- The bride and her beloved (1:1 - 2:7)
- The lovers seek and find each other (2:8 - 3:5)
- The bridegroom in pursuit of his bride (3:6 - 4:16)
- The painful interlude (5:1 - 7:9)
- The reunion and consummation of their love (7:10 - 8:14)
Authorship, date, and background The Song of Songs is the first of the five Megilloth (or Scrolls) including the books of Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. It was read publicly every year at the Passover celebration. Substantial differences of opinion, exist even among conservative scholars about the authorship and the interpretation of the book. The opening verse of the book ascribes the authorship to Solomon, whose reign is dated 970-930 B.C. Scholars such as F.Delitzsch, J.H. Raven, J.E. Steinmueller, E.J. Young, and G.L. Archer accept the Solomonic authorship. Once that is done, the dating of the book falls into place as a tenth century B.C. product. The language agrees with that of Ecclesiastes and many have assumed that the same person wrote both books.
The text indicates that the Davidic kingdom was still intact. The author was acquainted with the flora and fauna of the entire country. He had poetic gifts and used them to the fullest. Because the book dealt with intimate marital details, an old rabbinical requirement forbade the reading of it until a Jew had attained the age of thirty. Apparently similar type songs were read as a wast at wedding ceremonies in the Near East, according to some interprets, but whether this was customary of The Song of Songs at Jewish weddings is questionable.
Characteristics and content Virtually all scholars agree that Solomon is involved in the story. They differ as to whether Solomon and the shepherd hero is the same person. Some think the Shulamite maiden marries Solomon and teaches him the values of monogamous love, which he gladly accepts over against the corrupt splendor of his own court; others think the shepherd hero is the man the Shulamite maiden loves and from whom she is separated when taken to Solomon's harem. When Solomon cannot win her love, she is permitted to return to her shepherd lover, whom she marries. Conservative scholars like G.L. Archer and S.J. Schultz opt for opposing viewpoints.
Most interpreters agree that there is no more to the book that the story of love and marriage. The bridegroom is regarded by some as a type of God, who loves Israel, his bride. Many think the story typifies the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ as the bridegroom and the church as his bride. This would follow the idea of the shepherd, which Jesus calls himself in John 10 when he speaks of the shepherd's giving his life for the sheep.
Certainly this is the most explicit in the Bible having to do with sex and marriage. E.J. Young comments that "the eye of faith, as it beholds this picture of exalted human love, will be reminded of the one love that is above all earthly and human affections - even the love of the Son of God for lost humanity."