Jonathan Edwards and the Song of Solomon

Dear Friends:

The following is a paper which I wrote for Westminster Theological Seminary in 2006. I cannot say it is devotional reading. I cannot say it is incredibly interesting reading. However, it is factual, thorough, and it took me a great deal of time to research and write. So for any “theological junkies” who are captivated by Jonathan Edwards and the Song of Solomon, this is your lucky day.  For everyone else, I would just skip this long paper and wait for the next devotional coming your way on the book of Proverbs.


Joe Franks

P.S. Mom … I hope you read the disclaimer above before you printed out the devotional to read on your sofa this morning.



The Hermeneutic of Jonathan Edwards in Relation to the Book of Canticles

The Song of Solomon, or Canticles as it is called in the Latin, is a most unique and controversial book. Within its chapters, one cannot find the word “God.” However, what one can find is much discourse regarding physical beauty, marital union, sexual desire and passionate love. From the beginning, the author dives into the language of wine, kisses, perfume, and a virgin’s longing to be taken to the king’s chambers. Some view this book as off-limits for minors; one Old Testament scholar even begins his commentary introduction on Canticles with the following words, “The Song of Solomon is an adult book.”[1]

The content is a matter of controversy, and so too is the authorship. At first glance, one might assume that Solomon, son of David, penned this work. The first verse does read, “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” As one continues through the work, one finds the main character to be a stately prince with wealth, a royal chariot and entourage. However, according to Longman, the Hebrews of 1:1 could be read the “song to Solomon”, the “song by Solomon”, the “song concerning Solomon”, or the “Solomonic-type song.”[2] Determining the author of Canticles is a matter of much debate and controversy; some even attribute this literary work to a female poet largely due to the fact that the majority of the dialogue comes from the feminine character.[3]

The content and authorship are matters of contention, and so too is the date of origin. Those who claim Solomonic authorship date the work from the tenth century B.C. Many others note Babylonian themes and surroundings and believe it to be written in the sixth or seventh centuries B.C. Still others see Canticles as a compilation of love poems written and collected over a vast stretch of time. There is little consensus on dating the book of Canticles.

The genre and structure of Canticles is generally agreed upon, but there are some minor differences here as well. Almost all see this book as a poetic narrative with two main characters and a choir of companions. However, some interpret the piece as having three main characters. Many treat Canticles as a unified narrative flowing seamlessly from beginning to end, while others see Canticles as a collection of separate poems organized around a common theme.

Authorship, date and structure are all somewhat controversial, but they are minor issues compared to the debate over purpose or intent. In regards to purpose, the opinions are vast and varied. Ancient Jewish rabbis are seen to interpret Canticles through an allegorical framework symbolizing the love of Yahweh for the political nation of Israel.[4] Church history proves the majority Christian view follows an allegorical model as well, but places the emphasis on the covenantal love of Jesus Christ for his church.[5] Some are shown to hold a philosophical-allegorical framework which interprets Canticles as a love-affair between mankind and personified wisdom.[6] Others treat this poetic piece as ancient entertainment which was designed for use at festive parties and celebrations.[7] Today, in modern Christian scholarship, the majority-view is shifted away from an allegorical framework. Most now see Canticles as written for the purpose of giving wise instruction regarding marital engagement, marital union and sexual consummation.[8]

So, in light of this discussion, what was the hermeneutical approach of Jonathan Edwards to this controversial book of Canticles? As the “brilliant mind” and preeminent theologian of Early-America, what was Edwards’ interpretive framework regarding this work? Many have stayed away from and neglected Canticles due to its content and exegetical difficulties, but not Edwards. In his published corpus alone, which has been the focus of this research, Edwards referenced Canticles more than five hundred and twenty times. Hundreds of additional references from Canticles used by Edwards can be found by perusing his unpublished works which are maintained on the Yale Seminary website.

In the five-hundred-plus references found in his published works, not once did Edwards refer to Canticles as being written for the purpose of instructing a man how he is to love his wife. Unlike the majority of modern scholarship, Edwards never treated Canticles as presenting a temporal, erotic, love-story, designed to be a marriage manual of sorts. To Edwards, this may have been a wonderful and useful secondary application, but this was an application he rarely, if ever, made.

In researching, compiling and evaluating these five-hundred-plus references, one finds that Edwards was consistent in his hermeneutical presuppositions regarding Canticles. From beginning to end, Edwards utilized a typological-allegorical framework which treated Solomon and his Egyptian-Gentile bride as representative of Jesus and his Jewish-Gentile church. After reading Edwards on Canticles, one gets the impression that Edwards was so infatuated with the typological-allegorical beauty presented in the text that he had no time nor energy to digress and treat secondary and earthly matters.

In order to present Edwards’ consistent typological-allegorical hermeneutic, this author has chosen to organize all of Edwards’ references to Canticles – found in his published works – and walk through Canticles as if Edwards had written an expositional commentary. An open Bible might be helpful in seeing how Edwards wrestled with the various texts.

The Introduction to Solomon’s Song (Cant. 1:1)

Jonathan Edwards viewed Solomon, son of David, as both the author of Canticles and one of its two main characters. Edwards saw the other main character, the bride, as being founded upon the Egyptian daughter of Pharaoh to whom Solomon was wed.[9]

Edwards also presented Canticles as the choicest of all Solomon’s songs; this was his most fine work, his magnum opus. In a sermon preached twice, both in 1728 and 1733, Edwards stated:

We read [in] I Kings 4:32 that Solomon’s songs were a thousand and five, but this one song of his which is inserted in the canon of the Scripture is distinguished from all the rest by the name of the Song of Songs, or the most excellent of his songs, or more than all his other songs: as the subject of it is transcendently of a more sublime and excellent nature than the rest, treating of the divine love, union, and communion of the most glorious lovers, Christ and his spiritual spouse, of which a marriage union and conjugal love (which, perhaps, many of the rest of his songs treated of) is but a shadow.[10]

So what made this work the “song of songs”; what made this poetic piece more excellent than all his others? According to Edwards, it was special because it was, “No common love song, but a divine song, respecting the union between the Messiah and the church.”[11] Canticles was superlatively excellent because, “… it was a song of the most excellent subject, treating of the love, union, and communion between Christ and his church; of which, marriage and conjugal love was but a shadow.[12]

From the beginning, Edwards sees the uniqueness of Canticles, not because it is a valuable piece of wisdom literature regarding marital union and consummation, but because it deals with the most excellent subject of all – the Covenantal Groom and his bride.

The Adoration of the Bride and Her Companions (Cant. 1:2-4)

There are several themes which reoccur throughout Canticles. Perhaps the major theme is the continuous worship of the groom by his bride. She is incessantly infatuated with him. Edwards, in his sermon, “Heaven is a World of Love”, comments on this passion and says that it represents the longing of any believer whose “heart is wedded to this spiritual husband.”[13] Just as the bride considers his love more precious than wine, so the church estimates Christ’s love as more valuable than the choicest things of this earth.[14] Edwards writes:

They are those who have freely chosen that happiness which is to be had in the exercise and enjoyment of such love as is in heaven above all other conceivable happiness. They see and understand so much of this as to know that this is the best good … They see the world does not afford anything like it. They have chosen this before any other. Their souls go out after it more than any other, and their hearts are more in pursuit of it than any other. They have chosen it freely, not merely because they have met with such sorrow, and are in such low and afflicted circumstances, that they do not expect much from the world. But their hearts are so captivated by this good that they choose it for its own sake beyond all worldly good, if they had ever so much of it, and could enjoy it ever so long.”[15]

Through his various writings, Edwards spends a great amount of time treating the subject of fragrant ointments or perfume. This he presents as analogous to the sweet blessings and benefits of God given to men. In a sermon on Cant. 1:3, Edwards took his listeners on a journey through Exodus 30 and Psalm 133. Through these passages, Edwards explained how God designed his own sacred perfume and designated it for use only by his holy priests. He then took his congregation to Psalms where David wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes.” According to Edwards, the sweetness that God had found in his priests, he now finds in his gathered ecclesiastical community.[16] A few years later in another sermon, Edwards carried the perfume analogy further by commenting on how she, the church, is to put forth her own beautiful fragrance after enjoying intimate communion with the groom.[17]

Along with the themes of worship and fragrance, another theme repeated in Canticles and oft treated by Edwards is that of the church as a single-plurality. Edwards points out that the worshipful adoration and enjoyment is not heard from the bride alone, but also from her companions. That which begins as a one-person solo continues to become a multi-person choir (Cant. 1:4). Edwards interprets this, and other like passages, as presenting the one church, made up of many individual members,[18] and throughout Canticles this one church will be referred to at various stages as mother, sister, daughter and wife.

The Self-Conscious Concern of the Bride (Cant. 1:5-7)

In this section of Canticles, the bride is concerned with her external beauty; Edwards says rightly so. He presents her as a foreigner, a woman of dark complexion whose skin color is that of tent material found in the region of Kedar. As mentioned earlier, Edwards alludes that this dark woman was the daughter of Pharaoh who wedded Solomon. As he does so, he presents the words of Isaiah 19:18-25:

In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt … And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them ….

Edwards’ typological treatment of Canticles on this subject is masterful.[19] He sees the church as being rightly concerned that her natural beauty is unfit for royalty. The church needs to understand that as a “dark foreigner”, she is outside the pale of those normally chosen for royal matrimony. Edwards interprets this passage as the foreshadowing of Gentile covenantal inclusion.

He then comments on the “Kedar language.”  According to Edwards, Kedar is a region where shepherds fed and sheltered their sheep; it was a place most comfortable for shepherds, but not a place one would expect to find royalty. Edwards then presents Christ as the unique shepherd-king, the one very comfortable in the sheep-country; the one who elected to marry his dark and foreign bride.[20]

The Reassuring Invitation of the Groom   (Cant. 1:8-10)

In the previous section, the bride is understandably self-conscious and timid; she is rightly concerned about her natural beauty. Yet, in spite of her natural unfitness, in this section of Canticles, she is loved, encouraged and reassured by her groom. Edwards writes on the church in the eyes of Christ, “… the Christian may be said to be wholly lovely in the eyes of Christ; for though there be much remaining deformity, yet ‘tis as it were hidden from the eyes of Christ, that he sees it not … therefore Christ says to his church … “Behold, thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.” [21]

According to Edwards, the groom reassures the bride of her beauty in his eyes and then encourages her to follow his lead. She is to follow him to his place of habitation where a home is being prepared for his bride. When preaching on Cant. 1:8-10, Edwards references Psalm 23 and John 10:4. In both of these passages the Good Shepherd goes before his people, sheep and bride prepares for them a place; and as John 10 makes clear, it is the faithful sheep who willingly follow the path of her lover.[22] In a sermon fragment on this text, Edwards writes:

You see that Christ commands us to go by the footsteps of the flock, in the common path, wherein believers have gone before us and found him, in the way where Christ used to be found. And where is that? Beside the shepherds’ tents; that is, in the way of God’s ordinances. This is a way which God himself has marked out, and which has been found successful by thousands. We need not wander in the wilderness, where there is no way, but we have a track; yea, a plain path to be a direction to us, and what we have to do is to run on with all our might in this path.[23]

Edwards typological-analogical treatment may go a bit far in reference to the “mare among Pharaoh’s chariots” in 1:9. Most commentators see this as referring to the supreme uniqueness and assessment of the bride in relation to all other candidates. However, Edwards treats this a bit differently. According to Edwards, the groom is utilizing a warrior motif;and this in turn refers to the church’s military occupation.[24]

The Friendship and Aid of the Bride’s Companions (Cant. 1:11)[25]

The Mutual Adoration and Enjoyment of the Couple at the Groom’s Habitation (Cant. 1:12-17)

In this section of Canticles, the king and his bride are on a couch enjoying the presence of one another. Edwards, in his interpretation, sees the couple feasting together around a banqueting table in the place of habitation prepared by the groom.[26] According to Edwards, this is representative of Christ and his feasting with believers, both now on earth and later in glory.[27] On this passage Edwards comments, “How highly privileged are they that are united to so excellent a person, that have such an one for their best friend, and to be enjoyed by them forever.”[28] Or, “… with respect to the saints, there will be no happiness too much for them … There will be no restraint to his love, no restraint to their enjoyment of himself; nothing will be too full, too inward and intimate for them to be admitted to … [this] is an abundant revelation of such a nearness, and intimacy of union and communion, and fullness of enjoyment ….”[29] For Edwards, the bliss on the couch is symbolic to the bliss to be found by believers, both on earth and in glory.

The adoration of the bride for the groom is clearly seen. In this section of Canticles, the bride and groom go back and forth professing their love and infatuation for one another.[30] However, as the book progresses, one sees a gradual increase the adoration and cherishing by the groom. The groom is infatuated with the bride’s eyes – eyes like a dove. Edwards writes much on the dove as the biblical “emblem of love.”[31]   And in addition to her eyes, he is captivated by her fragrance. Edwards points out that in the previous verses, it was the fragrance of the groom which was most pleasing, but now it is the aroma of the bride which is most sweet.[32] The more one is in the presence of the groom, the more one begins to sweetly smell as he does.

The Groom’s Glory (Cant. 2:1-6)

Edwards, in his treatment of 2:1-6, differs from the majority of commentators. While many see the bride referencing her cherished position, Edwards hears the groom describing the worship and adoration which he has been receiving from his bride and the other accompanying women.[33] In his writings, Edwards commented much on these two verses:

He is the delight of heaven. There is nothing in heaven, that glorious world, that is brighter and more amiable and lovely than Christ. And this darling of heaven, by becoming man, became as a plant or flower springing out of the earth; and he is the most lovely flower that ever was seen in this world.[34]

The world, due to the fall and its effects, is filled with troubled, difficulties, afflictions, vexations – all these being thorns. However, Christ is a rose amongst thorns bring beauty to this world.[35]

And he is no fading flower, but eternal in duration and beauty.[36]

The poet presents the groom, not only as a beautiful and tender rose, but also as a tree. The groom is one in whom the bride finds shelter, provision, rest and satisfaction.[37] Edwards describes this provision and rest offered to the believer, “[He] takes full contentment in Christ as a Savior. Having found Christ, he desires no other; having found the fountain, he sits down by it; having found Christ, his hungry and thirsty soul is satisfied in him. His burdened soul is eased in him: his fearful soul is confident: his weary soul is at rest.”[38]

Again, Edwards sees the poet utilizing the feast-motif.[39] What a grand feast is presented; the bride is “love sick” after experiencing what her groom has prepared. Such enjoyment, according to Edwards, can only be appreciated by those who have personally encountered the “smell” and “taste” of Christ. He writes:

… It is not he that has heard a long description of the sweetness of honey that can be said to have the greatest understanding of it, but he that has tasted. If a man should read whole volumes upon this one subject, the taste of honey, he would never get so lively an apprehension of it as he had that had tasted ….[40]

For Edwards, experience leads to zeal and passion; experience leads to religious affection. A true encounter with Christ changes the affections of the soul.

The Command to be Patient (Cant. 2:7)

The poet writes in Cant. 2:7, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” This refrain is somewhat repetitive throughout the poem, and Edwards is fairly novel in his interpretation.

According to Edwards, by this text the church is being urged not to take shortcuts during the times of testing, trial and temptation, but to wait for the final and full consummation of the bride and groom. He writes that the church “should not take any indirect courses for their own deliverance while the church is in her afflicted state, and [while] Christ seems to neglect her, as though he were asleep; but that they should patiently wait on him till his time should come, when he would awake for the deliverance of his church.”[41] Edwards longed for the blissful day of full-consummation between Christ and the church, but until that day came he urged the church not to compromise and take matters into her own hands.

The Blessed Communion, Growing Confidence, and Careful Warning (Cant. 2:8-17)

In this portion of the text, the bride sees her groom bounding over the hills like a gazelle coming to meet her. When the groom arrives, he brings with him the “spring season.” For Edwards, this is descriptive of the moment in time when spiritual regeneration or conversion takes place. Edwards writes:

When God pours out his Spirit on a people, there are many blessed tokens of his presence and mercy amongst them. God is present everywhere, for he fills heaven and earth; but the way in which he is especially present with his people, is by his Spirit. When he pours out his Spirit on a people, he does as it were leave the heavens, and come down and dwells. And then there are many glorious tokens of his favor and mercy to be seen amongst them: it makes a most happy and blessed alteration amongst a people. When God is thus amongst a people, he brings salvation with him.[42]

According to Edwards, with the groom comes springtime; with Christ comes the season of renewal, revival, flourishing and growth.[43] With the passing of winter and the dawning of spring, singing is the natural result.[44] Regeneration is a time of restoration, newness and rebirth, and just as the barren fig tree was cursed by Christ in the Gospels, so the vibrant fig tree is pleasing to the groom.[45]

Included in this passage, according to Edwards, is a warning, “Catch the foxes.” Edwards sees foxes as those “arguments of heretics” or false doctrines which can so damage the infant soul.[46] These foxes, if allowed to run wild, will ultimately ruin the fruit expected of the Christian and desired by the groom.

This segment of Canticles is then concluded with another moment of worship and adoration. As just mentioned, regeneration leads to singing, and here the bride sings of her awakened love and longing for further intimacy. Edwards is most challenging and encouraging in his words on these verses. The following is classic Edwards:

If you find Christ, this glorious star, this excellent heavenly jewel, will be yours. He will be your own, your Savior, your Lord, your portion. Then may you say, as in Cant. 2:16, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” O how rich and happy will you be then! What will all the riches of kings be in comparison of yours? If you find this, what can you desire more? Would you desire a better treasure than the most precious jewel to be found anywhere, not only in this lower world but in the highest heavens itself? Would you desire to find a better treasure than the best and choicest jewel, that the King of kings himself possesses?[47]

Edwards consistently presents how “Christ and the true Christian have desires after each other.” One should also note that the bride is no longer timid or self-conscious; she is more confident than ever of her relationship with the groom. So secure is she in the love of her husband that she has no problem boasting how he “enjoys feeding amongst the lilies.” According to Edwards, the bride rejoices in the groom, and the groom, likewise, rejoices in the bride; Christ is as much infatuated by the church as the church is of Christ. He writes:

Christ and his church, like the bridegroom and bride, rejoice in each other, as having a special propriety in each other. All things are Christ’s; but he has a special propriety in his church. There is nothing in heaven or earth, among all the creatures, that is his, in that high and excellent manner that the church is his … The church has also a peculiar propriety in Christ: though other things are hers, yet nothing is hers in that manner that her spiritual bridegroom is hers: as great and glorious as he is, yet he, with all his dignity and glory is hers; all is wholly given to her, to be fully possessed and enjoyed by her, to the utmost degree that she is capable of. Therefore we have her so often saying in the language of exultation and triumph, “My beloved is mine. And I am his.”[48]

The Troubled Bride (Cant. 3:1-4)

The poet presented the exuberant security of the bride in the previous passage, but now he presents a bride who is a bit shaken. In Cant. 3:1-4, the bride is still loved and cherished by the groom, yet she lacks nearness and assurance. Edwards interprets this text in two ways.

Edwards sees in this the struggle that all believers go through at one time or another. In his writings on the Trinity, Edwards speaks on the relationship between saving faith and assurance. According to Edwards, the believer may have true faith at times but lack the corresponding assurance. Faith, according to Edwards is “necessary,” assurance is “comfortable.”[49]

In another portion of his writings, Edwards interprets this text differently. In his notes he comments that this passage refers to the church during a day of tribulation and turmoil. Edwards writes:

[Here] is represented the fruitless seeking of the church in her slothful, slumbering, dark state that precedes the glorious day of the Christian church … and the introduction of her state of light and comfort by that extraordinary preaching of the word of God, which will be by the ministers of the gospel ….[50]

For Edwards, this passage spoke of the importance of vigilant ministers – the watchmen of the church setup by God to provide “soul care” to those under their watch.[51]

The Command to be Patient (Cant. 3:5)[52]

The Coming of the Mighty Groom (Cant. 3:6-10)

Edwards sees 3:1-10 as having a progression of thought. In the first four verses, Edwards sees the “comforts and supports” offered by Christ when she is found in her troubled state. In verse five one sees the church’s duty to patiently wait for Christ’s deliverance, and in verses 6-10 one will find Christ coming to deliver his church; to put an end to the suffering and “introduce its prosperous and glorious day.”[53] And how does the groom come? He comes powerfully, excellently, magnificently groomed and wonderfully perfumed.[54] Edwards sees the groom coming with the same awe as the pillar of smoke when it encountered and led Israel though the wilderness.[55]

The Plural Bride and the Groom’s Glad Heart (Cant. 3:11)

Here, as in other places, the poet refers to the bride in both the singular and the plural. As mentioned before, she both soloist and choral member. She is one foreign and dark woman, and yet she is accompanied by many young maidens. The poet presents her as mother, sister, daughter and wife.[56] Edwards teaches that as “mother”, she is the nation of Israel from whom the Christ-child was born. As “mother”, she is also the one who births other children through the Word and ordinances of God. As “mother”, she is also the one who instructs and teaches.[57] As “daughter”, she is one birthed or converted through the ministry of the Father and the bride. As “sister”, she is one who has found a brother in Christ, both of whom have a mutual Heavenly Father.[58] And as the “bride”, she is the one covenantally cherished and betrothed to the groom.

In this verse, the groom is exceedingly happy, but for what reason? What is it specifically that gives the groom gladness of heart? Edwards answers this question in one of his sermons:

Christ rejoices over his saints as the bridegroom over the bride at all times; but there are some seasons wherein he doth so more especially. Such a season is the time of the soul’s conversion; when the good shepherd finds his lost sheep, then he brings it home rejoicing, and calls together his friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me’ … The day of a sinner’s conversion is the day of Christ’s espousals; and so eminently the day of his rejoicing.”[59]

That which especially pleases the groom is the addition of souls to the church which he courts, loves and shepherds.

The Adoration of the Bride by the Groom (Cant. 4:1-7)

The worship progression has come full-circle now. First, the poet presented “groom worship” from the bride. Next, the poet emphasized the mutual-adoration between the bride and the groom; they are both infatuated with one another. Now, in this section of the text, Edwards presents the “almost worship” of the bride by the groom; he cannot sing her praises too much. She is “flawless” in his eyes.

The groom rejoices in the bride’s pomegranates. Regarding the usage and symbolism of these pomegranates, Edwards writes, “The pomegranates signify the sweet fruit they shall bring forth and enjoy, the fruit of holiness that they shall bring forth, and the fruits of happiness, or that pleasure and satisfaction they shall enjoy.[60] Edwards interprets this as portraying Christ’s fascination with the holiness and sanctification he will find in his church.

The groom also admires the bride’s lips. Here Edwards sees Christ relishing in the prayers of his church. He writes, “There is probably a special respect to the speech of the saints in prayer, which is dyed in the blood of Christ ….”[61]

The Wonderful Calling of the Groom (Cant. 4:8)

In Canticles 4:8, the groom calls for his bride and takes her from the place of danger to a place of safety. The typological-allegorical framework used by Edwards continues. He interprets this as Christ calling for and taking his bride from the place of God’s enemies, and safely hiding her in a place of safety and security;[62] and in particular, Edwards is speaking of the strange, electing call of God to the Gentiles. He writes, “Christ calls and invites souls that are under the most dark and dismal circumstances to look to him.”[63] In a note on 4:8, Edwards wrote:

… So the Gentiles are called a sister in the last chapter of this song, even before they were in a church estate, before she had any breasts … Christ graciously calls and invites her to look to him from the tops of these desolate mountains towards the land of Canaan, and towards the holy city Jerusalem, where he dwelt, though far off; yea, to come with him; for Christ is come into this wilderness to seek and to save her that is lost, to come and leave those horrid places, and come and dwell with him in the pleasant land, yea, in the city Jerusalem, that is the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth.[64]

The Continued Adoration of the Bride by the Groom (Cant. 4:9-15)

The poet here describes the bride as a locked garden. In reference to this, Edwards sees the doctrines of election and preservation here. God chooses his children and protects them within his wall. Edwards also finds reference to the different and separated lifestyle evidenced by the church. Edwards writes:

In some respects God makes a separation between the saints and the rest of the world. He calls’ em out, as it were, from among [the others], causes ‘em to stand at a distance. He separates ‘em, as it were, by a wall by which they are enclosed, as an husbandman that tills a field or garden in the wilderness walls it in … the true saints may be said to be a people that dwell alone in that they are disposed in their religion to be very much in retirement; inclined to depart from the world, shut the world out, shut themselves [off] from the noise and observation of the world-not like the religion of the Pharisees [with its] affected noise and show. [Although] religious conversation ought to be upheld, [it] ought not all to consist in declaring experiences.[65]

Again the groom adores the bride and again the circle is complete. The groom was aromatically delightful. The groom was worshiped and adored. The groom was appraised as better than the choicest of wines. And now, the groom makes the same assessment of his bride. He is captivated by her eyes, her lips, her smell and her jewelry. From where did she acquire these jewels? Edwards sees them as lavish gifts from the groom given to her for their mutual pleasure.[66] These jewels are representative of godly character traits or good works which are gifted by God.[67] Edwards writes:

The holiness and good works of the saints are God’s image. God takes delight in his people for his own image which he sees in them; they are God’s beauty which he has put upon them, and God takes delight in his saints because he has made them beautiful with his own beauty … These chains upon the spouse’s neck are the graces of God’s Spirit, so that Christ’s heart is as it were ravished with the graces and holy exercises of his saints….[68]

In writing on this passage, Edwards continually referenced Isaiah 62:5, “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” Why is Christ rejoicing? He is rejoicing because he “is exceedingly well-pleased and takes sweet delight in the graces and virtues of the Christian, in that beauty and loveliness which he hath put upon him.”[69]

The Confident Bride and Her Gifts (Cant. 4:16)

According to Edwards, the bride is giving the groom an invitation to come, inspect and enjoy her fruit.[70] This is similar to the church as she longs to present her crowns before Christ and hear her Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The Intoxicating Love of the Couple (Cant. 5:1)

The bride and groom are satisfied in one another; they thoroughly enjoy the feast and encourage all to come and be intoxicated with the bountiful fare. For Edwards, this bountiful delight begins with the spiritual feeding with Christ that takes place at the Lord’s Supper. There, according to Edwards, one is to partake with no inhibitions or moderation, but passionately and fully.[71] Minkema, commenting on Edwards’ sermon, states, “[It is a] rapturous meditation that encourages communicants to put no restraints on their ‘spiritual appetites’ and to ‘swim in rivers of pleasure.’”[72] In another sermon on this text in Canticles, Edwards writes, “There is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food. There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting….”[73] In his sermon, “Keeping the Presence of God, “ Edwards writes, “Let nothing that is said against high transports discourage the highest degree of a spiritual sense. Be filled as full as you will. Let the effect on your bodies be what they [will].”[74] He writes:

… If we choose Christ for our friend and portion, we shall hereafter be so received to him, that there shall be nothing to hinder the fullest enjoyment of him, to the satisfying the utmost cravings of our souls. We may take our full swing at gratifying our spiritual appetite after these holy pleasures. Christ will then say, as in Cant. 5:1, ‘Eat, O friends. Drink. Ye drink abundantly, O beloved.’ And this shall be our entertainment to all eternity! There shall never be any end of this happiness, or anything to interrupt our enjoyment of it, or in the least to molest us in it!” [75]

In addition to the earthly feasting of the believer, Edwards also sees Cant. 5:1 as referring to the heavenly feast to come.[76] Here again is Edwards:

Christ eats of the same feast with believers, and he eats with them. They sit with the king at his table (Cant. 1:12). Christ tells us that if we will open the door, he will come in and sup with us, and we with him (Rev. 3:20). Christ sat with his disciples at his first sacrament, which signifies that he always has communion with them in the same spiritual blessings. In Cant. 5:1 we read first of Christ’s eating and then commanding his friends to eat … And believers are also partakers of the same glory with Jesus Christ, they shall sit with him in his throne.[77]

Times of Humiliation for the Groom and His Bride (Cant. 5:2-8)

Edwards does not write much on this section. When he does, he sees it as referring to Christ in his stage of humiliation.[78] He had no place to lay his head and his garments were taken from him.[79]  According to Edwards, what one sees in this passage is the humiliation of Christ leading to the humiliation and persecution of the bride.

The Adoration of the Groom by the Bride (Cant. 5:9-16; 6:1-3)

Here, Edwards sees this descriptive of both David and Christ as both ruddy and attractive men.[80] He makes this comparison again when he writes on Psalm 45.[81] In one sermon, Edwards wrote, “He is the delight of heaven. There is nothing in heaven, that glorious world that is brighter and more amiable and lovely than Christ. And this darling of heaven, by becoming man, became as a plant or flower springing out of the earth; and he is the most lovely flower that ever was seen in this world.”[82]

There are times when Edwards appears most “creative” in his allegorical or typological interpretations. An example of this “creativity” can be seen in his treatment of Cant. 5:14 where the groom’s abdomen or body is described.

The word is the same in the original, which in verse 4 is rendered bowels, and wherever it is attributed to God, it denotes affection, and is rendered bowels … his affection is said to be like bright ivory overlaid with sapphires, representing the justice and mercy which are both so perfectly exercised, and manifested in him, in the work of redemption. The bright or pure white ivory, represents his perfect justice. Solomon’s throne of justice was ivory, which substance was chosen to be the matter of his throne in all probability, because it fitly represented justice; as the throne of Christ at the day of judgment ….”[83]

In a sermon on the Cant. 5:9-16, Edwards comments on the church’s responsibility to boast in the excellencies of Jesus as the bride did in her groom.[84] Now, in regards to Cant. 6:1-3, Edwards writes, “When some are converted this should stir up others to be converted also.”[85]

Again one sees the mutual adoration, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Again one sees the confidence of the bride, “he grazes among the lilies.” Edwards writes, “Christ and the believer do glory in each other.”[86]

The Adoration of the Chosen Bride by the Groom (Cant. 6:4-10)

According to Edwards, this is the second time in Canticles where the groom compliments his bride using war-imagery.[87] The groom then continues to laud his wife and comments on her uniqueness; she amongst all the others is the “only one” who is pure and desirable to him. In Cant. 6:9, Edwards again sees the doctrine of election. He writes:

… [Jesus] has chosen his church above the rest of mankind, above all the heathen nations, and those that are without the visible church, and above all other professing Christians, Cant. 6:9, “My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her.” Thus Christ rejoices over his church, is obtaining in her that which he has chosen above all the rest of the creation, and as sweetly resting in his choice; Ps. 132:13-14, “The Lord hath chosen Zion: he hath desired it.”[88]

The Journey and Return of the Bride (Cant. 6:11-13)

This next section of Canticles is somewhat strange. The poet writes:

I went down to the nut orchard to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom.Before I was aware, my desire set me among the chariots of my kinsman, a prince. Return, return, O Shulammite, return, return, that we may look upon you. Why should you look upon the Shulammite, as upon a dance before two armies? (Cant. 6:11-13)

Edwards interprets this section by referring to Genesis 32; there the Angel of the Lord met Jacob as his descendents were divided into two camps. Edwards refers to this text in Genesis in his exposition of Cant. 6:13 and wrote that this “is the church of God in earth and in heaven, the company of Jacob and the company of the angels (see Gen. 32:2), the church militant and the church triumphant, for both these armies make one spouse of Jesus Christ.”[89] He does so again in a sermon dealing with Judges 5:23.[90] Perhaps Edwards’ typological-allegorical approach is getting too creative at times?

The Adoration of the Bride by the Groom (Cant. 7:1-9)

The poet, in Cant. 7:1-9, presents the longest song of adoration sung by the groom. In this song, the bride is referred to as royalty; she is called a king’s or nobleman’s daughter.[91] As the song continues, he begins to laud her from head to toe.

The groom speaks of the bride’s feet and shoes. Somehow, Edwards interprets this as referring to the church’s “beautiful gospel conversation.”

When the groom comments on the bride’s abdomen, Edwards sees this as referring to the church’s “Christian fruits.” In regards to the bride’s navel, Edwards writes, “The navel, according to the ancient notions they had of things, was the seat of health … so that the thing which is here most probably represented is the spiritual health of the church ….”   Edwards skips the neck, but then treats the eyes, nose and head. Here he sees the bride’s eyes as representative of the church’s “spiritual knowledge.”The bride’s nose represents the church’s ability to discern “corrupt doctrine and false ways of worship ….” Her head represents the “eldership of the church.”[92] Edwards then commented on the groom adoration of the bride’s breast, “By her breasts here, most probably, is intended the grace of love, or spiritual complacency; affection to her husband and his children.”[93] He continued on to deal with her “palm tree like” stature and referenced the artwork surrounding the ark and tabernacle.[94]             In regards to Edwards’ hermeneutic, he is consistent. However, it may be reasonable to conclude that at this point, Edwards “allegorical creativity” does at times get the best of him.

The Sweet Communion and Enjoyment of the Couple (Cant. 7:10-13)

The Groom Who is a Brother (Cant. 8:1-7)

The Confident Security of the Bride (Cant. 8:8-14)[95]

Regarding these last three sections, Edwards does not write much on them. On Cant. 7:10-13, Edwards preaches a sermon on the sweet retirement and rest as experienced by Christ and his church.[96]  In this section, he also makes comments on the type of fruit presented by the bride – old and new. Edwards teaches that the believer should be capable of bringing before Christ both new and old fruit; fruit showing maturity and stability, and fruit showing continuous sanctification and growth.[97]

In Cant. 8:1-7, the groom is called, “brother” by the bride. Just as the bride is proven to be multi-faceted by her titles, so too is the groom. Edwards writes:

That the sons of the church should be married to her as a young man to a virgin, is a mystery or paradox not unlike many others held forth in the Word of God, concerning the relation between Christ and his people, and their relation to him and to one another; such as that Christ is David’s Lord and yet his son, and both the root and offspring of David; that Christ is a son born and a child given, and yet the everlasting Father; that the church is Christ’s mother, as she is represented, Cant. 3:11 and 8:1, and yet that she is his spouse, his sister and his child; that believers are Christ’s mother, and yet his sister and brother; and that ministers are the sons of the church, and yet that they are her fathers, as the Apostle speaks of himself, as the father of the members of the church of Corinth, and also the mother of the Galatians, travailing in birth with them, Gal. 4:19.[98]

In Cant. 8:1-7, Edwards also see reference to the incarnation and humiliation of Christ.[99] In his Miscellany number 741, Edwards writes:

Christ, descending so low in uniting himself to our nature, tends to invite and encourage us to ascend to the most intimate converse with him, and encourages us that we shall be accepted and not despised therein. For we have this to consider of, that let us be never so bold in this kind of ascending, for Christ to allow us and accept us in it won’t be a greater humbling himself than to take upon him our nature. Christ was made flesh, and dwelt among us in a nature infinitely below his original nature, for this end, that we might have as it were the full possession and enjoyment of him.[100]

And in another sermon he carried on this same theme of incarnation and humiliation:

Christ was united to us in nature. By his incarnation, he took our nature upon him, and by that wonderful act of his, united himself to us. He manifested his gracious and wonderful design of becoming the head of the human nature, the head of all the elect of mankind … He hereby is near of kin to us, he is become our elder brother. Yea, more than a brother: by that act of taking the human nature upon himself, he sufficiently in the sight of God and in the sight of angels assumed the elect part of mankind into an union with himself, and was justly looked upon as their head.[101]

So, after walking through the entirety of Canticles with Jonathan Edwards, one can make the following five conclusions:

First, Edwards is consistent in utilizing his typological-allegorical method. He clearly and consistently treats Solomon as a type of Christ and the bride as a type of Christ’s church. In addition to his typology, he allegorizes numerous other elements throughout the book. There may indeed be times when Edwards’ allegorical treatment becomes too “creative.” There may be times when one element symbolizes different things, depending on the writing of Edwards, but that he is consistent in his hermeneutical approach is beyond question.

Second, Edwards does not in any way hold to Canticles as being written for the purpose of becoming a marriage manual. There is not one reference in all his published works where he applies this passage to an earthly or temporal marriage situation. Rarely, if ever, does he even make any such application, though it might be correct.

Third, Edwards does not seem compelled to put the various sections of Canticles together into a seamless story. There may be a flow in his mind, but he never presents such in his writings. For the most part, he simply treats each section of Canticles in relative isolation from the others, much as interpreters work with the various chapters of Psalms or Proverbs. Edwards does not seem compelled to present canticles in a chronological fashion.

Fourth, in regards to the erotic references which many find in Canticles, Edwards does not affirm or deny these. The closest he comes to dealing with this “adult” issue is with this following statement. Edwards seems to sidestep the issue:

It is objected by some against Solomon’s Song, that some expressions seem to have reference to the conjugal embraces of the bridegroom. But perhaps there is nothing more directly suggesting this than the 14th, 15th, and 16th verses of the 45th Psalm., where seems to be a plain reference to the manner in Israel in which the bride at night used to be led into the bridegroom’s bed-chamber, her bridesmaids attending her: in the 14th and 15th verses., and then immediately in the next verse, we are told of the happy fruits of this intercourse in the offspring which they have….[102]

Fifth, Edwards appeared to interpret Canticles with the same redemptive-hermeneutical grid through which he interpreted the entirety of Scripture and all of life. Through his scholarship and writings, Jonathan Edwards labored to complete a “history of the work of redemption.” He preached thirty sermons on this topic; and after his death, a History of the Work of Redemption was posthumously published. This subject and thematic-pursuit was Edwards’ unfinished passion. For Edwards, world history was a narrative in which God was the director and producer, and all his created beings were the actors on his created stage. And what was the theme of God’s drama? Edwards wrote:

The end of the creation of God was to provide a spouse for his Son Jesus Christ that might enjoy him and on whom he might pour forth his love, and the end of all things in providence are to make way for the exceeding expressions of Christ’s love to his spouse and for her union with and high and glorious enjoyment of him, and to bring this to pass; and therefore the last thing and issue of all things is the marriage of the Lamb, and the wedding day is the last day, the day of judgment; or rather this will be the beginning of it. The wedding feast is eternal and the love and joys, the songs, entertainments and glories of the wedding never will be ended. It will be an everlasting wedding day.”[103]

Edwards preached on this divine-marriage-theme from a variety of passages, for according to Edwards, there were “innumerable other places of Scripture that compare the union and communion that is between Christ and his church to that which is between a bridegroom and bride.”[104] And so, in the end, it is not surprising that Edwards adopted a typological-allegorical hermeneutic in regards to Canticles, for this is how he viewed all of life and all of Scripture.


[1] Richard S. Hess, Song of Songs, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Wisdom and Psalms, ed. Tremper Longman III (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 11.

[2] Tremper Longman III, Song of Songs, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, eds. R.K. Harrison and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 3.

[3] Ibid., 7-8.

[4] Ibid., 20-26.

[5] Robert W. Jenson, Song of Songs: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2005), 4.

[6] Ibid. 26-28.

[7] Tom Gledhill, The Message of the Song of Songs: The Bible Speaks Today, ed. J. A. Motyer (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 19.

[8] Jenson, 4.

[9] Wallace E. Anderson, Mason I. Lowance, Jr., and David Watters, eds., Jonathan Edwards: Typological Writings, vol. 11 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), 284-285. (From Edwards’ Miscell. no. 1069, “Types of the Messiah”)

[10] Wilson H. Kimnach, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses,1720-172 , vol. 10 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992), 154-155. (From Edwards’ sermon on Song. 1:3, 1728 and 1733)

[11] Stephen J. Stein, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Notes on Scripture, vol. 15 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), 547. (From Edwards’ note 460, “The Book of Solomon’s Song”)

[12] Ibid., 92. (From Edwards’ note 147, “Solomon’s Song”)

[13] Paul Ramsey, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Ethical Writings, vol. 8 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), 374. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Heaven is a World of Love”)

[14] Sang Hyun Lee, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Writings on the Trinity, Grace and Faith, vol. 21 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 141. (From Edwards’ “Discourse on the Trinity”, 1730)

[15] Ramsey, 388. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Heaven is a World of Love”)

[16] Kimnach, vol. 10, 131. (From Edwards’ sermon on Song. 1:3, 1728 and 1733)

[17] Harry S. Stout, Nathan O. Hatch and Kyle P. Farley, eds., Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses,1739-1742 , vol. 22 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 206. (From Edwards’ sermon on 2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

[18] Stein, 610-613. (From Edwards’ note 507)

[19] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 284-285. (From Edwards’ Miscell. no. 1069, “Types of the Messiah”)

[20] Stein, 75. (From Edwards’ note 86)

[21] M. X. Lesser, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses,1734-1738, vol. 19 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), 441-442. (From Edwards’ sermon “The Sweet Harmony of Christ”)

[22] Lesser, 435-440. (From Edwards’ sermon “The Sweet Harmony of Christ”)

[23] Kimnach, vol. 10, 381. (From Edwards’ sermon fragment, “On Seeking God”)

[24] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 247, 303. (From Edwards’, “Types of the Messiah”)

[25] No comment from Edwards was found on this verse.

[26] Stein, 610-612. (From Edwards’ note 86)

[27] Minkema, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729, vol. 14 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 287. (From Edwards’ sermon, “The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast”)

[28] Ibid., 467. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Glorifying in the Savior”)

[29] Ava Chamberlain, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Miscellanies 501-382, vol. 18 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), 371-372. (From Edwards’ Miscell. no. 741, “The Happiness of Heaven”)

[30] Minkema, 77. (From Edwards’ sermon, “A Spiritual Understanding of Divine Things Denied to the Unregenerate”)

[31] Sang Hyun Lee, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Writings on the Trinity, Grace and Faith, vol. 21 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 183. (From Edwards’ “Treatise on Grace”), and Thomas A. Schafer, ed., Jonathan Edwards: The Miscellanies, vol. 13 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 265. (From Edwards’ Miscell. no. 97, “Happiness”)

[32] Stein, 610-613. (From Edwards’ note 507)

[33] Lesser, 565. (From Edwards’ sermon on Revelation 5:5-6 “The Excellency of Christ”)

[34] Stout, Hatch and Farley, 172. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Children Ought to Love the Lord Jesus Christ Above All”)

[35] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 131-132. (From Edwards’ Various Comments, “Roses on Thorns”)

[36] Stein, 229-230. (From Edwards’ note 273)

[37] Wilson H. Kimnach, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses,1743-1758, vol. 25 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 727. (From an Edwards’ sermon fragment on Cant. 2:3, 1746)

[38] Lesser, 438. (From Edwards’ sermon “The Sweet Harmony of Christ”)

[39] Minkema, 288. (From Edwards’ sermon, “The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast”)

[40] Ibid., 76-77. (From Edwards’ sermon, “A Spiritual Understanding of Divine Things Denied to the Unregenerate”)

[41] Stein, 389. (From Edwards’ note 395)

[42] Lesser, 394-395. (From Edwards’ sermon “Continuing God’s Presence”)

[43] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 93. (From Edwards’ “Images of Divine Things”)

[44] Kimnach, vol. 10, 249. (From an Edwards’ sermon fragment)

[45] Stein, 176-179. (From Edwards’ note 226)

[46] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 102. (From Edwards’ “Images of Divine Things”)

[47] Stout, Hatch and Farley, 294-295. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Seeking After Christ”)

[48] Kimnach, vol. 25, 179-180. (From an Edwards’ sermon, “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God”, September 19, 1746)

[49] Lee, 458-459. (From Edwards’ “Treatise on Faith”)

[50] Stein, 389-390. (From Edwards’ note 395, “Canticles 2:7”)

[51] Kimnach, vol. 25, 68-69. (From an Edwards’ sermon, “The Great Concern of a Watchman for Souls”, An ordination sermon for Jonathan Judd from Hebrews 13:17, on September 19, 1743)

[52] This refrain has been treated in an earlier section of this paper.

[53] Stein, 389-390. (From Edwards’ note 395, “Canticles 2:7”)

[54] Stein, 610. (From Edwards’ note 507)

[55] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 317.

[56] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 278.

[57] Ibid., 66.

[58] Stein, 322. (From Edwards’ note 336, “Canticles”)

[59] Kimnach, vol. 25, 181-182. (From an Edwards’ sermon, “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God.”)

[60] Stein, 229-230. (From Edwards’ note 273, “1 Kings 7:15-22”)

[61] Ibid., 582-588. (From Edwards’ note 486, “Canticles 4:3”)

[62] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 224.

[63] Schafer, 517-522. (From Edwards’ Miscell. no. 475, “Sin Against the Holy Ghost”)

[64] Stein, 177. (From Edwards’ note 228, “Solomon’s Song 4:8”)

[65] Kimnach, vol. 25, 53-54. (From an Edwards’ sermon on Numbers 23:9, “Saints Dwell Alone”, 1743)

[66] Stout, Hatch and Farley, 385-388. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Mary’s Remarkable Act”, 1741)

[67] Stein, 520. (From Edwards’ note 435, “Canticles 4:9”)

[68] Minkema, 340. (From Edwards’ sermon, “None Are Saved by Their Own Righteousness”)

[69] Lesser, 438. (From Edwards’ sermon “The Sweet Harmony of Christ”)

[70] Kimnach, vol. 25, 181. (From an Edwards’ sermon, “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God”, September 19, 1746)

[71] Schafer, 104.

[72] Minkema, 39.

[73] Ibid., 286. (From Edwards’ sermon, “The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast”)

[74] Stout, Hatch and Farley, 54-534. (From Edwards’ sermon on 2 Corinthians 15:1-2, April 1742)

[75] Lesser, 592-593. (From Edwards’ sermon on Revelation 5:5-6, “The Excellency of Christ”)

[76] Minkema, 134. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Nothing Upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven”)

[77] Minkema, 287. (From Edwards’ sermon, “The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast”)

[78] Kimnach, vol. 10, 604. (From Edwards’ sermon , “Christ’s Sacrifice”)

[79] John F. Wilson, ed., Jonathan Edwards: A History of the Work of Redemption, vol. 9 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), 325-326. (From Edwards’ sermon on Isaiah 51:8, June 17, 1739)

[80] Anderson, Lowance, Jr. and Watters, 261-262.

[81] Stein, 610-613.

[82] Stout, Hatch and Farley, 172-195. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Children Ought to Love the Lord Jesus Christ Above All”)

[83] Stein, 584. (From Edwards’ note 489, “Canticle 5:14”)

[84] Minkema, 464-467. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Glorifying in the Savior”)

[85] Lesser, 800. (From an Edwards’ sermon on Cant. 6:1, May 1738)

[86] Ibid., 442. (From Edwards’ sermon “The Sweet Harmony of Christ”)

[87] Anderson, Lowance, Jr., and Watters, 303.

[88] Kimnach, vol. 25, 179. (From an Edwards’ sermon on Isaiah 62, “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God”, September 19, 1746)

[89] Stein, 75. (From Edwards’ note 85, “Canticles 6:13”)

[90] Stout, Hatch and Farley, 494-495. (From Edwards’ sermon on Judges 5:23, “The Curse of Meroz”, 1741)

[91] Stein, 610-613. (From Edwards’ note 507)

[92] Ibid., 587. (From Edwards’ note 494, “Canticle 7:5”)

[93] Ibid., 310-311, 584-588. (From Edwards’ note 495, “Canticle 7:7”)

[94] John F. Wilson, ed., Jonathan Edwards: A History of the Work of Redemption, vol. 9 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), 391. (From Edwards’ sermon, “Twenty-One” on Isaiah 51:8), and Wallace E. Anderson, Mason I. Lowance, Jr., and David Watters, eds., Jonathan Edwards: Typological Writings, vol. 11 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), 304.

[95] No comment from Edwards was found on this verse.

[96] Kimnach, vol. 25, 54. (From an Edwards’ sermon on Numbers 23:9, “Saints Dwell Alone”, 1743)

[97] Lesser, 805. (From Edwards’ sermon on Canticles 7:13, Sept. 1736)

[98] Kimnach, vol. 25, 169-170. (From an Edwards’ sermon on Isaiah 62:4-5, Sept. 1746)

[99] Kenneth P. Minkema, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729, vol. 14 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 548. (From Edwards’ sermon on Canticles 8:1), and Stephen J. Stein, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Notes on Scripture, vol. 15 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), 50. (From Edwards’ note 8, “Canticles 8:1”)

[100] Chamberlain, 366-367. (From Edwards’ Miscell. no. 741, “The Happiness of Heaven”)

[101] Minkema, 403. (From Edwards’ sermon, “The Threefold Work of the Holy Ghost”)

[102] Stein, 610. (From Edwards’ note 507)

[103] Ramsey, 708-709. (From Edwards’ appendix to Miscell. no. 710)

[104] Chamberlain, 372. (From Edwards’ Miscell. no. 741, “The Happiness of Heaven”) Throughout his ministry, Edwards did preach numerous messages which treated the marital union between Christ and the church from passages such as Psalm 22, 35, 45, 60, 74, 108, 127, Isaiah 52, Ephesians 1, 1 Peter 3, and Revelation 19.

3 thoughts on “Jonathan Edwards and the Song of Solomon

  1. Since the Garden, there has been a spiritual ecstasy in marital union that hints at the ultimate union between the church, and Christ, the lover of our souls. God is love. His love is always evident to us most in His creative perfection, which even those who do not know Him must wonder about. In our marriage union, we are allowed the rarest of glimpses of the joys that await us spiritually, and also the thrill of participating with God in the creation of human life. Then, when one considers the immense love that drew Christ away from His heavenly home and His Heavenly Father, it beggars the imagination and exhausts the limits of language to express enough love toward Him who considers us worthy of His suffering.

    It was a pleasure to meet you and your wife at Boxwood this week.

  2. Thank you so much for doing this work. I love Jonathan Edwards and I love the Song even more. I have been studying it for over 15 years. I have found it to be a guide for husbands to lead their wives through 5 stages of growth. Babe, Child, Young man, Strong young Man and Father. The praises match the phase of Growth. Then arguing from the lesser to the greater, you then get to Christ. Christ was the greater than Solomon, Solomon the lesser. Anyway if you want to check it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.