Ecclesiastes and Solomon’s Song

“God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

- Ecclesiastes 12:14

We have saved two of the most difficult books in Scripture for our last study on the background and emphases of the Wisdom Literature. These books are Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, two works that have been traditionally attributed to Solomon. Many have even said that Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon when he was a young man and Ecclesiastes when he was elderly and had seen much over the course of a long life.

The Song of Solomon gives evidence of being from Solomon’s hand, for its opening verse states, “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” (Song 1:1). Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, makes no claim of authorship besides the fact that it consists of the “words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Eccl. 1:1). Since Solomon was the king in Jerusalem at one point in history, Ecclesiastes may well come from him. But we cannot be dogmatic about this because Ecclesiastes itself does not identify Solomon explicitly.

The Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes are difficult books for different reasons. The greatest difficulty with the Song of Solomon is that it hardly mentions the Lord explicitly, speaking of Him once at the end of the book (8:6), and then only in passing. That the work seems to give very little direct theological teaching also makes it hard to interpret. What we find in the Song of Solomon is a picture of love between husband and wife, with a particular focus on their physical relationship. Because of this, and because many interpreters have found it hard to conceive of God’s inspiring a book that is about love, marriage, and sex, the work has most frequently been read as an allegory of the love of Christ for His bride, the church. It is hard to accept this work as a mere allegory because the biblical authors almost never use that interpretative method, and in the one place where something is explicitly called an allegory, the example given is not an allegory in the traditional sense (Gal. 4:21-31). Solomon’s chief intent is simply to show us the love of husband and wife. That does not mean the book is not ultimately about Christ, however. The work makes us yearn for the perfect love that no creature can give us. In this way, it directs us to the Savior who alone can satisfy us.

Ecclesiastes has a slight pessimistic tone, which is why many believers have had trouble with it. The key to understanding the work is to see it as an example of biblical apologetics. It points out that apart from God, life is temporary and futile. It states that so much of life is incomprehensible, thereby pointing us to the Lord, who alone makes sense of it all.

Coram Deo

Ultimately, all of the Wisdom Books make one point: that life without God is meaningless and that only He can understand the creation fully and finally. The only way for us to find true wisdom of eternal significance is to turn to Him and His Word. Otherwise, whatever meaning we find is fleeting, whatever joys we have will come to dissatisfy us, and every love we have will not meet the needs of our souls.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 2:6–8
Ecclesiastes 12:13–14

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