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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 2

Verse 1

1. I am the rose, etc. Better, I am but a flower of the field; that is, a common, unpretentious flower. This is the modest language of the Enamoured, in self-depreciation, in response to the compliments just conveyed. That love exaggerates is a maxim in literature.

Verse 2

2. As the lily Supply But, at the beginning. By an ingenious turn the Beloved makes the Enamoured’s own words express her conspicuous charms. “But a lily, if you will have it so, yet, compared with that lily, all other damsels are but as thorns and brambles.”

Verse 3

3. As the apple tree The Enamoured terminates with this verse her rehearsal, and then resumes her direct narrative. The apple tree is a native of Asia. Its ample foliage and rich blossoms and fruit make it not only beautiful in itself, but a grateful object of possession. The praise of the preceding verse is fairly answered. The verbs here denote habitual action, I used to sit, etc. The company of the Beloved was like the shade of such a tree. By a natural rhetoric we gradually lose the tree from sight, and think only of him whose presence was like it,

“Whose breath lent sweetness to the gale

And music to the grove.”

Verse 4

4. He brought me Hebrew, He used to lead me to that home of gladness, that is, the shady bower where gladness dwelt. And his banner, etc. Better, and shaded me with love.

Banqueting house Better, house of wine; a Hebrew phrase for house of joy, or gladness. Such was the place of his companionship.

Verse 5

5. Flagons A difficult word, but, probably, a species of cake, apparently of pressed grapes, grapecakes. It can hardly be thought that she calls for these “cakes” and “apples” in a literal sense. Her heart fainteth, and Love’s own cordials only can minister to her relief.

Verse 6

6. His left hand, etc. This verse is the utterance of a wish, O that his left hand were under my head! That his right hand were supporting me! Many a heart has felt, oftener in time of sickness and trouble, this faintness of yearning.

“O for the touch of a vanished hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still!”

Verse 7

7. I charge you Better, I adjure you; a form of administering an oath. The objects named, the roes, (gazelles,) and… the hinds of the field, are beautiful and graceful, and give a poetic ornamentation and vivacity to the expression. My love is the abstract term, meaning, not a person loved, but the affection or passion itself. The idea is that of diverting it to another person. “That ye arouse and induce not my affection (elsewhere) until it please,” that is, until it be so repelled by my Beloved as to be constrained of itself to turn and seek another object. That they should add their inducements to the flatteries of the King, seems to her a peril earnestly to be deprecated, lest tempted virtue fail.

A new phase or scene is now introduced, of which the characterizing features are a longing and a search. It is in the form of an animated rehearsal given by the Enamoured to the “daughters of Jerusalem.” The place is the same as that of the preceding division the summer pavilion of the king.

Verse 8

8. The voice of my beloved Better, A voice! It is my beloved! The word rendered “voice” sometimes serves as an interjection, like “Hark!” It is also used of the sound of the feet in running.

He cometh Properly, He came. She saw him at a distance and knew him by his brisk gait and graceful bearing.

Verse 9

9. Like a… hart He came quickly like the animals to which he is compared.

He standeth More strictly, Now he stood behind our wall, he looketh through the window: showing himself through the lattice. The windows of Jewish houses were very narrow, and set with lattice-work, not glass.

Verse 10

10. Rise… come away He invites her to a ramble abroad. The season of flowers is the one dear to lovers. The Chinese have a pretty poem, translated into English by Sir William Jones, which appreciates love with the blossoming of the peach tree. In the tactics and resources of affection, in all ages and lands, a lover’s walk, whether by “the white walls of the Paraclete,” made memorable by Eloise, or “in green Bengala’s fragrant grove,” where Bishop Heber poured his heart into the lines, “If thou were by my side, love,” has been the occasion of Love’s dearest ministry.

Verse 11

11. Winter is past The winter of Palestine has little frost or snow, except on Hermon, and perhaps a few other mountain-tops, but it is a season of long and surly rains, making it far less enjoyable than the lively and joyous winters of our climate. Few of the houses are built to yield comfort at this time. One item, the lack of glass windows, is of itself suggestive the choice being between darkness and chilliness. No trace can be found of any good method of illuminating, or of any decent appliances for warming, houses. When, therefore, the sun in February began to be felt, welcome was the thought, “The winter is past, the rain is over and gone,” and now hope and love respond to Nature’s gladness.

Verse 12

12. The flowers appear on the earth The drift of allusion shows the parties foremost in the drama, the Enamoured and the Beloved, to be in lowly condition and dwellers in the country. To such this spring season is the most laborious of all, especially to get in all seeds while the soil is moist with the early rain and the latter rain is yet to come. This gives a holiday zest to this proposed excursion. They are to go, not for labour, but to the banquet which nature spreads.

The time of the singing The word really means, the song of men of labourers but to refer it to birds does no harm, though the next clause would be sufficient for that.

The voice of the turtle The “turtle” dove (named tur-tur, from its cooing) spends the winter farther south, and its return to Palestine is like that of the swallow to ours, or like that of the cuckoo, whose note resembles the turtle dove’s, which is often called the mourning dove.

Verse 13

13. The fig tree putteth forth The verb means really to embalm, and the true sense is, The fig tree is spicing her green figs. The vines, etc. The vines are abloom, they are fragrant.

Verse 14

14. O my dove The Beloved calls her a “dove” from the timid nature of that bird, which on the least alarm flies to its shelter. “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away.”

“How say ye to my soul,

Flee as a bird ( dove ) to your mountain.”

Stairs Hebrew, In the crevices of mountain cliffs. Tenderly does the Beloved chide her reluctance to accept his invitation.

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Verse 15

15. It is hard to find in all poetry a more beautiful rhetorical foil than this verse. The knocking at the gate in “Macbeth” is like it. When a passion has run so intensely that its crisis must be near, then to interrupt it, and divert the attention by throwing in fresh and unlooked-for elements, is the highest art. This interruption exactly suits the stern and careful brothers already mentioned. Partly to prevent the intimacy, imprudent and excessive as they seem to regard it, of the lovers, and partly to protect their property in this season of its exposure when they themselves are so busy, they order their sister to spend the day in watching the vineyards.

Take us the foxes Foxes were abundant in Palestine, (the jackal is not here meant,) and they did the vines damage at this season, chiefly by burrowing around their roots, like the gopher and field rat. Unless now caught, they would make havoc in harvest. To this order she meekly yields, consoling herself with the sentiment of the following verse.

Verse 16

16. My beloved is mine Whatever may be the disappointment, she rests her heart upon the sure and abiding tie which absence cannot sever.

Feedeth among the lilies The verb is transitive, and means “feedeth his flock among the lilies.” The clause should be introduced by the word “while.” The sense is, He is mine and I am his, though I watch, etc.

Verse 17

17. Until the day, etc. Hebrew, Until the day breathe cool and the shadows stretch themselves. The first clause might apply to evening or morning, either being the time of cool breezes, but the second clause fixes the sense to be “at evening.”

Be thou like a… hart That is, “Return quickly.”

Upon the mountains of Bether Hebrews Over the mountains of separation. “The separating hills.” The speed of the Beloved has already been compared to that of a deer on its mountains.

At evening the Beloved did not return.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/song-of-solomon-2.html. 1874-1909.