The Passionate Prince: A Pastoral Exposition of the Song of Solomon

The Passionate Prince: A Pastoral Exposition of the Song of Solomon

by David Balsley
Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press (2015)
$13.95 Paper; $4.99 Kindle

It is always a special privilege to review a book written by a Western Seminary alum who was also a classmate at Western during the early 1970s. Dave Balsley and I became good friends as a result of a Day of Prayer when we found ourselves in a prayer group together. It was such a productive time, we met together for the next two years for sharing and prayer. Dave was pastoring a small community church and invited me to a Sunday evening Bible Study on the Song of Solomon. There I was introduced to an interpretation of Solomon’s “most excellent of songs” which was different from the viewpoint I had been taught. Dave continued to work on this study over his years of pastoral ministry and recently published his exposition of this intriguing text.

The Passionate Prince begins with an introductory study of authorship and canonicity where Balsley addresses these important questions. He then turns his attention to the issue of interpretation. He discusses the allegorical, literal, and typical (didactic moral) understandings of the book, eventually commending the literal approach.

According to Balsley, both the allegorical and didactic interpretations “leave far too much to individual speculation” and the sensual language of the book “seems far too graphic to be a fitting description of the Lord’s love for either His chosen people of Israel or the church as the bride of Christ.” He believes that the message of the Song centers around “the beauty and divine approval of human physical love and around the virtue of monogamous marriage.”

Balsley treats questions about the literal interpretation carefully. He addresses the question of why a book about the beauty of love in marriage is of sufficient importance to be included in the canon. He also addresses the issue of how Solomon, with multiple wives would commend such a high view of love for a single woman.

Continuing with introductory issues, Balsley considers the organization of the book. He explains and evaluates the various views and concludes that the book contains “a dramatic unfolding of the love relationship between Solomon and a young Jewess from the northern regions of his kingdom.” And although Solomon already had many wives by the time he wrote the song, he apparently experienced “the most satisfying and romantic” relationship with the Shulammite.

The rest of the book contains Balsley’s commentary on the text with helpful, pastoral application. He gives careful attention to important Hebrew words and significant grammatical features, but doesn’t overwhelm the reader with cumbersome exegetical details. He is careful with the poetic imagery and explains the literal meaning of these figures. While Balsely is forthright in explaining the text and commending the beauty and purity of physical (sensual) love in marriage, he doesn’t indulge the reader with speculation over what the more erotic references may represent. There is no discussion of erections, ejaculation or oral sex. This is a book I could commend to my mother and married daughters.

The book is very reasonably priced ($13.95 on Amazon) and is available on Kindle for just $4.99. I found Balsely’s book to be a careful and insightful exposition of the Song of Solomon and will be recommending it to my students.

About J. Carl Laney

J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Discipleship: Training from the Master Disciple Maker” (2018).

1 thought on “The Passionate Prince: A Pastoral Exposition of the Song of Solomon

  1. I always enjoy Carl’s thoughtful, thorough and easy to understand posts and this book review of “The Passionate Prince: A Pastoral Exposition of the Song of Solomon” by David Balsley is no exception.

    I have known Carl as a teacher and more importantly as a friend. He and his wife Nancy not only talk the talk but they walk the talk as they live it out everyday.

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