A Commentary in Simple English on Song of Songs

Introduction

In our Bibles, the Song of Songs follows Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is mostly very sad. The Song of Songs is mostly happy and full of beauty. Neither says anything much about religion. They both say a lot about our life.

Other names for the Song of Songs are the Song of Solomon or Canticles.

The Song of Songs is made up of love songs, but it is not a love story. [0.1] Today, most love songs are about the desire that a man has for a woman. In Old Testament times, it was usually the other way round. Love songs were about the desire that a woman had for a man. (See Genesis 3:16.)

In the Song of Songs, there seem to be two men.

  1. One is Solomon. He was King of Israel from about 970 to 930BC. We can read about him in 1 Kings 1-11. God gave Solomon wisdom (1 Ki 3:9). He also had great power and he was very rich. He built the temple for God in Jerusalem. He also built a great house or palace for himself. Sadly, he had a thousand women, most of them his wives (1 Ki 11:1). This verse says that he loved them but really he only desired to have them. Many of these women were not Jews. They worshipped false 'gods'. They turned Solomon away from the true God.
  2. The other man is a shepherd. His home is in the north of Israel. He is a poor man. There is just one girl that he really loves.

Solomon's women would not be free. Even queens would be prisoners in his palace. They would not have to work hard. They would be safe and they would have plenty to eat and drink. They would have good clothes. They might not have very much to do. They are the 'daughters of Jerusalem' or 'the daughters of Zion' in this book.

There is one other woman in the book. She is a country girl who is very beautiful. She loves the shepherd. If she marries him, her life will be hard. She will always be poor and sometimes she will be hungry. She will have to work hard. It seems perhaps that Solomon sees her. He wants her too. She dreams about life in Solomon's palace.

The name of this book need not mean that Solomon wrote it. Perhaps some of the many women in his palace wrote it for him or about him. [0.2]

So this book is a book made up from love poems. Some people think that there is one story, which runs all through the book. [0.3] Some writers prefer to find a story with a happy ending. They take bits from the book. They then put them in their own order. The girl loves a shepherd. Solomon sees her. He takes her to his palace. She tries to get out. She fails but she tries again. This time, she gets away and marries her shepherd. [0.4] There are many other ways to look at this book.

Now we shall find that the first poem and the last poem are like each other. For example in 1:8 the girl's brothers make fun of her. This happens again in 8:8. In the same way, the second poem is like the sixth one. The third poem is like the fifth one. That leaves the fourth poem. This is the one where we read most about Solomon. It is the middle one, so it may be the most important. All of the poems have their own plan. In some of them, it is rather like the plan of the whole book. We call this 'shape' a 'chiasmus'. We begin at the start of the book. We reach the middle, and then we go back to the start. It is quite a common 'shape' in the Bible books. It is good to know when this 'shape' is there. It will help us to understand the Scripture.

So the Song of Songs is made up from seven love poems. We shall look at the words to explain what they mean. But God's people have always used this book in a special way. They have found in it pictures of the great love which Christ had for them. They have found, too, pictures of the love which they had for Christ. So this is what we hope to do. [0.6]

You may well find much help if you use the book as pictures of Christ's love. Yet you should not use verses from it if you have to argue with other people. They may not agree with the way in which you use this book.

In this book, a woman's beauty seems to be the only thing about her that matters. Any Christian man should think about Proverbs 31:10-31, and most of all about verse 30.