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The Song of Songs 5:1-2

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: 1 

Eat, friends, and drink! 2 

Drink freely, O lovers!

The Trials of Love: The Beloved’s Dream of Losing Her Lover

The Beloved about Her Lover:

5:2 I was asleep, but my mind 3  was dreaming. 4 

Listen! 5  My lover 6  is knocking 7  at the door! 8 

The Lover to His Beloved:

“Open 9  for me, my sister, my darling,

my dove, my flawless one!

My head is drenched with dew,

my hair with the dampness of the night.”

1 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.

2 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).

3 tn Heb “my heart.” The term לִבִּי (livvi, “my heart”) is a metonymy of association for emotions (e.g., Prov 15:13; Song 3:11) or thoughts (e.g., Ps 90:12; Prov 18:15) or a synecdoche of part for the whole. If this verse is introducing a dream sequence in 5:2-8, this is a metonymy for the Beloved’s thoughts in her dream: “I was sleeping but my mind was dreaming.” If this verse depicts the Beloved beginning to doze off to sleep – only to be awakened by his knocking at her door – then it is a synecdoche of part for the whole: “I was about to fall asleep when I was suddenly awakened.”

4 tn Heb “but my heart was awake.” Scholars have interpreted 5:2a in two basic ways: (1) The Beloved had been asleep or was just about to fall asleep when she was awakened by the sound of him knocking on the door of her bedroom chambers. The term לִבִּי (livvi, “my heart”) is a synecdoche of part for the whole: “my heart” = “I.” The participle עֵר (’er) functions verbally, describing a past ingressive state: “was awakened.” The line would be rendered: “I was sleeping when I (= my heart) was awakened.” (2) The Beloved was sleeping, but her mind was dreaming (in her dream she heard him knocking on her door). In this case, לִבִּי (“my heart”) is a metonymy of association for the thoughts (e.g., Ps 90:12; Prov 18:15) and emotions (e.g., Prov 15:13; Song 3:11) she experienced during her dream: “my heart” = “my mind.” The participle עֵר functions verbally, describing a past progressive state: “was awake.” The line could be nuanced, “I was asleep, but my mind was dreaming.” Many translations adopt this approach: “I was asleep but my heart waketh” (KJV), “I was asleep but my heart was awake” (NASB, NIV), and “I was asleep, but my heart was wakeful” (NJPS).

5 sn The noun קוֹל (qol, literally, “sound, noise, voice”) is used as an exclamation: “Listen!” or “Hark!” (e.g., Gen 4:10; Isa 13:4; 40:3; 52:8; Jer 3:21; 4:15; 10:22; 31:51; 50:28; 51:54; Mic 6:9; Zeph 1:14; 2:14; Song 2:8; 5:2) (HALOT 1085 s.v. קוֹל 8b; BDB 877 s.v. קוֹל 1.f; Joüon 2:614 §162.e; GKC 467 §146.b). The term often refers to a loud or unexpected sound that arrests the attention of a character in a narrative. The speaker/writer uses it as a rhetorical device to dramatically portray his/her own startled reaction to an unexpected sound that called his/her attention. The Beloved is startled from her sleep by the unexpected sound of him loudly knocking at her bedroom door late at night.

6 sn The phrase קוֹל דּוֹדִי (qol dodi, “Listen! My lover …!”) that introduces this scene in 5:2-8 is the exact same phrase used in 2:8 to introduce the courtship section 2:8-11. In 2:8-11, the Beloved was excited about his unexpected arrival; however, in 5:2-8 she is apathetic about his unexpected approach. One should not miss the dramatic contrast between the Beloved’s eagerness to see her lover in 2:8-11 and her apathy about his approach on this evening in 5:2-8. The repetition of קוֹל דּוֹדִי (“Listen! My lover …!”) in 2:8 and 5:2 is designed to draw out the parallels and contrasts between 2:8-11 and 5:2-8.

7 sn The participle דוֹפֵק (dofeq) connotes present progressive or iterative action. The verb דָּפַק (dafaq, “to knock, pound, beat”) occurs only three times in biblical Hebrew, twice in reference to knocking at a door (Judg 19:22; Song 5:2) and once of beating cattle in order to drive them along (Gen 33:13). The Qal stem depicts the normal action of knocking at a door, while the Hitpael denotes a more intensive pounding, e.g., Qal: “to knock at the door” (Song 5:2) and Hitpael: “to beat violently against the door” (Judg 19:22) (HALOT 229 s.v. דפק; BDB 200 s.v. דָּפַק). The same connotations are seen in Mishnaic Hebrew, e.g., the verbs דָּפַק and דְּפַק (dÿfaq), “to knock at the door” (Jastrow 317 s.v. דָּפַק), and the nouns דּוֹפֵק “door frame (= what someone knocks on), movable tomb stone,” and דּוֹפְקָנִין (dofÿqanin, “knockers”; Jastrow 287 s.v. דּוֹפְקָנִין). The collocation of the verb פתח “to open” a door (HALOT 986-87 s.v. פתח; BDB 835 s.v. פָּתַח) clearly suggests that he is at the Beloved’s bedroom door.

8 tn The phrase “at the door” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

9 tn Heb “Open to me!” Alternately, “Let me in!” The imperatival form of פִּתְחִי (pitkhi, to open”) connotes a polite, but earnest request. The verb פָּתַח (patakh) refers to the action of opening various objects, e.g., sack (Gen 42:27), skin bottle (Judg 4:19), hamper (Exod 2:6), pit (Exod 21:33), mouth of a cave (Josh 10:22), grave (Ezek 37:12, 13), city gates (Neh 13:19; Isa 45:1), gate of a land (Nah 3:13), window (2 Kgs 13:17). When used with the accusative דֶּלֶת (delet, “door”), it refers to opening a door (e.g., Judg 3:25; 19:27; 1 Sam 3:15; 2 Kgs 9:3, 10; 2 Chr 29:3; Job 31:32) (HALOT 986-87 s.v. פתח; BDB 835 s.v. פָּתַח). Although the object דֶּלֶת (“door”) is here omitted, a bedroom door is clearly in mind in 5:2, as indicated by the collocated verb דָּפַק (dafaq, “to knock on a door”) in the preceding line. Translators have often rendered this line woodenly: “Open to me!” (KJV, NASB, NIV); however, NJPS nuances it well: “Let me in!”

sn The three-fold repetition of the verb פָּתַח (patakh, “to open”) (Song 5:2, 5, 6) indicates that it is a key word (Leitwort) in this section. While it is clear that the verb describes her action of opening the door of her bedroom chamber in 5:2, some suggest that in 5:5-6 it is used figuratively (hypocatastasis: implied comparison) of the Beloved “opening” her female genitalia for sexual intercourse (but see study notes below).



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