Song of Songs

J. Cheryl Exum Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville October 17, 2005
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Exum, professor of biblical studies at the University of Sheffield, England, believes the Song is a lyric poem, not a dramatic poem. Therefore she sees no chronological or linear progression from one section to the next; the sections are vignettes about human love. She views the lovers as archetypes, not specific individuals, and yet they take on individual personalities. There are three main characters: the male lover (whom the female sometimes compares to Solomon), the female lover (who only resembles a Shunammite in some respects), and the women of Jerusalem (a kind of chorus that informs the reader as well as interacts with the main female character). Exum believes that the poem was written long after Solomon’s day. Viewing the book as a piece of lyric poetry, she sees much figurative language and many double entendres throughout the book.

The writer provides some excellent insights into how males and females view and describe each other. Her long introduction (86 pages) provides helpful material on Hebrew poetry and especially the poetry of the Song of Songs. The introduction discusses a love poem, love and death in 8:6 (the only statement about love in the poem), controlling poetic strategies, gendered love talk and the relation of the sexes, poetic composition and style, the Song of Songs in its world, and the Song of Songs and its readers. Exum has taken a more moderate approach toward feminist interpretation of the Song than many other scholars have done. She is also familiar with the significant literature on the Song, and she frequently refers to the views of other writers.

In short, this commentary will be a valuable resource for serious students of the Song of Songs.

—Thomas L. Constable

April 1, 2007
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2007 vol. 164 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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