The Lover to His Beloved:
among Pharaoh’s stallions. 4
The Song of Songs 1:15Context
The Lover to His Beloved:
Oh, how beautiful you are!
The Song of Songs 2:2Context
The Lover to His Beloved:
so is my darling among the maidens.
The Song of Songs 2:10Context
The Lover to His Beloved:
2:10 My lover spoke to me, saying:
“Arise, my darling;
My beautiful one, come away with me!
The Song of Songs 2:13Context
2:13 The fig tree has budded,
the vines have blossomed and give off their fragrance.
Arise, come away my darling;
my beautiful one, come away with me!”
The Song of Songs 4:1Context
The Lover to His Beloved:
Oh, you are beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are like doves. 14
Your hair is like a flock of female goats
descending 15 from Mount Gilead.
The Song of Songs 4:7Context
4:7 You are altogether beautiful, my darling!
There is no blemish in you!
The Song of Songs 5:2Context
The Beloved about Her Lover:
The Lover to His Beloved:
“Open 22 for me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one!
My head is drenched with dew,
my hair with the dampness of the night.”
The Song of Songs 6:4Context
The Lover to His Beloved:
as lovely as Jerusalem, 24
as awe-inspiring 25 as bannered armies!
1 tn Heb “I compare you to.”
2 tn The hireq-yod ending on סֻסָתִי (susati) is a remnant of the old genitive ending (e.g., nominative: malku, genitive: malki, accusative: malka), the so-called hireq compaginis ending. Thus, סֻסָתִי בְּרִכְבֵי פַרְעֹה (susati berikve par’oh) is a double genitive-construct: “a mare among the chariot-horses of Pharaoh” (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 338) or “a mare among the chariots of Pharaoh” (R. E. Murphy, Song of Songs [Hermeneia], 131). The hireq-yod ending was mistakenly treated as 1st person common singular possessive suffix “my mare” by LXX, Vulgate, Syriac. This approach is mistakenly adopted by several translations: “my mare” (NASB, NJB), “my filly” (NKJV) and “my company of horsemen” (DRA).
3 sn It was common in ancient love literature to compare a beautiful woman to a sleek filly. For example, Horace likened Lyde to a three year old filly: “She gambols over the spreading plains and shrinks from touch, to wedlock still a stranger, not yet ripe for eager mate” (Horace, Odes iii. xi. 9). Theocritus compared Helen of Troy to a graceful steed harnessed to a chariot: “As towers the cypress mid the garden’s bloom, as in the chariot proud Thessalian steed, thus graceful rose-complexion’d Helen moves” (Theocritus, Idyll xviii. 30-31).
4 tn Heb “among the chariot-horses” or “among the chariots.” The noun רֶכֶב (rekhev) has a wide range of meanings: “chariots, war-chariots” (Exod 14:17-18, 23; 15:19; Deut 11:4; 20:1; Josh 11:4) “chariot crews, chariot troops” (1 Kgs 9:22; 16:9; 22:31; 2 Kg 8:21), “column of chariots, troop of warriors” (Isa 21:7, 9), “charioteer” (Ps 76:7), and “chariot-horses” (Exod 14:9; 2 Sam 8:4; 1 Chr 18:4; Ezek 39:20) (HALOT 1233-35 s.v. רֶכֶב). Scholars have struggled with the meaning of בְּרִכְבֵי פַרְעֹה (bÿrikhbe par’oh, “[harnessed to (?)] Pharaoh’s chariot”; HALOT 1234 s.v. 6.b). M. H. Pope (Song of Songs [AB], 338) suggests that רִכְבֵי (rikhbe) be nuanced “chariot-horses” and the phrase rendered “among the chariot-horses of Pharaoh.” Pope offers the best explanation of this enigmatic picture: “A crucial consideration overlooked by commentators is the well-attested fact that Pharaoh’s chariots, like other chariotry in antiquity, were not drawn by a mare or mares but by stallions hitched in pairs. This bit of intelligence radically alters the usual understanding of the verse and dispels the notion that there is a grammatical incongruity, which needs harmonizing. The juxtaposition is between a single mare and a plurality of stallions and it requires only a modicum of what is called ‘horse sense’ to appreciate the thrust of the comparison. The situation envisaged is illustrated by the famous incident in one of the campaigns of Thutmose III against Qadesh. On his tomb at Thebes, the Egyptian soldier Amenemheb relates how the Prince of Qadesh sent forth a swift mare, which entered among the army. But Amenemheb ran after her on foot and with his dagger ripped open her belly, cut off her tail, and presented it to the king, thus preventing a debacle before the excited stallions could take out after the mare.”
5 sn His praise begins with the exclamatory particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “behold!”). This is often used to introduce a statement in which the speaker either newly asserts or newly recognizes something (BDB 244 s.v. הִנֵּה b.a).
6 sn The term רַעְיָתִי (ra’yati, “my darling”) is from רֵעַ (re’a) “companion, friend” in general (e.g., Job 2:11; 6:27; 12:4; Pss 35:14; 122:8; Prov 14:20; 17:17; 19:6; 27:10) and “darling, beloved” in romantic relationships (e.g., Job 30:29; Jer 3:1, 20; Hos 3:1; Song 5:1, 16) (HALOT 1253-54 s.v. II רֵעַ; BDB 945 s.v. II רָעָה II.1). This is the most common term of affection to address the Beloved (Song 1:9, 15; 2:2, 10, 13; 4:1, 7; 5:2; 6:4).
7 sn In the ancient Near East there was an unusual emphasis on beauty of a woman’s eyes. This was probably due to the practice of women veiling themselves and wearing long robes so that no portion of their body or face was exposed to sight except for their eyes (e.g., Gen 26:17). The only indication of a woman’s beauty was her eyes. There was no better (and no other, in light of the attire) way to praise a woman’s beauty in the ancient Near East (G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 86).
8 tn Heb “Your eyes are doves.” This metaphor compares her eyes to doves. There is no lack of suggestions as to the point of the comparison: (1) Arabic love literature describes doves having sentimental eyes, the point here (Marcia Falk, Love Lyrics from the Bible, 113). (2) The comparison has to do with the color of her eyes (G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 86). (3) The comparison has to do with the glistening color of the dove and its quick movements, that is, her eyes had a beautiful color and had lively motion (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 356). (4) The comparison has to do with the fluttering of her eyes which reminded him of the fluttering of a dove’s wings (M. D. Goulder, The Song of Fourteen Songs [JSOTSup], 5). (5) The comparison has to do with gentleness and purity, as well as longing and simplicity (K&D 18:38).
9 sn This is an example of emblematic parallelism. An illustrative simile appears in the A-line and the subject of the comparison is in the B-line. The particles כֵּן…כְּ (cÿ…ken, “like…so”) form an emphatic comparative construction (e.g., Ps 123:2), see IBHS 641-42 §38.5a.
10 tn Alternately, “thorn bushes.” The term הַחוֹחִים (hahokhim) is probably derived from חוֹח (khokh,“thorn-bush, briars, thistles, thorns”; HALOT 296 s.v. I חוֹחַ; BDB 296 s.v. חוֹחַ) rather than חוֹח (khokh, “crevice”; HALOT 296 s.v. II חוֹחַ): “Like a lily among the thorns” rather than “Like a lily among the rock crevices.” The picture is of a beautiful flower growing in the midst of thorn bushes (1 Sam 14:11; 2 Kgs 14:9; 2 Chr 25:18; Job 31:40; Prov 26:9; Isa 34:13; Hos 9:6) rather than a beautiful flower growing in the midst of rocky outcroppings (1 Sam 13:6; 2 Chr 33:11). The Hebrew term is related to Akkadian hahu and haiahu “thorn” and hahinnu “thorny plants” (AHw 1:308) and Aramaic hahhu (HALOT 296). The “thorn bush” is a thistle plant (Poterium spinosum) which has prickly spines covered with thistles, but also sprouts beautiful small red flowers (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 184-85).
sn The Lover accommodates her self-denigrating comparison, but heightens it to praise her: If she insisted that she was nothing more than a common flower of the field, then he insisted that all other women were like thorns by comparison. The term חוֹח (khokh, “thorn”) is often used as a figure for utter desolation and the cause of pain; it is the antithesis of fertility and beautiful luxuriant growth (Job 31:40; Isa 34:13; Hos 9:6).
11 sn Song 4:1-7 is often compared to ancient Near Eastern wasfs songs sung by the groom to his new bride, praising her beauty from head to foot. Examples have been found in Egyptian, Syrian, Sumerian, and Arabic love literature. The wasfs song is a poetic celebration by the groom of his bride’s physical beauty. The typical form has three parts: (1) introductory words by the wedding guests, (2) invitation by the bride to the groom to celebrate her physical beauty, and (3) the groom’s poetic comparative praise of his bride’s beauty from head to foot – comprising the bulk of the song. The groom’s praise typically is characterized by three movements: (1) introductory summary praise of his bride’s beauty, (2) lengthy and detailed figurative description of her physical beauty, and (3) concluding summary praise which reiterates the introductory words of the song. Although the introductory words of the wedding guests and the invitation by the bride are absent, the form of the Lover’s praise of his bride is identical, as are the types of comparative praise. His song falls into the same three movements: (1) introductory summary praise of his bride’s beauty in 4:1a, (2) lengthy and detailed figurative description of her beauty in 4:1b-6, and (3) concluding summary praise in 4:7. See K&D 18:174-76; S. Krauss, “The Archaeological Background of Some Passages in the Song of Songs,” JQR 32 (1941-42): 125.
12 sn The introductory demonstrative particle הִנֵּךְ (hinneh, “Behold!”) is repeated for rhetorical effect. This particle is often used with verbs of seeing or discovering, making the narrative graphic and vivid. It enables the reader to enter into the surprise, wonder, and delight of the speaker (BDB 243 s.v. הִנֵּךְ c).
14 sn The expression “your eyes [are] doves” is a metaphor (implied comparison). Like most of the other metaphors in 4:1-7, this is probably a comparison of sight rather than sense: (1) the shape of a woman’s eyes, especially in Egyptian art, resemble the shape of a dove, and (2) the white color of the eyeballs resemble the white color of a dove’s body. On the other hand, many Jewish and Christian interpreters have suggested that this is a comparison of sense, usually suggesting that the dove is a symbol for purity and that the eyes of a person are the windows of their soul or character, that is, the bride has a pure character as can be seen through her eyes.
15 tn Heb “flowing down” or “descending.” The verb שֶׁגָּלְשׁוּ (sheggalÿshu, “flowing down”) may be nuanced “descending.” The most recent lexicons define גָּלַשׁ (galash) as “to flow, leap” (DCH 2:357 s.v. גלשׁ); “to hop, move down” (HALOT 195 s.v. גלשׁ); and “to go down, glide down” (E. Klein, Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, 102). Earlier lexicons suggested the meanings “to sit, sit up, recline” (BDB 167 s.v. גָּלַשׁ). The Hebrew root is probably related to Arabic jalasa “to go up, to go down, sit up” (HALOT 195).
16 tn Heb “my heart.” The term לִבִּי (livvi, “my heart”) is a metonymy of association for emotions (e.g., Prov 15:13; Song 3:11) or thoughts (e.g., Ps 90:12; Prov 18:15) or a synecdoche of part for the whole. If this verse is introducing a dream sequence in 5:2-8, this is a metonymy for the Beloved’s thoughts in her dream: “I was sleeping but my mind was dreaming.” If this verse depicts the Beloved beginning to doze off to sleep – only to be awakened by his knocking at her door – then it is a synecdoche of part for the whole: “I was about to fall asleep when I was suddenly awakened.”
17 tn Heb “but my heart was awake.” Scholars have interpreted 5:2a in two basic ways: (1) The Beloved had been asleep or was just about to fall asleep when she was awakened by the sound of him knocking on the door of her bedroom chambers. The term לִבִּי (livvi, “my heart”) is a synecdoche of part for the whole: “my heart” = “I.” The participle עֵר (’er) functions verbally, describing a past ingressive state: “was awakened.” The line would be rendered: “I was sleeping when I (= my heart) was awakened.” (2) The Beloved was sleeping, but her mind was dreaming (in her dream she heard him knocking on her door). In this case, לִבִּי (“my heart”) is a metonymy of association for the thoughts (e.g., Ps 90:12; Prov 18:15) and emotions (e.g., Prov 15:13; Song 3:11) she experienced during her dream: “my heart” = “my mind.” The participle עֵר functions verbally, describing a past progressive state: “was awake.” The line could be nuanced, “I was asleep, but my mind was dreaming.” Many translations adopt this approach: “I was asleep but my heart waketh” (KJV), “I was asleep but my heart was awake” (NASB, NIV), and “I was asleep, but my heart was wakeful” (NJPS).
18 sn The noun קוֹל (qol, literally, “sound, noise, voice”) is used as an exclamation: “Listen!” or “Hark!” (e.g., Gen 4:10; Isa 13:4; 40:3; 52:8; Jer 3:21; 4:15; 10:22; 31:51; 50:28; 51:54; Mic 6:9; Zeph 1:14; 2:14; Song 2:8; 5:2) (HALOT 1085 s.v. קוֹל 8b; BDB 877 s.v. קוֹל 1.f; Joüon 2:614 §162.e; GKC 467 §146.b). The term often refers to a loud or unexpected sound that arrests the attention of a character in a narrative. The speaker/writer uses it as a rhetorical device to dramatically portray his/her own startled reaction to an unexpected sound that called his/her attention. The Beloved is startled from her sleep by the unexpected sound of him loudly knocking at her bedroom door late at night.
19 sn The phrase קוֹל דּוֹדִי (qol dodi, “Listen! My lover …!”) that introduces this scene in 5:2-8 is the exact same phrase used in 2:8 to introduce the courtship section 2:8-11. In 2:8-11, the Beloved was excited about his unexpected arrival; however, in 5:2-8 she is apathetic about his unexpected approach. One should not miss the dramatic contrast between the Beloved’s eagerness to see her lover in 2:8-11 and her apathy about his approach on this evening in 5:2-8. The repetition of קוֹל דּוֹדִי (“Listen! My lover …!”) in 2:8 and 5:2 is designed to draw out the parallels and contrasts between 2:8-11 and 5:2-8.
20 sn The participle דוֹפֵק (dofeq) connotes present progressive or iterative action. The verb דָּפַק (dafaq, “to knock, pound, beat”) occurs only three times in biblical Hebrew, twice in reference to knocking at a door (Judg 19:22; Song 5:2) and once of beating cattle in order to drive them along (Gen 33:13). The Qal stem depicts the normal action of knocking at a door, while the Hitpael denotes a more intensive pounding, e.g., Qal: “to knock at the door” (Song 5:2) and Hitpael: “to beat violently against the door” (Judg 19:22) (HALOT 229 s.v. דפק; BDB 200 s.v. דָּפַק). The same connotations are seen in Mishnaic Hebrew, e.g., the verbs דָּפַק and דְּפַק (dÿfaq), “to knock at the door” (Jastrow 317 s.v. דָּפַק), and the nouns דּוֹפֵק “door frame (= what someone knocks on), movable tomb stone,” and דּוֹפְקָנִין (dofÿqanin, “knockers”; Jastrow 287 s.v. דּוֹפְקָנִין). The collocation of the verb פתח “to open” a door (HALOT 986-87 s.v. פתח; BDB 835 s.v. פָּתַח) clearly suggests that he is at the Beloved’s bedroom door.
21 tn The phrase “at the door” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
22 tn Heb “Open to me!” Alternately, “Let me in!” The imperatival form of פִּתְחִי (pitkhi, “to open”) connotes a polite, but earnest request. The verb פָּתַח (patakh) refers to the action of opening various objects, e.g., sack (Gen 42:27), skin bottle (Judg 4:19), hamper (Exod 2:6), pit (Exod 21:33), mouth of a cave (Josh 10:22), grave (Ezek 37:12, 13), city gates (Neh 13:19; Isa 45:1), gate of a land (Nah 3:13), window (2 Kgs 13:17). When used with the accusative דֶּלֶת (delet, “door”), it refers to opening a door (e.g., Judg 3:25; 19:27; 1 Sam 3:15; 2 Kgs 9:3, 10; 2 Chr 29:3; Job 31:32) (HALOT 986-87 s.v. פתח; BDB 835 s.v. פָּתַח). Although the object דֶּלֶת (“door”) is here omitted, a bedroom door is clearly in mind in 5:2, as indicated by the collocated verb דָּפַק (dafaq, “to knock on a door”) in the preceding line. Translators have often rendered this line woodenly: “Open to me!” (KJV, NASB, NIV); however, NJPS nuances it well: “Let me in!”
sn The three-fold repetition of the verb פָּתַח (patakh, “to open”) (Song 5:2, 5, 6) indicates that it is a key word (Leitwort) in this section. While it is clear that the verb describes her action of opening the door of her bedroom chamber in 5:2, some suggest that in 5:5-6 it is used figuratively (hypocatastasis: implied comparison) of the Beloved “opening” her female genitalia for sexual intercourse (but see study notes below).
23 tn He compares her beauty to two of the most beautiful and important cities in the Israelite United Kingdom, namely, Jerusalem and Tirzah. The beauty of Jerusalem was legendary; it is twice called “the perfection of beauty” (Ps 50:2; Lam 2:15). Tirzah was beautiful as well – in fact, the name means “pleasure, beauty.” So beautiful was Tirzah that it would be chosen by Jeroboam as the original capital of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs 15:33; 16:8, 15, 23). The ancient city Tirzah has been identified as Tel el-Far`ah near Nablus: see B. S. J. Isserlin, “Song of Songs IV, 4: An Archaeological Note,” PEQ 90 (1958): 60; R. de Vaux, “Le premiere campagne de fouilles a Tell el-Far`ah,” RB 54 (1947): 394-433.
25 sn The literary unity of 6:4-10 and boundaries of his praise are indicated by the repetition of the phrase אֲיֻמָּה כַּנִּדְגָּלוֹת (’ayummah kannidÿgalot, “majestic as bannered armies/stars in procession…”) in 6:4 and 6:10 which creates an inclusion. His praise includes his own personal statements (6:4-9a) as well as his report of the praise given to her by the maidens, queens, and concubines (6:9b-10). His praise indicates that he had forgiven any ingratitude on her part.