Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Song of Solomon (Canticles)
The Song of Solomon
The Song is the most obscure book of the Old Testament. Whatever principle of interpretation one may adopt, there always remains a number of inexplicable passages, and just such as, if we understood them, would help to solve the mystery. And yet the interpretation of a book presupposes from the beginning that the interpreter has mastered the idea of the whole. It has thus become an ungrateful task; for however successful the interpreter may be in the separate parts, yet he will be thanked for his work only when the conception as a whole which he has decided upon is approved of.
It is a love-poem. But why such a minne-song in the canon? This question gave rise in the first century, in the Jewish schools, to doubts as to the canonicity of the book. Yet they firmly maintained it; for they presupposed that it was a spiritual and not a secular love-poem. They interpreted it allegorically. The Targum paraphrases it as a picture of the history of Israel from the Exodus to the coming of the Messiah. The bride is the congregation of Israel; and her breasts, to quote one example, are interpreted of the Messiah in His lowliness and the Messiah in His glory. But "Solomon" is an anthropomorphic representation of Jahve Himself. And all the instances of the occurrence of the name, with one exception, are therefore regarded as an indirect allegorical designation of the God of peace (vid., Norzi under Sol 1:1). And because of its apparently erotic, but in truth mysterious contents, it was a Jewish saying, as Origen and Jerome mention, that the Song should not be studied by any one till he was thirty years of age (nisi quis aetatem sacerdotalis ministerii, id est, tricesimum annum impleverit). Because, according to the traditional Targ. interpretation, it begins with the departure out of Egypt, it forms a part of the liturgy for the eighth day of the Passov. The five Megilloths are arranged in the calendar according to their liturgical use.
(Note: The Song. was read on the 8th day of the Passover; Ruth, on the second Shabuoth Pentecost; Lamentations, on the 9th Ab; Ecclesiastes, on the 3rd Succoth Tabernacles; Esther, between the 11th and 16th Adar feast of Purim.)
In the church this synagogal allegorizing received a new turn. They saw represented in the Song the mutual love of Christ and His church, and it thus became a mine of sacred mysticism in which men have dug to the present day. Thus Origen explains it in twelve volumes. Bernhard of Clairvaux died (1153) after he had delivered eighty-six sermons on it, and had only reached the end of the second chapter;
(Note: Vid., Fernbacher's Die Reden des. h. Bernhard ber das Hohelied, prefaced by Delitzsch. Leipzig 1862.)
and his disciple Gilbert Porretanus carried forward the interpretation in forty-eight sermons only to Sol 5:10, when he died. Perluigi de Palestrina gained by his twenty-nine motettoes on the Song (1584) the honoured name of Principe della Musica. In modern times this allegorico-mystical interpretation is represented in the department of exegesis (Hengst.), sermon (F. W. Krummacher), and poetry (Gustav Jahn), as well as of music (Neukomm's duet: Er und sie), and even of painting (Ludw. von Maydell).
If the Song is to be understood allegorically, then Shulamith is the personification of the congregation of Israel, and mediately of the church. All other interpretations fall below this. Hug (1813) understands by the "beloved" the kingdom of the ten tribes longing after a reunion with the house of David; and Heinr. Aug. Hahn (1852), the Japhetic heathendom. Ludw. Noack (1869) has even changed and modified the readings of the Heb. text, that he might find therein the ballads of a Tirhka romance, i.e., a series of pictures of the events occurring between Samaria and her Aethiopian lover Tirhka, of the years (b.c.) 702, 691, and 690. These are the aberrations of individuals. Only one other interpretation recommends itself. Solomon's chairsma and aim was the Chokma. The Peshito places over the Song the superscription חכמת דחכמתא. Is Shulamith, then, the personification of wisdom, like Dante's Beatrice? Rosenmller (1830) is the most recent representative of this view; we ought then to have in Dante's Convito the key to the allegorical interpretation. He there sings sweet songs of love of his mistress Philosophy. But there is nothing in the description here to show that Shulamith is Wisdom. The one expression, "Thou shalt teach me" (Sol 8:2), warns us against attempting to put Wisdom in the place of the church, as a reversal of the facts of the case.
But if one understands the church to be meant, there yet remains much that is inexplicable. Who are the sixty queens and the eighty concubines (Sol 6:8)? And why are the heroes just sixty (Sol 3:7)? The synagogal and church interpretation, in spite of two thousand years' labour, has yet brought to light no sure results, but only numberless absurdities, especially where the Song describes the lovers according to their members from head to foot and from foot to head. But notwithstanding all this, it is certain that the "great mystery" (Eph 5:32) mirrors itself in the Song. In this respect it resembles the love of Joseph and Zuleikha, often sung by the Arabian poets, which is regarded by the mystics
(Note: Vid., Hammer-Purgstall's Das hohe Lied der Liebe der Araber, 1854.)
as a figure of the love of God towards the soul longing for union with Him. Shulamith is a historic personage; not the daughter of Pharaoh, as has been often maintained since the days of Theodore of Mopsuestia (died 429) and Abulfaraj (died 1286), but a country maiden of humble rank, who, by her beauty and by the purity of her soul, filled Solomon with a love for her which drew him away from the wantonness of polygamy, and made for him the primitive idea of marriage, as it is described in Gen 3:23., a self-experienced reality. This experience he here sings, idealizing it after the manner of a poet; i.e., removing the husk of that which is accidental, he goes back to its kernel and its essential nature. We have before us six dramatic figures, each in two divisions, which represent from within the growth of this delightful relation to its conclusion. This sunny glimpse of paradisaical love which Solomon experienced, again became darkened by the insatiableness of passion; but the Song of Songs has perpetuated it, and whilst all other songs of Solomon have disappeared, the providence of God has preserved this one, the crown of them all. It is a protest against polygamy, although only in the measure one might expect from the Mosaic standpoint. For the Tra recognises, indeed, in its primitive history monogamy as the original form (Mat 19:4-6); but in its legislation, giving up the attempt to abolish polygamy, it is satisfied with its limitation (Deu 17:17).
The Song celebrates paradisaical, but yet only natural love (minne). It stands, however, in the canon of the church, because Solomon is a type of Him of whom it can be said, "a greater than Solomon is here" (Mat 12:12). Referred to Him the antitype, the earthly contents receive a heavenly import and glorification. We see therein the mystery of the love of Christ and His church shadowed forth, not, however, allegorically, but typically. The allegory has to coincide throughout with that which is represented; but the type is always only a type subtractis subtrahendis, and is exceedingly surpassed by the antitype. In this sense Jul. Sturm (1854) has paraphrased the Song under the title of "Zwei Rosen" (two roses) (the typical and the antitypical). When my monograph on the Song appeared (1851), a notice of it in Colani's Revue de Theologie (1852) began with the frivolous remark: "Ce n'est pas la premire rverie de ce genre sur le livre en question; plt Dieu que ce ft la dernire;" and Hitzig (1855) judged that "such a work might properly have remained unprinted; it represents nothing but a perverse inconsiderate literature which has no conception of scientific judgment and industry." But this work (long since out of print and now rare) was the fruit of many years of study. The commentary here given is based on it, but does not put it out of date. It broke with the allegorizing interpretation, the untenableness of which appears against his will in Hengstenberg's commentary (1853); it broke also with the theory which regards the poem as a history of Solomon's unsuccessful seductive efforts to gain the Shulamite's affections, a theory which Hitzig (1855) tries to exempt from the necessity of doing violence to the text by arbitrarily increasing the number of speakers and actors in the plot. I certainly succeeded in finding the right key to the interpretation of this work. Zckler has recognised my book
(Note: Das Hohelied undersucht u. ausg. Leipzig 1851.)
as presenting "the only correct interpretation of its design and contents." Kingsbury, author of the notes on the Son in The Speaker's Commentary, has expressed the same judgment. Poets such as Stadelmann (Das Hohelied, ein dramatisches Gedicht = The Song of Songs: a dramatic poem, 1870) and J. Koch, late pastor of St. Mary's in Parchim (died 1873), have recognised in their beautiful German paraphrases my interpretation as natural and in conformity with the text; and for twenty years I have constantly more and more seen that the solution suggested by me is the right and only satisfactory one.
Shulamith is not Pharaoh's daughter. The range of her thoughts is not that of a king's daughter, but of a rustic maiden; she is a stranger among the daughters of Jerusalem, not because she comes from a foreign land, but because she is from the country; she is dark-complexioned, not from the sun of her more southern home, but from the open sunshine to which she has been exposed as the keeper of a vineyard; in body and soul she is born to be a princess, but in reality she is but the daughter of a humble family in a remote part of Galilee; hence the child-like simplicity and the rural character of her thoughts, her joy in the open fields, and her longing after the quiet life of her village home. Solomon appears here in loving fellowship with a woman such as he had not found among a thousand (Ecc 7:28); and although in social rank far beneath him, he raises her to an equality with himself. That which attached her to him is not her personal beauty alone, but her beauty animated and heightened by nobility of soul. She is a pattern of simple devotedness, naive simplicity, unaffected modesty, moral purity, and frank prudence, - a lily of the field, more beautifully adorned than he could claim to be in all his glory. We cannot understand the Song of Songs unless we perceive that it presents before us not only Shulamith's external attractions, but also all the virtues which make her the idea of all that is gentlest and noblest in woman. Her words and her silence, her doing and suffering, her enjoyment and self-denial, her conduct as betrothed, as a bride, and as a wife, her behaviour towards her mother, her younger sister, and her brothers, - all this gives the impression of a beautiful soul in a body formed as it were from the dust of flowers. Solomon raises this child to the rank of queen, and becomes beside this queen as a child. The simple one teaches the wise man simplicity; the humble draws the king down to her level; the pure accustoms the impetuous to self-restraint. Following her, he willingly exchanges the bustle and the outward splendour of court life for rural simplicity, wanders gladly over mountain and meadow if he has only her; with her he is content to live in a lowly cottage. The erotic external side of the poem has thus an ethical background. We have here no "song of loves" (Eze 33:32) having reference to sensual gratification. The rabbinical proverb is right when it utters its threat against him who would treat this Song, or even a single verse of it, as a piece of secular literature.
(Note: Cf. Tosefta Sanhedrin xii., Sanhedrin iii.a, and the commencement of the tract Kalla.)
The Song transfigures natural but holy love. Whatever in the sphere of the divinely-ordered marriage relation makes love the happiest, firmest bond uniting two souls together, is presented to us here in living pictures. "The Song," says Herder, "is written as if in Paradise. Adam's song: Thou art my second self! Thou art mine own! echoes in it in speech and interchanging song from end to end." The place of the book in the canon does not need any further justification; that its reception was favoured also by the supposition that it represented the intercourse between Jahve and the congregation of Israel, may be conjectured indeed, but is not established. The supposition, however, would have been false; for the book is not an allegory, and Solomon is by no means an Allegorumenon of God. But the congregation is truly a bride (Jer 2:2; Isa 62:5), and Solomon a type of the Prince of peace (Isa 9:5; Luk 11:31), and marriage a mystery, viz., as a pattern of the loving relation of God and His Christ to the church (Eph 5:32). The Song has consequently not only a historico-ethical, but also a typico-mystical meaning. But one must be on his guard against introducing again the allegorical interpretation as Soltz (1850) has done, under the misleading title of the typical interpretation. The typical interpretation proceeds on the idea that the type and the antitype do not exactly coincide; the mystical, that the heavenly stamps itself in the earthly, but is yet at the same time immeasurably different from it. Besides, the historico-ethical interpretation is to be regarded as the proper business of the interpreter. But because Solomon is a type (vaticinium reale) of the spiritual David in his glory, and earthly love a shadow of the heavenly, and the Song a part of sacred history and of canonical Scripture, we will not omit here and there to indicate that the love subsisting between Christ and His church shadows itself forth in it.
But the prevailing view which Jacob (1771) established, and which has predominated since Umbreit (1820) and Ewald (1826), is different from ours. According to them, the Song celebrates the victory of the chaste passion of conjugal love. The beloved of Shulamith is a shepherd, and Solomon acts toward her a part like that of Don Juan with Anna, or of Faust with Gretchen. Therefore, of course, his authorship is excluded, although Anton (1773), the second oldest representative of this so-called shepherd hypothesis, supposes that Solomon at a later period of his life recognised his folly, and now here magnanimously praises the fidelity of Shulamith, who had spurned his enticements away from her; and a Jewish interpreter, B. Hollnder (1871), following Hezel (1780), supposes that Solomon represents himself as an enticer, only to exhibit the idea of female virtue as triumphing over the greatest seduction. Similarly also Godet (1867),
(Note: Vid., Jahrg. i. No. 22-24 of the Berne Kirchenfreund.)
who, resting on Ewald, sees here a very complicated mystery presented by Solomon himself, and pointing far beyond him: Solomon, the earthly Messiah; Shulamith, the true Israel; the shepherd, Jahve, and as Jahve who is about to come, the heavenly Solomon; the little sisters, heathenism - it is the old allegory, able for everything, only with changed names and a different division of the parts which here comes in again by the back-door of the seduction-history.
(Note: And in this Godet stands not alone. The Jewish interpreter Malbim (1850) accepts also this seduction-history: Solomon = the sensual impulse; Shulamith = the spirit-soul; the little sister = the natural soul; and Shulamith's beloved = the heavenly Friend, the Shepherd of the universe.)
Thus this seduction-history has not put an end to the over-ingenious allegorizing. In one point, however, at least, it has aided in the understanding of the Song. Herder saw in the Song a collection of Solomonic songs of love, which he translated (1778), as the oldest and the most beautiful, from the Orient. But Goethe, who in the Westst. Divan (1819) praises the Song as the most divine of all love-songs, recognised, after the appearance of Umbreit's Comm., the unity also of the "inexplicably mysterious."
We are not conscious of any prejudice which makes it impossible for us to do justice to the interpretation to which Umbreit and Ewald gave currency. It abundantly accounts for the reception of the book into the canon, for so interpreted it has a moral motive and aim. And the personality of Solomon has certainly not merely a bright side, which is typical, but also a dark side, which is pregnant with dark issues for his kingdom; it may perhaps be possible that in the Song the latter, and not the former, is brought to view. Then, indeed, the inscription would rest on an error; for that in this case also the Solomonic authorship could be maintained, is an idea which, in the traditional-apologetical interest, mounts up to a faith in the impossible. But the truth goes beyond the tradition; the inscription would then indicate a traditional interpretation which, as is evident from the book itself, does not correspond with its original meaning and aim. "It is clear to every unprejudiced mind," says Gustav Baur,
(Note: Literaturb. der Darmst. Kirchenzeitung, 1851, pp. 114-146, and 1854, No. 11.)
"that in Sol 2:10-15; Sol 4:8-15, a different person speaks from the royal wooer; for (1) Solomon only says, 'my friend' Sol 1:15, etc.; while, on the other hand, the shepherd heaps up flattering words of warmest love; (2) Solomon praises only the personal beauty of the woman; the shepherd, the sweet voice, the enchanting look, the warm love, the incorruptible chastity of his beloved; - in short, the former reveals the eye and the sensuousness of the king; the latter, the heart of a man who is animated by the divine flame of true love." We only ask, meanwhile, whether words such as Sol 4:13 are less sensuous than Sol 4:5, and whether the image of the twin gazelles is not more suitable in the mouth of the shepherd than the comparison of the attractions of Shulamith with the exotic plants of Solomon's garden? "In three passages," says Godet, "lies open the slender thread which Ewald's penetrating eye discovered under the flowers and leaves which adorn the poem: 'The kings has brought me into his palace' (Sol 1:4); 'I knew not how my heart has brought me to the chariots of a princely people' (Sol 6:12); 'I was a wall, and have found peace before his eyes' (Sol 8:10)." The same critic also finds in several passages an apparent contrariety between Solomon and the shepherd. "Observe," says he, "e.g., Sol 1:12-13, where the shepherd - whom Shulamith calls her spikenard, and compares to a bunch of flowers on her breast - is placed over against the king, who sits on his divan; or Sol 7:9. where, suddenly interrupting the king, she diverts the words which he speaks concerning herself to her beloved; or Sol 8:7, where, leaning on the arm of her beloved, she expresses her disregard for riches, with which Solomon had sought to purchase her love." But spikenard is not the figure of the shepherd, not at all the figure of a man; and she who is praised as a "prince's daughter" (Sol 7:2) cannot say (Sol 6:12) that, enticed by curiosity to see the royal train, she was taken prisoner, and now finds herself, against her will, among the daughters of Jerusalem; and he whom she addresses (Sol 8:12) can be no other than he with whom she now finds herself in her parents' home. The course of the exposition will show that the shepherd who is distinguished from Solomon is nothing else than a shadow cast by the person of Solomon.
The Song is a dramatic pastoral. The ancients saw in it a carmen bucolicum mimicum. Laurentius Petrus, in his Heb.-Danish Paraphrase (1640), calls it carmen bucolicum, ἀμοιβαῖον (δραματικόν); George Wachter (1722), an "opera divided into scenic parts." It acquires the character of a pastoral poem from this, that Shulamith is a shepherdess, that she thinks of Solomon as a shepherd, and that Solomon condescends to occupy the sphere of life and of thought of the shepherdess. It is not properly an idyll, nor yet properly a drama. Not an idyll, because the life-image which such a miniature drawn from life - such, e.g., as the Adon. of Theocritus presents to us - unfolds itself within a brief time without interruption; in the Song, on the other hand, not merely are the places and persons interchanged, but also the times. The whole, however, does not fall into little detached pictures; but there runs through this wreath of figures a love-relation, which embodies itself externally and internally before our eyes, and attains the end of its desire, and shows itself on the summit of this end as one that is not merely sensuous, but moral. The Song is certainly not a theatrical piece:
(Note: "Shulamith," says E. F. Friedrich (1855 and 1866), "is the oldest theatrical piece in existence." Ewald and Bttcher, who find not fewer than twelve persons mentioned in it, think that it was represented on an actual stage. Then, indeed, it would be the oldest drama - older than Thespis and Kaldasa. For the Sakuntla and the drama Der Kaufmann und die Bajadere belong to the first century of our era.)
the separate pieces would necessarily have been longer if the poet had had in view the changes of theatrical scenery. But at all events the theatre is not a Semitic institution, but is of Indo-Persian Greek origin. Jewish poetry attempted the drama only after it began in Alexandrinism
(Note: Vid., my Prolegomena to Luzzatto's מגדל עז (Heb. Paraphrase of the Pastors fido of Guarini), 1837, pp. 24-32.)
to emulate Greece. Grtz' (1871) polemic against the dramatists is so far justified. But yet we see, as in the Book of Job, so in the Song, the drama in process of formation from the lyric and narrative form of poetry, as it has developed among the Greeks from the lyric, and among the Indians from the epic. In the Book of Job the colloquies are all narrative. In the Song this is never the case;
(Note: Similar is the relation between Homer, where the speakers are introduced with narrative, and our national epics, the Nibelungen and Gudrun, which become dramatic when the action and the feeling rise to a higher elevation: the words of the different persons follow each other without introduction, so that here the manner of the singer had to become dramatic.)
for the one expression, "answered my beloved, and said to me" (Sol 2:10), is not to be compared with, "and Job answered and said:" the former expression indicates a monologue. And in the "Daughters of Jerusalem" (Job 1:5, etc.) we have already something like the chorus of the Greek drama. The ancient Greek MSS bear involuntary testimony to this dramatic character of the Song. There are several of them which prefix to the separate addresses the names of the persons speaking, ας ἡ νύμφη ὁ νυμφίος.
(Note: Vid., Repert. fr bibl. u. morgenl. Lit. viii. (1781), p. 180. The Archimandrite Porphyrios describes such a MS in his (Russian) Reisewerk (1856).)
And the Aethiopic translation makes five separate pieces, probably, as the Cod. Sinait. shows, after the example of the lxx, which appear as divisions into Acts.
The whole falls into the following six Acts: -
(1.) The mutual affection of the lovers, 1:2-2:7, with the conclusion, "I adjure you, ye daughters of Jerusalem."
(2.) The mutual seeking and finding of the lovers, 2:8-3:5, with the conclusion, "I adjure you, ye daughters of Jerusalem."
(3.) The fetching of the bride, and the marriage, 3:6-5:1, beginning with, "Who is this ... ?" and ending with, "Drink and be drunken, beloved."
(4.) Love scorned, but won again, 5:2-6:9.
(5.) Shulamith the attractively fair but humble princess, 6:10-8:4, beginning with, "Who is this ... ?" and ending with, "I adjure you, ye daughters of Jerusalem."
(6.) The ratification of the covenant of love in Shulamith's home, Sol 8:5-14, beginning with, "Who is this ... ?"
Zckler reckons only five acts, for he comprehends Song 5:2-8:4 in one; but he himself confesses its disproportionate length; and the reasons which determine him are invalid; for the analogy of the Book of Job, which, besides, including the prologue and the epilogue, falls into seven formal parts, can prove nothing; and the question, "Who is this?" Sol 6:10, which he interprets as a continuation of the encomium in Sol 6:9, is rather to be regarded, like Sol 3:8; Sol 8:5, as a question with reference to her who is approaching, and as introducing a new act; for the supposition that Sol 6:9 requires to be further explained by a statement of what was included in the "blessing" and the "praising" is unwarranted, since these are ideas requiring no supplement to explain them (Gen 30:13; Psa 41:3; Psa 107:32), and the poet, if he had wished to explain the praise as to its contents, would have done this otherwise (cf. Pro 31:28.) than in a way so fitted to mislead. Rightly, Thrupp (1862) regards Sol 6:10 as the chorus of the daughters of Jerusalem. He divides as follows: (1) The Anticipation, 1:2-2:7; (2) the Awaiting, 2:8-3:5; (3) the Espousal and its Results, 3:6-5:1; (4) the Absence, Sol 5:2-8; (5) the Presence, 5:9-8:4; (6) Love's Triumph, Sol 8:5-12, with the Conclusion, Sol 8:13-14. But how can Sol 5:9 begin a new formal part? It is certainly the reply to Shulamith's adjuration of the daughters of Jerusalem, and not at all the commencement of a new scene, much less of a new act.
In our division into six parts, the separate acts, for the most part necessarily, and in every case without any violence, divide themselves into two scenes each, thus: -
Act Scene 1 Scene 2 I: 1:2-2:7 Sol 1:2-8 1:9-2:7 II: 2:8-3:5 Sol 2:8. Sol 3:1-5 III: 3:6-5:1 Sol 3:6. 4:1-5:1 IV: 5:2-6:9 5:2-6:3 Sol 6:4-9 V: 6:10-8:4 6:10-7:6 7:7-8:4 VI: Sol 8:5-14 Sol 8:5-7 Sol 8:8-14
The first scene of the first act I formerly (1851) extended to Sol 1:17, but it reaches only to Sol 1:8; for up to this point Solomon is absent, but with Sol 1:9 he begins to converse with Shulamith, and the chorus is silent - the scene has thus changed. Kingsbury in his translation (1871) rightly places over Sol 1:9 the superscription, "The Entrance of the King."
The change of scenery is not regulated in accordance with stage decoration, for the Song is not a theatrical piece.
(Note: Ephr. Epstein, surgeon in Cincinnati, in a review of Von Grtz' Comm. in The Israelite (1872), calls the Song quite in our sense, "a dramatic poem, though not a complete scenic drama." But the bridal procession in the third act is not of this character - he sees in it a return from a hunting expedition.)
The first act is played both in the dining-room and in the wine-room appertaining to the women of the royal palace. In the second act, Shulamith is again at home. In the third act, which represents the marriage, the bride makes her entrance into Jerusalem from the wilderness, and what we further then hear occurs during the marriage festival. The locality of the fourth act is Jerusalem, without being more particularly defined. That of the fifth act is the park of Etam, and then Solomon's country house there. And in the sixth act we see the newly-married pair first in the way to Shulem, and then in Shulamith's parental home. In the first half of the dramatic pictures, Shulamith rises to an equality with Solomon; in the second half, Solomon descends to an equality with Shulamith. At the close of the first, Shulamith is at home in the king's palace; at the close of the second, Solomon is at home with her in her Galilean home.
In our monograph on the Song (1851), we believe we have proved that it distinctly bears evidences of its Solomonic origin. The familiarity with nature, the fulness and extent of its geographical and artistic references, the mention made of so many exotic plants and foreign things, particularly of such objects of luxury as the Egyptian horses, point to such an authorship; in common with Ps 72, it has the multiplicity of images taken from plants; with the Book of Job, the dramatic form; with the Proverbs, manifold allusions to Genesis. If not the production of Solomon, it must at least have been written near his time, since the author of Prov 1-9, the introduction to the older Book of Proverbs, for the origin of which there is no better defined period than that of Jehoshaphat (909-883 b.c.), and the author or authors of the supplement (Prov 22:17-24:22), reveal an acquaintance with the Song. Ewald also, and Hitzig, although denying that Solomon is the author because it is directed against him, yet see in it a produce of the most flourishing state of the language and of the people; they ascribe it to a poet of the northern kingdom about 950 b.c. Modern Jewish criticism surpasses, however, on the field of O.T. history, the anachronisms of the Tbingen school. As Zunz has recently (Deut. Morgenl. Zeitsch. xxvii.) sought to show that the Book of Leviticus was written about a thousand years after Moses, that there never was a prophet Ezekiel, that the dates of this book are fictitious, etc.; so Grtz attempts to prove that the Song in its Graecising language and Greek customs and symbols bears evidences of the Syro-Macedonian age;
(Note: So also, on linguistic grounds, Ant. Theod. Hartmann in Winer's Zeitschr. 1829.)
that the poet was acquainted with the idylls of Theocritus and the Greek erotic poets, and, so far as his Israelitish standpoint admitted, imitates them; and that he placed an ideal picture of pure Jewish love over against the immorality of the Alexandrine court and its Hellenistic partisans, particularly of Joseph b. Tobia, the collector of taxes in the time of Ptolemy Euergetes (247-221 b.c.), - a picture in which "the Shepherd,"
(Note: Epstein, in true American style, calls him "the bogus shepherd.")
now grown into a fixed idea, renders welcome service, in contrast to Solomon, in whom the poet glances at the court of Alexandria. One is thus reminded of Kirschbaum (1833), who hears in Eze 33:5 an echo of Cicero's dixi et salvavi animam, and in the Sol 2:17, a reference to the Bethar of Barcochba. We do not deny the penetration which this chief of Jewish historians has expended on the establishment of his hypothesis; but the same penetration may prove that the Babylon.-Assyr. "syllabaries" of the time of Asurbanipal (667-626) belong to the Greek era, because there occurs therein the word azamillav (knife), and this is the Greek σμίλη; or that the author of Prov 1-9 alludes in Pro 7:23 to Eros and his quivers, and in Pro 9:1 betrays a knowledge of the seven artes liberales. Parallels to the Song are found wherever sensuous love is sung, also in the Pastoralia of Longus, without the least dependence of one author upon another. And if such a relation is found between Theocritus and the Song, then it might rather be concluded that he became acquainted with it in Alexandria from Jewish literates,
(Note: Vid.Gesch. der jud. Poesie, p. 205ff. Not as Joh. Gott. Lessing (Eclogae regis Salomonis, 1777), the brother of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, supposes: through the lxx translation; for the Song was among the books latest in being translated.)
than that the author of the Song has imitated Greek models, as Immanuel Romi, the Arabians and Dante; besides, it is not at all the Song lying before us which Grtz expounds, but the Song modified by violent corrections of all kinds, and fitted to the supposed tendency. Thus he changes (Sol 1:3) שׁמניך (thine unguent) into בּשׂמיך, and תּוּרק שׁמן (ointment poured forth) into תּמרוּק שׁמך. - Shulamith says this of her beautiful shepherd, and what follows (Sol 1:4) the damsels say to him; he changes משׁכני into משׁכנו, הביאני into הביאנו, and then remarks: "Shulamith mentions it as to the praise of her beloved, that the damsels, attracted by his beauty, love him, and say to him, 'Draw us, we will run after thee; though the king brought us into his changers, we would rejoice only with thee, and prefer thee to the king.' " His too confident conjectural criticism presents us with imaginary words, such as (Sol 3:10) אהבים (ebony); with unfortunate specimens of style, such as (Sol 6:10), "Thou hast made me weak, O daughter of Aminadab;" and with unheard-of renderings, such as (Sol 8:5), "There where thy mother has wounded thee;" for he supposes that Shulamith is chastised by her mother because of her love. This Song is certainly not written by Solomon, nor yet does it date from the Syro-Macedonian time, but was invented in Breslau in the 19th century of our era!
Grtz (1871) has placed yet farther down than the Song the Book of Ecclesiastes, in which he has also found Graecisms; the tyrannical king therein censured is, as he maintains, Herod the Great, and the last three verses (Ecc 12:12-14) are not so much the epilogue of the book as that of the Hagiographa which closes with it. Certainly, if this was first formed by the decision of the conference in Jerusalem about 65, and of the synod in Jabne about 90, and the reception of the Books of Ecclesiastes and the Song was carried not without controversy, then it lies near to regard these two books as the most recent, originating not long before. But the fact is this: We learn from Jud-ajim iii. 5, iv. 6, cf. Edujoth v. 3, that in the decade before the destruction of Jerusalem the saying was current among the disciples of Hillel and Shammai, that "all Holy Scriptures (Kethubîm) pollute the hands;"
(Note: Vid., for the explanation of this, my essay, "Das Hohelied verunreinigt die Hnde," in the Luth. Zeitsch. 1854. The Tra and the Theruma-food, as being both reckoned holy, were usually placed together in the temple. It was discovered that the sacred books were thereby exposed to damage by mice; and hence, to prevent their being brought any longer into contact with the Theruma, the Rabbins decided that they were henceforth to be regarded as unclean, and they gave forth the decree, "All Holy Scriptures pollute the hand." This decree was applicable only to holy or inspired books. Vid., Ginsburg on the Song, p. 3, note.)
but that the question whether Ecclesiastes is included was answered in the negative by the school of Shammai, and in the affirmative by the school of Hillel - of the Song nothing is here said. But we learn further, that several decades later the Song also was comprehended in this controversy along with Ecclesiastes; and in an assembly of seventy-two doctors of the law in Jabne, that decree, "all Holy Scriptures (Kethubîm) pollute the hands," was extended to Ecclesiastes and the Song. R. Akiba (or some one else) asserted, in opposition to those who doubted the canonicity of the Song, "No day in the whole history of the world is so much worth as that in which the Song of Songs was given; for all the Kethubîm are holy, but the Song of Songs is most holy." From this Grtz draws the conclusion that the Hagiographa was received as canonical for the first time about 65, and that its canon was finally fixed so as to include Ecclesiastes and the Song, not till about 90; but this conclusion rests on the false supposition that "Holy Scriptures" (Kethubîm) is to be understood exclusive of the Hagiographa, which is just as erroneous as that Sephârim designates the prophets, with the exclusion of the Hagiographa. Holy Kethubîm is a general designation, without distinction, of all the canonical books, e.g., Bathra i. 6, and Sephârim in like manner, with the exception only of the Tra, Megilla i. 8, 333. 1, Shabbath 115b. And it rests on a misapprehension of the question discussed: the question was not whether Ecclesiastes and the Song should be admitted, but whether they had been justly admitted, and whether the same sacred character should be ascribed to them as to the other holy writings; for in Bathra 14b-15a (without a parallel in the Palest. Talmud) the enriching of the canon by the addition of the Books of Isaiah, Proverbs, the Song, and Ecclesiastes, is ascribed to the Hezekiah-Collegium (Pro 21:5), and thus is dated back in the period before the rise of the great synagogue. That Philo does not cite the Song proves nothing; he cites none of the five Megilloth. But Josephus (C. Ap. 1, 8; cf. Euseb. H. E. iii. 10), since he enumerates five books of the Mosaic law, thirteen books of prophetic history and prediction, and four books of a hymno-ethical character, certainly means by these four the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song, which in the Alexandrine canon stand thus connected. His work, Cont. Apion, was not indeed written till about 100 a.d.; but Josephus there speaks of a fact which had existed for centuries. The Song and Ecclesiastes formed part of the sacred books among the Hellenists as well as among the Palestinian Jews of the first Christian century; but, as those Talmud notices show, not without opposition. The Old Testament canon, as well as that of the New Testament, had then also its Antilegomena. These books were opposed not because of their late origin, but because their contents apparently militated against the truth of revelation and the spiritual nature of revealed religion. Similar doubts, though not so strong and lasting, were also uttered with reference to Proverbs, Esther, and Ezekiel.
The history of the exposition of this book is given in detail by Christian D. Ginsburg in The Song of Songs, London 1857; and by Zckler in "The Song," forming part of Lange's Bibelwerk, 1868, and supplemented by an account of the English interpretations and translations in the Anglo-American translation of this work by Green. Zunz, in the preface to Rebenstein's (Bernstein's) Lied der Lieder, 1834, has given an historical account of the Jewish expositors. Steinschneider's המזכיר (Heb. Bibliograph. 1869, p. 110ff.) presents a yet fuller account of the Jewish commentaries. The Mnich royal library contains a considerable number of these, - e.g., by Moses b. Tibbon, Shemariah, Immanuel Romi, Moses Calais (who embraced Christianity). Our commentary presents various new contributions to the history of the interpretation of this book. No other book of Scripture has been so much abused, by an unscientific spiritualizing, and an over-scientific unspiritual treatment, as this has. Luther says, at the close of his exposition: Quodsi erro, veniam meretur primus labor, nam aliorum cogitationes longe plus absurditatis habent. To inventory the maculatur of these absurdities is a repulsive undertaking, and, in the main, a useless labour, from which we absolve ourselves.