How do/did Jews and Christians interpret Song of Songs?

Jewish readers spiritually interpret the Song of Songs as a reflection on the covenant relationship between God and His people Israel. Christian readers notice the covenant relationship between Christ and the church and between Christ and individual Christians.

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When people read the Biblical Song of Songs for the first time, many are struck by how different it is from other books of the Bible. Some wonder why this book is included in scripture at all. It is, after all, on the literal level a love song, and a somewhat erotic one in places at that. Yet Jews and Christians both find a deeper, spiritual meaning in the Song of Songs that focuses on people's relationship with God.

For Jewish readers, the Song of Songs is an extended metaphor for the relationship between God and His people Israel. God has made a covenant with His people, a family bond established by swearing an oath, and this covenant is often expressed in prophetic writings as a marriage. God “marries” His people and cares for them tenderly, loving them and remaining always faithful. God's people, however, often break the covenant, acting the part of an adulterous wife who chases after other lovers. The Song of Songs both presents God's great love and sets an example of how God's people should love Him in return with a passionate, faithful love.

Christian readers maintain most aspects of the Jewish interpretation of the covenant love between God and His people, but they shift it slightly to incorporate the Christian worldview. In a Christian reading, the spouse in the Song of Songs is Jesus Christ, and His bride is both the church and each individual Christian. Jesus has established a new and eternal covenant with an expanded people of God, His Body and Bride, the church. Part of the church still dwells in the world and must, therefore, often search for her Spouse amidst the distractions and trials of life, just like the bride does in the Song of Songs. But eventually, when Christ returns in glory, the church will be completely and blissfully united with her divine Spouse in Heaven forever.

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