Scratchpad: Exegeting Song of Solomon

Capital from the Song of Solomon in Winchester...
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I have to write a short exegesis, 1500 words, for my Old Testament class by Friday (which, ironically enough, is the date of the Royal Wedding, which will be my official excuse for exegeting Song of Songs). I am thinking of doing the Song of Solomon, just for the fun of it, and because, well, oh, you know…. 😉

So, how would you break it down? This is one suggestion, put forth by ]], I think:

1:2-2:7 Anticipation
2:8-3:5 Found, and Lost – and Found
3:6-5:1 Consummation
5:2-8:4 Lost – and Found
8:5-14 Affirmation

And here is another one I found, and I think is related to more Jewish allegorical interpretation:

Verses 1:2-3:6 are believed to represent the Exodus, Sinai, the sin of the golden calf, the construction of the tabernacle and entry into Canaan. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” was understood to allude to the Oral Toral given to Israel by God. Vs 3:6 “What is that coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all fragrant powders of the merchant?” was seen as Israel’s triumphant entry into Canaan.

Verses 3:7-5:1 are believed to concentrate on the Temple. Ch 4, verses 6-7 “Until the day breaths and the shadows flee, I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” was understood as God’s promise of protection as long as Israel remained faithful.

Verses 5:2-6:1 refer to Israel’s sin and repentance, and includes the experience of the Babylonian Exile. Indeed the anguish of the exiles may be well reflected in the pain of the female lover when she wakes to find her beloved gone, and is abused as she searches fruitlessly for him. “I opened to my beloved but my beloved had turned and was gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him but did not find him; I called him but he gave no answer. Making their rounds in the city the sentinels found me; they beat me, they wounded me, they took away my mantle, those sentinels of the walls. I adjure you, o daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, tell him this:I am faint with love.”(5:6-8)

Verses 6:2-7:11 commemorate the post-exilic reconciliation of God and Israel, and the rebuilding of the Temple. The Shulamite’s declaration “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me” rings out as a response to God’s declaration (Ex 6:7a) “I will take you as my people and I will be your God.”

Verses 7:12-8:14 mark Israel’s exile in the Roman empire and look forward to an ultimate redemption. The Messianic tradition is said to be represented by 8:2, “I would leave you and bring you into the house of my mother, and into the chamber of the one who bore me.” In the final verses God receives the prayers of Israel as Israel awaits her final redemption.

I am trying to pick a passage out, something nice and neat, to write up real quickly.

Any suggestions?

Oh, and just to be clear. This is an exegesis and not an attempt at theologizing. This is about what the text meant to the earliest readers/redactors/canonizers, etc… not how the Church has (badly, at times) interpreted this book, so no, don’t expect me to point everything in this work to Christ. To do so is dishonest, in my opinion.

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3 Replies to “Scratchpad: Exegeting Song of Solomon”

  1. Now that’s allegory! You might be interested in the translation and notes I did starting here. I like the way Rashi continually points to the lilies as indicating students of Torah. He is right on, IMO. And he knows how to do allegory too.

    I have not reviewed my translation recently – too busy on psalms. So there may be some insupportable accidents.

  2. Well – among my favorites are Song 2:15 – about the foxes. There seems to be a word play between the foxes and the Shulamite. Also a good area is the hidden presence of God in the Song, in the names of the animals of the refrain. The refrain is different in each section. This might give some support to the overall allegory you sketched above. There is also a direct connection to the hart of Psalm 22 (inscription and 22:20 (Hebrew numbering). Then there is the watchmen striking the bride – there are two incidents with the watchmen, one where she is not struck and one where she is..

    Good writing – I hope we hear the results.

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