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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 2

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.’

Verses 1-7

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 Song of Solomon 5:0Song of Solomon 5:0. 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 (2Ch 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 (Mar 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.'

Verses 1-17

1. She compares herself to a simple wild flower, the crocus (RM) of Sharon. The plain, which extended from Joppa to Cæsarea, was proverbial for its flowers (Isaiah 35:2), and travellers continue to revert to this feature: ’We constantly had reason to admire the faint harmonious colouring of the wild flowers on the untilled plain. Cæsarea was surrounded by fields of the yellow marigold. Other flowers were also conspicuous—the red pheasant’s eye, in some cases as big as a poppy; blue pimpernels, moon-daisies, the lovely phlox, gladioles, and high hollyhocks.’

2. He will hot suffer her to depreciate her own value: compared with other women she is a lily among thorns (Proverbs 31:29). The Huleh lily, in the north of the Holy Land, grows in the midst of thorns, which lacerate the hands of the flower-gatherers. The soil near Bethlehem, in the S., is enamelled with lilies and covered almost everywhere with dwarf thorns.

3-7. In this strife of mutual compliments she now likens him to the beautiful, flowering, fruit-bearing apple tree, which gives a welcome shade, gratifies the sense of taste, and is to Orientals a symbol of love.

4. He has brought her to a ’house of wine’ (RM), a place of feasting and enjoyment, where the banner floating over them was not merely inscribed with the word Love, but was Love, itself. The entire description is figurative, and if the language were not sufficient to indicate this we should be driven to the conclusion by the fact that it was not considered decorous for women to be present at banquets (Esther 1:12; Daniel 5:10, Daniel 5:23). In Egypt the house where a marriage-festival is in progress is marked by rows of flags and streamers stretched across the street.

5. She begs her friends to sustain her with cakes of pressed raisins (RV), such as were given to those who were fainting for hunger (1 Samuel 25:18; 1 Samuel 30:12; 2 Samuel 6:19; Hosea 3:1).

7. And they are to leave her and her beloved for the present undisturbed by the festal dances and songs. The request is repeated Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4, and on each occasion is evidently meant to mark one of the main divisions of the poem. The adjuration, by the gazelles (RM), and by the hinds of the field, is suggested by the beauty and the timidity of those graceful creatures.

Verses 8-17


A Visit and an Invitation

8-13 After an interval she relates one of his visits to her home. He comes swiftly and easily; hills and mountains are no obstacle. He stands behind the wall of her mother’s house, and she gazes at him through the lattice, for she has seen his approach from afar. The unglazed, latticed windows of an Oriental house admits air and a softened light, allow those within to see out, and prevent their being observed from outside.

10. He would have her accompany him to the open country.

11. It is the right season. The winter and the rains are over, for in that climate there is a cloudless sky from the beginning of May to the end of October.

12. It is the time of flowers: ’Everywhere this day the earth was beautifully green, and carpeted with flowers. The air was fresh and balmy and laden with the sweet scents of spring... The sky was so blue, the mountains and plains looked so beautiful, the birds, insects, the wild flowers, the fresh balmy breeze, the sweet smells, and gentle sun, the black tents, all combined to make one glad to be alive.’ ’Come here in spring, O traveller!’ Lady Butler says, ’and not in the arid, dusty, burnt-up autumn.’

13. The early figs are growing spicy; the vines are all blossom and fragrance. It is the season when a young man’s mind turns lightly to thoughts of love. Even in our cold England the poet sings—

’Twas when the spousal time of May

Hangs all the hedge with bridal wreaths,

And air’s so sweet the bosom gay

Gives thanks for every breath it breathes;

When like to like is gladly moved,

And each thing joins in Spring’s refrain,

“Let those love now who never loved;

Let those who have loved love again.”’

14. 15. He begs her to lay aside her coyness, for she is concealing herself, like a dove in an inaccessible mountain gorge. Where there is no village pigeon-house the wild doves of Syria build in hollows of the steep rocks. At the monastery of St. Saba ’one sees, sailing on outstretched wings from out of those caverns, flights of the fair blue pigeons.’

15. She sings him the little ditty concerning the foxes that ruin the vineyards: any song, on any theme, would have pleased him, and short poems that seem to have no special relevance to the occasion are still in common use amongst the peasants and the Bedouin.

16, 17. She declares their unchangeable, mutual devotion, and bids the shepherd, who pastures his flock in the fields bright with lilies, come to her.

17. At midday the heat is overpowering—All round the coast the languid air did swoon, Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.’ But at sunset the day ’breathes’ (RM); a cool breeze blows, and the shadows gradually disappear (Genesis 3:8; Job 14:2). The gazelles (RM) descend at night to the plains to feed; they leap and run safely on the mountains of Bether. The meaning of the last word is not clear: it may be the name of a locality not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture; it may signify ’the cloven mountains’; it may be the same as the besamim (= spices) of Song of Solomon 8:14, or, as RM suggests, the spice malobathron.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/song-of-solomon-2.html. 1909.