The Song of Songs 7Tweetthis!
The Lover to His Beloved:
O nobleman’s daughter! 2
the work of the hands of a master craftsman.
Your belly 9 is a mound of wheat,
encircled 10 by lilies.
7:3 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.
Your eyes are the pools in Heshbon
by the gate of Bath-Rabbim. 12
Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon
the king is held captive 17 in its tresses!
7:6 How beautiful you are! How lovely,
The Lover to His Beloved:
and your breasts are like clusters of grapes. 22
and take hold of its fruit stalks.
May your breasts be like the clusters of grapes, 25
and may the fragrance of your breath be like apricots! 26
flowing smoothly for my beloved,
gliding gently over our lips as we sleep together. 28
The Beloved about Her Lover:
7:10 I am my beloved’s,
and he desires me! 29
The Beloved to Her Lover:
7:11 Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside;
let us spend the night in the villages.
7:12 Let us rise early to go to the vineyards,
to see if the vines have budded,
to see if their blossoms have opened,
if the pomegranates are in bloom –
there I will give you my love.
over our door is every delicacy, 31
both new and old, which I have stored up for you, my lover.
1 sn Solomon calls attention to the sandals the “noble daughter” was wearing. While it was common for women in aristocratic circles in the ancient Near East to wear sandals, women of the lower classes usually went barefoot (e.g., Ezek 16:10).
2 tn Alternately, “noble daughter” or “magnificent daughter.” The title בַּת־נָדִיב (bat-nadiv, “princely daughter” or “daughter of the prince”; HALOT 673 s.v. נָדִיב; BDB 622 s.v. נָדִיב 2) suggests to some that this woman is not the Israelite country maiden of chapters 1-4 and 8, but the daughter of Pharaoh whom Solomon later married (1 Kgs 11:1). While the term נָדִיב often denotes nobility of position (“nobleman”), it can also denote nobility of character (“noble, willing, magnificent”) (e.g., Prov 17:26; Isa 32:5, 8) (HALOT 673-74; BDB 622 s.v. 2).
3 tn The term ַַחמּוּק (khammuq, “curve”) describes the shapely curvature of her legs (HALOT 327; BDB 330 s.v. 2) rather than a curving, dancing motion (Arabic bridal dance view). Although the verb חָמַק (khamaq, “turn”) appears twice (Song 5:6; Jer 31:22), the noun חַמּוּק is a hapax legomenon. In postbiblical Hebrew it refers to “rundles” (Jastrow 476 s.v. חַמּוּק). The term here has been translated in various ways: “[thigh] joints” (KJV), “rounded [thighs]” (RSV), “curves [of thighs]” (NASB), “graceful [thighs]” (NIV).
4 tn The term יָרֵךְ (yarekh, “thigh”) may refer to (1) the fleshy upper part of the thigh where the leg joins the pelvis (Gen 32:25-32; 46:26; Exod 1:5; Judg 8:30) or (2) the outside of the thigh from the hip down (Exod 32:27; Judg 3:16, 21; Ps 45:4; Song 3:8). The first usage is usually restricted to a figure for the male loins, the source of male procreation (Gen 46:26; Exod 1:5) and the locus of an oath (Gen 24:2, 9; 47:29).
5 tn The noun שֹׁרֶר (shorer) is a hapax legomenon, appearing in the OT only here. There is debate whether it means “navel” or “vulva”: (1) Lys and Pope suggest that שֹׁרֶר is related to Arabic srr (“secret place, pudenda, coition, fornication”). They suggest that this is contextually supported by three factors: (a) His descriptive praise of her is in ascending order, beginning with her feet and concluding with her hair. The movement from her thighs (7:1b), to her vulva (7:2a), and then to her waist (7:2b) would fit this. (b) The descriptive comparison to a glass of wine would be grotesque if her navel were in view – her navel was moist or filled with liquid? – but appropriate if her vulva were in view. (c) The navel would be a somewhat synonymous reference to the belly which is already denoted by בִּטְנֵךְ (bitnekh, “belly”) in the following line. Because 7:1-7 does not use synonymous parallelism, the term שֹׁרֶר would have to refer to something other than the belly. (2) The term שֹׁרֶר denotes “navel”: (a) It may be related to the bi-consonantal noun שֹׁר (shor, “navel, umbilical cord”) (Prov 3:8; Ezek 16:4). (b) Mishnaic Hebrew שָׁרָר (sharar) denotes “navel, umbilical cord” (Jastrow 1634 s.v. שָׁרָר). For example, in a midrash on the Book of Numbers, the noun שֹׁרֶר appears in an allusion to Song 7:3 to justify the seating of the Sanhedrin in the middle of the synagogue: “As the navel (שֹׁרֶר) is placed in the centre of the body, so are the Sanhedrin…” (Num. Rab. 1:4). On the other hand, the meaning “vulva” never appears in Mishnaic Hebrew. Therefore, apart from this disputed usage there is no evidence that this term was ever used in this manner in Hebrew. (c) Rather than שֹׁרֶר being related to Arabic sirr (“pudenda”), it could just as easily be related to the Arabic noun surr “navel.” It is methodologically more sound to define שֹׁרֶר as “navel” than as “vulva.” (d) The nuance “navel” is not as out of line contextually as Lys and Pope suggest. The navel would not be out of place in the ascending order of praise because the בִּטְנֵךְ (“abdomen”) which follows may be viewed as both above and below the navel. The figurative association of the שֹׁרֶר as a mixing bowl filled with wine does not imply that this bodily part must actually be moist or filled with liquid as Pope suggests. The point of comparison is not physical or visual but one of function, i.e., it is intoxicating. The comparison of the navel to a mixing bowl of wine is no more out of line than the comparison of the belly to a heap of wheat in the next line. In fact, the two go together – she is both the “drink” and “food” for Solomon. The shape of the navel is as congruent with the metaphor of the “round bowl” as the vulva; both are round and receding. (3) Since both terms are derived from the same geminate root – Hebrew שֹׁרֶר and Arabic srr – it is more prudent to take the term as a synecdoche of whole (lower region) for the parts (including navel and vulva). The attempt to decide between these two options may be illegitimately splitting hairs. See K&D 18:123; J. S. Deere, “Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 199-200; D. Lys, “Notes sur de Cantique,” VTSup 17 (1969): 171-78; M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 617; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon (TOTC), 157.
6 sn The expression אַגַּן הַסַּהַר (’aggan hassahar, “round mixing bowl”) refers to a vessel used for mixing wine. Archaeologists have recovered examples of such large, deep, two handled, ring-based round bowls. The Hebrew term אַגַּן (“mixing bowl”) came into Greek usage as ἂγγος (angos) which designates vessels used for mixing wine (e.g., Homer, Odyssey xvi 16) (LSJ 7). This is consistent with the figurative references to wine which follows: “may it never lack mixed wine.” Selected Bibliography: J. P. Brown, “The Mediterranean Vocabulary for Wine,” VT 19 (1969): 158; A. M. Honeyman, “The Pottery Vessels of the Old Testament,” PEQ 80 (1939): 79. The comparison of her navel to a “round mixing bowl” is visually appropriate in that both are round and receding. The primary point of comparison to the round bowl is one of sense, as the following clause makes clear: “may it never lack mixed wine.” J. S. Deere suggests that the point of comparison is that of taste, desirability, and function (“Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 202). More specifically, it probably refers to the source of intoxication, that is, just as a bowl used to mix wine was the source of physical intoxication, so she was the source of his sexual intoxication. She intoxicated Solomon with her love in the same way that wine intoxicates a person.
7 tn The phrase אַל־יֶחְסַר (’al-yekhsar) has traditionally been taken as an imperfect: “it never lacks mixed wine” (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 619); “which wanteth not liquor” (KJV); “in which liquor is never lacking” (RSV); “that never lacks mixed wine” (JB); “with no lack of wine” (NEB); “that shall never want for spiced wine” (NEB); “that never lacks blended wine” (NIV). This is also how LXX understood it: μὴ ὑστερούμενος κρᾶμα (mh usteroumenos, “not lacking liquor”). However, the negative אַל (’al) normally precedes a jussive expressing a wish or request: “May it never lack mixed wine!” (J. S. Deere, “Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 202). This approach is adopted by several translations: “that should never lack for mixed wine” (NASB) and “Let mixed wine not be lacking!” (NJPS).
8 sn The term מָזֶג (mazeg, “mixed wine”) does not refer to wine mixed with water to dilute its potency, but to strong wine mixed with weaker wine. The practice of mixing wine with water is not attested in the Hebrew Bible. Both מָזֶג and מֶסֶךְ (mesekh) refer to strong wine mixed with weaker wine. The rabbis later distinguished between the two, stating that מָזֶג was strong wine mixed with weak wine, while מֶסֶךְ was wine mixed with water (Aboda Zara 58b). However, both types of wine were intoxicating. Mixed wine was the most intoxicating type of wine. In a midrash on the Book of Numbers a comment is made about the practice of mixing strong wine with weaker wine (e.g., Isa 5:22; Prov 23:30), stating its purpose: “They used to mix strong wine with weak wine so as to get drunk with it” (Num. Rab. 10:8). See J. P. Brown, “The Mediterranean Vocabulary of Wine,” VT 19 (1969): 154. The comparison of a wife’s sexual love to intoxicating wine is common in ancient Near Eastern love literature. Parallel in thought are the words of the Hebrew sage, “May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her love (or breasts) always intoxicate you, may you ever stagger like a drunkard in her love” (Prov 5:18-19).
9 tn Alternately, “your waist.” The term בִּטְנֵךְ (bitnekh) probably refers to the woman’s “belly” rather than “waist.” It is associated with a woman’s abdominal/stomach region rather than her hips (Prov 13:25; 18:20; Ezek 3:3). The comparison of her belly to a heap of wheat is visually appropriate because of the similarity of their symmetrical shape and tannish color. The primary point of comparison, however, is based upon the commonplace association of wheat in Israel, namely, wheat was the main staple of the typical Israelite meal (Deut 32:14; 2 Sam 4:6; 17:28; 1 Kgs 5:25; Pss 81:14; 147:14). Just as wheat satisfied an Israelite’s physical hunger, she satisfied his sexual hunger. J. S. Deere makes this point in the following manner: “The most obvious commonplace of wheat was its function, that is, it served as one of the main food sources in ancient Palestine. The Beloved was both the ‘food’ (wheat) and ‘drink’ (wine) of the Lover. Her physical expression of love nourished and satisfied him. His satisfaction was great for the ‘mixed wine’ is intoxicating and the ‘heap of wheat’ was capable of feeding many. The ‘heap of wheat’ also suggests the harvest, an association which contributes to the emotional quality of the metaphor. The harvest was accompanied with a joyous celebration over the bounty yielded up by the land. So also, the Beloved is bountiful and submissive in giving of herself, and the source of great joy” (“Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 203-204).
10 tn Heb “fenced around by.”
11 tn Alternately, “the ivory tower.” The noun הַשֵּׁן (hashshen, “ivory”) is a genitive of composition, that is, a tower made out of ivory. Solomon had previously compared her neck to a tower (Song 4:4). In both cases the most obvious point of comparison has to do with size and shape, that is, her neck was long and symmetrical. Archaeology has never found a tower overlaid with ivory in the ancient Near East and it is doubtful that there ever was such a tower. The point of comparison might simply be that the shape of her neck looks like a tower, while the color and smoothness of her neck was like ivory. Solomon is mixing metaphors: her neck was long and symmetrical like a tower; but also elegant, smooth, and beautiful as ivory. The beauty, elegance, and smoothness of a woman’s neck is commonly compared to ivory in ancient love literature. For example, in a piece of Greek love literature, Anacron compared the beauty of the neck of his beloved Bathyllus to ivory (Ode xxxix 28-29).
12 sn It is impossible at the present time to determine the exact significance of the comparison of her eyes to the “gate of Bath-Rabbim” because this site has not yet been identified by archaeologists.
13 tn Heb “your head [is] upon you.”
14 sn The Carmel mountain range is a majestic sight. The mountain range borders the southern edge of the plain of Esdraelon, dividing the Palestinian coastal plain into the Plain of Acco to the north and the Plains of Sharon and Philistia to the south. Its luxuriant foliage was legendary (Isa 33:9; Amos 1:2; Nah 1:4). Rising to a height of approximately 1750 feet (525 m), it extends southeast from the Mediterranean for 13 miles (21 km). Due to its greatness and fertility, it was often associated with majesty and power (Isa 35:2; Jer 46:18). The point of the comparison is that her head crowns her body just as the majestic Mount Carmel rested over the landscape, rising above it in majestic and fertile beauty. See ZPEB 1:755; C. F. Pfeiffer and H. F. Vos, Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands, 100.
15 sn The term דַּלָּה (dallah, “locks, hair”) refers to dangling curls or loose hair that hangs down from one’s head (HALOT 222-23 s.v. I דַּלָּה). The Hebrew term is from a common Semitic root meaning “to hang down,” and is related to Arabic tadaldala “dangle” and Ethiopic delul “dangling curls” (KBL 222-23).
16 tn Heb “like purple” or “like purple fabric.” The term אַרְגָּמָן (’argaman, “purple fabric”) refers to wool dyed with red purple (HALOT 84 s.v. אַרְגָּמָן). It is used in reference to purple threads (Exod 35:25; 39:3; Esth 1:9) or purple cloth (Num 4:13; Judg 8:26; Esth 8:15; Prov 31:22; Jer 10:9; Song 3:10). NASB translates it as “purple threads,” while NIV nuances this term as “royal tapestry.” M. H. Pope (The Song of Songs [AB], 629-30) adduces several ancient Near Eastern texts and suggests that it refers to purple hair-dye. The comparison is to hair which entangles Solomon like binding cords and therefore, it seems most likely that the idea here must be purple threads. The Hebrew noun is a loanword from Hittite argaman “tribute,” which is reflected in Akkadian argamannu “purple” (also “tribute” under Hittite influence), Ugaritic argmn “tax, purple,” Aramaic argwn “purple” (HALOT 84). Purple cloth and threads were considered very valuable (Ezek 27:7, 16) and were commonly worn by kings as a mark of their royal position (Judg 8:26).
17 tn Alternately, “captivated.” The verb אָסַר (’asar, “to bind, capture, hold captive, put in prison”) is commonly used of binding a prisoner with cords and fetters (Gen 42:34; Judg 15:10-13; 16:5-12; 2 Kgs 17:4; 23:33; 25:7; 2 Chr 33:11) (HALOT 75 s.v. אסר). It is frequently used as a figure to depict absolute authority over a person (Ps 105:22). The passive participle סוּר means “to be bound, held captive, imprisoned” (2 Sam 3:34; Jer 40:1; Job 36:8). Like a prisoner bound in cords and fetters and held under the complete control and authority of his captor, Solomon was captivated by the spellbinding power of her hair. In a word, he was the prisoner of love and she was his captor. Similar imagery appears in an ancient Egyptian love song: “With her hair she throws lassoes at me, with her eyes she catches me, with her necklace she entangles me, and with her seal ring she brands me” (Song 43 in the Chester Beatty Cycle, translated by W. K. Simpson, ed., The Literature of Ancient Egypt, 324). J. S. Deere suggests, “The concluding part of the metaphor, ‘The king is held captive by your tresses,’ is a beautiful expression of the powerful effect of love. A strong monarch was held prisoner by the beauty of his Beloved” (“Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 206-207). This is a startling statement because Solomon emphasizes that the one who was being held captive like a prisoner in bonds was the “king”! At this point in world history, Solomon was the ruler of the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world (1 Kgs 3:13; 10:23-29). And yet he was held totally captive and subject to the beauty of this country maiden!
18 tn Alternately, “O beloved one.” Consonantal אהבה is vocalized by the Masoretes as אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”). However, a variant Hebrew
19 tc The MT preserves a syntactically difficult reading בַּתַּעֲנוּגִים (batta’anugim, “in/with delights”). A variant Hebrew textual tradition preserves the alternate reading בַּת תַּעֲנוּגִים (bat ta’anugim, “daughter of delights” or “delightful daughter”). The textual variant is either due to haplography (mistakenly writing ת once instead of twice) or dittography (mistakenly writing ת twice instead of once). The alternate textual tradition is reflected in Aquila θυγάτηρ τρυφῶν (qugarhr trufwn, “daughter of delights”). However, the MT reading אַהֲבָה בַּתַּעֲנוּגִים (’ahavah batta’anugim, “O love, in your delights”) is אַהֲבָה בַּתַּעֲנוּגִים (“O love, in your delights”) is supported by LXX (Old Greek) ἀγάπη, ἐν τρυφαῖς σου (agaph, en trufais sou, “O love, in your delights”).
tn The term תַּעֲנוּג (ta’anug, “luxury, daintiness, exquisite delight”) is used in reference to: (1) tender love (Mic 1:16); (2) the object of pleasure (Mic 2:9); (3) erotic pleasures (Eccl 2:8); (4) luxury befitting a king (Prov 19:10). The term may have sexual connotations, as when it is used in reference to a harem of women who are described as “the delights” of the heart of a man (Eccl 2:8) (BDB 772 s.v. תַּעֲנוּג).
20 tn The term קוֹמָתֵךְ (qomatek, “stature”) indicates the height of an object, e.g., tall person (1 Sam 16:7; Ezek 13:8), tall tree (2 Kgs 19:23; Isa 10:33; Ezek 31:3-5, 10-14), a towering vine (Ezek 19:11).
21 sn The term תָּמָר (tamar, “palm tree”) refers to the date palm tree (Phoenix dactyliferia) that can reach a height of 80 feet (24 m). It flourished in warm moist areas and oases from Egypt to India. Ancient Iraq was the leading grower of date palms and dates in the ancient world, as today (M. H. Pope, The Song of Songs [AB], 633). There is also a hint of eroticism in this palm tree metaphor because the palm tree was often associated with fertility in the ancient world. The point of comparison is that she is a tall, slender, fertile young woman. The comparison of a tall and slender lady to a palm tree is not uncommon in love literature: “O you, whose height is that of a palm tree in a serail” (Homer, Odyssey vi 162-63) (S. H. Stephan, “Modern Palestinian Parallels to the Song of Songs,” JPOS 2 : 76).
22 tn Alternately “clusters of figs.” The term אַשְׁכֹּלוֹת (’ashkolot, “clusters”) usually refers to (1) clusters of grapes, that is, the stalk on which the bunch of grapes grow and the bunch of grapes themselves (Gen 40:10; Num 13:23-24; Deut 32:32; Isa 65:8; Mic 7:1) or (2) the berry on a cluster of henna bush (Song 1:14) (HALOT 95 s.v. I אַשְׁכּוֹל). It is possible that this is an anomalous usage in reference to a cluster of dates rather than to a cluster of grapes for three reasons: (1) the תָּמָר (tamar, “palm tree”) referred to in 7:7 is a date palm, (2) the term סַנְסִנִּים (sansinnim, “fruit stalks”) in 7:8a refers to the fruit stalk of dates (Rademus dactylorum), being related to Akkadian sissinnu (“part of the date palm”), and (3) the reference to climbing the palm tree in 7:8a is best understood if it is a date palm and its fruit are dates. The comparison between her breasts and clusters of dates probably has to do with shape and multiplicity, as well as taste, as the rest of this extended metaphor intimates. M. H. Pope (The Song of Songs [AB], 634) notes: “The comparison of the breasts to date clusters presumably intended a pair of clusters to match the dual form of the word for ‘breasts.’ A single cluster of dates may carry over a thousand single fruits and weigh twenty pounds or more. It may be noted that the multiple breasts of the representations of Artemis of Ephesus look very much like a cluster of large dates, and it might be that the date clusters here were intended to suggest a similar condition of polymasty.”
23 tn Heb “I said, ‘I will climb….’” The verb אָמַר (’amar, “to say”) is often used metonymically in reference to the thought process, emphasizing the spontaneity of a decision or of an idea which has just entered the mind of the speaker moments before he speaks (Gen 20:11; 26:9; 44:28; Exod 2:14; Num 24:11; Ruth 4:4; 1 Sam 20:4, 26; 2 Sam 5:6; 12:22; 2 Kgs 5:11). M. H. Pope renders it appropriately: “Methinks” (Song of Songs [AB], 635).
24 sn A Palestinian palm tree grower would climb a palm tree for two reasons: (1) to pluck the fruit and (2) to pollinate the female palm trees. Because of their height and because the dates would not naturally fall off the tree, the only way to harvest dates from a palm tree is to climb the tree and pluck the fruit off the stalks. This seems to be the primary imagery behind this figurative expression. The point of comparison here would be that just as one would climb a palm tree to pluck its fruit so that it might be eaten and enjoyed, so too Solomon wanted to embrace his Beloved so that he might embrace and enjoy her breasts. It is possible that the process of pollination is also behind this figure. A palm tree is climbed to pick its fruit or to dust the female flowers with pollen from the male flowers (the female and male flowers were on separate trees). To obtain a better yield and accelerate the process of pollination, the date grower would transfer pollen from the male trees to the flowers on the female trees. This method of artificial pollination is depicted in ancient Near Eastern art. For example, a relief from Gozan (Tel Halaf) dating to the 9th century
25 tn Heb “of the vine.”
26 tn The Hebrew noun תַּפּוּחַ (tappukha) has been traditionally been translated as “apple,” but modern botanists and the most recent lexicographers now identify תַּפּוּחַ with the “apricot” (BDB 656 s.v. I תַּפּוּחַ). This might better explain the association with the sweet smelling scent,
especially since the term is derived from a Semitic root denoting “aromatic scent.” Apricots were often associated with their sweet scent in the ancient world (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 92-93).
27 tn The term חֵךְ (khek, “palate, mouth”) is often used as a metonymy for what the mouth produces, e.g., the mouth is the organ of taste (Ps 119:103; Job 12:11; 20:13; 34:3; Prov 24:13; Song 2:3), speech (Job 6:30; 31:30; 33:2; Prov 5:3; 8:7), sound (Hos 8:1), and kisses (Song 5:16; 7:10) (HALOT 313 s.v. חֵךְ; BDB 335 s.v. חֵךְ). The metonymical association of her palate/mouth and her kisses is made explicit by RSV which translated the term as “kisses.”
28 tc The MT reads שִׁפְתֵי יְשֵׁנִים (shifte yÿshenim, “lips of those who sleep”). However, an alternate Hebrew reading of שְׂפָתַי וְשִׁנָּי (sÿfata vÿsinna, “my lips and my teeth”) is suggested by the Greek tradition (LXX, Aquila, Symmachus): χείλεσίν μου καὶ ὀδοῦσιν (ceilesin mou kai odousin, “my lips and teeth”). This alternate reading, with minor variations, is followed by NAB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, NLT.
tn Or “his lips as he falls asleep.” Heb “the lips of sleepers.” Alternately, “over lips and teeth” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT).
29 tn Heb “his desire is for me” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).
30 sn In the ancient Near East the mandrake was a widely used symbol of erotic love because it was thought to be an aphrodisiac and therefore was used as a fertility drug. The unusual shape of the large forked roots of the mandrake resembles the human body with extended arms and legs. This similarity gave rise to the popular superstition that the mandrake could induce conception and it was therefore used as a fertility drug. It was so thoroughly associated with erotic love that its name is derived from the Hebrew root דּוֹד (dod, “love”), that is, דּוּדָאִים (duda’im) denotes “love-apples.” Arabs used its fruit and roots as an aphrodisiac and referred to it as abd al- sal’m (“servant of love”) (R. K. Harrison, “The Mandrake and the Ancient World,” EQ 28 : 188-89; Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 138-39).
31 sn Her comparison of their love to fruit stored “over our door” reflects an ancient Near Eastern practice of storing fruit on a shelf above the door of a house. In the ancient Near East, fruits were stored away on shelves or cupboards above doorways where they were out of reach and left to dry until they became very sweet and delectable. The point of comparison in this figurative expression seems to be two-fold: (1) She was treasuring up special expressions of her sexual love to give to him, and (2) All these good things were for him alone to enjoy. See M. H. Pope, The Song of Songs [AB], 650.