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Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

- Song of Solomon

by Johann Peter Lange






The title שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים, “Song of songs,” or, as it is more fully expressed in Song of Solomon 1:1, שִׁיר הַשִׁירִים אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלֹמחֹ. “The Song of songs, which is Solomon’s,” describes this book neither as a “series (chain) or collection of many songs” (as Kleuker, Augusti, Velthusen, Paulus suppose), nor as one prominent among the many songs of Solomon (according to Ibn Ezra’s and D. Kimchi’s translation: “A song of the songs of Solomon”). “Song of songs” (Sept., ᾆσμα ᾀσμάτων; Vulg., canticum canticorum) is without doubt rather designed to characterize this poem as the most excellent of its kind, as the finest, the most precious of songs. Of the many songs, which, according to 1 Kings 5:12, Solomon composed, the author of this title,—whom we must at all events distinguish from the poet himself, as is shown particularly by its אֲשֶׁר instead of the poetical abbreviation שֶׁ, which is always used in the song itself1—would exalt the one before us as especially commendable and elegant. This sense, suggested by analogies like “heaven of heavens” (1 Kings 8:27), “servant of servants” Genesis 9:25, “vanity of vanities” (Ecclesiastes 1:2), “ornament of ornaments” (Ezekiel 16:7),2 which Luther has briefly and appositely expressed by “das Hohelied,” is undoubtedly involved in the expression, whether אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלֹמהֹ, “which is Solomon’s,” be referred (as is usually done) to the principal subject in the singular שִׁיר, “song,” or to the immediately preceding plural הַשִּׁירִים (“Song of the songs of Solomon=the noblest among the songs of Solomon;” so, e.g., Hitzig, Ewald, Dichter des A. Bds., 2d edit., I., 236; Bleek, Einleit. in’s A. T., 2d edit., p. 636).3

The unity of its contents might accordingly be inferred from this most ancient denomination of the book, traditionally preserved in the Bible. The Song of Solomon is one poem, a poetical unit artistically arranged and consistently wrought out—not a collection of many songs put together like a string of pearls (Herder), a “delightful medley” (Goethe), an anthology of erotic poems without mutual connection (Magnus), a conglomerate of “fragments thrown together in wild confusion” (Lossner), etc. All these hypotheses which issue in the chopping up of this noble work of art (with which is to be classed in the most recent times the view taken by the Reformed Jews Rebenstein and Sanders, which pares away portions of Song of Song of Solomon 3:8 as spurious, and carves the whole into four songs) are utterly untenable. This appears both negatively from the meaningless and formless character of the fragments, great or small, which they create, and positively from the impression of unity and inner connection which an unprejudiced and thorough study of the whole produces. That in several passages the same sentence recurs in identical words as a refrain (see particularly Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4); that a chorus of “daughters of Jerusalem” is addressed no less than six times, and a seventh time is mentioned in the third person (Song of Solomon 3:10; comp. Song of Solomon 1:5; Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 5:8; Song of Solomon 5:16; Song of Solomon 8:4); that the relation of a lover to his beloved runs through the whole as the prominent theme, and prevailingly in the form of a dialogue or responsive song (see especially Song of Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 2:1-7; Song of Song of Solomon 4:0; Song of Song of Solomon 7:8); and finally that references not only to the times of Solomon, but to his person as the principal subject of all the descriptions and amatory outpourings of the heart stand out every where over and over again (Song of Solomon 1:4-5; Song of Solomon 3:7-11; Song of Solomon 7:6; Song of Solomon 8:11-12); these are incontrovertible criteria of the strict unity of the whole which is not to be doubted even where particular portions seem not to cohere so well together, or where it remains uncertain to which of the actors a sentence or series of sentences is to be assigned. The whole is really a שִׁיר, a song or poem, i.e., not a carmen (a lyric poem, hymn or ode), to be sung with instrumental accompaniment—in which case it would have been called מִזְמוֹר rather than שִׁיר—but a poem of a more comprehensive kind and of lyrico-dramatic character, a cycle of erotic songs, possessing unity of conception, and combined in the unity of one dramatic action. Whether now it be likened to the bucolic compositions of the later Greeks, and so be esteemed a Hebrew idyl or carmen amœbæum (so Hug, Herbst and older writers before them); or a proper dramatic character be claimed for it, and on this presumption it be maintained that it was actually performed in public, being both acted and sung after the manner of an opera (Böttcher, Renan), or at least was designed for such performance (Ewald); it must at all events be maintained as scientifically established and confirmed by all the details of its poetic execution, that its plan and composition are dramatic, and consequently that the whole belongs to the dramatic branch of the Old Testament Chokmah- (חָכְמָה) literature, and is the representative of the lyrico-dramatic (melo-dramatic) poetry of the O. T., as the Book of Job is the principal specimen of the epico-dramatic (didactic dialogue). Comp. the Introduction to the Solomonic Wisdom-literature in general (in commentary on Proverbs), § 5 and 10.

Remark 1.—Against the attempt of Ibn, Ezra, Kimchi and other Rabbins to explain שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים as meaning “a song of the songs” may be urged not only the analogy of the expressions above adduced as “heaven of heavens,” etc., but also the fact that this partitive sense would have to be expressed by שִׁיר מֵהַשִּׁירִים. The expression “a song of the songs of Solomon” would also have been strangely pleonastic, and have conflicted unduly with the analogy of the titles to the Psalms, which never contain more than the simple שִׁיר (or מִזְמוֹר, or שִׁיר מִזְמוֹר).—On the other hand, it makes against the interpretation: “a song of songs,” i.e., “a collection of several songs, a chain of songs” (Kleuker, Sammlung der Gedichte Salomo’s, sonst das Hohelied genannt, 1780, p. 6 f.; Augusti, Einleitung, p. 213), that then שִׁיר would have an entirely different sense the first time from that it has the second, as though it were synonymous with the Chald. שֵׁיר, “chain,” and with the corresponding Arabic word, and signified “series” (so Velthusen and Paulus, in Eichhorn’s Repertorium XVII., p. 109 f.).4 This would the more conflict with Hebrew usage because this language has a special fondness for the combination of a noun in the singular with a dependent plural of like signification to denote the superlative. Comp. Ewald, Lehrb., § 313, c. [Green’s Heb. Gram., § 254, 2, a].—On Solomon’s authorship indicated by אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלמֹהֹ comp. § 3 below.

Remark 2.—The unity of the Song of Solomon has been repeatedly contested in recent times. Herder (“Lieder der Liebe, die ältesten und schönsten aus dem Morgenlande,” 1778) was followed in this direction not only by Goethe (in the “Westöstlicher Divan” at least, whilst subsequently in his “Kunst und Alterthum” he declared for Umbreit’s view that the whole possessed dramatic unity), but also by most of the theological commentators and critics down to the 20th year of the present century, particularly Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Augusti, de Wette, in their Introductions to the Old Test.; Kleuker, Gaab, Döderlein, Gesenius, Paulus, Döpke, and many others. And at a still later period, after Ewald (1826), Koester (in Pelt’s “Theologische Mitarbeiten,” 1839), Umbreit (“Erinnerung an das hohe Lied,” 1839) and others had contended for the unity of the poem with considerable energy and success, Ed. Isid. Magnus (Kritische Bearbeitung und Erklärung des Hohenliedes Salomo’s, Halle, 1842) with the greatest expenditure of acuteness and learning sought to prove that the whole originated from uniting a number of erotic songs and sonnets in an anthology. This “floral collection” contains according to him fourteen complete odes besides a number of fragments, which may all but one (Song of Solomon 2:15, fragment of a drinking song) be combined into three longer odes, together with two later supplements to two of these 17 or 18 pieces, thus making in all twenty distinguishable constituent parts, independent from one another in origin, and produced by several different poets at various periods. The seeming microscopic exactness of this investigation of Magnus made an impression upon several of the later critics, notwithstanding the evidently arbitrary manner in which the separate portions of the text “are shaken up together at pleasure like the bits of colored stone in a kaleidoscope.” Theod. Mundt, in his “Allgem. Literaturgeschichte,” 1849 (I., 153) considers it settled that the Song of Solomon is an anthology of disconnected popular erotic songs. E. W. Lossner (Salomo und Sulamith 1851) in his exegesis of the Song chiefly proposes to himself the task of “inventing some connection between the fragments thrown together in wild confusion.” And Bleek in his “Einleitung in’s A. T.” (2d edit., 1865, p. 641), edited by Kamphausen, thinks that with the admission that the whole, as it now exists, proceeded from one redactor, he must connect the assumption “that it contains sundry erotic songs,” songs, too, only a part of which were composed with reference to Solomon, the greater portion having “relation to persons of the condition of shepherds,5 and in the country.”—The interpolation-hypothesis of the two Jewish interpreters, A. Rebenstein and Dan. Sanders, is likewise based upon at least a partial dissection of the poem, the former of whom, in his “Lied der Lieder” (1834), the latter in Busch’s “Jahrbüch. der Israeliten,” 1845, and in his little treatise lately issued, “das Hohelied Salomonis” (Leipzig, O. Wigand, 1866), maintain that at least chap. 3.—either the entire chapter, as Rebenstein imagines, or its first five verses, as Sanders makes it—and the concluding verses Song of Solomon 8:8-14 are later insertions, and that the book “purged” of these alleged spurious additions contains four songs relating to Solomon’s love for Shulamith and so far connected, but which are now out of their original order and somewhat divided. These four songs or sections of the “Idyl” are: 1) Song of Solomon 1:1-6; Song of Solomon 8:12; Song of Solomon 1:7 to Song of Solomon 2:6; Song of Song of Solomon 2:0) Song of Solomon 2:7-17; Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1; Song of Song of Solomon 3:0) Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:10; Song of Song of Solomon 4:0) Song of Solomon 3:6-11; Song of Solomon 6:11 to Song of Solomon 8:7.

The internal grounds for the unity and integrity of the whole, as they have been recently put together by Delitzsch particularly (“das Hohelied untersucht und ausgelegt,” Leipz., 1851, p. 4 ff.), following up the previous presentation of them by Ewald, Umbreit, etc. (see above) are decisive against all these fragmentary and crumbling hypotheses, not to speak of the uniformity throughout of the style of the language (of which more particularly in § 4). The first five and the weightiest of these grounds are: 1) The name of Solomon runs through the whole, Song of Solomon 1:5; Song of Solomon 3:7; Song of Solomon 3:9; Song of Solomon 3:11; Song of Solomon 8:11-12; those passages also are to be included, in which he and no other is called המלך, “the king,” Song of Solomon 1:4; Song of Solomon 1:12; comp. Song of Solomon 7:6. Song of Solomon 7:2) Throughout the whole there appears in addition to the lover and his beloved a chorus of בנות ירושלים, “daughters of Jerusalem.” These are addressed Song of Solomon 1:5; Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 5:8; Song of Solomon 5:16; Song of Solomon 8:4; and in Song of Solomon 3:10 something is said about them. This shows the sameness in the dramatic constitution of the whole. 3) Throughout the whole mention is only made of the mother of the beloved, Song of Solomon 1:6; Song of Solomon 3:4; Song of Solomon 8:2, (5), never of her father. 4) Distinct portions of the whole begin and end with the same or similar words in the style of a refrain. A new paragraph begins three times with the question of surprise, מי זאת וגו, “Who is this,” etc., Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 6:10; Song of Solomon 8:5; the adjuration of the daughters of Jerusalem not to waken [her] love three times forms the conclusion, Song of Solomon 2:6 f.; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:3 f. So the summons to the lover to spring over the mountains like a gazelle manifestly stands twice at the end of a section, Song of Solomon 2:17, comp. Song of Solomon 2:8; and Song of Solomon 8:14. Song of Solomon 8:5) The whole is permeated too by declarations on the part of the maiden concerning her relation to her lover which are couched in identical terms. Twice she says “My beloved is mine and I am his, who feeds among the roses,” Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 6:3; twice “I am sick of love,” Song of Solomon 2:5; Song of Solomon 5:8; and not only in Song of Solomon 3:1-4, but as far back as Song of Solomon 1:7 she calls her lover שאהבה נפשי “he whom my soul loves.” Likewise the address of the chorus to the beloved runs in a uniform strain, Song of Solomon 1:8; Song of Solomon 5:9; Song of Solomon 6:1, “thou fairest among women.”—The last of these arguments contains (as does also No. 1) a special refutation of Rebenstein’s and Sanders’ objections to the genuineness or integrity of Song of Song of Solomon 3:0. What are regarded as well by these critics as by the rest of those who impugn the unity of this book, as repetitions or imitations by a later hand, are shown by a true insight into the dramatic composition of the whole to be the necessary repetition of certain characteristic formulas purposely made by the poet himself. And as well in this as in all other respects the final judgment passed by Delitzsch, p. 6, upon the whole controversy respecting the unity and integrity of the Song of Solomon, seems to be abundantly justified: “He who has any perception whatever of the unity of a work of art in human discourse, will receive an impression of external unity from the Song of Solomon, which excludes all right to sunder any thing from it as of a heterogeneous character or belonging to different periods, and which compels to the conclusion of an internal unity, that may still remain an enigma to the Scripture exposition of the present, but must nevertheless exist.” Comp. also Vaihinger, der Prediger und das Hohelied, p. 258 f.

Remark 3. In respect to the poetic and artistic form of the Song of Solomon, provided its unity is admitted, and due regard is paid to the dialogue character of the discourse, there are on the whole but two views, that can possibly be entertained, that it is an idyl or bucolic carmen amœbœum, and that it is a proper drama though with a prevailing lyric and erotic character. The former supposition was adopted by some of the older interpreters mentioned by Carpzov, Introd. in libros canonicos V. T., and after them by L. Hug (“das Hohelied in einer noch unversuchten Deutung,” 1813, and “Schutzschrift” 1816), who urges in its favor the rural and pastoral character of most of the scenes and the prevalence of the same form of alternate discourse between two lovers. He has, however, remained almost alone among modern students of the Old Test. in this opinion as well as in the allegorical and political explanation of the Song connected with it, as though it were a colloquy between the ten tribes of Israel and the King of Judah. Only another catholic, Herbst (Einleitung in’s A. T., edited by Welte, 1842) substantially agrees with him; and the idyllic form of the whole as a group of twelve songs or scenes is likewise maintained by A. Heiligstedt in his continuation of Maurer’s Commentar. Gramm. Crit. in V. T., (IV. 2, 1848). The decisive consideration against this idyllic hypothesis6 is the constant change of scene in the Song, the frequent transfer of the locality from the country to the city, and from Solomon’s palace to Shulamith’s homestead, also the repeated change of actors and the unequal length of the intervals of time between the several scenes. All these peculiarities are foreign to the nature of the idyl or pastoral poem, and agree better with the view that the Song is a proper drama. The dialogue scenes, separated in time and place, are closely connected together by their common reference to one and the same loving relation; and with a strict maintenance of the characters introduced, though without a proper plot, they visibly depict the historical progress of the relation between a royal lover and his beloved raised from an humble position to princely splendor and exaltation. No essential characteristic of dramatic composition is wanting in this poem: from beginning to end it contains conversations between two or more persons alternating with monologues or with narrations of what had been said by others; a chorus of the daughters of Jerusalem accompanies the whole progress of the action and takes part in it; the several scenes are more or less plainly separated from one another, and at certain principal points, at least, are distinguished by the recurrence of final or initial refrains. Only we must not go so far in maintaining the dramatic character of the piece as to allege with Ewald (d. poet. Bücher des A. Bds. 2 Aufl. 1866, I. 73 ff.) that it was actually designed for public representation, or even with Böttcher (“die ältesten Bühnendichtungen,” Leipz., 1850; and “Neue exegetisch-krit. Aehrenlese” 3. Abtheil. 1865, p. 76 ff.) and Renan (Le Cantique des Cantiques, p. 83 ff.) that it was actually exhibited in the form of a play to be sung and accompanied by mimic acting, that is to say, in the style of the Sicilian-Dorian mimes, the Etruscan fescennines, the Campanian and old Roman fabulæ Atellanæ, etc. In opposition to such an exaggeration of the dramatical view into the grossly realistic, Hitzig’s remark (das Hohelied erklart, etc., p. 7,) continues in force almost without limitation. “If the piece actually came upon the stage it would be necessary for a speaker, where the language of other parties was introduced into the midst of his own, to change his voice so as actually to imitate the voices of others, and not to leave this distinction to the imagination merely: but the cases occur too frequently (Song of Solomon 2:10-15; Song of Solomon 5:2-3; Song of Solomon 6:10; Song of Solomon 7:1,) and the matter appears quite too complicated for this to be credible. The author would also assume the place of the chorus, and take part himself in the play; Song of Solomon 5:1 b, (??—see against this improbable view § 2, Remark 1, p. 8); but then the piece also ceases to be objective to him, i.e., to be a drama to him. The poem certainly has a dramatic structure; but Song of Solomon 2:8 already proves that the author has not the power to continue in so objective an attitude, and he slides into the more convenient path of description and narration. The action is often hidden behind an imperfect dialogue; and this is easily superseded by a prolonged discourse requiring no answer; or if one is made, it is slim and scanty (Song of Solomon 7:11; Song of Solomon 4:16). Finally one may well ask, if the piece were actually performed, what would be its moral effect, which must have been foreseen, and therefore intended? Would not Song of Solomon 7:2-10 represented on the stage have transferred the illicit desires7 of the speaker to the soul of the spectators? How could the sensuality of the auditor excited by Song of Solomon 4:9-10; Song of Solomon 4:12 ff., be prevented from taking fire even in an extra-nuptial direction? The Song of Solomon is a drama which the poet saw in the spirit, as the apocalyptic (prophets) Daniel and John had a series of scenes pass before their spiritual eye.”—Delitzsch, too, emphasizes in opposition to Böttcher’s view of the mimic performance of the Song of Solomon in the form of a rude and “unenviable” stage play of the times of the Israelitish kings, the ideal character of its artistic and dramatic form, and the morally pure and elevated spirit which it manifestly breathes from beginning to end. He puts it, herein following the lead of Lowth (de sacra poesi Hebr. prœl. 30 ff., and Ewald (Poet. B., 1st. edit., I. 40 ff., Comp. 2d edit., I. 73) as a representative of the sacred comedy of the Old Test., beside the book of Job as the chief product of the tragic art of the O. T. people of God. This designation may be allowed to pass as appropriate in the general, and not liable to be misunderstood. Nevertheless the essential character of the artistic form employed in this composition seems to be more accurately designated by the expression “melodrama” (v. Ammon) or lyrico-dramatic poetry, inasmuch as the relation of this form to that of the book of Job (as the epico-dramatic, or didactic-dramatic) is thus not only strikingly brought out, but also those defects and imperfections pointed out in the passage cited above from Hitzig in the carrying out of the dramatic form, which is often exchanged for the purely lyric, are thus accounted for.


The Song of Solomon begins with a responsive Song between the chorus of the daughters of Jerusalem and Shulamith, a simple country maid from Shulem or Shunem8 in the north of Palestine (see Song of Solomon 7:1) who, for her beauty, was chosen by Solomon to be his bride, and brought to the royal palace in Jerusalem. With plain and lovely discourse, corresponding to the artless disposition of an unspoiled child of nature, she avows both her ardent love for her royal bridegroom, and her longing for her native fields, whose spicy freshness and simpler style of life she prefers to the haughty splendor of court life, and especially to being associated with the great number of ladies in the royal palace (these are the daughters of Jerusalem), Song of Solomon 1:2-8. These feelings of love and of home-sickness which simultaneously assail her heart, she hereupon expresses likewise to Solomon himself, with whom, after the exit of the chorus of those ladies, she is left alone in the “house of wine,” one of the inmost rooms of the palace, Song of Solomon 1:9 to Song of Solomon 2:7.—Returned to her country home (and this, it would appear, with the approval of her royal lover), she finds herself still more ardently in love with him, and reveals her longing for a union with him Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5, by relating two episodes from the previous history of their love, viz., their first meeting (Song of Solomon 2:9-14) and a subsequent search for him, and finding him again (Song of Solomon 3:1-4).—Not long after the king really comes out for her, and has her brought home with great pomp and princely honors as his royal spouse. Her festive entry into the royal palace excites the admiring curiosity, astonishment, and enthusiasm of the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Song of Solomon 3:6-11). The cordial love, which her newly married husband shows her, makes her forget her home-sickness, and causes her to enter with her whole heart into the rapturous rejoicings of the wedding feast (Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1). But the heaven of her happiness is soon darkened anew. A distressing dream (Song of Solomon 5:2-7) mirrors to her the loss, nay the desertion of her husband; and soon after the way in which he mentions his numerous concubines, with whom she is to share his love (Song of Solomon 6:8), in the midst of his caresses and flattering speeches (Song of Solomon 6:4-9) shows her that she can never feel happy in the voluptuous whirl of his court life already degenerated into the impure. Hence her longing for the quiet and innocent simplicity of her rural home is awakened more strongly than ever before, and drives her to entreat her lover to remove thither with her altogether, that as at once a husband and a brother, he may belong exclusively to her (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:4). Overcome by her charms and loveliness, Solomon yields and grants her her humble request to become a plain shepherdess and vinedresser again, instead of a queen surrounded by pomp and splendor. He even takes part in the merry sport and innocent raillery with which she pleases herself in her old accustomed way in the circle of her brothers and sister (one little sister and several grown up brothers), and joins in the spirited encomium upon the all-conquering and even death-exceeding power of wedded love and fidelity (Song of Solomon 8:6-8), by which, with a thankful heart, she celebrates her return home (Song of Solomon 8:5-14).

This simple action, almost entirely free from exciting complications and contrasts, is divided by the poet into five acts, of which the next to the last (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:4) is in striking contrast with the rest from its disproportionate length, but yet cannot well be divided into two, because no proper point of division can be found either at Song of Solomon 6:9-10, or at Song of Solomon 7:1. Instead of the number six, maintained by Delitzsch, we shall, therefore, with Ewald, Böttcher and others have to affirm the existence of five principal scenes or sections of the piece. And in substantial adherence to the only correct view of the aim and constitution of the whole as given by Delitzsch, we shall have to assign the following characteristic titles or statements of contents to these five acts:—1) Chap. Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7. The first time the lovers were together at the royal palace in (or near) Jerusalem. 2) Chap. Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5. The first meeting of the lovers, related by Shulamith, who has returned to her home. 3) Chap. Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1. The solemn bringing of the bride, and the marriage at Jerusalem. 4) Chap. Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:4. Shulamith’s longing reawakened for her home. 5) Song of Solomon 8:5-14. The return home and the triumph of the chaste love of the wife over the unchaste feelings of her royal husband.9

Remark 1. According to the ordinary erotic and historical interpretation of the Song of Solomon, as it has been developed particularly by Umbreit, Ewald, Hitzig, Vaihinger and Renan, after the previous suggestions of Jacobi, Ammon, Stäudlin, etc., (comp. § 6) Shulamith is in love not with Solomon, but with a young shepherd of her country home, from whom the wanton king, after getting her in his harem by force or fraud (Song of Solomon 1:4; comp. Song of Solomon 6:11-12) seeks to alienate her by all sorts of inducements and seductive arts. But the maid, by her pure love to her quondam playmate, resists all the enticements which the king brings to bear upon her, partly through the medium of the ladies of his court, and partly in person by his own flattering speeches and several times by direct and violent assaults upon her virtue (e.g., Song of Solomon 4:9 ff.; Song of Solomon 7:2-10). Convinced of the fidelity of her devotion to her distant lover Solomon is at length obliged to dismiss her to her home, whither according to Stäudlin, Renan and Hitzig she is taken by her affianced, who has meanwhile hastened to her on the wings of love (Song of Solomon 7:12 ff.—?), whilst Umbreit, Ewald and others prefer to leave it undecided how she returned from Jerusalem to Shulem, and conceive of her in Song of Solomon 8:5 ff. as suddenly and in some unexplained way transported again to the environs of her home and to the side of her lover.—This view, according to which the whole is to be regarded as a “tribute of praise to an innocence which withstands every allurement,” as a “song of praise to a pure, guileless, faithful love, which no splendor can dazzle, and no flattery ensnare” (Ewald), seems to be chiefly favored by some expressions of Shulamith in chap. 1., as well as here and there in what follows, which at first sight have the look of passionate exclamations to her distant lover; so particularly Song of Solomon 1:4, “Draw me after thee, then we will run,” and Song of Solomon 1:7, “O tell me, thou whom my soul loveth, where feedest thou?” etc. Comp. also Song of Solomon 4:16; Song of Solomon 5:10; Song of Solomon 6:2, etc. But everything is much simpler both in these passages and generally in the whole poem, if Shulamith’s avowals of love are in all cases referred to the king himself, and accordingly the object of her longing as expressed, e.g., in Song of Solomon 1:6 f.; Song of Solomon 2:1; Song of Solomon 2:3 ff.; Song of Solomon 6:11-12; Song of Solomon 7:12 ff., is conceived to be not an absent lover, but only the peaceful quiet and beauty of her country home. This ardent longing, or rather the childlike simplicity and humility which are at the bottom of it, lead her to think of her royal lover himself as though he were a shepherd of her native fields, and to describe all his acts and movements, his plans and occupations, by expressions drawn from rural and pastoral life (see Song of Solomon 1:7; Song of Solomon 1:13-14; Song of Solomon 1:17; Song of Solomon 2:3 ff., Song of Solomon 2:8 ff., Song of Solomon 2:16 f.; Song of Solomon 5:10 ff.; Song of Solomon 6:2 f.). She continues this until her eager desires are finally granted, and her royal lover, vanquished by the power and sincerity of her love, follows her to her quiet home, leaving all the luxurious splendor and voluptuousness of his court in order to live as a shepherd among shepherds, and “like a roe or a young hart on the mountains of spices” (Song of Solomon 8:14) to participate in the innocent amusements of Shulamith and her brothers and sister. This happy decision is brought about mainly by the glowing earnestness of Shulamith’s language in Song of Solomon 7:10 ff., in which her love for Solomon and her homesickness are both most strongly and most movingly expressed. Several things in this address of hers are unaccountable upon any other view of the whole than that which is here presented, especially the wish “O that thou wert to me as a brother,” etc. (Song of Solomon 8:1), and likewise the exhortation “Come my beloved, let us go into the country,” etc. (Song of Solomon 7:12). And many previous expressions of Shulamith, as Song of Solomon 1:12; Song of Solomon 2:4; Song of Solomon 4:16, testify, with a clearness not to be mistaken, her loving consent to Solomon’s suit, and therefore cannot without forcing be reconciled with the ordinary profane-erotic explanation. It must in particular be regarded as extremely forced when Ewald regards the passage Song of Solomon 4:8 to Song of Solomon 5:1 as a monologue of Shulamith in which she describes the plighted love of her distant lover, while nothing is clearer than that the familiar colloquy of the bridal pair on their wedding day, which begins with Song of Solomon 4:1, is continued in this section, (comp. Delitzsch, p. 33 f.). Several of the assumptions, by which Hitzig tries to bolster up his peculiar modifications of the profane-erotic interpretation are quite as arbitrary, e.g. the assertion that Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4, is the language not of Shulamith but of the poet, who here undertakes to perform the part of the chorus, addressed to the “daughters of Jerusalem” just as in v. 1 b also the poet “puts himself forward” (!?); the intolerable harshness of regarding Song of Solomon 6:8 as an expression of the vexation at the coy beauty, with which Solomon turns away from her and back again to the ladies of his court who are ready for every kind of indulgence; the opinion that in Song of Solomon 7:2-10 Solomon makes a declaration of love not to Shulamith, but to some one of his concubines, and that in a vulgar and indecent way; the assumption that Shulamith’s country lover ‘was present in Jerusalem, not only from Song of Solomon 7:11, but from Song of Solomon 4:6 onward, and was engaged in the business of taking his affianced home from the royal harem, etc. Renan, who follows Hitzig in the main has endeavored to extend some of these assumptions in a peculiar way, e.g., by the assertion that the shepherd beloved by Shulamith, and who hastens to release her from the royal harem, already comes upon the scene in Song of Solomon 2:2; by the romantic idea that the same languishing shepherd utters the words Song of Solomon 4:8-15 “at the foot of the tower of the Seraglio,” in which his beloved is confined, is then (Song of Solomon 4:16) admitted by her and enraptured exclaims to the chorus the words v. 1 b.; by the fantastic assumption that when finally released she is carried home asleep by her lover, and laid under an apple tree, where she then Song of Solomon 8:5 f., awakes, etc. The like, only in some respects more whimsical in Böttcher, die ältesten Bühnendichtungen, etc. The wide divergence between these leading advocates of the view which we are opposing, and that in so many and by no means unimportant particulars, must give rise to misgivings with regard to the tenability of that fundamental conception which they have in common. Numerous other discrepancies between them as well as between the critics most nearly akin to them will meet us in the course of the detailed exegesis, and will confirm from the most diverse quarters the impossibility of carrying consistently through the hypothesis of two rival lovers of Shulamith in any of its phases.10 The view advocated by us cannot, it is true, attain to absolute certainty, such as shall be perfectly satisfactory in all respects, because the absence of titles to the several acts, as well as to the parts of each particular person, makes a reliable distribution of the action amongst the several parties impossible in many cases; and because, unfortunately, no old and credible accounts of the original meaning and origin of the poem, that is to say no correct explanatory scholia are in existence. Thus much, however, can be established with a high degree of probability that among the various historical explanations of this drama that which is here attempted by us as a modification of that of Delitzsch harmonizes particularly well at once with the contents of the piece ascertained in an unprejudiced manner, and with its composition by Solomon, which is attested by tradition and by internal considerations; on which account it is to be preferred to the historical explanation of v. Hofmann, which is kindred to it in many respects. (He identifies the bride of the song with Pharaoh’s daughter,11 celebrated in Psalms 45:0, and takes the poem to be a celebration of the marriage of Solomon and this Egyptian princess, moving in figures drawn from the life of shepherds and vintagers). See further particulars concerning and in opposition to this exposition of Hofmann in Delitzsch, p. 37 ff.; and comp. § 4 below.

Remark 2.—The opinions of different interpreters also diverge considerably in respect to the limits of the several scenes and acts or songs, whilst the piece itself does not furnish certain criteria enough to verify either one view or another. Most of the recent writers agree in assuming about ten or twelve scenes; but less unanimity prevails in regard to the question how these shorter scenes are to be apportioned among the larger acts, and how many such acts are to be assumed. Hitzig altogether despairs of reducing the nine “scenes” affirmed by him to a smaller number of acts. Delitzsch, Hahn, and Weissbach number six acts with two scenes each. Ewald (after giving up the assumption of four acts previously maintained in his commentary of 1826) and with him Böttcher, Renan, Vaihinger and many others make five acts among which they variously distribute the thirteen to fifteen scenes which they assume. E. F. Friedrich reckons four acts with ten scenes. And finally von Hofmann assumes but three principal divisions of about the same length (Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:16; Song of Solomon 6:1 to Song of Solomon 8:12) to which he supposes a brief conclusion of but two verses (Song of Solomon 8:13-14) to be appended. The assumption of five acts might be recommended in the general by the consideration that the action of any drama by a sort of necessity passes through five main steps or stages in its progress to its consummation; whence we see Greek dramas invariably, and the old Indian at least prevailingly divided into that number of acts, and the dialogue portion of the book of Job, the other chief product of the dramatic art in the Old Testament besides the Song of Solomon, is most clearly separated into five divisions (comp. Ewald, d. Dichter d. A. Bds., I. 69; Delitzsch, d. B., Job, p. 12, in the “Bibl. Commentar.” by Keil and Del.). To this may be added that judging by the quintuple division of the Song of Solomon found in some old Ethiopic versions, the Sept. which is at the basis of these versions would seem to have divided the book into that number of sections (Ewald, Bibl. Jahrb., 1849, p. 49), and that exegetical tradition, in so far as it gives manifold testimony even in the patristic period (e.g., Origen, Jerome) to the dramatic character of this piece, likewise confirms, though indirectly, its separation into the five customary divisions of every drama. Against the assumption made by Delitzsch and Hahn of six acts may be further urged in particular that the assertion on which it is based that the larger Acts 5:2 to Acts 8:4 is plainly divided into two acts by the recurrence in Song of Solomon 6:10 of the admiring question מי זאת וגו from Song of Solomon 3:6 is certainly unfounded, because this question is here manifestly only a statement of what was thought and said by the women mentioned in the preceding verse, and is therefore most closely connected with Song of Solomon 3:9, as this with Song of Solomon 3:8 of the same chapter (comp. the exeget. explanations in loc.). A separation of what is certainly a disproportionately long section Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:4, into two or more of similar size seems on the whole to be impracticable on account of the uniformity and continuity of its contents, and we shall for this reason have to assume that the five acts enumerated above in the text of this section are probably the original ones; especially as there can be no doubt of the correctness of the points of division assumed by Delitzsch in substantial agreement with Ewald (Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4—in each case the well known refrain: “I adjure you, ye daughters of Jerusalem,” etc.). We differ in this division from Ewald and Böttcher only in that we make the third act end with Song of Solomon 5:1, because Ewald’s assertion that this characteristic concluding verse “I adjure you, etc.,” has been dropped after Song of Solomon 5:8, cannot be proved, and the attaching of Song of Solomon 5:2-7 to the third act appears on the whole inappropriate (as was also seen by Renan). Our division is distinguished from that of Renan by the different compass which it assigns to the last two acts, of which the fourth extends according to him from Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3, the fifth from Song of Solomon 6:3 to Song of Solomon 8:7, and finally Song of Solomon 8:8-14 is a small appendix or epilogue—all this in virtue of the strangest and most forced assumptions, which will be remarked upon as far as is necessary in the detailed interpretation. On the compass and limits of the scenes, into which the five acts are again divided, we shall have to treat in connection with the detailed exegesis.12


That Canticles was composed in the age of Solomon as the flourishing period of the Old Testament Chokmah-literature may be argued not only from manifold indications of the affinity between its ethical tendency and view of the world and those of Solomon’s collection of proverbs, but chiefly from the certainty with which its author deals with all that is connected with the history of the Solomonic period; the exuberant prosperity and the abundance of native and foreign commodities whose existence he assumes in Israel at that time, and the remarkably rich round of figures and comparisons from nature which is everywhere at his command in his descriptions. And that this author is no other than Solomon himself is shown by the extensive knowledge which he exhibits throughout the entire poem of remarkable and rare objects from all of the three kingdoms of nature, and by which he may be most unmistakably recognized as that wise and well-informed king, who was able to speak “of trees from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; also of beasts and of fowl and of creeping things and of fishes,” 1 Kings 5:13 (1 Kings 4:33). Solomon’s authorship is likewise confirmed by the equal acquaintance which the poet shows with all parts of the land of Israel; the easy and familiar way, indicating not only accurate knowledge but royal possession and ownership, in which he speaks of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot (Song of Solomon 1:9), of wood from Lebanon (Song of Solomon 3:9), of the tower in Lebanon looking toward Damascus (Song of Solomon 7:5), of the pools of Heshbon and the forests of Carmel (Song of Solomon 7:5-6), the tents of Kedar and the mountains of Gilead (Song of Solomon 1:5; Song of Solomon 4:1), of the beauty of Tirzah and the loveliness of Jerusalem (Song of Solomon 6:4; comp. Song of Solomon 4:4), etc. The peculiarities in the language of the poem, rightly estimated, likewise testify rather in favor of than against Solomon’s authorship. For the Aramæisms and apparent traces of later usage, which it presents, are, like similar phenomena in the Song of Deborah, in the Book of Job, in the prophet Amos, etc., to be attributed entirely to its highly poetical character. And the occurrence in individual cases of foreign non-Semitic words (e.g. פַּרְדֵּם Song of Solomon 4:13, אַפִּרְיוֹן Song of Solomon 3:9), if this were actually proven, would be least surprising in a writer of such many-sided learning and of so universal a turn of mind as Solomon. And finally the contents of the piece are of such a nature as not only to admit but actually to favor the supposition that Solomon is the author, provided that in ascertaining these contents we discard the common assumption of the profane-erotic exegesis that this king is introduced as the seducer of the innocence of a country maid who adheres with steadfast fidelity to her betrothed. For the fundamental thought set forth above (§ 2, p. 6) in opposition thereto, of a purifying influence proceeding from Shulamith’s devoted love upon the heart of the king, already partly tainted by the sensuality of polygamy and the voluptuous manners of the harem, harmonizes very well with the reference of the poem to Solomon;13 especially as the mention of the sixty queens and the eighty concubines compared with the numbers stated in 1 Kings 11:3 as belonging to his later years, seven hundred queens and three hundred concubines, points to an earlier period in the life of this king as the date of the poem, a time when his many wives had not yet ensnared his heart in unhallowed passion, nor “turned him away after strange gods” to the extent that this took place shortly before his death, 1 Kings 11:4. It is, therefore, Solomon, when he had not yet sunk to the lowest stage of polygamous and idolatrous degeneracy, but was still relatively pure, and at any rate was still in full possession of his rich poetic productivity 1 Kings 5:12 (1 Kings 4:32) whom we must suppose to have been the author of this incomparably beautiful and graceful lyrico-dramatic work of art, in which he on the one hand extols the virtue of his charming wife, and on the other humbly confesses his own resistance at first to the purifying influence proceeding from her.

On this view, therefore, the statement of the title (Song of Solomon 1:1), which, though post-Solomonic [?], is yet very ancient and certainly prior to the closing of the Canon, is justified as perfectly true historically; and it is unnecessary, for the sake of setting aside the direct Solomonic origin of the poem, to give to לִשְׁלֹמהֹ, in violation of the laws of the language and of the constant usage of לְ in the superscriptions to the Psalms, the explanation, “in reference to Solomon,” or “in the style of Solomon,” to which e.g. Umbreit, following the lead of some older commentators like Cocceius, shows himself inclined (perhaps also the Septuag. with its translation: Α͂̓ισμα ’ᾳσμάτων, ὅ ἐστιν τῷ Σαλωμών).14

Remark 1. The position of the Song of Solomon in the literature of the Old Testament is thus defined by Delitzsch (Section II., p. 9 ff.) as the result of a careful investigation: With the exception of some points of contact with Genesis (comp. e.g. Song of Solomon 7:11 with Genesis 3:16; Genesis 4:11 with Genesis 27:27; Genesis 8:6 with Genesis 49:7), it contains no references to the earlier writings of the Bible. Quite as little does it betray any close relationship in ideas or language with the Psalms of David or the Book of Job, the principal productions of the oldest lyric and dramatic literature of the Old Testament. But on the contrary it presents more numerous and significant instances of resemblance to or accordance with those sections of the Book of Proverbs, which date from the time next after Solomon, especially with Proverbs 1-9, Proverbs 1:22-24; and these are of such a nature as to assert its priority and the imitation of many of its ideas and expressions by the authors of those sections. The correctness of these observations, from which it follows at least that Canticles originated in the Solomonic period, can scarcely be impugned, in view especially of such manifest coincidences as that between Proverbs 5:15 ff. and Song of Solomon 4:15, between Proverbs 7:17 and Song of Solomon 4:14, between Proverbs 5:3 and Song of Solomon 4:11, between Proverbs 6:30-31 and Song of Solomon 8:6-7, between Proverbs 23:31 and Song of Solomon 7:10. More important, however, than these and like internal testimonies to the existence of the Song of Solomon in an epoch which at any rate was very near that of Solomon (comp. various other characteristic coincidences in individual expressions between this Song and the Proverbs collected by Hengstenberg, das Hohelied Salomo’s, etc., p. 234 f., and Haevernick, Einleit. I., 1, 211) are the indications which point directly to Solomon himself as the author, such as the Song contains in no small number. First of all, it moves among the historical relations of the time of David and Solomon with the utmost confidence. It knows the crown, with which Solomon was crowned by his mother Bathsheba on the day of his marriage (Song of Solomon 3:11), likewise his bed of state made of cedar wood from Lebanon (Song of Solomon 3:9-10), and his sedan surrounded by sixty of the heroes of Israel (Song of Solomon 3:7); further, the tower of David hung with a thousand shields (Song of Solomon 4:4), the ivory tower of Solomon, as well as the watch-tower built on Lebanon toward Damascus (Song of Solomon 7:5). All these things, to which are to be added the “horses in Pharaoh’s chariot,” i.e. the chariot horses of the king imported from Egypt (Song of Solomon 1:9; comp. 1 Kings 10:28-29; 2 Chronicles 9:28); likewise Solomon’s “sixty queens and eighty concubines” (Song of Solomon 6:8; comp. 1 Kings 11:3): the royal vineyards at Engedi and at Baal-hamon (Song of Solomon 1:14; Song of Solomon 8:11); the pools of Heshbon (Song of Solomon 7:5); Shenir, Hermon and Amana, peaks of Lebanon (Song of Solomon 4:8); the plain of Sharon and Mount Carmel (Song of Solomon 2:1; Song of Solomon 7:6), etc.—all this is taken in so ready a way from objects immediately at hand, and described upon occasion with such an accurate and thorough knowledge of the things themselves that we cannot deem the author of such descriptions to have been a subject or citizen of Solomon’s kingdom or any other than this king himself, the possessor and ruler of the whole. And this especially for the reason that in the way in which the manifold beauties of nature and of art in the kingdom just mentioned are by bold comparisons and luxuriant figures employed to exalt the Shulamite, there is a manifest endeavor to connect whatever in it is grand and entrancing with the king’s beloved and to represent the whole as personally concentrated as it were in her. That along with this Solomon is often mentioned in the third person and by name, that not unfrequently he is spoken of in a laudatory way, and once particularly (Song of Solomon 5:10-16) the praise of his beauty is dwelt upon at length and in lavish terms from the mouth of his beloved—this can no more be regarded as disproving the authorship of Solomon, than it can be inferred from the mention of Tirzah along with Jerusalem in Song of Solomon 6:4 that the poem did not have its origin until after Solomon’s death, in the time when the kingdoms were divided. For Tirzah was doubtless already under David and Solomon a city distinguished for its greatness and beauty, and was only made the royal residence in the northern kingdom by Jeroboam and his immediate successors (1 Kings 14:17; 1 Kings 15:21; 1 Kings 16:8; 1 Kings 16:23), for the reason that it had previously attained to a highly flourishing condition and to great consequence, comp. Joshua 12:24, where it already appears as an ancient city of the Canaanitish kings. The laudation of Solomon, however, like the frequent mention of his name is sufficiently explained by the dramatic constitution of the whole, which made it necessary for the royal poet to speak of himself as objectively as possible (comp. much that is similar in the Psalms of David, e.g., Psalms 20, 21, 110, likewise in Psalms 72:0 by Solomon) and which in particular “unavoidably brought with it the mutual praise of the lover and his beloved” (Del. p. 17). But a more emphatic testimony than any hitherto adduced, is borne in favor of Solomon himself as the author of the poem, by the extraordinarily developed appreciation of the beauties of nature which the singer exhibits at every point of his performance, and his fondness, which reminds us at once of 1 Kings 5:13 (Ki 4:33), for figures, tropes and similes highly imaginative in conception and in execution, and drawn from every realm of nature, particularly from animal and plant life. There are mentioned in this poem nearly twenty names of plants (אֱגוֹז nut, אֲהָלוֹת lignaloes, אֶרֶז cedar, חֲבַצֶּלֶת. wild flower, חִטִּים wheat, כֹּפֶר cyprus-flower, כַּרְכֹּם crocus, לְבֹנָה frankincense, מרֹ myrrh, נֵדְדְּ nard, רִמּוֹן pomegranate, שׁוֹשָׁן lily, תְּאֵנָה fig, תַּפּוּחַ apple, בְּרוֹת cypress, גֶפֶן vine, דּוּדָאִים mandrakes, קָנֶה calamus, קִנָּמוֹן cinnamon), and almost as many names of animals (נְמָרִים panthers, סוּסָה horse, עוֹרֵב raven, עִזִּים goats, עפֶֹּר חָאַיָּלִים a young hart, אַיֶּלֶת הַשָּׂדֶה hind, שׁוּעָלִים foxes, תּוֹר turtle-dove, אֲרָיוֹת lions, גְּדִיּוֹת kids, יוֹנִים doves, צְבִי gazelle, רְחֵלִים sheep; comp. also שֵׁן ivory, which is named several times). And not a few of these names are Hapaxlegomena or like the names of valuable minerals (as שֵׁשׁ marble, תַּרְשִׁישׁ turquoise, סַפִּיר sapphire) which are also found here, occur but rarely in other books of the Old Testament. If we duly consider the small compass of the piece in which such an abundance of names of remarkable natural objects is crowded together, and estimate besides the repeated occurrence of many of these names and the “various points of view under which they are contemplated (e.g. in the pomegranate, its pulp when cut, Song of Solomon 4:3; Song of Solomon 6:7; its buds, Song of Solomon 6:11; Song of Solomon 7:13; its juice, Song of Solomon 8:2),” we can scarcely help, in view of the fact that numerous internal and external indications point to the age of Solomon as the date of the Song, finding its author in Solomon himself, the renowned royal sage, whom the book of Kings (loc. cit.) praises as at once the greatest of natural philosophers and the most fertile composer of songs. Moreover the criterion afforded in Song of Solomon 6:8 for the more exact determination of the period of his life, in which Solomon composed this poem, must in no wise be overlooked. From a comparison of this passage with 1 Kings 11:3 f. we can conclude with entire certainty that the period in question was that middle age of the king when his decline from his former sincere obedience to the commandments of the Lord had already begun, without having attained that depth of moral degeneracy which it subsequently reached. This was already substantially the opinion of Grotius in his Adnotat. in V. T. respecting the date and origin of the Song of Solomon (after those Jewish interpreters in Bereshith Rabba, Jalkut and Pesikta, who supposed that Canticles was composed by Solomon in his younger years15), only he (as also v. Hofmann, see § 2 Remark 1) erroneously explained it of the marriage of Solomon with an Egyptian princess and mingled in many notions of its contents as referring to the mysteries of married life, which were offensive to the æsthetic and moral feelings of Christian readers. (Comp. Delitzsch, p. 14, 55).

Remark 2. The most considerable objections of modern critics against the Solomonic authenticity of Canticles are those which are drawn from its language. Yet no decisive argument against its genuineness can be constructed out of them, because the alleged traces of a later Aramæizing type of the language, which it presents, may all without exception be explained as characteristic of the poetic character of its diction. So, first of all, the abbreviated relative שֶֹׁ for אֲשֶׁר, which, though foreign to prose and to the semi-prosaic language of the gnomic poets of the earlier period, and on this account neither used by the author of the prosaic title to this book (comp. above, p. 1), nor even by Solomon in his proverbs (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16, where as in the Proverbs generally the form אֲשֶׁר is invariably found), nevertheless occurs in several poems, of acknowledged antiquity, especially in the Song of Deborah, which is certainly pre-Solomonic (Judges 5:7; עַד שֶׁקַּמְתִּי דְבוָֹרה), as well as in the book of Job (Job 19:29), which probably dates from the time of Solomon. The fact, that a part of the poetry designated as Solomon’s in the canon, viz., the Proverbs and the 72d Psalm (which presents however some other coincidences in diction and expression with Canticles), uses the prosaic אֲשֶׁר, and this Song alone the highly poetic שֶֹׁ is entirely analogous to the circumstance that the prophet Jeremiah only makes use of this abbreviated form in his Lamentations (e.g. Lamentations 2:15 f.; Lamentations 4:9; Lamentations 5:18), whilst his prophetic discourses, which often pass into the poetic, always have אֲשֶׁר only. It follows hence inevitably that שֶׁ is essentially poetic, while yet it is not necessarily adapted to all kinds of poetry; and for this very reason it cannot be regarded as a sign of the post-exilic origin of this poem. The same judgment precisely must be passed upon the form שַׁלָּמָה Song of Solomon 1:7 (a combination of the confirmatory ש and the interrogative למה, not a modification of the Aram. דלמא “perhaps”). Likewise the Aramæisms נָטַר for נָצַר (Song of Solomon 1:6; Song of Solomon 8:11-12), בְּרוֹת for בּרוֹשׁ (Song of Solomon 1:17), סְתָו “winter” (Song of Solomon 2:11) are sufficiently explained from that preference for a recherché and highly poetical style of expression, which also led the poet to adopt the unusual forms שִׂפְתוֹת for שִׂפְתֵי (Song of Solomon 4:3), מִדְבָּר for פֶּה (ibid.), רַעְיָה for רֵעָה (Song of Solomon 1:9; Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 2:2. Comp. Psalms 45:15), גַנִּים for גַּנּוֹת (Song of Solomon 4:15; Song of Solomon 6:2; Song of Solomon 8:13), and many more of the same sort; and consequently there is the less need for regarding them (with Ewald and some others) as idioms in the dialect of Northern Palestine,16 and consequently as proofs that the poem originated in one of the northern tribes, whether before or after the division of the kingdom. Many peculiarities of language are also without doubt to be imputed to Solomon’s cosmopolitan turn of mind and views of the world, which inclined him to introduce all the foreign artists and works of art that he possibly could into his kingdom (comp. 1Ki 7:13 ff; 1 Kings 10:11 ff.), and would also impel him to incorporate words from foreign lands into the not very copious language of Hebrew poetry. There may thus be referred to a foreign origin, if not exactly the names of plants גֵרְדְּ (comp. Sansc. naladâ, old Pers. narada), כַּרְכּםֹ (Sansc. kunkuma, lat. curcuma), אֲהָלוֹת (Sansc. aguru or aghil), yet perhaps the expressions פַּרְדֵּם for “pleasure garden” (Song of Solomon 4:13) and אַפִּרְיוֹן for “royal litter” or “palanquin” (Song of Solomon 3:9), the former to the Indian pradêça “wall” (Hitzig), or to the Zend pairidaêza “mound of earth, wall” (according to Spiegel, Haug, Ew., etc.), and the latter to the Sansc. paryâna “riding saddle” (not, as Jerome, and most recently Magnus and Schlottmann supposed, to the Greek φορεῖον). And yet even in the case of these two words a foreign origin is not demonstrable with absolute certainty, for פַּרְדֵּם might be an Aram. quadrilateral for פַּדֵּם, and of the same signification with פַּדָּן “plain, field,” and אַפִּרְיוֹן a derivative from the root פָּרָה after the analogy of פִּדְיוֹן, etc., synonymous with the Aram. פּוּרְיָא “bed;” comp. Delitzsch, p. 22–26. But even though the foreign origin of these expressions, and of many others besides, were to be regarded as made out, the possibility of Canticles having been composed by Solomon, or having at least originated in the time of Solomon, could not in any case be denied on this ground, or on that of its other linguistic peculiarities. And the less so, because so many other indications point to its origin in a much earlier period than e.g. that of the exile assumed by Umbreit and others, or even that of the Greek domination assumed by Hartmann (on the ground of אפריון φορεῖον, Song of Solomon 3:9). On the whole, the judgment expressed by Hengstenberg (Comm. p. 237 f.) in regard to the linguistic peculiarities of the Song of Solomon, still remains correct: “That the author is not dependent on the Aramæizing usage of later times, but is governed throughout by design and by free choice, is plain 1) “from the fact that with the exception of שׁ scarcely anything is to be found, which recurs again in the later usage of the language; the foreign forms are exclusively peculiar to the Song of Solomon”—(but here פַּרְדֵּם, which is also found, Ecclesiastes 2:5, is an exception) [that is, on the assumption in which Zöckler and Hengstenberg concur, that Ecclesiastes was not written by Solomon, but belongs to a later age.—Tr.]—2) “that the language has a youthful freshness, as in none of the products belonging to the times of a degenerate Hebrew.” Comp. also Döpke, Hohel., p. 28 ff., Ewald, p. 16 ff., Hitzig, p. 8 ff. (who, however, like Ewald, gathers up the Aramæisms of the piece in a one-sided way in favor of his hypothesis that it belongs to the north of Palestine, and hence was not written by Solomon) and Delitzsch, p. 19 ff.


The conjugal love of Solomon and Shulamith, described in Canticles, has a significance beyond itself and its own times. As the love of the wise and glorious king of Israel to a plain, pure-minded and marvellously beautiful maiden from among his people, it mirrors forth the relation of Jehovah, the covenant God of the theocracy to the Old Testament people of God as His bride, and the chosen object of His love (comp. Hosea 2:18; Hosea 2:21; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:4-5; Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 3:1 ff; Jeremiah 4:30; Jeremiah 13:22; Jeremiah 13:26; Jeremiah 30:14; Ezekiel 16:8, etc.), and is a prophecy of the far stronger, and more tender manifestation of His love, which God has condescended to bestow on all mankind in the times of the New Testament salvation. The love of Solomon to Shulamith is a type of the loving communion between Christ and His Church (John 3:29; Matthew 9:15, etc.), nay, a prophecy of that glorious culmination and final act in His loving union with it, which Paul, Ephesians 5:31 f. designates as the “great mystery,” which is to form the last and highest fulfilment of nature’s sacred law of marriage (Genesis 2:24 : “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh”). It is no objection to this assumption of a typical and Messianic character of the Song of Solomon, that the idea of conjugal or wedded love is not exhibited in it in unsullied moral purity, but impaired in various ways by the dark back-ground of polygamy, and that it is Solomon who appears as the guilty party, as the cause of this partial spoiling of the ideal substance of the action. For in spite of Solomon’s sad degeneracy, which had already, by the time of the action described in this poem, seized upon his heart, once devoted beyond others to obedience to the word of God (see 1 Kings 3:9 ff.), and in spite of the merely temporary nature of his conversion wrought by Shulamith, which was afterwards followed by a still lower fall, he nevertheless is and remains one of the most distinguished types of the Messiah in the entire series of Old Testament prefigurations, as Christ’s own comparison of His wisdom and glory with that of Solomon teaches us (Matthew 12:42; comp. Matthew 6:28). But Shulamith, the en-chantingly beautiful daughter of the land of Israel, in whose fair body dwelt a still fairer soul, and among whose noble virtues a chaste but fondly loving heart, and an humble mind of child-like simplicity shone in the first rank—Shulamith appears as a striking type of the Church of Christ. And this becomes the more appropriate in proportion as the Church more and more plainly presents the figure of a maiden raised from a low condition to glorious communion with her royal bridegroom, and as her cordial, humble, loving attachment and adherence to her Lord, faithful unto death, such as she should manifest according to her true idea, and as she actually does manifest in growing measure in her true members, resembles the love of that plain shepherd’s daughter to her royal lord and master. There is certainly this dissimilitude in the parallel, that the morally purifying, ennobling and delivering influence in the typical relation between Solomon and Shulamith, proceeds from the wife, while in the grand antitype, the formation of the new covenant by Christ, the redeeming and sanctifying agency belongs to the husband (comp. Ephesians 5:25 ff). But a partial discrepancy of this nature, or even contrast between the type and its prototype, is found in a greater or less degree in every prefiguration of the history of redemption; comp. the Old Testament parallel between Adam and Christ, Romans 5:12 ff., between the termination of David’s earthly life and that of Christ’s, Acts 13:36-37, between Jonah and the Lord, as a greater prophet than he, Matthew 12:40. And furthermore, that very dissimilitude involves also an important resemblance, inasmuch as Christ’s coming down to His people was one with the riches of heaven becoming poor, and one divinely glorious becoming a servant (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6 ff.), induced thereto really by their mute waiting and supplication; and inasmuch as this being drawn by the power of a child-like confiding love, is repeated again and again between the Lord and every believing soul among His people, and shall be repeated to the end of time (John 14:23; Matthew 18:20; Revelation 3:20).

It will constitute the task of the sections in this Commentary, which relate to the development of the doctrinal and ethical ideas, to point out in detail the peculiar combination of the typical by analogy, and the typical by contrast in the relations between the persons of this Song on the one hand, and Christ and His Church on the other. Shulamith will prevailingly appear to be an ethical, and Solomon a metaphysical type of Christ. The character of the former will offer an abundance of models for the direct imitation of Christians in their religious life, whilst her royal lover, by his position in the theocracy and in the history of redemption, and by the elevation to a dignity of equal distinction which he accords to the poor maiden will be a direct type of the Redeemer. The allegorical exegesis which fails to recognize or obliterates the partial contrast between him and the Saviour, or the attempt to make out the unconditional and thoroughly Messianic character of the piece at the expense of its historical truth, will find its refutation and correction step by step along with this Exposition.

Remark 1.—That the fundamental thought of the Song of Solomon lies essentially in the praise of the joyful happiness of wedded love, that its mystery therefore is no other than the mystery of marriage (Ephesians 5:31-32), and that this its mystical idea is vividly presented in one of the most remarkable events of Solomon’s life, which is of such great significance in the history of redemption,—this is the estimate put upon it, and the position accorded to it in Biblical Theology by Delitzsch, and in substantial agreement with him by von Hofmann, and this we are convinced is the only correct one. The latter says (in a “Supplement” to Delitzsch’s Hohe Lied, p. 237 f.): “Canticles is a song of love, which is here exhibited in all the fulness of its beauty, grace and power, richly adorned besides with the royal splendor of Solomon, and still in the purity and chastity of the marriage bond. As opposed to any heathen composition that can be compared with it, it is a monument of the unfolding of the natural life to the splendor of its full bloom of earthly bliss in a manner pleasing to God, such an unfolding as was possible only where the natural life was under the protection of a guidance which was shaping its way to the ultimate redemption. And if we look at the place which it holds in the sacred history, at the end of five hundred years’ direct development of Israel, when in his king and his king’s son (Psalms 72:1) the complete form of national sovereignty had been reached, it has its significance in regard to the spiritual counterpart of this glory, that in his whole estate the king has nothing on earth to which his heart is so completely given, as Shulamith, his only love: in this personal, human relation he finds the full satisfaction of his life. When the King of glory, in whom we hope, appears, His people shall also be His bride. His Church is to Him both people and wife, as the relation between man and woman established at the creation is no less a prophecy of Christ and His Church, than the relation of the king of Israel to His people in the history of redemption. The relation, in which the Lord stands to His Church is entirely a personal one, like that between Solomon and Shulamith. Then we shall not expound this or that particular in the Song of songs of him, but the glad antitype of the loving communion which it sings shall have come to pass, identical with the antitype of the relation between the anointed of the Lord and Israel.” Comp. Schriftbeweis II. 2, p. 370 f.: “The poet sets before our eyes the depth and the blessedness of this love of the sexes (of which it is said Song of Solomon 8:6 that it is “strong as death”) and the glory of corporeal beauty, when love is awakened and nourished by it, both of them as the natural products of creative energy, and therefore abstracted from those moral qualities which impart to corporeal beauty a value dependent on the individual, and lend to the love of the sexes a basis and a substance dependent on the individual. … … Only in the same sense, therefore, in which the creation of woman was the institution of marriage, can Canticles be called an extolling of marriage. The divinely created relation of the sexes as differing and yet belonging together, upon which marriage rests, is praised, and that in the richness of its beauty, by the king in whom the people of God attained its highest earthly glory, as the good which in his view surpassed all the good things in his royal magnificence,” etc. From this statement of the fundamental idea of the poem by Hofmann, Delitzsch differs principally in doing fuller justice to the noble virtues, which in addition to her physical beauty adorn its heroine, and consequently making not merely marriage in general, marriage as belonging to the realm of nature and of sense, but an ideal marriage, or at least an ideal wedded love and fidelity the object extolled by the poet. He hopes (according to p. 155 ff.) that he has by his exposition led to the recognition of a side of the Song of Solomon hitherto ignored or neglected: “viz., the ethical character of Shulamith, the fine and feeling picture of her soul, fairer even than the fair body which it tenanted, and in general her profound, persistent and calm moral earnestness, the golden ground on which the smiling colors of this joyous song are every where laid.” “Shulamith’s beauty,” he continues, “is not mere physical beauty of the corporeal form, nor the beauty of a Grecian statue of Aphrodite, when one feels as though the finely shaped marble began to live and to walk. Her beauty is not merely natural, but moral and living. This moral life is not indeed the New Testament spiritual life from God, which will finally transform the physical life into its own likeness, but at the same time it has not the mere semblance of virtue, in which what are only splendida vitia so often shine not only in the heathen world, but in the world at large. The morality of Shulamith is no more devoid of substance and value than the Old Testament morality in general. Shulamith is still nature and not spirit, but her nature has been well trained in the fear of Jehovah, hallowed by the grace of Jehovah. What is specifically Israelitish indeed recedes in Shulamith quite into the background behind the universally human. This is the fundamental character of all the written productions of the Chokmah in the time of Solomon. But this splendid and fragrant growth of a hallowed nature and a noble maidenhood does not disown the soil on which it has grown. It is the soil of the revelation deposited in Israel.”17 As the particular moral traits or virtues in Shulamith’s character, he then specifies—1) her sincere, really personal and not merely sensual love for her royal lover; 2) her child-like and naive simplicity; 3) her hearty delight in nature; 4) her chaste and pure womanhood; 5) her sisterly love and filial affection for her mother. The effect which this profoundly moral character of hers has upon Solomon, consists in his “becoming a child himself in the noblest sense of the word through the influence of Shulamith.” “The love with which, simple, humble, chaste as she is, she inspires the king, teaches the wise man child-like simplicity, brings the king down into the vale of humility, sets respectful bounds to the impetuous lover. He is compelled to acknowledge that this lily of the field in the artless attire of her beauty and her virtue is more richly adorned than he in all his glory. Nature no longer speaks to the natural philosopher the language of perplexing enigmas, but the gentle language of love. The possessor of a full harem has found the one to whom henceforth his heart belongs, and to no other besides. Following her he willingly exchanges the bustle and splendor of court life for the retirement and simplicity of the country. Afar from his palace, if he but has her on his arm, he roves over mountain and meadow, and with her he is contented in her cottage. Shulamith has become queen without surrendering the virtues of the plain, poor country maid, and Solomon has become Shulamith’s husband without losing his royal dignity. Solomon’s character in fact appears in twice as fine a light in his self-humiliation, and so does Shulamith in her exaltation.” Further considerations respecting the ethical character of the two lovers and the typical significance of their relation to each other, and its place in the history of redemption, will be adduced in the “doctrinal and ethical” remarks upon each section of the Song.

Remark 2.—Hitzig has attempted to treat the action of the poem as purely ideal, as mere fable or fiction without historical truth. “It is not to be supposed,” he says on p. 3 of his Commentary, “that a real history, which either contained this moral of itself, or admitted of its introduction, lies at the basis of this Song. On the contrary, some occurrence living in story may have suggested just this dress. If it concerned merely the king and his lady love, the poet might match Solomon and Shulamith about as well as Tryphon and Tryphæna. The partner introduced for Solomon is הַשּׁוּלַמִּית, “the Shulamite,” so like the name of the king, that the resemblance cannot be mistaken. Now a fair damsel from Shunem (Shulem) really was at one time brought to court, when Solomon was young (1 Kings 1:3-4), on whose account Solomon had his half-brother put to death for proposing to marry her, 1 Kings 2:13-25. This deed, which might seem to have sprung from jealousy (comp. the thesis Song of Solomon 8:6; Proverbs 6:34 f.) together with the similarity of “Shulamith” and “Solomon,” may have first determined the direction in which the idea should incorporate itself.”—Against this combination of Hitzig’s (substantially adopted by Weissbach, p. 66 f.), which is designed to show the mythical character of the piece, may be urged in general all the probable grounds for its composition by Solomon himself, or even for its originating in Solomon’s time, which were presented in § 3; and in particular still further: 1) the complete unison—not partial merely—between the historical situation described in the piece and the state of culture in the times of Solomon as depicted in the books of Kings, or, in other words, the absence of any contradiction between the Solomon of history and the Solomon of this book, together with the numerous striking and wholly undesigned coincidences in the situation and character of both. 2) The improbability of an intentional parallel between the names “Solomon” and “Shulamith,” which have no surprising similarity of sound, and are not contrasted any where in the piece, though opportunities for doing so were not rare (Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 4:1 ff.; Song of Solomon 6:3; Song of Solomon 7:11; Song of Solomon 8:11 ff). 3) It is extremely forced and far-fetched to identify the heroine of the Song with Abishag of Shunem, David’s concubine, and especially to explain Song of Solomon 8:6 of a supposed jealousy about this Shulamitess, which might have moved Solomon to put his brother Adonijah to death. 4) It is a very probable and obvious assumption that Shunem, on account of the remarkable beauty of its daughters, may have been the home of one of the concubines of the king of Israel in more instances than just this one, 1 Kings 1:3-4, and that this furnishes the explanation of the gentile denomination of the heroine of this piece as “the Shunamitess” (Shulamitess). 5) The analogy of the book of Job, which likewise has a historical fact as its basis underneath its dramatic form (comp. Hirzel, Job, p. 7 ff.), in spite of the fact that its peculiarly speculative character seems in a much higher degree to favor the assumption that its contents are purely fictitious.18

[Note on the Interpretation of the Song of Solomon—By the Translator.—The substitution of the typical method, for which Zöckler contends, in place of the allegorical, which has hitherto chiefly prevailed among evangelical interpreters of this book, marks a decided and most wholesome advance in its exposition. It is bringing into the study of the Canticles that method which has been applied with such salutary effect to the investigation of the Old Testament in general, and of its types in particular, by the most recent and able biblical scholars, and which is represented, for example, in the well-known writings of Kurtz and Fairbairn.

1. The allegorical method, which it is proposed to discard, regards the persons and objects described in this song, as in themselves unreal, as mere figures or names for spiritual persons and objects, which latter were the actual and only things contemplated and intended by the inspired penman. In what he here writes of Solomon and Shulamith he had before his mind not two real or even imaginary persons possessing definite characteristics, and sustaining a known relation to each other, which were symbols of spiritual characteristics and of a spiritual relation, the contemplation of the former being a medium through which he and others might rise to a fuller and more correct comprehension of the latter. But in all the language which he employs he is directly and consciously describing Christ and His Church. He imputes certain physical attributes or outward acts to Solomon, but it is not because they in fact belonged to him personally, or were appropriate to him as a man, a monarch, or a husband, but because there are certain attributes or works of Christ, of which these are or may be constituted emblems. And so in every expression used respecting the bride he is not depicting a human person real or ideal, but is simply employing a figure of speech which is to be applied directly to the Church, and which finds its justification in its fitness to set forth some feature or characteristic of the Church.
Hence, it happens that the great body of the allegorical interpreters, even the ablest and the best, refrain from inquiring into the meaning of the language used in its literal application, as though this were no part of its true and proper intent, but apply it immediately to Christ and His Church as the parties directly described, and the only ones, in fact, who come fairly within its scope. So far from possessing themselves first of the literal sense of the Song in its primary application to the sphere of natural life, and making this the basis from which to rise to a spiritual significance which should carry the same principles into a higher sphere, viewing in the outward and the human a reflection of the inward and divine, they positively assert that no consistent literal sense is discoverable. And they triumph in the assertion as an unanswerable argument, precluding the possibility of any other than a spiritual interpretation, whereas they are destroying the foundation underneath themselves, and making it impossible upon their principles to build up any exposition of the book which shall not rest upon the sand. It is certainly a most extraordinary procedure by which to substantiate the claim that the spiritual and the divine are in this Song set forth under the image of the earthly, to annihilate the latter with a view to exalting the former. If there is no substance nor consistency in the earthly image, what becomes of the heavenly counterpart? They who proclaim that they can make no consistent sense of the Song in its literal acceptation, should remember that the natural presumption will be not that no such sense exists, but that they have failed to find the key to its understanding. And if they cannot interpret the earthly meaning which lies upon the surface, what assurance can they give that they are safe guides to its heavenly and hidden mysteries? What is this but to play into the hands of those who claim that they can give a consistent sense to it literally underderstood, and that no higher meaning is necessary or possible?
We greatly deprecate such language as the following from so devout and evangelical a commentator as Wordsworth: “Upon the principles of the literal interpretation, how can it be explained that in the Canticles, the bridegroom is called by such various names? How are we to account for the fact that the same person, who is called the beloved, is also designated as a king, as King Solomon, as a shepherd, as feeding among lilies, as an owner of a garden and of a vineyard, which he has let out to keepers, and of which he will require the fruit?” This is, in our judgment, simply a concession to those who insist that there is more than one lover here spoken of, or who make of the Song itself a jumble of incoherent fragments. Again, we must utter our most vehement protest against such statements as these from the same able writer: “If the objects to which the bride is compared in the Canticles are understood in their literal sense, such a picture will be produced as would deserve to be censured and condemned in the strong language of the Roman critic denouncing a tasteless and ill-assorted rhapsody of incongruous enormities.” “How, again, are we to interpret the description of the bridegroom’s features? Expounded literally, some of the details in the portrait are absurd and ridiculous, others are even repulsive and revolting.” It becomes a question whether it is not more reverential to divine inspiration to abandon the spiritual sense altogether, if it can only be maintained by thus vilifying this sacred Song.

2. Besides this neglect and undue depreciation of the literal sense, we object to the allegorical method, in the second place, that it inverts the true relation between the outward form and the spiritual substance in this Song. By an original divine constitution there are thoughts and ideas embodied in the sphere of natural life, which reach into the spiritual sphere, and these are made use of as helps for climbing from the lower to the higher. We must not lose sight of the divine economy in this matter. There was not, first, the communication of a complete system of doctrine in its fulness and in abstract form, which the sacred writer, being in entire possession of, seeks to impart to others—and in so doing, looks about for some analogy which he strives to adapt to it, even at the risk of utterly distorting the inferior object which he so employs. But the type comes before the doctrine, and is preparatory to it. God places before the eyes of His inspired servants, and through them before all others, these outward types, with their correspondences to the heavenly and divine. These natural objects and relations furnish the lessons which under divine guidance they are to study, by which they are to be educated to the comprehension of the spiritual, which is wrapped up in them, and which they are adapted to convey.
3. The allegorical method further violates the analogy of Old Testament instruction. This was once the favorite mode of dealing with types, but it led to such fanciful, grotesque and far-fetched explanations as to bring the whole subject of typology into disrepute. and it has now been discarded by sober inquirers. The true principles are thus stated by Prof. Fairbairn, Typology, I., pp. 81 ff.: “In the interpretation of types our first care must be to make ourselves acquainted with the truths or ideas involved in them merely as providential transactions or religious services—to make what they were in their immediate relation to the patriarchal or religious worshipper, the ground and matter of what, as typical, they are now to the Christian.” “Their typical import is not something apart from their natural and immediate design, but consisting of that and growing out of it.” “The essential character and objects of the transaction, in which the type consists, become thus the ground and matter of its typical relation to the realities of the gospel. But if we should proceed in an opposite direction and make the essential qualities of the antitype the measure of what we are to expect in the type, then, as a matter of course, we shall be driven to seek in the latter many trifling and fanciful resemblances, which have no idea or principle in them whatever.” The Messianic teaching of the Psalms, which belong to the same stage of divine revelation with the Song of Solomon, is entirely of the typical character. It is wholly drawn from the personal experience or the official position of David or of Solomon, more or less idealized, with or without a removal of human limitations. It is not until we reach the period of the prophets that the typical element recedes into the background, and is partially, though not entirely, superseded by a more didactic style of instruction. No one can fail to recognize the distinction in this respect between Canticles and Ezekiel, Song 16, 23.

4. It also disregards the needs of the people of God under the Old Testament. It must be assumed that Canticles, like every other book of Scripture, had its special adaptation to the wants of those for whom it was immediately prepared. It was part of the divine system of instruction under which they were placed, and had its determinate function to fulfil in preparation for Him that was to come. Now if it contained the mysteries which allegorical interpreters find hidden under its language, it must have been to its earliest readers a sealed book. They did not have before them the detailed history and doctrine of Christ and His Church, from which conjecturally to fit expressions in the Song by a mere casual and superficial similitude. Nor could they be expected to have any inkling whatever of the meaning of passages, whose sense is elicited by punning upon words, as though the “chains,” i. 10, represent the “law,” because תּוֹרִים bears some resemblance in sound to תּוֹרָה, and the “cyprus flower,” i. 14, alludes to the atonement because of an ambiguity in the word כּפֶֹּר. If this is the way that Canticles is to be expounded, it is a mere book of riddles, whose solution is sufficiently puzzling and doubtful with all the facts and teachings of the gospels before us, but which could not possibly be comprehended while the objects referred to were still veiled by the future. If, however, the language of Canticles describes not future or unknown objects in enigmatical terms, but scenes real or ideal belonging to the sphere of earthly love, which is a symbol of the heavenly, then the analogies of thought must lead directly from one to the other. And Solomon’s contemporaries, as well as later generations, could rise at least to a partial comprehension of its meaning; not, it is true, to an exhaustive understanding of it, for the deep meaning of Scripture grows with growing light and fuller knowledge and further revelation. But the more advanced interpretation must lie in the line just indicated, only penetrating further, not in the way of loading the text with far-fetched and fanciful senses. Scripture does not have a multiple sense, if by this be meant that it is to bear every signification which can by possibility be put upon its disconnected words; but the ideas manifestly underlying it may be followed out into further developments and wider applications.

5. Our last objection to the allegorical method is that it cannot achieve a well grounded and satisfactory interpretation of this book. It loses itself perpetually in details, where it spends its strength in random guess-work. The ingenuity with which this may be done, and the devout spirit with which it may be pervaded, cannot alter the essentially vicious character of the process. As Adam Clarke justly says, he could make anything whatever out of this Song that he was disposed to make, if he were allowed equal liberty: he could find Arminianism in it or any type of doctrine he chose. The pious use made of the language of the book cannot redeem it from the charge of mal-interpretation. It is not exposition but substituting human fancies for the true meaning and intent of the divine Word. The pious senses inserted, the edifying reflections and the devout meditations do not sanctify a mode of dealing with the book of God so utterly unwarrantable.

This mode of expounding each separate particular, not with a view to its place in the description in which it stands, but as a distinct reference to the spiritual object typified by it, necessarily leads both to a serious distortion of the lessons to be conveyed, and to a marring and mangling of the symmetry and beauty of the objects depicted. Thus Dr. Addison Alexander in his Commentary on Isaiah 5:3, “The parable, as a whole, corresponds to its subject as a whole, but all the particulars included in the one, are not separately intended to denote particulars included in the other. A lion may be a striking emblem of a hero; but it does not follow that the mane, claws, etc., of the beast must all be significant of something in the man. Nay, they cannot even be supposed to be so, without sensibly detracting from the force and beauty of the image as a whole.” See also similar language used on Isaiah 60:7, and in his Commentary on Mark 4:13; Mark 12:6. Is it surprising that Wordsworth could see no beauty in the figures of this book literally understood after mercilessly carving them to shapeless fragments by his dissecting knife?

For these reasons we believe the typical to be the true method of interpreting this Song, and we shall conceive it to be a most important service rendered by this commentary if it shall in any measure contribute to check the unbridled extravagance of the prevalent devotion to allegory and encourage a simpler and juster style of interpretation. According to the typical understanding of Canticles, which has already been characterized in the general, but may here be more exactly described, its primary subject and that which is denoted by its language in its literal acceptation is the loving intercourse of king Solomon and his bride. But in consequence of Solomon’s representative character as the vicegerent and type of the divine king of Israel, his individual and earthly relations become the mirror of the spiritual and the heavenly. His human love to the woman of his choice is the symbol of the love of God to His elect people, of Jehovah to Israel, of Christ to His church. This latter is not directly and enigmatically described by the terms of the Song, but is shadowed forth by the scenes and the feelings which are depicted in it. The Solomon of the Song is not the heavenly, but the earthly Solomon: he is presented, however, not in his individual personality merely, but in the capacity of a king and a lover or a husband, thus suggesting the ideal king and the ideal lover, and to this extent, and in this manner, shadowing forth the greatest and most glorious of monarchs, the most tender and affectionate, the most loving and the best of bridegrooms, Jehovah-Jesus.
The very first step toward the correct understanding of this book as of any type, or parable, or similitude whatsoever is the inquiry after its literal sense,—what is the object itself that is here presented? It is impossible to develop the spiritual meaning of a symbol until it is first ascertained what the symbol is. The literal sense is the foundation of the whole. If this be not correctly gathered and distinctly apprehended, every ulterior result is vitiated. The most cursory inspection shows this book to relate to the loving intercourse of a bridegroom and his bride. But what is the precise nature and the mutual relations of the several scenes depicted? Do the various parts cohere in one connected narrative, which traces through successive steps the growing intimacy of the loving pair? if so, what is the story, or the plot which forms the ground work of the book? Or does it contain a series of detached scenes, each complete in itself? if so, what are the limits of each, and what the precise situation and action depicted in it? Is the whole prior to marriage, or subsequent to marriage, or does the marriage occur in the course of the Song, and if so, where? A true conception must first be gained of the book in the exhibition which it makes of the human love described in it, before we can be prepared to understand the particular aspect, method, or measures of divine love which it is adapted to set forth.
The service performed by the erotic commentators on this Song in the history of interpretation, is that of directing attention to this most astonishing oversight on the part of the allegorists, one extreme as usual generating its opposite, and thus preparing the way for its own correction. The egregious perversions of the literal sense by those who have bestowed upon it their exclusive attention can only be fairly refuted and their utter baselessness shown, when the correct scheme of this book shall be fully drawn out and fortified in every part.
In our opinion Zöckler has not been as successful in his results as he is correct in his method. Neither he nor Delitzsch, whom he follows with some modifications, has solved the problem of the book so far as to make a faithful exhibit of its literal sense. They are both captivated with the idea, which we are persuaded is fallacious, of finding a regularly unfolded plot, and in their eagerness to make out continuity and progress they have obtruded upon this sacred poem what finds no warrant in its text, and marred the artless simplicity of its structure by needless complications. A complete and satisfactory presentation of the literal sense of Canticles is a very great desideratum; and this is the direction in which we are disposed to look with the greatest hope for further progress in unfolding its more profound mysteries.

Upon the literal is built the ethical sense. Delitzsch here loses himself too much in a mere romantic sentimentalism. The erotic interpreters, as Ginsburg, discover an example of virtue superior to the greatest temptations: they make it a story of faithful love shown in a maiden, whom the king by all his arts and by the most dazzling allurements cannot seduce from her shepherd lover to whom she had given her heart. Zöckler here attempts a compromise which is an attitude he frequently occupies in the course of his commentary. He drops the shepherd lover, but still represents Solomon in an unfavorable though less repulsive light, and makes all the pure and elevating influence proceed from Shulamith, who is the true heroine of the Song, and by whom her royal husband is completely over-shadowed. The discontent with Solomon’s court and with the style of life prevailing there, which Delitzsch affirms, is pushed by Zöckler to what is perhaps its legitimate result, dissatisfaction with Solomon himself who was tainted by the corrupting influences around him. She however wins the proud lord of a harem completely to herself and makes him all her own; from love to her he forsakes his voluptuous court for the retirement and gentle pleasures of her country home. He thus finds in it the triumph of chastity over sensuality, of a pure monogamy over the voluptuousness of polygamy.

We cannot deny that there is a certain attractiveness at the first view in the thought of a rebuke to polygamy in the person of one, by whom it was carried to such unheard of excess, if it were not that the whole thing is imported into the Song by the mere fancy of the interpreter. Whatever unfavorable surmises might attach to Solomon’s life as recorded in Kings, there is nothing whatever in this book to justify them. He says and does nothing to warrant the suspicion of a want of constancy in his love for Shulamith or a fickle preference for others. Shulamith never betrays any apprehension that she has not her full share of his love, or that his conduct belies his professions of fond attachment. The temporary separation—it can scarcely be called estrangement—which gives her so much pain, is traced by herself to her own drowsy inaction, Song of Solomon 5:3. The only allusion to the existing number of queens, Song of Solomon 6:8, is for the sake of ranking her above them all as the idol of her husband’s heart. The daughters of Jerusalem never appear as rivals, toward whom Shulamith expresses or cherishes any jealousy. But apart from the unfounded presumptions on which the whole is based, it involves a preposterous conflict between Solomon’s regal dignity and his married state, that in order to possess Shulamith as his own, and be completely hers, he should have to abandon his capital and his court and the occupations of royalty, and go to live with her in her mother’s house at Shunem. And further, it is a most extraordinary mode of inculcating monogamy for Shulamith to marry a king already the possessor of sixty queens, and then to set about securing him entirely to herself, and leading him to abandon all the rest. Would not this be more like the artful intriguing favorite than the guileless, simple-hearted child of nature, which she is represented as being?

All that can in fairness be made out of the ethical view of this book, as it appears to us, is that two parties are here described who live in and for each other. Proofs and instances are given of their devotion and fondness, their ardent longing for each other when separated, their delight in each other when united, their increased enjoyment in every source of pleasure, of which they partake together. The constancy, the tenderness, the purity, the fervor of wedded love, finds repeated and varied exemplification. Canticles does not rise to the inculcation of monogamy nor assert for marriage that according to its primeval institution and its true idea it must be between one man and one woman. It alludes to polygamy, Song of Solomon 6:8, without disallowing or positively prohibiting it as an offence against the ordinance of God and the welfare of man. It belongs to a dispensation under which for the hardness of men’s hearts this institution had been suffered to be clouded, and its original brightness dimmed. It issues no interdict against polygamy, but it undermines it. First, by drying up its source. It exhibits a style of intercourse between the sexes which is pure, elevated and refined, sensitive to the charms of beauty and of personal attractions, but without a trace of sensuality. There is no grossness, no impurity, no indelicacy even. Everything of that nature which has been attached to this gem of songs, should be laid to the account of mistranslation or misinterpretation. Secondly, by raising up an adversary too powerful for it. This Song depicts a mutual love which is absolutely exclusive, Song of Solomon 2:2; Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 4:12; Song of Solomon 6:3; Song of Solomon 6:9; Song of Solomon 7:10; Song of Solomon 8:6-7; and before which polygamy must fall, not because it is forbidden, but because it cannot be endured.

Greatly as we approve of Zöckler’s typical method of dealing with Canticles, we cannot accept what is peculiar in the typical views which he deduces from it. This follows, of course, from the exceptions we have taken to his literal conception of it, upon which it is based. Some may probably be shocked by the fact that he represents Shulamith as Solomon’s superior in point of virtue and purity, and the instrument of working at least a temporary change for the better in him, while at the same time he says that Solomon and Shulamith are types of the Lord and His church. This, however, is not of itself sufficient to condemn his view. All types have their deficiencies. Some are deplorably defective, without after all ceasing to be types. There is a real foundation for what Zöckler calls types of analogy and types of contrast, or as we have ourselves been in the habit of designating them, direct and inverse types, the former being objects which directly shadow forth the future good, and the latter such as stand in opposition to it or represent a want which it can supply. And in every individual type there are at the same time elements of correspondence with the ultimate ideal and of divergence from it, both of which must be taken into the account if its full lessons are to be unfolded.

If the question respected the typical character of Solomon on the whole, as a personage in the sacred History, it could not be objected that a more unfavorable view is taken of him than the facts recorded warrant. And it may be added that in the book of Ecclesiastes, which is inversely or negatively Messianic, the kingdom of Solomon is shown upon its unsatisfying side, in which it presents a marked contrast with that of his great antitype. We are now, however, solely concerned with Solomon as he is represented in the Song of songs. The typical, as the other lessons of the Song must be drawn from itself, without any such supplement at least from other sources as would distort the image presented here. A picture is presented to us belonging to the sphere of natural life; this must be simply transferred to the spiritual sphere to yield its typical or higher meaning. Features of Solomon’s character which would have marred the significance or effect of the whole, may be neglected or lost sight of. They do not belong to the conception of this Song, which must be interpreted by itself.
Did the writer of this book intend anything more than the literal and ethical sense? Zöckler thinks not. He supposes him to have composed this poem, setting forth this incident in the life of Solomon. He had no more in his mind than the human parties, the play of their affections, and the fond relation constituted between them. But the nature of the transaction itself, and the position of the principal actor in the sacred history impart to it a typical import, of which Solomon himself, in writing it, had no conception. Its connection with Solomon, and its ethical bearings in his view justify its place among the sacred oracles, even apart from its mystical meaning. This is a question of some difficulty. For, 1. It cannot be affirmed that the book itself contains any clear indication of its higher meaning; what has been adduced as showing that the writer intended something more profound than lies upon the surface, is mostly of doubtful interpretation, and is scarcely sufficient to produce conviction. 2. Such instances as Ruth, Esther, and many of the Proverbs may make us cautious in undertaking to determine in advance what amount of evident religious character is necessary to entitle a book to admission to the canon of the Old Testament. 3. The sacred historians in all probability were ignorant of the typical nature of much that they have recorded.

Nevertheless, we cannot but believe that the writer of this divine Song recognized the symbolical character of that love, which he has here embellished. The typical character of the king of Israel was familiarly known, as is apparent from many of the Psalms. The typical character of Solomon’s own reign was well understood by himself, as appears from Psalms 72:0. That the Lord’s relation to His people was conceived of as a marriage from the time of the covenant at Sinai, is shown by repeated expressions that imply it, in the law of Moses. That under these circumstances, the marriage of the King of Israel should carry the thoughts up by a ready and spontaneous association to the covenant-relation of the King par excellence to the people, whom He had espoused to Himself, is surely no extravagant supposition, even if the analogous instance of Psalms 45:0. did not remove it from the region of conjecture to that of established fact. The mystical use made of marriage so frequently in the subsequent scriptures, with evident and even verbal allusion to this Song, and the constant interpretation of both the Synagogue and the Church, show the naturalness of the symbol, and enhance the probability that the writer himself saw what the great body of his readers have found in his production. And whatever may be said apologetically of the sacredness of this book, if its inspired author intended it in its literal sense alone, it exalts it so prodigiously, and frees it so completely from every shadow of objection, to suppose him to have employed this symbol with some consciousness of its sacred meaning, that I cannot bring myself to believe that the wise King of Israel was so blind as some have imagined him to be. And I am not sure but the absence of the name of God, and of any distinctive religious expressions throughout the Song is thus to be accounted for that the writer, conscious of the parabolic character of what he is describing, felt that there would be an incongruity in mingling the symbol with the thing symbolized. See Isaac Taylor’s Spirit of the Hebrew Poetry, pp. 174, 5].


a. The allegorical attempts at explanation in ancient and modern times.19

It is as impossible to deny that the mystical and allegorical view of the Song of Solomon, which entirely disregards the literal sense, and sees nothing in it but an exhibition in a figurative dress, of the covenant-relation between Jehovah and Israel, or of the loving communion of Messiah with His Church, may have had advocates among the Jewish scribes before the close of the Old Testament canon, as it is to prove that this view was the only one in the period before Christ, or that it was the conditio sine qua non of the reception of the book into the canon. For neither the acquaintance which the author of Proverbs 1-9, Proverbs 1:22-24 betrays with it (see § 3, Rem. 1), nor the frequent use made of it by the prophet Hosea at a somewhat later period (comp. Hosea 14:6-9 with Song of Solomon 2:1; Song of Solomon 5:15; Song of Solomon 4:11; Song of Solomon 6:11, etc.), affords any certain proof that the allegorical explanation was already cultivated before the exile at the expense of the historical. That according to the tradition of the Talmud (see R. Azarias in Meor Enaim, p. 175 b), Ezra only admitted such books to the canon as “were composed by the prophets in the Holy Spirit,” can no more be esteemed a historical testimony for the exclusive prevalence of the allegorical interpretation at the time of the collection of the canon, than the statement of the Targum on Song of Solomon 1:1, that the Song of Songs was sung “by Solomon the prophet and king of Israel in the spirit of prophecy.” Nor can any proof be brought from the Old Testament Apocrypha of the existence of the allegorical mode of interpretation before the time of Christ. The passages adduced for this purpose by Rosenmueller, Wis 8:2; Wis 8:9; Wis 8:16; Wis 8:18; Eccles. 24:18, 19, by no means necessarily imply that the bride of the Canticles was taken to be the divine wisdom; and against the validity of the passage Eccles. 47:15–17 urged by Keil, even Hengstenberg has shown that Solomon’s παροιμίαι, παραβολαί and ἑρμηνεῖαι, “proverbs, parables and interpretations” here extolled, simply refer to the proverbs and enigmatical sayings of the king mentioned, 1 Kings 5:12 (1 Kings 4:32 ff.) , 1 Kings 10:1 ff, not to any mystical sense of this “Song of songs.” Nor can the Septuag. be adduced as representing the allegorical interpretation of this Song; for though it renders מֵרֹאשׁ אֲמָנָה Song of Solomon 4:8 by ἀπὸ� and כְּתִרְצָה by if ὡς εὐδοκία, these are errors of translation, which only show that the two localities in question (Amana and Tirzah) were no longer known to the authors of the Alexandrian version. No certain traces of a use of the Song of Solomon in an allegorical sense can be pointed out even in the writings of Philo; and the same is true of the New Testament, where, at the utmost Revelation 3:20 might be regarded as an expression taken from the Song of Solomon, explained of the Messiah, but is more probably to be traced, like what is elsewhere said of Christ as the bridegroom of His Church (e.g. Matthew 9:15, John 3:29, etc.), to the corresponding ideas and expressions in the figurative language of the prophets in general.20 Comp. § 4, p. 16, and in opposition to the different judgment expressed by Hengstenberg respecting these passages of the New Testament, comp. especially Umbreit in Herzog’s Real Encyc., vol. vi. p. 207 f.

Accordingly, it is not until the period after Christ and His apostles that really unmistakable traces are found of the allegorical understanding and treatment of the Song of Solomon; and in the first instance in the way that the author of the fourth book of Esdras, an apocalyptic production of a Jewish Christian, written probably in the time of Domitian, uses the expressions “lily” and “dove,” 4 Esdras 5:24, 26, with unmistakable reference to Song of Solomon 2:1; Song of Solomon 6:9, as mystical designations of the Church of God. Then in an allegorical explanation of Song of Solomon 3:11, given by R. Simon ben Gamaliel about the year 120 of the Christian era (see Taanith, IV. 8): and finally in the solemn asseveration of R. Akiba, the celebrated contemporary of this R. Simon (in Yadain III. 5), that Canticles defiles the hands, and is to be regarded not only as a holy, but in comparison with the rest of the Hagiographa as a most holy book21 (קדשׁ קדשׁים). The Synagogue, from the first centuries of the Christian era, must have universally proceeded on the assumption attested by this declaration of a hidden allegorical sense to this book. For Origen and Jerome testify that it was a universal custom among the Jews in their time, not to allow any one to study the Canticles, the account of the creation in Genesis (the מעשׂה בראשׁית) or the 1st chap. of the Prophet Ezekiel (the מעשׂה מרכבה) before the thirtieth year of his life. And Ibn Ezra declares that it was an undoubted and undisputed fact that nothing in the Canticles was spoken literally, but all figuratively.22

Great numbers of both Jewish and Christian interpreters have since treated the Song of Solomon in this one-sided allegorical method, which fritters away the historical sense altogether, and sets it aside as offensive. Of the former, the most ancient whose work has come down to us is the author of the Targum, which is at all events post-Talmudic. The model thus given was followed by most of the Rabbins of the middle ages, particularly Rashi, Kimchi, and Ibn Ezra, of Toledo, in the twelfth century, who has already been mentioned, and who sees in the book an allegorical and prophetical representation of the history of Israel from the time of Abraham (whilst the other rabbinical interpreters almost universally, like the Targumist, make the action begin with the exodus from Egypt under Moses); likewise Moses Maimonides (†1204), who in his More Nebochim, explains some passages at least of the poem, and this in such a way that “its historical contents vanish entirely, and the mystical signification of its poetical and figurative expressions is alone of any worth.” In the Church Origen brought the mystical and allegorical mode of treatment into vogue, and by far the greatest number of the fathers and the theologians of the middle ages, and even of more recent times, have followed him, with however the subordinate variations that to the mystico-spiritual view represented by him, by Jerome, Macarius, Theodoret, Bernard of Clairvaux, etc., there have also been added in the course of time a mystico-doctrinal (Cyprian, Athanasius, Joachim Lange, Rambach, Starke, etc.), a mystico-political or historical (Augustin, Luther), a mystico-prophetical (Cocceius, Gulich, Heunisch, Reinhardt, etc.), a mystico-Mariological (Ambrose, Rupert v. Deutz, Dionysius Carthusianus, Mich. Ghislerius, Salmeron, Cornelius a Lapide, etc.), and even a mystico-hieroglyphical (Pufendorf and Runge, 1776). They are all agreed, however, that the whole poem was conceived by the author with a conscious allegorical design. The most recent allegorical expositors also occupy substantially the same ground, now inclining to one and now to another of these modifications; as Rosenmueller, Hug and Kaiser have sought each in his own way to reproduce the mystico-historical or political method of explanation of former times; Goltz, the mystico-prophetical; H. A. Hahn, Keil, O. v. Gerlach, Hengstenberg, the mystico-doctrinal; Gust. Jahn and others, the mystico-spiritual mode of explanation.


Targum in Cant. Canticorum (contained in the Targum to the five Megilloth, viz., Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes), best printed in the Paris and London polyglots. It betrays, by its references to the Talmud, and even to the Mohammedans, that it was not composed until the eighth century probably, which, however, does not exclude a higher antiquity for many of its remarks and stories strung together in the style of the Haggada. It forms a continuous “picture of Israel’s history from the exodus out of Egypt through the oppressions of the kingdoms of the world until his final redemption.” “Draw me after thee” (Song of Solomon 1:4), is explained of the march of the people under the conduct of Jehovah to Sinai; “Look not at me, because I am black” (Song of Solomon 1:6) of the penitent confession of sin by those who had forsaken Jehovah for the golden calf; “Tell me, thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest,” etc. (Song of Solomon 1:7), of Moses’ supplication for the transgressing people; the festive procession described in Song of Solomon 3:6-11 of the taking of the promised land by Joshua, and the building of Solomon’s temple; the words (Song of Solomon 7:13) “let us go to the vineyards,” etc., of Israel praying for deliverance from the Babylonish exile; the “odorous mandrakes” (Song 7:14) of the period of deliverance already come; and finally, the concluding verse (Song of Solomon 8:14) is explained as a petition to the Lord, that He would speedily bring back the scattered people to the “spice mountains,” i.e., to the temple mountain in Jerusalem, with its fragrant offerings of incense—all this is interwoven with gross anachronisms, strange leaps of thought, and extravagant fancies of every description; comp. Zunz, Gottesdienstliche Vorträge der Juden, etc., p. 65 f.; Delitzsch, Hohel., p. 49; Umbreit, loc. cit., p. 208 f. [See the English translation of this Targum in Gill on Canticles, 1728, and in Adam Clarke’s Commentary.]

Rashi (i.e., R. Solomon ben Isaac, † 1105), Commentarius in libros historicos et Salomonis V. T., in Lat. vertit J. Fr. Breithaupt, 1714 (on the rabbinical editions of this Commentator, who is particularly valuable on account of his copious communications from older Jewish allegorical interpreters, comp. de Rossi, Histor. Wörterbuch der Judischen Schriftsteller, from the Italian, by Hamberger, 1839; also J. Chr. Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebrœa, 1715–33, 4 vols.)

David Kimchi (son of Joseph Kimchi, born at Narbonne, 1190, died after 1250), Commentarius in Cantic. Canticor. (in the rabbinical Bibles of Bomberg and Buxtorf; inclining to the literal interpretation of Scripture, yet setting the greatest store also by the older allegorizing tradition, especially in the exegesis of Messianic passages; comp. M. Heidenheim in Herzog’s Real-Encyklop. XIX. 693).

Ibn Ezra (†1167) Commentar. in Cant. Cant., also in Bomberg’s and Buxtorf’s Bibles; differs from the Targum and most of the other rabbins in finding the history of Israel from the time of Abraham allegorically and prophetically represented in the Song of Solomon, and hence it is not until chap. 2 that he comes down to the times of Moses and the giving of the law; he sees, for example, in the voice of the bridegroom, “who comes leaping over mountains and hills,” Song of Solomon 2:8, the thunder of Jehovah, by which Sinai was shaken (comp. Psalms 29:0), refers the “peeping of the bridegroom through the window” (Song of Solomon 2:9), to God’s looking down upon His people oppressed in Egypt for their help, etc., etc.

Moses Maimonides († 1204) Moreh Nebochim seu. Doctor perplexorum, ed. Jo. Buxtorf, 1629, comp. the Arabic and French edition “le Guide des Egarés,” by S. Munk, Par. 1856–61, 2 vols., explains in the first part of this work in addition to many other passages of the Old Test., which represent the divine under sensible images, various sentences from the Song of Solomon, and in so doing returns to the extremely arbitrary and desultory method of the older Midrash which “at every verse or clause of a verse pours out a perfect cornucopia of the most heterogeneous thoughts and fancies,” without aiming at any continuous historico-allegorical explanation of the whole. A characteristic specimen is afforded by the remark upon the opening words Song of Solomon 1:2, where the “kiss of his mouth” is taken to be a mystical designation of the union of the Creator with the creature (apprehensio Creatoris cum summo amore Dei conjuncta s. Neshikah), and the well-known phrase of the rabbins that Moses, Aaron and Miriam died “in the kiss of God” is traced back to this as its origin. Comp. Buxtorf’s Edit. p. 523, and generally Jost, Art. “Maimonides” in Herzog’s Encycl. VIII. 691 ff.

Moses ben Tibbon, Immanuel ben Salomo the Roman, and other rabbinical adherents of the cabalistic and philosophical exegesis of the Jews of the middle ages differ from the common historico-allegorical interpretation in that Solomon is to them a symbol of the highest spiritual will (the intellectus agens), Shulamith a symbol of the lower, merely sensuous and receptive understanding (the intellectus materialis), and the whole is a representation of the union of both effecting the purification of the latter. On the contrary the religious poetry of the Jews of Spain in the Pijut, in so far as it is based on the Song of Solomon, rests on that more widely diffused allegorical view, which sees in Shulamith the “congregation of Israel” (כנסת ישראל). Comp. Sachs, Relig. Poesie der Juden in Spanien, p. 267; Delitzsch, Hohel. p. 50.23


a. The mystico-spiritual interpretation. (Regarding the whole as a figurative representation of the intercourse of Christ with the believing soul).

Origen in Cant. Canticorum Homiliœ duo translated into Lat. by Jerome (see his Opp. ed. Vallars. Vol. III., p. 500 ff.) is the founder of that method of interpretation which sees in the bride of the Canticles the soul pining for union with God, and in the bridegroom the divine love which sanctifies, purifies and elevates it to itself; be accordingly explains the whole in a moral-soteriological or mystico-psychological manner. Comp. what Jerome says in his translation: “Canticum canticorum amorem cœlestium divinorumque desiderium incutit animœ sub specie sponsœ et sponsi, caritatis et amoris viis perveniendum docens ad consortium Dei.”—In his more extended commentary in XII. τόμοι, of which only four books are still extant in the Latin translation of Rufin (see Origenis Opp. ed. Lommatzsch, Vol. 14, 15) he had explained the bride of the Canticles by turns of the individual souls of Christians striving after union with Christ, and of the Church as the collective body of believers, thus combining the mystico-doctrinal with the mystico-spiritual interpretation; and yet through Jerome, who translated the former work only into Latin, and not the latter also, the mystico-spiritual interpretation was rendered almost exclusively influential as a model for later interpreters, particularly in the West.24

Eusebius of Caesarea, Comment. in Cant. Canticor. (lost except a few questions).

Macarius the elder or the Egyptian († about 390) Opera ed. Pritius, Lips. 1699 (explains the Song of Solomon likewise of the loving intercourse of the soul with God).

[Gregory of Nyssa, In Cantica Canticorum Explanatio; fifteen homilies continuing the exposition to the middle of the sixth chapter. “Of the two alternative interpretations of Origen, that which identified the bride with the human soul is peculiar, as an exclusive interpretation, to the homilies of Gregory of Nyssa.”—Thrupp.]

Theodoretus, Interpretatio in Cantic. Canticorum, Opp. Vol. II. ed. Schultze, Hal. 1770. [“Of all the patristic comments on the Song those of Theodoret are the most valuable. They are executed with judgment, and with a careful but discriminating regard to the labors of earlier writers; are sufficiently full without being prolix; and have come down to us complete. In them Christ is the Bridegroom; the Bride is the Church, more especially as the company of those who have been perfected in all virtues; those who have not yet reached the full degree of perfection being represented as the Bride’s companions.”—Thrupp.]

Maximus Confessor, Paraphrasis in Cant. Canticorum (in the Greek Catenœ to the O. Test in Fronto Ducaeus, Auctar. Bibl. Patr. II. 681 ff. and in the Bibl. Patr. ed. Morell, Vol XIII.; comp. also the Catena in Cant. Cantic. by Meursius, Lugd. Batav. 1617 †).

Williram (Abbot at Ebersberg in Bavaria † 1085) Paraphrasis in Cant. Canticorum, ed. Merula, Lugd. Bat. 1598, and H. Hoffmann, Bresl. 1827, gave a twofold paraphrase of the Song of Solomon, in which he followed the customary allegorical method, one in Lat. hexameters, the other in old high German prose, in both regarding the whole as a colloquy between Christ and the believing soul. The old high German treatise like Notker’s somewhat older paraphrase of the Psalms is of great interest in the history of language. Comp. Hoffmann in the German Edition already mentioned, as well as W. Scherer, Leben Willirams , etc., Vienna, 1866.

Honorius of Autun, Expositio in Cantica Canticorum Salomonis, in Bibl. Patrum Lugdun. Vol. XX. (the Prœfatio especially important on account of its laying down the theory of the fourfold sense of Scripture, which the exposition of particular passages then seeks to point out everywhere, according especial prominence to the sensus moralis).

Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones 86 Super Cant. Canticorum, Opp. Vol. II. ed. Venet. (a diffuse mystico-practical exposition, which, however, only treats the first two chapters and the opening words of the third, and explains the whole of the soul seeking her heavenly bridegroom and introduced by Him first into the garden, then into the banquet hall, and finally into the sleeping chamber, sometimes, moreover, weaving in a doctrinal interpretation as on Song of Solomon 1:2, where kissing with the kiss of His mouth is explained of the incarnation of Christ, this “condescending miracle of a kiss, in which not mouth is pressed to mouth but God is united with man,” etc.25 The continuation of this gigantic work attempted by Bernard’s pupil, Gilbert v. Hoyland, only carries it on to v. 10 in 58 discourses). Comp. also Fernbacher: die Reden des heil. Bernhard über das Hohelied, deutsch bearbeitet [“The Discourses of St. Bernard on the Canticles,” rendered into German], Leipz. 1866.

Richard A. S. Victore, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventura, Gershon and others represent in their Expositiones in Cantic. Canticorum the same mystico-psychological explanation, according to which the Song of Solomon forms a compendium of the science of inward Christian experience, an inexhaustible mine of ideas and fancies as profound as they are arbitrary. [“Aquinas is said to have dictated his commentary on his death-bed.”]

Teresa de Jesus, Conceptos del amor de Dios sobra algunas palabras de los cantares de Salomon (“Thoughts on the love of God suggested by some verses in Canticles)”—explains particularly the passages Song of Solomon 1:2; Song of Solomon 2:3; Song of Solomon 2:4; Song of Solomon 2:5, etc., of the marriage of the enraptured soul with the holy Trinity, or of the fourth and highest stage of her peculiar mystical theory of prayer; comp. my essay “Teresia v. Avila,” etc., in the Zeitschr. f. Luth. Theol. 1865, I. and II.

Juan de la Cruz (John of the cross), Cantico espiritual entre el alma e Christo su esposo (“spiritual song between the soul and Christ its bridegroom”—a free poetic imitation of some of the principal passages of the Song of Solomon, especially from chap. 3–6; comp. the essay already referred to in the Zeitschr. f. Luth. Theol. 1866, I., particularly p. 59 ff.).

[The commentary of the Spanish Jesuit, Gaspar Sanctius (or Sanchez,) published in 1616, forms a quarto volume of nearly 400 pages, which is highly commended by Moody Stuart for its learning and research and the spirituality of its views.]

Delrio, Delgado, Sotomayor, Pineda, Oroczo. These and other Spanish mystics adopt the same allegorical method in their commentaries with those before named, explaining the “cheeks of the bride,” Song of Solomon 4:3, of outward Christianity in good works; her slender neck, Song of Solomon 7:5, of the constancy of the love of Christ; her golden chains, Song of Solomon 1:10, of faith; the silver points on the ornaments of gold, Song of Solomon 1:11, of the holiness of the walk; the spikenard, Song of Solomon 1:12, of redeemed humanity; the bunch of myrrh, Song of Solomon 1:13, of the passion of Christ; the “thorns about the rose,” Song of Solomon 2:2, of temptations by tribulations, by all sorts of crimes or by heretics; the “chariots of Am-minadab” of the devil, etc. Comp. C. A. Wilkens, Fray Luis de Leon: eine Biographie aus der Geschichte der Spanischen Inquisition und Kirche (Halle, 1866), p. 206 ff.

John Mich. Dillherr, Göttliche Liebesflamme oder Betrachtung unterschiedlicher Stellen des Hohenlieds [Divine flame of love or a Consideration of divers passages in the Canticles], Nuremberg, 1640; also, Annotationes in Canticum, Wratislaw, 1680.

J. Marie Bourrieres de la Mothe Guyon Le Cantique des, Cantiques, interprété selon le sens mystique; Grenoble, 1685. In this commentary, composed, according to her own confession, in one day and a half, but which was nevertheless commended by Bossuet above her other writings, she closely resembles the preceding adherents of the mystico-spiritual interpretation, and seems particularly to have drawn from Theresa and St. Bernard.

[J. Hamon († 1687), Explication du Cantique des Cantiques. “Physician of Port Royal and continuator of the expositions of Bernard.”]

Joachim Lange, Rambach, Starke and others in the last century seek to connect as far as possible the mystico-doctrinal view of the Song of Solomon with the mystico-spiritual; comp. the following rubric, p. 31.

The Berleburg Bible (Berleb. 1726 ff.) pays less regard to the doctrinal view of the Song of Solomon or the explanation of the bride as the Church, than to the spiritual, according to which the conditions and stages of progress in the individual Christian life are represented in it.

Gustav Jahn, Das Hohelied in Liedern [Solomon’s Song in Songs], Halle, 1848, divides the whole into 62 longer or shorter sonnets in which is sung 1) the work of faith; 2) the labor of love; 3) confirmation in grace; and 4) the yea and amen of the bride.

b. The Mystico doctrinal Interpretation. (Understanding the whole as a description of the relation between Christ and His Church).

Athanasius, Expositio in Cant. Canticorum (now lost, but still known to Photius Cod. 139; preferred the explanation of the bride as the Church above that of making her to be the individual soul; so also the pseudo-Athanasian Synopsis div. Scripturœ, 1. XVI).26

Epiphanius, Commentarius super Cant. Salomonis ed. P. F. Foggini, Rom. 1750 (of doubtful authenticity, especially because the eighty concubines of Solomon, Song of Solomon 6:8, are here explained of dumb, i.e. non-prophesying spirits of the prophets, whilst Epiphanius in his Panarion (1. III. p. 2) finds in those concubines the eighty heresies of Christendom prefigured. It is at all events very ancient, e.g. already attested by Cassiodorus de Inst. divin. liter. c. 5, and is extremely rich in whimsical interpretations, as e.g., that the winter, Song of Solomon 2:11, denotes the sufferings of Christ; the voice of the turtle-dove, Song of Solomon 2:12, the preaching of Paul, the former persecutor of the Christians, etc. Some would regard it as a work of Bishop Philo of Carpasus; see e.g. M. A. Giacomelli (Philonis episc. Carpasii, enarratio in Cant. Canticorum, Romœ, 1772). [It is evidently a breviary, or short expository compendium, mainly derived by the author from the writings of others; occasionally, as on Song of Solomon 3:6-8, containing a double exposition of the same passage. In it Christ is the Bridegroom, the Church the Bride.”—Thrupp.]

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis XIV., Opp. ed. Touttée, Par., 1720 (explains the litter, Song of Solomon 3:9, of the cross of Christ; the silver of its feet of His betrayer’s thirty pieces of silver; the purple of its cushion of the purple robe of the suffering Redeemer; Solomon’s wedding crown of Christ’s crown of thorns, etc.).

[“Of the same spiritual kind was the general interpretation of the Christian Fathers; of Basil, of Gregory of Nazianzus, of even (as we learn from his scholar Theodoret) the literal interpreter Diodore of Tarsus, of Chrysostom,” etc., etc.—Thrupp.]

[Polychronius Diaconus, Enarratio in Canticum Canticorum.

Cassiodorus, Expositio in Cant. Cant. Though passing under the name of Cassiodorus, its authorship is doubtful and it may belong to a later date.

Justus Orgelitanus (Bishop of Urgel in Catalonia, Spain, cir. A.D. 529), In Cant. Cant. explicatio mystica.

Isidorus Hispalensis, Expositio in Cantica Canticorum. For the titles of various commentaries of little note, belonging to the middle ages, see Darling’s Cyclopœdia Bibliographica (Holy Scriptures), pp. 578 ff.—Tr.]

[“Genebrand, Bishop of Aix († 1597), a learned Benedictine, wrote two comments, a larger and smaller, both in the latter part of the sixteenth century; and his work is distinguished by collections from the Rabbins.”—Williams.]

Hieron. Osorius (canon at Evora in Portugal about 1600): Paraphrasis et Commentaria in Ecclesiasten et in Canticum Canticorum, Lugduni, 1611 (“mutuum Christi et Ecclesiœ amorem Salomon explicare volens, fœminœ et viri, mutuo se amantium, affectiones elegantissime descripsit”).

John Piscator, Commentarius in Proverbia Salomonis itemque Canticum Canticorum, Herborn. 1647.

John Gerhard, Predigten über das Hohelied [Sermons on the Song of Solomon] in his Postilla Salomonea, Jena, 1666, adopts the allegorical interpretation prevalent in the Church; so also A. Calov in the “Biblia illustrata,” as well as L. Osiander in his Bibelwerk, Carpzov in his Introductio in libb. V. T., J. H. Michaelis in his Annotatt. in Hagiogr. Vol. II., Joach. Lange in the Salomonische Licht und Recht, Buddeus, Wilisch and many others.

Starke, (Synopsis, Part IV.) closely follows those last mentioned in seeing in the Song of Solomon “a treatise, in which the union of Christ with believers is set forth under the emblem of the most tender love of a bridegroom and bride,” or in some sense also a “prophetical book,” in which (without chronological order) is represented: “the coming of Messiah in the flesh, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the gathering of the N. Test. Church from Jews and Gentiles, as well as the special trials and leadings of the Church,” etc.).

Magn. Fr. Roos, “Fussstapfen des Glaubens Abrahams” [Footsteps of the faith of Abraham], St. 5, 1773 (the bridegroom is Christ, the bride the Church, the daughters of Jerusalem and the queens, concubines and virgins mentioned in Song of Solomon 6:8 represent the various classes of believers; the whole describes the loving intercourse of Christ with His people in this world, etc.; comp. further particulars in Delitzsch, Hohel. pp. 58–61).

O. v. Gerlach, das Alte Test., etc., Vol. III., 1849. The whole “portrays the various advances and estrangements conducting ever to a more perfect union in the love of Jehovah or Christ and His Church, yet not in the form of a regularly unfolding history but in certain significant transactions, which though related to each other are without any close connection.” In the explanation of the details much uncertainty and capricious vacillation.

K. F. Keil, Lehrbuch der historisch-kritischen Einleitung in’s A. T. [Historico-critical Introduction to the O. Test.], 1853, finds as already in Haevernick’s Introduction, Part III., edited by him, “under the allegory of the conjugal love of Solomon and Shulamith” the loving communion between the Lord and His Church, depicted according to its ideal nature, which results from the selection of Israel to be the people of the Lord.

Hengstenberg, das Hohelied Salomonis ausgelegt, [the Song of Solomon Expounded], Berl., 1853, makes the only correct “spiritual interpretation” of the Song of Solomon to lie in this that the “heavenly Solomon” must be distinguished from Solomon, the earthly author of the Song, as the object of its descriptions; and the beloved of this heavenly Solomon must be confessed to be the “daughter of Zion,” and the whole, therefore, like the 45th Psalm, which is a sort of “compendium of the Song of Solomon,” must be allegorically explained of the Messiah and His Church in the Old and the New Test. In the details there is much that is trifling and arbitrary; e.g. the hair of Shulamith compared with a flock of goats, Song of Solomon 4:1, signifies the mass of the nations converted to the Church of the Lord; the navel of Shulamith, Song of Solomon 7:3, denotes “the cup from which the Church refreshes the thirsty (i.e. those longing for salvation) with a noble and refreshing draught;” the sixty and eighty wives of Solomon point to the admission of “the original gentile nations into the Church,” because 140 or seven multiplied by two and by ten forms the “signature of the Covenant,” and because in the formation of his household from women of the most diverse nations Solomon’s purpose was directed “to a symbolic prefiguration of the kingdom of Christ,” p. 169, and so on.

H. A. Hahn, das Hohelied von Salomo, übersetzt und erklärt [The Song of Solomon, translated and explained], Bresl., 1852, explains the Song of Solomon as setting forth under a dramatic dress and in the course of six acts, the fundamental thought that “the kingdom of Israel is called to vanquish heathendom finally with the weapons of righteousness and love, and to conduct it back again to the peaceful rest of a loving communion with God.” According to this, therefore, Shulamith is a representative of heathendom, and particularly of Japhetic heathendom; and her younger sister, Song of Solomon 8:9 ff., corresponds to Hamitic heathendom, which is at last also to be converted too.

G. Hoelemann, Die Krone des Hohenlieds [The crown of the Song of Solomon], Leipz. 1856, approaches most nearly to the view of Hengstenberg, only he avoids the too specific explanation of minute details and declares it inadmissible—comp. below, p. 43.

c. The Mystico-political or Mystico-historical Interpretation. (This differs from the preceding mainly in that it understands by the bride not the Church but the theocracy of the Old Test., and consequently approximates more to the Jewish allegorical explanation).

Augustin, de Civit. Dei, 1. XVII. c. 8, 13, 20 (ed. Bened. Tom. VII., p. 714 ff.), refers the relation of the two lovers to the theocracy in the Old Test. and its fortunes.

Luther, Brevis enarratio in Cantica Canticorum, Opp. ed. Erlang. Vol. XXI., explains—herein differing from many other expressions, in which he adopts the common mystico-doctrinal interpretation—the

bride to be the Old Test theocracy in Israel at the time of its greatest splendor, and makes the whole a eulogy by Solomon of this his kingdom. “Est enim encomium politiœ, quœ temporibus Salomonis in pulcherrima pace floruit. Quemadmodum enim in S. Scriptura, qui scripserunt Cantica, de rebus a se gestis ea scripserunt,27 sic Salomon per hoc poëma nobis suam politiam commendat, et quasi encomium pacis et prœsentis status reipublicœ instituit in quo gratias Deo agit pro summo illo beneficio, pro externa pace, in aliorum exemplum, ut ipsi quoque sic discant Deo gratias agere, agnoscere beneficia summa, et orare, si quid minus recte in imperio accident, ut corrigatur” (p. 278). “Constituit Deum sponsum et populum suum sponsam, atque ita canit, quantopere Deus populum illum diligat, quot et quantis beneficiis eum afficiat et cumulet, denique ea benignitate et clementia. eundem complectatur ac foveat, qua nullus unquam sponsus sponsam suam complexus est ac fovit” (p. 276).28

[John Brentius, the Suabian reformer, adopted the same theory. Ginsburg quotes from his 32d homily the following language respecting the Song of Songs: “Carmen encomiasticum, quod de laude regni et politiœ suœ Solomon conscripsit.”]

Leon. Hug, “Das Hohelied in einer noch unversuchten Deutung,” [The Song of Solomon in a hitherto unattempted explanation], 1813, and “Schutzschrift für seine Deutung des Hohen-liedes und desselben weitere Erläuterung” [Defence of his explanation of the Song of Solomon and its further elucidation], 1815, sees in the bride the kingdom of the ten tribes, in the bridegroom king Hezekiah of Judah designated as Solomon, in the brothers of Shulamith, Song of Solomon 8:8-9, a party in the house of Judah, in the whole a representation clothed in idyllic form of the longing felt by the kingdom of the ten tribes for reunion with Judah but which those “brothers” opposed. Comp. in opposition to this allegorical explanation favored only by Herbst in Welte’s Einl. in’s A. T. [Introduction to the Old Test.], Ewald, p. 40.

Kaiser, “Das Hohelied, ein Collectivgesang auf Serubabel, Esra und Nehemia, als die Wiederhersteller einer jüdischen Verfassung in der Provinz Juda” [Canticles, a collective song respecting Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah as the restorers of a Jewish constitution in the province of Judah], 1825, a peculiar politico-allegorical explanation, which is wrecked by the untenable character of its historical basis alone, altogether apart from the artificial and arbitrary nature of much beside that it contains.

Rosenmueller, “Ueber des Hohenliedes Sinn und Auslegung [On the meaning and interpretation of the Song of Solomon] in Keil’s und Tzschirner’s Analeklten, Part I., Art. 3, 1830, seeks to establish anew the old Jewish allegorical explanation of the Song of the relation of Jehovah to His people, with reference to the analogy brought forward by Jones: “On the mystical poetry of the Persians and Hindoos” (in the Asiatic Researches, Vol. III.) with the Gitagovinda and the religious poetry of the Soofees—which analogy, however, is more apparent than real, and proves nothing for the far older Song of Solomon; (comp. Ewald, p. 38 ff.; Delitzsch, p. 66 ff.).

d. The mystico-prophetic or Chronological Interpretation. (Regarding the Song of Solomon as a prophecy of the development of the Church in its several periods, as a sort of Apocalypse, therefore, or as a prophetic compendium of the history of the Church and of heretics).

Aponius, Expositio Cant. lib. VI., of the seventh century; takes the Song of Solomon to be a continuous picture of the history of revelation from the creation to the final judgment. [“A sentence near the opening of his commentary has apparently induced the assertion that he follows the Chaldee in viewing the Song as of a historico-prophetical character. An inspection of the commentary will show that it contains no trace of the influence of the Chaldee, and that it is not more historico-prophetical than the commentaries of the earlier Christians. Aponius finds in Song of Solomon 8:1; Song of Solomon 8:13 an indication of the ultimate conversion of the Jews after much suffering; but the germ of a corresponding interpretation of other passages may be traced also in Cassiodorus.”—Thrupp.]

Nicolaus de Lyra, Postilla in universa Biblia finds represented in chaps. 1–6 the history of Israel from Moses to Christ, in chap. 7 and 8 that of Christianity to the time of Constantine.

G. Ederus, Jacobus de Valentia, etc. (see on these and other advocates of the chronological explanation of Cocceius, Delitzsch, p. 56 f.). [The Spanish prelate, James Perez of Valentia (1507), “instead of dividing the Song into Old Testament and New Testament portions, viewed it as setting forth throughout, primarily the different phases of Old Testament history, and then also under the figure of these and simultaneously with them the mysteries of redemption. He divides the Song into ten separate canticles, commencing respectively Song of Solomon 1:2, Song of Solomon 1:12; Song of Solomon 2:8; Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:16; Song of Solomon 5:8; Song of Solomon 6:1; Song of Solomon 7:13. “Return, return, etc.; Song of Solomon 8:5. These severally delineate the promises to the patriarchs; the construction of the tabernacle; the speaking of God from the tabernacle; the carrying of the ark through the wilderness with attendant miracles; Moses’ ascent of Pisgah; the death of Moses; the entrance into Canaan; the conquest and partition of Canaan; the conflicts and victories under the Judges; and the prosperity and peace under Solomon. The corresponding events typified by them are the general expectations of the Old Testament saints; the incarnation of Christ; His teaching; His earthly career and miracles; His going up to Jerusalem; His death; the gathering into the Church of the first Jewish converts; the mission of the apostles to the Gentiles; the conflicts and victories of the martyr church; and the prosperity and peace under Constantine.” “Eder, rector of the University of Vienna (1582), divided the Song into ten dramas, on the same principle apparently as Perez.”—Thrupp.]

John Cocceius, Cogitationes de Cantico Canticorum Salomonis, Opp. ed. Amsterd., 1673, II. vols, finds, Song of Solomon 6:9, the contest of the Guelphs and Ghibellines; Song of Solomon 7:5 (in the comparison of the bride with the pools at Heshbon the weeping Church of the 15th century as the period of laborious struggle for the reformation of the Church by the great reformatory councils; Song of Solomon 7:6 ff. Luther in his conflict with the degenerate courts of the 16th century; Song of Solomon 7:11 the capture of the elector John Frederick at Mühlberg, etc., etc.)

Groenewegen, Gulich, Reinhard and other followers of Cocceius attach themselves closely to the preceding; so also partially at least.

John Marck, In Cant. Canticorum Salomonis commentar., Amstel., 1703.

Casp. Heunisch (Luth.) Commentarius apocalypticus in Cant. Canticorum, 1688, finds, as Cocceius had already done, seven periods of the church represented in the Song of Solomon, corresponding with the seven apocalyptic epistles, the seventh of which depicted in chap, 8, is to begin in the year A. D., 2060.

G. F. G. Goltz, Das Hohelied Salomonis, eine Weissagung von den letzten Zeiten der Kirche Jesu Christi: [The Song of Solomon, a prophecy of the last times of the Church of Jesus Christ], Berl., 1850, regards in the interest of Irvingite speculations the Song of Solomon as a prophetical book, which sets forth the final fortunes of the Church, “shortly before, during and after the second coming of Christ,” and accordingly describes, e.g., in Song of Song of Solomon 3:0 the restoration of the original apostolic constitution of the Church, etc.

e. The Mystico-Mariological Interpretation. (Conceiving Shulamith to be identical with Mary, the mother of God.)

Ambrose, Sermo de virginitate perpetua S. Mariœ, Opp. ed. Paris, 1642, Vol. IV, explains in addition to the “shut gate” Ezekiel 44:0, many passages of the Song of Solomon likewise, especially that of the “locked garden” and the “sealed fountain” Song of Solomon 4:12 of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

[Gregorius Magnus, Expositio super Cantica Canticorum. Moody Stuart says: “The two most distinctive features in his exposition are a great expression of desire for the conversion of the Jews in expounding the passage ‘I brought him into my mother’s house,’ which he interprets of ancient Israel; and the introduction of the Virgin Mary into the song, but it is only to the effect that ‘the crown wherewith his mother, crowned him’ was the humanity which Christ derived from Mary.”

Michael Psellus, Junior, in the eleventh century “wrote a metrical paraphrase and a prose commentary on the Canticles” in Greek. Moody Stuart says of it: “The Virgin Mary is brought in most fully and zealously; and to the writer nothing can be more clear than that she is ‘the dove and the only one’ in contrast to the surrounding multitude of queens and princesses.”

“A similar view is taken of Song of Solomon 6:8-9 in western literature by the Abbot Lucas, the epitomizer of Aponius.” Thrupp.]

Rupert v. Deutz, in Cant. Canticorum, ll. VII., carries out this suggestion of Ambrose in a continuous exegesis of the entire book.

Dionysius Carthusianus, Gulielmus Parvus, Michael Ghislerius, Salmeron refer according to the hermeneutical rule of the threefold sense, all that is said of the spouse in the Song of Solomon: 1. To the Church; 2. To the individual believing soul; 3. To the holy Virgin.

Cornelius a Lapide, Commentarii in V. T., Venet., 1730 ff., as the foregoing, only he makes the explanation of the holy Virgin to be the sensus principalis.29 [Ginsburg remarks that “he was the first who endeavored to show that this song is a drama in five acts.” The themes of these five parts are stated by Thrupp to have been respectively “the infancy of the Christian church, its conflicts with the heathen power, its establishment under Constantine, its sufferings from heresy, and its renovation under the later Fathers.”]

f. The Mystico-hieroglyphic Interpretation. (Conceiving the figurative language of Canticles to have been the offspring of some esoteric doctrine or Egyptian hieroglyphical wisdom of Solomon.)

v. Pufendorf (Vice-president), “Umschreibung des Hohenliedes, oder die Gemeine mit Christo und den Engeln im Grabe” [Paraphrase of the Song of Solomon or communion with Christ and the angels in the grave] edited by Runge, 1776. The object described is supposed to be the participation of the believers of the Old and New Test. in the grave and death of the Saviour, in which also their desire for His appearing is likewise represented, and the future of the Church until the general resurrection is prophetically prefigured. The “virgins” (עֲלָמוֹת) Song of Solomon 1:3; Song of Solomon 6:8, etc., are the “pure and chaste souls shut up in the dark grave and waiting for the light,” because they are so denominated from עָלַם “to be hidden,” etc., etc.

Kistemaker (Cath. clergyman) Cantic. Canticorum illustratum ex hierographia orientali, 1818, agreeing in method with the preceding, but in results with the common interpretation of the synagogue and the church, according to which the bride is the people of God.

[“Cantica Canticorum chymice explicata is the title of a book in the library of the British Museum, but the book itself in the lapse of years has gone astray; and we can form no conjecture of its contents except from the words of Carpzovius, that the Alchymists dream that under the shadow of his words Solomon has delineated (in the Song) the whole secret concerning the philosopher’s stone.” Moody Stuart.]


b. The profane-erotic or one-sided Interpretations of the Song as secular history.

That many of the most ancient Christian interpreters regarded Canticles as a Song of worldly love portraying voluptuous and sensual images, is attested by Philastrius, bishop of Brescia, († about 390) who adduces this view in his list of heresies as one of the heresies of his time. Theodoret († 457), who combats the same opinion, already enumerates several modifications of it. According to one, Shulamith was some bride or concubine of Solomon’s, according to another Pharaoh’s daughter, 1 Kings 3:1, according to another still Abishag of Shunem. Among the adherents of this profane-erotic exegesis, Theodoret had doubtless in his eye Theodore of Mopsuestia († 429), the well-known advocate of a strictly literal method of interpreting Scripture in the sense of the liberal theology of Antioch, and who was reproached by one of his later antagonists, Leontius of Byzantium, for having interpreted the Canticles “libidinose pro sua mente et lingua meretricia,” and whose commentary, therefore, together with the rest of his works, was ecclesiastically anathematized by the fifth ecumenical council in the time of the emperor Justinian (553), and has in consequence been lost. During the middle ages this profane mode of explanation entirely ceased even among the theologians of Judaism.30 And subsequently in the period of the reformation the reformed humanist, Sebastian Castellio (1544), was the first to venture again to explain the Song as a “colloquium Salomonis cum amica quadam Sulamitha,” and on account of this alleged purely worldly character to demand that it should be banished from the canon of Scripture, which led to his own speedy banishment from Geneva, at the instance of Calvin.31 In the following century Hugo Grotius trod partly at least in his footsteps, who, it is true, theoretically admitted the propriety of a typical and allegorical Messianic interpretation, but in fact continued to stand by a one-sided literal and pretty profane interpretation; also Richard Simon, the well-known free-thinker of the oratorio, to whom the book appeared to be an anthology of erotic pieces of poetry without order or connection—whilst others went further and either warned against reading the book as a publication injurious to morality (Simon Episcopius), or thought they must see in it a mere idyl, an eclogue with coarse comparisons like those of Polyphemus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (John Clericus). Then, soon after Semler’s and J. D. Michaelis’ attempts to prove, in a critical way, the impossibility of an allegorical or in general of any spiritual and Messianic view, the eighteenth century brought the beginning of that splintering or crumbling process initiated by Lessing and Herder (see § 1, Rem. 2), as well as the modern-drama mode of understanding it, the way for which was paved by J. C. Jacobi, v. Ammon, Keller and others, both resting on the assumption that the contents of the book were decidedly secular and erotic, and both cultivated and variously modified by numerous partisans, scientific and unscientific, down to the most recent times. And then especially in the dramatic mode of understanding it, besides the assumption of a simple action with but one love in the case (so in particular Weissbach), various hypotheses of a more complicated sort are in vogue, according to which two (Umbreit, Ewald, etc., and generally speaking the majority) or even three pairs of lovers (Hitzig, Renan) come upon the stage.


(Until the middle of the 18th century, all proceeding from the simple assumption, that the poem sings of but one loving relation, viz., that between Solomon and Shulamith.)

Theodore of Mopsuestia (see on his Commentarius in Cant. Canticorum, which is unfortunately entirely lost: Leontius of Byzantium, adversus Nestorianos et Eutychianos, in Gallandii Bibliotheca Patrum, Vol. XII., and comp. the monographs of Sieffert (1827), Fritzsche (1836), Klener and others). [“In the fifth century Theodore of Mopsuestia ventured on asserting that the bride of the Song of Songs was none other than the Egyptian princess whom Solomon espoused. Whether or no any relics of the interpretation had been traditionally preserved in the East, we find the Jacobite primate Abul-Faraj († 1286) allowing in his Arabic history the Song to be outwardly a dialogue between Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter. Otherwise the name of Pharaoh’s daughter has not been traced in connection with the Song till the occurrence of a reference to her, though even then ‘merely in passing,’ in some of the first printed English Bibles in the sixteenth century. [See note to p. 9] The assertion of Davidson and others after him that she makes her appearance in Origen is most improbable; and after a careful search I feel assured that it is incorrect. I may add that Perez unjustly charges the ancient Jews with asserting that the Song was written in praise of her.” Thrupp. Moody Stuart says to the same purport: “There may have been oversight on our part, but we have not found in any of these ancient authors [from Origen to Bernard] the remotest allusion to Pharaoh’s daughter, and must confess ourselves quite baffled in a somewhat laborious attempt to trace her introduction into the Song of Solomon.”]

Sebast. Castellio, Psalterium reliquaque sacrarum literarum carmina cum argumentis et brevi locorum difficiliorum declaratione, Basil, 1547, labors in general to dress up the contents of Holy Scripture in Latin as classical and smooth as possible, and hence everywhere substitutes respublica for ecclesia, heroes for sancti, genius for angelus, Phœbus for sol; Jupiter or even Gradivus, Armipotens for Deus, lotio for baptismus, etc., and in Canticles in particular makes use of sugary fondling and softly expressions to characterize its amatory contents, e.g., Song of Solomon 1:14 f. “Mea columbula ostende mihi tuum vulticulum. Fac ut audiam tuam voculam, nam et voculam venustulam et vulticulum habes lepidulum,” Song of Solomon 2:15 : “capite nobis vulpeculas, vinearum vastatriculas,” etc.—He had already in Geneva, shortly before his exile noted in his Bible at Song of Solomon 7:1 the words “Sulamitha, amica Salomonis et sponsa,” and had declared orally to Calvin: “que Salomon, quand il fit le chapitre vii, était en folie et conduit par mondanité et non par le Saint Esprit”—for which reason Calvin, without further ado, charged him with the view that Canticles was a “carmen obscœnum et lascivum, quo Salomo impudicos suos amores descripserit.”—Comp. also his complete Latin translation of the Bible: Biblia V. et N. T. ex versione Seb. Castalionis c. ejusd. annotatt., Basil, ap. Oporin., 1551, and frequently; as well as Seb. Castalionis, defensio suarum translationum Bibliorum, Bas., 1562; finally his biography by Jac. Maehly, Bas., 1863)

Hugo Grotius, Annotationes in V. T., Par. 1664 (declares the Song of Solomon to be an idyl-like carmen nuptiale, representing the “garritus conjugum inter se, Salomonis et filiœ regis Ægypti, interloquentibus etiam choris duobus tam juvenum quam virginum, qui in proximis thalamo locis excubabant.” “Nuptiarum arcana” he says further, “sub honestis verborum involucris hic latent; quœ etiam causa est, cur Hebrœi veteres hunc librum legi noluerint nisi a jam conjugio proximis.” Besides the sensus literalis, the allegoricus and typicus are also to be duly regarded—a rule, however, which is almost entirely disregarded by him even in the main controlling passages. Comp. the still bolder and more open procedure of S. Episcopius in his Institutiones Theologiœ.

Richard Simon, Histoire Critique du V. T., 1685, Vol. I. c. 4; Canticles, a collection of erotic idyllic songs, without order or unity.

John Clericus, Commentarius in V. T., Tübing., 1733 ff.


a. The founders of the modem profane erotic view (adhering in the first instance only to the more general results of the negative criticism).

John Solomon Semler, “Kurze Vorstellung wider die neue Paraphrasin über das Hohelied” [Brief remonstrance against the new paraphrase of the Song of Solomon], 1757, and “De mysticœ interpretationis studio hodie parum utili,” 1760.

John David Michaelis, in Rob. Lowth. prœlectiones de s. poësi Hebrœorum notœ et epimetra, Gœtting., 1758; ed. II, 1768 f., rejects, nay ridicules the allegorical interpretation as well of the Church as of the Synagogue; holds the poem to be a mere earthly love-song, and nevertheless supposes that he can relieve or remove the offence of its standing in the canon by seeking to understand its amatory contents of the “casti conjugum amores,” instead of “de sponso sponsaque ante nuptias.” In the “Neuorientalische und exeget. Bibliothek,” Part IV, 1788, he affirms that he would rather venture upon the explanation of the Apocalypse than upon that of the Song of Solomon, and in his “Deutsche Uebersetzung des A. T. mit Anmerkungen für Ungelehrte” [German translation of the O. Test., with remarks for the unlearned] 1769 ff. he leaves it out entirely.

b. The Divisive attempts or fragmentary hypotheses. (Canticles, a conglomerate of erotic songs and fragments of songs).

J. Th. Lessing, Eclogœ regis Salomonis, Lips. 1777, compares the alleged idyls of Canticles to those of Theocritus and Virgil.

J. G. Herder, “Lieder der Liebe, die ältesten und schönsten aus dem Morgenlande” [Songs of love, the oldest and most beautiful of the Orient], 1778, declares the love depicted in Canticles to be essentially pure and innocent, to be compared with the love of Adam and Eve, whilst they continued naked and sinless in paradise, and censures the profane mode of treating it equally with the allegorical explanation as hypocrisy, and lacking in moral and esthetic purity. (Comp. Umbreit, in Herzog’s Real Enc. VI. p. Song 215: “All the lily purity and the full fragrance of the Song has been transferred to his composition, which is in entire sympathy with it, and even the clare-obscure, which is elsewhere made an objection to this extraordinary man, is here an advantage to him as an interpreter; the rosy morning light, which is spread over the Song itself, floats likewise over his exposition, and invests it with its very peculiar charm and fascination. To this belongs even his profound and delicate distribution of the whole into separate voices, accordant only in the breath of love, though here we cannot agree with him,” etc.)

J. G. Eichhorn, Einleitung in’s A. T. [Introduction to the O. Test.] Vol. III. Leipzig, 1780, ff., agrees in all essential matters with Herder’s esthetically-sublimating and critically-dissecting view: so Hufnagel, in Eichhorn’s Repertorium, VII, 199; Paulus and Velthusen, ibid., XVII, 108 ff. (see above, § 1, Rem. 1); Jahn, Einl. in’s A. T. II. p. 816 ff.; Pareau, Institutio interpretis V. T., p. 559; de Wette, Einleitung in die Kanon. und Apokryph. Büch. des A. T., Berl., 1817, and repeatedly; Augusti, Grundriss einer Hist.-Krit. Einl. [Outlines of a historico-critical Introduction], 1806, 1827.

J. F. Kleuker, Sammlung der Gedichte Salomo’s, sonst das Hohelied genannt [Collection of the Songs of Solomon, otherwise called the Canticles], 1780, reproduces the view of Herder with slight modifications, only somewhat more learned and thorough; comp. § 1, Rem. 1.

J. Chr. Döderlein, Salomo’s Prediger und Hoheslied neu übersetzt mit Anmerkungen [Solomon’s Ecclesiastes and Canticles, newly translated, with remarks], 1784; 2d edit., 1792, likewise adheres most strictly to Herder.

Velthusen, “Der Schwesternhandel, eine morgenländische Idyllenkette” [The affair of the sisters, a series of oriental idyls], 1786, and: “Amethyst, Beitrag hist.-kritischer Untersuchungen über das Hohelied” [Amethyst; a contribution to the historico-critical investigation of Canticles] Brunsw., 1786; likewise: Cantilena Cantilenarum Salomonis duplici interpretatione illustrata, Helmst., 1786.

J. F. Gaab, Beiträge zur Erklärung des sog. Hohenliedes und der Klagelieder [Contributions to the explanation of the so-called Canticles and the Lamentations], Tüb., 1795; Canticles an “anthology” of erotic songs.

Justi, Blumen alt-hebräischer Dichtkunst [Flowers of the ancient Hebrew art of poetry], Giessen, 1807.

J. C. Döpke, Philologisch-kritischer Commentar zum Hohenliede Salomo’s, Leipz., 1829, holds that the songs forming the Canticles, “many of which appear in a mutilated condition, were not originally composed and committed to writing at the same time, but were prepared on various occasions, probably preserved in the mouth of the people, and afterwards put together.” Comp. in opposition Umbreit’s review in the Stud, und Krit., 1829, II.

Ed. Isid. Magnus, Kritische Bearbeitung und Erklärung des Hohenliedes Salomo’s [Critical treatise on and explanation of the Song of Solomon], Halle, 1842, makes out no less than twenty distinct songs and fragments of songs in the course of the poem; comp. § 1, Rem. 2, as well as Delitzsch, p. 2 ff.

Heiligstedt, in Maurer’s Commentarius grammaticus criticus in V. T. IV, 2, 1848, regards the whole as a combination of twelve erotic songs in one idyl; comp. § 1, Rem. 3.

Rebenstein, Das Lied der Lieder [The Song of Songs], 1834.

Dan., Sanders, Das Hohelied Salomonis [The Song of Solomon] Leipz. 1866. Comp. on this modern Jewish attempt at exposition, as well as on the preceding, which serves as its basis and model, § 1, Rem. 2, and Delitzsch, p. 6 f.

E. W. Lossner, Salomo und Shulamith, die Blumen des Hohenlieds zu einem Strausse gebunden [Solomon and Shulamith, the flowers of the Canticles tied together in one nosegay], Leipz. 1851 (comp. likewise § 1, Rem. 2).

c. The modern dramatic view. (The Song of Solomon an erotic drama with two or more principal personages, that is, either with a simpler or—by the assumption of several love affairs—a more complicated action).

J. C. Jacobi (Preacher at Celle), Das durch eine leichte und ungekünstelte Erklärung von seinen Vorwürfen gerettete Hohelied [The Song of Solomon freed from objections by a simple and inartificial explanation] 1771. The whole a song in praise of conjugal fidelity, if not strictly dramatic, yet preserving the dialogue form, worthy of a sacred poet, and instructive and salutary for the times of Solomon and his successors.—“Shulamith is by reason of her beauty brought to Solomon’s court together with her husband, who has been moved by kindness to divorce her (?); and as they are taking her away from her husband’s side and presenting her wine, the king approaches and offers to kiss her. Shulamith is alarmed and cries to her husband: “he is going to kiss me!” etc.—The entire attempt is very awkward and clumsy throughout.

J. W. Fr. Hezel, Neue Uebersetzung und Erklärung des Hohenlieds [New Translation and Explanation of the Song of Solomon], 1777.

Chr. Fr. v. Ammon, Salomo’s verschmähte Liebe oder die belohnte Treue [Solomon’s love disdained, or fidelity rewarded] Leipz., 1795 (likewise important on account of the attempt to show that the poem is strictly one melodramatic whole).

K. Fr. Staeudlin, über das Hohelied [on the Song of Solomon] in Paulus’ Memorabilien, Part 2, p. 178 ff., like Jacobi only in a more delicate and skilful manner he makes Shulamith’s country lover come likewise upon the stage, and assigns to him a considerable share in the action, especially from Song of Song of Solomon 6:0 onward.

K. Fr. Umbreit, Lied der Liebe, das älteste und schönste aus dem Morgenlande [Song of love the oldest and most beautiful of the orient] Gött. 1820; 2d Edit. 1828, and Erinnerung an das Hohelied [Reminder of the Song of Solomon], 1839, aims at the utmost simplification of the plot, and likewise the ethical idealizing of its contents in imitation of Herder’s esthetic view; he moreover declares Song of Solomon 8:8-14 to be a spurious addition.

H. Ewald, Das Hohelied Salomonis übersetzt mit Einl., Anmerkungen, etc., [The Song of Solomon translated with an Introduction, Remarks, etc.] Gött., 1826; comp. die poet. Bücher des A. T’s., I. 1839; 2d edit., with the title: Die Dichter des A. Bds., etc. [The poets of the Old Test.], 1866 (see above, § 3, Rem. 1 and 2.)

Köster, über das Hohelied [On the Song of Solomon] in Pelt’s Theol. Mitarbeiten for the year 1839, No. 2.

Bernhard Hirzel, Das Lied der Lieder oder der Sieg der Treue, übersetzt und erklärt [The Song of Songs, or the triumph of fidelity, translated and explained]; Zürich, 1840, substantially follows Ewald, whose view he seeks to correct in particular passages.

Fr. Böttcher, Die ältesten Bühnendichtungen [The oldest stage-poetry], Leipz., 1850; comp. Exeget.-Krit. Aehrenlese z. A. T. [Exegetical and critical gleanings in the Old Test.], 1849, p. 80 ff., and Neue Exeget.-Krit. Aehrenlese [New exeget. crit. gleanings], Part III., 1865, p. 76 ff. He explains the Song of Solomon as “a melodramatic text of a popular stage-play performed in the kingdom of Israel about B. C. 950, directed against the royal house of Solomon and the morals of his harem so menacing to family life, and the exhibition accompanied after the manner of Hindoo, Chinese and even ancient Italian dramas by acting and brief improvisations;” in order to give the whole as burlesque and clownish a character as possible, he makes the shepherd penetrate several times into the royal harem from Song of Solomon 1:15 onward (Song of Solomon 1:15 ff.; Song of Solomon 4:7 ff.; Song of Solomon 7:12 ff.), treat his comrades, Song of Solomon 5:1, to the viands and liquors of the wedding feast, and finally, Song of Solomon 7:12 ff., go off with his beloved, without the king doing anything to prevent it, etc.—Comp. § 2, Remark 1.

G. M. Rocke, Das Hohelied, Erstlingsdrama aus dem Morgenlande, oder Familiensünden und Liebesweihe. Ein Sittenspiegel für Brautstand und Ehe [The Song of Solomon, a primitive drama from the orient, or family sins and love’s devotion. A moral mirror for the betrothed and married], Halle, 1851. He explains a large part of the various scenes as dreams, some of which were directly represented (by apparitions of ghosts), and some narrated subsequently (so, e.g., Song of Solomon 2:8-17; Song of Solomon 3:1-5; Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3); he takes other sections as Song of Solomon 5:8 ff.; Song of Solomon 6:11 ff. to be rhapsodies of Shulamith’s romantic and enthusiastic fancy, etc.)

E. Meier, Das Hohelied, etc. [The Song of Solomon] Tübingen, 1854, returns to the simpler and more moderate view of Ewald.

F. Hitzig, Das Hohelied erklärt [The Song of Solomon explained] in the Kurzgefasstes exeget. Handb. zum A. T. [Condensed exegetical manual to the Old Test.], Part 16, Leipzig, 1855, brings in besides Shulamith and her country lover—comp. § 2, Rem. 1,—also Solomon’s wife (e.g., Song of Solomon 3:6-11; Song of Solomon 4:16 ff.), and one of his concubines (Song of Solomon 7:2-11) speaking and acting, thus making the plot as complicated as possible.

E. F. Friedrich, Cantici Canticorum Salomonis poetica forma, 1855, and “Das sogen. Hohelied Salomonis oder vielmehr das pathetische Dramation ‘Sulamith’ parallelistisch aus dem Hebr. übersetzt” [The so-called Song of Solomon, or rather the pathetic drama ‘Shulamith’ translated from the Hebrew in parallelisms]. Reprinted from the Altpreussische Monatsschrift, Königsberg, 1866. He seeks with the minutest care to dissect the artistic structure of the dramatic whole in its details, distinguishing four acts with ten scenes and one hundred and sixty chain-links (catellas), or clauses into which the verses are sub-divided; he mingles with it much that is trifling and incongruous without doing justice in any way to the theological character of the poem.

J. G. Vaihinger, Der Prediger und das Hohelied rhythmisch übersetzt und erklärt [Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon rhythmically translated and explained], Stutt., 1858, follows for the most part the view of Ewald, but with a critically independent attitude.

Fr. Ed. Weissbach, Das Hohelied Salomo’s übersetzt, erklärt und in seiner kunstreichen poet. Form dargestellt [The Song of Solomon translated, explained and exhibited in its highly artistic and poetical form], Leipz., 1858; by an acute and thorough criticism of the other erotic and dramatic views he simplifies the action of the piece to the extent of making it refer simply to one loving relation between Solomon and Shulamith, but denies the reality of the transaction (comp. § 4, Rem. 2), and in connection with this refuses also to admit the existence of a more profound ethical idea, or a typical and Messianic significance of the poem).

Ernest Renan, Le cantique des cantiques, traduit de l’ Hebreu, avec une étude sur le plan, l’ âge et le caractère du poëme, Paris, 1860, 2d edit., 1861, approaches, most nearly to the views of Böttcher and Hitzig, only he fantastically remodels them after his own fashion, and thus brings out a romantic sentimental pastoral piece, in which even a ballet is introduced (Song of Solomon 7:2 ff.: “une danseuse du Harem”). Comp. § 2, Rem. 1.


c. The typical-Messianic view, or that based upon its position in the redemptive history

The two principal modes of viewing the Song of Solomon thus far considered, the purely allegorical as well as the one-sided treatment of it as secular history, not only have the suspicious circumstance against them that the greatest vacillation prevails in shaping the views of their adherents in detail from the earliest periods to the present, and that no one of these views commends itself at first sight as a perfectly satisfactory solution of the enigma; but both of them introduce into the text of the Song strange and unproved assumptions which are in flat contradiction with its peculiar character both internally and externally. The allegorical explanation, however it may be modified in its details, makes the utterly inconceivable and improbable, nay, monstrous assumption, that by the “king Solomon” of the song is meant not the historical ruler so named, but a heavenly prototype of the same name, nay, in actual fact, no other than Jehovah Himself, and then further involves itself in inextricable difficulties in its explanation of particulars, e.g., of the sixty queens and eighty concubines of this heavenly Solomon, as well as of his mother, his sedan and crown, etc. To which is to be added further the suspicious circumstance that in every other instance in which the figurative language of the Old Test, symbolizes the relation of Jehovah to Israel as a marriage or betrothal, it is the bride that is represented in the least favorable light, nay, that is mostly described as a harlot32 (so particularly in Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel; comp. above, § 4, p. 16), whilst in the Song of Solomon the precise opposite of this is the case [?]. The profane secular-history explanation not only sees itself driven to various artificial hypotheses and auxiliary hypotheses, especially to the introduction of one, two, three or more subordinate persons, whose entrance upon the scene there is nothing in the text to indicate, and which, as particularly the “shepherd” or “herdsman,” are introduced as apparitions, suddenly and without any thing to prepare the way for their coming; it also leaves totally unexplained how this mere worldly love-song, in which Solomon is alleged to be represented in so extremely disadvantageous a light as the seducer of female innocence, could have found admission to the canon of Scripture, and this with a title, which prefixed to it with commendatory emphasis the very name of Solomon himself, the great royal singer and sage (comp. § 1 and 3)! Against the allegorical or directly Messianic view testimony is borne by the too earthly and even sinful colors, in which Solomon, the historical Solomon of the 1st book of Kings, is depicted as the here of the piece. The one-sided secular history explanation with its directly anti-Solomonic and consequently also anti-Messianic tendencies is refuted by the fact that Solomon’s perseverance in his adulterous designs and polygamous desires in the face of Shulamith’s innocence, cannot be shown to be a matter belonging to the subject of the piece by a single decisive proof-passage, but that on the contrary it is evident to an unbiassed exegesis that he and no other is Shulamith’s lover, and the real object of the dramatic representation is his being brought back from the dizzy heights of a harem’s voluptuous morals, to the morally pure and inviolable standpoint of conjugal chastity, love and fidelity.

Since the typical reference of the loving relation depicted in the piece to Christ and His Church, enters into combination with this simple and worthy view in the most unconstrained manner and of its own accord as it were, as has been already briefly intimated § 4, and as the exposition of the Song will have to show more in detail, this may be designated the typical-Messianic, or—since every element of the redemptive history possesses of itself, and by an inner necessity, a typical virtue which points forwards and upwards—the redemptive-history view. Attempts to establish and carry it out were probably already made here and there in the ancient church, especially as New Testament passages, such as above all Christ’s declaration respecting Himself as a greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42; comp. Matthew 6:28; Revelation 3:20), appear to favor it rather than the allegorical or the direct Messianic interpretation. But the greatly preponderating inclination of the fathers, which soon attained exclusive sway, to plunge immediately and at once into the spiritual sense, must have stifled in its birth every attempt to assert at the same time a historical sense, and branded it with the same anathema as the profane-erotic interpretation of Theodore of Mopsuestia. It was not until after the middle ages, therefore, that more numerous and important attempts were made to unite the historical with the more profound spiritual meaning by the intermediate link of the type, and attempts not barely of the half-way, external sort, like that of Grotius (see § 6), but such as were seriously meant and worthily maintained. Thus above all that of the noble Spanish mystic, Louis de Leon († 1591), who had it is true to pay the penalty in the prisons of the inquisition of his departure from the broadly trodden path of the traditional allegorizing, as well as his choice of the Spanish language for the composition of his commentary; and further the like attempts of the reformed interpreters, Mercier, Lightfoot and Lowth, as well as of the famous Catholic preacher and historian Bossuet. von Hofmann still tries to maintain the assumption common to these former adherents of the typical view, that the bride of the Song of Solomon was a daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, whilst Delitzsch and Naegelsbach who in the main agrees with him, espouse the view, which is without doubt to be preferred by reason of Song of Solomon 7:1, that the bride was an Israelitish country girl from Shunem.


Luis de Leon (Ludovicus Legionensis), Cantar de los Cantares—a translation and explanation of the Song of Solomon in classical Spanish, written about 1569. (According to the extracts given by C. A. Wilkens, Fray Luis de Leon, p. 206 ff., and the remarks by which he characterizes it, this expositor every where gives most prominence to the historical sense which he grasps with sound esthetic feeling and artless simplicity. “Only in individual passages is the veil lifted and the love of Jehovah to His people, of Christ to the soul, of believers to the Lord, appears as in the highest sense the rightful bearer of all the attributes heaped upon human love. For pure human love is the noblest copy of the divine. They are alike in their mutual aspirations, alike in their beginning, nutriment, development, operation, end; as also earthly beauty is the shadow of the eternally beautiful. Thus, too, the reception of the book into the canon is explained. The divine Spirit has in condescension to human weakness veiled the spiritual beauties of good things yet unknown in figures of things which are real, lovely and well known. We should learn to joy over the distant from the joy which the near affords, and thus suffer ourselves to be drawn to Him, who loves us above all.”—Fray Luis conceives the theme of the book to be simply “the bliss and pain of love” described in the form of a pastoral poem, in which king Solomon is represented as a shepherd, and his bride Shulamith, the daughter of the Egyptian king, as a shepherdess. Their love is depicted in the nicest and most perfect manner: in other amatory poems there is only found a shadow of the feeling and bliss of love, here love is described in primal perfection even to the most subtle features of its being.—As the inquisition at Valladolid took offence at this treatise on Canticles, partly on account of its contents, and partly because it was written in Spanish, it remained unprinted, and Leon published subsequently, after he had languished five years in prison, for his complete justification a Latin treatise “Fr. L. Legionensis, In Cantica Canticorum Salomonis explanatio” (Salom., 1580), in which, besides the historical sense, he also stated the spiritual more fully, and this partly in the allegorical, partly the typical method. Comp. Wilkens, Ibid., p. 317 ff.).

Jo. Mercerus (le Mercier), Commentarius in Job, Proverbia, Ecclesiast. et Cant. Canticorum, 1573.

John Lightfoot, Harmonia, Chronica et Ordo Vet. Testamenti; Opera, Traj. ad Rh. 1699. [A Chronicle of the Times and the Order of the Texts of the Old Testament; in his Works, London, 1684. He says I., p. 76. “After the building of the summer-house in the forest of Lebanon, Solomon pens the book of the Canticles, as appeareth by these passages in it, Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 7:4. Upon his bringing up Pharaoh’s daughter to the house that he had prepared for her, 1 Kings 9:24, he seemeth to have made this Song. For though the best and the most proper aim of it was at higher matters than an earthly marriage, yet doth he make his marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter a type of that sublime and spiritual marriage betwixt Christ and His church. Pharaoh’s daughter was a heathen and a stranger natively to the church of Israel; and withal she was a black-moor, as being an African, as Song of Solomon 1:4-5 alludeth to it; and so she was the kindlier type of what Solomon intended in all particulars.—Tr.]

Rob. Lowth, De Sacra poesi Hebrœorum prœlectiones academicœ; Oxon., 1753, 1763 (prœl. 30 ff.) [In the scheme and divisions of the book he adopts the view of Bossuet to be stated presently. In regard to its spiritual meaning he contends that it is neither a “continuous metaphor,” nor a “parable properly so called,” but a “mystical allegory in which a higher sense is superinduced upon a historical verity.” The bride he decides, though not without hesitation, to have been Solomon’s favorite wife, the daughter of Pharaoh; his marriage with an Egyptian being an apt adumbration of the Prince of peace, who espouses to Himself a church composed of Gentiles and of aliens. Her name he expresses in the form Solomitis, as derived from Solomon, like Caia from Caius, and intended to be suggestive of the higher sense of the Song.—Tr.]

Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Libri Salomonis, Proverbia, Ecclesiastes, Cantic. Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus, cum notis, etc. Paris, 1693. [He supposes the Song to be divided into seven parts, corresponding to the seven days of the marriage feast. It commences with the bride’s being brought home to her husband’s house on the evening which, according to Jewish reckoning, ushers in the first day. Then the successive mornings are indicated by the adjuration of the bridegroom as he leaves his chamber, Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4, or by the admiring language of the choir of virgins as the bride herself appears, Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 8:5; Song of Solomon 6:10. The evenings are either expressly mentioned, Song of Solomon 3:1; Song of Solomon 5:2, or may be inferred, Song of Solomon 2:6; Song of Solomon 8:3. The seventh day is shown to be the Sabbath by the fact of the bridegroom coming in public attended by his bride, Song of Solomon 8:5, instead of going forth alone to his occupation as he had done previously.—Tr.]

[A. Calmet, Commentaire littéral sur le Cantique des Cantiques. “His views are substantially the same as Bossuet’s.”]

(Harmer), Materialien zu einer neuen Erklärung des Hohenliedes, Vom Verfasser der Bcobachtungen über den Orient. From the English, 2 Parts, 1778–79. [The original title is, The Outlines of a New Commentary on Solomon’s Song, drawn by the help of Instructions from the East, containing—I. Remarks on its general nature; II. Observations on detached Places of it; III. Queries concerning the rest of this poem. By the author of Observations on divers Passages of Scripture. London, 1768.] He explains like those before named, the whole as a celebration of Solomon’s marriage with a daughter of the king of Egypt, and leaves the profounder spiritual meaning almost entirely out of sight. [He finds two queens in the course of the Song—the former principal queen who speaks, Song of Solomon 3:1, etc., and the daughter of Pharaoh who is henceforth made her “equal in honor and privileges,” and who is “frequently mentioned afterwards in history, while the other is passed over in total silence,” this new marriage being an apt representation of the “conduct of the Messiah towards the Gentile and Jewish churches.”—Tr.]

Salvador, Histoire des institutions de Moïse, Vol. II. Paris, 1828 (like the preceding.)

J. Chr. K. v. Hoffmann, Weissagung und Erfüllung [Prophecy and Fulfilment] I., 189 ff.; Schriftbeweis [Scripture proof] II., 2, 370 ff. (comp. above § 2, Rem. 1, § 4, Rem. 1.)

Franz Delitzsch, Das Hohelied untersucht und ausgelegt [The Song of Solomon investigated and expounded], 1851 (see above, § 2 and 4.)

Ed. Naegelsbach, in Reuter’s Allg. Repertorium der theol. Literatur, 1851, No. IV.

Schlottmann, see immediately below.


G. A. Ruperti, Symbolœ ad interpretationem S. Codicis. Vol. I., fasc. 1, 2, Götting., 1782.

P. Andr. van Kooten, Observationes ad nonnulla Cantic. Canticorum loca; dissertat., Ultraj., 1774.

J. F. Neunhöfer, Versuch eines neuen Beitrags zur Erklärung des Hohenlieds [Essay toward a new contribution to the explanation of the Song of Solomon], Leipz., 1775.

Anton, Salomonis carmen melicum ad metr. prisc. et mod. music. revocatum. Viteb., 1793.

J. F. Gaab, Beitraege, etc. See above, p. 37.

Lindemann, in Keil’s und Tzschirner’s Analekten, III., 1, p. 1 ff.

Hartmann, in Winer’s Zeitschrift, I. 3, p. 420 ff.

G. Hoelemann, die Krone des Hohenlieds (allegorical explanation of Song of Song of Solomon 8:0), Leipz., 1856.—see above, p. 32.

Schlottmann, The bridal procession of the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 3:6-11) in the Studien und Kritiken, 1867, II, ranges himself at the very beginning decidedly on the side of the typical expositors: “Whatever we may think of the origin and strict literal sense of the Song of Solomon, the right will ever verify itself anew, to see in the love there represented the emblem of the higher divine love which unites the church to her heavenly Lord,” etc.)


English Commentaries on the Song of Solomon

[Venerable Bede wrote seven books on the Canticles. The first is “a controversial preface warning his readers against the Commentary of Julian of Eclanum which that writer had made a vehicle for his Pelagian doctrines.” This betrayed Williams (and Ginsburg, who copies him) into the error of supposing that the whole “work was intended as a defence of the doctrines of grace against the Pelagians.” The seventh book “comprises a series of extracts from all parts of Gregory’s writings, bearing upon the Song.” In the other five books “he has followed the footsteps of the fathers, leaving the works of Gregory intact.”

“The Commentary of Foliot, Bishop of London in the 12th century, with the Compendium of Alcuin, was printed in 1638, and is repeatedly referred to by Dr. Gill.”

Scotus is favorably spoken of by Poole, Synopsis Crit., Vol. II., Pref., as not one of the last to be named of this period; “author non inter postremos memorandus.

The first three chapters of the Canticles, with Beza’s sermons on them, translated by John Harmar, Oxford, 1587.

Thomas James (librarian at Oxford), Expositio libri Canticorum, ex patribus. 4to, Oxford, 1607.

Thomas Wilcocks, An Exposition upon the book of the Canticles, London, 1624.

Henoch Clapham, The first Part of the Song of Songs expounded and applied, London, 1602.

Bishop Hall, An open and plain Paraphrase upon the Song of Songs, London, 1609.

J. Beale, Solomon’s Song with an Exposition, London, 1615.

Henry Ainsworth (a Brownist divine), Annotations upon the five books of Moses, the book of the Psalms, and the Song of Songs or Canticles, London, 1639. This volume has done much to shape the current allegorical exposition of the Song. It is accompanied by a metrical paraphrase.

Thomas Brightman, Commentary on the Canticles, London, 1644. “He regards the book as prophetic, and divides it into two parts; the first, chap. 1–6:6, describes the condition of the legal church from the time of David to the death of Christ: and the second, Song of Solomon 4:7 to Song of Solomon 8:14, the state of the evangelical church from A. D. 34 to the second coming of Christ.”

John Cotton, A brief Exposition of the whole book of Canticles, London, 1648. He likewise regards it as descriptive of the state of the church from Solomon’s own time to the last judgment.

John Robotham, Exposition on the whole book of Solomon’s Song, London, 1652.

Assembly of Divines, Annotations upon all the books of the Old and New Testament, London, 1657. Very brief notes mainly occupied with suggesting the spiritual import of the Song.

W. Guild, Love’s Intercourse between the Lamb and his Bride, Christ and His Church, in a clear explication and application of the Song of Solomon, London, 1658.

James Durham, Clavis Cantici, London, 1668. “Published after his death with a recommendation by Dr. Owen.”

De Veil, Explicate Literalis Cant. Cant., London, 1679.

John Collinges, The Intercourses of Divine Love betwixt Christ and His Church, or the particular believing soul, metaphorically expressed by Solomon in Song of Song of Solomon 1:1, Song of Solomon 1:2 vols., London, 1683.

John Trapp, A Commentary upon the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, London, 1650.

Bishop Patrick’s Paraphrase and Annotations on this Song were published in 1700; Matthew Henry’s Exposition a few years after.

Whiston published an Essay in 1723, charging the Song of Solomon with containing “from the beginning to the end marks of folly, vanity and looseness,” maintaining “that it was written by Solomon when he was wicked, and foolish, and lascivious, and idolatrous,” and urging its rejection from the sacred canon.

John Gill, An Exposition of the book of Solomon’s Song commonly called Canticles, London, 1728. “A vast treasure of varied learning, sound doctrine and spiritual experience; but it is neither sufficiently condensed, nor is it so digested by the author as to present to the reader a clear idea of his own interpretation.” He pushes the allegory to the furthest extreme, and attaches every sense to the words which they can possibly bear. The first edition contains a translation of the Targum upon this book. Another comment by the same author is contained in his Exposition of the Old and New Testament.

John Wesley, in his Explanatory notes upon the Old Testament, Bristol, 1765, also defends the allegorical interpretation of this book, and especially disallows its reference to Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter.

[Gifford,] A Dissertation on the Song of Solomon, with the original text divided according to the metre [upon Bishop Hare’s hypothesis], and a poetical version, 1751. He “considers the poem as a pastoral composed by Solomon as the amusement of his lighter hours, just after his nuptials with Pharaoh’s daughter, and before God had so remarkably appeared to him and given him that divine wisdom, for which he was afterwards so eminent.”

[Bishop Percy], The Song of Solomon, newly translated from the original Hebrew, with a commentary and annotations, London, 1764. He confines himself to the literal sense, and adopts substantially the view of Bossuet that it was written on the occasion of Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter, and is divided into seven parts answering to the seven days of the wedding feast.

Mrs. Bowdler, Song of Solomon paraphrased, with an introduction, containing some remarks on a late new translation (Percy’s) of this sacred poem; also a commentary and notes critical and practical, Edinburgh, 1775.

Durell, Critical remarks on Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Canticles, 1772, follows the same general theory, but “totally excludes any allegorical or spiritual design.”

The Song of Solomon paraphrased, with an Introduction, Commentary and Notes (published anonymously), Edinburgh, 1775.
W. Green, The Poetical Parts of the Old Testament translated, with notes, 1781.

Bernard Hodgson, Solomon’s Song translated from the Hebrew, Oxford, 1786. “The mystical sense of the Song is never referred to—not denied, still less acknowledged.”

T. Williams, The Song of Songs, which is by Solomon, a new translation with a commentary and notes, London, 1801. Republished in Philadelphia, 1803. Adopts like the preceding the general hypothesis of Bossuet and Lowth, and takes note of the spiritual meaning throughout.

John Mason Good, Song of Songs, or sacred Idyls translated, with notes critical and explanatory, London, 1803. Containing a literal prose translation and a very elegant metrical version. “A work of great beauty, in which the author allows and defends the allegorical, but confines himself to the literal sense.” He “regards the entire song as a collection of distinct idyls upon one common subject, and that the loves of the Hebrew monarch and his fair bride.”

William Davidson, Brief outline of an examination of the Song of Solomon, with remarks critical and expository, London, 1817. He interprets “the Song of Solomon of the Christian church from the time of John the Baptist.”

Scott’s Notes in his Commentary on the Bible follow the current allegorical exposition, and are largely drawn from Bishop Patrick.

Adam Clarke eschews the allegorical interpretation, and assigns as his reasons: “1. Because we do not know that it is an allegory. 2. If one, the principles on which such allegory is to be explained do nowhere appear.” Appended to his commentary is a translation of the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase of this book; also the Hindoo mystical poem, the Gitagovinda, which, agreeably to the suggestion of Sir William Jones, he regards as illustrative of the Song of Solomon.

B. Boothroyd, The Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament without points after the text of Kennicott, accompanied with English Notes, critical, philological and explanatory, 2 vols. 4to. The notes consist for the most part of extracts from preceding commentators, chiefly Percy, Green, Good, Hodgson, and Harmer.

John Fry, Canticles, a new translation with notes, London, 1811. The book is regarded as a collection of idyls, some of which were suggested by the marriage of Solomon, others by different domestic scenes in humble life; but all are parables of the love of Christ and His Church.

Charles Taylor in the Biblical Fragments (Nos. 345–453) appended to Calmet’s Dictionary, 1838. Well characterized by Moody Stuart: “His translation and arrangement of the Song of Songs—relating merely to its outward structure as Solomon’s marriage festival—evince great research, abundant ingenuity, the utmost delicacy and refinement of feeling, along with a most exuberant fancy.”

W. Newman, Solomon’s Song of Songs, a new translation, London, 1839.

Pye Smith in his “Scripture Testimony to the Messiah,” 1847, “regards this Song as a pastoral eclogue or a succession of eclogues representing in the vivid color of Asiatic rural scenery the honorable loves of a newly married bride and bridegroom.” This led to a controversy between him and Dr. Bennett in the Congregational Magazine for 1837 and 1838, respecting the proper interpretation of the Song. A subsequent article in the same periodical (for 1838, p. 471 ff.) declares that there is “no more reason for its spiritual interpretation than for its application to the revival of letters, the termination of feudalism, or any other gratifying circumstance in civil or political life.” Ginsburg.

J. Skinner, An Essay towards a literal or true radical exposition of the Song of Songs.

Robert Sandeman, On Solomon’s Song.

W. Romaine, Discourses upon Solomon’s Song.

R. Hawker, Commentary on Solomon’s Song.

Meditations on the Song of Solomon, London, 1848.

Francis Barham, The Song of Solomon.

Adelaide Newton, The Song of Solomon compared with other parts of Scripture, 1852.

Peter Macpherson, The Song of Songs shown to be constructed on architectural principles, Edinburgh, 1856. “His supposition that this song consists of verses written round an archway, is so entirely gratuitous, that it is only misguiding and deceptive.” Moody Stuart.

Kitto in his Pictorial Bible and in his Daily Bible Illustrations “presents much useful information on the Song of Solomon.”

Samuel Davidson, (The Text of the Old Testament Considered, London, 1856, and Introduction to the Old Testament, 1862) adopts the shepherd hypothesis, regards it as a purely amatory poem, having neither an allegorical nor a typical sense, and written not by Solomon, but by a citizen of the northern kingdom twenty-five or thirty years after Solomon’s death.

A. Moody Stuart, An Exposition of the Song of Solomon, London, 1857 (republished Philadelphia, 1869). The peculiarity of this eminently devout and spiritual commentary is the parallel instituted and carried out in a most ingenious and elaborate manner between the Song of Solomon and the Gospels and Acts of which it is regarded as a prophetic epitome. He regards Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7 as descriptive of the period immediately before and after the birth of Christ; Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5 from the appearance of John till the baptism of Jesus; Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1 from Christ’s return out of the wilderness till the last supper; Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:5 from the agony in the garden till the evangelizing of the Samaritans; Song of Solomon 8:5-14 from the calling of the Gentiles till the close of revelation.

Benjamin Weiss (a converted Jew), The Song of Songs unveiled, a new translation and exposition of the Song of Solomon, Edinburgh, 1859. He conceives it to be “half historical and half prophetical,” and to embrace the entire interval from the dedication of the tabernacle of Moses to the resurrection of Christ and the formation of churches among the Gentiles.

Christian Ginsburg, The Song of Songs translated from the original Hebrew, with a commentary historical and critical, London, 1857, and in his article on Solomon’s Song in the third Edition of Kitto’s Cyclopedia, advocates the shepherd hypothesis. “This song records the history of an humble but virtuous woman, who after having been espoused to a man of like humble circumstances, had been tempted in a most alluring manner to abandon him, and to transfer her affections to one of the wisest and richest of men, but who successfully resisted all temptations, remained faithful to her espousals, and was ultimately rewarded for her virtue.” The historical sketch of the exegesis of the book is very full and valuable, though warped by the peculiar views of the writer.

Joseph Francis Thrupp, The Song of Songs, a revised translation, with introduction and commentary, Cambridge, 1862, divides the Song into six groups; see note on p. 11. “The theme of the first group is the anticipation of Christ’s coming; the second represents the waiting for that blessed time; in the third he is arrived, and we have there the description of the espousal and its fruits. The fourth group delineates the subsequent bodily departure of the Bridegroom from his Bride; the fifth his spiritual presence with her; and the sixth their complete and final reunion.” “The earlier half of the Song presents to us only those glories which older seers had in various ways also heralded. With respect to the latter half of the Song the case is different. The distinctness with which it is there unfolded that the coming of the Messiah will not of itself be the final termination of all earthly expectation and anxiety is unparalleled not merely in all earlier Scripture, but throughout the whole of the Old Testament. Nowhere else do we find a passage which speaks as Song of Solomon 5:2-8 speaks of a withdrawal of the Messiah from the church for whose salvation He has once appeared.” This he accounts for by supposing it based on a typical application of the translation of Elijah. The untimely removal of this distinguished prophet, who was fondly styled “the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof,” and the painful void created by his departure, foreshadowed a similar experience in the case of Messiah, the last and greatest of the prophets, who should in like manner forsake His sorrowing people for a season, though with the view of ultimately returning never to leave them more. The Song he supposes to have been written a century or more after the death of Solomon by a member of one of the prophetical schools in the kingdom of the ten tribes.

Isaac Taylor, The Spirit of the Hebrew Poetry; republished in New York, 1862, devotes chap. 10 to Solomon and the Song of Songs.

Chr. Wordsworth, The Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon in the authorized version, with notes and introductions (Vol. IV. Part III. of his Commentary on the Bible), London, 1868. He regards it as a prophetic allegory, suggested by the occasion of Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter, and descriptive of “the gathering of the world into mystical union with Christ, the consecration of the world into a church espoused to Him as the Bride.”

W. Houghton, Translation of the Song of Solomon, and short explanatory notes (London, 1865), in which, as stated by the American editor of Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, the Song is viewed as secular and the theme conceived to be the fidelity of chaste love.

American Commentaries.

Of the discussions of this book which have appeared in this country, the most noteworthy are the following:

Moses Stuart, in his Critical History and Defence of the Old Testament Canon (Andover, 1845), devotes pp. 364–385 to a consideration of the Canticles. He regards it as “expressing the warm and earnest desire of the soul after God in language borrowed from that which characterizes chaste, affection between the sexes,” and as applicable to the church only in so far as what pertains to individuals who are pious is common to the entire body of believers. He thinks the book to be so peculiarly Oriental in its imagery and style of thought, that while adapted to the religious wants of those amongst whom it originated, and probably reserved for a new period of usefulness in the East when Christianized, it is of inferior value to occidental Christians generally.

George R. Noyes, A new Translation of the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Canticles, with introductions and notes, chiefly explanatory, Boston, 1846. He conceives the book to be a collection of amatory songs “written by some Jewish poet, either in the reign of Solomon or soon after it,” and without any “express moral or religious design.”

Calvin E. Stowe, in the Biblical Repository for April, 1847, gives a partial translation of the Song of Solomon, and defends its allegorical interpretation.

George Burrowes, A Commentary on the Song of Solomon, Philadelphia, 1853; also an article on the Song of Solomon in the Princeton Review for October, 1849. “The Song is a continuous and coherent whole, illustrating some of the most exalted and delightful exercises of the believing heart.” He deems it “more profitable and natural in meditating on this book, to view the bride as the representative of the individual believer rather than of the whole church. As the church is a collection of individuals, its state must be that of the members composing it; and no distinction can be drawn between the love of Jesus for the collective body and His love for the several persons constituting the whole mass.” The illustrations from Oriental manners and parallel passages in ancient and modern literature are particularly copious and judicious.

Leonard Withington, Solomon’s Song translated and explained, Boston, 1861. The bride of the Song is the daughter of an Arab Sheikh (Song of Solomon 7:1), whom Solomon married, as he did a multitude of other princesses from the little tribes around Palestine, with the “wish of spreading the Hebrew empire and religion through the vicinity. And he writes this poem to show how pure his felicity, how happy his marriage with a rural bride taken from a pagan nation, whom nevertheless he brings under the influence of the true religion, and hopes to convert to the true faith, and make one of the instruments of promoting the glory of his peaceful kingdom. But the occasional song was exalted by the providence of God into a higher purpose. That purpose was mainly and primarily to foreshow the formation and union of the Gentile church with Christ, when a more sublime and spiritual religion should be presented.”

A. R. Fausset and B. M. Smith, The Poetical Books of the Holy Scriptures with a critical and explanatory commentary, Philadelphia, 1867. Largely based upon the commentary of Moody Stuart, whose divisions and historical application it adopts.

Metrical Translations

The metrical translations of the Song of Solomon are very numerous. In addition to the Latin paraphrases by A. Johnson, (Physician to Charles I.) and J. Ker (Professor of Greek in Aberdeen, 1727) commended by Moody Stuart for their elegance, and an anonymous English paraphrase “The loves of the Lord with his troth-plight spouse” quoted and spoken of with approbation by the same author, it has been versified (either separately or combined with the Psalms or other poetical portions of the Old Testament), by William Baldwin, 1549; J. Smith, 1575; Robert Fletcher, 1586; Dudley Fenner, 1587; Markham, 1596; Argall, 1621; Ainsworth, 1623; Sandys, 1641; Boyd, 1644; R. Smith, 1653; Hildersham, 1672; T. S. (London) 1676; Woodford, 1679; Hills, 1681; Lloyd, 1682; Mason, 1683; Reeve, 1684; Beverley, 1687; Barton, 1688; Fleming, 1691; Stennett, 1700; Symson, 1701; Ralph Erskine, 1736; Tansur, 1738; Elizabeth Rowe, 1739; Bland, 1750; Johnson, 1751; Gifford, 1751; Barclay, 1767; Ann Francis, 1781; Good, 1803; Mason, 1818; Taylor, 1820; a late graduate of Oxford, 1845; Metrical Meditations, 1856. Another is announced as forthcoming by Mr. William S. Rentoul, of Philadelphia, to accompany his edition of Moody Stuart’s commentary.

For Sermons preached on different passages from the Song of Solomon, see Darling’s Cyclopædia Bibliographica: Holy Scriptures, pp. 583–586.—Tr.]


[1][There is no reason whatever to suspect, much less believe, that this title is of a later date than the book itself, of whose text it is without doubt a genuine and integral part. In its favor may be urged the usage of ancient writers, both sacred and profane, to preface their productions by some such brief statement of the author, theme or occasion. It stands upon the same ground with the titles to the Psalms and prophecies, whose originality has likewise been disputed, often on the most frivolous pretences, but never disproved. The correctness of this title is conceded, or is capable of being readily established. It was neither indecorous nor unnatural for the author to designate his own production as the Song of songs, if it involved the sacred mystery which all but the lowest class of erotic interpreters find in it. In the elevated diction of this Song the abbreviated and unusual form of the relative, which occurs only sporadically elsewhere, is employed exclusively throughout; but it surely need occasion no surprise that it is not found likewise in the prosaic title, as Zöckler himself confesses, § 3, Rem. 2. The occurrence ofאשר in Judges 5:27 casts no suspicion on the genuineness of that verse though ש is used elsewhere in the song of Deborah, ver. 7. Nor, on the other hand, does a single ש, where אשר is, the prevailing form, discredit Genesis 6:3 or Job 19:29. Both forms of the relative likewise occur interchangeably in Ecclesiastes, and both are found in the writings of Jeremiah.—Tr.]

[2][Other superlatives of like construction are the Holy of holies, Exodus 26:33; King of kings, Ezekiel 26:7; God of gods and Lord of lords, Deuteronomy 10:17 (but not Joshua 22:22, where the original is different); see also Daniel 8:25, Psalms 72:5, comp. Revelation 1:6. The same idiom is found in the Greek of the New Testament, e. g., an Hebrew of the Hebrews, Philippians 3:5, and has even been transferred to English as in the phrase “heart of hearts.”—Tr.]

[3][Rendered by Coverdale: Ballets. In Matthew’s Bible, Cranmer’s and Bishops’: Ballet of ballets of Solomon. Wickliffe and the common English version: Song of songs. Doway: Solomon’s Canticle of canticles. Geneva: “an excellent Song, which was Solomon’s,” to which is added the note “Heb. a Song of songs, so called because it is the chiefest of those thousand and five which Solomon made, 1 Kings 4:32.” Patrick: “The most natural meaning seems to be that this is the most excellent of all songs that Solomon made; yet the Chaldee paraphrase and abundance of Christian writers think it called the most excellent song, with respect likewise to all the songs that had been formerly made by any prophetical person, as those, Exodus 15:0; Judges 5:0; 1 Samuel 2:0, etc., because they celebrated only some particular benefits, this the immense love of God, not only towards that nation, but towards all mankind.” Poole: “The most excellent of all songs, whether composed by profane or sacred authors, by Solomon or by any other.”]

[4][So Good: “The word שיר, in the present and most other instances translated song, means in its original acceptation ‘a string or chain;’ it is precisely synonymous with the Greek σειρα. The different idyls presented in the collection before us were therefore probably regarded by the sacred poet, at the time of their composition, as so many distinct beads or pearls, of which the whole, when strung together, constituted one perfect שיר, string, catenation or divan.”]

[5][Good regards the Song “as a collection of [12] distinct idyls upon one common subject—and that the loves of the Hebrew monarch and his fair bride. * * * The author of these exquisite amorets was King Solomon.” Fry also finds in the Song “a number of distinct pieces” proceeding, it is true, from a common author, and having “some unity of design in regard of the mystic sense which they are intended to bear.” But the parties described are not the same throughout. “Though King Solomon is mentioned, and his marriage processions perhaps gave occasion to some of these allegories, yet the scene is every now and then changed, and we are led to contemplate the intercourse and concerns of some rural or domestic pair in humble life.” Noyes agrees substantially with Fry, but without admitting the existence of a mystical sense.—Tr.]

[6][Sir William Jones (followed by Good, Fry and Noyes): Salomonis sanctissimum carmen inter idyllia Hebræa recensendum puto. Taylor entitles the several divisions of the Song “eclogues,” but like Bossuet and Percy regards the whole as a pastoral drama.—Tr.]

[7][These belong to his own sensual interpretation, not to the Song itself.—Tr.]

[8]The identity of these two forms of the name is already vouched for by Eusebius, Onomast. s. v. Σουλήμ, comp. Ewald, Lehrb. § 156, c, [Gesen. Lex. under the letter ל].

[9] [We cannot but concede to this scheme the praise of great ingenuity, particularly in the form originally proposed by Delitzsch, which was free from some of the objections that lie against it as modified by Zöckler. And yet it cannot have escaped attention that the uniting links are throughout supplied by the interpreter and not found in the Song itself. It is at best but a plausible hypothesis, and it only requires the application of like ingenuity to devise any number of others materially differing from it, yet equally entitled to regard. The story suggested above is, after all, only a romance of the modern commentator with the elements of the Song woven in to suit his convenience or his taste.

There would be no serious objection, perhaps, to this or any other fanciful combination of the statements or intimations of the poem, if it were not for the bias it creates in the mind of the interpreter, however unconscious he may be of it, and the temptation to which it subjects him to explain every thing in harm my with his preconceived scheme. The return home between Song of Solomon 2:7-8, the marriage ceremony between chap. 3 and 4, the desire to return home in Song of Solomon 7:11, etc., etc., must all be supplied. That the temporary interruption of the loving relation between the bridegroom and his bride was due to the inconstancy of the former (one of the modifications by Zöckler, which is certainly not an improvement) is not only purely imaginary, but at variance with the evident suggestions of the book, e. g., Song of Solomon 5:3, and leads to a distortion of its whole idea. What is figurative in the Song, and what is literal in its primary application, is also determined mainly by the exigencies of the scheme with which the interpreter sets out. Thus Zöckler, who views the bride as a country maiden, insists on the strict literality of all that is said of her rural occupations or pleasures, while admitting that the pastoral employments of the king Song of Solomon 1:7 are only figurative, and explains away the statement Song of Solomon 7:1 that she is a prince’s daughter. They, who identify the bride with the daughter of Pharaoh, urge the literality of Song of Solomon 7:1, and convert her vineyard, etc., into figures. Withington in favor of his notion that she is a Sheikh’s daughter and bred in rural life, claims that there is no figure in either case, since both may be adjusted in their literal sense in his hypothesis.

The numerous and persistent attempts to discover a regular plot or a consecutive story in the Song of Solomon, have thus far failed so signally, that the words of Thrupp in the present state of the question at least, seem to be justified: “It is indeed only by constraint that the Song can be viewed as a drama conforming to the rules of outward dramatic unity.” It is one continuous composition, preserving throughout the same theme, the love of king Solomon and his bride, the image of a divine and spiritual love. But the scenes portrayed and the displays of mutual fondness indulged seem to be grouped rather than linked. They stand forth in their distinctness as exquisitely beautiful and reflecting as much light on each other and on the subject which they illustrate and adorn, as though they had been gathered up into the artificial unity of a consecutive narration or a dramatic plot. And this looser method of arrangement or aggregation with its abrupt transitions and sudden changes of scene, is no less graceful and impressive, while it is more in harmony with the oriental mind and style of composition generally, than the rigorous, external and formal concatenation which the more logical but less fervid Indo-European is prone to demand.—Tr.]

[10] [Thrupp thus exposes the want of agreement among the advocates of this extraordinary hypothesis: “We find that the passage Song of Solomon 1:15 is assigned by Ginsburg to the shepherd, by Hitzig and Renan to Solomon; Song of Solomon 2:2 is assigned by Ginsburg and Renan to the shepherd, but by Hitzig to Solomon; Ginsburg makes the shepherd the speaker in Song of Solomon 4:1-5, and Song of Solomon 4:7-16, with part of Song of Solomon 5:1, but Renan gives Song of Solomon 4:1-7 to Solomon, the remainder of the above to the shepherd, while Hitzig gives Song of Solomon 4:1-5; Song of Solomon 4:7; Song of Solomon 4:9-10; Song of Solomon 4:12, etc., to Solomon, 6, 8, 11 to the shepherd; Song of Solomon 6:8 is given to Solomon by Ginsburg and Hitzig but to the shepherd by Renan; Song of Solomon 6:9 is given to Solomon by Ginsburg, but to the shepherd by Hitzig and Renan. How little value is attached by Ginsburg himself to his own argument may be gathered from the circumstance that whereas he assigns Song of Solomon 4:1-5 to the shepherd, he yet, when this passage is partially repeated in Song of Solomon 6:5-7; Song of Solomon 7:3, puts the identical words into the mouth of Solomon. It is clear that he sees no fundamental difference in the language which his two male characters use. And it is not pretended that they ever address each other; nor indeed is there a single passage in which, according to any probable interpretation, they are both addressed or spoken of together. The distinction between them is in fact purely fictitious; there is but one male character in the song, the true beloved.”

In regard to the introduction of new and imaginary speakers, which has been carried to such extravagant excess by Hitzig, the same able writer pertinently remarks: “It is evident that sufficient ingenuity might make a complicated cross-dialogue of this kind out of almost anything; each difficulty that might arise, would only require at most one additional complication, or one additional speaker.” Nevertheless this extreme is a natural sequence of the method adopted. If the lover may be divided into two, why not the beloved, and why may not each resulting character be subdivided again, a process which must very soon furnish, and in fact in Hitzig’s and Renan’s hands may be regarded as having already furnished its own reductio ad absurdum.—Tr].

[11][This idea has been a favorite one with English Commentators. The book bears this heading in Matthew’s Bible: “Solomon made this ballad or song by himself and his wife the daughter of Pharaoh, under the shadow of himself figuring Christ and under the person of his wife the church.” And among the more recent expositors, Wordsw.: “It is probable that the marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh’s daughter may have given occasion to the composition of the forty-fifth Psalm and also of the Canticles.” So Harmer (Outlines, p. 27 ff.), Lightfoot (Chronology of Old Test. in his Works, I. p. 76), Taylor (Fragments appended to Calmet, No. 345 ff.) and with more or less confidence many others. It is expressly controverted by Gill (who finds a chronological difficulty in Song of Solomon 7:4, comp. 1 Kings 6:38; 1 Kings 7:1-2), Percy (who argues from Song of Solomon 3:4; Song of Solomon 3:10; Song of Solomon 8:2; Song of Solomon 8:8; Song of Solomon 8:12), Thrupp, Weiss, (who urges the incongruities of the literal hypothesis generally, and especially Song of Solomon 1:5-6; Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 5:2, etc.), Moody Stuart (who adds to the preceding Song of Solomon 1:7; Song of Solomon 1:14; Song of Solomon 7:4) and others.—Tr.].

[12] [Good, Fry, and Noyes, who adopt the idyllic hypothesis divide the book as follows, viz:






Song of Solomon 1:2-8 Royal bride, attendant virgins.



Song of Solomon 1:9 to Song of Solomon 2:7 King Soloman, Royal bride.



Song of Solomon 2:8-17 Royal bride.



Song of Solomon 3:1-5 Royal bride.



Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 4:7 Royal bride, attendant virgins, king Soloman.



Song of Solomon 4:8 to Song of Solomon 5:1 King Soloman, royal bride.



Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:10 Royal bride, attendant virgins, king Soloman.



Song of Solomon 6:11-13 Royal bride, attendant virgins.



Song of Solomon 7:1-9 Royal bride, attendant virgins, king Soloman.



Song of Solomon 7:10 to Song of Solomon 8:4 Royal bride.



Song of Solomon 8:5-7 Virgins, royal bride, king Soloman.



Song of Solomon 8:8-14 Royal bride, king Soloman.




Idyl or Parable


Song of Solomon 1:2-6 A bride from a low station conducted to the house of the king.



Song of Solomon 1:7-8 Shepherd and shepherdess.



Song of Solomon 1:9 to Song of Solomon 2:7 Royal bride and bridegroom.



Song of Solomon 2:8-17 Lovers in the country, residing at a distance.



Song of Solomon 3:1-5 Scene from humble life in the city.



Song of Solomon 3:6-11 Marriage procession of the king.



Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1 A lover to his affianced.



Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:1 A domestic occurrence in humble life (in two parts).



Song of Solomon 6:2-10 A bride rehearsing the language of her husband.



Song of Solomon 6:11 to Song of Solomon 7:9 A bride in a garden with a company of women.



Song of Solomon 7:10 to Song of Solomon 8:4 A bride invites her husband to the country.



Song of Solomon 8:5-14 A married pair contemplated and overheard.






Song of Solomon 1:2-8 An innocent country maiden accompanied by virgins is anxious to see her lover.



Song of Solomon 1:9 to Song of Solomon 2:7 Conversation between a lover and maiden.



Song of Solomon 2:8-17 The maiden’s meeting with her lover in a vineyard.



Song of Solomon 3:1-5 The maiden’s search for her lover.



Song of Solomon 3:6-11 The conducting of a spouse of Solomon to his palace.



Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1 Conversation between a lover and maiden.



Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3 The maiden’s search for her lover by night, and praise of his beauty.



Song of Solomon 6:4-9 The lover’s praise of the object of his attachment.



Song of Solomon 6:10 to Song of Solomon 8:4 Conversation between a lover and maiden.



Song of Solomon 8:5-7 Chorus of virgins, maiden and lover.



Song of Solomon 8:8-12 A conversation of two brothers about their sister, with her remarks.



Song of Solomon 8:13-14 The lover sent away. A fragment.

Bossuet suggested the idea that successive portions of the Song of Solomon were designed to be sung on each of the seven days, during which the marriage festival lasted. Percy, Williams, and Taylor (in fragments to Calmet’s Dictionary of the Bible) base their divisions of the book on this conception. Thus:




1st Day

Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:6

Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7.

2d Day

Song of Solomon 2:7-17

Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5.

3d Day

Song of Solomon 3:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1

Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 4:7.

4th Day

Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:9

Song of Solomon 4:8 to Song of Solomon 5:1.

5th Day

Song of Solomon 6:10 to Song of Solomon 7:11

Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:10.

6th Day

Song of Solomon 7:12 to Song of Solomon 8:3

Song of Solomon 6:11 to Song of Solomon 8:4.

7th Day

Song of Solomon 8:4-14

Song of Solomon 8:5-14.



1st Day—morning Song of Solomon 1:2-8

evening Song of Solomon 1:9-14

2d Day—morning Song of Solomon 1:15 to Song of Solomon 2:7

evening Song of Solomon 2:8-17.

3d Day—morning Song of Solomon 3:1-5

evening Song of Solomon 3:6-11.

4th Day—morning Song of Solomon 4:1-6

evening Song of Solomon 4:7 to Song of Solomon 5:1.

5th Day—morning Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3

evening Song of Solomon 6:4-13.

6th Day—morning Song of Solomon 7:1-10

evening Song of Solomon 7:11 to Song of Solomon 8:4.

7th Day—morning Song of Solomon 8:5-7

evening Song of Solomon 8:8-14.

Taylor supposes the several “eclogues” to be sung on six days, and before the marriage ceremony instead of after it. He divided the book thus:

1st Day—morning Song of Solomon 1:2-8

evening Song of Solomon 1:9 to Song of Solomon 2:7.

2d Day—morning Song of Solomon 2:8-17

evening Song of Solomon 3:1-5.

3d Day—morning Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 4:6

evening Song of Solomon 4:7 to Song of Solomon 5:1.

4th Day—morning Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3

evening Song of Solomon 6:4-13.

5th Day—morning Song of Solomon 7:1-5

evening Song of Solomon 7:6 to Song of Solomon 8:4.

6th Day—morning (after the marriage ceremony)

Song of Solomon 8:5-14.

Moody Stuart divides the book as is done by Zöckler, but entitles the sections differently:

Canticle I.

Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7 The bride seeking and finding the king.


Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5 The sleeping bride awakened.


Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1 The bridegroom with the bride.


Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:4 The bridegroom’s withdrawal and reappearance, and the bride’s glory.


Song of Solomon 8:5-14 The little sister.

Davidson and Ginsburg, adherents of the shepherd-hypothesis, follow the same division.

Thrupp adopts substantially the same, only subdividing the fourth and last sections, thus


Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7 The anticipation.


Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5 The awaiting.


Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1 The espousal and its results.


Song of Solomon 5:2-8 The absence.


Song of Solomon 5:9 to Song of Solomon 8:4 The presence.


Song of Solomon 8:5-12 Love’s triumph.


Song of Solomon 8:13-14 Conclusion.

Weiss, according to his historico-prophetic scheme, divides the book into three parts, as related to three successive divine manifestations, together with a conclusion, thus:


Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7 The dedication of the tabernacle.


Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5 The dedication of Solomon’s temple.


Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 8:4 The advent of Christ.


Song of Solomon 8:5-14 Conclusion.

Burrowes also divides into three parts, viz.:


Song of Solomon 1:2 to Song of Solomon 2:7 Successive manifestations of divine love to the believing soul.


Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 7:9 Motives to allure the soul from the world to Christ.


Song of Solomon 7:10 to Song of Solomon 8:14 Effects produced by these manifestations and motives].

[13][The discredit, which Zöckler’s hypothesis unwarrantably casts upon Solomon as exhibited in this Song, plainly tends so far as it goes to encumber unnecessarily the question of his authorship.—Tr.]

[14][Weiss (and more doubtfully Patrick, Ainsworth and Gill) translates, “concerning Solomon,” conceiving that it is a heavenly and not an earthly personage, who is so designated in this verse as well as in the rest of the Song. Noyes (on the ground of Song of Solomon 1:4-5; Song of Solomon 3:6-11; Song of Solomon 7:5; Song of Solomon 8:11-12) and Thrupp deny that it was written by Solomon. The former supposes “Canticles to have been written by some Jewish poet either in the reign of Solomon or soon after it.” Thrupp objects that Solomon was not fitted by his training to appreciate or depict a pure and holy love; the absence of any allusion to the temple; the typical use made of the figure of Solomon; the mention of Tirzah, Song of Solomon 6:4; certain passages upon which he has put fanciful interpretations, e. g. Song of Solomon 1:15, from which he infers that “Jerusalem was no longer the religious metropolis of the whole nation;” Song of Solomon 4:4, “the shields of several successive generations of warriors;” Song of Solomon 2:15, foxes ravaging the vineyard of Israel would not be thought of in Solomon’s prosperous reign; Psalms 45:0, which is imitated in this Song “probably dates from the reign of Jehoshaphat.” From these data, which are so intangible as not to require and scarcely to admit of refutation, he infers that the “Song of songs was probably composed about a century or more after the death of Solomon by a member of one of the prophetical schools in the kingdom of the ten tribes.” Ginsburg says: “The title of this poem designates Solomon as the author, but internal evidence is against it,” that is to say, the explanation which he, in common with other advocates of the shepherd-hypothesis, puts upon it is inconsistent with its having been written by Solomon. But whether in this case the well accredited fact of Solomon’s authorship must be given up or the untenable hypothesis must fall is another matter.—Tr.]

[15][Moody Stuart and others imagine that this Song was written by Solomon before he ascended the throne, conceiving this to be the reason why he is not called king, Song of Solomon 1:1; comp. Proverbs 1:1 : Ecclesiastes 1:1. Gill thinks the omission of his regal title is an intimation of the allegorical nature of the Song, and argues from the mention, Song of Solomon 7:4, of the “tower of Lebanon,” which he identifies with the “house of the forest of Lebanon,” 1 Kings 7:2, that Solomon must have been king for at least twenty years, when this book was written. Poole: “Composed by Solomon, but whether before his fall or after his repentance, is not easy to determine, nor necessary to be known.”—Tr.]

[16][So Thrupp, who also classes here the “chariots of my people,” Song of Solomon 6:12; comp. 2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 13:14.—Tr.]

[17][The implication that the life of the people of God under the Old Testament was not only upon a lower level, but was specifically different from that under the New Testament, belongs to the philosophical speculations which Delitzsch is fond of indulging. He conceives that the fact of the incarnation introduced an entirely new element into human nature which did not exist, and could not have existed prior to that event.—Tr.]

[18][The connection of Shulamith with Shunem does not seem to be as certain, as Zöckler conceives it, though his scheme of the book is largely built upon it. The derivation of the name from Solomon has commended itself to many who have no sympathy with Hitzig’s ridiculous conceit about Abishag.—Tr.]

[19]Comp. in general Ed. Cunitz, Histoire Critique de I’interpretation du Cant. des Cantiques. Strasburg, 1834, [also the account given of preceding commentators in the commentaries of Williams, pp. 108–126, Ginsburg, pp. 20–102, Moody Stuart pp. 623–640, and Thrupp pp. 16–36, of which the translator has freely availed himself in such additions as he has thought it needful to make.]

[20][Thrupp remarks on the contrary: “It is indeed there never directly quoted; but, on the other hand, the passages in which its language and its imagery are in various ways embodied, are numerous; the use thus made of it is uniformly allegorical; the cumulative cogency of these repeated dependences upon it in favor of the allegorical interpretation becomes very great; and throughout the New Testament no hint is to be found that it bore or could bear any other than an allegorical meaning.” The passages, which he cites in proof of this conclusion in his commentary pp. 53–55, are not all equally convincing; some are wholly fanciful. But enough remain to satisfy an unprejudiced mind that the inspired writers of the New Testament and our Lord Himself found a deeper meaning in this Song than appears upon its surface.—Tr.]

[21]See the passage in J. D. Michaelis Preface: “Absit omni modo ut qui Israelita negaret, quod canticum canticorum non polluat manus sive non sit sacrum; quia totus mundus tanti non est ac ille dies quo canticum canticorum Israeli est datum. Omnia onim Hagiographa sacra sunt, sed canticum canticorum est sacratissimum. Etsi qua de Salomonis scriptis dissensio fuit (viz., whether they belong in the canon—comp. Aboth de Rabbi Nathan, c. 1 in Delitzsch, Hohel., p. 48), ea tantum de Ecclesiaste fuit.”

[22]Præf., in Cant. Cantic.: “Absit, absit, ut canticum canticorum de voluptate carnali agat; omnia potius figurate in eo dicuntur. Nisi enim maxima ejus dignitas, inter libros Scripturæ sacræ relatum non esset; neque ulla de eo est controversia.”

[23]On the bibliography of the Jewish expositions of the Song of Solomon in general comp. Kleuker, Sammlung der Gedichte Salomo’s, etc., pp. 58–67, [also Ginsburg, The Song of Songs, pp. 24–60].

[24]The well-known comparison of the contents of the three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles, to the philosophical triad ἠθική,φυσική, and λογική (or θεωρική), which Origen first suggested and Jerome adopted from him, also rests upon a mystico-spiritual sense of the Canticles. Comp. the Introduction to the Proverbs of Solomon, p. 1.

[25]His representation of the individual soul of the Christian as in some sort the bride of Christ is justified by Bernard by a reference to the fact that individuals as members of the Church, which is the proper bride of the Lord, evidently have part in this common title of honor and in the blessings therewith connected. “Quod enim simul omnes plene integreque possidemus, hoc singuli sine contradictione participamus.” (Serm. XII.).

[26]In like manner Cyprian, who particularly refers the passage Song of Solomon 6:9 of preference to the Church as the one dove, i. e. the one chosen, beloved of Christ, e. g. Ep. 69 ad Magnum, c. 2; de unit. Ecclesiæ, c. 4.

[27]He here has in mind Moses as the author of Exodus 15:0; Deborah, Judges 5:0; Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:0, etc.

[28]By his own confession Luther leaned in this peculiar explanation upon the Emperor Maximilian’s “Theuerdank,” as well as on like “carmina amatoria principum, quæ vulgus accipit de sponsa aut amica cantata, cum tamen politiæ et populi sui statum his depingant.” He engages in zealous polemics against the allegorical explanation common in the Church, “de conjunctione Dei et synagogæ,” and says at the close, in justification of his attempt at a new explanation: “quod si erro, veniam meretur primus labor. Nam aliorum cogitationes longe plus absurditatis habent.”

[29]The view of Shulamith as the hypostatical wisdom taken by Leo Hebraeus (de amore dial. c. 3), by J. G. Rosenmueller (Scholia in V. T.), and suggested likewise by Delitzsch (Hohelied, p. 65 ff.), is akin to this mariological explanation; and with this again, that of the Rabbis Moses ben Tibbon, Immanuel ben Solomon, etc., is closely related, who make Shulamith the intellectus materialis (comp. above, p. 28.)

[30]Yet the party combated by Kimchi in his Commentary on account of his assertion that Canticles was a Song of worldly love composed by Solomon in his youth, may possibly have been a rabbi of an earlier period in the middle ages. Comp. Eichhorn, Repertorium, Part XII., p. 283.

[31][Henry, the biographer of Calvin, gives a full account of this whole affair, Das Leben Johann Calvins, Vol. II., pp. 384–390. He affirms that Castellio withdrew of his own accord from Geneva, and was not banished from the place nor sent away in disgrace. Calvin, though obliged to express his disapproval of his views, conducted himself with great leniency towards Castellio personally, and gave him on his departure kindly letters to his friends.—Tr.]

[32][This Scriptural usage manifestly lies against Zöckler’s own interpretation rather than the allegorical, as commonly held.—Tr.]

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