I would be remiss when writing a couples devotional, not to spend time in one of the least referenced books of the Old Testament because it describes in graphic detail the love between a man and a woman. It’s interesting that in a culture that seems fixated on sex and anything related to it, the church, most bible commentators and preachers have opted to largely ignore the one book of the bible that details the passion and physical aspects of love between a man and a woman. The book I’m referring to is of course Solomon’s, Song of Songs. Perhaps if those who have been called to share the word of God with others would spend a proportionate amount of time in Song of Songs, Christians and others might have a better understanding of what such love is and why God created it.
Some have suggested that Solomon wrote it under God’s inspiration as a metaphor describing the relationship between God and His chosen people, Israel. Modern interpreters have further suggested that it is a metaphorical description of the love between Christ and His church. Honestly, having read this work of Solomon in both Hebrew and English and the only reasonable conclusion is the simplest and most obvious, it is a poem about human love and passion between a man, Solomon and a woman referred to as a Shulamite beauty. If I had to liken it to a story we are all familiar with I would suggest Cinderella or Snow White, because it involves a handsome young man of royal station and young woman of humble background yet with the kind of beauty the handsome prince could not ignore, because she was unlike any woman he had ever seen or known.
Some have suggested that Song of Songs is somehow less important the other books of the Old Testament because it lacks a direct reference to God or a particular theology. I think this too is incorrect because Song of Songs is all about love and if we read the teachings of the apostle John, specifically chapter four of 1John, we know that all love comes from and through God, because “God is love (v.16).” Therefore Solomon’s, Song of Songs, is all about God and those who he created in His image, both man and woman. Another criticism of Solomon’s work is that there is too much emphasis on physical beauty and the attributes of both the female and male body and that’s why it must be a poetic metaphor for something else. Again, a simple read of the poetry testifies to the fact that it is about the physical attributes of the human body and that it is something beautiful and any shame associated with it is the result of men’s sin and not God’s beautiful creation, both man and woman (Genesis 2:25, 3:10-11, 20).
The story begins just outside a little town named Shunam, in the hill country of Ephrian, about fifty mile north of Jerusalem (Song of Songs 8:11). As was the practice then, Solomon rented out portions of his estate to tenant farmers who in this case tended the King’s vineyards. It was hard work in the hot sun of the middle-east but it was a good way to make a living for those who didn’t own land of their own. In the jargon of today, they would be called the working poor. The family referred to in Solomon’s poem consisted of a mother, two sons and two daughters, the oldest of course would become Solomon’s love interest (6:13, 8:8).
Although this working class girl must have been a natural beauty, her life was not one privilege or leisure and I’m sure she spent little or no time in front of a mirror or applying the latest in Mary Kay skin care or cosmetics. It also sounds like the relationship, between her and her brothers, was one of normal sibling rivalry and laced perhaps with a little bit of jealousy (1:6). In fact, because her brother’s jealousy she was charged with the responsibility of tending the sheep and goats, setting fox traps and helping her brothers prune the King’s grape vines (1:8, 2:15), so of course she was well tanned to the point of being self-conscious (1:5, 6). She certainly would have looked unlike any of the other women of Solomon’s harem, dark hair and even darker skin, bronzed by the sun.
Can you remember the first time to saw your wife or husband, or at least the first time you really looked at her or him? Remember how it gave you pause and perhaps you thought, “What if?” If you didn’t think so at first, I’m sure it became clear soon after, that they were unlike anyone else you had ever seen and although you might not have known how or why, you knew it to be so. This was only the beginning of something that would grow beyond anything you could imagine and included feelings you never knew you could have, and soon they became the center of your life. This is beginning of a love that only a man and a woman can share. It is truly one of God’s greatest gifts and is a demonstration of how much He loves us.
Tomorrow, we’ll explore more of this great love story, given to us by our Lord God, and recorded for us by His servant Solomon.
Tool #301 Your love for each other is not of your creation but of Him who cares most about you. What greater gift could any man or woman receive?