Gary Brady takes the view that the Biblical author had in mind both a natural and spiritual understanding, and that those who originally received the book as Scripture understood it both in terms of human love and intimacy and as a portrait of the loving relationship between God and his people. How desperately people today need to learn in both these areas.
‘In all the world there is nothing to equal the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Scriptures are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.’ Even allowing for hyperbole, this statement by a second-century rabbi contrasts sharply with the attitude of some Christians today, who apparently have little place for this book in their thinking or practice. They hardly ever quote it, read it or reflect on it. Such extremes remind us that the book has sometimes been controversial. More than one scholar has called the Song of Songs the most difficult book to interpret in the Old Testament.
In this modern world of mass media, through advertising, cinema, television and the World Wide Web, we are inundated with false images of love, sex and marriage. We are bombarded with misleading ideas and, even if we are able to keep our minds pure, it is still very easy for inaccurate concepts to worm their way in and have their debilitating effect on us. All of us — single, married, divorced or widowed, young or old, male or female — need to be crystal clear on this vital subject.
Then there is the vital issue of intimacy with Jesus Christ. One of the purposes of this commentary is to help us to see how lovely the Lord Jesus is, how attractive, how appealing. The aim is for us to see again something of Christ’s beauty and glory, his comeliness and splendour, and so to be drawn to him. The Song of Songs can be of tremendous help to us in this direction.
Gary Brady has been the pastor of Childs Hill Baptist Church in north-west London since 1983. A native of South Wales, prior to studying for the ministry at London Theological Seminary he did a degree in English at Aberystwyth and later trained as a teacher in Cardiff. He is currently studying historical theology with the John Owen Centre. He is also the author of Heavenly wisdom — the Welwyn Commentary on Proverbs.