Song of Songs is a poetic love story. Since God has ordained the physical expression of love between a husband and wife, one’s sexual activity expresses their spiritual commitments. In the first half of the Song of Songs, the author describes the royal couple’s passionate union. In chs. 5-8, the author notes that sexual relations lead to conflict and can heal conflict in marriage.
The king arrived in the bedchamber, but his bride was already asleep. “I have taken off my clothing,” she said, “How can I put it back on? I have washed my feet. How can I get them dirty?” (Song 5:3). Rebuffed, the king left and his bride was crushed (Song 5:6). The queen charged her maidens, “If you find my love, tell him that I am lovesick” (Song 5:8). The maidens probed, “What makes the one you love better than another, most beautiful of women? What makes him better than another, that you would give us this charge?” (Song 5:9). The maidens’ questions prompted the queen to reflect on the king’s form. His head, hair, eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, body, legs, and mouth, she told her maidens, were her delight (Song 5:10-16). In the poem, the queen’s description of her husband compelled the maidens to help the queen find her husband and bring him home (Song 6:1).
How would the king reply to the earlier ingratitude of his wife? He complimented her: “You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling, lovely as Jerusalem, awe-inspiring as an army with banners…my dove, my virtuous one is unique…Women see her and declare her fortunate; queens and concubines also, and they sing her praises” (Song 6:9). The young maidens replied with cants of celebration for the beauty of the Shulammite (Song 6:10-13), and Solomon again spoke of his desires to enjoy her body (Song 7:1-9). This time she would not deny her husband’s desire: “Come, my love, let’s go to the field,” she said, “let’s spend the night among the henna blossoms. Let’s go early to the vineyards; let’s see if the vine has budded, if the blossom has opened, if the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love” (Song 7:11-12). Once again, the Shulammite expressed the warning, “Do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (Song 8:4).
The portrait of enduring love in Song of Songs 5-8 establishes a framework for understanding the endurance of marriage in the storyline of Scripture. Jesus confronted the Pharisees’ casual attitude toward marriage. They cited Moses’ statement that if a man wished to divorce his wife, he had to give her a certificate of divorce (Deut 24:1) Jesus retorted that Moses allowed divorce because of Israel’s sinful hearts (Matt 19:3-12//Mark 10:2-12). In the beginning, Jesus said, God created humanity male and female such that a man would leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (Gen 1:27; 2:24). According to Jesus, casual divorce displays a mindset that is greedy and ignorant of His coming into the world (Luke 16:14-18).