The secret language of love: Symbolism in Solomon’s Song of Songs explained

Ever felt lost in the layers of love’s complexity?

Well, maybe understanding Solomon’s Song of Songs, a masterpiece of biblical literature, might help.

As one of Solomon’s 1,005 compositions, this “best song” delves into the complexities of human emotions, marriage, and divine relationships

Through its verses, we explore the heights of passion and the depths of commitment, touching on everything that makes love both challenging and deeply rewarding.

In this article, we’ll dive into the symbolism that enriches the Song of Solomon and reveal insights into the enduring nature of love.

Interpreting key verses in Solomon’s Song of Songs

The Song of Solomon unfolds as a series of concise poems and dialogues, where the two main characters express their love for each other.

This love is often expressed through nature-related metaphors, which are emblematic of the book’s rich symbolism.

For instance, in Song of Solomon 2:16, “My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.”

The lilies in this verse symbolize purity and devotion, indicating an intimate and pure relationship between the lovers.

In another instance, Song of Solomon 8:6 reads:

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.”

Here, the seal symbolizes a bond that cannot be broken, portraying love as an unyielding force as powerful as death itself.

  • Seal: Represents an unbreakable bond
  • Lilies: Symbolize purity and devotion

However, these verses are just a glimpse of the profound symbolism found throughout the Song of Solomon.

Understanding these metaphors helps us to comprehend the central message of this biblical book: the deep, powerful, and enduring nature of love.

Symbolism in Song of Songs

The Song of Songs, attributed to King Solomon, is an intricate tapestry of poetic language that delves deep into the symbolism of love, desire, and spiritual longing.

At its core, this collection of love poems is a celebration of the beauty and power of human love, yet it also serves as a metaphor for the divine love between God and His people.

Through its vivid imagery and passionate dialogues between the lovers, the Song of Songs uses symbols like the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys to convey messages about love’s enduring strength and purity.

This allegorical interpretation opens up a rich vein of theological insight. It positions the Song as not just a historical account of romantic love but as a profound exploration of the relationship between the divine and the human.

Now, let’s take a look at the symbols Solomon uses in the poem that convey the multifaceted nature of love:

  • The garden: A symbol of love and fertility
  • The lily and the rose: Purity and passion interwoven
  • Cedar and cypress trees: Strength and endurance in love
  • The dove: Innocence and the soul’s longing
  • Wine: The intoxication of love
  • Mountains and valleys: The landscape of desire and intimacy

4 key themes in Song of Songs

1) Human love and desire

The Song of Songs unabashedly celebrates human love, desire, and beauty through the passionate exchanges between lovers.

Its vivid, sensuous imagery and poetic verses capture the intensity and purity of their affection.

Unlike much ancient literature that often reserved or veiled expressions of love, this biblical book places them at the forefront.

It portrays love as a powerful, driving force in human life, capable of bringing joy and fulfillment.

This raw and honest depiction of love challenges readers to embrace their emotions and relationships with openness and sincerity.

2) Divine love and intimacy

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.” (Chapter 8:6-7).

This famous passage encapsulates the intensity of love depicted throughout the Song.

By interpreting these words through a spiritual lens, we see a portrayal of God’s unyielding love for His people — a love that is as enduring and permanent as a seal.

The mutual, fervent love between the lovers serves as a metaphor for the deep, intimate relationship God desires with each of us.

Simply put, it’s a reminder of the relentless, pursuing nature of divine love.

3) The sacredness of marriage

In an age where commitment can sometimes be seen as confining, the Song of Songs elevates the covenant of marriage as something deeply sacred and desirable.

It celebrates mutual respect, admiration, and fidelity between partners.

This perspective invites readers to view commitment not as a loss of freedom but as a profound expression of love’s power to unite.

The text encourages couples to cherish and work on their relationship.

After all, Solomon states that true intimacy is achieved through dedication and mutual respect.

Is your love reflective?

The dialogues between the lovers in the Song are not just expressions of romantic desire but also invitations to self-reflection.

They ask us to consider whether our own expressions of love—toward ourselves, others, and God—mirror the depth, respect, and commitment exemplified in this biblical book.

Therefore, it prompts us to evaluate if our understanding of love aligns with these timeless principles or if we’ve settled for less than what we’re called to live out.

4) Celebration of nature’s beauty

Finally, the Song of Songs is also remarkable for its extensive use of natural imagery to describe the lovers’ beauty and express their emotions.

References to gardens, vineyards, trees, flowers, and animals not only enhance the poetic quality of their dialogues but also underscore the connection between human emotion and the natural world.

This theme invites readers to appreciate and find inspiration in nature’s beauty as a reflection of divine creativity and a source of joy in their relationships.

How does love transform us?

“Awake, north wind; and come, you south! Blow on my garden, that its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its precious fruits.” (Chapter 4:16)

This passage from the Song of Songs symbolizes a heartfelt invitation for transformative love to enter and flourish within the individual’s soul.

It speaks to the power of love to awaken and enrich our innermost being, bringing forth the ‘spices’ or virtues that lie dormant within us until touched by affection.

This metaphorical garden represents the soul’s capacity for growth and beauty, nurtured by the divine love that seeks to permeate every aspect of our lives.

  • Love calls us to grow.
  • It nurtures our inner virtues.
  • It invites divine presence into our lives.

For the Christian reader, this passage is a poignant reminder that true love—both human and divine—has the power to transform us.

It challenges us to open our hearts to this transformative force, allowing it to shape us into beings who reflect God’s love in the world.

Summarizing Solomon’s Song of Songs

All in all, the message of the Song of Solomon can be summarized as a profound exploration of love, depicted through the dialogue between two lovers.

This love is not merely romantic but also embodies respect, devotion, and fidelity.

As you can see, symbolism within the text serves to deepen our understanding of these themes.

For example, symbols like the ‘vineyard’, ‘lilies’, and ‘locked garden’ provide tangible metaphors that make abstract concepts more relatable and comprehensible.

Through these symbols, we understand that love, as portrayed in the Song of Solomon, is not just a feeling.

It’s an enduring commitment that respects personal autonomy (‘vineyard’), values purity and devotion (‘lilies’), and upholds fidelity (‘locked garden’).

In essence, the Song of Solomon portrays love as a multifaceted experience – passionate yet respectful, intimate yet autonomous, and committed yet free.

Mikkel Andrews

Mikkel Andrews

I'm Mikkel Andrews a theology professor currently based in Philippines. I've been walking with Christ ever since I can remember. My life's work is about understanding His teachings and sharing that knowledge. You'll often find me involved in community outreach or curled up with a book on theology, always looking to deepen my faith. When I'm not volunteering or diving into the latest theological texts, I'm writing for Bible Scripture to make spirituality relatable.

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