8. The order of the book is difficult to explain. Yet some method is shown by Sanchez, Broughton, Lyra. There are two parts: I. The desire for the arrival of the Bridegroom (Song of Songs 1:1-4). II. Conversations between the Bridegroom and the Bride concerning their mutual love, grace and charms, and cases joyful and adverse, unto the time of the coming of the Bridegroom for marriage (Song of Songs 1:5-8:14). A Synoptic Table of the book, and its Interpreters, ancient, Reformed, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Hebrew.
To find the order and thread of the book is so difficult and encumbered, that the most learned interpreters already of old have despaired of finding it, oft repeating that the order of that sacred conversation is not even open to investigation, since order is never attended to among lovers, in which context to both all things please, in which error also and ignorance, even indeed their slips are dear, are laughed at, and please, and their eventual differences and sorrows, and, at length, their contentions give thorough pleasure, and are admitted lovingly. Nevertheless, some have attempted to search out some order. And the most learned Sanchez has indeed established that form is found here, observed in the nuptials, in which it is fitting that, before the solemn pomp, the Bride be called, and other invited to the wedding. The whole drama, as he calls it, is divided into five principal scenes, that is, 1. the calling forth of the Bride, Song of Songs 2, the desire of the same and invitation to companions, Song of Songs 5: 2. the sorrow of the Bride over the absence of the Bridegroom, after Song of Songs 6:3, compared with Song 1:2 etc.: 3. the celebration of the wedding, in which a ring is given to the Bride, and those things that make up a feast and cheer the guests are prepared; Song of Songs 2: 4. the arrangement of the Betrothed on a litter, that is, a noble and festive couch, and the leading of the marriage procession and march to the home of the Bridegroom, Song of Songs 3-8: 5. the leading of the Bride to the doors of the Bridegroom, where she hears connubial precepts, and, finally, marriage is entered upon in a holy and legitimate embrace, Song of Songs 8. But, that the substance is not narrated in the same order in which it was conducted, to savor of that very thing drama attempts, in which Aristotle, Horace, and other especially commend this, that a thing is not commemorated in its place. Which distribution we leave to the judgment of others, and that of Broughton, in which he asserts the legal state of the Church to be set forth in Song of Songs 1:1-4:5, and the Evangelical state in Song of Songs 4:6-8:14; and also that of Lyra, insisting that the times of the Old Testament are related in Song of Songs 1-6, and the times of the New in Song of Songs 7; 8, as perhaps more ingenious than solid. By us is not disapproved the division into two parts, the Former of which represents the desire of the coming of the Bridegroom (Song of Songs 1:1-4): the Latter the various speeches of the Bridegroom and the Bride, in which the mutual love, affection, admiration, and favorable and adverse cases, etc., are declared (Song of Songs 1:5-8:14). Which, solicitous over some sort of Mnemonic Analysis here, rather than an explication of the Prophetic letter, we are pleased to describe now in a few words.
I. The desire of the coming of the Bridegroom, Chapter 1:1-4. In which the Church, seized with zeal for the Bridegroom, desires His embrace, extols His name, and vows that she is going to praise Him (verses 1-4): chapter 1:1-4.
II. The Dialogues between the Bridegroom and the Bride, concerning their mutual love, goodwill and charms, and favorable and adverse causes, unto the time of the coming of the Bridegroom to the wedding, Chapters 1:5-8:14. See:
1. The mutual speeches of the Bridegroom and the Bride concerning the advent of Christ in the flesh, and the preaching of the same among the nations: chapters 1; 2. In which:
a. The Bride cleanses herself of baseness, and calls the bridegroom (verses 5-7): the Bridegroom instructs the commended Bride to seek and call to Christ the sheep and goats of God, with strength and His presence in adversities promised (verses 8-11): the faithful again applaud Christ, and rejoice in His charms (verses 12-14): finally, both, pouring forth their mutual affection, rejoice in the fruits of their mutual love (verses 15-17): chapter 1:5-17.
b. The Bride, confessing her infirmity (verse 1), and compared by the Bridegroom with a rose among thorns (verse 2), in turn praises the excellence of the Bridegroom (verse 3), and glories over the favor of Christ leading her into the house of wine (verses 4-6); the Bridegroom forbids that the Bride should be disturbed (verse 7): the Bride in turn commends the Bridegroom’s coming to her, her calling, and the promises made to her through the preaching of the Gospel (verse 8-13); the Bridegroom calls forth the hidden Bride, and commands that the foxes, or false brethren, be seized (verses 14, 15); finally, the Bride rejoices over her communion with the Bridegroom and the enlargement of His kingdom (verses 16, 17): chapter 2.
2. The speeches of the Bridegroom and the Bride, both concerning the afflictions and persecutions of the Church on account of the Bridegroom’s absence, and concerning the restoration of the same with the Bridegroom found again: chapters 3; 4. In which:
a. The Bride seeks the lost Bridegroom along the roads, and recovers Him (verses 1-4); the Bridegroom forbids the quiet of the same to be disturbed (verse 5); the Spectators prophesy the sufferings of the Bride, and the coronation of Christ as King through them (verses 6-11): chapter 3.
b. The Bridegroom in a variety of ways commends the Bride, patient because of His name, and trusting in His righteousness (verses 1-5), announces His departure to the mountain of myrrh (verse 6), summons the Bride to Himself (verses 7, 8), and again highly commends her (verses 9-15); and the Bride prays, the her garden might be blown upon by the breath of the Holy Spirit (verse 16): chapter 4.
3. The speeches of the Bridegroom and the Bride concerning various Ecclesiastical cases and events: chapter 5-8. In which:
a. The Bridegroom, invited into the garden of the Bride, comes, and testifies of the perceived fruit of the garden, and invites believers to a feast (verse 1): the Bride, bearing the departure of Christ from her received on account of her sins, seeks Him; but she does not find Him, and adjures the daughters of Jerusalem to seek the Bridegroom with her (verses 2-8); but the daughters of Jerusalem and the Bride take conference together concerning the Bridegroom and His departure (verses 9-16): chapter 5.
b. The Bride, answering concerning the departure of the Bridegroom, testifies, that He has not departed from her, but into the garden unto the plot of spices (verses 1, 2): the Bridegroom praise the Bride (verses 3-7), and sets over against her Queens and concubines, yet not at all beloved (verses 8, 9): the Spectators admire the Bride (verse 10); Christ, returning to His garden, calls the Shulamite back to Himself (verses 11-13): chapter 6.
c. The Bridegroom praise the form of the external members of the Bride, בַּת־נָדִיב, Bath-Nabid, Prince’s Daughter, or daughter of the Willing (verses 1-7); the Bride commemorates her effort concerning the climbing of the psalm, and His loss (verses 8-10), and invites the Bridegroom to go forth with her into the countryside that they might explore the vineyard together (verses 11-13): chapter 7.
d. The Bride asks the Bridegroom for the turning away of indignity, which she, kissing Him, endures (verse 1), and also for instruction (verse 2), and rejoices in the embrace of the Bridegroom (verse 3); the Bridegroom forbids the peace of the Bride to be disturbed (verse 4); the Spectators wonder at the faith of the Bride (verse 5); the Bride addresses Christ, awakened from sleep, and implore the Zeal of His love (verses 6, 7): adult believers deliberate over the edification of the little sister, or those more infirm (verses 8, 9); the little Sister rejoices that she is strengthened (verse 10): the Bridegroom testifies of his care of the vineyard (verses 11, 12), and addresses one sitting in the gardens (verse 13); and, finally, the Bride implores the swiftest possible coming of the Bridegroom unto the wedding now long desired (verse 14): chapter 8.