Summary: A sermon from Song of Songs. From a series about the life of Solomon. An effort to make the book understandable and more useful for the average person.
Song of Solomon, esp. 2:16
Introduction: Normally, I’d like to start out with some humorous story or something, but I’ll just say this. I’m going to do something today I’ve never done in 26 years of preaching. I’m going to preach from the Song of Songs.
I’m going to suggest that the book we’re looking at today is probably one of the least understood and least read of the whole Bible. First, because it contains some pretty graphic language, which, if I read it out loud this morning, would raise some eyebrows. One commentator said that Jewish men weren’t even to read the book SOS until they reached age 30. This is pretty steamy stuff. You’ve been given fair warning. Second, the structure and nature of this book makes it one of the hardest to understand. You can read the whole book, carefully, and basically end up saying, “Huh?” Which makes applying it to life pretty challenging. So, I feel challenged, but I’m also excited because I think we’ll get through this!
Imagine being asked to be in a play. You’re handed a script. First, it has the title, author, synopsis, setting, stage notes, and cast of characters. It’s typically written in multiple acts and scenes, with stage notes, production notes, and with every character’s lines labeled with their name. But this particular play is from a different culture, a different era, and in a different language. Now, take away the notes – no more setting, no cast of characters. There are no acts, no scenes, no stage notes, no production notes. There are no labels about whose lines are whose. In fact, since it’s in Hebrew, there are no line breaks, no sentence breaks, no space between words, no punctuation, and no vowels! Begin there, and you have the book titled Song of Songs.
A lot of brilliant minds have put a lot of work into trying to guide us here. This may shock you: They don’t all agree with each other!
What is this book?
Some say it’s just a collection of disconnected songs. Some have suggested is just a collection of erotic pagan fertility cult liturgies – pornography from 1000 BC! Others have suggested it’s a collection of Syrian wedding songs, still others, that it’s a drama, like “Romeo and Juliette” or “Annie, Get Your Gun.” Many have approached it as an allegory – not a literal story, but one where everything is symbolic. Martin Luther said it is actually all about praising the virtues of a peaceful monarchy. Theodore Beza said it is an allegory of the history of the Church. I think the most reasonable and accurate view is that SOS is a story of real events that has been set into a poetic song of wisdom. I Kg 4:32 says his songs numbered 1005. This is the only one we have saved. To help start making heads or tails of this book, we’ll start there.
So, it’s a true story, adapted as some kind of drama starring 2 main characters: Solomon, and a woman from Shunem (we’ll call her “The Shulamite”). There’s also some group of observers, maybe servants or part of Solomon’s harem. There may be another character too – the Shulamite’s true love back home.
Here’s where it gets challenging. If you have the NIV or NAS Bible, you’ll notice in the text that they have tried to label for you who is speaking and when. They’ve approached it with 2 main characters: Solomon and the Shulamite. Solomon’s lines are labeled “Lover” and the Shulamite’s “Beloved.” Then people commenting on the side are labeled “Friends.”
So, the short version is this: Solomon, visiting the vineyards of Mt. Lebanon, comes across this attractive girl, she runs away. Solomon visits her, disguised as a shepherd, and woos her. Then, he comes without the disguise and invites her to marry him. Chapter 1 is their marriage in the palace, and the rest of the book is a kind of flashback. That’s the called the “2-person theory” of the book.
The 3-person theory is the one we’re going to use this morning. It’s one I think makes more sense, because it recognizes a deeper purpose of the book. So we’ll camp out there. Here’s the story:
The opening scene is Solomon’s palace. The palace women are singing the praises of Solomon – “Who wouldn’t love Solomon?” There’s this surprising answer: a Shulamite woman, who’s not so enamored by Solomon, is thinking of her true love – a shepherd back home. Near the end of ch 6, we find out what happened. She was taken from her hometown to be in Solomon’s harem, although her heart belongs to another. From there, we have some attempts by Solomon to woo her, but she remembers and remains faithful to her true love. She tells the palace women: