Tuesday

08 December 2015

“He brought me to his banqueting house, and his intention towards me was love.” (v. 4)

Psalm: Psalm 45


Background

The Song of Solomon is a collection of love poems about the love of a man and a woman. It has been variously interpreted as an allegory about God's love for Israel and Christ's love for the Church but this perhaps diverts us from its more simple meaning. At times erotic, it presents an unabashed look at the joy of love (and sex) between two lovers.

Some interpreters have spoken of a class issue between the man and the woman with the man perhaps being the King and the woman described by some as 'rustic'. Certainly the flowers that she compares herself to in verse 1 are wild and quite common flowers in Israel and Palestine. But her lover adds to the value of these flowers in verse 2 by saying that she is "a lily among brambles".

The imagery continues with the woman comparing her lover with an apple tree, the fruit of which is sweet to taste (verse 3). Of course an apple tree is so much better than most other trees simply because it produces edible apples. But the eroticism of a lover who is sweet to the taste should not be lost on us.

The man then takes her to his banqueting house, suggesting a marriage feast and therefore marriage between the two. The subsequent verses then continue by describing how the beloved woman is overwhelmed by the love offered by her lover.

Within the Christian tradition, the writer perhaps most influenced by the Song of Solomon is St John of the Cross. His various poems all contain imagery taken from this book, which he uses to express his own spiritual longing, love and experience of God. Seeing his own soul as the beloved woman and God as the lover he uses similar nature imagery and other motifs from this book to explore his relationship with God. It is a passionate and erotic exploration of prayer and spirituality.


To Ponder

  • The Song of Solomon is unashamed of sexuality and erotic language. What can this teach us about our attitudes?
  • John of the Cross sees in this book an image of God as lover and ourselves as the beloved. How can this imagery influence our prayer lives?
  • "... his intention toward me was love". We often speak of being intentional in mission and church life. What does it mean to have an intention of love?


Bible notes author: The Revd Jonathan Mead

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