Song of Songs 1:1-11 (Soprano 2-4a; Chorus 4b; Soprano 5-7; Chorus 8; Baritone 9-10; Chorus 11) (8/28/13)
There are three main schools of thought about the Song of Songs:
1. It is a song about the love of God for his people,
2. It is a chaste and holy allegory of Christ’s love for the Church, and
3. It is a song about human love between a man and woman.
I belong to School 3. I’ve read it, and it doesn’t sound either chaste or allegorical to me. My feeling is that God created them male and female and told them to be fruitful and multiply, so human love has God’s blessing, even without any chastity or allegory involved. If you don’t agree with me, though, that’s okay.
No matter which school you belong to, the Song is divided into three parts for singing: his part, her part, and the (apparently female) chorus. I’ve designated these as Baritone, Soprano, and Chorus. Sometimes it’s easy to tell from the Hebrew who is singing, and sometimes it’s not. I looked at four translations that tell you who is singing, and they were all slightly different. Our version is a combination of all four, with some of my own thoughts thrown in as well. Most of the translations I looked at don’t tell you anything at all about who is singing, which is pretty confusing, I think.
Song of Songs 1:12 – 2:7 (Duet) (8/29/13)
In modern America, we spend a lot of money on perfumes, deodorants, potpourris, scented candles, lemon-scented furniture polish, pine-scented cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and so on. Human beings enjoy a variety of floral, herbal, musky, and savory odors. So we shouldn’t be at all surprised when our soprano and baritone compare each other to the heady scents of spices, myrrh, cypress, greenery, fir trees, roses, lilies, apples, and wine.
Song of Songs 2:8 – 3:5 (Soprano 2:8 - 3:4; Baritone 3:5) (8/30/13)
Our soprano sings a delightful and touching aria about her beloved. She is thrilled to hear his voice, but he seems to be having some trouble getting through the fence. He begs her to come out to him, so after dark she slips from the house and roams the streets looking for him. When she finds him, she takes his hand and leads him back to her mother.
Song of Songs 3:6 – 4:12 (Chorus 3:6-11; Baritone 4:1-12) (9/2/13)
The chorus introduces our hero. They don’t say, “He’s a strong, handsome guy,” because that’s not the way Hebrew poetry works. They present concrete images: “He’s like soldiers all around a bed made of silver and gold.” Our hero doesn’t say his beloved is young and beautiful. Instead he compares her to the most beautiful objects he can think of. Her eyes are bright, like a dove’s. Her hair flows in heavy waves, like a flock on the side of a hill. Her teeth are white, and none are missing – like newly washed twin lambs. Hebrew writers used concrete images – a stone tower – to represent what we see as abstract concepts – the graceful line of a neck.
Song of Songs 4:13 – 5:8 (Soprano 4:13-16; Baritone 5:1; Soprano 2a; Baritone 2b; Soprano 5:3-8) (9/3/13)
Here’s a little duet between our soprano and baritone. Again they compare each other to beautiful walled gardens—sheltered from the outside world, smelling of sweet spices and fruits. Eventually the girl opens the gate and goes out, but her beloved has gone away. She wanders around town looking for him, but that doesn’t work out too well.
Song of Songs 5:9 – 6:13 (Chorus 5:9; Soprano 5:10-16; Chorus 6:1; Soprano 6:2-3; Baritone 6:4-9; Chorus 6:10; Soprano 6:11-12; Chorus 13a; Soprano 13b) (9/4/13)
The chorus asks a series of questions that give the soprano a chance to extol the virtues of her beloved. Well, I say virtues, but it is his handsome physical attributes that she extols. Our baritone repeats some of the descriptions he used earlier, and he adds that she is more beautiful than 60 queens, 80 concubines, and any number of young women you care to name.
Verse 6:12 is interesting. Basic Bible in English (BBE) chooses not to translate it, which gives you a hint that the Hebrew isn’t completely clear. Other versions and translations seem to fall into two primary groups, which is another hint that the Hebrew isn’t completely clear:
- Something like, “In my imagination, I was among the chariots of Amminadib/my noble people” (Amminadib can be a name, or it can mean, “my noble people),
- Something like, “In my imagination, I was like the chariots of Amminadib/my noble people.”
The first translation gives me the idea that when our soprano thinks about our baritone, she imagines being with him during his mighty acts of valor. That works for me. The second translation gives me the idea that she imagines herself as noble and awe-inspiring, impressing her beloved in a way that he can certainly relate to. That also works for me, and it is consistent with the baritone’s own assessment: “You are to be feared like an army with flags. Let your eyes be turned away from me; see, they have overcome me.” Always read more than one translation.
Song of Songs 7:1 – 8:3 (Baritone 7:1-9; Soprano 7:10 - 8:3) (9/5/13)
Although our baritone’s comparisons may seem a little strange to us – a stomach like a store of grain, a neck like a tower of ivory – his intent is clear. His beloved is the most beautiful thing he’s ever laid eyes on. His beloved is anxious to get some time with him alone.
Song of Songs 8:4 – 14 (Baritone 4; Chorus 5a; Baritone 5b-7; All 8-14) (9/6/13)
A fellow reader asks for my thoughts on why the Song of Solomon is included in the Bible. I think the answer is given in verses 6 and 7.
Whether we are talking about the love of God for his people, the love of Christ for his Church, or the love between human beings, love is the most powerful force in the universe. If we could give everything we had for love, the price would not be great enough. Thanks be to God for his great and freely given love for us!
Copyright 2013 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
St. John’s United Methodist Church,
2626 Arizona NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110
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