|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1 This is the Song of songs, excellent above any others, for it is wholly taken up with describing the excellences of Christ, and the love between him and his redeemed people.
Verse 1. - The song of songs, which is Solomon's. This is certainly the title of the book which follows, although in our present Hebrew Bible it is the first verse of the book preceded by the shorter form, 'The Song of Songs.' The Septuagint has simply the title Ασμα, So that our English title in the Authorized Version, 'The Song of Solomon,' has no ancient authority. It is well altered in the Revised Version to 'The Song of Songs.' The word "song" (שִׁיר) does not necessarily convey the meaning. composed to be sung to music. If the performance of the words were chiefly in view, the word would have been מִוְמור, carmen, "lyric poem," "hymn," or "ode." The Greek Ασμα ἀσμάτων, and the Latin of the Vulgate, Canticum canticorum, accord with the Hebrew in representing the work as taking a high place either in the esteem of the Church or, on account of the subject, in the esteem of the writer. Luther expresses the same idea in the title he attaches to it, 'Das Hohelied,' that is, the chief or finest of songs. The reference may be to the excellence of the literary form, but probably that which suggested the title was the supreme beauty of the love which prompted the songs. The title may be regarded as applied to the whole book, or to the first portion of it giving the name to the whole. If it be a collection of separate songs strung together, as some think) by mere resemblance in style and subject, then the words, "which is Solomon's" (לְִשל מו אֲשֶׁר) apply to the first song alone. But the unity which is clearly to be traced through the book to the end makes it probable that the title is meant to ascribe the work to the authorship of Solomon. This is the opinion of the majority of critics. It must have come either from the wise king himself, or from some one of his contemporaries or immediate successors. The preposition is the lamedh auctoris. If the meaning were "referring to," another preposition (עַל) would have been employed. It has been remarked by Delitzsch that the absence of any description of Solomon as "King of Israel" or "son of David," as in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, confirms the view that Solomon himself was the sole author. Some have argued against the authenticity of the title on the ground that the longer form of the relative, אֲשֶׁר, is used in it, whereas in the book itself the shorter form, שְׁ, is found, but no dependence, can be placed on that argument regarded by itself, for the same writer employs both forms, as e.g. Jeremiah, who uses the longer form in his prophecies and the shorter in Lamentations. The shorter form is, in fact, the elder, being Old Canaanitish or Phoenician, אשׁ, which is a lengthened form of שׁ, and afterwards became אֲשֶׁר. One writer, however Fleischer), holds that the relative pronoun as a substantive origin, and compares it with the Arabic ithe and the Assyrian asar, meaning "track" or "place," like the German welcher, which comes from wo. But whether this be so or not, it is certainly unsafe to date any book by the form found in it of the, relative pronoun. We know that in poetry the abbreviated form is common. It was probably a North Palestine provincialism, as we see in the Book of Kings. It became common in prose writings after the Captivity because of the degradation of Hebrew, but it was not unknown before that time either in prose or poetry. With regard to the exact description of the poetic form of the Song of Songs, the difference among critics is considerable, but the question is scarcely worth discussing. There undoubtedly is unity of conception in the songs which are brought together, but it cannot be of importance to prove that there is dramatic unity strictly speaking; there is no dramatic procedure, nor can we suppose that there is any ultimate aim at dramatic representation. But the Exposition which follows will suffice to show that there are facts of history in the background of the poem; if the suggestions of the language and scenery be followed, the facts are very beautiful and even romantic - the love of the great king for one of his own subjects, a lovely northern maiden, whose simplicity and purity of character are a great attraction and lend much force to the religious sentiment of the song. In 1 Kings 5:12 we read that "the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him." That divinely inspired wisdom enabled him, notwithstanding his own personal errors, to idealize and sanctify the lovely episode of his lifo which lies at the foundation of his poem. And the Church of God in every age has appreciated, more or less widely, the inspiration, both of matter and of form, which breathed in it. We are told that Solomon composed one thousand and five songs (1 Kings 4:32); whether this is a part of that collection or not we cannot certainly say, but that it is a mere fasciculus, or collection of separate songs, strung together by their general erotic character, is what we cannot believe. No doubt, as Dr. Mason Good has observed, the Arabian poets were accustomed to arrange their poems in what they compared to a string of pearls, but we can scarcely carry such a fact into the Bible, and deal with sacred books as mere literary remains. There must be a deep religious meaning in such language, and it is in accordance with Eastern usage that amatory songs should be so employed. What the meaning is we must persistently ask, and however much has been wrongly said in the past, while we believe in the Divine authority of the Old Testament we must not renounce the endeavour to find the Song of Songs worthy of its title and its place.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The Song of songs, which is Solomon's. Wrote by Solomon, king of Israel, as the "amanuensis" of the Holy Ghost; and not by Hezekiah and his men, as the Jews say (k): or, "concerning Solomon" (l); Christ, of whom Solomon was a type; see Sol 3:7; of his person, excellencies, love to his church, care of her, and concern for her; and of the nearness and communion he admitted her to, and indulged her with the Jews have a saying (m), that wherever the word Solomon is used in this song, the Holy One is meant, the holy God, or Messiah: it is called "the Song of songs", because the most excellent, as the Holy of holies, King of kings, &c. which, with the Hebrews, express a superlative; this being more excellent than the one hundred and five songs, written by Solomon, or than any human composure whatever; yea, preferable to all Scriptural songs, as to subject, manner of style, and copiousness of it.
(k) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 15. 1.((l) "de Solomone", Cocceius. (m) Maimon. Yesode Hatorah, c. 6. s. 12.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
THE SONG OF SOLOMON. Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The Song of Solomon, called in the Vulgate and Septuagint, "The Song of Songs," from the opening words. This title denotes its superior excellence, according to the Hebrew idiom; so holy of holies, equivalent to "most holy" (Ex 29:37); the heaven of heavens, equivalent to the highest heavens (De 10:14). It is one of the five volumes (megilloth) placed immediately after the Pentateuch in manuscripts of the Jewish Scriptures. It is also fourth of the Hagiographa (Cetubim, writings) or the third division of the Old Testament, the other two being the Law and the Prophets. The Jewish enumeration of the Cetubim is Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra (including Nehemiah), and Chronicles. Its canonicity is certain; it is found in all Hebrew manuscripts of Scripture; also in the Greek Septuagint; in the catalogues of Melito, bishop of Sardis, A.D. 170 (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26), and of others of the ancient Church.
Origen and Jerome tell us that the Jews forbade it to be read by any until he was thirty years old. It certainly needs a degree of spiritual maturity to enter aright into the holy mystery of love which it allegorically sets forth. To such as have attained this maturity, of whatever age they be, the Song of Songs is one of the most edifying of the sacred writings. Rosenmuller justly says, The sudden transitions of the bride from the court to the grove are inexplicable, on the supposition that it describes merely human love. Had it been the latter, it would have been positively objectionable, and never would have been inserted in the holy canon. The allusion to "Pharaoh's chariots" (So 1:9) has been made a ground for conjecturing that the love of Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter is the subject of the Song. But this passage alludes to a remarkable event in the history of the Old Testament Church, the deliverance from the hosts and chariots of Pharaoh at the Red Sea. (However, see on So 1:9). The other allusions are quite opposed to the notion; the bride is represented at times as a shepherdess (So 1:7), "an abomination to the Egyptians" (Ge 46:34); so also So 1:6; 3:4; 4:8; 5:7 are at variance with it. The Christian fathers, Origen and Theodoret, compared the teachings of Solomon to a ladder with three steps; Ecclesiastes, natural (the nature of sensible things, vain); Proverbs, moral; Canticles, mystical (figuring the union of Christ and the Church). The Jews compared Proverbs to the outer court of Solomon's temple, Ecclesiastes to the holy place, and Canticles to the holy of holies. Understood allegorically, the Song is cleared of all difficulty. "Shulamith" (So 6:13), the bride, is thus an appropriate name, Daughter of Peace being the feminine of Solomon, equivalent to the Prince of Peace. She by turns is a vinedresser, shepherdess, midnight inquirer, and prince's consort and daughter, and He a suppliant drenched with night dews, and a king in His palace, in harmony with the various relations of the Church and Christ. As Ecclesiastes sets forth the vanity of love of the creature, Canticles sets forth the fullness of the love which joins believers and the Saviour. The entire economy of salvation, says Harris, aims at restoring to the world the lost spirit of love. God is love, and Christ is the embodiment of the love of God. As the other books of Scripture present severally their own aspects of divine truth, so Canticles furnishes the believer with language of holy love, wherewith his heart can commune with his Lord; and it portrays the intensity of Christ's love to him; the affection of love was created in man to be a transcript of the divine love, and the Song clothes the latter in words; were it not for this, we should be at a loss for language, having the divine warrant, wherewith to express, without presumption, the fervor of the love between Christ and us. The image of a bride, a bridegroom, and a marriage, to represent this spiritual union, has the sanction of Scripture throughout; nay, the spiritual union was the original fact in the mind of God, of which marriage is the transcript (Isa 54:5; 62:5; Jer 3:1, &c.; Eze 16:1-63; 23:1-49; Mt 9:15; 22:2; 25:1, &c.; Joh 3:29; 2Co 11:2; Eph 5:23-32, where Paul does not go from the marriage relation to the union of Christ and the Church as if the former were the first; but comes down from the latter as the first and best recognized fact on which the relation of marriage is based; Re 19:7; 21:2; 22:17). Above all, the Song seems to correspond to, and form a trilogy with, Psalms 45 and 72, which contain the same imagery; just as Psalm 37 answers to Proverbs, and the Psalms 39 and 73 to Job. Love to Christ is the strongest, as it is the purest, of human passions, and therefore needs the strongest language to express it: to the pure in heart the phraseology, drawn from the rich imagery of Oriental poetry, will not only appear not indelicate or exaggerated, but even below the reality. A single emblem is a type; the actual rites, incidents, and persons of the Old Testament were appointed types of truths afterwards to be revealed. But the allegory is a continued metaphor, in which the circumstances are palpably often purely imagery, while the thing signified is altogether real. The clue to the meaning of the Song is not to be looked for in the allegory itself, but in other parts of Scripture. "It lies in the casket of revelation an exquisite gem, engraved with emblematical characters, with nothing literal thereon to break the consistency of their beauty" [Burrowes]. This accounts for the name of God not occurring in it. Whereas in the parable the writer narrates, in the allegory he never does so. The Song throughout consists of immediate addresses either of Christ to the soul, or of the soul to Christ. "The experimental knowledge of Christ's loveliness and the believer's love is the best commentary on the whole of this allegorical Song" [Leighton]. Like the curiously wrought Oriental lamps, which do not reveal the beauty of their transparent emblems until lighted up within, so the types and allegories of Scripture, "the lantern to our path" [Ps 119:105], need the inner light of the Holy Spirit of Jesus to reveal their significance. The details of the allegory are not to be too minutely pressed. In the Song, with an Oriental profusion of imagery, numbers of lovely, sensible objects are aggregated not strictly congruous, but portraying jointly by their very diversity the thousand various and seemingly opposite beauties which meet together in Christ.
The unity of subject throughout, and the recurrence of the same expressions (So 2:6, 7; 3:5; 8:3, 4; 2:16; 6:3; 7:10; 3:6; 6:10; 8:5), prove the unity of the poem, in opposition to those who make it consist of a number of separate erotic songs. The sudden transitions (for example, from the midnight knocking at a humble cottage to a glorious description of the King) accord with the alternations in the believer's experience. However various the divisions assigned be, most commentators have observed four breaks (whatever more they have imagined), followed by four abrupt beginnings (So 2:7; 3:5; 5:1; 8:4). Thus there result five parts, all alike ending in full repose and refreshment. We read (1Ki 4:32) that Solomon's songs were "a thousand and five." The odd number five added over the complete thousand makes it not unlikely that the "five" refers to the Song of songs, consisting of five parts.
It answers to the idyllic poetry of other nations. The Jews explain it of the union of Jehovah and ancient Israel; the allusions to the temple and the wilderness accord with this; some Christians of Christ and the Church; others of Christ and the individual believer. All these are true; for the Church is one in all ages, the ancient typifying the modern Church, and its history answering to that of each individual soul in it. Jesus "sees all, as if that all were one, loves one, as if that one were all." "The time suited the manner of this revelation; because types and allegories belonged to the old dispensation, which reached its ripeness under Solomon, when the temple was built" [Moody Stuart]. "The daughter of Zion at that time was openly married to Jehovah"; for it is thenceforth that the prophets, in reproving Israel's subsequent 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]. Solomon was peculiarly fitted to clothe this holy mystery with the lovely natural imagery with which the Song abounds; for "he spake of trees, from the cedar in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall" (1Ki 4:33). A higher qualification was his knowledge of the eternal Wisdom or Word of God (Pr 8:1-36), the heavenly bridegroom. David, his father, had prepared the way, in Psalms 45 and 72; the son perfected the allegory. It seems to have been written in early life, long before his declension; for after it a song of holy gladness would hardly be appropriate. It was the song of his first love, in the kindness of his youthful espousals to Jehovah. Like other inspired books, its sense is not to be restricted to that local and temporary one in which the writer may have understood it; it extends to all ages, and shadows forth everlasting truth (1Pe 1:11, 12; 2Pe 1:20, 21).
"Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine, and the configurations of their glorie,
Seeing not only how each verse doth shine, but all the constellations of the storie."—Herbert.
Three notes of time occur [Moody Stuart]: (1) The Jewish Church speaks of the Gentile Church (So 8:8) towards the end; (2) Christ speaks to the apostles (So 5:1) in the middle; (3) The Church speaks of the coming of Christ (So 1:2) at the beginning. Thus we have, in direct order, Christ about to come, and the cry for the advent; Christ finishing His work on earth, and the last supper; Christ ascended, and the call of the Gentiles. In another aspect we have: (1) In the individual soul the longing for the manifestation of Christ to it, and the various alternations in its experience (So 1:2, 4; 2:8; 3:1, 4, 6, 7) of His manifestation; (2) The abundant enjoyment of His sensible consolations, which is soon withdrawn through the bride's carelessness (So 5:1-3, &c.), and her longings after Him, and reconciliation (So 5:8-16; 6:3, &c.; So 7:1, &c.); (3) Effects of Christ's manifestation on the believer; namely, assurance, labors of love, anxiety for the salvation of the impenitent, eagerness for the Lord's second coming (So 7:10, 12; 8:8-10, 14).
So 1:1-17. Canticle I.—(So 1:2-2:7)—The Bride Searching for and Finding the King.
1. The song of songs—The most excellent of all songs, Hebrew idiom (Ex 29:37; De 10:14). A foretaste on earth of the "new song" to be sung in glory (Re 5:9; 14:3; 15:2-4).
Solomon's—"King of Israel," or "Jerusalem," is not added, as in the opening of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, not because Solomon had not yet ascended the throne [Moody Stuart], but because his personality is hid under that of Christ, the true Solomon (equivalent to Prince of Peace). The earthly Solomon is not introduced, which would break the consistency of the allegory. Though the bride bears the chief part, the Song throughout is not hers, but that of her "Solomon." He animates her. He and she, the Head and the members, form but one Christ [Adelaide Newton]. Aaron prefigured Him as priest; Moses, as prophet; David, as a suffering king; Solomon, as the triumphant prince of peace. The camp in the wilderness represents the Church in the world; the peaceful reign of Solomon, after all enemies had been subdued, represents the Church in heaven, of which joy the Song gives a foretaste.
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