This book is entitled, in the Hebrew copies, "Shir Hashirim", the Song
of Songs. The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions call it, "the
Song"; and the title of it in the Syriac version, is,

``the Wisdom of Wisdoms of the same Solomon;''

that is, the same who wrote the two preceding books. It has always been
received and esteemed by the ancient Jews as a valuable part of the
sacred writings, calling it "the Holy of Holies" {a}; forbidding their
children to read it, because of the sublimity and mysteriousness of it,
until they were at years to understand it: nor was there ever any
controversy among them about the authenticity of it; but all their
writers {b}, ancient and more modern, agree that it was written by the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The ancient Christian fathers and
councils have held it as a part of the holy Scriptures, and have
continued it in the canon of them; and it has been received as
canonical by Christians in all ages, except a very few, as Theodore of
Mopsuest, condemned calling it in question by the second council at
Constantinople, in 553; and Castalio, in later times, who for the same
was censured and exiled by the senate at Geneva; and Mr. Whiston, in
our age, whose objections to it I have attempted to answer, in my
larger Commentary on this book, published in 1728, and since
republished: and I am very sorry I am obliged to take notice of an
objection to the antiquity of it, and to its being Solomon's, made by a
learned {c} man, very lately; who observes, that the word David, from
its first appearance in Ruth, where it is written \^dwd\^, without the
"yod", continues to be so written through the books of Samuel, Kings,
Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; but appears with a
"yod", \^dywd\^, in the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Zechariah;
wherefore he suggests, that if it was customary to write this word
without a "yod" till the captivity, and with one after it; then he
thinks a strong argument may be drawn from hence against the antiquity
of the Canticles, and its being made by Solomon, since this name is
written with a "yod" in \\#So 4:4\\; the only place in it in which it is
used: but in answer to this it must be said, that it is not fact that
the word is invariably without a "yod" in the books mentioned,
particularly the book of Kings: for the authors of the Masorah have
observed, on \\#1Ki 3:14\\, that it is five times written in that book
full, as they call it, that is, with a "yod", \^dywd\^; three of the places
I have traced out, \\#1Ki 3:14 11:4,36\\; and have found it so written in
all the printed copies I have seen; and so it is read by the eastern
Jews, in \\#Eze 37:24\\. This learned man is aware that it is so written,
once in Hosea, and twice in Amos, books written two hundred years
before the captivity; but then he observes, that in the two last
places, in Bomberg's edition, it has a little circle (o) to mark it for
an error, or a faulty word, though none over the word in Hosea: but it
should be known, that that circle, in hundreds of places, is not used
to point out anything faulty in the copy; but is only a mark referring
to the margin, and what is observed there; and be it that it does point
out an error, or a faulty word, the same circle is over the word in
Canticles, and consequently shows it to be faulty there, and to be
corrected and read without the "yod", as it was originally without it
there; which observation destroys the argument from it: and so it is
read in that place in the Talmud {d} without it, and in the ancient
book of Zohar {e}; and indeed it seems as if it was read without the
"yod" in the copies seen by the authors of the Little Masorah; since in
their note on \\#1Ki 3:14\\; besides the five places in the Kings, where it
is written full, or with the "yod", they say, it is so written
throughout the Chronicles, the twelve minor prophets, and Ezra, which
includes Nehemiah; but make no mention of Solomon's Song, which, one
would think, they would have done, had it been so written there in the
copies before them: so that, upon the whole, the argument, if it has
any force in it, turns out for, and not against, the antiquity of
Solomon's Song. This book of Canticles has plain marks of a divine
original, and proofs of its being of divine inspiration: it was written
by, one that was inspired of God, as appears by the books of Proverbs
and Ecclesiastes, written by him; the greatness of the matter contained
in it, the dignity, sublimity, and majesty of its style, show it to be
no human composure; the power and efficacy which it has had over the
hearts of men, in reading it, and hearing it explained, is another
evidence of its being the word of God, which is quick and powerful; the
impartiality of it, the bride, who is introduced speaking in it,
confessing and proclaiming her own failings and infirmities, is no
inconsiderable proof of the same; to which may be added the agreement
between this and other portions of Scripture, as particularly
\\#Ps 45:1-17\\; and there seem to be many allusions and references to
various passages of this book in the New Testament; see
\\#Mt 9:13 13:52 21:38 25:1\\ \\#Joh 3:8,29 6:44 2Co 11:3 Eph 5:27\\
\\#Col 2:17 Re 3:20 19:7,8\\; compared with \\#So 1:3,4 2:17 4:7,16\\
\\#So 5:1,2 7:13 8:11,12\\. In what time of Solomon's life this book was
written is not agreed on: some of the Jewish writers say the book of
Proverbs was written first, then the Song of Songs, and last of all
Ecclesiastes; others, that the Song was written first, then Proverbs, and
then Ecclesiastes {f}; though their chronologer {g} says they were all
written in his old age, as indeed the last book seems to be; but the
Song rather seems to have been written in the middle part of his life,
when in the most flourishing circumstances as to body, mind, and
estate. Dr. Lightfoot {h} is of opinion it might be written in the
thirtieth year of his reign, about ten years before his death, after he
had built his summer house in Lebanon, to which he supposes respect is
had in \\#So 4:8 7:4\\; and upon his bringing Pharaoh's daughter to the
house prepared for her, \\#1Ki 9:24\\; but be this at it may, it was not a
celebration of the amours between Solomon and her, since the literal
sense, in many places, would be monstrous and absurd; and besides it
must be written twenty years at least after that, if the house of the
forest of Lebanon is referred to in the above places; nor does it set
forth their amours, and the marriage between them, as typical of the
inexpressible love and marriage union between Christ and his church;
though there is a resemblance between natural and spiritual marriage,
and the love of persons in such a relation to one another, and to which
there may be an allusion in some passages. Nor is this book historical
and prophetic, expressing either the state of the people of Israel,
from the times of Abraham to Solomon, and so to the Messiah; in which
way go many Jewish interpreters, as the Targum, Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and
others: nor is it to be considered as describing the state of the
church: of God, whether legal, from the times of David and Solomon, and
before, in and after the captivity, to the birth and death of Christ;
or the Gospel church, in its beginning, progress, various changes, and
consummation, as Brightman and Cotton nor as setting forth the several
ages and periods of the Christian church, in agreement with the seven
churches of Asia, as Cocceius, and those that follow him, Horchius,
Hofman, and Heunischius; which latter, particularly, makes this
distribution of them:

(1) The Ephesian church, \\#So 1:5-17\\; from the ascension of Christ
to heaven, A. C. 33, to 370.
(2) The Smyrnaean church, \\#So 2:1-17\\; from A. C. 371, to 707;
(3) The church at Pergamos, \\#So 3:1-11\\; from A. C. 708, to 1045.
(4) The Thyatirian church, \\#So 4:1-5:1\\, from A. C. 1046, to 1383.
(5) The Sardian church, \\#So 5:2-6:8\\, from A. C. 1384, to 1721.
(6) The church at Philadelphia, \\#So 6:9-7:13\\, from A. C. 1722, to
2059. (7) The Laodicean church, \\#So 8:1-14\\, from A. C. 2060,
and onwards.

But these senses are very arbitrary, uncertain, and precarious, and
limit the several parts of it to certain periods; whereas it is
applicable to believers in all ages of time. The whole is figurative
and allegorical; expressing, in a variety of lively metaphors, the
love, union, and communion, between Christ and his church; setting
forth the several different frames, cases, and circumstances of
believers, in this life; so that they can be in no case and condition
spiritual whatever, but there is something in this Song suitable to
them; and which serves much to recommend it, and shows the excellency
of it; and that it justly claims the title it bears, the Song of
Songs, the most excellent. M. Bossuet {i} is of opinion, that whereas
the nuptial feast with the Hebrews was kept seven days, this Song is
to be distributed into seven parts, a part to be sung, one each day,
during the celebration: The first day, \\#So 1:1-2:16\\. The second
day, \\#So 2:7-17\\. The third day, \\#So 3:1-5:1\\. The fourth day,
\\#So 5:2-6:9\\. The fifth day, \\#So 6:10-7:11\\. The sixth day,
\\#So 7:12-8:3\\. The seventh day, \\#So 8:4-14\\. The thought is
ingenious, but seems too fanciful, and without foundation.

{a} Misnah Yadaim, c. 3. s. 5. Shir Hashirim Rabba, fol. 2. 4.
Abarbinel in 1. Reg. iii. 12. fol. 209. 2.
{b} Zohar in Exod. fol. 59. 3. Shir Hashirim Rabba, fol. 2. 4. Targum,
Jarchi, & Aben Ezra in loc.
{c} Dr. Kennicott's Dissert. 1. p. 20
{d} T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 30. 1.
{e} In Gen. fol. 114. 3.
{f} Shir Hashirim Rabba, fol. 3. 3. Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 28. 3.
{g} Seder Olam Rabba, c. 15. so Shir Hashirim Rabba, fol. 3. 3.
{h} See his Works, vol. 1. p. 76.
{i} Vid. Lowth de Sacr. Poesi Heb. Praelect. 30. p. 393, 394. & Not.
Michaelis in ibid. p. 156-159.


In this chapter, after the general title of the book, \\#So 1:1\\, the
church expresses her strong desires, and most ardent wishes, for some
fresh discoveries of the love of Christ to her, and for communion with
him; having tasted of his love, smelt a sweet savour in his grace, and
enjoyed fellowship with him in his house, \\#So 1:2-4\\. She observes her
blackness and uncomeliness in herself; the trials and afflictions she
met with from others; and her carelessness and negligence of her own
affairs, \\#So 1:5,6\\; and entreats her beloved to direct her where she
might meet with him, feeding his flocks, and giving them rest, to which
he returns a kind and gracious answer; gives her proper instructions
where to find him, \\#So 1:7,8\\; and commends her beauty; sets forth her
amiableness and loveliness, by various metaphors; and makes promises of
more grace and good things to her, \\#So 1:9-11\\. And then she declares
what a value she had for Christ, her beloved; and how precious he was
unto her, like a bundle of myrrh, and a cluster of camphire,
\\#So 1:12-14\\. Christ again praises her beauty; and particularly takes
notice of her eyes, and her modest look, \\#So 1:15\\; and she returns
the encomium back to him, and expresses her pleasure and satisfaction
in the house he had built for her, and the furniture of it, \\#So 1:16,17\\.