Song of Solomon method of approach

Discussion in 'OT Wisdom Literature' started by CIT, Nov 21, 2008.

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  1. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    For my entire life I have always been told that Song of Solomon was an analogy of Christ and the church. A few months back though my unit started going through a video series by Tommy Nelson on the book. He believes that the book is an instruction book on courting and dating. There is no need to allegorize the book. I do say that the series has been great and guys are on a waiting list to borrow the DVDs so they can watch them with their wives, but it got me wondering........

    Is SoS allegorized or a poetic description of a couple?
  2. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    There's millions of threads on this. Follow the old paths.
  3. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    If it's not allegorical, I don't see why it would be in the Bible. It would just be some ancient, erotic literature. Since it has been canonized I'm inclined to believe it was probably viewed allegorically by the Jews. I don't see why else they would include it in the Canon if it was just an erotic poem.

    If it's an erotic poem, what are the lessons we can learn from it?
  4. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Quite a few things can be learned from it if it is not allegorical. Mr. Nelson (reformed pastor in Denton, TX) broke down the book and showed how this was God ordained way of courting, of marriage, of romance, and of fight resolution.

    On the other side of the coin, let's say that the book is allegorical. What is the meaning of God telling the church that it has a beautiful body and systematically describing the beauty of each and every part?

    I am not choosing sides, just putting both out there.
  5. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Here is James Durham's understanding:

  6. ChristianHedonist

    ChristianHedonist Puritan Board Freshman

    Couldn't it be both allegorical and a poetical description of a couple? A better word for this may be typological-it is a literal, poetical description of a husband and wife and their love for each other, but it is also typological of Christ and the Church.
  7. Honor

    Honor de-cool

    can't it be AND instead of OR??? That's how I always thought it to be.
  8. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Dan, I agree with your correction of terms.

    I guess rephrased the question should be, "Is the main focus the relationship between a man and woman or the relationship between Christ and His bride?
  9. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Sure it can be both. The question is what is the main thrust and which is secondary?
  10. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    It is not an either/or here. With respect to the Puritans, I think they got it only half right. This is just about the only place, by the way, where I think the Puritans got it skewed (although there are one or two Revelation commentaries that could be mercifully forgotten!). The typology (not allegory) is there, especially if one compares the Song with Ephesians 5. However, the literal meaning is not what Durham says it is, but a literal marriage, and literal language about their physical relationship. God created sex. He created it good. If there is a book in the Bible that addresses this, why is that bad? The marriage bed is pure. The Song of Songs is not designed to tempt people to sin, but rather to point people to where sex is good, clean, enjoyable, and pure. The only answer I can come up with for why some people do not like this is that some Christians view sex in marriage as a necessary evil, rather than not only allowed, but commanded (in the creation mandate to multiply and fill the earth, sex is commanded between husband and wife). Probably what is underlying this discomfort is a Platonic (or, rather more correctly, Neo-Platonic) hatred of everything physical. It is unfortunate that we Christians have abandoned the topic of sex to the world. We don't educate our children about its joys in the proper context, and so they learn about sex from the world, rather than from the Bible. As a result, we see sexual sin rampant in the church.
  11. PastorSBC

    PastorSBC Puritan Board Freshman


    in my opinion there is no way to simply deal with this text and come to the conclusion it is allegory without reading into and laying things on top of the text.

    Let the text say what it says.
  12. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Thank you! Exactly - the Song is typological, not allegorical.

    In as much as Eph 5 presents marriage as a living picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church, any book of the Bible that gives an ideal image of what marriage should look like is also going to give us a picture of the Christ/Church relationship.

    But it IS a book about marital love and the marraige bed.
  13. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I tend to like Luther's assessment:

    "Many commentators have produced all manner of interpretation of this song of King Solomon's - and they have been both immature and strange. But, to get at the simplest sense and the real character of the book, I think it is a song in which Solomon honors God with his praises; he gives Him thanks for his divinely established and confirmed kingdom and government; he prays for the preservation and the extension of this his kingdom, and at the same time he encourages the inhabitants and citizens of his realm to be of good cheer in their trials and adversities and to trust in God, who is always ready to defend and rescue those who call upon Him.

    "Moses did the same in Ex. 15. He composed his song about the work being performed at that moment in the Red Sea; and all the songs found in Holy Scripture deal with the stories of their own times. Of this sort are the song of Deborah in Judg. 5, the song of Hannah in I Sam. 2, and a good many others, including the majority of the psalms, with the exception of those which contain prophecies about Christ. Doubtless, therefore, Solomon, too, wrote his song about his own kingdom and government, which by the goodness of God he administered in the finest, happiest peace and the highest tranquility. All of this will become clear from the text itself too.

    "Moreover, since every kingdom, principality, or state which has the Word and true worship of God is forced to sustain many afflictions - to be a laughingstock and abomination to the whole world, to dwell in the midst of enemies, and every single hour to await death like a sheep bound for the slaughter, such a kingdom or state is deservedly called "the people of God" and has every right to place this song, and Solomon's state, before itself as an example, to praise God in the same manner, to glory and rejoice in God, and to proclaim and marvel at His divine mercy and power, by which He protects His own against the snares of the devil and the tyranny of the world.

    "We use the psalms of David and the writings of the prophets in this way as examples, even though we are not David or the prophets, but because we have the same blessings in common with them - the same Word, Spirit, faith, and blessedness - and because we sustain the same dangers and afflictions on account of God's Word. So we rightly take over their voices and their language for ourselves, praising and singing just as they praised and sang. Thus any state in which there is the church and a godly prince can use this song of Solomon's just as if it had been composed about its own generation and state.

    "And so from this Song of Songs, which Solomon sang about only his own state, there spirings as it were a common song for all states which are "the people of God," that is, which possess the Word of God and worship reverently, which acknowledge and truly believe that the power of governments is established and ordained by God and that through this power God preserves peace, justice, and discipline, punishes the guilty, defends the innocent, etc. They praise and proclaim God with thanksgiving for these great benefits.

    "Again, godly governments and states place no hope or trust at all in riches, power, wisdom, or other human defenses that are neither stable nor lasting, but they console, admonish, and arouse themselves to flee for refuge to God in all their afflictions and dangers and to trust in Him as their true and only Helper and Preserver, who never deserts His people when they suffer persecution for the sake of His name and Word. For it is certainly the case that a people which is zealous in godliness and loves the Word is always exposed to many evils with which it is assaulted by the devil and the world.

    "This is why this poem is called the Song of Songs, since it deals with matters of the loftiest and greatest kind, namely, with the divinely ordained governments, or with the people of God. It does not treat a story of an individual, as other songs in the Holy Scripture do, but an entire permanent kingdom, or people, in which God untiringly performs a host of staggering miracles and displays His power by preserving and defending it against all the assaults of the devil and the world.

    "What is more, he does not sing of these exalted matters in the common words that most people ordinarily use, but he illustrates and adorns his theme with lofty and figurative words to such an extent that when the crowd hears them, it supposes that the subject treated is something very different. For this is the custom with kings and princes: they compose and sing amatory ballads which the crowd takes to be songs about a bride or a sweetheart, when in fact they protray the condition of their state and people with their songs. This is precisely what 'Teuerdank' has done in joining 'Ehrenreich' to Maximilian as his bride [The Dangers and Adventures of the Famous Hero and Knight Sir Teuerdank was an allegorical peom by Emperor Maximilian I, recounting his own exploits. The emperor is knight Teuerdank ('Precious Reward' or 'Lofty Thinker'), who woos and wins Lady Ehrenreich ('Honored Realm' or 'Rich in Honor'), representing Mary of Burgundy. This vain and bombastic allegory was first printed privately at Nuremberg in 1517 and published at Augsburg in 1519]. Or if they speak about hunting, they want to signify by this language that the enemy has been routed and put to flight and that they have gained the victory, as when they say, 'The wild boar is speared, the savage beast is taken,' and other things of the same sort.

    "Solomon proceeds in just this fashion in this song of his. He uses magnificent words -words that are worthy of so great a king - in describing his concerns. He makes God the bridegroom and his people the bride, and in this mode he sings of how much God loves that people, how many and how rich are the gifts He lavishes and heaps upon it, and finally how He embraces and cherishes the same people with a goodness and mercy with which no bridegroom has ever embraced or cherished his bride. And thus Solomon begins by speaking in the person of the whole people as the bride of God: 'He is kissing me.'"

    Luther then adds as further introduction:

    "We take up this book for exposition not from any fondness for display of erudition, like some who lavish every effort upon obscure books because, of course, on the one hand it provokes praise for their cleverness to have dared address subjects which others flee on account of their obscurity and on the other hand because in obscure books each of them is free to make divinations and to indulge in speculations or private musings; rather, we take it up in order that after the absurd opinions which have so far obscured this little book have been rejected, we may demonstrate another, more suitable view, useful for life and for a right appreciation of the good gifts of God.

    "For we know that the purpose of the whole of Scripture is this: to teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness, so that the man of God may be perfect for every good work, as Paul says in II Tim. 3:16-17. Those who fail to observe this purpose, even if they create the impression of erudition among the unlettered by their divinations, nevertheless are ignorant of the true essence of Scripture. Their learning is not unlike bodies infected with dropsy - inflated by inordinate swelling, they give an appearance of vigor, but the swelling is all corrupt and noxious. In the course of this exposition, therefore, we shall direct our reflections to the end that this book, too, may instruct us with doctrine useful for life, and secondly, with consolations.

    "For we shall never agree with those who think it a love song about the daughter of Pharaoh beloved by Solomon [This was the interpretation of Theodore of Mopsuestia]. Nor does it satisfy us to expound it of the union of God and the synagog [This was an interpretation favored by most Jewish commentators], or like the tropologists, of the faithful soul [Beginning with Origen, most Christian commentators, both Greek and Latin, had followed this interpretation]. For what fruit, I ask, can be gathered from these opinions? So even if this book, amidst all the variety of Scripture, has had its place in the shadows until now, yet by pursuing a new path, we shall not depart from the substance of the thought even if we may perhaps err here and there in details. Accordingly, my view is as follows.

    "There are three books of Solomon in the Holy Scripture. The first, Proverbs, deals mostly with the home and sets forth general precepts for behavior in this life. It does so not as the philosophers of the Gentiles do, but it is diffused throughout with that weightier doctrine of faith and the fear of God, which the Gentiles did not perceive.

    "The second, Ecclesiastes, is a political book, which gives instruction not only to all in general but especially to the magistrate: namely, that the man who governs other men should himself fear God, perform with vigor the tasks that lie before him and not allow himself to be so discouraged either by the difficulty of the task or by the ingratitude of men that he fails to perform his office.

    "The third is the book before us, which is entitled "Song of Songs." It rightly belongs with Ecclesiastes, since it is an encomium of the political order, which in Solomon's day flourished in sublime peace. For as those who wrote songs in the Holy Scripture wrote them about their own deeds, so in Solomon this poem commends his own government to us and composes a sort of encomium of peace and of the present state of the realm. In it he gives thanks to God for that highest blessing, external peace. He does it as an example for other men, so that they too may learn to give thanks to God in this way, to acknowledge His highest benefits, and to pray for correction should anything reprehensible befall them."

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2008
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