The Book of Song of Songs

I. Title

        The book is called "Song of Songs" in Hebrew and in most modern English translations (NIV, for instance); in the King James Version, it received the title "Song of Solomon". The Latin Vulgate called it "Canticles".

II. Author and Setting

        Its Solomonic authorship is widely credited, though the occurrence of some apparent Persian and Greek terms has lead some to postulate a post- exilic date. However, since the book lays claim to Solomonic authorship, it is best to assume that is the case. The reference to Tirzah in Song of Songs 6:4, which was the capital of Jeroboam I and his successors (1 Kings 14:17), would not have been set in parallel with Jerusalem by a poet in either Israel or Judah, after the division of the kingdom. Therefore, the latest possible date for the book would be the outbreak of war between Jeroboam and Abijam, c. 915-913 BC (1 Kings 15:7). The reference in 6:8 to sixty queens and eighty concubines contrasts the figures of 1 Kings 11:3, which speaks of Solomon's "seven hundred wives" and "three hundred concubines." Therefore, the Song of Songs was probably composed early in Solomon's reign.
        Also in favor of Solomonic authorship, is the use in Song of Songs of the natural imagery and the use of the names of many plants and animals, which would be consistent with Solomon's interests according to 1 Kings 4:32.
        The Song of Songs, more than any other book, has been kept in the dark ages in the thoughts of many interpreters, who continue to insist on the medieval approach of allegorical interpretation -- even though they would never approach any other book of the Bible allegorically. The allegorical approach to the Song of Songs results in teaching that the story is figurative, representing Yahweh's love for Israel, and by extension, Christ's love for the church. Those who cling to this approach would argue, that if a wholly literalistic approach is taken to the poem, it is impossible to see why the Song of Songs would have been included as part of Scripture.
        Like Esther, the Song of Songs never once mentions God. However, only if one takes the odd position that sex is an evil thing, would one find such a book inexplicable. As important as male-female relationships and romantic love are to human beings, it would be impossible to imagine that there would not be at least one book in the Bible devoted to the topic.
        Therefore, the outline will follow the historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture, and take the Song of Songs at face value -- as an erotic love poem.

III. An Outline of Song of Songs

I. Title 1:1
II. First Poem 1:2-2:7
III. Second Poem 2:8-3:5
IV. Third Poem 3:6-5:1
V. Fourth Poem 5:2-6:3
VI. Fifth Poem 6:4-8:7
VII. Sixth Poem 8:8-14

Questions on the Song of Songs

1. What is the evidence for Solomonic authorship of Song of Songs?
2. How should the Song of Songs be interpreted?
3. Compare 4:11-15 and 4:16-5:1. Discuss.
4. Discuss 7:7-9 and compare it with Proverbs 5:15-19.