This is one of the shortest books in the Bible and one that needs only one post. The thing about this book is not so much what it says as what people say about it. In itself, it is a beautiful set of songs that sounded to me like they are meant to be sung in a play or something. There are parts for a “he” and “she” and “others”. Even my study Bible says “others” sounds like what we would call the “chorus” portion of a song.
As far as the content goes, there are only three things that I find questionable. The first is in chapter five and the “she” is out looking for her beloved. It’s not the search that bothers me but this part right here:
7The watchmen found me
as they went about in the city;
they beat me, they bruised me,
they took away my veil,
those watchmen of the walls.
8I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
if you find my beloved,
that you tell him
I am sick with love.
Now, know that this is a dream sequence, because she mentions in the first verse of her part that she was sleeping but that her “heart was awake”. In the dream, she’s out looking for her “beloved” and runs into these watchmen who abuse and sexually harass (or assault, depending on what was involved with the veil taking). That she is assailed in this manner is bad enough but the response from the “others” is quite repulsive:
Are they suggesting that men are so interchangeable that it shouldn’t matter who touched her since she was out to be touched anyway? But again, it’s a dream sequence, so this could just be her fear talking. It’s not unheard of for a woman to be afraid of rejection, assault, and no one believing her.
Aside from that, my other issues revolve around the use of “sister” and “brother” in a few places. I don’t think they are actually trying to get with siblings but it grated me a bit. The time when brother was used, it was only because she wanted it to be easier to sneak him into the house. It was sister that really got me, but I do get that it may have been more to denote familiarity more than familial ties.
The songs themselves are otherwise very pretty and I’d actually love to see some sort of production that used them. I’ve heard them described as racy, but I felt like they were more flirty than anything else. Some of the comparisons were funny to my modern ears, but I understood what they were getting at, generally. Mostly, I feel like this is an approval of sexual feelings and thoughts about those you are trying to marry or become engaged with. They didn’t sound particularly promiscuous, but they also weren’t shaming. The book paints the Israelites as more sex positive than I thought.
It doesn’t suggest that virginity isn’t important before marriage, but that longing is normal, which is a sentiment that I appreciate overall. It also doesn’t specifically shame premarital sex or deny it’s existence, so again, I read it as more sex positive than I was prepared for.
The problem with what people say about it is not only that I have heard it referred to as elicit, but that it also called an allegory for religion. I find that strange, having read it, but I’ve heard associations more far-fetched than that too. The allegory bit is actually on Wikipedia and says this about the book:
Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel. Christian tradition, in addition to appreciating the literal meaning of a romantic song between man and woman, has read the poem as an allegory of Christ and his “bride”, the Christian Church.
Of course, there’s a lot more on that Wikipedia page, if you want to check it out here.