10 Surprising Teachings from Song of Solomon
By Kristen Terrette – Tuesday, May 1, 2018
With so many biblical scholars disagreeing on interpretation, is it any wonder many find Song of Solomon confusing? Some say it’s a drama or musical, and elaborate that there are two or three main characters. It’s often called Song of Songs, and even the Canticle of Canticles. Most agree it that shows a beautiful picture of God’s design for love and the marriage relationship. Others say the book is an allegory of God and His relationship with the church. Still others claim that theory is nonsense.
So, this non-theologian dove into its commentary, read sermons online, and studied old textbooks to see what I could find out about this poetic book. The journey took me in lots of different directions. But, regardless of your views, consider the following interesting observations pertaining to this Old Testament book.
Here are 10 surprising teachings from Song of Solomon:
1. Courtship is important.
This book is made up of different sections which show the progression of the relationship between King Solomon and his beloved, and it starts with a courtship. This is a phase where one “puts their best foot forward.” Lovers’ words are sweet and full of compliments to one another. Clearly, the characters in Song of Solomon are deliriously happy over their mutual growing affection. They long for one another in an intimate way but demonstrate restraint.
This world needs a lot more courtship and restraint. I’ve watched middle schoolers tell the opposite sex they “love” them. They jump into what they call “dating” before they even know one another and there doesn’t seem to be any courtship or “winning one over” anymore. What happened to playing hard to get, chivalry, being coy, or simply waiting until they’ve put in their best efforts before even uttering the words “relationship”? And let’s not get started on the restraint for intimacy and sticking to God’s design for it.
I’m not sure how to navigate this, but I tell my daughter to look for someone like her dad and who loves God. That’s the only place I know to begin.
2. Song of Solomon inspired worship.
If you sit down to read this book, you may notice a few verses are lines in a popular worship song titled, You Won’t Relent. It was one of the first songs I gravitated to when I began to listen to Christian music—when I realized I needed to change what I was putting into my mind and wanted more of Jesus.
Many worship songs incorporate Scripture, but I’d never recognized it in this one. Song of Solomon 8:6-7 says, “Place me like a seal over you heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench this love…” You’ll find this almost word for word in the chorus, and I now understand why it affected me so powerfully—it was Scripture, God’s very Word to us.
3. God can and will use our weaknesses for His glory.
King Solomon was known for having a lot of wives, and I mean a lot. 1 Kings 11:3 (NIV) tells us he had, “seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines.” Yet in Song of Solomon, we read, “Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number…” (v. 6:8 NIV). So, one can assume that this book must have been written early in his life, prior to accumulating his harem, as his women are often called.
I’ll be honest and admit I about laughed out loud in realizing the truth in this observation. How ironic that a book about love and marriage was written (according to most) by a man who couldn’t be faithful to anyone?
And yet in that same breath, as my chuckle released, it hit me that God used an imperfect man and his greatest weakness—women—to highlight the strength of a true and loving marriage relationship. Aren’t we all glad God doesn’t let our weaknesses define us?
4. God’s banner over you is love.
No matter where an army marched or sailed, a banner proudly flew high over them, announcing who the men, horses, ships, and arms belonged to. A unique logo—not a word they would’ve used, but an accurate one for our day—claimed possession and gave esteem to its ruler.
Song of Solomon 2:4 (NIV) says, “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.” This is a sweet representation of a proud fiancé showing off his bride-to-be, but it can also be taken as a beautiful image of God’s great love for us.
A sweet children’s song recites this verse, so again this book has inspired worship music, and I imagine God’s banner over us having a big red heart on it claiming us as His. To think God wants to affirm flawed and sinful humans as his beloved stirs my soul with joy and contentment. I hope it does for you too.
5. The honeymoon phase will end, but the marriage doesn’t have to.
After courtship, the couple marries, and they live happily ever after, right? Wrong. The happy newlywed period ends, and since most accounts believe the whole book (or song) takes place between one and two years, we can assume the marriage becomes challenging pretty quickly. But they don’t give up on their relationship, and after struggling through a few arguments and compromises (my thoughts on what could’ve happened), they repair and restore their loving devotion to one another.
This is a great example of the reality of marriage. The Hallmark Channel does a great job of showing a couple falling in love and making it to the altar, but they stop there. Perhaps because love gets tough after the I dos. Marriage is a lifetime commitment and takes hard work, but the mature love shown at the end of Song of Solomon is a beautiful picture of the intimacy God desires couples to share.
6. Song of Solomon was written as a love song, but God used it for so much more.
It’s undeniable that this book of the Bible is very different than the rest in the Canon. In fact, God is only mentioned (in some translations) in verse 8:6b when referring to a strong love between the couple being like “flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.” So why is this song, out of the 1,005 which King Solomon wrote (1 Kings 4:32) a part of God’s Word?
I believe our all-knowing God knew we’d be able to look at this book thousands of years later and see how it values the incredibly special love relationship between a husband and wife, one that should be beautiful and intimate. It shows that God wants us to long for and desire our spouses. It’s how He intended the marriage relationship to be all along. We’ve distorted, polluted, and diluted it somewhere along the way, but Song of Solomon highlights the sacred vow we pledge to our beloved, mirroring His covenant to us as well.
7. Compliments should be the norm in a love relationship.
Much of Song of Solomon could be words in an anniversary card or on a thousand sticky notes left for your love to find around the house on Valentine’s Day. It’s like a big compliment-off where kind, loving, and even seductive words are fired back and forth at each other. What’s for sure is this couple likes to compliment one another.
My husband is pretty good at this. He’s the first to say dinner was terrific or tell me I look good in an outfit, even when I feel less than stellar. Studying this book reminded me to do a better job of telling him, in the moment, how amazing he is. As his spouse, I’m in a prime position to give him the adoration he deserves, maybe even give the only compliment he’ll hear all day. Spouses, let’s honor our beloveds by showering them with compliments.
8. When in doubt, use comparisons.
King Solomon loved similes and metaphors. He was a master at weaving words together, and the reader clearly sees the passion and adoration taking place between this couple. He also never compares their love to anything unbecoming. As I consider my marriage, I realize I don’t often have the words to express these powerful emotions, and I certainly didn’t know how to early in our courtship. Is this you too?
Maybe we should take a tip from King Solomon and use more positive comparisons in our love language to our spouse. A friend told me that when her marriage was in trouble, God told her to look for whatever was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8) in her husband and to praise him for those things. I can find those qualities in my spouse and let him know, through sweet similes and metaphors if they help me to express my feelings, just how much he’s impacted my life for good. My friend also said when her words towards her husband changed to praise, her marriage began to heal.
9. Look out for stumbling blocks in relationships.
Song of Solomon 2:15 (NIV) says, “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, the vineyards that are in bloom.” The general consensus is that this verse warns us to watch out for stumbling blocks in our relationships. This is specifically referring to the love relationship between the couple here but can be applied to our love relationship with God as well.
Anything that has the potential to disrupt or put a wedge in a relationship could be like these foxes that seek to ruin the vineyard, such as selfish ambition, lust, unforgiveness, jealousy, and mistrust. Be on guard in both your marriage and your relationship with God to not allow these hindrances to sneak in and steal something that is good away.
10. We should bring exclamation marks back!
There are many exclamation points in Song of Solomon. As an author, I’m cautioned to avoid using these in my novels, and to show the character’s emotions through their thoughts, expressions, and actions instead. But sometimes placing an exclamation mark on the end of a sentence is so satisfying! It cues the reader to raise the voice in their head and give the word an emphasis it would otherwise lack.
Now, I’m only jesting about this punctuation faux pas when it comes to books, but in all seriousness, the frequent use of these in Song of Solomon do stand out (and in some translations there are even more!). I’m not a Hebrew translator, so I’m not sure why these are added so often, but I take them to mean a pure expression of joy and intensity. This is refreshing considering the book is a love story between spouses. Let’s bring exclamations back into our words, notes, texts, and emails when speaking to our beloved!
Kristen Terrette holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and served as a Children’s Ministry Director for over five years. She cherishes her Southern roots and currently lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. With the support of her husband and two children, she stays at home writing Christian fiction, allowing God to take the story where He needs it to go. She’s also serves on the women’s leadership and teaching team at her church and writes for Wholly Loved ministry at WhollyLoved.com. To see her blog and current novels, check out her website at www.kristenterrette.com.