THE SONG OF SOLOMON. A New
Love Story THE HERO AND HEROINE IN THE SONG OF
SOLOMON IDENTIFED! THE SONG OF SOLOMON in Hebrew is called "Shir HaShirim" i.e. "Song of
Songs". The Sages say it is an allegory of the Love Relationship the Almighty
conducts with the Children of Israel.
In many Jewish communities the Song of Solomon is said just before the Evening
Service for Shabat.
Young boys who learn in Rabbinical institutions have the practice of chanting it
in unison in the Synagogue at this Service.
There also exists a custom to say the Song of Solomon on the Night of Pesach
(Passover) after completing the Haggada or Account of the Coming out of Egypt.
"Shir HaShirim" is a parable based on a real-life scenario concerning the young
King Solomon and Abishag the Shunamite. It would seem that both the literal
meaning of a great and very passionate love story between human beings and the
symbolic representation as representative of God relating to HIS People and the
Future Redemption are correct. Just as David took his private life experiences
and tribulations and used them as prototypes concerning the whole Israelite
Nation and even at times the whole of mankind in his Book of Psalms so too did
Solomon turn the memory of his first love into the story of Israel. Another
aspect of the Psalms that we may apply to the Song of Solomon is that it really
is an allegory and the allegorical aspect is the main feature. For this reason
the described events on which the allegory is based are not necessarily related
in Chronological Order. Nor is it obligatory that the events upon which the
allegory is based be one set of circumstances. Several experiences of Solomon
and his beloved may be involved here that the narrative rolls into one in order
to put its main point across which is the aim of the Parable.
The aim of this article is to serve as an Introduction to understanding the song
on the earthly literal level. The hero of the Song is King Solomon
and the heroine is Abishag the Shunamite.
We read about Abishag in the first Book of Kings:
We are told how when King David was old he was in need of a young virgin to warm
A search was made throughout Israel and Abishag the Shunamite was found (1-Kings
Abishag is described as being very beautiful and ministering to the king but
never having had intercourse with him (1-Kings 1:4). Later an attempt was made
by Adonijah who was the son of King David to usurp the rulership whilst David was
yet alive. Adonijah was apparently afraid that if he waited until David died the
monarchy would go to his half-brother Solomon as indeed it eventually did.
Nathan the Prophet warned the mother of Solomon, Bath-Sheba, about what Adonijah
was doing and told her to go and see the King. Bath-Sheba went to David and
spoke unto him in his room while Abishag evidently was present (1-Kings 1:15).
The result was that Solomon was anointed king instead of Adonijah. Solomon then
reigned and consolidated his kingdom. Meanwhile Adonijah was plotting along with
Joab, the former military leader, and Abiathar, the former High Priest, to "take
back" the monarchy which in his mind was rightfully his. As a preliminary step
in the planned rebellion Adonijah induced Bath-Sheba to ask that Solomon grant
him the hand of Abishag in marriage.
Solomon refused and commanded that Adonijah be put to death (1-Kings 2:23-25).
Since Abishag had not had intercourse with David neither had David formally
married her so there would appear to have been no reason why Adonijah should not have been
allowed to take Abishag.
Abishag however in the eyes of the people and in actual fact had been a
ministering servant of King David and according to existing Law and accepted
tradition could only be used by a prevailing monarch. Only Solomon had a right
to take her. By trying to marry Abishag, Adonijah was attempting to present himself as a legitimate
successor of David in the eyes of the people. This was treason against Solomon
the reigning monarch who therefore had Adonijah executed.
The young King Solomon made Abishag one of his wives. Solomon later had three
hundred wives and seven hundred concubines (1-Kings 11:3). Amongst his wives
were many of foreign origin who caused him to commit idolatry (1-Kings 11:4). As
a result of the sins of Solomon it was decreed that after his death the Kingdom
would be split in two and his successor would reign over a truncated domain
(1-Kings 11:11-13, 31). This was to be the beginning of the division between the
Ten Tribes and "Judah", i.e. the Jews.
The Ten Tribes are referred to in the Bible as "The Kingdom of Israel",
"Joseph", "Ephraim", and "Samaria". They were later exiled by the Assyrians and
lost their identity and are known as "The Lost Ten Tribes".
Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, Kohelet ("Ecclesiastes" i.e. The Preacher),
and the Book of Proverbs.
The Song of Solomon begins with the announcement, THE SONG OF SONGS, WHICH IS SOLOMONS
(1:1). Solomon wrote it and put his seal on it as if apart from his
authorship the work expressed a personal aspect of himself.
The story is about Abishag who was in the Palace and then was sent away but never ceased to love the King who indeed came to court her.
At first she refused him though wanting him and he left her and she thought she could never regain him but in the end they were re-united.
We do not intend to analyse all the details nor to discuss what on a higher level is symbolized in this account.
Our intention is merely to open a window and to give the reader an inkling of the depth and symbolic potential along with intensity of emotion
that this story contains.
The bottom line is that whatever else the Song of Solomon comes to tell us it is also a real love story.
The heroine wants the hero to kiss her (1:1). The hero is sweet smelling and of
great reputation and therefore the desire of virgins (1:2).
The King (i.e. Solomon) takes the heroine into his room and they rejoice in
The heroine is black but comely and beseeches the daughters of Jerusalem not to
despise her because of her color (1:5). She says her dark skin is a result of
exposure to the sun (1:6). Apparently she had been born much darker than the
rest of her family who had been ashamed of her and cast her out to mind the
vineyards (1:6). She was prevented from looking after her own inheritance.
Meanwhile the Kingdom in general was going through changes. David was getting old and needed a virgin to warm him.
A search was then made throughout Israel for a suitable
virgin and Abishag was chosen to minister to the King though David never had intercourse with her. David died and
Solomon reigned in his stead. Abishag remained for a while in the Royal
Household then returned to her own home but shortly afterwards Solomon called
her back to the Palace and made her his wife.
In the interim period before Solomon took her back Abishag served as a
Abishag loved Solomon and pined for him. When she herded the sheep she would
imagine Solomon as a fellow shepherd. Solomon also felt for Abishag and in his
mind sent her messages to wait for him. Solomon compares the beauty of Abishag
to the glory of his royal accoutrements.
The heroine describes herself as THE
ROSE OF SHARON, AND THE LILY OF THE VALLEYS (2:1). This actually is the
symbol of Israel as described in the Zohar. The Brit-Am Rose symbol of the
Uniting of Israel and Judah is based on this depiction.
Chapter Two describes how Solomon comes to Abishag to take her and consummates
their union where he finds her. In the morning he was gone. Or maybe it was a
dream? She rises in the night to seek him, finds him, and brings him into the
home of her mother. Her lover is well adorned, and
COMETH OUT OF THE WILDERNESS LIKE
PILLARS OF SMOKE, PERFUMED WITH MYRRH AND FRANKINCENSE, WITH ALL POWDERS OF THE
She pines for the bed of Solomon which is surrounded by seventy bodyguards all
handpicked valiant men armed with swords (3:7-8). The "daughters of Zion" who
had despised the maiden and apparently attempted to upset the match are called
upon to attend her wedding with Solomon. 3:11 GO FORTH, O YE DAUGHTERS OF ZION,
AND BEHOLD KING SOLOMON WITH THE CROWN WHEREWITH HIS MOTHER CROWNED HIM IN THE
DAY OF HIS ESPOUSALS, AND IN THE DAY OF THE GLADNESS OF HIS HEART. The heroine is fair, her hair is black, her teeth are shining white
(4:1-4). Solomon invites her to go with him on a tour of his Kingdom, to Lebanon
and Amana in distant Syria, to Shenir, and Hermon, to the Mountains of the
Leopards in the far north. The heroine invites the hero to partake of her
The heroine describes the hero as: WHITE
AND RUDDY (5:10), THE CHIEFEST
AMONG TEN THOUSAND. 5:11 HIS HEAD IS AS THE
MOST FINE GOLD, HIS LOCKS ARE BUSHY, AND BLACK AS A RAVEN.
5:15 HIS LEGS ARE AS PILLARS OF MARBLE, SET UPON SOCKETS OF FINE GOLD: HIS
COUNTENANCE IS AS LEBANON, EXCELLENT AS THE CEDARS.
Solomon describes his existing harem at the time of writing. Already many women
have been given unto him but none can compare to the heroine: 6:8 THERE ARE THREESCORE QUEENS, AND
FOURSCORE CONCUBINES, AND VIRGINS WITHOUT NUMBER.
6:9 MY DOVE, MY UNDEFILED IS BUT ONE; SHE IS THE ONLY ONE OF HER MOTHER, SHE IS
THE CHOICE ONE OF HER THAT BARE HER.
THE DAUGHTERS SAW HER, AND BLESSED HER; YEA, THE QUEENS AND THE CONCUBINES, AND
THEY PRAISED HER.
The heroine is referred to as "Shulamit (SHULAMITE)" (6:13) meaning "perfect one". This
is a play on words since Abishag is termed the "Shunamit (Shunamite)" (1-Kings 1:3) after "Shunem"
where she came from and the two words (Shulam and Shunam) sound similar. Abishag after being taken
by Solomon would no longer have been considered merely a "Shunamit" and such a term
may already have been considered derogatory at that state. "Shunamit: therefore
became "Shulamit". The story goes on describing their love and desire one for
The heroine wishes that the hero were her brother so that she could make a
public display of her affection and not be despised for it (8:10). When Abishag
was first taken to King David she may have been little more than 13 years old
whereas Solomon according to Rashi was not even 12. For a short period both were
together as part of King David's household. With this taken into account it is
possible to see how the young girl liked to imagine herself not always as the
wife and lover of the King but also as his sister who grew up with him.
The heroine compares herself to a vineyard of Solomon that gives forth fruit
(8:11). Solomon is urged to come swiftly as a deer to his heroine to claim what
is his own (8:14).
The above description is an outline in simple terms of the Song of Solomon at
its literal level. This can be developed and analyzed much further. The main
point of the Song of Solomon is its symbolic message concerning the People of
Israel and their Future Redemption.