Bible Study: Song of Songs


Although you can weary yourself in current scholastic works which debate the authorship of the book, most conservative scholars ultimately come back to what verse 1 has said for centuries: “The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.” He wrote many songs from which this was culled and denoted as the best (1Ki 4:32). In Hebrew, there is the suggestion that it is a superlative or the very best of all his songs.


There are two glaring absences which must be faced when we come to the study of this book. First, there is no mention of God to be found in its poems. In similarity with Esther, it has the distinction of being in the canon and yet lacking any mention of the name of divine persons.

The second absence relates to the fact that nowhere in the New Testament is there a citation from this book. There are other books which share this distinction (e.g., Ecclesiastes, Esther), but it is still worthy of note. This does not negate their divine inspiration or place in the canon of Scripture. “The five MEGILLOTH, or ‘Rolls,’ [are] the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. It was at an early Council of Jewry that the Rabbi Aqiba made the now-famous pronouncement: ‘All the Writings are holy, and the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.’”[1]


As with the issue of authorship, few books have afforded more debate on their basic interpretation than the Song of Songs. What appears to be common ground for all is to recognize that its 117 verses constitute a love poem. But from there, differences surface rapidly. How many love poems are present in the 117 verses? Is it one poem with several different but related paragraphs? Or is it, at the other extreme, 31 poems connected thematically, as has been suggested by one recent author?

The next issue confronted is whether to approach the book as a drama, an extolling of marital love, or as an allegory (see below). What is the basic genre of this writing? J. Sidlow Baxter, following Richard G. Moulton’s Modern Reader’s Bible, believed that there are seven idylls that make up the book (1:1-2:7; 2:8-3:5; 3:6-5:1; 5:2-6:3; 6:4-7:10; 7:11-8:4; and 8:5-14). Baxter defined an idyll as “a short pictorial poem on some pastoral or homely subject; a short descriptive or narrative poem, especially one which gives to familiar or everyday scenes a tinge of romance.”[2]


Several different interpretations of the book have been advanced, and divided, not along political lines but along a timeline. Virtually all older conservative writers from the 1800s to the early/mid-1900s saw in the events of the book an allegory of the love of Christ for His Bride, or the love of Jehovah for Israel. If we fast forward to the late 1900s up to the current day, the view shifts radically. But even here there is not unanimity among the scholars. Some see in it an extolling of love between Solomon and the young maiden, the Shulamite (6:3), who has captivated his heart. If this is the scenario, it must have been written early in his reign before his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter and before his trophy case became saturated with the accumulation of wives and concubines.

Others see a triangle of love: the young Shulamite maiden, a shepherd who is in love with her, and the intruding King, Solomon. If this is the case, Solomon does not come off looking very virtuous.

Still others posit it as a biblical defense of the sanctity of marital intimacy, almost a manual for marital relationships.

How should we then view it? Is it not possible that it is exactly what it intends to be: a poem to the beauty of love? If that love is to be known in any sphere, then here, in this Song of Songs, are principles which I must learn and implement in that relationship. There are lessons here for married couples. There is a lesson here about the heart of God toward His ancient people whom He will one day take up again. But what has been dear to believers through the ages is to see in the expressions of endearment and intimacy something of the relationship which Christ has with His Church and with each believer individually.View Post

Another interesting approach would be to contrast it with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden where nakedness was covered and shame existed. There is almost a return to the innocence and pristine beauty of the garden in the interaction between Solomon and the Shulamite.


  1. The Superscription (1:1)
  2. The Movement through a Courtship (1:2-3:5)
    1. The Attraction Leading to Love (1:2-11)
    2. The Advance of Love (1:12-3:5)
  3. The Marriage (3:6-5:1)
    1. The Commitment (3:6-11)
    2. The Consummation (4:1-5:1)
  4. The Maturing of Love (5:2-8:4)
    1. The Apathy and its Negativity (5:2-6:13)
    2. Affection and its Value (7:1-10)
    3. Invitation (7:11-13)
    4. Increased Intimacy (8:1-4)
  5. The Mystery of Love (8:5-7)
  6. The Epilogue (8:8-14)

[1] Jim Flanigan, Song of Songs, in What the Bible Teaches (Kilmarnock: John Ritchie Ltd, 2005).

[2] J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987), 3:181.