Solomon, the author of Song of Songs, is one of the more interesting yet curious characters in the Old Testament. He was a man whom God blessed with great wisdom which would make him famous throughout the known world and sought out by commoners and foreign rulers alike, for his advice and counsel. He would build the magnificent first temple in Jerusalem, the resting place for the Ark of the Covenant where God through His priesthood would be worshiped, where petition and sacrifice on behalf of God’s people, Israel, would be made.
Yet, with all his accomplishments and wisdom, Solomon would fail in keeping the basic commands of God given to future kings of Israel some 450 years before his reign. God asked only three things of future Israelite kings in Deuteronomy 17:14-17, they were to not amass great wealth, not to multiply the number of horses God had allotted them, and most important as it relates to Song of Songs, not to have multiple wives or concubines. How did Solomon do in following these commands? He amassed great wealth in gold and silver, owned thousands of horses and gathered hundreds of wives and concubines.
With all his excess, Solomon found emptiness and a sense of futility in all his accomplishments, which is reflected in another book of the bible he authored, Ecclesiastes. Perhaps it was the example set by his father David, Israel’s greatest king, and the marital problems Solomon witnessed as a youth that influenced him later in life and contributed to his excessive and sinful behavior. His father David had fallen in love with a woman named Bathsheba and took her to be his wife after intentionally having her husband killed in battle. David also had many wives and concubines, but it was Bathsheba who he favored above any other woman in his kingdom and she would bear the future king of Israel, named Solomon.
Returning to the love story between Solomon and the dark and beautiful Shulamite peasant girl, Solomon first approached her in his vineyard where she worked his field. It is thought that he must have decided not to reveal his true identity, and come to her disguised as a mere shepherd so as not to frighten her off. She asked about his flocks (1:7) but he was so distracted by her beauty, he could not help himself and declared his love for her (1:8-10). It was clear that it was love at first sight, and regardless of their differing backgrounds or stations in life, they were meant to be together. They spent enough time together for their passions to grow and their new-found love to blossom, but Solomon decided that he must leave her, promising to someday return. Solomon describes doing something that I remember doing when I first dated my wife Cindy in high school, in fact I can remember sitting in a booth across from her drinking a cherry coke, somewhat oblivious to the conversation, studying every detail of her face, her eyes, her lips, her nose, her hair, even the tiny hairs on her ear lobes! Years later when I told her of my careful examination of her she exclaimed, “Thank goodness I didn’t know, I would have been self-conscious to the point of tears.”
This is the sort of description that Solomon gives of his examination of his new love interest. He thought that she was the most beautiful girl in the world, like a cluster of flowers (1:8, 14) with eyes soft and pure as doves, like a single lily that stands out among all others (2:2). Her hair cascaded across her face wildly, her teeth brilliantly white, lips like scarlet ribbon yet sweet as honey (1:14-15, 2:2, 4:1-2), and with a single glance she had stolen his heart (4:9). Solomon, reflecting as he wrote about when he would see her on their wedding night, went on to describe her slender neck, full breasts, skillfully crafted thighs, her shapely waist, and perhaps out of fantasy described her naval as a goblet filled with wine (4:4-5, 13, 7:1-2).
To some this is not the type of thing that one should speak of publicly, and is not what they would expect to find in the bible! Yet there it is for all to read and then ask, what is it there for? I think one reason is to enlighten us as to the goodness of new love and the pleasure that God intends for us in our marriage relationship and how it begins with wild curiosity and grows into passion that leads to consummation. It is God telling us that we should enjoy one another’s bodies, exploring and enjoying all the pleasure that God has provided a man and women in love and joined together in His name. But is this pleasure, this gift of God reserved only for a husband and his wife? What about those who choose to stay single?
Remaining single is also a response to God’s calling, it allows one to be free from the distractions and complications that marriage and children will surely bring. Singles are free to enjoy and find complete fulfillment and pleasure in serving the risen Christ. Paul explains in 1Corinthians, chapter seven, “I wish that all men (and women) were as I am (single). But each man (or woman) has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. But if they can not control themselves, they should marry, for it better to marry than to burn with passion (v. 7-8).”
Tool #302 “Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? Therefore, honor God with your body.” 1Corinthians 6:19-20