Song of Songs: May 18—Celebrate romantic love selected passages
May 11, 2014

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.

The Hebrew language lacked comparative superlatives, a means to express comparisons like good, better and best. An example of a Hebraic way to express the superlative is “Holy of Holies,” the most Holy location. “Song of Songs” literally means “the best song.” Solomon receives fame for his proverbs, but the King also wrote 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4.32). His greatest song celebrates the romantic love between a husband and wife. The Bible views the godly love of a husband and wife as a mirror reflection of divine love (Eph. 5:22-23). A famous Jewish rabbi claimed that the entire world lacked the value of the worth of the day God gave the Song of Songs.

What does the Bible teach about romantic love between a husband and wife? Song of Songs belongs to the literary genre of Wisdom Literature. Perhaps in no area is God’s wisdom more necessary than in the area of the relationship between a husband and wife.

First, biblical lovers desire to spend time together (Song of Songs 1:7). At this stage in the story, Solomon described the period before marriage. The relationship before marriage often establishes patterns in the marriage. First, the young couple developed personal pet names as an expression of endearment. Pet names in the Song include “the one I love” (1:7), my darling (1:9), my beautiful one (2:10), my dove (2:14), my love (2.16), my bride (4:8), my friend (5:16), and princess (7:1). Solomon’s favorite term for the young lady is “my darling,” while the young woman’s favorite term for Solomon is “my love.” Second, the couple desired to spend time together. Because of her desire to be with Solomon, the Shulammite asked Solomon directions to his location at a specific time of the day. Do you still use the personal enduring terms for your spouse? Do you pursue times to be together?

Second, biblical lovers express mutual respect and admiration (Song of Songs 1:15-2:2). Sometimes marriage falters because a husband or wife will speak nicer to someone outside the marriage than they will the spouse. First, romantic lovers communicate the special nature of the relationship through praise. Solomon celebrated the beauty of the young woman, particularly her eyes. Solomon found her eyes enchanting (4:9; 6:5). Eyes function as windows into the soul; the Hebrews believed that eyes reveal character. Further, he viewed her as a rose among thorns (2:2). She affirmed Solomon’s delightful handsomeness (1:16). 

Third, biblical lovers are careful not to allow distractions to destroy their bond (2:15). The woman utilized a metaphor of a vineyard to describe the relationship. Foxes are small animals yet can produce great destruction in a vineyard. She calls or commands Solomon to take action against possible causes of destruction of the relationship. Foxes represent destructive problems that require immediate actions. 

Examples of “foxes” harmful to a relationship include mistrust, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit, or illicit desire for others.

Fourth, biblical lovers treasure their physical relationship (Song of Songs 4.9-12). The marriage has taken place. (see his reference to bride in v. 8). The Hebrew term translated “love” in verse 10 means physical love. This passage highlights four aspects of the physical love between a husband and wife. First, biblical love is emotional (v. 9). Solomon claims that the woman has captured his emotional heart, literally “made his heart beat faster.” Second, biblical love involves the senses—sight, hearing, taste, and smell (vv. 9-11). Third, biblical love is a gift. God promised the Hebrews a land of “milk and honey” as a gift (v. 11). Likewise, marital love is a gift from God. Fourth, biblical love is exclusive like a walled garden or sealed fountain (v. 12); both images suggest limited access. 

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