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Should Pentecostals Interpret the Song of Songs Allegorically? by Brandon Biggs

1. Jealousy

Song 8:6-7 NASB

6 “Put me like a seal over your heart,

Like a seal on your arm.

For love is as strong as death,

Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

The very flame of the LORD.

7 “Many waters cannot quench love,

Nor will rivers overflow it;

If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,

It would be utterly despised.”

These are perhaps the two most well known verses in the Song. However, they are often used in the positive sense (i.e. at a wedding) whenever the context denotes the harshness of romantic love. The speaker, presumably the Shulammite, implores her lover to identify himself with her in a visible form (v.6). Why? “For love is as strong as death, [and] jealousy is as severe as Sheol.” The power of love is compared to death in verse six. However, this is not a morbid synonym. Contrarily, the Song speaks of love being so powerful that those who are caught by its entrapment are resigned to be its slave—just as death is a final, sure end to all persons, so love is the bonds which tie persons together, often with destructive force. “This connection of passion with death is not accidental. There is a connection of love with death in which both open the door to the unknown and uncontrolled.”12 For example, the jealousy that is described in verse six is not to be taken in the negative sense. It is to be understood as the rightful emotion of one who has lost their treasured possession. This jealousy is said to be as severe as Sheol (i.e. the place of the dead). As the Shulammite implores her lover to be wholly set apart for her (v. 6) she also issues a rationale behind her request—she has become entrapped by the snare of love, and is desperately protective of her lover.

The power of this “love-force” is also described as being unquenchable, and unstoppable. “The tenacious staying power of love is set against these tides and perennial rivers which are unable to either wash love away or put out its sparks.”13 This is a remarkable statement when one considers the awesome power of the flood–stage Nile, or of the high–tide Mediterranean. Love, according to the Song, is a force that is greater than even the awesome and destructive powers of nature, and it will stop at nothing to attain its desire.

2. The Warning of Premature Love

Song 2:7 NIV

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you

by the gazelles and by the does of the field:

Do not arouse or awaken love

until it so desires.

The danger of love is taken so seriously by the author of the Song, that three times (2:7; 3:5; 8:4) the “Daughters of Jerusalem” (Solomon’s harem?) are told “not to arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (NIV) However, the precise meaning of these warnings is somewhat uncertain.

Delitzsch sees these passages as a dream state where the beloved is unready to give up her sensual dream of her lover.14 However, such an approach seems unlikely given the context, which presents real figures, places, and emotions that are incongruent with a lucid dream.

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Category: Biblical Studies

About the Author: Brandon Biggs is a graduate student at a classical Pentecostal institute of higher learning and lives in Texas.

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