Genre Wisdom Literature and Poetry. Wisdom literature is a specific genre within Scripture. My definition is that
“Wisdom Literature enables us to discover God’s wisdom for life by reflecting through poetry on God’s Law (Torah) and the redemptive history of God’s people.”
For Christians we must first of all see this applied to and through Christ who is God’s wisdom.
It’s Hebraic poetry and so we will need to watch out for the specific poetic devices that we also find in the Psalms. This also means that we need to be alert to the way that the poetry reflects the culture of its place and time. We cannot simply employ the same language for ourselves. For example I would advise men from telling their wife or girlfriend that she looks like a horse (1:9).
This is also important when it comes to interpretation. Some people describe the Song as explicit and erotic. I believe there is definite sensuality there. However, the assumption it is explicit/pornographic relies on us overlaying Western/English interpretations of metaphors and imagery where that may not have been the original intent.
For example, the woman talks about caring for her brothers vineyards whilst her own went neglected. Contemporary interpretations may attempt to link the vineyard to genitalia but we do better to see this in Scriptural context and realise that this is about her own home life and care for her needs and provision.
The Song is sometimes referred to as the Song of Solomon and is at a minimum associated with him, possibly the tale of his relationship to one of his loves/wives. Traditionally it was assumed that he was himself the author although it was possibly written by someone else about him. I work on the assumption that he was the author, although it’s place in God’s Word and reliability as infallible Scripture does not depend on this.
The Song tells the story of a man/The King and his beloved. It’s a love story as they seek each other out. She seems to be plucked from obscurity and rejection (1:5-7) to find herself in the place of honour at the King’s palace (2:4).
Two approaches to interpretation have been suggested.
1.. The literal/practical: The Song is first and foremost about human love and relationships. We can learn lessons about courtship and marriage.
2. The Song is a metaphor for God’s relationship to his people
If we take the first view, we still need to approach this very carefully as just a straight reading may lead to some questionable application. We would need to frame it within a lot of other Scriptural teaching about marriage. Because of this, I’m cautious about going directly down this root.
Rather. I think Ephesians 5:21-32 gives us permission to treat the Song as being first and foremost about the mystery of Christ and his Church. We may of course draw additional lessons from this about human relationships too.
What we primarily learn from the Song from both perspectives is the importance of intimate, joy filled, faithful love. This is the love we experience through Christ in the Gospel and the love we are called to give back as whole hearted love.