By J. B. Tidell, A.M., D. D.
Name. The Hebrew word means preacher and refers to or signifies one who calls together and addresses assemblies.
The Personal or Human Element. Such expressions as "I perceived," "I said in my heart," "I saw," etc., indicate that it is not the will of God that is developed but a man is telling of his own ventures and utter failure.
The General View or Key-phrase is "under the sun," with the sad refrain, "vanity of vanities, all is vanity", and shows how a man under the best possible conditions sought for joy and peace, trying at its best every human resource. He had the best that could be gotten, from human wisdom, from wealth, from worldly pleasure, from worldly honor, only to find that all was "vanity and vexation of spirit." It is what a man, with the knowledge of a holy God, and that He will bring all into judgment, has learned of the emptiness of things "under the sun" and of the whole duty of man to "fear God and keep his commandments."
Purpose of the Book. The purpose, then, is not to express the doubts or skepticism of the writer, not to record the complaining of a bitter spirit. It is not the story of a pessimist or of an evil man turned moralist. But it is intended to show that, if one should realize all the aims, hopes and aspirations of life, they would not bring satisfaction to the heart. His experience is used to show the result of successful worldliness and self-gratification in contrast with the outcome of the higher wisdom of the Godly life. We are shown that man was not made for this world alone and not for selfish achievement or gratification, but to fulfill some great plan of God for him which he will accomplish through obedience and Divine service.
The Date and Authorship. The opening verse and certain other passages such as some of the conditions as well as the characters of the persons represented in the book give the impression that Solomon wrote it, but there are other evidences that point to some other author. Neither the author nor the date of writing has been definitely determined.
I. The Vanities of Life. Chs. 1-4. seen in both experience and observation.
II. Practical Wisdom, Chs. 5-7.
III. Rules for a Happy Life, Chs. 8-11.
IV. Conclusion of the Whole Matter, Ch. 13.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Make a list of all the different things enumerated as a failure or vanity. (2) Make a list of the different things coming to us as God's gift of providence. (3) Make a list of prudential maxims or rules which teach how to live rightly and to lift us above the tribulations and defeat of life. (4) Does the author think seeking pleasure is the real business of life? (5) Does he deny the value of altruistic service? (6) Does he believe in the future life and in future rewards?
Song of Solomon.
Name. Song of Songs which is Solomon's. It is also called Canticles, meaning Song of Songs and is so-called, perhaps, because of its very great beauty.
The Subject. The subject is faithful love, seen in a woman who though subjected to the temptations of an oriental court, remains faithful to her old lover. She, a country girl of the north, attracts the attention of the king who brings her to Jerusalem and offers her every inducement to become the wife of the king. But upon final refusal she is allowed to return home to her lover, a country shepherd lad.
Meaning of the Story. (1) To the Jews of that time it was a call to purity of life, for a return to those relations which God had ordained between man and woman. It was a protest against polygamy which had become almost universal. Indeed, they regarded it as setting forth the whole history of Israel. (2) To the Christian it sets forth in allegory, Christ and his church as Bridegroom and Bride and the fullness of love which unites the believer and his Savior. (3) To all the world there is shown the purity and constancy of a woman's love and devotion to her ideals. It furnishes ideal which, if properly held up, would cast out of human society all those monstrous practices that come from unworthy ideals.
The Style. It is part dialogue and part monologue. Their love on both sides is expressed in that sensuous way common among the oriental peoples. Many of the allusions give rise to the belief that it was written to celebrate the nuptials of Solomon and the daughter of Pharaoh.
I. The King's first attempt to win the Virgin's love. 1:1-2:7.
II. The King's second effort to win her love, 2:8-5:8.
III. The King's third attempt to win her, 5:9-8:4.
VI. The Triumph of the Maiden, 8:5-14. She returns to her home among the hills of the north and is reunited with her shepherd lover.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Make a list of the passages by which the woman's beauty is described. (2) Passages that suggest the relation of the saved soul to Christ. (3) Passages that suggest the glory of the church. (4) Some of the passages by which the love of the woman and of the king is expressed. (5) The basis of human love. 2:2-3. (6) The strength of human lover, 8:6-7. (7) The interpretation of human love in terms of divine love.