Doctrine Article
Expanded Internet Edition - August 1, 2007 

The Significance of
the Song of Solomon

by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1981
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, August 2007

Read the accompanying Newsletter for August 2007

 

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The title of this lecture is “The Significance of the Song of Solomon” (or as it is often called, the Song of Songs), which is one of the books of the Bible. We wish to cover all aspects of the biblical teaching, the biblical books, the information in the books, the theology behind them, the general social and historical teachings that you can find there: the chronologies, the prophecies, and everything. We have tried to meet all issues as best as we possibly can and we have many other things to go into in this wonderful Book of Books, called the Bible.

One of those books happens to be the Song of Songs. 1 Many of you have read it, many, many times no doubt, in the overall reading of the Bible, but have you known what to do with it? Have you really understood it? Why is it in the Bible in the first place? You see, even the commentators, the theologians and scholars today who look into the biblical revelation and study it, and comment on it are well aware that over the years, over the centuries as a matter of fact, this book called the Song of Songs has been the most controversial book in the entirety of the Bible. That is a fact; there is no question about it.

There are several reasons for this. It is not only because there is sexually explicit language found within it, and if you get a modern translation without the euphemistic approach to translation it would be plainer than you are even used to reading. But it is not just necessarily because of that, there are other reasons why the Song of Songs has been disputed over the years. Many people have wondered even if it belongs within the divine library of the books which make up the Bible. 2

I can assure you from my point of view that it absolutely belongs in the Bible because the numerical structure that makes up the biblical revelation, the totality of it, whether it be the Old and the New Testament, putting all of the books together, it comes out perfectly correct if the book Song of Songs is included. You take that book out and the whole structure collapses down to the ground. 3 The Song of Songs belongs in the Bible. The Jews and others have long ago recognized that it does. There is not a Bible translation or a version today that would think of taking the Song of Songs out of the books of the Bible. It belongs there.

The Song of Solomon has a number of features fundamentally different from other books of the Bible, whether in the Old or the New Testament. For example, do you know that the title Elohim, or the title “God,” is not found even once in any of the chapters of the Song of Songs? There is not one reference to the deity in any place. Also, there is not the slightest amount of theological teaching in it anywhere, if you view the words naturally. If you want to allegorize some of it or call it typical or figurative language, you might be able to stretch the meanings somewhat and say that God says this, or God says that. But you will not find theological teaching in the words that make up the Song of Songs. You will not find it, it is not there.

But besides the fact that there is no theological teaching of any nature, in the Song of Songs, and that the name of God is not so much as mentioned; you would not even believe there was a God if you read the Song of Songs of itself. You would not get that feeling at all. But not only that, it is because some of the most thoroughly erotic language that you can find in the Bible, or anywhere for that matter, is found in these eight chapters in the Old Testament. 4

This is one of the great difficulties in interpreting or even discussing the book because, let us face it, it is difficult to discuss at length many of these things where they are very sensuous, and some people are offended by such things today, or any time in history. All of us should have a certain privacy and a certain amount of decorum about things of this nature, but still at the same time, when you read the Song of Songs and it is placed in the Bible by the canonizers themselves, and it belongs in the holy Word of God, and it is part of the Holy Scripture, certainly we ought to be able to read it, and I would hope we would be able to understand it. That is the point.

Song of Songs Is a Dramatic Production

Though the Song of Songs uses language that we would normally not use in public, and yet in fact the Song of Songs was a drama performed in public in one presentation and set to music. You and I would say it was something like an opera, a musical, or a stage show if you want to put it in those terms, which had music accompanying it. That is why it is called the great Song, the Song of Songs, the greatest song that Solomon ever wrote. It is a drama set to music and it uses this very sensual and erotic language in a few places; not all over, but in a few places.

It is because of this fact that people are not very prone to comment on it too much, and especially in Sunday schools, Sabbath schools, or in sermons. Very seldom will you find the Song of Songs discussed at all. In fact, you might think back, how many times have you ever heard the Song of Songs quoted in a sermon by a person? You may have had, but it is a very rare thing indeed, and yet it is a major Book of the Old Testament, and of the whole Bible itself. We should not avoid the Song of Songs if we want to fully understand the overall teachings of the biblical revelation.

I will be careful because I do not want to embarrass anyone. I do not want to embarrass myself. We also do not want to shock people by referring to the sexually explicit language, which is in the Song, in an offensive way. That is something I will not do. That is why I see no reason whatsoever for referring to some of those verses that are in the Song of Songs.

What I would prefer you do is to read it for yourself. Go ahead and read all 8 chapters. You will find that it is a little difficult to follow, and you should use a good modern translation of the Song of Songs. I will say this much. Most of the translations that you have today, including our beloved King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, and the Catholic versions, will be a little euphemistic in their translations of this book. By euphemistic I mean that they will couch it in language that is not too offensive. It is language which moderates what is actually being said because in some cases it does get quite explicit from our point of view today in the world of the ekklesia.

In fact the early Jews (and this is rather humorous but nonetheless true) would not allow a man under 30 years old to read the book, unless he was married, of course. That is most remarkable. Even then it was better that he was over 30 years of age. That tradition goes back to about the time of Christ or a little bit after. This was because the Song of Songs refers quite openly to parts of a woman’s or even a male’s anatomy that are normally considered very private. As a result of that Jewish leaders did not know what to do with some of this language. So they said, since it is in the Word of God, it must be okay, and God put it in there, but still a man has to be prepared for this. We cannot give this to youngsters or people who are under the age of 30 because they would just be upset by this or they would want to do all of these things I suppose that the book or this drama talks about. They were very cautious in things like that.

If God Almighty Himself through Jesus Christ (who inspired the Bible in the first place) by God’s Holy Spirit puts this Song in the Bible, I do not think we should avoid it, should we? It may mean that God is not as concerned as much about things of this nature as we are.

I am not saying at all that I am condoning anything that is stated in the book. That is for you to determine. But I do have the feeling that God is not as concerned about these things as many of us seem to be at the present time, or in past history in the world of the ekklesia. I am not talking about the world outside the ekklesia because today you find will find all types of pornography and elicit sex being shown. 5 This is wrong; I am not saying it is right. I am not saying that is right at all. But I am saying that God Himself does not mind talking in very plain and open language. He says it in a beautiful, wonderful setting, a drama set to music so that we can understand and enjoy what He is trying to tell us.

I do not see why we should go around trying to avoid these things like so many people do today. This is why it is important to discuss all issues of the Scripture including matters of this nature. However, at the same time we want to use circumspection. We want to be normal and natural about this, and at the same time we certainly do not want to be offensive to ourselves or to you.

So, you read the Song of Solomon for yourself and see the general setting. I shall refer to certain sections of it in just a moment. As I said before, the account is a drama formally set to music. If it were performed on a stage, as it no doubt was in ancient times in some way, it has often puzzled me how the actors and the actresses could perform their parts and keep the play a respectable presentation.

I certainly hope that Hollywood does not try to duplicate its theme with all of the dramatic scenes being depicted, because if that would be the case you could not take your Sunday school or your Sabbath school class to see it (that is unless they were all over 30 years of age). I am joking on this, but I am surprised that Hollywood has not taken this up. You would think those 8 chapters in the Bible that would be rather interesting compared to some of the movies coming out nowadays that I blush about sometimes myself. Thankfully they have not taken it up and I hope they do not do so, because they always will do things wrong and degrade the very thing that God is talking about.

I know one thing for certain, everything that is in the Song of Solomon, though it is depicted quite explicitly, is depicted in a way to be uplifting, to give people a beautiful teaching about the relationship between a man and a woman, courtship and romance, and how a physical as well as a spiritual relationship can take place between two people who love each other. You cannot find anything in the Bible or even in secular literature of ancient times that really compares to the beauties and the upliftedness of this book if it is put in a proper setting. But I have to admit I often wondered how this drama was shown by people in the past in front of the general public.

Many ministers today would not even lecture on this book. 6 Or, if they did lecture on it, they would need to leave out so much that you would not even know what was going off half the time. They really do not want to quote it. What we need to do is to look at the general teaching of it and try our best to understand it. I know one thing for certain, no matter what is stated in the Song of Songs, it is not intended to be lustful in any way. It is intended to be looked at in a nice, natural, normal way so that we can learn how God wishes each man and woman to behave toward those they are in love with, especially those in the marriage state, because not all of the scenes here are before marriage.

This is one interesting thing, some of the scenes are before marriage, then we have the marriage of this Shulamite woman to King Solomon and how she becomes part of his harem, with other wives, and other concubines, and there are other virgins around. This is all in there. 7 I know some of us might object to that, but I am afraid Solomon did indeed have many wives and many concubines. This beautiful scene is set within that type of environ­ment, but it is not intended in any way to have a lustful nature to it. Obviously it is not that way, because you can read all types of sections of the Bible to show that God does not like that at all. In fact there are utter condemnations for lustful practices time and time again, both in the Old and the New Testament.

The apostle Paul said that what we should do is to think on those things which are pure, which are holy, which are right, which are good (Philippians 4:8). I am paraphrasing, but those are the things we should think on. But when you read the Song of Solomon you could think on the beauties of a physical and even a sexual relationship in a legitimate way, as long as it is legitimate and it is not lustful. You can think on it in a way that God would approve. I think that is one of the main reasons we have this beautiful book in the Bible. We need to read it more, and understand that it is there to give us teaching on these things that we desperately need in this world.

Some people might feel that the words used in here are wrong, but as I have been saying, there is a legitimate use of romance and love — and I do emphasize “legitimate” — and that means according with the ethical standards which God has provided in other parts of the Bible, and in this Song of Songs itself.

I am not going to give any opinion on these matters at all. I am not going to even state what some of the words of a sexual nature are. I will let you research and read them for yourself. The thing is, if I start going into some of those, you might think I have ulterior motives, which I do not. I do not, nor do I want to give any opinion whatsoever on any sexual act, no matter how minor it might be. If you want to mention holding hands, I might mention that. 8

You are going to have to decide for your own self how far you should go in things of this nature. I am presenting, I hope, to adults at this present time, adults who are able to read the ethical standards of the Bible in many places, who understand the biblical revelation, and if you do, then you ought to be able to figure out for yourself what is right for you, and what is right for the one that you are with. The point is that you should always uphold each other, and God, with great integrity. God wants that. Whatever is done should be done to the glory of God. That is what it says:

“Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles [Greeks], nor to the church [ekklesia] of God:

However, there are lots of things we may think are not to the glory of God, whereas if you read the Song of Solomon, they very well may be. This is the point.

I find it difficult to go into some of the specific verses and give comments on them simply because some people would misunderstand Ernest Martin. Here I am with my hands tied to a certain extent. There are a number of statements throughout the whole of the Bible, principally in the Old Testament, that might shock some of you. You might ask, that is in the Bible? Yes, it is in the Bible. There are almost 40 instances where it is almost humorous in some ways because of the openness that God, His prophets, and the ones who wrote the Bible, have in bringing some of those things out.

The Song of Songs is rather open and I know that you all realize that. We need to try and understand it as best we can, and if we know that what is being described in it are things that are good and wonderful, and if understood properly, I think we will learn a big lesson about the whole thing. If we learn nothing more than that, it will be worth it that you learn this lesson today.

I feel that God made sex to be good and beautiful if done in a legitimate way. It is profitable. It is right. It is wonderful. It is man who perverts sex. It is not God that does that. God created it for a good purpose, and God wants man to use it properly, just like any other thing. I am just amazed at how open and aboveboard God is about these things. Does the Song of Solomon belong in the Bible because it has this type of language? The answer is yes, it does belong there.

Solomon the Man

Who wrote the Song of Songs? A man of great experience wrote it. The Bible says it was King Solomon himself. This is the Song of Solomon. So let us get into this Song and try to learn something about what it is trying to teach.

If we go to First Kings chapter 4 beginning in verse 29 we get a little bit of teaching about King Solomon himself, and this information includes this Song.

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; …”

Then it mentions four men of ancient times, philosophers, but Solomon was wiser than them all. His fame was in all nations round about. Notice the next verse:

“And he spoke three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.”

Solomon’s Songs

Solomon wrote 1,005 separate songs with music and lyrics. We only have one of those songs of Solomon as far as we know in the Bible. In the King James Version it is 8 chapters long. It is a song. It is a drama. It was put to music like an opera today, with actors onstage performing. It was performed at a particular time of the year according to a set theme.

Solomon’s songs were quite extensive with 1,005 of them and this was Solomon’s Song of Songs. The expression “Song of Songs” simply means the Song that was par excellence, the best, the finest of Solomon’s songs, and you have it in your Bible. It was the finest song that man ever wrote. 9 And, he was the wisest man who ever wrote. All the kings of the earth came up to Jerusalem to hear of his wisdom, of his knowledge, of his understanding.

“And
        he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even
        unto the hyssop that springs out of the wall:
        he spoke also of beasts, and

      [he spoke] of fowl, and
      [he spoke] of creeping things, and
      [he spoke] of fishes.
And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.”

We have now one of the wisdom books of Solomon that he wrote, the only Song that we have, and it is his best. That is the one that the canonizers of Scripture chose to put into the Bible. True, it does not have God’s name in it. True, it has no theology in it as far as we can see on the surface. True, it has explicit sexual language in a beautiful form, and you do not have to be over thirty years old to read it. It is some­thing that is very nice and beautiful; it is not lustful. It is intended to give teaching and understanding to people. All the kings of the earth came up to hear King Solomon, and we should be able to do the same.

Let me give you something to start with on this Song of Solomon, and perhaps we can even put it into a spiritual relationship to see how the ancient Jews looked upon this Psalm. It was to be sung and stated and rehearsed before the general public of the Israelites at a particular time of the year.

In the time when Christ and the apostles were here on earth, and the great Temple was there in Jerusalem, the priests were there in their festive garments. They would sing or rehearse certain things at particular times of the year. Do you know what time of the year the Song of Solomon was to be sung and actually performed in public so that the nation could see what was going on as shown by the words and the actions within this drama? 11

The Song of Songs and Passover

Believe it or not, it was to accompany the Passover. Not Tabernacles, not Pentecost, not any of those festive occasions, but the first of the holy seasons of Israel. They were to sing the Song of Solomon and perform it before the general public at the time of the feast of Passover. 12 What does the Passover commemorate? It is a springtime feast, is it not? If you read the Bible carefully you will find it was the first festival of ancient Israel in the year. It is the first one that Moses, under inspiration of God was told to have the Israelites perform. 13

Where was the first Passover held? It was held in ancient Egypt. They had one Passover and then they left Egypt out of slavery and as a body, as a nation, went to the Red Sea, passed through the Red Sea.

The New Testament says that passing through the Red Sea was a symbol of baptism (1 Corinthians 10:2). 14 It means that this first Passover in Egypt was in a sense conducted by God for His people Israel before they were baptized, before they were converted. Then after they got through the Red Sea at the last day of Unleavened Bread (when you put together the whole chronology), they found themselves in the desert and they went on progressively south. They finally came to a place called Mount Sinai. It took them about six weeks to get there.

Once they got to Mount Sinai then God gave the Ten Commandments and the Old Covenant between God and Israel was finally ratified. Do you know that is when Israel was finally married to God in Old Testament terminology? The nation of Israel was looked upon as a woman. It is always called a woman in the Old Testament. She was considered as God’s wife. God courted her in Egypt but did not marry her there. He just courted her there, but brought her out under His protection, and the blood was over the doorposts before she was married to Him. Then they come through the Red Sea, which is like baptism, and I guess because she is now baptized she is now pure and able to be married. Then down to Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Laws were given, and there was where the Old Covenant was made which was a marriage covenant that God made between Himself and ancient Israel.

From that time forward Israel was married to God. Passover then is when God began to court Israel, if you put it in the vernacular. Does God have a courtship to Israel? Of course He does. You ought to read the Book of Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel makes it quite clear that God courted Israel and brought her out of Egypt and then brought her to Mount Sinai and married her there in the purity of the Sinai desert, without all of the world around. These scenes are in the Old Testament. 15

It is interesting that this Song of Songs is a book, a drama, of courtship. That is what it is. The ancient sages of Israel when they canonized the Bible decided that this Song of Solomon, a book of courtship, should accompany the Passover festivities for ancient Israel from that time forward after the canonization of the Old Testament which was about 400 years before the birth of Christ.

Certainly by the time of our Lord and the apostles, in the Temple ceremonies this book was being read to accompany no less than the Passover. Most interesting. The Passover itself is the time of God’s protection of His new love that He has found. Her name is Israel. He courts her; He woos her, brings her out of slavery, takes her through baptism, 16 gets her to Mount Sinai and there marries her. But it takes some time to woo her and to court her, to get her to be married. 17

You might find that theme going through the Song of Solomon here. There have been all types of controversy here on exactly what the various scenes represented, just exactly when one scene changes to another. I will rehearse a little of it in just a moment, but it is most important for us to understand that this Song has a Passover theme to it. Passover occurs in the springtime.

About the Song of Solomon

I want you to notice some things about the Song of Solomon itself. Do you know that the whole theme of this Song is a springtime setting? Look at chapter 2, verse 11–13:

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle [Hebrew, turtledove] is heard in our land; The fig tree puts forth her green figs, …”

Have you heard of that in the New Testament? Even our Lord refers to when you see the fig tree puts forth leaves then you know that spring is occurring and summer is nigh. 18 Look here:

“The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away [with me].”

He says “come away” with me, he says, in this springtime setting. It does not stop there:

“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

These “tender grapes” are grapes that come on in the early spring.

“My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feeds among the lilies.”

Lilies are a springtime flower. At Passover (or at Easter time) in the springtime, remember what flower is normally used the most to depict the new springtime coming? It is the lily. You find them here also in the Song of Songs. It does not stop there. Go to chapter 6:

“My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feeds among the lilies.”

It goes on and on with a springtime scene to it generally, until the very end.

The Plot: the Beginning

It goes to an autumn scene at the very end when this woman, the heroine, talks about her little sister and she has not grown up and she has not reached puberty yet. In fact, it says that she has not developed her breasts yet (that is what it says here in verse 8:8). Her sister is a young girl and she is looking to the future when she might have someone to be able to court and to love here. There it seems to go to an autumn theme, meaning that Israel was to have a springtime love and courtship if you put this Song of Songs accompanying the Passover. But a little sister who is not yet developed yet, she will get her chance for courtship in the autumn time. 19

I will rehearse this Song of Songs very quickly here. The Song begins with a responsive song between a chorus of daughters of Jerusalem and this woman, this young maiden, who comes from an area called Shulem in northern Palestine. In fact this young woman, the central person in the narrative, is courted by Solomon. She comes from Galilee, very near Mount Carmel not very far from Mount Gilboa in a place called Shula. She is therefore called a Shulamite.

This young woman was noted for her beauty and she was chosen by Solomon to be his bride. She was brought to the royal palace in Jerusalem. With plain and lovely discourse corresponding to this young girl (who is a young unspoiled child of nature, that is the entire theme, she is unspoiled in every way), she avows both her love for Solomon, but at the same time she loves her native fields. She loves Galilee. She loves her home, but she is willing to go to Jerusalem, and she is willing to marry King Solomon.

Finally when she gets to Jerusalem, she sees the haughtiness of the court, she sees all of the concubines and the wives of King Solomon and the others around, and she begins to long for her country home again. She loves Solomon. Throughout this discourse she admits she loves him.

Solomon returns to Jerusalem and says, oh how beautiful she is. Each of them describes the other in the most interesting of terms. Solomon sees her as a beautiful woman from head to toe, and he describes her very explicitly. In fact this Shulamite woman is a very tanned woman. It says that she is “black.” It does not mean black by race in this case because it says she is made tan by the sun (Song of Solomon 1:6) because she is a shepherdess. She lives out in the fields, but she is a very beautiful woman.

She comes along and describes him. Solomon, however, is ruddy (Song of Solomon 5:10). He is handsome, but he is a king and he stays inside most of the time. Both of them are described and they are very beautiful indeed, and the relationship is made out to be very good.

The Plot: Conflict and Conclusion

What happens is that when she sees what is going on in Jerusalem and all of the other women that Solomon has, and though Solomon says he loves her with all his heart — and he does — but at the same time she gets lonesome and wants to go home. She wants to go back to Galilee.

It goes on to say that Solomon agrees, because he loves her and she loves him, but she does not like the courtly life at Jerusalem. He allows her to go back home to Galilee.

When she gets back home she rejoins her family. She has some brothers and one sister that we know of. It is the little sister described in the 8th chapter who has not reached puberty yet. She is trying to tell her sister that some time in the future she will find someone to love also. That generally is where it ends.

The Plot: Analysis

It is a story of courtship between this maiden of northern Palestine, of Galilee, with this unspoiled maiden coming finally to Jerusalem and then staying at Jerusalem, and recalling the courtship that Solomon has for her. She gets lonesome for her native country of the north, and finally Solomon allows her to go back. As far as we know Solomon does not meet her any more, yet she is and was one of his wives, and one that he loved very much. But she did not like all of the concubines around, all of the other wives that he had, and she just wanted to be his and his only.

Solomon apparently could not go along with that. He wanted his other women. But he did say in Ecclesiastes 7:28 that he had not found one out of a thousand of his wives that were worth anything, with the exception probably of this one woman here who had enough sense to go on back home, and to say to her little sister, learn from my experience, and a little later on you will have courtship when you grow up.

This drama here is in five different sections:

  1. The first section is from chapter 1:2 to 2:7. This is the first time the lovers were together at the royal palace in Jerusalem.
     
  2. The second section is from 2:8 to 3:5. The first meeting of the lovers. It is the Shulamite girl that mentions all of this, and she goes back to her home right at that time. She comes to Jerusalem but she returns home.
     
  3. The third section is from 3:6 to 5:1. It gives the solemn description of bringing the bride from Galilee to Jerusalem and her marriage at Jerusalem with Solomon. Obviously her family is there from Galilee.
     
  4. The fourth section is from 5:2 to 8:4. This is where the Shulamite, the young lady, longs for her home. She wants to go home after getting married. She sees around her all his other wives, and concubines, and other virgins, and as a result of that (you find that in verse 6:8 where she mentions the entourage of Solomon), there is a lot of competition there. She loves Solomon so much that she wants him for her own. Solomon loves her but Solomon does not give up his other wives.
     
  5. The fifth section is from 8:5 to 8:14. It tells of the return home of the girl and the triumph of the chaste love of a wife over the unchaste feelings of her royal husband. She would rather stay at home than be in Jerusalem with all the other women. She tells her young sister that sometime in the future she will have a courtship as well.

These five sections are most interesting because most of the books of the Bible dealing with law or wisdom literature are in five sections. Not all, but most are so. Here are some examples:

This drama of the Song of Songs is also in five sections. It is a love song about this virgin who goes to Jerusalem to marry King Solomon but she does not like King Solomon having all the other women, so she returns to her home in Galilee, waiting for a time in the future when maybe he might want her.

Spiritual Message

What kind of understanding does this give to us in a spiritual sense? I am not absolutely certain, but I do know this much: when Jesus Christ comes back from heaven He is coming to marry the bride. There are differences of opinion of who that bride really is. We will not go into that subject at this time. 20 Christ Himself gives the illustration in Matthew 25:1–13 of the ten virgins who are waiting to marry the bride­groom when he comes back. This is in the context of the Second Coming of our Lord back to this earth.

He gives a parable of ten virgins. Remember how five of them were wise and five of them were foolish? What made the foolish ones to be foolish? They did not trim their lamps. They did not have enough oil to put in their lamps because the bridegroom came at a very unusual hour, just around midnight. Who would ever think of a great wedding feast to take place at midnight? They thought that he was coming at a particular time and they did not need to get any other oil. What happened? As the lights of the lamps were beginning to go out with the five foolish virgins, they asked, where can we go and buy oil? Go out and buy oil in the middle of the night? That is almost impossible.

When they went out to buy oil the bridegroom comes. The five wise virgins went into the bridegroom. By the way, I want to tell you something about this. We have literature on the teaching of the ten virgins. You will be surprised if you have not read it.

Is it not interesting that Christ Himself is even using ten virgins, and he only marries five of them? Of course it is an allegory, but you know the Song of Solomon may not be an allegory. It may be just a general teaching, a love scene, a drama, but it is connected with the Passover. The Passover is the beginning of the Old Testament ekklesia. The Passover where Christ died for us in the New Testament period is the beginning, you might say, of redemption, of salvation. Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

[ Editor’s Note: Dr. Martin changed his view of Matthew 25:1–13, as he wrote in his article 1998 “What Is God's Viewpoint Regarding Sex?” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d981025.htm. At that time Dr. Martin noted that the Matthew 25 passage was spoken to His disciples and not to the public. Therefore it was not an allegory but direct plain teaching. Quote:

“Indeed, when Jesus Christ comes back to this earth and establishes His Laws on this earth to govern mankind, one of the first things He will do is to restore the Law of Polygamy in which a man can have more than one wife at a time. Christ had better establish the law as soon as He gets back because one of the first things Christ intends to do is to marry five virgins who were wise enough to have their lamps full of oil at the time He returns (and He may have another five to marry if the other five virgins are smart enough to get enough oil to last them to the wedding feast so that they too can enter into a polygamist marriage with Christ Jesus).

See Matthew 25:1–13. This is NOT allegory! After all, Christ only gave allegory and parables when He taught the masses (Matthew 13:13–16; 34–35). In this section of Matthew 25 about the ‘Ten Virgins,’ Christ was speaking to His disciples.”

Dr. Martin’s point is well made; Jesus was speaking a prophecy plainly to His disciples. Read all the relevant verses in Matthew for yourself.  DWS ]

The Song of Songs helps us see that a courtship is going on. And this is where the difference comes: the Shulamite woman was willing to marry King Solomon. King Solomon was not willing to give up all his women, so she goes back to Galilee. But someone comes from Galilee in the future, and though He might use an allegory of ten virgins, He is coming to marry one chaste ekklesia. This time, whoever the woman is, the ekklesia, Israel, the bride, whoever marries, it will not be like the Song of Solomon because this time the woman will want to stay with the bridegroom who is none other than Christ Himself.

Conclusion

We have a beautiful, wonderful teaching from the Song of Solomon. Put it with the theme of the Passover, and you get a teaching that is helpful to all of us. It is time that we begin not to be so straight-laced about some of these matters of romance and love and physical relationships, because if we can believe the spiritual aspect behind these things, which are not lustful at all but good and decent and uplifting, and if the relationship is legitimate, we have a beautiful thing that we can all learn from. I recommend the Song of Solomon for all of you to read. It is a part of the divine Word of Almighty God.

Ernest L. Martin, 1981
Edited by David Sielaff, August 2007

Addendum on Passion

Passion is important in life. I am not referring now to physical sensual passion. I mean passion in the things you do in life. Passion is the emotion that gives us the fervor, the drive, the energy, the excitement, the enthusiasm to do important things in life. All great deeds, all great acts (good and bad) are done and accomplished through passion. This does not just mean military or political acts, but also great works of art, music, architecture, science, and scholarship are done easier and better with passion. Without passion, life can be dull. We all know people who have a passion and a joy for life; they seem to have something that makes their life worth living. Most people have no passion in life. “The mass of men,” Henry Thoreau said, “lead lives of quiet desperation.” I hope you have a passion — or several passions — in your life. You are, after all, called to a “holy calling … according to his [God’s] own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).

The greatest deed, the greatest sacrifice ever was the passion, the love, that caused God the Father to give His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for you (John 3:16). It shows how much God the Father loves the world — and how much He loves you. It is His will for you to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4–6). This is not His whim or wish. He will accomplish His will; you will be saved because you are His passion.

DWS

 

1 The full title in Hebrew is: “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” (Song of Songs 1:1).  DWS

2 Note the placement of the Song of Solomon in the diagram of the complete Bible canon (GIF format: http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res000a.gif, and PDF format: http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res000a.pdf). The diagram is described in Dr. Martin’s short supplemental article: “The Geographical Design of the Holy Scriptures” at http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res999.htmDWS

3 See Dr. Martin’s book Restoring the Original Bible (Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 1994, 2004), available complete online at http://www.askelm.com/restoring/index.asp. This book is also available in printed form for purchase.  DWS

4 The improper display of sexuality from paganized Christianity can be understood by reading Dr. Martin’s article “Female Sex Signs in the Churches” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d981127.htm. Sexuality is improperly displayed in Christian churches around the world today in the same way it was displayed in pagan temples in the ancient past, and in pagan temples today around the world. In fact, Dr. Martin points out that displays of sexual symbols in Christian churches often exceed that of paganism, even in Protestant churches.  DWS

5 Illicit and unfortunate things are even more easily available today (in seconds) via television, videos, and the internet than they were when Dr. Martin gave this lecture in 1981.  DWS

6 Those who would preach on the Song of Solomon would likely give an allegorical or figurative commentary, and not a normal naturalistic exegesis of the text.  DWS

7 “And he [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:3).  DWS

8 I shall say this though; I was formerly in an organization in which the man in charge of it would not even allow college students of dating age to hold hands on some occasions, and certainly not to kiss anyone until they were in the last semester of their senior year. To me that seemed to go a little too far. I thought it might be a good idea if that man would have read the Song of Solomon, because how are you going to court someone and understand about them, and all of that, without getting a little close once and a while?  ELM

9 For a list of some superlatives in the Bible like “Song of Songs,” see footnote #12 in chapter 16, “Resurrections from the Dead” at http://www.askelm.com/essentials/ess022a.htm from Dr. Martin’s book Essentials of New Testament Doctrine.  DWS

10 It seems that Solomon held what today we would call educational “public seminars” which anyone could attend, and which became quite renowned for their insight and value, attracting foreign dignitaries, even kings and queens.  DWS

11 The priests and Levites were not only commissioned to perform the rituals and the sacrifices, but they were also expected to arrange and perform music. As Dr. Martin points out, they performed the Song of Solomon. The priests and Levites were also to teach the meaning and purpose of the Jewish feasts, explain the rituals while performing them from Scripture, and explain the relevance of everything they were commissioned to do in the Tabernacle or Temple. See Deuteronomy 33:10; 2 Chronicles 20:22, 35:1–4; Nehemiah 8:7; and Malachi 2:7. During the reign of good King Jehoshaphat of Judah:

“And they [the Levites] taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of YHWH with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.”

12 The first five Wisdom books are called the Megillot and each of them is read on and relates to one of the Jewish feasts. See Dr. Martin’s chapter 10 “The Writings Division” at http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res011.htm from his book Restoring the Original Bible (Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 1994/2004).  DWS

13 Sephardi Jews read this scroll of the Song of Songs at the end of the Haggadah reading, which is the narrative of the Passover saga. Ashkenazi Jews read it in their synagogues on the Sabbath after the beginning of Passover.  DWS

14 The entire passage gives more information:

“Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”

15 The entire account of YHWH’s courtship and adultery of His bride Israel is in Ezekiel 16:1–63.  DWS

16 Baptism is a ritual cleansing, just as bathing is part of a normal wedding preparation in most cultures.  DWS

17 The Covenant that Israel made with YHWH has many points of similarity with marriage covenants, as well as similarities with the format of treaties between nations, particularly that of a sovereign national power and a vassal national power.  DWS

18 See Matthew 24:32 and Mark 13:28.  ELM

19 The Holy Day system of ancient Israel shows a very interesting plan that God has given for the development of the redemption of all people to Himself through Christ.  ELM  See Dr Martin’s 1995 article “The Symbolism of Biblical Holydays” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d950501.htm that shows the significance of these Israelite feasts.  DWS

20 Some say the bride is Israel, some say it is the ekklesia (New Covenant, the Mystery, or both combined).  DWS

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