I’m finding the commenters very inadequate for this book.
For one they have a tin ear for poetry. And they treat it like an interference to the message. “Don’t panic” they seem to be saying all the time “it’s just poetry”.
Which is pretty silly because the whole thing is a poem. Did the holy spirit make a mistake choosing the literary form? And it’s an ominously dismissive way to discuss one of the few female voices we’ve yet heard in the biblical narrative.
Also they are always hastening to make the case that this is all about the importance of sex being in the context of marriage, which it really isn’t.
I can understand that is probably a pastoral priority… If I was a Christian youth trying to justify an unwise affair, this book would be my first port of call, and the pastors need to be armed with counter arguments. But that emphasis is bit of a distraction if you simply want to understand the book.
Solomon turns up in this chapter on his wedding day, the first literal reference to marriage. He’s not a great normative example. The political, moral and religious damage he did to the institution with his 1000s of wives and concubines was explicitly identified by God as his downfall. Our recent ugly fights over the meaning of marriage in the equality debates pale into insignificance in the face of his trashing of the ideal of monogamy.
And that is what this song has held high til now. Not literally marriage, but monogamy. The power and wonder of deep and unbroken love between two.
If it was written by Solomon, he’s imagining an alternate universe where he is not enslaved by meaningless lustful appetites, and marriage vows used for cynical power games. If it his pen, it’s surely a work of shame and repentance.
The girl spends the first half of the chapter seeking her beloved through the streets in the night.
The over the top obsessiveness of it easily connects restless spiritual quests.
A guy from Iran was baptised at our church a few weeks ago, very moving story. A deeply reflective guy, he could not stop looking until he found answers. So humbling and encouraging that he found them in fellowship with us!
Then Solomon. He’s in a grand procession oozing luxury. My usually helpful commentator said that there are two processions, one for the girl and one for Solomon, and she will be Solomon’s bride, but I can’t see it, and her lover was a shepherd in the previous chapters. Had she spent the night wandering the streets looking for king Solomon? It is now about a love triangle? Say wha?
I think I’ll just enjoy it as an image of scents, sensations and luxury associated with love, like the banquet the last chapter. Jesus used Solomon’s man-made glory as a byword to praise by contrast a humble flower of god’s creation, maybe a similar thing is going on here. I don’t know, but I want to believe it’s still about humble authentic love.
I’ve been working at thinking about feelings of insecurity at work. What if it’s true, and you actually aren’t as nice, clever or loveable as you thought? I’ve been entertaining that idea and trying to have it not matter. You’re there to collaborate, just bring what you bring, unapologetically, but not as if it could be worth more than anyone else’s input either. Insecurity can be a kind of ego.
Stay loving and expect to be loved because of the promise of love.
Like the girl searching for her lover, or my friend at church being baptised after considering so many religions, only true love will do, don’t give up til you find the real thing.