Study Guide

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) Setting

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People are always falling in love. Which makes it pretty darn tough to figure out who wrote Song of Songsā€”and when. After all, Cupid never stops thwacking people with his arrows.

So, generations of scholars have put on their thinking caps, scrunched up their faces, and come up with a date range...of about a millennium.

And the place is absolutely Jerusalem...or somebody who went there once...or heard about it from their next-door neighbor.

To add to the confusion, it's such an unusual collection of little scenes and poems that some people think there are multiple authors hiding behind each contribution, while others think one awesome dude wrote it from start to finish.

(It's like literary scholars saying they're absolutely sure that William Shakespeare lived in Elizabethan England, but they'd also like the entertain the possibility that "Shakespeare" is actually a skateboard gang from Tokyo.)

Basically, nobody has the skinny on who wrote Song of Songs, or when. But, here's are some basic guesses we can make:

  • Literacy wasn't a big deal in the ancient world, so we can assume that the author was some sort of elite citizen (i.e., it's probably not a bawdy drinking song. Or at least, it wasn't meant to be.)
  • Since it mentions Jerusalem and gives a shout out to the famous Israelite King Solomon, we can guess that the author is probably an Israelite (since all the evidence of the ancient world suggests that the rest of the world really didn't care what the Jews got up to).
  • Most recent scholarship suggests an early(ish) date, around the 10th century BCE, or thereabouts. Also, some recent scholarship suggests a late(ish) date, around the 2nd century BCE. We can see how this might be confusing.

So, it's some sort of love poem, written by a literate, Israelite author (or maybe authors) around the 10th century(ish) BCE. Or 200 BCE.

We think.

But hey, you know what they say: love is timeless. And considering how hard it is to stick a date on Song of Songs, we might have to call this lovey-dovey text timeless too.

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