Listen to the Conclusion of this Class: 07112012IntroducingTheSongOfSolomonDonRuhl

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Introducing the Song of Solomon

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • June 13, In the year of our Lord 2012


  1. Where do you turn to help troubled marriages, or simply to strengthen marriage?
    1. Why do you choose that source?
      1. Is the source of the world, or of the Lord?
      2. If it is of the world, why did you choose it?
        1. Do you believe that the Lord has anything to say about marriage?
        2. Who created marriage?
    2. If you do happen to go the Bible, where do you go in the Bible?
      1. The whole Bible teaches you how to be the kind of person you need to be in marriage, or any relationship.
      2. There are also specialized passages that teach about marriage, including, but certainly not all of the passages:
        1. Genesis 1, 2
        2. Esther
        3. Proverbs 5
        4. First Corinthians 7
        5. Ephesians 5
      3. There are countless other passages and teachings that would apply:
        1. The Beatitudes
        2. First Corinthians 13
        3. Colossians 3.12–14
    3. Yet, I rarely hear anyone recommend the Song of Solomon.
      1. Have you considered it as a source to strengthen your marriage?
      2. If not, why not?
  2. In Ephesians 5.22–33, Paul uses marriage to illustrate
    1. the relationship between Christ and the church, but
    2. the apostle first had to teach what God intended for marriage
      1. before Christians could see the beauties of our relationship with Christ.
      2. Could that also be going on with Song of Solomon?
        1. The Lord looked at His people, namely, Israel as His bride, but
        2. their marriages were in bad shape.
    3. Therefore, just as Paul taught what marital love ought to be
      1. that they might understand the relationship between Christ and the church,
      2. so the Lord uses Solomon to write this beautiful song on marital love
        1. that ultimately Israel then, and the church now,
        2. might see the beauty of the relationship that He has with His people.
          1. This does not mean that the Song is allegorical, for
          2. truly teaches about a relationship between a man and a woman.


  1. The Name of the Song
    1. The opening verse declares,1 The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.
      (Song 1.1)

      1. Much of the Song views things from the Shulamite’s perspective.
      2. In older versions the Song is called Canticles, Latin for “Songs” in this verse.
    2. First Kings 4.32, 33 reveals the vast writings of Solomon.
      1. Verse 33 covers much of what we see in the Song.
      2. However, of all his songs, the Holy Spirit called this the “Song of Songs.”
        1. What else did Solomon write in the Bible?
        2. He wrote most of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Psalms 72 and 127.
    3. Hardeman Nichols demonstrates the name of this biblical book in this way,“Similar usage is found in Genesis 9:25: ‘a servant of servants.’ In like manner, the ‘Holy of Holies,’ and ‘King of kings’ and ‘Lord of lords,’ meaning the most excellent or best” (Difficult Texts of the Old Testament Explained, page 335).
    4. The Song highlights Solomon’s love of the Shulamite, but
      1. one might wonder how he could speak of her as his only bride
      2. when he already had
        1. sixty queens,
        2. eighty concubines, and
        3. virgins without number (See 6.8).
      3. No doubt, Solomon wrote the Song before his plunge into sex and idolatry.
        1. Most, if not all of these women, came from political alliances,
        2. whereas, the Shulamite was his only true romance, for
          1. she was not a queen or royalty, or of noble blood,
          2. rather she was a vineyard worker (1.6),
            1. perhaps working one of Solomon’s vineyards, and
            2. that might be where he met her (8.11).
    5. She had been a vineyard worker, but
      1. after meeting Solomon she had her own vineyard (8.12).
      2. Obviously becoming queen she became a woman of great means.
    6. In one sense, the Song of Solomon continues the narration of marriage and love
      1. that we first read about in the Garden of Eden,
      2. especially after God created Eve, and Adam said,23 And Adam said:

        “This is now bone of my bones
        And flesh of my flesh;
        She shall be called Woman,
        Because she was taken out of Man.”
        (Gen 2.23)

        1. Adam used poetry to speak of what Eve was to him.
        2. The Song of Solomon does that very thing,
          1. as Solomon and the Shulamite use poetry
          2. to speak of what they mean to one another.
  2. God and the Song of Solomon
    1. The Book of Esther never once mentions God nor even alludes to Him.
    2. The Song of Solomon comes close to that,
      1. naming Him only once, although
      2. not all translations bring this out,6 Set me as a seal upon your heart,
        As a seal upon your arm;
        For love is as strong as death,
        Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
        Its flames are flames of fire,
        A most vehement flame.
        (Song 8.6)

        1. The marginal note in the New King James Versionfor the last line says,“A flame of YAH, poetic form of YHWH, the Lord.”
        2. The New American Standard has, “The very flame of the LORD.”
        3. The Old American Standard Version says, “A very flame of Jehovah.”
        4. The English Standard Version says, “the very flame of the Lord.”
    3. Therefore, while the Song mentions Him, it is indirect.
      1. What shall we make of this exclusion?
      2. We can view the Song of Solomon the same way we do the Book of Esther,
        1. that is, although we do not see God directly,
        2. yet, He obviously operates behind the scenes.
          1. Therefore, even if things appear to be secular,
          2. God still operates in the affairs of man.
  3. The Nature of the Song
    1. The poetic form of the Song makes it look longer than it is, because
      1. poetry takes up more space than prose.
      2. There are only 117 verses,
        1. comprising 2,593 words in the New King James Version,
        2. used in 440 lines.
          1. Yet, in those few verses we have
            1. words, ideas, pictures, and other things
            2. that we do not see in other Bible Books.
          2. G. Lloyd Carr says,“Although the Song is a relatively short book of only 117 verses, it has an unusually large number of uncommon words. Of the approximately 470 different Hebrew words it contains—a very high number for such a small book—47 occur only in the Song (some only once) and nowhere else in the Old Testament. Of the words which do appear in other parts of the Old Testament, 51 occur five times or less, 45 occur between six and ten times, and an additional 27 between eleven and twenty times, leaving about 300 common words in the Song” (p. 41).
    2. The rest of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, never references the Song.
    3. David A. Dorsey arranges the Song in this chiastic manner, [pass out handout]

a opening words of mutual love and desire (1:2–2:7)

b young man’s invitation to the young woman to join him in the countryside (2:8–17)

c young woman’s nighttime search for the young man (3:1–5)

d CENTER: their wedding day (3:6–5:1) 

young woman’s nighttime search for the young man, and their speeches of admiration and longing (5:2–7:11 [5:2–7:10])

young woman’s invitation to the young man to join her in the countryside (7:12–8:4 [7:11–8:4])

closing words of mutual love and desire (8:5–14)

    1. Four characters or groups of characters appear in the Song:
      1. Solomon
      2. The Shulamite (A feminine form of Solomon, both meaning “peace,” “perfect”)
      3. The Shulamite’s brothers
      4. The daughters of Jerusalem
    2. Solomon and the Shulamite use comparisons abundantly using
      1. “as” 21 times in the NKJV and
      2. “like” 36 times,
        1. giving us close to 60 comparisons in only 117 verses,
        2. including comparing love to death!
          1. Would you ever have thought of
            1. comparing love (the ultimate positive)
            2. to death (the ultimate negative)?
          2. [Pass out the front page of The Bible Meditator, September 2000]
    3. Some see this story unfolding in the Song.
      1. King Solomon employed the brothers of the Shulamite in his vineyards, and they put her to work in them as well.
      2. He disguised himself as a shepherd that he might inspect his vineyards without the workers knowing that the boss was present, but while doing this, he met the Shulamite.
      3. To her, their time together was like a banquet.
      4. Later he proposed to her, she accepted, although he had to go away briefly.
        1. During his absence she thought of him and dreamed about him.
        2. When he returned he revealed to her that he was the king, so that she did not fall in love with the king, but with the man, even as he did not fall in love with a queen, but with a woman, a vineyard worker.
      5. They married, and the Song celebrates their love and marriage.
    4. Robert Alter says of the imagery of the Song,“The imagery of the Song of Songs is a curious mixture of pastoral, urban, and regal allusions, which leaves scant ground for concluding whether the poems were composed among shepherds or courtiers or somewhere in between” (p. 186).
    5. He also wrote,“It is only in the Song of Songs that there is no one giving instruction or exhortation, no leader or hierophant, no memorializer of national experience, but instead the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy” (p. 186).
    6. Again he reveals,“…in the Song of Songs…is the writer’s art directed to the imaginative realization of a world of uninhibited self-delighting play, without moral conflict, without the urgent context of history and nationhood and destiny, without the looming perspectives of a theological world-view” (p. 203).
    7. When we read the Song of Solomon we should keep these things in mind:
      1. The Song appeals to the heart more than to the head.
      2. We want to ask how a passage makes us feel, and
        1. I do not mean that in the common way used today when
        2. “feel” substitutes for “think,” or “believe,” but
          1. we want to know how the images, language, and so on,
          2. affect us emotionally.
      3. Do not necessarily expect the Song to follow a strict chronology, but
        1. see it as a collection of love poems
        2. that the Holy Spirit wanted included in the Bible,
          1. teaching us something about love.
      4. Use your imagination freely as you read and meditate upon the Song.
      5. The Song presents love that is “because of” rather than “in spite of.”
        1. Throughout the Scriptures,
          1. we learn to love one another in spite of one another’s faults, and
          2. that is a good thing, but
        2. that does not forbid loving someone because their good qualities, for
          1. that is why we love God and Jesus!
          2. Is it not the reason we in fall in love romantically?
      6. Understand the nature of romantic and married love presented in the Song:
        1. 1.2–4 – It is better than wine.
        2. 2.2 – It is incomparable.
        3. 2.3, 4 – It provides special delights.
        4. 2.5 – It causes lovesickness.
        5. 2.14 – It gives delightful assurance.
        6. 3.1–4 – It has a strong desire for togetherness.
        7. 4.9, 10 – It is intimate knowledge.
        8. 6.5 – It overwhelms.
        9. 7.5 – It captivates.
        10. 8.6, 7 – It is strong.
        11. 8.10–12 – It is peaceful.
    8. How does the Song of Solomon fit into God’s overall Scheme of Redemption?
      1. Why did God create mankind?
      2. When He created man and woman, what was the first thing He did for them?
      3. Answering those questions, we can see how the Song fits in perfectly with God’s plan for man.
  1. Proverbs 5.15–23 and the Song of Solomon
    1. Solomon set this section in contrast to Proverbs 5.1–14,
      1. in which he warns of the dangers and severe consequences of adultery.
      2. Then he displayed the physical intimacies of marriage.
        1. Verses 15–17 encourages faithfulness to one’s spouse.
        2. Verses 18–20 vividly portrays that a man should be embraced by his wife sexually, and not with another woman, and of course vice versa.
        3. Verses 21–23 reminds the reader that the Lord watches over our affairs.
    2. There are metaphors common to both Proverbs 5.15–23 and the Song,
      1. making us conclude that the latter expands upon the former.
      2. Imagine living in a hot and dry land, then you can see the value of water.
        1. Hence, Solomon uses the water imagery in Proverbs:15 Drink water from your own cistern,
          And running water from your own well.
          16 Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
          Streams of water in the streets?
          (Pro 5.15, 16)

          18 Let your fountain be blessed,
          And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
          (Pro 5.18)

        2. The Song of Solomon also shows familiarity with this imagery:
          1. Song 4.12
          2. Song 4.15
          3. Song 5.12
          4. Song 8.7
        3. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., concludes,…it is best to interpret it as a book celebrating that marriage, as intended by God, was meant to be private or exclusive and yet also full of joy and delight, filling the couple with refreshing harmony and vigorous love, fully intimate, fully physical. When the marital covenant is maintained faithfully to the glory of God, the kind of satisfaction described in Prov 5:15–23 and throughout Song of Songs must surely be seen as the God-given, and life-giving, result of and blessing over marriage.
    3. The Song of Solomon expounds upon the creation of marriage (Gen 2.18–25).
      1. Companionship – v. 18
      2. Friendship – vv. 19, 20
      3. Respect – vv. 21, 22
      4. Unity – v. 23
      5. Cleaving – v. 24
      6. Intimacy – v. 25
        1. The Song of Solomon highlights these attributes of marriage.
        2. God created marriage.
          1. We should not be surprised that He would give us the Bible,
          2. His manual on loving your neighbor as yourself, and
            1. that He would give us an entire Book or Song on marriage, and
            2. the delights that He wants humans to enjoy.





TBM September 2000