INTERPRETING THE SONG OF SOLOMON

by Jeffrey Hagan
(Tacoma, WA)

Song of Solomon

The Five Main Interpretations For The Song of Solomon:

1. Allegorical - This position views the Song of Solomon to be an extended metaphor using an intimate relationship as a way of teaching.

Scripture does indeed contain allegory, however there are some reasons for not interpreting this book as such:

a) "It strains the text." It's quite graphic in it's description of sexual intimacy, too much so to be describing Christ and his Church.

b) The New Testament doesn't even apply it to the Church, in fact it doesn't even allude to it.

c) Allegorical pieces usually give some sort of indication that they are allegorical. This book does not.

2. Typology - In typology some historical value is considered to exist. Then a "type," or pattern, is sought out in Scripture. Typology is quite similar to allegory, but allegory doesn't recognize any historical value.

Scripture does indeed also contain "types" and "anti-types," however there are reasons to reject this position as well.

a) It also "strains the text" with graphic descriptions.

b) The New Testament does not imply, or refer, to the book this way.

c) The numerous possibilities for what the types and anti-types could be referring to make it impossible to be certain in dentifyimg them. Those who adhere to this position are incredibly diverse in their application bringing only confusion.

3. Drama - This position sees the book as more of a play, or even musical, that is to be acted out. Generally, to be viewed as a drama the work needs to include: a beginning, middle and end; a logical progression; develops a theme and/or characters; and technical information for production.

As with allegory and typology, there are reasons to doubt this position as well.

a) The text of Song of Solomon would have to be drastically changed to fit the criteria for drama.

b) "The style of drama is unknown to Hebrew literature."

4. Literal - This position allows the reader to accept what is said at face value. In other words, it's describing the love and emotions of two lovers. Poetry is used but that doesn't not change anything in the interpretation using this position. This position also eliminates all the "guess work" required from the above three methods. Proper, godly love between two is a gift. And a literal interpretation allows for this book to simply be a description of that.

Some things that might appear to be weaknesses with this view are the fact God is not mentioned, why have such a sensual book in Scripture yet righteousness and godliness are not mentioned.

5. Didactic Moral - This view is close to the literal view but adds that certain moral principles are being taught.

It has value in that it shows married couples how to view and treat each other. A great reminder when things are difficult or grow mundane. As alluded to above in the literal section, this view reminds us that there is nothing wrong with sex except the wrong kind of sex. Sex is a gift from God when used within the boundaries also given by God.

In my humble opinion, the only logical way to interpret this book is by way of combination. A combination of literal and didactic moral. Wait, I stand corrected. I believe the didactic moral view alone is the most logical. The reason I took a step back and selected only the didactic moral position is because in reality it allows for literal interpretation yet with moral principles being the primary reason for the work.

Literal alone would merely be a description of what is happening, but with God's Word, especially in a work such as this, we can be assured there is a purpose for the inclusion of Song of Solomon in the Canon. If literal alone, then questions could still remain as to the purpose.

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