the Fourth Week of Lent
Canticles; the Song of Solomon
Fausset's Bible Dictionary
"The song of songs," i.e. the most excellent of songs; even as the antitypical Solomon, its subject and its author (by His Spirit), is King of kings, i.e. the greatest of kings (so the heaven of heavens means the highest heaven, Deuteronomy 10:14). The fourth of the hagiographa (chethubim, "writings") or the third division of the Old Testament (See CANON) and (See BIBLE.) Its divine canonicity and authority are certain, as it is found in all Hebrew manuscripts of Scripture; also in the Greek Septuagint version; in the catalogues of Melito, bishop of Sardis A.D. 170 (Eusebius, H. E., 4:26), and others. The literalists explain it as displaying "the victory of humble and constant love over the temptations of wealth and royalty": Solomon tempting a Shulamite shepherdess, who, in spite of the fascinations of his splendid court, pines for her shepherd lover from whom she has been severed.
But had it been a representation of merely human love, it would have been positively indelicate and never would have been inserted in the holy canon (see Song of Solomon 5:2-6; Song of Solomon 7:2-3). The sudden transitions from the court to the grove are inexplicable on the literal interpretation. Nor is the other literal interpretation tenable, namely, that the love of Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter is the subject. "Pharaoh's chariots" (Song of Solomon 1:9) allude not to this, but to the Old Testament church's miraculous deliverance from Pharaoh's hosts at the Red Sea. A shepherdess (Song of Solomon 1:7) would have been an abomination to the Egyptians; nor do Song of Solomon 1:6; Song of Solomon 3:4; Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 5:7 suit this view. Origen and Theodover compare Solomon's teaching to a ladder with three steps; Ecclesiastes, natural (sensible things naturally vain); Proverbs, moral; Canticles, mystical, figuring the union of Christ and the church.
Proverbs, said the rabbis, are the outer court of Solomon's temple; Ecclesiastes, the holy place; Cantitles, the holy of holies. See the treatise Yadaim in the Mishna: "all the chethubim are holy, but the Canticles are holy of holies." Shulamith (Song of Solomon 6:13), i.e. the daughter of peace, is fitly the bride of Solomon, "the prince of peace." Taken allegorically there is nothing incongruous in what would be, if literally taken, inexplicable; she by turns being a vinedresser, shepherdess, midnight inquirer, prince's consort, and at the same time daughter; just as under the same image in Psalms 45:9-10; Psalms 45:13-14, the church is at once the Lord's bride and daughter; as Psalm 45, "a song of loves," answers to Canticles, so Psalm 37 to Proverbs, and Psalm 39; Psalm 73 to Job.
As Ecclesiastes sets forth them vanity of the love of the creature, so Canticles the all satisfying love which unites the church and her Lord. Love in man was created as the transcript of the divine love. This song portrays the latter in imagery from the former. The union of Christ and His church was the original fact in the mind of God, on which human marriage is based (Ephesians 5:23-32). This idea pervades all Scripture, from the original Eden (Genesis 2:21-24) down to the restored paradise (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9-10; Revelation 22:17). Israel was the Old Testament wife of Jehovah (Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 3:1, etc.; Hosea 1; 2; 3; Ezekiel 16; 23). To her as His destined earthly bride the song primarily refers; secondarily to the spiritual and heavenly bride, the elect church, of all ages and countries (Matthew 9:15; Matthew 22:2; Matthew 25:1; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
"The experimental knowledge of Christ's loveliness, and the believer's love, is the best commentary on this allegorical song" (Leighton). The name of God does not occur, because throughout the allegory, to the exclusion of everything literal, is maintained, and Solomon throughout represents Messiah JEHOVAH, whose love is the grand theme. Love to Christ is the most intense, as it is the purest, of human passions, and therefore is expressed in the most intenselyardent language. The details of the imagery are not to be strained in the interpretation. Many lovely natural objects, not always mutually congruous if pressed literally, are combined, to bring out the varied, and often seemingly opposite, beauties which meet in the Lord Jesus. The significance of the name Solomon, "the peace giver," appears at the outset (Song of Solomon 1:3), "thy name is as ointment poured forth, diffusing peace and love (John 14:27); the same image as in Psalm 133.
Not until toward the close does the bride receive her name Shulamith (Song of Solomon 6:13), "the peace receiver," and so the "prince's daughter" (Song of Solomon 7:1; compare Matthew 5:9). She explains her name (Song of Solomon 8:10) as expressing "one that found peace" (Song of Solomon 8:10 margin). Not until her union with Solomon had been effected did she find peace, and received her name accordingly (Romans 5:1). Shulamith is passive in meaning, the reconciled one (Ephesians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 5:19-20). Her becoming sensible of His being the king, in whose presence is peace and fullness of joy (Song of Solomon 1:2; Song of Solomon 1:4; Song of Solomon 1:7) leads her to seek in Him peace, and finally to find it.
Driven from the vineyard of paradise which was once her own into the wilderness (Song of Solomon 3:6), and to keep very different vineyards (Satan's and the world's), she became black with affliction, though still beautiful (Song of Solomon 1:5-6; compare Lamentations 4:7-8; Psalms 120:5-6): in contrast to His countenance, "white and ruddy" (Song of Solomon 5:10). But He at the close brings her up from the wilderness of affliction (Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 8:5; Revelation 12:6), and restores her her own vineyard (Song of Solomon 8:12), where He desires to hear her voice. If we view the bride as Israel (the primary sense), Hosea 2:14-16 is exactly parallel to the whole song.
Five parts are to be traced: Song of Solomon 1:1-2:7; Song of Solomon 2:8-3:5, both parts ending "I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem," etc.; Song of Songs 3:6 - 6:9; Song of Songs 6:10 - 8:4; Song of Solomon 8:5-14, these three parts beginning severally with "Who is this?" etc. In the song's Israelite aspect the third or central part probably refers to the sealing of the union between Jehovah and the Old Testament church by Solomon's erection of the temple (Song of Solomon 3:6-11). "The daughter of Zion was at that time openly married to Jehovah; for it is thenceforth that the prophets in reproving Israel's sin speak of it as a breach of her marriage covenant.
The songs heretofore sung by her were the preparatory hymns of her childhood; the last and crowning 'song of songs' was prepared for the now mature maiden against the day of her marriage to the King of kings" (Origen: see Moody Stuart's admirable commentary). Her wilderness state then gave place to peaceful and prosperous settlement in manifested union with her God; "the day of Solomon's espousals" (Song of Solomon 3:11). But a further marriage is intended, that of the individual soul to the Lord, for Christ "loves one, as if that one were all"; and finally the yet future marriage of the whole elect church (Revelation 19:7-8; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9). In the individual soul we have
(1) its longing for Christ's manifestation to it, and the various alternations in its experience of His manifestation (Song of Solomon 1:2-4; Song of Solomon 2:8; Song of Solomon 3:1; Song of Solomon 3:4; Song of Solomon 3:6-7);
(2) the abundant enjoyment of His sensible consolations, which is withdrawn through the bride's carelessness (Song of Solomon 5:1-3), and her longings after Him and reconciliation (Song of Solomon 5:8-16; Song of Solomon 6:3, etc.; Song of Solomon 7:1, etc.);
(3) effects of Christ's manifestation on the believer, assurance, labors of love, anxiety for the salvation of the impenitent, eagerness for His second coming. In the church aspect her longing for His first advent appears in the beginning (Song of Solomon 1:2); joyful anticipation of His advent (Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Song of Solomon 2:17); His stay with her during the one only whole day in the allegory (there are but two nights, Song of Solomon 2:17; Song of Solomon 4:6), answering to His sojourn here with His disciples, the last supper, the pledge of His return to her (Song of Songs 3:6 - 4:5); His death in figurative language, and ascension to the heavenly mount where still He is to be met with spiritually in prayer until the everlasting daybreak when we shall see face to face (Song of Solomon 4:6; Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 4:15). "My sister, ... My spouse, excludes carnal ideas of love.
As Eve was formed from Adam, so Christ took our flesh to be brother and also husband (compare Hebrews 2:11; Mark 3:35). In Song of Solomon 5:1 "I am come into My garden" is the central point of the whole, the bridegroom and bride are one; the Spirit, answering to the awakening N. wind and the softly blowing S. wind, having been shed on the church at Pentecost, to make the spiritual union complete (Song of Solomon 4:10). "Eat, O friends," etc., follows immediately (Isaiah 55:1), the gospel being thenceforth preached in all its grace to all (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19). Then succeeds the period of declension and the consequent withdrawing of the grieved Spirit (Song of Solomon 5:2-6). Then her earnest search for Him and praises of Him to others, wherein she regains her own assurance, "I am my Beloved's" (Song of Solomon 6:3).
Here Israel's sighing after Messiah, and finding Him hereafter as one united nation, combining "Tirzah" the northern capital and. "Jerusalem" the southern capital, is hinted at (Song of Solomon 6:4); she the queen, and the attendant Gentile churches" threescore queens and fourscore concubines" (Song of Solomon 6:8; Psalms 45:9-15). Then Shulamith having found Solomon, i.e. Israel," made like the chariots of Amminadib" ("My willing people") instead of as heretofore "Lo-ammi," not My people (Hosea 1:9-10), shall "look forth as, the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners" (Daniel 12:1-3; Revelation 12:1; Revelation 19:14). The nations shall then admire and flow unto her (Song of Solomon 6:13; Song of Solomon 7:1, etc., answering to Isaiah 52:7-10). The "return, return, O Shulamite" answers to "when the Lord shall bring again Zion" through the instrumentality of the nations who shall then long to "look upon" her as the source of spiritual blessing to them (Micah 5:7; Zechariah 8:13).
The daughters of Jerusalem, i.e. the nations (a phrase drawn by Jesus from the song, Luke 23:28, Galilean women standing in the same relation to the Jews as Gentiles afterward did), become united to Christ through the instrumentality of the bride, and they also appropriate her words, "I am my Beloved's," etc. (Song of Solomon 7:10). At the close of this part (Song of Solomon 8:4) is restored Israel's charge to the Gentile converted nations not to interrupt the millennial rest of Christ with His worldwide church, "I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up ... My love;" for an apostasy succeeds, as one precedes, the millennium (Revelation 20:4-9).
Then the elect church from Jews and Gentiles, now being gathered, is described, Song of Solomon 8:5-14, which is chronologically before the millennial church just described, but fitly brought in as the closing subject ("make haste, My beloved," etc.) to remind us our position is to be "hasting unto the coming of the day of God" (2 Peter 3:12; Revelation 22:20). The "little sister" having "no breasts" (neither faith nor love, the springs of spiritual nourishment, 1 Thessalonians 5:8; compare in connection with breasts, Luke 11:27-28) answers to the Gentile church admitted to be a "wall" in Zion founded on Christ; "spoken for," i.e. sought in marriage by Him. No "stubble" of Jewish rites is to be built on her (1 Corinthians 3:11-12), but a "palace of silver," i.e. the highest privileges of church fellowship (Galatians 2:11-18; Ephesians 2:11-22). The "door" is that of faith opened to the Gentiles, implying universal accessibleness (1 Corinthians 16:9), but safely enclosed with fragrant enduring "cedar," lest it should be corrupted by latitudinarianism.
The bride's joyous anticipation and desires at the beginning (Song of Solomon 1:6; Song of Solomon 1:12, etc.) are thus realized in the spiritual church, now in part (Song of Solomon 4:12-15; Song of Solomon 5:1), and in the hereafter restored Israel (Song of Solomon 6:4-12; Song of Solomon 7:7), in the Gentile nations converted through her (Song of Solomon 7:10, etc.), and in the hereafter to be completed election church from Jews and Gentiles (Song of Solomon 8:5-13). The vineyard she had lost (Song of Solomon 1:6) is regained, and presented by her, who now is in peace and favor, to her Lord (Song of Solomon 8:10-12).
She is addressed, "thou that dwellest (permanently) in the gardens" (the paradise of God) (Song of Solomon 8:13). Words of the Syriac and Arabic tongues found nowhere else in Hebrew occur, which leads to the inference that Solomon composed it among his "one thousand and five songs" (perhaps referring to this one song in five cantos) while staying in his Lebanon "buildings" (distinct from "the house of the forest of Lebanon" at Jerusalem: 1 Kings 7:2; 1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:6; his country home for the hot summer: compare Song of Solomon 4:8), and enriched this idyllic poem with words of an archaic and rural stamp. Robinson found there remains of massive buildings.
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Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Canticles; the Song of Solomon'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​c/canticles-the-song-of-solomon.html. 1949.