The Song of Songs, according to the Dicionário Enciclopédico da Bíblia, Vozes Publishing House, is a book of very difficult interpretation. There are many and varied opinions of many authors.
Origen, the greatest theologian up through the 3rd century, sees in the book of Songs of Solomon the story of a shepherdess who had been kidnapped by Solomon and locked in his harem, but that remained faithful to her first love.
In Davis’ dictionary we read the story of the peasant girl, married to a peasant young man. Solomon and his companions see her walking about around the north regions (Song of Sol. 6:10-13). She is taken to Jerusalem and surrounded by the women of the palace, and receives the honors of the king that is seeking to win her affection. The maiden resists these charms, and the gallantry of Solomon. She answers Solomon praising the qualities of the young peasant. She sighs for him during the day, and dreams about him during the night, and remains faithful to her wife’s vows.
Finally the ones who are flattering her go away and gather together to admire the courage with which she resists all her admirers (Song of Sol. 8:5-7).
Solomon is portrayed always as the dangerous seducer, trying to persuade the maiden to betray her beloved husband (Song of Sol. 7:1-9).
The poem, according to this point of view, celebrates the pure love that withstands all the temptations of the courtship of a king that uses many seducing arts. This way of seeing and understanding is called the “SHEPHERD’S HYPOTHESIS,” and is based upon the passionate exclamations directed to the absent lover (Song of Sol. 1:4,7; 2:16).
The other interpreters, specially the British, see in the Shulammite, not the peasant girl, but the daughter of Pharaoh, and Solomon’s wife. She is a foreigner, of dark color, and the daughter of the prince (Song of Sol. 1:5; 7:1).
Some authors mean to apply the Song of Songs to the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, based in Matt. 9:15; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-32; John 3:29. This interpretation is not appropriate, because Christ will only marry the Church after the rapture, at his second coming (Rev. 21:2-3).
Someone will say, though: In John 3:29 we read that Jesus already is the husband, and in Matt. 9:15 we read that Jesus, the husband, would be taken away. Jesus declared: “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). According to this declaration Jesus came to be the husband of Israel, that is to say, the promised messiah that was going to rule on the throne of David. Let us look at what Gabriel, the angel of Jehovah, said to Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus.’ He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom” (Luke 1:31-33). But Jesus was rejected and crucified by the Jews (Acts 2:36; 5:30-31; 13:27-33). Therefore, the oracle of Jehovah was not fulfilled, as we read: “He came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him” (John 1:11).
There is another detail in the book of Song of Solomon that cannot be applied to the Church. “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, prince’s daughter! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a skillful workman. Your body is like a round goblet, no mixed wine is wanting. Your waist is like a heap of wheat, set about with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, that are twins of a roe” (Song of Sol. 7:1-3). Besides exalting the bodily beauty, the book has an erotic nature and is offensive to good costumes: “I have taken off my robe. Indeed, must I put it on? I have washed my feet. Indeed, must I soil them? My beloved thrust his hand in through the latch opening. My heart pounded for him” (Song of Sol. 5:3,4). “By night on my bed, I sought him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but I didn’t find him” (Song of Sol. 3:1; 1:3). These expressions of erotic nature do not coadunate with the message of the New Testament. In the spiritual dimension of Jesus and the apostles, beauty is purely spiritual (1 Tim. 2:9,10; 1 Pet. 3:1-4), for the kingdom of God is spiritual.
There is one more line of thought: Many authors consider the Song of Songs an allegory that tells the relationship between Jehovah and Israel, under the image of the marriage and mutual love. The prophet Hosea says: “Go again, love a woman loved by another, and an adulteress, even as Yahweh loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). Some other parallel texts: Ezek. 16:8; Is. 50:1; 52:1-3; 54:4-8; 62:4-5.
This is how the Jewish tradition thinks, also the Maimonides (a wise rabbi of the 12th century), the great part of the Catholic exegetes, and many Protestants. We expose this exegesis next, which seems to us very logical, for the Song of Songs was read on the eighth day from the Passover, which marked the beginning of the Israel days (Ex. 12:1-2). It would be a memorial forever (Ex. 12:17). As the book of the Songs of Solomon is deeply connected to the history of Israel from the beginning, the book celebrates the union of Jehovah with his people.
- The Shulammite is a picture of Jerusalem (Col. 1:5; 2:7; 3:5,7,11; 5:8,16; 6:4; 8:4).
- “The king (Jehovah) hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” (Song of Sol. 1:4). The sentence “the upright love thee,” indicates the period of the Law.
- “I am swarthy, because the sun hath scorched me” (Ps. 84:11). “My mother’s sons were incensed against me; they made me keeper of the vineyards; [But] mine own vineyard have I not kept” (Is. 5:1-7; Song of Sol. 1:5-6).
- “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest [thy flock], where thou makest [it] to rest at noon: For why should I be as one that is veiled…” (Song of Sol. 1:7). This text reminds us of Israel’s prostitutions.
- “I have compared thee, O my love, to a steed in Pharaoh’s chariots” (Song of Sol. 1:9). This comparison alludes to the people of Israel in the dissolute Egypt.
- “My beloved is unto me [as] a bundle of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts” (Song of Sol. 1:13).
- “Behold, thou art fair, my love; Behold thou art fair; thine eyes are [as] doves” (Song of Sol. 1:15).
As Song of Solomon is linked to the history of Israel from the beginning, linked to Jehovah, for the Shulammite is a figure of the wife of Jehovah, that is to say, Jerusalem, as we read above, the Shulammite is compared to a dove as the people of Israel is compared to the doves (Is. 60:8).
The Shulammite is compared to a dove many times in the book of Song of Songs: 1:15, 2:14; 4:1; 5:2; 6:9. As the dove is easily deceived and lacks understanding (Hos. 7:11), it therefore cannot be the Holy Spirit of the Father, and as the baptism of John was not the baptism of Jesus (Acts 19:1-6), the dove that descended upon Jesus in the baptism of John symbolized the union of Christ with Israel, of which the dove is a figure.
The four Gospels agree that the Spirit descended as a dove, and Luke says more: “and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove upon him” (Luke 3:22). And the Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus was the Spirit of Jehovah and not the Spirit of the Father.
The Holy Spirit of Jehovah was an enemy to Israel (Is. 63:10), and the Holy Spirit of the Father is an advocate, counselor, guide and intercessor, for he was the Paraclete (Rom. 8:26). The Holy Spirit of the Father is the love of the Father (Rom. 5:5). It operates the new birth (John 3:3-6): and transforms the worst sinners into saints (1 Cor. 6:10-11).
Why did the Holy Spirit descend in bodily form upon Jesus, since he was an enemy to Israel, and fought against them? That is because Jesus, as the Messiah of Israel, would reign with an iron rod, tearing into pieces and breaking them as the vessels of a potter (Ps. 2:7-9). But Jesus rejected evil, in other words, to rule tyrannically, and chose good, in other words, to give his life for men in order to save them (Heb. 1:9; Acts 10:38).