I've been co-leading a women's bible study and it tends to take up my quiet time, so it's been a slow start into this interesting little book. Here we go. Bring on the romance novel!
Verse 1 introduces the book as the Song of songs. Which, I think, is intended as a superlative- the greatest song of all time. And then it adds that it is Solomon's or in regards to Solomon.
In this first section, the Shulammite woman is speaking to herself, according to the sub-heading. verses 2 and 4 have a "he" and "his" and verse 3 and 4 have "yous", so there seems to be changes in her speaking to herself and speaking to her beloved, which sounds like must be the King from verse 4. Again, the pronoun changes leave open the option of another interpretation entirely.
Verses 5 and 6, she is black, but lovely.
She explains her very dark skin because she is out taking care of the vineyards- because her brothers were mad at her?
Verse 7 takes a swerve into asking the King where he shepherds his flocks at noon and wonders why she should be the one to cover herself beside the flocks of your companions.
That seems like a non-sequitur; but maybe something is lost in the translation. Maybe she's in love with a commoner and not the king; or maybe the flocks of companions are the king's entourage. It's unclear.
It sounds like she's madly in love, but refuses to chase him like a prostitute. Ryrie Study Bible footnotes indicate that they veil means prostititue.
Then the chorus (Daughters of Jerusalem) (which Ryrie says is Solomon's harem), tells her she's the most beautiful and she should go pasture goats by the shepherds. Very weird sentence to type.
According to the sub-heading, verses 9 and 10 are Solomon speaking to the Shulammite woman. Sadly, his compliments are that she she's like his mare among the Pharaoh's chariots and what makes her lovely are the jewels on her cheeks and the necklace around her neck.
In verse 11, the women's chorus tells her they will make her more jewlery.
Verses 12-14 are the Shulammite says her perfume pouch drew the king, and then describes him as a perfume pouch on her breasts and nice smelling flowers.
Finally, in verse 15 is something I can recognize as a compliment. the man tells the woman that she has nice eyes. Or more precisely, that she has eyes like doves. So I assumed that was a compliment.
The woman responds with her own weird compliments that he is handsome and pleasant and has nice furniture and a nice house...
So. I think this must be one of those times when the text is so steeped in cultural references that a direct translation just doesn't bring any enlightenment. I've always heard that this was a passionate and romantic book, bordering on obscene. But, so far, it's a confusing collection of metaphors that don't match the modern connotation.
I tried to buy a commentary to accompany my reading; but there isn't one readily available. I was surprised by that; but Wiersbe writes from a sermon perspective and most churches avoid this like the plague...so I guess that makes sense.
I'm disappointed in myself how frustrated I get with these type of passages. I struggle with the Proverbs and many of the Psalms. I guess I am just such a concrete thinker that I much more strongly respond to the narrative books.
I just read the NIV version and it was cleaner and made more sense. I never trust that translation as much; but I should read it first while I'm reading this book; just to offer some glimpse into the possible meanings.
I have read that this is an allegory of God's love for us, so I am on the lookout for that interpretation, but I haven't seen that yet. I don't really have any personal insights yet...