What is the spiritual significance of the Song of Songs?
Perhaps the most striking thing about the Song of Songs is the absence of the religious element that permeates Jewish poetry elsewhere in Scripture. Psalm 45, for example, is similarly a “song of the Beloved”, but the name of God occurs four times in its 17 verses. In the Song of Songs, by contrast, God’s name occurs just once in 117 verses (see S of S 8: 6). There is no doubt about its inspiration, however, so practically the only route open to commentators is to interpret it allegorically, most often in reference to Christ loving the Assembly. Now certainly there are parts of the book that appeal to the spiritual mind as being pictures of that relationship, but this cannot be said of the whole.
The author tells us that the Song “is Solomon’s” (S of S: 1: 1). This provides a clue as to the purpose of the book for Solomon is typical of the coming Millennial King (see Is. 32: 1, 17), his reign being marked by righteous judgment and peace (see 1 Kings 2: 21-46; 3: 16-28; 4: 24-25). It is in that character that the Lord is presented to us in the Song of Songs, for though not named, Christ is in all the Scriptures (see Luke 24: 27). Now a king must have a consort, and it is clear from Ps. 45: 9 that Christ is no exception. Who is this queen? In Jeremiah 3: 14, Jehovah declares that He is a husband to Israel, and this is preceded by multiple references to a marital relationship between Jehovah and God’s earthly people. There is even something of a parallel with the Song of Songs: “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith Jehovah: I remember for thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (Jer. 2: 1). It is clear, then, that Israel (or, sometimes, more particularly, Jerusalem) is the spouse of Jehovah. Sadly, however, the nation became guilty of spiritual adultery, and in Ezekiel 16: 32 she is explicitly called His “adulterous wife”. The current state of Israel is that they are estranged from Jehovah, He having put her away (see Is. 50: 1).
Is this the final state of the nation? Not at all, and the Song of Songs is a poetic description of God’s future allurement of His earthly people in order to bring them back to Himself. We have confirmation of this elsewhere: “For Jehovah hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and as a wife of youth, that hath been refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee (Is. 54: 6, 7). Again, “Therefore behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart ... And it shall be in that day, saith Jehovah, [that] thou shalt call me, My husband” (Hos. 2: 14, 16). This allurement is a process, for the relationship needs to be re-established. Hence: “I opened to my beloved; But my beloved had withdrawn himself; he was gone: My soul went forth when he spoke. I sought him, but I found him not; I called him, but he gave me no answer” (S of S: 5: 6). Is this the language of the Assembly, or even of an individual believer in their relationship with Christ? No. We may withdraw from Him, but not He from us. The Song of Songs is clearly descriptive of a relationship not yet settled. “Draw me” says the spouse, and “we will run after thee” (S of S: 1: 4). The result is that the nation will be restored and betrothed to the Lord forever (see Hos. 2: 19). Hence: “thou shalt no more be termed, Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed, Desolate: but thou shalt be called, My delight is in her, and thy land, Married; for Jehovah delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For [as] a young man marrieth a virgin, shall thy sons marry thee; and with the joy of the bridegroom over the bride, shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Is. 62: 4, 5).
One final thought: the prophets refer to Judah and Israel (the ten tribes) as sisters, and also their respective capital cities (see Jer. 3: 6-15; Ezek. 16: 44-63; 23: 1-49). In Ezekiel, the elder sister is Samaria (see Ezek. 16: 46), referring to the fact that she advanced earlier in her pathway of evil, and served as a model of wickedness to her younger sister (see Jer. 3: 7; Ezek. 23: 11). Solomon’s song also refers to a sibling, but she is undeveloped and not yet marriageable: “We have a little sister, And she hath no breasts: What shall we do for our sister In the day when she shall be spoken for?” (S of S 8: 8). To whom does this refer? I think the elder sister and the little sister are the same entity viewed in different lights. Backsliding Israel (the ten tribes) was given “a bill of divorce” (Jer. 3: 8) but, like Judah, will be restored (see Is. 11: 11-16; Jer. 50: 4; Ezek. 37: 15-28). However, she will be undeveloped spiritually compared to Judah—for divine pressure will have enlarged the Jews.