Introduction to Song of Songs

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, is love poetry. Yet it is also a profound depiction of the meaning, value and beauty of work. The Song sings of lovers who court, then marry, and then work together in an ideal picture of life, family and work. We will explore themes of hardship, beauty, diligence, pleasure, passion, family and joy as they are depicted in the wide variety of work seen in the Song of Songs.

Surprised by Song of Songs, Will Messenger (Click to Watch)

 

In the ancient world all poetry was sung, and the Song is, in fact, the lyrics to a song collection. It was performed by singers consisting of a male lead, a female lead and a chorus. Song of Songs should probably be thought of as a concert piece created for an aristocratic audience in Solomon’s court. It has strong analogies to the love music of ancient Egypt, which was also meant for such audiences and which was composed in the centuries just prior to the age of Solomon.[1] The lyrics of Egyptian poetry, although in many ways very similar to Song of Songs, are rather light-hearted and often focus on the ecstasy and afflictions of young lovers. The lyrics of Song of Songs, however, are not flippant or casual but profound and theological, and they provoke serious thought, including thought about work.

There are numerous interpretations of Song of Songs[2], but we will approach it as a collection of songs that center on the love of a man and a woman. This is the plain sense of the text. It is the most fruitful way to explore meanings that actually arise from the text instead of being imposed upon it. The love poetry celebrates the beauty of a wedding and the joy of love between man and woman.

M. V. Fox, The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1985).    

Other possible approaches are discussed in Duane A. Garrett and Paul A. House, Word Biblical Commentary: Song of Songs and Lamentations, Vol. 23B (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004) 59-81. None of these are specifically applied to work, however.