"How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn coming up from the washing...Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. Your neck is like the tower of David..." (Song of Songs 4:1-2,3b-4a)
Isn't that just the most romantic thing you have ever heard? Well...every now and then my wife will spend a while on her hair, then ask me: "How does my hair look?" Then, she will really put me on the spot by saying: "Be honest!" Can you imagine what would happen if I looked her in the eyes and said; "Oh, honey, your hair looks like a flock of goats...?" Clearly the speakers in the Song of Songs have a way with words. The best I can do is look at Melody and declare: "Your hair looks fine." Of course, she looks at me and says: "Fine? Is that all?" Then she returns to the mirror and begins again because I didn't say the right words about her hair.
Not long ago I ran across letters that Melody and I wrote to one another back when we were courting. (Two words that are not used that often any more: letters and courting) I read through them and thought to myself: "My goodness, it's a miracle that Melody even married me." The Bee Gees sang a song that Barry Gibb wrote called "Words." Elvis Presley later recorded this beautiful little song that says: "It only words, and words are all I have to steal your heart away." Well, Melody didn't fall for me because of my way with words. In fact, we are both still wondering what it was that caused her to marry me. LOL When I was in college I took a class on the American Civil War. For one of the classes we read letters that soldiers wrote back home. Some of the letters were to parents, but many were written to wives or girlfriends, or both. (Just kidding! ) Well, for letters to have been written during the 1800's by country, farm boys they were some of the most eloquent letters I have ever read. The best I could think to write was: "Wow! You're pretty!" These fellows wrote descriptions of beauty, and their love and compared it all to...well, like we find in the Songs.
The Song of Songs is clearly full of erotic literature. The lover examines his bride- to- be from top to bottom comparing each part of her to not only female goats and the tower of David, but also to fawns of a gazelle, honeycombs and pomegranates. Clearly, all this had a different meaning than it would to us today. When the lover speaks of the woman's teeth as each having its twin: "not one of them is alone." (4:2) it is his way of saying; "You even have all your teeth." The comparison of the hair of goats was another way of saying: "your hair is wavy and black, flowing over your shoulders." But, what about the tower of David, which hangs "a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors?" (4:4) Well, this has been interpreted as a "beautiful thing" but, others have interpreted this to mean: "you're built like a brick outhouse."
Clearly, the Song of Songs uses wording that we are not familiar with. However, it happens before our eyes all the time. It is my understanding that songs that we often listen to, many of which we grew up listening to, have meanings behind the words that we don't realize. Many were shocked to learn that "Puff, the Magic Dragon" was not actually a song about a dragon. The Song of Songs is a book that expresses deep desire.Regardless of one's interpretation of the book, I think we have to reach this conclusion: It is about expressed desire. Look at, for example, Song of Songs 4:8. Here the lover calls the woman both "my bride" and "my sister." Then he says: "You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride." (4:9) Now, I have two sisters. I assure you that there has never been a time in which I even came close to saying anything like this to either of them. In fact, my oldest sister and I fought like cats and dogs. I even have a scar on my forehead to remind me of being thrown into a television set. (The old kind) So, is this guy hitting on his sister? No! These terms were not unusual in Near Eastern love poetry. These words express the lover's desire for closeness. They are terms of endearment. I once knew a man who never referred to his wife by her name. He only referred to her as "my bride." I won't tell you what happened to them, but for many years he was his "bride."
Well, let's try to wrap all this up. There is so much to say about this book, but it's best I not say it because of the style of the writing. What are we to make of this book? I do believe that the book is about relationships. Is it just a book showing just how much God wants to be with his people? (Of Jesus and the Church) No. I don't believe so. Oh, I do believe it is that for sure, but not "just" that. So, how do I interpret this book?
First or all I believe it is an expression of love itself. What do I mean? Today, the word "love" is thrown around all the time to the point I believe that it is often just a meaningless word. Think about it! We quote John 3:16 so much, but do we ever stop to consider the depth of God's love? As I go out the door each morning I say to my wife, "I love you." (too much info I'm sure) She responds: "I love you too." (ahhh!) Now, although we mean what we say, the truth is, this is habit. It is an intended habit where we declared nearly 28 years ago that we would tell each other "I love you" every day. But, how well do we (not just me and Melody) express our love for one another?
Two, and similar to point one. When we speak of God being love and God loving everybody, do we really understand what that means? For instance, when I say to Melody 'I love you" what that indicates is:
"I love you so yes, I'll be home tonight."
'I love you so yes, I'll take out the trash and yes, I'll eventually fix that toilet seat that needs tightened."
"I love you so yes, I'll stay with you and you only for the rest of my life."
I could go on like this for a while. This is how we understand love, and it is how we express love. By God giving his only son to the world, and therefore sending his son to die, God was expressing his love for the world in the deepest way. The cross in some way says, "God desires to be with you." God's love for us can't simply be expressed in simple terms. Just as this lover over and over used allegories to try to express the depth of his love, but still felt as though more needed to be said, that's God's love for us.
Three: I believe this book may very well be about the healing of relationships between man and woman, human beings and God, and humans and creatures. Why is that? I believe that each of these relationships were damaged in the Garden of Eden. I believe there is a longing, a deep desire for the healing of these relationships. I personally believe that is the goal of the entire Bible. It is a book about reconciliation. If you think about it, God and humans were one from the beginning. God breathed God's own breath into the nostrils of man. Then God took from man the rib to create the woman. (all from chapter two of Genesis.) Therefore, they were all connected. Man was given charge to care for creation. (Not to harm it in any way, including eating the animals) Disobedience changed all of this. It brought about a great separation between God and man, man and woman, and human beings and creation. It's not how it was supposed to be. I believe there is within each of us a desire for intimacy. And, a need to be connected to God. (Some just haven't realized that yet) So, when you think about it, the whole purpose of life may very well be...to answer the lover's call....yes, God's call to us.
Well, I've done with that all I can do for now. Tomorrow, we will begin a look into the book of Isaiah. This means we have now reached the point where we will be dealing exclusively with the prophets. So, I invite you to join me