8

Song 1:1:

שִׁ֥יר הַשִּׁירִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לִשְׁלֹמֹֽה׃ (BHS)
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.(ESV)

I have seen it postulated* that the final word here (a lamed preposition prefixed to the name Shlomo) may mean:

  • To Solomon: The book is dedicated to Solomon.
  • By Solomon: Authorship.
  • Concerning Solomon: Solomon is the subject matter of the book.
  • Solomonic: which may mean something like “in the Solomonic/wisdom literary tradition.”
  • How should we decide what is meant?

And, a related question:

  • Is this superscript likely original to the text or a later addition?

*Tremper Longman III, Song of Songs (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001).

1

Superscripts were added to many of the Old Testament books and psalms by scribes, mostly during the Exilic or post-Exilic period. The superscript to Song of Solomon, "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s," only says that it is the best song ("song of songs") that belongs to Solomon. This reference to Solomon could mean that Solomon wrote it or that it was one of the songs in Solomon's collection - the scribe who added this superscript would not have known, either way.

It is most unlikely that Solomon wrote the song or even knew of it, as it is probably a much later composition. Grounds for assuming a later date include the use of expressions akin to Aramaic and the presence of certain foreign loan-words (Persian: pardes “orchard,” Song of Song of Solomon 4:13; appiryon from Greek phoreion “carriage” or [by way of Aramaic] “canopied bed,” Song of Song of Solomon 3:9). Either the Song was written after the Babylonian Exile or it was for some reason edited to include a few words that Solomon could not have known.

It is commonly assumed that the song is about Solomon and his lover, but a careful reading of the book proves otherwise. The singer is portrayed as a farm girl and her lover as a shepherd. “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 (1:6).” Then, “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 (1:7).” They 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.”

  • This looks like a good answer, but it would benefit from some references to authorities on the issue (e.g. who says 'it is most likely' Solomon didn't write the song, and why?). – user2910 Feb 23 '15 at 0:30
  • @MarkEdward I hope the change I made suits. I found an online article that explains that the Song contains words that Solomon could not have known. Theoretically these could been added later, but this was written as poetry, so any change would necessarily keep the poetic nature. – Dick Harfield Feb 23 '15 at 1:06
  • I always find it odd, the way scholars are quick to say passages in the Old Testament are later additions without any concrete evidence. Solomon is described in Kings as being a particularly cosmopolitan leader who sent emissaries and explorers out and received visits from faraway regions. He is also described as uncommonly brilliant. Why presume additions when they might just be literary flourishes of a uniquely cosmopolitan man? Why presume a literal interpretation of the book, when it has been traditionally understood to be allegorical? – conceptualinertia Dec 14 '15 at 20:10
  • @conceptualinertia I note that this is the 2nd comment you have posted in the last few minutes, along the theme that you disagree with my answer. You will know by now that this is not the purpose of these comments: we have chat rooms in which you are welcome to discuss whatever topics you wish. – Dick Harfield Dec 14 '15 at 20:17
  • @conceptualinertia That said, BH.SE is about hermeneutics, which means it is appropriate to analyse biblical texts and not just accept their traditional meanings. As for "without any concrete evidence" - just one example is that Solomon could not possibly have known any words of Persian. And why not read the words of Song in their ordinary meanings? – Dick Harfield Dec 14 '15 at 20:20

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