Song of Solomon

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
This is also called “the Song of Songs, or The Canticles,” though it is one poem, and not a collection of poems. The first verse states that it is by Solomon. The book stands alone, and has been variously interpreted. A favorite theory of German theologians and of many English is that it is literally a love story: that Solomon sought to draw away a lowly maiden from a shepherd, to whom she was betrothed; but to whom she remained faithful. That such a poem, with no higher teaching than this, should find a place in holy scripture, is impossible for the Christian who believes in inspiration to accept. With others it is held to represent “the pure love and mystical union and marriage of Christ and His church,” which will be seen to be the idea in the headings of the chapters in the AV. Passages in the New Testament that refer to the union of Christ and the church are referred to as bearing out this interpretation.
But a great deal of damage has been done to the right understanding of the Old Testament by supposing that wherever blessing is there spoken of, it must refer to the church. God has blessed and will bless others besides the church, especially His ancient people Israel. He uses also endearing terms to Israel. He says to her, “I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.” This declaration is associated with a day when she will call Jehovah Ishi (that is, husband), and shall no more call Him Baali—that is, master (Hos. 2:16,1916And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. (Hosea 2:16)
19And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. (Hosea 2:19)
). This is doubtless the key to the Song of Solomon. This is the union spoken of, with which the words of affection, that pass between Christ as Jehovah and the remnant of Israel that will be brought into blessing, are in accord. The song is prophetic, but does not reach to Christ and the church, though, when its right interpretation is seen, the Christian can apply some of its language as his own to the same Lord, who will also be manifested as the Bridegroom of the church. There is however this important difference: in the Canticles the result is more in anticipation, while with the Christian there is present realization of relationship: in other words, more of desire than of satisfaction.
From the above it will be seen that the bride is not simply a person, but symbolic of the earthly Jerusalem and the remnant whose names are registered as connected with God’s foundation, embracing all the faithful of Israel, looked upon as “the daughters of Jerusalem,” which represents the whole nation. This agrees with the language in many parts: for instance, “Draw me, we will run after thee. The king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad....the upright [plural] love thee” (Song of Sol. 1:44Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee. (Song of Solomon 1:4)). Further, it is helpful to see who is the speaker in the various parts of the Song. As far as the bridegroom and the bride are concerned this is pointed out by the gender in the Hebrew. It seems evident too that a company, usually called virgins, also take part in the Song. The heart of Jerusalem is now being turned to the One they once refused (compare Matt. 23:3737O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37)).
Song of Solomon 1:22Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. (Song of Solomon 1:2). BRIDE AND VIRGINS. They value the love of the bridegroom more than wine. The bride owns that she is dark, but she is comely: the rays of affliction have scorched her like the sun (compare Isa. 3:2424And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. (Isaiah 3:24)). She has been keeping the vineyards of the nations, not her own.
Song of Solomon 1:1616Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. (Song of Solomon 1:16). BRIDE. She admires her Lord, and appreciates her relationship: she says, “our house.”
Song of Solomon 2:33As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. (Song of Solomon 2:3). BRIDE. She calls him “my beloved,” and charges the daughters of Jerusalem not to disturb her loved one until he please. “Behold he cometh:” she does not yet possess him.
Song of Solomon 2:1010My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song of Solomon 2:10). BRIDEGROOM. He invites her to partake of the pleasant fruits. The foxes must be caught that spoil the tender fruit. The joy must be full.
Song of Solomon 2:1616My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. (Song of Solomon 2:16). BRIDE. She is conscious of the relationship. He is hers, and she is his.
Song of Solomon 3. BRIDE. She is alone and in darkness; she seeks her beloved, but does not find him. She questions the watchmen, and as soon as she passes them she finds him. King Solomon is described, his bed, his chariot, and so forth; it is he who will bring in peace.
Song of Solomon 5:33I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? (Song of Solomon 5:3). BRIDE. She is slothful and makes excuses. When she opens the door she finds he is gone. She goes about the city in search of him, and is smitten and shamed. She charges the daughters of Jerusalem that if they find him they will tell him that she is “sick of love.” They ask her what her beloved is more than another. She declares that he is “the chiefest among ten thousand;” “yea, he is altogether lovely.”
Song of Solomon 6:22My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. (Song of Solomon 6:2). BRIDE. She says he is gone into his garden. She declares her confidence that she is her beloved’s, and her beloved is hers.
Song of Solomon 6:44Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners. (Song of Solomon 6:4). BRIDEGROOM. He describes her as beautiful and undefiled: she exceeds all; she is the only one of her mother.
When Israel is thus brought into blessing she will be, as the virgins say in verse 10, “terrible as an army with banners.”
In Song of Solomon 6:1313Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies. (Song of Solomon 6:13) the bride is called upon to return under the name of Shulamite, “peaceable” (the feminine of Shalom, from which is also Solomon); and in the Shulamite they see, as it were, the company of two armies, doubtless alluding to the union in a future day of Judah and Israel.
Song of Solomon 7:99And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. (Song of Solomon 7:9). “And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine.”.... BRIDE (interposing). “That goeth down smoothly for my beloved, and stealeth over the lips of them that are asleep.” (New Testament)
Song of Solomon 7:1010I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. (Song of Solomon 7:10). BRIDE. The bride’s experience has advanced: she responds, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” She invites him to come forth among the pleasant fruits—mutual enjoyment.
Song of Solomon 8:88We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? (Song of Solomon 8:8). The virgins speak of their “little sister:” what shall be done for her? This is doubtless an allusion to the ten tribes, who did not have to do with Christ when on earth, and who will be dealt with differently from the two tribes; but will be brought into the land and blessed there.
Song of Solomon 8:99If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:9). BRIDE. If the little sister be a wall, she shall be built upon; if a door, she shall be enclosed; but the bride is a wall, and is grown to maturity. She has a vineyard of her own, but Solomon must have a vineyard, from which he will receive fruit: not like Israel of old, which yielded no fruit.
It is worthy of remark that whereas the bridegroom describes the bride to herself, the bride describes the bridegroom, not to himself, but to others. This is surely becoming of her. He tells her plainly of her preciousness in his sight, and of the perfection he beholds in her. This calls forth her assurance, and she declares his preciousness in her eyes. As said above, the interpretation of the book is that it embraces the union of Christ and the Jewish remnant in a future day. But it is the same Christ that loves the church, and His love demands the deepest affection in return. He cares for her love, and in Revelation 2:4-54Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Revelation 2:4‑5), reproaches the Ephesian assembly that they had left their first love.
As a matter of interest it may be added that in the Alexandrian copy of the LXX some of the above divisions are made, and the speaker pointed out. In the Codex Sinaiticus these intimations are much more numerous than in the Alexandrian copy.