The Song of Songs may be the least preached book of the Bible. Solomon’s sensual description of love between a shepherd and a shepherdess has puzzled the church for generations. Is Solomon talking about romance, sex, or spirituality? Some would say all three.
Rulers of his day often married multiple wives for political advantage, and the possession of many wives was a sign of great wealth. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. The Bible notes that these liaisons eventually turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:4).
Should we turn to Solomon as an expert on love and marriage? His experience may give him something to say to us about the nature of romance. Certainly the Holy Spirit’s oversight in the process of inspiration can give us confidence in the words written in the Song of Songs. But when it comes to biblical marriage, Solomon’s personal example falls short as a guide.
Solomon is not the only one to fall short. Today our own culture is deeply confused in this area. What constitutes true marriage? Does marriage really have to be between a man and a woman? Or is love between any two adult partners all that is needed? Does marriage have to last a lifetime? The Bible answers these questions with unambiguous simplicity in Genesis 1:27–28, when it explains that God created the first couple to be male and female. God’s Word defines the essence of marriage in similar terms when it says that “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Marriage is the union of two people of the opposite sex. Jesus affirmed this teaching of Genesis.
Jesus also noted that the Genesis account indicates God’s design for marriage to be a covenant relationship that lasts between two people until death. Jesus warned, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matt. 19:6). Marriage cannot be redefined by culture without distorting God’s original intent. It is far more than a civil contract or a mere social convenience. As the old wedding service declares, “marriage is a holy estate, ordained of God and to be held in honor by all.”
Some violate this biblical pattern out of ignorance. Others do so by willful choice. Either way, God’s Word holds out the hope of forgiveness and restoration. The Corinthian believers of the apostle Paul’s day lived in an immoral and sexually confused city that was much like our own culture. This congregation included those who had formerly practiced sexual immorality, adultery, and homosexuality. Through Jesus Christ they were able to find forgiveness and be made holy (1 Cor. 6:9–11). You can too.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
To learn more about the Bible’s perspective on modern sexuality, read Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance by R. Albert Mohler Jr. (Multnomah).