Q: In SofS, what is the book of Canticles?
A: This is an alternate name for the Song of Solomon. Another popular name is Song of Solomon. There is no difference. The Hebrew name is literally translated "Song of Songs", which means the best of all songs. Solomon wrote 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32), and the title implies that this was the best one.
In the Latin Vulgate, the book is called Canticum Canticorum, which means Song of Songs. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.10 for more info.
Q: In SofS, why is a sexually-oriented book like Song of Solomon in the Bible?
A: What is wrong with wild, passionate, romance and sex within marriage? While some would make God against all sexual enjoyment, God is the one who created sex. Since God has spoken so strongly and clearly against sex outside of marriage, one might false generalize to think God is against all sexual pleasure - if it were not for the Song of Solomon. See When Critics Ask p.261-262 and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.261-262 for more info.
Q: In SofS, how should this book be interpreted?
A: Christians and Jews have had four views.
Allegory of our relationship with God is how many historically have seen this book. Allegories of God as our husband are in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but these were written centuries after the Song of Solomon.
Romance: The allegorical view goes too far when it describes the wife’s beauty. Rather, this is a practical, yet passionate story about romantic love, a small problem in the relationship, and its solution. The Song of Solomon is a very important book. Without it, one might wonder if it is proper for believers to have passionate romantic feelings, are an emotionally exciting marriage. This book not only validates this, but shows how.
Romance with Solomon as an intruder: The Shepherd and girl love each other, and Solomon tries unsuccessfully to woo the girl away. Viewing this book as a protest against marital infidelity is the view of the Believers Bible Commentary and Arthur Clarke’s The Song of Songs. A variation of this view is that the girl is actually Abishag. See www.scripturewise.com for more on this view.
Collection of love poems: Some apparently have given up on a structure and see this as an anthology of love poems. The New Geneva Study Bible p.1004 mentions this view, commenting that it is both unhelpful and unnecessary.
Play: Some have seen a third option, that this was a kind of play. However, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1009 points out that while some seem this as a drama or play to be acted out, "the literary genre of a full-fledged drama was not known among the Israelites. Also the book cannot be analyzed into acts and scenes like a drama."
Allegory of the Exodus from Egypt was the ancient rabbi interpretation, according to 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.10.
Also see When Critics Ask p.263 for more info.
Q: In SofS, what is an outline of this book?
A: There are two outlines, depending on whether you think there is one man, or Solomon and a shepherd.
One-man view: This book is about the courtship, wedding, and marriage of a couple.
1:2-3:5 The Courtship
3:6-5:1 The Wedding
..3:6-11 The Wedding Procession
..4:1-5:1 The Wedding Night
5:2-8:4 The Marriage
..5:2-6:13 A "fox" in the marriage. Taking the other for granted
.. 6:4-13 Overcoming the problem
Protest Against Infidelity view: Solomon is trying to take the girl away from her shepherd boyfriend/husband, and he fails to do so.
The Believers Bible Commentary has 18 top-level sections, based primarily on speaker. Here is a rather free condensation of that.
1-2:7 The Shulamite in Solomon’s Court
..2:7 - O daughters of Jerusalem
2:8-3:5 Reminiscing about her shepherd-lover
..3:5 - O daughters of Jerusalem
3:6-4:6 Solomon’s grand procession arrives
4:7-5:1 The Shepherd comes and asks the Shulamite to leave
5:9-8:4 Everyone tries to convince the Shulamite
..8:4 - O daughters of Jerusalem
8:5-14 She goes with the shepherd-lover
Q: In SofS, who are the speakers of each verse?
A: Here are the speakers, given the view that there is only one man. Be careful of semantics, the NIV uses the word "beloved" to refer to the woman, and the NKJV uses the word "beloved" to refer to the man.
One man view:
The man is the speaker in 1:9-10, 1:15, 2:2, 2:14, 4:1-15, 5:1a-d, 6:4-9, 7:1-9a, 8:13.
The woman is the speaker in 1:2-4a, 1:4c-7, 1:12-14, 1:15, 2:1, 2:3-14, 2:16-3:11, 4:16, 5:2-8, 5:10-16, 6:2-3, 7:9b-8:4, 8:6-7, 8:10-12, 8:14
Either the woman or the man in 1:17, 6:11-12, 6:13b
Either the woman or the man or (according to the NKJV) the woman’s brothers in 2:15.
The friends (including daughters of Jerusalem) speak in 1:4b, 1:8, 1:11, 5:9, 6:1, 6:13a, 8:5a
Either the man or the friends in 1:8, 1:11, 6:10
Either the man, woman, or a relative in 8:5b
Either God or the friends speaks in 5:1e
(The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1020 says it was God, because friends would not be there when they were consummating their marriage.)
The woman’s brothers speak in 8:8-9
See also The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1012 for more info.
Shepherd + Solomon view:
Roughly the same speakers, except that it is Solomon and not the shepherd speaking prior to 4:7. After that Solomon only speaks in 6:4-10 and 7:1-10.
See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.919-921 for more info.
Q: In SofS 1:1,5; 3:7,9,11; 8:11,12 did Solomon actually write this book?
A: Solomon might have been the author, but it is not necessarily true that he was. The book mentions Solomon and it could be named for the subject matter, not the author.
Q: In SofS 1:2, how is his love better than wine?
A: Drinking wine does not give as much pleasure as the warm feeling of knowing how much he cares for her. If you are a husband, how pleasured does our wife feel in just knowing how much you love her?
Q: In SofS 1:3, why would a girl tell her beloved that the young maidens all love him?
A: She is appreciative that he likes her and not others. This is far removed from the concept of trying to get every advantage possible from your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.
Q: In SofS 1:4, since they are not married, why is the girl talking about being brought into the king’s chamber?
A: In Jewish tradition, the marriage was consummated privately, right after the wedding ceremony. Either they are married at this point, or she is telling her beloved she is looking forward to marriage.
Q: In SofS 1:5, was the girl here black, or was she Jewish, and thus Caucasian?
A: First an interesting side note, and then an answer. Judaism has been in the country of Ethiopia ever since around the time of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The Judaism in Ethiopia was distinct in that they had no concept of Purim or Hanukkah, which were introduced over four hundred years after Solomon’s time.
Answer: The girl might have been black, and she might have been Ethiopian. On one hand many see that she was more likely Caucasian and her skin was tanned, because she mentioned that the sun made her dark. On the other hand, a black person’s skin can look darker if they spend a lot of time in the sun too.
Perhaps more was not made of her race because in this story it does not matter, just as today we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. If my children were to marry an anglo, oriental, hispanic, desi, black, Arab, Persian, or other, they would all be equally fine with me. However, I am still greatly concerned with what that the person was like on the inside; whether the potential spouse had Christlike character.
Q: In SofS 1:5, should this word be "but" or "and"?
A: The Believer’s Bible Commentary p.928 says that it could be translated either way. The NASB, KJV, and NKJV translate this as "but", and the NIV translates this as "yet". The NRSV translates this as "and".
Q: In SofS 1:7, why would the girl go to the flocks of her beloved’s companions?
A: It never said that she did. She told her beloved she might do so, perhaps by mistake, if he did not tell her where he grazed his flocks. One characteristic of a good romantic love is wanting to spend time with the other person.
Q: In SofS 1:8, why did the man not tell the woman where his flocks grazed?
A: The woman wonders why she cannot be with her lover all the time. I once talked with a college student who was distraught over the fact that a particular senior did not notice her. I asked her when she got married, what percent of the time did she think she would be with her husband. She said "90%"!
The speaker of this verse is either the lover being playful or the daughters of Jerusalem, perhaps being sarcastic. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1013 and The New Geneva Study Bible p.1006 for more info. The Believer’s Bible Commentary p.922 says it is the daughters of Jerusalem.
Q: In SofS 1:9, why was the person compared to Pharaoh’s chariots?
A: The New Geneva Study Bible p.1006 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1013 say that twin stallions pulled the Pharaoh’s chariot. The NIV Study Bible p.1005 says that his beloved attracts attention the way a mare among the Pharaoh’s chariot stallions would attract attention.
Q: In SofS 1:12 (KJV) (NKJV), what is spikenard?
A: The NRSV translates this as "nard" and the NASB and NIV translate this as "perfume". Spikenard and nard were types of perfume. Nard (or spikenard) was very costly, as the woman who anointed Jesus with nard had a jar that cost a year’s wages in Mark 14:3-5.
Q: In SofS 1:12,14,3:6, is it OK for Christians to wear perfume?
A: Yes. These verses approve it and nothing in scripture forbids it. However, if your only beauty if outward adornment, that is sad. Your attractiveness should be from inward beauty, which does not fade, a 1 Peter 3:1-5 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10 show.
Q: In SofS 1:14 (KJV), what is camphire?
A: Camphire is a strong and pleasant-smelling balm. However, the NASB, NIV, and NRSV translate this as henna blossoms. The NKJV says "henna blooms". These are pleasant-smelling too.
Q: In SofS 1:14, what is the significance of En-gedi?
A: En-gedi was a remote desolate place on the west shore of the Dead Sea. David went there to hide from King Saul in 1 Samuel 24:1. Someone might go there to be alone. Of course, any place in the world is almost a paradise if you are with the one you love. Since all Christians, are with the One they love (God), any place in the world can be almost a paradise for us.
Q: In SofS 2:2, how is his beloved like a lily among thorns?
A: In his eyes, all other woman are ugly and undesirable compared to her. Compared to all others, she is like a lily.
Q: In SofS 2:3, what is special about apple wood that was similar to her beloved man?
A: Apple wood was valuable because there was not much available, since one had to cut down a fruit tree to obtain it. Likewise, a man or woman gives up their ability to "play the field" and date others when they commit to be married.
Q: In SofS 2:4, could this refer to Christ?
A: People who believe the Song of Solomon must be an allegory of Christ and the church think so. However, even people who do not agree this is an allegory, can agree that Christ’s love for His bridegroom, the church, is just as tender and deep.
Q: In SofS 2:5 (KJV), what is a flagon?
A: A flagon is a drinking vessel, such as people used at banquets. However, the NIV and NRSV translate this word as "raisins", the NASB and Green’s Literal Translation say "raisin cakes", and the NKJV says "cakes of raisins". Raisins taste sweet, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1014 says that raisin cakes would be a delicacy at a banquet.
Q: In SofS 2:5 and SofS 5:8 (KJV), why is she sick of love?
A: Today, almost 400 years after the King James Version was translated, a person does not often tell the one they are in love with "I am sick of love!". The NASB and NKJV say "lovesick", and the NIV and NRSV say "faint with love".
Q: In SofS 2:7,17 and SofS 3:5, what is a roe and a hart?
A: A "roe" is what we would call a "doe" or female deer, and a hart is a male deer.
Q: In SofS 2:9, what is a lattice?
A: This word, found in the NASB, NIV, and NRSV means a wooden frame that one might have to cover a window. Sometimes people have vines or flowers growing around a lattice.
Q: In SofS 2:12 (KJV), how could the voice of a turtle be heard in the land, since turtles do not make sounds?
A: The King James Version accurately translated this as the bird we today call a "turtledove". The skeptic Isaac Asimov, in Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.522 says essentially the same thing.
Q: In SofS 2:14 (KJV), what does countenance mean?
A: It means face or form. It could also refer to her smile.
Q: In SofS 2:15, what is the significance of foxes?
A: This Hebrew word could refer either to foxes or jackals. Foxes are small animals, which pose no physical danger to people, and one fox, running through a vineyard once, does negligible damage. However, a family of foxes, over a long time, can destroy the roots of the vines and ruin a vineyard.
Likewise small sins, pet peeves, and unlovely attitudes can appear as insignificant as a couple of foxes. Over time, they can ruin a marriage. It is good to recognize those small things, and get rid of them.
Q: In SofS 2:17 (KJV) (NKJV), where are the mountains of Bether?
A: We are not sure of the Hebrew here. This could also be translated the rugged hills as the NIV does, but adds in a footnote that it may be the mountains of Bether. The only trouble is, we have a very good idea of the geography of Palestine and we have no idea where the mountains of Bether would be. The Believers Bible Commentary p.924 says this could mean "the mountains that separate us".
Q: In SofS 3:1-4, why did the woman seek the man here?
A: She missed seeing him, and this verse shows there is nothing wrong with the woman seeking the man. In a different context, Ruth also sought Boaz.
Q: In SofS 3:5 and SofS 8:4, does it say not to stir up my love (KJV, NASB) or not to stir up love?
A: The NIV, NKJV, and NRSV show it is the second way. Even the KJV and NASB have the word "my" in italics in both verses. Thus the word "my" is not present in the Hebrew.
Q: In SofS 3:5 and SofS 8:4, why should people not stir up love until it pleases?
A: There are two meanings here. One should not try to rush someone to sexual maturity or sexual intimacy. Also, one should not try to rush the other person into a marriage commitment.
Q: In SofS 3:9, did Solomon make chariots, since kings of Israel were not to have chariots according to Dt 17:16; 2 Chr 9:28; 1 Ki 10:26-29?
A: Three points to consider in the answer here.
1. Deuteronomy shows the king was not to make chariots for battle. The description here indicates this was a decorative vehicle, not one for battle.
2. Solomon did make war chariots, and he was wrong to do so.
3. This book is not focusing on Solomon’s obedience, but just mentioning that he had a marvelous-looking carriage.
Q: In SofS 4:1-7 and SofS 7, if a man’s prospective wife is not a prefect model of physical beauty, can he still love her?
A: Sure. Four points to consider in the answer.
1. Having physical beauty is fine, as Job 42:15 as well as the Song of Solomon shows.
2. However, inward beauty which endures is more important than outward beauty that fades, as 1 Peter 3:2-4 shows. Are you marrying someone with which you would like to grow old together?
3. It is interesting to consider why many people think there is only one standard of physical beauty for men and women. Perhaps Hollywood and Disney have conditioned us this way. For example, during the Renaissance in Europe, their view of the ideal shape of a woman would be considered overweight by modern standards. Likewise in China, at times the ideal for a woman would be considered too heavy today. Someone living back then in those cultures would be equally surprised at modern standards of beauty. Loving the one you marry is more important than a cultural standard of beauty. You can over time find that you are indeed married to the most physically attractive girl in the world - for you.
4. As for men, in some oriental cultures, where food has been more scarce, the ideal-looking man had a big belly. However men, do not use this as an excuse to gluttony saying "me and my belly are already perfect, we are just born in the wrong time and place".
Q: In SofS 4:2 and SofS 6:6, what is the significance of the teeth like sheep that bore twins?
A: Her teeth remind this shepherd of white-wooled sheep. This is a poetic way of saying all the teeth are there, and none of them are missing.
Q: In SofS 4:3, since her lips were like scarlet, did they have anything similar to cosmetics back then?
A: Yes they did.
For perfumes, we know of small containers that were buried with Egyptian Pharaohs from 5,000 to 3,500 B.C., according to the Encyclopedia Britannica volume 6 (1956) p.495-496b (I did not know they had pages of b). Also by 1500 B.C. men and women had lumps of sweet-smelling nard on their heads.
For eye-liner, women used kohl (probably antimony sulfide) for their eyelids from 1500 B.C., which is just before the time of Moses.
For red colors, Henna was a reddish color used for nails, palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet. (can’t forget the bottom of your feet!) The later Romans used "fucus" for red cheeks and lips. The Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1198 says that scarlet dye came from the crushing of the cochineal worm.
Q: In SofS 4:9-10,12 and SofS 5:2, why is he calling his beloved his sister?
A: This shows both how deep his love is for her, and the kind of love he has for her. Even if he could not have physical intimacy with her, being her brother, he would still be happy just to be near her all the time. That is how it should be. While the physical relationship should reflect the love for each other, the love for each other should be more important than the physical relationship. If some accident occurred, and your spouse somehow lost the use of his or her sexual organs, would you still love him or her?
Q: In SofS 4:12-5:1, what are they talking about?
A: According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament, verses 1:2-3:5 are the courtship, 3:6-5:1 are the wedding, 4:1-5:1 are the wedding night, and 5:2-8:4 are the marriage.
Q: In SofS 5:1-8, what is the main point here?
A: There was a "little fox", or a problem with the relationship here. The husband was asking the wife to open the door. Whether the husband was demanding something he could do for himself, whether the wife was becoming apathetic to the husband returning home, or whether the husband just missed his wife excitedly greeting him at the door, there apparently was a problem here. The husband then left, but he put perfume on the doorknob, signifying he still desired her and was sorry she did not get up for him.
Q: In SofS 5:2 (KJV), what is the "undefiled one" here?
A: The NASB, NKJV and NRSV translate this as "perfect one". The NIV translates this as "flawless one".
Q: In SofS 5:2-6, what is the meaning of this passage?
A: There are two views.
1. In the view that Solomon was an intruder on the love of two people, this was all a dream the girl had, according to the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.925.
2. In the "two lovers" view, some apathy had settled in the marriage. He asked her to unbar the door, and in verse 3 she initially refused, giving an excuse that showed her apathy. She eventually got up, but by that time he had left. He put some perfume on the door, to show that he regretted the separation caused by her apathy, and he was eager to make up and forgive her.
Sometimes when we are taken for granted, we should go away, "leaving perfume on the door", and be eager to reconcile. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1020-1021 for more info.
Q: In SofS 5:4, what does "my heart yearned for him" mean?
A: These Hebrew words are the same ones used in a non-romantic sense in Isaiah 16:11 and Jeremiah 31:20 for compassion or pity. For this reason, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1020 says it does not mean sexual excitement.
Q: In SofS 5:7, why did the watchmen strike her?
A: This verse does not say. Perhaps it was maliciousness, or perhaps lust, but more probably the watchmen mistakenly thought she was a prostitute and they struck her so that she would leave the streets and go home.
Q: Does SofS 5:16 refer to Mohammed because it mentions one as "totally desirable" and Makhmad and Makhadim are [somehow] adherents of Mohammed?
A: I have never heard this one before. Is the love story of the Song of Solomon (=Song of Songs) how Muslim women (not to mention men) were to act towards Mohammed? I do not think Muslims would say so!
Q: In SofS 6:4, does this reference to Tirzah indicate the poem was written after Solomon’s time, as Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.522-523 suggests?
A: The Song of Songs never said it was written by Solomon, or in his time. However, this verse does not indicate a later date. There was a king of Tirzah in Joshua 12:24 and Jeroboam I (900-880 B.C.) stayed in Tirzah in 1 Kings 14:17. Archaeologists have found Tirzah occupied since Joshua’s time.
The Song of Songs 6:4 mentions both Tirzah and Jerusalem, and 6:5 mentions Gilead. Asimov says this indicates a later time because Tirzah was not analogous to Jerusalem. It was not in power, but in beauty that it might be just as analogous to Jerusalem as Gilead was.
Q: In SofS 6:4, what else do we know about the city of Tirzah?
A: Tirzah means "delight", and it was mentioned in Joshua 12:24. We do not know the Canaanite name of the city, but the Israelites apparently renamed it to Tirzah, after one of Zelophehad’s daughters.
While archaeologists are not absolutely certain of the location of Tirzah, they are fairly confident it is the site of Tell el-Far’ah, which at about 600 by 300 meters is a larger hill than Megiddo. The Anchor Bible Dictionary volume 6 p.573-577 says that the earliest settlements were from the stone age. A new stone wall was built about 1700 B.C. during the bronze age. The next stratum indicates a new city was built on the same site fairly soon after the old one was destroyed. This Ion Age I site was until the beginning of the 9th century B.C., apparently when Omri moved the capital of Israel from Tirzah to Samaria. It was burned with fire, which might indicate Zimri burning himself to death by burning down his palace. Tirzah was rebuilt, but was destroyed again, apparently by the Assyrians in 723 B.C.
See also the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1717 and The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.1020 for more info.
Q: In SofS 6:4,10, how is the man as terrible as an army with banners?
A: The emotionally and perhaps the nervousness within her felt as great as if she had seen an army ready for war.
Q: In SofS 6:7, why were his temples compared with pomegranates?
A: Pomegranates have a juice so red that people used the juice for makeup. In other words, he was blushing.
Q: In SofS 6:8, did Solomon have 140 wives and concubines, or 1,000 as 1 Ki 11:3 says?
A: The verse does not say these were Solomon’s wives. Even if they were though, Solomon originally had only one wife, and his harem gradually grew. 1 Kings 11:3 tells the total number of wives Solomon had by the end of his reign. See When Critics Ask p.264 for more info.
Q: In SofS 6:12, what chariots were these?
A: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1022 says this is one of the most difficult verses in the Bible to interpret.
The KJV says "chariots of Amminadab". The NIV says, "royal chariots of my people" with a footnote saying it could be "among the chariots of Amminadab, or among the chariots of the people of the prince" The NASB and NKJV say, "chariots of my noble people" The NRSV says, "chariot beside my prince"
Q: In SofS 6:13, why was she called a Shulamite?
A: There are two views.
Town of Shulem/Shunem. The New Geneva Study Bible p.1014 and the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.523 say this was likely a copyist’s error for someone from the town of Shunam, which was about three miles (five kilometers) north of Jezreel. The NIV Study Bible p.1011 says the letters "l" and "n" were sometimes interchanged in Semitic languages. Abishag was a Shunamite according to 1 Kings 1:3,15; 2:17,21. See www.scripturewise.com for more on the view that the girl in the Song of Solomon was Abishag.
Solomon’s girl: Shulamite is the feminine form of "Solomon". Perhaps she was being called a "Solomoness", meaning Solomon’s girl. The NIV Study Bible p.1011 mentions both these views.
Since we know of a town of Shunem, the first view is most reasonable, since Abishag was a Shunemite, but she was not especially Solomon’s girl. Otherwise, every girl from Shunem would be Solomon’s girl.
Q: In SofS 7:13, what is the significance of mandrakes?
A: Mandrakes had a pleasant smell, and back then mandrakes were thought to enhance the ability to have children, as Rachel and Leah thought in Genesis 30:14-15.
Q: In SofS 8:1-2, why in the world would the girl wish her beloved was related as her brother?
A: Probably for the same reason the man spoke of her as his sister. See the discussion on Song of Songs 4:10 for the answer.
Q: In SofS 8:6-8, is love really as strong as death?
A: Of course God’s love for us is much stronger than death, but that is not the point of this verse. Love for others survives death, and believers will see again those who have already gone to be with our Lord. For both believers and some unbelievers, love for another person can be stronger than the desire for self-preservation. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.298-299 for more info.
Q: In SofS 8:7, why can money not be compared to love?
A: If two people really love each other, they will value that love more than all the money in the world. Furthermore, financial problems should not be a barrier to a good marriage, and financial incentives should not entice people to separate who truly love each other.
If you could take a job that offered twice as much pay as your present one, but you had to be separated from your family at least five days every week, and your family was not going hungry with your present job, would you take the higher-paying job? I hope not, for the sake for your witness, your spouse, your family, and for your own sake.
Q: In SofS 8:8-10, what is the significance of these words by the girl’s brothers?
A: They are saying they have been watching over her. Using very poetic language, they were saying that if she was like a door and needed restrictions, they would "enclose" her. If she had self-control like a wall, they would honor her. Silver on a city wall does not help in the city’s defense, but it sure would gleam brightly.
It is interesting that while some modern cultures think that frank discussions as these should be taboo, in the Bible moral purity is an openly-discussed "family affair".
Q: In SofS 8:8-10, why responsibilities does a child have toward their younger brothers and sisters?
A: Certainly brothers and sisters are to jointly take care of each other, as Cain failed to do in Genesis 3:9-10. We are to materially care for family members in need, according to 1 Timothy 5:8. Beyond that, young children have responsibility for the younger children as the parents delegate authority to them.
How should parents delegate authority? In our house, when the age different is less than three years, the old one does not have authority over the next younger one except in cases where the parents are not around.
Q: In SofS 8:11-12, what is the girl saying here?
A: She is saying she was righteous, and an honorable girl who saved her body until marriage.
Q: In SofS, what are some of the earliest manuscripts of that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea scrolls: (c1 B.C.) 4 separate copies according to the Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.30, the Dead Sea Scrolls in English 4th ed., the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.436-438, and The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated : The Qumran Texts in English 2nd ed.. These are called 4Q106, 4Q107, 4Q108, and 6Q6. The scroll 4Q240 is possibly a commentary on the Song of Songs.
4QCanticlesa (early Herodian) parts of 3:7-11; 4:1-7; 6:11?-12; 7:1-7. Song of Songs 4:8-6:11 is not missing but absent.
4QCanticlesb (50-1 B.C.) parts of 2:9-17; 3:1-2,5,9-10; 4:1-3,8-11,14-16; 5:1. Song of Songs 3:5-9 is not missing but absent.
4QCanticlesc (50-1 B.C.) 3:7-8
6Q6 Song of Songs 1:1-7 (c.50 A.D.)
Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including the Song of Solomon, also called Canticles.
Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.) and Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) have each preserved all of the Song of Solomon.
Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.) has preserved all of Song of Solomon.
Q: Who are some of the early writers who referred to Song of Songs?
A: Pre-Nicene writers who referenced or alluded to verses in Song of Songs are:
Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.)
Melito/Meleto of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.)
Tertullian’s Five Books Against Marcion (207/208 A.D.)
Hippolytus (222-235/6 A.D.)
Origen (225-254 A.D.)
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (248-258 A.D.)
Firmilian of Caesarea to Cyprian (256 A.D.)
Methodius of Olympus and Patara (260-312 A.D.)
Q: In SofS, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint?
A: Overall, the quality of the Septuagint translation for the Song of Solomon does not seem as high as was done for the Torah. Here are a few of translation differences, firs thte Massoretic text, followed by the Septuagint, mainly from chapter 2.
SofS 2:1 "rose of Sharon" vs. "flower of the plain" (Sharon was the name of a large plain.)
SofS 2:3 "trees of the forest" vs. "trees of the wood"
SofS 2:3 "taste" vs. "throat"
SofS 2:4 "He brought me" vs. "Bring me"
SofS 2:5 "Feed me with raisin cakes" vs. "Strengthen me with perfumes"
SofS 2:5 "sick with love" vs. "wounded with love"
SofS 2:7 "gazelles and does of the field" vs. "powers and virtues of the field"
SofS 2:8,9,10,16, etc. "beloved" vs. "kinsman"
SofS 2:9 "likened to a gazelle, or to a young deer, the stag" vs. "like a roe or a young hart on the mountains of Baethel"
SofS 2:9 "lattice" vs. "nets"
SofS 2:10 "answered" vs. "answers"
SofS 2:10 "my love, my beautiful one, and come away" vs. "my companion, my fair one, my dove."
SofS 2:12 "time of singing" vs. "time of pruning"
SofS 2:12 "is heard" vs. "has been heard"
SofS 2:13 "give a fragrance by the blossom" vs. "put forth the tender grape, they yield a smell"
SofS 2:13 "My love; come. My beautiful one, and come yourself" vs. "come, my companion, my fair one, my dove, yea, come"
SofS 2:14 "form" vs. "face"
SofS 2:14 "form vs. "countenance"
SofS 2:15 "foxes, the little foxes" vs. "little foxes"
SofS 2:15 "blossoms" vs. "tender grapes"
SofS 2:17 "Until when does the day blow" vs. "Until the day dawn"
SofS 2:17 "gazelle, or a young deer, the stag, on the cleft mountains" vs. "roe or young hart on the mountains of the ravines"
SofS 7:9 "lips of sleepers" vs. "lips and teeth" (Septuagint, Aquila (126 A.D.), Syriac, Vulgate)
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green’s Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton’s translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles were also used.
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