The Various Reasons For This Material...
Behind the writing of this study material are various reasons. It is not merely to produce another study of a book of the Bible for the sake of it. The author has felt compelled by the Spirit to produce this material at such a time as this to convey a vital message to the Bride of Christ in this generation. The Song of Solomon has baffled many in their attempts to understand it. As a result many have neglected to seek the Lord for it’s proper interpretation , and many have been embarassed to read it because of it’s sexual content..
However, the author’s belief is that the Song of Solomon can be interpreted in a relevant way by following very basic laws of Hermeneutics as will be outlined from the start.
(1) REASON FOR WRITING THIS STUDY MATERIAL:
The main reason for this study book on Song of Solomon is that the author believes that this is a NOW book. By this it is meant that at this present time, in this generation, the Lord seems to be high-lighting this particular inspired book of the Bible to bring forth a timely message. This is not to say that it has not been relevant to ages past, but there is a certain sense where the Lord is focusing our attention on this Love song now to bring our attention to the vital message it portrays for the Church.
It is sad when many scholars deny an interpretation of this Song which is relevant to our relationship with Christ and the Church. True, this book is a beautiful portrayal of married love, but it goes much deeper than that - failing to see the deeper message will keep us from a richer experience in our relationship with our Beloved, Jesus.
Let us keep spiritually alert to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church in this generation.
(2) REASON FOR THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION:
Throughout the ages there have been many different interpretations of this beautiful Jewish Love Song written probably by King Solomon himself. Some have a credible explanation, others are the product of an over imaginative mind! In this material the author has endeavoured to interpret this song as accurately as possible following sound hermeneutics.
Before looking at the method of interpretation used in this material, let us look at the various interpretations that have been put forward for this book and thenconclude with what seems to be the best method.....
The different interpretations
of the Song of Solomon are listed below....
| (a) An
(b) An extended type.
(c) A drama involving two or three main Characters.
(d) A collection of Syrian Wedding Songs.
(e) A collection of Pagan Fertility Cult Liturgies.
(f) An anthology of disconnected songs extolling human love.
(g) A Lyric Poem which has both unity and logical expression.
This view states that the details of the Song are intended to convey hidden, spiritual meanings, with little or no importance attached to the normal meanings of the words. Jewish tradition viewed the book as an allegorical picture of the love of God for Israel. Church leaders including Hyppolytus, Origen, Jerome, Athenasius, Augustine and Bernard of Clairvaux, have viewed the book as an allegory of Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church.
Extremes of this view: Cooing of the Doves ( 2:12) speaks of the preaching of the Apostles; 5:1 refers to the Lord’s supper!
(b) An Extended Type -
Solomon typifies Christ and the Shulumite woman is a type of the Church. This differs from the allegorical approach in that the typical view sees Solomon as an historical person and does not seek to discover a mystical meaning to every detail in the book.
(c) A Drama -
This sees the Song as a drama involving two or three main characters - actually the literary genre of a full-fledged drama was not known among the Israelites then and the Song of Songs cannot be analysed into acts and scenes like a drama.
Some scholars say the book involves three characters, not two. Those three are the Shulamite woman, her shepherd lover, and Solomon who wooed her away from the Shepherd. However, no problem exists with Solomon also being a Shepherd ( the two-character view) since he owned many flocks ( Ecc 2:7).
(d) Syrian Wedding Songs -
This view, held by E.Renan, J.Wetztein and others, states that the Song is a collection of Syrian wedding songs in which the groom played the role of a king and the bride played the role of a queen. It assumes there is no flow as a whole but is a random collection. However, even if it were a collection, the process of Inspiration would ensure a God breathed flow and meaning.
(e) Pagan Fertility Liturgy -
This view (held by Theophile Meek) is that the Song is merely a collection of pagan fertility cult liturgies. This cannot be accepted by believers in Biblical Inspiration.
(f) Anthology of Disconnected Love Songs -
Robert Gordis believes the Song is an anthology of disconnected songs extolling human love. However, this seems to rob theSong of it’s Spirit Inspired nature and demote it to a purely human creation.
(g) Lyric Poem -
This view states that the Song is a lyric poem which has both unity and logical expression - most evangelical scholars interpret this way - the major of the Song are said to deal with Courtship ( 1:2 - 3:5), a wedding ( 3:6 - 5:1) and maturation in marriage ( 5:2 - 8:4). The Song concludes with a climatic statement about the nature of love ( 8:5-7) and an epilogue explaining how the love of the couple in the song began ( 8:8-14). This view holds that the only purpose of the book is to extol human love in a marriage.
The author of this study book believes there are elements of truth in most of the above views (except (d) and (e)) but none give the best form of interpretation.
The best form of interpretation of any book in the Bible is the “Literal Method”. This assumes that the words in Scripture in their plain, evident meaning are reliable; that God intended His revelation to be understood by all who believe; that the words of Scripture communicate what God wants man to know; and that God based the communication of truth on regular laws governing written communication. thereby intending for it to be interpreted by those same laws. This is not to deny the Holy Spirit’s involvement in both the production and interpretation of the Bible.
The expression “literal sense” may be defined as : the usual, customary and socially accepted meaning conveyed by words or expressions in their particular contexts. It involves that which a particular word meant to the original writers and readers (allowing for different meanings according to the context.)
The “literal sense” does not exclude the figurative where it is part of normal communication.
The “literal sense” does not exclude the spiritual meaning (not ‘spiritualization’) - the bringing forth of the spiritual substance and nature of the scripture.
The “literal sense” does not exclude application - going beyond what it meant to the people of that time to what it means to us today.
sense’ does not exclude Depth of Meaning - this meaning is solidly based
on the earthly sense of the words and necessitates that the interpretation
remains within the proper boundaries of truths plainly revealed in God’s
However, songs and poems in the Near East also very often used ‘representative characters’. Certainly Jews at the time of the Kings of Judah knew that God revealed himself as their husband - lover (Isa 54:5,6; Jer 2:2; Ezek 16:8-14; Hos 2:16-20) and as they read this song undoubtedly the parallel of their relationship (individually and corporately) with Yahweh would have stirred their hearts.
Infact there is nothing unbiblical about interpreting the Song of Solomon on both the human marital relationship level and of God’s husband-relationship with His people ( God and Israel and Christ and the Church). The Apostle Paul saw the ‘great mystery’ of Christ and the Church through the husband-wife relationship ( Eph 5:22-32) - at the same time Paul speaks of the marital relationship and Christ’s relationship with the Church. For him there was no problem with using these two relationships interchangably. Indeed he saw them as being intimately related to each other.
Hence, the above explains some of the background reasoning for interpreting the Song as it has been here. The author believes that the true richness of this song and it’s full prophetic content may be fully appreciated and applied in our lives by this method of interpretation.
1: Background To The Song of Songs.