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I'd like to find some good commentaries, preferably very old, on Song of Solomon that aren't focused on allegorical interpretations of it. What are some top titles in this area?

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    דעת מקרא by mosdot harav kook should satisfy you. – Bach Jul 18 '17 at 15:19
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Some old non-allegorical commentaries on Shir HaShirim:

  • Rashbam's commentary (translation) separates the allegorical and non-allegorical comments.
  • R' Avraham ibn Ezra wrote his commentary in three levels: one lexical, one non-allegorical, and one allegorical.
  • There are two anonymous commentaries here given under the headings פירוש מחכמי צרפת that are non-allegorical.
  • There is a commentary attributed to R' Yosef Kara here that is mostly non-allegorical.
  • thanks for the links! excellent answer. are you aware of english translations for any of these? my medieval hebrew is a bit rusty ... – Walrus the Cat Nov 27 '17 at 20:47
  • @Walrus I added a link to a translation of Rashbam's commentary, and the link for ibn Ezra's commentary already has translation (the second half of the PDF). I don't have translations of the others. – magicker72 Nov 27 '17 at 20:51
  • @magicker72 -- According to Sara Japhet, Rashbam did regard Shir HaShirim as an allegory (see his comment on v 1). See part III of her article 'Rashi's Commentary on the Song of Songs: The Revolution of Peshat and Its Aftermath':www.lineas.cchs.csic.es/.../Japhet-Rashi's%20Commentary.p... – Clifford Durousseau Nov 27 '17 at 20:59
  • @CliffordDurousseau thanks for the link! seems to be truncated? – Walrus the Cat Nov 28 '17 at 2:56
  • @WalrustheCat See here for the link. But just reading Rashbam's commentary, you'll see the allegory mentioned. – magicker72 Nov 28 '17 at 3:21
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Malbim's commentary consists of two columns: a nuanced non-allegorical commentary (a shepherd girl who's been snatched away from her lover and told to live an a palace), and an allegorical interpretation (the soul keeps trying to reach back to God). You could just read the first column.

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The Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906) says:'The literal interpretation of the poem as simply a eulogy of married love had its representatives in early times (Theodore of Mopsuestia, and, to some extent, Abraham ibn Ezra*), and, in the renaissance of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was maintained by Grotius, Clericus, and others; but it is only in the last hundred years that this interpretation has practically ousted the allegorical. The Song is now taken, almost universally, to be the celebration of a marriage, there being, in fact, no hint of allegory in the text.'

In addition to the commentary by Joel Lowe and Aaron Wolfson in the translation by Moses Mendelsohn in the 18th century and the commentary by Heinrich Graetz in the 19th century, the commentary by Michael V. Fox, The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs (1985) might be something you would want to investigate. See also J. Klein, M. Fox, The Song of Songs in: The Biblical World Encyclopedia, Jerusalem, 1987. Fox authored The JPS Bible Commentary: Ecclesiastes (2004) and the two-volume one on Proverbs (2000, 2009) in The Anchor Yale Bible.

In The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition (2014), Elsie Stern provides concise plain sense annotations from a woman's point of view. Rabbi Benjamin Segal, former president of Schecter Institute in Jerusalem, in The Song of Songs: A Woman in Love (2009) also highlights the female voice in the poem.** (For an excellent review, see online Diane Cole: 'Bible's Song of Songs--Still Love's Anthem,' Jewish Journal [November 23, 2010]). Along this line of interpretation is Chana & Ariel Bloch, The Song of Songs: The World's First Great Love Poem (Modern Library Classics).


*Sara Japhet in 'Rashi's Commentary on the Song of Songs: The Revolution of Peshat and Its Aftermath' (online) reports that there were two anonymous commentaries which were exclusively non-allegorical written around ibn Ezra's time. She and B. D. Walfish have translated one of these under the title The Way of Lovers: The Oxford Anonymous Commentary on the Song of Songs (Bodleian Library, MS Opp 625). See: https://www.amazon.com/Way-Lovers.../dp/9004343199.

**Segal in his bibliography lists two leading non-Jewish, non-allegorical, modern commentaries, which he consulted and used, the one by Marvin H. Pope in The Anchor Yale Bible (1977) and the one by Roland E. Murphy in Hermeneia (1990). In this category is the more recent commentary from a woman's point of view by J. Cheryl Exum, The Song of Songs: A Commentary (2005).

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