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The Song of Songs 1:2-3

The Desire for Love

The Beloved to Her Lover: 1 

1:2 Oh, how I wish you 2  would kiss me passionately! 3 

For your lovemaking 4  is more delightful 5  than wine. 6 

1:3 The fragrance 7  of your colognes 8  is delightful; 9 

your name 10  is like the finest 11  perfume. 12 

No wonder the young women 13  adore 14  you!

The Song of Songs 4:2


4:2 Your teeth are like a flock of newly-shorn sheep

coming up from the washing place; 15 

each of them has a twin,

and not one of them is missing.

The Song of Songs 6:6


6:6 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep

coming up from the washing;

each has its twin;

not one of them is missing.

1 tn The introductory headings that identify the speakers of the poems throughout the Song do not appear in the Hebrew text. They are supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. These notations should not be misinterpreted as suggesting that the Song be interpreted as a drama. Throughout the Song, the notation “The Lover” refers to the young man, while “the Beloved” refers to the young woman. Since the Song of Songs appears to be a collection of individual love songs, the individual love poems within the collection might not have originally referred to the same young man and young woman in each case. Just as the Book of Proverbs contains proverbs composed by Solomon (10:1-22:16; 25:1-29:27) as well as proverbs composed by other wise men (22:17-24:34; 30:1-31:9), so the Song of Songs may contain love poems composed by Solomon or written about Solomon as well as love poems composed by or written about other young couples in love. Nevertheless, the final canonical form of this collection presents a unified picture of idyllic love between one man and one woman in each case. The young man in several of the individual love poems is explicitly identified as Solomon (1:5; 3:7; 8:11-12), King Solomon (3:9, 11) or the king (1:4; 7:6). Some statements in the Song are consistent with a royal figure such as Solomon: references to Tirzah and Jerusalem (6:4) and to multiple queens and concubines (6:8). It is not so clear, however, whether Solomon is the young man in every individual poem. Nor is it clear that the same young woman is in view in each love poem. In several poems the young woman is a country maiden working in a vineyard (1:5-6; 8:11-12); however, the young woman in another poem is addressed as “O prince’s daughter” (7:2). The historian notes, “Solomon loved many women, especially the daughter of Pharaoh” (1 Kgs 11:1). So it would be surprising if the Song devoted itself to only one of Solomon’s many liaisons. The Song may simply be a collection of love poems written at various moments in Solomon’s illustrious career as a lover of many women. It may also include love poems written about other young lovers that were collected into the final form of the book that presents a portrait of idyllic love of young lovers.

2 tn Heb “May he kiss me….” The shift from 3rd person masculine singular forms (“he” and “his”) in 1:2a to 2nd person masculine singular forms (“your”) in 1:2b-4 has led some to suggest that the Beloved addresses the Friends in 1:2a and then her Lover in 1:2b-4. A better solution is that the shift from the 3rd person masculine singular to 2nd person masculine singular forms is an example of heterosis of person: a poetic device in which the grammatical person shifts from line to line (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 297). The third person is put for the second person (e.g, Gen 49:4; Deut 32:15; Ps 23:2-5; Isa 1:29; 42:20; 54:1; Jer 22:24; Amos 4:1; Micah 7:19; Lam 3:1; Song 4:2; 6:6) (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 524-25). Similar shifts occur in ancient Near Eastern love literature (cf. S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 92, 99). Most translations render 1:2 literally and preserve the shifts from 3rd person masculine singular to 2nd person masculine singular forms (KJV, AV, NASB, NIV); others render 1:2 with 2nd person masculine singular forms throughout (RSV, NJPS).

3 tn Heb “May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” The phrase יִשָּׁקֵנִי מִנְּשִׁיקוֹת (yishshaqeni minnÿshiqot, “kiss me with kisses”) is a cognate accusative construction used for emphasis.

4 tc The MT vocalizes consonantal דדיך as דֹּדֶיךָ (dodekha, “your loves”; mpl noun from דּוֹד, dod, “love” + 2nd person masculine singular suffix). The LXX and Vulgate reflect the vocalization דַּדֶּיךָ (daddekha, “your breasts”; mpl noun from דַּד, dad, “breast” + 2nd person masculine singular suffix). This alternate tradition was well known; it was followed by Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235) in his exposition of Canticles 1:2 and by Rabbi Yohanan of Tiberias (3rd century a.d.) as recorded in the Jewish midrashim on Canticles Rabbah 1:2.2. However, the MT vocalization is preferred. In terms of external evidence, the MT vocalization tradition is generally more reliable. In terms of internal evidence, the LXX form דַּדֶּיךָ (daddekha, “your [male!] breasts”) is a bit shocking, to say the least. On the other, the plural form דּוֹדִים (dodim, “loves”) is used in the Song to refer to multiple expressions of love or multiple acts of lovemaking (e.g., 1:4; 4:10; 5:1; 7:13 [ET 12]).

tn Although it may be understood in the general sense meaning “love” (Song 1:4), the term דּוֹד (dod) normally means “lovemaking” (Prov 7:18; Song 4:10; 7:12[13]; Ezek 16:8; 23:17). The plural form דֹּדֶיךָ (dodekha, lit. “your lovemakings”) is probably not a plural of number but an abstract plural (so BDB 187 s.v. דּוֹד 3).

5 tn Heb “better than.” With the comparison of lovemaking to wine, the idea is probably “more intoxicating than wine” or “more delightful than wine.”

6 tn The young woman compares his lovemaking to the intoxicating effects of wine. A man is to be “intoxicated” with the love of his wife (Prov 5:20). Wine makes the heart glad (Deut 14:26; Judg 9:13; Ps 104:15) and revives the spirit (2 Sam 16:1-2; Prov 31:4-7). It is viewed as a gift from God, given to enable man to enjoy life (Eccl 2:24-25; 5:18). The ancient Egyptian love poems use the imagery of wine and intoxication to describe the overwhelming effects of sexual love. For example, an ancient Egyptian love song reads: “I embrace her and her arms open wide; I am like a man in Punt, like someone overwhelmed with drugs. I kiss her and her lips open; and I am drunk without beer” (ANET 467-69).

7 tn The preposition לְ (lÿ) of לְרֵיחַ (lÿrekha) has been understood in three ways: (a) dative of reference: “with respect to fragrance [your perfumes are pleasing]” (see GKC 430 §133.d); (b) asseverative or emphatic: “indeed the fragrance [of your perfumes is pleasing]” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 50-51, §283); or (c) comparative: “[your lovemaking is better than wine], indeed better the scent [of precious ointments]” (W. F. Albright, “Archaic Survivals in the Text of Canticles,” Hebrew and Semitic Studies, 2, n. 4).

8 tn Heb “the scent of your oils.” The term שֶׁמֶן (shemen, “cologne”) refers to perfumes or colognes (Eccl 7:1; 10:1; Song 4:10). In Israel bodily oils were expensive (1 Kgs 17:12ff; 2 Kgs 2:4ff). Possession of oils and perfumes was a sign of prosperity and luxury (Deut 32:8; 33:24; Job 29:6; Prov 21:17; Ezek 16:13, 20). Wearing cologne was associated with joy (Ps 45:8; Eccl 9:8; Isa 61:3) because they were worn on festive occasions (Prov 27:9).

9 sn The term טוֹבִים (tovim, “pleasing”) refers to what is pleasant to the olfactory senses (BDB 373 s.v. II טוֹב 1.c) (e.g., Jer 6:20).

10 sn The term שְׁמֶךָ (shÿmekha, “your name”) may be a metonymy of association for her lover. In Hebrew idiom, the name often represents the person (e.g., 1 Sam 25:25).

11 tn The meaning of the phrase שֶׁמֶן תּוּרַק (shemen turaq) is difficult to determine; several options have been proposed: (1) Traditionally, the term תּוּרַק is taken as a verb (Hophal imperfect 3rd person feminine singular from רִיק, riq, “to pour out”) which functions as an attributive adjective modifying the noun שֶׁמֶן (“oil, perfume”): “poured out oil.” The phrase is taken this way by LXX ἒλαιον ἐκχεομενον (“oil poured out”) which seems to reflect a Hebrew Vorlage of a passive verb functioning adjectivally. Accordingly, the phrase is traditionally translated “ointment/oil poured forth/poured out” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NIV, RSV, NRSV, NJB), “purified oil” (NASB) or “spreading perfume” (NAB, CEV). However, this is syntactically awkward because: (a) the noun שֶׁמֶן (“oil”) is masculine (BDB 1032 s.v. שֶׁמֶן) but the verb תּוּרַק (“poured out”) is feminine (3rd person feminine singular); and (b) this would demand heterosis of the verb for an adjective function. (2) Aquila, who is known for his woodenly literal translation technique, reads ἒλαιον ἐκκενωθὲν (elaion ekkenwqen, “oil poured out”) which reflects a passive participle functioning adjectivally, perhaps מוּרָק (muraq; Hophal participle ms from רִיק “to pour out”). This involves simple orthographic confusion between ת and מ. This might be reflected in Qumran because Baillet’s restoration of 6QCant reads מרקחת מורקה (cited in BHS apparatus “c-c”) which would be vocalized מִרְקַחַת מוּרקָה (mirqakhat murqah, “perfumed poured out”). However, Baillet’s restoration is questioned by some scholars. (3) The BHS editors suggest emending MT תּוּרַק (turaq) to the noun תַּמְרוּק (tamruq, “purification”), used for oil of purification (e.g., Esth 2:3, 9, 12): תַּמְרוּק שֶׁמֶן (shemen tamruq) would mean “oil of purification” or “purified oil.” (4) A simpler solution is to take תּוּרַק as a previously unrecognized noun that is related to the Ugaritic noun trq which refers to high grade cosmetic oil (UT 145.20; 19.371). This approach is adopted by one other translation: “Your name is like finest oil” (NJPS).

12 sn The similar sounding terms שֵׁם (shem, “name”) and שֶׁמֶן (shemen, “perfume”) create a wordplay (paronomasia).

13 sn The term עַלְמָה (’almah, “young woman”) refers to a young woman who is of marriageable age or a newly married young woman, usually before the birth of her first child (HALOT 835-36 s.v. עַלְמָה; BDB 761 s.v. עַלְמָה) (e.g., Gen 24:43; Exod 2:8; Ps 68:26; Prov 30:19; Song 1:3; 6:8; Isa 7:14). The only other use of the term “young women” (עֲלָמוֹת) in the Song refers to the young women of Solomon’s harem (Song 6:8). The root עלם denotes the basic idea of “youthful, strong, passionate” (HALOT 835 s.v. III עלם). While the term עַלְמָה (“young woman”) may be used in reference to a young woman who is a virgin, the term itself does not explicitly denote “virgin.” The Hebrew term which explicitly denotes “virgin” is בְּתוּלָה (bÿtulah) which refers to a mature young woman without any sexual experience with men (e.g., Gen 24:16; Exod 22:15-16; Lev 21:3; Deut 22:23, 28; 32:25; Judg 12:12; 19:24; 2 Sam 13:2, 18; 1 Kgs 1:2; 2 Chr 36:17; Esth 2:2-3, 17, 19; Job 31:1; Pss 45:15; 78:63; 148:12; Isa 23:4; 62:5; Jer 2:32; 31:3; 51:22; Lam 1:4, 18; 2:10, 21; 5:11; Ezek 9:6; Joel 1:8; Amos 9:13; Zech 9:17 (HALOT 166-7 s.v. בְּתוּלָה; BDB 143 s.v. בְּתוּלָה). The related noun בְּתוּלִים (bÿtulim) means “state of virginity” (Lev 21:13; Judg 11:37-38; Ezek 23:3, 8; Sir 42:10) and “evidence of virginity” (Deut 22:14-15, 17, 20) (HALOT 167 s.v. בְּתוּלִים).

14 tn Heb “love.”

15 tn Alternately, “the watering-hole” or “watering-place.” The noun רַחְצָה (rakhtsah) may be nuanced “washing-place” (BDB 934 s.v. רַחְצָה) or “watering-hole, watering-place” (HALOT 1221 s.v. רַחְצָה). The related verb רָחַץ (rakhats) means “to wash, bathe, rinse off” (BDB 934 s.v. רָחַץ; HALOT 1220-21 s.v. רחץ). The metaphor describing the beautiful teeth of the bride probably pictures freshly washed sheep rather than freshly watered sheep. He praises his bride’s teeth by comparing them to freshly washed sheep. In the ancient Near East it was customary to wash sheep before shearing them. The picture of freshly washed sheep depicts the whiteness of the bride’s teeth.

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