The book known to Western Christians as the ‘Song of Solomon’ would be better titled ‘Song of Songs’ – its Hebrew title שיר השירים taken from the opening verse –
‘The Song of Songs (which is Solomon’s).’ Song 1:1
Second only to Jesus, Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived –
I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 1 Kings 3:12
Jesus endorsed Solomon’s wisdom
“She (Queen of Sheba) came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and now One greater than Solomon is here.” Matt. 12:42
With his God given wisdom and perception, Solomon penned his greatest song on many levels, and considered it the most excellent or ultimate love song. It’s one more in the list of ‘ultimate’ themes that point to God and Jesus –
When the Jews were debating whether to include the ‘Song of Songs’ in their canon of scripture, it was affirmed by the well respected Rabbi Akiva – (c. 100CE)
“The whole world is not as worthy as the day on which Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the writings are holy but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.” Mishnah Yadayim 3
The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides said –
What is the proper form of the love of God? It is that he should love with a great, overpowering, fierce love as if he were love-sick for a woman and dwells on this constantly… And it is to this that Solomon refers allegorically when he says: ‘For I am love-sick’ (Song of Songs 2:5) for the whole of Song is a parable on this theme.” (Hilchot Teshuvah, 10:3)
GOD’S LOVE FOR ISRAEL
God did indeed liken Israel to His Bride –
Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Jeremiah. 2:2
Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. Isaiah. 54:5
CHRIST’S LOVE FOR THE CHURCH
In the New Testament the theme morphs into Christ’s love for the Church –
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Eph. 5:25
The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7
An ENCRYPTED CODE
The Song of Solomon at face-value is the story of the love between a beautiful Shulamite girl and a Shepherd Boy. Yet there is much more to the story. Solomon uses a clever code to describe the lovers. Their body parts are likened to aspects of the temple that was on his mind because he was building it at the time. The Bride is also likened to the garden of Eden. The girl must follow her Shepherd lover as Christians must follow Christ. The fruit of their garden is what Jesus will taste when He returns. The Shepherd also gathers lilies – a symbol that adorned the temple (1 Kings 7:22) of those who blossom by living water. Psalm 80 is headed ‘For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.”
The deeper meaning in Song of Songs is found by searching other parts of scripture – a code Solomon encrypted into the story. Many have misunderstood this book by not looking deeper than the surface.
Let’s look at a couple of examples – 2 Chron. 3:5 describes parts of the temple –
And the greater house he covered with fir tree, which he overlaid with fine gold, and set thereon palm trees and chains. 2 Chron 3:5
Solomon uses these parts in his love song –
Our rafters are firs. 1:17
Your stature (measure) is like the palm tree” Song 7:77:
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride…with one glance of your eyes, with one chain of your neck. Song 4:9
Thus the couple in the Song of Solomon are connected with the imagery of the temple. To find out the fullness of the meaning a wider search of scripture is needed. For example, palm trees also adorned Ezekiel’s Temple and we are told that the measure of the palm is according to the measure of the gate facing East –
Their windows (entrances), and their arches, and their palm trees, were after the measure of the gate that looks toward the east.” Ezek. 40:22
The gate facing east was the way to the Holy of Holies, the way to God – which was Jesus. . The Bride, like a palm tree is to be modelled on Christ. Solomon says the ‘measure’ of the Beloved is like that of a palm – she has attained to the image of Christ. Many of the bits and pieces in the temple were symbolic of Jesus and of people.
The palm trees had chains, if the palm tree is a person then the chain around it is something that adorns the person. We find out Solomon’s understanding of the symbolism for chains in Proverbs
My son, hear the instruction of your father, and forsake not the law of your mother: For they will be an ornament of grace to your head, and chains about your neck. Prov. 1:8
This gives more meaning to the chain around the neck of the Bride in Song of Solomon. It is a symbol of someone who has listened to their wise parents and is adorned with grace.
Surely Hosea was thinking of the Song of Songs as he wrote chapter 14 – compare the symbols
I will freely love them, for My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily and take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
His shoots will sprout, and his splendor will be like the olive tree, his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.
They will return and dwell in his shade; they will grow grain and blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what have I to do anymore with idols? It is I who answer and watch over him.
I am always green like a cypress tree; your fruit comes from Me.Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
|SONG OF SONGS
My head is filled with dew. Song 5:2
Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women. Song 2:2
His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as its cedars. Song 5:15 The beams of our house are cedars Song 1:17
I delight to sit in his shade Song 2:3 our vineyards are in bloom Son 2:15 He has brought me to the house of wine Song 2:4
Like a fruit tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Song 2:3
BY Solomon NOT ABOUT Solomon
Although Solomon wrote the Song of Songs, it doesn’t seem to tell his own story, rather that of a pair of lovers he must have known well.
There are some solid reasons for this suggestion. Solomon never found his ‘soul mate’ but the couple in Song of Songs were perfect for each other.
Which yet my soul seeks, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. Ecc. 7:28
|THE HAPPY COUPLE
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loves. Song 3:1
You have captured my heart, my sister , my bride. Song 4:9
Some versions translate the passage in Ecclesiates as Solomon not being able to find a ‘virtuous’ woman, but the word is נֶפֶשׁ ‘nephesh’ meaning ‘soul’. He never found his soul mate amongst women. The perfect love needs all the right chemistry, Solomon never found a woman who fully connected with his soul.
It seems Solomon is an onlooker of the happy couple and even views their circumstances in contrast to his own
CONTRAST TO SOLOMON
|There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and maidens without number, but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the favourite of the mother who bore her. (Shepherd Boy) Song 6:9||Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon. He leased it to the tenants. For its fruit, each was to bring a thousand shekels of silver. But my own vineyard is mine to give. (Bride) Song 8:12|
NOT ABOUT PHARAOH’S DAUGHTER
Some have speculated Solomon could have written this song about His first wife – Pharoah’s daughter – I don’t think so. She kept worshipping the gods of her family (see 1 Kings 11). Solomon considered her unclean and put her outside the city
Solomon brought the daughter of Pharaoh up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her. For he said, “My wife must not live in the house of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the LORD has entered are holy.” 2 Chron 8:11
THE ORIGINAL LOVERS
Although this story has a deeper meaning it was based on a real couple. So who were these real people that Solomon used as the image of perfect love ? Perhaps we will not know for sure until the Kingdom, and it doesn’t effect the deeper parable of Christ and the Bride, yet there are some intriguing clues about this young couple – presented here for interest.
The girl in Song of Solomon was of unsurpassed beauty, a Shulammite, she was brought before the king and contemporary with Solomon.
Come back, O Shulammite…that we may gaze upon you. Song 6:13 Most beautiful among women. Song 5:9 The king has brought me into his rooms. 1:4
SHULAM = SHUNAM – There is only a slight difference between the word for Shulammite שׁוּלַמִּית and Shunammite שׁוּנַמִּית. According to the Jewish Virual Library, the biblical site of Shunem is identified with the Muslim Arab village of Sūlim at the foot of the hill of Moreh. The ancient historians Eusebius (c.300 CE), and Jerome (c.400CE) both identified Shulam with Shunam – the same place.
ABISHAG fits the literal description of the beautiful heroine of the Song of Solomon.
They searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl, and they found Abishag the Shunammite and brought her to the king. She was of unsurpassed beauty, and she became the king’s caregiver. She attended to him, but he was not intimate with her. 1 Kings 1:3-4
She was beautiful, lived in the palace (brought there for David), and she was a Shulammite/(Shunammite).
The identity of her partner is more speculative.
THE SHEPHERD BOY
Solomon had Adonijah killed for asking to marry Abishag –
King Solomon answered his mother, “Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Since he is my older brother, you might as well request the kingdom for him and for Abiathar the priest and for Joab son of Zeruiah.” Then King Solomon swore by the LORD: “May God punish me, and ever so severely, if Adonijah has not made this request at the expense of his life. 1 Kings 2:22-23
Solomon saw Adonijah as a threat to the throne – who would he allow Abishag to marry that was not a threat ?
The counterpart of the girl is the shepherd boy/gardener. He looks after sheep, fruit and flowers –
Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Song 1:7
My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies. Song 6:2
-Not the sort of person who would be seen as a threat. I believe the Shepherd boy had fallen in love with Abishag, and Solomon loved him as a brother. He dined at the kings table and had access to the palace. I believe he could well have been the ancestor and ‘type’ of the great Shepherd, Jesus – just as Abishag was a type of the perfect Bride, the Church.
THE LINEAGE OF JESUS
We know that as the adopted son of Joseph, the lineage of Jesus was via Solomon (see Matt. 1). But the blood line was via Mary and went through Nathan, Solomon’s brother.
The son of Nathan, the son of David. Luke 3:31
We know nothing of the life of Nathan apart from who his siblings were. A curious thing considering his importance in the line of Christ. We know far more of the glorious lineage of Ezra, yet God doesn’t care about glorious lineages.
There is something very odd about the mention of Nathan as Solomon’s brother in 1 Chron. 3:4
“David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, and these were the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba daughter of Ammiel.”
The Israelites always listed children according to birth order, but Solomon is last… why? I believe that Uriah and Bathsheba already had children when David slept with Bathsheba. We know that Solomon was the first son born to David and Bathsheba after the first baby died. The story of the ewe lamb told by Nathan the prophet was about Uriah and his children. David would have adopted them fully when he married Bathsheba. Thus Nathan was not the son of David by blood and no threat to the throne, from Solomon’s point of view. Also, Solomon probably loved Nathan as his older brother sharing the same mother.
The term ‘born to him (David) there’ referring to the children of David – can refer to ‘the pedigree’ in the same way Jesus was included in the line of Joseph (in Matthew) even though he was not in the blood line of Joseph. Thus if David fully adopted the children of Uriah and Bathsheba they would be listed as David’s children.
For a fuller explanation see Bloodline of Jesus via David or Uriah
THE GREATER STORY
Song of Songs is the story of a shepherd boy farmer, he has sheep and plants. He leaves the palace to look after them and the Beloved follows as Jesus said “Follow Me”. It seems to me that Song of Songs followed the love between Abishag and Nathan, but it echoed a greater love story –
There are many echoes to Christ and the Church
|Where do you pasture your sheep?
Where do you rest them at noon? Song 1:7
|Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon… “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” John 4|
Jesus showed us how he fed sheep at noon. He was out there working to ‘gather lilies’ (more symbols that adorned the temple) and bring people to the Kingdom.
So when you read things like
How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how delightful! The green grass is our bed. Song 1:16
There is greater meaning – “We are feeding our sheep – we are amongst them working – and the green grass where the sheep are is our bed”. In a similar manner Jesus said “I have nowhere to lay my head” meaning he didn’t live in a permanent house, he was busy feeding sheep. Those who follow Jesus must live as He did.
LIGHTS OF HEAVEN
The bride in Song of Songs echoes the Church of Revelation 12, they are both adorned with all the lights of heaven –
|Who is this who shines like the dawn, as fair as the moon, as bright as the sun, as majestic as the stars in procession? Song 6:10||A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. Rev 12:1|
The Bride appears without blemish, the same idea is picked up in Ephesians
|You are altogether beautiful … in you there is no flaw. Song 4:7||To present her to himself as a radiant church, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Eph. 5:27|
The couple are both likened to doves and it was a dove that alighted on Jesus at His baptism –
The heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Him. Matt. 3:16
When a woman gave birth to a child she could offer either a lamb and a dove for the sin offering and burnt offering, or a pair of turtledoves or 2 young doves. In a sense Mary did both, she gave her son to God in service as Hannah had done, and she offered a pair of turtledoves at the temple. In Revelation 12 Mary morphs into the church – all who follow Jesus
The dove references in the Song of Songs seem to echo the bond between Christ and His Bride – a matching pair
|Behold, you are beautiful…Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Song 1:15, 4:1
O my dove in the clefts of the rock 2:14
My love, my dove, my undefiled 5:2
My dove, my undefiled is but one 6:9
His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters 5:12
European turtle dove: wiki commons
|The heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Him. Matt. 3:16|
Turtledoves (the common doves of Israel) mate for life with a bond so strong it can last beyond death. They have been known to watch over their dead mates and try to care for them, and to keep going back to the place where their mate died. They are faithful birds, so hence the connection to being undefiled and the likeness to the purity of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to his disciples
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matt 10:16
The word ‘innocent’ means ‘unmixed/pure/undefiled’. A fitting description of having the holy spirit -your sole focus is God.
So the lovers in the Song of Songs are another way God is saying “This is a parable of how I want you to follow me… with pure devoted passion”.
OLD & NEW
Another verse with some echoes –
|At our door is every delicacy ‘precious’, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my beloved. Song 7:13||Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they answered. Every scribe who is instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a householder, who brings out of his treasure things new and old. Matt. 13:52|
The context of Matt 13 is not about old preserved jam or new apples, its about people. The Song of Songs is talking about the people as the fruit the Bride is storing up for Christ. He’s going to taste this fruit of the vine in the kingdom. “I will not taste the fruit of the vine until I share it new with you in my Kingdom.”
ECHOES OF EDEN
The Bride is described as an enclosed garden- Fitting the Garden of Eden pattern
You are a garden locked up, a spring enclosed, a fountain sealed. Your branches are an orchard of pomegranates with the choicest of fruits… You are a garden spring, a well of living waters streaming down from Lebanon. Song 4:12-15
For a fuller explanation see Symbols Established in Eden
God uses many symbols to describe His Son – A Shepherd, a King, a Lion, a Lamb etc. He also uses many symbols to describe His Church- A Lampstand – 7 Lampstands, 12 sons of Jacob, Israel, New Jerusalem. In the Song of Songs he uses the symbol of the Bride. She is desired by her Beloved and her desire is for Him.
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for (toward) me. Song 7:10
He has brought me to the house of wine (banquet) and his banner over me is love. Song 2:4.
For an insight into ‘Beloved Disciples’ See Under the Banner of Love