Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) Perspectives From Faith Communities In Practice
Getting Biblical in Daily Life
Love poetry during services? Yes, please.
Jewish writers over the centuries have had their way with the Song of Songs. The allegorical implications of the text—that it's about God and the Israelites—were actually created in a midrash. Midrash is a form of commentary and creative writing in which a writer (often a rabbi) would supplement details to a biblical story to make it more accessible.
This allegorical midrash paved the way for the use of Song of Songs as a central reading during Passover, a holiday celebrating God's care for the Jewish people. Lines from this epic love poem are shared to express (shocker, we know) the special relationship between God and Israel.
Jewish messianists in the 16th century also used some text from Song of Songs (7:2) in composing Lecha Dodi, a messianic song about God and his bride that is sung in most synagogues today. And certain Jewish sects—particularly Sephardic Jews—still sing the Song of Songs while observing the Sabbath.
Who knew synagogue could be so romantic?
Jesus didn't seem to care too much about Song of Songs. You know how he's always throwing around quotes from the Hebrew Bible? Song of Songs never makes it into his speeches. But that doesn't mean biblical scholars haven't taken their hand at it. Many people read this book as an allegory for the love between Jesus and his followers.
Of course, some super-mystical people used it as an allegory for the relationship between the soul and Jesus (which also happens in Jewish interpretation). This sort of approach is often called bridal mysticism (the human soul as the bride and Christ as the bridegroom), which, just to be clear, has nothing to do with people who take weddings really, really seriously.
Of course, Christians are still thinking about Song of Songs today, but they're leaning away from allegories and into the work as an expression of romantic love. The late Pope John Paul II offered a new analysis of the Song in one of his speeches about the modern nature of marriage. This kind of modern analysis on such an old text is what keeps things interesting.