A guest article by Brandon Biggs
The book of Song of Solomon has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout history. This article seeks to remedy this situation by providing a thoughtful and scholarly reflection upon the theme of romantic love within the book, and by expanding upon the two sub-themes associated with it—pleasure and danger.
This article begins by exploring the various interpretations of the Song of Solomon throughout history with their strengths and weaknesses. As this article will show, the natural/literal interpretation suits the Song best.
The article progresses to explore the major theme of romantic/erotic love that is the crux of the entire book, and then to explore the sub-themes of the pleasure of romantic love and the danger of romantic love as they relate to the interpretation of the book.
As previously stated, the Song of Solomon has been often misunderstood and misinterpreted, and it is the goal of this article to leave the reader with a higher level of understanding as it relates to divine revelation and human interaction.
The Song of Songs/Solomon has intrigued readers and scholars for centuries. The interpretation of the book has proved to be one of the most controversial topics in all of Old Testament criticism. The reader must assume an interpretative framework for this book or the message will be obscured by subjectivity. However, this is no easy task. Many learned scholars have proposed elaborate defenses for various interpretations of the book. The various methods of interpretation are as follows:
The allegorical approach of interpretation seems quite plausible, until one looks at the larger message of the book. Nowhere in the book of Song of Solomon are the words “YaHWeH,” “Adoni,” “El,” or “Elohim” to be found. Furthermore, “Allegorical writing usually gives hints that it is allegory….None of these elements is present in the Song of Songs.”1 Also, it seems that those who wish to allegorize the book as a picture of God’s love for Israel only do so to conveniently avoid the intensely physical and erotic nature of the book.
Second, while many make no distinction between allegory and typology, there is a clear difference. The former seeks to impose a hidden spiritual meaning, while the latter seeks to identify a New Testament figure fulfillment of the Old Testament foreshadowing. Though the Old Testament routinely and frequently gives a typology of Christ, this does not seem to be the case with the Song of Songs. If the book were a foreshadowing of Christ it would seem that the New Testament writers would have identified it as such.
Third, the dramatic interpretation supposes that the book is a liturgical song or drama that was performed at a wedding ceremony. This interpretation has serious flaws. For example, “The long speeches, the lack of character development and of a plot developing to dramatic climax and resolution, all militate against the Song being considered ‘drama’.”2
Therefore, it seems that the literal, or, natural, approach to interpretation (i.e. erotic love between the lover and the beloved) is to be favored. This will be the presupposition of this author as the theme of this book is explored.
The one theme of romantic love will be explored with special attention being given to the poetic language that describes such love within the book of Song of Songs.
Category: Biblical Studies