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The Song of Songs 3:9-10

Context

3:9 King Solomon made a sedan chair 1  for himself

of wood imported from Lebanon. 2 

3:10 Its posts were made 3  of silver; 4 

its back 5  was made of gold.

Its seat was upholstered with purple wool; 6 

its interior was inlaid 7  with leather 8  by the maidens 9  of Jerusalem.

1 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.”

2 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).

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

4 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.

5 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).

6 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.”

7 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.”

8 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.

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



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