Social Elements and the Meaning of the Nuptial Union in the Song of Songs

Doctoral Dissertation


The study summarizes in chapter 1 the various interpretive perspectives on the meaning of the Song, noting especially the modern trajectories of naturalistic and desacralizing readings on the one hand, and, eros-centered readings, which spiritualize the Song as a space for unending erotic interplay, on the other. Chapter two advances with a commentary which tracks two categories of elements, the social fabric, and the moves of love—longing and union in the Song.Developing from the commentary, in chapter three, the social elements are discussed in detail, in terms of their extensive permeation of and contribution to the Song. Through focusing on the occurrences of eight categories of social features, it becomes clear that the social context is a continual presence in the Song. The weaving of the couple into the social fabric indicates that, rather than ornamental to the ‘real’ subject of the Song, these features are constitutive for their roles.

In chapter 4 the question of the structure of the Song is treated, with the function of social features in view. The chapter begins with a sketch of scholarly perspectives on the Song’s structure, and proposes a schema derived from the findings of the commentary. Though quite simple and informal, this structure is observable and reinforced by content and poetic underlining in the form of refrains and strategic repetitions of images to link content across the Song. Most distinct in the structure is a broadly concentric ring structure that centers around the nuptial unit and its flanking scenes of night-searches. The relationship of content and form in the Song arises out of the integration of social features and the moves of love, as unpacked in the chapter.

The conclusion of the dissertation reflects on the Song as a work which joins the social and erotic dimensions of human coupling. The Song exults in nuptial union broadly understood; singing not only of physical love and contractual bonds, but the whole institutional fabric within the scope of family, marriage and community. With poetic mastery and subtlety, the Song casts this social content within Israel’s covenantal framework.


Attribute NameValues
Author Elizabeth E. Clemmons
Contributor Gary A. Anderson, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2019-06-25

Submission Date 2019-07-08
  • Song of Songs

  • Marriage in the Old Testament

  • Social aspects

  • theological interpretation

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units
Catalog Record


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