Archaeology and the date of Song of Songs (Song of Solomon 8)

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Illustration: Artistic interpretation of Song of Songs

Today many scholars consider the Song of Songs to have been written during the post-exilic era, in spite of the fact that the “official” title of the book “Solomon’s Song of Songs” (Song of Solomon 1:1) associates it with the time of Solomon. Archaeology, however, has provided several good reasons for believing that the Song was indeed written early, in or around the tenth century B.C.

  • Archaeological data from this period indicates that this was a time during which Israel was under strong central authority, as the Bible suggests. Many scholars deny that there ever was a great kingdom of David and Solomon; indeed, some go so far as to theorize that these men were legendary rather than historical. Obviously, if there were no Solomonic kingdom, we could not posit that the Dong was written during the Solomonic period. However, archaeology does support the Biblical portrait of Solomon’s times. According to 1 Kings 9:15 Solomon did indeed build the temple, his own palace, atructure called the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem, as well as the cities Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. The temple and palace of Solomon are lost, and the location of his Millo is subject to debate, but archaeology confirms that every aspect of Solomon’s temple, as described in the Bible, conforms to what we know of other temples from this time and region. The cities of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer have been excavated and found to have similar systems of fortification and gateways that date from the time of Solomn, suggesting that they were constructed by royal engineers who worked from a common blueprint.
  • Oftentimes great literature flourishes during a eriod of national power and prosperity (e.g. Virgil wrote Aeneid at one of the high points of Roman history, the Augustan Age). Thus the association of the Song of Songs with Solomon’s era makes sense.
  • During the latter part of the second millennium B.C. a distinctive style of love poetry flourished in Egypt, in some ways stikingly similar to the Song of Songs. Although the message of the Song is different from that of the Egyptian material, it is clear that the Hebrew poetry uses some of the same literary conventions as that of the Egyptian poetry. 1 Kings 9:16 indicates that Solomon, having married an Egyptian princess, had good relations with Egypt. It is reasonable to assume that this was a time of close communication and commerce between the two nations. Thus the Solomonic era is the very time at which we could most plausibly suggest that Egyptian love poetry came to bev read and appreciated in the royal court of Israel.
  • Song of Solomon 6:4 indicates that the time this poem was written Jerusalem and Tirzah were the two most significant cities in Israel. Tirzah (located in the north at Tell el-Farah) was a great city in the northern part of Israel during Solomon’s day. After the kingdom split in two it became the capital of the northern kingdom under Jeroboam I and remained so until Omri (reigned ca. 885-874 B.C.) built Samaria. Thereafter it declined, and by the post-exilic period it had ceased to exist. It is unreasonable to argue that a poet of the post-exilic world would have paired Jerusalem with Tirzah, which at the time was nothing more than an abandoned mound. However, it is entirely reasonable that a poet from the tenth century B.C. would have treated Tirzah as Jerusalem’s counterpart and equal.

 

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