Commentaries on the Song of Solomon

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Order of Contents

Interpretation of the Song
.      Intro
.      Resources  16

Best  7
Commentaries  34
Prophetic Historical Interpretations  6
Early & Medieval Church  5
Jewish  2
General on the Song  2
Portions of  7
Song in Poetry  25
Paraphrases of the Song
Paraphrastic Expositions in Poetry  2
Authenticity  2




On the Interpretation of the Song of Solomon



How is the Song of Solomon to be understood?  There are four main interpretations of the book:

(1)  Allegorical, which sees the song as an extended allegory about Christ’s love for his Church.  This view generally excludes the Song from having a reference to literal human figures and was the dominant view of the Reformation and Puritan eras.

(2) Prophetic-Historical, which interprets the Song as being a prophecy of history until Christ’s 2nd Coming.  This was a minority view during the puritan era; we highly do not recommend it.

(3)  Literal, that the Song is only, or mainly, about human figures.  Any higher spiritual meaning is secondary and takes a backseat to the human relationship which is held as primarily intended.  This is the dominant contemporary view, which rose in popularity a few centuries ago.

(4)  Typological, that the Song is founded upon historical characters and has intended human-moral applications, they being real-life types of the higher, spiritual and primarily intended reference of Christ’s love for his Church.


The Typological View brings together the best of the Allegorical and Literal views, while minimizing each of their weaknesses.

The strength of the Allegorical View is its use of Scripture to interpret Scripture, so that the Church of all ages has the key to understand the book.  While Scripture is not to be interpreted allegorically through the whole of it, the literal and intended interpretation of allegorical parts of Scripture is that of allegory, or one might say that of symbolism or an extended metaphor.  Paul uses the notion of ‘allegory’ in Gal. 4:22-31 and extended metaphors are found not infrequently in Scripture (Isa. 5:1-7 which is a song, Christ’s parables, etc.).

The most significant Scriptural text that gives a hermeneutical grounding to the Song of Solomon is Psalm 45, the wedding Psalm between the promised Messiah and God’s people, the Church.  This psalm, being an inspired, extended metaphor, was quite possibly given on the occasion of a royal wedding of Solomon, the Song of Solomon being a further exposition for the Church of the higher meaning of the love therein contained.  If Psalm 45 is primarily intended as an extended, prophetic metaphor of Christ and his beloved Church, there cannot be any compelling objection to the Song of Solomon being such as well.

The theme of the marriage of Jehovah-Messiah to God’s people is not simply one among many in the Old Testament, but rather it is a prominent, necessary and over-arching teaching of the Old Testament.  The idea is found, by way of extended metaphor, in Eze. 16:1-22; 23; Jer. 3Hos. 1-3; Isa. 54 & 62:1-7.

In the New Testament, Eph 5:31-32, looking back on the Old Testament, says that two persons becoming one in marriage is a great mystery, which speaks of Christ and the Church.  Other New Testament examples using this metaphor are: Matt 25:1-13; Rom. 7:1-4; 2 Cor. 11:2-3; Rev. 17.  In light of this prominent teaching of Scripture, it would be quite out of place if the only book length treatment of marriage in the Canon did not have as a primary reference that of Christ and his love for the Church.

The hermeneutical safeguard for the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon, to prevent it from descending into unwarranted free association, is grounding its interpretative elements in:

(1)  precedented Biblical metaphors,

(2)  the larger analogy of faith, and

(3)  the natural relation and rules of typology that apply between the human marriage relationship and our spiritual union and communion with Christ.

If this is done, one may safely derive doctrine from the intended spiritual meaning of the book, as was the eminently valuable practice of the older puritan commentaries, and that of the Westminster Assembly (see the proof-texts of W.C.F. 10.1; 17.3; 18.4 & L.C. 81, 175).

The weaknesses of the standard allegorical view are:

(1) its hard-to-substantiate claim that (for various moral and coherence considerations) the Song *cannot* refer to human figures, especially when the opening verse says that the Song is Solomon’s; and

(2) that the Song is filled with many, seemingly, historical details that do not lend itself to a reasoned and simple metaphor, but rather may facilitate endless unnatural and fanciful allegorizations.

The strength of the literal view is the prima facie evidence that it is very natural to take the book as a song of human lovers, directly applicable thereto as an inspired example of the purity of love between godly persons.

The weaknesses of the literal view are:

(1)  missing the larger canonical context for the Song,

(2)  that the interpretation sometimes descends into a manual on dating or love-making in marriage, and

(3)  that the physical relation is made to be the primary interest and intent of the Holy Spirit, contrary to the general tenor of the Scriptures and the previously cited scriptural metaphors that teach that our relationship to the Lord transcends, and takes priority over, all natural relations.

The Typological view is able to combine and maintain the best from the Allegorical and Literal Views, while not entailing their weaknesses.  Upon this perspective the reader will be able to harvest in abundance from the many commentaries below.

(Note that many of the below commentaries have treatments of the interpretation of the Song in their introductory material as well as in the commentary itself on the first verse of the book.)



Resources on the Interpretation of the Song



Where to Start


Gonzalez, Carlos – “The Allegory of the Song of Solomon”  (2016)  32 paragraphs

MacLean, Donald – “‘So Great a Love’ – James Durham on Christ and his Church in the Song of Solomon”  Ref  in Confessional Presbyterian Journal, no. 5 (2009), pp. 239-55



McCurley, Robert – Intro to the Song of Songs  38 min.  (2012)

McCurley is a minister in the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in Greenville, South Carolina, USA and here gives an overview of the different interpretations of the Song, while arguing for the allegorical interpretation.

Listen also to his whole exposition of the Song in 32 sermons.


Scottish Puritan

Durham, James – Clavis Cantici, or a Key of the Song, Useful for Opening up Thereof  EEBO   (†1658)  27 pp. being the introduction to Clavis Cantici, or an Exposition of the Song of Solomon

This remains the fullest exposition and defense of the allegorical interpretation of the Song.



Edwards, Jonathan – Notes on the Bible  in Select Works, vol. 2

pp. 747-48 on Ps. 45

pp. 753-54 on the Song

Edwards (d. 1758) was a New England Puritan.



Burrowes, George – Introduction  (1853)  65 pp. in Commentary on the Song of Solomon

Thrupp, John – Introduction, Sections 1-13  (1860)  88 pp. in The Song of Songs, a Revised Translation with Introduction and Commentary 

*** – “We are highly pleased with this work.  It defends the usual Christian interpretation by the conclusions of sober criticism, and shows that the spiritual sense is confirmed by the investigations of modern scholarship.  In the introduction the author deals heavy blows at the skeptical school, and at those who, like [Christian] Ginsburg [below], content themselves with imputing a merely moral meaning to the blessed Canticle of love.” – Spurgeon



Blair, Hugh – “Preaching from the Song of Solomon” in Reformed Theological Journal, 9 (1987), pp. 47-58

Roberts, Maurice – “Samuel Rutherford: the Comings & Goings of the Heavenly Bridegroom” in The Trials of Puritanism: Papers read at the 1993 Westminster Conference  (1993), pp. 119-34  Buy

Richard, Guy – ch. 9, “Clavis Cantici: a ‘Key’ to the Reformation in Early Modern Scotland?”  18 pp.  in Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland: Essays on Scottish Theology, 1560-1775  Buy  (2015)

Though the title, which is answered in the affirmative, is a bit overstated, Richard argues (for those who were not aware of it already) how the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon played a significant role in 1600’s Scotland in doctrinal polemics, especially with regard to sanctification, perseverance, etc., and that especially against Romanism and Arminianism.

Despite the important role the allegorical interpretation of the Song played in Scotland, relatively few Scottish puritan commentaries on the book were published, in comparison to that of England (see the commentaries below).  Richard attributes this mainly to the the lesser populated, more rural and illiterate context of Scotland (compared to that of England), however, he appears to be unaware of the main historical reason for this: prelacy’s censorship of the press through most of the century.  James Hewison gives the details in Appendix 1, Literary Men and their Works from 1625-1690 (in vol. 2 of The Covenanters, 1913).


Allegorical & Typological

De Vries, Pieter – “The Interpretation & Preaching of the Song of Songs”  in Puritan Reformed Journal, 4, 2 (2012), pp. 5–18



1800’s, Scholarly

Keil & Delitzsch – Introduction to the Song of Songs  16 pp. in Commentary on The Song of Solomon

Zuckler, Otto – Introduction  36 pp.  in Song of Solomon  trans. William H. Green of Princeton  (1898)

Zuckler gives one of the fullest histories of interpretation of the Song available.  This work is different than his contribution to Lange’s Commentary.



Campbell, Iain D.


Campbell, Iain D. – “The Song of David’s Son: Interpreting the Song of Solomon in the Light of the Davidic Covenant”  Ref  in Westminster Theological Journal, 62, 1 (2000), pp. 17-32


Podcast Interview

Reformed Forum & Iain Campbell – The Song of David’s Son: A Covenantal Approach to the Song of Solomon  (2009)  55 minutes  with a bibliography



Ginsburg, Christian – Introduction  126 pp.  in The Song of Songs, Translated with a Commentary Historical & Critical  (1857)

Ginsburg (1831-1914) was a leading Christian Hebraicist of his day.  The upside to this scholarly Introduction is that it includes one of the most comprehensive surveys of the Song’s history of interpretation.

“Written upon an untenable theory, viz., that the Song is intended ‘to record an example of virtue in a young woman, who encountered and conquered the greatest temptations, and was eventually rewarded.’  This groveling interpretation needed the aid of great liberties with the text, and a few interpolations, and the author has not hesitated to use them.  However learned the book may be, this vicious theory neutralizes all.” – Charles Spurgeon



The Best Commentaries on the Song of Solomon

Ainsworth, Henry – Annotations upon the Five Books of Moses, the Book of the Psalms, and Song of Songs, or, Canticles, vol. 2, p. 681 ff.

Ainsworth (d. 1622) was a leader of the Separatists in New England.

***  ‘Thoroughly learned.  Though old, not out of date.’ – Spurgeon

‘Ainsworth was a celebrated scholar and an excellent divine.  His uncommon skill in Hebrew learning, and his excellent commentaries on the Scripture are held in high reputation to this day.’ – Benjamin Brook, ‘Lives of the Puritans’

Burrowes George – Commentary on the Song of Solomon  (1853)

*** – “Mr. [Alexander] Moody Stuart says: ‘The excellent work of Dr. Burrowes is specially fitted to remove the prejudices of men of taste against the Song of Solomon, as the medium of spiritual communion between the soul and Christ.  We welcome it as a valuable contribution to us from our transatlantic brethren.” – Spurgeon

Durham, James – The Key of the Canticles: an Exposition of the Song of Solomon  EEBO  Buy  (†1658)

Durham was an influential Scottish covenanter, friends with Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie.  This commentary has been reprinted by the Banner of Truth.

*** – ‘Durham is always good, and he is at his best upon the Canticles.  He gives us the essence of the good matter.  For practical use this work is perhaps more valuable than any other Key to the Song.’  – Spurgeon

Gill, John – An Exposition of the Book of Solomon’s Song  (d. 1771)

This is different, and fuller, than Gill’s commentary on the Song in his whole Bible commentary.

*** – “The best thing Gill ever did.  He could not exhaust his theme, but he went as far as he could towards so doing.  He is occasionally fanciful, but his work is precious.  Those who despise it have never read it, or are incapable of elevated spiritual feelings.” – Spurgeon

Stuart, Alexander Moody – The Song of Songs, an Exposition of the Song of Solomon  1860

Stuart was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.

*** – “Although this admirable author expounds the Song upon a theory which we do not quite endorse [prophetic-historical], we do not know where to find a book of equal value in all respects.  He has poetry in his soul, and, beyond that, a heart like that of Rutherford, fired with love to the Altogether Lovely One.  We thank him for this noble volume.” – Spurgeon

Thrupp, John – The Song of Songs, a Revised Translation with Introduction & Commentary  (1860)

*** – “We are highly pleased with this work.  It defends the usual Christian interpretation by the conclusions of sober criticism, and shows that the spiritual sense is confirmed by the investigations of modern scholarship.  In the introduction the author deals heavy blows at the skeptical school, and at those who, like [Christian] Ginsburg [below], content themselves with imputing a merely moral meaning to the blessed Canticle of love.” – Spurgeon



Keil & Delitzsch – Commentary on The Song of Solomon

Keil and Delitzsch are the best on academic, grammarian analysis, but are as spiritually satisfying as quenching your thirst on saltine crackers.

*** – Spurgeon



More Commentaries on the Song of Solomon


Brucioli, Antonio – A Commentary upon the Canticle of Canticles  (d. 1566)

Wilcox, Thomas – An Exposition upon the Book of the Canticles, otherwise called Solomon’s Song  (1585)

Wilcox (1549-1608) was a reformed puritan.

** – “Very old.  the notes are brief, but furnish many hints for sermons.”  “Short, and somewhat in the manner of a paraphrase.  This venerable author gives a doctrinal summary of each verse, and from this we have frequently been directed to a subject of discourse.” – Spurgeon

Fenner, Dudley – The Song of Solomon, in Verse, with an Exposition  (1587)

Fenner was Reformed.

* – “Moody Stuart says: ‘This is a faithful and excellent translation, accompanied by an admirable exposition.  There is no poetry in it, but the renderings are often good, and the comment valuable.’  We have not met with it.” – Spurgeon



Clapham, Henoch – The Song of Songs Expounded  (1603)

Clapham (fl.1585-1614) was a puritan.

* – “Clapham was a voluminous author of very remarkable attainments.  He wrote also on the first fourteen chapters of Genesis.  This work is rare as angel’s visits.” – Spurgeon

Dove, John – The Conversion of Solomon, a Direction to holiness of Life; handled by way of Commentary upon the Whole Book of Canticles  (1613)

Dove (†1618) was a Reformed Anglican.

* – “A quaint old work.  The student will do better with the moderns.  Moreover, this Dove is rare, and seldom lights on poor men’s shelves.” – Spurgeon

Finch, Henry – An Exposition of the Song of Solomon: called Canticles, together with profitable observations collected out of the same  1615

This commentary was published by the Westminster divine, William Gouge.

Guild, William – Love’s Intercourse Between the Lamb & his Bride, Christ & his Church.  Or, A Clear Explication & Application of the Song of Solomon  1657

** – ‘A rare old work: but we prefer Durham.  The author was one of the better sort of the Scotch Episcopalians.’  – Spurgeon

Hall, Joseph – An Open and Plain Paraphrase upon the Song of Songs  1609  in Salomon’s Divine Arts

Hildersham, Arthur – The Canticles, or Song of Solomon Paraphrased and Explained by Diverse Other Texts of Scriptures, Very Useful  GB  †1632  99 pp. with an edition of the Song in verse appended

Homes, Nathaniel – A Commentary on the Canticles  (1652)

Holmes (1599-1678) was a puritan.

** – “This goes to the very marrow of spiritual teaching, and uses every word and syllable in a deeply experimental manner with great unction and power.  Homes, however, spiritualizes too much, and is both too luscious in expression and too prolix for these degenerate days.” – Spurgeon

Jackson, Arthur – Annotations upon Job, the Psalms, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & the Song of Solomon  (1658)

“In 1653, Arthur Jackson, Preacher of God’s Word in Wood Street, London, issued four volumes upon the Old Testament, which appear to have been the result of his pulpit expositions to his people.  Valuable his works would be if there were no better, but they are not comparable to others already and afterwards mentioned.  You can do without him, but he is a reputable author.” – Spurgeon

Leigh, Edward – Annotations on Five Poetical Books of the Old Testament: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Canticles  (1657)

**  ‘Good, brief notes.  Antique, but still prized.’ – Spurgeon

Robotham, John – An Exposition on the Whole Book of Solomon’s Song; Commonly Called the Canticles  (1652)

** – “Very solid; but not to be compared with Durham.  It is just a little dull and common place.”


Popular, Brief & Devotional


Avrillon, John Baptist Elias – The Year of Affections; or, Sentiments on the Love of God, drawn from the Canticles for every day of the year  (†1729; rep. 1847)

** – “One of the series of Romish authors, issued by Dr. [E.B.] Pusey [a high-church Anglican].  It is a deeply spiritual work, after the manner of the mystics.  It might have been written by Madame Guyon [a medieval mystic].  Despite its occasional Popery and sacramentarianism, it contains much choice devotional matter.” – Spurgeon



Bush, Joseph – The Canticles of the Song of Solomon: a Metrical Paraphrase with Explanatory Notes & Practical Comments  (1867)

The author splits the Song of Solomon into 12 canticles.  He cycles through each one first with a sketch of each canticle, then he gives the KJV and RSV versions, and then his own poetic paraphrase (non-metrical), then explanatory notes and lastly practical comments.  The first poetic paraphrase starts on p. 21.

** – “A good compilation, with a helpful translation.  For popular use.” – Spurgeon

Miller, Andrew – Meditations on the Song of Solomon  n.d. late-1800’s

**  “First published in the Plymouthite magazine, ‘Things New and Old’.  Devotional, and glowing with the light of fellowship with Jesus.” – Spurgeon

Newton, Adelaide – The Song of Solomon Compared with other Parts of Scripture  (1871)

**  “Miss Newton’s book is very dear to spiritual minds; it is full of that quiet power which comes from the Spirit of God through deep experience and precious fellowship with the Well-beloved.” – Spurgeon

Taylor, James Hudson – Union and Communion: or Thoughts on the Song of Solomon  (1893)

Wright, M. – The Beauty of the Word in the Song of Solomon  (1872)

**  “A purely spiritual commentary, casting no light upon the text, but drawing much from it.  More devotional than expository.  The figures of the allegory are pressed as far as they should be, perhaps further.” – Spurgeon



Vos, Johannes – ‘The Song of Solomon’  in The Biblical Expositor: The Living Theme of the Great Book with General & Introductory Essays & Exposition  1 vol. ed.  Buy  (1960; A.J. Holman, 1973)

This little known commentary set by leading evangelicals (many of which were reformed) is brief (think airplane view) but helpful.

Hamilton, Jr., James M. – Song of Songs: A Biblical-Theological, Allegorical, Christological Interpretation  Focus on the Bible Series  Buy  (Christian Focus, 2015)  160 pp.

“This beautifully written book of sound, Christ-centered biblical exposition and skillful personal application, will not only strengthen and heal many marriages, but will also draw many Christians into a deeper appreciation and enjoyment of their marriage to Christ.  Unlike most books on the Song of Songs, this one will make you sing!” – David Murray, professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary


Since 2000

Clark, Stephen – As Good as It Gets: Love, Life, and Relationships: Fifty Days in The Song of Songs  Buy  (2010)  332 pp.



Anonymous – Reflections on Canticles; or the Song of Solomon with Illustrations from Modern Travellers and Naturalists  (1870)

**  “Has much sweetness, and a fair measure of freshness.” – Spurgeon

Fry, John – Canticles, or The Song of Solomon; a New Translation with Notes, and an Attempt to Interpret the Sacred Allegories  1811

** – “Fry’s work may be called the supplement and complement of Dr. [John Mason] Good’s [below].  He divides the Songs into idyls, and gives notes in the same manner as Good; but he also plunges into the spiritual meaning of the blessed Song, and so far is to be preferred.” – Spurgeon

Good, John Mason – Song of Songs; or Sacred Idyls translated; with Notes, Critical and Explanatory  1803

*  “By a man of great learning.  It is not at all spiritual, or even expository, in the theological sense, but treats the Canticles as an Oriental drama, explaining its scenery and metaphors from a literary point of view.” – Spurgeon

Harmer, Thomas – The Outlines of a New Commentary on Solomon’s Song, drawn by the Help of Instructions from the East  d. 1788

Harmer was reformed.

** – “[Alexander] Moody Stuart: ‘This book is not well arranged, but is otherwise one of the most ingenious, modest, and interesting of all the treatises on the outward sense of the Song.'” – Spurgeon

Hodgson, Bernard – Solomon’s Song Translated from the Hebrew  Buy  Ref  (Clarendon Press, 1786)  66 pp.

**  “Moody Stuart says that this is ‘a good translation’, and therefore w suppose it is so, but we do not admire it.  It does not even refer to the mystical sense, and it mars the poetry of the Song.  Dr. Hodgson renders ch. 6:9: ‘My pigeon, my undefiled one.’  This is an alteration, but certainly not an emendation.  The name of the bride’s mother he discovers to have been Talmadni.  Wonderful!” – Spurgeon

Lange’s Commentary – Song of Solomon  by Otto Zockler

*** – ‘We cannot say that we admire Zockler’s interpretation of the Song of Solomon.  The volume contains much that we do not like, but its value is considerable.  It is a pity that the value of the volumes in this series varies so much.’ – Spurgeon

Noyes, George R. – A New Translation of the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & the Canticles, with Introductions & Notes, chiefly Explanatory  (1846)

**  “This author sees in the Canticles nothing but a collection of amatory songs, written without express moral or religious design.  Blind!” – Spurgeon

Weiss, Benjamin – The Song of Songs Unveiled: a New Translation & Exposition of the Song of Solomon  (1859)

Williams, Thomas – The Song of Songs, which is by Solomon, a New Translation, with a Commentary & Notes  (1801)

**  “This volume is little known, but its value is above the average of Canticles literature.  We have read many of the remarks with pleasure, but most of them are to be found in the standard commentaries.” – Spurgeon



Durell, David – Critical Remarks on the Books of Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes & Canticles  (1772)

Durell (1728–1775) was a somewhat liberal, Anglican O.T. scholar.

Ginsburg, Christian – The Song of Songs, translated with a Commentary Historical & Critical  (1857)  The commentary begins on p. 129, after the length introductory material.

Ginsburg (1831-1914) was a leading Christian Hebraicist of his day.

* – “Written upon an untenable theory, viz., that the Song is intended ‘to record an example of virtue in a young woman, who encountered and conquered the greatest temptations, and was eventually rewarded.’  This grovelling interpretation needed the aid of great liberties with the text, and a few interpolations, and the author has not hesitated to use them.  However learned the book may be, this vicious theory neutralizes all.” – Spurgeon

‘In spite of the fact that the writer never completed this work, and never had access to the materials from Ras Shamra, he has left for posterity a scholarly work which retains much of its original value and interest.’ – Cyril J. Barber

Green, William – ‘Song of Solomon’  in Green, The Poetical Parts of the Old Testament… Newly from the Hebrew, with Notes Critical & Explanatory  Ref  (1781)  This was not the late 1800’s William Henry Green of Princeton

*  “Critical only.  Orme says, ‘the translations are in general very accurate and elegent specimens of biblical interpretation.” – Spurgeon

Preston, Theodore – The Hebrew Text and a Latin Version of the Book of Solomon called Ecclesiastes, with Notes, philological and exegetical and a translation of the Commentary of Mendlessohn from the Rabbinic Hebrew  1853

Zuckler, Otto – Song of Solomon  (1898)  150 pp.   translated by William H. Green

The work is scholarly and is different that Zuckler’s contribution to the Lange Commentary above.  The Introduction to the book (37 pp.) is very valuable.  Green, who translated this piece from the German, was one of the most conservative Old Testament scholars of his day, being a professor at Old Princeton.

Zucker takes the view (which is recommended) that the song is typological: it is founded upon historical characters, but has the higher typical meaning of Christ’s love for his Church.

Spurgeon on Zuckler’s commentary on Job in Lange’s series:  *** – “Contains a large collection of available material, and, if within a minister’s means, should be a foundation book in his library.  We are very far from endorsing all Zuckler’s remarks, but the volume is an important one.” – Spurgeon



Prophetic-Historical Interpretations of the Song  (not recommended)


Beverley, Thomas –  An Exposition of the Divinely Prophetic Song of Songs which is Solomon’s, beginning with the Reign of David & Solomon, Ending in the Glorious Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, adjusted to the Expositor’s Line of Time, & Illustrating it & Composed into Verse  (1687)

* – “This maundering author finds in Canticles the history of the church from David to our Lord, and rhymes no end of rubbish thereon.  truly there is no end to the foolishness of expositors.  We suppose there must be a public for which they cater, and a very foolish public it must be.” – Spurgeon

Brayne, John – An Exposition upon the Canticles  (1651)

Brightman, Thomas – A Commentary on the Canticles or the Song of Solomon  (d. 1607)

* – “Brightman was a writer of high renown among the prophetic students of the seventeenth century.  With singular strength of the visionary faculties he sees in the Canticles ‘the whole condition of the church from the time of David, till time shall be no more.’  Expounding on this theory needs an acrobatic imagination.” – Spurgeon

Cotton, John – A Brief Exposition of Canticles, or, lively describing the estate of the Church in all the ages thereof, both Jewish and Christian, to this day  (1642)

* – “Cotton explains the sacred love-song historically, and misses much of its sweetness by so doing.  We should never care to read his exposition while Durham, and Gill, and Moody Stuart are to be had.” – Spurgeon



Davidson, William – A Brief Outline of an Examination of the Song of Solomon, in which Many Beautiful Prophecies contained in that Inspired Book of Holy Scripture are Considered and Explained, with Remarks Critical & Expository   (1817)

**  “A precious work by one whose heart is warm with the good matter.  He sees in the Song the history of the Church of Christ.” – Spurgeon

Stuart, Alexander Moody – The Song of Songs, an Exposition of the Song of Solomon  (1860)

Stuart was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.

*** – “Although this admirable author expounds the Song upon a theory which we do not quite endorse [prophetic-historical], we do not know where to find a book of equal value in all respects.  He has poetry in his soul, and, beyond that, a heart like that of Rutherford, fired with love to the Altogether Lovely One.  We thank him for this noble volume.” – Spurgeon



The Early Church on the Song

ed. Wright, J. Robert – Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon  Buy

Littledale, Richard – A Commentary on the Song of Songs from Ancient & Medieval Sources  (1849)

**  “Littledale is a close follower of John Mason Neale [see his work above under the section ‘On the Song Generally’], and here reproduces the beauties and the deformities of medieval spiritualizing.  Great judgment will be needed to extract the good and true from the mass of semi-popish comment here heaped together.  If discretion be used, jewels of silver and jewels of gold may be extracted.” – Spurgeon



The Medieval Church on the Song


Littledale, Richard – A Commentary on the Song of Songs from Ancient & Medieval Sources  (1849)

**  “Littledale is a close follower of John Mason Neale [see his work above under the section ‘On the Song Generally’], and here reproduces the beauties and the deformities of medieval spiritualizing.  Great judgment will be needed to extract the good and true from the mass of semi-popish comment here heaped together.  If discretion be used, jewels of silver and jewels of gold may be extracted.” – Spurgeon



Bernard of Clairvaux – Commentary on the Song of Songs  HTML  (†1153)

Anselm of Laon et al. – The Glossa Ordinaria on the Song of Songs  Buy  218 pp.

Anselm draws “…from earlier commentaries by Origen, Gregory the Great, Bede, Alcuin, Hrabanus Maurus, Haimo of Auxerre, and Robert of Tombelaine as well as contributing his own readings of the text.”



Jewish, Medieval Commentaries on the Song

Ibn Ezra, Abraham – Commentary on the Canticles, after the First Recension

Ibn Ezra (1089–1167)

* – “The original Hebrew of the Song, with a Jewish comment, which conveys but little instruction.  In this small book the student will have a specimen of Jewish exposition.” – Spurgeon

Ezra ben Solomon of Gerona – Commentary on the Song of Songs: & Other Kabbalistic Commentaries  Buy

“The commentary of Rabbi Ezra ben Solomon of Gerona (d. ca. 1245) on the Song of Songs is one of the most important texts of the first clearly identified circle of Kabbalists, those operating in the Catalonian town of Gerona at the middle of the thirteenth century.”



On the Song Generally

Godet, Frederic – ‘The Song of Songs’  in Studies in the Old Testament  (1882), pp. 242-331

Hengstenberg, E.W. – Prolegomena to the Song of Solomon  (1860)  36 pp.

*** – “Scholarly of course, and also more vivacious than is usual with Hengstenberg.” – Spurgeon



Portions Throughout the Song of Solomon


Gifford, George – Fifteen Sermons upon the Song of Solomon  Ref  (Man, 1598)

Gifford (†1600) was a Reformed puritan.

** – “We have several times met with this writer’s name coupled with that of Brightman as in his day regarded as a very learned writer, but we cannot procure his work.  Possibly some reader of this catalogue may yet present us with it.  We beg to assure him of the gratitude which we already feel, in the form of ‘a lively sense of favors to come’.” – Spurgeon

Rutherford, Samuel

Communion Sermons  Buy

Sermon 14  on Song 2:8-12

Sermon 11  on Song 2:14, 17

Sermon 9  on Song 5:1-2

Sermon 12, ‘Christ’s Love & Loveliness’

Quaint Sermons  Buy  (†1661)

‘The Spouse’s Longing for Christ’ on Song 5:3-6

‘The Church Seeking her Lord’  on Song 5:7-10



Edwards, Jonathan – Solomon’s Song, pp. 753-57  in Notes on the Bible  in Select Works, vol. 2

Edward (d. 1758) was a New England puritan.

These are meditations and thoughts on various texts throughout the Bible written in Edwards’ spare hours.

Romaine, William – Discourses upon Solomon’s Song  (1789)

**  “Twelve excellent sermons from verses taken out of the Song.  They do not summarize the book, nor form a commentary, but are simply a selection of spiritual discourses by one of the most eminent Calvinistic divines of the last century.” – Spurgeon



Kitto, John – Daily Bible Illustrations: being Original Readings for a Year, on subjects relating to Sacred History, Biography, Geography, Antiquities and Theology, vol. 5 (Job-Song) pp. 381-419

***  ‘Worthy of attentive reading’  ‘They are not exactly a commentary, but what marvelous expositions you have there!  You have reading more interesting than any novel that was ever written, and as instructive as the heaviest theology.  The matter is quite attractive and fascinating, and yet so weighty, that the man who shall study those eight volumes thoroughly, will not fail to read his Bible intelligently and with growing interest.’ – Spurgeon

Krummacher, F.W. – Solomon and the Shulamite; Sermons on the Book of Canticles  (1838)  176 pp., 15 sermons throughout the Song

** – “Touches upon only a few portions.  Short and sweet.” – Spurgeon

Neale, John Mason – Sermons on the Canticles, preached in a Religious House, by a priest of the Church of England  (1857)

**  “By that highest of high churchmen, Dr. Neale.  These sermons smell of Popery, yet the savor of our Lord’s good ointment cannot be hid.  Our Protestantism is not of so questionable a character that we are afraid to do justice to Papists and Anglicans, and therefore we do not hesitate to say that many a devout thought has come to us while reading these ‘sermons by a Priest of the Church of England’.” – Spurgeon



On Chapters in the Song


Chapters 1-3

Collinges, John – The Intercourses of Divine Love Betwixt Christ & his Church, or, The Particular Believing Soul Metaphorically Expressed by Solomon in the First Chapter of the Canticles  63 sermons, 909 pp.  Collinges also had a similar commentary on ch. 2 of the Song, but it does not appear to be online.

*** – ‘Who can pretend to biblical learning who has not made himself familiar with the great writers who spent a life in explaining some one sacred book?… Collinges, with his nine hundred and nine pages upon one chapter of the Song, will not be too full for the preacher’s use.’

‘Nine hundred and nine quarto pages upon one chapter is more than enough.  The materials are gathered from many sources and make up a mass of wealth.  On the second chapter there are five hundred and thirty pages.  It would try the constitutions of many modern divines to read what these Puritans found it a pleasure to write.  When shall we see their like?’ – Spurgeon

Knollys, Hanserd – An Exposition of the First Chapter of the Song of Solomon. Wherein the text is analysed, the allegories are explained, and the hidden mysteries are unveiled according to the proportion of faith: With spiritual Meditations upon Every Verse  (London, 1656)

Knollys (1599?-1691) was a baptist.

Pack, Samuel – An Exposition upon the First Chapter of the Song of Songs, Handled by Way of Question & Answer for the Information of the Weakest Understanding  (London, 1691)

Pack was an English minister in Kent.

Moore, Daniel – Christ & his Church.  A Course of Lent Lectures on the Song of Solomon  (1875)

*** – “These lectures treat upon the first chapter only, but they do so in an admirable manner.  Moore has evangelized [R.F.] Littledale.” – Spurgeon

M’Cheyne, Robert M. – ‘The Voice of My Beloved’ on Song 2:8-17  in The Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, pp. 480-89

Beza, Theodore – Sermons upon the Three First chapters of the Canticle of Canticles: wherein are handled the chiefest points of religion controversed and debated between us and the adversary at this day, especially touching the true Jesus Christ and the true church, and the certain and infallible marks both of the one and of the other  ToC  (1587)

*** – “These thirty-one sermons are a well of instruction, very precious and refreshing.  The unabbreviated title indicates a controversial use of the Song, and we were therefore prepared to lament the invasion of the dove’s nest of the Canticles by the eagle of debate; but we were agreeably disappointed, for we found much less of argument, and much more of the Well-Beloved than we looked for.” – Spurgeon



Chapters 4-6

Sibbes, Richard – Bowels Opened; or a Discovery of the Near & Dear Love, Union & Communion Betwixt Christ & the Church.  Sermons on Canticles chs. 4:16-6:3  EEBO  (1639)

“Nowhere was the epithet ‘mellifluous’ more appropriate than in Sibbes’s series of twenty sermons on the fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters of the Song of Solomon.” – Hughes Oliphant Old

‘Mellifluous’: a voice or words that are sweet or musical; pleasant to hear.  From the Latin ‘mel’: honey; ‘fluere’: to flow.

*** – “Sibbes never writes ill.  His repute is such that we need only mention him.  His title is most unfortunate, but in all else his ‘Discovery’ is worthy of our commendation.” – Spurgeon

Power, Philip B. – Failure & Discipline: Thoughts on Canticles, ch. 5  (1857)

** – “Upon the fifth chapter only.  Mr. Power always writes attractively.  His book is ‘linked sweetness,’ but not ‘long drawn out’.” – Spurgeon

M’Cheyne, Robert M. – ‘I Sleep, but my Heart Waketh’ on Song 5:2-16  in Sermons of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, pp. 340 ff.



Chapter 5

Andrewes, Bartimaeus – Certain Very Worthy, Godly & Profitable Sermons upon the Fifth Chapter of the Songs of Solomon [& 6:1-2]  (London, 1583)

Bartimaeus (c.1550-1616) was a puritan.

Bradshaw, James – The Sleepy Spouse of Christ Alarmed, or a Warning to Beware of Drowsiness when Christ Calls lest He Withdraw in a Discontent, being the Sum of Some Sermons upon Cant. 5th, and the Beginning  (London, 1667)  Preface by Nathaniel Vincent

Bradshaw (1636?-1702) was an ejected English puritan who later accepted the 2nd Indulgence.  On occasion he would have a neighboring clergyman preach in his chapel, who would read the Anglican Prayer Book.  When the episcopal visitations made their rounds to his chapel and asked him, ‘Have you common prayer read yearly in your chapel?’, he would hence say ‘yes’.  John Pearson, the bishop of Chester, would not sustain informations against peaceable ministers, so Bradshaw was not disturbed.



The Song of Solomon & Paraphrases thereon in Poetry

The Song of Solomon in Poetry  25

Some of the paraphrase versions are virtually an interpretative commentary.



Paraphrases of the Song

More paraphrases, with expositions, are above.


Whole Book

Ager, Thomas – A Paraphrase on the Canticles, or Song of Solomon, by the late learned and pious Protestant, Thomas Ager  (London, 1680)


Chs. 1-3

Jordan, Joshua – The Church’s Ardent Love to Christ, being a Paraphrase on Cant. 1, 2, 3  (London, 1687)



Paraphrastic Expositions of the Song in Poetry

Anonymous – Metrical Meditations on the Canticles  2nd ed.  Ref  (London: Wertheim and MacIntosh, 1856)

*** – “Exceedingly well rendered: noteworthy both from a literary and religious point of view.  The author seizes the meaning of the Song, and repeats it in well-chosen words.” – Spurgeon

Irons, Joseph – Nymphas.  Bride and Bridegroom Communing.  A Paraphrastic Exposition of the Song of Solomon in Blank Verse  (1841)

Irons (1786-1852) was a Calvinistic congregational minister in London who wrote numerous poetic works and hymns.

*** – “Outside his own circle we fear that this work by the late Joseph Irons is little known.  It is a paraphrase in blank verse [poetry without rhymes], rendered in a very spiritual manner.  We confess that we look upon the little book with admiring eyes, though we know that the critics will sneer both at us and it.” – Spurgeon



The Authenticity of the Song of Solomon

Fuller, Andrew – Letter 5, ‘On the Canonicalness of Solomon’s Song’  in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (London, 1846), pp. 899-901

Keil & Delitzsch – Introduction, pp. 11-15  in Commentary on The Song of Solomon.  See the rest of the Introduction as well.




Related Pages

Whole Bible Commentaries

Old Testament Commentaries

New Testament Commentaries