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The Song of Songs 2:4-7

Context
The Banquet Hall for the Love-Sick

The Beloved about Her Lover:

2:4 He brought me 1  into the banquet hall, 2 

and he looked 3  at me lovingly. 4 

2:5 Sustain 5  me with raisin cakes, 6 

refresh me with apples, 7 

for I am faint with love. 8 

The Double Refrain: Embracing and Adjuration

2:6 His left hand caresses my head, 9 

and his right hand stimulates me. 10 

The Beloved to the Maidens:

2:7 I adjure you, 11  O maidens of Jerusalem,

by the gazelles and by the young does 12  of the open fields: 13 

Do not awaken or arouse 14  love 15  until it pleases! 16 

1 tc The MT vocalizes consonantal הביאני as הֱבִיאַנִי (heviani, Hiphil perfect 3rd person masculine singular with 1st person common singular suffix, “He has brought me”). However, several medieval Hebrew mss vocalize the form as הֲבִיאֻנִי (haviuni, Hiphil imperative 2nd person masculine singular with 1st person common singular suffix, “Bring me!”). This is also reflected in LXX (εἰσαγαγετε με, eisagagete me, “Bring me!”) and Syriac. This alternate vocalization tradition has several factors that make it a viable option: (1) It respects the consonantal text; (2) It is supported by the LXX and Syriac; (3) It provides a tighter parallelism with the two identical imperatival forms in 2:5a (both 2nd person masculine plural imperatives with 1st person common singular suffixes); (4) It provides thematic unity to the entire poetic unit of 2:4-5; and (5) It helps make better sense of an enigmatic unit. This approach is strengthened if the MT reading וְדִגְלוֹ (vÿdiglo, “and his banner”) is revocalized to the imperative וְדִגְלוּ (vÿdiglu, “and feed [me]”) (see translator’s note below). In this case, the parallelism throughout 2:4-5 would be very tight. It would feature four parallel imperatives of request, all revolving around the theme of love-sickness: “Bring me into the banquet hall, feed me with love; sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, because I am faint with love.” The weakness with the revocalization to הֲבִיאֻנִי (“Bring me!”) is that it demands, due to the dictates of synonymous parallelism, the questionable revocalization of the MT’s וְדִגְלוֹ (“and his banner”) to the imperative וְדִגְלוּ (“and feed [me]”).

tn Alternately, “Bring me!”

2 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.

3 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 mss vocalize דגלו as Qal mp imperative וְדִגְלוּ (vÿdihlu, “Set [love before me].”) This is also reflected in LXX τάξατε ἐπἐμὲ ἀγάπην (taxate ep eme agaphn, “Set love before me!”).

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 ἐπἐμὲ ἀγάπην (eisagagete me eis oikon tou oinou, taxate epeme 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 [1969]: 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).

4 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).

5 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).

6 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.

7 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 [1976]: 14).

8 tn Heb “sick of love.” The expression חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה (kholatahavah, “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 (kholatahavah, “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).

9 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).

10 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.

11 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).

12 tn Traditionally, “hinds.” A hind is a female deer, generally less than three years old.

13 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).

14 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 (tairu, “arouse”; Hiphil imperative from עוּר) and תְּעוֹרְרוּ (tÿorÿru, “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.

15 tn The syntactical function of the article on הָאַהֲבָה (haahavah, “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 (kholatahavah, “love-sickness”) in 2:5 suggests that the use of אַהֲבָה (“love”) in 2:7 is sexual desire. Love is personified in this picture.

16 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 (hishbati, “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-tairu vÿim-teorÿruet-haehavah, “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).



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