It is common for Bible students to describe the book they are currently studying in glowing terms, often describing it as the most exceptional book in the Bible. It is only natural and allows the student to share their enthusiasm for the Word of God with others. A study of the Song of Songs will certainly create a similar sentiment in the mind of anyone who should choose to spend time in quiet reflection on its contents. Even the bride, for example, is described for us in the songs as constantly studying her beloved and describing his beauty for all to appreciate. As you read the Song of Solomon, and as your regard for it grows, you cannot help but be moved by the central theme of love that permeates every chapter. Each song is in fact an expression of the love that God has revealed to us in the life of His Son.

The Song of Solomon is unique in a number of ways. The most distinguishing feature is that it is an account which doesn’t readily give you the sense on first reading. In fact, there are a number of keys that must be understood first, because without them the book is quite meaningless. It is hoped that this series of articles will assist the reader to find those keys and unlock the wonder and beauty of this remarkable book.

Personal study and deep refection will assist you in grasping the central themes of each song. For example, it is important to appreciate who is speaking at any time and how the book is divided and separated into the various songs.

An Allegory

Although Solomon’s name is found in the record, the Song should not be taken literally. It is not describing an actual wedding; it is pure allegory.

It presents totally unique scenes or series of events which unfold in the life of the groom and his spiritual bride, together with their attendants.

Natural beauty is not the point of the Song. It is not dealing with eyes, or teeth, or hair, or necks or breasts. The Word is describing spiritual beauty. We are not being asked to admire roes, or hinds of the eld, or sheep, or goats or doves; the Song is projecting character. Whilst we can appreciate wine and apples, pomegranates, figs and vines, we are being asked to behold something far more important: fruitfulness. We will also see faithful works in the sweet savour of spikenard, myrrh, camphire, frankincense and all the chief spices. These symbols are used so that we can perceive the perfection of character revealed in the groom and his desire for the fruit of the spirit to be seen in us. What the groom seeks in us is a character that is true, honest, just, pure and altogether lovely. It is a reflection of his life – a gentle character, full of mercy and good fruits, particularly the fruit of righteousness, which is sown in peace of them that make peace.

It is not a book about the bride’s sins. It does not catalogue her weaknesses because the focus of the book is about what needs to be done to please the groom. It’s about fruitfulness. It doesn’t commend apathy; it commends application. In this sense, it is one of the most positive and wonderful books of the Bible.

A Book about Love

It is a “Song of Songs”. Solomon wrote 1,005 songs but this one excels them all. Why? It is a book about love. You cannot help being moved by the mutual love shown by the groom to his bride and their virgin attendants. When one considers that this illustrates the intensity of our Lord’s love to us, it should move us, as it does the bride, to reciprocate that love. It is one of the most touching descriptions of our Lord’s love and of what our attitude should be towards him and towards each other. Appreciating this message is a most humbling experience.

In the final chapter we have a description of the steadfast love of God. Even death cannot quench it.

The love of the groom is so all consuming that, should the bride have any imperfections, they are not mentioned. To him she is altogether lovely: “for love shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). Although the bride in her wonderful humility deprecates herself, neither the groom nor her attendants see any blemish in her.

The Main Characters

It is important to understand the characters portrayed in each song and to recognise the division of the book into a series of inter-related songs.

There is little dispute as to the characters. There is the bride and groom, together with their attendants. Sometimes it might not be clear who is speaking and so often we need to examine whether the speaker is masculine or feminine in the Hebrew

The Groom – The Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:22-23; 2 Cor 11:2)

Our Lord is described as “beloved” (dowd) 61 times and as Solomon (sholomoh – peace, unity) 12 times. He is sometimes referred to as “friend” when the bride describes him as “my friend”. All of these words are in the masculine gender. When we find the word “love” (feminine) preceded with the tender word “my,” as in “my love”, these are always the words of the groom addressing his bride.

The Bride – The Ecclesia: The Saints in Glory (Rev 19:7; Eph 5:27-32; 2 Cor 11:2)

She is referred to as:

  • “Shulamite” (the feminine form of Solomon) twice
  • “my love” (rayah) 10 times
  • “my fair one”
  • “thou art fair” (yapheh)
  • “spouse”
  • “my sister”
  • “little sister”

All these words are in the feminine gender. When we read the word “beloved” (masculine) preceded with the tender word “my”, these words are always the words of the bride addressing her groom.

The Companions – The Friends of the Bride or Groom who Form the Bridal Party (Matt 9:15; John 3:29)

They are friends who are delighted to be in the bridal party and join in the festivities like the five faithful virgins who enter through the open door (Mat 25:10). There are both male “companions” or “friends,” and female “virgins” known as the “daughters of Jerusalem,” or the “daughters of Zion”. The companions feature in the songs as a group (1:4,11; 2:15) or as those who offer a commentary (1;5,8; 8:5) or as those who ask questions (3:6; 5:9; 6:1).

Structure of the Book

“Song of Songs” which opens the book (1:1) can be translated as “a string of pearls” (Song of Solomon, Brother Ask page iv). This conveys the idea of a necklace comprised of a string of pearls; each pearl having its own beauty; each one representing one of the songs in the book. Most expositors agree that the book contains two divisions of six songs each. This division into two parts is critical to the understanding of the book because without this appreciation, the structure and theme of the book becomes confusing. Why the 2 parts? Part 1 (1:2-5:1) describes the Jewish bride and Part 2 (5:2-8:14) describes the Gentile bride.

The fact that there are two parts becomes obvious when comparing each part. For example, the caring watchmen in Part 1 (3:3-4) contrasts with the violent watchmen in Part 2 (5:7). The companions in Part 1 know the bride (1:7-8) but this is not the case with the companions in Part 2 (5:9; 6:1). And there is the repetition of the description of the bride in 4:1-7 and 7:1-8 to indicate that the Gentile bride reflects the same characteristics as the Jewish bride.

The division of the book is as follows:

Introduction (1:1)
Part 1: The Bride Selected from Natural Israel (1:2–5:1)
1st Song: 1:2–1:8The bride’s ardent love and becoming humility
2nd Song: 1:9–2:7The groom and bride exchange messages of mutual adoration
3rd Song: 2:8–2:17The groom’s call to “come away” and the bride’s response
4th Song: 3:1–3:5The bride searches in the night for her beloved
5th Song: 3:6–4:7The bridal procession, wedding and the groom’s marriage speech
6th Song: 4:8–5:1“Come with me to paradise” – receiving the inheritance
Part 2: The Bride Selected from the Gentiles (5:2 – 8:14)
7th Song: 5:1–6:10The first advent’s call and the response
8th Song: 6:11–6:13The bride victorious over her enemies
9th Song: 7:1–7:9The glowing beauty of the bride
10th Song: 7:10–8:4The bride’s deep longing and ardent desire for the groom’s return
11th Song: 8:5–8:7The joy and communion of the marriage
12th Song: 8:8–8:14Love’s labour in the millennium

We have one groom and one bride. The groom presented throughout all 8 chapters does not change: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). However, the bride, although consistent in character throughout the book reflects the period of her calling, firstly as the Jewish bride in 4:1-7 and then as the Gentile bride in 7:1-8. Notwithstanding the different time-periods of her calling and her different ethnic backgrounds, she reflects the same spiritual qualities required of all those who come to know and love the Truth. This is true even for the “little sister” in chapter 8; the bride developed among the mortals in the Millennium. We have a bride who is first Jewish, then Gentile and finally Millennial.

The Charge

There is an important “charge” issued by the bride to her companions: “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem… that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please” (2:7; 3:5; 8:4).

The word, “charge” used by the bride is a directive to her companions “to swear or take an oath” on a matter. Using this imperative makes it important, but when this “charge” is repeated three times in the book it is given added emphasis. The word “my” said by the bride, has no Hebrew word to justify its inclusion, neither has the word “he”. The RSV and NKJ render these words as: “stir not up nor awaken love until it please.” The subject matter of her charge is “love,” not the groom.

Even the word “please” does not do justice to the Hebrew word chaphets which means, “to take pleasure or delight in”. The injunction by the bride to her companions is not to stir up nor awaken love until one is ready to take delight in it. The love being experienced by the bride, and offered to us, is so important that we are warned not to commit to it until we are prepared to accept the burden that it brings. God’s love is not only a delight, it also brings a commitment. This commitment necessitates laying aside all other distractions that would in any way diminish that love. He wants us to be wholly his. Although it presents a high ideal, it brings more than its commensurate reward.

(to be continued)