In my Carroll Gardens Home Group, we are reading through the Song of Songs attributed to King Solomon, one of the great rulers of ancient days. Solomon was known to have loads of wives and concubines during his reign as King of the united kingdom of Israel. Solomon, full of wisdom and its seems virility, had a profound effect on the Jewish nation then and for us, today – Christian or Jew.
The Church (as well as the Rabbis) tend to read the Song of Songs in an allegorical sense. The passionate descriptions of love and devotion are said to represent God’s love (the lover) and God’s chosen people, Israel (the beloved), or in the Christian interpretation of Christ (the lover) and the Church (the beloved). Or, perhaps, the poetry of this book truly does describe the abandonment two people can find in passionate love for one another – glorious in its reality. We truly don’t know why the early Jewish religious leaders declared this book to be a part of the canon of Holy Scripture, but regardless of why or whether it should be allegorically or literally understood, it presents to us a wonderful depiction of love.
If we read through the writings of the ancient Christian religious or mystics, we see in their writings vivid and passionate language when they refer to their experience with and love for God. In some of the writings, these depictions seem almost erotic in nature. The ecstatic feeling of love and fulfillment and comfort when enveloped in God’s love is wonderful. I can see why such love language is used to describe it.
Here is a quote from the Interpreter’s Bible commentary on the Song of Songs
“Some importance, in other words, attaches to the fact that the Song of Songs has enjoyed a virtually uncontested place among the books of the Bible. This does not mean that we are necessarily bound to the traditional allegorical method of interpretation, but it does lay upon us the responsibility of discovering what the biblical view of love is, its content and the language in which it is expressed. We may also discover, incidentally, that the biblical view of love gives a deeper meaning to the Song of Songs even when it is taken to be no more than the passionate, sensual love associated with physical attraction – that the Bible here, as in other ways, redeems and baptizes what otherwise is vulgar, common, and prurient.” (Vol.5, p. 110)