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Songs (100 Occurrences)

Acts 16:25 But about the middle of the night, Paul and Silas were making prayers and songs to God in the hearing of the prisoners; (BBE)

Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

James 5:13 Is anyone among you in trouble? let him say prayers. Is anyone glad? let him make a song of praise. (See NIV)

Genesis 31:27 Why did you flee secretly, and deceive me, and didn't tell me, that I might have sent you away with mirth and with songs, with tambourine and with harp; (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)

Exodus 32:18 And Moses said, It is not the voice of men who are overcoming in the fight, or the cry of those who have been overcome; it is the sound of songs which comes to my ear. (BBE)

1 Samuel 18:6 Now on their way, when David came back after the destruction of the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, with songs and dances, meeting David with melody and joy and instruments of music. (BBE RSV NIV)

1 Samuel 29:5 Is this not David, who was named in their songs, when in the dance they said to one another, Saul has put to death thousands, and David tens of thousands? (BBE)

2 Samuel 6:5 And David and all the men of Israel made melody before the Lord with all their power, with songs and with corded instruments and instruments of brass. (BBE RSV NIV)

2 Samuel 23:1 Now these are the last words of David. David, the son of Jesse, says, the man who was lifted up on high, the man on whom the God of Jacob put the holy oil, the loved one of Israel's songs, says: (BBE YLT NIV)

1 Kings 4:32 He spoke three thousand proverbs; and his songs were one thousand five. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

1 Chronicles 6:32 They gave worship with songs before the House of the Tent of meeting, till Solomon put up the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they took their places for their work in their regular order. (BBE)

1 Chronicles 9:33 And these were those who had the ordering of the music and songs, heads of families of the Levites, who were living in the rooms, and were free from other work, for their work went on day and night. (BBE)

1 Chronicles 13:8 David and all Israel played before God with all their might, even with songs, and with harps, and with stringed instruments, and with tambourines, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. (WEB JPS ASV BBE YLT NAS NIV)

1 Chronicles 15:16 And David saith to the heads of the Levites to appoint their brethren the singers, with instruments of song, psalteries, and harps, and cymbals, sounding, to lift up with the voice for joy. (See NIV)

1 Chronicles 16:9 Let your voice be sounded in songs and melody; let all your thoughts be of the wonder of his works. (BBE)

1 Chronicles 16:23 Make songs to the Lord, all the earth; give the good news of his salvation day by day. (BBE)

1 Chronicles 16:42 and with them Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those that should sound aloud, and with instruments for the songs of God; and the sons of Jeduthun to be at the gate. (WEB JPS ASV BBE NAS)

1 Chronicles 25:7 So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the LORD, even all that were cunning, was two hundred fourscore and eight. (KJV DBY WBS)

2 Chronicles 29:28 And all the people gave worship, to the sound of songs and the blowing of horns; and this went on till the burned offering was ended. (BBE)

2 Chronicles 29:30 Then King Hezekiah and the captains gave orders to the Levites to give praise to God in the words of David and Asaph the seer. And they made songs of praise with joy, and with bent heads gave worship. (BBE)

2 Chronicles 35:25 And Jeremiah made a song of grief for Josiah; and to this day Josiah is named by all the makers of melody, men and women, in their songs of grief; they made it a rule in Israel; and the songs are recorded among the songs of grief. (BBE YLT)

Ezra 3:11 And they gave praise to the Lord, answering one another in their songs and saying, For he is good, for his mercy to Israel is eternal. And all the people gave a great cry of joy, when they gave praise to the Lord, because the base of the Lord's house was put in place. (BBE)

Nehemiah 12:8 Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who was over the thanksgiving, he and his brothers. (See NAS RSV NIV)

Nehemiah 12:27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with giving thanks, and with singing, with cymbals, stringed instruments, and with harps. (See NAS NIV)

Nehemiah 12:46 For in the days of David and Asaph of old there was a chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)

Job 21:12 They make songs to the instruments of music, and are glad at the sound of the pipe. (BBE)

Job 35:10 But none says,'Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Job 36:24 See that you give praise to his work, about which men make songs. (BBE)

Job 38:7 When the morning stars made songs together, and all the sons of the gods gave cries of joy? (BBE)

Psalms 9:11 Make songs of praise to the Lord, whose house is in Zion: make his doings clear to the people. (BBE)

Psalms 21:13 Be lifted up, O Lord, in your strength; so will we make songs in praise of your power. (BBE)

Psalms 30:4 Make songs to the Lord, O you saints of his, and give praise to his holy name. (BBE)

Psalms 30:12 So that my glory may make songs of praise to you and not be quiet. O Lord my God, I will give you praise for ever. (BBE)

Psalms 32:7 You are my hiding place. You will preserve me from trouble. You will surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)

Psalms 42:4 Let my soul be overflowing with grief when these things come back to my mind, how I went in company to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with the song of those who were keeping the feast. (See RSV)

Psalms 47:1 For the Leader; a Psalm for the sons of Korah. (47:2) (See RSV)

Psalms 47:6 Give praises to God, make songs of praise; give praises to our King, make songs of praise. (BBE)

Psalms 47:7 For God is the King of all the earth; make songs of praise with knowledge. (BBE)

Psalms 57:7 My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will make songs, and give praise. (BBE)

Psalms 57:9 I will give you praise, O Lord, among the peoples; I will make songs to you among the nations. (BBE)

Psalms 59:16 But I will make songs of your power; yes, I will give cries of joy for your mercy in the morning; because you have been my strength and my high tower in the day of my trouble. (BBE)

Psalms 61:8 So will I make songs in praise of your name for ever, giving to God that which is right day by day. (BBE)

Psalms 63:5 My soul will be comforted, as with good food; and my mouth will give you praise with songs of joy; (BBE)

Psalms 65:8 They also who dwell in faraway places are afraid at your wonders. You call the morning's dawn and the evening with songs of joy. (WEB NIV)

Psalms 65:13 The grass-land is thick with flocks; the valleys are full of grain; they give glad cries and songs of joy. (BBE)

Psalms 66:4 Let all the earth give you worship, and make songs to you; let them make songs to your name. (Selah.) (BBE)

Psalms 68:4 Make songs to God, make songs of praise to his name; make a way for him who comes through the waste lands; his name is Jah; be glad before him. (BBE)

Psalms 68:25 The makers of songs go before, the players of music come after, among the young girls playing on brass instruments. (BBE)

Psalms 68:32 Make songs to God, you kingdoms of the earth; O make songs of praise to the Lord; (Selah.) (BBE)

Psalms 69:12 They that sit in the gate talk of me; and I am the song of the drunkards. (See RSV)

Psalms 71:22 I will give praise to you with instruments of music, O my God, for you are true; I will make songs to you with music, O Holy One of Israel. (BBE)

Psalms 75:9 But I will ever be full of joy, making songs of praise to the God of Jacob. (BBE)

Psalms 77:6 In the night I will call to remembrance my song; I will commune with mine own heart; and my spirit maketh diligent search: (See NIV)

Psalms 78:63 Fire devoured their young men; and their virgins had no marriage-song. (See NAS NIV)

Psalms 95:1 O come, let us make songs to the Lord; sending up glad voices to the Rock of our salvation. (BBE)

Psalms 95:2 Let's come before his presence with thanksgiving. Let's extol him with songs! (WEB BBE RSV)

Psalms 96:2 Make songs to the Lord, blessing his name; give the good news of his salvation day by day. (BBE)

Psalms 98:4 Let all the earth send out a glad cry to the Lord; sounding with a loud voice, and praising him with songs of joy. (BBE)

Psalms 100:2 Give worship to the Lord with joy; come before him with a song. (See NIV)

Psalms 104:33 I will make songs to the Lord all my life; I will make melody to my God while I have my being. (BBE)

Psalms 105:2 Let your voice be sounding in songs and melody; let all your thoughts be of the wonder of his works. (BBE)

Psalms 106:12 Then they had faith in his words; they gave him songs of praise. (BBE)

Psalms 107:22 Let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with singing. (See RSV NIV)

Psalms 108:1 <A Song. A Psalm. Of David.> O God, my heart is fixed; I will make songs and melody, even with my glory. (BBE)

Psalms 118:15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous. "The right hand of Yahweh does valiantly. (See RSV)

Psalms 119:54 Your statutes have been my songs, in the house where I live. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)

Psalms 119:172 Let my tongue make songs in praise of your word; for all your teachings are righteousness. (BBE)

Psalms 126:2 Then our mouths were full of laughing, and our tongues gave a glad cry; they said among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them. (See NIV)

Psalms 126:5 Those who put in seed with weeping will get in the grain with cries of joy. (See NIV)

Psalms 126:6 Though a man may go out weeping, taking his vessel of seed with him; he will come again in joy, with the corded stems of grain in his arms. (See NIV)

Psalms 137:3 For there, those who led us captive asked us for songs. Those who tormented us demanded songs of joy: "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)

Psalms 137:4 How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a foreign land? (See NIV)

Psalms 138:5 They will make songs about the ways of the Lord; for great is the glory of the Lord. (BBE)

Psalms 145:7 Their sayings will be full of the memory of all your mercy, and they will make songs of your righteousness. (BBE)

Psalms 147:7 Make songs of praise to the Lord; make melody to our God with instruments of music. (BBE)

Proverbs 25:20 As one who takes away a garment in cold weather, or vinegar on soda, so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Ecclesiastes 12:4 And doors have been shut in the street. When the noise of the grinding is low, And 'one' riseth at the voice of the bird, And all daughters of song are bowed down. (See NIV)

Song of Songs 1:1 The Song of songs, which is Solomon's. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Isaiah 16:10 And all joy is gone; no longer are they glad for the fertile field; and in the vine-gardens there are no songs or sounds of joy: the crushing of grapes has come to an end, and its glad cry has been stopped. (BBE RSV)

Isaiah 23:16 Take a harp; go about the city, you prostitute that has been forgotten. Make sweet melody. Sing many songs, that you may be remembered. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS NAS RSV)

Isaiah 24:16 From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs. Glory to the righteous! But I said, "I pine away! I pine away! woe is me!" The treacherous have dealt treacherously. Yes, the treacherous have dealt very treacherously. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)

Isaiah 30:29 Ye shall have a song as in the night when a feast is hallowed; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with the pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. (See NAS)

Isaiah 35:2 It will be flowering like the rose; it will be full of delight and songs; the glory of Lebanon will be given to it; the pride of Carmel and Sharon: they will see the glory of the Lord, the power of our God. (BBE)

Isaiah 38:20 Yahweh will save me. Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS)

Isaiah 51:11 Those whom the Lord has made free will come back with songs to Zion; and on their heads will be eternal joy: delight and joy will be theirs, and sorrow and sounds of grief will be gone for ever. (BBE)

Isaiah 52:9 Give sounds of joy, make melody together, waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord has given comfort to his people, he has taken up the cause of Jerusalem. (See NIV)

Isaiah 65:14 My servants will make songs in the joy of their hearts, but you will be crying for sorrow, and making sounds of grief from a broken spirit. (BBE)

Jeremiah 16:5 For this is what the Lord has said: Do not go into the house of sorrow, do not go to make weeping or songs of grief for them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, says the Lord, even mercy and pity. (BBE)

Jeremiah 22:10 Let there be no weeping for the dead, and make no songs of grief for him: but make bitter weeping for him who has gone away, for he will never come back or see again the country of his birth. (BBE)

Jeremiah 30:19 Out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. (See RSV NIV)

Lamentations 3:14 I have been a derision to all my people, Their song all the day. (See RSV)

Lamentations 3:63 Their sitting down, and their rising up, Behold attentively, I 'am' their song. (See RSV NIV)

Ezekiel 26:13 I will cause the noise of your songs to cease; and the sound of your harps shall be no more heard. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Ezekiel 33:32 and, lo, thou art unto them as a love song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; so they hear thy words, but they do them not-- (See RSV NIV)

Amos 5:23 Take away from me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Amos 6:5 that sing idle songs to the sound of the viol; that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David; (ASV BBE NAS RSV)

Amos 8:3 The songs of the temple will be wailings in that day," says the Lord Yahweh. "The dead bodies will be many. In every place they will throw them out with silence. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Amos 8:10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will make you wear sackcloth on all your bodies, and baldness on every head. I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and its end like a bitter day. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)

Zechariah 2:10 Give songs of joy, O daughter of Zion: for I come, and I will make my resting-place among you, says the Lord. (BBE)

Songs (100 Occurrences)
... Mary (Luke 1:46-55), Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79), the angels (Luke 2:13), Simeon (Luke
2:29), the redeemed (Revelation 5:9; 19), Solomon (see SOLOMON, SONGS OF). ...
/s/songs.htm - 62k

Breasts (39 Occurrences)
... (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS NAS NIV). Song of Songs 1:13 My beloved is
to me a sachet of myrrh, that lies between my breasts. (WEB ...
/b/breasts.htm - 18k

Degrees (18 Occurrences)
... and by their epigrammatic style...More than half of them are cheerful, and all of
them hopeful." They are sometimes called "Pilgrim Songs." Four of them were ...
/d/degrees.htm - 14k

Darling (13 Occurrences)
... (KJV ASV WBS). Song of Songs 1:9 I have made a comparison of you, O my love,
to a horse in Pharaoh's carriages. (See NAS NIV). Song ...
/d/darling.htm - 10k

Roe (21 Occurrences)
... substitutes "gazelle" in the text (Deuteronomy 12:15, etc.) or margin (Proverbs
6:5, etc.), but retains "roe" in 2 Samuel 2:18 1 Chronicles 12:8; Songs 3:5 ...
/r/roe.htm - 15k

Pomegranate (11 Occurrences)
... high, and is distinguished by its fresh green, oval leaves, which fall in winter,
and its brilliant scarlet blossoms (compare Songs 7:12). ...
/p/pomegranate.htm - 15k

Myrrh (22 Occurrences)
... mur: (1) (mor or mowr; Arabic murr): This substance is mentioned as valuable for
its perfume (Psalm 45:8 Proverbs 7:17 Songs 3:6; Songs 4:14), and as one of ...
/m/myrrh.htm - 18k

Bride (31 Occurrences)
... (See NIV). Song of Songs 4:8 Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon. ...
Song of Songs 4:9 You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride. ...
/b/bride.htm - 17k

Melody (55 Occurrences)
... by an instrument (Isaiah 51:3); an instrument of praise (Amos 5:23); naghan, "to
play on a stringed instrument," "Make sweet melody, sing many songs" (Isaiah 23 ...
/m/melody.htm - 24k

Adjure (16 Occurrences)
... Song of Songs 2:7 I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, or by the hinds
of the field, that you not stir up, nor awaken love, until it so desires. ...
/a/adjure.htm - 11k

5603. ode -- a song, ode
... heart. Spirit-inspired songs God and exhort others, giving testimony about
the living God to other worshipers. Word Origin contr. ...
/greek/5603.htm - 7k

5215. humnos -- a hymn
... It occurs twice in the NT (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16), pointing to well-known songs of
praise to God that became established hymns for the early Christians. ...
/greek/5215.htm - 7k

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

(shir ha-ma`aloth; Septuagint ode ton anabathmon; Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) canticum graduum, the Revised Version (British and American) "a song of ascents"): The title prefixed to 15 psalms (Pss 120-134) as to the significance of which there are four views:

(1) The Jewish interpretation. According to the Mishna, Middoth 2 5, Cukkah 51b, there was in the temple a semi-circular flight of stairs with 15 steps which led from the court of the men of Israel down to the court of the women. Upon these stairs the Levites played on musical instruments on the evening of the first day of Tabernacles. Later Jewish writers say that the 15 psalms derived their title from the 15 steps.

(2) Gesenius, Delitzsch and others affirm that these psalms derive their name from the step-like progressive rhythm of their thoughts. They are called Songs of Degrees because they move forward climactically by means of the resumption of the immediately preceding word. But this characteristic is not found in several of the group.

(3) Theodoret and other Fathers explain these 15 hymns as traveling songs of the returning exiles. In Ezra 7:9 the return from exile is called "the going up (ha-ma`alah) from Babylon." Several of the group suit this situation quite well, but others presuppose the temple and its stated services.

(4) The most probable view is that the hymns were sung by pilgrim bands on their way to the three great festivals of the Jewish year. The journey to Jerusalem was called a "going up," whether the worshipper came from north or south, east or west. All of the songs are suitable for use on such occasions. Hence, the title Pilgrim Psalms is preferred by many scholars. See DIAL OF AHAZ.

John Richard Sampey


(shir hashirim; Septuagint Asma; Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, Asma asmaton; Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Canticum Canticorum):





1. The Allegorical Interpretation

2. The Typical Interpretation

3. The Literal Interpretation



The full title in Hebrew is "The So of Songs, which is Solomon's." The book is called by some Canticles, and by others Solomon's Song. The Hebrew title implies that it is the choicest of all songs, in keeping with the dictum of Rabbi `Aqiba (90-135 A.D.) that "the entire world, from the beginning until now, does not outweigh the day in which Canticles was given to Israel."

I. Canonicity.

Early Jewish and Christian writers are silent as to the So of Songs. No use is made of it by Philo. There is no quotation from it in the New Testament, nor is there any clear allusion to it on the part of our Lord or the apostles. The earliest distinct references to the So of Songs are found in Jewish writings of the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. (4 Esdras 5:24, 26; 7:26; Ta`anith 4:8). The question of the canonicity of the So was debated as late as the Synod of Jamnia (circa 90 A.D.), when it was decided that Canticles was rightly reckoned to "defile the hands," i.e. was an inspired book. It should be borne in mind that the So of Songs was already esteemed by the Jews as a sacred book, though prior to the Synod of Jamnia there was probably a goodly number of Jewish teachers who did not accept it as canonical. Selections from Canticles were sung at certain festivals in the temple at Jerusalem, prior to its destruction by Titus in 70 A.D. (Ta`anith 4:8). The Mishna pronounces an anathema on all who treat Canticles as a secular song (Sanhedhrin, 101a). The latest date for the composition of the So of Songs, according to critics of the advanced school, is toward the close of the 3rd century B.C. We may be sure that it was included in the Kethubhim before the ministry of our Lord, and so was for Him a part of the Scriptures.

II. Text.

Most scholars regard the text of Canticles as comparatively free from corruption. Gratz, Bickell, Budde and Cheyne have suggested a good many emendations of the traditional text, a few of which commend themselves as probable corrections of a faulty text, but most of which are mere guesses without sufficient confirmation from either external or internal evidence. For details see Budde's able commentary, and articles by Cheyne in JQR and Expository Times for 1898-99 and in the The Expositor, February, 1899.

III. Authorship and Date.

The title in the Hebrew text ascribes the poem to Solomon. That this superscription was prefixed by an editor of Canticles and not by the original writer is evident from the fact that the relative pronoun employed in the title is different from that employed throughout the poem. The beauty and power of the book seemed to later students and editors to make the writing worthy of the gifted king, whose fame as a composer of both proverbs and songs was handed on to later times (1 Kings 4:32). Moreover, the name of Solomon is prominent in the So of Songs itself (1:5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11). If the traditional view that Solomon wooed and won the Shulammite be true, the Solomonic authorship may even yet be defended, though the linguistic argument for a later date is quite strong.

The question in debate among recent critics is whether the So was composed in North Israel in preexilic days, or whether it is post-exilic. The author is at home in Hebrew. His vocabulary is extensive, and the movement of the poem is graceful. There is no suggestion of the use of lexicon and grammar by a writer living in the period of the decadence of the Hebrew language. The author is familiar with cities and mountains all over Palestine, especially in the northern section. He speaks of the beauty of Tirzah, the capital of North Israel in the 10th century B.C., along with the glory of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah (Songs 6:4). The recollection of Solomon's glory and pomp seems to be fresh in the mind of the writer and his contemporaries. W.R. Smith regarded Canticles as a protest against the luxury and the extensive harem of Solomon. True love could not exist in such an environment. The fidelity of the Shulammite to her shepherd lover, notwithstanding the blandishments of the wealthy and gifted king, stands as a rebuke to the notion that every woman has her price. Driver seems inclined to accept a preexilic date, though the arguments from vocabulary and philology cause him to waver in his opinion (LOT, 8th edition, 450). An increasing number of critics place the composition of Canticles in the post-exilic period, many bringing it down into the Greek period. Among scholars who date Canticles in the 3rd century B.C. we may name Gratz, Kuenen, Cornill, Budde, Kautzsch, Martineau and Cheyne. The chief argument for bringing the So into the time of the early Ptolemies is drawn from the language of the poem. There are many Hebrew words that are employed elsewhere only in later books of the Old Testament; the word pardec (Songs 4:13) is a Persian loan-word for "park"; the word for "palanquin" may be Indian, or possibly Greek. Moreover, the form of the relative pronoun is uniformly that which is found in some of the latest books of the Old Testament. The influence of Aramaic is apparent, both in the vocabulary and in a few constructions. This may be accounted for on theory of the northern origin of the Song, or on the hypothesis of a post-exilic date. The question of date is still open.

IV. History of Interpretation.

1. The Allegorical Interpretation:

All interpreters of all ages agree in saying that Canticles is a poem of love; but who the lovers are is a subject of keen debate, especially in modern times.

First in point of time and in the number of adherents it has had is theory that the So is a pure allegory of the love of Yahweh and His people. The Jewish rabbis, from the latter part of the 1st century A.D. down to our own day, taught that the poem celebrates a spiritual love, Yahweh being the bridegroom and Israel the bride. Canticles was supposed to be a vivid record of the loving intercourse between Israel and her Lord from the exodus on to the glad Messianic time. The So is read by the Jews at Passover, which celebrates Yahweh's choice of Israel to be His spouse. The Targum interprets Canticles as an allegory of the marital love of Yahweh and Israel. Origen made the allegorical theory popular in the early church. As a Christian he represented the bride as the church or the soul of the believer. In more recent centuries the Christian allegorical interpreters have favored the idea that the soul of the believer was the bride, though the other type of the allegorical view has all along had its advocates.

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote 86 sermons on the first two chapters of Canticles; and a host of writers in the Roman church and among Protestants have composed similar mystical treatises on the Song. Devout souls have expressed their fervent love to God in the sensuous imagery of Canticles. The imagery could not become too fervid or ecstatic for some of these devout men and women in their highest moments of beatific vision. Whatever may be the final verdict of sane criticism as to the original purpose of the author of the Song, it is a fact that must not be overlooked by the student of Canticles that some of the noblest religious souls, both Hebrew and Christian, have fed the flame of devotion by interpreting the So as an allegory.

What justification is there for theory that Canticles is an allegory of the love between Yahweh and His people, or of the love of Christ and the church, or of the love of the soul of the believer and Christ? It must be frankly confessed that there is not a hint in the So itself that it is an allegory. If the modern reader of Canticles had never heard of the allegorical interpretation, nothing in the beginning, middle or end of the poem would be likely to suggest to his mind such a conception of the poet's meaning. How, then, did the early Jewish interpreters come to make this the orthodox interpretation of the Song? The question is not easy to answer. In the forefront of our answer we must recall the fact that the great prophets frequently represent the mutual love of Yahweh and Israel under the symbolism of marriage (Hosea 1-3; Jeremiah 3; Ezekiel 16; 23; Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 54:5, 6). The Hebrew interpreter might naturally expect to find some echo of this bold imagery in the poetry of the Kethubhim. In the Torah the frequent command to love Yahweh might suggest the marital relation as well as that of the father and son (Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 7:7-9, 13; 10:12, 15; 30:16, 20), though it must be said that the language of Deuteronomy suggests the high ethical and religious teaching of Jesus in the matter of love to God, in which the sexual does not appear.

Cheyne suggests (EB, I, 683) that the So was too joyous to be used, in its natural sense, by the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem, and hence, they consecrated it by allegorical interpretation. The suggestion may contain an element of truth.

It is an interesting fact that the Psalter has so few expressions in which love to Yahweh is expressed (Psalm 31:23; Psalm 97:10; Psalm 145:20; compare 18:1; 42:01:00; 63:1). In this manual of devotion one would not be suprised to find the expansion of the image of wedlock as expressive of the soul's relation to God; but we look in vain for such a poem, unless Psalm 45 be capable of allegorical interpretation. Even that beautiful song of love and marriage contains no such highly sensuous imagery as is found in Canticles.

Christian scholars found it easy to follow the Jewish allegorical interpreters; for the figure of wedlock is employed in the New Testament by both Paul and John to represent the intimate and vital union of Christ and His church (2 Corinthians 11:2 Ephesians 5:22-33 Revelation 19:7-9; Revelation 21:2, 9).

The entire body of true believers is conceived of as the bride of Christ. Naturally the purity of the church is sullied through the impure conduct of the individuals of whom it is composed. Hence, the appeal to individuals and to local churches to live pure lives (2 Corinthians 11:1). To the unmarried believer the Lord Jesus takes the place of the husband or wife as the person whom one is most eager to please (1 Corinthians 7:32 f). It is not difficult to understand how the fervid, sensuous imagery of Canticles would appeal to the mind of a man like Origen as a proper vehicle for the expression of his passionate love for Christ.

Sober inquiry discovers no sufficient justification of the allegorical interpretation of the So of Songs. The pages of the mystical commentators are filled with artificial interpretations and conceits. Many of them practice a familiarity with Christ that is without example in the Biblical devotional literature.

2. The Typical Interpretation:

The allegorical interpreters, for the most part, saw in the So of Songs no historic basis. Solomon and the Shulammite are introduced merely as figures through whom God and His people, or Christ and the soul, can express their mutual love. In modern times interpreters have arisen who regard the So as primarily the expression of strong and passionate human love between Solomon and a beautiful maiden, but by virtue of the typical relation of the old dispensation, secondarily, the fitting expression of the love of Christ and the church.

The way for this modern typical interpretation was prepared by Lowth (Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, Lectionaries XXX, XXXI) in his modified allegorical view, which is thus described by Canon Driver: "Bishop Lowth, though not abandoning the allegorical view, sought to free it from its extravagances; and while refusing to press details, held that the poem, while describing the actual nuptials of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh, contained also an allegoric reference to Christ espousing a church chosen from among the Gentiles" (LOT, 451). Few interpreters have been found to follow Theodore of Mopsuestia and Lowth in their view that the So celebrates the marriage of Solomon and an Egyptian princess; and Lowth's notion of a reference to the espousal of a church chosen from among the Gentiles is one of the curiosities of criticism. Of the typical interpreters Delitzsch is perhaps the ablest (Commentary on Ecclesiastes and the So of Songs).

The typical commentators are superior to the allegorical in their recognition of Canticles as the expression of the mutual love of two human beings. The further application of the language to Yahweh and His people (Keil), or to Christ and the church (Delitzsch), or to God and the soul (M. Stuart) becomes largely a matter of individual taste, interpreters differing widely in details.

3. The Literal Interpretation:

Jewish interpreters were deterred from the literal interpretation of Canticles by the anathema in the Mishna upon all who should treat the poem as a secular song (Sanhedhrin, 101a). Cheyne says of Ibn Ezra, a great medieval Jewish scholar, he "is so thorough in his literal exegesis that it is doubtful whether he is serious when he proceeds to allegorize." Among Christian scholars Theodore of Mopsuestia interpreted Canticles as a song in celebration of the marriage of Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter. This strictly literal interpretation of the So was condemned at the second council of Constantinople (553 A.D.). For the next thousand years the allegorical theory reigned supreme among Christian interpreters. In 1544 Sebastian Castellio revived the literal theory of the Song, though the allegorical view remained dominant until the 19th century.

Herder in 1778 published a remarkable little treatise entitled Lieder der Liebe, die altesten und schonsten aus dem Morgenlande, in which he advanced theory that Canticles is a collection of independent erotic songs, about 21 in number, which have been so arranged by a collector as to trace "the gradual growth of true love in its various nuances and stages, till it finds its consummation in wedlock" (Cheyne). But the greatest and most influential advocate of the literal interpretation of Canticles was Heinrich Ewald, who published the 1st edition of his commentary in 1826. It was Ewald who first developed and made popular theory that two suitors compete for the hand of the Shulammite, the one a shepherd and poor, the other a wise and wealthy king. In the So he ascribes to Solomon 1:9-11, 15; 2:02; 4:1-7; 6:4-13 (quoting the dialogue between the Shulammite and the ladies of the court in 6:10-13); 7:1-9. To the shepherd lover he assigns few verses, and these are repeated by the Shulammite in her accounts of imaginary or real interviews with her lover. In the following passages the lover described is supposed to be the shepherd to whom the Shulammite had plighted her troth: 1:2-7, 9-14; 1:16-2:1; 2:3-7, 8-17; 3:1-5; 4:8-5:1; 5:2-8; 5:10-16; 6:2; 7:10-8:4; 8:5-14. The shepherd lover is thus supposed to be present in the Shulammite's dreams, and in her waking moments she is ever thinking of him and describing to herself and others his many charms. Not until the closing scene (Songs 8:5-14) does Ewald introduce the shepherd as an actor in the drama. Ewald had an imperial imagination and a certain strength of mind and innate dignity of character which prevented him from dragging into the mud any section of the Biblical literature. While rejecting entirely the allegorical theory of Canticles, he yet attributed to it an ethical quality which made the So worthy of a place in the Old Testament. A drama in praise of fidelity between human lovers may well hold a place beside Ecclesiastes and Proverbs in the Canon. Many of the ablest Old Testament critics have followed Ewald in his general theory that Canticles is a drama celebrating the loyalty of a lowly maiden to her shepherd lover. Not even Solomon in all his glory could persuade her to become his queen.

Within the past quarter of a century the unity of Canticles has been again sharply challenged. An account of the customs of the Syrian peasants in connection with weddings was given by the Prussian consul at Damascus, J. G. Wetzstein, in 1873, in an article in Bastian's Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, 270;, on "Die syrische Dreschtafel," in which he illustrated the Old Testament from modern Syrian customs. Driver thus describes the customs that are supposed to throw light upon Canticles: "In modern Syria, the first seven days after a wedding are called the `king's week'; the young pair play during this time king and queen; the `threshing-board' is turned into a mock-throne, on which they are seated, while songs are sung before them by the villagers and others, celebrating them on their happiness, among which the watsf, or poetical `description' of the physical beauty of the bride and bridegroom, holds a prominent place. The first of these watsfs is sung on the evening of the wedding-day itself: brandishing a naked sword in her right hand, and with a handkerchief in her left, the bride dances in her wedding array, lighted by fires, and surrounded by a circle of guests, half men and half women, accompanying her dance with a watsf in praise of her charms" (LOT, 452). Wetzstein suggested the view that Canticles was composed of the wedding-songs sung during "the king's week." This theory has been most fully elaborated by Budde in an article in the New World, March, 1894, and in his commentary (1898). According to Budde, the bridegroom is called King Solomon, and the bride Shulammith. The companions of the bridegroom are the 60 valiant men who form his escort (Songs 3:7). As a bride, the maiden is called the most beautiful of women (Songs 1:8; Songs 5:9; Songs 6:1). The pictures of wedded bliss are sung by the men and women present, the words being attributed to the bride and the bridegroom. Thus the festivities continue throughout the week. Budde's theory has some decided advantages over Ewald's view that the poem is a drama; but the loss in moral quality is considerable; the book becomes a collection of wedding-songs in praise of the joys of wedlock.

V. Closing Hints and Suggestions.

Having given a good deal of attention to Canticles during the past 15 years, the author of this article wishes to record a few of his views and impressions.

(1) Canticles is lyric poetry touched with the dramatic spirit. It is not properly classed as drama, for the Hebrews had no stage, though much of the Old Testament is dramatic in spirit. The descriptions of the charms of the lovers were to be sung or chanted.

(2) The amount that has to be read between the lines by the advocates of the various dramatic theories is so great that, in the absence of any hints in the body of the book itself, reasonable certitude can never be attained. (3) The correct translation of the refrain in Songs 2:7 and 3:5 (compare 8:4) is important for an understanding of the purpose of Canticles. It should be rendered as follows:

`I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,

By the gazelles, or by the hinds of the field,

That ye stir not up, nor awaken love,

Until it please.'

Love between man and woman should not be excited by unnatural stimulants, but should be free and spontaneous. In Songs 8:4 it seems to be implied that the women of the capital are guilty of employing artifices to awaken love:

`I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,

Why do ye stir up, or awaken love,

Until it please?'

That this refrain is in keeping with the purpose of the writer is clear from the striking words toward the close of the book:

"Set me as a seal upon thy heart,

As a seal upon thine arm:

For love is strong as death;

Jealousy is cruel as Sheol;

The flashes thereof are flashes of fire,

A very flame of Yahweh.

Many waters cannot quench love,

Neither can floods drown it:

If a man would give all the substance of his house for love,

He would utterly be contemned" (Songs 8:6 f).

(4) Canticles discloses all the secret intimacies of wedded life without becoming obscene. The imagery is too sensuous for our taste in western lands, so that words of caution are often timely, lest the sensuous degenerate into the sensual; but I have been told by several Syrian and Palestinian students whom I have had the privilege of teaching, that Canticles is considered quite chaste among their people, the wedding-songs now in use among them being more minute in their description of the physical charms of the lovers.

(5) Canticles is by no means excluded from the Canon by the acceptance of the literal interpretation. Ewald's theory makes it an ethical treatise of great and permanent value. Even if Canticles is merely a collection of songs describing the bliss of true lovers in wedlock, it is not thereby rendered unworthy of a place in the Bible, unless marriage is to be regarded as a fall from a state of innocency. If Canticles should be rejected because of its sensuous imagery in describing the joys of passionate lovers, portions of Proverbs would also have to be excised (Proverbs 5:15-20). Perhaps most persons need to enlarge their conception of the Bible as a repository for all things that minister to the welfare of men. The entire range of man's legitimate joys finds sympathetic and appreciative description in the Bible. Two young lovers in Paradise need not fear to rise and meet their Creator, should He visit them in the cool of the day.


C. D. Ginsburg, The So of Songs, with a Commentary, Historical and Critical, 1857; H. Ewald, Dichter des Alten Bundes, III, 333-426, 1867; F. C. Cook, in Biblical Commentary, 1874; Franz Delitzsch, Hoheslied u. Koheleth, 1875 (also translation); O. Zockler, in Lange's Comm., 1875; S. Oettli, Kurzgefasster Kommentar, 1889; W. E. Griffis, The Lily among Thorns, 1890; J. W. Rothstein, Das Hohe Lied, 1893; K. Budde, article in New World, March, 1894. and Kommentar, 1898; C. Siegfried, Prediger u. Hoheslied, 1898; A. Harper, in Cambridge Bible, 1902; G. C. Martin, in Century Bible, 1908; article on "Canticles" by Cheyne in EB, 1899.

John Richard Sampey




(odai pneumatikai): ode, English "ode," is the general, and generic word for "song," of which "psalms and hymns" are specific varieties (Ephesians 5:19 Colossians 3:16). It includes all lyric poetry, but is limited by the word "spiritual" to songs inspired by the Holy Spirit and employed in the joyful and devotional expression of the spiritual life. While songs, like psalms and hymns, were used in public worship and praise, they were more intended for, and suited to, personal and private and social use; as, e.g. in family worship, at meals, in the agapai ("love-feasts"), in meetings for prayer and religious intercourse from house to house. The passages above cited give apostolic authority for the use of other than the Old Testament psalms in public praise, and rebuke the narrowness and unbelief that would forever limit the operations of the Holy Spirit and the hymnology of the church to the narrow compass of the Davidic era and the Davidic school of poetry and song.

The "new song" of Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3, and "the song of Moses and of the Lamb" (15:3), indicate that spiritual songs are to be perpetuated in the eternal melodies of the redeemed.

Dwight M. Pratt

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Of Moses (Exodus 15; Numbers 21:17; Deuteronomy 32; Revelation 15:3), Deborah (Judges 5), Hannah (1 Samuel 2), David (2 Samuel 22, and Psalms), Mary (Luke 1:46-55), Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79), the angels (Luke 2:13), Simeon (Luke 2:29), the redeemed (Revelation 5:9; 19), Solomon (see SOLOMON, SONGS OF).

Strong's Hebrew
1960. huyyedoth -- songs of praise
... << 1959, 1960. huyyedoth. 1961 >>. songs of praise. Transliteration: huyyedoth
Phonetic Spelling: (hoo-yed-aw') Short Definition: thanksgiving. ...
/hebrew/1960.htm - 6k

7892a. shir -- song
... of uncertain derivation Definition song NASB Word Usage music (3), musical (3),
sing (1), singers (1), singing (2), Song (1), song (20), Songs (1), songs (14 ...
/hebrew/7892a.htm - 5k

2158. zamir -- song
... << 2157, 2158. zamir. 2159 >>. song. Transliteration: zamir Phonetic Spelling:
(zaw-meer') Short Definition: songs. Word Origin from ...
/hebrew/2158.htm - 6k

7438. ron -- a ringing cry
... a ringing cry. Transliteration: ron Phonetic Spelling: (rone) Short Definition:
songs. Word Origin from ranan Definition a ringing cry NASB Word Usage songs (1) ...
/hebrew/7438.htm - 6k

7892b. shirah -- song
... song. Transliteration: shirah Short Definition: song. Word Origin from the same
as shir Definition song NASB Word Usage song (1), song (10), songs (1). ...
/hebrew/7892b.htm - 5k

1697. dabar -- speech, word
... 4), request (3), required (2), requires (1), rule (2), said (5), same thing (1),
saying (3), says (1), so much (2), some (1), something (4), songs* (1), speak ...
/hebrew/1697.htm - 8k

1984b. halal -- to be boastful, to praise
... 1), offers praises (1), praise (90), praised (20), praises (1), praising (5), race
madly (1), renowned (1), sang praises (1), sing praises (1), wedding songs (1 ...
/hebrew/1984b.htm - 6k

5059. nagan -- to touch or play a stringed instrument
... to touch or play a stringed instrument NASB Word Usage minstrel (1), minstrel played
(1), musician (1), musicians (1), play (5), play songs (1), player (1 ...
/hebrew/5059.htm - 6k




Songs Of Degrees

Related Terms

Breasts (39 Occurrences)

Degrees (18 Occurrences)

Darling (13 Occurrences)

Roe (21 Occurrences)

Pomegranate (11 Occurrences)

Myrrh (22 Occurrences)

Bride (31 Occurrences)

Melody (55 Occurrences)

Adjure (16 Occurrences)

Adjured (11 Occurrences)

Spouse (7 Occurrences)

Spice (25 Occurrences)

Vines (39 Occurrences)

Comely (32 Occurrences)

Frankincense (22 Occurrences)

Apple (8 Occurrences)

Makers (20 Occurrences)

Bloom (9 Occurrences)

Pomegranates (20 Occurrences)

Spikenard (4 Occurrences)

Sweet-smelling (14 Occurrences)

Row (26 Occurrences)

Doves (25 Occurrences)

Fragrance (63 Occurrences)

Marble (5 Occurrences)

Roes (12 Occurrences)

Banner (20 Occurrences)

Snow (25 Occurrences)

Maidens (40 Occurrences)

Vine-gardens (41 Occurrences)

Beautiful (152 Occurrences)

Colors (12 Occurrences)

Press (57 Occurrences)

Virginity (12 Occurrences)

Tormented (17 Occurrences)

Towers (38 Occurrences)

Twins (9 Occurrences)

Temples (17 Occurrences)

Trail (5 Occurrences)

Twin (9 Occurrences)

Rose (279 Occurrences)

Embrace (11 Occurrences)

Blossoms (16 Occurrences)

Balsam (10 Occurrences)

Blossom (23 Occurrences)

Clusters (12 Occurrences)

Arouse (24 Occurrences)

Spices (64 Occurrences)

Sweetness (11 Occurrences)

Dove (27 Occurrences)

Apple-tree (3 Occurrences)

Dropping (33 Occurrences)

Purity (16 Occurrences)

Bedstead (1 Occurrence)

Color (18 Occurrences)

Stir (57 Occurrences)

Bedchamber (6 Occurrences)

Sharon (9 Occurrences)

Corded (37 Occurrences)

Flowers (42 Occurrences)

Awake (83 Occurrences)

Beloved (117 Occurrences)

Breathe (17 Occurrences)

Vineyards (55 Occurrences)

Kisses (12 Occurrences)

Rounded (7 Occurrences)

Mandrakes (4 Occurrences)

Stag (5 Occurrences)

Barren (44 Occurrences)

Deer (15 Occurrences)

Singing (65 Occurrences)

Flower (33 Occurrences)

Vine-garden (43 Occurrences)

Bed (142 Occurrences)

Chain (21 Occurrences)

Demanded (40 Occurrences)

Fair (147 Occurrences)

Smell (77 Occurrences)

Vine (76 Occurrences)

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