What “The Song Of Songs” Means:
“The Time of Singing is Come. . . .”
It is a traditional Jewish custom to read the Song of Songs on the Sabbath of the Passover festival, and every year, when the custom is dutifully observed, a number of attendant questions rise like ghosts from unquiet graves. For the Song of Songs is the riddle of riddles; of all the books of the Bible none has provoked so much discussion or been subjected to so many different interpretations.
The literal content of the Song is, to be sure, clear and intelligible enough: from beginning to end it is a sensuous and lyrical expression of human love. Everything else about it, however, invites question and inspires speculation. Who really wrote the book, and when? What is its true significance? Is it a single song or a collection of songs? How did it come to be included in a body of sacred scripture? To these questions various answers have been given, and when they are put side by side, they present a striking and illuminating picture of the shifting trends and fashions which have informed literary criticism in general and the study of the Bible in particular during the course of the ages. Even today, after centuries of continuous study and research, no definitive solution to the riddle has been found. . . and none will be here attempted. As the philosopher Saadia said so long ago, the Song of Songs is a lock to which we as yet have no key. Nevertheless, it may be interesting to know what has thus far been accomplished; and certainly the story is not without fascination as a record of human ingenuity on the one hand and of human obtuseness on the other.
About the Author