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The Song of Songs 4:9-10

Context

4:9 You have stolen my heart, 1  my sister, 2  my bride!

You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, 3 

with one jewel of your necklace.

4:10 How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!

How much better is your love than wine;

the fragrance of your perfume is better than any spice!

The Song of Songs 4:12

Context
The Wedding Night: The Delightful Garden

The Lover to His Beloved:

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

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

The Song of Songs 5:1

Context

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: 5 

Eat, friends, and drink! 6 

Drink freely, O lovers!

1 tn The Piel denominative verb לבב is derived from the noun לֵבָב (levav, “heart”), and occurs only here. Its meaning is debated: (1) metonymical sense: “you have encouraged me,” that is, given me heart (BDB 525 s.v. לֵב; AV, RSV); (2) intensive sense: “you have made my heart beat faster” (KBL 471 s.v. I לבב); and (3) privative sense: “you have ravished my heart” or “you have stolen my heart” (HALOT 515 s.v. I לבב; GKC 141-42 §52.h) (NIV). While the Niphal stem has a metonymical nuance (cause for effect): to get heart, that is, to get understanding (Job 11:12), the Piel stem may have a privative nuance: to take away heart, that is, to take away the senses. Her beauty was so overwhelming that it robbed him of his senses (e.g., Hos 4:11). This is paralleled by a modern Palestinian love song: “She stood opposite me and deprived me of reason (literally, “took my heart”), your dark eyes slew me while I was singing, your eyebrows drove shame from me…the darkness of your eyes have slain me; O one clad in purple clothes, it is worthwhile falling in love with you, for your eyes are black and sparkle, and have slain me indeed.” Less likely is the proposal of Waldeman who relates this to Akkadian lababu (“to rage, be aroused to fury”), suggesting that Song 4:9 means “to become passionately aroused” or “to be aroused sexually.” See S. H. Stephan, “Modern Palestinian Parallels to the Song of Songs,” JPOS 2 (1922): 13; R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 85-86; N. M. Waldman, “A Note on Canticles 4:9,” JBL 89 (1970): 215-17; H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 40-58.

2 sn It is clear from Song 8:1 that the young man and his bride were not physical brother and sister, yet he addresses his bride as אֲחֹתִי (’akhoti, “my sister”) several times (4:9, 10, 12; 5:1). This probably reflects any one of several ancient Near Eastern customs: (1) The appellatives “my sister” and “my brother” were both commonly used in ancient Near Eastern love literature as figurative descriptions of two lovers. For instance, in a Ugaritic poem when Anat tried to seduce Aqhat, she says, “Hear, O hero Aqhat, you are my brother and I your sister” (Aqhat 18 i. 24). In the OT Apocrypha husband and wife are referred to several times as “brother” and “sister” (Add Esth 15:9; Tob 5:20; 7:16). This “sister-wife” motif might be behind Paul’s perplexing statement about a “sister-wife” (1 Cor 9:5). (2) In several Mesopotamian societies husbands actually could legally adopt their wives for a variety of reasons. For instance, in Hurrian society husbands in the upper classes sometimes adopted their wives as “sisters” in order to form the strongest of all possible marriage bonds; a man could divorce his wife but he could not divorce his “sister” because she was “family.” At Nuzi a husband could adopt his wife to give her a higher status in society. See M. Held, “A Faithful Lover in Old Babylonian Dialogue,” JCS 15 (1961): 1-26 and S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 103-5; T. Jacobsen, “The Sister’s Message,” JANESCU 5 (1973): 199-212; E. A. Speiser, “The Wife-Sister Motif in the Patriarchal Narratives,” Oriental and Biblical Studies, 15- 28; G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 111.

3 tn Alternately, “eye-stone [of your necklace].” The term עִינַיִךְ (’inayikh, “your eyes”) probably refers to her physical eyes (e.g., 4:1). However, in Sumero-Akkadian literature the term “eye” sometimes refers to the eye-stone of a necklace. Agate-stones were cut so that white stripes appeared around the black or brown core to look like the pupil on the eye. M. H. Pope (Song of Songs [AB], 482-83) suggests that the parallelism between the A and B lines suggests the following: “with one of your eye-stones” and “with one jewel of your necklace.” See W. G. Lambert, “An Eye Stone of Esarhaddon’s Queen and Other Similar Gems,” RA 63 (1969): 65-71.

4 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”).

5 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.

6 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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