Song of Solomon Quiz


BACKGROUND NOTE: The meaning or interpretation of the Song of Solomon has been debated among both Jewish and Christian scholars for two millenia. At face value, it seems to be a love song between a man and a woman, sometimes passionate and quite erotic. Many have found the presence of such literature in the canon of Scriptures very troubling. This has given rise to a variety of interpretations.

The allegorical method of interpretation represents one approach to the poem. For Jewish scholars who take this view, it describes the relationship between Yahweh and Israel; for Christian scholars, between Jesus and his church. On this approach, the erotically descriptive passages are explained symbolically in highly imaginative and fanciful ways.

The literal or natural method of interpretation is used as the basis of this quiz and the analysis of the poem. It is indeed a love poem between a man and a woman. It is in the Scriptures to show God's approbation and blessing on marriage and the rightness and beauty of marital love (cf. Gen. 2:24). It is a celebration of virtuous love within marriage, including its passionate and sexual aspects. God created sex not only for procreation but also for pleasure.

However, among those who take this view of the poem, there is a difference of opinion as to the number of characters. According to the traditional view, there are two lovers: Solomon and the Shulamite girl who meet and fall in love, perhaps in the northern border town of Shunem in the territory of Issachar. Solomon then takes her back to his palace in Jerusalem. The other view is called the "shepherd hypothesis." According to it, Solomon is the villain who has her taken to his palace, but she steadfastly remains loyal to her shepherd boyfriend back home despite Solomon's lavish attempts to divert her affection to himself.

I take the traditional view. According to Dr. Gleason Archer, the shepherd hypothesis "results in a very unnatural parceling up of the dialogue." Therefore, the questions in this quiz are based on the traditional view--that the two lovers are Solomon and the girl.

In structure, the poem shows a definite similarity to a lyrical ballad. It moves from scene to scene without filling in all the connecting links. In addition, the events and descriptions are determined more by stream of consciousness than chronology. It is also sometimes difficult to determine who is speaking. In many cases, this can be determined by the gender of the Hebrew pronouns used, but not always. I follow the headings given in the NIV: "Lover" being used for Solomon and "Beloved" for the girl.

  1. The actual wedding between Solomon and his beloved is not given a prominent role in the poem, but it is mentioned. Can you find the passage?

  2. In verse 2:1 we read, 'I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley.' It is often thought that Jesus is described here as 'a rose of Sharon' and 'a lily of the valley,' as a popular Sunday School chorus has it. Now read verse 2. Do you think it likely that these are descriptions of Jesus?

  3. Once Solomon took his beloved back to his palace in Jerusalem, she felt embarrassed about something. What was it?

  4. The girl is fond of comparing Solomon to two beautiful and graceful animals. What are they?

  5. Solomon too has many romantic things to say to his beloved. For example, 'You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes' (4:9). One of his more erotic descriptions of the girl begins, 'How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!' After detailed and adoring depictions of her anatomy with a series of similes, Solomon ends with the same refrain with which he began: 'All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.' Where is this passage?

  6. Solomon's young wife likewise offers a series of similes to express her love of his body. She begins, 'My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.' From that beginning, she offers simile after simile describing his head, hair, eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, legs, and mouth. For example, 'His lips are like lilies, dripping with myrrh...his mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely.' Where is this passage?

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