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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Song of Solomon 6

 

 

Verses 1-13

See Song of Solomon 5:1 ff for the passage comments with footnotes.

5. Conclusion. c.The question where her lover is and Shulamith’s answer. Song of Solomon 6:1-3.

Song of Solomon 6:1. Whither has thy beloved gone, etc. As in what precedes Shulamith had made no distinct declaration respecting the person of her lover, but only given an ideal description of his beauty, the women might still remain uncertain who and where he was. Hence this additional question, which like that in Song of Solomon 5:9 is a question of curiosity and expresses some such sense as this: If then thy lover is a person of such extraordinary elegance and beauty, how could he have suffered you to be away from him? how could he have permitted you to become the wife of another so that you now must pine after him and seek longingly for him? At all events that particular in Shulamith’s story of her dream, according to which her lover “had turned away, was gone,” Song of Solomon 5:6, determined the form of their question. The women may have thought that they perceived in this the echo of an actual occurrence, a sudden desertion of Shulamith by her former lover. Manifestly no one of them thought of Solomon as the object of her languishing and painful desire.

Song of Solomon 6:2. My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of balm. This answer of Shulamith is certainly evasive, but scarcely jesting and roguish (Hitz.); it is rather sadly ironical. She does not seriously mean to represent Solomon as actually occupied with working in the garden or with rural pleasures (as Del. supposes). She merely intends to intimate that other matters seem more pressing and important to him than intercourse with her, his chosen love, and with this view she makes use of those pastoral and agricultural (horticultural) tropes, with which she is most conversant and most entirely at home (comp. Song of Solomon 1:7; Song of Solomon 1:14; Song of Solomon 2:3; Song of Solomon 2:16, etc.) It is further probable that “going down to the beds of balm” and “gathering lilies” may contain an allusion to amorous intercourse meanwhile indulged with others of his wives; and with this the primarily apologetic drift of her whole statement, which is purposely figurative and ambiguous, might very well consist. What Shulamith here says can in no event refer to a lover of the rank of a shepherd; for it would be trifling and in bad taste to attribute to him in that case besides his main business of feeding his flock, that of being engaged with beds of balm and other objects belonging to the higher branches of gardening (comp. Weissb. in loc.) and to explain the “garden” in the sense of Song of Solomon 4:12-15 (that Isaiah, of Shulamith herself, as the locked garden, which her country lover had now come to Jerusalem to visit) must be regarded as the extreme of exegetical subtilty, and can neither be brought into harmony with the verb יָרַד “has gone down” (for which we would then rather expect עָלָה “has come up”), nor with the plur. בַּגַנִּים “in the gardens” (vs.Hitz, Böttch, Ren.).

Song of Solomon 6:3. I am my beloved’s,etc.—The partial transposition of the words as compared with Song of Solomon 2:16 is not due to chance, but is an intentional alteration; comp. Song of Solomon 4:2 with Song of Solomon 6:6; Song of Solomon 2:17 with Song of Solomon 8:14.—The connexion of the exclamation before us with Song of Solomon 6:2 is given by Hitzig with substantial correctness: “The words of Song of Solomon 6:2 are a rebuff to strangers concerning themselves about her lover; the averment in Song of Solomon 6:3 that they belong to one another, indirectly excludes a third, and is thus inwardly connected with Song of Solomon 6:2.” With which it must nevertheless be kept in view that this present assertion is not made without, at the same time, feeling a certain pain at the infidelity of one so purely and tenderly beloved.[FN1]—The remark made by Del. on this verse cannot be substantiated: “With these words, impelled by love and followed by the daughters of Jerusalem (?), she continues on her way, hastening to the arms of her lover” (similarly too Weissb.). The text does not contain the slightest intimation of such a departure of Shulamith to look for him, and a consequent change of scene. Comp. above, No2.

6. Second Scene. a.Solomon’s reiterated praise of the beauty of Shulamith, Song of Solomon 6:4-10. The simplest view of this scene is that all to Song of Solomon 6:10 incl. is an encomium pronounced by the king, who has mean while entered, upon his beloved, but hitherto somewhat neglected and consequently saddened wife Shulamith, whilst Song of Solomon 6:11-12 is spoken by her, and Song of Solomon 7:1 by her alternately with the chorus. And the following explanation of the details will show that this is on all accounts the most satisfactory. We must reject, therefore, the views of Ewald, who puts the whole, even the colloquy, Song of Solomon 6:11 to Song of Solomon 7:1, into the mouth of Song of Solomon, and consequently assumes but one speaker; of Hitzig, who makes the ladies of the court retire and the “shepherd” enter and speak, Song of Solomon 6:9; of Böttcher, who besides introduces the queen mother likewise as a speaker in the words “she is the only one of her mother, the choice of her that bare her” ( Song of Solomon 6:9 a); of Umbreit, who takes Song of Solomon 6:10 to be the question of the poet, Song of Solomon 6:11 ff. the language of Shulamith walking sadly about in the king’s nut garden; of Magnus, who breaks up the whole section into no less than five fragments, etc.

Song of Solomon 6:4. Fair art thou, my dear, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem.—תִּרְצָה Tirzah (“delightful;” also the name of a woman, Numbers 26:33, in the passage before us rendered εὐδοκία by the Sept.) is certainly the subsequent residence of the kings in the northern kingdom, yet not here named as such along with Jerusalem, but as a remarkably beautiful and charming town in northern Palestine. Its mere name cannot possibly have afforded the reason of its being mentioned. It is much more likely that its location not far from Shunem (according to Hitz, in the territory of Issachar, the tribe of Baasha?) may have had some influence, since Solomon is elsewhere particularly fond of comparing his beloved with localities in the region of her home ( Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 4:11; Song of Solomon 4:15; Song of Solomon 7:5-6). Comp. moreover Introduction, § 3, Rem1.—The site of ancient Tirzah is no longer accurately known. K. Furrer, Wanderungen, etc., p241, thinks that he saw it not far from Sichem (to the north of it and due west of Samaria), “on a charming green hill, part of which has a very steep descent;” but he has probably taken a locality considerably to the south for the ruins of the old royal city, probably Thulluza (three hours east of Shomron, one hour north of Mount Ebal), so explained also by Robinson. Comp. Hergt, Palästina, p410; L. Voelter, Art. “Thirza,” in Zeller’s Bibl. Wörterbuch, and Winer, in Realwörterbuch.—Jeremiah also speaks of Jerusalem’s comeliness, Lamentations 2:15.—Hengstenb. makes the poet rise from Tirzah to Jerusalem as a still grander city; but this is contradicted by the fact that the predicate נָאוָה “comely,” as appears from Song of Solomon 1:5 compared with Song of Solomon 1:8, is inferior to יָכָּה “fair.”—Terrible as bannered hosts.—אָיםֹ from the same stem with אֵימָה “terror,” is used Habakkuk 1:7 to designate the Chaldeans as a dreadful foe, and here, therefore, can only designate the person addressed as fearful, terrible, as is especially evident from the comparison with “armies” or “bannered hosts.”—But why is Shulamith here said to be “terrible as bannered hosts” (which is only further unfolded in what follows, “turn away thine eyes from me, for they assault me”)? Not because she was to be represented in a general way as triumphant over men, whose hearts she wounds and captivates by her glances, (Gesen.); much more likely, because she has exerted upon Solomon in particular, her ardent lover, a fearful power by those eyes of hers, which pierce the heart and vanquish all resistance (Ew, Döpke, Delitzsch, and the great body of interpreters); but most likely of all because it was from those marvellously beautiful eyes a grave reproachful look had fallen upon him, because he had felt himself, as it were, called to account and chastised by the awe-inspiring innocence and purity of her look. Hitz. is substantially correct, only he makes the “chastising look” proceed from Shulamith still unmarried, who from love to her young shepherd acts coldly towards the king in his addresses. This explanation cannot be invalidated by the fact that the predicate “terrible as bannered hosts” recurs Song of Solomon 6:10 below, as the language of the ladies of the court, quoted by Solomon;[FN2] for in this quotation Solomon uses great freedom, as is shown by the extravagant comparisons with the sun, moon, and dawn of the morning (see in loc.).

Song of Solomon 6:5. Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have taken me by storm.—By this must be substantially meant, as appears from the context, an influence proceeding from Shulamith’s serious looks to the heart of her conscience-smitten husband, by which he was awed and abashed (comp. the parallels adduced by Hitz. from the Syr. and Arab. for the sense of terrifying), not the exciting of love to a passionate ardor (Döpke), nor bewitching (Vaihinger), nor manifesting her resistless and victorious power over her lover (Delitzsch), etc.Thy hair is like a flock of goats,etc. Comp. Song of Solomon 4:1 b. On Song of Solomon 6:6 comp. Song of Solomon 4:2. On Song of Solomon 6:7 comp. Song of Solomon 4:3 b. The omission in this passage[FN3] of the description of the lips and tongue contained in Song of Solomon 4:3 a, is simply to be explained from the abridged character of the present delineation, which Isaiah, as it were, but an abstract of the preceding, and since it was enough simply to remind his beloved of the encomiums passed upon her on her wedding day, might fitly be restricted to bare hints or a summary recapitulation. The opinion of Hengstenberg and Weissbach, that the number four is maintained as characteristic of the form of this abridged description, as the number ten in the larger one, imputes too whimsical a design to the poet. Far too artificial also Hitzig: The omission of Song of Solomon 4:3 a is to intimate “a brief pause” in the vain endeavors of the king to gain over the coy Shulamith, whereupon the voluptuous sensualist and inconstant “butterfly” suddenly breaks off after Song of Solomon 6:7, bethinking himself that there are other damsels yet (Iliad ix395 f.), and accordingly leaving the scene with the words, “Well, I have sixty queens and eighty concubines,” etc., to make love, soon after ( Song of Solomon 7:2 ff.) to another(!).

Song of Solomon 6:8. There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,etc. That this exclamation is not “uttered aside,” and indicative of the sudden breaking of the thread of the king’s patience, who has thus far been vainly laboring with Shulamith (according to Hitzig’s view, just stated), incontrovertibly appears, from its close connection with Song of Solomon 6:9, which nothing but the extreme of arbitrary criticism can sunder from it, and put into the mouth of the “shepherd.” Accordingly, even Renan has not ventured to approve Hitzig’s separation of Song of Solomon 6:9 from Song of Solomon 6:8, but has assigned both verses to the shepherd, who interrupts the king by singing them “from without!” But how could the praise of the “one dove,” the “one perfect,” etc., contained in Song of Solomon 6:9, come from any other mouth than that which uttered the encomium upon the beauty of the king’s beloved, beginning Song of Solomon 6:4! And again, how else could the way be prepared for the emphatic declaration: “My dove is one,” etc., but by this glance at the great number of the queens, concubines and virgins, who were all at the rich king’s command, but all of whom he was ready to subordinate to that one! It is plain that one verse here sustains the other, and they are all to ver10 inclusive most intimately connected together like links in a chain, which cannot be broken. This has been seen by the majority even of the advocates of the shepherd-hypothesis, without their finding anything better here after all than a “last violent assault” upon Shulamith’s innocence (Ew.), or a “new and heightened piece of flattery” (Vaih.), or a “thought adapted to win the heart and ensnare the refined feelings of Shulamith” (Böttch.), etc. On the relation of the numbers here given, “sixty queens” and “eighty concubines” of Solomon to the seven hundred queens and three hundred concubines, as stated ( 1 Kings 11:3, see Introduc, § 3, p12). The passage before us evidently contains a statement referable to an earlier period in Solomon’s life, which must as surely have been correct for some fixed point of time (which it is true cannot now be accurately ascertained), as the much larger numbers of the book of Kings are to be reckoned historically accurate for Solomon’s latest and most degenerate years.[FN4] For there is just as little necessity really for discrediting them as “very large statements in round numbers” (Hitzig), as there is for the attempt to bring out an approximate adjustment with the lower statements of this passage, by the change of700 to70, and of300 to80 (comp. Thenius on 1 Kin. in loc.). The accounts of ancient writers, as Plutarch (Artax. c27), Curtius (III:3, 24), Athenæus (Deipnos. III:1), respecting the size of the harem of the later Persian monarchs. (e.g., Artaxerxes Mnemon had360 παλλακίδες; Darius Codomannus was accompanied by360 pellices on his march against Alexander, etc.) are analogies, which, rightly weighed, make rather in favor of than against the credibility of the book of Kings in this matter. And although the harems of modern oriental rulers are often stated to be considerably smaller, so that e.g., Shah Sefi of Persia, according to Olearius, had but three wives and three hundred concubines, Sultan Abdul Medjid, of Constantinople, something over three hundred and fifty wives, etc., these accounts of a very recent period prove nothing respecting the customs and relations of a hoary antiquity. The seven hundred and three hundred of the book of Kings, as well as the sixty and eighty of this passage, may indeed be round numbers. This is favored to some extent in the former case by the circumstance that the total amounts to precisely one thousand, and in the latter by the popular and proverbial use of the numbers six, sixty (comp. Cic. Verrin. I. c125), six hundred ( Exodus 14:7; Judges 18:11; 1 Samuel 27:2, and the well-known use of the lat. sexcenti). But both these numerical statements must at all events pass for approximately exact; and neither the hypothesis that 1 Kings, loc. cit. states the entire number of all the wives, both principal and subordinate, that Solomon had in succession (so e.g.Keil in loc.), nor the opinion that the “virgins without number” may afford the means of adjusting the difference between them, seems to be admissible. Against the latter resource even Hitzig remarks: “The above difference cannot be reconciled by means of the עלמות virgins; for these plainly constitute a third class, and one outside of the harem”—that is to say, merely maids of the court, attendants upon the harem, whom the king, if he had chosen, might likewise have exalted to be concubines. On Hengstenberg’s allegorical explanation, according to which the “household of the heavenly Solomon” is here depicted, and consequently sixty and eighty = one hundred and forty, is to be taken as a mystical number,[FN5] see Introduction, p31.

Song of Solomon 6:9. My dove, my perfect is one, comp. on Song of Solomon 5:2. The opinion that אֲחֹתִי “my sister,” which stands with יוֹנָתִי תַמָּתִי “my dove, my perfect” in the parallel passage Song of Solomon 5:2, can have influenced the selection of אַחַת “one” in this place, is very improbable (vs. Weissb.).—The only one of her mother, the choice one of her that bare her. It follows, from the subsequent mention of Shulamith’s little sister, Song of Solomon 8:8, that the predicate “only” here (as in Proverbs 4:3) is not to be taken literally, but in the tropical sense of “incomparable.” On the combination of “mother” and “she that bare her,” Song of Solomon 3:4, Song of Solomon 8:5. On the clause generally, Proverbs 4:3.—Daughters saw her and called her blessed, queens and concubines and they praised her. On the sentence comp. Proverbs 31:28, probably a free imitation of this passage. The “daughters” evidently correspond to the עֲלָמוֹת “virgins,” Song of Solomon 6:8, as also the “queens and concubines” of that verse recur here, that they may expressly subordinate themselves to Shulamith, who is preferred above them. On account of this exact correspondence between this clause and Song of Solomon 6:8, it is incomprehensible how Hitz. can regard Song of Solomon 6:9 as spoken by the shepherd. Whence could he know that Solomon’s queens and concubines had such an opinion of Shulamith? And how unnatural and far-fetched would such a remark about the uniqueness and all-surpassing loveliness of his beloved appear as the first exclamation of the shepherd immediately upon his coming to her! In the course of his familiar conversation with her he might appropriately say something of the sort, but not as the first word of his salutation.

Song of Solomon 6:10. Who is this that looks forth like the dawn? If these words, like the exclamations Song of Solomon 3:6 and Song of Solomon 8:5, which likewise begin with מִי־זֹאת “who is this,” had really been the opening of a new scene (as Rosenm, Döpke, Heiligst, Del, Vaih, Weissb, etc., maintain, either supposing Song of Solomon, or his courtiers and attendants, or the ladies of the court to be the speakers) they would have been preceded by a concluding formula like Song of Solomon 3:5 and Song of Solomon 8:4. Instead of this Song of Solomon 6:9 rather required to be further explained and supplemented in regard to Shulamith’s being praised and pronounced blessed by Solomon’s wives; a statement was still needed of what the אַשֵּׁר ‘blessing’ and הַלֵּל ‘praising’ of those women amounted to. And the thing of all others best adapted to this purpose, was a mention of that admiring praise, which according to Song of Solomon 3:6 ff. the ladies of the court bestowed upon Shulamith on her entry into Zion upon her wedding day. To this panegyric, of which he must have had mediate or immediate cognizance, Solomon here refers, though only in the way of inexact suggestion not of faithful reproduction (substantially correct Ew, B. Hirzel, Böttch, Hitz.).—הַנִּשְׁקָפָה lit. “looking down, gazing down” from a high position: comp. שׁקף in Judges 5:28; Psalm 14:2; Psalm 53:3; Psalm 102:20; Lamentations 3:50. Reference is thus made to the prominent or exalted place occupied by Shulamith in the world of women. She outshines all others like the early dawn, which looks from heaven over the mountains down to the earth. Yes, like the sun and moon! Dawn, moon and sun are here, therefore, personified as it were, like the sun in Song of Solomon 1:6 above. Fair as the moon, pure as the sun.בָּרָה here equivalent to spotless, bright-shining, comp. Psalm 19:9; and on the silvery moon as an image of superior purity and beauty Job 25:5; Job 31:26. Arabic poets also sometimes compare female beauty with the brightness of the moon e. g. Hamasa (ed. Schultens, p483.) “Then Lamisa appeared like the moon of heaven when it shines;” Motanebbi (Translation by Von Hammer, p29, 42, etc.) and others, comp. Döpke and Magn. in loc.)[FN6] The poetic expressions לְבָנָה “white” and חַמָּה “hot” for moon and sun, which are again combined in Isaiah 24:23, are particularly suited for the comparison, because they are both feminine and alike indicative of white and blazing radiance.—Terrible as bannered hosts. This concluding simile points to the identity of the person intended with the one described in Song of Solomon 6:4, and at the same time testifies to the identity of the speaker and against the sundering of this verse from the preceding.[FN7]

7. Continuation. b.Shulamith and the ladies of the court, Song of Solomon 6:11 to Song of Solomon 7:1.

Some recent commentators take this particularly difficult little section to be a narration by Shulamith of something which she had previously experienced, in which she also repeats the language of others to her, together with her answer (Hitz, Meier, etc.); Naegelsb. (in Reuter’s Repert. 1852, No10) on the contrary regards it as a reverie of Shulamith, in which she foreshadows to herself her reception by her country friends on her expected return to them; Ew. (and Hahn) a continuation of the discourse of Song of Solomon, in which a colloquy between Shulamith and the ladies of the royal court is repeated; the majority of both the older and the later expositors, however, make of it an independent dialogue between Shulamith and the “daughters of Jerusalem,” in which the verses Song of Solomon 6:11-12 together with the words “what do you see in Shulamith” in Song of Solomon 7:1 are assigned to the former, and the remainder of Song of Solomon 7:1, to the latter. This last understanding of it is the only one which avoids the manifold difficulties and forced explanations with which each of those previously mentioned is chargeable.

Song of Solomon 6:11. To the nut-garden I went down. According to the various interpretations put upon the entire section, these words are thought to contain either1) Shulamith’s answer to what is supposed to be the wondering question of the ladies of the court in Song of Solomon 6:10 (so Del. and Weissb.: she states to her noble auditors in these words not so much who she Isaiah, as why she had come down to the king’s garden); or2) the beginning of an account of what happened to her on the occasion of her being first brought to the king’s court (Ew, Umbr, Hitz, Vaih, Böttch, Ren. etc.—all agreeing in this that Shulamith here begins to tell the story of her former “abduction” to the king’s harem); or3) the beginning of a dreamy description of what Shulamith would do after her return home (Naegelsb. loc. cit.) or4) the beginning of a statement of the way in which the daughter of Zion attained the high dignity which the words of the heavenly Solomon had ascribed to her, especially in Song of Solomon 6:9-10, (Hengstenb.); or5) the beginning of a recital by Song of Solomon, in which he prophetically depicts the process of the conversion of the gentiles to the God of Israel (Hahn) etc. We hold that of these views the second comes nearest to the true sense of the poet, but prefer to find in the words instead of a statement of what Shulamith was doing at the precise moment of her “abduction,” a description of what she was in the habit of doing before she came to the royal court. We accordingly take יָרַדְתִּי neither as pluperf. (“I had gone down”), nor as a proper perfect, nor as an aorist, but as a statement of an action frequently repeated in the past, a customary action, in which sense though it elsewhere belongs rather to the future, the perfect is sometimes used in the O. T (e.g. 2 Samuel 1:22,) comp. Ew. Lehrb. § 136, c.—If, therefore, Shulamith commences in this way to describe her rural occupations prior to her exaltation as queen, she thereby gives her husband plainly enough to understand that he has in no wise satisfied her by his enthusiastic laudations and admiring declarations of love, but that she now longed more than ever to get away from his voluptuous court and from the vicinity of his sixty queens and eighty concubines to the green little nut garden, the fresh valleys and the lovely vineyards in the region of her home.—גִנַּת אֱגוֹז denotes according to all the versions as well as to ancient Talmudic tradition a “nut garden,” a meaning for which there is the less need to substitute “kitchen-herb or vegetable garden” (with Hitz.) since אֱגוֹז is doubtless the same word with the Pers. ghuz and JosephusBell. Jud. III:10, 8, expressly testifies to the occurrence of nut-trees in the region of the lake of Tiberias, not far consequently from Shulamith’s home. The nut-garden here mentioned is to be sought in this her native region and not in the neighborhood of Jerusalem or within the range of the king’s gardens. It can scarcely be different from the vineyards and orchards described Song of Solomon 7:13 ff. in the immediate vicinity of the house of Shulamith’s mother.—To look at the shrubs of the valley,etc. The garden itself probably lay likewise in this valley-bottom, or at all events considerably lower than Shulamith’s residence (hence ירד “went down”). “Shrubs” or “green” of the valley (אִבֵּי הַנָּֽחל) probably denotes whatever verdure sprouted up in the place where the water of the Wady had run off, less likely the green of proper water-plants ( Job 8:12). On the combination of verdure or shrubs, vines and pomegranates comp. Song of Solomon 2:12, f. the like juxtaposition of flowers, fig trees and vines. רָאָה בְּ “to look at anything” denotes, as it invariably does, the pleased, gratified contemplation of an object (comp. Psalm 27:4; Psalm 63:3; Micah 4:11, etc.) not the busy looking for something, for which latter sense not even Genesis 34:1 can be adduced (vs. Hitz.).

Song of Solomon 6:12. I knew it not, my desire brought me,etc. The thing intended is scarcely her “desire to walk out in the open air” (Ew.), or her “curiosity” (Vaih.), or her “wish to see the vine sprout” (Hitzig), but much more probably her desire to belong to her royal lover, her longing to be wholly and for ever her beloved’s. When and how this desire was first awakened in her, she does not here state; she had given utterance to this in another place, see Song of Solomon 2:8-17. In the passage before us she simply assumes the existence of her desire and longing for her lover, and only tells how little she knew or imagined in the midst of those rural occupations of hers ( Song of Solomon 6:11) that she was exalted by it “to the chariots of her people, the noble,” in other words, how little she suspected beforehand that her lover was the king, the ruler of all Israel.—To the chariots of my people, the noble.מַרְכְּבוֹת strictly denotes merely “wagons,” but here, like the combination “horses and chariots” in other passages ( Deuteronomy 20:1; Isaiah 31:1; Psalm 20:8) seems to express the idea of the full display of the power and pomp of the kingdom, but without suggesting anything of a military nature, so that as in 1 Samuel 8:11; 2 Samuel 15:1 we are to think chiefly of state carriages in the festive processions of the king and his court. Being transferred or promoted to these chariots of state would accordingly be tantamount to elevation to royal dignity and glory, of which the analogy of Joseph in Egypt is an instructive instance, Genesis 41:43 ff. So far as the language is concerned, there is no special objection to this interpretation. The connection of the accusative מַרְכְּבוֹת with the verb שׂוּם without a preposition most probably expresses the idea of “removing or bringing in the direction (comp. Isaiah 40:26; Daniel 11:2; or into the vicinity of something,” (comp. Judges 11:29); this is the case not merely with verbs denoting motion, but with all possible verbal ideas (see numerous examples in Ew, § 281, d). שׂוּם is often elsewhere synonymous with הֵבִיא “to bring or conduct to any place” (comp. Genesis 2:8) and so שׂוּם מַרְכְּבוֹת may very readily mean: “to bring to the chariots, to transfer, exalt into the sphere or region of the chariots”—a meaning which is at all events more obvious than the rendering “to set me on the chariots” (Syr, Del, etc.); or than the explanation of Velth, Gesen, Ew, Böttch, Hitz, Ren, etc.: “made me happen among the chariots” (viz., of the royal retinue); or than the strange rendering of the Vulg, which probably presupposes the reading שַׁמַּתְנִי instead of שָׂמַתְנִיconturbavit me propter quadrigas,” etc.; or finally than construing מַרְכְּבוֹת as a second object, either in the sense of “making me or converting me into chariots,” i.e., “a princess” (Umbr.) or “a defence” (Hengstenb.); or “making like chariots, i.e., as swift as chariots” (Rosenm, Magn, Döpke). Since no one of these constructions appears to be better established in point of language than ours, while this latter undoubtedly yields a less forced and more attractive thought, we might with all confidence declare it to be the only one that was admissible, if it were not that the difficult limiting genitive עַמִּי נָדִיב “of my people, the noble,” involves the real meaning of מַרְכְּבוֹת and consequently of the entire passage in an obscurity that can scarcely be cleared up. The translation “chariots of my people, the noble,” or “chariots of my noble people,” is on the whole the most satisfactory (the absence of the article before the adjective is of no consequence, comp. Genesis 43:14; Psalm 143:10 [Green’s Heb. Gram., § 249, 1, b]). The resulting sense cannot then be materially different from that of נְדִיבֵי עַם “nobles of the people” Psalm 113:8 or נְ״ הָעָם, Numbers 21:18 (comp. נְ״ ·עַמִּים, Psalm 47:10) and will accordingly refer to the noble countrymen of Shulamith, to the proceres seu optimates gentis suæ; for the explanation “warchariots of the people of the prince” (Weissb.) certainly has as much against it as the opinion that עַמִּי נָדִיב is one noun, either equivalent to “prince of the realm” (Vaih.) or = the well-known proper name Amminadab ( Exodus 6:23; Numbers 1:7; Ruth 4:19; 1 Chronicles 2:10; 1 Chronicles 6:7, etc.). This last expedient, manifestly the most confusing of all, was already tried by the Sept, Symmach, Vulg, Luther (who has Amminadib instead of Amminadab), and after them by most of the older interpreters, especially the allegorizers, with whom it was, so to speak, a fixed dogma that Amminadab means the devil! But even if we shun such devious ways, the sense of the expression “transferred to the chariots of my noble people” remains obscure and ambiguous enough, and we can either assume that the “noble people” or “noble folk” “Edelvolk” (Ew.) was intended to denote the noble extraction of Israel, or the courtiers of Song of Solomon, or the whole people as represented in the person of its prince (so substantially Del, comp. Vaih.). In all which, however, it still remains a question why the poet did not make Shulamith speak in so many terms of her elevation to the chariot or to the throne of her prince.—To complete as far as possible our enumeration of all that interpreters have made out of the crux before us, Weissbach’s view of this verse may here be stated in conclusion. According to it “the words of Song of Solomon 6:12 in the mouth of the person, who had proposed the question Song of Solomon 6:10 (viz., a courtier, who had gazed with astonishment upon Shulamith in the garden) mean: I asked the question because I did not know that this brilliant and majestic spectacle was you; I had rather supposed that I saw the prince’s army chariots before me!”—Hahn, too, thinks that the speaker of these words is not Shulamith but Song of Solomon, who thus relates how, when filled with longing desire for a reunion with Japhetic gentilism, his soul suddenly and insensibly set him “on the chariots of his people as a prince.”[FN8]

See Son 8:1 for DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - This is certainly a most extraordinary comment upon language which manifestly expresses nothing but the most entire confidence in Solomon’s unabated attachment to herself while it reaffirms her own undivided attachment to him. The inconstancy of the bridegroom, which Zöckler’s preconceived scheme obliges him to assume, is contradicted in express terms by this verse, converts Song of Solomon 6:2 into an unmeaning evasion instead of the frank statement, whether literal or figurative, which it plainly Isaiah, and imputes a meaning to Song of Solomon 6:1 which the words certainly do not contain, and which no one who was not pressed by the exigencies of a theory would ever imagine that he found there. If the unsuccessful search for her lover, which Shulamith reports, Song of Solomon 5:6-7, was only a troubled dream, it can create no surprise that in her waking moments she knows and is able to state in the general whither her beloved had gone, even if she were not certain in what particular spot in his extensive gardens he was then to be found. The allegorical sense commonly put upon these verses will appear sufficiently from the following citations: “Jerusalem being on an hill, they went down to the gardens; so Christ comes down from heaven spiritually into the congregation.” Westminster Annotations. “The garden which had been described in Song of Solomon 4:12 to Song of Solomon 5:1. The ‘garden’ refers to the Christian body in its unity, the ‘gardens’ denote its manifoldness; in the New Testament we read, as Theodoret remarks, alike of the Church and of the churches. Under the dispensation of the gospel, no less than under that of the older covenant, Christ nurtures His people in the purity of holiness. But He now not only feeds His flock among lilies, but also gathers lilies; gathers with joy and acceptance from His people those fruits of holiness which through the grace of His Spirit they are continually bringing forth.” Thrupp.—Tr.]

FN#2 - This can scarcely be characterized in any other way than as carrying a theory through regardless of difficulties which the plain words of the text may interpose. The expression “terrible as armies with banners” cannot mean one thing here and a different thing in Song of Solomon 6:10. As Good correctly remarks: “The artillery of the eyes is an idea common to poets of every nation.” Comp. Anacreon, Od. ii, xvi.; Musæus, Hero et Leander. —Tr.]

FN#3 - At least according to the Masoretic text; though the Septuag. insert the words Song of Solomon 4:3 a (Ὡζ σπαρτἰον κὀκκινον χεἰλη σον καἰ, λαλιἀ σον ὡραἰα) here too in their proper place (between Song of Solomon 6:6-7). [But gratuitous insertions from parallel passages are too frequent in the Septuagint to warrant the suspicion of an omission from the currently received text].

FN#4 - Westminster Annotations: “It seems that Solomon writ this book of Canticles before he had his full number of wives; for he had many more after.” Patrick (followed by Williams, Scott and Henry) supposes allusion not to Solomon’s own wives, but to those of other princes, for the reason that “it is not at all likely that he had so many as are there mentioned, while his mind was filled with such divine raptures as these.” Fry fancies that he finds here an argument for the idyllic hypothesis: “The passage before us contains a tacit intimation that though King Solomon’s name and King Solomon’s pen were made use of by the divine Inspirer of these Canticles to construct an allegory representative of the loves of Christ and His Church, very different loves from those of Solomon must be imagined as the archetype, even when in the exterior of the allegory, circumstances of royalty and circumstances connected with the Israelitish monarch are supposed. And it is for the same reason that though King Solomon is the undoubted author of these Song of Solomon, he so frequently disrobes himself of his royal character, and speaks in the person of a shepherd, or leads us to contemplate some faithful pair in the humbler ranks of life”].

FN#5 - Thrupp gives a different view from the allegorical standpoint: “As regards the sixty and the eighty, we have of course in each case a definite number for an indefinite. The choice of the particular numbers seems to have been mainly dictated by a studied avoidance of the number seventy, to which a certain sacredness and completeness would have attached. It is no harmonious covenant-relationship, in which the queens and concubines stand to Christ: all is with them imperfect and wide of the mark. A directly opposite view is erroneously taken by Hengstenberg.” Wordsworth exhibits the Archdeacon of Westminster in his comment: “The concubines are more numerous than the queens. May not this perhaps signify that the number of the members of sectarian congregations would be greater than that of the Church?” He had before remarked upon the fourscore concubines: “A state of things is here represented when schisms prevail in Christendom. The concubines represent Christian congregations which have some spiritual gifts and graces, but are not perfectly joined to Christ in the unity of the one faith and apostolic fellowship”].

FN#6 - Here too belong the verses from Theocritus, Id. xvii26 ff.

Ἀὡζ ἀντέλλοισα καλὀν διέφαινε πρὀσωπον,

ΙΙότνια νὺξ ἅτε, λενκὸν ἔαρ χέιτῶνοζ ἀνέντος,

Ὤδε καὶ χρνσέα) Ἑλένα διεφαίνετ̓ έν ἁμῖν.”

FN#7 - Doway note: “Here is a beautiful metaphor describing the church from the beginning. ‘As the morning rising,’ signifying the church before the written law; ‘fair as the moon,’ showing her under the written law of Moses; ‘bright as the sun,’ under the light of the gospel; and ‘terrible as an army,’ the power of Christ’s church against its enemies.”]

FN#8 - The simplest and most natural explanation of these words finds in them, as it is expressed by Wordsworth: “the cheerful alacrity and fervent affection of the bride flying on the wings of love” to the bridegroom. Moody Stuart: “In a moment her soul is carried away directly, irresistibly, rapidly toward her bridegroom and her king.” Withington thus paraphrases: “I went into the garden; I walked among its shades; I surveyed its beauties; I remembered the owner, and my soul melted with rapture and love.” Patrick makes a somewhat different application: “The meaning of this verse seems to be that the spouse hearing such high commendations of herself, both from the bridegroom and from the persons mentioned, Song of Solomon 6:10, with great humility saith, that she was not conscious to herself of such perfections (I did not know it, or I did not think so), but is excited thereby to make the greatest speed to endeavor to preserve this character he had given her.” Percy and Good understand it of the bride’s hesitation and irresolution after she had promised to meet her beloved in the garden. The latter states its meaning thus: “I was not aware of the timidity of my mind, which hurried me away from my engagement, when in the very act of adhering to it, with the rapidity of the chariot of Amminadib.” Thrupp on the basis of 2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 13:14 : “The church had unconsciously and unexpectedly become the source and channel of victorious might to all the willing people of God. ‘My soul,’ she says, ‘had made me.’ It is the unshrinking and devoted zeal with which the church prosecutes the task set before her that makes her the rallying point for all who would join in the service of her Lord.” Others attribute this language to the bridegroom. Thus Taylor and Williams: “The affections of the prince carried him to meet his love with the rapidity of a chariot.” Burrowes, as Scott and Henry, finds in Song of Solomon 6:11-13 a statement of the feelings of the bridegroom during his temporary withdrawal. When he left his spouse, Song of Solomon 5:6, it was “only to withdraw to his favorite place of resort in the garden;” where “almost unconsciously, ere he was aware, his soul was filled with the desire of meeting her again, a desire so strong that it would have carried him to her arms with the swiftness of the chariot of Amminadib.” It is characteristic of Gill’s exposition that in commenting on Song of Solomon 6:11 he proposes the question, Why are believers like nuts? and answers it under ten heads.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 6:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/song-of-solomon-6.html. 1857-84.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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