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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 1

Verses 2-7

The Ardent Affection of the Lovers

2-7. Songs of the bride: her enquiry and his answers.

2. Love] The original has ’loves,’ i.e. expressions of love, repeated kisses and embraces.

3. Ointments] Orientals have always been passionately fond of perfumes. The literatures of Egypt, Greece, and Rome abound in references to them: in the Bible see Psalms 23:5; Psalms 45:7-8; Proverbs 7:17; Proverbs 27:9; Luke 7:46; John 12:3. A modern traveller writes: ’Arabs are delighted with perfumes; the nomad housewives make treasure of any they have, with their medicines; they often asked me, “Hast thou no perfumes to sell?” The ’poured-out’ unguent gives forth its fragrance: even so is the beloved’s name praised of many.

4. The king, i.e. the bridegroom, has brought the bride into his house, and she, freed from any taint of envy, nay, with an ingenuous pride, mentions the love with which others ’rightly’ (RV) regard him. Some scholars prefer to read, ’Bring me, O king,’ etSong of Solomon 5. In speaking of herself as black and ’swarthy’ (RV), she is acknowledging herself to be a country girl: in the current songs of Palestine town-girls are called ’the white’; those of the country ’the black.’ For Kedar see Genesis 25:13; Isaiah 42:11; Isaiah 60:7; The Arab tents are often made of black goats’ hair or black woven stuff. If our present text is correct the maiden claims a beauty of her own, comparable to that of the richly embroidered curtains in Solomon’s palace. But possibly the reference may be to the Salamites, who followed the Kedarenes in occupying the territory S. of Palestine. Her face has been bronzed by the sun’s ’looking upon her,’ as the prince of Morocco, in the ’Merchant of Venice,’ speaks of his complexion:

’The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun,

To whom I am a neighbour, and near bred.’

6. Her mother’s sons have made it impossible for her to avoid this, treating her with that arbitrary tyranny which male relatives so often display in the East. ’I have known an ill-natured child,’ says Doughty, ’lay a stick on the back of his good cherishing mother’: cp. 1 Samuel 17:28. Her own vineyard, her complexion, she was forced to leave uncared, for.

7. Running to her lover, she would fain spend the siesta hour, the hot midday, with him. Failing to find him, she would have to wander aimlessly (RM) beside the other shepherds, in whom she took no interest.

8. With kindly banter he bids her lead out her little flock of female kids and take her chance of finding him.

9-11. It would not occur to us to compare a woman to a beautiful mare: but an Eastern at once appreciates the simile. In Damascus ’the mare comes before wife and child’: she may be worth £40,000, and there really is no more beautiful creature. The Egyptian horse was once prized much as the Arab now is (2 Chronicles 9:28).

10. With the ’string of jewels’ (RV) compare a song which may be heard now in Syria:

’From above, Abu Tabba, from above, Abu Tabba,

Put golden coins upon her, and under her neck a string of pearls.

The necklace usually worn consists of three rows of pearls. Lady Burton says of a Samaritan woman: ’Upon her head she wore a coat of mail of gold, and literally covered with gold coins, of which a very large one dangled on her forehead. She wore diamond and enamelled earrings, and a string of pearls coquettishly arranged on one side of her head in a festoon.’

12-14. The king, i.e. the bridegroom, is reclining on his divan or couch, and the bride’s presence is as delightful to him as the scent of the costly oil of the Indian nard (Mark 14:3). The odoriferous myrrh is a gum, which exudes from the bark of a spiny shrub growing in Arabia and India. Women wore little flasks of this on, their breast.

14. The henna (RV ’the flower of paradise’) has fragrant yellowish white flowers, growing in clusters like grapes. It is still found in the wadi of En-Gedi, the most delightful spot on the W. shore of the Dead Sea, an oasis of luxurious vegetation. The sentiment of these vv. is thus reproduced in a song still popular in Palestine:

’Make of me a silver necklace,

And toss me about on thy breast.

Make of me a golden earring,

And hang me in thine ear.’

15. He compares her eyes to doves. Eastern women spend much pains on their eyes, painting them round with kohl to add to their apparent size and increase their expressiveness. And the comparison of maidens to doves is exceedingly common in the popular poetry:

’Lovely girls are there, like a flock of doves.’

16, 17. She looks forward to their union in the sweet rural district, amongst the cedars and the firs. It is as in the bower which Milton found in the earthly Paradise:

’The roof

Of thickest covert was in woven shade,

Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew

Of firm and fragrant leaf; on either side

Acanthus, and each odorous bushy shrub

Fenc’d up the verdant wall;......

Here in close recess,

With flowers, garlands, and sweet-smelling herbs,

Espoused Eve deckt first her nuptial bed.’

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.