I’ve recently been studying and preparing inductive Bible studies for the Song of Solomon, which I’ve reiterated recently on my blog as being my favorite book in Scripture. Every time I get launching into it, I discover things that have struck me as quite amazing.
On Wednesday mornings I co-lead an inductive Bible study with Shaun Wissmann. He and his wife Amanda just gave birth to their first baby boy, and will be heading back to the USA for three months and I’ll be flying solo. After discussing it with him, we’ve realized now is a great time to do an inductive Bible study of this particular book. We’ve covered Jude, Ezra, 1 John and books like such, as well as he’s done topical stuff while I was in Canada and since I’ve been back.
As a result, I’ve been trying to compile stuff, including outlines and summaries to show how this particular book flows. Last session, I gave a rather spontaneous introduction comparing the life of Solomon with the life of John the Apostle and that was something those present really enjoyed, so I’m hoping and kinda assuming preparing some quality stuff will continue to knock their socks off and stir their hearts regarding the affection of the Lord and how He feels about us.
Then I came across something that to date had never been brought to my attention. A chiasm of the song.
The Book’s Layout
What’s a chiasm? It’s a writing style that uses a unique repetition pattern for clarification and emphasis. Often called the chiastic approach, or the chiastic structure, this repetition form appears throughout the Bible. It’s especially obvious in the Psalms and Proverbs, where you can see it in shorter examples.
A chiasm organizes themes much like a sandwich: A) a piece of bread on top, B) mustard, C) a piece of meat, C’) another piece of meat, B’) more mustard, and finally A’) another piece of bread on the bottom. Chiasms generally focus on the meat, but the bread and mustard are necessary for a complete sandwich. Some chiasms do not have a mustard layer, other chiasms have lettuce on both sides of the meat, and some have just one piece of meat.
Simply put, a chiasm is a repetition of similar ideas in the reverse sequence.1
The level that appears in the middle of this text is called the center point. In this case, C and C are that center point. Most of the people that have studied the chiastic approach agree that the portion in the center often contains the most important part of the chiasm – it is usually the emphasis of the passage.
The way you approach the Scriptures should be dramatically enhanced as you learn what a chiasm is, how to recognize chiasms, and how to glean a fresh application from related New or Old Testament passages. Apparently scholars find the chiastic structure in passages like Proverbs 3:1-12, the passage of a wise father speaking to his son about wisdom, and Proverbs 31, the well known passage of the virtuous woman–neither of which I have time to go into for our discussion today. Nevertheless, there are scholars who find chiasms in the chapter structures of entire books and Gospels, and even of how the whole canon of Scripture is pieced together in a chiastic structure.
It All Boils Down To…
Why this matters to me right now in this study, is because the 8 chapters of Song of Solomon follow a chiastic structure, Song 5:1 being the center, or the most important part;
I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
I drank my wine with my milk.
If we are to approach the song the way 95% of scholars and theologians through out church history have, allegorically and symbolically, then we know the Shulamite woman in this song is representative of The Church, or Bride of Christ.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post from a few years ago, this passage flows nicely with another well quoted passage from the third chapter of Revelation.
We have to remember that Christ was speaking to seven churches, and in this specific context was saying this to the Church of Laodecia. Previously we’re told the Lord found them lukewarm and would spit them out of his mouth (3:16), and that He finds them wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (v.17) despite their perception of themselves to be rich and lacking nothing. He goes on to state “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
I recommend reading that blog post, Behold, I stand at The Door and Knock for further elaboration on the significance of that passage for our study of this song. The one thing, the most important thing man can do, is know God. Christ stands at the door and knocks, and asks to be invited in to dine with us in an utmost personal way, and the answer to that knocking that John the Apostle saw in his Revelation of Jesus, is ‘answered’ here in the song by the Old Testament equivalent, if you will.
And, the very answer to that knocking is right here, smack dab in the middle of the song, in its chiastic structure.
It’s remarkable that Solomon, the wisest man alive in his generation penned such a beautiful and profound song, but it’s also structured brilliantly.
Immediately following these verses about coming to the garden, which is rich itself with symbolism, we find a change in the story;
I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking.”Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.” I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them? My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me. I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.
I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. (Song of Solomon 5:2-6)
Friend, there’s lots of things going on in the world today that can put fear in your heart. There’s many people disappointed and others elated at events that have happened these past few days, but these are not the most important things you can give your thoughts to.
Do you know HIM? Will you answer His calling? What I think is the most important book in all of human literature, the Word of God, has this book which though I don’t believe is the ‘most important’, but has a quality to it that none of the other inspired writings in it match. And this book has this outline, this structure, that makes this the focal point.
In the weeks to come, I’d like to dive into it some more. In what way, I don’t know yet, but I find it a deep treasure worth excavating on my blog. I hope you enjoy it too.
— Steve Bremner (@FieryCanadian) November 8, 2012
- http://www.bible-discernments.com/joshua/whatisachiasm.html [↩]