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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Song of Solomon 2



Verse 1


(1) The rose.—Heb., chabatseleth. The identification of this flower is a much vexed question. From its derivation, it should be a bulbous plant (batsal—a bulb), and it happens that the flower which for other reasons best satisfies the requirements is of this kind, viz., the Sweet-scented Narcissus (Narcissus tazetta). “Others have suggested the crocus, of which there are many species very common, but they are deficient in perfume, and there is no bulb more fragrant than the narcissus; it is, besides, one of which the Orientals arc passionately fond. While it is in flower it is to be seen in all the bazaars, and the men as well as the women always carry two or three blossoms, at which they are continually smelling” (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 477). Dr. Thomson prefers the mallow, from the fact that the Arabs call it khubbazey. In Isaiah 35:1, the only other place where chabatseleth occurs, the LXX., Vulg., and Chaldee render “lily,” and many eminent moderns “autumn crocus.” Here the LXX. and the Vulg. have flower.

Of Sharon.—Better, of the plain, as in the LXX. Here (as invariably except 1 Chronicles 5:16) the Hebrew has the article before sharon, but without definite local allusion to the district north of Philistia. The verse is by many taken as a snatch of a song into which the heroine breaks in answer to the eulogies on her beauty. It is certainly spoken with modest and lowly intention: “I am a mere flower of the plain, a lily of the valley;” by no means like Tennyson’s “Queen lily and rose in one.”

Lily.—So the LXX. and Vulg.; Heb., shôshanath (fem. of shôshan, or shûshan; comp. name Susan), a word occurring seven times in the poem, three times in 1 Kings 7, and in the headings to Psalms 45, 60, 69, 80. The Arabs have the word, and apply it to any brilliantly coloured flower, as the tulip, anemone, ranunculus. Although many plants of the lily tribe flourish in Palestine, none of them give a predominant character to the flora. There are, however, many other plants which would in popular language be called lilies. Of these, the Irises may claim the first mention; and Dr. Thomson (Land and Book, p. 256) unhesitatingly fixes on one, which he calls Huleh Lily, or the Lily of the Gospel and of the Song of Songs. “Our flower,” he says, “delights most in the valleys, but it is also found in the mountains. It grows among thorns, and I have sadly lacerated my hands while extricating it from them. . . . Gazelles still delight to feed among them, and you can scarcely ride through the woods north of Tabor, where these lilies abound, without frightening them from their flowery pasture.” Tristram, however, prefers the Anemone (A. coronaria), “the most gorgeously painted, the most conspicuous in spring, and the most universally spread of all the treasures of the Holy Land” (Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 464).

Verse 2

(2) Among the daughters—i.e., among other maidens.

Verse 3

(3) Apple tree.—So the LXX. and Vulg.; Heb., tappuach. Out of the six times that the word is used, four occur in this book, the other two being Proverbs 25:11—“apple of gold”—Joel 1:12, where it is joined with vine, fig, &c, as suffering from drought. It has been very variously identified. The quince, the citron, the apple, and the apricot have each had their advocates.

The apple may be set aside, because the Palestine fruit usually called the apple is really the quince, the climate being too hot for our apple. (But see Thornson, The Land and the Book, p. 546.) The requirements to be satisfied are (1) grateful shade, Song of Solomon 2:3; (2) agreeable taste, Song of Solomon 2:3-5; (3) sweet perfume, Song of Solomon 7:8; (4) golden appearance, Proverbs 25:11. The quince is preferred by many, as being by the ancients consecrated to love, but it does not satisfy (2), being astringent and unpleasant to the taste till cooked. The citron does not, according to Thomson and Tristram, satisfy (1); but according to Rev. W. Drake, in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, “it is a large and beautiful tree, gives a deep and refreshing shade, and is laden with golden-coloured fruit.” The apricot meets all the requirements, and is, with the exception of the fig, the most abundant fruit of the country. “In highlands and lowlands alike, by the shores of the Mediterranean and on the banks of the Jordan, in the nooks of Judiæa, under the heights of Lebanon, in the recesses of Galilee, and in the glades of Gilead, the apricot flourishes, and yields a crop of prodigious abundance. Many times have we pitched our tents in its shade, and spread our carpets secure from the rays of the sun. . . . There can scarcely be a more deliciously-perfumed fruit; and what can better fit the epithet of Solomon, ‘apples of gold in pictures of silver,’ than its golden fruit as its branches bend under the weight, in their setting of bright yet pale foliage?” (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 335).

Among the sons—i.e., among other young men.

Verse 4

(4) Banqueting house.—Marg., house of wine; not the cellar of the palace, nor the banqueting hall of Solomon, nor the vineyard, but simply the place of the delights of love. The comparison of love with wine Is still in the thought. (Comp. Tennyson’s “The new strong wine of love.”)

And his banner . . .—i.e., “and there I felt the sweet sense of a tender protecting love.”

Verse 5

(5) Flagons.—Heb., ashishôth, apparently a dried cake, but of what substance is uncertain. From the margin of Hosea 3:1, possibly “grape cakes.” In 2 Samuel 6:19 it occurs as one of the gifts distributed by David at the removal of the ark, and is rendered by the LXX., a cake from the frying-pan. Here the LXX. have sweet unguents, and the Vulg. flowers. The Authorised Version, flagons, follows a Rabbinical interpretation.

Comfort.—The margin, straw me with apples, follows the LXX.; the Hebrew word occurs in Job 17:3; Authorised Version, “make my bed”—Job 41:30 (Heb. 22). Authorised Version, “spreadeth.” Hence some translate here, “make me a bed of apple-leaves;” but the parallelism is against this, and the root idea in both the words translated “comfort” and “stay” is putting a prop or support under. Metaphorically = refresh or sustain.

Verse 7

(7) Roes.—Heb., tsebi, tsebiyah; undoubtedly the ghazal of the Arabs; the gazelle. (See 1 Chronicles 12:8.)

Hinds.—Heb., ayyalah. (See Genesis 49:21.) The LXX. strangely read, by the powers and virtues of the field.

My love.—Here almost certainly in the concrete, though there is no instance of such use except in this and the corresponding passages. The Authorised Version, “till he please,” is a mistake in grammar. Read, till she please. The poet imagines his beloved sleeping in his arms, and playfully bids her companions keep from intruding on her slumbers. This verse (which is repeated in Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4) marks natural breaks in the poem and adds to the dramatic effect. But there is no occasion to imagine a real stage, with actors grouped upon it. The “daughters of Jerusalem” are present only in the poet’s imagination. It is his manner to fancy the presence of spectators of his happiness and to call on outsiders to share his bliss (comp. Song of Solomon 3:11; Song of Solomon 5:16; Song of Solomon 6:13, &c), and it is on this imaginary theatre which his love conjures up that the curtain falls, here and in other places, on the union of the happy pair. Like Spenser, in his Epithalamium, this poet “unto himself alone will sing;” but he calls on all things bright and beautiful in the world of nature and man to help him to solemnise this joyful rite, and now the moment has come when he bids “the maids and young men cease to sing.”

Verse 8

(8) The voice of my beloved.—So here there is no need of the clumsy device of supposing the heroine in a dream. This most exquisite morsel of the whole poem falls quite naturally into its place if we regard it as a sweet recollection of the poet’s, put into the mouth of the object of his affections. “The voice” (Heb., kôl), used to arrest attention = Hark! (Comp. Psalms 29) The quick sense of love discerns his approach a long way off. (Compare—

“Before he mounts the hill, I know

He cometh quickly.”—Tennyson’s Fatima.)

Verse 9

(9) Wall.—As an instance of the fertility of allegorical interpretation, the variety of applications of this passage may be quoted. The wall = (1) the wall between us and Christ, i.e., our mortal condition; (2) “the middle wall of partition,” the law; (3) the iniquities separating man from God, so that He does not hear or His voice cannot reach us; (4) the creatures behind whom God Himself stands speaking through them, and “si fas dicere, (5) the flesh of Christ itself spread over His Divinity, through which it sounds sweetly and alters its voice” (Bossuet).

Looketh forth.—Rather, looking through, as in next clause, where the same Hebrew particle occurs. and may = either out or in, as context requires. Here plainly in at.

Shewing himself.—Marg., flourishing. The primitive idea seems to be “to look bright.” Hence the Hiphil conjugation = “to make to look bright;” here “making his eyes glance or twinkle as he peers in through the lattice.”

Verse 11

(11) Winter.—Heb., sethav, only used here; probably from root = to overcast: the season of cloud and gloom.

The rain is over and gone.—Wordsworth uses this line in a description of an early spring in a very different climate.

Verses 11-13


For, lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;

The time of the singing of birds is come,

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree ripeneth her green figs,

And the vines are in blossom,

They give forth their fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.—Song of Solomon 2:11-13

In Britain, spring is the most beautiful season of all the year; but in Palestine it stands out in more strongly pronounced contrast to the three other seasons, and it is in itself exceedingly lovely. While summer and autumn are there parched with drought, barren and desolate, and while winter is often dreary with snow-storms and floods of rain, in spring the whole land is one lovely garden, ablaze with richest hues, hill and dale, wilderness and farmland vying in the luxuriance of their wild flowers, from the red anemone that fires the steep sides of the mountains to the purple and white cyclamen that nestles among the rocks at their feet. Much of the beauty of this poem is found in the fact that it is pervaded by the spirit of an Eastern spring. This makes it possible to introduce a wealth of beautiful imagery which would not have been appropriate if any other season had been chosen. Palestine is even more lovely in March than England is in May; so that this poem, which is so completely bathed in the atmosphere of early spring, calls up echoes of the exquisite English garden pictures in Shelley’s Sensitive Plant and Tennyson’s Maud.

There are good men to whom the din of the streets is more welcome than the songs of birds in the spring-time. Dr. Johnson hated the quiet places of nature, and was never happy except in the thick of life; Socrates had no love for green field and garden, all his interests were among men; and even St. Paul, if we may judge from his writings, found his raptures in work done among the human throng, and was not keenly sensitive to the natural things which his Master loved. We do not envy these men in that one particular. They were great, richly endowed souls, with one sweet capacity missing. We thank God that we have it, that most good men have it in large measure. It is a gift of God with a touch of heaven in it. It makes the whole world a temple, especially in the spring-time, with stained windows and altar lights and innumerable choristers; it makes us hear speech in a thousand languages to which other ears are deaf.1 [Note: J. G. Greenhough.]

1. “The winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth.” There is a sigh of glad relief in the words, as if some long pain had gone, as if some nightmare had been lifted up, and the spirit of joy had come dancing into our lives again. The winter is long; at least we always feel it long. It is like an unwelcome guest that prolongs its stay. It will not regulate its movements by the calendar. The day for its departure is fixed, but it tarries. It seems to go a dozen times, and comes back again. The spring-time comes with lingering feet. It has to fight with winter for every inch of ground gained. It is like the slow battle of goodness against evil, with the long-deferred result.

That weary time that comes between

The last snow and the earliest green!

One barren clod the wide fields lie,

And all our comfort is the sky.

We know the sap is in the tree,—

That life at buried roots must be;

Yet dreary is the earth we tread,

As if her very soul were dead.

Before the dawn the darkest hour,

The blank and chill before the flower!

Beauty prepares this background gray

Whereon her loveliest tints to lay.

Ah, patience! ere we dream of it,

Spring’s fair new gospel will be writ.

Look up! Good only can befall

While heaven is at the heart of all!2 [Note: Lucy Larcom, Between Winter and Spring.]

2. All through the cold, the forces which make the miracle of spring are gathering in the earth. Down below in every root and seed life is accumulating itself. It is forced down by darkness and cold, but it is not killed; the bitterer the skies above, the harder the crust of the earth, the intenser is the concentration of life. Nor is it quite without its work, though it is hidden. For it fills the sheaths of the buds with the folded leaves; it weaves the down that protects them, it builds within them, in the centre, the glory and beauty of the flower. It prepares itself for its rush and outburst. At last, the burden of darkness and frost and bitter wind is lifted off, the climate changes, and straightway the imprisoned life expands and ripples upwards, the potential energy becomes dynamic, the stored-up sunlight and heart break forth in leaf and blossom to the sunlight, and over a thousand woods and fields apparent death leaps into apparent life.

“Where are the snowdrops?” said the sun;

“Dead,” said the frost,

“Buried and lost,

Every one!”

“A foolish answer,” said the sun;

“They did not die,

Asleep they lie,

Every one!”

“And I will wake them, I the sun,

Into the light,

All clad in white,

Every one!”

Last year I was in Surrey at the end of April, for a single day, and walked through the woods of Albury. There had been abundance of rain the night before, but the sunlight of the day was bright, and every leaf, tree, and flower was glittering with waterdrops. In the warm mist everything seemed to grow with more swiftness, and the old phrase, that if one stayed in the silence and listened, one could hear the grass growing, seemed literally true. Life ran to the end of every spray, and rushed into a million leaves and flowers; and I thought that no human passion could be more intense than that with which the young leaves of the beech burst from their long sheath; no light in human eyes more suggestive of fulness of life within the heart than the gold and green glory of light that rained upon me through the unnumbered foliage of the limes. A step further, and the sky seemed to have fallen on the earth, for where the wood opened a little, a great slope, as far as the eye could reach up and down, was clothed with a myriad-flowered mist of bluebells; it seemed as if all the life of the earth had given itself to make them, so multitudinous were they; and as to the primroses, a bank of which I came to by-and-by, so rich was the life in them that I counted fifty flowers springing from a single root, and there were thousands of plants in that sunny place. It was the same in everything, everywhere incalculable, inexhaustible, rushing life, life that never rested, never wearied.1 [Note: Stopford A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, 327.]

3. The coming of spring awakens new energies in man as well as in nature. No one who hears the warm west wind of April flowing through the trees, and feels the secret stirring that it makes in blood and brain, but knows the influence of spring upon the body. As the sap ran upwards through the flowers, so the blood went swifter through the veins, and the physical emotion sent its message to that immaterial life of thought and feeling which we call the spirit. And the spirit, receiving the impressions, took and moulded them into ideas by the imagination and sent the ideas forth to give motives to the will. If those ideas are dull or sensual, the new bodily life that comes with spring will only serve to make life more commonplace or our passions more degraded. If they are poetical, or enkindling, linked to high aspirations and pure thoughts, then the quickened powers of the body will be restrained from evil, impelled to finer work, hallowed and dignified under the command of a will directed by such thoughts.

It was that peculiar period of spring which most powerfully affects a human soul: a bright, illuminating, but not warm sun, rivulets and thawed spots, an aromatic freshness in the air, and a gently azure sky with long, transparent clouds. I was in a very bad and dissatisfied mood. Everything somehow went against me. I wanted to get angry and to grumble; I recalled that we had to go to confession that very day, and that I had to abstain from everything bad. Suddenly a meek spirit came over me. Through the open window the fresh, fragrant air penetrated the room and filled it. Through the window was heard the din of the city and the chirping of the sparrows in the garden. I went up to the window, sat upon it, bent down to the garden, and fell to musing. A novel, exceedingly powerful and pleasant sensation suddenly penetrated into my soul. The damp earth through which here and there burst bright-green blades of grass with their yellow stalks; the rills glistening in the sun, along which meandered pieces of earth and chips; the blushing twigs of the lilac bushes with their swelling buds swaying under the very window; the busy chirping of the birds that swarmed in the bushes; the black fence wet with the thawing snow; but above all, that aromatic moist air and joyous sun spoke to me distinctly and clearly of something new and beautiful, which, though I am not able to tell it as it appeared to me, I shall attempt to tell as I conceived it. Everything spoke to me of beauty, happiness, and virtue; it told me that all that was easy and possible for me, that one thing could not be without the other, and even that beauty, happiness, and virtue were one and the same. “How was it I did not understand it before? As bad as I was in the past, so good and happy shall I become in the future!” I said to myself, “I must go at once, this very minute, become another man, and live another life.”1 [Note: Tolstoy, Youth, chap ii. (Works, i. 255).]

4. Nor does the influence of spring come only to the body As we breathe the soft new air, and see the green cloud gather on the trees, a thousand memories come back; life is re-lived from the first primrose gathering in childhood to the wonder and joy of last year, when we looked up through the snow of a roof of apple-blossoms to the blue air. Early love, early sorrow, later and wilder passions, the aspirations of youth, the ideals that made the life of lonely wanderings, the thoughts with which we took up work when manhood called us to the front of the battle, the graver thoughts that came when we laid aside hopes too impossible to realize, are all felt, pursued, and longed for, more deeply far in the stirring airs of spring. Every new spring reawakens them all to life within us. With their memories, as with flowers, the meadows of our heart are covered. We walk among them, and as we walk a gentler, tenderer, more receptive temper fills our being. We throw open all the gates of the heart.

Milton tells us that the Muses always came back to him in spring. He could not sing very much, as a rule, in winter, but when spring came back the Muses came. He caught the youthfulness and hopefulness of spring; he looked round, and saw life springing triumphantly out of the grave of winter: he saw the feeblest growths rejoice in a new life and beauty. Then, too, his own intellect, under the blessing and inspiration of a spring sky, began to blossom anew.1 [Note: D. Davies, Talks with Men, Women and Children, v. 174.]

“It’s rather dark in the earth to-day,”

Said one little bulb to his brother,

“But I thought that I felt a sun-beam ray;

We must strive and grow till we find the way!”

And they nestled close to each other.

And they struggled and toiled by day and by night,

Till two little snowdrops in green and in white

Rose out of the darkness into the light,

And softly kissed each other.

5. The coming of spring is a parable of the resurrection. Every returning spring-time is a confirmation of our Easter hopes. For it is a parable of that resurrection and restoration of nature which the Bible says is to accompany “the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” It is not man alone that will be glorified. Not apart from the struggling, yearning creation round about him will he reach perfection. His lot is bound up in hers for joy as for sorrow. The resurrection will not free man from his oneness with nature; it will express that oneness in a form that will fill uncreated beings with wonder and praise. It is so often implied by religious writers, even if not expressed, that with the last great resurrection the natural world passes away. On the contrary, St. Paul’s philosophy of resurrection is in nothing more wonderful than in the place which it gives to nature. In that philosophy he is confirmed, as he in turn confirms its reasoned conclusions, by the investigations of recent science. For he takes his stand on the solidarity between man and nature, and on the common character of their destiny. The same great principles of finality, of travail, of hope which mark man’s being mark also the world round about him. “The creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know,” he adds, “that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Towards the same great goal man and creation, therefore, alike are hastening. “The times of restoration of all things” prophesied since the world began, “the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory,” are to be marked by the final bridals of man and nature. Together redeemed man and restored nature are to shape one glorious future, as they have shared one shadowed and chequered past. As yet neither is perfectly fitted for that future, and hence the life of man in nature is not yet—what one day it will be—truly natural. Nor has nature yet on her side become what one day she will become—the perfect vehicle of spirit. These two futures are slowly but surely converging towards each other across the ages, and one day they will meet in the world’s golden eventide, as Isaac met Rebekah and was “comforted” after his sorrow. And then will nature

Set herself to man,

Like perfect music unto noble words;

And so these twain, upon the skirts of time,

Sit side by side, full summed in all their powers

Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-Be.

Shakespeare has nothing more beautiful than the closing scene in his Winter’s Tale. The long-lost, long-mourned wife of Leontes, Hermione, unknown to him, lives all the while, and is given back to him after years of separation, the happy victim of a loving plot prepared for his own after-pleasure. Ushered into the chapel of the house of Paulina, her true friend, he beholds what he imagines to be her lovely statue, till slowly it glides towards him; then offers him her hand, and hangs upon him in loving embrace. The statue has become his long-lost wife, risen as it were from her grave, and moving with tenderness of grace across the long interval of years, to fling herself once more upon his arms. But Leontes himself is chastened by the long bitter years which prepare him for this moment, and when the vision of his former joy comes, he is ready to welcome it. When man himself has been disciplined by the long ages of waiting, then shall the end which brings fruition and realization to every pure earthly hope come. Nature, quickened in Christ out of her long winter sleep, shall move to him across those ages of separation which sin has made, his true bride, speaking to his heart the music of a long-forgotten language, waking in him the buried instincts of love, calling him to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.1 [Note: T. Gurney, The Living Lord, 189.]

In the Resurrection, Giotto has combined two subjects. On one side we have the white-robed Angels seated on the red porphyry tomb, with the soldiers, sunk in deep slumber at their feet. On the other, the risen Lord, bearing the flag of victory in His hand, is in the act of uttering the words “Noli me tangere” to the Magdalen, who, wrapt in her crimson mantle, falls at his feet, exclaiming, “Rabboni!”—Master. No master of later times ever painted so touching and beautiful a Magdalen as this one with the yearning eyes and the passion of love and rapture in her outstretched arms. And while the trees behind the sepulchre are bare and withered, here the fig and olive of the garden have burst into leaf and the little birds carol on the grassy slopes. The winter is past, the rain over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing of birds is come.2 [Note: Julia Cartwright, The Painters of Florence, 30.]

There is a very beautiful monument by Chan trey in Lichfield Cathedral; it is called the snowdrop monument. It is of marble, and commemorates two little girls who died. The monument represents them lying asleep with their arms about one another, and in the hand of the younger there is a bunch of snowdrops—the snowdrops of promise, the snowdrops which in this instance are intended to tell of the new life that those who die wake into, and of God’s summer land, where there is no death.3 [Note: J. Eames, The Shattered Temple, 176.]

A little poem of the spring which has come down to us from the Roman Empire shows us by contrast what the world without Christ was. The first stanza tells us that “sharp winter is loosed by the breath of the spring in the west.” The second gives a picture of mingled mirth and toil, as it might be seen in any village among the Sabæan Hills, and the third speaks of the joy which every one feels in such a scene. Then, like a thunderclap in a clear blue sky, the whole thing changes with a suddenness that makes the reader shudder. “Pale death comes impartially to the cot of the poor and the palace of the king. In a moment you will be in night, in the shades, and in the narrow house of Pluto.” Oh! that sad pagan world, clutching feverishly at the joys of wine and love because death is close at hand, always drawing nearer—death and forgetfulness! It is precisely the same note that was struck more than a thousand years afterwards by the Persian poet, Omar Khayyam:

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears

To-day of past Regrets and Future Fears:

To-morrow!—Why, To-morrow I may be

Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n thousand Years.

A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste

Of Being from the Well amid the Waste—

And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reach’d

The Nothing it set out from—Oh, make haste!

How quickly that which Horace recommended, and recommended with perfect innocence, and apparently with reason, leads to satiety and sickness of spirit. And so the age of Augustus passed into the age of Nero and Petronius.

On that hard Pagan world disgust and secret loathing fell;

Deep weariness and sated lust made human life a hell.

It was in that old Pagan world, with its disgust and despair, that the light of Christ shone. Jesus came into the world just about the time that Horace was writing his poems, and when He came a breath of hope shivered throughout the world. A light broke in upon human life, a possibility dawned which apparently man had never taken into account before.1 [Note: R. F. Horton, in The British Congregationalist, May 18, 1911.]


Banks (L. A.), Hidden Wells of Comfort, 116.

Brooke (S. A.), The Fight of Faith, 324.

Davies (D.), Talks with Men, Women and Children, v. 173.

Eames (J.), The Shattered Temple, 171.

Fox (C. A.), Memorials, 282.

Greenhough (J. G.), in God’s Garden, 29.

Gurney (T. A.), The Living Lord and the Opened Grave, 176.

Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, viii. (1862), No. 436.

Stone (C. E.), God’s Hardest Task, 2.

Williams (T. R.), Addresses to Boys, Girls, and Young People, 98.

British Congregationalist, May 18, 1911 (R. F. Horton).

Christian World Pulpit, xi. 379 (W. Simpson); lxi. 364 (A. Macrae); lxix. 347 (S. Thornton); lxxvii. 252 (W. Martin)

Churchman’s Pulpit: Easter Day and Season, vii. 373 (S. J. Buchanan).

Preacher’s Magazine, iv. 274 (J. Wright); xvi. 180 (H. Friend).

Verse 12

(12) The time of the singing—Heb., zamîr·—may mean pruning (so LXX. and Vulg.), but parallelism requires singing-time (a meaning which analogy will certainly allow us to give to the Hebrew word zamîr). Nor can the correctness of our version in inserting of birds be questioned, since from the context it is plainly “the untaught harmony of spring,” and not the voices of men intended. It is true there is no authority for this beyond the context, and the allusions to the singing of birds are besides very few in Scripture; but travellers say that different species of warbless (Turdidœ), especially the bulbul and the nightingale. abound in the wooded valleys, filling the air in early spring with the rich cadence of their notes (Tristram’s Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 160).

Turtle.—Heb., tôr (turtur), from its plaintive note. Three species are found in Palestine, but the one intended is doubtless our own turtle-dove (Turtur auritus). It is migratory, and its advent marks the return of spring (Jeremiah 8:7). “Search the glades and valleys even by sultry Jordan at the end of March, and not a turtle-dove is to be seen. Return in the second week of April, and clouds of doves are feeding on the clovers of the plain.” “The turtle, immediately on its arrival, pours forth from every garden grove and wooded hill its melancholy yet soothing ditty from early dawn till sunset” (Tristram’s Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 219).

Verse 13

(13) The fig tree putteth forth her green figs.—Literally, has ripened its unripe figs. Heb., phag (preserved in Bethphage); not the early fruit that appears before the leaves (Matthew 24:31), but the green fruit that remains through the winter (Gesenius and Tristram).

The vines with the tender grape.—Literally, the vines (are) blossoms, i.e., are in blossom.

Verse 14

(14) O my dove . . . in the clefts of the rock.—The rock pigeon (Columba livia), the origin of the domestic races, invariably selects the lofty cliffs and deep ravines (comp. Jeremiah 48:28; Ezekiel 7:16) for its roosting places, and avoids the neighbourhood of men. The modesty and shyness of his beloved are thus prettily indicated by the poet. For the expression “clefts of the rock,” see Note, Obadiah 1:3.

The stairs—i.e., steep places (comp. Ezekiel 38:20, margin), from root = to go up.

Verse 15

Verse 16

(16) He feedeth.—Heb., he that is feeding his flock—the pastor.

Verse 17

(17) Until the day break.—Heb., breathe, i.e., becomes cool, as it does when the evening breeze sets in. The time indicated is therefore evening, “the breathing blushing hour” (Campbell). (Comp. Genesis 3:8, “The cool of the day”—margin, wind. This interpretation is also fixed by the mention of the flying, i.e., lengthening shadows. Comp. Virg. Ecl. i. 84: “Majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbræ;” and Tennyson, The Brook—

“We turned our foreheads from the falling sun,

And followed our own shadows, thrice as long

As when they followed us.”)

Bether.—Marg., of division; LXX., of ravines or hollows, either as separating the lovers or as intersected by valleys. Gesenius compares Bethron (2 Samuel 2:29).


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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