Song of Solomon 1:1 – An Introduction
October 15, 2019
Song of Solomon is part of the wisdom literature within the Old Testament. While many mistake it as a book, it is actually a song—and not just any song. The opening line of this song is a superlative that declares it to be the “song of songs.” We find examples of other superlatives throughout the Scripture, such as “holy of holies” and “King of kings” (Exodus 26:33; Revelation 19:16). These superlatives suggest something is the greatest of the great. In the case of this song we are about to study, it is the greatest song of any songs. Songs are poems written to be accompanied by music and because of this, a great deal of imagery and literary devices commonly associated with poetry should be expected as we move forward.
AUTHORSHIP & DATE
There is much debate as to who actually authored this song. The first verse suggests that this song was written by Solomon. As we will see, this song contains themes of desire, friendship, commitment, marriage, and human sexuality within marriage. This has caused certain Bible commentators and scholars to scoff at
the idea of Solomon being its author. Truly, we know that Solomon stumbled and fell when it comes to Biblical understandings of marriage: he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). The contradiction between Solomon’s life and this “song of songs” is why many other possible authors have been suggested. However, the imperfection of Solomon does not mean he didn’t write this song. God uses many imperfect persons including Noah, Moses, David, Samson, Peter, and Paul who was the chief of sinners. Tradition says, and the majority of Bible teachers believe, that Solomon did in fact write this book for the following reasons:
- The song is attributed to Solomon (1:1).
- His name appears six other times within the song (1:5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12).
- Solomon was a well-known song writer with over 1,005 musical works to his credit (I Kings 4:32).
- This song can be dated to Solomon’s reign (971 – 931 B.C.) due to its geographic markers and signs of a united kingdom (6:4, 13).
- Both urban and rural geographic markers can be explained by Solomon reigning in Jerusalem at the height of its power, yet frequently traveling to the many vineyards he built and herds he owned outside the city (Ecclesiastes 2:4-7).
There are three primary characters within the song labeled “She,” “Others,” and “He.” The “He” refers to the author, Solomon. “She” is the bride of Solomon. Many suggest Solomon writes at the end of his life as an act of repentance for the many sexual sins he committed that adversely affected the kingdom. If this were true, he would be writing and remembering his first love. It is more likely that he is writing about his first love before his corruption, as this song is beautifully composed and unstained by remorse and guilt. “She” is the first to speak within the song, and “she” speaks more than any other character. We know this bride to be a working-class woman of Shulammite descent (6:13). Many suggest this could not be true as Solomons first “mentioned” marriage is with an Egyptian woman who would clearly not be a Shulammite (I Kings 3:1). However, this Egyptian marriage was political in nature and not a union born out of love. It is more logical that Solomon fell in love and took a wife before his political unions. This view is strengthened by the fact there were young Shulammite virgins
working within the house of David that Solomon would have been exposed to (1 Kings 1:1-4, 15). “Others” in the song represent the host speaking as the community surrounding the groom and his bride. At times they are the young maidens of Jerusalem (3:11; 5:8). Other times they are the servants who attend Solomon (3:10). Finally, the brothers of the Shulammite speak (8:8-9).
This song is a vivacious story of human desire, love, marriage, and intimacy. It should be read and interpreted in this context. In many Christian circles, such terminology and themes are avoided altogether and seen as taboo. Some, even in the days of the Apostles, chose celibacy and forbid others to marry (I Timothy 4:1-5). Yet gender, marriage, and human sexuality are all designed by God. These things should be seen as gifts and it is Godly to desire what God has created. The problem is not sexuality, but human sin and perversion. To properly enjoy what God has given, we must desire these gifts within the boundaries that God has set. The Song of Solomon will help us set the boundaries for these things to properly be enjoyed. Although this song is primarily a love story between a groom and his bride, the gospel will clearly be displayed. Jesus is a better groom and we are His bride (Ephesians 5:29). All Scripture is ultimately about Jesus and we will see His pursuit of His people through this epic song of love (John 5:39).
LOVE – GOD LOVES US
Song of Solomon is a book that is very free and expressive about human sexuality. God has lovingly set boundaries around sex, commanding that it only be enjoyed within marriage. Why is it a good thing that God gives us such commands?
God calls imperfect people like Solomon to Himself. Read 2 Corinthians
4:5-7. How does it glorify God to use imperfect, broken people to
accomplish His purposes?
DEVOTION – WE LOVE GOD
Poetry like Song of Solomon uses imagery that can tap into deep emotions within us. Emotions are a good gift that we can use to worship him. Read Psalm 63. What are some images that David uses to express his feelings towards God? What are the emotions he is expressing?
PASSION – WE LOVE OTHERS
One of the metaphors used in Scripture to describe the role of Jesus is that of a groom pursuing His bride. How does Jesus’ determined pursuit of you help you to pursue others around you in the love of Christ?
LEGACY – LOVE LIVES ON
Think about the impact of family on the world around us. How does God’s design support human flourishing? Since this book concerns sex in the confines of marriage, why is it helpful to us as believers in our world today?