Song of Solomon 1:1—How did a sensual book like this get in the Bible?
Problem 1: The Bible condemns the lust of the flesh and sensuality (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:16–21; 1 John 2:16). Yet this love song is filled with sensual expressions and sexual overtures (cf. 1:2; 2:5; 3:1; 4:5).
Solution 1: The Bible does not condemn sex, but only perverted sex. God created sex (Gen. 1:27), and He ordained that it should be enjoyed within the bonds of a monogamous marriage and in a relationship of love. The Scriptures declare, “Rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love” (Prov. 5:18–19).
After warning against those who forbid marriage (1 Tim. 4:3), the apostle declares that “every creature of God is good” (v. 4), and he goes on to speak of the God “who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (6:17). Hebrews insists that “marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
God realizes that normal people will have sexual desires, but He adds, “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). So, sex itself is not sinful, nor are sexual desires. God created them and intends that they be enjoyed within the loving bonds of a monogamous marriage. The Song of Solomon is a divinely authoritative example of how sensual love should be expressed in marriage.
Problem 2: Some question whether this book should be in the Bible, claiming that some rabbis rejected it. Was it always a part of the Jewish Scriptures?
Solution 2: From the very earliest times, this book was part of the Jewish canon. Centuries after it was accepted into the canon of Scriptures, the school of Shammai (a.d. 1st century) expressed doubt about its inspiration, but the view of Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph (c. a.d. 50–132) prevailed when he declared, “God forbid!—No man in Israel ever disputed about the Song of Songs ... for all the ages are not worthy the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holiest of Holies” (See Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody Press, 1986, 259).
Problem 3: Many modern scholars propose that this book of Solomon is simply a collection of love poems that have been put together on the basis of their similarity in theme. However, as a whole, this book is said to have been written by Solomon. How can it be a book written by Solomon if it is really only a loosely connected group of poems?
Solution 3: Actually, the Song of Solomon is not a loosely connected group of love poems. The structure of the book demonstrates that it is a single poetic expression of the relationship between Solomon and his Shulamite bride. The structure of the Song of Solomon is revealed in the repetition of key phrases.
The structure of this book can be illustrated by the following outline.
The repetition of “A”s and “B”s is a pattern called chiasm that was frequently employed by the Hebrew poets as a means of structuring their material. This structure not only indicates the unity of the book, but it provides evidence of a single author who put the material together in this manner to tell a true story and communicate a message. This literal account of the love of Solomon for his wife teaches the sanctity of human love in the marriage relationship (cf. Heb. 13:4).
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.