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The Song of Songs 5:2

Context
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 1  was dreaming. 2 

Listen! 3  My lover 4  is knocking 5  at the door! 6 

The Lover to His Beloved:

“Open 7  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.”

The Song of Songs 5:5-6

Context

5:5 I arose to open for my beloved;

my hands dripped with myrrh –

my fingers flowed with myrrh

on the handles of the lock.

5:6 I opened for my beloved,

but my lover had already turned 8  and gone away. 9 

I fell into despair 10  when he departed. 11 

I looked for him but did not find him;

I called him but he did not answer me.

1 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.”

2 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).

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

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

7 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).

8 tn The verb חָמַק (khamaq) occurs only in Song 5:6 (Qal: “to turn away, go leave”) and in Jer 31:22 (Hitpael: “to turn hither and thither”) (HALOT 330 s.v. חמק; BDB 330 s.v. חָמַק). It is related to the noun חָמוּק (“curve, curved lines” of a woman’s hips) which appears only in Song 7:2. This root does not appear in Mishnaic Hebrew nor has it yet been attested in any cognate language. However, it was understood in this sense by LXX παρῆλθεν (parhlqen, “he turned aside”), and also handled in a similar manner in Aquila, Symmachus, Peshitta, and Vulgate.

9 tn The verbs עָבָר חָמַק (khamaqavar, “he turned away, he went away”) may form a verbal hendiadys. Normally, the first verb will function as an adverb modifying the second which functions in its full verbal sense. Each functions as a perfect of recent past perfect action, describing a past event that took place shortly before another past event: “I opened [past action] for my beloved, but my lover had already turned and gone away [past perfect action].”

10 tn Heb “my soul went out.” The term נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”) is a synecdoche of part for the whole person. The term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “soul”) is used over 150 times as a metonymy of association with feelings: sorrow and distress, joy, love, desire, passion, hatred, loathing, avarice (HALOT 713 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 8; BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 6). The phrase נַפְשִׁי יָצְאָה (nafshi yatsah, literally, “my soul went out”) is a Hebrew idiom connoting great despair (e.g., Gen 35:18; Jer 15:9). The phrase is well rendered by NIV: “my heart sank at his departure.” Verses 6-7 clearly indicate that the Beloved fell into despair when he had departed: She searched desperately for him, but could not find him; she called for him, but he did not answer.

11 tn Alternately, “spoke.” Traditionally, the term בְדַבְּרוֹ (bÿdabbÿro) has been related to the common root דָּבַר (davar, “to speak”) which occurs nearly 1150 times in verbal forms and nearly 1500 times as a noun. This approach is seen as early as the LXX (although the LXX treated דָּבָר as a noun rather than an infinitive construct because it was working with an unpointed text): ἐν λογῷ αὐτοῦ (en logw autou, “in his word”). Although they differ on whether the preposition בְ (bÿ) is temporal (“when”) or respect (“at”), many translations adopt the same basic approach as the LXX: “when he spake” (KJV), “as he spoke” (NASB), “when he spoke” (NIV margin), “at what he said” (JPS, NJPS). However, many recent scholars relate בְדַבְּרוֹ to the homonymic root דָּבַר (“to turn away, depart”) which is related to Akkadian dabaru D “to go away,” Dt “to drive away, push back” (CAD 3:186ff), and Arabic dabara “to turn one’s back, be behind, depart, retreat” (HALOT 209 s.v. II דבר). Several examples of this root have been found (Pss 18:48; 47:4; 56:6; 75:6; 116:10; 127:5; 2 Chr 22:10; Job 19:18; Song 5:6; Isa 32:7) (HALOT 209-10 s.v. I). Several recent translations take this approach: “when he turned his back” (NEB), “at his flight” (JB), and “at his departure” (NIV). This makes better sense contextually (Solomon did not say anything after 5:2a), and it provides a tighter parallelism with the preceding line that also describes his departure: “My beloved had turned away (חָמַק, khamaq); he was gone (עָבַר, ’avar)” (NIV).



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