Interpreters struggle to piece together the parts of Ecclesiastes into one coherent whole. For most of church history, Song of Solomon has proven even more difficult to interpret. Some unifying interpretative frameworks for this book seek historical support, with an allegorical interpretation portraying love between Israel and God. Other methods tout academic support; the anthology interpretation colors this book as a collection of love songs, and the shepherd hypothesis argues for a story about Solomon seeking to steal a man’s betrothed. I find problems or difficulties with all these frameworks, but points of agreement with most of the common interpretative motifs. You’ve been warned; Song of Solomon has always been one of the hardest books for me to interpret.
We begin today’s reading with three characters: a woman, a chorus of onlookers, and the woman’s beloved. What can confuse initially is her insistence on calling her beloved “king”, which will complicate matters when we encounter Solomon in chapter 3. I will wait to explain that difficulty, but for today, the choice this woman makes of calling her betrothed beloved “king” is the choice to declare her delight in and reverence for this man. We see in our reading that he returns the favor when he declares, “her eyes are like doves” and that she is “like a lily among thorns.”
In summary, today we see the mutual delight of an engaged couple, with the voices of a chorus of onlookers interacting in this song to praise the wonders of each individually and to invite us to enjoy the delights of their love.