The Song of Songs, also Song of Solomon or Canticles (Hebrew: שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים Šîr Haššîrîm, Greek and Ancient Greek: Ἆισμα Ἀισμάτων, romanized: Âisma Āismátōn; Latin: Canticum Canticorum), is one of the megillot (scrolls) found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim (or "Writings"), and a book of the Old Testament.
The Song of Songs is unique within the Hebrew Bible: it shows no interest in Law or Covenant or the God of Israel, nor does it teach or explore wisdom like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes (although it does have some affinities to wisdom literature, as the ascription to Solomon indicates); instead, it celebrates sexual love, giving "the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy". The two are in harmony, each desiring the other and rejoicing in sexual intimacy; the women 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.
In modern Judaism the Song is read on the Sabbath during the Passover, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest as well as commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel, Christianity as an allegory of Christ and his "bride", the Church.
There is widespread consensus that, although the book has no plot, it does have what can be called a framework, as indicated by the links between its beginning and end. Beyond this, however, there appears to be little agreement: attempts to find a chiastic structure have not been compelling, and attempts to analyse it into units have used differing methods and arrived at differing results. The following schema, from Kugler & al. must therefore be taken as indicative, rather than determinative:
The introduction calls the poem "the song of songs", a construction commonly used in Scriptural Hebrew to show something as the greatest and most beautiful of its class (as in Holy of Holies). The poem proper begins with the woman's expression of desire for her lover and her self-description to the "daughters of Jerusalem": she insists on her sun-born blackness, likening it to the "tents of Kedar" (nomads) and the "curtains of Solomon". A dialogue between the lovers follows: the woman asks the man to meet; he replies with a lightly teasing tone. The two compete in offering flattering compliments ("my beloved is to me as a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of En Gedi", "an apple tree among the trees of the wood", "a lily among brambles", while the bed they share is like a forest canopy). The section closes with the woman telling the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up love such as hers until it is ready.
The woman recalls a visit from her lover in the springtime. She uses imagery from a shepherd's life, and she says of her lover that "he pastures his flock among the lilies".
The woman again addresses the daughters of Jerusalem, describing her fervent and ultimately successful search for her lover through the night-time streets of the city. When she finds him she takes him almost by force into the chamber in which her mother conceived her. She reveals that this is a dream, seen on her "bed at night" and ends by again warning the daughters of Jerusalem "not to stir up love until it is ready".
The next section reports a royal wedding procession. Solomon is mentioned by name, and the daughters of Jerusalem are invited to come out and see the spectacle.
The man describes his beloved: Her hair is like a flock of goats, her teeth like shorn ewes, and so on from face to breasts. Place-names feature heavily: her neck is like the Tower of David, her smell like the scent of Lebanon. He hastens to summon his beloved, saying that he is ravished by even a single glance. The section becomes a "garden poem", in which he describes her as a "locked garden" (usually taken to mean that she is chaste). The woman invites the man to enter the garden and taste the fruits. The man accepts the invitation, and a third party tells them to eat, drink, "and be drunk with love".
The woman tells the daughters of Jerusalem of another dream. She was in her chamber when her lover knocked. She was slow to open, and when she did, he was gone. She searched through the streets again, but this time she failed to find him and the watchmen, who had helped her before, now beat her. She asks the daughters of Jerusalem to help her find him, and describes his physical good looks. Eventually, she admits her lover is in his garden, safe from harm, and committed to her as she is to him.
The man describes his beloved; the woman describes a rendezvous they have shared. (The last part is unclear and possibly corrupted.)
The people praise the beauty of the woman. The images are the same as those used elsewhere in the poem, but with an unusually dense use of place-names, e.g., pools of Hebron, gate of Bath-rabbim, tower of Damascus, etc. The man states his intention to enjoy the fruits of the woman's garden. The woman invites him to a tryst in the fields. She once more warns the daughters of Jerusalem against waking love until it is ready.
The woman compares love to death and sheol: love is as relentless and jealous as these two, and cannot be quenched by any force. She summons her lover, using the language used before: he should come "like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountain of spices".
The Song offers no clue to its author or to the date, place, or circumstances of its composition. The superscription states that it is "Solomon's", but even if this is meant to identify the author, it cannot be read as strictly as a similar modern statement. The most reliable evidence for its date is its language: Aramaic gradually replaced Hebrew after the end of the Babylonian exile in the late 6th century BCE, and the evidence of vocabulary, morphology, idiom and syntax clearly points to a late date, centuries after King Solomon to whom it is traditionally attributed. It has parallels with Mesopotamian and Egyptian love poetry from the first half of the 1st millennium, and with the pastoral idylls of Theocritus, a Greek poet who wrote in the first half of the 3rd century BCE; as a result of these conflicting signs, speculation ranges from the 10th to the 2nd centuries BCE, with the language supporting a date around the 3rd century.
Debate continues on the unity or disunity of the Song. Those who see it as an anthology or collection point to the abrupt shifts of scene, speaker, subject matter and mood, and the lack of obvious structure or narrative. Those who hold it to be a single poem point out that it has no internal signs of composite origins, and view the repetitions and similarities among its parts as evidence of unity. Some claim to find a conscious artistic design underlying it, but there is no agreement among them on what this might be. The question therefore remains unresolved.
The setting in which the poem arose is also debated. Some academics posit a ritual origin in the celebration of the sacred marriage of the god Tammuz and the goddess Ishtar. Whether this is so or not, the poem seems to be rooted in some kind of festive performance. External evidence supports the idea that the Song was originally recited by different singers representing the different characters, accompanied by mime.
The Song was accepted into the Jewish canon of scripture in the 2nd century CE, after a period of controversy in the 1st century. It was accepted as canonical because of its supposed authorship by Solomon and based on an allegorical reading where the subject-matter was taken to be not sexual desire but God's love for Israel. For instance, the famed first and second century Rabbi Akiva forbade the use of the Song of Songs in popular celebrations. He reportedly said, "He who sings the Song of Songs in wine taverns, treating it as if it were a vulgar song, forfeits his share in the world to come". However, Rabbi Akiva famously defended the canonicity of the Song of Songs, reportedly saying when the question came up of whether it should be considered a defiling work, "God forbid! [...] For all of eternity in its entirety is not as worthy as the day on which Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy, but Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies."
It is one of the overtly mystical Biblical texts for the Kabbalah, which gave esoteric interpretation on all the Hebrew Bible. Following the dissemination of the Zohar in the 13th century, Jewish mysticism took on a metaphorically anthropomorphic erotic element, and Song of Songs is an example of this. In Zoharic Kabbalah, God is represented by a system of ten sephirot emanations, each symbolizing a different attribute of God, comprising both male and female. The Shechina (indwelling Divine presence) was identified with the feminine sephira Malchut, the vessel of Kingship. This symbolizes the Jewish people, and in the body, the female form, identified with the woman in Song of Songs. Her beloved was identified with the male sephira Tiferet, the "Holy One Blessed be He", central principle in the beneficent Heavenly flow of Divine emotion. In the body, this represents the male torso, uniting through the sephira Yesod of the male sign of the covenant organ of procreation.
Through beneficent deeds and Jewish observance, the Jewish people restore cosmic harmony in the Divine realm, healing the exile of the Shechina with God's transcendence, revealing the essential Unity of God. This elevation of the World is aroused from Above on the Sabbath, a foretaste of the redeemed purpose of Creation. The text thus became a description, depending on the aspect, of the creation of the world, the passage of Shabbat, the covenant with Israel, and the coming of the Messianic age. "Lecha Dodi", a 16th-century liturgical song with strong Kabbalistic symbolism, contains many passages, including its opening two words, taken directly from Song of Songs.
In modern Judaism, certain verses from the Song are read on Shabbat eve or at Passover, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest as well as commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, to symbolize the love between the Jewish People and their God. Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel.
The literal subject of the Song of Songs is love and sexual longing between a man and a woman, and it has little (or nothing) to say about the relationship of God and man; in order to find such a meaning it was necessary to resort to allegory, treating the love that the Song celebrates as an analogy for the love between God and Church. The Christian church's interpretation of the Song as evidence of God's love for his people, both collectively and individually, began with Origen. Over the centuries the emphases of interpretation shifted, first reading the Song as a depiction of the love between Christ and Church, the 11th century adding a moral element, and the 12th century understanding of the Bride as the Virgin Mary, with each new reading absorbing rather than simply replacing earlier ones, so that the commentary became ever more complex. These theological themes are not in the poem, but derive from a theological reading; nevertheless, what is notable about this approach is the way it leads to conclusions not found in the overtly theological books of the Bible. Those books reveal an abiding imbalance in the relationship between God and man, ranging from slight to enormous; but reading Songs as a theological metaphor produces quite a different outcome, one in which the two partners are equals, bound in a committed relationship.
In modern times the poem has attracted the attention of feminist biblical critics, with Phyllis Trible's foundational "Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation" treating it as an exemplary text and the Feminist Companion to the Bible series edited by Athalya Brenner and Carole Fontaine devoting to it two volumes (1993, 2000).
Excerpts from the book have inspired composers to vocal and instrumental compositions, including:
Song of Songs
|Hebrew Bible||Succeeded by|
| Roman Catholic
Book of Wisdom
| E. Orthodox|
4Q106 (or 4QCanta) is one large and three small fragments from three columns of a scroll containing portions of the Song of Songs (3:4-5, 7–11; 4:1–7; 6:11?-12; 7:1-7) in Hebrew. It is one of three scrolls found in Cave 4 at Qumran that have been reconstructed as copies of the Song of Songs. These, and 6Q6 from Cave 6, comprise the total witness to the Song from the Dead Sea Scrolls, known so far.4Q107
4Q107 ( or 4QCantb) is a fragment of the Song of Songs (2:9‑17; 3:1‑2, 5, 9‑11; 4:1‑3, 8‑11, 14‑16; 5:1) in Hebrew found in Cave 4 at Qumran in the West Bank and which comprises part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. From the palaeography (script) on the fragment it has been identified as being early-Herodian, i.e. c.30 BCE-30 CE. The scribe responsible for 4Q107 did not write 4Q108 as there are differences in writing style. Also, the lacuna in the second column of 4Q107 does not provide enough space to accommodate 4Q108.
The fragments which make up the Song of Songs found at Qumran are called 4Q106, 4Q107, 4Q108, and 6Q6. The scroll 4Q240 is possibly a commentary on the Song of Songs.4Q108
4Q108 (or 4QCantc) is a fragment containing a portion of the Song of Songs (3:7–8) in Hebrew. Fragments from three such scrolls were found in Cave 4 at Qumran. These, and 6Q6 from Cave 6, estimated from 2nd century BCE, comprise the total witness to the Song from the Dead Sea Scrolls, known so far.6Q6
6Q6 is a small portion of a scroll from Cave 6 at Qumran, containing Song of Songs 1:1-7 in Hebrew. Together with three scroll portions found in Cave 4, they comprise the total witness to the Song from the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is dated to about 50 CE.Book of Lamentations
The Book of Lamentations (Hebrew: אֵיכָה, ‘Êykhôh, from its incipit meaning "how") is a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem. In the Hebrew Bible it appears in the Ketuvim ("Writings"), beside the Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther (the Megilloth or "Five Scrolls"), although there is no set order; in the Christian Old Testament it follows the Book of Jeremiah, as the prophet Jeremiah is its traditional author. Jeremiah's authorship is no longer generally accepted, although it is generally accepted that the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC forms the background to the poems. The book is partly a traditional "city lament" mourning the desertion of the city by God, its destruction, and the ultimate return of the divinity, and partly a funeral dirge in which the bereaved bewails and addresses the dead. The tone is bleak: God does not speak, the degree of suffering is presented as undeserved, and expectations of future redemption are minimal.The book is traditionally recited on the fast day of Tisha B'Av ("Ninth of Av"), mourning the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second.Book of Wisdom
The Wisdom of Solomon or Book of Wisdom is a Jewish work, written in Greek, and most likely composed in Alexandria, Egypt. Generally dated to the mid first century BC, the central theme of the work is "Wisdom" itself, appearing under two principal aspects. In its relation to man, Wisdom is the perfection of knowledge of the righteous as a gift from God showing itself in action. In direct relation to God, Wisdom is with God from all eternity. It is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books included within the Septuagint, along with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), Job, and Sirach, and is included in the canon of Deuterocanonical books by the Roman Catholic Church and the anagignoskomena (Gr. ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, meaning "those which are to be read") of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most Protestants consider it part of the Apocrypha.Five Megillot
The Five Scrolls or The Five Megillot (Hebrew: חמש מגילות [χaˈmeʃ meɡiˈlot], Hamesh Megillot or Chomeish Megillos) are parts of the Ketuvim ("Writings"), the third major section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The Five Scrolls are the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther. These five relatively short biblical books are grouped together in Jewish tradition.Gafat language
The Gafat language is an extinct South Ethiopian Semitic language that was once spoken along Abbay River (Blue Nile) in Ethiopia, and later speakers pushed south of Gojjam in modern day Eastern Wellega Oromoia region. Gafat was related to Harari and Gurage dialects. The records of this language are extremely sparse. There is a translation of the Song of Songs written in the 17th or 18th Century held at the Bodleian Library.
Charles Beke collected a word list in the early 1840s with difficulty from the few who knew the language, having found that "the rising generation seem to be altogether ignorant of it; and those grown-up persons who profess to speak it are anything but familiar with it." The most recent accounts of this language are the reports of Wolf Leslau, who visited the region in 1947 and after considerable work was able to find a total of four people who could still speak the language. Edward Ullendorff, in his brief exposition on Gafat, concludes that as of the time of his writing, "one may ... expect that it has now virtually breathed its last."Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible, which is also called the Tanakh (; תָּנָ״ךְ, pronounced [taˈnaχ] or the [təˈnax]; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) or sometimes the Mikra, is the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, except for some Biblical Aramaic passages in the books of Daniel and Ezra. The Hebrew Bible is also the textual source for the Christian Old Testament. The form of this text that is authoritative for Rabbinic Judaism is known as the Masoretic Text (MT) and it consists of 24 books, while the translations divide essentially the same material into 39 books for the Protestant Bible.
Modern scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible use a range of sources, in addition to the Masoretic Text. These sources include early Greek (Septuagint) and Syriac (Peshitta) translations, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls and quotations from rabbinic manuscripts. Many of these sources may be older than the Masoretic Text and often differ from it. These differences have given rise to the theory that yet another text, an Urtext of the Hebrew Bible, once existed and is the source of the versions extant today. However, such an Urtext has never been found, and which of the three commonly known versions (Septuagint, Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch) is closest to the Urtext is not fully determined.Israelian Hebrew
Israelian Hebrew (or IH) is a proposed northern dialect of biblical Hebrew (BH). It is proposed as an explanation for various irregular linguistic features of the Masoretic Text (MT) of the Hebrew Bible. It competes with the alternative explanation that such features are Aramaisms, indicative either of late dates of composition, or of editorial emendations. Although IH is not a new proposal, it only started gaining ground as a challenge to older arguments to late dates for some biblical texts since about a decade before the turn of the 21st century: linguistic variation in the Hebrew Bible might be better explained by synchronic rather than diachronic linguistics, meaning various biblical texts could be significantly older than many 20th century scholars supposed.
What constitutes linguistic irregularity in the MT is not in dispute, nor is the affinity of many these features to aspects of Aramaic. What distinguishes the theories is a historical question of language contact. It is known that the southern kingdom of ancient Israel, Judah (from which name the Jewish people are known), suffered a defeat at the hands of the Aramaic speaking Babylonians,
which involved deportation according to standard Babylonian practice. This language contact is recognised by all scholars, as are the resultant Aramaisms in Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH). What the IH proposal explains, which LBH does not, is the Aramaisms (and other features) that appear in texts that many scholars would consider antedated the period of exile in Babylon. The two theories are thus not incompatible, which is why they co-existed throughout the 20th century. However, the more recent work does pose a challenge to the traditional dating of some specific texts in the Bible, the Song of Songs in particular.Ivory tower
An ivory tower is a place—or an atmosphere—where people are happily cut off from the rest of the world in favor of their own pursuits, usually mental and esoteric ones. From the 19th century, it has been used to designate an environment of intellectual pursuit disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life. Most contemporary uses of the term refer to academia or the college and university systems in many countries.Ketuvim
Writings redirects here. For other uses see Alphabets, Manuscripts, Script, Text or WriteKetuvim (; Biblical Hebrew: כְּתוּבִים Kəṯûḇîm, "writings") is the third and final section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), after Torah (instruction) and Nevi'im (prophets). In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually titled "Writings". Another name used for this section is Hagiographa.
The Ketuvim are believed to have been written under divine inspiration, but with one level less authority than that of prophecy.Found among the Writings within the Hebrew scriptures, I and II Chronicles form one book, along with Ezra and Nehemiah which form a single unit entitled "Ezra–Nehemiah". (In citations by chapter and verse numbers, however, the Hebrew equivalents of "Nehemiah", "I Chronicles" and "II Chronicles" are used, as the system of chapter division was imported from Christian usage.) Collectively, eleven books are included in the Ketuvim.Shir Hashirim (album)
Shir Hashirim is an album of vocal music by John Zorn, written in 2008, recorded in New York City in September 2010, and released on the Tzadik label in December 2013. The album features compositions inspired by the Song of Songs and cover art by Auguste Rodin.Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah
Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah (Hebrew: שיר השירים רבה) is an aggadic midrash on Song of Songs, quoted by Rashi under the title "Midrash Shir ha-Shirim". It is also called Aggadat Hazita, from its initial word "Hazita", or Midrash Hazita.Shir ha-Shirim Zutta
Shir haShirim Zutta (Hebrew: שיר השירים זוטא) is a midrash (homiletic commentary) on Shir haShirim (the Song of Songs).Song of Songs (album)
Song of Songs is the second album led by trumpeter Woody Shaw which was recorded in 1972 and released on the Contemporary label.Song of Songs 8
Song of Songs 8 (abbreviated as Song 8) is the eighth (and the final) chapter of the Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book is one of the Five Megillot, a collection of short books, together with Book of Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther, within the Ketuvim, the third and the last part of the Hebrew Bible. Jewish tradition views Solomon as the author of this book, and this attribution influences the acceptance of this book as a canonical text, although this is at present largely disputed. This chapter contains dialogues between the woman and the daughters of Jerusalem, the woman and her brothers, then finally, the woman and the man.The Beloved (Rossetti painting)
The Beloved (also The Bride) is an oil painting on canvas by English artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, first painted in 1865 and now in Tate Britain.The Song of Songs (1933 film)
The Song of Songs is a 1933 American Pre-Code romantic drama film starring Marlene Dietrich as a naive German peasant named Lily who moves to Berlin and suffers from a considerable amount of heartache. This particular version of the film was based on the 1908 novel by Hermann Sudermann, Das Hohe Lied. The novel’s title, which translates to English as “The High Song,” does indeed refer to the Song of Solomon, which is often described in German as “Das Hohe Lied der Liebe.” However, that is not the only possible inference. “HoheLied” has been translated as “ode” “hosannas” “praises” and used in purely secular as well as religious contexts. Most telling in this case is the use in German of the entire phrase to describe the “great song of love” or “ode to love” in Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. This creates a double layer of meaning to the title of the novel in German, one that could not be duplicated in an English rendition.
The 1914 play, The Song of Songs by Edward Sheldon also contributed to this version. It is a remake of the 1918 silent film The Song of Songs starring Elsie Ferguson and the 1924 silent film Lily of the Dust with Pola Negri.
Song of Songs
|Family and reputed relations|