Song of Songs 2:8-13
This book is also known as Song of Solomon—and also Canticles (from the Latin Vulgate canticum canticorum).
Authorship has traditionally been ascribed to Solomon, for several reasons:
• 1 Kings 4:32 says that Solomon composed one thousand and five songs (along with many proverbs and other writings).
• Verse 1:1 says, “The Song of songs, which is Solomon’s” (NRSV and WEB). The original Hebrew, sir hassarim, denotes an exceptional song, the best song. This verse, then, could mean that this is the best of Solomon’s many songs.
• Early Jewish scholars attributed the book to Solomon.
• The poetry of this book is similar to ancient Egyptian love poems. Solomon may have had access to these Egyptian poems—and may have modeled this book after them.
• Song 6:4 puts the city of Tirzah in apposition to Jerusalem. Tirzah was a significant city in Solomon’s time, but faded in importance after Omri established Samaria as the capital of the Northern Kingdom during the first half of the 9th century B.C. This suggests an early date for the book.
However, a number of modern scholars have called Solomon’s authorship into question for several reasons:
• The Hebrew words of verse 1:1 fall short of saying that Solomon was the author of this book. They can mean that the book was inspired by Solomon or dedicated to Solomon.
• While this book appears to be an erotic poem inspired by a particular lover, Solomon doesn’t seem like the type to be overwhelmed by the sexuality of any particular woman. He had many Jewish wives and concubines, and also had many lovers among surrounding foreign nations (1 Kings 11:1). But, then again, the sensual language in this book may have been what Solomon said to all the girls.
• Solomon’s name appears only seven times in this book (1:1, 5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12), but only in 1:1 is there any indication that he might be the author. The book appears to be more about Solomon rather than by him.
Song of Songs is a collection of love poems, told from the standpoint of a young man and a young woman. They celebrate their romantic love for each other—and talk at length about each other’s bodies. The poetry is highly sensual—highly sexual. It never mentions God.
The question, then, is why this book is in the Biblical canon. It was first adopted into the Hebrew canon. We can only guess as to the reasons that it was adopted into that canon. Its association with Solomon was surely one of the factors. It is possible that it had been allegorized prior to adoption into the canon—so that it became known as a poem of God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love for God (see also Hosea 2:16-19). Also, it was read at certain Jewish feasts, and that liturgical linkage surely influenced the decision to include it in the canon.
Its inclusion in the Hebrew canon was an important factor in its adoption into the Christian canon. Christians thought of the book as an allegory of Christ’s love for the church and the church’s love for Christ. The New Testament uses husband and wife as a metaphor for Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:21-33; see also Revelation 21:2-9).
SONG 2:8-9. THE VOICE OF MY BELOVED
8 The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping on the mountains,
skipping on the hills.
9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart.
Behold, he stands behind our wall!
He looks in at the windows.
He glances through the lattice.
These verses don’t lend themselves to verse by verse commentary. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that this is the voice of the woman, who describes her beloved as a gazelle (nimble, sure-footed) and a young stag (strong and handsome).
SONG 2:10-13. RISE UP, AND COME AWAY!
10 My beloved spoke, and said to me,
“Rise up, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.
11 For, behold, the winter is past.
The rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth.
The time of the singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree ripens her green figs.
The vines are in blossom.
They give forth their fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.”
The woman goes on to describe her beloved’s invitation to her. It is springtime—a time both of beauty and fecundity. Her beloved invites her to “come away” to enjoy his company amidst the glories of springtime.
A number of modern scholars would call us to enjoy this book for the joy it finds in human sexuality. Why should we not express as much joy and thanksgiving for human sexuality as for a Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner? “Why should Hollywood always have the first and last say on love” (Willimon, 291). Good question!
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Carr, G. Lloyd, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: The Song of Solomon, Vol. 17 (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984)
Davis, Ellen F., Westminster Bible Companion: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs(Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000)
Garrett, Duane A., New American Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Vol. 14 (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993)
Garrett, Duane A., and House, Paul R., Word Biblical Commentary: Song of Songs & Lamentations(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000)
Griffiths, Paul J., Brazos Theological Commentary: Lamentations and the Song of Songs (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012)
Jenson, Robert W., Interpretation: Song of Songs (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005)
Longman, Tremper Longman III, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids: 2001)
Murphy, Roland E., and Huwiler, Elizabeth, New International Biblical Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999)
Newsome, James D., in Brueggemann, Walter, Cousar, Charles B., Gaventa, Beverly R., and Newsome, James D., Texts for Teaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV–Year B (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)
Redford, R.A., The Pulpit Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, “Song of Solomon,”Vol. IX (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, no date)
Tucker, Gene M., in Craddock, Fred B., Hayes, John H., Holladay, Carl R., and Tucker, Gene M.,Preaching Through the Christian Year B (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1993)
Weems, Renita J., The New Interpreters Bible: Introduction to Wisdom Literature: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach, Vol.V
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997)
Willimon, William H., in Van Harn, Roger E. (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts: The First Readings: The Old Testament and Acts (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001)
Copyright 2012, 2015, Richard Niell Donovan