Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon is beautiful poetry. This book reminds us of why love and marriage is so beautiful! Solomon was the wisest man to live, yet he took the time to compose such beautiful poetry. He knew that the beauty of love is to be appreciated. Although we don't know the time period between Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes, love remains one of the few things Solomon never calls a waste of time or "vanity."

Introduction

Song of Solomon, also known as Song of Songs, is known for its theme of love. It is by far the most sensual book of the Bible and has been known to make many of our more conservative brothers and sisters blush. Of course, that just means there's even more to learn from this book than meets the eye!

Song of Solomon is one of two books in which God is never actually mentioned (the other is Esther). Like with the book of Esther, we can see the symbolism of God and our relationship with Him in the book even though He isn't mentioned by name.
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Author

As implied by the name, Song of Solomon was written by King Solomon, the son of David. This is the standard position held by Judaism and Christianity. Not only does the title attribute authorship Solomon, 1 Kings 4:32 confirms that Solomon wrote 1005 songs (Song of Solomon being the one preserved by God). However, there are critics who believe the book was not written by Solomon.

Critics argue that Solomon's name was added to the title later, despite the fact that there isn't any proof of this. Biblical scholars argue that the structure of the book, which pays homage to the symbolic numbers 7 and 10, supports the inclusion of the name at the beginning of authorship because it marks the 7th occurrence of Solomon's name in the book (I'll talk about the structure in this post too).[1]

Personally, I find it hard to believe someone would be able to successfully pass off a writing as that of the famed King Solomon. Solomon was highly respected by the Israelites and is known as one of the best kings to ever rule the nation. Granted the average person may not have been well versed on Solomon's life and writings, the scribes and priests would have been. In order for a scroll to miraculously appear and be attributed to Solomon, it would have had to come at the hands of someone who handled the records. This person would not have been solely in charge of this task (Numbers shows that responsibilities were doled out by tribe and family). Other scribes and priests allowing this insertion to slide, though possible, seems quite unlikely, to me.

The more logical argument against Solomon being the author of book is that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.[1] It's hard to imagine a man knowing anything about love with that many women at his beck and call. However, once again, if you break down the facts and look other relationships in the Bible, you'll see that this is also a faulty conclusion.

For starters, it's unlikely that Solomon was intimate and close with all of his wives and concubines. For the concubines alone, if he slept with a different woman each night, it would take him almost a year to sleep with all of them. If you include all his female companions, he'd have to sleep with at least 3 different women each day to be able to say he slept with all of them within the year. I know some men may think of that as a dream come true, but let's face it, it would be pretty hard to run an entire nation and manage that sex life too.

More than likely, many of his "marriages" were actually treaties and for show. If you've ever studied history, you know that the easiest way to prevent war or to grow power is to unify two kingdoms. Throughout history, alliances were formed through the marriage of royals. In some cases it may even expand a ruler's domain. For instance, if a king only had daughters and his daughter married the king (or king to be) of another nation, the daughter's husband had a better chance of "usurping" the throne from any male relatives who would challenge her rule as queen. It was customary for nations to send kings their princesses to cement ties between the nations. A lot of these marriages were probably political and Solomon may have only spoken to some of these women once or twice.

Regardless of Solomon's relationship with each of his wives, the truth is, he was bound to love one more than the other. It's hard not to choose favorites... Whether it's with friends, children, aunts/uncles, etc., if we're honest, there's usually a favorite. Just because Solomon had 699 wives, it doesn't mean that he couldn't have fallen madly in love with number 700. Furthermore, if he was madly in love with the first woman he married, it doesn't mean he wouldn't have taken other wives/concubines for political purposes.

On a smaller scale, we can see this scenario play out for two other Biblical patriarchs: Abraham and Jacob. Abraham was in love with and married Sarah. However, when Sarah wasn't able to conceive, she gave him Hagar as a wife. Sarah was still Abraham's love, he simply took on an extra wife as a means to an end. Jacob did the same thing. Jacob was always in love with Rachel, and his favoritism of Joseph, Rachel's first born child, proves this never waned. Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, and given two additional wives when Rachel and Leah went through periods of barrenness.

In the end, neither argument against Solomon being the author is based on factual evidence and the ideals behind them are faulty as well. There isn't any solid evidence to argue that Solomon wasn't the author, so we take the Bible at its word that Solomon is the author.

Date Written

Another reason to believe Solomon really did write this book is that there is compelling evidence that dates the work to his time period. The style of writing matches the Egyptian love songs of Solomon's era[1]—let's not forget one of his wives was Egyptian (1 King 3:1). This would place the date of authorship roughly between 1000bc and 930bc. Tradition holds that Solomon wrote this book in His youth, before he grew his harem of wives.

Song Structure

Do you remember in school when they taught poetry units? There were different types of poems that had different requirements for their structures—some had a specific number of syllables or a rhyme scheme. Solomon's poem has structure, too. This is just more proof that the Bible is great literature!

Chiasm

Solomon's poem uses a chiastic structure. A chiasm is created when ideas are presented in sequences, followed by the mirror of each idea in the opposite sequence. For example, if you have two ideas (A and B), and their mirrors (A' and B'), the poem would be presented as ABB'A'.[3]

Song of Solomon has the following outline:[2]
A : The Beginning of the Story
B : Invitation to Enjoy a Spring Day
C : Night of Separation (Preceding the Wedding)
D : Wedding Day
C': Night of separation (Following the Wedding)
B': Invitation to Enjoy a Spring Day
A': The Conclusion of the Story

Numbers

In the Bible, the numbers 3, 7, 10, 12, and 40 often appear in conjunction with God. 3 represents the Godhead and perfection. 7 represents spiritual completion (7 days of the week, 7 feasts, 7 judgments, etc.). 12 usually represents a nation (the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Disciples, 12 sons of Ishmael, etc.). 40 usually represents a generation—the Israelites wandered for 40 years, until the old generation had passed away.[4]

As I said earlier, Solomon's name appears exactly 7 times. These 7 occurrences are actually symmetrical. Solomon's name is mentioned twice in the last section, thrice during the central section, and once during the first section. If you include the title to make 7 occurrences, his name occurs twice in the first section. There are also 7 sections. In Song of Solomon 4:1-5, seven praises are given to the woman.[1]

The number 10 also is utilized. A grouping of 10 praises is given both in Song of Solomon 5:10-15 and 7:1-5. Also, the abstract word for love (in Hebrew) can be found 10 times throughout the text.[1]

Message and Purpose

There are four main interpretations of the book. What I love about the Word is that God can pack so much meaning and information in to a single story!

Marriage: the Church and Christ

There are many who take away a message about Christ and the Church. The New Testament clearly refers to the church as the Bride of Christ and many parallels are drawn between an earthly marriage and our spiritual relationship with Christ. As such, it is natural for Christians to draw parallels between the excitement, beauty, and purity of love and marriage discussed in Song of Solomon and apply them to our relationship with Christ.

Some argue that this cannot be the primary purpose of the book because the church had not yet been revealed to the people.[2] I understand where they are coming from, however, I think the book can still be a metaphor for God's love of His people. While the nature of the church including all who believe in Him was not revealed until the New Testament, God did have the Israelites, who were still unified, at the time Solomon wrote this work. The love that God has for Israel, is the same love a man should have for his wife. I think it's still possible that God could have intended that to be a message for the people of Solomon's day.

Marriage: Infidelity

Another interpretation of the book focuses on infidelity. We know that infidelity or adultery is wrong; it's one of the Ten Commandments, proving that God felt strongly about it. Though we generally talk about infidelity and adultery in relation to marriages, the Bible constantly uses adultery to describe us turning away from God. It makes sense that He would give us an entire book dedicated to warning against adultery.

If you pay close attention in Song of Solomon, the woman in the text falls in love with a shepherd. While some believe the shepherd to be an alias for Solomon, others believe them to be separate people. If the shepherd is not Solomon, then the story is about a woman who stays faithful to her shepherd love and reject the opportunity of infidelity with King Solomon. The underlying message, though overtly about staying true to your spouse, is still about our relationship with God.

A shepherd brings to mind the image of the lowly, the meek, and even the poor. Whereas a king represent wealth, power, and confidence. In staying faithful to the shepherd, the woman makes a statement about the character of the man (the character of God) being more important. People also point out that in the text, the shepherd is always out in the countryside while the king is always in the city. This could be a statement about rejecting the world and worldly things (like power and wealth) for the simplicity of God.[2]

The Remnant Church

Another interpretation of the text is that the woman represents the remnant church of the end time. Her lover represents Jesus. In this context the song tells of the excitement of rejoining with Jesus at His second comping.[2]

Sex and Love

A final interpretation is that the book is an encouragement to keep the purity, beauty, and excitement of marriage in tact.

Unlike all the other books of the Bible, I actually remember the first time I read anything from Song of Solomon. I was in high school and the leader of Youth Ministries at my church was making a point that there was something for everyone in the Bible. She read a passage from Song of Solomon and we were all surprised to hear such passion coming from the Bible. We often think of Christians as prudes—just envision the Puritans! Sex and romance are seemingly taboo subjects in the church, so like menstruation, death, and other taboo subjects, the church pretty much avoids talking about it at all costs.

That's the reason Song of Solomon stands out so much. Solomon has composed a love song that doesn't shy away from this aspect of a marriage. We aren't used to the Word or the church being so open about how love and marriage should be. However, I think that's exactly why God inspired Solomon to write this book.

God ordained marriage in the garden of Eden before the fall. The idea of a man and woman falling in love with each other was part of God's perfect world. Assumably Adam and Eve's marriage would have included the intimacy of sex even if they hadn't eaten the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. After all, when you take away the sin of lust, jealousy, and pettiness, and then, add natural compassion for all humanity, as it would have been in the Garden of Eden, how could one have broken a marriage covenant without sex being involved? God designed sex and love to be a wonderful experience for mankind—within the confines of a faithful marriage.

I think this message often gets lost as pastors and youth leaders trying to inspire us to keep our hormones in check. Especially in our society where people marry later (leaving hormones raging for longer) and everything we see promotes sex and sexuality. So, instead of it being seen as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it's taught as something to be ashamed of. Like with most things, if you simply ignore it, it festers and Christians turn to worldly sources to get information about Godly pleasures. That's a recipe for disaster.

Song of Solomon reminds us that love and intimacy go hand in hand. It reminds us of what we have to look forward to in our spouse, while at the same time reminding us of the spiritual love and intimacy we have with our Savior.

References

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 1107-1111. 2014
  2. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 919-921. 1995
  3. "Chiastic Structure". Wikipedia; visited November 18, 2017
  4. Numbers In Scripture. Bible Study for Life; visited November 18, 2017

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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