Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon 2

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

Verse 1

What Shulamith now further says confirms what had just been said. City and palace with their splendour please her not; forest and field she delights in; she is a tender flower that has grown up in the quietness of rural life.

1 I am a meadow-flower of Sharon,

A lily of the valleys.

We do not render: “the wild-flower,” “the lily,” ... for she seeks to represent herself not as the one, but only as one of this class; the definiteness by means of the article sometimes belongs exclusively to the second number of the genit. word-chain. מלאך ה may equally ( vid., at Song of Solomon 1:11, Hitz. on Psalms 113:9, and my Comm. on Genesis 9:20) mean “an angel” or “the angel of Jahve;” and בת ישׂ “a virgin,” or “the virgin of Israel” (the personification of the people). For hhǎvatstsělěth (perhaps from hhivtsēl , a denom. quadril. from bětsěl , to form bulbs or bulbous knolls) the Syr. Pesh. (Isaiah 35:1) uses chamsaljotho , the meadow-saffron, colchicum autumnale; it is the flesh-coloured flower with leafless stem, which, when the grass is mown, decks in thousands the fields of warmer regions. They call it filius ante patrem, because the blossoms appear before the leaves and the seed-capsules, which develope themselves at the close of winter under the ground. Shulamith compares herself to such a simple and common flower, and that to one in Sharon, i.e., in the region known by that name. Sharon is per aphaer. derived from ישׁרון . The most celebrated plain of this name is that situated on the Mediterranean coast between Joppa and Caesarea; but there is also a trans-Jordanic Sharon, 1 Chronicles 5:16; and according to Eusebius and Jerome, there is also another district of this name between Tabor and the Lake of Tiberias,

(Note: Vid., Lagarde, Onomastica, p. 296; cf. Neubauer, Géographic du Talm. p. 47.)

which is the one here intended, because Shulamith is a Galilean: she calls herself a flower from the neighbourhood of Nazareth. Aquila translates: “A rosebud of Sharon;” but שׁושׁנּה (designedly here the fem. form of the name, which is also the name of a woman) does not mean the Rose which was brought at a later period from Armenia and Persia, as it appears,

(Note: Vid., Ewald, Jahrbuch, IV p. 71; cf. Wüstemann, Die Rose, etc., 1854.)

and cultivated in the East (India) and West (Palestine, Egypt, Europe). It is nowhere mentioned in the canonical Scriptures, but is first found in Sir. 24:14; 39:13; 50:8; Wisd. 2:8; and Esther 1:6, lxx. Since all the rosaceae are five-leaved, and all the liliaceae are six-leaved, one might suppose, with Aben Ezra, that the name sosan ( susan) is connected with the numeral שׁשׁ , and points to the number of leaves, especially since one is wont to represent to himself the Eastern lilies as red. But they are not only red, or rather violet, but also white: the Moorish-Spanish azucena denotes the white lily.

(Note: Vid., Fleischer, Sitzungs-Berichten d. Sächs. Gesell. d. Wissensch. 1868, p. 305. Among the rich flora on the descent of the Hauran range, Wetstein saw ( Reisebericht, p. 148) a dark-violet magnificent lily ( susan) as large as his fist. We note here Rückert's “Bright lily! The flowers worship God in the garden: thou art the priest of the house.”)

The root-word will thus, however, be the same as that of שׁשׁ , byssus, and שׁישׁ , white marble. The comparison reminds us of Hosea 14:5, “I shall be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily.” העמקים are deep valleys lying between mountains. She thinks humbly of herself; for before the greatness of the king she appears diminutive, and before the comeliness of the king her own beauty disappears - but he takes up her comparison of herself, and gives it a notable turn.

Verse 2

2 As a lily among thorns,

So is my love among the daughters.

By החוחים are not meant the thorns of the plant itself, for the lily has no thorns, and the thorns of the rose are, moreover, called kotsim , and not hhohhim ;

(Note: An Aramaic proverb: “from thorns sprouts the rose” ( i.e., bad fathers have often pious children), in Heb. is קוץ מוציא שׁושׁן ; vid., Jalkut Samuel, §134.)

besides, ben (among) contradicts that idea, since the thorns are on the plant itself, and it is not among them - thus the hhohhim are not the thorns of the flower-stem, but the thorn-plants that are around. חוח designates the thorn-bush, e.g., in the allegorical answer of King Josiah to Amaziah, 2 Kings 14:9. Simplicity, innocence, gentleness, are the characteristics in which Shulamith surpasses all בּנות , i.e., all women ( vid., Song of Solomon 6:9), as the lily of the valley surpasses the thorn-bushes around it. “Although thorns surround her, yet can he see her; he sees her quiet life, he finds her beautiful.” But continuing this reciprocal rivalry in the praise of mutual love, she says:

Verse 3

3a As an apple-tree among the trees of the wood,

So is my beloved among the sons.

The apple-tree, the name of which, תּפּוּח , is formed from נפח , and denominates it from its fragrant flower and fruit, is as the king among fruit trees, in Shulamith's view. יער (from יער , to be rough, rugged, uneven) is the wilderness and the forest, where are also found trees bearing fruit, which, however, is for the most part sour and unpalatable. But the apple-tree unites delicious fruit along with a grateful shade; and just such a noble tree is the object of her love.

3 b Under his shadow it delighted me to sit down;

And his fruit is sweet to my taste.

In concupivi et consedi the principal verb completes itself by the co-ordinating of a verb instead of an adv. or inf. as Isaiah 42:21; Esther 8:7; Ewald, §285. However, concupivi et consedi is yet more than concupivi considere , for thereby she not only says that she found delight in sitting down, but at the same time also in sitting down in the shadow of this tree. The Piel חמּד , occurring only here, expresses the intensity of the wish and longing. The shadow is a figure of protection afforded, and the fruit a figure of enjoyment obtained. The taste is denoted by חך = חנך , from חנך , to chew, or also imbuere ; and that which is sweet is called מתוק , from the smacking connected with an agreeable relish. The usus loq. has neglected this image, true to nature, of physical circumstances in words, especially where, as here, they are transferred to the experience of the soul-life. The taste becomes then a figure of the soul's power of perception ( αἰσθητικόν ); a man's fruit are his words and works, in which his inward nature expresses itself; and this fruit is sweet to those on whom that in which the peculiar nature of the man reveals itself makes a happy, pleasing impression. But not only does the person of the king afford to Shulamith so great delight, he entertains her also with what can and must give her enjoyment.

Verse 4

4 He has brought me into the wine-house,

And his banner over me is love.

After we have seen the ladies of the palace at the feast, in which wine is presented, and after Solomon, till now absent, has entered the banqueting-chamber (Arab. meglis ), by היּין בּית we are not to understand the vineyard, which would be called bēth hǎggephānim or bēth hā'ǎnāvim , as in Acts 1:12, Pesh. the Mount of Olives, bēth zaite .

(Note: In Heb. יין does not denote the vine as a plant, as the Aethiop. wain , whence asada wain , wine-court = vineyard, which Ewald compares; Dillmann, however, ineptly cites “vine-arbour,” and South-Germ. “ kamerte ” = vinea camerata; in Heb. היין בּית is the house in which wine is drunk.)

He has introduced her to the place where he royally entertains his friends. Well knowing that she, the poor and sunburnt maiden, does not properly belong to such a place, and would rather escape away from it, he relieves her from her fear and bashfulness, for he covers her with his fear-inspiring, awful, and thus surely protecting, banner; and this banner, which he waves over her, and under which she is well concealed, is “love.” דּגל (from דּגל , to cover) is the name of the covering of the shaft or standard, i.e., pannus, the piece of cloth fastened to a shaft. Like a pennon, the love of the king hovers over her; and so powerful, so surpassing, is the delight of this love which pervades and transports her, that she cries out:

Verse 5

5 Support me with grape-cakes,

Refresh me with apples:

For I am sick with love.

She makes use of the intensive form as one in a high degree in need of the reanimating of her almost sinking life: סמּך is the intens. of סמך , to prop up, support, or, as here, to under-prop, uphold; and ripeed, the intens. of רפד (R. רף ), to raise up from beneath ( vid., at Proverbs 7:16), to furnish firm ground and support. The apple is the Greek attribute of Aphrodite, and is the symbol of love; but here it is only a means of refreshing; and if thoughts of love are connected with the apple-tree (Song of Solomon 2:3; Song of Solomon 8:5), that is explained from Shulamith's rural home. Böttcher understands quinces; Epstein, citrons; but these must needs have been more closely denoted, as at Proverbs 25:11, by some addition to the expression. אשׁישׁות (from אשׁשׁ , to establish, make firm) are (cf. Isaiah 16:7; Hosea 3:1) grapes pressed together like cakes; different from צמּוּקים , dried grapes (cf. דּבלה ), fig-cakes (Arab. dabbûle , a mass pressed together), and πλακοῦς , placenta, from the pressed-out form. A cake is among the gifts (2 Samuel 6:19) which David distributed to the people on the occasion of the bringing up of the ark; date-cakes, e.g., at the monastery at Sinai, are to the present day gifts for the refreshment of travellers. If Shulamith's cry was to be understood literally, one might, with Noack, doubt the correctness of the text; for “love-sickness, even in the age of passion and sentimentality, was not to be cured with roses and apples.” But (1) sentimentality, i.e., susceptibility, does not belong merely to the Romantic, but also to Antiquity, especially in the Orient, as e.g., is shown by the symptoms of sympathy with which the prophets were affected when uttering their threatenings of judgment; let one read such outbreaks of sorrow as Isaiah 21:3, which, if one is disposed to scorn, may be derided as hysterical fits. Moreover, the Indian, Persian, and Arabic erotic ( vid., e.g., the Romance Siret 'Antar) is as sentimental as the German has at any time been. (2) The subject of the passage here is not the curing of love-sickness, but bodily refreshment: the cry of Shulamith, that she may be made capable of bearing the deep agitation of her physical life, which is the consequence, not of her love-sickness, but of her love-happiness. (3) The cry is not addressed (although this is grammatically possible, since סמּכוּני is, according to rule, = סמּכנה אתי ) to the daughters of Jerusalem, who would in that case have been named, but to some other person; and this points to its being taken not in a literal sense. (4) It presupposes that one came to the help of Shulamith, sick and reduced to weakness, with grapes and apple-scent to revive her fainting spirit. The call of Shulamith thus means: hasten to me with that which will revive and refresh me, for I am sick with love. This love-sickness has also been experienced in the spiritual sphere. St. Ephrem was once so overcome by such a joy that he cried out: “Lord, withdraw Thine hand a little, for my heart is too weak to receive so great joy.” And J. R. Hedinger († 1704) was on his deathbed overpowered with such a stream of heavenly delight that he cried: “Oh, how good is the Lord! Oh, how sweet is Thy love, my Jesus! Oh, what a sweetness! I am not worthy of it, my Lord! Let me alone; let me alone!” As the spiritual joy of love, so may also the spiritual longing of love consume the body (cf. Job 19:27; Psalms 63:2; Psalms 84:3); there have been men who have actually sunk under a longing desire after the Lord and eternity. It is the state of love-ecstasy in which Shulamith calls for refreshment, because she is afraid of sinking. The contrast between her, the poor and unworthy, and the king, who appears to her as an ideal of beauty and majesty, who raises her up to himself, was such as to threaten her life. Unlooked for, extraordinary fortune, has already killed many. Fear, producing lameness and even death, is a phenomenon common in the Orient.

(Note: “ Ro‛b ( רעב , thus in Damascus), or ra‛b (thus in the Hauran and among the Beduins), is a state of the soul which with us is found only in a lower degree, but which among the Arabians is psychologically noteworthy. The wahm , i.e., the idea of the greatness and irresistibility of a danger or a misfortune, overpowers the Arabian; all power of body and of soul suddenly so departs from him, that he falls down helpless and defenceless. Thus, on the 8th July 1860, in a few hours, about 6000 Christian men were put to death in Damascus, without one lifting his hand in defence, or uttering one word of supplication. That the ro‛b kills in Arabia, European and native physicians have assured me; and I myself can confirm the fact. Since it frequently produces a stiffening of the limbs, with chronic lameness, every kind of paralysis is called ro‛b , and every paralytic mar‛ûb . It is treated medically by applying the 'terror-cup' ( tâset er - ro‛b ), covered over with sentences engraved on it, and hung round with twenty bells; and since, among the Arabians, the influence of the psychical on the physical is stronger and more immediate than with us, the sympathetic cure may have there sometimes positive results.” - Wetstein.)

If Pharaoh's daughter, if the Queen of Sheba, finds herself in the presence of Solomon, the feeling of social equality prevents all alarm. But Shulamith is dazzled by the splendour, and disconcerted; and it happens to her in type as it happened to the seer of Patmos, who, in presence of the ascended Lord, fell at His feet as one dead, Revelation 1:17. If beauty is combined with dignity, it has always, for gentle and not perverted natures, something that awakens veneration and tremor; but if the power of love be superadded, then it has, as a consequence, that combination of awe and inward delight, the psychological appearance of which Sappho, in the four strophes which begin with “ Φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θεοῖσιν ἔμμεν ὡνήρ ,” has described in a manner so true to nature. We may thus, without carrying back modern sentimentality into antiquity, suppose that Shulamith sank down in a paroxysm caused by the rivalry between the words of love and of praise, and thus thanking him, - for Solomon supports and bears her up, - she exclaims:

Verse 6

6 His left hand is under my head,

And his right hand doth embrace me.

With his left hand he supports her head that had fallen backwards, and with his right he embraces her [ herzet ], as Luther rightly renders it (as he also renders the name Habakkuk by “ der Herzer ” = the embracer); for חבּק signifies properly to enfold, to embrace; but then generally, to embrace lovingly, to fondle, of that gentle stroking with the hand elsewhere denoted by חלּה , mulcere . The situation here is like that at Genesis 29:13; Genesis 48:10; where, connected with the dat., it is meant of loving arms stretched out to embrace. If this sympathetic, gentle embracing exercises a soothing influence on her, overcome by the power of her emotions; so love mutually kindled now celebrates the first hour of delighted enjoyment, and the happy Shulamith calls to those who are witnesses of her joy:

Verse 7

7 I adjure you, ye daughters of Jerusalem,

By the gazelles or the hinds of the field,

That ye arouse not and disturb not love

Till she pleases.

It is permitted to the Israelites to swear, נשׁבּע , only by God (Genesis 21:23); but to adjure, השׁבּיע , by that which is not God, is also admissible, although this example before us is perhaps the only direct one in Scripture. צבי (= צבי , dialect. טבי ), fem. צביה (Aram. טביתא , Acts 9:36), plur. tsebaim or tsebajim , fem. tsabaōth (according with the pl. of צבא ), softened from tsebajōth , is the name for the gazelle, from the elegance of its form and movements. אילות is the connecting form of איּלות , whose consonantal Yod in the Assyr. and Syr. is softened to the diphthong ailuv, ailaa; the gen. “of the field,” as not distinguishing but describing, belongs to both of the animals, therefore also the first is without the article. או (after the etymon corresponding to the Lat. vel ) proceeds, leaving out of view the repetition of this so-called Slumber-Song (Song of Solomon 3:5; cf. Song of Solomon 8:4, as also Song of Solomon 2:9), from the endeavour to give to the adjuration the greatest impression; the expression is varied, for the representations flit from image to image, and the one, wherever possible, is surpassed by the other ( vid., at Proverbs 30:31).

Under this verse Hengst. remarks: “The bride would not adjure by the hinds, much more would she adjure by the stage.” He supposes that Solomon is here the speaker; but a more worthless proof for this could not be thought of. On the contrary, the adjuration by the gazelles, etc., shows that the speaker here is one whose home is the field and wood; thus also not the poet (Hitz.) nor the queen-mother (Böttch.), neither of whom is ever introduced as speaking. The adjuration is that love should not be disturbed, and therefore it is by the animals that are most lovely and free, which roam through the fields. Zöckler, with whom in this one point Grätz agrees, finds here, after the example of Böttch. and Hitz., the earnest warning against wantonly exciting love in themselves (cf. Lat. irritamenta veneris, irritata voluptas ) till God Himself awakens it, and heart finds itself in sympathy with heart. But the circumstances in which Shulamith is placed ill accord with such a general moralizing. The adjuration is repeated, Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4, and wherever Shulamith finds herself near her beloved, as she is here in his arms. What lies nearer, then, than that she should guard against a disturbance of this love-ecstasy, which is like a slumber penetrated by delightful dreams? Instead of אתכם , תּעירוּ , and תּעוררוּ , should be more exactly the words אתכן , תּעררנה , and תּעוררנה ; but the gram. distinction of the genera is in Heb. not perfectly developed. We meet also with the very same synallage generis, without this adjuration formula, at Song of Solomon 5:8; Song of Solomon 7:1; Song of Solomon 4:2; Song of Solomon 6:8, etc.; it is also elsewhere frequent; but in the Song it perhaps belongs to the foil of the vulgar given to the highly poetic. Thus also in the vulgar Arab. the fem. forms jaḳtulna , taḳtulna , corresponding to תּקטלנה , are fallen out of use. With העיר , expergefacere, there is connected the idea of an interruption of sleep; with עורר , excitare, the idea, which goes further, of arousing out of sleep, placing in the full activity of awakened life.

(Note: The distinction between these words is well explained by Lewisohn in his Investigationes Linguae (Wilna, 1840), p. 21: “The מעיר את־הישׁן is satisfied that the sleeper wakes, and it is left to him fully to overcome the influence of sleep; the מעורר , however, arouses him at once from sleepiness, and awakes him to such a degree that he is secured against falling asleep again.”)

The one adjuration is, that love should not be awakened out of its sweet dream; the other, that it should not be disturbed from its being absorbed in itself. The Pasek between מעירו and the word following has, as at Leviticus 10:6, the design of keeping the two Vavs distinct, that in reading they might not run together; it is the Pasek which, as Ben Asher says, serves “to secure to a letter its independence against the similar one standing next it.” האהמה is not abstr. pro concreto, but love itself in its giving and receiving. Thus closes the second scene of the first act: Shulamith lies like one helpless in the arms of Solomon; but in him to expire is her life; to have lost herself in him, and in him to find herself again, is her happiness.

Verse 8

8 Hark, my beloved! lo, there he comes!

Springs over the mountains,

Bounds over the hills.

The word קול , in the expression דּודי קול , is to be understood of the call of the approaching lover (Böttch.), or only of the sound of his footsteps (Hitz.); it is an interjectional clause (sound of my beloved!), in which kōl becomes an interjection almost the same as our “ horch ” “hear!”. Vid., under Genesis 4:10. זה after הנּה sharpens it, as the demonst. ce in ecce = en ce. בּא is though of as partic., as is evident from the accenting of the fem. בּאה , e.g., Jeremiah 10:22. דּלּג is the usual word for springing; the parallel קפץ ( קפּץ ), Aram. קפץ , קפז , signifies properly contrahere (cogn. קמץ , whence Kametz, the drawing together of the mouth, more accurately, of the muscles of the lips), particularly to draw the body together, to prepare it for a spring. In the same manner, at the present day, both in the city and in the Beduin Arab. kamaz , for which also famaz , is used of the springing of a gazelle, which consists in a tossing up of the legs stretched out perpendicularly. 'Antar says similarly, as Shulamith here of the swift-footed schêbûb ( D. M. Zeitung, xxii. 362); wahu jegmiz gamazât el - gazâl , it leaps away with the springing of a gazelle.

Verse 9

9 My beloved is like a gazelle,

Or a young one of the harts.

Lo, there he stands behind our wall!

He looks through the windows,

Glances through the lattices.

The figure used in Song of Solomon 2:8 is continued in Song of Solomon 2:9. צבי is the gazelle, which is thus designated after its Arab. name ghazāl , which has reached us probably through the Moorish-Spanish gazela (distinct from “ ghasele ,” after the Pers. ghazal , love-poem). עפר is the young hart, like the Arab. ghufar ( ghafar ), the young chamois, probably from the covering of young hair; whence also the young lion may be called כּפיר . Regarding the effect of או passing from one figure to another, vid., under Song of Solomon 2:7. The meaning would be plainer were Song of Solomon 2:9 joined to Song of Solomon 2:8, for the figures illustrate quick-footed speed (2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8; cf. Psalms 18:34 with Habakkuk 3:19 and Isaiah 35:6). In Song of Solomon 2:9 he comes with the speed of the gazelle, and his eyes seek for the unforgotten one. כּתל (from כּתל , compingere, condensare; whence, e.g., Arab. mukattal , pressed together, rounded, ramassé; vid., regarding R. כת at Psalms 87:6), Aram. כּוּתל (Joshua 2:15; Targ. word for קיר ), is meant of the wall of the house itself, not of the wall surrounding it. Shulamith is within, in the house: her beloved, standing behind the wall, stands without, before the house (Tympe: ad latus aversum parietis , viz., out from it), and looks through the windows, - at one time through this one, at another through that one, - that he might see her and feast his eyes on her. We have here two verbs from the fulness of Heb. synon. for one idea of seeing. השׁגּיח , from שׁגח , occurring only three times in the O.T., refers, in respect of the roots ש , שך , שק , to the idea of piercing or splitting (whence also שׁגּע , to be furious, properly pierced, percitum esse ; cf. oestrus, sting of a gadfly = madness, Arab. transferred to hardiness = madness), and means fixing by reflexion and meditation; wherefore השׁגּחח in post-bibl. Heb. is the name for Divine Providence. הציץ , elsewhere to twinkle and to bloom, appears only here in the sense of seeing, and that of the quick darting forward of the glance of the eye, as blick glance and blitz lightning ( blic) are one word; “he saw,” says Goethe in Werther, “the glance of the powder” (Weigand).

(Note: In this sense: to look sharply toward, is הציץ (Talm.) - for Grätz alone a proof that the Song is of very recent date; but this word belongs, like סמדר , to the old Heb. still preserved in the Talm.)

The plurs. fenestrae and transennae are to be understood also as synechdoche totius pro parte , which is the same as the plur. of categ.; but with equal correctness we conceive of him as changing his standing place. חלּון is the window, as an opening in the wall, from חלל , perforare. חרכּים we combine most certainly ( vid., Proverbs 12:27) with (Arab.) khark , fissura, so that the idea presents itself of the window broken through the wall, or as itself broken through; for the window in the country there consists for the most part of a pierced wooden frame of a transparent nature, - not (as one would erroneously conclude, from the most significant name of a window שׂבכה , now schubbâke , from שׂבך , to twist, to lattice, to close after the manner of our Venetian blinds) of rods or boards laid crosswise. הציץ accords with the looking out through the pierced places of such a window, for the glances of his eye are like the penetrating rays of light.

Verse 10

When now Shulamith continues:

10 a My beloved answered and said to me,

Arise, my love, my fair one, and go forth!

the words show that this first scene is not immediately dramatic, but only mediately; for Shulamith speaks in monologue, though in a dramatic manner narrating an event which occurred between the commencement of their love-relation and her home-bringing.

(Note: Grätz misinterprets this in order by the supplement of similar ones to make the whole poem a chain of narrative which Shulamith declaims to the daughters of Jerusalem. Thereby it certainly ceases to be dramatic, but so much more tedious does it become by these interposed expressions, “I said,” “he said,” “the sons of my mother said.”)

She does not relate it as a dream, and thus it is not one. Solomon again once more passes, perhaps on a hunting expedition into the northern mountains after the winter with its rains, which made them inaccessible, is over; and after long waiting, Shulamith at length again sees him, and he invites her to enjoy with him the spring season. ענה signifies, like ἀποκρίνεσθαι , not always to answer to the words of another, but also to speak on the occasion of a person appearing before one; it is different from ענה , the same in sound, which signifies to sing, properly to sing through the nose, and has the root-meaning of replying (of the same root as ענן , clouds, as that which meets us when we look up toward the heavens); but taking speech in hand in consequence of an impression received is equivalent to an answer. With קוּמי he calls upon her to raise herself from her stupor, and with ולכי־לך , French va-t-en , to follow him.

Verses 11-13

11 For, lo! the winter is past,

The rain is over, is gone.

12 The flowers appear in the land;

The time of song has come,

And the voice of the turtle makes itself heard in our land.

13 The fig-tree spices her green figs,

And the vines stand in bloom, they diffuse fragrance; -

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and go forth!

The winter is called סתו , perhaps from a verb סתה (of the same root as סתר , סתם , without any example, since סוּת , Genesis 49:11, is certainly not derived from a verb סוּת ), to conceal, to veil, as the time of being overcast with clouds, for in the East winter is the rainy season; (Arab.) shataā is also used in the sense of rain itself ( vid., D. M. Zeitsch. xx. 618); and in the present day in Jerusalem, in the language of the people, no other name is used for rain but shataā (not metar ). The word סתיו , which the Kerı̂ substitutes, only means that one must not read סתו , but סתו , with long a; in the same way עניו , humble, from ענה , to be bowed down, and שׂליו , a quail, from שׂלה , to be fat, are formed and written. Rain is here, however, especially mentioned: it is called gěshěm , from gāshǎm , to be thick, massy (cf. revīvīm , of density). With עבר , to pass by, there is interchanged חלף , which, like (Arab.) khalaf , means properly to press on, and then generally to move to another place, and thus to remove from the place hitherto occupied. In לו הלך , with the dat. ethicus, which throws back the action on the subject, the winter rain is thought of as a person who has passed by. נצּן , with the noun-ending ân, is the same as ניסן , and signifies the flower, as the latter the flower-month, floréal; in the use of the word, נצּן is related to נץ and נצּה , probably as little flower is to flower. In hǎzzāmīr the idea of the song of birds (Arab. gharad ) appears, and this is not to be given up. The lxx, Aquila, Symm., Targ., Jerome, and the Venet. translate tempus putationis : the time of the pruning of vines, which indeed corresponds to the usus loq. (cf. זמר , to prune the vine, and מזמרה , a pruning-knife), and to similar names, such as אסיף ingathering of fruit, but supplies no reason for her being invited out into the open fields, and is on this account improbable, because the poet further on speaks for the first time of vines. זמר ( זמּר ) is an onomatopoeia, which for the most part denotes song and music; why should זמיר thus not be able to denote singing, like זמרה , - but not, at least not in this passage, the singing of men (Hengst.), for they are not silent in winter; but the singing of birds, which is truly a sign of the spring, and as a characteristic feature, is added

(Note: It is true that besides in this passage zāmǎr , of the singing of birds, is not demonstrable, the Arab. zamar is only used of the shrill cry of the ostrich, and particularly the female ostrich.)

to this lovely picture of spring? Thus there is also suitably added the mention of the turtle-dove, which is a bird of passage ( vid., Jeremiah 8:7), and therefore a messenger of spring. נשׁמע is 3rd pret.: it makes itself heard.

The description of spring is finished by a reference to the fig-tree and the vine, the standing attributes of a prosperous and peaceful homestead, 1 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 18:31. פּג (from פּנג , and thus named, not from their hardness, but their delicacy) are the little fruits of the fig-tree which now, when the harvest-rains are over, and the spring commences with the equinox of Nisan, already begin to assume a red colour; the verb חנט does not mean “to grow into a bulb,” as Böttch. imagines; it has only the two meanings, condire ( condiri, post-bibl. syn. of בּשׁל ) and rubescere. From its colour, wheat has the name חטּה = חנטה ; and here also the idea of colour has the preference, for becoming fragrant does not occur in spring-in the history of the cursing of the fig-tree at the time of the Passover, Mark (Mark 11:13) says, “for the time of figs was not yet.” In fig-trees, by this time the green of the fruit-formation changes its colour, and the vines are סמדר , blossom, i.e., are in a state of bloom (lxx κυπρίζουσαι ; cf. Song of Solomon 7:13, κυπρισμός ) - it is a clause such as Exodus 9:31, and to which “they diffuse fragrance” (Song of Solomon 2:13) is parallel. This word סמדר is usually regarded as a compound word, consisting of סם , scent, and סמדר , brightness = blossom ( vid., Gesen. Thes.); it is undeniable that there are such compound formations, e.g., שׁלאנן , from שׁלה and שׁאן ; חלּמישׁ , from (Arab.) ḥams , to be hard, and hals , to be dark-brown.

(Note: In like manner as (Arab.) karbsh , corrugare, is formed of karb , to string, and karsh , to wrinkle, combined; and another extension of karsh is kurnash , wrinkles, and mukarnash , wrinkled. “One day,” said Wetstein to me, “I asked an Arab the origin of the word karnasa , to wrinkle, and he replied that it was derived from a sheep's stomach that had lain over night, i.e., the stomach of a slaughtered sheep that had lain over night, by which its smooth surface shrinks together and becomes wrinkled. In fact, we say of a wrinkled countenance that it is mathal alkarash albayt .” With right Wetstein gathers from this curious fact how difficult it is to ascertain by purely etymological considerations the view which guided the Semites in this or that designation. Samdor is also a strange word; on the one side it is connected with sadr , of the veiling of the eyes, as the effect of terror; and on the other with samd , of stretching oneself straight out. E. Meier takes סמדר as the name of the vine-blossom, as changed from סמסר , bristling. Just as unlikely as that סמד is cogn. to חמד , Jesurun, p. 221.)

But the traditional reading סמדר (not סמדר ) is unfavourable to this view; the middle ā accordingly, as in צלצל , presents itself as an ante -tone vowel (Ewald, §154 a), and the stem-word appears as a quadril. which may be the expansion of סדּר , to range, put in order in the sense of placing asunder, unfolding. Symm. renders the word by οἰνάνθη , and the Talm. idiom shows that not only the green five-leaved blossoms of the vine were so named, but also the fruit-buds and the first shoots of the grapes. Here, as the words “they diffuse fragrance” (as at 7:14 of the mandrakes) show, the vine-blossom is meant which fills the vineyard with an incomparably delicate fragrance. At the close of the invitation to enjoy the spring, the call “Rise up,” etc., with which it began, is repeated. The Chethı̂b לכי , if not an error in writing, justly set aside by the Kerı̂ , is to be read לכי (cf. Syr. bechi , in thee, levotechi , to thee, but with occult i) - a North Palestinism for לך , like 2 Kings 4:2, where the Kerı̂ has substituted the usual form ( vid., under Ps 103 introd.) for this very dialectic form, which is there undoubtedly original.

Verse 14

Solomon further relates how he drew her to himself out of her retirement:

My dove in the clefts of the rock,

In the hiding-place of the cliff;

Let me see thy countenance,

Let me hear thy voice!

For thy voice is sweet and thy countenance comely.

“Dove” (for which Castellio, columbula, like vulticulum, voculam ) is a name of endearment which Shulamith shares with the church of God, Psalms 74:19; cf. Psalms 56:1; Hosea 7:11. The wood-pigeon builds its nest in the clefts of the rocks and other steep rocky places, Jeremiah 48:28.

(Note: Wetstein's Reisebericht, p. 182: “If the Syrian wood-pigeon does not find a pigeon-tower, περιστερεῶνα , it builds its nest in the hollows of rocky precipices, or in the walls of deep and wide fountains.” See also his Nord-arabien, p. 58: “A number of scarcely accessible mountains in Arabia are called alkunnat , a rock-nest.”)

That Shulamith is thus here named, shows that, far removed from intercourse with the world, her home was among the mountains. חגוי , from חגו , or also חגוּ , requires a verb הגה = (Arab.) khajja , findere. ( סל , as a Himyar. lexicographer defines it, is a cleft into the mountains after the nature of a defile; with צוּר , only the ideas of inaccessibility and remoteness are connected; with סלע , those of a secure hiding-place, and, indeed, a convenient, pleasant residence. מדרגה is the stairs; here the rocky stairs, as the two chalk-cliffs on the Rügen, which sink perpendicularly to the sea, are called “ Stubbenkammer ,” a corruption of the Slavonic Stupnhkamen, i.e., the Stair-Rock. “Let me see,” said he, as he called upon her with enticing words, “thy countenance;” and adds this as a reason, “for thy countenance is lovely.” The word מראיך , thus pointed, is sing.; the J od Otians is the third root letter of ראי , retained only for the sake of the eye. It is incorrect to conclude from ashrēch , in Ecclesiastes 10:17, that the ech may be also the plur. suff., which it can as little be as êhu in Proverbs 29:18; in both cases the sing. ěshěr has substituted itself for ashrē . But, inversely, mǎraīch cannot be sing.; for the sing. is simply marēch . Also mǎrāv , Job 41:1, is not sing.: the sing. is marēhu , Job 4:16; Song of Solomon 5:15. On the other hand, the determination of such forms as מראינוּ , מראיהם , is difficult: these forms may be sing. as well as plur. In the passage before us, מראים is just such a non-numer. plur. as פנים . But while panīm is an extensive plur., as Böttcher calls it: the countenance, in its extension and the totality of its parts, - marīm , like marōth , vision, a stately term, Exodus 40:2 ( vid., Deitrich's Abhand. p. 19), is an amplificative plur.: the countenance, on the side of its fulness of beauty and its overpowering impression.

Verses 15-16

There now follows a cantiuncula . Shulamith comes forward, and, singing, salutes her beloved. Their love shall celebrate a new spring. Thus she wishes everything removed, or rendered harmless, that would disturb the peace of this love:

15 Catch us the foxes, the little foxes,

The spoilers of the vineyards;

For our vineyards are in bloom!

16 My beloved is mine, and I am his;

Who feeds his flock among the lilies.

If the king is now, on this visit of the beloved, engaged in hunting, the call: “Catch us,” etc., if it is directed at all to any definite persons, is addressed to those who follow him. But this is a vine-dresser's ditty, in accord with Shulamith's experience as the keeper of a vineyard, which, in a figure, aims at her love-relation. The vineyards, beautiful with fragrant blossom, point to her covenant of love; and the foxes, the little foxes, which might destroy these united vineyards, point to all the great and little enemies and adverse circumstances which threaten to gnaw and destroy love in the blossom, ere it has reached the ripeness of full enjoyment. שׁעלים comprehends both foxes and jackals, which “destroy or injure the vineyards; because, by their holes and passages which they form in the ground, loosening the soil, so that the growth and prosperity of the vine suffers injury” (Hitzig). This word is from שׁעל (R. של ), to go down, or into the depth. The little foxes are perhaps the jackals, which are called tǎnnīm , from their extended form, and in height are seldom more than fifteen inches. The word “jackal” has nothing to do with שׁוּעל , but is the Persian-Turkish shaghal , which comes from the Sanscr. crgâla , the howler (R. krag , like kap - âla , the skull; R. kap , to be arched). Moreover, the mention of the foxes naturally follows 14 a, for they are at home among rocky ravines. Hitzig supposes Shulamith to address the foxes: hold for us = wait, ye rascals! But אחז , Aram. אחד , does not signify to wait, but to seize or lay hold of (synon. לכד , Judges 15:4), as the lion its prey, Isaiah 5:29. And the plur. of address is explained from its being made to the king's retinue, or to all who could and would give help. Fox-hunting is still, and has been from old times, a sport of rich landowners; and that the smaller landowners also sought to free themselves from them by means of snares or otherwise, is a matter of course, - they are proverbially as destroyers, Neh. 3:35 [4:3], and therefore a figure of the false prophets, Ezekiel 13:4. מחבּ כּרם are here instead of מחבּלי הכּרם . The articles are generally omitted, because poetry is not fond of the article, where, as here (cf. on the other hand, Song of Solomon 1:6), the thoughts and language permit it; and the fivefold îm is an intentional mere verborum sonus . The clause וּכר סמדר is an explanatory one, as appears from the Vav and the subj. preceding, as well as from the want of a finitum . סמדר maintains here also, in pausa , the sharpening of the final syllable, as חץ , Deuteronomy 28:42.

The 16th verse is connected with the 15th. Shulamith, in the pentast. song, celebrates her love-relation; for the praise of it extends into Song of Solomon 2:15, is continued in Song of Solomon 2:16, and not till Song of Solomon 2:17 does she address her beloved. Luther translates:

My beloved is mine, and I am his;

He feeds (his flock) among the roses.

He has here also changed the “lilies” of the Vulgate into “roses;” for of the two queens among the flowers, he gave the preference to the popular and common rose; besides, he rightly does not translate הרעה , in the mid. after the pascitur inter lilia of the Vulgate: who feeds himself, i.e., pleases himself; for רעה has this meaning only when the object expressly follows, and it is evident that בּשּׁו cannot possibly be this object, after Genesis 37:2, - the object is thus to be supplied. And which? Without doubt, gregem; and if Heiligst., with the advocates of the shepherd-hypothesis, understands this feeding (of the flock) among the lilies, of feeding on a flowery meadow, nothing can be said against it. But at Song of Solomon 6:2., where this saying of Shulamith is repeated, she says that her beloved בּגּנּים feeds and gathers lilies. On this the literal interpretation of the qui pascit ( gregem ) inter lilia is wrecked; for a shepherd, such as the shepherd-hypothesis supposes, were he to feed his flock in a garden, would be nothing better than a thief; such shepherds, also, do not concern themselves with the plucking of flowers, but spend their time in knitting stockings. It is Solomon, the king, of whom Shulamith speaks. She represents him to herself as a shepherd; but in such a manner that, at the same time, she describes his actions in language which rises above ordinary shepherd-life, and, so to speak, idealizes. She, who was herself a shepherdess, knows from her own circle of thought nothing more lovely or more honourable to conceive and to say of him, than that he is a shepherd who feeds among lilies. The locality and the surroundings of his daily work correspond to his nature, which is altogether beauty and love. Lilies, the emblem of unapproachable highness, awe-inspiring purity, lofty elevation above what is common, bloom where the lily-like (king) wanders, whom the Lily names her own. The mystic interpretation and mode of speaking takes “lilies” as the figurative name of holy souls, and a lily-stalk as the symbol of the life of regeneration. Mary, who is celebrated in song as the rosa mystica , is rightly represented in ancient pictures with a lily in her hand on the occasion of the Annunciation; for if the people of God are called by Jewish poets “a people of lilies,” she is, within this lily-community, this communio sanctorum , the lily without a parallel.

Verse 17

Shulamith now further relates, in a dramatic, lively manner, what she said to her beloved after she had saluted him in a song:

17 Till the day cools and the shadows flee away,

Turn; make haste, my beloved,

Like a gazelle or a young one of the hinds

On the craggy mountains.

With the perf., עד שׁ (cf. אם עד , Genesis 24:33) signifies, till something is done; with the fut., till something will be done. Thus: till the evening comes - and, therefore, before it comes - may he do what she requires of him. Most interpreters explain סב , verte te, with the supplement ad me; according to which Jerome, Castell., and others translate by revertere. But Psalms 71:21 does not warrant this rendering; and if Shulamith has her beloved before her, then by סב she can only point him away from herself; the parall. Song of Solomon 8:14 has בּרח instead of סב , which consequently means, “turn thyself from here away.” Rather we may suppose, as I explained in 1851, that she holds him in her embrace, as she says, and inseparable from him, will wander with him upon the mountains. But neither that ad me nor this mecum should have been here (cf. on the contrary Song of Solomon 8:14) unexpressed. We hold by what is written. Solomon surprises Shulamith, and invites her to enjoy with him the spring-time; not alone, because he is on a hunting expedition, and - as denoted by “catch us” (v. 15) - with a retinue of followers. She knows that the king has not now time to wander at leisure with her; and therefore she asks him to set forward his work for the day, and to make haste on the mountains till “the day cools and the shadows flee.” Then she will expect him back; then in the evening she will spend the time with him as he promised her. The verb פּוּח , with the guttural letter Hheth and the labial Pe, signifies spirare, here of being able to be breathed, i.e., cool, like the expression ha' רוּח , Genesis 3:8 (where the guttural Hheth is connected with Resh). The shadows flee away, when they become longer and longer, as if on a flight, when they stretch out (Psalms 109:23; Psalms 102:12) and gradually disappear. Till that takes place - or, as we say, will be done - he shall hasten with the swiftness of a gazelle on the mountains, and that on the mountains of separation, i.e., the riven mountains, which thus present hindrances, but which he, the “swift as the gazelle” ( vid., Song of Solomon 2:9), easily overcomes. Rightly, Bochart: montes scissionis, ita dicti propter , ῥωξημούς et χάσματα . Also, Luther's “ Scheideberge ” are “mountains with peaks, from one of which to the other one must spring.” We must not here think of Bithron (2 Samuel 2:29), for that is a mountain ravine on the east of Jordan; nor of Bar-Cochba's ביתר (Kirschbau, Landau), because this mountain (whether it be sought for to the south of Jerusalem or to be north of Antipatris) ought properly to be named ביתתר ( vid., Aruch). It is worthy of observation, that in an Assyrian list of the names of animals, along with ṣbi (gazelle) and apparu (the young of the gazelle or of the hind), the name bitru occurs, perhaps the name of the rupicapra . At the close of the song, the expression “mountain of spices” occurs instead of “mountain of separation,” as here. There no more hindrances to be overcome lie in view, the rock-cliffs have become fragrant flowers. The request here made by Shulamith breathes self-denying humility, patient modesty, inward joy in the joy of her beloved. She will not claim him for herself till he has accomplished his work. But when he associates with her in the evening, as with the Emmaus disciples, she will rejoice if he becomes her guide through the new-born world of spring. The whole scene permits, yea, moves us to think of this, that the Lord already even now visits the church which loves Him, and reveals Himself to her; but that not till the evening of the world is His parousia to be expected.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/song-of-solomon-2.html. 1854-1889.
Ads FreeProfile