Monday, July 23, 2018

Solomon's Song of Songs - A Quick Thought

I'm continuing my progress through the more lyric books of the Bible and have reached Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon or Solomon's Song of Songs or Canticles).  And the study of the history and interpretation of the book is nearly as fascinating as the content of the book itself.

It's attributed to Solomon, but it is very likely he is not the author.  Most likely, it was written much later and may have referenced Solomon as the groom.  It is presented as a song, but there is debate as to whether it is one unified song through the entire book or whether it is a collection of songs.  It can be interpreted literally as a very descriptive and sensuous love song between a groom and bride or as an allegory of the love of God and His people, or Christ and His bride, the Church.  Under the allegorical view, passages are read on Shabbat before the Passover to symbolize the love between God and His people. There's an apocryphal belief that Jewish men under thirty were not allowed to read it unless they were married, but I cannot find the support for this view.  Similar to Revelation, it seems Song of Songs is very under-taught because of our lack of comfort with the text.

In this study, I came across an possible historical usage of the songs that I had not heard before and find very entertaining. 

The possibility that the book is a compilation of love songs or a singular great wedding song that would have been used repeatedly in wedding celebrations and that were gathered after years of usage, like the Psalms were collected and preserved.  Songs that would have called for a male vocalist, a female vocalist, and the "choir" of attendants.

As someone who has had the very fortunate pleasure of singing in several weddings, all with excellent taste in music, I cannot even begin to imagine how awkward singing something with the equivalent language expressed in the Song of Songs would be.  Especially the call and response with all the gathered guests. 

Really, can you imagine, singing in detail about the beauty of nearly every part of the body of the bride and groom?  Or singing about their continued "celebration" after the ceremonies have concluded?  About as comfortable as trying to make Leonard Cohen fit in worship services.  No matter how much we change the lyrics, I know what the original song is really singing about.

It certainly would bring a new level of appreciation to the wedding singer.

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