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Understanding the Old Testament - Lesson 26

Song of Songs

The Song of Songs is a unique book in the Old Testament, focusing entirely on the topic of love and marriage, specifically sexual intimacy and covenant fidelity. While other biblical passages touch on marriage, the Song of Songs stands out for its detailed exploration. It explains the significance of marriage as a reflection of God's desired relationship with His people, emphasizing a covenantal bond and intimacy. Structured into four sections, the book progresses through temptations, the arrival of the shepherd, Solomon's enticements, and the woman's eventual wisdom teaching, advocating for a rock-solid commitment and marital intimacy. 

Miles Van Pelt
Understanding the Old Testament
Lesson 26
Watching Now
Song of Songs

I. Introduction to the Song of Songs

A. Background and Obscurity of the Book

B. Significance of Love and Marriage in the Bible

II. Definition and Importance of Marriage

A. Definition of Marriage

B. Significance of Marriage as a Covenant

III. Authorship and Interpretation of the Song

A. Attribution to Solomon

B. Interpretation Challenges

IV. Narrative Structure and Themes

A. Four Parts of the Song

1. Temptation of Solomon's Harem

2. Arrival of the Shepherd Boy

3. Arrival of Solomon

4. Return of the Woman and Her Wisdom Teaching

V. Message and Teaching of the Song

A. Commitment and Intimacy in Marriage

B. Endurance of Hardship and Temptation

C. Promotion of Wholeness and Shalom

VI. Interpretation of Sexual Language

A. Explicitness of Hebrew Text

B. Contextual Understanding of Sexual Union

C. Embracing Sexuality in the Right Context


Lessons
Resources
Transcript
  • Engage with the Old Testament to grasp its Gospel-centered nature. From Genesis to Ecclesiastes and Psalms, discover foundational truths, wisdom, and insights on suffering. Strengthen your faith and find enduring hope in God's Word.
  • Gain insight into the Old Testament's theological core, centering on Jesus Christ. Explore its diverse genres, languages, and authors, unified by Jesus as its focal point. Understand how biblical evidence supports Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, shaping interpretation.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides the thematic framework for the Old Testament. The Old Testament's thematic core is the Kingdom of God. Through this lesson, you'll understand its covenantal nature, from pre-temporal arrangements to various administrations like redemption, works, and grace, unveiling God's salvation plan in Christ.
  • Discover the intricate covenantal structure of the Bible, revealing its theological depth and unity, from the division of the Hebrew Bible to its mirroring in the New Testament, all centered around Jesus Christ.
  • Gain insight into the Pentateuch's covenantal structure, Moses' authorship debate, and evidence supporting it. Understand its significance as the foundation of Israel's relationship with God and its relevance for biblical theology.
  • Through this lesson, you will understand the theological, structural, and thematic intricacies of the book of Genesis. You'll grasp its role as a foundational text in both the Old and New Testaments, exploring themes of covenant, creation, fall, redemption, and the fulfillment of promises. You'll gain insights into the genealogical structure of Genesis, its portrayal of key biblical figures like Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and its connection to the overarching narrative of the gospel.
  • Exodus reveals Yahweh's promise—"I will be with you"—unfolding divine presence and covenant. It anticipates Jesus as fulfillment—a better Moses and Tabernacle—ushering in God's eternal presence among humanity.
  • Studying Leviticus unveils the intricate system of laws and rituals at Mount Sinai. It explains sacrificial atonement, priestly consecration, purity laws, and the theme of holiness, prefiguring Jesus as the ultimate priest, sacrifice, and source of holiness.
  • Discover the Book of Numbers' insights on Israel's journey, God's faithfulness, consequences of disobedience, and parallels to Christ, cautioning against questioning God's holiness and emphasizing His desire to dwell among His people through the Holy Spirit.
  • Gain insight into Deuteronomy's covenant renewal for Israel entering Canaan, emphasizing obedience, typology, and its relevance for Christian living.
  • Gain deep insight into the former prophets, exploring themes of Yahweh's faithfulness, Israel's unfaithfulness, and the typological significance of the Mosaic covenant. Understand its relation to the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in the New Covenant under Jesus, revealing God's plan for restoration.
  • Joshua unveils Joshua's leadership, divine promise fulfillment in Canaan, obedience's significance, and Jesus as the ultimate fulfiller of God's promises.
  • Discover the Book of Judges, detailing Israel's history and faith journey. Learn about judges as deliverers from oppression and idolatry, portraying parallels with Christ's ministry. Uncover a pattern of uncreation due to idolatry, emphasizing the need for an eternal judge—Jesus Christ—to save from corruption.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides insights into the book of Samuel, exploring its characters, themes, and the transition from judgeship to kingship in Israel. Learn of the significance of the Davidic covenant, culminating in Jesus as the ultimate King of Kings.
  • Gain insights into the Book of Kings, revealing its historical and theological significance. Discover the fulfillment of Davidic covenant, reasons for Israel's exile, and anticipation of the new covenant. Recognize Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of its promises.
  • This lesson reviews latter prophets' insights into Israel's exile for breaking the Mosaic Covenant, the prophetic office's nature, diverse prophecy genres, and the execution of covenant lawsuits, all pointing to God's judgment and hope for restoration.
  • Explore Isaiah's profound prophetic themes, from redemption to impending judgment. Unravel his life and ministry's context, review the debate around authorship, and learn essential tools for study.
  • Enjoy this lesson on Jeremiah, a second Moses figure, and his prophetic message of repentance, redemption, and a new covenant. Explore the book's chiastic structure, historical context, and theological significance, offering hope amidst Judah's fall.
  • Studying Ezekiel reveals its focus on the glory of the Lord and the temple. You learn of Ezekiel's exile, his visions, and themes like covenant theology, creation, and apocalyptic elements, offering profound insights into hope amidst crisis.
  • Discover insights into the minor prophets' diverse genres and themes, from covenant infidelity to divine restoration. Witness Jonah's repentance narrative and prophetic visions culminating in Christ's fulfillment. Embrace Yahweh's justice and compassion, urging Israel's return, leading to Jesus as the ultimate authority.
  • Understand the structure and themes of the Hebrew Bible's writings section. Explore diverse literary forms, intentional divisions mirroring prophets, and the overarching theme of exile and return, illuminating Israel's covenant journey.
  • Discover the depth of the Book of Psalms: 150 songs divided into 5 books, expressing diverse emotions and worship forms. Explore themes, structure, and practical applications for personal devotion and prayer.
  • Gain insights into human suffering and theodicy through Job's trials. Explore themes of faith, resilience, and God's sovereignty amidst adversity. Discover hope in God's incomprehensible sovereignty amid life's trials.
  • Proverbs is a book of timeless wisdom from Solomon, who was gifted by God. By studying this book, you can learn to navigate life with righteousness and discernment, rooted in the fear of the Lord.
  • Journey through Ruth, where redemption, loyalty, and divine providence intertwine. Ruth, a symbol of strength, aligns with Boaz, embodying ancient customs. Their union shapes history, reflecting the enduring legacy of faith amidst life's complexities.
  • Explore the Song of Songs for insights into marriage and intimacy. It navigates the tension between true love and temptation, advocating for unwavering commitment and passionate intimacy, reflecting God's desired relationship. Discover timeless wisdom for modern-day love and marriage.
  • Ecclesiastes reveals life's futility without God, emphasizing the necessity of fearing Him. Through Solomon's wisdom, it prompts reflection on divine purpose amid existential questions.
  • In Lamentations, mourn the fall of Jerusalem and exile, finding hope in God's sovereignty.
  • The book of Esthers contains themes of providence, hiddenness of God, and faithfulness in exile. You will uncover the intricacies of Esther and Mordecai's roles in the deliverance of the Jewish people, as well as the establishment of the festival of Purim. This study will equip you with insights into how God's providence operates amidst human events, even when His presence may seem concealed, and how faithfulness in exile can lead to unexpected outcomes of deliverance and restoration.
  • Through this lesson on the book of Daniel, you'll gain insights into its structure, themes of faithfulness in exile, comparisons with Joseph, and its significance for understanding apocalyptic literature, providing a comprehensive understanding of God's sovereignty and care for His people.
  • Explore Ezra and Nehemiah for insights into post-exilic restoration, intertwining faith, governance, and cultural renewal. These books point towards a deeper longing for true and lasting restoration and echo themes found in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation.
  • The Book of Chronicles traces Israel's history, emphasizing kingship, priesthood, and divine selection. It anticipates restoration, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate priest-king who fulfills God's promises.

Understanding the Old Testament 
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
ot102-26 
Song of Songs 
Lesson Transcript
 

We now come to the Song of Songs, one of the lost books of the Old Testament, I call this. There are certain books in the Old Testament that we have really struggled to understand, like Judges or Song of Songs, and so we just kind of leave them in obscurity. And so I'm hoping that this lecture will provide you with some background and interpretation information that will allow you to enjoy not just the content of the book, but the message of the book as it applies to life in this world.

Now, the Song of Songs is the only book in the whole Bible to be entirely devoted to the topic of love and marriage, both sexual intimacy and covenant fidelity. Other places in the Bible teach us something about marriage, Genesis 2, Proverbs 5 and 7, Matthew 19, 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, but nothing like we have here in the Song of Songs. It stands apart in its attention to detail here. One of the rabbis of old calls this book the Holy of Holies in the Hebrew Bible. Now, why would a whole book be devoted to the covenant of marriage in the Hebrew Bible? Well, it's because of this. The covenant of marriage is an important topic in the Bible because it is the way or is employed by God to describe the type of relationship He desires with His people, a relationship of permanent covenantal bond and intimacy. In Revelation 21 and 22, what are the people of God characterized as? The bride of Christ. And so, the topic of marriage is significant because the marriage covenant created in Genesis 2 ultimately points to the marriage covenant God desires for us in Revelation 21 and 22. 

So, in light of that, we must ask ourselves quickly by way of background, what is marriage? What is marriage and then why does the Song of Songs speak to it? Okay, well, here's my working definition of marriage. I'm going on record. Every line in this definition is debated in our particular culture, but I'm going to stand at least on the fact that this is what the Bible teaches about the definition of marriage. Here we go. Marriage was designed to be an exclusive, lifelong, life-giving, one-flesh covenantal union between one man and one woman according to the standards of natural or cisgender. This covenantal relationship begins with sexual union and is subsequently renewed in the same way. It was instituted by the one true God as part of the original creation order in Genesis 2 before the fall. It is God Himself who bears witness to this covenant and who also enacts the one-flesh union.

Sexual union is covenantal. It is either covenant-making, covenant-renewing, or covenant-breaking via adultery. As such, adultery breaks the marriage covenant because it violates the definitional one-flesh center of the covenant depicted by the oath sign of sexual union. Death also dissolves the covenant of marriage, though not in an illicit manner, though death itself is a result of sin. Now, that's a lot to say that marriage is a covenant that is inaugurated by sexual union and therefore subsequently renewed in the same way and that the violation of it can terminate that union. If you would like more on this particular topic, you need to see Gordon Hugenberger's book, Marriage as a Covenant, and there you will have more than enough information to consider this particular issue. 

The title of the book, The Song of Songs, is a superlative construction in Hebrew. Just like the Lord of Lords is the greatest Lord or the King of Kings is the greatest King, as such, the Song of Songs is the best or greatest song ever.

In terms of authorship, ancient tradition identifies Solomon as the author. Also, at the beginning of the song, there is an attribution, the Song of Songs, which is by Solomon, so the biblical text itself suggests Solomon. Also, he's the only person mentioned in the text by name as Solomon on seven different occasions so he's very closely related to the song. However, the issue of authorship is hotly debated and contested in the Old Testament world so if you'd like more information about that, see my additional lectures in the Institute where I cover this topic more thoroughly. 

If Solomon is the author, and I think he is, this can cause a little bit of trouble in our interpretation of the song. How can Solomon write about the beauty and sanctity of marriage when we know from Scripture that he had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines and that his wives led his heart astray and caused him to do that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord by worshiping the foreign gods of his wives. Consider this line in the Song of Solomon in chapter 6, verses 8 through 9, "There are 60 queens and 80 concubines and virgins without number, but you are unique, my dove, my perfect one." I mean, what a line. Exactly right.

So here we have rock-solid evidence that this woman is here in the context of Solomon's harem and she's being enticed by Solomon. Well, given the book's genre, wisdom literature, and its position in the Hebrew Bible, the books concerning covenant life, and its connection with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, chapter 2, the best option for interpretation is the one referred to normally as the so-called shepherd interpretation which is this: Solomon is not the only man in the song. There is the woman who is kind of the hero of the story, she's going to be the wisdom teacher, there are the daughters of Jerusalem, there's Solomon, but there's also the beloved shepherd of the woman, the woman's maybe betrothed or beloved before she was taken into the harem of Solomon. And so the woman is being asked here to decide between two different men. Right? The love of the shepherd, her one and only kind of Genesis 2 kind of figure in marriage, or she can enter into the temptations of Solomon's harem life which would have been luxury and ease and abundance, fame, glory, and all those things.

It would have removed the woman from the tough rural agrarian life in ancient Israel as it was. It would have been Solomon's court was the richest court of all the day, of all that time, and so it would have been a fantastic thing to be a part of, but she would have been part of a kind of illicit marriage relationship in that context. So we're going to argue here that the woman in the song has been taken into Solomon's harem to prepare to become one of Solomon's concubines. And here is the line from Song of Songs 3:11 where the daughters of Jerusalem who are the women in training with her to appear with Solomon. If you think of the book of Esther and how Esther was taken into the harem, she had a year of preparation and she had attendance in six months of oils and lotions and six months of perfumes. Whatever that means for that particular harem complex, you can only imagine that Solomon surpassed it.

And so here we have Solomon has arrived and said, "Go out O daughters of Zion, and look upon King Solomon." So all the women are asked to go out and look with the crown which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, on the day of the joy of his heart. And so there's, there are again euphemisms and metaphors in here. The crown that his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding is not the royal crown, but another crown that he's trying to impress the women with. And then it says again, there are 60 queens and 80 concubines and virgins without number in that royal harem at the time. So the King's harem had its policies and procedures, some of which we can extrapolate from the ancient world or Esther too, like I've talked about.

But what we know is that Solomon's harem complex was a very robust part of his particular life. There were two parts to a harem complex: the house of the house of the virgins it's called, and the house of the wives. The house of the virgins would have been those women training to be with the King. And not all of them made it. You had to be the best of the best to get there. And if you didn't make it, you could leave. Then there was the house of the wives or concubines, as you see in Esther. And once you are with the King, you are part of that court forever. You could never, ever, ever leave. It could be one night with the King and you're done. Once you had slept with him, you were permanently a part of it. So that's the context we're in.

And so here is how it plays out in the Song of Songs. There are four parts to the song marked by the famous adjuration, "Do not arouse or awaken love before it's ready." These adjurations and the arrival of a person in the song create hinges for each section, marking the progress and the progression in the song. This means the adjuration, "Do not arouse or awaken love," marks kind of the shift to the next section. And so the song is highly structured in that way. And so you can see on the slide on your screen that there are four sections.

The first section runs from chapter one, verse two, to chapter two, verse seven. And it is the temptation of Solomon's harem, where the woman is being provoked by the daughters of Jerusalem or the harem attendant to participate in harem life. 

The second section begins in chapter two, verse eight, and it runs through three, five. Here you have the arrival of the shepherd boy. He's leaping over the mountains, jumping over the hills, coming to get his beloved out of the harem complex. He does not have access to the woman. He can only call over the wall or peer through the lattice. Anyone who tried to enter into a king's harem, a male figure would have been instantly killed. And so all he can do is call. And at the end, the woman says, you'll have to go away and wait until I get out. We'll review that in a minute.

Then you have the arrival of Solomon in chapter three, verse six, and it runs through chapter eight, verse four. This is the longest section in the song because it deals with the temptation of Solomon to the woman in the harem. Okay? So here is where Solomon is enticing the woman to participate in harem life. And there are two sections we'll see there. And finally, at the very end, the woman returns and gives us her wisdom teaching. She rejects Solomon, takes the shepherd, and they depart. That's kind of the narrative flow of the song. It's not a drama. There's not a choir.

There's all these other things that you hear in commentaries. It's a very simple narrative song. And you can see right here, I've put on the screen the adjurations in two, six, and following three, five, and following eight, four. And following every adjuration, someone comes. Someone comes. And you can see in the first one, in two, six, and seven, where it says, the voice of my beloved, behold, he comes leaping over mountains, bounding over hills. An unnamed shepherd lover. And in the second one, you can see chapter three, verse six. Who is this coming up from the wilderness, like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of the merchant? Behold, it is the bed of Solomon. I like to call it his love shack. And so here you see, Solomon has arrived with his eunuch warrior guards to select the woman for what they say in the text is the terrors of the night. The terrors of the night. And again, so the shepherd comes and then goes away. Solomon comes and he's dismissed. And then at the very end, he said, who is this coming up from the wilderness in chapter eight, verse five, leaning on her beloved. And it is the woman herself who comes and renders the teaching. So the shepherd comes, Solomon comes, the woman comes and wins. And that's the kind of the narrative plot of the story. For more on this, if you'd like a summary, a step-by-step of each of these sections in the text, you can go to an article I wrote in a book called A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, The Gospel Promised. I wrote the chapter in there on the Song of Songs. We'll put a link to it here for you. And in that spot, I'll give you more details about how each section works in the context of the song and how the kind of the, what's happening to each of those sections step-by-step. 

The most important thing to get out of this particular lecture is to understand what the song is teaching so that you can go back and read the song in light of it, what the song is teaching so you can read the song in light of it. And here's why. Remember how I told you like something like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and Job, other wisdom compositions, you have to kind of in some sense, read the material, you get the answer at the end, and then you go back and read it in light of that. That's how wisdom literature works in the Old Testament. Well, the same thing applies to the Song of Songs. In Song of Songs 8:6-10, the woman comes up from the wilderness, the place of temptation, and she delivers her wisdom teaching. And we find it here in Song of Songs 8:6-10. I'm going to read it for you. I'm going to summarize for you what it means, which will be the message of the Song of Songs.

Okay, so let's read this together. "Place me like the seal on your heart, like the seal on your arms, for love is strong like death and its seal is fierce like the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of Yahweh. (That's how hot it is). Many waters cannot extinguish this love and rivers cannot overwhelm it. If a man would give all of the wealth of his house for this love, it would utterly scorn him. We have a younger sister and she does not have breasts. What shall we do for her on the day she has spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver. If she is a door, we will build upon her a plank of cedar. I am a wall and my breasts are like towers. And so in this way, I have become in his eyes like one who both brings forth and finds wholeness or shalom." 

Now, what is this teaching us? It's teaching us this here. And what I've done is I've given you text in the left column and the right column is kind of the contextual teaching of it. And it's this. The commitment of marriage should be rock solid. The intimacy of marriage should be white hot. This type of love endures hardship, resists temptation, and promotes wholeness. 

Now, this is what's happened to the woman. She has endured hardship by being taken into the harem complex. She has resisted temptation, the idea of going into the temptation or of giving in. And then she's promoting wholeness or finding wholeness by being united to her one shepherd lover. Because when a man and a woman come together in the covenantal union of sexual intimacy, they become one flesh. Shalom, wholeness. That's what's happening here. So the woman here is teaching from her experience what she has done. The marriage covenant should be both rock solid in terms of commitment, and white hot in terms of intimacy. This type of relationship endures hardship, resists temptation, and promotes wholeness.

How does it do this? In the ancient world, we'll talk about rock-solid, seals that were placed on documents, doors, vessels, or containers to mark ownership, responsibility, content, and accents. Sealing also means the closing of something from interference. It's the visible public application of authority and ownership. The language of death and the grave do speak to the rock-solid nature of marriage, the marriage covenant. These symbols are intended to communicate to us that marriage should be irreversible, and permanent, and must not be tampered with by any human institution. Just as death is irreversible, the marriage covenant should be irreversible.

The institute of marriage or the covenant of marriage should be rock solid in terms of commitment. It should also be white-hot in terms of physical intimacy. It says in the text, that its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of Yahweh. What could be hotter? This type of heat described here is the heat of physical intimacy which is sexual intimacy designed exclusively for the covenant of marriage. This is clear from the vast amount of sexual activity described in the book. All you have to do is read the book and you're going to see there are a lot of parts and activities described that are sexual. There are those famous twin fawns, the heaps of wheat, the clusters of the vine, and the command in 5:1 to be drunk with lovemaking. There is not a single chapter in the book where sexual intimacy is not described. 

Now the language used to describe this heat is super impressive. In Psalm 76:4, these flashes of fire that we read here are lightning bolts shot from Yahweh's bow. So Zeus or Cupid have nothing on Yahweh in this particular context. And what do we know about lightning is this, it burns at over 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, 53,540 to be exact. If this does not impress you, consider that the heat of sexual intimacy should be almost nine times hotter than the surface of the sun. Why? Because the very next statement tells us that this heat is the very flame of Yahweh. Now some take this to describe the origin or the source of sexual intimacy. It comes from Yahweh. This type of heat can only come from the Lord. Some take it to mean the degree of heat, super hot, the hottest possible heat. It's hot up to God, something like that. But I don't think we need to distinguish. I think both in terms of origin and degree, it's a gift from God. Let me give you an example of how this might work.

A furnace. Let's think of the furnace as the commitment of the marriage. And the furnace is a hard kind of shell and you're supposed to be able to light a fire in it. And when you keep that fire in the furnace, the fire gets hotter and hotter and hotter. And so, and in fact, hotter than it could be outside of the furnace. So when you keep the fire in the furnace of commitment, it gets hotter and hotter and hotter. And so as you progress in your marriage, there's no reason to think that it can't become more and more intimate, more and more wonderful as you know each other more and more. Keep it in the furnace and keep it hot.

Here's the thing I like about this. The world loves white-hot intimacy, but they hate the commitment that we should have the raksal commitment. The church usually loves raksal commitment, but they do very little to promote white-hot sexual intimacy. I think the best marriages will keep those together. Even in our fallen world where things fall apart and it doesn't always work out, wisdom tells us, you know, how best to get things done. And so we've got to work hard on both of these things to be completely committed and to be intimate with our spouses because this world is full of hardship and temptation and emptiness. And what we want to do is we want to endure hardship, resist temptation, and promote wholeness. And that's what the song does. 

What she endured, the woman here endures hardship. And so what she says is that this kind of relationship, raksal or white hot, can endure hardship. For example, in Isaiah 43:1b through 2, we have this word, "I have called you by name, you are mine, commitment. When you pass through the waters, I'll be with you. And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you shall be burned and the flame shall not consume you." So notice that the commitment of Yahweh to his people will allow them to endure hardship in a very particular way because of his presence. The same thing is true with the marriage covenant. When you have a raksal or white hot marriage, you can endure hardship together because you belong to each other. 

And this can also help resist temptation. This is what she endured, the temptation to enter into harem life. We know that such temptations are abounding in our culture today. And we don't even need to seek them out. Most of them are looking for us, streaming to us through the various devices that we inhabit in our lives, especially the lives of our kids. They are constantly trying to convince us that what we have is not enough and that they have exactly what they need or that they have exactly what we need to fulfill us. Let me tell you that this is a lie. God has given us all that we need for life in Godliness, has he not? The question is, will we believe that this is true and pursue the very good things that he has provided for us in this context. All of the most wonderful things in life that we need are free to us. His word. Our families. The church. But we run around seeking all these other things to fulfill us and they don't. So it kind of makes us crumble and break and we give in to temptation.  

But what the Bible says here is that one of the ways to resist temptation and endure hardship in this world is in the context of marriage being rock solid and white hot. And this will indeed promote wholeness, what she achieves. Shalom. The wholeness of sexual union described in Genesis 2, the miracle and wonder of the one flesh union, both body and soul, enacted by God himself The one who brings it finds it and the one who finds it brings it is the message of the text. The Song of Songs is an amazing book that speaks of an amazing reality in the context of marriage in a culture of ours right now that needs this message more than any other time. One of the best things that we can do in this world is to promote the goodness of marriage to work hard to be married well and to let our children know that our marriages are rock solid and white hot, even if it cringes them out.

I think one of the challenges of reading this song is the explicit sexual language, the constant use of sexual metaphors, and the translators' hesitancy to translate what the Hebrew says. Can you address that aspect of how we should read the book? 

One of the things I tell my students is that I would learn Hebrew just to be able to translate the Song of Songs because the Hebrew text is perhaps even more explicit than the translations allow. All translations are at some level interpretations and whatever interpretation you hold to, like if you hold to the allegorical interpretation, you're going to minimize kind of the sexual language. There are two dreams in the book. The two dreams are entirely erotic and it's how the woman longs her beloved. It's not illicit. It's explicitly wonderful and held to be the wise way of thinking in the book. But if you are only like what they call the natural interpretation, this is just like some would say that this is just, I'll hear the quote is, and I won't say who did it, that the Song of Songs is an erotic psalter, basically ancient Near Eastern Viagra or porn. And neither of those extremes is true.

One is that sexual union is something God created and God has designed for the good of his people. It's sexual union, if you think about the cultural mandate in Genesis chapter one, there are five verbs there, fill, increase, multiply, then rule and subdue. Three of the verbs require sexual union in the marriage covenant to get it done. So in some sense, you could not fulfill the cultural mandate in Genesis chapter one without the marriage covenant in Genesis chapter two. It'd be impossible. So they're very connected in terms of what it is to be created in the image of God and to fill our role in society. And so I think what's happening here, and maybe you can re-ask part of the question, but one of the things that the Song of Songs is doing is saying sex is awesome in the right context. And you don't have to be ashamed of it. Right? You can talk about it. You can enjoy it. You can long for it. Right? What does Solomon say? May her breast intoxicate you always.

I'm down for that. And I think my kids need to hear that that's a wonderful thing. And I'm going, I'm going to live a life to promote that. And I hope they live their lives to promote that whether they're single or married. Because the marriages that we have right now in this world are just a shadow of the marriage to come in the new heavens and new earth, and so even the best of marriages in this world can't be totally satisfying or fulfilling and oftentimes even fail.

 But that doesn't matter. The married person, the single person, the divorced person, and the widowed person all have the same hope in that marriage covenant in the book of Revelation. And that's how we can bear the weight of it in this world.

And so I don't think we need to be ashamed of it at all. I think we need to embrace it. And in the context of the church, promote it more. For example, the Song of Songs is written for young women. If you think about it, Proverbs 31 was written for a man to assess the type of wife he should look for. A wife of strength who should find, who can find. Ruth and Boaz constitute that ideal reality. She's the Eshet Chayil, he's the Ishki Borchayil, the woman of strength, and the man, a warrior of strength, something like that. And the song of songs is the correlate of Proverbs 31.

Song of Songs teaches a young woman, what kind of love should I be looking for, the love of the shepherd or the love of Solomon. And the answer is the love of the shepherd. A marriage like Genesis chapter two, not like, you know, first Kings 11, first Kings 11. And so we need to, does that answer the question? Okay.

What I like about the Song of Songs too, is it's language is never gratuitous or overly explicit, but it's always, it's just veiled enough to express the wonder of the reality in ways. And so, yeah, again, if you want more of that, you can see I'm writing a commentary on this.It'll be out in a couple of years. You could wait, you have to wait for it, but I work hard in the commentary to help you understand the nature of the imagery, the metaphorical imagery in a way that's helpful, for example, you know, with, you know, hands and feet in the Song of Songs are not hands and feet. They're metaphors for the sexual organs of the man and the woman.

And so once you understand that you really, you know exactly what's going on. So you can feel those things better.