Song of Solomon is a Hebrew
song for lovers.
Song of Solomon is called
by the author "The Song of Songs," which means it is
the most superlative, or best, of songs. The author
may be suggesting that this is the best of Solomon's
1,005 songs or that this is the best of all his
poems. You will also see it referred to as
"Canticles" taken from the Latin translation of the
first word. This poem heads the list of five
shorter scrolls known as the Megilloth.
"Song of Songs" implies that this song is the
choicest of all songs.
The poem claims Solomon as its author (1:1), and
ancient Jewish tradition ascribes it to him.
The title in the Hebrew text ascribes the poem to
Solomon. However, the relative pronoun
employed in the title is different from that
employed throughout the poem. The name of Solomon is
prominent in the book (1:5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11f). The
writer is referred to as the "king" in 1:4, 12; 3:9,
11; 7:5. The book speaks of royal luxury and
abundance, which the king would have enjoyed (1:12,
13; 3:6, 7-10; 6:12). Solomon could easily have
written it since he authored 1005 songs (I Kings
4:32). Hebrew grammatical peculiarities found only
in this book, and similar expressions and figures of
speech suggest a single author. Modern scholarship
questions the Solomonic authorship saying, "the book
is about Solomon rather than by him." This is
mainly from linguistic arguments, but there is
little agreement among those who hold this theory.
Verse 1:1 may be translated, "The Song of Songs
which is about or concerning Solomon."
However, there is no compelling reason for not
accepting Solomon as the author.
If Solomon is the author the date would be about 965
B.C. The geographical references favor a date before
930 B.C. Gleason Archer, Jr. says, "The author
mentions quite indiscriminately localities to be
found in both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms:
Engedi, Hermon, Carmel, Lebanon, Heshbon, and
Jerusalem. These are spoken of as if they all
belonged to the same political realm. Note that
Tirzah is mentioned as a city of particular glory
and beauty, and that too in the same breath with
Jerusalem itself (6:4)." Tirzah would not have been
mentioned in such favorable terms if this song had
been written after the time the Kingdom divided when
the city was chosen as the earliest capital of the
Northern Kingdom. "Judging from internal evidence,
then, the author was totally unaware of any division
of the Hebrew monarch into North and Southern," and
would place the composition of the song some time
before 931 B.C. Those who deny Solomonic authorship
place book much later. It is reasonable that Song of
Solomon was written in the tenth century B.C. during
king Solomon's reign (971-931 B.C.)
The book is lyric poetry, with a touch of dramatic
spirit, and vivid descriptions of physical charms,
which were an example of the love songs in wedding
feasts in Bible lands. John R. Sampey notes:
"It is not properly classed as drama, for the
Hebrews had no stage, though much of the Old
Testament is dramatic in spirit. The descriptions of
the charms of the lovers were to be sung or
chanted." It is a poem of love. Who the lovers
are is the subject of keen debate in our time. The
Song of Solomon discloses all the secret intimacies
of wedded life without becoming obscene. The
Oriental mind sees nothing improper in the intimate
descriptions. The language of this beautiful song is
considered eminently chaste.
The mode of expression is
peculiarly Eastern. It is full of gorgeous colors,
and high figures of speech. It is full of human
interests. "The cool, calculating, mechanical man
who dislikes this book has never been in love, and
probably never will be."
It is a book of love. "I
find that it reveals much concerning the nature of
love which is of supreme importance. The foundation
of love is laid bare. The strength of love is
revealed. The methods of love are indicated. The
experience of love is described," writes G. Campbell
Jack Deere has skillfully
argued that this book is not an anthology of
unrelated love songs, but a unified whole. "The same
characteristics are seen throughout the book (the
beloved maiden, the lover, and the daughters of
The book presents a healthy view of physical love
within marriage. It demonstrates faithfulness
between married lovers as worthy of a place in the
Scriptures. Many Jews and Christians have drawn
spiritual strength from this song. However, there is
no indication that the author thought of what he
wrote in any other sense than literal. The book
affirms God's design for sexuality between man and
woman after marriage.
There is no quotation from it in the New Testament.
Its canonicity was debated as late as the Synod of
Jamnia (c. 90 A.D.). Sections from Song of
Songs were sung at certain festivals in the Temple
at Jerusalem, prior to its destruction by Titus in
70 A.D. There is good evidence that it was
included in the Kethubhim before the ministry
of Jesus, and was for Him a part of the Scriptures.
It entered into the canon because it celebrated the
mysteries of human love expressed in the marriage
festival. The Hebrew Scriptures were probably
originally canonized into a two-fold division as the
Law and the Prophets. By the second century B.C. a
third division was added making the Hebrew
Scriptures the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
Interpretation: The Jews
rabbis viewed the poem as an allegory, presenting
the Divine Lover, Jehovah, and His beloved bride,
Israel. They taught that the poem celebrates a
spiritual love. Nearly every verse was made to
have a symbolic meaning revealing many details in
Jewish history. It was read publicly at the
Passover Feast, which celebrates Jehovah's choice of
Israel to be His spouse. Rabbis preached from
the book on the love of God for His people.
Origen introduced the
allegorical interpretation into Christian thinking
by changing the application from the history of
Israel to Christ and His Church. He
represented the bride as the church or the soul of
the believer. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote 86
sermons on the first two chapters of Song of
Solomon. Christians found it easy to follow
the Jewish allegorical interpreters since the figure
of wedlock is employed in the New Testament by Paul
and John to represent the intimate and vital union
of Christ and His church (II Cor. 11:2; Eph.
5:22-33; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2, 9ff). The entire
body of true believers is conceived of as the bride
of Christ. No contemporary Christian scholar accepts
the allegorical extremes of Origin.
John R. Sampey made these
observations regarding allegorical interpretation:
"What justification is there for the theory that
Canticles is an allegory of love between Jehovah and
His people, or of the love of Christ and the church,
or of the love of the soul of the believer and
Christ? It must be frankly confessed that
there is not a hint in the Song itself that it is an
allegory. . . . In the forefront of our answer we
must recall the fact that the great prophets
frequently represent the mutual love of Jehovah and
Israel under the symbolism of marriage (Hos. 1-3;
Jer. 3; Eze. 16; 23; Isa. 50:1; 54:5, 6)."
Care in interpretation
must be taken because allegorical interpretation
requires a spiritual counterpart for every physical
detail in the song. It is objectionable to equate
Solomon and his harem to Christ and his church.
Moreover, "the allegorical approach is subjective
with no way to verify that any of the
interpretations are correct. The Song of Songs
nowhere gives an interpreter that suggestion that it
should be understood as an allegory," observes
Interpretation: The poem
presents the courtship and marriage of Solomon with
the background essentially historical and the words
literal. In types, mystical meaning for every detail
is not required as in the allegory. The love of
Solomon and the bride are seen as typical of the
love of Christ and His church. The love of marriage
is made to illustrate the love between Christ and
His Bride. Compare the New Testament picture of
Christ and His Bridegroom in Ephesians and
Revelation. According to John R. Sampey, Delitzch is
perhaps the ablest of the typical interpreters.
Interpretation: The poet
sings of praises of true love, and its joys in
courtship and marriage. It is viewed as a
literal love song, used to praise faithfulness in
marriage. The Oriental mind sees nothing improper in
the intimate descriptions of the poem. It is a
historical record of the romance of Solomon with a
Shulammite woman. God created man and woman, and
established and sanctioned marriage (Gen. 1:27;
2:20-24). It is refreshing to know that God has
included a book in the Bible that gives His
endorsement of marital love in a wholesome and pure
presentation. What a striking contrast with the
self-destructive life styles and philosophy in many
societies. Andrew Hill and John Walton remind us,
"The Bible gives no place to premarital or
extramarital behavior, whether heterosexual or
homosexual (Exo. 20:14; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Matt.
5:27-28; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:13, 18; Eph. 5:3).
Scriptural warnings are plain enough: God will judge
all who are sexually immoral (1 Cor. 6:9, 18-20;
Song of Solomon is
rendered a worthy place in the Bible because
marriage is to be regarded as a gift from God. The
book is not rendered unworthy of a place in the
Bible, unless marriage is to be regarded as a fall
from a state of innocence. Sampey adds, "The two
young lovers in Paradise need not fear to rise and
meet their Creator, should He visit them in the cool
of the day."
G. Campbell Morgan wrote:
"The songs should be treated first as simple and yet
sublime songs of human affection. When they are thus
understood, reverently the thoughts may be lifted
into the higher value of setting forth the joys of
the communion between the spirit of man and the
Spirit of God, and ultimately between the Church and
"To take this view of the
Song of Solomon is to recognize the supremacy of
love. Human life finds its highest fulfillment
in the love of man and woman. The supreme thing in
religion is love between the soul and God. The
highest realization of that supreme experience of
love between God and the soul is created by Christ.
In Him, God came near to man in order to woo him.
In Him, man came to know God and to love Him.
Therefore, I can sing the songs of Solomon, as did
the mystics, as setting forth the relationship
between Christ and His Bride."
In the first place, this
was undoubtedly a love-song, but it was very pure
and very beautiful. Morgan writes, "To those
who live lives of simple purity, these songs are
full of beauty, as they utter the language of human
love; and finally, in spiritual experience, they
express the relation of such as have been wooed by
God in Christ, and thus have come to know and love
The Song of Solomon is a
revelation of the true nature of human love, but it
also unveils the highest religious experience.
The Song of Solomon
illuminates "the original Divine purpose of love
between man and woman as the basis of marriage. . .
. That supreme and all-inclusive truth of the
strength of love is illustrated throughout the whole
of these songs" (Morgan).
"If this, then, is only a
human love song, would to God that those who know
its strength would sing it in the highways and
byways, to recall men and women form superficial and
frivolous thinking about love, to a true conception
of its height and depth and beauty" (Morgan).
Again, Morgan notes, "In the presence of the gory of
love it warns them not to trifle with the most
sacred thing in life."
"It is when we thus see
the beauty of it in its first application that we
discover how wondrously it flashes its light upon
the vaster spaces, and inevitably becomes the
unveiling of religious experience at its highest and
best. I do not hesitate to affirm that I believe
this was the ultimate intention of the writer. . .
If Solomon wrote of human love, he nevertheless sang
before Jehovah" (Morgan).
The Hebrew prophets
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the apostles Paul and
John apply the principles of the marriage
relationship to God and His intimate relationship
with His people.
"Thou, O Christ, art all
More than all in Thee I
That is a reminder of our
satisfaction in an intimate relationship with
Christ. "Even if today we fail to see the glory of
His perfected work in us, it is nevertheless true
that in His redeemed at last He shall see of the
travail of His soul, and be satisfied. That mutual
satisfaction is the very foundation of love. . . I
am satisfied in Him, and He is satisfied in me; not
in me as I now am, but in that which He will make
me, in that which I shall be, when His work is
perfected in me" (Morgan).
"Our love to Him has the
same note of intensity in proportion as we yield in
whole-hearted abandonment to the appeal of His. His
love of us is ever that of the overshadowing and
Title: Introduction to
the Song of Solomon
Series: Introduction to