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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Song of Solomon 1

Verse 1

INTRODUCTION TO THE SONG OF SOLOMON

It is the purpose of this introduction to suggest certain facts deemed helpful in understanding this unusual book which makes no mention of God and is neither quoted nor referred to elsewhere in the Bible.

AUTHOR

Verse 1:1 links Solomon to the song as either the author or the person about whom the song is written. 1 Kings 4:32 credits Solomon with 1,005 songs.

THE SONG IS POETRY

In form the song is Hebrew poetry, a style of writing which utilized parallel lines to repeat or reverse thoughts expressed. It does not require, and in this instance does not list, events in chronological sequence. Later events are mentioned before some which occurred earlier. Thoughts, desires, anticipations, reminiscences and even dreams may be expressed as present happenings. Speakers change abruptly, sometimes within the same verse.

PLACES AND PERSONS

The song deals primarily with the city of Jerusalem, the oasis of En-gedi on the western shore of the Dead Sea (Song of Solomon 1:14), unnamed summer resorts of Solomon, and the countryside in and around Shunem, a small town on the southwest slope of the Hill of Moreh just north of Jezreel. Shunem is about 55 miles north of Jerusalem. En-gedi is about 30 miles SE of Jerusalem via the old road through Bethlehem and Tekoa.

The only person identified by name in the song is King Solomon. The prominent female is a young woman identified as the Shulamite, or a maid of Shunem. She is referred to as "My Love" nine times (Song of Solomon 1:9; Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 2:2; Song of Solomon 2:10; Song of Solomon 2:13; Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:7; Song of Solomon 5:2; Song of Solomon 6:4) by the shepherd who courts and marries her. The Shulamite speaks of or to this man as a shepherd in Song of Solomon 1:7 and refers to him as "My Beloved" 27 times throughout the song. Their actual wedding is not described, but intimate scenes described here and there indicate their marriage was consummated and later publicly celebrated by guests.

Some authorities are of the opinion that Solomon is the sole principal male character in the song and is the person referred to as shepherd and as the Shulamite’s beloved. Others, because of Solomon’s involvement with many women (1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 7:8; 1 Kings 11:1-11), view him as an improper competitor of the shepherd whose love for the Shulamite is honorable and above reproach. The latter is the view presented in this commentary,

The daughters of Jerusalem and the groups of watchmen are incidental characters not further identified other than repeated association of the daughters with the city of Jerusalem.

THE TEACHING OF THE SONG

The song magnifies the beauty and joy of man and woman bound together by love and total commitment to each other as the creator intended when He instituted monogamous marriage, Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:7-9. Although it contains no mention of God and is not quoted or referred to elsewhere in the Bible, it teaches a conjugal relationship based on a standard of love and probity taught only by the Holy Scriptures. It also portrays the harmful effects of persons motivated by lust rather than love.

Both Old and New Testaments frequently use true love and marriage to illustrate the love of the Lord for and the bonds that unite Him with His people and His church, see Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:19; Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7-8. Whether or not such was intended in the Song of Songs, the Song can be used to picture the enduring love of the Lord for those joined to Him by faith, also the joy of those who experience this relationship.

Song of Solomon Chapter 1

TITLE AND AUTHOR

Verse 1 provides the title, Song of Songs or best of songs, which is Solomon’s. The possessive term links Solomon to the song as author or the person about whom the song was written. 1 Kings 4:32 credits Solomon with 1,005 songs.

Verses 2-4

THOUGHTS AND DESIRES OF THE SHULAMITE

Verses 2-4a express thoughts and desires of the beautiful Shulamite maid for her beloved shepherd while captive of King Solomon in Jerusalem. The shepherd is far away in the home country near Shunem, 55 miles north of Jerusalem, but drawn very near in her thoughts. She was brought to Jerusalem prior to events in this part with the intent of persuading her to marry the king, a proposal she has not accepted.

Verse 4 b affirms that the king has brought the Shulamite into his chambers but does not indicate he is present.

Verse 4c suggests that despite the king’s efforts to the contrary, the Shulamite is determined that she and her beloved shepherd will find happiness together.

Verses 5-6

SHULAMITE SPEAKS TO FEMALE COMPANIONS

Verses 5-6 record the first of several addresses by the Shulamite to certain females known as daughters of Jerusalem, but not further identified. In these 2 verses she explains her dark complexion as sun-tan resulting from being required by her brothers to care for the family vineyards in the homeland. The absence of any mention of a father suggests that he was dead.

Verse 7

SHUMATE PONDERS PRESENT LOCATION OF SHEPHERD

Verse 7 reflects the strong desire of the Shulamite for her beloved shepherd as she ponders where he may be found. This suggests also intent to go to him and need for directions, so as to avoid being mistaken for a wandering harlot.

Verses 8-11

SHULAMITE’S THOUGHTS OF SHEPHERD’S RESPONSES

WHEN THEY WILL BE TOGETHER

Verse 8. He will address her as the fairest among women.
Verse 9. He will address her as "my love" and compliment her as more attractive than highly regarded Egyptian horses.
Verse 10. He will take special note of how the beauty of her face is enhanced by ornaments of jewels and precious metals (perhaps gifts of the king).
Verse 11 shifts to "we", suggesting that when the two are together, they will arrange these things to further enhance her natural beauty.

Verses 12-14

ANTICIPATED JOYS OF THE SHULAMITE

Verses 12-14 reveal the thoughts of the captive Shulamite while the king sits at his table. Her perfumes send forth their pleasant odors. She thinks not of the king, but of her beloved shepherd far away. In a soliloquy she reviews the pleasant experiences anticipated when they are able to consummate their intended marriage. Past delights prompted by rare perfumes, fragrant flowers, exotic spices and the lush growth of En-gedi will not compare with the joys anticipated when she will be with her beloved. The reference to En-gedi, a lush oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, may indicate that Solomon had taken the Shulamite there earlier in his effort to impress her with the privileges that could be hers.

Verses 15-17

ANTICIPATED EXCHANGES BETWEEN THE SHEPHERD AND SHULAMITE

Verse 15 expresses further anticipated praise by the shepherd which repeat the first thought of Verse 8 and also compliment the beauty of the Shulamite’s eyes.

Verse 16 is the Shulamite’s response praising the shepherd’s handsome appearance and reflecting thoughts of the time they will be together as man and wife.

Verse 17 suggests anticipation that the shepherd’s thoughts are also of a house where they will be together in a married relationship.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/song-of-solomon-1.html. 1985.