This book is so erotic and evocative that the Jews were not allowed to read it until they were 30. It is full of similes and metaphors. This is probably not the proper forum to discuss this subject, so we will just do an overview today of the literal meaning of the book, BUT….
The question that we always have to ask is why is this in the bible? We will answer in part today, but the more significant reason we will address in the next few weeks.
In this vein it is interesting that the book we are going to go over today is one of five books known as the Megilloth (“Scrolls”) – This book is the SONG OF SOLOMON.
It is the first of the series of the festival scrolls which are books of the Bible read at certain times of the year by the Jews. We always have to be careful with Jewish tradition, but it is associated with the Last Day of Unleavened Bread which we just finished celebrating last Wednesday. As we progress through this series we should see how this book parallels this season and our journey towards our promised land.
Why is it in the Bible?
As we know, all scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16)
1 Kings 4:32 He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five.
This is the only one in the Bible
God gave erotic love as an outward show and a physical manifestation of our love. It is shown in a man towards woman and woman towards man. But this is not the main reason for the book.
So why then is it here, today we will go over one of the reasons and next week we will be interpreting in light of prophecy and its spiritual meaning. I do not want to give away the end of the story just yet. We will use our established understanding of the Bible to give clarity to this book.
When I first began to delve into it there were so many different approaches and it was so incredibly confusing – in many ways more so than any other book of the Bible. It could be this, it could be that. It’s poetic and it’s a song; has multiple speakers unlike in an epistle where it is just Paul speaking.
We have to try and figure out who is talking and wade through the metaphors and similes (and later analogies). When we take all this into account it is a difficult book to comprehend.
It is what I would term a ballad. It is a narrative of a woman, her lover and King Solomon. Many see and believe the discourse to be between Solomon and the woman, but technically I do not think so. For the most part it is Solomon talking to the woman, BUT the woman is talking about her lover, the Shepherd / her beloved who does not really have much of a speaking part.
Others in the story flow include: the daughters of Jerusalem who would be synonmous with other Israelitish women that are a part of the harem. They seem to play the part of the chorus that interjects from time to time in the song/story.
Some say there is no overt reference to God in the book, but this makes as much sense as us saying that God is not in our life because we do not see Him physically. Like we saw in Esther, God was not mentioned but He was very much there.
I am not going tell you about all the things that people come up with as to what this about or who these people can possibly be…just the one thing that I think fits in with the rest of the Bible.
Today, let’s take a look at what it says at face value or as literally as possible without going into the eroticism and sexuality too much.
Song of Solomon 1:1 The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.
Title: song of songs; song of Solomon
Some say that it should come right after Proverbs, other after Ecclesiastes where it is. The main difference being whether he took some of the writing from the latter or not.
The names Song of Songs is similar to the phraseology that we find in the “holy of holies,” or “King of kings” – it is meant to connote the best.
Though Solomon features prominently in the book, the song is not primarily about him and I believe that this is why there is some confusion about his relationship with the woman. So there is a need to be careful about section headings in the Bible..in particular here in this book. Rather the central figure is the woman that is referred to as the Shulamite [6:13] or Shulamith.
We do not know where the name Shulamite comes from. Some suspect because she came from an unidentified place called Shulem, though there is no known place by this name.
In Strong’s shûlammı̂yth shoo-lam-meeth’ means peaceful or with the article always prefixed, it makes it a pet name). So the Shulammith, is an epithet of Solomon’s queen: – Shulamite. Since it comes from shâlam shaw-lam’ (to) (be at) peace (-able) @shalom it could play on the word for Solomon which is based on the word Shalom (peace) as in Shabbat Shalom.
So it could be a made up name or a pet name and there is not real place called Shulem…especially since one has not been found to this day
She is the first one to “sing” and it is sung antiphonally (back and forth as we see sometimes in the Psalms). She will sing then the male with the chorus interjecting from time to time
Song of Solomon 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— For your love is better than wine.
Throughout she is quite passionate in her words toward her lover who most believe to be Solomon
But notice in :4
Song of Solomon 1:4 Draw [remove] me away! We will run after you. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine. Rightly do they love you.
Solomon is mentioned by name as the king
Song of Solomon 3:6 Who is this coming out of the wilderness Like pillars of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all the merchant’s fragrant powders?
Song of Solomon 3:7 Behold, it is Solomon’s couch, With sixty valiant men around it, Of the valiant of Israel.
We immediately a distinction being made between the Lover and the king.
Song of Solomon 1:5 I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon.
There is tension between her and the Daughters of Jerusalem
Song of Solomon 1:6 Do not look upon me, because I am dark, Because the sun has tanned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; They made me the keeper of the vineyards, But my own vineyard I have not kept.
Song of Solomon 1:7 Tell me, O you whom I love, Where you feed your flock, Where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself By the flocks of your companions?
Her lover is the shepherd. She does not want to be with the flocks of the other fellows.
Song of Solomon 1:8 If you do not know, O fairest among women, Follow in the footsteps of the flock, And feed your little goats Beside the shepherds’ tents.
One of the most difficult aspects of this book is knowing who is talking at any given time and who they are talking to or about.
This appears to be the Daughters of Jerusalem giving her a hard time because of their jealousy – so in effect they are saying if you want a shepherd (:7) there are plenty over here.
So here is where our perspective on the narrative comes into play. If you are under the impression that Solomon is the Lover that she is talking about your mind makes the connection in that way between :7 and :9. But if you see that she is talking to her lover in :7 then we understand differently what the Daughters of Jerusalem are talking about.
Then, also, you can see that Solomon is vying for her affection, by flattery and ostentation. In :9-11 Solomon uses complimentary language and bestows gifts upon her – it is not because they have a relationship, but because he wants one. He took her from her countryside home (probably had scouts out searching for him) and while most would want this, she did not.
Why the Lover/Shepherd is Not Solomon?
If she was just one of a thousand there would not be anything special about her. What makes her standout is that she shuns what Solomon has to offer and opts to remain true to her Lover.
There is also a big problem with Solomon being the object of her love in the Bible. He may be the worst example that we could use in the Bible for a husband.
1 Kings 11:1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites—
Moab: Jordan, perhaps also Western Iraq; Ammon: Jordan; Edom: Turkey; Sidon ~ Lebanon
1 Kings 11:2 from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.
1 Kings 11:3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.
1 Kings 11:4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.
1 Kings 11:5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
1 Kings 11:6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David.
1 Kings 11:7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.
1 Kings 11:8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
1 Kings 11:9 So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,
1 Kings 11:10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded.
He was not a good example and he admits it. Solomon pursued everything and came to this conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 1:13 And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.
Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Ecclesiastes 1:15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, And what is lacking cannot be numbered.
Ecclesiastes 1:16 I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.”
Ecclesiastes 1:17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
In chapter 2 is the summation of his self-indulging behavior:
Ecclesiastes 2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind [:17 and 26]. There was no profit under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
Ecclesiastes 2:9 So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.
He asked for wisdom and God gave it to him
1 Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.
1 Kings 4:30 Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt.
Ecclesiastes 7:26 And I find more bitter than death The woman whose heart is snares and nets, Whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God shall escape from her, But the sinner shall be trapped by her
Ecclesiastes 7:27 “Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher, “Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason,
Ecclesiastes 7:28 Which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: One man among a thousand I have found, But a woman among all these I have not found.
He had a 1000 women
So when I look at Solomon in this vein, I do not see him as one to be desired or held up as a good example. Rather I see his courting of the Shulamite would be in order to satisfy his pursuits – the ones that we just got finished talking about.
We must realize that all examples in the Bible are not “good examples” some are given to us in order to show us what we are not to do.
So in this context AS WELL AS what we bring out next week, I believe what we have here is the Shulamite woman talking about and pining over her lover while Solomon tries to gain her affections. This is all done in an artistic way – so while it might seem strange or abrupt, it was done to make several points.
So with that in mind let’s just do a brief overview and outline of the rest of the book.
1:12-17 Woman speaking/singing
Song of Solomon 1:12 While the king is at his table, My spikenard sends forth its fragrance.
She is talking
Most of chapter 2 is the Woman
Except :2 and possibly :15
Song of Solomon 2:1 I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys.
Song of Solomon 2:2 Like a lily among thorns, So is my love among the daughters.
She is compared to a lily
Song of Solomon 2:7 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases.
We find this admonition several times in book
Song of Solomon 2:8 The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
Context; it is still her speaking
Song of Solomon 2:16 My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies.
They only have eyes for each other
context: she is still speaking
Song of Solomon 3:1 By night on my bed I sought the one I love; I sought him, but I did not find him.
One of two dream sequences
finds him :4
Son 3:5 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases.
They then sing for the rest of the chapter about how great Solomon is, of course that is their view
Chapter 4 all Solomon speaking (except last verse) [I think]
He continues with his terms of endearment – again trying to gain her favor.
This chapter may allude to the fact that she is still a virgin
One note: spouse, 6 SoS 4:8-12 (5), SoS 5:1
Hosea 4:13-14 (2) spouses, 2
Bride or daughters-in-law; so bride here
bride – before during or immediately following
Possibly the Daughters of Jerusalem in this verse as a transition
Song of Solomon 4:16 Awake, O north wind, And come, O south! Blow upon my garden, That its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden And eat its pleasant fruits.
Song of Solomon 5:1 I have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends! Drink, yes, drink deeply, O beloved ones!
Another dream/vision scenario
Song of Solomon 5:2 I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.”
Very similar to chapter 3 but this time the watchmen of the city beat her up
Song of Solomon 5:8 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, That you tell him I am lovesick!
Daughters of Jerusalem:
Song of Solomon 5:9 What is your beloved More than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved More than another beloved, That you so charge us?
They as why is he so much better?
The rest of the chapter is her praising her beloved
Interesting now the Daughters of Jerusalem want to know more about her Lover
Song of Solomon 6:1 Where has your beloved gone, O fairest among women? Where has your beloved turned aside, That we may seek him with you?
Previously they were extolling Solomon but now this?
She answers :2-3
Then Solomon tries again with the lines that worked before :4-9
Is he trying to impress her:
Song of Solomon 6:8 There are sixty queens And eighty concubines, And virgins without number.
Not sure who sings ;10 but it appears as though it is Daughters of Jerusalem? Talking about her
:11-12 is the woman
Recounts being taken away again
:13 we finally see her named; probably by the Daughters of Jerusalem chorus as they continue through chapter 7:5
Verses 6-9 Solomon tries again
:10-13 but the Shulamite woman would not compromise
Final advice and warning to Daughters of Jerusalem.
It is unclear who is singing in the next few verses [some want to say it’s her brothers from 1:6], but the last words are of the Shulamite woman as she continues to be true to her lover:
Song of Solomon 8:14 Make haste, my beloved….