How to Read Song of Songs

The Book of Song of Songs

Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

Song of Songs depicts the love between a man and a woman through poetry. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Song of Songs, discover what it teaches us, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this video. 

Observation examines the book at a surface level. Since this book consists of poems, one way we can observe poetry is by looking at the themes that weave throughout the book. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: The relationship between the man and the woman in Song of Songs alludes back to the garden of Eden.

Observe: As you watched the video, what observations did you make about Song of Songs? (Consider the major themes.)
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Where an observation determines what this book says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what it means. I this step we look at the themes and ask what they mean.

Example: (Observation) The relationship between the man and the woman in Song of Songs alludes back to the garden of Eden. (Interpretation) This relationship in Song of Songs reminds us of the past perfection in Eden and offers us hope for a future where our relationships will be untainted by sin.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Song of Songs? (Think about the meaning of each theme.)
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Contextualization looks at how the book fits into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fills in the biblical narrative. 

Example: The biblical narrative looks forward to a future without brokenness. Isaiah predicts this bright future in his prophecies, Jesus talks about His return to earth, and Revelation paints a vivid picture of our reconciled future with God. 

Contextualize: What themes does Song of Songs seem to establish? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the historical books (Judges through 2 Kings), or Psalms?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this book applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: As I pursue relationships with my spouse, friends, or family, I can have hope in the midst of brokenness. My relationships aren’t perfect, but I can look forward to the perfection of eternity. I will thank God for my relationships today and embrace intimacy and intentionality with the people in my life.

Apply: How does the truth from Song of Songs affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps us wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video. 

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Song of Songs, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Song of Songs this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice.

To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.