The title “Song of Solomon” is derived from the opening verse of the Hebrew text, where it is called the “song of songs” and is attributed to Solomon. In the Septuagint text of Codex Vaticanus, the title is Asma, meaning “song,” but Codex Sinaiticus contains the longer title "Song of Songs," and Codex Alexandrinus reads, "Songs of Songs."
From ancient times, certain ones have been uncomfortable with the passionate expressions and the poetic descriptions of various parts of the human body that are an integral part of the “song.” This appears to have contributed to the development of many allegorical interpretations among ancient Jewish and Christian writers. In modern times, interpreters of the Song of Solomon have usually rejected the allegorical approach.
One common view is to represent the Song of Solomon as a collection of love songs. The singular Hebrew term for the word “song,” however, suggests that the work is a coherent composition.
Interpreters who consider the beloved one to be King Solomon also equate him with the shepherd. This is because monarchs were called shepherds, for they were responsible for promoting the welfare and security of their subjects. Monarchs also had large herds and flocks. While these animals would be under the care of shepherds and herders, it is in the realm of probability that the king made periodic inspections. This would provide a measure of support for an interpretation of the language in the composition to indicate that the king was away from his palace and among his shepherds with pasturing flocks of sheep and goats.
Fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus identifies the ones who are speaking and indicates that the song contains the expressions of two principal speakers. This manuscript refers to the “bride” and the “bridegroom” but does not represent the king and the shepherd as two persons. Similarly, fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus says “bride” or “bridegroom” when identifying the main speakers.
There are interpreters who believe that there are three principal speakers — the Shulammite maiden, King Solomon, and the shepherd. Those who support this view do not interpret the role of the shepherd in the same way. Many view the shepherd as the Shulammite’s true love, and others see King Solomon in that role. Therefore, either Solomon or the shepherd is the man regarded as trying to gain the love of the Shulammite.
The view that individuals take regarding the song itself often affects how the expressions are interpreted. This commentary does not provide a detailed discussion about the various views but focuses primarily on the thoughts the extant Hebrew text and the Greek text of the Septuagint appear to convey. Where the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus add information to identify the speakers, this will be noted in the commentary or in the accompanying notes.