I wrote in the post immediately below my thoughts about Islam and polygamy. I won’t go over them here.
But I do want to touch on Solomon for a minute.
I speak at marriage conferences throughout North America (if your church is interested in booking one, let me know!), and one thing that we often do is read humorously from the Song of Solomon to show that sex–and even rather steamy sex–is definitely a part of Scripture. So we should be able to talk about it!
But Song of Solomon has still always bothered me as a woman. Here is the bride, talking to her bridegroom, but she is obviously part of a harem, and she is worried that he’s going to go back to the other women. How can that be true love? How can this really represent the kind of intimacy that we long for? In fact, to tell the honest truth, I’ve always found it rather creepy. We know that Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, so this wasn’t exactly the love story that theologians often try to make it out to be (any more than Esther is a love story; that’s really particularly disgusting. But that’s for another day).
Anyway, this morning I was reading Song of Solomon in my devotions and a thought occurred to me that I believe came from God. I touched on it in the post below, but thought I’d elaborate.
We believe Scripture is God-breathed, so God is responsible for this book of the Bible. And what if He wrote it to be a wake up call to Solomon? After all, it was his wives that led to his downfall later in life. He had too many and he followed after them. What if God wanted to tell him that true love wasn’t found in a harem. It was found in one person. And that’s why this book is focused on a relationship between one man and one woman. It’s not just focused on sex; it’s focused on the totality of the relationship, and hence the reference to “my sister, my love.”
Like C.S. Lewis in the Four Loves, I think this refers to two kinds of love: both affection and eros, or even friendship and eros. Such a thing rarely occurred to ancient Middle Eastern men. Friendship was with men; women were only good for eros. Yet in Song of Solomon they refer to the bride as a sister, meaning that the relationship goes beyond eros. And that is what Solomon needed to see.
I don’t think he ever did. But the book remained in Scripture as a reminder to us of two things: Eros is beautiful and God created it, but it is meant to be expressed beautifully only between one man and one woman. And when it is, the relationship will grow much deeper.
So that’s what I take away from it. God never sanctioned polygamy, and every example in the Bible of it ended in disaster. He spoke deliberately against it in the New Testament. Yet He created eros. So we are to carry that on; let’s live passionately with our husbands, and maintain those boundaries around our marriages. That’s what brings true fulfillment. And God understands that totally.
My Bible study for Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight concentrates a lot on Song of Solomon. If you’ve ever wanted to study it in depth, you can read more here.