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No Book has been provocative of more controversy than this. The question at issue is as to its place and value in Holy Scripture. While there are different varieties of each, the interpretations may be divided into two main classes, the material and the mystical. Without staying to deal with the many interpretations of either kind, may it not be true that the gravest mistake has been to imagine that either method in itself exhausts the meaning? On the extreme left are those who declare it to be simply a voluptuous Eastern love song. On the extreme right are those who at once say it is a portrayal of the love existing between Christ and His Church.
To take the second view first, whatever the Holy Spirit may have caused this to be written for, as ultimate value it is perfectly certain that Solomon did not see in it all that such interpreters find there. I am not denying that these things are there for us, but merely that Solomon did not write to set forth these things, for the Mystery of the Church was hidden under the whole economy of Hebraism.
On the other hand, if some mystical value is recognized as lying within the purpose of the writer, the songs are at once saved from the possibility of being charged with voluptuousness.
In order to understand the value of the Book it seems to me best to recognize a basis in fact, and an increasing understanding of the deepest values with the process of the centuries.
The basis of fact we shall find by recognizing that these songs are idylls, and that behind them is the actual story of the wooing and winning of a bride. As Dr. Moulton lucidly points out, the idyllic form does not proceed in consecutive order in its description, and it is necessary to construct the story by careful examination of the songs themselves.
They first set forth the love existing between bride and bridegroom.
Now the thought of the relationship of bride and bridegroom as setting forth that existing between Jehovah and Israel is peculiarly Hebrew. In the prophets this is subsequently made clearly manifest. Moreover, Jewish expositors have so interpreted these songs, and it is certainly easily probable that Solomon had some such intention in mind.
In the new dispensation, that of the Church, the same figure is the most glorious in setting forth the nature of the relation existing between Christ and His Church. Some of the most sainted writers of the Christian Church have interpreted these songs in the light of this New Testament truth, such, for instance, as Rutherford and McCheyne. Dr. Adeney, in the Expositor's Bible, while arguing against the mystical interpretation, yet says:
It may be maintained that the experience of Christians has demonstrated the aptness of the expression of the deepest spiritual truths in the imagery of the Song of Solomon.
His later contention that New Testament writers make no use of the poem in this way is of no weight, for we believe in the ever-increasing light on the deepest values of the earlier Scriptures. The fact that Solomon had no intention of setting forth the relation between Christ and His Church is of no moment. If through the songs of human love he did intend to set forth the spiritual idea of the love between Jehovah and His ideal people, the fulfilment of the thought of the songs would come with the working out into history of the realization of that purpose.
The songs should be treated, then, first as simple and yet sublime songs of human affection. When they are thus understood, reverently the thoughts may be lifted into the higher value of setting forth the joys of the communion between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God, and ultimately between the Church and Christ.
OUTLINE NOTES ON
The Song of Solomon
In these notes I propose to do nothing more than to indicate the speakers in each case. As songs of human love they need no other exposition. As songs of the spiritual life they are better interpreted experimentally than in any other way. The arrangement, while not strictly that of chapters, does occupy eight days, and thus maintains the one chapter a day.
SONG OF SONGS
A. The Marriage ( Son 1:2-7 ).
I. The Shulamite and the Virgins
( Son 1:2-6 ). Ready for the Wedding
1. The Bride (Song of Solomon 1:2-4 a).
Awaiting the Wedding.
2. The Virgins (Song of Solomon 1:4 b).
To the Bride.
3. The Bride ( Song of Solomon 1:4 c).
In the Bridegroom’s House.
4. The Virgins ( Son 1:4 d).
To the Bridegroom.
5. The Bride ( Son 1:4 e-6).
a. To the Bridegroom ( Son 1:4 e). b. To the Virgins ( Son 1:5-6 ).
II. The Bride and the Bridegroom (Song of Solomon 1:7-17; Son 2:1-6 ).
1. The Bride ( Son 1:7 ).
2. The Bridegroom ( Son 1:8-10 ).
3. The Virgins ( Son 1:11 ). To the Bride.
4. The Bride ( Son 1:12-14 ).
5. The Bridegroom ( Son 1:15 ).
6. The Bride (Song of Solomon 1:16-17; Son 2:1 ).
7. The Bridegroom ( Son 2:2 ).
8. The Bride ( Son 2:3-6 ).
III. The Voice of the Singer: Wisdom ( Son 2:7 ).
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". "Morgan's Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany