Author of Song of Songs: Solomon or a Woman?

Solomon?

“Song of Songs of Solomon” (v.1) – “of” can mean authorship. Solomon did compose songs (cf. 1 Kings 4:29-34) and was known for his love of women. But he plays a minimal role in the book (only 3 passages have reference to him) and he had over 700 wives. Modern scholars say the attribution to him was a later addition.

A woman?

A woman’s voice dominates the book. 61.5 out of 117 verses. A predominant female character in the book. A woman often initiates the relationship & has considerable social freedom. No sign of discrimination of women. Mothers mentioned but not fathers = “song of songs is part of an extensive tradition of songs sung by women in ancient Israel”. So SS gives advice for women dealing with men = wisdom activity. Not all attractions of men should be pursued.

The title in the Hebrew text ascribes the poem to Solomon. That this superscription was prefixed by an editor of Canticles and not by the original writer is evident from the fact that the relative pronoun employed in the title is different from that employed throughout the poem. The beauty and power of the book seemed to later students and editors to make the writing worthy of the gifted king, whose fame as a composer of both proverbs and songs was handed on to later times (1 Kings 4:32). Moreover, the name of Solomon is prominent in the So of Songs itself (1:5; 3:7,9,11; 8:11 f). If the traditional view that Solomon wooed and won the Shulammite be true, the Solomonic authorship may even yet be defended, though the linguistic argument for a later date is quite strong.

The question in debate among recent critics is whether the So was composed in North Israel in preexilic days, or whether it is post-exilic. The author is at home in Hebrew. His vocabulary is extensive, and the movement of the poem is graceful. There is no suggestion of the use of lexicon and grammar by a writer living in the period of the decadence of the Hebrew language. The author is familiar with cities and mountains all over Palestine, especially in the northern section. He speaks of the beauty of Tirzah, the capital of North Israel in the 10th century BC, along with the glory of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah (Song of Solomon 6:4). The recollection of Solomon’s glory and pomp seems to be fresh in the mind of the writer and his contemporaries. W.R. Smith regarded Canticles as a protest against the luxury and the extensive harem of Solomon. True love could not exist in such an environment. The fidelity of the Shulammite to her shepherd lover, notwithstanding the blandishments of the wealthy and gifted king, stands as a rebuke to the notion that every woman has her price. Driver seems inclined to accept a preexilic date, though the arguments from vocabulary and philology cause him to waver in his opinion (LOT, 8th edition, 450). An increasing number of critics place the composition of Canticles in the post-exilic period, many bringing it down into the Greek period. Among scholars who date Canticles in the 3rd century BC we may name Gratz, Kuenen, Cornill, Budde, Kautzsch, Martineau and Cheyne. The chief argument for bringing the So into the time of the early Ptolemies is drawn from the language of the poem. There are many Hebrew words that are employed elsewhere only in later books of the Old Testament; the word pardec (Song of Solomon 4:13) is a Persian loan-word for “park”; the word for “palanquin” may be Indian, or possibly Greek. Moreover, the form of the relative pronoun is uniformly that which is found in some of the latest books of the Old Testament. The influence of Aramaic is apparent, both in the vocabulary and in a few constructions. This may be accounted for on theory of the northern origin of the Song, or on the hypothesis of a post-exilic date. The question of date is still open.

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