Surprised by Song of Songs (Video)
Does every book of The Bible have something to say about work? Even Song of Songs? In this video Will Messenger, Editor in Chief of The Theology of Work Project, describes his biggest surprise from working on the TOW bible commentary.
If there was one book I was sure would have nothing to say for the theology of work, it was Song of Songs. After all, isn’t Song of Songs two people reciting love poetry to each other? I think the last time I really read it must have been in eight grade, when one of the other boys told me about “all those words that are in that book!” and “Who can imagine that’s in the bible? Ha!”
But if you take off your lenses, your blinders that keep you from reading what’s actually in the book, you see that the action of Song of Songs is this couple courting, getting married, starting a business, which happens to be an agricultural business, and then having children. So the action is very much work focused.
One of the telling verses is chapter 2 verse 15: “Chase we the little foxes, the foxes that ruin our vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” There’s the double entendre there, “our vineyards are in blossom,” but it’s in the context of the hard work of creating this farm or this vineyard. They have to chase out and build fences to exclude the vermin that would eat the crop before it’s even harvested.
Even the love poetry is part of the work of Song of Songs. In the ancient world, you didn’t so much hire a workforce and then pay dividends to shareholders - you produced a workforce. And then you left the profits and the capital appreciation to them when your time was passed. Although the populating occurs a little later, after the end of the book, even in creating a family they are contributing to this business that they’re starting.
The amazing part is that this business does not pull the two of them apart. It does not pull their family apart like we experience so much in the modern world. Instead, in their way of working together they’re making light work of the hard labor of agriculture. It actually brings them together. It’s almost as if the Fall, the toil and difficulty of work, is being restored, so that work becomes a pleasure for the family and productive for the business.
Who knew all that could be in Song of Songs?