While the king is at his table, My spikenard sends forth its fragrance. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, That lies all night between my breasts. (Song of Solomon 1:12-13, N.K.J.V.)
God never intended for “sex” to be a dirty word. As a matter of fact, sex was one of His primary reasons for giving the bodies of Adam and Eve different parts. Seriously, when He said to that married couple, “Be fruitful and multiply” He meant for them to do that by having a lot of sex. That alone should be enough to make the case that God is pro sex.
However, it should also be understood that God never intended for sex to be exclusively for the purposes of reproduction. No, the experience of pleasure comes into play as well as sex provides an outlet for the physical lusts and desires that are part and parcel to the human experience. If you need more proof that God meant for sex to be about more than procreation, let me introduce you to The Song of Solomon.
The Bible tells us that God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding that made him wiser than all men (1 Kings 4:31). To go along with that wisdom, He also gave him “a largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29, N.K.J.V.). By combining all that wisdom with all that largeness of heart — to say nothing of his untold wealth — Solomon was able to live life to the fullest more than anyone in history.
Out of all his wisdom and largeness of heart, Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs (hundreds of which have been preserved in the Bible’s book of Proverbs) and wrote 1,005 songs. Of those 1005 songs, it seems that he considered the love song The Song of Solomon his best. This would explain why the opening words of the book read: “The song of songs…” That phrase is also why most modern translations of the Bible entitle the book The Song of Songs rather than The Song of Solomon.
Whichever title you prefer, the book is a love song Solomon wrote when he ruled over the united nation of Israel that had been left to him by his father, King David. Writing under the divine inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), Solomon fills the book with poetic language, metaphors, and imagery from that part of the world. If the book held no other value, it would be significant in that it mentions no less than 21 species of plants and 15 species of animals and uses 49 Hebrew words that occur nowhere else in the Old Testament.
While the book mentions a few other groups of lesser characters who play minor roles in the story, first and foremost it is centered around two people: The Beloved (Solomon) and The Shulamite (Solomon’s wife). In passage after passage, the couple passionately and lustfully pine for each other in a manner that is sensual and even downright erotic. But there is no sin involved at any point. Despite the fact that the couple obviously like each other’s looks, they restrain themselves during their courtship and only engage in sexual relations once they are married.
It strikes many people as odd that a man such as Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3), could write so beautifully about a monogamous relationship. Primarily, two possible explanations have been offered for this apparent contradiction:
- Many believe The Shulamite was Solomon’s first wife. If this was the case, his relationship with her would have come before he took up with all those other women and allowed them to turn his heart away from God. The Shulamite would have been the wife of his youth that he speaks of in Proverbs 5:15-20 and Ecclesiates 9:9.
- Others believe the book’s reference to 60 queens and 80 concubines (Song of Solomon 6:8) indicates that Solomon already had 140 other sexual partners before he married The Shulamite. While the language used to describe these 140 other women doesn’t explicitly say they were Solomon’s women, it is easy to make that leap of logic. If the 140 women were indeed Solomon’s wives and concubines, it would likely mean that the courtship and marriage he experienced with The Shulamite was the most pure, idyllic, and innocent that he ever knew. This theory is bolstered by the fact that many of Solomon’s marriages were nothing more than political arrangements to foreign women, alliances that helped him expand his empire (1 Kings 3:1; 11:1-3).
In the next post from this short series, we’ll begin our walk through The Song of Solomon. By devoting a few posts to this book, I trust that we will be brought to a new appreciation of what God’s plan for sex in marriage looks like and sounds like. It’s a shame that the church has allowed the world to have all the “fun” (for lack of a better word) with sex. God isn’t nearly as staid and boring as He is made out to be, and if The Song of Solomon is any indication He wants husbands and wives to not only have sex but look forward to it and enjoy it. So, does that pique your interest in this book? If it does, then please join me for the next couple of posts as we do a closer examination of this typically unexamined book.