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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 4

Introduction

The appearance of both in the royal hall the Enamoured apparently in the train of the king, and induced to come by a feeling not well defined to herself, (Song of Solomon 6:12,) he anxiously following, “love winging his feet” is by no means so abrupt and violent an action as many found in the masterpieces of dramatic transition, as in the Tempest of Shakspeare, and the Medea of Euripides.

Verse 1

1. The language of the Beloved. Thou hast doves’ eyes, etc. Hebrew, Thine eyes are doves within thy veil. That appear, etc. Hebrew, That leap playfully down Mount Gilead. The word, etymologically meaning to descend, is used only of goats that spring and caper playfully in their descent. It is a happy figure to express the dancing of the ringlets of a lady’s head.

Verse 2

2. Thy teeth, etc. This verse should read, Thy teeth are like a fleecy flock which have come up from the washing, all of which are paired, and not one among them solitary.

Shorn Should be, accustomed to be shorn, that is, fleece-bearing. Paired, means, each having its fellow in the opposite row. Wool, in Scripture, is associated with snow for whiteness. The teeth, full, white, and sound, are always reckoned a beauty and a blessing.

Verse 3

3. Thread Better, braid. As literal features are here named, speech might better be mouth.

Thy temples Hebrew, Thy cheeks. The pomegranate has one side of rich red blushing through its clear brown. Such are the cheeks of this rustic damsel, within her veil, or visible just below its border.

Verse 4

4. Tower of David No such tower is known, though some have thought it might have stood at an angle of the temple area. The “mighty men” of David’s body guard made a deep impression on the minds of the following generation. That he should have built them an armory, (Hebrew, a pattern, a lesson,) in which their shields and all their weapons of defence were hung though these were oftener hung in temples and public places as trophies of victory is not improbable. The comparison suggests erectness, symmetry, and dignity of carriage.

Verse 5

5. Roes… which feed The red kids feeding upon the white lilies, which, springing up in profusion, carpet their pasture-ground, form a true and natural comparison, given in the style of warm oriental poetry.

Verse 6

6. In the play of feeling here traced, this verse is of great importance. Amid the splendours of the palace of which, as will soon plainly appear, (and must have been already suggested,) she can, if she choose, become an inmate, the voice of her Beloved still controls her feelings. Not the compliments which he pays, but the tones of his voice, the music of a faithful heart, and the beaming of a love-lighted face, prevail. The palace fades from her thought. Better to be queen of one true heart in the poor simplicities of country life, than to share with many rivals the marble court of the king. This verse is the crisis of the Song. There has been a test and trial in her spirit, but the difficult point is now passed. All blandishments will hereafter be vain. Until, etc. See Song of Solomon 2:17. The Enamoured decides to leave the palace at the cool and shelter of evening, and go back to the country, which takes now a sudden charm in her thought.

Mountain of myrrh An old traveller speaks of Syrian hills so overgrown with spicy shrubs and bushes that the very air was fragrant as he passed.

Verse 7

7. Thou art all fair Encouraged by this ardent interruption, the Beloved, in hopeful tone and lively phraseology, declares that she shall escape freely with him, and shall be safe in any and every place, on mountains and among wild beasts. Her declaration of preference, now fixed, if for the moment wavering, gives him the courage and animation belonging to perfect confidence.

Verse 8

8. Lebanon… Hermon The Beloved compares the king’s palace to the most magnificent objects of the land. “That goodly mountain… Lebanon.” “Hermon,” the most perfect mountain in Palestine, which was afterward made glorious by the transfiguration. Amana is a part of “Lebanon,” and Shenir of “Hermon.” But with all its grandeur it is, to the Enamoured, a place of danger. The hint is, that the eyes of the amorous monarch are upon her.

Look Hebrew, Thou shall come.

Verse 9

9. Thou hast ravished my heart Our best grammarians give this verb an opposite and intensive meaning: Thou hast given me heart. It is like the common English, “I have topped,” meaning either, “I have put on a top,” or, “I have taken off a top,” according to the connexion. Here the general sense requires, “Thou hast greatly encouraged me.” Sister is merely a term of endearment.

My spouse This word once meant betrothed, and such is the Hebrew here, meaning the ante-nuptial relation, my betrothed. Eastern women are usually veiled before men. A corner of the veil gracefully raised as a token of confidence and favour, reveals an eye and a part of the neck jewels. It is as if an American girl extended her lover her hand to kiss.

Verse 10

10. Wine, “that maketh glad the heart of man,” is mentioned even by Homer as grateful to gods and men. But the sympathy of woman, warming into tenderness and concentrating into love, is uniformly spoken of as the most gladdening and enlivening to the heart of man. And the smell, etc.

Sweeter than breath of morn in Ceylon’s grove,

Breathed from her lips the fragrance of her love.

Verse 11

11. Drop as the honeycomb If her breath was like “incense on the air,” her words were most luscious. Some Arabian legends illustrate, incidentally, the extravagant fondness of Orientals for honey, and the hazards and adventures encountered in obtaining it among desert cliffs and in hostile territory. It was the only available sweet. The Scriptures speak of it in the same way. It was one of the “goodly things” of the Promised Land.

The smell of thy garments As the Enamoured was now the guest of the king, she had received, as the eastern usage was, apparel fitting the place and occasion. (See the parable of the Wedding Garment.) This, as for a palace, would be sumptuous, and, as in the East, nothing if not fragrant. The perfume “of Lebanon” is like that of an American pine forest.

Verse 12

12. A spring shut up Most critics give this, by the change of one letter, as a repetition of a garden enclosed, making greater emphasis. The fields of Palestine were not fenced, but the gardens were walled, as more private. Passers through the fields might take, if hungry, from the crops, enough for their relief, but not so from the gardens.

A fountain sealed In the dry East fountains are often marked as private property, or the top is covered and sealed, and the water conveyed in pipes to the dwelling or garden of the owner. The idea is, of assurance of exclusive possession, and freedom from anxiety for the result of any arts and resources that the king may employ.

Verse 13

13. The comparison of his loved one to a garden is more fully given. Not merely enclosed, but worth enclosing!

Thy plants That is, the growths within the garden.

Orchard Hebrew, paradise. This word, whether taken from the Hebrew or the Sanscrit, means “enclosure.” The Hindustanee and Persian of to-day have a like term, “Peridesh,” fairy land. Camphire, etc. Fragrant with perfume.

Verse 14

14. Spikenard, etc. A list is given of the choicest shrubs and flowers which the land could produce. Some, as cinnamon, which is a native of Ceylon and Southern Asia, must have been cultivated in Palestine as an exotic. Or it may have been known only as an article of commerce, and thus assigned a place in a garden furnished according to a lively ideal.

Verse 15

15. Well of living waters The fountain which was “sealed,” now diffuses in the garden to which its “waters” are conveyed, life to all verdure, beauty to every flower, and flavour to all fruits. It is a source of “ living waters,” like the pure, perennial streams of Lebanon. From Lebanon flow Abana and Pharpar, the rivers which give Damascus its life and beauty.

Verse 16

16. Awake, O north wind The Beloved closes this well-sustained figure of a garden by invoking the breezes to arise, that the perfume they exhale may be diffused widely, that many may enjoy it. What is his own to possess, he would make many glad to share. The Enamoured says modestly, (If I be such,)

Let my Beloved, etc. For the garden is his, and its pleasant fruits are his. Her joy is in making it beautiful and rich for him. Her Beloved responds in the language of the following chapter, the first verse of which should be in this chapter, as its connexion is unbroken and necessary to its significance.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/song-of-solomon-4.html. 1874-1909.