The Song of Solomon
Solomon is identified in verse 1 as the author…although the verse can be translated, “The Song of Songs which is about or concerning Solomon.”
Time written & time covered in history:
Lifetime of Solomon (he reigned 971-931 B.C.)
The Hebrew title is literally: “The Song of Songs,” which means the most superlative, or best of songs. There are a variety of English titles for this book:
- Song of Songs
- Song of Solomon
- Canticles…which is derived from Latin and means “songs”.
This book is…
A lyric poem in dialogue form, the book describes Solomon’s love for a Shulammite girl. The king comes in disguise to her family’s vineyard, wins her heart, and ultimately makes her his bride.
The Ryrie Study Bible, Charles Ryrie, p. 1,000
At times, it is something of an erotic poem. “Jerome tells us that the Jews would not permit their young men to read it until they were thirty years old.”
Through the Bible in One Year, Allen B. Stringfellow, p. 73
God is only mentioned one time in the book (cf. 8:6).
There are two primary methods by which this Book is interpreted:
Allegorical…The characters in the book are fictional and serve to teach the truth of God’s love for His people. However, this is not in keeping with principles of normal interpretation and must be rejected. Here are two examples of this method of interpretation.
This is a song of love in marriage in Oriental language and imagery. The persons are Solomon and the Shulamite maid and the daughters of Jerusalem. The idea of the love of husband and wife sets forth the love between Jehovah and His people. This is seen in many passages in the Bible. Moreover, Solomon as a lover was a type of Christ. See Ephesians 5. Personal love to Christ is the greatest need of the church today. The knowledge of sin forgiven and of Christ’s redeeming work has drawn us to Him.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, p. 205
On its face, the poem is a eulogy of the Joys of Wedded Life. Its essence is to be found in its tender and devoted expressions of the intimate delights of Wedded Love. Even if it is no more than that, it is worthy a place in God's Word; for Marriage was ordained of God (Genesis 2:24). And on proper Mutual Attitudes in the inner familiarities of Married Life depend, to a very large extent, Human Happiness and Welfare.
However, both Jews and Christians have seen deeper meanings in this poem. Jews read it at Passover as allegorically referring to the Exodus, where God espoused Israel to Himself as His Bride, His Love for Israel being here exemplified in the "Spontaneous Love, of a Great King and an Humble Maid." In Old Testament Israel is called God's Wife (Jeremiah 3:I; Ezekiel 16 and 23).
Christians have, quite commonly, regarded it as a Pre-Nuptial Song of Christ and the Church; for, in the New Testament, the Church is called the Bride of Christ (Matthew 9:15; 25:1; John 3:29; II Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23; Revelation 19:7; 21:2; 22:17); indicating that Human Wedlock is a sort of Counterpart and Foretaste of the Rapturous Relation between Christ and His Church.
How could a Man with 1000 Women have a Love for any one of them that would be Fit to be Typical of Christ's love for the Church? Well, a number of Old Testament saints were Polygamists. Even though God's Law was against it from the beginning, as Christ so plainly stated, yet in Old Testament times God seemed to have accommodated Himself, in measure, to prevailing customs. Kings generally had Many Wives. It was one of the signs of Royalty. And Solomon's devotion to this lovely girl did seem to be genuine and unmistakable. Then too he was King in the Family which was produce the Messiah. And it seems not unfitting that his Marriage should, in a sense, prefigure the Messiah's Eternal Marriage to His Bride. The Joys of this Song, we think, will find their Climax in the Hallelujahs of the Lamb's Marriage Supper (Revelation 19:6-9).
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, pp. 277-278
Historical…This book is an actual record of the romance between Solomon and a Shulammite woman. The book is full of “snapshots” of this romance portraying the joys of love in courtship and marriage…counteracting the extremes of both asceticism and of lust. It clearly establishes the rightful place of physical love within the marriage relationship, only. While Solomon is certainly not the best example of marital devotion (he had many wives and concubines—60 wives and 80 concubines at this time, 6:8…and many more later—700 wives and 300 concubines, 1 Kings 11:13…with innumerable virgins on the waiting list, 6:8)…some suggest that the book may record the only pure romance he ever had.
This book is considered by many scholars to be a superb example of Hebrew poetry. However, its sudden change from speaker to speaker, and from place to place, with no explanation can make it difficult to understand and follow. It is like going to see a play in a foreign language at the theater and not having a guide. You have difficulty knowing who is who, what they are saying, much less following the action.
The primary characters are:
- Solomon…the King
- Shulammite…the Bride
- Daughters of Jerusalem…the chorus of Palace Ladies. Some think them to be the women of Solomon’s harem. Solomon has 140 wives at this time (cf. 6:8) and many more later (cf. 1 Kings 11:3).
Some believe that the Shulammite woman was Abishag, of Shunem, the most beautiful woman in the land, who took care of King David’s in his last days. They never had a physical relationship (1 Kings 1:1-4). She probably became Solomon’s wife so that his throne would not be threatened (1 Kings 2:17,22). The term “Shulammite,” is believed to be derived from the name of her hometown, Shunam, near Mt. Gilboa, and identifies her as a person originating from there. It is a variant of “Shunnamite”…perhaps a feminine form of the word. The word “Shulammite” is also variously spelled “Shullamite” and “Shulamite”.
This book could be a modern romance novel. Notice the outward expressions of love of the couple shows as seen in their vivid descriptions of each other…
The Bride of the story
(as described by the bridegroom)
- She was the most beautiful girl in the world (1:8)
- She was like his prized mare pulling his chariot (1:9)
- She was like a bouquet of flowers in a garden (1:14)
- Her eyes were as soft as doves (1:15)
- She was as a lily among the thorns as compared to his other wives (2:2)
- She has a good figure (2:14)
- Her hair fell across her face like flocks of goats which frisked across the slopes of Gilead (4:1)
- Her teeth were as white as sheep's wool and none are missing from the flock (4:2)
- Her lips were like a thread of scarlet (4:3) and made of honey (4:11)
- Her temples had the ruby color of pomegranates (4:3)
- Her neck was as stately as the Tower of David (4:4)
- Her breasts were as twin fawns of a gazelle, feeding among the lilies (4:5)
- She is beautiful from head to toe and without blemish (4:7)
- He was completely overcome by a single glance of her beautiful eyes (4:9)
- Her kisses are sweet like milk and honey (4:11)
- She is pure and virtuous, full of fruits never before picked (4:12-5:1)
- She was like a lovely orchard, bearing precious fruit (4:13)
- She was as a garden fountain, a well of living water, refreshing as the streams from the Lebanon mountains (4:15)
- Her feet are beautiful (7:1)
- Her thighs were like jewels, the work of the most skilled of craftsmen (7:1)
- Her navel was as lovely as a goblet filled with wine (7:2)
- Her waist was like a heap of wheat set about with lilies (7:2)
- Her breasts were perfectly matched (7:3)
- Her neck gives her a stately look (7:4)
- She has eyes that are large and rich in color (7:4)
- Her nose was shapely like the Tower of Lebanon overlooking Damascus (7:4)
- Her head gives her a regal appearance (7:5)
- Her hair is long and flowing (7:5)
- Her stature is flowing and gracious (7:7)
The Groom of the story
(as described by the bride)
- His love is better than wine (1:2)
- He smells good (1:3,14)
- He is handsome and good company (1:16)
- He stands out among other men (2:3)
- He was as swift as a young gazelle leaping and bounding over the hills (2:9)
- He was ruddy and handsome, the fairest of ten thousand (5:10)
- His head was a purest gold, covered by wavy, black hair (5:11)
- His eyes were as doves beside the water brooks, deep and quiet (5:12)
- His cheeks were like sweetly scented beds of spices (5:13)
- His lips were as perfumed lilies and his breath like myrrh (5:13)
- His hands were as round bars of gold set with topaz (5:14)
- His body was bright ivory encrusted with jewels (5:14)
- His legs were pillars of marble set in sockets of finest gold, like cedars of Lebanon (5:15)
- His kisses are sweet (5:16)
Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, H.L. Willmington, pp. 138-139, (with some additions of my own)
Again, this book could be a modern romance novel. Notice the deepening commitment of love the couple shows as seen in the flow of the story…
The Attraction of the Eyes (physical)…they meet Song 1:2-3:5
The Commitment of the Mind (mental)…they marry Song 3:6-5:1
The Struggles of the Heart (emotional)…they fight Song 5:2-6:13
The Maturity of the Will (spiritual)…they grow Song 7:1-8:14
The Attraction of the Eyes (physical)…they meet Song 1:2-3:5
Song 1:1 Solomon’s Song about Love
This book is an autobiographical love story written by Solomon.
Song 1:2-4 The Shullamite expresses her love for Solomon
In vivid language the Shullamite speaks of her love and infatuation for Solomon. But, she must wait on him to take the initiative. The “maidens” are other women around the palace.
Song 1:5-7 The Shullamite is self-conscious of her looks
The “daughters of Jerusalem" are Solomon's harem. The Shullamite tells them that her skin is dark and not properly cared for because her brothers made her work outside in the vineyard (:5-6). “Swarthy” means “black”. She compares the color of her darkly tanned skin to the “tents of Kedar” that were made of black goat hair…and to the “curtains of Solomon” which were the beautifully made curtains in his palace. She is interested in meeting Solomon but doesn't want to appear to be too forward, like “one who veils herself”, a prostitute (:7).
Song 1:8 The Daughters of Jerusalem speak to the Shullamite
They tell her where to look for Solomon.
Song 1:9-10 Solomon and the Shullamite compliment each other’s appearance
Solomon and the Shullamite meet and are attracted to each other (1:8-2:6)...the relationship progresses in intimacy (:6). He says she is like, “My mare among the chariots of Pharaoh”. While to us it may sound strange for a man to say a woman reminds her of a horse…this was the height of compliments for Solomon to make because he had a great appreciation for horses (cf. 1 Kings 4:26). She was like his favorite mare!
Song 1:11 The Daughters of Jerusalem speak to the Shullamite
She has told them that because she has been raised working outside that she has not had time, or perhaps even learned, how to dress and apply make-up. So, they tell her that they will help.
Song 1:12-14 The Shullamite speaks of her love for Solomon
“Myrrh” and “henna blossoms” are both aromatics that give off a delightful fragrance. Most women wore a pouch of perfume around their necks.
Song 1:15-2:6 Solomon and the Shullamite compliment one another’s appearance and have an intimate moment together, cont’d.
Initially, the two are only talking. But the language used in verse 6 suggests that their talk eventually led to a passionate embrace.
Song 2:7 Solomon speaks to the Daughters of Jerusalem
Perhaps Solomon stayed late. He tells the other women of the palace to not awaken the Shullamite, but to allow her to sleep.
However, others suggest that what Solomon meant here was for the women to not push her too quickly along in the relationship…but to let “love” take its course, to allow their love to progress naturally, on its own. The word “my” is not actually in the Hebrew. So, it would then read, ”That you will not arouse or awaken love”. He will repeat this instruction on two other occasions during the first year of their marriage (cf. 3:5; 8:4). It could be that Solomon knew what these women had in mind. He had seen them groom other women to be his wives. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with it. They just all turned out the same. But there was something special about the Shullamite. She was a little rough around the edges (having been raised working on a farm…she was not accustomed to being in the court of the King)…but there was something about her that he did not want to change, to spoil. So, he told them to help her…but to allow her to find her own way, to be herself. It would turn out to be an endearing quality in her that he would treasure.
Song 2:8-13 The Shullamite speaks of her love for Solomon
The Shullamite is day-dreaming and in her mind she imagines Solomon coming back to her.
Song 2:14 Solomon speaks to the Shulammite
Solomon says that he wants to know everything about her.
Song 2:15 Solomon and the Shullamite resolve that nothing will spoil their love
Solomon takes her out on a beautiful day and they promise to allow nothing to spoil their love. The “little foxes” were especially destructive to the vineyards because they dug tunnels underneath the plants. These tunnels were an unseen danger (destroying the root system and making the damaged plants susceptible to disease) to the plants.
Song 2:16-3:4 The Shullamite dreams at night about Solomon coming back to see her again
The Shullamite has a dream about Solomon. In the dream she couldn't find him until she searched and searched. In the dream she becomes frightened because she fears that she has lost him. Finally, she finds him and takes him to her mother's home for safety. Perhaps there was some insecurity in the heart of this woman who had previously worked in the fields that her love for a King would not be enough to keep them together.
Song 3:5 Solomon speaks to the Daughters of Jerusalem
Solomon repeats what he had told them earlier (cf. 2:7).
The Commitment of the Mind (mental)…they marry Song 3:6-5:1
Their relationship progresses and they are married.
Song 3:6-11 Solomon arrives with his entourage for the wedding
Here is a picture of the marriage procession...featuring the arrival of King Solomon. Solomon is lying on a couch that is being carried on the shoulders of servants and is surrounded by his personal body guard (:7-10).
Prayer: Father, thank You for creating us with the capacity to love, and be loved. Thank You for creating us as man and woman…and that You intend for us to marry and share in a life together. Help me to honor You in the love that I have for my wife. Surely through my wife, You have blessed me as You blessed Solomon through his wife…with “gladness of heart”.