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in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the course

“Hope in Suffering and Joy in Liberation: A Study of Hebrew Poetry and Wisdom

Presented by Group III: Chubarenla Longkumer, Evelyn Sekho, Fountain D. Sangma,

Grace Gospelin & Keringumle Hau

Table of contents

1. Authorship
2. Date
3. Stucture
4. Theology in Song of Songs
5. Contextualization of Song of Songs

Song of Songs is patently a collection of ancient Hebrew love poems celebrating the experiences
of a lover and his beloved as they taste the beauty, power, agony, and joys of human sexual love.
In this paper, we shall discuss the matter pertaining to the authorship, date, its structure, the
theology and also the contextualization of the book i.e., Song of Songs, in brief.
1. Authorship
The Song of Solomon is traditionally ascribed to Solomon (cf. 1:1). Since the song is about him,
some have proposed an anonymous author and dated the book after the lifetime of Solomon.
However, there is no compelling reason for rejecting basic Solomonic authorship.1
A. Solomonic era2
1. Pastoral imagery suggests a time of extended peace in the land.

Richard S. Hess, Song of Songs. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series, (Grand Rapids:
Baker Academy, 2005), 619.
Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, One Volume ed. Edited By Leslie E. Church (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing Co. ,1961), 564.

2. Diverse geographic place names from the northern area of Mt. Hermon and Damascus to the
south of Ein-gedi suggest that Israel has not yet been split. Another indication of the United
Kingdom is that the north’s principle city of Tirzah (6:4) is named along with Jerusalem. By 880
b.c. Tirzah was replaced when Omri made Samaria the capital of the north.

B. Tradition holds Solomon as the author3

1. The ascription in 1:1 is not dedicatory but indicates source.
2. The unique vocabulary and style are similar to Ecclesiastes.
3. Solomon’s encyclopedic knowledge (I Kings 4:33 for Solomon’s biological interests) would
account for the profuse references to 21 kinds of flora and 15 kinds of fauna.
4. Knowledge of royal luxuries and exotic imports favors an insider (1:12,13; 3:6,9). Many of these
items are technical terms (cinnamon is simply transliterated in 4:14)
5. Solomon wrote 1,005 songs (I K. 4:32); this book was the “Song of Songs”
6. He would have written in the early to middle part of his reign.
a. He is still interested in romance.
b. He has not yet (6:8) attained his total of 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3). Cf. 8:11.
However some scholars reject Solomonic authorship of the Song of Songs for internal reasons.
Murphy states, “this traditional claim of Solomon is nowhere designated among the speakers who
are rather anonymous individuals.” This argument implies that a poet should always give himself
in such a role. Note that the name of Solomon does appear five other times in the book. (Song 1:5;
3:7; 11: 8:11, 12)4

Longman repeats Murphy’s argument and adds two others: that Solomon was morally unfit to have
written Song of Songs and that the superscript to the Song of Songs is like the one attached to
Proverbs, a book that explicitly has various subdivisions and multiple author. Thus, the evidence
tells us that Song of Songs was written in Solomon’s time and at his Court. Whether it was written
by him or for him by a court poet, we can never know and any attempt to discern the circumstances
surrounding the composition of the Song is of necessary speculative.5

2. Date
The Song of Songs is a collection much like the books of Psalms and Proverbs. Like those books, it may
contain poetic compositions that derive from different time periods. The title (1:1) would suggest that

Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, One Volume ed…566.
Duane Garrett, Paul R. House, 23B Word Biblical Commentary, Song of Songs/Lamentations (Nashville, Thomas
Nelson Publishers,2004), 24.
Duane Garrett, Paul R. House, 23B Word Biblical Commentary, Song of Songs/Lamentations…27.
Tremper Longman III, “Song of Songs”, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Eerdmans, 2001), 19.

Solomon was the author of the book which sets the date for composition sometime about the middle of the
tenth century B.C. Some scholars argue that the poems were written perhaps as late as the fourth or third
centuries B.C. Some others identify the Song as an ancient cult-ceremony date the original composition
during the second or even the third millennium B.C in the Canaanite period before the patriarchs ever
arrived in Egypt. Some seek to use textual references, such as the mention in 6:4 of the city of Tirzah, the
early capital of the northern kingdom, to determine the date of the book.

Some modern critics, with widely different theories of interpretation, have assigned the book to
the Solomonic period, or not long thereafter. Tur-Sinai (1950-51) ascribed the songs essentially to
the time of Solomon, interpreting the superscription to mean a song by the poets laureate (haššay-
yārȋm) in the court of Solomon. Thus, the song is not by Solomon but by Solomon’s court poets.
Likewise, M.H Segal (1962) also assigned to the age of Solomon. He says that the Song, although
not the work of Solomon, had a very close association with Solomon and “the whole contents of
the Song breathe the particular atmosphere of the Solomonic age with its worldliness, its wealth
and its luxury.” 9
G. Gerleman (1965) observes that the Song has familiarity with Egyptian graphic arts, especially
in the lyrics in which the lovers describe each other’s physical charms found in paintings or
sculptures in the palace of Pharaoh. The bizarre language of the Canticles thus finds its explanation
in the art of Egypt. He presumed the date to the period “Solomonic Humanism” during which
Israel had active contact with Egypt and its love songs in the tenth century B.C.10
3. Structure
There is no clear consensus among the translators or commentators as to precise divisions of the
text. AV, RV, ASV and RSV simply indicate paragraph or strophe divisions. NEB, JB and NIV
both indicate the strophes and assign speakers to them. Though some broad general agreement is
evident in these, there is no unanimity over the details. Although any division is somewhat
arbitrary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries divides the poem into 5 main sections:
1:2 – 2:7 Anticipation
2:8 – 3:5 Found, and Lost – and Found
3:6 – 5:1 Consummation
5:2 – 8:4 Lost – and Found

G. Lloyd Carr, “The Song of Solomon” ed. D.J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Illionois: Inter-
Varsity Press, 1984), 17-19.
Daniel J. Estes, Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2005),
Marvin H. Pope, The Anchor Bible: Song of Songs (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1977), 22-23.
Pope, The Anchor Bible: Song of Songs…, 24.

8:5 – 14 Affirmation11
The approach to the structure of the Song is heavily affected by genre identification. Those who
advocate a dramatic approach to the Song are committed to an overall unity of plot for the book
while this approach is rejected as being overly eisegetical. For those who conclude that the Song
is a collection of love poems differ as to the coherence of the collection as a whole. There are
scholars on the one hand who believe that the Song may be divided into six to eight poems that
have an “overarching macrostructure.” On the other hand, there are scholars who suggest a larger
number of poems, “each with its own independent microstructure,” with no substantial connection
between the poems.12
In the language of D. Grossberg, centripetal and centrifugal forces is found in the book. The literary
unity of the Song may be seen in the book’s verbal echoes, consistency of characters, repetition of
scenes, and the refrains that run through the book. With this, the overall conclusion agrees with
that of P. Cotterell, who says, “the Song is a collection of songs on a common and generally erotic
theme, legitimated by the naming of the Solomon, skillfully welded together both by allusion and
by the repetition of key vocabulary, but offering no narrative time line maintained through the
4. Theology in Song of Songs
The theology of Song of Songs is evident and useful to those seeking to obey God’s word on what
a marriage between two sinners looks like. The purity of the marriage bed is the major theological
theme of this song. Juxtaposed to the licentiousness for the world and sadly the contemporary
church, the Song of Songs gives a welcome and Godly portrayal of passionate love between one
man and one woman. The Song confirms the goodness and righteousness of love between the
subjects. The scripture is replete with confirmations of this Godly love between the lovers.
“Rejoice” in the young partner given to you (Prov. 5:18) implies a satiation with one partner.14
In the same vein of the marriage between a man and a woman, Songs also is a portrayal of the
marriage between Christ and His bride, the church. The Jews understood this truth, placing Songs
among the five festival scrolls (Megiloth) in their canon and in later Judaism it was allocated to be
read at the Passover Feast. The book of Deuteronomy is the marriage covenant between God and
Israelites. It is intriguing to note that even Solomon’s name given to him by David through a word
of the LORD, yet, when we return to the Song, we see a deeper parallel of Christ and His bride.
Shulamite in Hebrew is the feminine noun for Solomon. It could be said that wholeness in Christ
is a result of knowing the masculine and feminine aspects of our personhood and God. Whether

G. Lloyd Carr, “The Song of Solomon” ed. D.J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries…45.
Tremper Longman III, “Song of Songs”, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament…55.
Tremper Longman III, “Song of Songs”, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament…55.
Andrew E Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 470-471.

we are male or female, we can all identify with the Shulamite in her receptiveness to the lordship
of the king and we can identify with Solomon in his lively exuberance. Men and women may differ
physically and emotionally but not in being. Therefore, there is a sense in which Solomon and
Shulamite can be thought as two expressions of the same person. C.S. Lewis said, God is so
masculine that creation is feminine in comparison. Thus in the Songs, the king is a picture of Christ
our LORD and the Shulamite maiden pictures the believer who is seeking a closer, more intimate
relationship Jesus.15
Tracing the theme of the Song of Songs reveals more parallels to the imagery of Christ as husband
and the church as His bride and chapter 8:6 is the standpoint for this argument in which the
association of the words love and death can be seen. It is the love of Christ that saves us from
death. Though our mortal bodies perish, we are raised with Him through our faith.16
5. Contextualization of Song of Songs
1. God is concerned about the physical. After all, he made us, and he made us to make love. As
this is such an important part of people’s lives he provided a whole book about it.
2. We must know God’s timing in love-making. Love must not be aroused until it is ready (2:7;
3:5; 8:4). The world says, any time, any place. God says, my time, my place.
3. Family training is all important (8:8-10). The girl’s brothers, especially, trained her to be a ‘wall’
to keep out unwanted intruders rather than a ‘door’ that would let anyone in and so do damage to
her life.
4. Married love is exclusive (4:12). In terms of physical love each partner must remain as a locked
garden and a sealed fountain. Each life is a private’s vineyard for the other (8:12).
5. The smallest things can spoil a healthy relationship (2:15). Both partners must watch out for
‘the little foxes’ that spoil the blossoms of those early days of marriage. True love is both
unquenchable and without price (8:6-8). No one is immune from those things that seek to quench
the fires of love, but true love, because its source is in the heart of God, can never be put out.
Likewise, no material things can ever buy love.
We cannot do without this book, especially in an age of ‘free love’. It reminds us that God is deeply
concerned about our love relationship’s, not only to him but to each other.17

Tremper Longman III, “Song of Songs”, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament …59.
Tremper Longman III, “Song of Songs”, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament …209.
Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, “Expositor’s bible commentary – Old Testament” (Grand Rapids:
Michigan, 1994) 1026-1028.


The book “Song of Songs” as the title suggest claims to be the best song on married love ever
written. It is superior to all other poetry and so we must give full heed to it. This book reminds us
that God is deeply concerned about our love relationships not only to him but to each other. From
this book we also learn about the emotional intensity, intimacy and exclusivity of our relationship
with the God of the universe. It has a large, but often neglected, contribution to make to the
religious community and to the society.

Barker, Kenneth L. and John R. Kohlenberger, “Expositor’s bible commentary – Old Testament”.
Grand Rapids: Michigan, 1994.
Carr, G. Lloyd. “The Song of Solomon” ed. D.J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.
Illionois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984.

Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker
Academic, 2005.

Garret Duane, House Paul R. Word Biblical Commentary. Song of Songs/Lamentations.

Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004.

Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible. One volume ed. Edited by Leslie F. Church.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1961.

Hess, Richard S. Song of Songs. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms
series. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

Hill, Andrew E and John H. Walton. A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

Longman III, Tremper. “Song of Songs”, The New International Commentary on the Old
Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2001.

Pope, Marvin H. The Anchor Bible: Song of Songs. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1977.

Wiersbe, Warren W. "Song of Solomon." In The Bible Exposition Commentary/Wisdom and

Poetry. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004.