“Be killing sin or sin will be killing you” – John Owen

The Voice Of My Beloved – Song of Solomon 2:8

“The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills” (Song 2:8).

The Song of Solomon 2:8–17 is a description of the bride’s delight in her beloved (bridegroom). There should always be delight between bride and bridegroom. The Song of Solomon is a small book that many Christians are not familiar with, perhaps because of the physical descriptions of love that permeate the book. Many are uncertain how the book should be read. Christians and Jews have typically viewed the work as Solomon’s because of 1:1: “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” First Kings 4:32 states that Solomon penned 1,005 songs, in addition to 3,000 proverbs. But the opening lines of the book may indicate that the book is about Solomon, instead of having been written by Solomon.

Solomon was not a virtuous example of marriage. He was married to Pharaoh’s daughter, but had hundreds of other wives and concubines (1 Kings 3:1; 7:8; 9:24). First Kings 11:3 states: “He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” The last part of that verse sums up all of Solomon’s problems. His marrriages and dalliances cost him spiritually. He was a bad, ungodly example to his people, and to us. For all his wisdom, he failed utterly in marriage.  In the book, Solomon is usually spoken of from a distance (1:5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12). The bride of the book is described as a young Shulammite woman (6:13). It is difficult to pinpoint where the Shulammite woman is from. Some believe she is from Shunem in the northern kingdom, since there is a mention of Tirzah in 6:4 which is near Shunem.

In 1:7 the bridegroom is described as a shepherd: “tell me, you, whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock…” The bridegroom’s reply in 1:8 indicates that the Shulammite woman was also a shepherdess: “…follow in the tracks of the flock, and pasture your young goats beside the shepherds’ tents.”

The Song is a book about love. There are vivid descriptions utilizing symbolic language such as: “your eyes are doves…your hair is like a flock of goats…your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes…you neck is like the tower of David” 4:1, 2, 4). I don’t think any girl today would be impressed if a boy used such descriptions on her. It is language like this that causes many to wonder why the Song of Solomon is in Scripture in the first place. We can understand the book (even the symbols) when we connect it to the level of physical love, but is this how the Song of Solomon must be understood? If it is, it does seem strange and out of place that such a work would be in Scripture.

Jewish interpretation has seen the books as an allegory of God’s love for Israel. Christians, on the other hand, have seen it as an allegory of Christ’s love for the Church. No one disputes the analogy of Christ and the Church as that of husband and wife, or bridegroom and bride (Eph. 5:22–32). Some even posit that the Song is about the love of Christ for individuals. Some have seen the entire book as representing the love between a man and a woman. The problem is that depending how you think the Song of Solomon should be read, the results of such reading are startling different. We all have difficulty reading the symbolic language of apocalyptic literature (Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation), and, I dare say, that when we read the Song of Solomon we also can be rather confused as to the precise, intended meaning. If it is a basic description of physical love, it seems rather strange language to communicate such a concept, that Scripture describes in simple and direct terms elsewhere (Gen. 4:17, 25; 26:8; 29:18).

It is for these reasons that the Song of Solomon remains one of the most neglected books in Scripture. We are either embarrassed by the physical descriptions or are ignorant of the symbolic imagery and its meaning. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, regarded the book as a mine of spiritual treasure and one of the most exquisite expositions of the relationship between a believer and the Lord Jesus Christ. I can agree with that sentiment, yet I still confess the difficulties of the book. It is also good to remember that all of Scripture points to Christ. Even the Lord pointed out to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus their ignorance of all that the Old Testament Scriptures said regarding him (Luke 24:25–27, 32).

I take the book, on one level, describing a relationship of love described between man and a woman, but also, on another level, between Christ and me. Many marriage seminars use the Song of Solomon as the Scriptural standard for marriage or marriage love, but there are problems with such approaches. For instance, the Shulammite woman as a bride does not appear to live with her bridegroom (3:1–4; 5:2–7). And for all this, most marriage seminars have done a major disservice to the Church since they interpret marriage in the light of prevailing cultural norms, and not according to the biblical norm. The record of marriage in the Church is the same as without the Church, so we cannot say from experience that we practice marriage better than the world.

Using the Song of Solomon in this way (as we find at marriage seminars) seems, to me, to lessen the biblical standard of the marriage relationship rather than enhance it. This is due to the fixation on the physical rather than the spiritual. If we would only grasp the spiritual or biblical requirements we would learn, understand and practice marriage on an accepted biblical physical level. The focus of Scripture also is not on the physical level primarily but on many other levels. It is the development of the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual areas that will also enhance the physical level.

The Song of Solomon has many beautiful expressions that reflect Christ’s love for us and our love for him. The phrase “my beloved” occurs a hundred and ten times in Scripture. Thirty-one of those occasions are in the Song of Solomon. The word “beloved” means loved one. It is not only a term of endearment, but also a word that reveals the practice of loving. This translates into this: it is not enough to simply tell your wife that you love her. You must demonstrate that love. While a wife, no doubt, appreciates the words, the acts of love prove the sincerity of the words. Is this not also true between us and Jesus? We may say many things about loving our Lord, but it is only the practice of that love that proves what we say. Can we say of Jesus “my beloved is mine and I am his” (Sol. 2:16)? We should read this book as a revelation of deepening love and affection. The believer is not loved by Jesus because of what he or she does. We are loved with an everlasting love. Christ loved his people before they were born. His demonstration of his love is his death for us. If Scripture simply said that Christ loved us but provided no demonstration we could legitimately demand the evidence. But we have the evidence. “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). His love is sacrificial love. He gave himself for us (Gal. 1:4; 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25; 1 Tim. 2:6, 14).

We should read the Song of Solomon on two levels. First, as a simple love poem laden with vivid and complex expressions of love. Second, as a description of Christ’s love for us. The one is descriptive, and the other is devotional. All Scripture it is profitable for us, and we should seek to mine its riches. The beloved is Christ and I am his.