Author: Solomon, specifically a young Solomon before his multitude of wives.
Date: Song of Solomon was most likely written at the beginning of Solomon’s kingship, dating it around 970 BC.
Interpreting Song of Solomon
There are no less than nine different interpretations on what Song of Solomon actually means. It is clear that love is the theme of the book but the question surrounds how literal to interpret the book. Some see the book as a metaphor for God’s love of Israel. Still others extend the metaphor to the church with Christ as the bridegroom.
The most literal interpretation of the book is that this is simply a story of Solomon’s first love and it is a literal love story. This interpretation is reflected somewhat by the fact that this song (the entire book) is still sung in Jewish weddings today.
Under a literal interpretation, this book is the story of Solomon meeting his first love, marrying her, and then making love on their wedding night. Because this has been considered inappropriate or too racy until recent years, some may have looked for other interpretations to the book in an attempt to ignore the possibility that the Bible frankly discusses sex.
Style of Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon is different from the other books of wisdom in that it tells a story. However, one must remember that it still follows the form of the rest of Hebrew poetry and is not typical prose. Therefore the form is not like a typical story where one is just told what happens.
To begin with, one must remember that Song of Solomon is a song. It was written in order to be sung and not just read. Secondly, as a story there are only two parties but as a song there is a chorus that chimes in as well. For instance, chapters 4 and 5 depict the wedding night and then all of a sudden a chorus chimes in, essentially cheering the couple on. This doesn’t mean to imply in any way that there are another group of people in the bedroom. Instead, it is simply a literary feature to advance the plot in this song.
Characters in Song of Solomon
Solomon – Solomon is a young king at the beginning of his reign. It is mentioned that he has 40 queens but these should not be understood to be his wives. Instead, these are queen-mothers, wives of his father David. At David’s death they were not kicked out of the palace but were allowed to remain there. This actually adds to the story of Song of Solomon rather than detracting from it as previous wives. Solomon is surrounded by women, none of which he can marry because they are the wives of his father.
Shulamith – This is probably not her actual name (assuming that she is a literal person.) In Hebrew this is the feminine form of the name Solomon and this name basically means “Mrs. Solomon.” She is a poor girl and the daughter of a vineyard owner. She feels that she is not beautiful because her skin is darkened from hard labor in the sun. Nevertheless Solomon spots her on a trip to the vineyard and the two fall in love.
The friends – The friends are not physically present for the events of the book. Instead, they are a literary device to emphasize points and move the “plot” of the story along.