Is the Song of Solomon Smut?

The other day I told my wife, “I’m reading the Song of Solomon.” She replied with a smirk and a shake of her head. I bet you are “reading” the Song of Solomon! This hush-hush response to this book is understandable. But is it really warranted?

It’s not a long book. Only 8 short chapters. And, of course, it mentions female body parts, right?

Honestly, it’s time evangelicals … and everyone else, put any memory of Mark Driscoll behind them. The guy sounds like a degenerate pervert when he talks about this book.

And I’m not waiting here while you go google a YouTube video of Driscoll dragging this book through the mud of his lurid stand-up routine.

I’m here to give you some Cliff’s Notes on what the book REALLY says.

Most guys would have to be dragged to a movie about this book because it’s similar, in some ways, to a Nicolas Sparks story (The Notebook, etc.). We have a young bride and her groom. We’ve got her yearning after him–love at first sight! She warns other young women “not to awaken love until it pleases!”

In other words, she’s telling them to wait for the right groom! Don’t arouse your affection for the wrong man. And this man, he comes to her and pours out his heart in passionate appreciation for her beauty, from her head to her feet. Then later from her hips, up to her belly, to her head.

Each considers the other like tasting the best things, honey and fruit…

But, then, the groom comes to call on his bride, but she spurns him. She doesn’t want to go out into the night with him. So he leaves.

Realizing how horribly she’s treated the one man who deserves all her adoration, she runs out in search of him, only to be brutalized by the watchmen in the night.

But the groom finds her and lavishes her once more with words extolling her beauty. She, of course, returns the affection.

I know, it sounds all mushy and melodramatic. It is, after all, a dramatic song. And, is one that many Bible scholars have skipped over because it describes the woman’s breasts more than once! Eek!

People taking it as a sex manual doesn’t help its reputation.

But what I saw was the dramatic depiction of the ideal Husband and His Bride (the Congregation of God’s people).

It’s wrong for people to go down the path of likening sexual attraction to our relationship to God because that’s a symbol… not the actual. Still with me? When Jesus said, “Let this cup pass…” He was talking about more than a cup. That was a symbol, not the reality.

This happens a lot in the Bible. Symbol. Not reality.

God’s love for His people is akin to a man who finds everything beautiful about his wife. He cherishes the sight of her. He thrills to her eyes, her mouth, her hair, her form. He longs to hold her head in his left hand and wrap his right arm around her waist. He enjoys kissing her and taking her away for a picnic in a garden. She, in turn, tells everyone about how wonderful her husband is. She swoons to his touch and she longs to run off and fall into his embrace.

Do we, God’s people, love Him as the only one who should arouse our deepest affection? Do we tell others to stay clear from anything that would command their loyalty other than the one, true Husband?

So, the book is a symbolic representation of the ideal relationship of God’s people and their Savior (mixed with a symbol of how God’s people sometimes spurn Him and need to repent).

But there are layers in the Bible, aren’t there?

The other layer is that this depicts what married life should be! Oh, boy! So, I’m looking at that Literalist depiction of the bride from the Wittenburg Door and thinking … that’s not too flattering. I tried some of those accolades on my wife and she laughed and laughed. She chased me around with her hair in her hands making goat noises.

At least she didn’t get honey and start drooling all over the place with it.

Seriously, though, men … we should be completely and faithfully devoted to our wives! We should find them incredibly attractive.

A quick note: this isn’t about wearing some shirt that says “I think my wife is Hot!!!” The Husband in this book never did that. He told her what he felt about her. He didn’t post it on his Facebook.

Likewise, she didn’t recount all of her husbands manly attributes to the virgins in Jerusalem, either. She told him about what she loved … his strong arms, legs, black hair, and so on.

On several occasions, though, she did tell the virgins to keep from arousing love until “it pleases.” I take that to mean that they must guard against stirring their emotions for the wrong husband. They should wait for the faithful one who is worthy of their love.

The sad fact is, we fallen people don’t listen to that wisdom, do we? We allow our affections to be aroused by our culture and by sinful lusts all the time. We end up in the streets, spending our energies on things that will leave us torn and beaten, like the watchmen in the night. We spurn our Lord and wander the night … desperate and alone.

Marriage, however, is a place where we can try to mirror this image. God has given us this template of a melodramatic play, a prototype of foolishly open and vulnerable affection one to another. We fear being so open. We fear lavishing the other with blatant words of devotion. We hold back. We are afraid we’ll be hurt.

That lack of communication, that lack of seeking that passionate intimacy with our spouse can only lead to isolation, hurt and pain.

Husbands need to seek out their bride, remembering them as on that wedding day! We men need to be anxious for our wives, eager to be at their sides.

Wives need to remember that they found their husbands incredibly lovable. At the beginning, perhaps, that man was like an apple tree in the middle of a dense forest–so wonderfully unique! They need to be cautioned against spurning their husband’s affection.

And the neat thing about the Bible is that whether we’re husbands or wives, since we’re not Jesus, we can find ourselves on both sides. Sometimes it is the husband who spurns the wife’s affection. Often it ends up being that both parties to the marriage are abandoning faithfulness for self-love.

The Song of Solomon is NOT a sex guide. It is a beautiful picture of marriage and the passion and faithfulness that can be freely expressed within.

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6 Comments

  1. The synopsis of Song of Songs that made the most sense to me (and my Sunday School class) was from the Jewish Soncino Commentary series. I’ll try to paste it in:
    SONG OF SONGS NARRATIVE
    The Rev. Dr. Abraham Cohen
    Editor of the Soncino Books of the Bible

    Despite problems of authorship and interpretation, the story is briefly told. It describes the trials of a beautiful peasant maiden from Shunem, or Shulem, who was employed by her mother and brothers as a shepherdess to their flock of goats. She had fallen in love with a shepherd of the same village, but the brothers did not look with approval on the union. They, accordingly, transferred her services from the pasture to the vineyards in the hope that there her meetings with her lover would not be possible. One day, as she was tending the vines, she was seen by the servants of king Solomon, when he chanced to pass the village on his way to his summer resort in Lebanon. Impressed by her beauty, they try to persuade her to accompany them. She refuses and is finally led away as a captive to the king’s chambers. No sooner does the king behold her, when he, too, falls violently in love with her. He sings her beauty and uses all his endeavors to induce her to abandon her shepherd for the love and wealth he can shower upon her. The ladies of the court also join in trying to dislodge her love for her humble swain. Her heart, however, belongs to him and she remains steadfast.
    During her stay in the palace, she yearns for her lover and is tantalized by the taunts of the ladies of the court that he has rejected her. In her agitated state of mind she speaks to him as if he were in her presence, and even dreams that he has come to rescue her and escort her back to her mother’s home. Awaking from her dream, she rushes out of her chamber to seek him in the streets where she is roughly treated by the watchmen of the city, who misjudge her character.
    When the king is finally convinced of the constancy of her love for the shepherd, he dismisses her from his presence and allows her to return home. She is now joined by her lover and, leaning on his arm, approaches Shunem where a warm welcome awaits her. They come upon the scenes so dear to them, and she recounts the vicissitudes through which she had lately passed. The story ends on a triumphant note. Not only could her love not be extinguished by the temptations offered by the king, but she also assures her brothers that their solicitude for her virtue was unwarranted. She has proved that love is capable of heroic endurance. The tale she tells to their assembled friends makes a strong protest against the luxury and vice of the court, and pays testimony to the beauty and dignity of pure love and fidelity.

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  2. I have been fond over the years of complimenting my wife for having all of her teeth, it’s been one of our running jokes. 🙂

    One of the most cringe inducing sermons I have ever heard was an image by image “spiritualizing” of the Song of Solomon. Trying to make it ALL about God’s love for for us and our discipleship. There is that very general sense where that is true, but man is it painful when someone tries to take that too far.

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    1. Yes, it’s the whole symbol/reality thing. Not everything is a one-to-one equation. Otherwise it just gets awkward. In reading the book I found that most of the commentaries I use were completely silent! If I remember correctly, this was the book that may still be tentatively considered cannon.

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  3. lol I can picture your wife doing that! I can’t stand when people say on social media or in public settings that their wife is hot. Tell her that in private! If a man says his wife is hot in a public setting, what can anyone say? “No, she’s not” or “I don’t think your wife is hot”. I think it’s just super weird when people say that. What are you trying to prove? Seems to me when i’ve seen guys do that, it’s because they are douche bags in private. Anyway, I never took Song of Solomon as a sex manual. I think it’s weird that many have thought that.

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    1. I think Driscoll and others who are actually wolves have twisted scriptures in all manner of ways that have attempted to dishonor God. The lurid things that Driscoll has “taught” from the pulpit were actually nothing new. Tim LaHaye taught the same things back in the 70s. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

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