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The Song of Songs 3:6-11

Context
The Royal Wedding Procession

The Speaker: 1 

3:6 Who is this coming up from the desert

like a column of smoke,

like 2  a fragrant billow 3  of myrrh and frankincense, 4 

every kind of fragrant powder 5  of the traveling merchants? 6 

3:7 Look! It is Solomon’s portable couch! 7 

It is surrounded by sixty warriors,

some of Israel’s mightiest warriors.

3:8 All of them are skilled with a sword, 8 

well-trained in the art of warfare. 9 

Each has his sword at his side,

to guard against the terrors of the night.

3:9 King Solomon made a sedan chair 10  for himself

of wood imported from Lebanon. 11 

3:10 Its posts were made 12  of silver; 13 

its back 14  was made of gold.

Its seat was upholstered with purple wool; 15 

its interior was inlaid 16  with leather 17  by the maidens 18  of Jerusalem.

3:11 Come out, O maidens of Zion,

and gaze upon King Solomon!

He is wearing the crown with which his mother crowned him

on his wedding day,

on the most joyous day of his life! 19 

1 sn It is not certain whether the speaker here is the Beloved or not.

2 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

3 tn The proper nuance of מְקֻטֶּרֶת (mÿqutteret, Pual participle fs from קָטַר, qatar, “to make a sacrifice, go up in smoke”) is illusive. The lexicons take the participle adjectivally and translate מְקֻטֶּרֶת מוֹר (mÿqutteret mor) as “completely filled with fragrance or incense” (HALOT 1094 s.v. I קטר) or “fumigated with myrrh” (BDB 883 s.v. קָטַר). Most translations take it adjectivally: “perfumed with myrrh” (KJV, NASB, NIV); however, NJPS takes it as a substantive: “clouds of myrrh.” It is better to take the participle as a substantive and to nuance מְקֻטֶּרֶת מוֹר as “billow of myrrh,” as suggested by its parallelism with כְּתִימֲרוֹת עָשָׁן (kÿtimarotashan, “like a column of smoke”). While this is the only usage of the Pual stem of the verb, the root קטר appears frequently in other stems, all of which connote smoke, e.g., Piel: “to make a sacrifice, to go up in smoke” and Hiphil: “to cause to go up in smoke” (HALOT 1094-95 s.v. I קתר). In Middle Hebrew the root קִטְרָא (qitra’) meant “to steam, smell” (Qal) and “to smoke” (Hiphil). The Hebrew root is related to Ugaritic qtr “smoke, incense” (UT 19.2220; WUS 1404); Akkadian qataru “to billow (of smoke)” (AHw 2:907; CAD Q:166); Old South Arabic mqtr “incense; Ethiopic qetare “fragrance, spice”; Arabic qatara “to smell, smoke”; and Syriac `etar “vapour, fume, incense” (HALOT 1094). Due to the rarity of the Pual stem of this root, the Targum mistakenly vocalized the form as Piel participle מִקְּטֹרֶת (miqqÿtoret, “going up in smoke”).

4 tn The term לְבוֹנָה (lÿvonah, “frankincense”) refers to fragrant incense (Exod 30:34; Lev 2:1, 15; 5:11; 6:8; 24:7; Num 5:15; Isa 43:23; 66:3; Jer 6:20; 17:26; 41:5; Neh 13:5, 9; 1 Chr 9:29; Song 3:6; 4:6, 14). It is composed of the white (sometimes yellow) resin of Boswellia Carteri and Frereana from Hadramawt and Somaliland (HALOT 518 s.v. לְבֹנָה).

5 tn The term אַבְקַת (’avqat, “fragrant-powder”) means “scent-powders” (HALOT 9 s.v. אַבָקָה) or “ground spice” (HALOT 1237 s.v. I רכל 2.a). The noun אֲבָקָה (’avaqah) is from the root אָבָק (’avaq, “dust, powder”) (HALOT 9 s.v.).

6 tn The singular form of רוֹכֵל (rokhel, “merchant”) may be classified as a generic singular, representing the genus of the merchant guild of which there are many. The term רוֹכֵל means “trader, vendor,” as small retailer (HALOT 1237 s.v. I רכל) distinct from סָתַר (satar) “shopkeeper, dealer” as large wholesaler (HALOT 750 s.v. סתר). It may refer to a traveling merchant, as in Middle Hebrew רוֹכְלָה (rokhÿlah) “traveling merchant” and Old South Arabic rkl “to go about as a trader” (Conti 242a). The general nuance appears in Judean Aramaic רוֹכְלָא (rokhÿla’, “hawker, peddler”) and Syriac rakkala “merchant.”

7 tn The term מִטָּה (mittah) refers to a “royal portable couch” spread with covers, cloth, and pillows (HALOT 573 s.v. מִטָּה; BDB 641 s.v. מִטָּה). The Hebrew noun is related to Ugaritic mtt “bed” (UT 1465). The term מִטָּה (“bed, couch”) itself can refer to a number of similar but different kinds of pieces of reclining furniture: (1) the bed of a common person, found in the bedchamber for reposing and sleeping at night (Gen 47:31; 48:2; 49:33; Exod 8:3[7:28]; 2 Sam 4:7; 1 Kgs 17:19; 2 Kgs 4:10, 21, 32; Ps 6:6[7]; Prov 26:14); (2) the royal bed of the king or nobility, often elevated and made of expensive materials (1 Kgs 21:4; 2 Kgs 1:4, 6, 16; 2 Chr 24:25; Esth 7:8; Amos 6:4; Ezek 23:41); (3) the couch of a common person for reclining or sitting during the day (1 Sam 28:23); (4) a royal banqueting couch for reclining at feasts or carousing (Ezek 23:41; Amos 3:12; 6:4; Esth 1:6; 7:8); (5) a portable light-weight bed for transporting the sick (1 Sam 19:15); (6) a portable bed, such as a funeral bier for transporting the dead (2 Sam 3:31); and (7) a portable royal couch for transporting the king (Song 3:7). The royal couch was often made of expensive materials, such as ivory, silver, and gold (Ezek 23:41; Amos 6:4; Song 3:9-10; Esth 1:6).

8 tn Heb “trained of sword” or “girded of sword.” Alternately, “girded with swords.” The genitive construct phrase אֲחֻזֵי חֶרֶב (’akhuze kherev) is interpreted in two ways: (1) Most interpret it with the assumption that אָחַז (’akhaz) denotes “to physically grasp, hold” (HALOT 31-32 s.v. I אחז; BDB 28 s.v. אָחַז). Most translations adopt this approach, although differing on whether the participle functions substantivally (NASB), verbally (KJV, NIV), or adjectivally (RSV), they all are heading in the same direction: “[all] hold swords” (KJV), “girded with sword” (RSV), “wielders of the sword” (NASB), and “wearing the sword” (NIV). This, however, provides only a vague parallel with the following colon: מְלֻמְּדֵי מִלְחָמָה (mÿlummÿde milkhamah, “trained in warfare”). (2) Others, however, suggest taking אחז in its rare metaphorical sense of “to learn” (= mentally grasp, take hold of): “learned, skillful” (R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 85; J. Lewy, “Lexicographical Notes,” HUCA 12/13 (1937/1938): 98-99). This nuance is much more common in the related Akkadian verb ahazu “to learn,” as HALOT 31 notes. Likewise, JB renders it “skilled swordsmen,” and NJPS suggests “trained in warfare” for Song 3:8, citing Akkadian ahazu “to learn.” The Akkadian verb ahazu has a broad range of meanings including: (1) to seize, hold a person, (2) to take a wife, to marry, (3) to hold, possess, take over, grasp something, to take to (a region), and (4) to learn, to understand (CAD 1:1:173). The concrete, physical sense of grasping or taking an object in one’s hands lent itself to the metaphorical sense of mentally grasping something, that is, learning or understanding. The category ahazu 4 (“to learn, to understand”) is used in reference to general learning, as well to specialized knowledge involving a special skill, professional craft, or ability acquired through instruction and experience (CAD 1:1:177). The causative form suhuzu means “to teach, educate, train” someone to become a skilled craftsman in a professional trade (CAD 1:1:180). This provides a tight parallelism with the following colon: אֲחֻזֵי חֶרֶב (’akhuze kherev, “skillful in swordsmanship”) precisely parallels מְלֻמְּדֵי מִלְחָמָה (“well-trained in [the art of] warfare”). The AB:AB parallelism between the two lines is exact: (1) אֲחֻזֵי “learned, skillful” parallels מְלֻמְּדֵי “trained, instructed,” and (2) חֶרֶב “in respect to swordsmanship” (genitive of specification or limitation) exactly parallels מִלְחָמָה “in regard to [the art of] warfare” (genitive of specification or limitation). The term חֶרֶב (“sword”) may be nuanced metonymically as “swordsmanship” in the light of (a) its collocation with terms for professional expertise: מְלֻמְּדֵי (“trained”) and אֲחֻזֵי (“skilled”), and (b) the connotation “swordsmanship” can be sustained in a few cases, e.g., “It was not by their swordsmanship that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory” (Ps 44:3). In the genitive construct phrase אֲחֻזֵי חֶרֶב, the genitive noun חֶרֶב (“sword”) may be classified either as (1) a genitive of specification; “[skilled] in respect to swordsmanship” or (2) a genitive of instrument; “[skilled] with a sword.”

9 tn Heb “trained of war.” In the genitive construct מְלֻמְּדֵי מִלְחָמָה (mÿlummÿde milkhamah, “trained of war”) the noun מִלְחָמָה (“war, battle”) is a genitive of specification or limitation, that is, it specifies the extent to which the expertise of the subjects applies: “in regard to warfare.” The term מִלְחָמָה (“warfare”) may be nuanced metonymically as “the art of warfare” in the light of (1) its collocation with terms for professional expertise: מְלֻמְּדֵי (“trained”) and אֲחֻזֵי (’akhuze, “skilled”), and (2) its parallelism with חֶרֶב (kherev, “sword, swordsmanship”).

10 tn The term אַפִּרְיוֹן (’affiryon) is a hapax legomenon variously rendered “sedan-chair” (HALOT 80 s.v. אַפִּרְיוֹן) and “sedan, litter, palanquin” (BDB 68 s.v. אַפִּרְיוֹן). It occurs in Mishnaic Hebrew אַפִּרְיוֹן and Judean Aramaic אַפִּרְיוֹנָא (’affiryona’, “bridal-litter”; Jastrow 108 s.v. אַפִּרְיוֹן) and Syriac pwrywn/purya (“litter”). The Mishnah used אַפִּרְיוֹן in reference to a bridal-litter: “In the last war it was decreed that a bride should not pass through the town in an אַפִּרְיוֹן but our Rabbis later sanctioned it” (Sotah 9:14). There are several views of the origin of the term: (1) LXX Greek φορεῖον (foreion, “bridal-litter”) is a loanword from Hebrew; the term is not used in Greek until the Koine period (LSJ 1950-51); (2) Sanskrit paryanka and palki “palanquin, sedan-chair” (M. Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, 554); (3) Old Persian upariyana “litter-bed” (R. Gordis, “A Wedding Song for Solomon,” JBL 63 [1944]: 263-70; G. Widengren, Sakrales Königtum im Alten Testament und im Judentum, 122); (4) less likely is Ugaritic apn “two-wheeled cart” (UT 305); and (5) Egyptian pr “house” with the prefix ua and suffix yn meaning “palace” (G. Gerleman, “Die Bildsprache des Hohenliedes und die altegyptische Kunst,” ASTI 1 [1962]: 24-30). A palanquin was a riding vehicle upon which a royal person sat and which was carried by servants who lifted it up by its staffs. Royalty and members of the aristocracy only rode in palanquins. The Illustrated Family Encyclopedia of the Living Bible, 10:55, describes what the typical royal palanquin was made of and looked like in the ancient world: “Only the aristocracy appear to have made use of litters in Israel. At a later period, in Greece, and even more so in Rome, distinguished citizens were carried through the city streets in splendid palanquins. In Egypt the litter was known as early as the third millennium b.c., as is testified by the one belonging to Queen Hetepheres, the mother of the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), which was found at Gaza. This litter is made of wood and inlaid in various places with gold decorations. Its total length is 6 ft. 10 in., and the length of the seat inside is 3 ft. 3 in. An inscription on the litter, of gold set in ebony, lists the queen’s titles.”

11 tn Heb “with trees of Lebanon.” In the genitive construct phrase מֵעֲצֵי הַלְּבָנוֹן (meatse hallÿvanon, “the wood of Lebanon”) the genitive functions as a genitive of place of origin: “wood from Lebanon.” The plural construct noun עֲצֵי (’atse, literally, “trees, woods” from עֵץ, ’ets, “tree, wood”) is a plural of composition: the plural is used to indicate composition, that is, what the sedan-chair was made out of. The plural is used because the sedan-chair was constructed from the wood from several trees or it was constructed from several pieces of wood (see IBHS 119-20 §7.4.1b; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 7, §9; Joüon 2:500 §136.b).

12 tn Heb “He made its posts of silver.”

13 tn The nouns כֶסֶף (kesef, “silver”), זָהָב (zahav, “gold”) and אַרְגָּמָן (’argaman, “purple”) function as genitives of material out of which their respective parts of the palanquin were made: the posts, base, and seat. The elaborate and expensive nature of the procession is emphasized in this description. This litter was constructed with the finest and most expensive materials. The litter itself was made from the very best wood: cedar and cypress from Lebanon. These were the same woods which Solomon used in constructing the temple (1 Kgs 5:13-28). Silver was overlaid over the “posts,” which were either the legs of the litter or the uprights which supported its canopy, and the “back” of the litter was overlaid with gold. The seat was made out of purple material, which was an emblem of royalty and which was used in the tabernacle (Exod 26:1f; 27:16; 28:5-6) and in the temple (2 Chr 3:14). Thus, the litter was made of the very best which Solomon could offer. Such extravagance reflected his love for his Beloved who rode upon it and would be seen upon it by all the Jerusalemites as she came into the city.

14 tn The noun רְפִידָה (rÿfidah) is a hapax legomenon whose meaning is uncertain. It may be related to the masculine noun רָפַד (rafad, “camping place, station”) referring to a stopping point in the wilderness march of Israel (Exod 17:1, 8; 19:2; Num 33:14); however, what any semantic connection might be is difficult to discern. The versions have translated רְפִידָה variously: LXX ἀνάκλιτον (anakliton, “chair for reclining”), Vulgate reclinatorium (“support, back-rest of a chair”) Peshitta teshwiteh dahba (“golden cover, throne sheathed in gold leaf”). Modern translators have taken three basic approaches: (1) Following the LXX and Vulgate (“support, rest, back of a chair”), BDB suggests “support,” referring to the back or arm of the chair of palanquin (BDB 951 s.v. רָפַד). Several translations take this view, e.g., NRSV: “its back,” NEB/REB: “its headrest,” and NJPS: “its back.” (2) Koehler-Baumgartner suggest “base, foundation of a saddle, litter” (KBL 905). Several translations follow this approach, e.g., KJV: “the bottom,” NASB: “its base” (margin: “its support,” and NIV: “its base.” (3) G. Gerleman suggests the meaning “cover,” as proposed by Peshitta. The first two approaches are more likely than the third. Thus, it probably refers either to (1) the back of the sedan-chair of the palanquin or (2) the foundation/base of the saddle/litter upon which the palanquin rested (HALOT 1276 s.v. רפד).

15 tn The Hebrew noun אַרְגָּמָן (’argaman, “purple fabric”) is a loanword from Hittite argaman “tribute,” which is reflected in Akkadian argamannu “purple” (also “tribute” under Hittite influence), Ugaritic argmn “tax, purple,” and Aramaic argwn “purple” (HALOT 84 s.v. אַרְגָּמָן). The Hebrew term refers to wool dyed with red purple (BRL2 153; HALOT 84). It is used in reference to purple threads (Exod 35:25; 39:3; Esth 1:9) or purple cloth (Num 4:13; Judg 8:26; Esth 8:15; Prov 31:22; Jer 10:9; Song 3:10). Purple cloth and fabrics were costly (Ezek 27:7, 16) and were commonly worn by kings as a mark of their royal position (Judg 8:26). Thus, this was a sedan-chair fit for a king. KJV and NIV render it simply as “purple,” NASB as “purple fabric,” and NJPS “purple wool.”

16 tn The participle רָצוּף (ratsuf) probably functions verbally: “Its interior was fitted out with love/lovingly.” Taking it adjectivally would demand that ַאהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) function as a predicate nominative and given an unusual metonymical connotation: “Its inlaid interior [was] a [gift of] love.”

17 tn The accusative noun אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love” or “leather”) functions either as an accusative of material out of which the interior was made (“inlaid with leather”) or an accusative of manner describing how the interior was made (“inlaid lovingly,” that is, “inlaid with love”). The term אַהֲבָה is a homonymic noun therefore, there is an interesting little debate whether אַהֲבָה in 3:10 is from the root אַהֲבָה “love” (BDB 13 s.v. אָהֵב; DCH 1:141 s.v. אַהֲבָה) or אהבה “leather” (HALOT 18 s.v. II אַהֲבָה). The homonymic root אַהֲבָה “leather” is related to Arabic `ihab “leather” or “untanned skin.” It probably occurs in Hos 11:4 and may also appear in Song 3:10 (HALOT 18 s.v. II). Traditionally, scholars and translations have rendered this term as “love” or “lovingly.” The reference to the “daughters of Jerusalem” suggests “love” because they had “loved” Solomon (1:4). However, the context describes the materials out of which the palanquin was made (3:9-10) thus, an interior made out of leather would certainly make sense. Perhaps the best solution is to see this as an example of intentional ambiguity in a homonymic wordplay: “Its interior was inlaid with leather // love by the maidens of Jerusalem.” See G. R. Driver, “Supposed Arabisms in the Old Testament,” JBL 55 (1936): 111; S. E. Loewenstamm, Thesaurus of the Language of the Bible, 1:39; D. Grossberg, “Canticles 3:10 in the Light of a Homeric Analogue and Biblical Poetics,” BTB 11 (1981): 75-76.

18 tn Heb “daughters” (also in the following line).

19 tn Heb “the day of the joy of his heart.” In the genitive construct phrase וּבְיוֹם שִׂמְחַת (uvÿyom simkhat, “the day of joy”) the noun שִׂמְחָה (simkhah, “joy”) functions as a descriptive genitive of attribute (attributive genitive), that is, the genitive identifies the outstanding quality of the construct noun: “the joyous day” or “the day characterized by joy.” In the second genitive construct phrase שִׂמְחַת לִבּוֹ (simkhat livvo, “joy of his heart”) the noun לִבּוֹ (“his heart”) is a subjective genitive: “his heart rejoices.” The term לֵב (lev, “heart”) is a synecdoche of part for the whole (= Solomon himself), that is, “the day Solomon greatly rejoiced” or “the day of Solomon’s great joy.”



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