New Defender's Study Bible Notes
Introduction to Song of Solomon
Like the book of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon (also known as “Song of Songs” and “Canticles”) is both fascinating and enigmatic, both providing striking testimonials (as in the book of Proverbs) to the unique, wide-ranging, wisdom of Solomon. Like the other two books, it claims to be from Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:1). Solomon was said to have written over a thousand songs (I Kings 4:32), but this was his “Song of songs!”
The book was evidently written early in Solomon’s reign, long before his many wives turned his life away from devotion to his first love. Although there have been a number of interpretations of this book, the most obvious interpretation is no interpretation at all. That is, it is simply what it purports to be—a romantic love poem describing the love of young Solomon and a Shulamite maiden who became his first bride.
There is nothing unseemly, of course, about a book of the Bible depicting the beauties of pure courtship and marital love. The union of male and female in holy matrimony is intrinsic to the creation itself (Genesis 2:24-25). In this sense, the narrative of the Song can be considered as an idyllic picture of courtship and marriage that might apply, with varying details, to all true love and marriage as ordained by God.
In a secondary sense, the account may also be considered as a type of the love of Christ and His church, the “Bride of Christ” (compare Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 21:2; 22:17). This analogy should not be pressed too far, of course, as the book should primarily be studied in accord with its own clear intent, that of describing and honoring the God-ordained union of man and woman in true love and marriage.
1:1 song of songs. This book is variously identified as “Song of Songs,” “Song of Solomon” or “Canticles” (Latin for “songs”). There is no reason not to accept the traditional authorship of Solomon. The theme, however, has been interpreted in many different ways. The most obvious interpretation is that of a simple love song, telling the story of the love of a Shulamite maiden (Song of Solomon 6:13) and Solomon, appearing alternately as both a shepherd and as the king. The story, however, is probably also a type of the love of Christ (who is also both a shepherd and a king) for His bride, the Church. Similarly, the Jews took it as an allegory of Jehovah and Israel.
1:5 black. The bride is dark of skin because of working long in the sun in the family vineyards (Song of Solomon 1:6), so that she looked like a Kedar native (descendant of Ishmael and the desert Arabians). Nevertheless, her beauty had brought her to young Solomon’s attention, and they soon fell in love, and Solomon took her as his bride.
1:5 daughters of Jerusalem. The “daughters of Jerusalem” were probably the “virgins” (Song of Solomon 1:3), serving as attendants in the royal palace.
1:7 makest thy flock. Solomon, like his father David, seems to have had the heart of a shepherd, and loved to spend time in the fields with his many flocks. It was there he met his chosen bride, and she also had learned to love him. In Song of Solomon 1:2-7, she is searching for him and speaking about him to her companions. This perhaps is a type of a young believer, out of fellowship with Christ, and seeking forgiveness and restoration.
1:9 compared. The bridegroom is speaking in Song of Solomon 1:8-10. Comparing the Shulamite to a “company of horses” was a reference to her strength and grace, as well as her beauty.
1:14 My beloved. The bride calls Solomon “my beloved” thirty-two times in the book. Just so, the Lord Jesus should be the one deeply loved by all His redeemed ones (I John 4:19). She is speaking in Song of Solomon 1:12-14, delighting in their union, perhaps their wedding night; then Solomon replies with words of love in Song of Solomon 1:15-17. These verses, like the entire book, are (among other things) a divine testimonial to God’s approval on the physical—as well as the emotional and spiritual—aspects of marital love. God created Adam and Eve for each other, and Christ endorsed the lifelong union of husband and wife (Genesis 2:18,21-24; Matthew 19:3-6). “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4), “but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” In view of the ubiquitous warnings against all types of fornication and extra-marital sex throughout Scripture, there can be no question that Solomon and his bride were united in wedlock before they were united sexually in “our house” (Song of Solomon 1:17). Regrettably, Solomon soon was not content with this first love, evidently consummated very soon after he became king. For political reasons, he also “took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David” (I Kings 3:1), and then eventually “loved many strange women” (I Kings 11:1), who turned his heart away not only from his first young bride but from the Lord Himself.