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lily of the valley

Many Christian songs depict Jesus as the “lily of the valley,” the “rose of Sharon,” and the “fairest of ten thousand.”  The songs are beautiful, and their point is that Jesus is the greatest beauty and desire of our souls.  We should not read the meaning of those beautiful songs back onto the meaning of the Song of Solomon, however; the “rose of Sharon” in this book does not refer to Jesus, directly or indirectly.

This book is an ancient love song, which provides wonderful insights into romance, the language of marital desire and appreciation, dealing with conflicts in marriage (the brief conflict is 5:2-6), the power of jealousy (8:6), etc.  To the extent that it reflects the beauty of marital love, it may also supply us with words in our passionate pursuit of Christ, but this is not the direct subject of the book; the book is a practical example of romantic, married love.  (For instance, the “banquet house” and “banner” in 2:4 may refer to ancient wedding customs: while guests were banqueting at the wedding feast, bride and groom consummated their marriage and reportedly hung out a banner when they had sealed their union sexually.  It is doubtful that we should read such details as a symbol of Christ; it reads much better as a picture of married sexual love in ancient Israel.)

But even if Song of Solomon were but a symbol of Christ and His Church, as some have supposed, “rose of Sharon” and “lily of the valley” could not refer to Christ.  As in the NIV, it is the bride who declares, “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley”—i.e., as beautiful as the most beautiful of flowers; her groom had made her feel loved, despite her own insecurities (1:6).  The groom also compares her to a lily (2:2; 7:2); she compares his approach to one who moves among the lilies (2:16; 6:2-3; he also applies this image to her in 4:5).  Even if Song of Solomon were an allegory of Christ and the Church (which is very unlikely), “rose of Sharon” would not refer to Christ, but to His Church.  More likely, it is an example of the beautiful romantic language that an inspired author could apply to his bride, as an inspired guide emphasizing the importance of romantic affection in our marriages today.

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