Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A REVIEW OF SOLOMON'S SONG OF LOVE

Craig Glickman in his book, Solomon's Song of Love, creates a commentary that is divided into thematic sections, making the text of Canticles become more relevant and personal as it leads the reader to an understanding of biblical love as expressed by Solomon and Shulamith. Glickman breaks down the song into several sections including pre-wedding night, wedding night and post wedding night, and he uses practical real life examples in each chapter so that the reader can see the Word of God come to life.  For Glickman, Canticles like all truly timeless love songs, has a transforming power to give the reader or hearer "a heightened awareness to the world around us and feeling of joy and wholeness"....and "oneness."[1] Song of Songs conveys, "not just what our partners should be like but what our relationships [should] feel like: the role of emotions, longing, and sexual attraction; the foundation of friendship, respect, and commitment; the experience of intimacy, certainty, and forgiveness."[2]  It is with this understanding that Glickman takes the songs and bases his chapters on the transformational and inspired love song.
            In his first chapter "When Love Breaks Through," Glickman explains the "miracles" of the fact that Solomon was both the author and the main character within the Song of Songs.[3] This is because Solomon would have come into this passionate relationship with a lot of relational presuppositions and baggage; including, but not limited to the fact that David had Solomon's mother's husband killed because of an affair he had with Solomon's mother.[4] That along with David's  deathbed  instructions that charged Solomon with killing off the enemies of the house of David, prepared Solomon to rule through power and not in love(1 Kings 2:5-12).[5] Moreover, Solomon had many wives and concubines, many whom he may have married simply because it was standard procedure of their foreign policy to forge "political alliances."[6] All of these would have been factors in why Solomon's passionate and biblical understanding of both sexual and emotional love was a miracle.
            The second chapter, "A Night to Remember", is based off Song of Songs 4:1-5:1. Glickman shows how lost and intoxicated Solomon is by his love for Shulamith. This passage begins with an inclusio that is partitioned by Solomon's proclamation of Shulamith's beauty (4:1-4:7).  The key word in this section is "blemish" in verse 7 of the fourth chapter, because the Hebrew word (מ֖וּם) conveys the idea of "inner and outer flaws."[7] This is significant because Solomon is choosing to say here that in his eyes, Shulamith has no inner or outer flaws. Glickman gives credence to this argument by showing how Solomon describes Shulamith's body. For example, Solomon compares her eyes to doves, hair to a flock of goats and teeth to newly shorn sheep. Then in verse 4, Solomon talks about her character figuratively by comparing her neck to a tower of David, one upon which mighty men hang their shields. This not only expresses "stateliness", but the mention of the shields and the mighty men convey a sense of purity and strength, a cause for respect.[8] This section ends on Solomon's wedding night where he finds his rest, his land of milk and honey in Shulamith - his perfect mate as if God had chosen him and her to be together like Adam and Eve.[9] This is an allusion to paradise (Garden of Eden).[10]
            In chapter three, "The Birth of Love," Glickman shows how Solomon gave Shulamith gifts, including the greatest of those gifts - respect (Song 1:1-1:11). Since she was a laborer in the field she had brown skin. Thus, the men of her day rejected her, causing her emotional pain. Glickman sees Shulamith's rejection because of her dark skin as an allusion to the story of Tamar.[11]  Just as people did not see Shulamith for who she was under her dark skin, neither did Judah see Tamar for who she was when she seduced him as a prostitute. The difference is that Shulamith did not "need to pretend to be someone she is not."[12] Glickman also shows that Solomon not only wanted to just have physical love for Shulamith but he wanted to be her friend. Thus, he gave her the endearing title "my darling companion."[13]
            Then in chapter four, "Hearts with Wings," Glickman talks about how Solomon and Shulamith gave each other compliments or praise (Song 1:12-2:3).  These complements and Solomon's and Shulamith's mutual praise of each other, help to nurture their relationship.[14] Meanwhile, in chapter five, "A Spring Romance," Glickman expounds on the theme of how love can "transform appearance," which is symbolized by the spring of new love in Songs of Songs 2:8-13.[15] Furthermore, Glickman points out that Solomon desired and therefore sought to know Shulamith as a "whole person"(Song 2:14).[16] Both chapters four and five show a time of nurturing and transformation.
            Now in chapter six, "A Time to Marry," Glickman shows how Solomon and Shulamith work to protect their marriage. They actively sought to prevent the foxes of "dishonesty," "selfishness," "impatience," and even "reluctance to adjust, apologize or forgive" from embedding themselves in their union (Song 2:15).[17] Glickman explains that this protection is important because it creates an environment where couples can be vulnerable and open with each other. Furthermore, the author also makes the point that being able to relate to each others' vulnerabilities is the "the foundation for a long lasting relationship"(Song 2:15).[18]
            In chapter seven, "Pain of Loss," Glickman makes the point that ingratitude erodes love.[19] The scene is set in Song of Songs 5:2-6:1 where Shulamith is tired and shows "indifference" towards Solomon, but this indifference is soon doffed and replaced by Shulamith's anxious longing for him.[20] Glickman argues that Shulamith realizes she is in a "vulnerable position" because she realizes she is wrong and needs to apologize but she is also in a "vulnerable position" because "she can't control" Solomon's response.[21] Meanwhile, in chapter eight, "A Dance with Joy," Glickman gives Solomon's gracious response. Solomon's response is one that Glickman calls a "bouquet of praise"(Song 6:4-9). Solomon ends the section in Song of Songs 6:13 by alluding to a "dance of the two camps" which is clearly an allusion to Mahanaim where Jacob and Esau met and made peace with a hug.[22] 
         Glickman, in chapter 9, "Passion and Paradise," directly links the forgiveness of Solomon to the deeper and ever growing love which is expressed in the Song of Songs 7:1-10.[23] This is not just because they are in love with each other's physical beauty, but because they actually love each other and there is a sense of belonging to each other - a safe secure intimacy. This then leads to "Freedom and Delight," chapter 10, which reveals Solomon and Shulamith's sex life. Glickman makes an interesting observation that "Shulamith was pretending to be a Goddess" or the "sex symbol" of her day.[24]        
            Chapter 11, "Devotion and Fire," expresses that one should only let true love waken when it is ready (Song 8:4-8:7).  Glickman also states that, "True love grows through hardship," and that it begins "with mutual delight". The idea is that through their devotion to each other and their mutual delight, no one - not even the rivers, can put out the fire of their love (Song 8:6-7).[25] Finally, chapter 12 of Glickman's text illustrates how Shulamith and Solomon find fulfillment.
Analysis
            First, Glickman's book has several great appendixes where he has his translation along with some semi critical notes, along with his understanding for the structure of the Song of Songs, which he seems to have acquired from David Dorsey's The Literary Structure of the Old Testament. [26]
            Second, I thought it was a good point for Glickman to convey the fact that Solomon was alluding, if not comparing, Shulamith to the sex symbols of their day - especially when he referred to Shulamith as the "Lady of the Mandrake"(Song 7:13).[27]
            Third, in the process of arguing for his very applicable understanding of the text, I think Glickman reads more into Song of Songs 4:8 than what actually is there. It states (NASB), "Come with me from Lebanon[28], my bride, may you come with me from Lebanon. Journey down from the summit of Amana, from the summit of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards."[29] He understands these verses as Solomon pleading with Shulamith to come down from her mounted perch where she is protecting her anxious/fearful heart.[30]
            The problem I saw with this is that in the previous section Solomon says to Shulamith, "Like the Tower of David is your neck, made for strength; a thousand shields hang upon it, all the shields of the mighty men" (Song 4:4, Glickman's translation). These are not terms used to describe a fearful woman; rather, it describes a majestic and strong woman who demands respect. Ironically, Glickman noted earlier that these symbols were a form of respectable boundaries.[31]Glickman himself understands this verse in this way. Therefore, his conclusion made of Songs 4:8, seems to have a flaw in the logic of his interpretation. Moreover, Glickman understands Solomon to be a man of power. Thus, Solomon marrying a woman of power is more logical than stating that he married a fearful one.  For example, Glickman even states, "Naturally then, Solomon used marriage and pleasure to serve power."[32] Rather, Othmar Keel is more on point by saying that in Songs 4:8, Solomon is pleading to "compel" Shulamith, "to come down from her godlike pedestal, a proud request of a proud woman!"[33]
            However, Glickman made a cogent argument when he explained the significance of the use of the Hebrew word for blemish, as it references both an inner and outer flaw. This Hebrew cultic language brings with it the idea that Solomon saw nothing wrong outwardly or inwardly in Shulamith, just as God would have seen a pure priest or sacrifice as holy and acceptable unto Himself. This is why Shulamith was Solomon's complete and perfect love. In conclusion, Craig Glickman's Solomon's Song of Love is an amazing book that expresses a very pastoral and exegetical explanation of true biblical aspects of love which were found in Song of Songs. Moreover, I would highly recommend this book for married couples, and for marriage/young couples Bible studies. 

To buy this book go to Amazon.com. 




                [1] Craig Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love: Let the Song of Songs Inspire your own romantic story (Louisiana: Howard Publishing co., 2004), 7.
                [2] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 14.
                [3] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 12.
                [4] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 12.
                [5] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 12.
                [6] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 12.
                [7] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 26, 210. Moreover, the Hebrew word mumo has cultic ramifications, for if a priest was to have a physical flaw he was to be excluded from "priestly service"(Lv 21:17-23) and the same went for animal sacrifices(Lv 22:20, 21, 25 Nu 19:2 Dt 15:21; 17:1)...  moreover, the word can be taken figuratively as a " moral blemish."(Dt 32:5)  Francis Brown et al., Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (electronic ed.; Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 548. Keel translates this passage as "there is not flaw (מ֖וּם) in you...the term (מ֖וּם) is usually cultic, describing defects in priest or sacrifices.that arouse" the disapproval of God. Thus Solomon according to Keel is saying there is nothing about Shulamith that displeases him or that would "make him reject her and send her away."(Othmar Keel, The Song of Songs: A continental commentary (Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994)153.
                [8] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 24-25.
                [9] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 39-37.
                [10] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 32.
                [11] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 46-47.
                [12] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 47.
                [13] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 51.
                [14] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 58, 62-63.
                [15] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 72-75.
                [16] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 76.
                [17] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 83.
                [18] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 84-85.
                [19] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 93-94.
                [20] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 94-97.
                [21] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 98-104.
                [22] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 112-114.
                [23] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 123-124.
                [24] This would have been "Aphrodite, the goddess of love," and also the "Lady of the Mandrake." Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 133-134.
                [25] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 145-152.
                [26] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 145-152.
                [27] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 133-134. Keel shows more links in the Song of Songs to the war goddess Ishtar (song 4:8; Keel, The Song of Songs, 154-159).  Meanwhile, Fox concludes that Ishtar "has no place in this song." Michael V. Fox, the Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs (Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985)157.
                [28] Lebanon in the epoch of Gilgamesh is the "abode of the gods, the throne sheet of [Ishtar](Keel, The Song of Songs, 155).
                [29]Leopards and lions are in many cases "attributes of female deities....especially to the warlike Ishtar"(Keel, The Song of Songs, 158).
                [30] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 28.

                [31] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 25.
                [32] Glickman, Solomon's Song of Love, 12.
                [33] Keel, The Song of Songs, 158.
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Bibliography
Brown, Francis et al., Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. electronic ed.; Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000.

Fox, Michael V.  The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.

Glickman, Craig. Solomon's Song of Love: Let the Song of Songs Inspire Your Own Romantic Story. Louisiana: Howard Publishing co., 2004.

Keel, Othmar. The Song of Songs: A Continental Commentary. Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994.