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(Song of Songs)
This is lesson is part of the “What’s in the Bible?” series, starting with “Memories & Stories” on Genesis

For The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

By Sally Ulrey

Key verse: Song of Songs 8:6-7

“Love burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it

 To understand the book of Song of Songs as a celebration of human love, with implications
for other relationships with God and others
 To learn a little bit about what’s in Song of Songs
 To apply the wisdom of Song of Songs to our own relationships, particularly romantic ones
The Set up: Minimal
The Plan:
 Hook: Fine China (10 mins)
o Play a game as an illustration about how you treat paper vs china plates (hint: WE’re the fine
 Book: Overview of Song of Songs (15-20 mins)
o Read Scripture passages individually. Tell about the historical context of the book.
 Look: Love Being in Love (20 mins)
o Principles for relationships; Small Groups
 Took: Prayers for Love (5 mins)
o Passing out a piece of china to each person as a reminder that they are precious and should be
treated with care.
o Optional: Clip from Frozen about BEING the love they want (not just waiting for it); add 5 mins
o Praying 1 Corinthians 13
The Supplies: The Preparation:
 Copy of lesson  Order Dollhouse China:
 Dollhouse china pcs (enough for each person)
 5-6 Paper Plates RJCMD1NAG

 One special fine china plate  May need to email parents re: content
 A way to play music for a variation of hot potato of the lesson
 Bibles  Print and copy everything
 Flip Chart & Marker  Read the Scripture and get very familiar
 Pens with the mini-lecture
 AV Equipment  Read the “Further Resources” to be
prepared for questions
 Prep music for “hot potato”
 Optional: Cue up Clip from “Frozen”
“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
ABOUT THE LESSON: The major point of the books of Song of Songs is: Romantic/Sexual love is a gift from
God; it is wonderful and precious and strong, and should be handled with wisdom and care. This lesson is NOT
designed to teach an exhaustive set of principles for marriage, love, sex, and dating. It’s designed to be an
overview of THIS BOOK; however, there are a few things we can glean from this one book. This might serve as
a good introduction to a series about marriage/dating/sex (if you brought in some other passages like Psalm
45, Proverbs 5, 1 Corinthians 6-7, 1 Corinthians 13, etc.) But as it stands, we’re not going to use this book to
teach everything that can be said about sex and sexuality. We’re just going to look at what’s in it, some of the
themes, and focus on some principles for romantic/sexual love, especially as they apply to modern day issues
(see “Further Resources” on issues particular to culture and youth). Then we’ll talk about what it means to
treat each other with love and respect and dignity. The bottom line of the book of Song of Songs is that
romantic/sexual love is so special, it deserves to be handled with wisdom and care.

Fine China (Hook, 20 mins)

For the opening of the lesson, you’ll be sharing an object lesson about how we treat paper plates vs fine china.
The point is that, because we are made in God’s image and loved so completely by God, we are fine china, and
should be treated with care, and treat others with care. (Put another way, we have dignity as human beings,
and we should respect the dignity of each person…Baptismal Covenant!). We should treat each other, and
ourselves, our WHOLE selves (including our sexuality) as fine china….not as a paper plate…not disposable, but
as something wonderful and special and precious that deserves appropriate care.
 Game (10 mins). Play a version of “hot potato” with a paper plate.
o Whoever still has the plate when the music stops must pass the plate in new ways that take more
time. Everyone will have to remember how many times it’s stopped on them.
 1st time it stops on that person: Pass plate by circling it around their waist from now on
(not just straight passing it to the next person…it will take them longer to pass it).
 2nd time it stops on that person: They have to circle it around their waist AND around
their head before passing it on to the next person.
 3rd time it stops on that person: They have to circle it around their waist, around their
head AND under one of their legs.
 4th time it stops on that person: They have to circle it around their waist, around their
head, under one leg, AND under the other leg.
o After 3-4 rounds, add one or two more plates, so there are multiple plates being passed around the
o Hold up the china plate. Explain why it is amazingly special (e.g. it is the last surviving plate of your
great grandmother’s china set which she lost during the War when she had to evacuate….or some
other story about what makes it special, precious, valuable, and priceless!)
o Optional: play the game with the china plate (OR just ask them to think about what that would be
like if you don’t want to risk your plate!)
 Quick debriefing questions (10 mins)
(if you didn’t actually play with the china plate, ask them to imagine what it would be like)
1. What were some of the differences of playing with a paper plate and playing with a china plate?
2. Take a look at the paper plates after that game….what do you notice? (probably bent and roughed up)
3. In playing with the china plate, I hopefully made it VERY apparent that that plate was WAY more
important than winning the game or getting what you wanted (to win). How was that different
than playing with the paper plate? Why were you more willing to let that paper plate take a
beating so that you could win?
“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Transition: When I told you the story behind that precious plate, I hope you were inclined to take better care
of it, knowing how special it was and knowing what it meant to me. When we recognize something as
priceless or special or precious, we take better care of it. We need to recognize that human beings are
priceless and special and precious, and are deserving of our utmost care. Because human beings all have a
story behind them, too, just like my plate…. The story is, there’s only one of you, and you are each uniquely
and wonderfully made in God’s image, and you MEAN so much to God. We need to treat each other and
ourselves with special care and respect, knowing how special we are and how much we mean to God. That
includes our WHOLE selves, and each part of ourselves, specifically including our sexuality, which is what we’ll
be talking a little bit about through our study of Song of Songs. That book is about romantic/sexual love. And
yep, that’s in the Bible, so we’re going to talk about it! Let’s take a look.

“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Overview of Song of Songs (Book, 20 mins)
In this section, we’ll have the students briefly look over some passages in Song of Songs to get familiar with
the very loose storyline. They’ll be given some different theories about who these characters are, and look for
evidence supporting those theories in the book. Then we’ll look at some of the themes and why the book was
 LEADER TIP: You will want to look over the Scripture, and Mini-Lecture, and FURTHER
RESOURCES, below in advance to be familiar with what all is in Song of Songs and how it applies
to youth culture.
 Scripture reading (5-7 mins). Pass out Bibles and instruct students to turn to Song of Songs. Have each
student pick a chapter that they will peruse silently to themselves. Try to ensure that all the chapters
are covered. Give them about 5 mins or so.
 Mini-Lecture. (5-10 mins). Share the some introductory material (see Mini-Lecture below) about Song
of Songs. (Points 5&6 are the most important if you are pressed for time or feel it’s too much info to
get through. Skip or skim points 1-4 if needed, although Points 1-4 do help ease into things).
 Large Group Discussion Questions (5 mins). See below. Discuss briefly as a group.

Mini-Lecture (5-10 mins)

 LEADER TIP: This is a lot of info, but the most important points are #5 & 6. You can skip or skim points
1-4, but you will probably want to familiarize yourself with the content if the conversation goes that
way, or students have other questions, etc. The Further Resources section also has some additional info.
1. Author. The book is called the Song of Songs of Solomon, so traditionally, it has been ascribed to him, although
we’re not 100% sure; there are other theories. It also possibly could have been dedicated to him.
2. Name. “Song of Songs” means that it’s the best song of all the songs. Just like “Holy of Holies” means something like
the most holy of all the holy places. Calling it the “Song of Songs” is saying it’s like the most beautiful love song ever.
3. Characters. There’s a guy (often referred to as “Lover”) and a girl (often referred to as “Beloved”) and a
Chorus/Friends who are happy for them. Who are these people? Here’s some theories
a. Solomon & one of his brides. (Solomon had many). Solomon is the Lover, and falls in love with a
Shulammite (a term which refers to where she’s from), who possibly worked in one of his vineyards
(because she talks about working in a vineyard in ch 1), married her and brought her into the court.
b. A Shepherd & A Shulammite. Possibly just two random people, and the references to King Solomon are
simply that to her, he is like a fine, royal king. To him, she is royalty, “a prince’s daughter” (7:1)
4. Storyline. If there’s a plot, it’s pretty loose. The poems are definitely connected and have similar themes and
refrains throughout, but it may not be a chronological story.
a. Some have suggested that it’s structure is chiastic* (or has parallel parts…like this: ch 1&7 relate, 2&6, 3&5)
Ch 1: Starts off in a vineyard (see vs 5-6)
Ch 2: They are falling in love
Ch 3: Dream
Ch 4: Wedding/Consummation
Ch 5: Dream
Ch 6: Flash back to falling in love?
Ch 7/8: Ends in a vineyard (see vs 12)
*There are lots of discrepancies about this, and some people don’t agree the structure is truly chiastic, just
that scholars might be trying too hard to make it fit. Chiastic structure was common in Hebrew poetry,
though. Many Psalms, as well as the Book of Daniel and the Book of Esther have chiastic structure.

“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
5. Interpretations. The Church has had a hard time with teaching this book, since it is about sex. That’s traditionally
been a hard topic for the Church to talk about in a really healthy way. Just imagine how uncomfortable they would
have been talking about this in, say, Victorian times! So they’ve had a history of interpreting it in other ways:
a. Allegorical. Jews interpreted it as an allegory, where the “Lover” was God, and the “Beloved” was Israel,
illustrating God’s faithful love for Israel.
b. Typological. Christians have interpreted it similarly, where Christ is the “Lover” and the Church is the
“Beloved,” saying that it was really about Christ’s unconditional love for the Church, as Paul talks about in
c. Literal (sometimes called Historical-Grammatical). With the Reformation came the rise of the idea that we
should interpret Scripture based on what it would have meant to the people at the time, so we take
Scripture with the most straightforward meaning from the context. This is mostly how we still try to
interpret Scripture today. This would mean we would interpret Song of Songs as being about a celebration
of sexual love, and because it’s in the Bible, that celebrating sexual love should point us back to God.
6. Imagery. If you are considering a more straightforward interpretation, that means that most of the imagery
about fruit and gardens and the like has a sexual connotation. Those jokes where they say “that’s what he said”
or “that’s what she said” would be an actual appropriate understanding of what’s going on here.

Quick Large Group Discussion Questions (5 mins):

1. In any of your individual reading, did you see any evidence for it being Solomon and his bride? Or did
you see evidence for it being a random shepherd/regular guy?
2. Which way of interpreting Song of Songs do you think is best (Allegorical-God&Israel, Typolgical-
Christ&Church, Literal-it’s pretty much straightforward about sex)? Why?
3. Did you notice any imagery that was actually a way of talking about sexual love? You don’t have to say
it if it’s uncomfortable, but did you notice some? Or do you realize now that’s what it was about?

For Leader Reference: Here are some Scriptures relevant to the discussions in the Book & Look parts…

o Warnings not to awaken love before it’s the right time: 2:7, 3:5, 8:4, 8:6-7

o Committed Love: They love each other and are soulmates: 3:1, 3:4, 4:9; also there’s a wedding: 3:11

o Imagery: 4:1 (hair like flock of goats…um, thanks?) 4:2 (teeth like shorn, washed sheep), 4:5 (breasts like twin
fawns), ch 4:12—ch 5:1 (you are a garden…I have come into your garden…)
*Some of these images, you can tell it’s meant to be a compliment, but it may be lost on us, since we don’t usually
compare those we find attractive to sheep and flocks, etc.

So we’ve learned a lot about what’s in Song of Songs and what it’s about, but what does it mean for us? How
does it apply to our lives in the modern day era? In studying it, we can see some principles about sexual love
and relationships that we can use. God created us and our sexuality, and God isn’t really shy about talking
about it, and God has some things to say that we can learn from this book!

“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Love Being in Love (Look, 20 mins)
In this part, we’ll talk about principles we can glean from Song of Songs about relationships, both ones that are
romantic/sexual, but also ones where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable emotionally, socially, or spiritually.
Those same principles can apply to how we choose our closest friends.
 LEADER TIP: You will probably want to tell parents you’re having this discussion in advance, and possibly tell
them these principles in advance or send them home with students or in a follow up email for continued
discussions with parents. You can also invite parents to come to the lesson. One way or another, parent
involvement in this conversation is key.


On the flip chart, write down the bolded parts we can glean from Song of Songs about romantic or sexual love
1. God has something to say about sex and our sex lives (God put it in the BIBLE!!!). If we want to follow Jesus
as Lord, then we acknowledge that He is Lord of every area of our personhood, including our sexuality. God created
this aspect of our humanity, and it’s wonderful and holy and good. People LOVE BEING IN LOVE. It's awesome. Our
good God, who created this wonderful part of us, has some ideas about how we use that part of ourselves that is for
our benefit and the benefit of others. What are some of the things God is saying through this book?...
2. Sex between these two is consensual. Neither party is forced. Both are saying “yes” to participating in this
activity. Neither is manipulated. They appear to be equals with equal power, equally participating.
 LEADER TIP: this could be a place to reiterate some SafeChurch principles about relationships with power
dynamics. That those who don’t have equal power may not (legally and otherwise) have the ability to
consent, even if (as in abuse situations) they FEEL they are partly responsible for what’s happening. This also
could be the place to bring in examples of non-consensual sex, which we call assault or harassment, etc.
Examples include the #MeToo stories, several recent stories about sexual harassment in Hollywood, or the
story of Brock Turner, the swimmer who raped an unconscious girl. See more below on “Further Resources”
3. Sex between these two is mutually enjoyable. Whatever they’re doing, they both like it. One is not “putting up
with it” for the sake of the other’s enjoyment. They BOTH equally like what’s going on.
 LEADER TIP: You may want to further prepare for this point by reading statistics (see below for Further
Resources) about how pornography is affecting mutual enjoyment. Many teens are letting pornography
serve as sex ed, and many, especially girls, think it is NORMAL to do things and have things done to them
that are NOT enjoyable to them, and are even causing them serious injury. From pornography, which almost
always shows violence against women, they think that is how sex is supposed to be, and that they just have
to put up with it. That, of course, is simply not true. It might also be good to reiterate that, other than
academic sources about sex, the person they are having sex with is one of their greatest resources for how to
do it in a way that is mutually enjoyable to THEM, the ones in that couple.
4. Sex is in the context of committed love. The two are in love, and get married (reference to the wedding 3:11).
It’s not a one-night stand or only based on lust. See her repeated refrain of “I have found the one whom my
heart/soul loves” (3:1, 3:4). And his saying that she has stolen his heart (4:9). They love each other.
5. There are warnings throughout the book about when experiencing sex is wise , and how there are times it is
not wise. The author makes it clear that this kind of romantic/sexual love is POWERFUL and produces really strong
feelings, and is not to be awakened before it’s time (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). It is like fire. Fire, when properly contained, is
really nice, warm, and useful, but if we’re not careful, it can consume, it can burn, it can get out of control (8:6-7).
 LEADER TIP: we are not trying to come at this with guilt or shame. Again, this is about the fact that they are
made in God’s image with dignity and deserve to be treated as precious and wonderful and amazing and
with special care. But there is wisdom in knowing that romantic/sexual love is like fire or a flood. Just like
many good things, they can also be misused and cause harm to self and others if not handled with
appropriate care.
“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
 Point out that many of these principles apply to other (non-romantic/non-sexual) relationships as well:
those we let into our “inner circle,” who see us at our best and worst, who have the most influence over
us…those relationships should be entered into equally by both friends, and not manipulative, socially or
emotionally. They should be mutually enjoyable (reciprocal, not one way, where one person gives and
gives and the other just takes), committed (loyal to each other’s best interests). And we should choose our
close relationships with care as well.

Small Group Discussion Questions (10 mins)

1. In this day of the #MeToo movement, can you give some examples of when people have used
sex/sexuality in a way that was not consensual?
2. What do you think about the ideas that God created sex as something good and wonderful, and has
something to say about how it works best?
3. How can these principles from Song of Songs be applied to close friendships (that don’t have sex
involved) as well? What wisdom is there in this book about relationships of all kinds?
4. How do these things we’ve learned point you back to God?

Transitional Statement
God is good, and God created every part of us. When God created sex, it was for our enjoyment, but it can be
misused in a way that causes pain to us and to others. But when we understand our value in God’s eyes, that
will help guide us in how to treat ourselves and others.

(If you have ever been to a Rite 13 Liturgy, it talks about how God gave us creative power, even the power to
create new life, but we have a responsibility to use our creative power to build the world and make it better,
not to destroy, hurt, or tear down. That goes for sex as well as every way that we interact with others and the

You are all, each one of you, each part of you, and as a whole…precious and beautiful and valuable, just like
the fine china plate we talked about earlier. Each and every person deserves to be treated with dignity and
care, not as disposable, but as precious. That goes for sex/sexuality AND each and every person. We vow in
our Baptisms to treat each person with dignity. And 1 Corinthians 13 also shows us how to treat one another
as precious and holy and valuable….

“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Prayers for Love
(Took, 5 mins)
For the closing time, we’ll talk about how every single person (each part of each person and each person as a
whole) is like a piece of very fine china: precious and beautiful and valuable, to be treated with care and
dignity and honor and respect… not like something disposable, but something deserving of special
consideration. We’ll pass out a piece of dollhouse china for them to take home to remember to treat others
with care, and we’ll connect it to 1 Corinthians 13, which tells us how to love and care for one another.

 Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (below for your reference)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not
dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of
wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always
trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)

 Pass out a piece of china to each person

o Recommended: dollhouse china (lots of pieces for not a lot of money, and also they’re cute):

 Explain that this piece of china should be a reminder to them that THEY are like fine china, not
disposable, but to be treated as valuable. They should know that they deserve respectful treatment,
and they should treat others the same way, and that 1 Corinthians shows us what love and respect
look like.
o That’s the kind of love youth should look for in their closest friendships and romantic
o It’s ok to hope for someone to love them like that, and anticipate that with excitement, in the
context of a romantic relationship, but it’s also the kind of love they should put out into the
world as well… Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Similarly, we should
also “be the love we wish to have” (A great illustration of this, if you have time-add 5 mins-is
the scene from Frozen where Anna is told that only true love can unthaw a frozen heart, and
she thinks that someone has to love her, but really, her own true love for someone else can
also do that:

Close in prayer, adapting the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Lord, help us treat each other as the precious, valuable children of God that we are. Help us be patient, and
kind. Help us not to envy or boast or be proud. Help us to honor others, and not to use them for our own self-
seeking purposes, not to treat them as disposable. Help us not easily be angry or keep records of wrongs.
Help us not delight in evil, but rejoice in the truth, especially the truth about each person, that they are loved
and valuable and like precious fine china. Help us protect, trust, hope, and persevere in our love for others.


“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Further Resources
More on the book of Song of Songs.
Some great articles, summarizing and further analyzing the book.
 SparkNotes on Song of Songs:
 “The Song of Songs” on the by Don E. Curtis:
 “The 4 Most Popular Ways to Read the Song of Songs” by Iain Duguid (from Song of Songs: Reformed
Expository Commentary):

More on Culture & Sexuality

These articles will help you be prepared for some of the misuses of sexuality that are out there in the culture
at large and youth culture. Many of the students will have experience with some of these issues, and we need
to be prepared to know what’s going on around them in their world, and to help them evaluate things from a
Scriptural point of view.
On the effects of Pornography
Among other things, pornography definitely has a negative effect on the idea of “mutual enjoyment”.
o “How Online Porn is Warping the Behaviour of Guys with Girls” by Allison Pearson, about a GP’s
perspective of what she’s seeing in teens.
o “The Impact of Pornography on Children” from a study by the American College of Pediatrics.
o “Sex before Kissing: How 15-Year Old Girls are Dealing with Porn-Obsessed Boys” by Melinda
Tankard Reist (originally published on Collective Shout), reposted on
o “Can You Tell the Difference between #MeToo Stories and Porn Plotlines?” by Alanna Vagianos
(originally on HuffPost):
o is a great research-based resource on pornography.

On the idea of consent

Here are some resources for helping to explain and talk about the idea of consent.
o Analogy about Stealing Money:
o “This Woman Just Explained Consent with the Perfect Metaphor” by Denette Wilford:
Here are some critical analyses of that metaphor (every metaphor breaks down
eventually, but in some ways the tea analogy is helpful)
“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Further Resource (continued)
On #MeToo Movement and Hollywood, Regarding Consent and Harassment

o Sexual Harrassment in Hollywood:
Trigger warnings: sexual harassment is described. This is more for leader resources for further
discussion, as youth may have experienced harassment, or heard about what’s going on in the
#MeToo movement, especially in Hollywood, since it’s been reported widely.

o Forms of Sexual Harassment:
These videos produced by David Schwimmer about what sexual harassment can look like are
uncomfortable, but helpful. The NY Times article has experts analyzing one of them to help
people know what to do in those situations. You could do a whole lesson on THAT.

o Nuances of Consent and Harassment:

After a slew of powerful men in Hollywood had allegations of harassment brought against
them, an anonymous woman wrote about a bad sexual encounter she had with comedian Aziz
Ansari. It wasn’t exactly the same in tone as the other harassment accusations of Hollywood
men, because it wasn’t to try to get a job, it was a date (although you could argue about the
power dynamic with him being famous). It sparked a debate about if this was really
harassment or just bad behavior or what. At least parts of it were consensual, although the
woman felt pressured, but it most definitely was not enjoyable for the woman. The original
article is graphic. This incident with Aziz Ansari brings up lots of nuances to the conversation
about sexual harassment, but it would be interesting to unpack with a group in light of the
ideas from Song of Songs about consent, committed love, and mutual enjoyment (be wary of
the content, though…it’s intense).

Some analyses of it:


“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
The “What’s in the Bible?” Series

Genesis “Memories and Stories” Nov 2017

Exodus “Near” Nov 2017
Leviticus “You Want me to do What Now?” & “Fellowship” May 2017
Numbers “Unfinished” Nov 2017
Deuteronomy “SuperHero Wanted” Nov 2017
Joshua “Never Give Up” Sep 2016
Judges “No Rules” Dec 2017
Ruth “Loyalty” Feb 2017
1&2 Samuel “Who’s on the Throne?” Dec 2017
1&2 Kings “Lights in the Darkness” Dec 2017
Ezra “Read the Book!” Jan 2018
Nehemiah “Build the Wall” Jan 2018
Esther “Courage” Apr 2017
Job “Bad Theology” Feb 2018
Psalms “On the Couch” Feb 2018
Proverbs “Just Sayings” Feb 2018
Ecclesiastes “What’s the Point?” Apr 2018
Song of Songs “Love Being in Love” May 2018

“Love Being In Love” (Song of Songs)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta

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