The Song of Songs 1:12Context
The Beloved about Her Lover:
1 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).
2 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).
5 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).
6 sn The similar sounding terms שֵׁם (shem, “name”) and שֶׁמֶן (shemen, “perfume”) create a wordplay (paronomasia).
7 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).
8 tn Heb “love.”
9 tn The lexicons suggest that מֵסַב (mesav) refers to a round banquet table (HALOT 604 s.v. מֵסַב) or divan with cushions (BDB 687 s.v. מֵסַב 2). In Mishnaic Hebrew the noun מֵסַב refers to a dining couch, banquet table, as well as cushions or pillows (HALOT 604). The related noun מְסִבָּה (mÿsibbah) refers to a banqueting party (HALOT 604 s.v. מְסִבָּה; Jastrow 803 s.v. מְסִבָּה). The versions took it as a reference to a resting place (see LXX, Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta). R. E. Murphy (Song of Songs [Hermeneia], 131) suggests that it refers to (1) a couch or divan on which a person declined while eating, (2) a group of people gathered in a circle, that is, an entourage, or (3) a private place such as an enclosure.
tc The MT בִּמְסִבּוֹ (bimsibbo, “his banquet table”) is enigmatic: “While the king was at his banquet table, my nard gave forth its fragrance.” W. Rudolph suggests emending to מְסִבִּי (mÿsibbi, “around me”): “While the king surrounded me, my nard gave forth its fragrance” (Des Buch Ruth, das Hohe Lied, die Klagelieder [KAT], 27).
10 sn “Nard” (נֵרְדְּ, nerdÿ) was an aromatic oil extracted from the Valerian nardostachys jatamansi which was an aromatic drug from a plant which grew in the Himalaya region of India, used for perfume (HALOT 723 s.v. נֵרְדְּ). Nard was an expensive imported perfume, worn by women at banquets because of its seductive charms. It was used in the ANE as a love potion because of its erotic fragrance (R. K. Harrison, Healing Herbs of the Bible, 48-49).
11 tn Or “The fragrance of my myrrh wafted forth.”