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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 5

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).

Verses 2-9

A Dream. His Beauty and hers

2-7. Another dream of hers, with a painful ending. The accumulation (Song of Solomon 5:2) of names of endearment reminds us of the frequent repetition, by a Palestinian bridegroom during the wedding dance, of Yâ halâli, Yâ mâli, ’ O my property, ’Omy possession!’

2. Heavy dew falls, especially during spring and in the second half of the night. The Spanish poet whom Longfellow translated had in his mind our passage and Revelation 3:20:

’Lord, what am I, that, with unceasing care,

Thou didst seek after me,—that thou didst wait,

Wet with unhealthy dews before my gate,

And pass the gloomy nights of winter there?

How oft my guardian angel gently cried,

“Soul, from thy casement look, and thou shalt see

How he persists to knock and wait for thee.”’

And our Lord’s parable (Luke 11:5-8) presents a parallel to Song of Solomon 5:3. The tunic had been put off (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:18). The feet, shod only with sandals, needed washing each night.

4. A hole is still cut in the door of Syrian houses, through which the owner can insert his arm and the key. 5. ’Myrrha stacta,’ liquid myrrh, which flowed from the bark of the plant, was the finest and most costly. In two modern Egyptian poems we find: ’My love hath perfumed herself on the nights of the festival,’ and ’0 thou, with sweet hands!’

7. The watchmen treat her as a mere night-wanderer: cp. the solicitude of Boaz for Ruth (Ruth 3 :M). They tore off her wrapper (Mark 14:51-52), a light garment which rested on the shoulders, or was thrown round the head as a veil.

9. The chorus prepares the way for her eulogy of her beloved.

10-16. Nuptial songs in praise of the bridegroom’s beauty are at the present day comparatively rare in Palestine. His head is the most fine gold, an expression which recalls Shakespeare’s ’Golden lads and girls.’ His eyes are doves, building in a ravine through which a stream flows. Possibly the fact that these birds delight in clear water and frequently bathe in it may explain the ’sitting by full streams’ of the RV, or, ’sitting upon fulness,’ which literally represents the original.

13. The ’banks of sweet herbs’ (RV) have also been rendered,’ towers of perfumes.’ The lips are compared to red lilies, red being the dominant colour of the flora of that land.

14. The fingers are round and shapely; the nails like topazes; the body (RV) a plate of ivory encrusted with lapis lazuli, blue veins showing through the lighter skin.

15. The pillars of marble remind us of a song still current in those regions: the singer avers that his dear one’s foot is of white silver, which would be scratched if she walked even on cloth.

Song of Solomon 6:1-3. The chorus enquire where he may be found, and she, in dreamy and indefinite language, informs them.

4-9. He again strikes in, celebrating her beauty. Tirzah is in a lofty and delightful situation, surrounded by olive groves: its name (= ’Delight’) implies its attractiveness. Jerusalem has always been lovely to an Israelite’s eye (Psalms 48:2; Psalms 50:2; Lamentations 2:15, etc.). A pure and charming woman is ’awe-inspiring as bannered hosts’ (RM). Coventry Patmore speaks of ’her awful charm of grace and innocence sincere’:

’And though her charms are a strong law

Compelling all men to admire,

They go so clad with lowly awe

None but the noble dare desire.’

5. Her eyes have thrown him into confusion. 8. She is far above all the queens and concubines, the ladies of the harem, who are just now at hand.

9. She is her mother’s only, i.e. dearest, one (Genesis 22:2), and her pure one.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.