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Song of Solomon Bible Walk
Theme: Romantic love in courtship and marriage
Tod Kennedy, August 2, 2005
1. Key Verse, Song of Solomon 5:16: “This is my beloved (Hebrew דֹּוד dod) and this is my friend (Hebrew רֵעַ rea`).” 8:6-7: “Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love (Hebrew אַהֲבָה ‘ahabah) is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the Lord. 7 “Many waters cannot quench love (Hebrew אַהֲבָה ‘ahabah), Nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love (Hebrew אַהֲבָה ‘ahabah), It would be utterly despised.”
2. Author is Solomon (1:1, 5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11-12). Furthermore, other evidence indicates that Solomon is the author.
a. Solomon wrote 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32).
b. He is the king (1:4, 12; 3:9, 11; 7:5).
c. He has luxury and commercial success (3:6-11; 6:12).
d. He has many queens and concubines (6:8). At this time in his story these queens and concubines were likely political dressing for his kingdom. This would change.
e. He has knowledge of plants and animals (Solomon in 1 Kings 4:32-33, with 21 species of plants and 15 species of animals mentioned in SONG OF SOLOMON).
f. The song gives indication of one intact Jewish kingdom when it mentions Tirzah, the northern capital, and Jerusalem, the southern capital (6:4).
g. The song mentions 15 geographic locations from north to south, and this is compatible with Solomon’s kingdom and his international relations. For example, Kedar (1:5); Egypt (1:9); Sharon (2:1); Jerusalem (2:7); Lebanon (3:9); Heshbon (7:4); Damascus (7:4); and others.
3. Interpretation of Song of Solomon goes in several directions.
a. There are three main wrong interpretations of this book.
i. Allegory in which hidden spiritual truths. For example, God’s love is taught for Israel or the Church; the dark skin of the Shulamite refers to the blackness of sin in the church; the beauty of the bride teaches about the Church’s beauty after conversion; cooing doves refers to the apostles preaching; and the vineyard of 5:1 refers to the Lord’s Supper. This, of course, is subjective and silly.
ii. Typical in which Solomon pictures Christ and the Shulamite pictures the Church—wrong. It is true that Christ loves the church, but there is no basis in the Bible for saying that is what the Song of Solomon is about.
iii. Drama—but drama as such was not used by Israel; and it is difficult to divide up the acts and scenes.
b. The normal or literal view is correct. It understands The Song of Solomon as an autobiographical lyric poem that describes the romantic courtship and marriage between King Solomon and the Shulamite woman. A lyric poem is a subjective story song often accompanied by music. The song is about human love between a man and a woman who become husband and wife.
i. Some understand the story to have three main characters: Solomon, the Shulamite, and a shepherd. The shepherd is the true love of the woman, and Solomon is cast as the villain trying to lure here from him. But, there is nothing in the text of Song of Solomon that identifies another man pursuing the Shulamite woman.
ii. The best interpretation understands the story to have two characters: Solomon and the Shulamite woman.
4. History. See studies of 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes for information about Solomon.
a. Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba and the last king over Israel before the civil war and division into the northern kingdom, Israel, and the southern kingdom, Judah.
b. He had three clear periods in his life. They are not equal in time and do not exactly coordinate with young, middle, and old age.
i. In the early period of his life he walked with the Lord, built the temple, and wrote the proverbs. Solomon asked God for wisdom to rule the nation; God granted his request. Solomon became a successful, prosperous, famous, and godly king. He brought Israel wealth, prestige, and power (1 Kings 3.5ff; 4.29ff; 10.23-29; Proverbs 10-22, 25-29, Psalms 72 and 127). His most noteworthy accomplishment was the construction and dedication of Yahweh’s temple as predicted by God through Nathan the prophet (1 Kings 8). During this time, God promised Solomon blessing and success if he would follow Him. He also warned him of the terrible consequences of rejecting God and God’s word (1 Kings 9:1-9). This appears to be the time of the events recorded in Song of Solomon. The events would best fit before Solomon became estranged from the Lord by his allegiance to his pagan wives and concubines. One can compare Song of Solomon 6:8-9 with Ecclesiastes 9:9 and 1 Kings 11:1-4. This romance, then, took place earlier in Solomon’s reign: after he had completed the temple and before he “loved many foreign woman” of 1 Kings 11:1. The events most likely took place sometime during 1 Kings 9 and 10.
ii. In the middle period of his life, when Solomon was getting old (1 Kings 11:4), he rejected the Lord and his word. His many pagan wives and concubines, and his great success turned him away from the Lord. He lost his purpose for living, his meaning for life, and his happiness (1 Kings 11). Apparently, the Shulamite woman was displaced in his affections during this time. Ecclesiastes is his look back at this period. Ecclesiastes 9:9 may refer to the Shulamite woman and he recognizes all that he lost by turning to other people and things and away from her during this middle period of his life.
iii. In his later old age, the third period of his life, he realized his disobedience and failure to obey God’s word and walk in fellowship with God. He returned to fellowship with the Lord and later wrote the story of his spiritual failure, his spiritual recovery, and the lessons he learned in his book, Ecclesiastes.
5. Theme: Romantic love in courtship and marriage. The Song’s theme is the romantic love between one man and one woman during courtship and marriage. The emphasis is the physical, emotional, and sexual attraction. God has placed these attractions and desires in man and woman to be a source of blessing to each other. Note that children are not mentioned at all, and so we learn that producing children are not the only reason for romantic love and sex between the man and woman. What Solomon does not mention, and very likely an important reason that this romance seems to eventually lose its luster, is the soul relationship, the genuine friendship love (rea’), between him and the Shulamite. This relationship is based upon the recognition of and then the developing and sharing of thinking, interests, work, ideals, and purpose in life—the real likeness or compatibility factor—without which sex is simply the window dressing. Furthermore, the commitment love based upon his strength of character which strengthens and protects a relationship seems to be lacking. The result, not seen in this poem, is that Solomon seems to have harmed and likely lost this wonderful romantic love with the Shulamite sometime future to the story.
6. Overview Outline
a. Solomon’s courtship of the Shulamite woman, 1.1-3:5.
b. Solomon and the Shulamite’s wedding, 3:6-5:1.
c. Solomon and the Shulamite’s married life, 5:2-8:4.
7. Chapter Titles
a. 1, Romantic beginnings
b. 2, Growth of the romance
c. 3, The wedding
d. 4, The wedding night
e. 5, Apathy in the marriage
f. 6, Restoration of closeness
g. 7, Mutual affection
h. 8, The strength of love
8. Trace the Theme
a. The theme can be traced by following the chapter titles. The emphasis is on romantic love (Hebrew Dod) over both friendship love (Hebrew rea`) and committed love based upon relationship (‘ahabah), therefore Solomon’s love for the Shulamite did not stand the tests that came. He apparently lost her or so damaged the relationship that it was never recovered. Ecclesiastes 9:9 seems to indicate this, if as it seems likely, he was referring to the Shulamite woman.
9. Key People
a. Solomon, 6X (1:5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12), the son of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 5.14; 12.24) and the third king of Israel, 971-931 BC (1 Kings 1.28-31). You can refer to previous studies on Solomon.
b. The Shulamite woman (6:13). We do not know who she was or here home town. Some think that she was Abishag the Shunammite of 1 Kings 1:3-8. There is no strong textual indication. We do know that she was beautiful young woman who was attracted to King Solomon (1:16) and he to her (1:15). She is only named in 6:13. She worked outside in her family’s vineyards (1:6), apparently was from a different social class than Solomon.
c. The Daughters of Jerusalem, 7X (1:5; 2:7; 3:5, 10; 5:8, 16; 8:4)). They are friends of the Shulamite and her attendants.
10. Key Words and Phrases
a. Love (Hebrew דֹּוד dod), 39X, Strong’s #1730, love and beloved of romantic affection, also uncle; here means romantic love 1:2, 4, 13, 14, 16; 2:16; 4:10; 5:16; 6:1; 7:11; 8:5, 14.
b. Love (Hebrew אַהֲבָה ‘ahabah), 11X, Strong’s #160, love or strong affection based on relationship; can be family, friend, covenant, can be romantic; here means a committed and responsible love 2:4, 5, 7; 3:5, 10; 5:8; 7:6; 8:4, 6, 7.
c. Friend (Hebrew רֵעַ rea`), 2X, Strong’s #7453, neighbor, friend, fellow, companion; here means companion, strong friendship love, 5:1, 16.
d. Fragrant perfumes (1:3, 12; 3:6; 4:10)
e. Beloved cheeks (1:10; 5:13)
f. Eyes like doves (1:15; 4:1)
g. Teeth like sheep (4:2; 6:6)
h. Daughters of Jerusalem (2:7; 3:5; 8:4)
i. Like a gazelle (2:9, 17; 8:14)
j. Lebanon (3:9; 4:8, 11, 15; 7:4)
k. “This is my beloved and this is my friend” 5:16
l. “Love is as strong as death” (8:6)
m. “Many waters cannot quench love” (8:7)
11. Key Doctrines
a. Man was created for relationship with one woman. It began in the garden of Eden.
b. There seem to be three levels of love in this book: 1. attraction and romantic love, 2. friendship and companion love, and 3. a committed and sacrificial and responsible love that is very hard to break. The Greek NT recognizes these as eros, philos, and agape.
c. God designed romance and sex to be within marriage. But romantic love cannot be the basis for a lasting and strong relationship.
12. Lessons For Us Today
a. Though attraction between a man and a woman initially comes in various forms (and we might call this romance love), the basis for a truly strong and lasting romance love is the friendship love protected by the committed, sacrificial, and responsible love.
b. The friendship—companionship love becomes the measure of compatibility between a man and a woman. The committed, sacrificial, and responsible love protects the marriage relationship, and the romance and friendship.
c. During dating and engagement you must discover likeness, fellowship, friendship, compatibility. Sexual passions and sex during this period can counterfeit and camouflage true character and personality. If you marry at that point, you really do not know who you are marrying. Furthermore, marriage requires the committed, sacrificial, and responsible love in order for the husband and wife to successfully navigate the many challenges of marriage.
d. Resist sexual passions while dating and during engagement. God designed sex to be enjoyed between the husband and wife.