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Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) Current Hot-Button Issues And Cultural Debates In Practice

Getting Biblical in Daily Life

Songs of Songs is a theological toughie. And not in the same way The Book of Job is. When we finish reading Job, we're left asking tough questions like why do good things happen to bad people? When we finish reading Song of Songs, on the other hand, we're left asking, "um, was that seriously just love poetry in the Bible?"

The problem, of course, is that the Bible is supposed to be a book about God. The Hebrew Bible is supposed to be about the relationship between God and his chosen people, the Jewish nation. As you probz noticed, neither party really shows up in full force in Song of Songs.

So, for just about two millennia, people thought that God was just hiding. He must be there, they reasoned, since this is God's book. And he's gotta be there just like he is in all the other Biblical books—as a bona fide Biblical character and narrative voice.

So, everyone from the early Church fathers to the medieval Jewish philosophers, tried their hand at allegorizing and dusting off a hidden meaning under the plain meaning of the text. (Check out some strategies here.) But, around the 17th century, interpretatively-minded people figured that it was enough to understand the text as a testament to love. In fact, the more pious among them figured that a tribute to love was a tribute to God, even if The Big Guy wasn't explicitly in the picture. After all, if God created all things and all experiences, surely love is his handiwork as well. And aren't people supposed to praise and celebrate God's creation? (Spoiler if you haven't read the Hebrew Bible: the answer is "yes" and the mandate is "do it a lot.")

Bottom line: we can spend a lot of time and even more brain power thinking about the deeper meaning behind Song of Songs, but we can't really be sure if any of it is what the authors actually intended. One thing we do know: this is one heck of a love poem. So much so that it made its way into the Good Book. Now that's a winner.

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