There are vast differences in the interpretation of the book of Song of Solomon. O’Donnell writes, “The ninth-century Jewish rabbi Saadia likened the Song to ‘a lock for which the key had been lost.’ The nineteenth-century German Lutheran Hebraist Franz Delitzsch wrote, ‘The Song is the most obscure book of the Old Testament. Whatever principle of interpretation one may adopt, there always remains a number of inexplicable passages.’ More recently, Marvin Pope comments, ‘[N]o composition of comparable size in world literature has provoked and inspired such a volume and variety of comment and interpretation as the biblical Song of Songs.’ Daniel Estes adds, ‘Scholars vary widely on nearly every part of its interpretation.… Virtually every verse presents challenges in text, philology, image, grammar or structure.’[1]

One thing that is certain about the book: It is a song! It’s in the title! The first verse is actually the title: “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” It’s a love song but the interpreters aren’t in agreement as to whether it’s a human love song between a man and a woman, or is it an analogy for Christ and his bride, the church. The image of marriage is used often in the New Testament to refer to the relationship between Christ and the church. The marriage supper of the lamb is prominent in this discussion with images of the celebrations observed at weddings in the Old Testament. I would suggest that we can see Song of Solomon as both a literal song sung at wedding celebrations as well as a picture of Christ and his relationship with the Church. As a song it should be sung according to O’Donnell, “This is a God-inspired love song! So I suggest we start some new traditions. Let’s write songs about the Song. Let’s sing those songs at Christian weddings. Let’s sing them during the reception. Let’s sing them as the couple is whisked away to their honeymoon.”

A song is a poem set to music, so we should consider the various aspects of poetry when we read Song of Solomon. Poems help you see something, not just think about it. Poems help you hear things, smell things and touch things through the use of various forms of literary devices. Assonance is one of those devices. It uses similar sounds of the words to excite our senses. It’s like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.” He writes, “The silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain…” We hear the “s” sounds and can easily see the purple curtains and hear the sounds of their ruslting. The opening verse of the Song of Solomon uses assonance also. Notice the “s” sound. “The song of songs of Solomon.” Keeping the fact that the Song of Solomon is a poem accompanied by music, O’Donnell says as she begins his commentary of this book, “I’ll ask you, in a sense (and with your senses), to smell the myrrh, frankincense, and aloes, to touch the polished ivory, to taste the wine and apples, to hear the flowing streams, to see the gazelles leaping over the mountains … yes, to feel the flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”[2]

[1] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. 2012. The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

[2] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. 2012. The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.