Nestled between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah, the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) is a rarely studied or discussed book. Too bad, because the Song of Songs is the best book about godly and vibrant romantic relationships in the world. And it is not only about lovers, but about friends and family relationships as well. We all need to read it, know it, and live it.
By Mark Harris
Background – The Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon (SOS), has been interpreted in three basic ways:
- An allegory about the love between and His people Israel.
- An allegory about the love between Christ and the Church.
- A real-life love story between a young man and a young woman.
Of course, none of these are exclusive. While the Church fathers (such as Origen) saw SOS as allegory, modern commentators hold that it is a real love story. Jewish and Church tradition, and internal evidence such as SOS 1:1, holds the author to be King Solomon, son of David. He probably wrote this paean to Abishag the Shunamite (1 Kings 1:3-4). However, there is some evidence in the book that Solomon is not the groom and Abishag not the bride. For example, Solomon is clearly not the protagonist in chapter 8:11-12, and while Abishag came from Shunem southwest of the Sea of Galilee (1 Samuel 28:4), this woman may have come from Lebanon in the north (SOS 3:9, 4:8, 11, 15, 5:15, 7:4). Mentions of En Gedi, Tirzah, and Jerusalem confirm the book’s Jewish nature.
Three factors suggest that SOS is not an allegory, or at least not only an allegory.
- SOS does not read like a story. It has no beginning, problem, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement (end).
- There is nothing in the text that suggests that the author intended to write an allegory.
- The experiences seem real rather than being literary devices.
God’s presence permeates the book, and the name יָהּ Yâhh, yaw, a contraction for the word Jehovah, is found in chapter 8, verse 6. There is widespread mention of the wonders of His creation as well as the constant restraining (and liberating) presence of His moral code. Notably, in the Song of Songs the woman did most of the speaking. It is magnificent poetry with extensive use of olfactory imagery. Remarkably, it never mentioned having children as the purpose for marriage. Romantic love was beautiful and desirable for its own sake.