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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 4

Verse 1

Description of her Charms. Her Invitation

1-7. This short poem belongs to the class which the Arabs call wasf, in which the bride’s charms are described: they are sung while she is being dressed, or when she exhibits herself in her nuptial array, or on the day subsequent to the ceremony. Here is one that is still to be heard in Palestine:

’Oh, her eyes are like the hue of ink drawn by the stylus,

And her hair, when she dyed it with henna, like birds’feathers;

Her nose as the handle of a ghttering Indian sword;

Her teeth like hailstones, yea, even more lovely;

Her cheeks like rosy apples of Damascus;

And her breasts lovely pomegranates, hanging on the tree;

Her neck like that of a scared antelope;

And her arms staves of pure silver;

And her fingers sharp-pointed pens of gold.’

1. The maiden’s eyes are here compared to doves, peeping out from behind the veil (RV). As is usual with Syrian brides her hair is not braided, but hangs loosely down, like a flock of black goats which graze along the slope of a mountain, and look as though they were suspended from it (RV).

2. Her teeth are white, regular, a perfect set. Her cheek resembles the rich colours of the pomegranate. She has a swan’s neck, a graceful, slender tower, hung round with ornaments, as the tower of David—whatever that may have been—was hung with shields (1 Kings 10:16-17; 2 Kings 11:10; Ezekiel 27:11; Ezekiel 1 Maccabees 4:57). For sweetness she may be compared to mountains on which odoriferous shrubs abound.

8. The idea conveyed by this abrupt and obscure v. seems to be that she will be perfectly safe, even in regions remote from home, and where many dangers lurk, if only her lover is at hand. His presence ensures happiness and security. The exclamation, ’Look,’ etc., reminds us of a modern traveller’s remark concerning the southern part of Lebanon: ’I have travelled in no part of the world where I have seen such a variety of glorious mountain scenes within so narrow a compass.’ Amana may perhaps be the name of what is now called Jébel ez-Zebedâni, below which is the source of the river Amana or Abana (2 Kings 5:12). On some inscriptions of the Assyrian kings the range of Anti-Libanus is called Ammana. Here, and at 1 Chronicles 5:23, Shenir is distinguished from Hermon. The highest point of Hermon, Jébel el-Shêkh, 9,166 ft. high, is visible from the greater part of Palestine.

9-15. He praises her in ecstatic terms. In the ancient Egyptian love-songs the lovers call one another ’brother’ and sister. One glance from her eyes, one pendant hanging from her neck, is enough to steal his heart, as it is said of Judith (Judith 16:9), ’Her sandal ravished his eye.’

10. The smell of her garments is like the fresh and healthy odour of the cedars, or, as we in England should say, of the pinewoods: cp. Genesis 27:27; Psalms 45:8.

11. Honey and milk are most highly prized amongst Orientals (Isaiah 7:15).

12. She is as a garden barred (RM) to

13. Her charms are like the young plants in an orchard of pomegranates, protected from the depredations of wild beasts.

14. The saffron is the autumnal crocus, the dried flowers of which are employed in medicine, dyeing and perfumery. The thick, creeping rootstock of the calamus is pungent and aromatic. The resin of aloes is used in the preparation of incense.

15. The ’flowing’ (RV) streams, etc., reminds us of the many streams which run into the sea between Tyre and Beyrout.

16. Accepting his figurative description of her, she bids him welcome. The colder north wind and the warmer south are naturally mentioned: not the east, which brings drought, nor the west, which carries moisture from the sea.

Song of Solomon 5:1. The bridegroom’s reply. He bids his friends follow his example: ’Drink, yea, drink freely of the delights of love’ (RV).

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 4". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.