Trying to find guides to the literal level of the Song of Songs… so many commentators jump to the higher levels of meaning, skipping this crucial first level of meaning. I understand that it can be read as God’s love for Israel, Christ’s love for the Church, the soul’s quest for mystical union. But understanding the literal level is essential to understanding what the poem has to say about these more spiritual relationships.
He makes an interesting observation in the intro that Hebrew poetry is unique in ancient literature in that survives translation very well because the major device is parallel structure, not meter rhyme or other poetic structure.
Gee, you’d think God planned that in the inspired scripture, that it would still seem poetic in any language.
Another interesting text he cites:
Rabbi Akiba (50-135AD) wrote in the Mishnah (Yadaim 3.5):
“… the whole of the world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; all the Writings are holy, and the Song of Songs is the holy of holies …”
The holy of holies, how cool is that?
I gotta find the whole text I think.
In the main, this commentary tries to get at the literal level of the poem.
I think this commentator’s separation of the shepherd lover from King Solomon is interesting, though I’m not entirely convinced. It solves certain problems and raises others. In his reading she is a shepherd girl, captive of Solomon and yearning for her simple shepherd lover. I suppose this addresses the question of Israel’s infidelity, the woman who is forced to forsake her pastoral simplicity for the riches of palaces and alien Gods. But it also seems to confuse the issue. In that case Solomon becomes a symbol for pagan luxuriance. Which I can see from what you were saying in the criticism of him for spending more on palaces than on the temple. But still he did build the temple and this interpretation seems to ignore that idea.
I’m also a bit dubious about the assignment of certain lines to a chorus of harem women, why bring in a third speaker when they would also make sense coming from the maiden? Although there certainly are places where other voices do speak.
What are the textual indicators for assigning the lines in this way? I wish I could reference the original text.
I’m also not sure about interpreting the sections at night as dream sequences.
seems to me the biggest problem with assuming two male figures competing for the woman is when you move from the literal to the allegorical, anagogical… how would that play out? If it doesn’t work on all the levels, something is wrong with your literal interpretation.
haven’t had time to explore here, but looks like a good place to start with links to various commentaries.
and here is a link to a page that was linked to by the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology