Survey of the Old Testament - Lesson 31
Song of Songs
Marriage should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. If it is both, you can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness.
Song of Songs
I. Importance of Marriage
A. Definition of marriage
B. Cultural mandate
C. Hint of our eternal home
D. Always a covenantal act
E. Powerful witness
II. Song of Songs
III. Interpreting the Song of Songs
C. Shepherd interpretation
D. Message of the Song of Songs
E. How could Solomon write a book like this?
- Dr. Miles Van Pelt is offering an opportunity to study the Old Testament and understand its overall message in more detail. The Old Testament consists of 2/3 of the Bible, and serves as a foundation for many teachings found in the New Testament. Its main purpose is to point towards Jesus who makes possible a new covenant with God's people. The structure of both Testaments follows a covenantal pattern that compels humans to make choices regarding their relationship with God, while demonstrating His patience and perseverance in doing so.
Knowing the purpose, structure and theological center of the Old Testament, will help you understand more accurately the character of God, and his purpose in the world and in your life. The Old Testament teaches you about Christ and describes his ministry. Colossians 3:15-16 reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."
What you decide is the theological center of the Bible will determine how you understand the Bible and apply it to your life. You can see unity in biblical authorship by the number of times the phrase, “thus says Yahweh” is used in the Old Testament. The person and work of Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. The living force of the canonical word must be the incarnate word. The proper nouns used in the Bible indicate the important characters and themes.
Jesus claims that the Old Testament finds its ultimate meaning in him. After his resurrection, Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and gives them a lesson in biblical interpretation. The Father and the Scriptures testify about who Jesus is. In Romans 1:3, Paul refers to the Gospel being revealed through his prophets, in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son. Every book in the Bible teaches about Christ so every sermon should teach about Christ. Hebrews 11 refers to the great cloud of witnesses.
The Kingdom of God is the over-arching theme of the whole Bible. God governs his kingdom by his covenants. The covenant of grace is in effect throughout the Bible and has different administrations.
The form that our Bibles come to us in is meaningful for interpretation. The Hebrew Bible has a different order of the books than the English Bible.
The order of books in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is different because the criteria for determining the order is different. The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible reflect an emphasis on covenant, and also teaching important concepts then giving a practical example to illustrate how to put it into practice.
The three divisions in the Old Testament are the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Genesis and Revelation are the introduction and conclusion to the Bible and have parallel themes. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the four covenant books that record the birth and death of the covenant mediator and contain his life and teachings. The former prophets record the history of Israel. The latter prophets call people to repent and return to God.
Your presuppositions about whether or not the authors who wrote the books of the Bible were inspired by God will influence your position the authorship of the Pentateuch. The traditional view is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament at about 1200 to 1400 B.C. The documentary hypothesis claims that there were four or more separate authors that wrote beginning in about 900 B.C.
Genesis is the covenant prologue and is both protological and eschatological. It is the most covenantal book in the Bible. One way to outline the book is into twelve parts, each beginning with the phrase, “these are the generations.” Creation is described using a theological order.
Chapter 2 is a detailed description of the sixth day of creation, culminating in the creation of woman. Chapter 3 describes the Fall and the consequences. Hebrew homonyms link the passages and intensify the descriptions.
Noah functions as a prophetic covenant mediator. God promises a remnant in his covenant with Noah and also renews the covenant of common grace. God continues his redemptive covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The book of Genesis ends with the narrative of Joseph.
This is the beginning of the formal documents of the covenant of God with the people of Israel. It begins with the birth of Moses and ends with the people of Israel coming out of Egypt.
Leviticus is primarily instructions to promote the holiness of God’s people. It provides a system that allows for a holy God to live among an unholy people. In the sacrificial system, there are 5 kinds of offerings. Jesus is the fulfillment of the observance of the Day of Atonement.
The book of Numbers is a record of the events of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The purpose is to contrast the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of the Israelites. The time in the wilderness was a period of testing for the people of Israel.
This is a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in preparation for entering the Promised Land. It’s an encouragement to keep the Law and a reminder of blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience. Deuteronomy points us to Jesus who ultimately fulfills the Law.
Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings describe the nature and purpose of the Sinai Covenant and the historical events of the occupation of the land. God know that the people of Israel would fail to obey the Mosaic Covenant, so he had planned from the beginning to establish the New Covenant when the time was right.
Joshua was the successor to Moses. The book of Joshua focuses on the Promised Land. The people of Israel enter the land, conquer the land, divide the land between the tribes and then renew their covenant with God. Holy war and covenant obedience are important themes.
Judges has two introductions, two conclusions, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge. It can be described as the, “uncreation” of Israel. Their purpose was to judge the nations and to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors.
The book of Samuel provides the answer to the crisis of kingship. Samuel, as the last judge and first prophet, anoints Saul as king. The people of Israel reject Yahweh as king. Saul is anointed by Samuel and serves as king but is later rejected because of disobedience. David is anointed king because God acts according to his own will. Solomon begins well and ends badly.
The book of Kings is the story of the monarchy in the nation of Israel. It begins with the united monarchy under Solomon, then after his death, is divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. We can learn about God’s character and the importance of living in a covenant relationship with God.
The Latter Prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Prophets use both oracular prophecies and sign acts to communicate their message.
Isaiah is sometimes described as the, “fifth gospel” because it is quoted so much in the New Testament. The themes in Isaiah are both timely for his generation and also point to their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus and the end of time.
Jeremiah’s call was to tell the people of Judah why they were going into exile and also to give them hope for future restoration. The book contains oracles, accounts of visions and symbolic actions, prophetic laments and historical narratives.
One key to understanding Ezekiel is the glory of God in the temple. The book begins with God appearing to Ezekiel, then God leaves the temple and, in the end, God returns. Ezekiel’s oracles and signs illustrate each of these.
In the Hebrew Bible, these 12 minor prophets are treated as one book. Each one is a covenant lawyer that is prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the unfaithful nation of Israel and also preaching a message of hope for restoration. The Day of the Lord is the day of the king’s victory over his enemy, either to crush an enemy or to save a people.
These books are about how you think and live in light of the covenant. The genres include narrative, poetry and prophecy. The Hebrew Bible order emphasizes teaching then example.
Covenant life is a life of worship. The book divisions in the manuscripts were purposefully arranged so the book as a whole has a meaningful narrative. It emphasized the kingship of Yahweh, the Davidic line and the temple. You can use specific patterns of construction for understanding lament, thanksgiving and hymns of praise psalms. You can also use the same patterns to help you respond to God and worship him.
Job deals with the issue of human tragedy and suffering. Job never knows what happened in heaven that resulted in his suffering. His three friends made correct theological arguments but they were misapplied. Job speaks about suffering and hope. God challenges Job at the end of the book, and also restores his possessions and children.
Solomon created a collection of practical wisdom sayings. Some were for instructing children, some for instructing kings, but they all are applicable to help everyone live in the light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace.
Ruth follows Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible. Even though she is from Moab, she lives in Israel with her widowed Israelite mother-in-law to take care of her. She marries Boaz and is included in the genealogy of David and Jesus.
Marriage should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. If it is both, you can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness.
The message of Ecclesiastes is that true knowledge, wisdom and meaning in life begins with the fear of the Lord. The author of Ecclesiastes, likely Solomon, tests this conclusion and is unsuccessful in finding ultimate meaning in activities, “under the sun,” like wealth, relationships, power, projects, etc.
Lamentations is a collection of funeral dirges lamenting the fall and exile of Jerusalem. The elegant structure of the book is a contrast to the chaos and destruction of the events that are taking place. Each poem gives you a different perspective on God’s character and his covenant faithfulness.
Esther is a story of living a life of faith in exile. It Bringing “shalom” into a hostile environment sometimes even requires risking your life. The festival of Purim commemorates God saving his people and is still celebrated today.
Daniel and Esther are examples of living a life of faith while in exile. Daniel was different than the writing prophets because he is not primarily a covenant lawyer prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the people of Israel. The first six chapters are biographical stories highlighting God’s power to save and his sovereignty over the nations. The second six chapters are visions of the future.
The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records the last events, chronologically, in the Old Testament. Ezra returned from exile with authorization to teach the Law of the Jews and institute the sacrificial system. Nehemiah returned to rebuild Jerusalem. They fail in their human attempt to rebuild heaven on earth, which encourages you to look forward to the city built by God.
The return from exile is not the greater one prophesied by the prophets. We still look forward to the return from exile with them in the resurrection. Chronicles traces the seed that was promised and gives an account of the return from exile.
Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give you an overall view of the Old Testament then discuss specifics about each of the books.
For instance, you might ask, "What kind of book is the Old Testament?" The OT is a single story told three times over: once in Genesis, once in Exodus through Nehemiah, and once again in Chronicles (just like day 6 in Genesis 1–2). The OT loves to repeat itself, repeat itself, repeat itself. This is how it teaches us. The Old Testament is about 2/3 of the Bible and is the basis for everything you read in the New Testament. The better you understand the Old Testament, the clearer you will understand the message of the Bible.
What is the Message of the Old Testament? The Old Testament points to the New Covenant. The teachings, prophecies and examples of covenant life point to Jesus who makes the New Covenant possible and inaugurates it. There are also examples in the Old Testament of how human efforts to create heaven on earth fall short, so that we will anticipate and yearn for our ultimate deliverance from exile.
What is the Structure of the Old Testament? The structure of the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole, is covenantal. God offers to live in the covenant of grace with him and compels them to make that choice. The administrations of the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus demonstrate God's patience and perseverance to include as many as are willing.
Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study
Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give...
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
Survey of the Old Testament
Song of Songs
I. Importance of Marriage:
Welcome to the next lecture in this survey of the Old Testament for Biblical Training. We are now at the book, the Song of Songs. It is the fifth book of the writings in the section on life in the land. How do you think and live in light of the covenant in the context of God's people and God's world, especially now in our day and age in the church? In this Song of Songs lecture, I've got two parts to it. The Song of Songs is about marriage and the marriage covenant. It's about how to protect that marriage and to live in light of that marriage. In fact, I'll tell you the theme of the whole thing right now.
The marriage covenant of the Song of Songs teaches us that it should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. A marriage that can be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. It can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness, which is what we want. That's what it teaches. It is is really good because it's critical of both the church and the world at that definition because the church loves rock solid and talks about all the time, but it has very little to promote and appreciate white hot. Let's be honest. The world, however, loves white hot in all of its various forms, either licit or illicit, but they despise rock solid.
That's why they can't get enough heat in the oven. That's why they keep trying to change the form because it's a good idea but in the wrong context, it's unwise, it's the application of truth to the wrong context. It keeps breaking. So we're going to be wise. We're going to be a little wiser than the current world, and we're going to hold those two things together. You need to work on commitment as much as you need to work on intimacy. The two go together, it gets more committed, it gets hotter. It gets more hot, more committed. It's a circle. It's a circling vortex of heat until you are burned up in smoke. So marriage is very important to the Lord.
It brackets the Bible, the marriage of Genesis 2, is a pointer and type of the marriage in Revelation 21 and 22. So whatever we think of and do in marriage here shows us what we think about that marriage there. Ephesians 5, connects those things to us. When it's talking about husbands and wives, and I say, this is a great mystery, but I'm speaking of Christ and the church. So everything we say about long and an intimacy and desire and fulfillment with the Song of Songs and real people, it is true about our covenant longing for the Lord. We want to be close and intimate, connected and satisfied, and fulfilled, while having all of our desires met. So it's a very important topic. In fact, the corruption of the marriage covenant, frequently precipitates great judgment. So if you think about the flood, before the flood, the sons of God and daughters of man are corrupting things, bringing judgment. After the flood, you've got Ham, seeing the nakedness of his father, which is a euphemism for maternal incest.
So the corruption of the marriage covenant comes at those times. Sodom and Gomorrah the same thing, at the precipitating that great judgment is sexual corruption. Therefore the Lord brings judgment. So the Lord is very careful. In fact, you can see that happening for example, in the life of Solomon with the corruption of the marriage covenant. It corrupts him and tears the kingdom from him. So the Lord is very concerned about this topic. It should be concerning to us. So this first part is not so much about the Song of Songs, but about why marriage is important and what is marriage. Then if you want to, we can add this or clip it away or whatever, but here it is.
A. Definition of Marriage:
What is the definition of marriage? That's a great question. I'm going to answer it right here. I'm going to say marriage is a covenant, an exclusive, permanent, one flesh relationship between one man and one woman instituted and enacted by the one who created heaven and earth.
Say that again.
Yeah, I would. I hope no one put my name by it. I don't want to publish my name at all. You would not be popular man in social media today. If you said that. Every one of the things that I just said here goes against the grain of our culture. Every one of them. Marriage is a covenant, an exclusive, permanent, one flesh relationship between one man and one woman instituted and enacted by the one who created heaven and earth. That's as short as I could get it.
The definitional center of the marriage covenant is one flesh. In Genesis 2:24 it states, "Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. And they shall become one flesh." Now, when the woman was created, she was cut out of the man that they became two flesh is two flesh shy. When they came back together, they became one flesh. It's the first time something in creation is reunited. Everything is created by separation, in the marriage covenant, something comes back. Malachi, when we read on the book of Malachi, Malachi quotes this particular text and says, "Not just one flesh, but one spirit together." Jesus of course uses this text in Matthew 19. When they're trying to trick Him about the notion of divorce.
He says in verses four through six, "Have you not read?" Jesus replied, "That at the beginning, the creator made them male and female and said, for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife." So He's quoting both Genesis 1 and 2. "And the two will become one flesh." It says they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate. So the one flesh covenant of marriage is a supernatural union. It is one that God oversees and engages in the most personal level. God glues you together. It's not that you just become one flesh because you're together in that union. It's that God now makes you into something new. That's why it is such a powerful phenomenon. It really is. You can see the power of our culture understands the power of sexual union and sexuality. They exploit it for their own good.
B. Cultural Mandate:
The statistics about for example, pornography and how much people spend on it, how many people view it and all that stuff is astronomical. They're just capitalizing on this in a corrupt way. Interestingly, number two. So that's point one is marriage as the covenant. Number two, sexual intimacy in the context of marriage is one of the primary ways in which we fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis 1. In other words, this is what it means to be human, beings created in the image of God are born for sexual union. So in Genesis 1:27, it says, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female. He created them." Then it says, "God blessed them and said to them," and here's the so-called cultural mandate we're created in His image. What does God want us to do now?
C. Hint of Our Eternal Home:
It's this, "Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. And over every living creature that moves on the ground." The cultural mandate, there are five verbs. Three of them do with filling, two is subduing. So our number one job at a ratio of three to five is to fill, fill, fill. How do we do that? To the marriage covenant. We're supposed to fill and populate. So it's one of the things we're born to do. Third, sexual intimacy in the context of marriage is one of the ways in which we experienced a shadow or hint of our eternal home. Sexual intimacy was designed to be a little bit of heaven on earth. That's why it's corruption can be a lot of hell on earth.
D. Always a Covenantal Act:
It's no accident that just talking about the consummation of a marriage or the consummation of the ages shares the same language. The marriage covenant of Genesis 2, is designed to point beyond itself to the better marriage covenant of Revelation, 21 and 22. This is what we were made for, union and communion. Once we're kicked out of the garden, we're longing for that union and communion again, that's three. Four, sexual intimacy is always a covenantal act, always. The first time being the inauguration of a covenant and each time afterwards, covenant renewal. Whereby we invoke God's presence to look upon our marriage for favor and blessing. Sexual union's always covenantal, either covenant making, covenant renewing, or covenant breaking in the case of idolatry. So code our houses how about covenant renewal tonight? Does that make sense?
No. It's when your kids are real young that's code word. It’s because when it's covenantal, how can you say no? Who would like to be spiritual and have covenant renewal tonight? Now, having said that, I'm going to point you to a resource that has a lot more than you want, but it's good. In the Bible, if you do a word search, there's no such thing for premarital sex. Sex is always covenantal. Do not join yourself to a prostitute for, by doing so you become one flesh. That's the definition of marriage. To create an evangelical world, a category of non- covenantal sex is to lower the standard. So that's how I tried to train my children. I didn't say watch out for premarital sex. I say you're sexually married. There's a whole big thing. So that's why we protect our kids against it.
E. Powerful Witness:
Now go ahead. We break it. You mess it up. We have redemption. We move on in the gospel, but you need to know that there's no nongovernmental sex. There's only covenant making or covenant breaking. I do mention the Malachi thing here. What's interesting about the Malachi quote here. It's important to understand that the way in which we treat our spouse in this respect, has serious consequences for our relationship with God, because He is the witness of our marriage covenant. The medieval reformers understood this in kind of a creepy way, when Martin Luther got married to Katharina Von Bora in that day, the best man had his stand witness at the consummation to make sure they really got married. They got the principle right, it's consummation that makes you married. But they got the fact wrong that it is God who's the witness. Not your best man. Thankfully. Right?
Yeah. But you can see, they understood the principle, the importance of the consummation. So the way in which we deal with these serious consequences, just read the Malachi section I think I've read it before. Here's what they're saying, Israel is praying to God, asking for help, invoking God, making sacrifices, and then wondering, "Why isn't the Lord listening to us?" It’s because the way the men are treating their wives in this way, it says, "You ask why? It’s because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage, covenant." It says it in the Bible.
"Has not the Lord made them one in flesh and spirit, they are His." Why one? It’s because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself and your spirit and not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the Lord, God of Israel. So it's important. Fifthly and lastly, marriage is a powerful witness to what you're ultimately created for and a means of putting our faith on display in a culture that has lost hope and despairs over the possibility of true and lasting partnership and intimacy. Marriage is a powerful witness to what we were created for. We were created for great union, great communion, satisfaction, wholeness, giving, and receiving in the context of a relationship. Marriage is just a shadow of that, as good as it is. It's not the ultimate thing. If you make marriage the ultimate thing, it will crush you. That's why we have the fact that the new heaven earth is a better marriage.
Sometimes, it's as bad to pursue a perfect marriage as it is to pursue illicit marriages, because one will corrupt the other just the same way. It is because you put all that weight on your marriage to satisfy you and make you perfect. It never can. It crushes you and you're disappointed. You say, "Marriage doesn't work I'm on a plan B. It doesn't work with a woman, I'm going to other team," kind of thing. They're just unsatisfied. So you have to know that there's no such thing as a perfect marriage, but you can point yourself in the right direction and try to kick the ball down the road in the right way. You fall down, you get up, you fall down, you get up, you fall down, you get up. But here's the thing, good marriages to the non-believer or to the outside world can be a powerful witness because they see something different in you.
"This guy loves his wife. This lady loves her husband. They really like each other." My wife has worked at a school for a long time. One of the things that women always did was talk badly about their husband. She's like, "Why, why did they?" I've got a bunch of guys at the gym who were always griping about their wives. I was like, I like being with my wife, she's my favorite person. So, "The way in which you treat your spouse can impact the relationship you have with the Lord," says Malachi. Also one of the best things we can do for our children in this world is to have a good marriage, not a perfect marriage, but a good marriage. To let them know how much we enjoy sexual intimacy in the context of our marriages, you can't be silent anymore about the bedroom because the world is not silent.
Our children will never know that what the world is offering cannot even come close to competing with the original design of marriage if we don't let them see it first and foremost in our marriages. If we don't tell them and explain to them that what we have is so much better and that I desire your mother so much. We love being together and the same for her, our children will never know that that's a valid option. They just say, "Mom and dad are kind of secretive and unhappy." They're thinking, "I'm not going to be into that." So we have to, in our day and age, be bold about God's design and how we embrace that design freely. I'm a big fan right, of the cultural mandate. I want to engage in cultural mandate activity as a husband.
I'm not ashamed of it. I tell my kids about it all the time, not in a creepy way, but in a way that just embarrasses them slightly. So you can do it. it's fine and I trust you. They will always remember it. So if you're married, think about it. If you want to be married, think about if you're not married, don't think about it, but start thinking differently about how we can train our children because the screens on their computers is offline. The screens on their computers are screaming at them, different worldviews, and it comes across my kids' screens. I can't help it. Even though I have 90 filters on their computers. So if they don't see it on their screens, on their friend's screens, so you've to work just as hard.
II. Song of Songs:
You can't just say, "Well, it is what it is." Now to the Song of Songs, which is a great book because it teaches us that marriage must be both rock solid and white hot. The one that can bounce back, that can endure hardship, resist temptation, and promote wholeness. We'll talk about that, what that is. But before we can do that, we need to do a little bit of homework about the Song of Songs. What kind of book is it and what is it teaching us? The Song of Songs out of any book in the Old Testament has been shrouded in mystery about what it's about, probably because it's delicate material. We've got a lot of body partsand a lot of fluids and they're all coming together. It's never crude at all. One of the things that makes the Song of Songs for the best song ever is that it describes the most intimate of realities in ways that are undeniably clear, but are not gross at all.
It maintains the integrity and the beauty without defiling and crass language. So I want you to know that. I'll read some of this stuff to you and kind of give you a hint at what it means. Then I'll let your brains go to work without me having to say anything funny about it. So the Song of Songs is called Shir Hashirim, the Song of Songs, which is the superlative construction in Hebrew, like king of kings, Lord of Lords. It means the best song ever. We know that Solomon wrote 1,005 songs. If Solomon wrote this one, then it's the best of them. It means there's something he's got to say here, if he wrote it. What comes after the Song of Songs is this expression, asher lish'lomo, which is to, for or by Solomon.
It's definitely associated with him. Some people think he's the author. Other people think he's just a character in it. So it's not by Solomon, but for Solomon, but the superscript that it has on it is the normal superscript for authorship. We know that he was a super-duper wisdom dude and a super-duper wisdom trader. In fact, he married an Egyptian woman as his first wife. Egypt has a great wealth of love poetry in it. There Chester Beatty Papyri. We have them in a book. If you read those things, you would think I was reading out the Song of Songs and we know that he traded with Egypt and married from Egypt. So he had access to all that stuff. Also, there are Babylonian love songs in Acadian that I didn't discover it for a month until last month. I just got them and I've read the first two chapters right out of the Song of Songs.
So there's a great wisdom tradition that's way older than Solomon. We know if he's collecting that stuff and he's into the marriage game, then he's considering that stuff and he's got access to it. He was the wisest of men. In fact, in Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon was going to test himself with pleasure and he didn't withhold anything from him, wine, women, wealth song, even concubines. He said, "In all of that, I kept my wisdom and found that it was feudal in vain." Here's how Solomonic it is. In addition to Solomon's name, several features in the song are connected with his person and kingdom. On five occasions, a male figure in the song is identified as the king, in 3:9 and 3:11 the king is specifically identified as Solomon. The song also mentioned the king's bed, chambers, royal guard, carriage, crown, harem and vineyard.
Other connections with Solomon include the Chariots of Pharaoh, the Tower of David, the location of Jerusalem. Additionally frequent mention of spices, perfumes, wealth, and flora in the song correspond with Solomon's kingdom and wisdom endeavors mentioned in 1 Kings. He was a prolific and gifted author from 1 Kings 4, the love poetry thing we know about. So no single piece of evidence proves that he was the author, but he's the best possible choice. You can't say it could be about him. Someone could be writing about him and doing this, but if it's the best song ever, and man, the poetry is amazing. The plays on words, the euphemisms are off the charts. You'd have to be a superstar to pull this off. We know that he was that, no one was better before him. No one was better after him.
Now, if Solomon is the author, you should immediately be saying, "Well, this can't be true, because Solomon was not the model of rock solid and white hot." He may have been the model of white hot, but he was not the model of rock solid 1,000 times over. He had cracks in his rock solidness. If it's going to be about Solomon or by Solomon, we have to think of how to interpret it. So that's the problem. Consider this from the song. This is the best one liner ever. “There are 60 queens and 80 concubines and virgins without number”, which is speaking of a harem complex. The harem complex has two parts, the house of the virgins and the house of the concubines and wives. Once you get over to this side, you can never go back.
So these are for the virgins in training. They spent about a year with perfumes, spices, and eating right. They're trained by attendance, how to make love to the king in a way that satisfies him by harem attendants and eunuchs. We have all that in a song. It says, "There are 60 queens and 80 concubines and virgins without number, but you are unique. My perfect one." So they see the line. Like, "I know I got a lot of wives and I know a lot of virgins over here, but you're special." It's the biggest one-liner in the book. So what kind of literature is at then it's a song, and it's poetic wisdom song, because it's in the third section of Hebrew Bible about covenant life, and it's wisdom, literature. We know that wisdom literature teaches God's people how to live in God's world.
III. Interpreting the Song of Songs:
We know how it's connected to creation and the marriage covenant. We know it's basic message, how does that message go? If you would read an introduction, like Marvin Pope has a huge commentary, and it's the first 200 pages or so, it is looked at as a history of interpretation. Before they even get to the songs you can roughly categorize them into these two categories, allegory, and natural. Under allegory, you have things like it's describing the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. In kind of the sense of Ezekiel 16, where you have that allegory there, where there's this woman who finds his interest in a marriage with her and then she leaves him.
Or the second option is to Christianize it and to make it between Jesus and the church, which would be fair and valid from Ephesians 5, towards end, 5:20, I think. Or there's a third allegorical one where it's a veiled history of Israel, describing Israel's unfaithfulness, but longing to come home. So what is this coming up out of the wilderness? It says, "Well, that's Israel coming out," and they'll say things like the twin fawns are the Old and New Testaments and all sorts whackadoodle things. Now we're going to move over to the natural side of things. By natural, we could say literal, but I don't mean literal in the sense of if it was allegory that'd be literal too if that was the original intent, you mean natural by we're talking about real flesh and blood people in flesh and blood time.
In the first natural kind of interpretation, would be just as simply a collection of random love songs. So in problems where Solomon has collected the words of the wise. So there's this collection here where these are just a random collection of various poems that deal with love. This is the Tremper Longman view, where it's just 12 loved poems, there's no unity to them. They just extol the goodness of the body that God made love, God made you physical. You can enjoy that part of your life. You don't have to be a stoic. But then it's not very wisdom oriented. Is it? It's not teaching us one way or another. It's just saying the body is good. We need to think, why would this be called the Song of Songs singular, if it's just a collection of songs? Then it would be the Songs of Songs. But the title itself says it's a unified corpus, not a collection of random songs.
The next one would be the wedding song collection. It could be thematic, or it could just be random. Another collection of loves songs you can pick parts to sing at your wedding. With the book of Ruth, we read that one section about being united to each other. Here you can just pick your favorite one and read it at a wedding. You could really embarrass yourself in front of your parents. The wedding song one, but we have no evidence of this ever being used as a wedding song. We have no evidence from the Egyptian of the Babylonian ones that they were ever used in a wedding song. So some people try to divide them into seven and get seven days for the seven days and some Jewish weddings maybe, but there's absolutely no evidence. It's just guesswork. So we want to kind of avoid that.
I'm not saying you can't use them in Christian weddings. Whenever I do a wedding, I always talk about the Song of Songs. I always tell people that your marriage needs to be rock solid and white hot. I say, if you have a wedding like that, or a marriage like that, it'll will do these things. I always get comments from people afterwards about that. Like, "What about white hot? So can you talk to my spouse afterwards?" So the next one that we have is an odd one. Some people call this a funerary or the funeral interpretation that it was used in some strange cultic environment where we have words like love is strong like death, fierce like the grave, and started thinking, why would you talk about love in that way? When love seems to be happy.
Funeral interpretation, that's kind of like what Dracula would say to his wife, "Love is strong like death, fierce like the grave baby." That's on her. That's on the Dracula hearts at Valentine's Day. So we have no evidence of that either in this particular context. Then there's this two person view where it's about two people falling in love and getting married and maybe chapter five, that dream account is consummation. Or it's like this, it's not really Solomon and Solomon and a queen or a concubine or something like that. But it's really an idealized couple. When you get married, you're the king and queen for the day. It really is how you feel at your wedding day. The bride is special, the groom is special. Everyone's there for you. That's a nice thing, but then it really is odd then because of all the weird language about Solomon and his court and all the wooing. Then at the end, the rejection and the leaving. In chapter five, where the dream account is, there's really erotic language.
C. Shepherd Interpretation:
Then the guy's knocking on the door and then the woman comes and he's gone. So it seems like failure to consummate kind of thing. It's difficult, but a lot of people hold to this view. Then there's the three person view. Way down at the board. That is, there's not just the maiden and Solomon, who's trying to woo her, but there's also a second male figure, who is the woman's real love. This is called a shepherd interpretation because it's frequently referred to as the shepherd. Go and shepherd a graze among the lilies. Wait for me until I can get out of here. So the shepherd shows up, they're actually showing a minute. There's an introduction where the woman is in the harem being, trying to train, and being wooed by the hair and attendants where she is taught how to love Solomon, love the king.
She's saying no, and they're saying, "Here's how we can fix it." She's saying no, "Here's how we can fix it." Then she puts them under oath. Then someone comes in, and it's this man leaping and bounding over the hills and over the mountains, he gets to the harem complex, but he can't get in the guy who is leaping and bounding over hills can't jump a wall. It's the harem complex. You can only speak to her through the lattice and peer through the windows and call to her. She says, "I can't get out right now you have to wait." She sends him away. Then she has a dream. Then in the next episode, and I will go over this a little more detail. Another guy comes like a peacock. There is smoke and pillory perfume. You can just see all this extravagant, pomp and circumstance.
It is Solomon in his portable love shack with 60 units who has come to select the next woman he'll be with in the harem and he called the terrors of the night for the woman. It is because this has happened, I guess, nightly. From chapter three, all the way to seven, it's Solomon tempting this woman to be with him, to say, "You can live the life of luxury, but you'll be one of a thousand. Or you can go back and live a life of dirt and manual labor." Now, if you think about it in that world, that's a huge temptation. Life back then was hard, death in childbirth, farming, drought, famine, having to slaughter your own animals, and kill your own chickens. Work hard all day, get up, go to sleep, get up, do the same thing.
There was no guarantee. There was no 401(k), there was no retirement account. You're just always living on the verge of extinction. But in Solomon's court, he was like Steve Jobs, Hugh Hefner, and Bill Gates all rolled into one. Super smart, super wealthy, and super sexy. I guess you could say, if you want to say about that, but he was known for that. He was famous for it. He was the richest, wisest man in the world and you'd have lived the life of ultimate luxury until you died. Or you're going to pick the way of the Lord. So remember in the book of Proverbs, the way of folly is enticing. The way of wisdom is similarly enticing, but a narrow away. Which one are you going to pick?
They both have their enticements, but one leads to death and one leads to life. I'm going to argue that the third person interpretation is to correct interpretation. I'm going to do that by what you have to do in wisdom literature frequently is go to the end to read the answer. The answer to the book of Job, comes at the end, the answer to the problem at Ecclesiastes comes at the end. So one thing about wisdom literature is that the answer frequently comes at the end. So you read, read, read, read, read, trying to figure out what's going on and you get to the end. You say, "Oh, now I understand." And then you go back and you read it again in light of that. So we're going to do that. We're going to begin at the end and I'm going to show you how this works.
What I'll do, is I'm going to show you the structure of the book real quick. There are four parts to it. It's easy to see the structure because there's this thing in there called the adjuration. I'm going to read it to you right here, "I adjure you, oh, daughters of Jerusalem by the gazelles or the does of the field that you do not stir or awakened love until it pleases." Are you familiar with that line? It occurs three times in the Song of Songs and give us our four sections, introduction, then that adjuration starts the next line introduction that adjuration starts the next section. Then we have the adjuration in the next section. So this repeated refrain structures the book for you. So contra the collection one, this book actually does have unity to it.
Following every adjuration, following every adjuration, someone comes in the first one, "Behold, he comes leaping over the mountains and bounding over the hills." In the second one, it's Solomon who comes, who is this who is coming up from the wilderness? Like columns of smoke perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of a merchant behold, it is the bed of Solomon. This is portable left shaking. They’ve been described as the love shack in there. Then at the very end, there's the adjuration. Then another one comes, but this time it's the woman as the hero of the story. So first the boyfriend comes, he has to go away. Second Solomon comes she has to resist temptation. Third, she comes as a victorious wisdom queen. That's how it's working right there. This adjuration in English is much lighter than it is in Hebrew. It's an oath formula, and it has to do with language taboo.
Here's how it's really should be translated. "Daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, those are the witnesses. If you arouse or awaken love before heart desires, may you be cursed." Now in the ancient world, there's something called language taboo, where you would leave out the curse part because they didn't want to say the word. You remember in the book of Job, where the wife says curse God and die? In our Bibles, it doesn't say curse God and die. They'll never write that in. But they say, "Bless God and die." Now, the real thing behind it is the curse. But there's such a bad language taboo by applying that curse to God that they don't do it. So language taboo, and especially in a shame on society is very big.
It should just be, "I adjure you oh, daughters of Jerusalem by the gazelles or the does of the field. If you arouse and awaken love, may you be cursed." So they leave that out and just say, "Don't do it." That's the way they do it in English. Does that make sense? So this is not just a request. She's putting them under oath with a curse. All right? That's the big thing. Later they're going to say, "Why do you put us under an oath like this? Why is your beloved better than the other beloved?" Then she has to explain why he is, and then it says, "Return to me, return to me. Watching you is like the dance of two armies," I mean two armies at war. So she's trying to get out. So the instruction at the end is helpful and I'll read it to you.
It's this. All right. In verse four, "I adjure you daughters of Jerusalem that you do not stir up or awakened love until it pleases." They know what that means. "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved, under the apple tree. I awaken you, there your mother was in labor with you, there she who bore you was in labor." Then here's the wisdom instruction. "Set me like a seal upon your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong like death, it's jealousy is fierce like the grave, it's flashes are flashes of fire. The very flame of Yahweh. Many waters cannot quench love neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love, all of the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised."
It says, "We have a little sister and she has no breasts. What should we do for our sister?" Which means they're going to pass on this wisdom to the next generation. On the day she has spoken, what happens now when your sister gets married, what wisdom we pass on to her? "If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver. We'll reinforce it. But if she's a door, we will enclose it with boards of cedar. So no one can get in. I was a wall and my breasts were like towers. Then I was, or I had become in his eyes like one who finds peace." We'll talk about that a minute. Now here's the rejection of Solomon. "Solomon had a vineyard at Baal Hamon. He let out the vineyard to its keepers." He's talking about his harem, which the harem language and the vineyard. So the harem is the vineyard, but the vineyard is also the woman's body.
So there's two kinds of vineyards going on here. So Solomon had a vineyard, at Baal Hamon he let out the vineyard to keepers. Each one was to bring for its fruit 1,000 pieces of silver. "My vineyard, my very own is before me, Solomon, keep your 1,000 pieces of silver. Those who keep the fruit, the eunuchs and stuff like that, they can keep their 200." "Oh, you who dwell in the gardens with companions listening, for your voice. Let me hear it. Make haste my beloved and be like the gazelle and the young stag in the mountains spices," meaning let's go. That's what it is. Now, here's what's happening up here. She's saying up here, "I was a wall and my breasts were like towers. So I resisted temptation. And so I have become like one who finds or brings peace."
We'll talk about that in a minute. Then it says, "Solomon had a vineyard at Baal Hamon." Has anyone been to Baal Hamon? No, no one ever has been. We don't know where it is. Do you know why? It's not a real location? Baal Hamon means husband of a multitude. So it's condemning this particular act. So Solomon had a vineyard. He was Baal Hamon, a husband of a multitude. He let out his vineyard to the keepers, the attendance in the eunuchs, each one was to bring in for its fruit, 1,000 pieces of silver. That's how much they paid the women's families to put them in the house of the virgins. Then the keepers who kept them and protect them got 200 bucks. Two pieces of silver? But it says, "My vineyard Solomon, my very own it's still before me. You owe Solomon, keep your money." That's at the end.
F. Message of the Song of Songs:
Now let's look at the wisdom instruction through slightly different eyes. Here is how I get rock solid, white hot, endures hardship, resists temptation, and promotes wholeness. It's straight from the text, but it's hard to see it in the text because it's Hebrew poetry. So when it says, "Place me like a seal on your heart, like the seal on your arm for love is strong as death and a zeal is fierce like the grave." That is language of permanence. You can't reverse death. It's one of the irreversible things in life. So seals in the ancient world, you know a seal is in the ancient world, you wore them on your wrist or you warm around your neck. So arm and heart, they were official things that marked ownership.
No one was allowed to tamper with whatever you were sealed with except the owner. So the woman is saying, "Put your stamp of ownership on me." And I'm going to put my stamp of ownership on you, the one you wear on your wrist, around your heart. Or maybe I want to be belonged to you in body and soul. That kind of thing, the hand in the heart. So that's the language there. So let's engage in the act of ownership. Then it says “for love is strong like death, it's zeal is fierce like the grave that is for her”, it's irreversible. So that's the language right there and permanent. Then it says, "It's flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of Yahweh." So it's rock solid, irreversible. That is you're going to enter into it without any desire to get out of it.
It's also white hot, and rock solid. This type of heat describes here, the heat of physical intimacy that is sexual intimacy, designed for the marriage covenant. We know that because the book is just filled with that kind of language. Now this word right here for “flashes of fire” is very unique. It's not just flushed fire, it appears for example, in Psalm 76:4 as the lightning bolts of the Lord, like the lightning that He uses to defeat his enemy, like Zeus wheels lightning, Cupid's yields the bow. Yahweh is the ultimate Cupid with His lightning bows. What's interesting is that, I don't know if you know this, but lightning, when it snaps burns at 53,000 degrees, 540 Fahrenheit. That's hot. If that doesn't impress you, the surface of the sun is 6,000 degrees, which means intimacy and marriage should be nine times hotter than the surface of the sun. If you want a rough estimate.
Now, that occurs with the very next statement that supports us understanding that it's the very flame of Yahweh. Now, there are two ways to take the flame of Yahweh. One is that Yahweh can be used as a superlative. So in Jonah, when Nineveh is a great city, great to God, it means it's one of the biggest cities. When we play this game with our kids, I love you across the street. I love you down the road. I loved you to the end of America. I love you around the world. I love you to the moon. Oh, I love you to the sun. They said, "No, I love you to God." Back in our family, you can't go further than that. It's a superlative. So it's that kind of language that we have, or it could be that Yahweh is the source of it.
We know that He is the source because what God has joined together. So you need a lot of heat to join metal together, you need a lot of heat to join a human together. So I argue for neither A or B, but both A and B. That it is both very hot because you know what sex does to people. It has a very strong power over them. We're going to see people become addicted to it in inappropriate ways, but it's also an origin from the Lord. Genesis 2. So it's both source and extent. My illustration for that is the furnace. If you guys know what a furnace is? If you have a furnace and put fire in it, does it get hotter or colder? Hotter. Yeah. So I remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the fiery furnace, heated seven times.
So the marriage covenant rock solid is the furnace. If you keep the white hot in the furnace, that's the covenant commitment. You can make it hotter and hotter, but the moment you take the heat out of the furnace, it starts to dissipate. So that's the thing. That's why you keep the rocks solid and the white hot together, and it gets better and better, not worse and worse. So that's what they're trying to do here with that analogy. If you can keep the furnace going, then it can endure hardship. Many waters cannot extinguish this love and rivers cannot overwhelm it. So this type of love endures hardship, this kind of language comes right out of Isaiah 43, "When you pass through the waters, I'll be with you. When you pass through the flame, you will not be burned for I'll be with you."
It's that language, sexual intimacy can protect you in the midst of trouble. Then if a man would get all of the wealth of his house for this love, it would be utterly scorned him and then we have younger sister, this type of love, resist temptation. You can't buy love. That's what she's saying at the end. That's why I read you that part, "Solomon, keep your money. And keep your harem, I'm still my own woman. And I'm giving my towers to someone else." Then finally it can promote wholeness. It says, "I am a wall and my breasts are like towers. And so in this way, I've become in his eyes like one who both brings forth and finds wholeness." The word there is Shalom. Now notice that I have this who both brings forth and finds.
Translations differ on this because the word there can be either translated as their homonyms. They are the exact same form, but from different verbal roots, it's poetically genius. This word can mean the one she brings forth wholeness, or that she finds wholeness. Now that's the great thing of the marriage covenant. When you are joined together, you both bring wholeness and you also find it. So it's both a giving and receiving relationship. That's the beauty of the marriage covenant. So if you want to promote wholeness, you've got to keep it rock solid and white hot so that it can resist temptation and endured hardship. Now, again, this is the way of wisdom. So it doesn't mean any of us can do it perfectly. Does that make sense? But it's the way we can navigate this world, which is full of temptations and full of trials.
It is full of sin and we can navigate it so our suffering is less than it could be. We can point ourselves in the right direction. I wrote an article on this, a chapter in a book called Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, I will make sure I send a PDF of it to Adam. We'll just post that on the website so that you can read more of the details. But now you have a wisdom song. You have someone choosing between what is right and wrong, the way of wisdom in the way of folly. So think of it this way, in the book of Proverbs 31, the young man has given instructions in terms of how to find a wife and what a good wife looks like. Then we have Ruth and Boaz illustrating that. This is written to the woman now, to say, "Here's how you choose in the midst of the two. Are you going to choose the life of luxury and opulence, which looks like luxury and opulence, but it's really sin, corruption and death.
G. How could Solomon Write a Book Like This?:
Or are you going to choose maybe at the harder way, the narrower way, but in the end, you'll really feel wholeness, heat, and satisfaction?" So that's really the wisdom instruction of this book. If you go back and you read Proverbs 5 and Proverbs 7, it's the exact same instruction that's being given there. Now, therefore, how could Solomon write such a book like this? Well, here's one of the ways I think it can happen. In Ecclesiastes 2, it talks about the vanity of self-indulgence. It says, "I said to my heart come now, I test you with pleasure to enjoy yourself. But behold, this also is vanity. I said, laughter it is mad and of pleasure. What uses it?"
"I searched with my heart to cheer my body with wine. My heart was guiding me with wisdom and how to lay, hold of folly till I might see what good it was for the children of men to do under heaven. During the few days of his life, I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees. I made pools from which to water the forest, I bought male, female slaves and had slaves were born in my house at also great possessions, herds and flocks, more than any would have been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women and many concubines, the delight of the children of men. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem, but also my wisdom remained with me and whatever my eyes desired and keep from them."
So even in the midst of Solomon's complete pursuit falling, midst of wisdom, trying his pleasure of any mean. It says that he kept his heart alive or whatever it says in the text there. So he could still discern it. So what happened here is the story is to some degree, he saw in this woman, something hadn't seen before and he wrote about it. This woman taught him a lesson. He saw in the midst of his corruption and the midst of his pursuit of pleasure that there was this young woman who didn't want that and was satisfied by something else. He was taken by it. He probably had never been refused or rejected, and therefore wrote about it as one possible option.
Well, the nice thing is, and the good news is that no matter how much we've corrupted marriage and how much we've been hurt by marriage, or how much we've enjoyed marriage, all of those things will be redeemed in the end, in or shadow of the marriage covenant. In Revelation 21 and 22. I want to keep pointing that out that the Lord knew sin would enter the world. The Lord knew marriages would be corrupted. The Lord knew that the gospel would overcome that and we can made new creatures. In the very end of the day, in the new heavens and new earth, we will have everything that this wisdom teacher has designed for us out. The young woman has shown us the way of wisdom.