George Burrowes on the Song of Solomon

One of the best 19th century American commentaries written on the Song of Solomon is that by George Burrowes (1811-1894). Previously, he had published an article on the SoS, which appeared in an 1849 issue of The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review.

In that article he sets forth the high and majestic place the SoS has within the scope of God's Word: 

"The gospels furnish the life of God manifest in flesh; the epistle to the Hebrews opens the doctrine of atonement as vicarious and possessing infinite value from the divine nature of Him who suffered; Proverbs embody the practical duties of daily life; the Psalms are the pious heart's language of devotion, the song is its language of love."

As Thomas Hooker once wrote, "The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves, he dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes, museth on her as he sits at table, walks with her when he travels and parlies with her in each place where he comes."

And so, Burrowes speaks of meditating on this Song, a song of love between Christ and the believer, making a point worthy of consideration for the Christian who thus muses: "We have deemed it more profitable and natural in meditating on this book, to view the bride as the representative of the individual believer rather than of the whole church. As the church is a collection of individuals, its state must be that of the members composing it; and no distinction can be drawn between the love of Jesus for the collective body and his love for the several persons constituting the whole mass."

Moving from the 1849 article to the 1853 commentary, Burrowes sets forth his goal therein: "In the exposition, the aim has been to unfold the truth, in the way supposed the most desirable to a soul animated with fervent love for the Lord Jesus, and craving the hidden manna which the Holy Spirit has lodged in this precious portion of the Scriptures. The heart hungering and thirsting for righteousness, does not rest satisfied with the stalk and husks, but is anxious for the luscious kernel, of these fruits of eternal life. As here viewed, the Song is a continuous and coherent whole, illustrating some of the most exalted and delightful exercises of the believing heart" (pp. 7-8).

Burrowes has read the wide spectrum of commentators and their opinions about the SoS. In the introduction, he makes the case that the Song is an allegory representing Christ and the believer: "It is an allegorical illustration of the operations of love in the bosom of the saint and of the Redeemer” (p. 32).

The expressions of spiritual longing and delight found in this remarkable Song are in these works studied and mused upon by a gifted scholar, who very clearly understands the language of love. Thus, "When we are anxious to hear from the lips of Jesus the fulness of his love to us, here do we rejoice to sit and listen" (p. 24). Let Burrowes be your guide, dear Christian, as you take up this precious Song, in your study, meditation, and delight, to the glory of our Redeemer.