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SONG OF SOLOMON.
THOMAS ROBINSON, D.D.,
Author of “Suggestive and Tiomiletic Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,"
Lands," “ The Evangelists and the Mishna,” fo.
101. h. 221 (20)
THE following work, like its predecessor on Job, was originally intended - for the Van Doren Series. According to the design of the undertaking of which it now forms a part, its object is neither critical nor exegetical, but homiletical; the projector's aim being rather to supplement existing Commentaries, and to afford a practical aid to preachers who are supposed, more or less, to possess them. The work has, therefore, been thrown into such a shape as was thought most likely to meet the requirements of those who, with comparatively little opportunity for study, are called to dispense the Word of Life.
While this, however, was the main object, the Author has at the same time endeavoured to make his book as readable and profitable as possible to the private Christian. He has, therefore, introduced comparatively little in the way of critical elucidation of the text; and, as in the case of his work on Job, has given to such matter a place by itself at the end of the commentary.
The author, as far as he was able, has availed himself of the labours of those who have preceded him in the same field. Their views, however, in regard to the meaning or application of the text, will in general only be found among the appended notes. His own views, which are given rather in the commentary than in the notes, he has endeavoured to form, after giving the text the most careful consideration he was able, independently of what he has found in the numerous commentators consulted. His aim and desire has been, first to receive of the Lord,' and then to deliver' to His Church.
Of a book like the Song of Solomon, there will naturally be found a great diversity of interpretation. The exact meaning and application of a passage intended by the royal penman, or by the Holy Spirit who inspired him, it must necessarily be difficult in many cases to determine. This will no doubt he generally obtained in proportion as we may be under the teaching of the same Spirit. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him ? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God which is in him’ (1 Cor. 11. 11). To obtain such teaching, however, we require to occupy a very humble place : “ Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes' (Matt. xi. 25). It is, however, not only in reference to single passages that a great variety of opinions is often found to exist. The same variety is found in reference to the nature and object of the book itself ; some, though few, strangely regarding it as merely treating of earthly matters, with only a moral object in regard to the conjugal relation (the profano-erotic or ethical view), while the great body of expositors, both ancient and modern, Jewish and Christian, have regarded it as a Divine allegory, exhibiting spiritual things under the veil of natural ones. Here, however, we again find diver. sity. First, as to the ground or basis of the allegory; whether it is based upon an actual occurrence-a historical basis ; and if so, what? Or whether it is formed upon an ideal transaction conceived by the poet himself under the Spirit's inspiration. Secondly, as to the spiritual meaning of the allegory; whether experimental in relation to the individual believing soul (the mystico-spiritual sense); or doctrinal, in relation to the Church as a whole (the mystico-doctrinal); or prophetical, whether in relation to the Church (the mystico-prophetical); or to Christ Himself (the typico-Messianic); or historical, in relation to the Church or nation of Israel (the mystico-political). To most of these applications of the allegory, few of which, perhaps, are entirely exclusive of the rest, reference will be found in the notes appended to the commentary.
The author's own view as to the basis of the allegory will be seen, both from the commentary and the introduction, to be rather that of DELITZSCH, ZOCKLER, and others; according to which, Solomon is regarded as having, during an excursion into the country, in which he was attended by his nobles, met unexpectedly with Shulamite while engaged in rural pursuits, and struck with her charms, having asked and obtained her hand, brought her to the palace as his bride. The incident, however, he considers to have been probably rather a conception of the inspired poet than an actual fact, or at least possessing but a very slight substratum of reality; a conception bear. ing a strong resemblance to that of ove of our own English poets, who, in one or mis Oriental Eclogues, written doubtless without the slightest reference to the Song of Solomon, makes Abbas, a Georgian king, to have done exactly the same with Abra, a shepherdess, what Solomon is supposed,
conceives to be more probable than either the older and more common one, which makes the basis of the poein to be the marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh's daughter; or the more modern one of EWARD and others, adopted also by Professor GODET, of Neufchatel, which makes Solomon to have carried off by force the object of his passion, and to hare taken her to his palace, where he endeavoured in vain to detach her affection from the youthful shepherd to whom she was already betrothed.
That the form is a sacred allegory setting forth, under an external veil, the love, union, and communion existing between Jehovah or Messiah on the one hand, and the Church or people of God on the other, with allusion to points in the history both of the Church and its Head, is the view that, under various modifications, has been generally adopted both by Jews and Christians.
That such a view is the correct one, is rendered the more certain by the fact that similar allegorical or parabolic representations are not uncommon in the Scriptures; and that everywhere, both in the Old and New Testaments, the relation between God, or more properly the Messiah, and His Church or covenant people, is exhibited under the figure of a marriage: the former being frequently styled the Husband or Bridegroom, and the latter the Bride. In the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, for example, the Jewish church or nation is represented as having been found by Jehovah as an outcast infant in the open field, rescued and reared, adorned and beautified by Him, and ultimately taken into union with Himself as His Bride. • And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments : thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Now, when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love ; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness : yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine (Ezek. xvi. 6—8).
LANE, in his valuable work on Modern Egypt, observes that, from the character of the Moslem songs sung at the Zikrs, or special religious services composed for the purpose, and intended only to have a spiritual sense, though not understood in that sense by the generality of the people, he cannot have any doubt as to the design of Solomon's Song. And although Sir William