Song of Solomon
Remember to keep in mind while you’re reading this book – is it erotica, or allegory?
OK, one chapter read and I’ve already made up my mind. This is erotica.Trying to interpret “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine” as love between Christ and his church leaves a queasy feeling in my gut. Ewwww.
There’s an interesting bit of translation in v 7. In Hebrew: English it says “for why should I be as one that veileth herself beside the flocks of thy companions“. The KJV leaves out the part about the veil – “why should I be as one that turneth aside“. The NIV restores the veil – “Why should I be like a veiled woman“. But the NLT says “why should I wander like a prostitute“. Who said anything about a prostitute? The only way this makes sense is if ‘veiled woman’ was a euphemism for ‘prostitute’ at the time this was written. Maybe it was.
So right in the middle of this chapter (v 10-12), which is clearly about courting and love-making, are the words to a well-known anthem by iconic Canadian composer Healey Willan (1880-1968). Every high school and church choir performs this; I’ve sung it so many times I can sing the alto line in my sleep. And it’s always done in the spring, usually around Easter, because it’s about spring, right? Well, not when the words are read in context. Cherry-picking, again. Skip to v 16 and you’ll find the line that’s on the cover of just about every wedding program.
This seems to be a cute story about a woman who looks for her lover and takes him home with her. Then all of a sudden it’s about King Solomon’s fancy carriage. I have a hard time making a connection between these two thoughts. But I had to laugh at the end, v 11, where Solomon “wears the crown his mother gave him on his wedding day”. And which wedding day would that be? He had 300 wives 😉
This is a love poem from a man to a woman. The metaphors for beauty are not exactly what we would use today…. “Your teeth are as white as sheep, recently shorn and freshly washed.” ?? V 10-15 get a little more, er, physical, in their descriptiveness. No mistaking that – allegory, indeed!
The woman is dreaming about and pining for her lover, and she describes him in detail.
In here we find another familiar line, cherry-picked for wedding merchandise. “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (v 3) The young man continues to sweet-talk the woman, and tells her that he would choose her among sixty queens and 80 concubines. If the author really were Solomon, he’d have a lot more women than that to choose from.
How could v 2 be about anything other than sex? “Between your thighs lies a mound of wheat bordered with lilies.” Duh! Ditto v 7-8.
In v 1-2, the young woman wishes that her lover were like her brother; then they could be seen in public together. Sorta like in some cultures that still exist today, unfortunately. Is there anyone who hasn’t heard v 6-7? “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death…” Look at v 8-9. They made no sense to me at all in the KJV, and the NIV wasn’t any better for v 9. But read the NLT – does that make sense?
And that’s it for this little book. After reading that, is there ANYBODY out there who can make a case for it being anything other than an erotic love story? Here’s a modern music video based on the book.