Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
The Kiss (detail), Auguste Rodin, 1882
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
— Song of Songs 1:2
Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) is a song of praise, or perhaps more accurately a collection of songs of praise as there is no single, coherent narrative, but rather a series of vignettes, each one holding its own as a lyric. Unlike the psalms which all praise God these are songs in praise of love—both emotional and carnal. Love is not deified, but is certainly glorified, held up as something magnificent. From this very first line1 we know we are in for a lyrical treat, an erotic odyssey.
It is interesting to one who reads the Bible as allegory and metaphor to learn that while a great many believe the Bible as a whole to be the literal truth, Jewish tradition considers this particular book to be an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel, while Christians read it as an allegory of Christ and the Church. Biblical literalism momentarily takes a back seat when it comes to Song of Songs. And yet for me it is one of the few instances where we are not reading an allegory. This is literally a series of poems about romantic and erotic love between a man and a woman. And it is beautiful exactly for what it is. Love, in all its forms, is a gift from God, perhaps the greatest gift bestowed to humankind. Song of Songs celebrates all four forms of love2, with particular emphasis on eros: the romantic, passionate and carnal love between two human beings.
There is enough metaphor within each of these songs to stir our minds and touch our hearts; we do not need to add more simply to justify the placement of this book in the canonical Bible, nor appease the puritanical mind by denying its very essence. This is a book to embrace in all its glory, in the glory of the creator God who made all things—not just the things of which we approve!
1 It is generally accepted that the current first line, 1:1 (The song of songs, which is Solomon's) was added to this book at a later date.
2 As described in The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis, 1960