“The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” is the only introduction to author and context that this book receives. Called in various traditions the “Song of Songs,” “Song of Solomon,” or simply, “Canticles,” this book is one of the most unusual experiences you’ll find in the entire Bible.
A historical fascination with the Song of Songs is linked to its exceptional content. Sensual scenes and erotic language are threaded throughout what is on the surface an ancient love song. Volumes have been written by teachers who find in this Song an allegory of God’s relationship with Israel or His love for the Church.
These efforts possess greater urgency for those who simply can’t believe something like the Song of Songs could be part of Scripture. But at You Can Read the Bible we take what the text demands. The Song itself does not demand allegory, nor does the rest of the Bible demand that such writings can’t be sacred. While this could be allegorical, and indeed multiple meanings could spiral out from it, this could be the Song of Songs – The Ultimate Song – because of its subject matter and not in spite of it. As with all of the wisdom literature we’ve seen, this could be what it appears on its face: an observation… a window into the hearts of a bride and groom and their friends.
An extended dialogue between these three parties fills the first chapter. Some translations help by indicating who is speaking, based on the gender of nouns in the Hebrew. In chapters 2 and 3 the bride sings and dreams of her beloved. Similes and metaphors from the natural world abound, and certain phrases are repeated in some lyrical way. You can capture one of these raindrops and examine it, or you can let the whole things wash over you like a spring shower.
One final note is needed about the book order. In most English Bibles, the Song of Songs comes after Ecclesiastes, not before. In many Hebrew Bibles Ecclesiastes comes after the Song, along with writings such as Lamentations and Ruth. The Song is read during the week of Passover, but otherwise no order for these books has been definitively established. Since tradition demands no particular course, we’ve gone with the ancient order because of the Song’s feel as an extended proverb; its ascription to Solomon; and the subject matter of the two books. Ecclesiastes derives its wisdom from long life; the Song of Songs has its whole life before it.
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Song of Solomon 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.