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Charlie Cleverly - The Song of Songs: Exploring the Divine Romance

Hodder and Stoughton ISBN 978 1 444 70204 0 321 pages £13.99

The biblical book Song of Songs is difficult to categorise: it is part-mystical devotional, part-marriage handbook, part-sex manual. How are Bible readers to make sense of the mysterious, multi-layered poetic book that is the biblical Songs of Songs?  Cleverly suggests that one of the ways that we can access this book is to use the biblical imagery of love and marriage used of God and his people to explore the interaction between God and us.

Cleverly is clearly strongly influenced by a devotional reading of this biblical book. At times this can be a little overdone; yet there is something compelling about the emphasis on the beauty of Jesus and the intimacy that believers can experience in their relationship to him.

Perhaps Cleverly in onto something here; maybe we supposed to be a little uneasy about using this kind of devotional language because we know very little of genuine spiritual intimacy. As the author writes: “Often in my tradition, church can feel more like business and competition and striving to succeed, rather than the celebration of heavenly aroma.”

All this being said, I wonder if in pursuing the imagery of sexual relationships as an analogy of our relationship with God Cleverly has missed to opportunity to provide insight into how the Song of Songs can help to improve relationships between men and women. 

In an age of sexual confusion a practical explanation of the committed delight that is at the heart of biblical sexuality might have been very timely.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle

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