Among all of the books of the Old Testament, the Song of Songs is one of the most intriguing. On the one hand, its unabashed sensuality has captured the imagination and has endeared it to those who appreciate passionate human love. On the other hand, more demure readers have frequently been chagrined by their own fascination with its erotic character and have cloaked their interest under the guise of metaphorical reading. Both interpretations of the Song of Songs have been endorsed. Down through the ages, both Jewish and Christian interpreters have delighted in the exquisite imagery of the book’s songs, but they have also frequently reverted to allegory in their interpretations.
This commentary views the Song as a collection of love poems and carefully examines features of Hebrew poetry in order to uncover the delicacy of their expression. It is unique not only in the attention that it gives to the obvious feminine perspective of the poems but in their ecosensitive character. Although it is a tribute to mutual love, the principal frame of reference is the amorous disposition of the woman. Her words open and close the Song and her voice is dominant throughout.
The imagery that the lovers use is drawn from nature. Whether it is the woman in awe of the strength and splendor of her lover or the man glorifying her physical charms, the descriptions all call on elements from the natural world to characterize the feature being described. Whatever they experience or know or even desire is somehow rooted in the natural world.
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. . . the commentary stands as an accessible synthesis of some insights from works on the Song of Songs that are available in English, along with some interesting observations that do not appear in every commentary.
—David M. Carr, Union Theological Seminary, New York
Dianne Bergant, C.S.A. is Professor of Biblical Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She holds a BS in Elementary Education from Marian College, Fond du Lac, WI; an MA and PhD in Biblical Languages and Literature from St. Louis University. Dianne Bergant was President of the Catholic Biblical Association of America (2000-1) and has been an active member of the Chicago Catholic/Jewish Scholars Dialogue for the past twenty years. For more than fifteen years, she was the Old Testament book reviewer of The Bible Today. Bergant was a member of the editorial board of that magazine for twenty-five years, five of those years she served as the magazine’s general editor. She is now on the editorial board of Biblical Theology Bulletin, and Chicago Studies. From 2002 through 2005, Bergant wrote the weekly column The Word for America magazine. She is currently working in the areas of biblical interpretation and biblical theology, particularly issues of peace, ecology and feminism. Besides numerous articles and chapters in books, her publications include: A Word for Every Season. New York: Paulist Press, 2008. Scripture (Engaging Theology: Catholic Perspectives). Collegeville: Liturgical Press (A Michael Glazier Book), 2008. Israel’s Story (Part I and II), Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2006/2007. Lamentations (Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries). Nashville: Abingdon, 2003. Song of Songs (Berit Olam series). Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2001. People of the Covenant: An Invitation to the Old Testament. Franklin, WI: Sheed & Ward, 2001. Preaching the New Lectionary (Years B,C, A). Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1999/2000/2001. Song of Songs: The Love Poetry of Scripture. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1998. The Earth is the Lord’s: The Bible, Ecology, and Worship (American Essays inLiturgy). Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1998. Israel’s Wisdom Literature: A Liberation-Critical Reading. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997. Collegeville Concise Glossary of Biblical Terms. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1994. The Psalms: Grail Translation From the Hebrew (1993 Revision). Chicago: GIA Publications, 1993. The World is a Prayerful Place. Wilmington: Michael Glazier, Inc. 1987; Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992.