When I was in my younger teen years, I can remember taking class about the history Disciple of Christ denomination and bible study, led by our temporary student interim minister. One day she told us to pick a book of the bible to read about and told us about all the different books, giving a brief summary of it content. She came to the Song of Songs and that’s when I first found out it was about a sexual relationship of a man and woman. When she told me this, it just completely blew my mind. The act of sex is often such a private and intimate occurrence that many people feel it’s inappropriate to talk about. So if this is the case, why on earth was this included in such a holy book?
Sex is a very touchy topic for most people, but I have often been told that sex is the most intimate and deep expression of love that a person can show to one another; it is a sacred bond between lovers. I have also heard many times the expression “love” (or sex) “is a beautiful thing. If love is such a beautiful thing, and sex is perceived as a sacred bond showing deepest expression of love, then why wouldn’t it be included in the bible? There are many other instances of love within the bible, including the love between friends, sisters, husband and wife, but these never really go as far as intimacy of a man and woman. Because the bible speaks of the different relationships with love, it seems appropriate for this book to be included.
One of the purposes of the bible is to teach. We are taught how to live righteously, how to honor and praise God, and we are taught of everyday values and lessons through the stories of others. It seems that every book of the bible has a purpose for learning and Song of Songs is no different; I see it as a learning tool of how to show affection and love for our significant other….I mean, what girl doesn’t want to hear that her hair flows like a flock of goats and that her breasts resemble two fawns, like twins of a gazelle?
There is my own theory as to why this book may have been included, but there are many other theories to answer this question. One theory suggests that this book may have originally been a drama to the event of a love affair between two people. The story speaks of basically physical attraction and longing, of separation and unity, which does indeed support the ideas of an affair. However, this theory has been abandoned since the nineteenth century. The second idea suggests the evolution of this love song to have come from the ancient Mesopotamian culture. There are similarities between the happenings in Song of Songs and the content credited to a sacred marriage that of a god and goddess. There are parallels in this story as compared to marriage texts in ancient Mesopotamia. The Song of Songs is a book about human love. The third, and most accepted, theory suggests this book is a compilation of poems (suggesting human love) which may have been incorporated into ceremonies of marriage.
This specific book of the bible poses problems of interpretation because it has such a [positive] emphasis on sexual, human love, disregard for theological/historical ideas, and focus of the female character. As we know, this book is largely interpreted just as an erotic relationship and as love poetry between man and woman. Some scholars suggest it is not only erotic love poetry but it may also be metaphoric in describe the love relationship between God and his people of Israel. According to the rabbinic tradition, this book is a record of words spoke between God and Israel when met at the Red Sea, Sinai, or the Tent of Meeting. It is seen as allegorical, the male lover as the voice of God and the words of the female lover to be Israel. It can be interpreted and understood that the expressions of love and desire are also shown in God’s relationship to the people of Israel. There is also evidence to inspire the thought that these words could describe the historical redeeming by God to his people.
According to early Jewish mysticism, there is the idea that the lovers are thought to be God and his relationship with ONE soul, rather than a relationship with Israel as a whole.
As we’ve seen, there are many interpretations as to why this book is included. All could be right, for all we know. Considering the erotic nature of the poetry, it’s hard for me to believe that this really could be a metaphorical and allegorical way of expressing the relationship between God and his people. But I suppose no one will really know.