Song of Solomon is one of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and was written in Jerusalem around 1000 BC by Solomon during the early years of his reign as king. He also wrote Ecclesiastes and most of the book of Proverbs. All three books are sandwiched between the Psalms and Isaiah, beginning with Proverbs and ending with Song of Solomon.
Depending on which translation you have, this book is titled Song of Solomon or Song of Songs. It is referred to as Canticles in the Vulgate, the earliest Latin translation of the Bible. In the Jewish Bible (Tanakh), it is referred to as Song of Songs and grouped together with Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther—also known as the Five Megilloth (scrolls). For the purposes of simplification in this study, the book will most generally be referred to as the Song.
This highly symbolic and poetic book has more than one interpretation. Its literal interpretation celebrates love in an earthly marriage and has only existed within the last one hundred years. Many marriages have been strengthened through studies based on the Song’s literal interpretation, but earthly marriage is not the focus of this study. The focus of this study is the Song’s allegorical interpretation, which, in fact, is its most ancient interpretation.
An allegory is “a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; a figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another.” In its allegorical interpretation, the Song illustrates the epic love story between Christ, the spiritual Bridegroom, and His bride, the church. Its intent is to launch Christ’s bride into the depths of His fiery Bridegroom love as she meditates on it.
Song of Songs is considered by Orthodox Jews to be an allegory of the love story between Jehovah and His people, Israel, and is read every Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and every year at Passover. Because of its graphically sensual literal interpretation, it was at one time forbidden reading until the age of thirty. Nonetheless, Rabbi Akiva, a renowned Jewish sage, defended the Song and was instrumental in its inclusion in the Tanakh. His intense passion for the book was expressed when he declared, “Heaven forbid that any man in Israel ever disputed that the Song of Songs is holy. For the whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy and the Song of Songs is the Holy of holies (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5).”
The Song is a unique book of the Bible, composed entirely of dialogue except for the opening verse. Due to its numerous exchanges of words of affection between King Solomon and the Shulammite maiden, the Song could have been rightly named Terms of Endearment.
Dear reader, I hope you enjoyed today’s excerpt from my soon-to-be-published Bible study, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love. I would love to interact with you concerning its content by asking you a couple of questions:
- What view (if any) have you typically held of the Song of Solomon, the literal or allegorical?
- How do you feel about Christ using terms of endearment to address you, his beloved bride? Special? Uncomfortable?
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Until next time,
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Kim K. Francis
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