Song of Songs 1.1-4
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine,
your anointing oils are fragrant,
your name is perfume poured out;
therefore the maidens love you.
Draw me after you, let us make haste.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
We will exult and rejoice in you;
we will extol your love more than wine;
rightly do they love you.
‘The Song of Songs’ means the greatest song. Like the Song of Deborah it is a compilation of verses spoken by many characters. The Singer we hear first, and most often, is female. Many preachers assume that Solomon is the author of this Song collection, but in this series we will assume that he is not. There is no reason to assume that the author is male. Whoever wrote this wanted to explore the voice, body, and life experience of a female character at length.
These opening verses present a group of women as one prepares to meet a king in his bedchambers. Solomon is a king, and his name is in the poem’s title, so we assume this to be a woman in his household of over a thousand women: a statistical achievement that is seen as a spiritual risk by the writer of 1 Kings 11.3.
Perhaps spiritual risk is a theme here. The women’s praise song, “we will exult and rejoice in you, we will extol your love more than wine” does not praise God. Should they address such praise to a human leader? When the Israelites asked God to let them become a monarchy, they were warned that any such leader would strip the people of their best, and take what does not belong to him (1 Samuel 8). Among the things a king would steal are the tithes and praise that belong to God.
Song of Songs is one of those striking books of the Bible in which God is rarely brought directly into the narrative. The form and desirability of human bodies becomes the centre of its attention. That it was still accepted into the holiest collections of books tells us that people have productively read it with God for millennia. As we begin this week, consider what is trying to attract your attention at present? Can you bring God into view within it, and your interest into conversation with God?
As you prepare to pray, reflect on this verse*:
Think of my prayer as sweet-smelling incense, O God,
and think of my lifted hands as an evening sacrifice.
God, I prepare myself for you in prayer,
readying myself again to listen for you,
look for you, seek for you, even smell for you
throughout this day. May I follow your trail
and go where you lead. Amen.
*Psalm 141.2, Contemporary English Version.