What is your understanding of the Song of Solomon?

Call it Canticles or The Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon -- call it what you will -- but what is it about?

The ancient Hebrews understood it allegorically, representing the love of the Lord for Israel.

The ancient Christians understood it allegorically, representing the love of Jesus for the church.

The main issue of the Council of Jamnia (Yahneh), some say, was to decide whether it belonged to the cannon.  

The Jews would not let children read the text until boys made their Bar Mitzvah because of its suggestive language.

In more recent times, many Christians take it more literally as referring to romantic love.  Some use it to teach about romance and sex in marriage.

What are your opinions?   You can comment about interpretation, usefulness, and even your understanding of the storyline (if you think it has a storyline).  You can even comment on authorship -- did Solomon write it?  But our poll will be limited.

Choose the answer that fits best.  If an answer does not mostly fit, you cna choose others if you must!


I interpret SOS allegorically, referring to God's love for the church and/or Israel.
10% (2 votes)
I think it is a collection of romantic love songs without a clear story line.
20% (4 votes)
I think it is a romantic love story with a story line or even a play of sorts.
35% (7 votes)
20% (4 votes)
Undecided or possibly in transition about this.
15% (3 votes)
Total votes: 20
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There are 6 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

If indeed 40 of the Bible's 66 books use marriage as a picture of God's love for His people, why can't the Song of Songs be both an allegory and also literal wedding songs?  Plus, really, a lot of pictures of ancient Israeli culture that shed light on any number of other theological positions.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert, I appreciate your thoughts.

Would you postulate that Paul had Song of Solomon in mind when he spoke of the relationship of the church (in Ephesians 5:25-33, especially vs. 32, " This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.")?

Either way, you've goe me wondering if the Ephesians passage could be a Midrash on Song of Solomon, based on your comments.  To verify that, we should be able to find something nearby in Ephesians that rings of Song of Solomon.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Probably depends on how Midrash is defined, and applied.  I've got Neusner's Midrash Reader on my shelves, and suffice it to say that when I read it, I was surprised where some of the commentary went.  A Midrash on Song of Songs 1:2 went to discuss kosher cheese, for example.  That noted, I can't see explicitly that there is a citation like Neusner's rabbis used, so it's not quite fitting the pattern I suspect you're referring to.

One possible side explanation would be that when a concept is widespread in Scripture, commentators no longer feel the need to cite the reference because it would be like pointing out the sun rises in the East--totally obvious.  But the flip side of that is all the Midrash/Talmud/etc., which clearly describes Song of Songs as allegorical about God's love for His people.  

A possible way to reconcile that, perhaps, is that there was a "hidden majority" in Judiasm that didn't leave much writing behind that nonetheless adhered to a more or less literal/literary understanding of the written Scriptures, but eventually died out under Pharisaical pressure.  We could call it a "Trail of Matzo" theology for proto-dispensationalism or something.  Obviously I don't have much to work with here!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

...the Shabbos song "Lekhah dodi" using bridal imagery to welcome the Shabbos.  Make of it what you will.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert, I am aware of the Jewish usage of it to welcome the Sabbath.

Keil and Delitzsch understood it as a story about a woman in love with a shepherd, the woman was taken into Solomon's harem but then returned to her lover.   That takes some liberties.

As far as Midrash, I have written a couple of books suggesting that much of the New Testament is actually a Midrash (intentional elaboration and development) of Old Testament passages.  That's what I was pondering with Ephesians 5 -- was Paul thinking of SOS and drawing an application of it in that passage.  I can find no strong evidence that this is what he was doing, so it is just a thought to consider.

"The Midrash Detective"

josh p's picture

I understand it literally but the chronology confuses me. I can understand Jewish children not being allowed to read it as it is indeed pretty explicit at times. I'll never forget a conversation about its interpretation with an older gentleman after church in the foyer. We kept moving further and further from the crowd until we almost went outside.