The Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon / Canticles / Song of Songs

Jackson Snyder, 1995


Snyder Bible Home
All Sermons     Challenging Sermons   
New Century Sermons
Divrei Torah  

Search Search entire site 


            The Song of Solomon is a collection of poetic love letters attributed to King Solomon of Israel.  Even in translation, the poetry is erotic, provocative, and beautiful.  Readings are for a bride, a bridegroom, and companions of the couple.  The little book sets the tone at the beginning with the words of the bride,

I will sing the song of all songs to Solomon that he may smother me with kisses.

Do you get the idea?  The Song of Solomon is a little book of love - a favorite of spiritual mystics and lovers.  We can get a feel for the Song of Solomon by responsively reading its second chapter in parts:


Bride:  I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.


Bridegroom:  Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.


Bride: Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.


Companions:  Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.


Bride:  Listen! My lover! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice. My lover spoke and to me.  He said:


Bridegroom: Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.


Companions:  Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.


Bride:  My lover is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills.


            The Song of Solomon gives us a biblical perspective on human attraction, love, and marriage.  Reading it may cause its reader to reminisce about the first time he or she fell in love, or courted, or married.  But in addition to the obvious meaning of this poetry, the Song of Solomon is also an allegory of God's love for Jerusalem.  Throughout the Old Testament we read of Yahweh/God speaking of Jerusalem as a lover.  Jerusalem, of course, stands for God's people, or Israel, scattered throughout the world today.  When Jerusalem is idolatrous, God speaks of her as a harlot, as in Lamentations 1:8-9 (NEB):

Jerusalem has sinned greatly, and so she was treated like a filthy rag; all those who have honored her held her cheap, for they had seen her nakedness.  What could she do but sigh and turn away?  Uncleanness clung to her skirts, and she gave no thought to her fate.

But when Jerusalem is faithful, Yahweh / God portrays her as a bride adorned with majesty, beauty, and honor, as in Isaiah chapter 62:2,4-5 (NIV):

{2} The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of Yahweh will bestow. {4} No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for Yahweh will take delight in you, and your land will be married. {5} ... As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

For some Christians, the Song of Solomon has been seen as representing Jesus the Messiah as the bridegroom, and the New Jerusalem, composed of the holy saints of God, as the bride. 

            John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet, when asked if he were the Messiah, replied that he was not.  But referring to Jesus, he said,

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete (John 3:29).

Jesus, the Son of God, is the bridegroom, and we who have been recreated in his image are his saintly bride.  We who are of the elect constitute the New Jerusalem.  John the Revelator bids us to be joyful that we are found worthy of such glory and honor.  He describes the wonderful day of the Lamb's wedding in Rev. 19:7-9,

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. {8} Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) {9} ...Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!


A Wedding!

            Just a few months ago we attended the wedding of our minister friend Banks in Georgia.  It was a glorious affair!  But what made it so was not how the church was adorned, or what food and drink was served, or the entertainment at the reception.  Rather, it was glorious because of the immense popularity of the groom and the incomparable beauty of the bride.  As wedding guests (or the groom's companions), we experienced some of the delightful effervescence of the love the bride and groom felt for each other.  Our joy for them was complete.

            For the loving feelings of a courting couple spill over wherever they go.  Sometimes we think that outward show of affection is silly and unnecessary.  Sometimes we consider it downright disgusting when we see it expressed in public.  But the fact remains that a bridegroom is infected with love-sickness for his bride, and the bride for her groom.  How many here have ever been love-sick?


Longing!  Risking!

            When lovers are parted, even for a short time, they long for each other hopelessly.  Consider the longing of the solitary bride in Song of Solomon chapter three.  She laments,

{1} All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him.

Sleep escapes her.  She tosses and turns in wonder.  "Where might he be?"  "Why hasn't he come?"  "Has he forgotten me?"  In verse two, she makes a bold decision for a young maiden.  She announces, {2} I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves.

She is willing to risk everything to be reunited with her lover; willing to risk assault, robbery, rapacity; willing to lose herself in the dark city streets; willing to give herself over to the night in hopes that she might be reunited.  She "looked for him but did not find him."  Hoping beyond hope, she asks for help in verse 3,

{3} The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. "Have you seen the one my heart loves?"

she asks them.  How shockingly innocent of the bride.  How outgoing, even by contemporary standards.  The bride is obviously either too young to know better than approach men in a dark alley, or she is a liberated woman, and has no fear, for the Spirit of the Groom is with her. 

            Her boldness is rewarded:

{4} Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother's house, to the room of the one who conceived me.

The bride has learned her lesson.  Now she will cling to her lover, and by no means let him go again, until she has brought him to her home, and married him, and become one with him. 


A Warning!

            This is a beautiful and meaningful poem about a bride's desire and tenacity.  But it ends with a warning.  The companions of the bride and groom speak to readers in no uncertain terms:

{5} Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

            What this means is that for love to be love, it must be true love.  As Sons of God and Daughters of Zion, we dare not substitute duty or obligation or any thing else for true love for our Beloved Bridegroom, Jesus Christ / Yahshua Messiah.  If we are serving him for any other reason, we must cease such service, and seek the true love for Christ that can only develop through a courtship relationship not unlike that which is portrayed in Solomon's poem.


Bride of Christ

            Do you realize that you are the bride of Christ, and that the Father of all creation has given his Son for your betrothal?  Yes, it's true. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16).

And did you know that the only begotten Son loves you so much that he has offered you a pre-nuptial agreement written in his blood?  For your Groom has whispered lovingly in your ear,

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

No, unlike earthly husbands, your beloved Groom will never separate from you, nor will he divorce you.  For his marriage contract with you dates back to the beginning of time - to when the world was formed and humanity was created.  Concerning the marriage of his Son, the Father has declared

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

            The Apostle Paul teaches that God means this not only for the present world of flesh and blood, but for the world to come.  Paul writes, 

{31} For the cause of marriage shall a man ... be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. {32} This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Herein Paul applies the oneness of the godly marital union with the future unity of Jesus and his bride, the Church, the New Jerusalem.

            And the Beloved Groom affirmed and approved of his Father's arrangement of marriage as he sweat great drops of blood in the garden called Gethsemene.  It was there he prayed for his bride,

Father, I in her, and thou in me, that we may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved her, as thou hast loved me (John 17:23).

Notice that the one-ness relationship that Jesus speaks of actually has three members.  The Father, the Groom, and the Bride. 


Three Members of the Weeding Party

Author Cathern Paxton illustrates the importance the Father's involvement in the marital relationship.  She writes,

A braid appears to contain only two strands of hair.  But ... if two strands could be put together at all, they would quickly unravel.  Herein lies the mystery:  What looks like two strands requires a third ... to keep the strands tightly woven.  God's presence, like the third strand in a braid, holds husband and wife together.

            The mystery remains how God the Father will bring it all about, and how we might be perfected and found worthy of marriage to the Son of God.  In many county court houses in our country, more divorces are being reported than marriages.  It seems that the fantasy of the perfect marriage is as far as far from the reality of its imperfection.  Yet unlike marriage as we know it, our marriage to our Lord will be perfect.


God and Marriage 

            When our newlywed friends in Georgia were on their honeymoon, the groom took his bride by the hand and said, "Now that we're married, dear, I hope you won't mind if I mention a few little defects that I've noticed about you."  "Not at all," the bride replied with a deceptive sweetness. "It was those little defects that kept me from getting a better husband."

            Nothing unperfected will stand in the way of our union with Christ.  There will be no love but perfect love; there will be no union without perfect union.  We are to be "a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, washed in the blood of the Lamb."  And that precious blood has guaranteed our sanctity and eventual perfection.

            What we need now is some pre-marital counseling.  Pastors are taught that the most important question to ask engaged couples during the first pre-marital counseling session is, "What does God say about marriage?"  One marriage counselor was asked to address a fourth-grade Sunday School class on the subject of marriage.  He asked the class what he asked all couples seeking to be married, "What does God say about marriage?"  Immediately, one boy replied, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

            But the right answer to the question is that marriage is an institution established by God on the foundation of love.  That "what God has joined, let no man put asunder."  And now, as we await our redemption, our remaking, our marriage, and our Beulah Land, we remember our heavenly marriage counselor reminding us,

Neither... {38} death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, {39} neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).


Love Letters Again

            A young couple had planned to be married had a little spat.  Afterward, the young man tried very hard to make up, but the young lady continually refused to see him or even speak with him.  The persistent young man wrote her a love letter and slipped it under her door.  But still no response.  He tenaciously continued to write a weekly love letter to her for 42 years.

            After writing 2,184 love letters without ever getting a spoken or written answer, the single-hearted old man eventually summoned up enough courage to present himself in person.  He knocked on the door of the reluctant lady and asked for her hand.  To his delight and surprise, she finally accepted. Imagine our Beloved Groom's dilemma.  Time and time again He tried to get His love letters through to his bride with so little response.

            Beloved, are you lovesick for Jesus, as the bride in the Song of Solomon is lovesick for her groom?  Do you long for a loving relationship with Jesus, as the bride longed for her groom?  Do you seek after Jesus, even though it may be dangerous, as the bride sought him through the dark streets?  Do you ask others about him, and allow others to point you in his direction, as the bride allowed the watchmen?  Are you willing to take him home for good, as the bride took the groom into her mother's house?  Is your wedding dress spotlessly ready, and have you made all your plans?  Have you taken his love letters to heart?

 Previously preached August 24, 1995, July 21, 1996, July 20, 1997.