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Song of Solomon

We are told in the first verse of this book that Solomon wrote this song. It is called ‘song of songs’, a title that is, presumably, a superlative telling us that this song is the greatest of the 1,005 songs composed by Solomon [1Kings 1:1]. It is an explicit story telling of the love between a husband and his wife during courtship, the wedding and life after the wedding, and represents marriage as God intended it. The husband here is Solomon (3:7) and the wife a Shulamite girl (6:13). There is, however, another view that suggests the two lovers are the Shulamite girl and a shepherd. In this version, she is captured by Solomon and placed in his harem in an attempt to win her affections. This fails and she is finally reunited with her shepherd. Both these versions have been allegorised. In the first, the Jews see Solomon as God and the Shulamite girl as Israel, with the song depicting the love God has for His people Israel who are often referred to as His wife. Christians view this story as representing the love between Christ (Solomon) and His church (the Shulamite girl). In the second, Solomon represents the world coming between Christ, the shepherd, and His church, the Shulamite girl. The fact that all three interpretations can be gleaned from the text does not make for an easy summary. So here the allegories are put to one side and the book is summarised as written, that is, a lengthy and highly symbolic dialogue between a maiden and her lover. The dialogue covers three periods of their relationship: courtship, marriage and post marriage.

The Courtship

[1:1-3:5] The maiden, a Shulamite woman, longs for her lover and his kisses, but is concerned about her dark complexion acquired from working in vineyards. She looks for her lover and is directed to the shepherds’ tents. Her lover brushes aside her concerns with expressions of praise of her beauty and suggests how he might provide for her. The maiden describes herself as a rose and lily, and her beloved as a tree under which she sits, providing her with fruit sweet to her taste. She warns women not to fall in love too readily. The maiden likens her beloved to an energetic roe or young hart, come to take her away in the spring. She and her lover now belong to one another. At night, in her bed, the maiden dreams she cannot find her lover. With help, she finds him and takes him home. Again, she charges other women not to give in to love too early.

The Wedding

[3:6-5:1] The wedding day has arrived and an elaborate wedding procession is described. Her bridegroom appears, now identified as Solomon. Having compared parts of her body to animals and precious objects, Solomon tells how his heart has been ravished by her. She is then spoken of in terms of an enclosed garden. She asks the winds to blow on her garden, invites her beloved to come to her and they make love.

Post Marriage

[5:2-8:14] The maiden has another dream in which her husband comes to her to make love. She prepares to receive him, but he disappears. As in a previous dream, she seeks help to find him, but this time is abused. She then asks some women to help her and gives a description of him, comparing parts of his body to precious things, jewels and animals. They find each other in the garden where her beloved again praises each part of the maiden’s body. She invites him to the fields and villages from where they will go to the vineyard and she will give him her love. She seems to wish he would be looked upon as her brother, so that her open displays of affection for him would not lead some to despise her. The maiden looks for their love to be sealed in her heart so that their strong love will overcome the cruel effects of jealousy. She reflects on her young life and is content that her chastity was lost to Solomon. Finally, although Solomon has many women (vineyards), there is contentment in this particular relationship.