Song of Solomon Hermeneutic

Discussion in 'OT Wisdom Literature' started by Jeff_Bartel, Jun 20, 2005.

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  1. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    What is your take on Song of Solomon....

    1) primarily meant to be an analogy between Christ and the church,

    2) primarily meant to be an example of a proper relationship between a husband and a wife,

    3) or equally both?
  2. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    I think both. I definitely see Christ and His Church in this Scripture. But just as the passage in Ephesians which relates the love of Christ for His Church to the love of a husband for his wife, the allegory makes sense because it is grounded in the husband-wife relationship. Likewise, in the Song of Solomon, the husband-wife relationship serves as the touchstone for the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church.
  3. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

  4. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

  5. Jie-Huli

    Jie-Huli Puritan Board Freshman

    I answered "primarily meant to be an analogy between Christ and the church", because I believe that is what it is primarily. The imagery of the relationship between a husband and wife is incident to this allegory, but it would not seem to me that this aspect was meant as the central focus, and so I would not say "equally both".

    By the way, Dr. Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle has written a helpful devotional commentary on the Song of Solomon entitled "The Mutual Love of Christ and His People" which elaborates on this central aspect of the book. It was written in conjunction with a series of Wednesday night messages he presented on the subject.

    [Edited on 6-21-2005 by Jie-Huli]
  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  7. Solo Christo

    Solo Christo Puritan Board Freshman

    Both, but I don't know about the 'equally' part.
  8. LadyFlynt

    LadyFlynt Puritan Board Doctor

  9. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I voted for primarily an analogy of Christ and His Church. Though the book definitely addresses the physical aspects of the marital relationship, all things are ultimately about Christ (Ephesians 1:19-23)
  10. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm not sure I'd want Christ to do some of the things discussed in this book to His Church. Maybe I'm alone on this one ...
  11. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior


    That depends on whether you accept some of the more modern, lurid, ideas about what this book is describing.

    This book is very much a victim of the modern, hollow hermeneutic beloved of so many seminaries today.

    I voted 'primarily Christ', but I would rather have had the option of 'both, but Primarily Christ'

  12. New wine skin

    New wine skin Puritan Board Freshman

    I vote for both.

    Neither hermeneutic takes away from the gospel. The analogy of Christ and His church relates well to the doctrine of Union with Christ. Likewise, the literal reading is a means of grace and wisdom for the courting phase and marriage phase of interpersonal relations. I see neither interpretation as mutually exclusive, but rather one as a fine complement to the other.

  13. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    Except there is no marriage in the Song of Solomon.


  14. LadyFlynt

    LadyFlynt Puritan Board Doctor

    What makes you say that?
  15. New wine skin

    New wine skin Puritan Board Freshman

    You ve got to love the can o' worms image... : )

    I didn't say there was a "marriage ceremony" in the Song, just that there is a relationship between man and women who engage in sensual activity, which being a couple, they must relate to each other is some phase of a relationship (be it analogous to marriage or ??), and thus I contend that the Song gives a picture of the dynamics of that relationship. The Song itself is scripture and scripture is a means of grace and wisdom.

    Seems that this thread has been done before.
  16. New wine skin

    New wine skin Puritan Board Freshman

    I recommend that any interested in this topic interact with Song of Solomon commentary by Tremper Longman. It will not end the debate, but you will be well informed by a reformed brother.

    Word to ya! :book2:
  17. BlackCalvinist

    BlackCalvinist Puritan Board Senior

    It's safe to go to hell now.

    It's frozen.

    Gabriel and I agree.
  18. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    It is both, but it is the analogy of Christ and the church that takes precedence in terms of the macrocosmic picture. Our marriages are intended by God to be a microcosmic picture of the relationship between Christ and his church, as we learn explicitly from Ephesians 5:31-32...
    Thus our marriages are intended by God to be a minature reflection of Christ's relationship to his church, which is why the Song of Solomon can be applied to our personal relationships with our spouses, because they are to reflect the bigger picture (the macrocosm) of Christ's relationship to the Church. Marriage is meant by God to be a minature relationship of the union that we the Church have with Christ. Our marriages are not the ultimate reality"”They are a temporary reality foreshadowing the great union of Christ with his Church. This gives a strong incentive to us to live godly with and before our spouses, to be tender with them, and as husbands to love them as Christ loves His Church.

    It also has reference to how we are to regard one another as fellow members of Christ's spouse, the church, because it is together that we make up the spouse of Christ, not as isolated individuals.

  19. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    Jie-Huli made this recommendation

    And I would second it. Time for you puritanheads to get back to the puritan hermeneutic!

    Will post a little more on the marriage/sensual relationship thing later.


    [Edited on 6-21-2005 by JonathanHunt]
  20. BlackCalvinist

    BlackCalvinist Puritan Board Senior

    Just as a passing comment....

    Isn't it a bit gnostic to try and spiritualize SoS instead of just letting it be what it appears to be on the surface ?
  21. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think it was Origen who thought that

    1:13 A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, That lies all night between my breasts.

    was the cross lying between the Old and New covenants. :)
  22. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    More soon. Suffice to say I wholly disagree!

  23. Average Joey

    Average Joey Puritan Board Junior

    I think in a way both.However,not equally.There it is spoken of lovemaking.I would deffinently say that it is a physical representation of Christ`s marriage to the church.Of the love and care for his beloved wife and his wife`s undying love for the husband.Good tool in showing why we have a devotion for Christ.It is written of the love a husband and wife show to each other.If we are to claim he is our husband,then we are to love him.

    [Edited on 6-22-2005 by Average Joey]
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I whole-heartedly agree, Kerry;)

    A few thoughts,
    Rev Kok is certainly correct to see all things finding their fulfilment in Christ, but how do we draw the parallels in a way that is faithful to the scriptures?

    Normally, in cases of typology/allegory we let Scripture itself determine how it is to be read, or in this case the allegory drawn.

    In some ways we need to be careful of reading modern-day luridity into the otherwise sexual language of the poem. However, breasts in the OT were the same as breasts in the New Covenant age.

    Average Joey makes a good point in saying that this should be a spur for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. I agree and hope the reference to the physical love between husbands and wives is still maintained in the poem.

    I think DTK balances the line best when he sees the physical aspect of the poem as a temporal reality foreshadowing the marriage banquet of the Lamb (my reference here).

    I just now saw that. Great!
  25. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

  26. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

    I have to admit I am surprised at how the poll is going. I guess I shouldn't be, though, considering how the puritans generally viewed the SoS.

    It is clear to me (though obviously not to most of you) that the SoS is primarily about marriage and the man/woman relationship. That is what is overtly spoken of throughout the entire book! God founded marriage before He founded the church . . . so is it really that surprising that He would dedicate 1 of His 66 books to the subject? We know from Genesis 2 that God considered marriage important for man even in his perfect pre-fall state. And there is no passage in SoS corollary to Ephesians 5, where the author says, 'now I'm really talking about Christ and the church here . . ."

    Of course Christ and the church are in view as well. I don't think a person can honestly read SoS side by side with Ephesians 5 and not see a Holy-Spirit-intended connection. We have a lot to learn from SoS regarding Christ and the church. But that is not what the book is primarily about, in my opinion.

  27. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    A snapshot exegetical consideration

    I had a few moments, so I thought I'd post this comment, which is really an exegetical point from I sermon I preached sometime back on this passage while preaching a series on marriage. Growing up, I used to sing, as perhaps many of you did, the refrain to the hymn...
    I suspect that this intended praise of Christ for the beauty and glory of His person was drawn from, and thus based on a verse from the Song of Solomon, 2:1...
    Now, while we can appreciate the intention of the hymn writer, I would suggest that this is an example where the exegesis of hymnology has gone a bit awry. We´ve become so use to the interpretation of this Song that it is just a story about the relationship between Christ and His Church that we can miss the point made on the first level of the story. And as I´ve mentioned, I believe it is a picture of Christ and His Church of that on the macrocosmic level. But I think that´s been done by some without giving adequate attention to the fact that it is actually (at the first level) a story between a man and a woman.

    In our haste to find Christ Here and there in this book, some of us have tried to find Christ in every place, i.e., under every leaf, as it were, but He´s not the rose of Sharon. Now, to be sure, Christ is there, but these are the words of the Shulamite woman. When she uses them of herself, she doesn´t use them as a compliment. The flower of which she speaks are undoubtedly common wild flowers. They´re not like the big Easter lilies that you find at your local florist, one of the most beautiful of flowers. No, she sees herself as a common wildflower. She is expressing her feelings of inadequacy. She can´t feel that she´s that special person that her beloved keeps telling her that she is. She simply can´t believe that about herself. When back in v. 5 of chapter 1, she says, "œI am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem," she is comparing herself to other women. And as She compares herself to other women, she feels herself falling short in comparison to other women, though at the same time trying to find some redeeming value in herself. She doesn´t think she measures up to what her beloved deserves. It is a window into her heart which reveals a weakness she has.

    In a day and age where the emphasis of the world is upon appearances, she is no different from so many precious women in our own day who share her weakness. Now, this is probably going to be a weakness throughout her whole life, just as most all the weaknesses we bring into our marriages are going to be with us throughout our whole lives. We´re simply going to have to learn to live and work through them. We can´t simply recognize them, and expect that these are going to disappear from our lives. Such needs are probably going to persist over time and here hers comes to the forefront again"”"œI´m just a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley! I´m just a common wildflower, a dandylion!"

    But the wonderful thing about her beloved here (and I do think we see Christ in this) is that he (her beloved) meets her on the level where she is, and he tells her, "œYou´re a lily, and you´re a LILY AMONG THORNS!" He´s telling her how special she is among all women. No wife, no husband can live secure in a relationship where he or she thinks there´s a competitor to their affection and attraction. When there are other competing interests out there in the world, She will not feel safe in her love, she will not be Secure. She will not be free to set loose the passion that he wants to feel, until she knows she´s Special. So he tells her, "œLike a Lily among thorns, So is my love (My Wife, My Beloved) among the daughters!" And she responds in chapter 2, vs. 3-4, Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, So is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, And his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love.

    What was it that stirred up all these feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in her? What was responsible for all this hurt and pain? One was the sun (though, no doubt, other things contributed), the sun burned her, it darkened her skin (a tanned body was not considered an expression of beauty in her day). But what had her beloved given her to relieve her insecurity?"”Shade. He gave her the shade of an apple tree. And she says, "œI sat down in his shade with great delight!"

    The point is that, as a compassionate husband, he is seeking to protect her from all that is assaulting her dignity, all that tears her down in life, and that would tell her that she´s not worthwhile. He gets between all of that and her to protect her from it. If It´s the sun, he becomes a tree and shades her. If It´s a lack of affirmation from men (those mother´s sons who were angry with her)"”he lets her know that far from being angry or displeased with her that he loves her and finds everything about her attractive and fulfilling. Instead, he becomes a mountain of praise for her, and his fruit is sweet to her taste.

    This is what Christ does for us, and as husbands we are to reflect His love and nurture, and cherish our wives as Christ does His church. We are to reflect Christ's love for His Church in our relationships with our wives. So while on the first level (the microcosmic level), it instructs us about our relationships with our wives, but the bigger picture on the macrocosmic level is that this is how Christ loves His Church (Eph 5:28-33). May God help us to protect our wives in our love for them, giving reassurance to them everyday of how much they mean to us, and thereby reflect Christ's love for His Church to the world.


    [Edited on 6-22-2005 by DTK]

    [Edited on 6-22-2005 by DTK]
  28. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    I also like what Matthew Henry has to say. He connects the Song of Solomon with Psalm 45. Both husband-wife and Christ-Church.
  29. Jie-Huli

    Jie-Huli Puritan Board Freshman

    That is a possible interpretation, but I believe there are good reasons as well to believe the "Rose of Sharon" and the "Lily of the Valley" are indeed Christ.

    As Dr. Masters has written in the book I mentioned above, "The rose of Sharon is the very best. It is delicate, picturing Christ coming in human flesh, and although it lives on the driest soil it possesses unparalleled splendour, picturing Christ, the perfect Man, living in a barren, sin-sick world . . . The lily of the valleys depicts the purity of Christ in His 'valley', which is His time of humiliation on the earth."

    And John Gill wrote, "Christ may be said to be the lily of the valleys because of His wonderful humility and condescension in assuming our nature, suffering in our stead, and in His humbling Himself to the death of the cross for us. His whole life was one continuing sequence of humility. Christ on earth did not appear as the lofty cedar, but as the lowly lily, and though He is the high and lofty One in His divine nature, yet He condescends to dwell with such who are of a humble and contrite spirit".

    I do not believe that all the old Puritan writers were just rushing to conclusions when they wrote that this was Christ speaking.

    As to our interpretation of the entire book, Dr. Masters has written a number of arguments as to the central message of the book being the love of Christ and His Church (rather than a human courtship). I will not write them all out here, but I will share one which I think is an interesting one to ponder:

    The original Hebrew name of the book is actually the "Song of Songs" (as it is translated in the Authorised Version), meaning the greatest and most beautiful song every composed. Which relationship is most worthy of such a title: the love of Christ and His Church, or human love?
  30. New wine skin

    New wine skin Puritan Board Freshman

    Pastor King

    As a newly wed I found your sermon excerpt very uplifting and edifying. Thank you for sharing !!!

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