A Seal Upon Your Heart (Song of Solomon)

  • Kamina Wüst
“Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm.
For love is strong as death ...” (Song of Solomon 8:6)

King Solomon infamously maintained a harem of women who turned his heart away from God, so why is the Bible’s only piece of love poetry named after him? Does the Song have anything to say to single people? And where can God be found in a book that barely alludes to his name?

The Song of Solomon presents two kinds of love—one delightful, one dangerous—and reveals the confronting reality of the nature of God’s love. These 6 studies, useful for both groups and individuals, will deepen your understanding of this mysterious part of Scripture and how it should guide you today.

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Table of contents:

  1. Lovers and others (Song 1:1-2:7)
  2. Two kinds of lover (Song 2:8-17 and 3:6-11)
  3. Seeking and (not) finding (Song 3:1-5 and 5:2-8)
  4. Together in the garden (Song 4:1-5:1 and 5:9-6:3)
  5. The gravity of love (Song 6:4-8:4)
  6. Set me as a seal upon your heart (Song 8:5-14)
  7. Appendix 1: Solomon and the Song of Solomon
  8. Appendix 2: The daughters of Jerusalem
  9. Appendix 3: Marriage and the Song of Solomon
  10. For the leader

Before you begin

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s. That’s the full title of the Song of Solomon (1:1). It lets us know that to understand the Song of Solomon, we need to understand King Solomon.

Solomon is a complicated character. He was loved by God at his birth and he received special wisdom from God upon taking the throne. He built God’s temple in Jerusalem and reigned over the most prosperous period in Israel’s history. He is the attributed author of many of the Proverbs which contain wisdom on the themes of love, sex and marriage.

However, Solomon didn’t follow his own wise teaching. He allied himself through marriage with many foreign nations, starting with Egypt (1 Kgs 3:1), the nation of which God had said to his people, “you shall never return that way again” (Deut 17:16). He not only worshipped the gods of his wives personally; he also raised public altars to these gods and led the people of Israel into idolatry (1 Kgs 11:1-8). Following Solomon, Israel’s subsequent kings went from bad to worse. God eventually punished Israel by allowing their enemies to conquer Jerusalem, destroy the temple and send the people into exile from their promised land. The seed of this destruction was Solomon’s sin.

When the people eventually returned to Jerusalem to rebuild, they fell into the same old sin—they married women from the surrounding nations and began to worship their gods (Ezra 9:1-2; Neh 13:23-27). This was five centuries after Solomon lived, but his name was still the byword for this type of sin. Nehemiah rebuked the Israelite men: “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin” (Neh 13:26). This was Solomon’s legacy when it came to love.

The Song of Solomon is part of this legacy. It paints a picture of Solomon that resonates with the way he’s described in 1 Kings 1-11—as a polygamist who collects wives for political advantage and to display his wealth and power. Yet it also presents a picture of a different kind of lover: one who invites rather than coerces, who knows his lover intimately rather than treating her as a chattel, and who is exclusively devoted to his one love rather than having many women. For the Israelites who were perpetually led astray by their loves, it’s a powerful warning to avoid the example of Solomon and love wisely, in a way that honours God.

While the Song is about romantic love and lovemaking, it isn’t only meant for people in relationships. The Song speaks of loneliness and longing, of sexual brokenness and boundaries transgressed. Reading it in a mixed group of God’s people acknowledges that we all have thoughts and experiences to contribute to a discussion about love and sex, regardless of our relationship status. The Song provides a safe and scriptural starting point for frank discussions among brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Song of Solomon is poetry, and poetry works on its readers in a different way than prose. Rather than making explanatory statements or giving step-by-step instructions, poetry uses imagery and metaphors to evoke the readers’ emotions and call up associations with our own experiences. This can be an uncomfortable experience for Christians who are trying to faithfully discern God’s message. It’s wise to be wary of imposing our own ideas onto Scripture. However, the Song is not an instruction manual or a code to be cracked. By its very nature it’s meant to tantalize, to confuse, to stir up emotions, to evoke experiences. Reading the Song faithfully involves embracing its mystery.

Part of the mystery of the Song is that its story is unfinished. In the final verse of the Song, the woman tells her beloved to run—away from her, or into her embrace? It’s not clear how their love story will end. Imagine how this spoke to the Israelites as they tried to rebuild their broken temple. Where was God? How long would he remain silent? Would he redeem his people, or had he abandoned them?

The Song didn’t offer concrete answers. It offered them a picture of God-pleasing love, reminded them of the Solomon-like sin they were prone to fall into, and warned them to guard their hearts against anything that would invoke God’s jealousy.

While the Israelites in the Song’s time didn’t know the end of the story, the Bible goes on to tell it. God would redeem his people through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Now we wait until he comes back to claim those who love him. While we wait, we have the same calling as the Israelites: to guard our hearts and stay faithful to God.

Let’s step into the story and seek the love that leads to ‘happily ever after’.