Craig von Buseck: Why did you decide to write a book based on the Song of Solomon?
Sharon Jaynes: I write with Proverbs 31 Ministries, working on the devotionals, and sometimes on their “First Five” App, which is meant to help you spend the first five minutes of your day with God. So they were going through the Bible and they arrived at the Song of Solomon. I had written on marriage before, so they asked if I would write some Bible studies on that book for the App. I did the first four chapters of the Song of Solomon and I just loved what I was learning. Then on my own, for the whole summer, I kept going deeper.
I just delved into it, reading more and finding out what those words really meant. What was he really talking about when he mentioned pomegranates and mandrakes? What is the palm tree – because it wasn’t really a palm tree? Most of my life, I had read the book as an allegory. It’s more comfortable reading it as us being the bride and Christ being the groom. But I honestly don’t believe that’s the original intent. I believe that way back when, the biblical scholars interpreted it that way because it was more comfortable.
When you go in and look at the Hebrew and what the words really mean, it becomes apparent that it was literal.
CVB: Is the book truly attributed to Solomon? Or don’t they know?
Sharon: No, they don’t really know. In some translations, it’s the Song of Songs. That means that the love between a husband and a wife is the best love of all – it’s the best song of all the songs. We don’t know if it was about Solomon and one of his wives. I believe he did write it, but he wrote it as a song or a poem.
Some people ask, “Why would you look for a pattern of marriage from a man who had 700 wives and 300 concubines.” That’s the elephant in the room. The truth is that he did start out by being the wisest man in all the world. You can read in First Kings about how he started out, but then also, how he fell. It shows us that the wisest among us can fall. He disregarded God’s word. He disregarded the promises and did what he wanted to do.
The Bible tells us that the 700 wives were princesses, which basically means he married for political reasons. But that doesn’t explain those 300 concubines. He did fall.
I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I don’t avoid reading the Psalms because David fell. And I am not going to disregard the Song of Solomon because Solomon fell. God made sure that the Song of Solomon was in the Bible for a reason. If God made sure it was in there, just like every book of the Bible, I need to study it. He’s got something to say to me from those words.
CVB: What are some of the things that came alive to you in your study and what were some surprises?
Sharon: The first two chapters would be like our culture’s dating stage. In chapter one, verse two, she says, “Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth.” It’s really more about her than him, and she was very passionate and pretty aggressive with that. So that was a surprise.
I grew up in a difficult home where my parents fought a lot. They fought verbally and physically. I would hide in my closet as a little girl. I would pull the covers up and try to shut out the noise that was going on in my room. I didn’t think my parents even liked each other, much less loved each other. But one day I was going through a drawer, looking for a pen, and I found a little cardboard sleeve with a small vinyl record inside. It was addressed to my Mom from my Dad during the Korean War. My Dad was in the war and he made a record to send home to my Mom.
They were in their first year of marriage and in that record he talked about how much he loved her and missed her. He said he appreciated her staying with his Mom while he was away. There was so much emotion and love in that record that his voice was even cracking. I listened to that record and thought, “How did this couple, who apparently loved each other in the beginning, by the time I had any remembrance of my parents there was violence, arguing, and then months of passive aggressive silence where they didn’t even speak to each other.” How did they go from that record to what I knew as a child?
In reading the Song of Solomon, I see this couple that is very passionate in the first two chapters and can’t wait to be together as man and wife. We know they did wait for that part because she tells her friends. There are three basic characters, the husband, the wife, and the friends – I call them “the back-up singers.” She tells the back-up singers, “You don’t want to wake him up until it’s time.” So we know they did wait – but they could hardly wait.
Then in the second chapter, Solomon says out of the blue, “Catch for us the little foxes that can come in and ruin the vineyard.” In studying that, I discovered that back in the day when the vineyards would first bud and have the young grapes, the foxes would come in and eat the grapes. I think Solomon was talking to God when he says, “Catch for us.” He’s not talking to the Shulamite or her friends. Solomon, or the writer, is praying, “Lord, help us to see anything or anyone that could come in and steal the fruit of our marriage.”
Then in chapter four, we see this incredible honeymoon experience. It’s so descriptive and it’s beautiful. It’s not sordid. It’s explicit, but it’s not elicit. It’s just a beautiful picture of what it’s supposed to be.
But in the very next chapter we see where the little fox of apathy and indifference comes in. Marriage can have all kinds of little foxes – like jealousy, anger, putting the children first before the marriage – the list is very long. But we all have the potential foxes of indifference and apathy. Every married person has to watch out for that. That is the little fox that came in chapter five to possibly destroy their marriage. He came knocking one night and she said, “No, thanks.” Basically, “I’ve already brushed my teeth. I’ve put on my pajamas.” And so he leaves. We see that it could happen, and it did happen.
Chapter seven shows us how to prevent the indifference from happening again. She goes to her husband in the field – it would be like a woman going to her husband at work – and she says, “Let’s get away by ourselves this weekend. Let’s go to the villages like we used to do.” She even says, “I’ll give you some old fruit that you love, and I even have some new fruit up my sleeve.” And she was not talking about going to the farmer’s market.
It was such a revelation to me that he warned us: This could happen. This did happen. And here is how to prevent it from happening.
As I go back and think about my Mom’s little record, that fox came in and it did happen to my parents, but they didn’t do anything about it. As a result, the indifference and apathy took hold in that marriage and it turned into something very bad.
CVB: When it comes to sexuality within Christianity, it’s almost like we have two extremes. On the one hand, you have the worldly culture that says, “Do whatever brings you pleasure and happiness.”
Sharon: Whenever with whomever.
CVB: Yes, exactly. Then on the other side, there is almost a puritanical misunderstanding of sexuality within marriage where there is guilt, and there is not the openness and freedom that God intends. Does your book speak about that? How do you get to the balance of the love that is meant to be?
Sharon: I’m so glad you asked that question. One thing that I say in the beginning of the book is that our culture is so over-sexualized. The pornography industry, for example, brings in more money than all professional sports combined. For me, it’s not that the culture talks about sex too much, but it values it too little. When you value sex the way that God intended it to be, you will handle it differently.
The way the church dealt with it is if you are not married, don’t do it, and if you are married, don’t talk about it. I’ve talked to some millennials who were told by their parents that sex is bad, but then they get married and they find out that it’s good. So they are struggling with the guilt and shame.
I asked my country grandmother, “How did you not get pregnant.” She was appalled that I asked the question, but then she said, “Well, I just didn’t do the evil thing.” I answered, “Grandma, it’s not evil. God ordained this.”
There is that tendency to think that in some circles, but God went through a lot of trouble when He created Adam and Eve, to put that part in a man and a woman to enjoy sexual intimacy. We don’t need all that to create a baby. He put it there for a reason.
For me, when a man and a woman come together, I see it as almost like renewing a covenant. Many people see marriage like a contract. But people say all the time, “Contracts are made to be broken.” With a contract, we pay an amount of money and we get a service. If we don’t get the service, we stop paying. Or it can be the other way around – if we stop paying, we stop getting the service. That’s how people treat marriage most of the time in our culture. “Once that spouse isn’t meeting my need anymore, I’m going to break that contract.”
But marriage is not a contract, it’s a covenant.
A covenant is an everlasting agreement between the husband, the wife, and God. Every time the husband and wife come together, it’s as if they are renewing that covenant. I believe God cheers. We should never think that God is looking down on us, or we should feel shame about it, because that is what God created us to do.
When we glorify God, it means we’re doing what He’s fashioned us to do. So when a husband and a wife come together the way he created us to in that respect, then we’re basically glorifying God – because that’s what He created us to do. It’s for our enjoyment.
I think the devil gets just as excited about sex outside of marriage as he does for a marriage without sex. And that’s going on a lot, too. In doing the research for this book, that has been shocking to me. I came at this book from the other end, of how the culture has misused sex. However, I was shocked about how much sex is not happening within Christian marriages.
CVB: Wow. That is sad.
Sharon: In the New Testament, Paul is writing to the Church and he says, “The woman’s body belongs to the husband and the husband’s body belongs to the wife – and the only time you should withhold that is for a time of fasting a prayer, which is agreed on by each other” (1 Corinthians 7:5). I can assure you, the couples that I’ve talked to where sex is not a part of their marriage anymore, it is not because they are fasting and praying.
Paul goes on to say you need to come back together so you will not be tempted. So sex should remain an important part of a marriage.
I want people to enjoy what God has fashioned them to be and see it as a way of ministering together, renewing their covenant, and glorifying God.
Sharon Jaynes served as Vice President and radio co-host of Proverbs 31 Ministries for ten years and currently writes for their online devotions and First 5 Bible study app. She is an international conference speaker, author of more than twenty books, founder of The Praying Wives Club, and co-founder of Girlfriends in God, Inc. Learn more at SharonJaynes.com
Dr. Craig von Buseck is Digital Editor of Inspiration.org.