1: This book is called Song of Songs, which is a title that implies it’s greatness, similar to the title "Lord of Lords." The author didn’t intend to teach deep theological truths or hidden messages. It’s simply a Hebrew love poem meant to show the beauty of romantic, exclusive love between a husband and his wife. The couple uses many metaphors to describe each other that may sound silly to us today, but would have been flattering and made more sense at the time. Because poetry is filled with metaphors meant to convey emotion, the book has several interpretive challenges. Furthermore, the one speaking often switches from a bride, to her husband, to various different observers. It jumps around the timeline, reflecting on past feelings, and on two occasions the author switches to describing dreams.
There’s debate about who the male voice is, but it seems to be a young Solomon writing about his first love, before he fell away from the Lord and had other wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3-11).
2-4: The Bride (Shulamite) longs for physical affection from her husband, associating him with the intoxicating effect of wine and pleasing fragrances. His name being "oil poured out" speaks of his great reputation. These are the reasons the virgins (single women) love him, and envied the bride. She invites her husband, the king, to pursue her and he brings her into his chamber (bedroom.) The second half of verse 4 introduces the observers of their relationship. These are young, inexperienced women (the Daughters of Jerusalem) that the bride gives advice to throughout the poem (Song of Solomon 2:7).
5-6: The Bride was a laborer who worked in the vineyards, as was evident from her dark skin. She was self-conscious about this because it implied a lower social status. She was too busy working the vineyard to take care of her appearance ("own vineyard"). She points out that she’s beautiful even though she looked like a laborer.
7-8: Since Solomon would never have shepherd sheep as a king, she must be speaking metaphorically. It may a reference to to him shepherding (leading) his kingdom, while her "pastoring young goats" could be her leading the Daughters of Jerusalem.
9-10: The king begins describing her beauty with metaphors. She was majestic like a horse of Pharaoh’s chariot clad in Gold and feathers. The "ornaments of her cheeks" might be freckles from the sun.
11: This is probably the daughters of Jerusalem speaking, promising to make golden jewelry.
12-17: The scene picks up from when Solomon invited his bride into his chamber as they lay on the couch delighting in each other’s beauty. The bride even takes note of their beautiful surroundings (Song of Solomon 1:17).
1-5: The couple declares the exclusivity of their love. He says she is a Lilly, while other young women are like shrubs by comparison. She compares him to an apple tree, while other men are like a forest without fruit. She happily sits in his shadow of protection. Fruit is used here as an metaphor for intimacy and fulfillment.
6: She notes their intimate position as they lay on the couch, which is repeated later in the poem (Song of Solomon 8:3).
7: The Shulamite (wife) warns the daughters of Jerusalem throughout the poem not to "stir up or awaken love until it pleases." This means that love can’t be coerced through sex or by any other means. To do so often ends in pain. We don’t choose when or how we fall in love, and intimacy should always follow love and marriage.
8-17: The Bride admires the way her husband pursues her (Song of Solomon 2:9-10) and delights in the exclusivity of their love (Song of Solomon 2:16).
1-5: She had a dream that gave her a glimpse into what it would be like to lose her husband, and the joy of finding him again. Feeling this pain caused her to warn the daughters of Jerusalem “not to awaken love”, once again.
6-11: The bride describes the pomp and majesty of Solomon when he arrived on their wedding day. He rode in on an elaborate, custom crafted carriage with a parade of 60 great warriors. She invited her friends to admire the majestic scene of her groom’s arrival.
1-5: Solomon admired the beauty of his veiled bride on their wedding day. His metaphorical descriptions of her appearance starts with her eyes and ends with her breasts. Many of the metaphors sound silly to us today, given the great time, culture, and language gap. However, they were flattering, poetic descriptions that would have been clear to the original audience. For example, he describes her hair as a "flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead", which compares the elegant motion of the goats to the flow of her hair. Verse 2 uses sheep as a metaphor for saying she has perfect, white teeth.
6-16: He is overtaken by her beauty and wanted her to come away with him and make love. The metaphor of a garden, eating fruit, and intoxication is used to describe their sexual fulfillment.
1: This is a continuation of verses 6-16. The analogy of eating and and drinking illustrates his feeling of love and sexual fulfillment. Their relationship is encouraged by others.
2-8: The bride has another dream about losing her husband. She feels the excitement and anticipation of seeing him, only to find that he’s not there. She tries to find him and is abused by the night guards.
9: When she asks others for help, they challenge her. They wanted to know what was so special about her lover that they should help find him.
10-16: She describes him from the head downward, focusing on specific features, similar to the method Solomon used to described her in Song of Solomon 4:1-5.
1-3: The others are convinced and want to help her find him. She somehow acquired knowledge of his location.
4-7: The author switches from her dream back to the dialog between Solomon and his bride. Solomon repeats much of his poetic description of her from chapter 4.
8-10: He declares that other women don’t compare to his bride. She is an only child and all the virgins, queens, and concubines mentioned praised her. It’s not clear who these queens and concubines are. It wouldn’t make sense for them to be Solomon’s since even the bride talks about the exclusivity of their love (Song of Solomon 2:16).
11-13: This passage is difficult to interpret. The Shulammite (bride) went down to the orchard, but the daughters of Jerusalem wanted her to return so they could admire her beauty. Solomon rebukes the young women.
1-6: He admires her physical beauty again, starting with her feet and describing each feature until he ends with her head.
7-13: Solomon sexually pursues his wife and she encourages him. She finds pleasure in bringing him pleasure, because she loves him.
1-3: She seems to be reflecting on her feelings from her past "that you were like a brother". )*/ ‘ay mean that when she was betrothed (engaged), she desired to show physical affection to her husband in public, but this wouldn’t have been well received considering they weren’t married yet (Song of Solomon 8:1 "despise me"). She longed for the day that it would be acceptable to kiss her fiancé in public the way it was acceptable for her to kiss her brother in public.
6-7: Just as a seal on a scroll declared ownership of the sender, her seal on Solomon showed her ownership of him and the exclusivity of their love. These verses are similar to 1 Corinthians 13, which describe the characteristics and permanence of love. True love is never ending, as powerful and permanent as death, and can’t be quenched, drowned" or purchased.
8-9: Her brothers reflect on their duty to protect their sister from premarital sexual immorality. When she was an adolescent ("has no breasts" Song of Solomon 8:8) and when men desired to be with her ("spoken for"), they had a plan of how to protect her from opportunists. In the case that "she is a wall", meaning she stood her ground and protected, then they would reinforce this protection ("build on her battlement"). In the case that "she is a door", meaning she lets in those who want to take her purity, then they will intervene and stop the threat "enclose her ("door") with boards".
10: The Bride clarifies that of the two scenarios in the wall/door analogy, she was the wall and protected herself from the men who sought to take advantage of her.
11-12: The Bride happily shares all that she has with her beloved.
13: Solomon invites his workers in the field to share their stories of love with him. The "companions listening for their voices" are the spouses of the field workers.