Song of Songs and the Old Testament

To finish up laying the groundwork for our adventure in Song of Songs, I thought I’d write a little bit on Old Testament perspective. It seems that Solomon wrote this in his youthful time, when He was very close in his relationship with God. As Old Testament characters go, Solomon was as close as anyone ever was in his “relationship” with God during this period, yet there is a danger for Christians in understanding how far this could be likely to have gone.

Obviously, living as he did in the Old Testament, Solomon couldn’t have enjoyed the sort of relationship that many of us might think about, for there wasn’t yet direct access between Man and God because of the impediment of sin. Sin isn’t just an abstract point; it is very real as an obstruction. The Old Testament Law placed human intermediaries between us and God, with sacrifices galore being required; there was no indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and no forgiveness of sins. There was atonement through blood sacrifice of course, but atonement only puts the penalties for sin off for a period of time, which makes our blessings through Christ all the more amazing.

For Solomon to have written such an intimate book about personal relationship with God, he must have been either an exception to the rules of the Law or very farsighted about the glory of what was coming in Jesus, and I believe that the latter must have been the case in this instance. Before I move on, I want you to take note of the language I am using here, because this is an opinion and you are welcome to disagree. I am basing my opinion of this on the sin issue first of all, and upon the fact that the notion of Christ as Bridegroom and the Church (Body of Believers) as the Bride is a New Testament and not an Old Testament concept other than in typological analysis that relies on the New Testament.

OK, I’m on the verge of getting into deeper academic territory than I normally do here…

Trying to keep this reader-friendly, let’s look at it this way: The Old Testament has the hierarchy I mentioned previously, as does the New. The New Testament adds the Bridegroom – Bride imagery. Solomon uses Husband and wife as the basis of his book, and so I’m suggesting that Solomon had much deeper recognition than his contemporaries about what God was planning on doing in the future. With this deeper understanding on his part, and his relationship with God imperfect though it would have been, I think Solomon, together with the added insights of the New Testament, has painted for us an amazing picture of what the Christian relationship between Man and God is supposed to be.

Oh, and by the way, a beautiful picture of what human marriage is supposed to be.

Thus, I would maintain that this is a book that all of us should study carefully, and if necessary, ask ourselves how we can get from the place we are now to the place we should be in both our divine and human relationships, and that is how I plan on dealing with Song of Songs.

Whew! I’m glad I’ve gotten that all said and done with… we’ll jump into the fray in earnest in the next post; see you then!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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21 Responses to Song of Songs and the Old Testament

  1. paulfg says:

    “Solomon uses Husband and wife as the basis of his book, and so I’m suggesting that Solomon had much deeper recognition than his contemporaries about what God was planning on doing in the future.”

    Already got me! 😉 And a thought:

    If the relationship between “man and God” is way beyond “the bible” – i.e. in NT language “no one comes to the Father but through me” (and when you do “come to the Father” that relationship goes way beyond the written and academic/religious theology of bible and commentaries)…

    Why is that relationship not possible irrespective of Old or New (to use the phrase “Form or Substance”?

    If to really know God is to know Love without condition, why should that knowing be exclusive only to us “enlightened” post-NT “man and God” creations?

  2. As I mentioned before that Song of Solomon was an allegory of Christ and the Church. It is mentioned that Solomon loved a dark skinned women meaning a foreigner at that time. this depicted the Gentiles repentance to salvation. A man is attracted to a mature woman (Unless he is a sick paedophile), in the same way, Christ rejoices when the Church is mature and works in unity. However, they are divisive and they complain about reading the Bible because this book that you bravely mentioned. I wish Church folks were mature like you to discuss these subjects and learn something. God bless and keep up the good work.

  3. Matt Brumage says:

    Hey Don,

    I have a contrary opinion, more in line with Paul (fg), so, while I get your reply to Paul (fg), I would like to poke a little further.

    If relationally speaking, the relationship prior to Jesus was based on law entirely, how does Paul (the Apostle) rely on Abraham’s faith, and declare Abraham to be “justified by faith” if such a thing required Jesus’ sacrifice to be possible? Isn’t Paul (the Apostle) actually saying that faith has been the relational requirement all along? Sure, they looked forward to what the Father was going to do through the Son at some point in the future, but that didn’t take away from their expectant hope grounding a faith that informed their lives, or did it? You mention the problem of sin and lack of forgiveness, but doesn’t forgiveness, as a concept within the relationship of God’s people before Jesus’ ministry, exist (i.e. in the Old Testament)? The Hebrew word, “salach”(Strong’s 5545), is used for this concept, and is translated in the Septuagint, “helios” (Strong’s 2436) which refers to a change in a deity’s disposition from wrath to mercy. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, this forgiveness isn’t predicated to sacrifice, but rather repentance, evidenced by a change in behavior and attitude. Even there, the people are justified apart from “law”.

    So, I disagree with your statement that the relationship between the people before Jesus’ sacrifice and our Creator was based on the law. I think, rather, Paul (the Apostle) is saying, that this has never been the case, that it’s always been by faith.

    Because of this, I think the comment from the latter-day Paul (fg) above may be more accurate than you gave him credit for.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion. I included the Strong’s references because I don’t want to be scholastic either. Blessings upon you, and thank you for the post!


    • Don Merritt says:

      Paul’s whole point, the Apostle that is, was that Israel was doomed because they put their faith in their own ability to keep the Law. Abraham, on the other hand, believed God, and God made certain promises to Abraham. Among others, he promised that He would provide a sacrifice for sins which, as we know, came some time after Abraham’s death. The problem of sin therefore, was not addressed during Abraham’s time. Did the Law provide for forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life? No, that was the “mystery” that Paul wrote about so often that had been hidden. Yet more to the point of what we are talking about in Song of Songs, that intimate relationship didn’t yet exist because there was no indwelling of the Holy Spirit which came about after Jesus shed His blood, rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven. This, the level of intimacy that we can, but most don’t bother to, enjoy with Him was not yet available in this life.

      With that in mind, our book makes complete sense. 😊

      • Matt Brumage says:

        Hi Don,

        I’m still not convinced (shocker, I’m thick-headed). While I agree with you that the apostle’s point was corrective of the Jews of his day, I disagree with you about your view of the people of Israel in Solomon’s day. I believe Song of Songs was only one of several depictions of intimacy with God. I think the Psalms are full of them, and depict this intimacy from the human perspective, rather than, as you view Song of Songs, from God’s perspective (Psalm 34:8 is a commonly quoted one).

        I still maintain intimacy with God was possible in their day, that there were faith-filled intimate followers of God even before Jesus’ death on the cross. I think Hebrews 11 is an impressive roster of them.

        Anyway, I get that justification by law was a problem the apostle sought to correct, and rightly so. There’s no real intimacy to be found there.



        • Don Merritt says:

          I wonder if we really have a non-disagreement here. (I’m thick-headed too 😊 )

          I’m not suggesting that no one in Israel had the faith God was looking for; clearly not. Yet no one had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit before Christ made that possible, unless of course there was no real point in Jesus going to the cross- and I know you are not suggesting such a thing. Clearly there was a form of relationship in the Old Covenant, but it was nothing like the reality of the New, and surely we don’t disagree on that point.

          • Matt Brumage says:

            🙂 well, yes and no. The indwelling Holy Spirit is a Massive Game-Changer. I’m not one for disputing that. But I’m not sure there’s as much of a qualitative difference between what we experience and what they experienced. We have an unbelievable opportunity we don’t often live out. We can, but we don’t. Instead, we are disobedient, idolatrous, and mostly oblivious. It’s crazy, but it’s not God’s fault, nor His plan. He inspired Scripture to let us know the danger, sent His Son to make up for what we lacked, and prepared an eternal place for us in His presence. So, why do believers need so much cheering up? What’s wrong with us? What’s better than this?

            Anyway, so, we kind of agree 😉

  4. “he must have been either an exception to the rules of the Law or very farsighted about the glory of what was coming in Jesus”

    Perhaps a bit of both. This may have been part of the gift of wisdom he received from God so as to rule his people on not just a societal level, but on a spiritual level as well.

  5. photojaq says:

    Hmmmm…. Still withholding judgement. Some of the words in this book sound TOO intimate to use between God (or Christ) and the church.

  6. sullivanspin says:

    Psyched for this study!

  7. Pingback: Today: Song of Songs… – bbcgatewayblog

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