My Old Testament professor, Dr. McKenzie, piqued my interest in the Song of Solomon when he commented, “All of the Old and New Testament is a narrative of God trying to get us (mankind) back to the Garden of Eden, the place that He originally created for us to live with Him.”[i] God uses imagery and symbolism in the Song of Solomon to remind us of Eden and the creation story. The Song is full of imagery that points us back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden. It depicts a marital union that illustrates Jesus’ love for the church. The repetition of images creates symbolism.[ii] These symbols summarize big ideas in pictures that biblical authors intended their audiences to understand.
To understand the Bible’s symbols, we must look at the images, types, and patterns. These images, types, patterns, and designs are laid on top of one another, and this layering interprets and communicates biblical truth.[iii] In the Song of Solomon, lush vegetation—including trees, fruit, and pomegranates—causes us to remember the garden from which Adam and Eve were expelled. God’s redemptive work was just beginning after The Fall, and the Song illustrates God’s love in that work.
I have often seen the Song of Solomon used for teaching principles of marriage or as a devotional for couples, but I never thought of this part of the Bible as something that could be applied to the single life. As I began to study the text, the Song came alive, and the mystery of becoming one flesh in marriage, which the apostle Paul talks about, made perfect sense.
For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33 NIV)
Revelation and the Song of Solomon are all about that perfect marriage or union in which Jesus will be the Bridegroom, and the universal church (you and I) will become the ideal bride of Christ without spot or wrinkle. Once we begin to unpack the layered symbolism, we comprehend how much God loves us and can see His redemptive plan. The Song of Solomon does contain principles for a godly marriage. However, the more profound truth of the Song is that there is much more for the church to realize. The church, individually and collectively, can experience God’s love in more significant measure, genuinely embrace its identity in Him, and become so much more effective in sharing the love of God. Then they can, in turn, help others discover their identity and worth in Christ. We are the beloved bride of Christ, and we cannot be separated from His love. As you read through this six-week self-guided study, I pray that you see yourself as the bride of Christ whom Jesus died for.
i Tracie J. McKenzie, Old Testament Intro and Interpretation II: Latter Prophets and Writings, (class lecture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, summer 2020).
[ii] James M. Hamilton, Jr., What is Biblical Theology, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014). Pg. 62.
[iii] Ibid, Pg. 65.