© 1999 by Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.
Neptune, New Jersey
First Edition, 1933 Revised Edition, 1999
Unless otherwise indicated,
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James version of the Bible.
Profile taken from Exploring the Scriptures © 1965, 1970, 1989 by John Phillips.
Song Of Solomon
A Book Of Love
By John Phillips
Solomon wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32). He was wiser than all the fabled philosophers of his day, for his wisdom was a direct gift from God (1 Kings 3:12). He wrote three of the books of the Bible. And, although we do not know for sure the order in which they were written, presumably he wrote the Song of Solomon when he was young and in love, Proverbs when he was middle-aged and his intellectual powers were at their zenith, and Ecclesiastes when he was old, disappointed, and disillusioned with the carnality of much of his life.
Picture the background against which Solomon wrote his books. The wealth and wisdom of Solomon were the talk of every kingdom and tribe of his day. His great Tarshish ships plied the trade lanes of the Mediterranean and also found their way down the coastline of East Africa to Arabia and India, so that into Jerusalem flowed the exotic traffic of the East. Great caravans of camels crossed the deserts, bearing back riches for the king and spreading his fame far and wide.
From all over the East men came to hear the wisdom of Solomon. They talked with bated breath of the godlike judgment that had suggested carving up a living child to share him half and half with two women, each claiming him as her own, thus revealing the true mother. His fame reached far south to Ethiopia from whence came the queen of Sheba, all the long perilous way up the Nile, across burning sands and on up the steep hill country of Judah to sit at the feet of Solomon. Then, as at last she turned back toward home, it was with an ache in her heart and a confession on her lips: “The half was never told me.”
Such was Solomon! But as the years slipped away, sad and serious were the mistakes he made, entering into political marriages with the daughters of pagan kings. Gradually his spirituality declined as his Oriental luxury and opulence increased, and his harem dinned like Babel with hundreds of strange tongues. Jerusalem became the home of heathendom also, as Solomon’s wives imported their pagan gods and erected shrines to them. As Solomon began to lose his vision of the true and living God, he began to degenerate into a common Eastern despot. He multiplied his slaves, ground onerous taxes from his subjects, and at last followed his outlandish wives into the abominable rites of Ashtoreth and worshiped the abomination of the Zidonians, and even engaged in the savage worship of Milcom and Moloch. It is against this background of wisdom and wealth, women and worship that the books of Solomon should be read.
If one book of the Bible may be said to be more sacred than another, then the Song of Solomon is that book, the very holy of holies of Scripture. The man with an impure mind will never understand this book. Under the figure of a bride and a bridegroom is expressed the love of Christ for His own, and the love that each believer has for his Lord. There is no sin, therefore, no shame.
There are several important interpretations for this book. The two main positions usually taken differ in their identification of the bridegroom of the Song.
According to one interpretation the bridegroom is Solomon, and the bride, a certain Shulamite woman. The Shulamite is seen awaiting the arrival of Solomon and, surrounded by ladies of the court, pouring out her rapture and longing. The king appears and takes her to his banqueting house, where the two lovers commune together. Then the Shulamite again confides in the court ladies, telling what tender regard she has for her beloved. With an overflowing heart she sings of the way in which her beloved king found her and wooed her; of how all nature awoke to new loveliness; of how she lost him, found him again, and would not let him go. After this, Solomon is seen approaching Jerusalem with his bodyguard, wearing a splendid crown. He addresses the Shulamite with words of love, and to these she responds briefly but with rapturous delight. Then a cloud passes over the scene. Under the figure of a dream the bride describes a temporary separation of heart from her groom, her misery, her longing and search for him, and her appeal to her court companions to help her. In response to their questions the Shulamite tells why she loves her beloved so. Solomon returns and once more the two are united amid words of praise and assurances of love. The bride invites her husband to return with her to the scenes of her maiden life, and they are next seen enjoying the simplicity of country life, exchanging remembrances and confidences. Others are thought of, and the bride’s joy reaches out to her kindred. The Song ends with the bride singing and bidding her beloved to hasten to her side. In this view of the Song, Solomon is taken to be a type of Christ and the Shulamite a type of the church.
Another view of the Song sees three main speakers and several subsidiary speakers. Solomon is seen as representing the world; the Shulamite, the church; and the Shulamite’s shepherd-fiancé, Christ. Solomon used all the dazzle and splendor of his court to woo the girl away from her true love, seeking to get her to become one of his wives instead. In like manner the world is ever seeking to attract away from Christ those who are “espoused” to Him. Solomon is unable to accomplish his goal, however, for the Shulamite resists all his overtures and remains true to her beloved shepherd to whom, at last, she is reunited.
The abiding value of the Song of Solomon is clear whichever view is taken. As human life finds its highest fulfillment in the love of man and woman, so spiritual life finds its highest fulfillment in the love of Christ and His church.