Category: Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon memes
I tried to do more… But they kept coming out…um….naughty…
the “best” books on the Song of Solomon
This is only a brief book list for the Song of Solomon.
- (Continental Commentary Series)]]]
Michael Goulder on the Song of Solomon
For those of you who don’t know about the late Dr. Michael Goulder, he is the one who well defined Rev. Dr. Austin Farrer’s theory, giving rise to a solid and substantial challenge to the Q hypothesis. His expertise was not limited to the Gospels, but as you can see, was expanded to both Testaments — and even somewhat beyond. This is his take on the Song of Solomon:
The following, then, as I understand it, is the ‘plot’ of the Song. The young woman is an Arabian princess from Nadiv, and in Song 1 she has arrived at Solomon’s palace: ‘the king has brought me into his chambers’. She expresses passionate love for her royal fiancé, ‘let him kiss me …’, and ends by asking the way to the Audience Chamber, which the Chorus, the ladies of the harem, tell her. Song 2 is in the Audience Hall, where the King greets her with enthusiasm. They embrace (‘My beloved is unto me a sachet of myrrh lying between my breasts’), and she begins to speak with a proprietorial tone of the furnishings—‘our couch, our house, our rafters’. Thereafter things move quickly. She sits down beside him and kisses him, ‘I delight in his shadow and sit down, and his fruit is sweet to my taste’; and the scene ends with his left hand under her head, and his right hand enfolding her. With Song 3 he comes running to court her, and invite her into the country; and she bids him to her bed for the night—not of course to sleep with her, for they are not yet married, but he is to be as a hart on the cloven hills of her breast. In Song 4 she awakes to find the King has gone; she goes after him through the streets and ways of the city, that is the corridors and rooms of the palace. She meets the watchmen, the eunuchs, and the King himself, and takes him back to bed with her. In Song 5 the ladies are watching the Princess in the royal palanquin (mî zō’t) being carried in procession to her wedding, where the King awaits her on his special new throne (’appiriōn) in the crown Bathsheba has given him for the occasion. In Song 6 the King admires her in her wedding veil, praising all the loveliness that he can see, from her eyes and hair down to her breasts. Song 7 is the consummation of their marriage: he bids her to come down from the mountains—that is from her breast—to the garden of her womb, to the sealed spring full of the aromas of desire. She welcomes him into her garden, and he says, ‘I have come into my garden, my sister-bride’. It is not until this Song that he calls her his bride, as he now does repeatedly. Song 7 marks the half-way point of the fourteen Songs, and the Consummation is the first of the two high points of the book.
In the second half, from 5:2, the Princess moves from being Solomon’s new wife to being his Queen. In Song 8 he knocks on her door, but she is slow in responding, and he goes. She follows but cannot find him, and in Song 9 asks help of the ladies, who are conveniently about in the middle of the night: she describes her love in detail. With Song 10 he returns to her—she cries ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine!’ He then tells her that she is his only love, and has captivated him: even his queens and women salute her. They make love the second time: ‘I went down to the garden of nuts …’ We might think her victory rather easy, so in Song 11 the ladies call for the return of Abishag the Shunamite: but the Princess is not having that, and dances for the King herself. This time the praises move up from her feet, beautiful in their sandals, to her arms waving like a palm-tree; not much between is omitted, so she is probably dancing naked. Having now further aroused her husband, she takes him off to the country in Song 12, where she ‘awakens’ him under the apple-tree. In this way she can be hailed in public in Song 13, ‘Who is this coming up from the desert?’, now her beloved’s open favourite; and she makes the famous and beautiful appeal to him, ‘set me as the seal upon your heart, for love is strong as death, and jealousy hard as Sheol’. She can only be satisfied to be permanently with him, and in Song 14 this is put to the test. He is with his nobles administering his vineyard: she calls to him from the garden, and he comes.
Does Song of Solomon argue with Genesis 1-3 about human sexuality ?
If, as some critics have argued, the Song’s humanistic viewpoint represents an Israelite poet’s self-conscious attempt to “demythologize” ancient Near Eastern concepts of sacred sexuality — manifest in fertility rites of sympathetic magic — the broader vision sketched in Genesis 1–2 calls into question the notion that male-female sexual relationships were thereby completely desacralized, secularized, or set loose from constraints of moral decision making. Neither in the Song nor elsewhere in Scripture is human sexual love celebrated as “its own legitimation.” It is to be diligently sought after and treasured when found, because it is a vital part of God’s gracious design for human life; it is a “good” gift to be enjoyed and yet, like others, capable of being twisted by human perversity.
The author goes on to suggest that by looking at these things together, we get a framework for human sexuality. He gives a few points:
- That sex is (morally) good (think Genesis 1)
- That love makes sex better
- Erotic love makes sex steamy and that is good
Human sexual fulfillment, fervently sought and consummated in reciprocal love between woman and man: Yes, that is what the Song of Songs is about, in its literal sense and theologically relevant meaning.
Song of Solomon: Kisses aren’t just Kisses, and Love isn’t just Love
Keel sees Song 1.2–3 pulling from a Ugaritic myth, one of Shachar and Shalim, where the god El bends over two women:
He stooped (and) kissed their lips;
behold! their lips were sweet,
sweet as pomegranate.
In the kissing (there was) conception,
in the embracing (there was) pregnancy.
Bede: But if the breasts of Christ, that is, the source of the Lord’s revelation, are better than the wine of the law, how much more will the wine of Christ, that is, the perfection of evangelical doctrine, surpass all the ceremonies of the law? If the sacraments of his incarnation vivify, how much more will the knowledge and vision of his divinity glorify? COMMENTARY ON THE SONG OF SONGS 1.1.1.
Isn’t it odd that it was easier for them to see this as an allegory that led to further allegorizing a God or Jesus with breasts (El Shaddai, anyone?) than it is to acknowledge the plain sense meaning that the woman in question was doing wild and crazy things to the man’s thoughts?
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (and more) on how not to read the Song of Solomon
There is a deep aversion to reading the Songs as “secular,” as if carnality — sexual and physical love is somehow not of the sacred community…
For you must not, accepting the vulgar, superficial interpretation of the words, suppose that the Canticle is an expression of carnal, sexual love.
Keel goes on to detail how both the allegorizers of Alexandria and the more literally inclined at Antioch simply refused to see in it the profane beauty of the raw passion emitting from the pages.
A later interpreter tried to have it removed from the canon. Thankfully, he was not successful… but Theodore was not the last to attempt such things:
Nevertheless, in academic circles, even the rise of humanism and the Reformation were unable to breach the solid front of typology and allegory. The humanist Sébastien Chateillon, whose intellectual honesty prohibited him from seeing anything but erotic songs in the Song, concluded therefore (like Theodore of Mopsuestia earlier) that the book did not belong in the canon. Because of this view, Calvin forced him to leave Geneva in 1545, saying, “Our chief disagreement concerns the Song of Songs. He saw it as a lascivious and obscene poem, in which Solomon describes his shameless love affairs.”
can sex and marriage be metaphor? (Song of Solomon)
I would rather see Song of Solomon as a poetic text describing the sexual longing and relationship between a woman and the man she pursues than much else; however, it has historically been interpreted as a metaphor or allegory for the spiritual union between God and and His people.
We are rather prickly, or prudish, about seeing the spiritual union between God and His people as anything but a mystical enfolding — or any other words you want to use meant to push us back from direct euphemisms that sound too much like we are having intercourse with the divine.
My view on the Song of Solomon is not shaded by my desire to refrain from seeing the mystical union between Creator and Creature as sexual in nature (the union is not; there is no reality in which Jesus is your boyfriend), but rather, I read the Song of Solomon as a naughty love poem because I value the theology of a heated and passionate physical love between two individuals.
But, do we have other examples of sex and marriage used as symbols, metaphors, or allegory of the divine-human interaction? Sure we do. There are at least three I want to bring to your attention.
In Galatians 4.24, St Paul says that we are to take the ménage à trois of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar as an allegory of God’s promise and how faith plays a part in how we are drawn into a union with God.
In Ephesians 5.25–33, the blessed writer speaks directly to the union of husband and wife by speaking indirectly to the marriage between Christ and the Church.
But it is the Book of the Hosea, a prophet, that is one of the best allegories, so to speak. In it, the prophet is commanded to take a prostitute as a wife. Here, the marriage — including sex inside and outside of marriage, with her husband and with men not her husband — serves as the parable of God and Israel, whom God seems to delight in calling, repeatedly, a whore..
Can Song of Solomon actually be a huge poetic metaphor for God and His People? Sure, but it doesn’t follow the same basic motifs. For one, there is no basic storyline or end goal. For another, God is nowhere to be seen. For another, the entire story mimics both Egyptian and Ugaritic love poetry, with its fast paced dialogue and focus on wooing.
Wooing the opposite sex. Not God.
Does this limit us from seeing it as such? Absolutely not.
But, if we really want to have a healthy conversation about sex and then one about our union with God, we need to read Song of Solomon in the bedroom first. Then in the pulpit.
And in the days of Ashley Madison, Backpage, and Craigslist, don’t you think we need a bit more of this?
Song of Solomon completes Genesis 1.26-27 (a week’s discussion)
We have a difficult time in reading Song of Solomon. We can easily gloss over Ruth and Esther and they way they got their positions, but Songs is a different animal. This week (24-28 Aug 15) I will focus on Song of Solomon both on the blog and on Facebook. I will attempt to update this page with the posts and Facebook conversations.
It is in line with the basic affirmation of creation, especially of man and woman, as good (Genesis 1). It also harmonizes with the sages’ understanding of sex as portrayed in Prov 5:15–19, and in Prov 30:18–19 (“the way of a man with a maiden,” a great mystery). In the rest of the Bible marriage is usually viewed from a social point of view, the union of families and property, and the importance of descendants. In the Song sexual love is treated as a value in and for itself.
The Song is hot, sensual, and sexual. It is filled with a building erotica and orgasimic bliss. And it is often interpreted at allegory for God and Israel (or Christ and the Church). There are several layers of interpretation, none really wrong – but each layer should be used for different reasons, with the others not ignored.
After all, while I find it blushingly odd that we would use this book as a symbol between God and Israel, the writer of Ephesians had no issue using the symbol of marriage for Christ and the Church.
…the modern view, especially from the 17th century on, is that the Song deals with human love. But for centuries before this, the common understanding of the Song was that it described the love of God and God’s people. There is extraordinary agreement between both Jewish and Christian tradition on this point.
So, sit in a dark corner by yourself and hide from the eyes of the world. Read it only for the articles.
- Can sex and marriage be metaphor?
- St. Cyril of Jerusalem (and more) on how not to read the Song of Solomon
- Kisses aren’t just kisses, and Love isn’t just Love
- Does Song of Solomon argue with Genesis 1-3 about human sexuality?
- Can Sex and marriage be metaphor?
- Michael Goulder on the Song of Solomon
- The “best” books on Song of Solomon
- Song of Solomon memes