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Song of Solomon

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Samuel Sandmel writes: "There is nothing particularly religious in Song of Songs. One must hasten to add that neither is there anything irreligious or antireligious, except to those prurient minds who identify sensual love with impiety. But in the same way that the secular wisdom of Proverbs became identified with Torah, so the presence of Song of Songs in Scripture caused the love poetry to be invested with a deeper significance. In Judaism, there are echoes of opposition to the inclusion of Song of Songs in Scripture, that is, until it was interpreted as God's love for Israel. In Christianity, similarly, Song of Songs was considered an allegory expressing Christ's love for the Church." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 310)

Jay G. Williams writes: "Although thte text does appear to be somewhat disjointed, there seems to be no good reason to think that this is merely a collection of love verses composed by various authors. The style and imagery certainly seem to be quite consistent throughout. Furthermore, the more one reads these lyrics, the more one discerns the outline of dramatic plot. The principal characters are three: the comely Shulammite girl, her shepherd lover, and King Solomon. Just why the girl is called a Shulammite (6:13) is unclear. Some think that the word should really be read Shunammite and that the girl should be identified as Abishag the Shunammite, a girl who kept King David warm in his old age (I Kings 1:3-4) and who later became Solomon's. Others believe that Shulammite really means a Solomoneess, i.e., the female counterpart of Solomon." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 295)

Marcia Falk writes: "About the Song's authorship and origins very little is known. Tradition ascribes the work to King Solomon, but this view is discounted by modern scholars, who generally agree that the Song's authorship cannot be specified. Nor is its date of composition determined: scholarly speculation ranges from 950 to 200 B.C. In the past two centuries, scholars have hypothesized about the original context and function of the Song, proposing, for example, that it was a cycle of wedding songs or the liturgy of an ancient fertility cult. These theories, however, are not only unprovable but unconvincing, because they attempt to force the varied material of the text into confining molds. It is finally simpler and more illuminating to view the Song as a collection of different types of love poems that did not necessarily all derive from the same author or serve the same function in their original society. The stylistic similarities and repetitions among the poems may best be explained as literary conventions of ancient Hebrew verse, particularly if one accepts the view that the Song was, in its earliest stages, popular oral literature." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 525)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The most probable explanation of the book seems to be that it is a collection of various songs on similar themes, if not the same theme; this would also explain the linguistic variations which can be found in the work. Firm ground has been discovered since J. G. Wetzstein, Prussian consul in Damascus, made an investigation into the practices and customs of Arab peasants in the area which he completed in 1873. Among other things, he established that during the long marriage festivals the marrid couple bore the title of king and queen of the festival; they sat at a special table which was called the 'throne' for the occasion, while the public sang special hymns, essentially in honour of the wife. Meanwhile available material has been increased considerably, to such a degree that we have now virtually reached a certainty. The identity of the king and the Shulamite of the book has thus unexpectedly become clear; they were the bride and bridegroom during the feast in their honour." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 400-401)

Roland E. Murphy writes: "The love lyrics of ancient Egypt provide an atmosphere in which this work can be understood (cf. ANET 467-69). We do not mean that there is any direct dependence of the OT songs upon the Egyptian lyrics, but there is a similar approach with a common topic—love between the sexes. In Ct, 'the song of the dove is heard in our land,' and spring is the time for love (Ct 2:12-13); similarly, in the Egyptian poems the voice of a swallow invites the Egyptian girl to contemplate the beauty of the countryside. It is a commonplace that true love brooks no obstacles: 'Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away' (8:7). Neither can the Egyptian lover be put off—even by crocodiles in the stream that separates them—from his beloved (ANET 468). The Egyptian poetry uses the same term, 'sister,' to designate the beloved as does Ct (4:9-10; 4:12; 5:1-2). In short, this is the language of love, no matter what culture is in question." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 507)

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