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Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

SONG OF Song of Solomon 3:0

STANZA DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Bride's Troubled DreamA Troubled Night(The Shulammite)The Woman's DreamThe Second Song(Song of Solomon 2:8-5)Second Poem(Song of Solomon 2:8-5)
(The Woman)Song of Solomon 2:16-4
Song of Solomon 3:1-4Song of Solomon 3:1-3Song of Solomon 3:1-5 Song of Solomon 3:1-2
Song of Solomon 3:3
Song of Solomon 3:4 Song of Solomon 3:4
Song of Solomon 3:5Song of Solomon 3:5 Song of Solomon 3:5(Lover)Song of Solomon 3:5
Solomon's Wedding DayThe Coming of Solomon(The Shulammite)A Wedding ProcessionThe Third Song(Song of Solomon 3:6-1)Third Poem(Song of Solomon 3:6-1)
Song of Solomon 3:6-11Song of Solomon 3:6-8Song of Solomon 3:6-11(The Woman)Song of Solomon 3:6-11(Poet)Song of Solomon 3:6
Song of Solomon 3:9-11 Song of Solomon 3:7-8
Song of Solomon 3:9-10
Song of Solomon 3:11

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

OUTLINE BY POSSIBLE SPEAKERS (notice the lack of agreement)

NASB NKJV TEV NJB
Song of Solomon 3:1-4, BrideSong of Solomon 3:5, BridegroomSong of Solomon 3:6-11, Chorus Song of Solomon 4:1-6, Bridegroom Song of Solomon 4:7-15, Bridegroom Song of Solomon 4:16, Bride Song of Solomon 3:1-5, Shulammite Song of Solomon 3:6-8, ShulammiteSong of Solomon 3:9-11, ShulammiteSong of Solomon 4:1-5, the BelovedSong of Solomon 4:6-15, the BelovedSong of Solomon 4:16, the ShulammiteSong of Solomon 2:16-5, the Woman Song of Solomon 3:6-11, the Woman Song of Solomon 4:1-15, the Man Song of Solomon 4:16, the Woman Song of Solomon 2:8-4, BelovedSong of Solomon 3:5, LoverSong of Solomon 3:6-11, Poet Song of Solomon 4:1-15, Lover Song of Solomon 4:16, Beloved

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF Song of Solomon 3:1-4 1”On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him. 2'I must arise now and go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves.' I sought him but did not find him. 3The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, And I said, 'Have you seen him whom my soul loves?' 4Scarcely had I left them When I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go Until I had brought him to my mother's house, And into the room of her who conceived me.”

Song of Solomon 3:1 “night after night” This is PLURAL in the Hebrew, which refers to recurrent dreams. One theory is that Song of Solomon 3:4 and 5:2-8 are dreams which the Shulammite had. It is quite normal to have fearful dreams the night before an important event. The other theory is that she is dreaming of a local lover back home in the north of Israel. I personally like the second option.

Song of Solomon 3:2 There are three COHORTATIVE VERBS:

1. “arise” - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal COHORTATIVE

2. “go about” - BDB 685, KB 738, Poel COHORTATIVE

3. “seek” - BDB 134, KB 152, Piel COHORTATIVE

Whoever it was she was looking for (“whom my soul loves,” Song of Solomon 3:1, Song of Solomon 3:2, Song of Solomon 3:3, Song of Solomon 3:4), she finds him in Song of Solomon 3:4. These three VERBS speak of:

1. potential action (i.e., dream)

2. actual action (she actually went into the streets looking)

Since I think that there is a northern, local lover involved in the “story line,” this could refer to her actually searching in her northern village for her lover. It is not until Song of Solomon 3:6 (i.e., the third poem, a totally separate unit) that Solomon's entourage approaches.

“the city” This can refer either to Jerusalem (i.e., the harem) or to the girl's hometown in northern Israel (cf. Song of Solomon 3:4).

Song of Solomon 3:3 “the watchman” Watchmen (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal PARTICIPLE) were placed as sentinels on the walls of ancient cities as well as keepers of the gate.

Song of Solomon 3:4 This verse describes her joy (i.e., “I held on to him,” BDB 28, KB 31, Qal PERFECT) in finding her lover! The problem comes in the last two lines. Are they synonymous parallelism or step parallelism? Also, how do we explain a secret, local lover being brought publically to the maiden's home?

If there is a plot line (and I am not convinced there is), then the words must be reinterpreted:

1. as a future longing

2. as a euphemism of intimacy

Verse 5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF Song of Solomon 3:5 5”I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, That you will not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases.”

Song of Solomon 3:5 Notice that this same refrain is repeated over and over throughout the book. However, in Song of Solomon 2:7 it is possible that the bridegroom is speaking but more probable that the bride is speaking. In Song of Solomon 3:5 it is the bridegroom.

“Until she pleases” The Masoretic Text has “it” and, therefore, it speaks of his passion.

Verses 6-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF Song of Solomon 3:6-11 6”What is this coming up from the wilderness Like columns of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all scented powders of the merchant? 7Behold, it is the traveling couch of Solomon; Sixty mighty men around it, Of the mighty men of Israel. 8All of them are wielders of the sword, Expert in war; Each man has his sword at his side, Guarding against the terrors of the night. 9King Solomon has made for himself a sedan chair From the timber of Lebanon. 10He made its posts of silver, Its back of gold And its seat of purple fabric, With its interior lovingly fitted out By the daughters of Jerusalem. 11Go forth, O daughters of Zion, And gaze on King Solomon with the crown With which his mother has crowned him On the day of his wedding, And on the day of his gladness of heart.”

Song of Solomon 3:6-11 Who is the speaker?

1. NASB - the chorus

2. NKJV, TEV, NJB - the maiden

3. REB - companions (NIV Study Bible footnote)

It is obvious that the poetic form of Song of Songs has various speakers. The problem is that there are no obvious textual markers to

1. tell us who is speaking

2. tell us the limits of their speaking

3. tell us the relationship between the different sections

The best option is to compare them to Egyptian and Syrian (i.e. Arabs living in Syria) wedding songs (wasfs).

Song of Solomon 3:6

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB“What” NKJV, REB, LXX, JPSOA, NIV“Who”

In Hebrew this is an INTERROGATIVE (BDB 566) followed by a DEMONSTRATIVE ADJECTIVE (FEMININE SINGULAR). It refers to a royal caravan of Solomon.

Now the question is:

1. is this a reference to Solomon (cf. Song of Solomon 3:7)

2. is this an allusion to his fame and wealth

3. is this historical or literary

4. is this a bride being brought to Jerusalem, as some see because it is feminine

5. does the feminine form refer to the royal aspect (BDB 641, cf. Song of Solomon 3:7).

I wish I knew! Many commentators assume this is an account of King Solomon's love affair with an Egyptian princess early in his reign. This interpretation must remain a valid option, but not the only option. When one compares the wedding songs of Egypt and Syria there are striking similarities in words and phrases. Solomon is a poor example of a mutual, monogamous (assumed, never stated) marriage (forecast, but not recorded until later in the book). The literary setting of Song of Songs may parallel Ecclesiastes (i.e. chapters 1-2), where Solomon is a literary foil. However, in Ecclesiastes he is never specifically named (though strongly alluded to). These are interpretive questions, not meant to deny the Bible's

1. inspiration

2. historicity

but to recognize its full range of literary genres and techniques.

“the wilderness” This refers to the uninhabited pastureland, not the desert. However, the question is, where is it referring to? Usually the wilderness is south of Jerusalem, but if so, why is the caravan coming to the city of the king?

“Like columns of smoke” This refers to a large royal caravan stirring up dust as it passes through dry terrain. This is either a reference to Solomon's coming to get his bride in the North or the bride entering Jerusalem for the wedding feast. It was the custom of the day for a large festival procession to bring the bride to the groom's home.

“Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” Solomon really smelled good! Myrrh (BDB 600) is the excretion from certain plants in the desert and was used for numerous activities:

1. holy anointing oil, Exodus 30:23

2. perfume for people and clothes (cf. Song of Solomon 1:13; Song of Solomon 4:6, Song of Solomon 4:14)

3. one of the gifts for the Christ child, Matthew 2:11

4. mixed with wine for a drink during crucifixion, Mark 15:23

5. spice for burial, John 19:39

“frankincense” Like myrrh, this was made from sweet-smelling tree sap from Arabia (cf. Jeremiah 6:20). It was used for several purposes:

1. cereal sacrifice, Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 6:14-18

2. sin sacrifice, Leviticus 5:11

3. holy incense, Exodus 30:34-38; 1 Chronicles 9:29

4. put on the table of Showbread along with the twelve loaves, Leviticus 24:7

5. personal perfume, Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 4:6, Song of Solomon 4:14

Song of Solomon 3:7 “Sixty” This number does not usually carry a symbolic significance in the OT. Therefore, it probably relates here to an elite royal guard.

Song of Solomon 3:8

NASB“All of them are wielders of the sword” NKJV“they all hold swords” NRSV“all equipped with swords” TEV“all of them skilful with the sword” NJB“All of them skilled swordsmen”

Just a note to show how the VERB of Song of Solomon 3:4 (“held on,” BDB 28, KB 31, Qal PERFECT) is now used of the swords of the elite guards (Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE). She held on to her lover, they held on to their weapons! Human vocabulary must be flexible and figurative. This is the beauty and power of poetry and imagery!

“the terrors of the night” This ambiguous phrase (BDB 808 and 538) has several connotations, here are two: (1) bandits or (2) evil spirits (Psalms 91:5).

Song of Solomon 3:9

NASB“sedan chair” NKJV, NRSV, NJB“palanquin” TEV“throne”

This (BDB 68, KB 80) term is difficult to define because there is no Semitic root to link it to. In later Aramaic (Targums) it refers to a litter for the bride at the wedding service (KB). Here it refers to some type of enclosed, wooden ride (cf. Song of Solomon 3:9-10) for a royal person (or a bride-to-be)!

Song of Solomon 3:10And its seat of purple fabric” Royalty is often associated with the color purple. It is made from the dye of crushed sea shells found off the coast of Phoenicia.

NASB“lovingly fitted out” NKJV“paved with love” NRSV“inlaid with love” TEV“lovingly woven” NJB“inlaid with ebony” JPSOA“decked with love”

The FEMININE NOUN (BDB 13) is used several times in Song of Songs:

1. love between a man and a woman, Song of Solomon 2:4, Song of Solomon 2:5; Song of Solomon 5:8; Song of Solomon 8:6, Song of Solomon 8:7(twice)

2. personified, Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 7:7; Song of Solomon 8:4

3. figuratively, Song of Solomon 3:10

The NEB and REB follow S. R. Driver and translate the term as being from an Arabic root meaning “leather” (cf. Hosea 11:4a). The Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible change the word to “ebony,” while the New American Bible (both of these translations are from Catholic scholars) change it to “ivory.” There has been one other suggestion based on Egyptian wall art (Othmar Keel), that it refers to love-making scenes painted or carved on the inner walls.

“the daughters of Jerusalem” See note at Song of Solomon 1:5.

Song of Solomon 3:11 “daughters of Zion” This phrase is parallel to “daughters of Jerusalem” (cf. Song of Solomon 3:10). Jerusalem was built on seven hills (like Rome). Mt. Zion was where the old Canaanite city (i.e. Jebus) which David conquered was located (cf. 1 Kings 8:1-2; 2 Chronicles 5:2) and became a way of referring to the whole city (e.g., Isaiah 40:9; Micah 3:12).

It seems that the geographical setting would be Jerusalem if these women (whoever they were) are called on to come and watch. If so this may be the northern maiden being brought to Jerusalem in Solomon's royal litter.

These women are implored (commanded) to:

1. “go forth,” BDB 422, KB 425, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “gaze,” BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE

“the crown” This is the word “wreath” (BDB 742 I). It was the custom in ancient Near Eastern weddings for the bride and groom to wear wreaths and for the bride to be veiled (cf. Song of Solomon 4:1, Song of Solomon 4:3).

“his mother crowned him” If this is literally Solomon getting married, then this refers to Bathsheba, although this incident is not specifically recorded in Scripture.

“on the day of his wedding” This specifically denotes the occasion for the processional, the wealth and the veil (cf. Song of Solomon 4:1, Song of Solomon 4:3). The poetry and imagery is of a wedding. This is the only place in this book where a wedding feast is specifically mentioned.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/song-of-solomon-3.html. 2021.
 
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