Marriage and the Song of Solomon

By Don Ruhl


The nature of the Song of Solomon may make some people think that there is no practical value in the Song, because it does not show marriage in typical everyday life. We do not see Solomon and the Shulamite going through household chores, paying the bills, and dealing with children.

What we see in the Song are two people who seem oblivious to the world and are totally devoted to each other without distractions. We also see two people who cannot see any faults in the other, but who seem to describe each other as though he or she is perfect. However, we know that they are not perfect. Even Solomon himself wrote in Proverbs 20:9: “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin’?”

Does this mean that the Song of Solomon is unrealistic and impractical for helping marriages today? No, for there is something that we can learn from their approach toward one another.

The Poetic Way That They Speak To Each Other

Like a lily among thorns,
So is my love among the daughters.
Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons.
(2:2, 3).

The poetic way that they speak to each other is contrasted with the harsh way that some husbands and wives speak to each other. Some of the most cutting words that people can speak are not to the criminals roaming society, but to their spouse. It has always been a fascination to me the way a man and a woman can change, so that they go from deep love for each other to severe bitterness.

Second Timothy 2:24 says that Christians must be gentle, which includes marriage: “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.” When speaking to each other—according to the Scriptures—should the spouses be harsh or gentle like Solomon and the Shulamite?

The poetic way that they speak to each other is contrasted with the condescending way that some husbands and wives speak to each other. Listen to couples speak to each other and about each other and it is often ridiculing, counting the other as less than intelligent. Did Solomon and the Shulamite speak to each other this way? Is it scriptural to sound condescending?

The Scriptures tell us how to talk to each other. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious” (Ecc. 10:12). “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable” (Prov. 10:32).

The poetic way that they speak to each other is contrasted with the impatient way that some husbands and wives speak to each other. You will not see any impatience in the language of Solomon and the Shulamite. The only time they are impatient is when they are separated in chapters 3 and 5.

We become impatient with a spouse when we do not want to be bothered. We do not want to be bothered by a spouse when love for the other, though not for self, has begun to die.

There is no impatient speaking in the Song of Solomon, but only poetic words of love, because their love was alive, godly and growing.

The poetic way that they speak to each other is contrasted with the ho-hum way that some husbands and wives speak to each other. Notice the way some husbands and wives are not at all excited when they hear the voice of the other, but notice the joy when greeting a friend. Some husbands and wives are no longer friends, but it is as if they work for the other, and they really do not care for their boss.

Listen to the Shulamite in 2:8, 9

The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Behold, he stands behind our wall;
He is looking through the windows,
Gazing through the lattice.

Solomon was the same way toward her in 4:9

You have ravished my heart,
My sister, my spouse;
You have ravished my heart
With one look of your eyes,
With one link of your necklace.

There is nothing ho-hum in the Song of Solomon. Do you and your spouse speak indifferently to each other or as Solomon and the Shulamite, or somewhere in the middle? What should you do?

They Picture Each Other As Being Perfect

I sleep, but my heart is awake;
It is the voice of my beloved!
He knocks, saying,
“Open for me, my sister, my love,
My dove, my perfect one;
For my head is covered with dew,
My locks with the drops of the night”

Often two people who once could only see good in each other eventually learn to see nothing but bad in each other. How did they get to that point? Perhaps the answer is as varied as the number of couples to whom this has happened.

What does the Song of Solomon teach us about regaining that original zeal for each other? For one thing it is the word of God, and that truth alone should move us to read it; to accept it as the truth; and to imitate what is written.

If a husband and a wife will devote themselves to reading and meditating upon the Song, then they are bound to start being influenced by it. They may not understand all the literary devices that are used, but their language will begin to change.

They Are Incomplete Without Each Other

When Solomon and the Shulamite are separated they are pained. Song of Solomon 3:1–4 portrays vividly her pain when separated from Solomon:

By night on my bed I sought the one I love;
I sought him, but I did not find him.
“I will rise now,” I said,
“And go about the city;
“In the streets and in the squares
“I will seek the one I love.”
I sought him, but I did not find him.
The watchmen who go about the city found me,
To whom I said,
“Have you seen the one I love?”
Scarcely had I passed by them,
When I found the one I love.
I held him and would not let him go,
Until I had brought him to the house of my mother,
And into the chamber of her who conceived me.

He felt the same way in 5:2–5 when he came seeking for her, and left when she did not respond to him, though she quickly regretted it and sought him.

Remember Genesis 2:24, that God has joined a man and a woman together to be one, so that they are incomplete without each other: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We will appreciate this passage when we remember why God created woman in the first place, according to verse 18 of Genesis 2 the Bible says: “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” Thus in the following verses we learn that God did something to cause Adam to see his incompleteness and the gift of his wife:

Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

It is both a sad thing and a beautiful thing when a man or woman dies and the spouse soon follows because of deep loneliness, emptiness and incompleteness they feel. It is sad to see someone hurting so much that he or she dies, though nothing is wrong with him physically. It is beautiful to see someone so attached to his or her mate that he does not want to live or cannot live without the other.

In the Song of Solomon we see Solomon and the Shulamite as incomplete without each other because the Song is not showing us love that is in spite of the other—such as how God loves us—but love that is because of who the other is.

Love That Is Because Of Rather Than In Spite Of

This does not mean that we are to find someone who is everything that we want, or that once in marriage we should only see if our spouse is everything that we want. No, the force of the Song is that we are to become what our spouse wants. The force of the poetry of the Song is also that we do indeed see the good that resides in our spouse.

Could they have found faults in the other? James 3:2 says “For we all stumble in many things,” and this would certainly include Solomon and the Shulamite. However, they refuse to dwell on the faults and instead concentrate on the wonders. What would happen in troubled marriages, if couples started to concentrate on what is good in each other rather than being irritated by his or her faults?

The Unashamed Nature Of Biblical Married Love

Often husbands and wives say that if they would talk to each other as Solomon and the Shulamite did, then the one speaking would be considered weird.

Moreover, there are husbands and wives who are embarrassed or ashamed to show their love for each other in the presence of others. The love of the Song of Solomon has something that we all need to capture, and that is, that they are unashamed and unembarrassed.

Genesis 2:25 makes this interesting statement after God had created the woman and after He had performed the first wedding: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” They were not ashamed to be in the presence of the other, and not ashamed of the other. This kind of relationship comes about when it is remembered that God brought the two together, or as Jesus taught in Matthew 19:6: “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Do we realize that God has brought a husband and a wife together? Therefore they should be careful not to despise the gift of God. Proverbs 18:22 is good for all husbands and wives to remember, because it is true both ways: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 19:14 is equally powerful: “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” How would husbands and wives treat each other, if they realize that he or she is from God?

The Strength Of Love

The power of married biblical love is highlighted for us in 8:6, 7, comparing married love to the unconquerable power of death:

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.

Loving one’s spouse is not a choice, but it is a command of God. Can anyone disobey a command of God and be blessed in life (1 Jn. 4:20, 21)?

Love is knowledgeable

Solomon and the Shulamite were educated people, obvious by their use of poetry. They were also knowledgeable about each other, or they could not have known to what they should compare the other in poetic images.

First Peter 3:7 teaches a truth that is often forgotten by couples: “Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding [“according to knowledge” ASV] …” This knowledge will be gained when a husband and wife spend enough time with each other that they can be thoroughly familiar with each other as Solomon and the Shulamite were with each other. They talk about each other’s appearance in not only an intimate way, but in a detailed way. Listen to 4:2, 3

Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep
Which have come up from the washing,
Every one of which bears twins,
And none is barren among them.
Your lips are like a strand of scarlet,
And your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
Are like a piece of pomegranate.

In 5:12, 13 she also shows her knowledge of him,

His eyes are like doves
By the rivers of waters,
Washed with milk,
And fitly set.
His cheeks are like a bed of spices,
Like banks of scented herbs.
His lips are lilies,
Dripping liquid myrrh.

They obviously studied each other, becoming very familiar with each other, which must be our goal also, according to 1 Peter 3:7 and according to the example of the Song.

Let us not be ashamed to be like either Solomon or the Shulamite, for then our marriage will be as wonderful as God intended.

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