The Song of Solomon, can be understood at a number of levels.
The Honeymoon Perspective
Firstly, we have a series of conversations in poetic form between a woman and the king, as he pursues her to be his wife, and she becomes mesmerized by the fact that the king is interested in her. Of course, she too is very much attracted to him. It is significant that much of the descriptive language is very much focused on the physical and the externals. The use of metaphor is extensive and that is why it is indeed a hot piece of literature.
The Real World Perspective
Secondly, the text reminds us that Solomon has other queens, concubines and maidens and so we realize that this new woman is his latest and clearly the next best thing. Consequently, you can detect a tension and some anxiety from the woman’s perspective as she grapples with the contradiction between his adoration of her and the realities of being part of his harem. She has a dream where she cannot find him but then she does. After the wedding, she is too slow to come to the door when he knocks and so she has to go looking for him. He is inspecting his flocks which I suggest is his other woman. The emphasis on beauty also reveals the pressure that someone like her would be under to keep her man interested and focused on her. In the last few chapters there are words about a little girl without breasts and her being a caretaker of her vineyard. IN the first chapter her brothers made her be a caretaker of their vineyard. Was it a real vineyard or a metaphor for taking care of children. And the mention of financial value also points to the fact that daughters were a valuable asset for someone like Solomon who was big on marriage alliances. A daughter would also give her some security, even though the king might lose interest in her due to age or the ‘next best thing’.
The Eternal Perspective
There is a strong tradition of interpreting this book as an allegory that speaks of Christ and the Church. But, this book is different because there is a question mark in the brides mind concerning her husbands faithfulness. Everywhere else in scripture, it is God who is the faithful husband, and his bride (Israel/Church) that has a habit of being unfaithful.
This book tries to use the deep passion, desire and intimacy of the relationship between Solomon and his new bride, to give us a glimpse, even a taste of what it means to have truly intimate communion with God. It is an attempt to grasp what cannot be understood through what we can. What Solomon and his wife had for a time gives us a taste of the eternal bliss that intimacy with God will bring, as well as reminding us - through the highs and lows – that paradise is not yet. Solomon also wrote Ecclesiastes, where he tell us about the many futility's and disappointments of life. And yet, we must not miss or forget the tastes of paradise that continue to be there.
When you look at the tensions I mentioned, it reminds us that while kings may be fickle, God can be relied on to be the same yesterday, today and forever. The King may lose interest and go looking for another bride, but our God will not trade us in for anything. Even a king does not have the resources or the capabilities to meet all the needs of one wife, let alone 700 - even if he had the desire to do so. But, the Lord is not so limited and He has no favorites. We never need to compete for his affection. He has more than enough resources and is more than capable of caring for us all. Thus, the church is referred to as the Bride in singular. As the bride of Christ, we can look forward to knowing God even as we are known by Him. The intimacy that can be so illusive in this life will be an ever deepening and infinitely satisfying reality that is also called eternal life.
And Christian marriage has the potential to give us lots of tastes that point to eternity. This is far deeper than the physical. Just as Christ can give us the security we need because we can rely on His faithfulness, so we can give the same to our spouses by our own faithfulness. To be able to feel secure in your relationship even as your body breaks down and your passion cool, because of the ‘till death us do part promise’ is a gift of enormous value today.