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Old Testament Survey

Song of Solomon




Key Verses

7:10


Key Chapters

2


Key Concepts

Love


Thoughts for Reading

How much does God love you?


Title

Both the Hebrew and Greek titles come from the first words of the book, “the song of Songs.” The entire verse continues on, “which is Solomon’s” giving rise to the alternative title of “Song of Solomon.” The Hebrew could also be translated as the “best of songs.” The Latin title means essentially the same thing, but a portion of the Latin title is Canticum from which we derive our English word “canticles.” This, too, has become an alternate name for the book. The Latin word also means “song.”

There are seven verses which refer to Solomon by name (1:1; 1;5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11-12), as well as references to the author as “king” (1:4, 12; 3:9, 11; 7:5). This, together with tradition and a great deal of similarity in language and literary style with Ecclesiastes, supports the position that both are written by the same person, Solomon, song of David, king of Israel.

The book should be dated to an early portion of Solomon’s career while he was still walking close to God, at to a point where his harem had not grown large. This would date the book to around 965 B.C. This book records only sixty queens and eighty concubines. This makes the setting in the early years of Solomon’s reign. First Kings’ statistics are much larger for the brides of Solomon who led him astray later in life.

THEORIES OF INTERPRETATION

The major issue with this book has always related to the issue of interpretation. There is little doubt that the work is about true love, outwardly the love of the King for a Shulamite girl. The progression of the work is seen by dividing the verses by speaker, of whom there are four:

The work then describes courtship, marriage, the honeymoon, and later, matured love. But, is this “all” there is to the book?

On the other hand, many Jewish rabbis viewed the book literally, calling it the Holy of Holies of Scripture and forbidding young men under the age of 30 from reading the book!

The first approach, mostly of Jewish scholars, is to see the book as an allegory. They see hidden meanings in the language. The Jewish allegory is that the book is about God’s love for Israel. The problem with this approach, is that by adopting an interpretation unrelated to the actual words, one must find a spiritual counterpart for every physical detail. Also, if the work is viewed as wisdom, this runs contrary to the allegorical approach. Note, too, that some Christian scholars have adopted this same approach finding the story about God’s love for the church.

A second approach to interpretation is to find an extended type where Solomon typifies Christ and his beloved, the Shulamite girl, typifies the church. This approach finds Solomon and his beloved to be historical persons, but also finds the “true” meaning of the story in what they represent. This avoids the need to match every detail of the story to a spiritual meaning. This results in an interpretation very similar to that of the allegorical approach, namely a view of the love Christ has for His church. At issue here is any other support in Scripture for finding Solomon as being a typical picture of God’s relationship to His people. Indeed, the historical setting of Solomon and the fact he fails to abide with one true love speaks against such an interpretation.

Other interpretative suggestions include a collection of wedding songs and a collection of pagan cult liturgies.

The third approach is to accept the story as a drama about the love of the King for his beloved. There is no indication that the book is written in this form, however. While a true drama may break down into scenes and acts, it is impossible to analyze Songs in this fashion. Also, there is no indication that this type of play or presentation was present in any literature at this early date.

Psalm 45, the royal marriage hymn or “Songs of Love,” is a key to the proper interpretation of Song of Solomon. While the Psalms references are to Solomon, it looks forward to Christ (Heb 1:7, 8).

A last, and the most probable view of the book, is that it is a poetic song of wisdom about the ultimate relationship of marriage, a literal view. Solomon’s name being attached to the work sets the stage for this approach. The book is designed to extol sexual love between a married couple and to affirm God’s design for sexuality. As mentioned above, the book unfolds into the entire spectrum of a maturing love relationship between a man and a woman. It is, in this sense, God’s counseling guide for the married couple.

A simple outline for the book is:

Jesus in Song of Solomon

The best view of interpretation is to understand there is a combining of the literal view and the typical view. The book is obviously about true love and there is no reason to take this interpretation away from the work. But, in typical fashion, the book may be seen as a picture of Christ’s love for the church, His bride (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:23-25; Rev 19:7-9; 21:9).

Who is your true love?

 

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December 14, 2019

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