We are going to focus on verses that I use often during weddings. Look at vs.6-8 and you will see verses that are some of my favorites for when I join a man and a woman as a husband and wife. Look at vs.6 and the NRSV, that is the translation that I use, speaks of passion fierce as the grave. Some translations use the word jealousy which is not at all accurate to what the Hebrew states. The passion that we ought to have for our spouse ought to be as fierce as the grave.
Vs. 7 is even more powerful for that setting as it speaks of the power of love which cannot be quenched no matter how hard we try. Or if we do try, then we would be utterly scorned. You cannot buy love, which I guess is something for which I need supporting evidence. Find it below.
I guess this is a bit of a mic drop. Nothing like ending our time together with the Beatles. Looking forward to our next Challenge!
Now we begin to get a little more graphic about the details that the man lays out about the woman and how beautiful she is and specifically which body parts he finds beautiful. In this day and age it is not scandalous or shocking and it is simply a beautiful poem describing the allure of human sexuality where procreation is not mentioned at all. Do you notice that? Throughout Scripture, beginning especially in Genesis where God tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, there is the assumption that human sexuality and sexual interaction had as its goal procreation. Here children are not mentioned at all, just the beauty of the man and the women's body and how they were made for each other.
There could potentially be a misunderstanding of Scripture that some might point to thinking that it only speaks about sexuality in regards to the production of children. So any sexual encounters in marriage which are not for the purpose of creating children, some might say, are not God's desire. I would categorically dispute that and say that this is a false interpretation. God's desire is that man and woman would enjoy each other in marriage in all facets of their life together. There is no presumption that sexual interaction be for the sole purpose of procreation. That should be a liberating thought for husbands and wives as we understand that God has created us to enjoy each other not with an agenda, but simply because he wants us to take pleasure in each other.
There is a certain playfulness here that elicits the playfulness that is found in the flirting of a man and woman who are together. The question which begins this chapter, where is my love, is one that is answered so that they are able to be together. The man once again extols the beauty of his wife and gives a parallel between her beauty and the splendor of the armies as they go into battle. Not sure that would be evocative for the woman, but at least he tried.
It is interesting that in many of these Scriptures we come across verses which are simply untranslatable. Look at vs.12 and we simply do not have the manuscript evidence or body to be able to translate what it says. What we find in our Bibles is a total guess as to what it would mean simply because we do not have the fragments necessary to translate it appropriately. Does that bother you? I hope not because remember we are able to be guided and given direction by the Holy Spirit. If your faith impinges upon every word being correct within Scripture then you are going to have problems in other places that may seem more important than in Song of Solomon.
Enjoy these lovely Scriptures which set the stage for the love story of a man and a woman.
We do have an interplay with dialogue for both the man and the woman. We begin the chapter with the man in verse 1 warning his beloved that he is making his way to the garden, where the woman is found. At the end of this verse you almost have the crowd telling the two of them to eat and drink and be drunk with love. They are encouraging the two of them to come together.
Then the woman gives another long speech about her beloved. She describes him in physical detail much like he had described her earlier. You can almost palpably feel the yearning that she has to be with her beloved. It is a passionate physical yearning which all wives should have for their husbands, which all husbands should have for their wives.
The end of the chapter is almost a proclamation where the woman exclaims: "This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." Notice throughout these Scriptures the man uses the term "sister" to describe his beloved and here she uses the term "friend" to describer her beloved. So along with the somewhat erotic imagery and descriptions and titles that are very sensual, there is also an undercurrent of a fraternal relationship that should not be discounted. The presence of a love that is sexual is important, but so is a relationship that is based on respect and a love that is fraternal. Couples would do well to remember both sides of this coin.
For some reason this song made me think of this chapter of Scripture.
The man speaks and he describes the beauty of his bride. If you look at vs.7 this is where I see a parallel to this song which describes the beauty of the act that the Lord took in sending His Son to die for us. This description from the man is very detailed and allows the woman to hear how much he loves her. We shouldn't be critical that he only addresses her physical attributes, because she does the same. There is a consistency in describing that which is pleasing which is sensual. The word sensual comes from the senses and here the sense of touch, the sense of seeing, the sense of taste, the sense of smell, all of them are addressed in a most marvelous way.
There is a description of the beloved which touches upon all of the senses. This is a great way to think of those that we love in this way, all of our senses ought to be inflamed with passion for the one that we love. All of our senses ought to be aroused when we are with our love. Okay, that is probably enough for today, but this Scripture absolutely takes us to this place.
We find Solomon mentioned here and it is because of this that it is thought that he is the author of this book of the Bible. Once again we have the warning of not stirring up love until you are ready which is found in vs.5 with the identical words that we saw in the previous chapter.
During the end of the last chapter and the entire chapter here we have the woman speaking about her love whom she searches. She finds him in the person of King Solomon. We find described a search in the city streets for him, and he was not to be found. But when he was found he was brought into the chambers of the woman's family. We see an image of him coming in a spectacle with a chair and fragrance and a typical wedding day which was laid out for Solomon. We find the woman describing her marriage, basically, to Solomon. We will transition next to the man's words to the woman in the next chapter.
This is a total blast from the past. A group that I used to absolutely love, yes, they are a Christian group. I saw them a number of times, once even at Creation where I got to meet the lead singer, Mylon Lefevre. The beginning of this Scripture contains the words: Rose of Sharon and it is in this song as well. Okay, that is the only point of contact, let's look at this chapter.
As you read through this I want you to look at vs.7 where you see the counsel from the woman (it could apply to the man as well) to "not stir up or awaken love until it is ready." I guess there is a truth that says you can't really control when you stir or awaken love. When it awakes, it awakes. What we are able to control is what we do when it is stirred up. Paul gives us some insight when he speaks about marriage. Look at I Corinthians 7:9 where we read: "For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." Now, Paul does not in any way exclude love as a reason for marriage, but he does address passion as a reason to marry so that it does not overtake our decision making.
What a great message to all of us to remember that outside of the covenant of marriage our passions are still stirring, and so if we are not married we should consider that before we take any actions which would conflict with the life that God would want us to live. We live in an age where sexuality is relative and the degree to which we live out our sexuality seems to be unhinged and without limit. God says something different here. God tells us that within the covenant of marriage there is no barrier to how we can express our love to each other. Outside of that covenant, we need to be careful with our passions. It is a good lesson for today.
I feel that as we begin to look at this book of the Bible I have to include a rating to ensure that only adults are going to be reading. It is a beautiful poetic book, along the lines of Lamentations and Ecclesiastes and Psalms, where the author is not depicting historical events but rather scenes of love between a man and a woman which can be taken either metaphorically or literally. A question many of you may be asking is: why is this in the Bible? My reading is that it gives us a very complete picture of what it is like to be in love with someone and how that love must include not only a fraternal love but a sensual love as well. It is an affirmation for husbands and wives that the sexual desires and impulses that we have each other are not negative nor sinful, but rather God ordained. So...let's read: Warning, this book of the Bible contains some images that may be deemed as graphic by some.
The first chapter contains a back and forth between a man and woman describing their love for each other. Notice, the woman in this passage describes herself as being black. This is where the term black is beautiful comes from, because, well, it is, the Bible says so! Look at vs. 5. We also see that this is attributed to Solomon whom we know wrote many things, including Proverbs and potentially Ecclesiastes.
We find the woman asking where her lover might be as he goes out to tend his flocks. The man answers that if she wanted to find out she just had to follow the tracks. There is an interplay between male and female relationships that is not one sided or dominated by one sex or the other, at least in this chapter. Let's see if that holds up as we go forward.
The worst happens to Judah as the city is in siege for 2 years before the walls are breached and the king of Babylon and his men enter the city of Jerusalem. The king of Judah, Zedekiah, escaped with his sons but they were then captured. His sons were killed in front of him and then his eyes were poked out so that he would remember that as the last thing that he saw. It reminds me of the myth of the architect of St. Basil's cathedral in Russia on red square, where it is said, falsely, that Ivan the Great blinded him after it was constructed so that he would not construct any other, it was that beautiful. None of this happened, but it is a great story.
All of the goods of the temple were destroyed and then the temple itself was destroyed as well as all the important houses of Jerusalem. Notice the name of the person who was responsible for destroying the temple and the houses: Nebuzaradan. His name literally means: chief of the butchers. How about that as a gloss? I like the fact that they kept a remnant behind, look at vs.12 where we see that some do remain behind to till the land so that it would not go to waste.
We find ourselves in the last chapter of this book of the Bible which laid out for us the kings that reigned in both Israel and Judah, the northern and the southern kingdoms after the reign of Solomon who was the last to rule a united kingdom. Things did not go well once the sons of David were no longer. The people continued to do what was evil in the sight of Lord on a much more consistent basis than those who did was was good in the sight of the Lord.
But then we see in vs. 27 that the new king of Babylon started to become friends with the king of Israel and even invited him to his table for meals. It should strike a bit of a familiar story to that of Joseph who found himself in a foreign land and make friends with the ruler who then eventually was able to bring salvation to the people of Israel by saving them from a famine. Here there needs to be some hope for a remnant who will be able to go back and inhabit Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. It will happen, but not yet. We still have time in Scripture for that to take place, and it does...
In this chapter we find ourselves at the end of the existence of Judah before they are carried away to captivity to Babylon. Remember that earlier Israel, the north, had been taken away to Assyria and now God was taking away the people of the south. If you notice the sins of Manasseh are always lifted up as the reason for why God acted in a way that did not protect the people of Jerusalem. If you look at vs.3 you see the reason for why Babylon was given "permission" to take the people of Jerusalem away to Babylon.
Notice also in vs.13 that Babylon then carries away all of the items that were found in the temple, which probably included the ark of the covenant, if you were interested. But notice that because Jehoiachin surrenders quickly Jerusalem is spared. Even though the temple is looted it is not destroyed, at least not yet. That comes later on. Zedekiah is then put in power by the king of Babylon over Johoiachin, who was carried away to Babylon with his family.
If you look at vs.20 you see that God actually "expelled" the people from his presence. His presence would have been Jerusalem, so we see that the people of God are kicked out of Jerusalem because God simply does not want them around.