Song of Songs Part Two Deep Dive
I AM MY LOVER’S, AND MY LOVER IS MINE | ELLA HICKEY
Right from the beginning, the opening verse of Song of Songs sets the foundation for the entire book; ‘The song of songs, which is Solomon's’ (KJV). This primer tells us three things: firstly, that it is a song, secondly it is the greatest song because the title ‘Song of Songs’ is the Hebrew way of communicating a superlative through alliteration, meaning that by repeating the word ‘song’, they are saying that this is the most superior song. This is just like when you read ‘Lord of Lords’ or ‘King of Kings’ throughout the Bible, ‘Song of Songs’ is the song above any other.
Thirdly, it affixes Solomonic authority to the text, hence why Song of Songs is also known as Song of Solomon. Some assume that this implies pseudepigraphally that it was written by King Solomon, or that it was dedicated to Solomon by the author, others believe that it is because Solomon is mentioned in the song (Chapters 1:5,3:7,9,11; 8:11,12). Throughout history, some scholars and Rabbis have argued that Solomon is, in fact, the Lover in the poems, however others have contended that he played no important role. This is partly because of the vast number of wives and concubines that Solomon had (1 Kings 11:3), which would essentially render the love displayed in the text as meaningless, but on the other hand, some say that makes him an expert in the things of love. Either way, what Solomonic authority does do is provide a legitimisation of the Song, and explains its appearance in scripture, even if Solomon isn’t the primary subject or author.
The song is written from a woman’s perspective, and her voice makes up 53% of the text, which may explain the historical reluctance in reading it as literal, due to her independence and freedom in sharing her feelings and instructing her lover (Chapters 1:2, 8:14, 3:1-5). This has raised the possibility of female authorship, however this has never been conclusive. What is clear is that the woman’s voice and desires dominate the text and provide the strongest female voice in dialogue than any other book in the Bible.
Ancient Israelite wisdom literature is interested in instruction on the proper ways of living, so placing the Song of Songs in this genre is making an audacious statement, that it contains ‘insights beneficial to right living, insights that will enhance human life’. What this suggests is that in this song, this collection of love poems, there is something to be learned.
According to Hill, the major theme of the Song of Songs is the positive dimensions of human love. The primary purpose is to rejoice in the male-female relationship that was established by God at creation, and the virtuousness of sexual love when expressed within marriage. Therefore, according to many contemporary scholars, through the Song of Songs, God is showing us a reflection of human love, the way it should be – and something to replicate in our own lives.
If the Song is about the love between a woman and her lover as many believe, and is hermeneutically applied with this in mind, it can be used as a format for teaching about healthy, Godly relationships. In this fallen world, Song of Songs gives us a glimpse of hope that couples today may find and experience a love that is pure and good, one that comes from God. It seems pertinent then, that perhaps the most mysterious book of the Bible really is about the most mysterious human experience – love.
The Song Of Songs by Dianne Bergant, 2001.
Song Of Songs by Richard Hess, 2005.
Poetry In The Song Of Songs: A Literary Analysis by Patrick Hunt, 2008.
Song Of Songs by Robert Jenson, 2012.