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Song of Songs: Allegory, Literal, or Both?

An Axis Course On Sex Talk 2.0

Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. – Song of Songs 2:4-7

The Song of Songs has always been one of the more controversial books of the bible. In their book God Loves Sex, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman write:

It is a book that has been considered too dangerous to be in the canon or read by those new to the biblical message. By far the most common reading of the text is to desexualize it by seeing it as an allegory of Christ and his church. As an allegory, the book is not about sex—heavens no!—but is a spiritual tale told through the apparently sensuous language of a marriage relationship… There are God-honoring folks who hold passionately to this position. We believe they are wrong… In fact, an allegorical approach steals from us one of the strongest messages that we need today: God loves sex.

But what if both interpretations are true? What if the Song could be read as both a celebration of sex and a signpost to the church’s intimate union with Christ? We believe, as John Paul II wrote in Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, that it can. But that perspective on human sexuality is rarely seen today. To quote from Christopher West’s Theology of the Body for Beginners, “If the body and sex are meant to proclaim our union with God, and if there is an enemy who wants to separate us from God, what do you think he is going to attack? If we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look for what is most violently profaned.”

There’s a lot at stake in the discussion about sexuality, which is why we’re so grateful you’ve decided to join us. In this track, we’re going to equip you to talk about sex, marriage, abstinence, teen logic, shame, and forgiveness. We’ll touch on several different aspects of sexuality, then afterward, you can decide whether you’d like more help discussing:

  • Masculinity, Femininity, and LGBTQ+
  • Desire, Porn, and Masturbation
  • Purity, Consent, Sexual Assault, and Contraception

Each of our tracks is packed full of frameworks, proven tactics, and conversation starters to help you feel confident and equipped in discussing sexuality with the teens in your life.

These first couple of days we’ll just be giving you things to think about. Then, we’ll start prompting you with easy conversation starters about different aspects of relationships and sexuality. And as we’ve often quoted,

[C]hildren and adolescents do not need one 100-minute (awkward and painful) sexual health conversation; they need 100 one-minute conversations. They need sexual and relational education delivered in many, many sound bites, weekly, across their entire childhood and teen years.” – Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers

Our end goal for you is actually bigger than the sexual health of your kids; our end goal is that at the end of Sex Talk 2.0, your kids would really know and believe that they can talk to you about anything. We hope your family culture will be transformed by the end.

Back to the topic at hand, the clear picture in the Song of Solomon is that sex is a beautiful thing, something to be celebrated and cherished. But three different times the Song also includes this message, to the Daughters of Jerusalem: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” To return to Allender and Longman’s book: “That message, in short, is that timing is everything… she does not want the daughters, her disciples, to impulsively rush into a relationship like the one that she has with the man… She is not asking these single women to repress any desire, but is asking them not to fan its flames until the right time.”

The discussion of sexuality is complicated, and there are many different aspects you may hope to address. We encourage you to make note of any points you hope to make or questions you hope to ask, as you go through the course. The discussion may be challenging. But notice there is no scaremongering in the Song of Solomon, no list of consequences for what might happen if sex is misused: it’s simply a celebration of God’s good gift, with the injunction that there is a right time and a right place for it. We’re going to help you develop this same view of sex in your teens and pre-teens.

Action Steps

To get started on this journey, spend some time really thinking about these questions:

  • Who was it who first talked with you about sex?
  • Were your parents able to create an environment where you felt like it was safe to ask them questions? If so, how did they do that? Or, if not, what made it feel like it wasn’t safe?
  • Is there anything you had to learn the hard way—and what might have prevented that for you?
  • If your parents did bring up sex, was there just one “talk,” or was “the talk” part of an ongoing conversation?


“Father, thank you that you created sex. Thank you that, through it, my daughter (or son) was born. I pray that you would help us see sexuality that way you see it—as a holy, beautiful gift—and to help us see how your design brings flourishing like nothing else can. I pray for wisdom, clarity, peace, and discernment as I anticipate these conversations with my kids. In Jesus’ name, amen.”