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The Song of Solomon mentions the name "Solomon" several times. Is it plausible to understand Solomon to have become a symbol of masculinity (a wise, mighty, powerful womanizer), and read references to Solomon as comparisons of the bridegroom to the symbol of masculinity (much like one would understand a man being called "Casanova")?

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2 Answers 2

I am sure there are many ways to read these references, if this is what you wish to do. Apparently this was originally an operetta (John Romer, Testament: the Bible and History). Although this poem is attributed to Solomon, the language and style indicate that it was actually written after the end of the Babylonian Exile.

The Song of Solomon tells the sexual experiences and thoughts of a dark-skinned woman, but seems to have no real historical or religious significance. The singer is portrayed as a farm girl whose skin is darkened from her time in the sun, and her lover as a shepherd:

Song 1:6-7: Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has burned me. My brothers have been angry with me; they charged me with the care of the vineyards: my own vineyard I have not cared for. Tell me, you whom my heart loves, where you pasture your flock, where you give them rest at midday, Lest I be found wandering after the flocks of your companions.

The two make love in the fields, and she calls him her king, pretending that the trees are a palace – “the beams of our house are cedars, our rafters, cypresses.”

The song ends with the girl wishing that he were her brother, so that she could kiss him in public without being teased, and they would be together in the home of her mother, after which she speaks of her innocent young sister:

Song 8:1-2 Oh, that you were my brother, nursed at my mother's breasts! If I met you out of doors, I would kiss you and none would taunt me. I would lead you, bring you in to the home of my mother. There you would teach me to give you spiced wine to drink and pomegranate juice.

Some find in it a portrayal and praise of the mutual love of God and his people, or an inspired portrayal of ideal human love. Perhaps it can also be seen as comparing the bridegroom to the “masculine ideal,” but only if we read into the song actual references to King Solomon.

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Got a scholarly reference to support that skin color assertion? –  user947 Oct 27 '13 at 13:37
Song of Solomon 1:5: "I am black but comely ..." –  Dick Harfield Oct 27 '13 at 21:29
I don't think that many scholars think that this means 'black' in the modern sense of the term. 'Swarthy' or 'suntanned' are offered by HALOT. –  user947 Oct 27 '13 at 22:41
Thanks for the answer, but the question is about how to understand references to "Solomon" - literal or figurative - which you barely address (but don't really answer) in your last sentence. Moreover, you don't really cite any evidence: what aspect of the language/style in the Song of Solomon indicates a post-exilic date? What evidence except for "apparently" do you have that it was originally an operetta? –  Niobius Oct 28 '13 at 8:38
Online translator a tool for biblical hermeneutics? –  fdb Sep 20 at 21:29

As I understand your question you are exploring the possibility that rather than being intended as historical or some kind of mystical religious text it is actually a fictional secular depiction of Solomon as an idealized lover, yes? If so you are spot on. This rascal of a scroll is indeed a paean to the mythical sexual prowess of Solomon from the point of view of an Ethiopian slave girl who becomes his one true love.

I'll do some exposition on the first chapter (JPS) to see if this is not so:

The title says this is a song, the greatest song and for Solomon:

Son 1:1 The song of songs, which is Solomon's.

Immediately the protagonist is longing for his kisses. Not "soul kisses" but the ones from his mouth, which she says are more intoxicating than wine:

Son 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth - for thy love is better than wine.

She says he smells so good in his body oils it's like he's a fountain pouring oil on the ground. "Obsession" I think or "Forbidden Night". She says it is no wonder that the teen girls flock to his bed:

Son 1:3 Thine ointments have a goodly fragrance; thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the maidens love thee.

The teen girls flock to his bed and they are intoxicated with his smells during love making:

Son 1:4 Draw me, we will run after thee; the king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will find thy love more fragrant than wine! sincerely do they love thee.

She laments that she is a lowly slave, unworthy to look upon:

Son 1:5 'I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Son 1:6 Look not upon me, that I am swarthy, that the sun hath tanned me; my mother's sons were incensed against me, they made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.'

She decides she needs to ditch her veil and self-loathing and finds the courage to arrange a "chance" meeting when he's out with his goats:

Son 1:7 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon; for why should I be as one that veileth herself beside the flocks of thy companions? Son 1:8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock and feed thy kids, beside the shepherds' tents.

She compares him to an Egyptian stallion:

Son 1:9 I have compared thee, O my love, to a steed in Pharaoh's chariots. Son 1:10 Thy cheeks are comely with circlets, thy neck with beads. Son 1:11 We will make thee circlets of gold with studs of silver.

She oozes as she ponders holding him between her breasts in her imagination:

Son 1:12 While the king sat at his table, my spikenard sent forth its fragrance. Son 1:13 My beloved is unto me as a bag of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts. Son 1:14 My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna in the vineyards of En-gedi. Son 1:15 Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves. Son 1:16 Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our couch is leafy.

Apparently she has a thing for nice woodwork, reminding us how strange is the heart:

Son 1:17 The beams of our houses are cedars, and our panels are cypresses.

And on and on it goes.

For fun, let's contrast that to the beginning of "The Wisdom of Solomon":

1 Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him. 2 For he will be found of them that tempt him not; and sheweth himself unto such as do not distrust him. 3 For froward thoughts separate from God: and his power, when it is tried, reproveth the unwise. 4 For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. 5 For the holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteousness cometh in.

Rather than declaring his promiscuity to be offensive and abhorrently sinful he is admired and celebrated and wins the heart of the protagonist. Their bodies, genitals and intimate sexual relations are described in thinly veiled figures. He delights in her garden, she in his apple tree. There is a chorus of Jewish women. And in time they are married with pomp and circumstance. It is quite the bold story for the times and its presence in the middle of the scriptures shocks like two unmarried tattooed teens fornicating in the back row of a Church on a Sunday morning while the preacher is preaching!

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This is a string of highly questionable assertions without any evidence whatsoever. It doesn't even show much familiarity with the Song of Songs in any case. Please show your work. –  Davïd Sep 21 at 15:20

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