Unresolved and Unresolvable: Problems in Interpreting the Song

Marc Brettler

in Scrolls of Love

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780823225712
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237067 | DOI:
Unresolved and Unresolvable: Problems in Interpreting the Song

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The statement that best encapsulates the problems of the Song of Songs is the simile attributed to Sa'adiya Gaon, the head of the Babylonian Jewish community in the tenth century: “It is like a lock whose key is lost or a diamond too expensive to purchase”. It is a perfect description of the Song: its magnificence is well recognized, yet it refuses to be unlocked. The Song cannot be attributed to Solomon. The language of the book at several points resembles rabbinic Hebrew, suggesting a late date. Several pieces of evidence suggest that there is no reason to take the Song as Solomonic, while there are good reasons to view it as post-Solomonic, and at least in part, as postexilic. There is also no reason for the Song to be understood as an allegory, as Abraham ibn Ezra suggests. Requited versus unrequited love is a recurring problem for the Song.

Keywords: Song of Songs; unrequited love; Solomon; Hebrew; allegory; Abraham ibn Ezra

Chapter.  6290 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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