Overview of Song of Songs can be listened to as a podcast here.
Title: “Song of the Songs” a superlative meaning the greatest of songs
Author: Solomon (1:1) with 6 other verses mentioning Solomon (1:5; 3:7,9, 11; 8:11-12)
Date: Solomon (reigned 969-932 BC). Most scholars argue that Song was written at the beginning of Solomon’s reign. However, I would place it at the end of his life (see purpose).
Ancient debate over its place in the canon of Scripture: “R. Akiba said: God Forbid!—no man In Israel ever disputed about the Song of Songs … for all the ages are not worthy the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies. And if aught was in dispute the dispute was about Ecclesiastes alone.” (Yadim 3.5)1) The Mishnah (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 782
Throughout history this book has been argued over how to interpret it with an allegorical method prevailing throughout Jewish and Christian history. Probably no other biblical book has been debated as to how it should be interpreted.
- The allegorical approach offers an interpretation for every imaginable detail mentioned in the book that is allegedly hidden with a spiritual meaning.
- The typological approach acknowledges the literal interpretation but offers a mystical meaning behind the broad concepts instead of every detail. This assumes the love between the man and women is meant to depict the love of God to Israel or Christ for the church.
- Some says it is a drama but this literary genre was unknown to ancient Israelite, nor can the book be analyzed into separate scene as would be expected of a drama.
- Some scholars have claimed it is a collection of Syrian wedding songs in which the groom the role of the king and the bride played the role as a queen. The unity of the book refutes any view that presents it disjunctive.
- Liberals have claimed it to be pagan fertility cult liturgies, or an anthology of love songs.
- To consider it erotica as many liberal do is foolish. One must have a perverted mind in order to interpret this poetry in a perverted way.
- Taking a literal interpretation is always the best route. Those who are shocked that God would inspire a book that seems explicit are ignorant of how raunchy ancient pagan literature was. This book is very modest in the way it addresses sexuality being covered by beautiful poetry.
- If there is a typology within the text it could only be discerned through understanding it literally.
I. The Superscription (1:1)
II. The Courtship (1:2-3:5)
III. The Wedding (3:6-5:1)
IV. The Maturing of Marriage (5:2-8:4)
V. Conclusion (8:5-14)
A. Opening words of mutual love and desire (1:2-2:7)
B. Young man’s invitation to the young woman to join him in the countryside (2:8-17)
C. Young woman’s nighttime search for the young man (3:1-5)
X. The wedding day (3:6-5:1)
C’. Young woman’s nighttime search for the young man, and their speeches of admiration and longing (5:2-7:11)
B’. Young woman’s invitation to the young man to join her in the countryside (7:11-8:4)
A’ Closing words of mutual love and desire (8:5-14)
Story line: This book is like an ancient counterpart of our Cinderella story. Solomon owns a vineyard in the hill country of Ephraim which he lent out to keepers (8:11). The keepers consist of a mother, at least 2 sons (1:6), and 2 daughters—the Shulamite (6:13) and a younger sister (8:8). The Shulamite is the Cinderella, apparently a half-sister, who is forced to tend the vineyard and keep the flock (1:6, 8; 2:15). She is working out in the sun so much she finds no time to take care of herself (1:5-6), though she has natural beauty she is unaware of it (1:8; 4:7).
A stranger comes to the vineyard which she thought was a shepherd (1:7). He spoke of his love for her (1:8-10), and promised to return with rich gifts (1:11). He won her affection and she dreamed of him at night (3:1). The man finally returns (3:6) and it turns out that it was Solomon (3:7-11). The remainder of the story line expresses their love in marriage as well as the struggle of maturing through the various difficulties that exist.
A faulty view has been suggested by a German higher critic Georg Heinrich von Ewald (1826), which many follow today. The idea presents 3 characters, the shepherd and the Shulamite who fall and love. Solomon is then presented as the villain who forces the woman to be part of his harem and attempts to seduce her but she resists and remains true to her humble shepherd husband. The problem with this is: a) attempting to distinguish when the bride is addressing Solomon or the shepherd; b) it makes Solomon the villain which is highly unlikely since he is the author; c) the difficulty to trace this plot in the progress of the story; d) there is no definite change in the male character of the text; e) how can this alleged humble shepherd make promises of luxurious offering to the woman; f) Solomon has flocks (Pro 27:23) so there is no reason to not assume he is the shepherd.
Probable Division of Speakers of the Song
|The beloved||Friends of the beloved||Solomon||The beloved’s brothers|
Purpose: The Shulamite is Solomon’s first wife. Solomon took many wives which caused him to fall into idolatry (1 Kings 3:3 cf. 11:1-11). Solomon began polygamy very early in his reign when he took Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 3:1). For this fact it is difficult to say he wrote this love song early in his reign.
As we see in the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems to have repented later in life (Ecc 12:13-14) and desired to teach people his lessons from life. It is likely he produced this book acknowledging repentance of his polygamy to teach people the best option is to rejoice in the wife of your youth (Pro 5:18-20). Solomon offers a lesson from his error of polygamy because his first wife was his true love, but his relationship with her was disrupted by his absence (Song 5:2-8, cf. 1 Sam 1:2, 6; Gen 2:24; Deut 17:17; Mt 19:4-6).
Furthermore, a practical purpose places an emphasis on human love within marriage. God endorses intimacy in a proper marriage relationship (Heb 13:4). Healthy intimate marriages also support God’s endorsement of procreation (Gen 1:28; 9:1; 22:17; Ps 127:3-5; etc.) which is for the purpose to increase the “godly seed” (Mal 2:15). Healthy marriages support healthy families which are the backbone of a healthy society; especially societies that have a majority populated by those raised
|↑1||The Mishnah (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 782|