Second, maybe, to the book of Revelation, Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs as some put it) provides some of the most challenging issues when it comes to the interpretation, teaching, preaching, and application of the book. Though the book is part of the 66 inspired canonical books of the Bible, there are many who have never read it, and will never preach or teach from the book.
Thoughts on how to understand Song of Solomon are usually divided between those who view it strictly as a picture of human love between a man and a woman, between Christ and the (NT) church or between Christ and His covenant people (Israel). Rarely do you see those who will try to wed these interpretations together.
But that is exactly what James Hamilton Jr. does in his recent Focus on the Bible commentary Song of Songs: A Biblical-Theological, Allegorical, Christological Interpretation (Christian Focus, 2015). Hamilton, mostly convincingly I believe, argues that Song of Solomon can be interpreted and seen through more than one lens at once. It can tell us of human love between a man and woman, divine love of God for His people, all the while providing a Christ-focused future-vision for the book.
Hamilton believes that the book functions at three levels:
(T)he Song functions at three levels: 1) the Song of Songs depicts human love between a man and a woman; 2) the man in the song typifies the coming Messiah; and 3) the canonical context of the Song points to a deeper, symbolic understanding of marriage as a kind of allegory of the love between God and His people. (28)
The primary level that most people will have the hardest time with is the allegorical. Hamilton acknowledges as much when he points out on pg. 28 n. 14 that the allegorical interpretation is disfavored by the vast majority of those in the academic community.
So how does Hamilton overcome the long history of disapproval for the allegorical interpretation? He points to none other than Scripture itself. In the preface Hamilton states that
Gradually I came to the view that if Moses can treat the covenant between Yahweh and Israel as a marriage, and if Hosea can write a prophecy in which he himself represents Yahweh and his wife Gomer represents Israel, Solomon could have done the same. (12)
Further, Paul does the same thing in Galatians 4:21-31 and with the marriage between a man and a woman as compared to Christ and the church in Ephesians 5 (29, 31). Hamilton wants us to see all three of these lenses in harmony together rather than disharmony.
We do not have to deny that the Song pertains to human live of we suggest that there is also a sense in which Solomon typifies Christ, nor do these two, the human-love interpretation and the Solomon-typifies-Christ reading, exclude the view that marriage is a picture of the covenant Between God and His people. (31)
As Hamilton shows, Song of Songs is a poetical masterpiece through which God communicates so many great truths about human love, God’s love for His people, and how the David-like figure points to Christ. The second paragraph of chapter two encapsulates the entirety of how to view the Song:
The Song of Songs is about human love, but the hero of the Song is no common man. He’s the kid of Israel, the son of David, and he is a Shepherd-King who has cultivated a garden-city, even as he overcomes the alienation and hostility between himself and his Bride to renew an Eden-like intimacy between them. The Song is abut human love, and the son of David who is the King of the Song is a type of the one who is to come. (35)
As for the commentary itself, Hamilton does a great job of consistently applying his three-level hermeneutic of Song of Songs. It is theologically rich, practical for both sexes, and Hamilton even makes application to singles (whether they are looking to get married or not).
Song of Songs by Hamilton is a must read for any Christian and a definite must have for all teachers and pastors. Hamilton helps Christians read the Song the way God and Solomon intended it to be read.
I received this book for free from Christian Focus for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”