Song of songs, erotic element
"No book furnishes a better test than does the Song of the
depth of a man's Christianity. If his religion be in his head only, a dry form
of doctrine... he will see nothing here to attract him. But if his religion have
a hold on his heart, this will be a favourite portion of the word of God"
(McCheyne). An ancient fable mentions the man who had the ability to turn
everything he touched into gold. Some minds possess the ability to turn
everything they consider into intellectual gold. On the other hand, there are
minds that turn even the grace of God into an excuse for immorality (Rom 3:8;
6:1), and the most exalted truth into a lie (Rom 1:21-23; 2Th 2:10-12). This may
not be too far from the meaning of Paul's words: "To the pure, all things are
pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In
fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted" (Tit 1:15).
What do men do -- what SHOULD men do -- with the Song of
It is plain that there is a distinctive erotic element in the
Song of Songs. Whenever and however they were first written, and whatever else
they might symbolize, the songs are about a man and woman who are deeply in love
with one another, and who celebrate their love for one another in tender and
poignant, yet strongly sexual, terms. It is true that euphemisms are used
abundantly, but many commentators have pointed out that these euphemisms appear
often in other "love songs" of the ancient Near East -- where their meanings can
scarcely be denied. The songs are about human love, love expressed physically
It is this element in the Song of Songs, scarcely if at all
concealed, that has caused some men to mock, and that has "turned off" other
Bible students. Some students have gone so far as to question how such
"literature" could ever have been included in the Bible in the first place.
It must be recognized, and remembered, that the expression of
love in and through physical intimacy is -- according to the Bible -- one of the
greatest of God's gifts to mankind. It is a wonderful blessing, but only to be
enjoyed in the bonds of marriage. Although it is, or should be, private and
exclusive -- it is not something of which anyone should be ashamed, and it is
certainly not sinful! The descriptions of such love in the Song of Songs, even
if a bit embarrassing at times, should remind us of these facts. While modesty
is certainly a virtue, to go beyond this into being "Victorian" or "prudish"
about sexual matters is not necessarily to be more spiritual! "Marriage should
be honored by all, and the marriage bed is undefiled" (Heb 13:4).
And the erotic element in this Book serves a further purpose:
it emphasizes the link, or bridge, between natural marriage and spiritual
"marriage" in the Word of God. This connection is very strong, and very
In a blending of Old Testament and New, the "marriage of the
Lamb" may be seen as God's true marriage with His people Israel (the spiritual
Israel). Here is the real reason for such pervasive Bible language as "to know
God" (where, in Bible terms, "to know" one's spouse may mean to have intimate
relations with him or her), and "to be one with God" (where Adam and Eve were
told to become "one flesh").
Such terms for the spiritual union of God and His children,
through Jesus' work, are no accident; they are intended to be reminiscent of
marriage. Just as there is joy to be found, naturally speaking, in human
marriage... so also (and so much more so!) will there be spiritual joy in the
joining together of Christ and his "bride" -- physically, mentally, and
emotionally -- at his return.
This erotic element in the Song, then, should be no embarrassment. Rather, it is
God's promise that He will withhold "no good thing" from His loved ones
(Psa 84:11; cp Psa 34:10). It is His pledge that the joys in store, at the
Marriage Supper of the Lamb, will far surpass any joys that they may previously
have experienced or even imagined (Mat 6:33; Phi 4:19).