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The Song of Songs 4:12--5:1

Context
The Wedding Night: The Delightful Garden

The Lover to His Beloved:

4:12 You are a locked garden, 1  my sister, my bride;

you are an enclosed spring, a sealed-up fountain.

4:13 Your shoots are a royal garden 2  full of pomegranates

with choice fruits:

henna with nard,

4:14 nard and saffron;

calamus and cinnamon with every kind of spice,

myrrh and aloes with all the finest spices. 3 

4:15 You are a garden spring, 4 

a well 5  of fresh water 6  flowing down from Lebanon.

The Beloved to Her Lover:

4:16 Awake, O north wind; come, O south wind!

Blow on my garden so that its fragrant spices may send out their sweet smell. 7 

May my beloved come into his garden

and eat its delightful fruit!

The Lover to His Beloved:

5:1 I have entered my garden, O my sister, my bride;

I have gathered my myrrh with my balsam spice.

I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;

I have drunk my wine and my milk!

The Poet to the Couple: 8 

Eat, friends, and drink! 9 

Drink freely, O lovers!

1 sn The twin themes of the enclosed garden and sealed spring are highlighted by the wordplay (paronomasia) between the Hebrew expressions גַּן נָעוּל (gan naul, “a garden locked up”) and גַּל נָעוּל (gal naul, “an enclosed spring”).

2 sn The noun פַּרְדֵּס (pardes, “garden, parkland, forest”) is a foreign loanword that occurs only 3 times in the Hebrew Bible (Song 4:13; Eccl 2:5; Neh 2:8). The original Old Persian (Avestan) term pairidaeza designated the enclosed parks and pleasure-grounds which were the exclusive domain of the Persian kings and nobility in the Achaemenid period (HALOT 963 s.v. פַּרְדֵּס; LSJ 1308). The Babylonian term pardesu means “marvelous garden,” in reference to the enclosed parks of the kings (AHw 2:833.a and 3:1582.a). The term passed into Greek as παραδείσος (paradeisos, “enclosed park, pleasure-ground”), referring to the enclosed parks and gardens of the Persian kings (LSJ 1308). The Greek term was transliterated into English as “paradise.”

3 tn Or “with all the finest balsam trees.” The Hebrew term בֹּשֶׂם (bosem) can refer either to the balsam tree, the spice associated with it, or by extension any fragrant aroma used as perfuming oil or incense.

4 tn Heb “a fountain of gardens” or “a headwaters for gardens.” The term מַעְיַן (myan, “fountain”) denotes “source, headwaters” as the place of origin of streams (HALOT 612 s.v. מַעְיַן). The term does not refer to a water fountain such as commonly found in modern cultivated gardens or parks; rather, it refers to the headwaters of streams and rivers, such as Banyas as the headwaters of the Jordan. The genitive construct מַעְיַן גַּנִּים (myan gannim, “a fountain of gardens”) is an unusual expression that has been treated in various ways: (1) “a garden fountain,” that is, a fountain located in a garden (HALOT 198 s.v. גַּן); (2) “a fountain of gardens,” that is, the headwaters of many spring-watered gardens. The latter is preferred. In Song 4:12-14 the bride is figuratively described as a garden with exotic plants; however, in 4:15 the metaphor shifts to the source of the water for the garden: מַעְיַן (“headwaters”) and בְּאֵר (bÿer, “well”) of fresh water flowing down from Lebanon.

5 tn Heb “a watering place” or “well of underground water.” The term בְּאֵר (bÿer, “well”) refers to an underground well that is dug in the ground to provide fresh water for humans and beasts (e.g., Gen 21:19, 25, 30; 26:15, 18, 19, 22, 32) (HALOT 106 s.v. I בְּאֵר; DCH 2:87 s.v. I בְּאֵר). The term is often used in parallelism with בּוֹר (bor, “cistern”), עַיִן (’ayin, “spring”), and שׁוּחָה (shukhah, “water-hole”).

6 tn Heb “living water.” The phrase מַיִם חַיִּים (mayim khayyim, “living water”) refers to flowing, fresh water in contrast to standing, stagnant water (Gen 26:19; Lev 14:5-6, 50-52; 15:13; Num 19:17; Jer 2:13; 17:13; Zech 14:8; Song 4:15; 1QH 8:7, 16; 4Q418 103.2:6; 4QDibHama 1.5:2; 11QT 45:16) (DCH 3:202 s.v. I חַי 1; HALOT 308 s.v. חיה 1; BDB 312 s.v. חַי f). The adjective חַיִּים (“living”) frequently refers to what is fresh (Gen 26:19), healthy (Sir 30:14), or thriving (Gen 43:7, 27). Fresh, flowing water is pictured as pure (Lev 14:5-6, 50-52; 15:13) and a source of refreshment (Gen 26:19). See P. Reymond, Leau, sa vie, et sa signification dans lAncien Testament (VTSup), 136.

7 tn Heb “may flow.”

8 sn There is no little debate about the identity of the speaker(s) and the audience addressed in 5:1b. There are five options: (1) He is addressing his bride. (2) The bride is addressing him. (3) The wedding guests are addressing him and his bride. (4) He and his bride are addressing the wedding guests. (5) The poet is addressing him and his bride. When dealing with this issue, the following factors should be considered: (1) the form of both the exhortations and the addressees are plural. This makes it unlikely that he is addressing his bride or that his bride is addressing him. (2) The exhortation has an implicitly sexual connotation because the motif of “eating” and “drinking” refers to sexual consummation in 5:1a. This makes it unlikely that he or his bride are addressing the wedding guests – an orgy is quite out of the question! (3) The poet could be in view because as the writer who created the Song, only he could have been with them – in a poetic sense – in the bridal chamber as a “guest” on their wedding night. (4) The wedding guests could be in view through the figurative use of apostrophe (addressing an audience that is not in the physical presence of the speaker). While the couple was alone in their wedding chambers, the wedding guests wished them all the joys and marital bliss of the honeymoon. This is supported by several factors: (a) Wedding feasts in the ancient Near East frequently lasted several days and after the couple had consummated their marriage, they would appear again to celebrate a feast with their wedding guests. (b) The structure of the Song is composed of paired-dialogues which either begin or conclude with the words of the friends or daughters of Jerusalem (1:2-4, 5-11; 3:6-11; 5:9-16; 6:1-3, 4-13; 7:1-10) or which conclude with an exhortation addressed to them (2:1-7; 3:1-5; 8:1-4). In this case, the poetic unit of 4:1-5:1 would conclude with an exhortation by the friends in 5:1b.

9 sn The physical love between the couple is compared to eating and drinking at a wedding feast. This is an appropriate figure of comparison because it would have been issued during the feast which followed the wedding and the consummation. The term “drink” refers to intoxication, that is, it compares becoming drunk on wine with enjoying the physical love of one’s spouse (e.g., Prov 5:19-20).



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