The Beloved to Her Lover:
a lily 4 from the valleys.
The Lover to His Beloved:
so is my darling among the maidens.
The Beloved about Her Lover:
so is my beloved among the young men.
The Beloved about Her Lover:
refresh me with apples, 21
for I am faint with love. 22
The Double Refrain: Embracing and Adjuration
and his right hand stimulates me. 24
The Beloved to the Maidens:
The Song of Songs 3:1-5Context
The Beloved about Her Lover:
and throughout the streets 39 and squares;
I will search for my beloved.”
I searched for him but I did not find him. 40
“Have you seen my beloved?” 42
when I found my beloved!
until I brought him to my mother’s house, 46
to the bedroom chamber 47 of the one who conceived me.
The Adjuration Refrain
The Beloved to the Maidens:
by the gazelles and by the young does of the open fields:
“Do not awake or arouse love until it pleases!”
The Song of Songs 8:1-4Context
The Beloved to Her Lover:
nursing at my mother’s breasts;
if I saw 51 you outside, I could kiss you –
8:2 I would lead you and bring you to my mother’s house,
the one who taught me. 54
the nectar of my pomegranates. 58
The Beloved about Her Lover:
8:3 His left hand caresses my head,
and his right hand stimulates me. 59
The Beloved to the Maidens:
“Do not 61 arouse or awaken love until it pleases!”
1 tn Or “the rose of Sharon…the lily of the valleys.” There is debate whether the expressions חֲבַצֶּלֶת הַשָּׁרוֹן (khavatselet hashsharon) and שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִים (shoshannat ha’amaqim) are definite (“the rose of Sharon…the lily of the valleys”) or indefinite (“a rose of Sharon…a lily”). Some translations adopt the definite sense (KJV, NKJV, NASB, NAU, NJB, NLT); others the indefinite sense (ASV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NIB, NAB, NJPS, CEV).
2 tn Heb “meadow-saffron” or “crocus.” The noun חֲבַצֶּלֶת (khavatselet) traditionally has been translated “rose” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NJPS, NLT, CEV); however, recent translations suggest “crocus” (NIV margin, NJPS margin), “narcissus” (DBY) or simply “flower” (DRA, NAB). The LXX translated it with the generic term ἀνθος (anqos, “flower, blossom”). Early English translators knew that it referred to some kind of flower but were unsure exactly which type, so they arbitrarily chose “rose” because it was a well-known and beautiful flower. In the light of comparative Semitics, modern Hebrew lexicographers have settled on “asphodel,” “meadow-saffron,” “narcissus,” or “crocus” (BDB 287 s.v. חֲבַצֶּלֶת; HALOT 287 s.v. חֲבַצֶּלֶת; DCH 3:153 s.v. חֲבַצֶּלֶת). The Hebrew term is related to Syriac hamsalaita (“meadow saffron”) and Akkadian habasillatu (“flower-stalk, marsh plant, reed”). Lexicographers and botanists suggest that the Hebrew term refers to Ashodelos (lily family), Narcissus tazetta (narcissus or daffodil), or Colchicum autumnale (meadow-saffron or crocus). The location of this flower in Sharon suggests that a common wild flower would be more consonant than a rose. The term appears elsewhere only in Isa 35:1 where it refers to some kind of desert flower – erroneously translated “rose” (KJV, NJPS) but probably “crocus” (NASB, NIV, NJPS margin). Appropriately, the rustic maiden who grew up in the simplicity of rural life compares herself to a simple, common flower of the field (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 367).
3 sn Sharon is a low coastal plain stretching south from Mount Carmel. It is well watered due to the Kurkar ridges running parallel to the shore which trapped the water run-off from the Samaritan hills. The combination of low sandy hills and swampy lowlands produced heavy vegetation and an abundance of wild flowers in the area (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 367).
4 tn There is debate about the referent of שׁוֹשַׁנָּת (shoshannat, “lily”) because there are many different species of the lily family. Botanists note that among the many different species of the lily family only one grows in Palestine. This species may be identified as the Anthemis palaestina, the chamomile, a white-daisy-like plant, which was indigenous to Palestine (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 134-36).
5 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.
6 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).
7 tn Like the preceding line, this is a case of emblematic parallelism. An illustrative simile appears in the A-line (object of the comparison) and the subject of comparison appears in the B-line. The particles כֵּן…כְּ (kÿ…ken, “like…so”) form an emphatic comparative construction (e.g., Ps 123:2); cf. IBHS 641-42 §38.5a.
8 sn Apple trees were not native to Palestine and had to be imported and cultivated. To find a cultivated apple tree growing in the forest among other wild trees would be quite unusual; the apple tree would stand out and be a delightful surprise. Like a cultivated apple tree, the Lover was unique and stood out among all other men. In ancient Near Eastern love literature, the apple tree was a common symbol for romantic love and sexual fertility (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 100-101). The “apple tree” motif is used in the Song in a similar manner (e.g., Song 2:3; 8:5). Likewise, the motif of “apples” is used as a symbol of fertility (Joel 1:12) and sexual desire (Song 2:5, 7, 9).
9 tn Alternately, “I desired” or “I took delight in.” The meaning of this use of the verb חָמַד (khamad, “delight, desire”) is debated. The root has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) “to take pleasure in, delight in” (Job 20:20; Pss 39:12; 68:17; Prov 1:22; Isa 1:29; 44:9; 53:2) and (2) “to desire passionately, to desire illicitly” (Exod 20:17; 34:24; Deut 5:21; 7:25; Josh 7:21; Prov 1:22; 6:25; 12:12; Mic 2:2) (HALOT 325 s.v. חמד; BDB 326 s.v. חָמַד). The related noun חֶמְדָּה (khemÿkhah) describes objects which are “delightful, precious, desirable” (HALOT 325 s.v. חֶמְדָּה). Commentators who adopt an erotic view of the extended metaphor in 2:3 opt for the sexual desire nuance: “I desired (sexually).” Those who adopt the less erotic approach favor the more general connotation: “I took delight in” or “I delight in.”
10 tn Heb “I delighted and I sat down.” Alternately, “I sat down with delight….” The verbs חִמַּדְתִּי וְיָשַׁבְתִּי (khimmadti vÿyashavti, “I delighted and I sat down”) form a verbal hendiadys (GKC 386 §120.d): “I sat down with delight…” or “I delight to sit….” The sequence of a perfect followed by another perfect with vav conjunctive creates the coordination of the complementary verbal idea (first verb) with the idea of the main (second) verb. The main idea is indicated by the second verb; the first verb indicates the manner of action. The first verb functions adverbially while the second verb carries its full verbal sense (see IBHS 653-54 §39.2.5).
11 sn The term צֵל (tsel, “shade”) is used figuratively to depict protection and relief. This term is used in OT literally (physical shade from the sun) and figuratively (protection from something) (HALOT 1024-25 s.v. צֵל): (1) Literal: The physical shade of a tree offers protection from the heat of the midday sun (Judg 9:15; Ezek 17:23; 31:6, 12, 17; Hos 4:13; Jonah 4:6; Job 7:22; 40:22). Similar protection from the sun is offered by the shade of a vine (Ps 80:11), root (Gen 19:8), mountain (Judg 9:36), rock (Isa 32:2), cloud (Isa 25:5), and hut (Jonah 4:5). (2) Figurative (hypocatastasis): Just as physical shade offers protection from the sun, the Israelite could find “shade” (protection) from God or the king (e.g., Num 14:9; Isa 30:2; 49:2; 51:16; Hos 14:8; Pss 17:8; 36:8; 57:2; 63:8; 91:1; 121:5; Lam 4:20; Eccl 7:12). The association between “shade” and “protection” is seen in the related Akkadian sillu “shade, covering, protection” (AHw 3:1101; CAD S:189). The epithets of several Akkadian deities are sillu and sululu (“Shade, Protector”). The motif of protection, rest, and relief from the sun seems to be implied by the expression וְיָשַׁבְתִּי (vÿyashavti, “I sat down”) in 2:3b. During the summer months, the temperature often reaches 110-130ºF in the Negev. Those who have never personally experienced the heat of the summer sun in the Negev as they performed strenuous physical labor cannot fully appreciate the relief offered by any kind of shade! Previously, the young woman had complained that she had been burned by the sun because she had been forced to labor in the vineyards with no shade to protect her (Song 1:5-6). She had urged him to tell her where she could find relief from the sun during the hot midday hours (Song 1:7). Now she exults that she finally had found relief from the scorching sun under the “shade” which he offered to her (Song 2:3). S. C. Glickman writes: “Whereas before she came to him she worked long hours on the sun (1:6), now she rests under the protective shade he brings. And although formerly she was so exhausted by her work she could not properly care for herself, now she finds time for refreshment with him” (A Song for Lovers, 40).
12 sn The term פִּרְיוֹ (piryo, “his fruit”) is a figure for the young man himself or perhaps his kisses which the young woman delights to “taste” (e.g., Song 4:11; 5:13). It is possible to take the imagery of the young woman tasting his “fruit” as kissing. Likewise, the imagery of the gazelles grazing among the lilies is probably a picture of the young man caressing and kissing his beloved (Song 2:16; 6:3).
13 sn The term מָתוֹק (matoq, “sweet”) is used literally and figuratively. When used literally, it describes pleasant tasting foods, such as honey (Judg 14:14, 18; Prov 24:13; Ps 19:11) or sweet water (Num 33:28; Prov 9:17). Used figuratively, it describes what is pleasant to experience: friendship (Job 20:12; Ps 55:15; Prov 27:9), life (Eccl 11:7; Sir 40:18), sleep for the weary (Eccl 5:11), eloquence in speech (Prov 16:21, 24), and scripture (Ps 19:11). Those who adopt the “hyper-erotic” approach opt for the literal meaning: his “fruit” tastes sweet to her palate. The nonerotic approach takes the term in its figurative sense: The experience of his love was pleasant.
14 tn Heb “my palate.” The term חִכִּי (khikki, “my palate”) is used metonymically in reference to the sensation of taste which is associated with a person’s palate. The idea of “tasting” is used as a metaphor in the OT for the experiential knowledge which is acquired through a person’s relationship with someone (e.g., Ps 34:9). Just as a person would learn whether a fruit was ripe and delicious by tasting it, so a person could learn of the quality of a person’s character by experiencing it through personal interaction. This extended metaphor compares the delights of his love to (1) the refreshment of sitting in the shade of a tree for refuge from the desert sun, and (2) the delight of tasting a sweet apple – a fruit that was not indigenous to Palestine.
15 tc The MT vocalizes consonantal הביאני as הֱבִיאַנִי (hevi’ani, Hiphil perfect 3rd person masculine singular with 1st person common singular suffix, “He has brought me”). However, several medieval Hebrew
tn Alternately, “Bring me!”
16 tn Heb “house of wine.” The expression בֵּית הַיָּיִן (bet hayyayin, lit. “house of wine” or “place of wine”) refers to a banquet house where wine is drunk or a vineyard where grapes to produce wine are grown (HALOT 409 s.v. יַיִן). G. L. Carr favors the vineyard view due to the agricultural metaphors in 2:1-5. However, most commentators favor the banquet house view because of the reference to “raisin-cakes” and “apples” (2:4) which were served at banquets in the ancient Near East. Moreover, the expression בֵּית הַיָּיִן in in Song 2:4 may be equivalent to בֵּית מִשְׁתֵּה הַיַּיִן (bet mishte hayyayin, “house of the drinking of wine”) in Esther 7:8 (HALOT 409 s.v. יַיִן). Second, raisin cakes are mentioned in this context in 2:5, and they were often eaten to celebrate festive occasions (2 Sam 6:19; Isa 16:7; Hos 3:1); therefore, the banquet motif finds support. Selected Bibliography: E. Würthwein, “Zum Verständnis des Hohenliedes,” TRu 32 (1967): 205; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 90-91.
17 tc The MT vocalizes דגלו as the noun דְּגֶל (dÿgel) with 3rd person masculine singular suffix דִּגְלוֹ (diglo, “his banner [over me is love]”). However, several medieval Hebrew
tn The meaning of the term דִּגְלוֹ (diglo) is debated. Five basic views have emerged: (1) “his banner over me was love.” BDB relates דִּגְלוֹ to the noun דְּגֶל (dÿgel, “standard, banner”; BDB 186 s.v. דֶּגֶל) which refers to (a) banners, standards (Num 1:52; 2:2) and (b) battalion, company of troops, or division of a tribe signaled by a banner or standard (Num 2:3, 10, 17-18, 25, 31, 34; 10:14, 18, 22, 25). Thus, most translations render דִּגְלוֹ as “his banner” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NJPS). However, the expression “His banner over me was love” is enigmatic. (2) “serve love to me!” Delitzsch revocalized the noun וְדִגְלוֹ (“his banner”) as an imperative וְדִגְלוּ (vÿdiglu, “serve [me]”) from the root דָּגַל (dagal, “to serve food”) which is related to Akkadian dagalu II (“to serve food”). Delitzsch renders the passage: “Bring me into the banquet hall and serve me love…for I am faint with love.” This is supported by LXX which reads: εἰσαγάγετέ με εἰς οἶκον τοῦ οἲνου, τάξατε ἐπ’ ἐμὲ ἀγάπην (eisagagete me eis oikon tou oinou, taxate ep’ eme agaphn, “Bring me into the wine house, and set love before me”). However, R. Gordis points out the difficulties with Delitzsch’s proposal: (a) The meaning “serve” for דָּגַל is unparalleled in Hebrew thus, it would create a homonymic hapax legomenon; (b) We would expect the preposition לִי (li, “to me”) rather than עָלַי (’ala, “over me”) after the imperative; and (c) The Akkadian parallel is uncertain. (3) “its banner above me is love.” HALOT relates דִּגְלוֹ to the Akkadian noun diglu (“eyesight, view, look, gaze”) and proposes the nuance “sign of an inn,” such as a flag placed over taverns (HALOT 213 s.v. דֶּגֶל). This approach renders the line: “He has brought me to the banquet hall, and its banner above me is love.” (4) “his look toward me was loving” = “he looked at me lovingly.” Several lexicons relate דִּגְלוֹ to the homonymic root דָּגַל, “look, glance” (e.g., DCH 2:415 s.v. II דָּגַל). The Hebrew noun degel II is related to the Akkadian noun diglu “eyesight, view, look, gaze” (CAD 3:21; AHw 1:14). Likewise, the Hebrew verb II דָּגַל (“to look, behold”; Song 5:10; 6:4, 10; Eccl 9:13; Ps 20:6) (BDB 186 s.v. דָּגַל; HALOT 213 s.v. I דגל; DCH 2:414 s.v. I) is related to the Akkadian verb dagalu I “to look upon, to gaze, to look with astonishment, to look at with admiration” (CAD 3:21; AHw 1:14). Those who adopt this approach render the line: “His glance upon me is love” (DCH 2:414) or “His look upon me was loving” (R. Gordis, “The Root dgl in the Song of Songs,” JBL 88 : 203-204; idem, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 81-82); or “He looked upon me with love.” (5) “his wish regarding me was lovemaking.” M. H. Pope (Song of Songs [AB], 376-77) notes that the Assyrian noun diglu may denote “wish,” i.e., desire or intent (CAD 3:136). He renders the line: “His wish regarding me was lovemaking” or “His intentions were to make love.” Pope’s suggestion has been adopted by several recent commentators (e.g., G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 91).
18 tn The syntax of the noun אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) has been taken as: (1) predicate nominative: “His banner over me [was] love” or “His intention toward me [was] lovemaking” (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 376-77; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 91); (2) genitive of attribute/content: “His banner of love [was] over me,” and (3) adverbial or adjectival accusative: “His look upon me was loving” or “He looked upon me lovingly” (R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 81-82). Examples of adverbial or adjectival accusatives, e.g., “I am peace” = “I am peaceful” (Ps 120:7); “I will love them as a free gift” = “I will love them freely” (Hos 14:5).
19 tn The imperatives סַמְּכוּנִי (sammÿkhuni, “sustain me”) and רַפְּדוּנִי (rappÿduni, “revive me”) are both plural in address (Piel 2nd person masculine plural imperatives with 1st person common singular suffixes). Thus, some commentators suggest that the woman is speaking to a large audience, perhaps the banquet guests implied in 2:4 or the maidens mentioned in 2:7 (R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 82). However, the Hebrew plural can be used in reference to a single individual when functioning in an intensive sense (IBHS 122 §7.4.3a). Thus, the woman may be speaking to her beloved, as in the rest of 2:3-6, but with intense passion. Similarly, in Sumerian love literature the bride sometimes uses plural verbs in reference to herself or her bridegroom (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 92, 99).
20 sn The term אֲשִׁישׁוֹת (’ashishot, “raisin cakes,” from אֲשִׁישָׁה, ’ashishah) refers to an expensive delicacy made of dried compressed grapes (HALOT 95 s.v. אֲשִׁישָׁה; BDB 84 s.v. אֲשִׁישָׁה; Jastrow 128 s.v. אֲשִׁישָׁה). Raisin cakes were used as cultic offerings by many ancient Near Easterners, and were especially prominent in ancient Near Eastern fertility rites (e.g., Isa 16:7; Hos 3:1). In ancient Israel they were eaten during festive celebrations, being viewed as enhancing sexual fertility (2 Sam 6:19; 1 Chr 16:3). Scholars regard the “raisin cakes” as (1) literal food viewed as an aphrodisiac to “cure” her love-sickness; (2) a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) for sexual passion or lovemaking; or (3) double entendre referring to the literal food as an aphrodisiac and her desire for lovemaking.
21 tn Or “apricots.” The term תַּפּוּחִים (tappukhim, “apples,” from תַּפּוּחַ, tappukha) occurs four times in the book (Song 2:3, 5; 7:9; 8:5) and twice outside (Prov 25:4; Joel 1:12). It is usually defined as “apples” (BDB 656 s.v. תַּפּוּחַ); however, some argue for “apricots” (FFB 92-93). The Hebrew noun תַּפּוּחַ (“apple”) is derived from the Hebrew root נָפַח (nafakh, “scent, breath”) which is related to the Arabic root nafahu “fragrant scent” (HALOT 708 s.v. נפח). Hence, the term refers to a fruit with a fragrant scent. This may explain why the mere scent of this fruit was thought to have medicinal powers in the ancient Near East (G. E. Post, Flora of Syria, Palestine and Sinai, 128). This imagery draws upon two motifs associated with apples. First, apples were viewed as medicinal in ancient Syro-Palestinian customs; the sick were given apples to eat or smell in order to revive them. Similarly, the Mishnah and Talmud refer to apples as a medication like wine and grapes. Second, apples were considered an aphrodisiac in the ancient Near East. Both motifs are combined here because the Beloved is “love-sick” and only the embrace of her beloved can cure her, as 2:6 indicates (T. H. Ratzaby, “A Motif in Hebrew Love Poetry: In Praise of the Apple,” Ariel 40 : 14).
22 tn Heb “sick of love.” The expression חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה (kholat ’ahavah, “sick of love”) is an example of the causative use of the genitive construct: “I am sick because of love,” that is, “I am love-sick.” The expression חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה (kholat ’ahavah, “faint with love”) is a figure which compares physical or medical illness caused by a physically draining disease to sexual desire which is so intense that a person is so physically drained that they feel as if they could faint. The term חוֹל (khol, “sick”) refers to the physical weakness which consumes a person who is suffering from a medical illness (Gen 48:1; 1 Sam 19:14). It is used figuratively as a hyperbolic hypocatastasis for being so consumed with sexual desire that it saps one of his/her physical and emotional strength (BDB 317 s.v. 2). This is commonly referred to as “love-sickness.” It was associated with such deep longing for physical and sexual fulfillment that it weighed so heavily upon a person that he/she was physically and emotionally drained (2 Sam 13:2).
23 tn Heb “His left hand is under my head.” Ultimately, the only cure for her love-sickness is the caress of her beloved. The ancient Near Eastern love songs frequently portray the embrace of the lover as the only cure for the speaker’s love-sickness. For example, one Egyptian love song reads: “She will make the doctors unnecessary, because she knows my sickness” (Papyrus Harris 4:11). Similarly, “My salvation is her coming in from outside; when I see her, I will be healthy. When she opens her eye, my body is young; when she speaks, I will be strong. When I embrace her, she exorcises evil from me” (Papyrus Chester Beatty, C5:1-2).
24 tn Heb “embraces.” Alternately, “May his left hand be under my head, and [may] his right hand embrace me.” The verb חָבַק (khavaq) has a two-fold range of meanings in the Piel stem: (1) to embrace or hug someone (Gen 29:13; 33:4; 48:10; Job 24:8; Prov 4:8; Eccl 3:5; Lam 4:5) and (2) to fondle or sexually stimulate a lover (Prov 5:20; Song 2:6; 8:3) (HALOT 287 s.v. חבק; BDB 287 s.v. חָבַק). The verb designates an expression of love by the position or action of one’s hands (TWOT 1:259). The term is probably used here as a euphemism. The function of the prefixed verbal form of תְּחַבְּקֵנִי (tÿkhabbÿqeni, “embrace me”) may be classified several ways: (1) ingressive: “His right hand is beginning to stimulate me,” (2) instantaneous: “His right hand is stimulating me [right now],” (3) progressive: “His right hand stimulates me,” (4) jussive of desire: “May his right hand stimulate me!” (5) injunction: “Let his right hand stimulate me!” or (6) permission: “His right hand may stimulate me.” Based upon their view that the couple is not yet married, some scholars argue for an imperfect of desire (“May his right hand stimulate/embrace me!”). Other scholars suggest that the progressive imperfect is used (“His right hand stimulates me”). For a striking parallel, see S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 105.
25 sn Frequently, when oaths were taken in the ancient world, witnesses were invoked in order to solemnize the vow and to act as jurists should the oath someday be broken. Cosmic forces such as the “heavens and earth” were often personified to act as witnesses to an oath (e.g., Deut 32:1; Isa 1:2; Mic 1:2; 6:1-2; Ps 50:2). In this case, the “witnesses” are the “gazelles and stags of the field” (2:7; 3:5). These animals were frequently used as symbols of romantic love in the OT (Prov 5:19). And in Egyptian and Mesopotamian love literature and Ugaritic poetry the gazelle was often associated with sexual fertility. For instance, in the following excerpt from a Mesopotamian incantation text the stag is referred to in the context of sexual potency in which a woman urges an ailing male: “With the love-[making of the mountain goat] six times, with the lovemaking of a stag seven times, with the lovemaking of a partridge twelve times, make love to me! Make love to me because I am young! And the lovemaking of a stag…Make love to me!” (R. D. Biggs, Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations [TCS], 26, lines 4-8).
26 tn Traditionally, “hinds.” A hind is a female deer, generally less than three years old.
27 tn Heb “of the field.” The Hebrew term refers to open fields or open country as the home of wild animals; if taken adjectivally this could modify the previous term: “wild young does” (cf. NRSV).
sn The “gazelles” and “does of the fields” are probably zoomorphisms for love personified. In other words, the witness of this oath is “love” itself. Should the daughters violate this vow which they are asked to make, “love” itself would hold them accountable. Gazelles were often figures in Hebrew, Akkadian, and Ugaritic literature for mighty warriors or virile young men (e.g., 2 Sam 1:19; 2:18; Isa 14:9; Zech 10:3).
28 tn Alternately, “arouse…awaken….” The root עוּר (’ur) is repeated twice in 2:7 for rhetorical emphasis. The first is the Hiphil imperative (“do not awake/excite…”) and the second is the Polel imperative (“do not awake/start to move…”). The Hiphil depicts a causative action (causing love to initially awaken) and the Polel depicts an intensive action (repeated efforts to awaken love or to set love into motion). On the other hand, G. L. Carr (Song of Solomon [TOTC], 94) writes: “The meaning is not stir up, i.e., a repetition of the same act, but is rather first the act of awakening or summoning something, and then doing what is necessary to sustain the activity already begun, i.e., being so fully awakened that sleep becomes impossible (e.g., 5:2).” The terms ָתּעִירוּ (ta’iru, “arouse”; Hiphil imperative from עוּר) and תְּעוֹרְרוּ (tÿ’orÿru, “awaken”; Polel imperative from עוּר) are probably figurative expressions (hypocatastasis) rather than literal, because the object does not refer to a person (her lover) but to an emotional state (“love”). The Hebrew root עוּר has two basic meanings: (1) to wake up and (2) to excite (HALOT 802 s.v. II עוּר). These two nuances are paralleled in the related Semitic roots: Ugaritic `r and `rr “to be excited” (UT 19.1849; 19.1926; WUS 2092) and Akkadian eru “to awake” (AHw 1:247) (HALOT 802 s.v. II). The Hiphil stem has a four-fold range of meanings: (1) to wake up someone/something, (2) to excite, put into motion, start to work, (3) to summons, (4) to disturb (HALOT 802-803 s.v. II). When used literally, the Hiphil describes waking up a sleeper (Zech 4:1) or stirring up a fire (Hos 7:4). When used figuratively, it describes stirring up (Isa 50:4; Pss 57:9; 108:3) strength (Dan 11:25), anger/wrath (Ps 78:38), jealous/zeal (Isa 42:13), and love/sexual passion (Song 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). The Polel stem has a three-fold range of meanings: (1) to awake, start to move, (2) to agitate, disturb, (3) to set in motion (HALOT 802-803 s.v. II). The expression “arouse or awaken love” is figurative (hypocatastasis). It draws an implied comparison between the literal action of arousing a person from sleep and stirring him/her up to excited action, with the figurative picture of a lover sexually stirring up, arousing and exciting the sexual passions of his beloved.
sn What does the expression to “arouse or awaken love” mean? There are three major views: (1) to force a love relationship to develop prematurely rather than to allow it to develop naturally; (2) to interfere with the experience of passionate love; or (3) to stir up sexual passion, that is, to become sexually active. As noted above, אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) probably denotes “sexual passion” (DCH 1:141 s.v. I אַהֲבָה; HALOT 18 s.v. I אַהֲבָה) and עוּר (’ur, “awaken…arouse”) probably denotes “to stir up, excite” (HALOT 802-803 s.v. II עוּר). Likewise, the verb עוּר (“awake”) is used in Song 4:16 and Hosea 7:4 in reference to stirring up sexual passion to excitement.
29 tn The syntactical function of the article on הָאַהֲבָה (ha’ahavah, “love”) is debated. Most translations view this as an example of the article denoting an abstract concept. However, a few translations (KJV, AV, JB, NEB) view it as an abstract use of the article for the concrete (abstractum pro concreto), and render it as “my love” as referring either to the woman’s own feelings or the feelings of her lover. Throughout the Song, the term אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) is not used as a term for endearment in reference to one of the lovers; it typically refers to sexual passion (Song 2:4, 5, 7; 3:5; 5:4; 8:4, 6, 7). When used of the man/woman relationship, the term אַהֲבָה (“love”) may refer to emotional love (Eccl 9:1, 6; Prov 15:17; Ps 109:4-5) or sexual love/desire (Gen 29:20; 2 Sam 1:26; 13:4, 15; Prov 5:19-20; 7:18; Jer 2:33; Song 2:4, 5, 7; 3:5; 5:4; 8:4, 6, 7) (DCH 1:141 s.v. I אַהֲבָה; HALOT 18 s.v. I אַהֲבָה). The reference to sexual desire in 2:4-5 and חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה (kholat ’ahavah, “love-sickness”) in 2:5 suggests that the use of אַהֲבָה (“love”) in 2:7 is sexual desire. Love is personified in this picture.
30 tn Heb “If you arouse or if you awaken love before it pleases….” Paraphrase: “Promise that you will not arouse or awaken love until it pleases!” This line is a typical Hebrew negative oath formula in which the speaker urges his/her audience to take a vow to not do something that would have destructive consequences: (1) The expression הִשְׁבַּעְתִּי (hishba’ti, “I adjure you”) is used when a speaker urges his audience to take an oath. (2) The conditional clause אִם־תָּעִירוּ וְאִם־תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת־הָאַהֲבָה (’im-ta’iru vÿim-te’orÿru ’et-ha’ehavah, “If you arouse or awaken love…”) reflects the typical construction of a negative oath formula which consists of two parts: (1) protasis: the warning introduced by the conditional particle אִם (“if”) and (2) apodosis: the description of the disaster or penalty which would befall the person who broke the vow and violated the condition of the oath. (3) If the consequences of violating the oath were extremely severe, they would not even be spoken; the statement of the consequences would be omitted for emphasis – as is the case here, that is, the apodosis is omitted for rhetorical emphasis. As is typical in negative oath formulas, the sanction or curse on the violation of the condition is suppressed for rhetorical emphasis. The curse was so awful that one could not or dare not speak of them (M. H. Pope, IDB 3:575-77).
31 tn Alternately, “at night” or “night after night.” The noun בַּלֵּילוֹת (ballelot, plural of “night”) functions as an adverbial accusative of time. The plural form בַּלֵּילוֹת from לַיְלָה (laylah, “night”) can be classified in several ways: (1) plural of number: “night after night” (NASB, NEB); (2) plural of extension: “all night long” (NIV); (3) plural of composition: “by night” (KJV) and “at night” (NJPS); or (4) plural of intensity: “during the blackest night.” The plural of extension (“all night long”) is supported by (1) the four-fold repetition of the verb בָּקַשׁ (baqash, “to seek”) in 3:1-2 which emphasizes that the Beloved was continually looking for her lover all night long, (2) her decision to finally arise in the middle of the night to look for him in 3:2-4, and (3) her request in the immediately preceding verse (2:17) that he make love to her all night long: “until the day breathes and the shadows flee….” One should note, however, that the plural בַּלֵּילוֹת occurs in 3:8 where it is a plural of composition: “by night” (NJPS) or “of the night” (NASB, NIV) or “in the night” (KJV).
sn The use of the term בַּלֵּילוֹת (ballelot, “night”) in 3:1 stands in striking contrast to the use of the term הַיּוֹם (hayyom, “the day”) in 2:17 which is the preceding verse. In 2:17 the woman invited her beloved to make love to her all night long; however, in 3:1 she recounts a nightmarish experience in which she was unable to find her beloved next to her in bed. Scholars debate whether 3:1-4 recounts a nightmare-like dream sequence or a real-life experience. There are striking parallels between 3:1-4 and 5:2-8 which also raises the possibility of a nightmare-like dream sequence.
32 tn The term מִשְׁכָּב (mishkav, “bed”) in 3:1 is the common term for marriage bed (HALOT 646 s.v. מִשְׁכָּב; BDB 1012 s.v. מִשְׁכָּב) in distinction from the common term for עֶרֶש (’eresh, “couch”) in 1:16. Several uses of the term מִשְׁכָּב (“bed”) have overt sexual connotations, denoting the place of copulation (Gen 49:4; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Num 31:17, 35; Judg 21:11, 12; Prov 7:17; Isa 57:7-8). The noun is used in the expression מִשְׁכָּב דֹּדִים (mishkav dodim, “love-bed”) with obvious sexual connotations (Ezek 23:17).
33 tn Heb “I sought….” The verb בָּקַשׁ (baqash, “to seek”) denotes the attempt to physically find someone (e.g., 1 Sam 13:14; 16:16; 28:7; 1 Kgs 1:2-3; Isa 40:20; Ezek 22:30; Esth 2:2; Job 10:6; Prov 18:1) (HALOT 152 s.v. בקשׁ). However, it is clear in 3:1 that this “search” took place upon her bed. It does not make sense in the context that the Beloved was looking around in her bed to find her lover – how big could her bed be that she had lost him? Rather, בָּקַשׁ (“to seek”) is used metonymically to reference to her longing for her absent lover, that is, seeking in the sense of anticipation. The perfect tense should be classified as a past constantive action, describing a past action which covered an extended period of time, as indicated by the phrase בַּלֵּילוֹת (ballelot, plural of extension, “all night long”) in 3:1. This continual action is emphasized by the four-fold repetition of בָּקַשׁ (“seek”) in 3:1-2.
34 tn Heb “the one whom my soul loves.” The expression נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”) is a synecdoche of part for the whole (= the woman). The expression נַפְשִׁי (“my soul”) is often used as independent personal pronoun. It often expresses personal preference, such as love or hatred (e.g., Gen 27:4, 25; Lev 26:11, 30; Judg 5:24; Isa 1:14) (HALOT 712 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ). The term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “soul”) is used over 150 times in OT to refer to the seat of a person’s emotions and passions (BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ c.6.a) (e.g., Deut 12:15, 20, 21; 14:26; 18:6; 21:14; 24:15; 1 Sam 3:21; 23:30; 2 Sam 14:14; 1 Kgs 11:37; Isa 26:8; Jer 2:24; 22:27; 34:16; 44:14; Ezek 16:27; Hos 4:8; Mic 7:1; Pss 10:3; 24:4; 25:1; 35:25; 78:18; 86:4; 105:22; 143:8; Prov 13:4; 19:8; 21:10; Job 23:13; Song 5:6). It often refers to the seat of love (BDB 660 s.v. d.6.e) (e.g., Gen 34:3, 8; Jer 12:7; Ps 63:9; Song 1:7; 3:1-4). The expression אֵת־שֶׁאָהֲבָה נַפְשִׁי (’et-she’ahavah nafshi, “the one whom I love”; Heb “the one whom my soul loves”) is repeated four times in 3:1-4. The repetition emphasizes her intense love for her beloved. The noun אָהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) is often used in reference to the love between a man and woman, particularly in reference to emotional, romantic, or sexual love (2 Sam 1:26; 13:15; Prov 5:19; 7:18; Song 2:4-5, 7; 3:5; 5:8; 8:4, 6-7; Jer 2:2, 33). Likewise, the verb אָהֵב (’ahev, “to love”) often refers to emotional, romantic, or sexual love between a man and woman (e.g., Gen 24:67; 29:20, 30, 32; 34:3; Deut 21:15, 16; Judg 14:16; 16:4, 15; 1 Sam 1:5; 18:20; 2 Sam 13:1, 4, 15; 1 Kgs 11:1; 2 Chr 11:21; Neh 13:26; Esth 2:17; Eccl 9:9; Song 1:3, 4, 7; 3:1-4; Jer 22:20, 22; Ezek 16:33, 36-37; 23:5, 9, 22; Hos 2:7-15; 3:1; Lam 1:19).
35 tn Heb “I searched for him” or “I sought him” (see study note above).
36 tc The LXX adds “I called him but he did not answer me” (ἐκάλεσα αὐτόν καὶ οὐχ ὑπήκουσέν μου, ekalesa auton kai ouc Juphkousen) to 3:2d on the basis of its appearance in the parallel expressions in Song 5:6. There is no textual support for its inclusion here.
tn Heb “but I did not find him.” The verb מָצָא (matsa’, “to find”) normally describes discovering the whereabouts of something/someone who is lost or whose presence is not known. It is clear in 3:1 that the Beloved was not taking a physically active role in looking all around for him, because she stayed in her bed all night long during this time. Therefore, the verb מָצָא (“to find”) must be nuanced metonymically in terms of him appearing to her. It does not denote “finding” him physically, but visually; that is, if and when he would arrive at her bedside, she would “find” him. This might allude to her request in 2:17 for him to rendezvous with her to make love to her all night long (“until the day breathes and the shadows flee”). Despite the fact that she was waiting for him all night long, he never appeared (3:1). The verb מָצָא (“to find”) is repeated four times in 3:1-4, paralleling the four-fold repetition of בָּקַשׁ (baqash, “to seek”). This antithetical word-pair creates a strong and dramatic contrast.
37 sn Three 1st person common singular cohortatives appear in verse 2: אָקוּמָה (’aqumah, “I will arise”), אֲסוֹבְבָה (’asovÿvah, “I will go about”), and אֲבַקְשָׁה (’avaqshah, “I will seek”). These cohortatives have been taken in two basic senses: (1) resolve: “I will arise…I will go about…I will seek” (KJV, NIV) or (2) necessity: “I must arise…I must go about…I must seek” (NASB, NJPS). There is no ethical or moral obligation/necessity, but the context emphasizes her intense determination (e.g., 3:4b). Therefore, they should be classified as cohortatives of resolve, expressing the speaker’s determination to pursue a course of action. The three-fold repetition of the cohortative form emphasizes the intensity of her determination.
tn The emphatic particle of exhortation נא appears in the expression אָקוּמָה נָּא (’aqumah nah, “I will arise…”). This particle is used with 1st person common singular cohortatives to emphasize self-deliberation and a determined resolve to act (BDB 609 s.v. נָא b.3.a) (e.g., Gen 18:21; Exod 3:3; 2 Sam 14:15; Isa 5:1; Job 32:21).
38 tn The root סָבַב (savav) in the Qal stem means “to go around, to do a circuit” (1 Sam 7:16; 2 Chr 17:9; 23:2; Eccl 12:5; Song 3:3; Isa 23:16; Hab 2:16), while the Polel stem means “to prowl around” (Ps 59:7, 15; Song 3:2) (HALOT 739-740 s.v. סבב). The idea here is that the Beloved is determined to “look all around” until she finds her beloved.
39 sn There is a consonantal wordplay in 3:2 between the roots בּקשׁ and בּשׁק, that is, between אֲבַקְשָׁה (’avaqshah, “I will seek [him]”) and בַּשְּׁוָקִים (bashshÿvaqim, “streets”). The wordplay emphasizes that she searched in every nook and cranny.
40 sn The statement בִּקַּשְׁתִּיו וְלֹא מְצָאתִיו (biqqashtiv vÿlo’ mÿtsa’tiv, “I sought him but I did not find him”) appears twice in 3:1-2. In both cases it concludes a set of cola. The repetition depicts her mounting disappointment in her failure to locate her beloved. It stands in strong contrast with 3:4.
41 tn Heb “those who go around the city” or “those who go around in the city.” The expression הַסֹּבְבִים בָּעִיר (hassovÿvim ba’ir, “those who go around the city”) probably refers to the watchmen of the city walls rather than night city street patrol (e.g., Ps 127:1; Song 5:7; Isa 21:11; 62:6). The Israelite night watchmen of the walls is paralleled by the Akkadian sahir duri (“one who goes around the wall”) which appears in a lexical text as the equivalent of ma-sar musi (“night watchman”) (CAD 4:192). See M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 419. There is a wordplay in 3:2-3 between the verb וַאֲסוֹבְבָה (va’asovÿvah, “I will go about”) and הַסֹּבְבִים (hassovÿvim, “those who go around”). This wordplay draws attention to the ironic similarity between the woman’s action and the action of the city’s watchmen. Ironically, she failed to find her beloved as she went around in the city, but the city watchmen found her. Rather than finding the one she was looking for, she was found.
42 tn Heb “the one whom my soul loves – have you seen [him]?” The normal Hebrew word-order (verb-subject-direct object) is reversed in 3:3 (direct object-verb-subject) to emphasize the object of her search: אֵת שֶׁאָהֲבָה נַפְשִׁי רְאִיתֶם (’et she’ahavah nafshi rÿ’item, “The one whom my soul loves – have you seen [him]?”).
43 tn Heb “like a little.” The term כִּמְעַט (kim’at), which is composed of the comparative preposition כְּ (kÿ, “like”) prefixed to the noun מְעַט (mÿ’at, “the small, the little, the few”), is an idiom that means “within a little” or “scarcely” (BDB 590 s.v. מְעַט b.2.a).
44 tn Heb “I held him” (אֲחַזְתִּיו, ’akhaztiv). The term אָחַז (’akhaz, “grasp”) denotes to forcefully seize someone to avoid losing hold of him (BDB 28 s.v. אָחַז b).
45 tn The verb רָפָה (rafah, “to let go”) means to relax one’s grip on an object or a person (HALOT 1276-77 s.v. רפה; BDB 952 s.v. רָפָה 2). The Hiphil stem means “to let loose” (Job 7:19; 27:6; Song 3:4; Sir 6:27) or “to release from one’s hands” (Deut 9:14; Josh 10:6; Ps 37:8). The negative expression לֹא רָפָה (lo’ rafah, “to not let [someone or something] go”) denotes an intense desire or effort to not lose possession of someone or something (Job 27:6; Prov 4:13). Here the expression וְלֹא אַרְפֶּנּוּ (vÿlo’ ’arpennu, “I would not let him go”) pictures her determination to hold on to him so she would not lose him again. The shift from a suffix-conjugation (perfect) אֲחַזְתִּיו (’akhaztiv, “I grasped him”) to a prefix-conjugation (imperfect) אַרְפֶּנּוּ (’arpennu, “I would [not] let him go”) depicts a shift from a completed/consummative action (perfect: she took hold of his hand) to an ongoing/progressive action (imperfect: she would not let go of it). A basic distinction between the perfect and imperfect tenses is that of consummative versus progressive action. The literary/syntactical structure of אֲחַזְתִּיו וְלֹא אַרְפֶּנּוּ (“I grasped him and I would not let him go”) in 3:4 mirrors that of בִּקַּשְׁתִּיו וְלֹא מְצָאתִיו (biqqashtiv vÿlo’ mÿtsa’tiv, “I searched for him but I could not find him”) in 3:1-2. This parallelism in the literary and syntactical structure emphasizes the fortunate reversal of situation.
46 sn There is debate about the reason why the woman brought her beloved to her mother’s house. Campbell notes that the mother’s house is sometimes referred to as the place where marital plans were made (Gen 24:28; Ruth 1:8). Some suggest, then, that the woman here was unusually bold and took the lead in proposing marriage plans with her beloved. This approach emphasizes that the marriage plans in 3:4 are followed by the royal wedding procession (3:6-11) and the wedding night (4:1-5:1). On the other hand, others suggest that the parallelism of “house of my mother” and “chamber of she who conceived me” focuses on the bedroom of her mother’s house. Fields suggests that her desire was to make love to her beloved in the very bedroom chambers where she herself was conceived, to complete the cycle of life/love. If this is the idea, it would provide a striking parallel to a similar picture in 8:5 in which the woman exults that they had made love in the very location where her beloved had been conceived: “Under the apple tree I aroused you; it was there your mother conceived you, there she who bore you conceived you.”
47 tn The term חֶדֶר (kheder, “chamber”) literally means “dark room” (HALOT s.v. חֶדֶר 293) and often refers to a bedroom (Gen 43:30; Exod 7:28; Judg 3:24; 15:1; 16:9, 12; 2 Sam 4:7; 13:10; 1Kgs 1:15; 2 Kgs 6:12; 9:2; Eccl 10:20; Isa 26:20; Joel 2:16; Prov 24:4; Song 1:4; 3:4).
49 tn The imperfect יִתֶּנְךָ (yittenka) may denote a desire or wish of the subject, e.g., Gen 24:58; Exod 21:36; 1 Sam 21:10 (IBHS 509 §31.4h). The optative particle מִי (mi) with an imperfect expresses an unreal wish, e.g., Judg 9:29; 2 Sam 15:4; Mal 1:10. The construction יִתֶּנְךָ מִי (mi yittenka) is an idiom expressing an unreal wish in the optative mood (HALOT 575 s.v. מִי), e.g., “Would that it were evening…Would that it were morning!” (KJV) or “If only it were evening…If only it were morning!” (NIV) (Deut 28:67); “Oh that I knew where I might find him” (KJV, NASB, NJPS), “I wish I had known,” “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!” (NIV) (Job 23:3); “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets!” (NIV), “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets” (NASB) (Num 11:29). Evidently, the LXX did not understand the idiom; it rendered the line in wooden literalness: Τίς δώῃ σε ἀδελφιδόν μου (Tis dwh se adelfidon mou, “Who might give/make you as my brother?”).
50 tn Heb “you were to me like a brother.”
51 tn Heb “found” or “met.” The juxtaposition of the two imperfects without an adjoining vav forms a conditional clause denoting a real condition (GKC 493 §159.b). The first imperfect is the protasis; the second is the apodosis: “If I found you אֶמְצָאֲךָ (’emtsa’aka) outside, I would kiss you (אֶשָּׁקְךָ, ’eshshaqÿkha).” The imperfects are used to express a condition and consequence which are regarded as being capable of fulfillment in the present or future time (GKC 493 §159.b). The simple juxtaposition of two verbal clauses without any grammatical indicator, such as vav or a conditional particle, is rather rare: “If you rebel (תִּמְעָלוּ, tim’alu), I will disperse you (אָפִיץ, ’afits) among the nations” (Neh 1:8); “If I counted them (אֶסְפְּרֵם, ’esppÿrem), they would be more numerous (יִרְבּוּן, yirbun) than the sand!” (Ps 139:18); “If a man has found a wife (מָצָא, matsa’), he has found (מָצָא) a good thing” (Prov 18:22) (Joüon 2:627 §167.a.1). On the other hand, LXX treated the imperfects as denoting future temporal sequence: εὑροῦσά σε ἒξω, φιλήσω σε (eurousa se exw, filhsw se, “I will find you outside, I will kiss you”). Ordinarily, however, vav or a temporal particle introduces a temporal clause (Joüon 2:627 §167.a; GKC 502 §164.d). The English translation tradition generally adopts the conditional nuance: “If I found you outdoors, I would kiss you” (NASB), “Then, if I found you outside, I would kiss you” (NIV). However, a few translations adopt the temporal nuance: “When I should find thee without, I would kiss thee” (KJV), “Then I could kiss you when I met you in the street” (NJPS).
52 tn The particle גַּם (gam, “surely”) is used with לֹא (lo’, “no one”) for emphasis: “yea, none” (HALOT 195 s.v. גַּם). Similar examples: לֹא...גָם אָחַד (lo’…gam ’ekhad, “not even one”; 2 Sam 17:12); גַּם אֵין (gam ’en, “yet there is no one”; Eccl 4:8).
53 sn Song 8:1-2 may be classified as a “a lover’s wish song” that is similar in content and structure to an ancient Egyptian love song in which the lover longs for greater intimacy with his beloved: “I wish I were her Negro maid who follows at her feet; then the skin of all her limbs would be revealed to me. I wish I were her washerman, if only for a month; then I would be [entranced], washing out the Moringa oils in her diaphanous garments. I wish I were the seal ring, the guardian of her [fingers]; then […]” (The Cairo Love Songs, 25-27, in W. K. Simpson, ed., The Literature of Ancient Egypt, 311). The Egyptian and Hebrew parallels display a similar structure: (1) introductory expression of the lover’s wish to be something/someone in a position of physical closeness with the Beloved; (2) description of the person/thing that is physically close to the Beloved; and (3) concluding description of the resultant greater degree of intimacy with the Beloved. In the Egyptian parallel it is the man who longs for greater closeness; in the Hebrew song it is the woman. The Egyptian love song borders on the sensual; the Hebrew love song is simply romantic. The Beloved expresses her desire for greater freedom to display her affection for Solomon. In ancient Near Eastern cultures the public display of affection between a man and woman was frowned upon – sometimes even punished. For example, in Assyrian laws the punishment for a man kissing a woman in public was to cut off his upper lip. On the other hand, public displays of affection between children and between family members were allowed. Accordingly, the Beloved hyperbolically wished that she and Solomon were children from the same family so she could kiss him anytime she wished without fear of punishment or censure.
54 tc The MT reads אֶנְהָגֲךָ אֶל־בֵּית אִמִּי תְּלַמְּדֵנִי (’enhagakha ’el-bet ’immi tÿlammÿdeni, “I would bring you to the house of my mother who taught me”). On the other hand, the LXX reads Εἰσάξω σε εἰς οἶκον μητρός μου καὶ εἰς ταμίειον τῆς συλλαβούση με (Eisaxw se eis oikon mhtpos mou kai eis tamieion ths sullaboush me) which reflects a Hebrew reading of אֶנְהָגֲךָ אֶל־בֵּית אִמִּי וְאֶל חֶדֶר הוֹרָתִי (’enhagakha ’el-bet ’immi vÿ’el kheder horati, “I would bring you to the house of my mother, to the chamber of the one who bore me”), followed by NRSV. The LXX variant probably arose due to: (1) the syntactical awkwardness of תְּלַמְּדֵנִי (“she taught me” or “she will teach me”), (2) the perceived need for a parallel to אֶל־בֵּית אִמִּי (“to the house of my mother”), and (3) the influence of Song 3:4 which reads: עַד־שֶׁהֲבֵיאתִיו אֶל־בֵּית אִמִּי וְאֶל חֶדֶר הוֹרָתִי (’ad-sheheve’tiv ’el-bet ’immi vÿ’el kheder horati, “until I brought him to the house of my mother, to the chamber of the one who bore me”). The MT reading should be adopted because (1) it is the more difficult reading, (2) it best explains the origin of the LXX variant, and (3) the origin of the LXX variant is easily understood in the light of Song 3:4.
tn The verb תְּלַמְּדֵנִי (tÿlammÿdeni) may be rendered in two basic ways: (1) future action: “she will teach me” or more likely as (2) past customary action: “who would instruct me” (KJV), “who used to instruct me” (NASB), “she who has taught me” (NIV), “she who taught me” (NJPS). This is an example of casus pendus in which the subject of the verb serves as a relative pronoun to the antecedent noun (“my mother”). The JPS parses תְּלַמְּדֵנִי as 2nd person masculine singular (“that you might instruct me”) rather than 3rd person feminine singular (“she would teach me”). However, this would obscure the imagery: The Beloved wished that Solomon was her little brother still nursing on her mother’s breast. The Beloved, who had learned from her mother’s example, would bring him inside their home and she would give him her breast: “I would give you spiced wine to drink, the nectar of my pomegranates.”
55 sn Continuing the little brother/older sister imagery of 8:1, the Beloved suggests that if she had been an older sister and he had been her little brother, she would have been able to nurse Solomon. This is a euphemism for her sensual desire to offer her breasts to Solomon in marital lovemaking.
56 tc The Masoretic vocalization of מִיַּיִן הָרֶקַח (miyyayin hareqakh) suggests that הָרֶקַח (“spiced mixture”) stands in apposition to מִיַּיִן (“wine”): “wine, that is, spiced mixture.” However, several Hebrew
tn Alternately “wine, that is, spiced mixture.” The term רֶקַח (reqakh, “spice mixture, spices”) refers to ground herbs that were tasty additives to wine (HALOT 1290 s.v. רֶקַח).
57 sn There is a phonetic wordplay (paronomasia) between אֶשָּׁקְךָ (’eshshaqÿkha, “I would kiss you” from נָשַׁק, nashaq, “to kiss”) in 8:1 and אַשְׁקְךָ (’ashqÿkha, “I would cause you to drink” from שָׁקָה, shaqah, “to drink”) in 8:2. This wordplay draws attention to the unity of her “wish song” in 8:1-2. In 8:1 the Beloved expresses her desire to kiss Solomon on the lips when they are outdoors; while in 8:2 she expresses her desire for Solomon to kiss her breasts when they are in the privacy of her home indoors.
58 sn This statement is a euphemism: the Beloved wished to give her breasts to Solomon, like a mother would give her breast to her nursing baby. This is the climactic point of the “lover’s wish song” of Song 8:1-2. The Beloved wished that Solomon was her little brother still nursing on her mother’s breast. The Beloved, who had learned from her mother’s example, would bring him inside their home and she would give him her breast: “I would give you spiced wine to drink, the nectar of my pomegranates.” The phrase “my pomegranates” is a euphemism for her breasts. Rather than providing milk from her breasts for a nursing baby, the Beloved’s breasts would provide the sensual delight of “spiced wine” and “nectar” for her lover.
tc The MT reads the singular noun with 1st person common singular suffix רִמֹּנִי (rimmoni, “my pomegranate”). However, many Hebrew
60 tn Heb “daughters of Jerusalem.”
61 tn Heb “Why arouse or awaken …?” Although the particle מָה (mah) is used most often as an interrogative pronoun (“What?” “Why?”), it also can be used as a particle of negation. For example, “How (מָה) could I look at a girl?” means “I have not looked at a girl!” (Job 31:1); “What (מַה) do we have to drink?” means “We have nothing to drink” (Exod 15:24); “What (מַה) part do we have?” means “We have no part” (1 Kgs 12:16); and “Why (מַה) arouse or awaken love?” means “Do not arouse or awaken love!” (Song 8:4). See HALOT 551 s.v. מָה C.