1 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).
2 tn Traditionally, “hinds.” A hind is a female deer, generally less than three years old.
3 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).
4 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.
5 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.
6 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).