Introduction to Song of Songs




The Song of Songs celebrates the love of Solomon and his bride, who is called Shulamith or the Shulammite (6:13). The excitement of courtship, the beauty of the wedding night, the sexuality of the first night and subsequent nights, as well as tender friendship—all of these elements make this book a celebration of romance and marital sensuality as God intended them.

The pomegranate is a recurring image in the Song of Songs

The pomegranate is a recurring image in the Song of Songs (4:3,13; 6:7,11; 7:13-14; 8:2)


AUTHOR: The Song claims authorship by Solomon in its title, “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” The church has long accepted this at face value, but modern critics raise objections to Solomon as author.

First, critics claim that the title did not originate with the Song but was added later by someone who wanted to attribute the work to the famous Solomon. However, no evidence supports this claim. Moreover, the structure of the book suggests that the title is integral to the book’s composition and is thus original. Like other biblical writers, the writer often structured content with attention to certain numbers—three, seven, and ten being some of the most common. Within the Song, for example, the author designed seven sections (see below), a sevenfold praise (4:1-5), twice a tenfold praise (5:10-16; 7:1-5), and a tenfold occurrence of the abstract word for love (2:4-5,7; 3:5; 5:8; 7:6; 8:4,6-7). Apart from the title (1:1), he wove Solomon’s name into six other places (1:5; 3:7,9,11; 8:11-12): two in the last section, three in the central, and one in the first. With the inclusion of “Solomon” in the title, the name appears a perfect seven times and is symmetrically balanced within the Song: twice in the first section balanced by twice in the last one, with three in the central. The title is thus as cleverly integrated with the lyrics as possible. It not only conforms to their melodic alliteration and meter, but it completes the sevenfold occurrence of “Solomon” and in a manner that artistically balances it throughout the Song. In fact, the tenfold occurrence of “love” joins the sevenfold appearance of “Solomon” to show the Song’s subject and author. Hardly a later addition, the title seems to have been original, constituting its first verse.

Another common objection to Solomon’s authorship is the king’s well-known possession of seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines (1Kg 11:3). How could a man who lived like that write a song about devotion to one woman? It appears he could do so only because grace touched his heart. In this respect he foreshadowed other biblical writers who, except for God’s grace and calling, were the least qualified to write Scripture. For example, Paul, the great apostle, wrote most eloquently of grace and his unworthiness (e.g., 1Tm 1:12-16). Solomon was a man immersed in power and pleasure, but God opened his eyes to true love. Solomon also authored the book of Proverbs. Just as he did not always follow the precepts he recorded there, so too he evidently composed a great love song despite his failure to live in accordance with its ideals.

BACKGROUND: A compelling historical reason to date the Song as coming from the time of Solomon is its nearest literary parallel—the Egyptian love songs. No one doubts their origin prior to or contemporaneous with the time of Solomon, and the Egyptian love songs are indisputably the Song’s closest literary parallels.


The central theme of the Song of Songs is a celebration of the goodness and beauty of romantic love. The Song’s romantic ideals are as captivating as its imagery: emotional intimacy, sensitive communication, delightful sexuality, profound companionship, common perspective, willing forgiveness, respect, integrity, security, love’s devotion through bleak seasons of winter, and love’s renewal in new seasons of spring.

Since the Song portrays a perfect love, it is natural for the songwriter to compare it to the love of God for Israel. Solomon’s love is like God’s love for his people, and Shulamith’s love is like a response from those people to God. If the NT will later tell us that a man’s love for his wife should emulate Christ’s love for his bride (Eph 5:22-33), Solomon’s song shows such a marriage patterned after divine love.

Since the Song captures ideal love in its reflection of God’s love for Israel, its romance also reflects the ideal love that God intended for a husband and wife. We see a return to paradise in a courtship that blossomed in the uncluttered beauty of nature (1:15-2:3; 2:8-14), in a wedding night consummated with allusions to the garden of paradise (4:12-5:1), and in a marriage that delights in innocent lovemaking (4:1-5:1; 7:1-8:3).

The Song’s last praise of love captures all of this (8:5-7). The flames of love are like the fire of the Lord. In Genesis, God ruled over the waters of chaos to make the heavens and earth, creating in his image Adam and Eve to reflect his love in their union. In Exodus, God ruled over the deathly waters of the Red Sea to establish a new nation for his people. Since God’s love is like fire (Dt 4:24; 32:21-22), and since the love of Solomon and Shulamith recovers the innocence of Adam and Eve and reflects God’s love for Israel, the Song compares the power of romantic love to the eternal fire of God that no waters or rivers can quench.


A beautiful love song inspires us like grace, creating within us a desire for its beauty. Like such an enchanting love song, Solomon’s Song inspires a pursuit of the love it portrays. This romantic delight is not a modern fairytale or fantasy from the past but reflects God’s desire to form within us a pure and devoted love. We discover that there is a bliss in married love that is reflective of the greater love believers experience as the bride of Christ. As this book’s imagery informs us of romantic love, it also helps us anticipate the full consummation of our relationship with Christ when he returns for his bride.


The Song of Songs is a poem whose components form a chiastic structure. A chiasm takes the form:






where A and A´ mirror each other and where the central element, C, conveys the main point of the poem. The outline below shows the structure of the Song of Songs. The author intended to emphasize the central elements of the structure, the day and night of the wedding (section IV). When God inspired Solomon to write this song, he gave divine approval to romantic love.

The Hebrew text makes a distinction between the various speakers through a change in gender and number. The CSB text has added subheadings to clarify when the speakers change.


Section A: Their Story Begins (1:2-2:7)

A.Shulamith, Solomon, and the daughters of Jerusalem (1:2-4)

B.Her brothers, their vineyards, and her appearance (1:5-6)

C.Her character and beauty (1:7-11)

D.Love’s expression (1:12-2:5)

E.Refrains conclude Section A and begin Section B (2:6-7)

Section B: Invitation to Enjoy a Spring Day (2:6-17)

A.Refrains of longing and patience (2:6-7)

B.Her beloved’s invitation to come from her house to enjoy spring (2:8-14)

C.Refrains (after caution) of unity and invitation to her breasts (2:15-17)

Section C: Night of Separation Preceding Wedding (3:1-5)

A.She is awakened, alone, and longing for him (3:1)

B.Leaves home to find him (3:2)

C.Is found by guards (3:3a)

D.Asks for help (3:3b)

C´.Finds Solomon (3:4a)

B´.Returns home with him (3:4b)

A´.Is reunited with him through the night (3:4b); transition (3:5)

Section D: Wedding Day and Night (3:6-5:1)

A.Songwriter’s own words (3:6-11)

B.Celebration of the wedding’s beginning (3:6-11)

C.Wedding night (4:1-5:1)

B´.Celebration of the wedding’s consummation (5:1a)

A´.Songwriter’s own words (5:1b)

Section C´: Night of separation following wedding night (5:2-7:9)

A.She is awakened, alone, and reluctant (5:2-8)

B.Awakened to give tenfold praise (5:9-16)

C.Aware of his presence in the garden (6:1-3)

D.Receives his praise in the garden (6:4-10)

C´.Recounts her journey to the garden (6:11-13)

B´.Receives tenfold praise (7:1-5)

A´.Delightfully make love, together drift off to sleep (7:6-9)

Section B´: Invitation to Enjoy a Spring Day (7:10-8:4)

C´.Enjoyment of breasts and refrain of unity (7:7-8,10)

B´.Her invitation to come enjoy spring then return to her house (7:11-8:2)

A´.Refrains of longing and patience (8:3-4)

Section A´: Their Story Complete (8:3-14)

E´.Refrains conclude Section B´ and begin Section A´ (8:3-4)

D´.Love’s devotion (8:5-7)

C´.Shulamith’s character and beauty (8:8-9)

B´.Her brothers, their vineyards, and her appearance (8:10-12)

A´.Shulamith, Solomon, and Shulamith’s companions (8:13-14)

The design of the Song underscores its central theme: a celebration of the goodness and beauty of romantic love.

3000-2000 BC

Abraham 2166-1991

Stonehenge construction, phase I 2900

Stonehenge construction, phase II 2900-2400

Epic of Gilgamesh oral tradition developed from 2700 to 1400

First libraries in Egypt 2500-2000

Stonehenge construction, phase III 2400-1600

2000-1800 BC

Moses 1526-1406

The Love Poem of a Persistent Woman, Old Babylonian 2017-1794

Dumuzi-Inanna Love Songs, Sumerian 2000

An Old Akkadian Love Charm 2000

Love Lyrics of Rim-Sin, Akkadian 1822-1763

1800-1100 BC

Message of Lundingirra to His Mother, Old Babylonian 1800-1600

Love Lyrics of Nanay and Muati, Old Babylonian 1711-1684

Heavy import and export trade, Egypt 1500-1000

Events in Joshua 1406-1380?

Events in Judges 1380?-1060?

Egyptian Love Poetry 1305-1150

1100-900 BC

Love Lyrics of Nabu and Tasmetu, Neo-Assyrian 1180-609

The Harper’s Song for Inherkhway, Egyptian 1160

David becomes king over all Israel. 1003

Solomon becomes king. 970

Proverbs 970

Song of Songs 970?

Ecclesiastes 935?