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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 1:1 What is a song of songs?

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 26, 2023

S O N G   O F   S O L O M O N

1 Solomon’s song of songs.

What is a “song of songs”? This phrase is sometimes mistaken for “Solomon’s collection songs,” sort of “Solomon’s greatest hits.” But the construction “something of somethings” is a common phrase in the Bible. It is the Hebrew way of saying “best of songs.” When Moses recorded Adam’s reaction to seeing his wife for the first time, he handed down to us Adam’s joyful words: “She is my best flesh. She is the very best part of me.” This is what he meant by “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Or think of John’s vision of the White Rider, the Word of God Jesus Christ, who has “King of kings and Lord of lords” written on his robe and the thigh of his pant leg as he rides his horse (Revelation 19:16). The greatest king. The highest lord.

Therefore a song of songs is the best song. Is this the best song because it has the catchiest tune? No. We don’t even have the tune recorded for us. Is it the best song because its poetry is the finest, more brilliant, most picturesque? No, not that, either, although for that reason we might allow that it is Solomon’s finest poetic work (he also wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and a couple of Psalms). But that wouldn’t merit the poet giving this title to his own work. No, it is the best song because it is about the best subject, the one that finally is the only one that matters to any of us. It is the final state of every human being. It is the relationship of Christ and his church, and to a degree, the relationship of Christ and every individual member of his church. It is Christ and you.

Certain details in the Song steer us away from a purely natural (sexual) approach. The characters such as the female friends of the woman or bride are referred to with incorrect grammatical forms. The male lover (husband) of the Song cannot be a literal man since he is referred to both as King Solomon (or is he?) and a shepherd.

Now, the Song also uses imagery from human marriage, and there are many points of contact between human marriage and the final meaning of the Song. The primary rule of interpreting the Bible is to interpret literally unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. The Song is not an allegory, but a poem. It is also not really a drama since there is no plot. Interpreting the Song will sometimes necessarily be about marital, sexual love, and sometimes it will be about the spiritual love of Christ and the church. There is no ideal way to balance these two interpretations, but they are the two parts, the two sides, that we will follow in this devotional study.

The spiritual marriage: God often compares the sins of idolatry and adultery. As repulsive and heart-breaking as adultery is to a spouse who has been cheated on, so also idolatry is repulsive and heart-breaking to God. He depicts this in many places in the Bible such as Hosea; Ezakiel 23; Jeremiah 3:8, and so on. God’s relationship to his church is also this: he chose us to be his, and he loves and cares for us. He grieves when we are unfaithful, but in his mercy he takes us back. “I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her” (Hosea 2:14).

As for the physical marriage, when we recite the Sixth Commandment, it is not only a command to avoid being unfaithful, but a command to be faithful in marriage, always. And it is a command even for the unmarried to respect marriage, not to joke about it or ridicule it, or only see trouble in it. This is because God blesses marriage above all other estates. Marriage is a glorious institution, and a subject of God’s serious concern. This is partly because God wills that people (children) be raised up to serve the world, his creation, to promote knowledge of God, godly living, and yes even human virtues, to fight against the world’s wickedness and the work of the devil.

So we should not despise or be wary of marriage, as the unbelieving world is, but view marriage in the light of God’s Word, because God adorns marriage with his blessings, and he sanctifies it, which means that God makes marriage holy. No matter what our culture wants to say, marriage is not a dying institution or an exception to some arbitrary rule, but the most universal and noblest estate.

Marriage is also necessary, commanded by God, that in general men and women in all conditions and circumstances should be found in this estate. God created us to be married, to have a partner for life. And even nature proves this by demonstrating that people and even the animals constantly search for a mate.

And let this be on everyone’s mind. Marriage is one of the estates created by God for man in the Garden of Eden, even before the fall into sin. It is ideal. It is not an accident or a mere social construct. And so none of us should criticize marriage or make fun of it, and we should never allow our words or actions to somehow diminish anybody’s marriage.

For any one of us, married or unmarried or widowed, it is God’s will that we would help and build up one another’s marriages. That is his will for us all. Therefore, we should remember this: If you can’t say anything nice about someone’s marriage, don’t say anything at all, and do not let even an eyeroll or a careless laugh give the wrong impression. We are delighted by marriage and blessed by marriage, for here is the will of God carried out physically before our very eyes.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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