The Maidens 7 to the Lover:
we will praise 10 your love more than wine.
The Beloved to Her Lover:
The Song of Songs 4:10Context
4:10 How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine;
the fragrance of your perfume is better than any spice!
The Song of Songs 5:1Context
The Lover to His Beloved:
5:1 I have entered my garden, O my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh with my balsam spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk!
The Poet to the Couple: 13
Eat, friends, and drink! 14
Drink freely, O lovers!
The Song of Songs 7:13Context
over our door is every delicacy, 16
both new and old, which I have stored up for you, my lover.
1 sn The verb מָשַׁךְ (mashakh, “draw”) is a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) which draws an implied comparison between the physical acting of leading a person with the romantic action of leading a person in love. Elsewhere it is used figuratively of a master gently leading an animal with leather cords (Hos 11:4) and of a military victor leading his captives (Jer 31:3). The point of comparison might be that the woman wants to be the willing captive of the love of her beloved, that is, a willing prisoner of his love.
2 tn The three verbs in this line are a good example of heterosis of person, that is, a shift from 2nd person masculine singular to 1st person common plural to 3rd person masculine singular forms: מָשְׁכֵנִי (mashÿkheni, “draw me!”; Qal imperative 2nd person masculine singular from מָשַׁךְ, mashakh, “to draw” + 1st person common singular suffix:), נָּרוּצָה (narutsah, “let us run!”; Qal cohortative 1st person common plural from רוּץ, ruts, “to run”), and הֱבִיאַנִי (hevi’ani, “he has brought me” or “bring me!”; Hiphil perfect 3rd person masculine singular בּוֹא, bo’, “to bring” + 1st person common singular suffix). Heterosis from second to third person occurs elsewhere in the Song in 1:2-3; 4:2; 6:6 (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).
3 tn Or “O king, bring me into your chambers!” The article on the noun הַמֶּלֶךְ (hammelekh, “the king”) may be taken in two ways: (1) the particularizing use of the article: “The king” (e.g., NIV: “The king has brought me into his chambers”) or (2) the vocative use of the article: “O king!” (NJPS margin: “O king, bring me into your chambers!”) (For the vocative use of the article, see GKC 405 §126.e; Joüon 2:506-7 §137.f; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 19, §89; IBHS 247 §13.5.2c). The syntactical classification of the article is dependent upon: (1) Whether the MT reading of the 3rd person masculine singular suffix on חֲדָרָיו (khadarav, “his chambers”) is retained or whether the text is emended to the 2nd person masculine singular suffix form חַדְרֶךָ (khadrekha, “your chamber”) as reflected in Syriac (see textual note below). (2) Whether הֱבִיאַנִי (hevi’ani, Hiphil perfect 3rd person masculine singular from בּוֹא, bo’, “to bring” + 1st person common singular suffix) is classified as a perfect of past action (“The king has brought me into his chambers”) or a precative perfect (“O king, bring me into your chambers!”) (see syntactical note below). (3) Whether the consonantal form הביאני should be vocalized as הֱבִיאַנִי (hevi’ani, Hiphil perfect 3rd person masculine singular + 1st person common singular suffix) as preserved in MT or as הֲבִיאֵנִי (havi’eni, Hiphil imperative 2nd person masculine singular + 1st person common singular suffix) as reflected in Symmachus and Syriac (see textual note below).
4 tn Or “has brought me.” The verb הֱבִיאַנִי (hevi’ani, Hiphil perfect 3rd person masculine singular בּוֹא, bo’, “to bring” + 1st person common singular suffix) may be classified in two ways: (1) perfect of past action: “The king has brought me into his chambers” or (2) precative perfect: “May the king bring me into his chambers!” (J. S. Deere, “Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 1012). While some older grammarians denied the existence of the precative (volitional) function of the perfect in Hebrew (e.g., S. R. Driver, Tenses in Hebrew, 25-26; GKC 312-13 §106.n, n. 2), its existence is accepted in more recent grammars (e.g., IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d; Joüon 2:365 §112.k). While the perfect of past action is the more common use of the perfect, the context suggests the more rare precative. As IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d notes, the precative can be recognized contextually by its parallelism with the other volitive forms. The parallelism of precative הֱבִיאַנִי (“bring me!”) with the volitives in the two preceding parallel colons – מָשְׁכֵנִי (mashÿkheni, “draw me!”; Qal imperative 2nd person masculine singular from משַׁךְ, mashakh, “to draw” + 1st person common singular suffix:) and נָּרוּצָה (narutsah, “let us run!”; Qal cohortative 1st person common plural from רוּץ, ruts, “to run”) – favors the precative function of the perfect. The volitive function of consonantal הביאני is reflected in Syriac. The BHS editors suggest revocalizing MT to הֲבִיאֵנִי “bring me!” The precative function of the perfect הֱבִיאַנִי may explain the origin of this variant vocalization tradition reflected in Syriac. In terms of connotation, the precative functions as a volitive as an example of the irreal modal or optative function of the perfect (IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d; Joüon 2:365 §112.k). In contrast to the use of the irreal perfect for situations which the speaker expresses as a wish without expectation of fulfillment (contrary-to-fact situations, hypothetical assertions, and expressions of a wish that is not expected to be realized), the precative refers to situations the speaker expresses his desire for and expects to be realized (IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d). It is used most often in contexts of prayers to God which the speakers expect to be answered (e.g., Pss 3:8; 22:22; 31:5-6). Here, she expresses her desire that her lover consummate their love in his bedroom chambers; she expects this desire to be realized one day (e.g., 4:1-5:1). There are, however, several problems with nuancing the form as a precative: (a) this would demand emending MT חֲדָרָיו (khadarav, “his chambers”) to חַדְרֶךָ (khadrekha, “your chamber[s]”) – which is, however, reflected by Syriac Peshitta and Symmachus, and (b) it would demand nuancing the article on הַמֶּלֶךְ (hammelekh) as a vocative (“O king!”).
5 tc The MT reads the 3rd person masculine singular suffix on a plural noun חֲדָרָיו (khadarav, “his chambers”). This is reflected in LXX, Targums, and Vulgate. However, the 2nd person masculine singular suffix on a singular noun חַדְרֶךָ (khadrekha, “your chambers”) is reflected by Syriac Peshitta and Symmachus. See preceding note on the text-critical significance of these variant readings.
6 tn The term חֶדֶר (kheder, “chamber”) is used frequently in reference to a bedroom (Gen 43:30; Judg 15:1; 16:9; 2 Sam 13:10; 1 Kgs 1:15; Ps 105:30; Isa 26:20). It refers explicitly to a bedroom when used with the noun מִשְׁכָּב (mishkav, “bed”) in the expression חֶדֶר מִשְׁכָּב “bedroom chamber” (Exod 7:28; 2 Sam 4:7; 2 Kgs 6:12; Eccl 10:20). The plural form חֲדָרָיו (khadarav, “his chambers”) functions as a plural of extension rather than a plural or number; it refers to one bedroom composed of several parts rather than referring to several different bedrooms. The expression “Bring me into your chambers” is a metonymy of cause for effect, that is, her desire for lovemaking in his bedroom chambers.
7 sn Normally in the Song, the person/gender of the pronouns and suffixes makes the identify of the speaker or addressee clear. However, there are several places in which there is grammatical ambiguity that makes it difficult to identify either the speaker or the addressee (e.g., 6:11-13; 7:9b). This is particularly true when 1st person common plural or 3rd person common plural verbs or suffixes are present (1:3; 2:15; 5:1b; 8:8-9), as is the case in the three lines of 1:3b[4b]. There are four views to the identity of the speaker(s): (1) NASB attributes all three lines to the maidens, (2) NIV attributes the first two lines to the friends and the third line to the Beloved (= woman), (3) NJPS attributes all three lines to the Beloved, speaking throughout 1:2-4, and (4) The first line could be attributed to the young man speaking to his beloved, and the last two lines attributed to the Beloved who returns praise to him. The referents of the 1st person common plural cohortatives and the 2sg suffixes have been taken as: (1) the maidens of Jerusalem, mentioned in 1:4 and possibly referred to as the 3rd person common plural subject of אֲהֵבוּךָ (’ahevukha, “they love you”) in 1:3b[4b], using the 1st person common plural cohortatives in reference to themselves as they address her lover: “We (= maidens) will rejoice in you (= the young man).” (2) The Beloved using 1st person common plural cohortatives in a hortatory sense as she addresses her lover: “Let us (= the couple) rejoice in you (= the young man), let us praise your lovemaking…” (3) The Beloved using the 1st person common plural cohortatives in reference to herself – there are examples in ancient Near Eastern love literature of the bride using 1st person common plural forms in reference to herself (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 92, 99) – as she addresses the young man: “We (= I) will rejoice in you (= the young man).” Note: This problem is compounded by the ambiguity of the gender on בָּךְ (bakh, “in you”) which appears to be 2nd person feminine singular but may be 2nd person masculine singular in pause (see note below).
8 tn Alternately, “Let us rejoice and delight in you.” There is debate whether the cohortatives נָגִילָה (nagilah, Qal cohortative 1st person common plural from גִּיל, gil, “to exult”), וְנִשְמְחָה (vÿnishmÿkhah, Qal cohortative 1st person common plural from שָמַח, shamakh, “to rejoice”) and נַזְכִּירָה (nazkirah, Hiphil cohortative 1st person common plural from זָכַר, zakhar, “to praise”) should be classified as (1) cohortatives of resolve, expressing the resolution or determination of the speakers to adopt or accomplish a course of action: “We will rejoice…we will delight…we will praise” (e.g., KJV, NASB, NIV) or (2) hortatory cohortatives, exhorting others to join in doing something: “Let us rejoice…let us delight…let us praise” (e.g., NJPS).
9 tn A shift occurs in 1:4 from 1st person common singular forms to 1st person common plural forms: “Draw me (מָשְׁכֵנִי, mashÿkeni)…Let us run (נּרוּצָה, narutsah)…Bring me (הֱבִיאַנִי, hevi’ani)…We will be glad (נָגִילָה, nagilah)…We will rejoice in you (וְנִשְׁמְחָה, vÿnishmÿkhah)…We will remember (נַזְכִּירָה, nazkirah)…They love you (אֲהֵבוּךָ, ’ahevukha)….” Several translations and many commentators end the words of the Beloved at 1:4a and begin the words of the Friends in 1:4b and revert back to the words of the Beloved in 1:4c. The subject of the 1st person common plural forms may be the “young women” (עֲלָמוֹת) previously mentioned in 1:3. This is supported by the fact that in 1:3 the Beloved says, “The young women love you” (עֲלָמוֹת אֲהֵבוּךָ, ’alamot ’ahevukha) and in 1:4c she again says, “Rightly do they [the young women] love you” (מֵישָׁרִים אֲהֵבוּךָ, mesharim ’ahevukha). On the other hand, in ANE love literature the bride often uses plural pronouns to refer to herself (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 92, 99). Some commentators suggest that the young man is addressing his beloved because בָּךְ (bakh) appears to have a 2nd person feminine singular suffix. However, the suffix on בָּךְ is in pause (after the accent) therefore, the normal 2nd person masculine singular suffix בָּךָ has reduced to shewa. The parallelism with the 2nd person masculine singular suffix on דֹדֶיךָ (dodekha, “your love”) supports the 2nd person masculine singular classification.
10 tn Alternately, “remember.” The verb נַזְכִּירָה (nazkirah, Hiphil imperfect 1st person common plural from זָכַר, zakhar) is traditionally rendered “we will remember” (KJV), but is better nuanced “we will extol” (NASB) or “we will praise” (NIV). The verb זָכַר has a wide range of meanings: “to remember, call to mind” (Gen 8:1; Deut 24:9; Judg 8:34), “to name, mention” (Jer 20:9; 23:36; 31:20; Pss 63:7; 77:4), “to summon, command” (Nah 2:6), “to swear by” (Amos 6:10; 1 Chr 16:4), and “to praise, extol” (Exod 23:13; Josh 23:7; Pss 45:18; 71:16; Isa 26:13; 48:1; 62:6). The Hiphil stem has four denotations, and “to remember” is not one of them: (1) “to take to court,” (2) “to mention,” (3) “to make known,” and (4) “to praise, profess” (HALOT 269-70 s.v. I זכר). NJPS offers a poetic nuance that plays upon the wine motif: “savoring it more than wine.”
11 tn Alternately, “The righteous love you.” Scholars debate whether מֵישָׁרִים (mesharim) should be taken as a substantive (“the righteous”), abstract noun (“righteousness”), or adverb (“rightly”). The LXX’s εὐθύτης ἠγάπησεν σε (euquths hgaphsen, “righteousness loves you”) is awkward. The adverbial sense is preferred for several reasons: (1) The verb אֲהֵבוּךָ (’ahevuka, “they love you”) in 1:4c is repeated from 1:3c where it was used in reference to the maiden’s love for her lover. (2) There is no group designated as “the righteous” elsewhere in the Song. (3) To introduce an additional party into this poetic unit is unnecessary when it can be easily understood as a reference to the maidens of 1:3c.
12 tn Heb “they love you.” The words “the young women” do not appear in the Hebrew but are supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. The shift from the 1st person common plural subjects in the three cohortatives – נָגִילָה (nagilah, Qal cohortative 1st person common plural from גּיל, gil, “to exult”), וְנִשְׂמְחָה (vÿnishmÿkhah, Qal cohortative 1st person common plural from שָמַח, shamakh, “to rejoice”), and נַזְכִּירָה (nazkirah, Hiphil cohortative 1st person common plural from זָכַר, zakhar, “to praise”) – to the 3rd person common plural subject in the verb אֲהֵבוּךָ (’ahevukha, Qal perfect 3rd person common plural from אָהֵב, ’ahev, “to love” + 2nd person masculine singular suffix) suggests to many scholars that a shift in speakers occurs at this point: the maidens praise the young man in the first two lines, while the Beloved affirms the appropriateness of their praise in the last line (e.g., NIV). However, the shift in person might simply be another example of heterosis of person (as already seen in 1:2-4a) – this time from first person to third person. Thus, the shift in grammatical person does not necessarily indicate a shift in speakers. It is possible that the maidens are speaking throughout all three lines, and that the third line should be nuanced, “How rightly we love you!”
13 sn There is no little debate about the identity of the speaker(s) and the audience addressed in 5:1b. There are five options: (1) He is addressing his bride. (2) The bride is addressing him. (3) The wedding guests are addressing him and his bride. (4) He and his bride are addressing the wedding guests. (5) The poet is addressing him and his bride. When dealing with this issue, the following factors should be considered: (1) the form of both the exhortations and the addressees are plural. This makes it unlikely that he is addressing his bride or that his bride is addressing him. (2) The exhortation has an implicitly sexual connotation because the motif of “eating” and “drinking” refers to sexual consummation in 5:1a. This makes it unlikely that he or his bride are addressing the wedding guests – an orgy is quite out of the question! (3) The poet could be in view because as the writer who created the Song, only he could have been with them – in a poetic sense – in the bridal chamber as a “guest” on their wedding night. (4) The wedding guests could be in view through the figurative use of apostrophe (addressing an audience that is not in the physical presence of the speaker). While the couple was alone in their wedding chambers, the wedding guests wished them all the joys and marital bliss of the honeymoon. This is supported by several factors: (a) Wedding feasts in the ancient Near East frequently lasted several days and after the couple had consummated their marriage, they would appear again to celebrate a feast with their wedding guests. (b) The structure of the Song is composed of paired-dialogues which either begin or conclude with the words of the friends or daughters of Jerusalem (1:2-4, 5-11; 3:6-11; 5:9-16; 6:1-3, 4-13; 7:1-10) or which conclude with an exhortation addressed to them (2:1-7; 3:1-5; 8:1-4). In this case, the poetic unit of 4:1-5:1 would conclude with an exhortation by the friends in 5:1b.
14 sn The physical love between the couple is compared to eating and drinking at a wedding feast. This is an appropriate figure of comparison because it would have been issued during the feast which followed the wedding and the consummation. The term “drink” refers to intoxication, that is, it compares becoming drunk on wine with enjoying the physical love of one’s spouse (e.g., Prov 5:19-20).
15 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).
16 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.