Book of the Week 22: Song of Solomon

Book of the Bible: Song of Solomon/Song of Songs

Hebrew Name: Shir Hashirim

Human Author: King Solomon

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 8

Basic Facts

  1. Song of Solomon is the twenty-second book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Song of Solomon is classified as poetry.
  3. The Hebrew name for Song of Solomon is Shir Hashirim, meaning “The Song of Songs.”
  4. Song of Solomon, because of its adult content, was historically restricted to Jewish men in Israel who were 30 years old or older.
  5. Song of Solomon is also called Song of Songs. The name of the book will vary based on which tradition and translation the title is taken from.

 

Story of the Book

Song of Solomon is a series of love poems about an exchange between a man and a woman who are bride and groom, along with a crowd of admirers. Most modern English translations give cues in the text which indicate which vantage point the words of poetry are coming from as the poetry changes vantage point between the bride, the groom, and a crowd of admirers/friends. The book covers a variety of topics pertaining to the wedding day of the bride and groom, courtship, a dream the bride has, praising the beauty of the bride, the power of love, and the sexuality expressed between the bride and groom. The book has been interpreted in a wide variety of ways throughout history. While the original context was likely an expression of love between King Solomon and one of his wives, the book has often been re-interpreted into a picture of the love which is expressed between God and His people both in Jewish history and church history. This kind of allegorical interpretation is often favored as a legitimate interpretation of the book, giving theological overtones to a work of poetry that expresses human interpersonal sexuality in the context of courtship and marriage.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Song of Solomon

Throughout Biblical history and church history, Song of Solomon has been interpreted as a picture of the love shared between God and His people expressed in terms of a bride and his beloved. The Dead Sea Scrolls, Biblical commentaries, and Christian literature all attest to this kind of theological interpretation. Similar language is also used in Jeremiah 3:20 to compare Israel to a bride who abandoned her husband (see also Revelation 21:2). This analogy of a lover and his beloved is used as a general tool to describe the relationship between husband and wife in Song of Solomon, and it refers to God’s covenant love with His people. A similar analogy is later used by Paul in a much more specific way to refer to Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul gives detailed instructions to how Christian wives and husbands should treat one another. In this passage, Paul quotes the command of God that a husband and wife should become one flesh as recorded in Genesis 2:24. Then Paul does something remarkable. Paul takes the command between a husband and wife to become one flesh, and he writes, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31). This profound connection points to the reality that human sexuality is merely a symbol of a greater spiritual union between Christ and the church. Many scholars believe that Paul gets this idea of sexuality, at least in part, from a theological reading of Song of Solomon.