbalance. Proverbs warns young men against the enticement to “drink deep of love till morning” with a woman who guarantees that her “husband is not at home … gone on a long journey.” It warns him that accepting her offer would be like “an ox going to the slaughter … a deer stepping into a noose … a bird darting into a snare … many are the victims she has brought down” (Prov. 7:18-26). God never intends that Scripture be used to deprive us of pleasure, as some would imply. He is trying to spare us the needless pain and destruction that sexual sin brings.
In short, the Song of Solomon indicates to us that God wants us to enjoy life and the sexuality He created. This same message is also found in Ecclesiastes: “enjoy life with your wife, whom you love” (Eccl. 9:9).
1. Balchin, J. A.; The Song of Solomon; The New Bible Commentary, Revised; Eerdmans Pub., Grand Rapids, Michigan; p. 579.
2. Balchin, J. A.; p. 583.
By Alan H. Crosby
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org