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She gives herself to him, and he has accepted her, and now celebrates the delight of possession and enjoyment.
1 I am come into my garden, my sister-bride;
Have plucked my myrrh with my balsam;
Have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;
Have drunk my wine with my milk -
Eat, drink, and be drunken, ye friends!
If the exclamation of Solomon, 1 a, is immediately connected with the words of Shulamith, Song of Solomon 4:16, then we must suppose that, influenced by these words, in which the ardour of love and humility express themselves, he thus in triumph exclaims, after he has embraced her in his arms as his own inalienable possession. But the exclamation denotes more than this. It supposes a union of love, such as is the conclusion of marriage following the betrothal, the God-ordained aim of sexual love within the limits fixed by morality. The poetic expression בּאתי לגנּי points to the אל eht ot בּוא , used of the entrance of a man into the woman's chamber, to which the expression (Arab.) dakhal bihā (he went in with her), used of the introduction into the bride's chamber, is compared. The road by which Solomon reached this full and entire possession was not short, and especially for his longing it was a lengthened one. He now triumphs in the final enjoyment which his ardent desire had found. A pleasant enjoyment which is reached in the way and within the limits of the divine order, and which therefore leaves no bitter fruits of self-reproach, is pleasant even in the retrospect. His words, beginning with “I am come into my garden,” breathe this pleasure in the retrospect. Ginsburg and others render incorrectly, “I am coming,” which would require the words to have been בּא אני הנּה ). The series of perfects beginning with באתי cannot be meant otherwise than retrospectively. The “garden” is Shulamith herself, Song of Solomon 4:12, in the fulness of her personal and spiritual attractions, Song of Solomon 4:16; cf. כּרמי , Song of Solomon 1:6. He may call her “my sister-bride;” the garden is then his by virtue of divine and human right, he has obtained possession of this garden, he has broken its costly rare flowers.
ארה (in the Mishna dialect the word used of plucking figs) signifies to pluck; the Aethiop. trans. ararku karbê , I have plucked myrrh; for the Aethiop. has arara instead of simply ארה בּשׂמי is here שׂבּם deflected. While בּשׂם , with its plur. besâmim , denotes fragrance in general, and only balsam specially, bāsām = (Arab.) bashâm is the proper name of the balsam-tree (the Mecca balsam), amyris opobalsamum, which, according to Forskal, is indigenous in the central mountain region of Jemen (S. Arabia); it is also called (Arab.) balsaman ; the word found its way in this enlarged form into the West, and then returned in the forms בּלסמון אפּופלסמון אפּלרלסמא (Syr. afrusomo ), into the East. Balsam and other spices were brought in abundance to King Solomon as a present by the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10:10; the celebrated balsam plantations of Jericho ( vid., Winer's Real-W.), which continued to be productive till the Roman period, might owe their origin to the friendly relations which Solomon sustained to the south Arab. princess. Instead of the Indian aloe, Song of Solomon 4:14, the Jamanic balsam is here connected with myrrh as a figure of Shulamith's excellences. The plucking, eating, and drinking are only interchangeable figurative descriptions of the enjoyment of love.
“Honey and milk,” says Solomon, Song of Solomon 4:11, “is under thy tongue.” יער is like יערה , 1 Samuel 14:27, the comb ( favus) or cells containing the honey, - a designation which has perhaps been borrowed from porous lava.
(Note: Vid., Wetstein in the Zeitsch. für allgem. Erdkunde, 1859, p. 123.)
With honey and milk “under the tongue” wine is connected, to which, and that of the noblest kind, Song of Solomon 7:10, Shulamith's palate is compared. Wine and milk together are οἰνόγαλα , which Chloe presents to Daphnis (Longus, i. 23). Solomon and his Song here hover on the pinnacle of full enjoyment; but if one understands his figurative language as it interprets itself, it here also expresses that delight of satisfaction which the author of Psalms 19:6 transfers to the countenance of the rising sun, in words of a chaste purity which sexual love never abandons, in so far as it is connected with esteem for a beloved wife, and with the preservation of mutual personal dignity. For this very reason the words of Solomon, 1 a, cannot be thought of as spoken to the guests. Between Song of Solomon 4:16 and Song of Solomon 5:1 the bridal night intervenes. The words used in 1a are Solomon's morning salutation to her who has now wholly become his own. The call addressed to the guests at the feast is given forth on the second day of the marriage, which, according to ancient custom, Genesis 29:28; Judges 14:12, was wont to be celebrated for seven days, Tob. 11:18. The dramatical character of the Song leads to this result, that the pauses are passed over, the scenes are quickly changed, and the times appear to be continuous.
The plur. דּודים Hengst. thinks always designates “love” ( Liebe ); thus, after Proverbs 7:18, also here: Eat, friends, drink and intoxicate yourselves in love. But the summons, inebriamini amoribus , has a meaning if regarded as directed by the guests to the married pair, but not as directed to the guests. And while we may say רוה דדים , yet not שׁכר דו , for shakar has always only the accus. of a spirituous liquor after it. Therefore none of the old translators (except only the Venet.: μεθύσθητε ἔρωσιν ) understood dodim , notwithstanding that elsewhere in the Song it means love, in another than a personal sense; רעים and דח are here the plur. of the elsewhere parallels רע and דּוד , e.g., Song of Solomon 5:16, according to which also (cf. on the contrary, Song of Solomon 4:16) they are accentuated. Those who are assembled are, as sympathizing friends, to participate in the pleasures of the feast. The Song of Songs has here reached its climax. A Paul would not hesitate, after Ephesians 5:31., to extend the mystical interpretation even to this. Of the antitype of the marriage pair it is said: “For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7); and of the antitype of the marriage guests: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
2 I sleep, but my heart keeps waking-
Hearken! my beloved is knocking:
Open to me, my sister, my love,
My dove, my perfect one;
For my head is filled with dew,
My locks (are) full of the drops of the night.
The partic. subst. clauses, Song of Solomon 5:2, indicate the circumstances under which that which is related in Song of Solomon 5:2 occurred. In the principal sentence in hist. prose ויּדפּק would be used; here, in the dramatic vivacity of the description, is found in its stead the interject. vocem = ausculta with the gen. foll., and a word designating
(Note: דּופק is knocking is not an attribute to the determinate דּודי my beloved which it follows, but a designation of state or condition, and thus acc., as the Beirut translation renders it: “hear my beloved in the condition of one knocking.” On the other hand, דוד דופק signifies “a beloved one knocking.” But “hear a beloved one knocking” would also be expressed acc. In classical language, the designation of state, if the subst. to which it belongs is indeterminate, is placed before it, e.g., “at the gate stood a beloved one knocking.”)
state or condition added, thought of as accus. according to the Semitic syntax (like Genesis 4:10; Jeremiah 10:22; cf. 1 Kings 14:6). To sleep while the heart wakes signifies to dream, for sleep and distinct consciousness cannot be coexistent; the movements of thought either remain in obscurity or are projected as dreams. ער = ‛awir is formed from עוּר , to be awake (in its root cogn. to the Aryan gar , of like import in γρηγορεῖν , ἐγείρειν ), in the same way as מת = mawith from מוּת . The שׁ has here the conj. sense of “ dieweil ” (because), like asher in Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 8:15. The ר dag., which occurs several times elsewhere ( vid., under Proverbs 3:8; Proverbs 14:10), is one of the inconsistencies of the system of punctuation, which in other instances does not double the ר ; perhaps a relic of the Babylonian idiom, which was herein more accordant with the lingual nature of the r than the Tiberian, which treated it as a semi-guttural. קוצּה , a lock of hair, from קץ קיץ , abscîdit, follows in the formation of the idea, the analogy of קציר , in the sense of branch, from קצר , desecuit; one so names a part which is removed without injury to the whole, and which presents itself conveniently for removal; cf. the oath sworn by Egyptian women, laḥajât muḳṣu̇si , “by the life of my separated,” i.e., “of my locks” (Lane, Egypt, etc., I 38). The word still survives in the Talmud dialect. Of a beautiful young man who proposed to become a Nazarite, Nedarim 9 a says the same as the Jer. Horajoth iii. 4 of a man who was a prostitute in Rome: his locks were arranged in separate masses, like heap upon heap; in Bereshith rabba c. lxv., under Genesis 27:11, קוּץ , curly-haired, is placed over against קרח , bald-headed, and the Syr. also has ḳauṣoto as the designation of locks of hair-a word used by the Peshito as the rendering of the Heb. קוצּות , as the Syro-Hexap. Job 16:12, the Greek κόμη . טל , from טלל (Arab. ṭll , to moisten, viz., the ground; to squirt, viz., blood), is in Arabic drizzling rain, in Heb. dew; the drops of the night ( רסיסי , from רסס , to sprinkle, to drizzle)
(Note: According to the primary idea: to break that which is solid or fluid into little pieces, wherefore רסיסים means also broken pieces. To this root appertains also the Arab. rashh , to trickle through, to sweat through, II to moisten ( e.g., the mouth of a suckling with milk), and the Aethiop. rasěḥa , to be stained. Drops scattered with a sprinkling brush the Arabs call rashaḥât ; in the mystical writings, rashaḥât el - uns (dew-drops of intimacy) is the designation of sporadic gracious glances of the deity.)
are just drops of dew, for the precipitation of the damp air assumes this form in nights which are not so cold as to become frosty. Shulamith thus dreams that her beloved seeks admission to her. He comes a long way and at night. In the most tender words he entreats for that which he expects without delay. He addresses her, “my sister,” as one of equal rank with himself, and familiar as a sister with a brother; “my love” ( רע ), as one freely chosen by him to intimate fellowship; “my dove,” as beloved and prized by him on account of her purity, simplicity, and loveliness. The meaning of the fourth designation used by him, תּמּתי , is shown by the Arab. tam to be “wholly devoted,” whence teim , “one devoted” = a servant, and mutajjam , desperately in love with one. In addressing her tmty, he thus designates this love as wholly undivided, devoting itself without evasion and without reserve. But on this occasion this love did not approve itself, at least not at once.
3 I have put off my dress,
How shall I put it on again?
I have washed my feet,
How shall I defile them again?
She now lies unclothed in bed. כּתּנת is the χιτών worn next to the body, from כתן , linen (diff. from the Arab. ḳuṭun , cotton, whence French coton , calico = cotton-stuff). She had already washed her feet, from which it is supposed that she had throughout the day walked barefooted, - how ( איככה , how? both times with the tone on the penult.;
(Note: That it has the tone on the penult., like כּכה , e.g., Song of Solomon 5:9, is in conformity with the paragog. nature of . ה The tone, however, when the following word in close connection begins with , א goes to the ult., Esther 7:6. That this does not occur in איך אל , is explained from the circumstance that the word has the disjunctive Tifcha. But why not in איך אט ? I think it is for the sake of the rhythm. Pinsker, Einl. p. 184, seeks to change the accentuation in order that the penult. accent might be on the second איך , but that is not necessary. Cf. Psalms 137:7.)
cf. איכה , where ? Song of Solomon 1:7) should she again put on her dress, which she had already put off and laid aside ( פּשׁט )? why should she soil ( אטנּפם , relating to the fem. רגלי , for אטנפן ) again her feet, that had been washed clean? Shulamith is here brought back to the customs as well as to the home of her earlier rural life; but although she should thus have been enabled to reach a deeper and more lively consciousness of the grace of the king, who stoops to an equality with her, yet she does not meet his love with an equal requital. She is unwilling for his sake to put herself to trouble, or to do that which is disagreeable to her. It cannot be thought that such an interview actually took place; and yet what she here dreamed had not only inward reality, but also full reality. For in a dream, that which is natural to us or that which belongs to our very constitution becomes manifest, and much that is kept down during our waking hours by the power of the will, by a sense of propriety, and by the activities of life, comes to light during sleep; for fancy then stirs up the ground of our nature and brings it forth in dreams, and thus exposes us to ourselves in such a way as oftentimes, when we waken, to make us ashamed and alarmed. Thus it was with Shulamith. In the dream it was inwardly manifest that she had lost her first love. She relates it with sorrow; for scarcely had she rejected him with these unworthy deceitful pretences when she comes to herself again.
4 My beloved stretched his hand through the opening,
And my heart was moved for him.
(Note: Cf. the Arab. ghawr ( ghôr ), as a sinking of the earth, and khawr ( khôr ), as a breaking through, and, as it were, a piercing. The mouth of a river is also called khôr , because there the sea breaks into the riv.)
from the verb חוּר , in the sense of to break through (R. חר , whence also חרז , Song of Solomon 1:10, and חרם , Arab. kharam , part. broken through, e.g., of a lattice-window), signifies foramen, a hole, also caverna (whence the name of the Troglodytes, חרי , and the Haurân, חורן ), here the loophole in the door above (like khawkht , the little door for the admission of individuals in the street or house-door). It does not properly mean a window, but a part of the door pierced through at the upper part of the lock of the door (the door-bolt). מן־החור is understood from the standpoint of one who is within; “by the opening from without to within,” thus “through the opening;” stretching his hand through the door-opening as if to open the door, if possible, by the pressing back of the lock from within, he shows how greatly he longed after Shulamith. And she was again very deeply moved when she perceived this longing, which she had so coldly responded to: the interior of her body, with the organs which, after the bibl. idea, are the seat of the tenderest emotions, or rather, in which they reflect themselves, both such as are agreeable and such as are sorrowful, groaned within her, - an expression of deep sympathy so common, that “the sounding of the bowels,” Isaiah 63:15, an expression used, and that anthropopathically of God Himself, is a direct designation of sympathy or inner participation. The phrase here wavers between עליו and עלי (thus, e.g., Nissel, 1662). Both forms are admissible. It is true we say elsewhere only naphshi 'ālai , ruhi 'ālai , libbi 'ālai , for the Ego distinguishes itself from its substance (cf. System d. bibl. Psychologie, p. 151f.); meai 'alai , instead of bi ( בּקרבּ ), would, however, be also explained from this, that the bowels are meant, not anatomically, but as psychical organs. But the old translators (lxx, Targ., Syr., Jerome, Venet.) rendered עליו , which rests on later MS authority ( vid., Norzi, and de Rossi), and is also more appropriate: her bowels are stirred, viz., over him, i.e., on account of him (Alkabez: בעבורו ). As she will now open to him, she is inwardly more ashamed, as he has come so full of love and longing to make her glad.
5 I arose to open to my beloved,
And my hands dropped with myrrh,
And my fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handle of the bolt.
The personal pron. אני stands without emphasis before the verb which already contains it; the common language of the people delights in such particularity. The Book of Hosea, the Ephraimite prophet's work, is marked by such a style. עבר מור , with which the parallel clause goes beyond the simple mōr , is myrrh flowing over, dropping out of itself, i.e., that which breaks through the bark of the balsamodendron myrrha, or which flows out if an incision is made in it; myrrha stacte, of which Pliny (xii. 35) says: cui nulla praefertur , otherwise דּרור מר , from דּרר , to gush out, to pour itself forth in rich jets. He has come perfumed as if for a festival, and the costly ointment which he brought with him has dropped on the handles of the bolts ( מנעוּל , keeping locked, after the form מלבּוּשׁ , drawing on), viz., the inner bolt, which he wished to withdraw. A classical parallel is found in Lucretius, iv. 1171:
“At lacrimans exclusus amator limina saepe
Floribus et sertis operit postesque superbos
Unguit amaracino” ...
Böttch. here puts to Hitzig the question, “Did the shepherd, the peasant of Engedi, bring with him oil of myrrh?” Rejecting this reasonable explanation, he supposes that the Shulamitess, still in Solomon's care, on rising up quickly dipped her hand in the oil of myrrh, that she might refresh her beloved. She thus had it near her before her bed, as a sick person her decoction. The right answer was, that the visitant by night is not that imaginary personage, but it is Solomon. She had dreamed that he stood before her door and knocked. But finding no response, he again in a moment withdrew, when it was proved that Shulamith did not requite his love and come forth to meet it in its fulness as she ought.
6 I opened to my beloved;
And my beloved had withdrawn, was gone:
My soul departed when he spake -
I sought him, and found him not;
I called him, and he answered me not.
As the disciples at Emmaus, when the Lord had vanished from the midst of them, said to one another: Did not our heart burn within us when He spake with us? so Shulamith says that when he spake, i.e., sought admission to her, she was filled with alarm, and almost terrified to death.
Love-ecstasy ( ἐκστῆναι , as contrast to γενέσθαι ἐν ἑαυτῷ ) is not here understood, for in such a state she would have flown to meet him; but a sinking of the soul, such as is described by Terence ( And. I 5. 16):
“Oratio haec me miseram exanimavit metu.”
The voice of her beloved struck her heart; but in the consciousness that she had estranged herself from him, she could not openly meet him and offer empty excuses. But now she recognises it with sorrow that she had not replied to the deep impression of his loving words; and seeing him disappear without finding him, she calls after him whom she had slighted, but he answers her not. The words: “My soul departed when he spake,” are the reason why she now sought him and called upon him, and they are not a supplementary remark (Zöckl.); nor is there need for the correction of the text בּדברו , which should mean: (my soul departed) when he turned his back (Ewald), or, behind him (Hitz., Böttch.), from דּבר = (Arab.) dabara , tergum vertere , praeterire , - the Heb. has the word דּביר , the hinder part, and as it appears, דּבּר , to act from behind (treacherously) and destroy, 2 Chronicles 22:10; cf. under Genesis 34:13, but not the Kal דּבר , in that Arab. signification. The meaning of חמק has been hit upon by Aquila ( ἔκλινεν ), Symmachus ( ἀπονεύσας ), and Jerome ( declinaverat ); it signifies to turn aside, to take a different direction, as the Hithpa. Jeremiah 31:22: to turn oneself away; cf. חמּוּקים , turnings, bendings, Song of Solomon 7:2. חבק and אבק (cf. Genesis 32:25), Aethiop. ḥaḳafa , Amhar. aḳafa (reminding us of נקץ , Hiph. הקּיף ), are usually compared; all of these, however, signify to “encompass;” but חמק does not denote a moving in a circle after something, but a half circular motion away from something; so that in the Arab. the prevailing reference to fools, aḥamḳ , does not appear to proceed from the idea of closeness, but of the oblique direction, pushed sideways. Turning himself away, he proceeded farther. In vain she sought him; she called without receiving any answer. ענני is the correct pausal form of ענני , vid., under Psalms 118:5. But something worse than even this seeking and calling in vain happened to her.
7 The watchmen who go about in the city found me,
They beat me, wounded me;
My upper garment took away from me,
The watchmen of the walls.
She sought her beloved, not “in the midbar ” (open field), nor “in the kepharim ” (villages), but בעיר , “in the city,” - a circumstance which is fatal to the shepherd-hypothesis here, as in the other dream. There in the city she is found by the watchmen who patrol the city, and have their proper posts on the walls to watch those who approach the city and depart from it (cf. Isaiah 62:6). These rough, regardless men, - her story returns at the close like a palindrome to those previously named, - who judge only according to that which is external, and have neither an eye nor a heart for the sorrow of a loving soul, struck ( הכה , from נכה , to pierce, hit, strike) and wounded ( פּצע , R. פץ , to divide, to inflict wounds in the flesh) the royal spouse as a common woman, and so treated her, that, in order to escape being made a prisoner, she was constrained to leave her upper robe in their hands (Genesis 39:12). This upper robe, not the veil which at Song of Solomon 4:1, Song of Solomon 4:3 we found was called tsammā , is called רדיד . Aben Ezra compares with it the Arab. ridâ , a plaid-like over-garment, which was thrown over the shoulders and veiled the upper parts of the body. But the words have not the same derivation. The ridâ has its name from its reaching downward, - probably from the circumstance that, originally, it hung down to the feet, so that one could tread on it; but the (Heb.) redid (in Syr. the dalmatica of the deacons), from רדד , Hiph., 1 Kings 6:32, Targ., Talm., Syr., רדד , to make broad and thin, as expansum, i.e., a thin and light upper robe, viz., over the cuttoněth , 3a. The lxx suitably translates it here and at Genesis 24:65 ( hatstsaiph , from tsa'aph , to lay together, to fold, to make double or many-fold) by θέριστρον , a summer overdress. A modern painter, who represents Shulamith as stripped naked by the watchmen, follows his own sensual taste, without being able to distinguish between tunica and pallium ; for neither Luther, who renders by schleier (veil), nor Jerome, who has pallium (cf. the saying of Plautus: tunica propior pallio est ), gives any countenance to such a freak of imagination. The city watchmen tore from off her the upper garment, without knowing and without caring to know what might be the motive and the aim of this her nocturnal walk.
All this Shulamith dreamed; but the painful feeling of repentance, of separation and misapprehension, which the dream left behind, entered as deeply into her soul as if it had been an actual external experience. Therefore she besought the daughters of Jerusalem:
8 I adjure you, ye daughters of Jerusalem,
If ye find my beloved, -
What shall ye then say to him?
“That I am sick of love.”
That אם is here not to be interpreted as the negative particle of adjuration (Böttch.), as at Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5, at once appears from the absurdity arising from such an interpretation. The or. directa, following “I adjure you,” can also begin (Numbers 5:19.) with the usual אם , which is followed by its conclusion. Instead of “that ye say to him I am sick of love,” she asks the question: What shall ye say to him: and adds the answer: quod aegra sum amore , or, as Jerome rightly renders, in conformity with the root-idea of חלה : quia amore langueo ; while, on the other hand, the lxx: ὃτι τετροομένη ( saucia ) ἀγάπης ἐγώ εἰμι , as if the word were חללת , from חלל . The question proposed, with its answer, inculcates in a naive manner that which is to be said, as one examines beforehand a child who has to order something. She turns to the daughters of Jerusalem, because she can presuppose in them, in contrast with those cruel watchmen, a sympathy with her love-sorrow, on the ground of their having had similar experiences. They were also witnesses of the origin of this covenant of love, and graced the marriage festival by their sympathetic love.
When, therefore, they put to her the question:
9 What is thy beloved before another (beloved),
Thou fairest of women?
What is thy beloved before another (beloved),
That thou dost adjure us thus?
the question thus asked cannot proceed from ignorance; it can only have the object of giving them the opportunity of hearing from Shulamith's own mouth and heart her laudatory description of him, whom they also loved, although they were not deemed worthy to stand so near to him as she did who was thus questioned. Bצttch. and Ewald, secs. 325 a, 326 a, interpret the מן in מדּור partitively: quid amati (as in Cicero: quod hominis ) amatus tuus ; but then the words would have been מה־מדוד דודך , if such a phrase were admissible; for מה־דוד certainly of itself alone means quid amati , what kind of a beloved. Thus the מן is the comparative ( prae amato ), and דּוד the sing., representing the idea of species or kind; מדּודים , here easily misunderstood, is purposely avoided. The use of the form השׁבעתנו for השׁבעתּינו is one of the many instances of the disregard of the generic distinction occurring in this Song, which purposely, after the manner of the vulgar language, ignores pedantic regularity.
Hereupon Shulamith describes to them who ask what her beloved is. He is the fairest of men. Everything that is glorious in the kingdom of nature, and, so far as her look extends, everything in the sphere of art, she appropriates, so as to present a picture of his external appearance. Whatever is precious, lovely, and grand, is all combined in the living beauty of his person.
(Note: Hengstenberg finds in this eulogium, on the supposition that Solomon is the author, and is the person who is here described, incomprehensible self-praise. But he does not certainly say all this immediately of himself, but puts it into the mouth of Shulamith, whose love he gained. But love idealizes; she sees him whom she loves, not as others see him, - she sees him in her own transforming light.)
She first praises the mingling of colours in the countenance of her beloved.
10 My beloved is dazzling white and ruddy,
Distinguised above ten thousand.
The verbal root צח has the primary idea of purity, i.e., freedom from disturbance and muddiness, which, in the stems springing from it, and in their manifold uses, is transferred to undisturbed health (Arab. ṣaḥḥ , cf. baria , of smoothness of the skin), a temperate stomach and clear head, but particularly to the clearness and sunny brightness of the heavens, to dazzling whiteness ( צחח , Lamentations 4:7; cf. צחר ), and then to parched dryness, resulting from the intense and continued rays of the sun; צח is here adj. from צחח , Lamentations 4:7, bearing almost the same relation to לבן as λαμπρός to λευκός , cogn. with lucere. אדום , R. דם , to condense, is properly dark-red, called by the Turks kuju kirmesi (from kuju , thick, close, dark), by the French rouge foncé , of the same root as דּם , the name for blood, or a thick and dark fluid. White, and indeed a dazzling white, is the colour of his flesh, and redness, deep redness, the colour of his blood tinging his flesh. Whiteness among all the race-colours is the one which best accords with the dignity of man; pure delicate whiteness is among the Caucasian races a mark of high rank, of superior training, of hereditary nobility; wherefore, Lamentations 4:7, the appearance of the nobles of Jerusalem is likened in whiteness to snow and milk, in redness to corals; and Homer, Il. iv. 141, says of Menelaus that he appeared stained with gore, “as when some woman tinges ivory with purple colour.” In this mingling of white and red, this fulness of life and beauty, he is דּגוּל , distinguished above myriads. The old translators render dagul by “chosen” (Aquila, Symm., Syr., Jerome, Luther), the lxx by ἐκλελοχισμένος , e cohorte selectus ; but it means “bannered” ( degel , Song of Solomon 2:4), as the Venet.: σεσημαιωμένος , i.e., thus distinguished, as that which is furnished with a degel , a banner, a pennon. Grätz takes dagul as the Greek σημειωτός (noted). With רבבן , as a designation of an inconceivable number, Rashi rightly compares Ezekiel 16:7. Since the “ten thousand” are here though of, not in the same manner as דגולים , the particle min is not the compar. magis quam , but, as at Genesis 3:14; Judges 5:24; Isaiah 52:14, prae , making conspicuous (cf. Virgil, Aen. v. 435, prae omnibus unum ). After this praise of the bright blooming countenance, which in general distinguished the personal appearance of her beloved, so far as it was directly visible, there now follows a detailed description, beginning with his head.
11 His head is precious fine gold,
His locks hill upon hill,
Black as the raven.
The word-connection פּז כּתם , occurring only here, serves as a designation of the very finest pure gold; for כּתם (hiding, then that which is hidden), from כתם , R. כת ( vid., concerning the words appertaining to this root, under Psalms 87:6), is the name of fine gold, which was guarded as a jewel (cf. Proverbs 25:12), and פּז (with long ā ), is pure gold freed from inferior metals, from פּזז , to set free, and generally violently to free (cf. zahav muphaz , 1 Kings 10:18, with zahav tahor , 2 Chronicles 9:17). The Targ. to the Hagiog. translate פז by אובריזא ( e.g., Psalms 119:127), or אובריזין ( e.g., Psalms 19:11), ὄβρυζον , i.e., gold which has stood the fire-proof ( obrussa ) of the cupel or the crucible. Grammatically regarded, the word-connection kethem paz is not genit., like kethem ophir , but appositional, like narrah bethulah , Deuteronomy 22:28, zevahim shelamim , Exodus 24:5, etc. The point of comparison is the imposing nobility of the fine form and noble carriage of his head. In the description of the locks of his hair the lxx render תלתלים by ἐλάται , Jerome by sicut elatae palmarum , like the young twigs, the young shoots of the palm. Ewald regards it as a harder parall. form of זלזלּים , Isaiah 18:5, vine-branches; and Hitzig compares the Thousand and One Nights, iii. 180, where the loose hair of a maiden is likened to twisted clusters of grapes. The possibility of this meaning is indisputable, although (Arab.) taltalat , a drinking-vessel made of the inner bark of palm-branches, is named, not from taltalah , as the name of the palm-branch, but from taltala , to shake down, viz., in the throat. The palm-branch, or the vine-branch, would be named from תּלתּל , pendulum esse , to hang loosely and with a wavering motion, the freq. of תּלה , pendere . The Syr. also think on תלה , for it translates “spread out,” i.e., a waving downward; and the Venet., which translates by ἀπαιωρήματα . The point of comparison would be the freshness and flexibility of the abundant long hair of the head, in contrast to motionless close-lying smoothness. One may think of Jupiter, who, when he shakes his head, moves heaven and earth. But, as against this, we have the fact: (1) That the language has other names for palm-branches and vine-branches; the former are called in the Song of Solomon 7:9, sansinnim . (2) That תלתלים , immediately referred to the hair, but not in the sense of “hanging locks” (Böttch.), is still in use in the post-bibl. Heb. ( vid., under Song of Solomon 5:2); the Targ. also, in translating דּגוּרין דּגורין , cumuli cumuli , thinks תלתלים תּלּין תּלּין , Menachoth 29 b. A hill is called תל , (Arab.) tall, from טלל , prosternere , to throw along, as of earth thrown out, sand, or rubbish; and תּלתּל , after the form גּלגּל , in use probably only in the plur., is a hilly country which rises like steps, or presents an undulating appearance. Seen fro his neck upwards, his hair forms in undulating lines, hill upon hill. In colour, these locks of hair are black as a raven, which bears the Semitic name עורב from its blackness ( ערב ), but in India is called kârava from its croaking. The raven-blackness of the hair contrasts with the whiteness and redness of the countenance, which shines forth as from a dark ground, from a black border. The eyes are next described.
12 His eyes like doves by the water-brooks,
Bathing in milk, stones beautifully set
The eyes in their glancing moistness (cf. ὑγρότης τῶν ὀμμάτων , in Plutarch, of a languishing look), and in the movement of their pupils, are like doves which sip at the water-brooks, and move to and fro beside them. אפיק , from אפק , continere , is a watercourse, and then also the water itself flowing in it ( vid., under Psalms 18:16), as (Arab.) wadin , a valley, and then the river flowing in the valley, bahr , the sea-basin (properly the cleft), and then also the sea itself. The pred. “bathing” refers to the eyes (cf. Song of Solomon 4:9), not to the doves, if this figure is continued. The pupils of the eyes, thus compared with doves, seem as if bathing in milk, in that they swim, as it were, in the white in the eye. But it is a question whether the figure of the doves is continued also in ישׁבות על־מלּאת . It would be the case of milleth meant “fulness of water,” as it is understood, after the example of the lxx, also by Aquila ( ἐκχύσεις ). Jerome ( fluenta plenissima ), and the Arab. ( piscinas aqua refertas ); among the moderns, by Döpke, Gesen., Hengst., and others. But this pred. would then bring nothing new to Song of Solomon 5:12; and although in the Syr. derivatives from melā' signify flood and high waters, yet the form milleth does not seem, especially without מים , to be capable of bearing this signification. Luther's translation also, although in substance correct: und stehen in der fülle (and stand in fulness) ( milleth , like שׁלמותא of the Syr., πληρώσεως of the Gr. Venet., still defended by Hitz.), yet does not bring out the full force of milleth , which, after the analogy of כּסּא רצפה , appears to have a concrete signification which is seen from a comparison of Exodus 25:7; Exodus 27:17, Exodus 27:20; Exodus 39:13. There מלּאה and מלּאים signify not the border with precious stones, but, as rightly maintained by Keil, against Knobel, their filling in, i.e., their bordering, setting. Accordingly, milleth will be a synon. technical expression: the description, passing from the figure of the dove, says further of the eyes, that they are firm on (in) their setting; על is suitable, for the precious stone is laid within the casket in which it is contained. Hitzig has, on the contrary, objected that מלאת and מלאים denote filling up, and thus that milleth cannot be a filling up, and still less the place thereof. But as in the Talm. מוּליתא signifies not only fulness, but also stuffed fowls or pies, and as πλήρωμα in its manifold aspects is used not only of that with which anything is filled, but also of that which is filled ( e.g., of a ship that is manned, and Ephesians 1:23 of the church in which Christ, as in His body, is immanent), - thus also milleth , like the German “ Fassung ,” may be used of a ring-casket ( funda or pala ) in which the precious stone is put. That the eyes are like a precious stone in its casket, does not merely signify that they fill the sockets, - for the bulbus of the eye in every one fills the orbita, - but that they are not sunk like the eyes of one who is sick, which fall back on their supporting edges in the orbita, and that they appear full and large as they press forward from wide and open eyelids. The cheeks are next described.
13 a His cheeks like a bed of sweet herbs,
Towers of spicy plants.
A flower-bed is called ערוּגה , from ערג , to be oblique, inclined. His cheeks are like such a soft raised bed, and the impression their appearance makes is like the fragrance which flows from such a bed planted with sweet-scented flowers. Migedaloth are the tower-like or pyramidal mounds, and merkahhim are the plants used in spicery. The point of comparison here is thus the soft elevation; perhaps with reference to the mingling of colours, but the word chosen ( merkahhim ) rather refers to the lovely, attractive, heart-refreshing character of the impression. The Venet., keeping close to the existing text: αἱ σιαγόνες αὐτοῦ ὡς πρασιὰ τοῦ ἀρώματος πύργοι ἀρωματισμῶν (thus not a ̓ρωματιστῶν ] according to Gebhardt's just conjecture). But is the punctuation here correct? The sing. כערוגת is explained from this, that the bed is presented as sloping from its height downward on two parallel sides; but the height would then be the nose dividing the face, and the plur. would thus be more suitable; and the lxx, Symm., and other ancient translators have, in fact, read כערוגת . But still less is the phrase migdeloth merkahhim to be comprehended; for a tower, however diminutive it may be, it not a proper figure for a soft elevation, nor even a graduated flowery walk, or a terraced flowery hill, - a tower always presents, however round one may conceive it, too much the idea of a natural chubbiness, or of a diseased tumour. Therefore the expression used by the lxx, φύουσαι μυρεψικά , i.e., מרק מהדּלות , commends itself. Thus also Jerome: sicut areolae aromatum consitae a pigmentariis , and the Targ. (which refers לחיים allegorically to the לוּחי of the law, and merkahhim to the refinements of the Halacha): “like the rows of a garden of aromatic plants which produce ( gignentes) deep, penetrating sciences, even as a (magnificent) garden, aromatic plants.” Since we read מגדּלות כערוגת , we do not refer migadloth , as Hitzig, who retains כערוגת , to the cheeks, although their name, like that of the other members ( e.g., the ear, hand, foot), may be fem. (Böttch. §649), but to the beds of spices; but in this carrying forward of the figure we find, as he does, a reference to the beard and down on the cheeks. גּדּל is used of suffering the hair to grow, Numbers 6:5, as well as of cultivating plants; and it is a similar figure when Pindar, Nem. v. 11, compares the milk-hair of a young man to the fine woolly down of the expanding vine-leaves ( vid., Passow). In merkahhim there scarcely lies anything further than that this flos juventae on the blooming cheeks gives the impression of the young shoots of aromatic plants; at all events, the merkahhim , even although we refer this feature in the figure to the fragrance of the unguents on the beard, are not the perfumes themselves, to which megadloth is not appropriate, but fragrant plants, so that in the first instance the growth of the beard is in view with the impression of its natural beauty.
13 b His lips lilies,
Dropping with liquid myrrh.
Lilies, viz., red lilies ( vid., under Song of Solomon 2:1), unless the point of comparison is merely loveliness associated with dignity. She thinks of the lips as speaking. All that comes forth from them, the breath in itself, and the breath formed into words, is עבר מור , most precious myrrh, viz., such as of itself wells forth from the bark of the balsamodendron. עבר , the running over of the eyes (cf. myrrha in lacrimis , the most highly esteemed sort, as distinguished from myrrha in granis ), with which Dillmann combines the Aethiop. name for myrrh, karbê ( vid., under Song _Numbers 5:5).
14 a His hands golden cylinders,
Filled in with stones of Tarshish.
The figure, according to Gesen., Heb. Wצrterbuch, and literally also Heilgst., is derived from the closed hand, and the stained nails are compared to precious stones. both statements are incorrect; for (1) although it is true that then Israelitish women, as at the present day Egyptian and Arabian women, stained their eyes with stibium ( vid., under Isaiah 54:11), yet it is nowhere shown that they, and particularly men, stained the nails of their feet and their toes with the orange-yellow of the Alhenna (Lane's Egypt, I 33-35); and (2) the word used is not כּפּיו , but ידיו ; it is thus the outstretched hands that are meant; and only these, not the closed fist, could be compared to “lilies,” for גּליל signifies not a ring (Cocc., Döpke, Böttch., etc.), but that which is rolled up, a roller, cylinder (Esther 1:6), from גּלל , which properly means not κυκλοῦν (Venet., after Gebhardt: κεκυκλωμέναι ), but κυλίνδειν . The hands thus are meant in respect of the fingers, which on account of their noble and fine form, their full, round, fleshy mould, are compared to bars of gold formed like rollers, garnished ( ממלּאים , like מלּא , Exodus 28:17) with stones of Tarshish, to which the nails are likened. The transparent horn-plates of the nails, with the lunula, the white segment of a circle at their roots, are certainly, when they are beautiful, an ornament to the hand, and, without our needing to think of their being stained, are worthily compared to the gold-yellow topaz. Tarshish is not the onyx, which derives its Heb. name שׁהם from its likeness to the finger-nail, but the χρυσόλιθος , by which the word in this passage before us is translated by the Quinta and the Sexta, and elsewhere also by the lxx and Aquila. But the chrysolite is the precious stone which is now called the topaz. It receives the name Tarshish from Spain, the place where it was found. Pliny, xxxviii. 42, describes it as aureo fulgore tralucens . Bredow erroneously interprets Tarshish of amber. There is a kind of chrysolite, indeed, which is called chryselectron, because in colorem electri declinans . The comparison of the nails to such a precious stone (Luther, influenced by the consonance, and apparently warranted by the plena hyacinthis of the Vulg., has substituted golden rings, vol Türkissen, whose blue-green colour is not suitable here), in spite of Hengst., who finds it insipid, is as true to nature as it is tender and pleasing. The description now proceeds from the uncovered to the covered parts of his body, the whiteness of which is compared to ivory and marble.
14 b His body an ivory work of art,
Covered with sapphires.
The plur. מעים or מעים , from מעה or מעי ( vid., under Psalms 40:9), signifies properly the tender parts, and that the inward parts of the body, but is here, like the Chald. מעין , Daniel 2:32, and the בּטן , Song of Solomon 7:3, which also properly signifies the inner part of the body, κοιλία , transferred to the body in its outward appearance. To the question how Shulamith should in such a manner praise that which is for the most part covered with clothing, it is not only to be answered that it is the poet who speaks by her mouth, but also that it is not the bride or the beloved, but the wife, whom he represents as thus speaking. עשׁת (from the peculiar Hebraeo-Chald. and Targ. עשׁת , which, after Jeremiah 5:28, like ḳhalak , creare , appears to proceed from the fundamental idea of smoothing) designates an artistic figure. Such a figure was Solomon's throne, made of שׁן , the teeth of elephants, ivory,
(Note: Ivory is fully designated by the name שׁנהבּים , Lat. ebur , from the Aegypt. ebu , the Aegypto-Indian ibha , elephant.)
1 Kings 10:18. Here Solomon's own person, without reference to a definite admired work of art, is praised as being like an artistic figure made of ivory, - like it in regard to its glancing smoothness and its fine symmetrical form. When, now, this word of art is described as covered with sapphires ( מעלּפת , referred to עשׁת , as apparently gramm., or as ideal, fem.), a sapphire-coloured robe is not meant (Hitzig, Ginsburg); for עלף , which only means to disguise, would not at all be used of such a robe (Genesis 38:14; cf. Genesis 24:65), nor would the one uniform colour of the robe be designated by sapphires in the plur. The choice of the verb עלף (elsewhere used of veiling) indicates a covering shading the pure white, and in connection with ספּירים , thought of as accus., a moderating of the bright glance by a soft blue. For ספיר (a genuine Semit. word, like the Chald. שׁפּיר ; cf. regarding ספר שׁפר , under Psalms 16:6) is the sky-blue sapphire (Exodus 24:10), including the Lasurstein ( lapis lazuli), sprinkled with golden, or rather with gold-like glistening points of pyrites, from which, with the l omitted, sky-blue is called azur ( azure) ( vid., under Job 28:6). The word of art formed of ivory is quite covered over with sapphires fixed in it. That which is here compared is nothing else than the branching blue veins under the white skin.
15 a His legs white marble columns,
Set on bases of fine gold.
If the beauty of the living must be represented, not by colours, but in figurative language, this cannot otherwise be done than by the selection of minerals, plants, and things in general for the comparison, and the comparison must more or less come short, because dead soulless matter does not reach to a just and full representation of the living. Thus here, also, the description of the lower extremity, which reaches from the thighs and the legs down to the feet, of which last, in the words of an anatomist,
(Note: Hyrtl's Lehrbuch der Anat. des Menschen, sec. 155.)
it may be said that “they form the pedestal for the bony pillars of the legs.” The comparison is thus in accordance with fact; the שׁוקים (from שוק = Arab. saḳ , to drive: the movers forward), in the structure of the human frame, take in reality the place of “pillars,” and the feet the place of “pedestals,” as in the tabernacle the wooden pillars rested on small supports in which they were fastened, Exodus 26:18. But in point of fidelity to nature, the symbol is inferior to a rigid Egyptian figure. Not only is it without life; it is not even capable of expressing the curvilinear shape which belongs to the living. On the other hand, it loses itself in symbol; for although it is in conformity with nature that the legs are compared to pillars of white (according to Aquila and Theod., Parian) marble, - שׁשׁ שׁישׁ , 1 Chronicles 29:2 (material for the building of the temple), Talm. מרמרא , of the same verbal root as שׁוּשׁן , the name of the white lily, - the comparison of the feet to bases of fine gold is yet purely symbolical. Gold is a figure of that which is sublime and noble, and with white marble represents greatness combined with purity. He who is here praised is not a shepherd, but a king. The comparisons are thus so grand because the beauty of the beloved is in itself heightened by his kingly dignity.
(Note: Dillmann proposes the question, the answer to which he desiderates in Ewald, how the maiden could be so fluent in speaking of the new glories of the Solomonic era (plants and productions of art). Böttcher answers, that she had learned to know these whilst detained at court, and that the whole description has this ground-thought, that she possessed in her beloved all the splendour which the women of the harem value and enjoy. But already the first words of the description, “white and ruddy,” exclude the sunburnt shepherd. To refer the gold, in the figurative description of the uncovered parts of the body, to this bronze colour is insipid.)
15 b His aspect like Lebanon,
Distinguised as the cedars.
By בּחוּר the Chald. thinks of “a young man” (from בּחר בּגר , to be matured, as at Psalms 89:20); but in that case we should have expected the word כּארז instead of כּארזים . Luther, with all other translators, rightly renders “chosen as the cedars.” His look, i.e., his appearance as a whole, is awe-inspiring, majestic, like Lebanon, the king of mountains; he (the praised one) is chosen, i.e., presents a rare aspect, rising high above the common man, like the cedars, those kings among trees, which as special witnesses of creative omnipotence are called “cedars of God,” Psalms 80:11 . בּחוּר , electus , everywhere else an attribute of persons, does not here refer to the look, but to him whose the look is; and what it means in union with the cedars is seen from Jeremiah 22:7; cf. Isaiah 37:24. Here also it is seen (what besides is manifest), that the fairest of the children of men is a king. In conclusion, the description returns from elevation of rank to loveliness.
16 a His palate is sweets (sweetnesses),
And he is altogether precious (lovelinesses).
The palate, חך , is frequently named as the organ of speech, Job 6:30; Job 31:30; Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 8:7; and it is also here used in this sense. The meaning, “the mouth for kissing,” which Böttch. gives to the word, is fanciful; חך (= ḥnk , Arab. ḥanak ) is the inner palate and the region of the throat, with the uvula underneath the chin. Partly with reference to his words, his lips have been already praised, 13 b; but there the fragrance of his breath came into consideration, his breath both in itself and as serving for the formation of articulate words. But the naming of the palate can point to nothing else than his words. With this the description comes to a conclusion; for, from the speech, the most distinct and immediate expression of the personality, advance is made finally to the praise of the person. The pluraliatant. ממתּקּים and מחמדּים designate what they mention in richest fulness. His palate, i.e., that which he speaks and the manner in which he speaks it, is true sweetness (cf. Proverbs 16:21; Psalms 55:15), and his whole being true loveliness. With justifiable pride Shulamith next says:
16 b This is my beloved and this my friend,
Ye daughters of Jerusalem!
The emphatically repeated “this” is here pred. (Luth. “such an one is” ...); on the other hand, it is subj. at Exodus 3:15 (Luth.: “that is” ...).
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13