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3. Solomon to Shulamith at the wedding entertainment, Song of Solomon 4:1-22.4.6.
Song of Solomon 4:1. Lo, thou art fair, my dear, etc.—The verbal correspondence of this praise of Solomon’s beauty with Song of Solomon 1:15 is designed as in Song of Solomon 6:4 (and so in Song of Solomon 6:10; Song of Solomon 8:5 comp. with Song of Solomon 3:6) to direct attention to Solomon as again the speaker of these words. And it follows with great probability that the person addressed is likewise the same as before, not some new object of the king’s love different from Shulamith, as Hitzig asserts.—Behind thy veil.—So correctly Hitzig, Vaih., Heiligst., etc., with whom Böttch. and Gesen.-Dietr. (“through thy veil,” i.e., appearing through) substantially agree.1—Thy hair like a flock of goats which repose on Mount Gilead.—As Gilead is visible from the Mount of Olives in the far distance, but not from Jerusalem, its mention, like that of Lebanon and Hermon in Song of Solomon 4:8, and like so many other allusions in the poem to localities in the north of Palestine, is to be explained from the circumstance that when Solomon was speaking to his beloved, he liked to transport himself to the region of her home with its peculiar circle of impressions and ideas. Gilead is, besides, a mountain land specially rich in cattle (comp. Numbers 32:1; Micah 7:14; Jeremiah 1:19), and modern travellers have found it still strewn, as it were, with flocks and herds. Comp. Arvieux, II., 688; Paulus, Reisen, 7, 108; Rosenm., Morgenl., I., 85, etc.—The point of comparison in the figure is to be found mainly in the glossy blackness and luxuriant abundance of Shulamith’s hair, perhaps also in its silky softness and delicacy, less likely in her elegant and elaborately braided tresses, to which Magnus thinks there was subordinate reference. Old Luis de Leon correctly (in Wilkens, p. 219): “He indicated thus the abundance and the color of her hair; for the goats, which pastured there, were dark and glossy. He says therefore: as the goats scattered on the summit of Gilead give it a fine and pretty appearance, whilst before it looked like a bald and arid rock, so does thy hair adorn and ornament thy head by its rich color and abundance.”
Song of Solomon 4:2. Thy teeth like a flock of shorn sheep.—Sheep recently shorn, consequently smooth, and besides just washed in the pool, and hence snow-white, evidently are a peculiarly appropriate figure for dazzling white teeth, provided pastoral figures or those taken from the realm of country life were to be used at all. And this was to a certain extent necessary here; at least it was extremely natural to illustrate the contrast between the blackness of her hair and the whiteness of her teeth by adding a flock of white lambs to the flock of black goats spoken of in Song of Solomon 4:1. The idea of the pool for the sheep spontaneously offered itself, since washing newly shorn sheep was a universal custom in antiquity; comp. Columella’s advice (Song of Solomon 7:4) to wash sheep four days after the shearing.—All of which bear twins, and one bereaved is not among them.—An allusion to the completeness of her teeth, the two rows of which, upper and lower, not only have no breaks, but in every instance exhibit a pair of teeth exactly answering to one another, twin teeth, as it were, throughout.2 That sheep in the East are still mostly διδυμοτόκοι, i.e., have two lambs at a time, is testified by recent travellers, e.g., the anonymous author of the publication, “Ægypten wie es jetzt ist,” p. 42 (comp. Magn. in loc.). L. De Leon (in the same place as before) has again finely shown the sensible and striking character of the comparison here selected: “The figure almost paints the whole thing before our eyes. The flock of sheep, which always go crowded together like the scales of fir cones, represent the compactness and smallness of her teeth: their whiteness is expressed by their coming up from the washing; their uniformity by none being sick or barren.”
Song of Solomon 4:3. Like a crimson thread thy lips, and thy mouth is lovely.—The lips immediately follow the teeth, not simply because they cover them (Hitzig), but also because the bright red of the one forms an elegant contrast with the dazzling whiteness of the other; comp. the combination of the two colors in Song of Solomon 5:10. Then the mouth, comprehending both teeth and lips, stands here in its quality of an organ of speech, whence also it is called מִדְבָּר from דִּבֶּר, “to speak,” and is supplied with a predicate (נָאוָה, lovely; comp. Song of Solomon 2:14; Song of Solomon 1:15), which serves to characterize not so much its pretty shape or color as the agreeable and beneficent effects proceeding from it. The Sept., Vulg., Syr., Hengstenb., etc., take מִדְבָּר as equivalent to speech; A. Schultens and Döpke, to tongue; Hitzig, to palate. But like all that is described before and after, this expression must denote some part of the body, and one too that is externally visible, and which forms a substantial feature of Shulamith’s beauty.—Like a piece of pomegranate thy cheek.—רַקָּה literally “the temple” (Judges 4:21; Judges 5:26), here manifestly the upper part of the cheek, whose soft red borders upon the white of the temple. For this figure of the half of a pomegranate (פֶלַח הָרמּוֹן) refers to the pleasing combination of white and red; on one side of the exterior of this fruit “a bright red is mingled with yellow and white,” whilst the other side looks brown (Döpke). It is only to a half, a segment3 (פֶלַח from פלח, “to cut fruit,” 2 Kings 4:39) of the pomegranate that the cheek is compared because its soft curve only corresponds in fact to the segment of a sphere. Not, therefore, “like a slice of a pomegranate” (Luth.) [so Durell, Hodg., Thrupp], as though the flat inner surface of a sliced pomegranate were intended (Hengstenb., Hahn., etc.). For the appearance of the reddish seeds of this fruit, lying in a yellowish pulp, would not form a suitable comparison, whether for a cheek or a temple.
Song of Solomon 4:4. Like the tower of David thy neck, built for an armoury. His aim was not to describe the slender grace and erectness of Shulamith’s neck in and of itself, but likewise with reference to its ornaments consisting of brilliant jewelry and ornamental chains (comp. Song of Solomon 1:9-22.1.11) and consequently in respect to its superb and stately appearance (comp. Song of Solomon 7:5 ). A pecularly suitable comparison was accordingly offered to the king in the tower, hung around with burnished pieces of armor, and probably built of white free-stone, which David may have erected somewhere in the vicinity, perhaps at one corner of his palace on Zion as a bulwark or a watch tower.4 The identity of this tower with the “tower of Lebanon which looks toward Damascus” mentioned in Song of Solomon 8:5 (4) is contradicted by the fact that the latter is a figure for an entirely different thing from that now before us (versusEwald, Hitzig, etc.). Still less can the ivory tower spoken of in the very same passage be identical with this. This manifestly appears from the further defining clauses “built for an armory,” etc., to have been a fortification, a stronghold for arms, a tower for warlike purposes, and hence, perhaps, is not distinct from the “house of the mighty” (בֵּית הַגִבּוֹרּים) spoken of in Nehemiah 3:16, which is assigned to the neighborhood of the district of Beth-zur and the sepulchres of David, i.e., on the eastern side of Zion, on the very spot where David’s old palace must have stood (comp. Weissbachin loc.)—The difficult expression תַּלְפִּיּוֹת, which the LXX render as a proper name (θαλφιώθ), the Vulg. by propagnacula, Aq., and the Versio Veneta by ἐπάλξεις, is most correctly taken with Kimchi for a compound of תֵּלcollis (const.תַּל) and פִּיוֹתenses, edges, sword-blades (Proverbs 5:4; Judges 3:16; comp. Psalms 149:6), or which amounts to the same thing, referred to תלה “to hang” and פִּיּוֹת in the same sense as before (Hengstenb., Del., Weissb., etc.). In both cases it must designate a lofty object of the nature of a fortification, hung around with swords or bristling with swords, consequently, as mention is also made of shields in what follows, an armory which, as it served for the preservation of numerous martial weapons of offence and defence, was likewise hung around with them on the outside, and thus embellished. For the shields hung on it (עָלָיו) according to the next clause of the verse, and not barely in it (as Hitzig supposes, who fancies a “mound of earth,” which “hides in its bosom such murderous weapons” as swords, shields, etc. This explanation is at any rate better suited to the connection and yields a more appropriate figure for Shulamith’s neck decorated with brilliant ornaments than the derivation of תַּלְפִּיּוֹת from a substantive תַּלְפִּי, which, according to the Arab., would mean “host, army” (Ewald: “built for troops;” Böttch., Rödig., compare Heiligst.), or from an alleged adjective תַּלְפִּיexitialis, destructive, hence תַּלְפִּיּוֹתexitialia, viz. arma, murderous weapons, or from לפה לָבַן to be white, hence “pieces of alabaster” (Hahn), and the like.5—All the shields of heroes.שְלָטִים has a wider meaning than מָגֵן, which specially denotes the “shield of a light armed soldier,” the “target;” see Gesen. Thes., p. 1418. We are scarcely to think of the shields of conquered heroes, of those for instance which David (2 Samuel 8:7) had taken from the Syrians (versus Weissb.), because the mighty men here mentioned are simply referred to as the garrison of the armory here described. Comp., moreover, Ezekiel 27:11, a passage which is probably based on that before us.
Song of Solomon 4:5. Thy two breasts like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that are feeding among lilies. On c comp. Song of Solomon 2:16. The comparison is plainly intended to express “delicate and exquisite beauty” (Hitz.); for since the gazelle itself, when full grown, is an admirable, attractive and favorite emblem of womanly grace and loveliness (Proverbs 5:19; comp. above on Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 2:9), a twin pair of its young lying on a bed covered with lilies appears to be still better fitted to illustrate the fragrant delicacy and elegance of a chaste virgin bosom veiled by the folds of a dress redolent of sweet odors (comp. Song of Solomon 1:13). A more detailed parcelling out of the comparison (as for instance by Hitzig, who thinks that the dress was red, or by Weissb., who supposes a particular reference in the young gazelles to the dark-colored nipples of her breasts as their especial charm, and in the lilies to the snowy whiteness of her bosom) is inadmissible, and leads to what is in violation of good taste or to what is obscene, from both which the poet has kept free here as every where else. Admirably here again Luis de Leon (p. 221, f.): “In addition to the delicacy of the young kids, in addition to their similarity as twins, in addition to their loveliness and gentleness they have in their merry gambols a frolicksomeness and gayety, which irresistibly enchains the eyes of beholders, and attracts them to come near and touch them,” etc.
Song of Solomon 4:6. Until the day cools and the shadows flee I will get me to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense. If Solomon were still the speaker in these words, nothing else could possibly be meant by the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense, but the breasts of the bride which would be so designated here in facetious and flowery style (Ewald, Heiligst., Weissb., Ren., etc.,) with allusion to the fragrant substances, which were between them or upon them6 (comp. Song of Solomon 1:13). But the very circumstance, that then the foregoing figure for the bosom would here be followed by one entirely new and of a different description, whilst every other part of the body spoken of in this section is represented by but a single figure (see Song of Solomon 4:1-22.4.4) makes it improbable that the words before us belong to Solomon. To which may be added that עַד שֶׁיָּפוּחַ הַיּוֹם, etc., must belong to Shulamith here as well as in Song of Solomon 2:17; and that Böttcher’s attempt to assign only these introductory words to the “vinedresser” as he calls her, and the latter part of the verse from אֵלֵךְ לִי onward to the king who interrupts her, seems scarcely less arbitrary than Hitzig’s view that the whole verse is spoken by the shepherd, who suddenly enters and declares his purpose to effect the speedy rescue of Shulamith! Umbr., Döpke, Vaih., Delitzsch, etc., properly assign the words to Shulamith, who seeks thus to parry the ardent encomiums of Solomon, and hence expresses the wish to leave the wedding hall resounding with the boisterous festivities of the guests until the approach of evening. The “mountain of myrrh” and the “hill of frankincense,” which she wishes to visit for this end, were probably certain localities about the royal palace, near the hall and visible from it, which either always bore those names or only on the occasion of the present marriage, to which fumigations with various spices belonged as an absolutely indispensable ingredient, comp. Song of Solomon 3:6. As presumably solitary, shady spots, belonging, it may be, to grounds laid out as gardens (perhaps “beds of balsam.” of the sort mentioned in Song of Solomon 5:13, raised in the shape of pyramids or towers), these must have been to the simple-minded, guileless child of nature more desirable places to stay in than the noisy festive hall. Comp. her similar expressions of a strong desire for the fresh solitude of nature in opposition to the luxurious life of the court; Song of Solomon 1:7; Song of Solomon 1:16, and especially Song of Solomon 7:12 (11) ff. This understanding of the “mountain of myrrh,” etc., is evidently far less forced than explaining it of Lebanon, or generally of the region of Shulamith’s home, for which she here expresses her desire (Umbreit, Vaih.), or of “Sion as the seat of the court” (Hitzig), or of Zion as a figure of the church (Hengstenb.), or of Moriah as the Temple-mountain which is here designated הַר הַמּוֹר (Ibn Ezra, Jarchi). Comp. on Song of Solomon 5:13 and Song of Solomon 6:2.
4. Continuation: Song of Solomon 4:7-22.4.11.
Song of Solomon 4:7. Thou art all fair, my dear, and there is not a blemish in thee. Correctly Delitzsch: “This childlike disposition expressed Song of Solomon 4:6, makes her but the more lovely in the eyes of the king; he breaks out in the words, ‘thou art all fair, my dear,’ etc., undoubtedly meaning that the beauty of her soul corresponds with her outward beauty—not with reference, therefore; to the charms, of her bodily figure from her breast downward, which are more fully described subsequently Song of Solomon 7:2 ff.” (Weissb.)—On the form of expression, particularly in b, comp. 2 Samuel 14:25; Ephesians 5:27.
Song of Solomon 4:8. With me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon thou shalt come. Several of the advocates of the shepherd-hypothesis assume at these words a change of person and with it likewise a change of scene, either making the shepherd himself enter and speak all that follows to Song of Solomon 4:16 (so Böttcher, Ren.), or at least to Song of Solomon 4:8 (so Hitzig), or regarding all from this verse to Song of Solomon 5:8 as a monologue of Shulamith, who herein relates the words previously spoken to her by her country lover (so Ewald, who accordingly imagines that the words: “Lo, here comes my lover, and says to me,” or the like, have been dropped out before this verse). But an unprejudiced interpretation renders such artifices needless. Led by the wish of his beloved, expressed in Song of Solomon 4:6, to exchange her place amongst the jubilant guests for the quiet solitude of nature, Solomon recalls her descent from a simple shepherd’s family in the mountain region of Northern Palestine, and hence he exultingly and in exaggerated expressions announces to her how instead of living in sterile mountain districts, and on barren rocky heights rendered insecure by wild beasts, she should henceforth make her home with him in the royal palace, and in the midst of its rich joys and blissful beauties, herself its loveliest flower, the most charming and spicy of its gardens (see especially Song of Solomon 4:12-22.4.15). The enthusiastic lover does not consider that in this he says nothing that is really agreeable to her, but actually contravenes her longing to escape into the open country from the close and sultry atmosphere of court life, any more than he concerns himself about the exaggerated character of his comparisons, e.g. of the mountains around Shunem with Lebanon, or of the “little foxes” in Shulamith’s vineyards (Song of Solomon 2:15) with lions and panthers. Poetical exaggerations of this sort are besides quite accordant with his taste (comp. Song of Solomon 4:4 and especially Song of Solomon 7:5), and appear much less strange in him than the bold comparison of Zion or of Solomon’s palace with the heights of Lebanon and Hermon (according to Hitzig, Böttch., Renan, etc.,) would sound in the mouth of a simple shepherd.—Besides תָּבוֹאִי “thou shalt come” shows that the speaker had a definite term in mind, to which Shulamith was to come from “Lebanon” as her previous residence (comp. Hitzigin loc.), and that consequently the idea of going up and down from one peak of Lebanon to another (Delitzsch) is not found in the passage.7—Shalt journey from the top of Amana. The “summit” or the “top” of Amana is without doubt the mountain by the river Amana mentioned 2 Kings 5:12 K’ri, that is to say that peak of the Lebanon or more accurately the Antilibanus-range, in which this river Amana, the Chrysorrhoas of the Greeks or the Barada of, the Arabs takes its rise. This peak, like the following Shenir and Hermon, stands of course by poetic license for the entire range. For the poet cannot have intended a contrast between the Lebanon in a and these names of mountains that follow, but “he only varies the names because one meant the same to him as another” (so correctly Hitzig, versusDelitzsch, Hengstenb., etc.).—From the top of Shenir and Hermon. According to Deuteronomy 3:9 Shenir was the Amoritish name for Hermon itself, which thereby appears to be designated as the “snow mountain” (according to Jarchi on that passage and the Targum on this). Still it is shown as well by the passage before us as by Ezekiel 27:5, 1 Chronicles 5:23, that a distinction was commonly made between Shenir which lay further to the north and Hermon (now Jebel esh-Sheikh) the more southern of the principal peaks in the entire Hermon or Antilibanus range (comp. Robinson, Palest. II. p. 440 (edit. 1838), Berth, on 1 Chronicles 5:23). As now Amana, where the Chrysorrhoas has its source, must be the peak lying farthest to the east or north-east, the enumeration of the three peaks or ridges belonging to Antilibanus evidently proceeds from the north-east to the south-west, or from the region of Baalbec to that of Hasbeya and Paneas (comp. Hitzigin loc.).—From dens of lions, from mountains of panthers. These expressions as belonging to the description and only alluding in a general way to the wild and inhospitable character of the region about Shulamith’s home, are not to be pressed for the sake of obtaining any more special sense, particularly not so as with Köster, Böttcher, Hitzig, etc. to explain the lions of “the king of Israel and his magnates who have dragged the graceful roe Shulamith into his den!” Lions moreover must have had their haunts in the forests of Lebanon, as well as in the reeds on the banks of the Jordan (Zechariah 11:3; Jeremiah 12:5) and on Bashan (Deuteronomy 33:22). And panthers (this is the meaning of נְמֵרִים, not leopards, which as is known, are only found in Africa) are still found in the region of Lebanon according to modern travellers, (Burckhardt, Reisen in Syrien, pp. 99, 66).
Song of Solomon 4:9. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride. This double designation of his beloved as sister and as bride is neither meant to indicate a peculiarly intimate nor preeminently chaste and pure relation of love. The thing here intended by it is the designation of a certain relationship. As Solomon’s lawful wife Shulamith now, after the marriage has taken place, stands next to him as a sister to her brother.8 She is not barely one of a number of wives (Song of Solomon 6:8) but a sisterly sharer of his royal rank and name. She is queen, as he is king, yes, a “prince’s daughter,” Song of Solomon 7:2, as he is a prince’s son (correctly Hitzig and Weissb.).—לִבַּבְתִּנִי not “thou robbest me of courage” (Umbr., Magn.), non “thou hast given me courage” (Symm., Syr., Ewald, Döpke, Böttcher, Meier, Weissb., etc.), but “thou hast unhearted me” (Delitzsch) i.e. “robbed me of my heart, so that it is no more mine but thine,” hast “enchanted me and made me wholly thine own.”9—With one of thy glances; literally “with one from thy eyes,” i.e. with a single one of the glances that proceed from them (Hengstenb., Hitzig, etc.); for the masc. בְאֶחָד of the K’thibh, which is certainly to be retained, cannot refer to one of the two eyes (עַיִן is never masc.), but only to one thing which comes forth from the eyes, an effect proceeding from them.10—With one chain of thy necklace. The representation is ideal and hyperbolical as in the preceding verse. It proceeds in rapturous exaggerations as well here where it paints in detail, as before where it dealt in pompous and grandiloquent expressions. But to be sure, in the matter of love, it always remains true: small causes often produce great effects!—עֲנָק not “ringlet, lock of the front hair hanging down on the neck” (Hitzig), but neckchain, or ornament (comp. the plur.: Proverbs 1:9; Judges 8:16). צַוְּרוֹנִים, since it is plural, can neither mean “neck” (Sept., Vulg., Hitzig, etc.) nor be a diminutive of endearment, “tiny neck” (Gesenius, Ewald, Heiligst., etc.). It must rather denote something suspended about the neck, a necklace or jewelry for the neck,11 and עֲנָק a single piece or constituent of it. What had enchanted the king was of course not the elegance or ingenious workmanship of this ornament itself, but that Shulamith’s neck looked so charmingly in it. Comp. above on Song of Solomon 1:10.
Song of Solomon 4:10. How fair is thy love, my sister, my bride.דּוֹדִים here again, not “breasts” (Sept., Vulg., Luther), but “caresses, manifestations of love,” as Song of Solomon 1:2. Comp. generally Song of Solomon 1:2-22.1.3. Solomon here gives back to his beloved with larger measure, what she had there declared of him when absent.
Song of Solomon 4:11. Liquid honey thy lips distil, my bride; honey and milk are under thy tongue. As in the preceding verse, which like the present consists of three clauses, the first two members refer to one and the same subject, so these two clauses aim to depict but one attribute or one characteristic of Shulamith, viz., her lovely discourse, how sweetly she talked. For it is to this that the figures of lips and tongue point, comp. on the one hand Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 6:24; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 16:24; and on the other Psalms 55:22; Psalms 66:17; Psalms 10:7; Pindar, Nem. iii. 134; Theocrit. Id. viii. 82 ff.; xx. 26 ff. The fragrant spittle of the kissing mouth can scarcely be intended (vs. Döpke, Magn., Weissb.), in spite of Arabic and classic parallels, that might be adduced (the saliva oris osculantisHorat. Od. I. 13, 16; Catull. 99, 2, etc.). For the parallels Song of Solomon 2:14, Song of Solomon 5:13; Song of Solomon 5:16, likewise refer to the loveliness of discourse, not to the sweetness of kisses.—And the fragrance of thy garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. As is shown by the parallel, Hosea 14:7, the Lebanon of this passage is not to be converted into לְבוֹנָה “frankincense” as Döpke imagines, on account of the “sicut odor thuris” of the Vulg. (which probably arose from misunderstanding the ὡς ὀσμὴ Λιβανοῦ of the Sept.). Modern travellers testify (Schulz, Leit. d. Allerh., Th. V. p. 459; Zeller, Bibl. Wörterbuch für d. Christl. Volk II. p. 42) that the cedar groves of Lebanon diffuse a strong balsamic odor. Isaac also commends the scent of his son Esau’s garments (Genesis 27:27); and so Psalms 45:9 praises the garments of a king celebrating his marriage, which were perfumed with myrrh, aloes and cassia.
5. Continuation. Song of Solomon 4:12-22.4.15.
Song of Solomon 4:12. A garden locked is my sister, my bride; a spring locked, a fountain sealed. If instead of גַּל in b we were with about 50 Heb. Mss. of Kennicott, the Sept., Vulg., Syr., etc.,12 to read גַּן again, the comparison with the garden, being immediately repeated, would appear to be the main and prominent thought. But it is evidently more suitable that the figure of the spring, which is not carried out any further in what immediately follows, should be twice repeated, in order that it may not be too abrupt. The change of the unusual גַּל (which means spring, fountain, as appears from Joshua 15:19; Judges 1:15; comp. English well, of which the German “Wellen” (waves) is the plural) into גַּן which had been used just before, would also be easier to explain, than a conversion of the latter into the former expression. The garden and the spring being locked up and sealed, naturally indicates that the access is open only to the owner and possessor himself. Comp. Song of Solomon 4:16, where Shulamith designates her hidden charms first as her own garden, then as Solomon’s; also Proverbs 5:15-20.5.18, where the figure of a spring is likewise applied to the natural relation between a wife and her wedded lord, so that she is represented by a fountain absolutely inaccessible to all men except her husband, and the right of the latter freely to enjoy and to refresh himself with the waters of this spring is clearly presupposed.13 A previous coyness of Shulamith toward her lover (Hitzig, Vaih., etc.) is not at all the thing intended.
Song of Solomon 4:13-22.4.14. A more minute description of the garden, i.e., of the charms of Shulamith, in so far as they may be represented by the choice plants and delicious fruits of a pleasure garden, accessible only to the king; an expansion therefore of Song of Solomon 4:12 a (as Song of Solomon 4:12 b is more fully unfolded in Song of Solomon 4:15). Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates.שֶׁלַח means here as in Exodus 31:5, not a plantation (Hengstenb.), but a single plant, literally a shoot, sprout (comp. שִׁלַּחPsa 80:12; Jeremiah 17:8; Ezekiel 17:6-26.17.7). By this figurative expression are denoted the charms, the ravishing beauties of the beloved in general, not specially her limbs (Hitzig), or the fragrance of her unguents (Weissb.). A particular explanation of the individual products of the garden is, on the whole, impossible, and it leads to what is at variance with good taste. רִמֹּנִים pomegranates, i.e., the trees, not their fruit (Döpke, Ewald, Weissb.); for the fruit is mentioned afterwards.—On the different opinions respecting the etymology of פַּרְדֵּם, comp. the Introduction, § 3 Rem. 2.—With most excellent fruit; lit., “with fruit of excellencies” (מְגָדִים as Song of Solomon 7:13). The fruit of the pomegranate trees before mentioned may very well be intended; עִםwith does not necessarily, as is shown by Song of Solomon 1:11, introduce something entirely new and of a different sort (vs. Weissb.)—Cyprus flowers with nards. As already remarked on Song of Solomon 1:12; Song of Solomon 1:14, the cyprus flower or alhenna was the only one of these plants, which was also cultivated in Palestine. The nard grass, grown only in India, is therefore simply added here for the sake of the delightfully fragrant unguent obtained from it, as in the following verse incense, calamus, cinnamon, and probably also saffron are exotic plants known to the Hebrews only from their aromatic products. The description accordingly loses itself here again in rapturous exaggerations and improbabilities in natural history, which however at the same time bear witness to an extensive knowledge of nature (comp. Introduc. § 3, Rem. 1).—Nard and crocus, calamus and cinnamon.כַּרְכּםֹ, Chald.כּוּרְכַּם, Sept.κρόκος (comp. Sanskrit, kunkuma) is the saffron flower, (Crocus sativus) indigenous in India, but introduced also into Egypt and Asia Minor, and consequently perhaps also into Palestine. A water was prepared from it for smelling bottles, with a pungent but agreeable odor, which was a great favorite in antiquity; comp. Winer, R. W. B. Art. “Safran.”—קָנֶה, Sept.κάλαμος, is, according to Jeremiah 6:20; Isaiah 43:24; Ezekiel 27:19, an article of trade brought from Arabia Felix, sweet cane, calamus. The calamus (juncus odoratus, Plin. XII. 22; XXI. 18) which according to Theophrastus, Pliny and Strabo, grew in Coelesyria and by the lake of Gennesaret, was of an inferior and less valuable sort.—קִנָּמוֹן a Semitic name, as it would appear (lit. “the reed,” or the “rolled together,” from קנה קנם), in case it is not of Indian origin, and connected with the Malay kainamanis (so Rödiger, Additamenta ad Thesaur., p. 111) signifies cinnamon, which, according to Herodot. III. 111 came through Arabia from the remotest south, that is, probably from Ceylon.—With every variety of incense woods,i.e., with every species of wood, which yields a fragrant gum of the nature of frankincense, or when pulverized is used as “aromatic dust,” or as a powder to be sprinkled for fumigation. In opposition to the reading עֲצֵי לְבָנוֹן (Sept., Velth., Döpke), see Hitzigin loc.—Myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices. For myrrh comp. on Song of Solomon 1:13; and for aloes (אֲהָלוֹת or אֲהָלִים, as Proverbs 7:17.; Numbers 24:6; Gr. ἀγάλλοχον, Sanskr. aguru, aghil) see Winer, R. W. B.—Under “all the chief (lit., all heads of) aromatic plants,” balsams or spices (בְשָׂמִים a general expression, as in Exodus 30:23; Esther 2:12), in addition to the substances already named, cassia is especially to be regarded as included. For according to Exodus 30:23 ff., this particular aromatic product was mingled with myrrh, calamus and cinnamon, in the holy anointing oil, and in Psalms 45:9 (8) it appears with myrrh and aloes among the precious spices, with which the garments of the royal bridegroom were perfumed.
Song of Solomon 4:15. Further expansion of Song of Solomon 4:12 b.—A garden spring (art thou), a well of living water. Comp. Genesis 26:19; Jeremiah 2:13. By the “garden spring” (lit. spring of gardens) Hitzig understands the fountain of Siloah in particular—an assumption which is the more gratuitous, as the allusion to שִׁלֹחַ which he finds in שְׁלָחִים Song of Solomon 4:13, exists merely in the fancy of the overacute modern critic, in spite of Nehemiah 3:15; Isaiah 8:6; Ecclesiastes 2:6, etc.—And streams from Lebanon,i.e., water as fresh and delightfully refreshing as the gushing streams fed by the snows of Lebanon, Jeremiah 18:14. On the figure comp. besides Proverbs 5:15, the Phenician inscription of Kition (No. 2) adduced by Hitzig, in which a husband calls his deceased wife מבחיי, i.e., מַבֻּעַ חַיַּי, “the spring of my life.”
6. The complete union of the lovers, Song of Solomon 4:16; Song of Solomon 5:1.—Ibn Ezra, followed by Ewald and Delitzsch, correctly puts the whole of Song of Solomon 5:16 into the mouth of Shulamith. The contrast of גַּנִּיmy garden in a with לְגַנּוֹhis garden in b does not make in favor of two speakers, but simply brings out the thought that her garden is his, and therefore that she, with all she has and is, belongs to him; a delicately refined suggestion which is lost by dividing the verse between the lover and his beloved, as approved in recent times (Döpke, Magn., Böttch., Hitz., Ren., etc.).
Song of Solomon 4:16. Awake, north wind, and come, O south. Shulamith in her poetically excited frame summons just these two winds to blow upon her garden, because neither the east wind with its parching effects and its frequent storms (Genesis 41:6; Isaiah 27:8), nor the rainy west wind (1 Kings 18:44 f; Luke 12:54) would be suitable in the connection; and yet two opposite winds must be named, as it is not a blowing off or blowing away that is intended, but causing the odors to flow forth and wafting them in all directions.14That its spices may flow,i.e., that every thing in me, which pleases my lover, all my charms may show themselves to him in their full power and loveliness.—Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat his excellent fruits. The language here becomes plainer, and passes over into a solicitation to her lover to enjoy to the full her charms which he had been praising (for אָכַל “to eat” in this comp. Proverbs 30:20.) Yet she expresses this wish not by a direct address to him, but by speaking of him in the third person—a token of her chaste, modest and bashful mind.—Song of Solomon 5:1. I come to my garden, my sister, my bride. That Solomon is here the speaker, whilst full of rapture he sets himself to comply with his beloved’s invitation and to devote himself entirely to her loving embrace incontestably appears from the correspondence of בָּאתִי with יָבֹא in b of the preceding verse, and of אָכַלְתִּי here with וְיֹאכַל there. These verbs, as well as אָרִיתִי לָקַטְתִּי “I pluck,” Exodus 16:16) and שָׁתִיתִי are not to be taken as preterites: “I have come,” etc., (Del., as the Sept., Vulg., Luther, etc.,) because the acme of love’s enjoyment, to which both are tending, was by no means reached and exhausted by a single conjugal embrace, but strictly as present, as serving to state that which is in the very act of being performed.15 Comp. דִּמִּיתִיךָ; Song of Solomon 1:9, and numerous examples in Ewald, Lehrb., § 135 c, [Green’sHeb. Gram., § 262, 2.]—I pluck my myrrh.… I eat my honey.… I drink my wine. A threefold declaration in different forms of his immediate readiness to enjoy the charms of his beloved, with a partial return to the figures in Song of Solomon 4:10-22.4.11; Son 4:13.16—Eat friends, drink and drink to repletion, O beloved. Every other understanding of these closing verses seems inappropriate and forced but that already suggested, according to which they are an encouraging address of the bridegroom to the wedding guests, who remain behind at the table. Thus, e.g., that of Ewald, that Shulamith describes in these words the way in which her distant lover, if she were with him and were celebrating her marriage with him, would remember his friends; the strange and burlesque idea of Böttcher referred to above, p. 72; that, too, of Eichhorn, Magnus, Hitzig: that the words are an exhortation of the poet to the two lovers to enjoy their love and intoxicate themselves therewith; and the like views of others, according to which Solomon either encourages his beloved (Umbr., Hengstenb., Hahn) or she him (Weissb.) to the enjoyment of love. These latter views are based upon an untenable translation of דּוֹדִים by “love” as though it were the object of וְשִׁכְרוּ (“intoxicate yourselves with love”) for דּוֹדִים with the scriptio plena is plur. of דּוֹד “beloved” (comp. on Song of Solomon 1:2), and consequently Proverbs 7:18 (where it is דֹּדִים “caresses” with the scriptio defectiva) cannot decide for the present case. The Sept., Vulg., Luther, Döpke, Vaih., Del., are substantially correct, the last of whom adds the just remark in explanation: “For each (of the guests) was to have his share in tasting the joy of this day.”
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. That the action of the Canticles reaches its centre and acme in this act, and especially at the close of it, cannot be doubted upon an unprejudiced view of the whole. “The newly wedded bride is now in the arms of her husband and king. Their ardent mutual love is the joyous spectacle presented to a festive assembly, which is attached to the king by friendship and love. Every where the feeling suited to a wedding, enjoyment, and this enjoyment shared by loving sympathy. Arrived at the summit of love’s mystery and moving there with holy purity the song here dies away amid the revelry of the guests.” (Del., p. 115.)
2. The recognition of the central and superior significance of this section is of necessity precluded upon the allegorical interpretation, because it fails to perceive the organic progress of the action in general, and supposes the union of the two lovers to have become complete long before this, (comp. above, p. 56) so as neither to require nor admit of increase. This unio mystica, this perfect union of Christ with His church or with the individual soul it consequently finds not at the conclusion merely, but already indicated at the very beginning of the present act in the “bed of Solomon,” Song of Solomon 3:7, by which it is true many allegorists understand every different sort of thing, (e.g., Ibn Ezra, the land of Israel; the Targ. and in recent times again Jo. Lange, the temple; Sanctius, prayer; Theodoret, the Holy Scriptures; Aponius, the cross of Christ; and Osiander, the free exercise of religion even!) But the majority find represented in it the communion of believers with Christ at the acme of its perfection, whether their particular explanation points to Christ Himself (Ambrose), or they find symbolized in it the heart of the Christian believer in conformity with Ephesians 3:17 (Coccei., etc.,) or the free access of believers to the throne of grace in this world and the next (Joh. Marck.), or “the church militant on earth, in which many children are born to the Lord” (Starke after many of the older writers, as Gregory the Great, Cassiodor., Beda, Calov., Heunisch, etc.), or “the intimate relation between the heavenly Solomon and the church” (Hengst.), or the “kingdom administered by Solomon, so far as its power is directed ad extra” (Hahn). In the case of the sedan or magnificent couch (אפריון Song of Solomon 3:9) this divergence of interpretations is repeated with a prevailing disposition to refer it to the unio mystica. For besides the holy of holies in the temple (Targ.), or the word of God (Mercer.), or the church (Zeltn.), or the human nature of Christ (Ambros., Athanas., Greg., Beda, Anselm, Jo. Lange), it is particularly the work of redemption with the gracious results proceeding from it (Sanctius; similarly Cocceius, Groenewegen, Starke, etc.,) or as expressed by Hengstenberg: “the glory of those measures by which the heavenly Solomon brings the Gentile nations into His kingdom,” that is supposed to be intended by this figure of the sedan.17 It is the same with Song of Solomon 3:11, where the “day of Solomon’s marriage” according to Starke signifies three things: 1. The day of salvation, when a sinner yields to converting grace, and is united to Christ by faith; 2. The day of the resurrection of the just, when Christ will make them partakers of the blessedness of the world to come. 3. The time when the Jewish people, who have long rejected Him shall crown Him in faith and publicly acknowledge Him as their bridegroom—an explanation with which most of the older and the later writers (even Hengstenb., Hahn, etc.,) substantially agree, especially in so far that nearly all of them understand by the mother of Solomon the church of the Old Testament or the people of Israel, and by the crown with which she adorns her son the entire body of converted souls, which are an ornament and an honor to the Messiah,18 comp. Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, etc.
This method of putting every possible interpretation upon every particular thing, and thus attaining an extravagant exuberance of multifarious significations, is also followed, of course, by the allegorists in the enthusiastic description of the beauty of the bride in Song of Solomon 4:1 ff. The hair of Shulamith compared with the flock of goats is made to signify either the entire body of believers or the weak and despised members of the church, or on the contrary, those who strive after a higher measure of perfection, the prelates of the church who have a keen eye like the goats, seek their food on the summits, eat what is green and chew the cud, and have parted hoofs and horns, wherewith to fight the heretics! The teeth of the beloved are prelates who feed upon the Scriptures, or teachers who attack the heretics; the lips either the preachers of God’s word or confessions of faith of the church; the neck the Holy Scriptures or the steadfastness and assured hope of believers; the breasts compared with twin roes either the law and the gospel, or the Old and New Testament, or the Jews and Gentiles, or the eastern and western church, or baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the two sacraments of the church!19 The locking up of the garden Song of Solomon 4:12 ff, denotes the strong protection with which God surrounds His church as with a wall of fire; the sealing is the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit on the church to enlighten and preserve it, Ephesians 4:30. The blowing of the north and south wind, Song of Solomon 4:16 also signifies the Holy Spirit in the varied operations of His grace, purifying, quickening, comforting, rendering fruitful, etc.; and the “coming of the bridegroom into his garden”
(Song of Solomon 5:1) according to the chronological expositors denotes the dawn of some new epoch in church history, e.g., according to Cocceius the times immediately succeeding Constantine the Great; according to Heunisch the ante-reformation period from the time of the great Schism (1378); according to Corn. a Lapide the incipient old age of the church, etc., but according to the greater number the particular times when Christ enters with the heavenly blessings of His grace into the hearts of believers (Revelation 3:20; John 14:23), or the threefold advent of the Redeemer: 1. In the form of a servant to found His church. 2. His invisible coming by His Holy Spirit to every individual of His people. 3. His eschatological coming at the judgment and the consummation. Compare generally the multitude of old interpretations of this sort collected by Starke on this section; also Wilkens, Fray Luis de Leon, p. 207, 215, and Dursch, Symbolik der Christlichen Religion, Vol. II. (Tübing., 1859),) passim.
3. Against such excesses and capricious trifling there is no protection but in that historical exegesis, which on the basis of the meaning of the words impartially ascertained endeavors, it is true, to point out the relations in which this action stands to the mysteries of revelation and redemption, and so to make application of its contents to the matters of the Christian life, but conscientiously refrains from all seeking or chasing after any direct spiritual and practical interpretation of individual passages, much less of individual words. To such an exegesis there appear to be chiefly three particulars of especial consequence in that stage of the action which is represented in this act: the elevation of the bride from a low condition to royal dignity and glory; her wondrous beauty as the ground of this elevation; and her chaste and humble mind which impels her to belong only to her lover and to live for him alone.
a. The simple country maiden from the tribe of Issachar is raised to be queen of all Israel, conducted in Solomon’s stately couch with a brilliant military escort, welcomed by the women of Jerusalem with pride and admiration, brought for her marriage to his splendid palace in Zion by Solomon, the most famous prince of his time. Here full of rapture he declares to her that he loves and admires her more than all beside, that she has completely won and captivated him, so that his heart belongs to her alone, and that she is henceforth to exchange her humble surroundings and her country home for his royal palace and its rich enjoyments and brilliant pleasures (see especially Song of Solomon 4:8-22.4.9). In like manner Christ, who is a greater than Solomon, who is King of all kings, and Lord of all lords, has exalted His church from misery and a low estate to a participation in His divine glory; He has made the despised and forsaken “His sister and bride,” a joint-heir of His eternal glory in heaven, has received her into His kingdom, into His heavenly Father’s house and there prepared a place for her, which she shall never be willing to exchange for her former abode in a remote and foreign land, in the wilderness of a sinful, earthly life. For the infinite superiority of that exaltation which the church of the Lord has experienced above that of Shulamith, and which every penitent and believing soul in it still experiences day by day, is shown in this that the shepherd girl from northern Palestine might with good reason look wistfully back to her poverty from Solomon’s palace, that her desire to return from the sultry life of the court to the fresh cool mountain air of her home was but too well justified, whilst the soul which has been translated out of the wretchedness of a sinful worldly life into the blessed communion of God’s grace, has no occasion nor right to be dissatisfied with its new home, but on the contrary has gained unmingled joy, delight and imperishable glory instead of its former condition of unhappy bondage and darkness.
b. The cause of Shulamith’s elevation to be queen of her people lay in her wonderful beauty, which throws the king into such an ecstasy that he analyzes it with the utmost detail in order that he may adduce the finest objects of nature, which his realm affords, to set forth her charms; yes, that he represents one single glance of her eyes, one chain from the ornaments of her neck as possessed of the power to chain him to her completely. So also it is the beauty and god-like dignity, originally belonging to human nature, obscured indeed by sin, but not completely and for ever destroyed, which brought the Lord down to our earth and made Him our Redeemer, the royal bridegroom and loving husband of His church. But there is this difference between the earthly Solomon and his celestial antitype, that the latter must restore the partially destroyed and hideously distorted beauty of His beloved before He can raise her to sit with Him on His throne; He must in order to effect this restoration endure the direst sufferings; He must redeem the poor captive from the prince of this world by the ransom of His own precious blood; and afterwards, too, He must with much trouble and pains seek to retain her whom He has dearly purchased in the way of righteousness and truth and preserve her from falling back again into the defilement of sin. The heavenly Solomon can never, during the course of this present world, attain to a really pure and undisturbed joy in His bride. He has quite too much to do in cleansing her ever anew with the washing of water by the word in order to present her to Himself holy and without blemish, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:26-49.5.27). The heavenly bridegroom of souls can neither sing to His church as a whole, nor to its individual members such a praise of her beauty as was sung by Shulamith’s husband, culminating in the encomium, “Thou art all fair, my dear, and there is not a blemish in thee,” Song of Solomon 4:7. He has, on the contrary, but too abundant occasion to speak to her in the tone adopted in the 16th chapter of the prophet Ezekiel. He must too often hold up before her not only the wretchedness of her birth and the misery of the first days of her childhood, but also the gross unfaithfulness and scandalous defilement of the flesh and spirit, of which, though His elect and His beloved, she has since made herself guilty. And He must all the more postpone her entrance upon the full enjoyment of His blessed society and His heavenly benefits until the future state, for the reason that she is previously lacking in many respects in another virtue which is most of all commended in Shulamith, her historical type. This is:
c. The chaste and humble mind, which the beloved of the earthly Solomon still preserved even after her elevation to regal dignity and glory, that child-like, pure and obedient heart which she brings to her husband, and in virtue of which she will belong only to him and offer the sweet-scented flowers and delightful fruit of her garden to him for his exclusive enjoyment. On the ground of this most sterling of all the qualities of his beloved, this crown of her virtues, Solomon celebrates on the very day of his marriage, his perfect union with her; the locked garden, the bolted and sealed fountain is opened to him for his comfort and refreshment.—The Church, as the bride of the Lord, remains a mere bride so long as she has to suffer and to fight here below, because she does not remain a locked garden and a sealed fountain, to the extent that this could be affirmed of her Old Testament type; because, on the contrary, she too often admits the seductive and defiling powers of sin and of the world to the sanctuary of her virginity, and allows them to desecrate the temple of her heart. Not until the end of days will her perfect union with the heavenly bridegroom be consummated, when she has suffered and contended to the full, and the great mystery, of which Paul writes, Ephesians 5:32, has been fulfilled by the final and visible coming of her beloved. Until then it is only individual souls in the midst of her, that band of His faithful and elect, who are truly known to the Lord alone (2 Timothy 2:19; Romans 8:28 ff.), whom He raises to the blessed height of a most intimate communion with Himself, and by the outpouring of His love in their hearts makes them partakers of the full blessings of His heavenly grace. This is that invisible communion of saints, which, as the true salt of the earth and light of the world, forms the real soul of Christendom, the genuine realization of the idea of the Church; which, as the true Bride of the Lamb, day by day with longing hearts unites in the supplication of the Spirit: “Come, Lord Jesus,” Revelation 22:17; which, as the entire body of the wise virgins (Matthew 25:10) with loins girded and lamps burning (Luke 12:35) waits and watches until He comes “that is holy and that is true, that openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7); which shall therefore one day in glorious reality and with never-ending joy experience the fulfilment of that desire which bids them sigh and cry here below:
Oh! come, do come, Thou Sun,
And bring us every one
To endless joy and light,
Thy halls of pure delight.
[Percy gives the preposition a privative sense, and translates “now thy veil is removed.” He supposes that the royal pair having alighted from their carriage, the ceremony of unveiling the bride here follows, which gives occasion to the bridegroom’s encomium on those features which the veil in great measure concealed. But Williams observes that the “Eastern poets celebrate the charms of the fair through their veils, and improve this circumstance into an elegant compliment.” Ainsworth and others remark upon the circumstance that seven particulars are here mentioned in the description of the bride, viz.: her “eyes, hair, teeth, lips, temples, neck and breasts,” uniting, as Moody Stuart expresses it, “perfection of number with perfection of beauty.”—Tr.]
[Ginsburg adopts the translation of Lowth, Percy and Fry with advantage to the figure: “All of which are paired. That is, each upper tooth has its corresponding lower one; thus they, as it were, appear in pairs, like this flock of white sheep, each of which keeps to its mate, as they come up from the washing pool. And no one of them is deprived of its fellow, i. e., no tooth is deprived of its corresponding one, just as none of the sheep is bereaved of its companion. The teeth surely, which are here compared to the flock, cannot be said to bear twins like the sheep.”]
[Castellus, followed by Patrick, Good and others: the opening flower or blossom of the pomegranate. Williams: “If the bridal veil of the Hebrew ladies was like that of the Persians, made of red silk or muslin, it would throw a glow over the whole countenance that will account more fully for this comparison.”]
[Good: “The graceful neck of the fair bride is compared to this consummate structure; and the radiance of the jewels that surrounded it to the splendor of the arms and shields with which the tower of David was adorned. The simile is exquisite.”]
[“Our first business is here with the controverted word לתלפיות, our translation of which “with projecting parapets,” is in partial accordance with, and derives support from that of Symmachus, εἰς έπἀλξεις (al. έπἀνω έπἀλξεων). The word תלפיות, or rather its singular תלפיה [better תלפית] is regularly derived from the root לפה. That root is, according to Buxtorf, actually found in the Chaldee in the Targum of Jonathan on Leviticus 6:5; although in the Targum, as printed by Walton, we read not ילפי but יוםף. However, whether the root be used or no, its meaning may be assumed to be identical with that of לפף, which is found in other places in the Targum of Onkelos. The meaning is “to add on,” “to join on.” The substantive derived from it, when applied to a building, would thus naturally denote the projecting parts of the building, which seem as it were to be added on to the rest. We have an analogous term in the Chaldee לופּין, derived from the same root as תלפיות, and used in the Talmud of strongly marked eyebrows. The projecting parapets of a tower are in fact its eyebrows. And that ancient towers were built with such projecting parapets, and moreover that shields were hung by way of display on the exterior of the parapets, is established in the most satisfactory manner by a representation on a bas-relief at Kouyounjik, given by Layard, and also in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, s. v. Gammadims. Of the current explanations of תלפּיות, the only one which seems to call for notice, is that which derives it from תלה “to hang,” כּיות “edges,” and makes it mean “an armory.” Against this lie the objections, 1st that it unnecessarily treats תלכּיות as a composite word; 2d, that an armory would be more naturally described as a “hang-weapons” than a “hang-edges;” 3d, that the figure before us is not that of an armory, but of a building with shields hung on its exterior; 4th, that any etymological connection between the words תלכּיות and תלוי in the two adjoining clauses is improbable, as it would destroy the charm of the studied homœophony. There are two other passages of Scripture in which we may trace some allusion to this tower, Micah 4:8; Isaiah 5:2.” Thrupp.]
[Noyes thinks that the bride herself, in respect to her general charms, is here compared to a mountain of myrrh, etc., to whom the lover says he will return as the antelope flies to the mountain.]
[This interpretation certainly assumes such extraordinary exaggerations as to cast suspicion upon its correctness. Noyes says: “Verses 8 and 9 seem to be introduced very abruptly, and their import in this connection is not very obvious. Döderlein and others suppose them to be an invitation to the bride to take an excursion with him, in order that they might admire together all that was grand and beautiful in scenery. Others suppose them to be an invitation to the maiden to come from a place of danger to a place of complete, security in the arms of her lover.” Good: “By this forcible appeal the royal speaker invites his beloved to his arms as to a place of safety; and encourages her to look towards him for security amidst any dangers, either actual or imaginary, of which she might be apprehensive.” Burrowes: “These mountains thus beautiful but dangerous are put in contrast with the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frank incense. The beloved would have his spouse leave the former and seek his society in the retreats of the latter.” The majority of English commentators adopt a similar view, though with some variety in the figurative or symbolic sense which they put upon the mountains in question.—Tr.]
[Patrick: “Sister is only a word of tenderness and endearment used by husbands to their wives; as appears by the book of Tob 7:16; Tob 8:4; Tob 8:7.” Noyes, with less cogency, compares Tibul. 3:1, 26. Thrupp is consequently not warranted in saying: “The union of the two appellations is of itself an almost decisive objection against all literal interpretation of the Song. When it is urged by the literalists that the term sister is merely used as an expression of endearment, it may be at once replied that that is the very last term which in chaste love a bridegroom would ever think of applying to his bride.”]
[Wordsworth obtains substantially the same sense by a rendering precisely the opposite: “Lit.: Thou hast be hearted me. It implies the answering of heart to heart; the passing of one heart into another, so as to be united with it and fill it.”]
(Williams, who remarks that “the K’ri and many MSS. read אחת fem. to agree with עין,” endeavors to account for the singularity of the expression so understood in the following manner: “Supposing the royal bridegroom to have had a profile or side view of his bride in the present instance, only one eye or one side of her necklace would be observable; yet this charms and overpowers him. Tertullian mentions a custom in the East of women unveiling only one eye in conversation, while they keep the other covered; and Niebuhr mentions a like custom in some parts of Arabia. Trav. in Arab. I. p. 262.”]
[Whether this conclusion be correct or not, the argument here urged in its favor is plainly not decisive; for the plural of צַוָּאר, the ordinary word for “neck,” is more frequently used in a singular than a plural sense.—Tr.]
[So Thrupp: The received Hebrew text here gives not גן but גל which our E. V. renders “a spring.” But the word never occurs elsewhere in this sense; nor is it indeed, in the singular, applied to aught but a heap of stones.]
[Fry imagines that this and the following verses do not “contain comparisons of the bride, but are descriptive of the residence prepared for her reception.” He translates: “A garden is enclosed, my sister espoused,” etc. Maundrell, in his Journey says: “About the distance of one hundred and forty paces from these pools [i. e. of Solomon] is the fountain from which they principally derive their waters. This the friars told us was the sealed fountain, to which the holy spouse is compared, Song of Solomon 4:12. And they pretend a tradition that King Solomon shut up these springs, and kept the door of them sealed with his signet, to preserve the waters for his own drinking in their natural freshness and purity. Nor was it difficult thus to secure them, they rising under ground, and having no avenue to them but a little hole like the mouth of a narrow well. These waters wind along through two rooms cut out of the solid rock, which are arched over with stone arches, very ancient, perhaps the work of Solomon himself. Below the pool runs down a narrow, rocky valley, inclosed on both sides with high mountains; this, they told us, was the enclosed garden alluded to in the same Song.”]
[Burrowes: “The east wind is, in Palestine, generally withering and tempestuous; the west wind brings from the sea clouds of rain, or dark, damp air; the north wind is cooling and refreshing, its power being broken by the mountain chain of Lebanon; the south wind, though hot, has its heat mitigated in the upland regions, and is never stormy. The north wind is called on to “arise,” because it is more powerful and strong; the south wind to “come,” as though it were the soft breathing zephyr. The north wind brought clear weather; the south wind was warm and moist. The bride here calls for the north wind, that thereby all clouds may be swept away and the sky cleared; and for the south wind that its genial influence might ripen the fruits of the garden and draw forth the fragrance of the flowers.”]
[There is no reference in the language here employed to any thing low and sensual, but to pure and elevated enjoyment in the society and converse of his charming bride. The passage is thus appropriately paraphrased by Taylor: “I already enjoy the pleasure of your company and conversation; these are as grateful to my mind as delicious food could be to my palate: I could not drink wine and milk with greater satisfaction.” He also gives a like figurative turn to the last clause: “And you, my friends, partake the relish of those pleasures which you hear from the lips of my beloved, and of those elegancies which you behold in her deportment and ad dress.”—Tr.]
[But see דּוֹדַי Song of Solomon 7:13.—Tr.]
[Weiss expounds it of the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple; the Geneva version of “The temple which Solomon made;” Thrupp and Wordsworth, of the cross of Christ: The Westminster Annotations, Moody Stuart and B. M. Smith, of the person of Christ; Adelaide Newton, of the church; Ainsworth, of Christ and His church; Scott, the everlasting covenant which Christ has meditated in our behalf; Patrick, the preaching of the gospel by which the church is carried triumphantly through the world; Williams, the gospel in its onward progress; Fry and Burrowes, that conveyance, or those methods of divine grace by which the believer is carried onward toward heaven; Gill and Henry, hesitate between the human nature of Christ, the church, the gospel, and the plan of salvation. Burrowes says: “It seems no part of the mind of the Spirit that we should take this description to pieces and try to allegorize the several parts.” Thrupp also conveniently declines to carry the allegory through in all its details; “It is not necessary to suppose that any significance is intended in the assignment of separate materials to particular parts of the vehicle.” Scott, however, is ready with distinct meanings for the “pillars of silver,” the “bottom of gold,” and the “covering of purple.” And Thrupp himself insists that every separate feature of the bride in Song of Solomon 4:1-22.4.7 “must have its own distinct allegorical import. The comparisons would be as extravagant on the allegorical as on the literal interpretation, if the former were not to be carried out into details; and in fact that interpretation is virtually literal which refuses to see any allegory except in the general words ‘Thou art fair.’ ”]
Besides this prevalent form of the spiritual interpretation of Song of Solomon 3:11 there are various others of a more trifling character, especially among the older exegetes of whom, e.g., Beda and Anselm expound the wedding day of Christ’s conception and birth; Honorius v. Autun and Bernard of the death and resurrection of the Lord (and then the “crown” naturally becomes either the crown of thorns, or the crown of glory belonging to His resurrection and exaltation), whilst chronological expositors as Reinhard, Heunisch, etc., connect the wedding day with the epoch of Constantine the Great, or the conversion of the heathen in a body by the church, and Catholics like Cornelius a Lapide and Calmet explain the “mother” of Solomon of the Virgin Mary.”
[The two breasts are further explained in the notes of the Doway version to mean the love of God and the love of our neighbor; in the Geneva, knowledge and zeal; by Moody Stuart and M. B. Smith, faith and love; Patrick, the preachers respectively among Jewish Christians and among the Gentiles; Ainsworth, the loving affection, wholesome doctrines, sweet consolations and gracious beneficence of the church; Scott, the believer’s simplicity of affection for Christ and the delight which Christ reciprocally takes in him; Thrupp, Weiss and Wordsworth, the fountains of nourishment whence is drawn the milk of pure and sound doctrine; while Gill allows a choice between ministers of the gospel, the two Testaments, the two Sacraments and the two great commandments of the law. Burrowes, whom none can suspect of an indisposition to allegorize, has the good taste to revolt at such mangling of inspired emblems. He says, p. 359, “In the comparison of the foregoing verses the thing to be illustrated is the general beauty of the pious soul in the eyes of Jesus. Losing sight of this most commentators have marred the passage by separating these emblems from one another, and appropriating them to other uses than the one intended by the Holy Spirit. What would be thought of a person who under the plea of heightening the effect of a picture by a great artist, should cut out the several figures, the trees, the waters, the tinted clouds, and exhibit them apart in every imaginable variety of light and position? This would show something more than want of judgment. No argument would be necessary to make us feel that such was never the mind of the artist. The common method of expounding this and the other kindred passages in the Song, seems no less unreasonable.”]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany