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Asbury Bible Commentary – II. Date, Historical Context, Place In The Canon
Resources » Asbury Bible Commentary » Part II: The Old Testament » SONG OF SONGS » Introduction » II. Date, Historical Context, Place In The Canon
II. Date, Historical Context, Place In The Canon

II. Date, Historical Context, Place In The Canon

It has been assumed that Solomon wrote SS in his younger years, probably about 965 B.C., when he had only 60 wives and 80 concubines (6:8), rather than in his old age when he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Ki 11:3). The author is familiar with cities and mountains all over Palestine. He mentions no fewer than fifteen geographical sites from Lebanon in the north to Egypt in the south.

The reference to Tirzah along with Jerusalem (6:4), as though they were of equal importance as northern and southern capital cities, may suggest a tenth-century date after Solomon. But Tirzah was an ancient city known even in Joshua's day (Kinlaw, 654). Tirzah became the residence of some of the early kings of Israel after the division of the kingdoms.

Questions often are raised whether this poem comes from the northern or southern kingdom and whether it is preexilic or postexilic. The author knows the Hebrew language well, and his vocabulary is extensive. Some authorities think the poem is a protest against the luxury and massive harem of Solomon and that love could not exist in such an environment (ISBE, 5:2831).

Song of Songs was highly respected by the Hebrews. Portions were sung or recited on the eighth day of Passover (Decision, Dec. 1968, p. 5). Devout Jews regarded SS as an allegory portraying the relationship of Jehovah and Israel (cf. Isa 55:5; Jer 2:2; Eze 16:8-14; Hos 2:16-20). Because of the sensuous imagery in describing the joys of passionate lovers, the Jews forbade the reading of the SS until a man was thirty years of age. It is noteworthy that the Bible covers the whole range of human experience. Parts of Proverbs such as 5:15-20 are also explicit in descriptions of passion. Ps 45 has a similar tone.

There is no clear allusion to SS in the NT, either by Christ or the writers. Philo makes no mention of the book. The earliest distinct references are in Jewish writers of the second century a.d. Its canonicity was debated as late as the Synod of Jamnia in a.d. 90, when it was decided the book was inspired. Rabbi Akiba held the book as a gift of great value to Israel and the holiest of sacred writings (Decision, Dec. 1968, p. 5).