Published on Dec 1, 2017
The Song of Songs (Hebrew: שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים, Šīr HašŠīrīm ; Greek: ᾎσμα ᾈσμάτων, Âisma Aismátōn), also known as the Song of Solomon, Canticles, or the Canticle of Canticles, is one of the "scrolls" (megillot) of the Writings (Ketuvim), the last section of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. It is also the fifth book of Wisdom in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. In Sephardic Jewish tradition, The Song of Songs is read every Friday night for the divine loving union they see in it; Ashkenazim chant it on the Sabbath during Passover, marking the beginning of the grain harvest and commemorating the Exodus from Egypt.
Scripturally, the Song of Songs is unique in its celebration of sexual love. It gives "the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy". The two each desire the other and rejoice in their sexual intimacy. The "daughters of Jerusalem" form a chorus to the lovers, functioning as an audience whose participation in the lovers' erotic encounters facilitates the participation of the reader. Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel. Christian tradition, in addition to appreciating the literal meaning of a romantic song between man and woman, has read the poem as an allegory of Christ and his "bride", the Christian Church.
Christians admitted the canonicity of the Song of Songs from the beginning, but after Jewish exegetes began to read the Song allegorically, as having to do with God's love for his people, Christian exegetes followed suit, treating the love that it celebrates as an analogy for the love between God and the Church. Over the centuries the emphasis of interpretation shifted, the 11th century adding a moral element and the 12th century understanding the Bride as the Virgin Mary, each new reading absorbing rather than simply replacing earlier ones, so that the commentary became ever more complex, with multiple layers of meaning. This approach leads to conclusions not found in the more overtly theological books of the Bible, which consider the relationship between God and man as one of inequality. In contrast, reading the Song of Songs as an allegory of God's love for his Church suggests that the two partners are equals, bound in a freely consented emotional relationship.