The Message of the Song of Songs, By Tom Gledhill
The Message of the Song of Songs
  • Length: 254 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: July 07, 1994
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 1235
  • ISBN: 9780830812356

*affiliate partner

At first reading the Song of Songs appears to be an unabashed celebration of the deeply rooted urges of physical attraction, mutual love and sexual consummation between a man and a woman.

Tom Gledhill maintains that the Song of Songs is in fact just that--a literary, poetic exploration of human love that strongly affirms loyalty, beauty and sexuality in all their variety. With tender metaphor and extravagant imagery, the Song writer spins a tale of human love into the cadence of verse, innocent of our quest for historical persons behind the text.

But in God's story, human beauty, intimacy and sexuality are not ends in themselves. They are transencedental longings, whispers of immortality. Like all of creation they point beyond themselves to their divine author, who in this Song is nowhere mentioned but everywhere assumed.

Gledhill's commentary is a refreshing reminder of the Song of Song's ancient and vibrant affirmation of human sexuality that forms an interlude in the Old Testament story and echoes between the lines of Christian revelation.


General preface

Author's preface

Chief Abbreviations


An orientation to the Song
The Song as poetic entertainment
The role of Solomon in the Song
The shepherd hypothesis
The morality of the Song
God, sexuality and allegory
The Song in the Canon of Scripture
The unity and structure of the Song

Part One: The Song as a whole
An overview of the text of the Song of Songs
A literal translation of the Song
A free paraphrase of the Song

Part Two: An exposition of the Song
Title and attribution - 1:1
The first cycle: Passionate longings - 1:2-2:7
The deep yearnings of love - 1:2-4
Black and beautiful - 1:5-6
A hesitant enquiry, an ambiguous response - 1:7-8
A filly in fine fettle - 1:9-11
The fragrance of love - 1:12-14
A duet of mutual admiration - 1:15-2:3
Moving towards climax - 2:4-7
The second cycle: Springtime and showers - 2:8-3:5
Love in the springtime - 2:8-13
A tantalizing tease - 2:14-15
An affirmation and an invitation - 2:16-17
A very troubled dream - 3:1-5
The third cycle: The lovers' royal wedding - 3:6-5:1
Her rustic fragrant beauty - 3:6
Solomon's sumptuous carriage - 3:7-11
In praise of his beloved - 4:1-7
The lover's urgent plea - 4:8
A lover smitten - 4:9-11
Moving towards a climax again - 4:12-5:1
Anticipation - 4:12-15
Invitation - 4:16
Consummation - 5:1
Affirmation - 5:1
Reflections on themes arising from 4:12-5:1
Chastity and virginity
Laughter and bodies
Hang-ups and Augustine
Sex as sacrament
The language of sex
The fourth cycle: Lost and found - 5:2-6:3
Another dream of frustation - 5:2-8
The daughters of Jerusalem reply - 5:9
In praise of her lover - 5:10-16
An offer of help - 6:1
Not really lost - 6:2-3
The fifth cycle: Beauty kindles desire - 6:4-8:4
Her awesome and terrifying beauty - 6:4-7
She is utterly unique - 6:8-9
Her cosmic beauty - 6:10
Dreaming in the walnut garden - 6:11-12
A sight for tired eyes - 6:13
Her graceful form - 7:1-5
A duet of desire - 7:6-10
Love in the countryside - 7:11-13
A longing for intimacy - 8:1-4
The sixth cycle: The security of love - 8:5-14
The happy couple - 8:5a
Love's arousal - 8:5b
Love, strong as death - 8:6-7
The little sister - 8:8-10
A vineyard not for hire - 8:11-12
The continuing cycle of desire - 8:13-14

For further thought


You May Also Like

Tom Gledhill (1942–2020) served as a member of the teaching staff at Union School of Theology in South Wales. His articles and book reviews have appeared in Themelios, Foundations, and Bible Translators Magazine.