The Song of Songs (Shir ha-Shirim), sometimes referred to as the Song of Solomon or Canticles, is arguably one of the most beloved and probably one of the most controversial sections of the Hebrew Bible. The romantic dialogues and erotic images of the text are literarily compelling and theologically challenging.
Michael Fishbane applies his tremendous scholarly knowledge and deft control of language to presenting this piece of Scripture as it was understood, interpreted, and appropriated over generations of Jewish culture. The original text, in Hebrew and English translation, occupies fourteen pages of a volume more than 300 pages long. An extensive introduction discusses the linguistic and cultural dimensions of Song of Songs, and an excursus of similar length unfolds the exegetical history of the biblical book from Late Antiquity to the twentieth century. The central feature of the volume is the commentary itself, which is anthologized from dozens of Jewish interpretations.
The density of this commentary is immediately apparent. Fishbane adopted the famous fourfold scheme of Jewish exegesis, dividing his comments into Peshat, Derash, Remez, and Sod. Peshat, the “simple” meaning, focuses on individual words and includes textual and linguistic dimensions. Derash reflects the concerns of the Midrash literature, which generally interpreted the romance of Song of Songs as a metaphor for the relationship between God and the Jewish people. Remez follows the philosophical tradition in Jewish exegesis, reading the verses as a description of the intellectual soul’s quest for enlightenment, and Sod similarly seeks traces of the mystical search for contact with the Divinity. This multilayered commentary makes for an absorbing, enriching and satisfying immersion in this endlessly fascinating Song.