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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 1

Verse 1

1. Song of songs The title is discussed in the Introduction.

Verse 2

2. Let him kiss me No Greek drama opens with truer words of an enamoured woman, the passionate outbreak of love, devotion, and confidence. No wonder that these warm movings of a human heart affected tenderly even that stern rabbi who daily thanked God that he was not a woman.

Verse 3

3. Thy name, etc. Hebrew, As perfume thou art, thy very name diffuses thee. A difficult passage, the poured forth agreeing with thou, not with “name.” “Thy name” instantly suggests thy character, which, as if compounded of many perfumes, vies with choicest ointment or perfume, an article ever highly valued in the East. The uniform sense of the word virgin in poetical language is candid, not preoccupied. The Enamoured One, to whose longing the Beloved is wrapped in a “light that never was on sea or shore,” thinks that all whose affections are in their own control must love him whom she holds so lovely.

Verse 4

4. After thee, belongs grammatically to the draw me. The Hebrew, like all oriental languages, is very defective in logical and connective particles, such as abound in English, and give direction to the thought, as but, then, indeed, etc. The king has indeed brought me into his chambers, or pavilions, but I am glad and rejoice in thee, that is, in the Beloved, not “the king.”

This verse is a soliloquy of one who, amid the splendours of a royal tent, finds home to be, not where she lives, but where she loves. The same tells that “the king” has brought her there, apparently that, impressed with the magnificence of his apartments, she may consent to become one of its inmates.

Verse 5

5. Daughters of Jerusalem The “daughters of Jerusalem” are, like the Greek chorus, a group of bystanders in close sympathy with the representation, whose part in it serves to explain and aid the general action.

Tents of Kedar An Arab tribe, that, like the modern gipsies, often intruded itself among the villages of Palestine, was a familiar sight. As the curtains, etc. The hangings of the pavilions, etc. The contrast would not be between a tent and a palace, but between the coarse hair-cloth tents of Kedar and the summer pavilions of the king, which, as Eastern rulers still do, he might pitch in some attractive spot for change of air and for recreation. In such a pavilion this song opens.

Comely That is, graceful.

Verse 6

6. Look not upon me Supply thus. She accounts with frank simplicity for her swarthiness, and in half-playful style tells how, while getting her complexion, she lost her heart. A glimpse is given of the family of the speaker, how she was under the control of stern and careful brothers, jealous of the family honour, which now (perhaps from the father’s premature death) seems to have come into their keeping. These, to divert her mind from an attachment which they disapproved, set her to a task not unusual to Eastern women of lower rank. There is a slight double sense in the sentence,

Mine own vineyard have I not kept It may mean, with almost Attic wit, I had never done such work for myself, or, I had been so silly as to fall in love.

Verse 7

7. Tell me, etc. Turning now from “the daughters,” the Enamoured utters as a soliloquy this beautiful apostrophe. There is an allusion to the resting of the flock in the heat of the day, an idea frequent in pastoral poetry. If she were now to seek him, she would not know where she might find him.

Verse 8

8. Go thy way This verse is spoken by the “daughters of Jerusalem.” Its purport is, “If you have lost him, it is a small matter. Go to your accustomed employment and dismiss this unprofitable longing.” This discouraging intimation is a delicate hint to listen to the blandishments of the king, who now appears.

Verse 9

9. I…

compared thee The language of the King.

Horses… chariots Hebrew, To my mare in the chariots of Pharaoh; that is, to one of them. The horses of the East, from the earliest times until now, have been celebrated for grace and beauty, and many an Eastern, and even Greek and Roman, poet, has compared his heroine to the lightly-stepping, bright-haired steed. The King’s alliance with Pharaoh may have brought him those chariots and horses so often mentioned in allusions to Egypt.

Verse 10

10. The royal pavilion in which the book opens, and in which the lovers are now standing, is magnificent. Yet the Enamoured claims loftier beauty for her hillside grove.

Also our bed is green Better, But there our couch is verdant. At the close of the verse should be no period.

Verse 11

11. Borders Better, a circlet. A young woman has naturally a passionate love for the beautiful in dress, and this royal offer must have been very tempting.

Verse 12

12. While the king sitteth In spite of these rich offers, as soon as the King has gone within to his table, the Enamoured breaks forth in tender utterances of longing for her Beloved, calling him by titles expressive of many charms. Nard is a perfume yielded by a plant of India, usually procured by way of Arabia, but possibly by Solomon’s fleets, Ophir being India. It was costly. Judas computed that that with which the woman anointed the Saviour’s head at Bethany was worth nearly $50. The Beloved, whose remembrance is so sweet, is called by this lively metaphor.

Verse 13

13. A bundle Better, A bag. Several writers mention the usage of eastern women of suspending a bag of myrrh or other perfume from the neck within the dress and in the bosom. Like such constant fragrance is the thought of her Beloved to her.

He shall lie all night This surprising clause is not found in the Hebrew, which merely says, It shall remain, that is, “the myrrh.” The translator of our version must have translated to fit some theory.

Verse 14

14. Camphire Hebrew, Cypress flowers. The cypress is very much like our lilac in size and appearance, and in the shape of its flowers. It is very fragrant, and its flowers, white and yellow on a red spike, are a favourite eastern bouquet.

Engedi A very fertile spot on the western shore of the Dead Sea, rich in the palm and the cypress; or, as the latter is sometimes called, the henna.

Verse 15

15. Behold The Beloved now appears, not in person, but in rehearsal of tender words now remembered by the Enamoured. So naturally does this reminiscence agree with the uttered longings for him, that the laws of the drama are honoured, and no violent transition is felt.

Thou art fair The repetition gives a sense of emphasis. Thou art very fair.

Thou hast doves’ eyes Hebrew, Thine eyes are doves, not “doves’ eyes.” The dove is the emblem of gentleness, purity, and fidelity.

Verse 17

17. The beams, etc. Better, The arches of our house are cedar, and its roof-work of cypress. A summer retreat which, in its coolness and fragrance and templed trees, may vie with the king’s canopies as a home for love.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/song-of-solomon-1.html. 1874-1909.