Q - Does the verse in Song of Solomon 5:16 contain the name of the Islamic prophet Muhammad?
A – No, it does not. In Song of Solomon 5:16, the maiden says of her lover, "His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, this is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem." The word translated as "lovely" is the Hebrew word ‘machamadim’. It is the plural of ‘machamad’, which means “lovely, cute, or desirable.” Although it is the root word of Muhammad, it does not follow that the verse refers to Muhammad, especially since the word used is a plural adjective, not the name of a person.
Q – Is the Muslim understanding of Song of Solomon 5:16 based on exegesis or eisegeis?
The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?
Eisegesis involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to the interpreter’s ideas.
A – It is based on eisegesis. One reason is that the Muslim interpretation fails to adhere to the rules of grammar. It fails the literal principle because it tries to spiritualize or allegorize words that literally mean “lovely, cute, or desirable.” It also fails the historical principle because it interprets Hebrew Scripture according to a modern culture/religion rather than placing scripture in its historical context. Finally, the Muslim interpretation of this Bible verse fails the “Synthesis Principle” of good exegesis:
The best interpreter of scripture is scripture itself. We must examine a passage in relation to its immediate context (the verses surrounding it), its wider context (the book it’s found in), and its complete context (the Bible as a whole). The Bible does not contradict itself. Any theological statement in one verse can and should be harmonized with theological statements in other parts of scripture. Good Bible interpretation relates any one passage to the total content of scripture.
Biblical exegesis does not support the Muslim interpretation of Song of Solomon 5:16.