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The Song of Songs 6:11-13

Context
The Return to the Vineyards

The Lover to His Beloved: 1 

6:11 I went down to the orchard of walnut trees, 2 

to look for the blossoms of the valley, 3 

to see if the vines had budded

or if the pomegranates were in bloom.

6:12 4 I was beside myself with joy! 5 

There please give me your myrrh, 6 

O daughter of my princely people. 7 

The Love Song and Dance

The Lover to His Beloved:

6:13 (7:1) 8  Turn 9 , turn, O 10  Perfect One! 11 

Turn, turn, that I 12  may stare at you!

The Beloved to Her Lover:

Why 13  do you gaze upon the Perfect One

like the dance of the Mahanaim? 14 

The Song of Songs 7:9

Context

7:9 May your mouth 15  be like the best wine,

flowing smoothly for my beloved,

gliding gently over our lips as we sleep together. 16 

1 sn It is difficult to determine whether the speaker in 6:11-12 is Solomon or the Beloved.

2 tn The term אֱגוֹז (’egoz, “nut”) probably refers to the “walnut” or “walnut tree” (juglans regia) (DCH 1:116 s.v. אֱגוֹז). The singular form is used collectively here to refer to a grove of walnut trees.

3 sn It is not clear whether the “valley” in 6:12 is a physical valley (Jezreel Valley?), a figurative description of their love relationship, or a double entendre.

4 tn Most scholars agree that the Hebrew text of 6:12 is the most elusive in the entire Song. The syntax is enigmatic and the textual reading is uncertain. The difficulty of this verse has generated a plethora of different translations: “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me [like] the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (KJV), “Before I knew it, my soul made me like the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (AV), “Before I knew it, my fancy set me in a chariot beside my prince” (AT), “Before I knew…my desire hurled me on the chariots of my people, as their prince” (JB), “Before I knew it, my desire set me mid the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (JPSV), “I did not know myself, she made me feel more than a prince reigning over the myriads of his people” (NEB), “Before I knew it, my heart had made me the blessed one of my kins-women” (NAB), “Before I was aware, my soul set me [over] the chariots of my noble people” (NASB), “Before I realized it, my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people” (NIV), “…among the chariots of Amminadab” (NIV margin), “…among the chariots of the people of the prince” (NIV margin), and “Before I realized it, I was stricken with a terrible homesickness and wanted to be back among my own people” (NLT). For discussion, see R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 95; R. Tournay, “Les Chariots d’Aminadab (Cant. VI 12): Israel, Peuple Theophore,” VT 9 (1959): 288-309; M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 584-92; R. E. Murphy, “Towards a Commentary on the Song of Songs,” CBQ 39 (1977): 491-92; S. M. Paul, “An Unrecognized Medical Idiom in Canticles 6,12 and Job 9,21,” Bib 59 (1978): 545-47; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 151-53.

5 tn Alternately, “Before I realized it, my soul placed me among the chariots of my princely people.” There is debate whether נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul” = “I”) belongs with the first or second colon. The MT accentuation connects it with the second colon; thus, the first colon introduces indirect discourse: לֹא יָדַעְתִּי (loyadati) “I did not know” or “Before I realized it….” According to MT accentuation, the fs noun נַפְשִׁי (“my soul”) is the subject of שָׂמַתְנִי (samatni, Qal perfect 3rd person feminine singular from שִׂים, sim, + 1st person common singular suffix, “to put”): “my soul placed me….” This approach is followed by several translations (KJV, NASB, AV, AT, JB, JPSV, NAB, NIV). On the other hand, the LXX takes נַפְשִׁי (“my soul” = “I”) as the subject of לֹא יָדַעְתִּי and renders the line, “My soul [= I] did not know.” NEB follows suit, taking נַפְשִׁי as the subject of לֹא יָדַעְתִּי and renders the line: “I did not know myself.” R. Gordis and S. M. Paul posit that לֹא יָדַעְתִּי נַפְשִׁי (literally “I did not know myself”) is an idiom describing the emotional state of the speaker, either joy or anguish: “I was beside myself” (e.g., Job 9:21; Prov 19:2). S. Paul notes that the semantic equivalent of this Hebrew phrase is found in the Akkadian expression ramansu la ude (“he did not know himself”) which is a medical idiom describing the loss of composure, lucidity, or partial loss of consciousness. He suggests that the speaker in the Song is beside himself/herself with anguish or joy (S. M. Paul, “An Unrecognized Medical Idiom in Canticles 6,12 and Job 9,21,” Bib 59 [1978]: 545-47; R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 95).

6 tc While MT reads מַרְכְּבוֹת (markÿvot, “chariots”) some medieval Hebrew mss add the locative preposition בְּ (bÿ) or comparative particle כְּ (kÿ) before מַרְכְּבוֹת to produce “in/on/among/like the chariots.” Most translations supply a preposition: “My soul made me [like] the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (KJV, AV); “My fancy set me [in] a chariot beside my prince” (AT); “My soul set me [over] the chariots of my noble people” (NASB); “My desire set me [among] the chariots of Amminadab” (JPS, NJPS, NIV margin); “My desire set me [among] the royal chariots of my people” (NIV); “My desire set me [among] the chariots of the people of the prince” (NIV margin); “My desire hurled me [on] the chariots of my people, [as their] prince” (JB). R. Gordis offers a creative solution to the enigma of שָׂמַתְנִי מַרְכְּבוֹת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (samatni markÿvotammi-nadiv) by redividing the text and revocalizing it as שָׁם תֵּנִי מֹרֶךְ בַּת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (sham teni morekhammi-nadiv) “There, give me your myrrh, O nobleman’s daughter!” This involves two steps: (1) He redivides the MT’s שָׂמַתְנִי (“it placed me”) into two words שָׁם תֵּנִי (“There, give me”); and (2) He redivides the MT’s מַרְשְּׂבוֹת (“chariots”) into מֹרךְ בַּת (“your myrrh, O daughter”). This approach is supported somewhat by the LXX, which had a difficult time with the line: “There I will give my breasts to you!” The approach of R. Gordis is explained and supported by several factors: (1) He take מֹרךְ (“your myrrh”) as a figure (hypocatastasis) for her love (e.g., 4:6, 14; 5:1, 5, 13). (2) The word-division of בַּת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (“O noble kinsman’s daughter”) is paralleled by the nearly identical descriptive בַּת־נָדִיב (“O nobleman’s daughter”) in 7:2. (3) Arabs referred to a girl as bint el akbar (“nobleman’s daughter”). (4) The referent of שָׁם (“there”) is the garden/valley mentioned in 6:11. (5) This fits into the other literary parallels between 6:11-12 and 7:12- 14, listed as follows: (a) “I went down to the nut grove” (6:11a) and “Let us go to the vineyards” (7:12a). (b) “to look for new growth in the valley, to see if the vines had budded, or if the pomegranates were in bloom” (6:11b) and “Let us see if the vines have budded, if the blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates are in bloom” (7:13a). (c) “There…give me your myrrh = love” (6:12b) and “There I will give you my love” (7:13b). See R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 95.

tn The meaning of MT נַפְשִׁי שָׂמַתְנִי מַרְכְּבוֹת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (nafshi samatni markÿvotammi-nadiv) is enigmatic and has spawned numerous translations: “my soul made me [like] the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (KJV, AV); “my soul set me among the chariots of my princely people” (ASV), “my soul had made me as the chariots of my noble people” (NKJV); “my fancy set me [in] a chariot beside my prince” (RSV, NRSV); “my soul set me [over] the chariots of my noble people” (NASB); “my desire set me [among] the chariots of Amminadab” (JPS, NJPS, NIV margin); “my soul made me [like] the chariots of Amminadib” (WEB); “my desire set me [among] the royal chariots of my people” (NIV); “my desire set me [among] the chariots of the people of the prince” (NIV margin); “my soul set me over the chariots of my noble people” (NAU); “my desire hurled me [on] the chariots of my people, [as their] prince” (JB); “she made me feel more than a prince reigning over the myriads of his people” (NEB); “my heart had made me the blessed one of my kins-women” (NAB); “my soul troubled me for the chariots of Aminadab” (DRA); “I found myself in my princely bed with my beloved one” (NLT); “I was stricken with a terrible homesickness and wanted to be back among my own people” (LT); “But in my imagination I was suddenly riding on a glorious chariot” (CEV).

7 tc MT vocalizes and divides the text as עַמִּי־נָדִיב (’ammi-nadiv, “my princely people”); however, several other mss read עַמִּינָדָב (’amminadav, “Amminadab”). This alternate textual tradition is also reflected in the LXX (Αμιναδαβ, Aminadab) and Vulgate.

8 sn The chapter division comes one verse earlier in the Hebrew text (BHS) than in the English Bible; 6:13 ET = 7:1 HT, 7:1 ET = 7:2 HT, through 7:13 ET = 7:14 HT. Beginning with 8:1 the verse numbers in the Hebrew Bible and the English Bible are again the same.

9 tn Alternately, “Return…Return…!” The imperative שׁוּבִי (shuvi, “Turn!”) is used four times for emphasis. There are two basic interpretations to the meaning/referent of the imperative שׁוּבִי (“Turn!”): (1) The villagers of Shunem are beckoning her to return to the garden mentioned in 6:11-12: “Come back! Return!” R. Gordis nuances these uses of שׁוּבִי as “halt” or “stay” (“Some Hitherto Unrecognized Meanings of the Verb SHUB,” JBL 52 [1933]: 153-62); (2) In the light of the allusion to her dancing in 7:1 (Heb 7:2), several scholars see a reference to an Arabic bridal dance. Budde emends the MT’s שׁוּבִי to סוֹבִי (sovi, “revolve, spin”) from סָבַב (savav, “to turn around”). M. H. Pope (Song of Songs [AB], 595-96) also emends the MT to the Hebrew verbal root יָסַב (yasav, “to leap, spin around”) which he connects to Arabic yasaba (“to leap”). These emendations are unnecessary to make the connection with some kind of dance because שׁוּבִי has a wide range of meanings from “turn” to “return.”

10 tn The article on הַשּׁוּלַמִּית (hashshulammit) functions as a vocative (“O Shulammite”) rather than in a definite sense (“the Shulammite”). The article is often used to mark a definite addressee who is addressed in the vocative (e.g., 1 Sam 17:55, 58; 24:9; 2 Kgs 6:26; 9:5; Prov 6:6; Eccl 11:9; Zech 3:8). For the vocative use of the article, see GKC 405 §126.e; Joüon 2:506-7 §137.f; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 19, §89; IBHS 247 §13.5.2c.

11 tn Heb “O Perfect One.” Alternately, “O Shunammite” or “O Shulammite.” The term הַשּׁוּלַמִית (hashshulammit) has been variously translated: “Shulammite maiden” (NEB); “maiden of Shulam” (JB); “O maid of Shulem” (NJPS); “the Shulammite” (KJV; NASB; NIV). The meaning of the name הַשּׁוּלַמִית is enigmatic and debated. LXX renders it ἡ Σουλαμιτἰ ({h Soulamiti, “O Shulamite”) and Vulgate renders it Sulamitis (“O Shulamite”). A few Hebrew mss read the plural הַשּׁוּלַמוֹת (hashshulamot) but the Masoretic tradition reads הַשּׁוּלַמִית as the versions confirm. Eight major views have emerged in the history of interpretation of the Song. They are arranged, as follows, in order from most likely (views 1-2), plausible (views 3-5), unlikely (view 6), to bizarre (views 7-8): (1) שׁוּלַמִית is a substantival use of the adjectival form qutal שׁוּלָם (shulam, “perfection”) with the gentilic suffix ית- from the root שָׁלֵם (shalem, “to be complete, perfect”): “the perfect, unblemished one” (Fox). This approach is reflected in rabbinic exegesis of the 12th century: “The meaning of the Shulammite is ‘perfect, without spot’” (Midrash Rabbah). (2) שׁוּלַמִית is Qal passive participle with the feminine adjectival suffix ית- from the root שָׁלֵם (“peace”): “the peaceful one” or “the pacified one” (Andre, Robert, Joüon). This is reflected in Vulgate pacificus (“the pacified one”), and Aquila and Quinta ἡ ἐηρυνεούσα ({h ehruneousa) “the peaceful one” (Andre Robert, Joüon). (3) שׁוּלַמִית is an alternate form of the gentilic name “Shunammite” (שׁוּנַמִית) used to refer to inhabitants of Shunem (1 Kgs 1:15; 2 Kgs 4:12). This is reflected in LXX ἡ Σουλαμιτἰ ({h Soulamiti, “O Shulamite”). This is supported by several factors: (a) Gentilic names are formed by the suffix ית- and the prefixed article to a place-name, e.g., הַיְּרוּשָׁלַמִית (hayyÿrushalamit, “the Jerusalemite”) is from יְרוּשָׁלַם (yÿrushalam, “Jerusalem”); (b) the interchange between lateral dental ל (l) and nasal dental נ (n) is common in the Semitic languages (S. Moscati, Comparative Grammar, 32, §8.26); (c) the town of Shunem was also known as Shulem, due to the common interchange between נ (n) and ל (l) in Hebrew (Aharoni, 123), as seen in Eusebius’ Onomasticon in which Shunem = Shulem; and (d) later revisions of the LXX read ἡ Σουναμωτἰ (“the Shunamite”) instead of the Old Greek ἡ Σουλαμωτἰ (“the Shulamite”). Shunem was a town in the Jezreel Valley at the foot of Mount Moreh near Mount Tabor and situated about nine miles east of Megiddo, fifteen miles northwest of Beth-shean, and five miles north of Jezreel (Josh 19:18; 1 Sam 28:4; 2 Kgs 4:8). During the Roman period, the town was called Shulem. See Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, 24, 152, 172, 442, 308. Some scholars suggest that “Shul/nammite” refers to Abishag, the beautiful virgin from the village of Shunem who warmed elderly King David and was sought by Adonijah (1 Kgs 2:13- 25). Other scholars argue that Abishag has been imported in the Song on too slender grounds. (4) שׁוּלַמִית is the feminine form of the masculine name שְׁלֹמֹה (shÿlomoh, “Solomon”), just as Judith is the feminine of Judah: “Shulamith” or “Solomonette” or “Solomoness” (Lowth, Goodspeed, Rowley). The feminine ending ־ית may be suffixed to masculine personal names to transform them into feminine names. A similar form occurs in the Ugaritic designation of Daniel’s wife as Lady Daniel (e.g., mtt dnty). An anonymous Jewish commentator of the 12th century wrote: “The Shulammite was beloved of Solomon, for she was called after the name of her beloved.” The 16th century commentator Joseph Ibn Yahya wrote: “And the calling of her ‘Shulammite’ was determined by reason of her devotion to the Holy One (Blessed be He) who is called Shelomoh.” (5) As a combination of views 1-2, שׁוּלַמִית is a wordplay formed by the combination of the feminine name שְׁלֹמִית (shÿlomit, “Shelomite”) from שְׁלֹמֹה (“Solomon”) and the gentilic name הַשּׁוּנַמִית (“the Shunammite”) denoting a woman from Shunem: “Solomoness/Shunammite.” (6) שׁוּלַמִית is related to the Arabic root salama “consummation gift” (given to a bride the morning after the wedding): “O Consummated One” or “O Bride” (Hirschberg). (7) Those espousing a cultic interpretation of Canticles take שׁוּלַמִית as the name or epithet of the Canaanite moon goddess Ishtar, designated by the feminine form of the name Shelem, the name of her lover Tammuz, called Dod or Shelem (T. J. Meek). (8) An alternate cultic interpretation takes שׁוּלַמִית as a conflation of the name of the Assyrian war-goddess “Shulmanith” (Ishtar) and the gentilic name “the Shunammite” for a woman from Shunem (Albright). See M. V. Fox, The Song of Songs and the Egyptian Love Songs, 157-58; T. J. Meek, “Canticles and the Tammuz Cult,” AJSL 39 (1922-23): 1-14; E. J. Goodspeed, “The Shulammite,” AJSL 50 (1933): 102-104; H. H. Rowley, “The Meaning of ‘The Shulammite’,” AJSL 56 (1938): 84-91; W. F. Albright, “The Syro-Mesopotamian God Sulman-Esmun and Related Figures,” AfO 7 (1931-32): 164-69; W. F. Albright, “Archaic Survivals in the Text of Canticles,” Hebrew and Semitic Studies, 5; H. H. Hirschberg, “Some Additional Arabic Etymologies in Old Testament Lexicography,” VT 11 (1961): 373-85; M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 596-600.

12 tn Heb “we.” In ancient Near Eastern love literature, plural verbs and plural pronouns are often used in reference to singular individuals. See note on Song 2:15.

13 tn Alternately, “What do you see in…?” or “Why should you look upon…?” The interrogative pronoun מַה (mah) normally denotes “what?” or “why?” (BDB 552 s.v. מָה; HALOT 550-52 s.v. מָה). However, Gesenius suggests that the phrase מַה־תֶּחֱזוּ (mah-tekhezu) is the idiom “Look now!” on the analogy of Arabic ma tara (“Look now!”) (GKC 443 §137.b, n. 1).

14 tc The MT reads כִּמְחֹלַת (kimkholat, “like the dance”), while other Hebrew mss read בִּמְחֹלוֹת (bimkholot, “in the dances”). The LXX’s ὠ χοροὶ (w coroi, “like the dances”) reflects כִּמְחֹלוֹת and Symmachus’ ἐν τρώσεσιν (en tpwsesin, “in the injury”) reflects the locative preposition but a confusion of the noun.

tn Alternately, “like a dance or two camps” or “like a dance in two lines.” The phrase כִּמְחֹלַת הַמַּחֲנָיִם (kimkholat hammakhanayim) is difficult to translate: “as it were the company of two armies” (KJV), “as at the dance of the two companies” (NASB), “as at the dance of Mahanaim” (NIV), “in the Mahanaim dance” (NJPS). The meaning of the individual terms is clear: The noun מְחֹלָה (mÿkholah) denotes “dance in a ring” (Exod 15:20; 32:19; Judg 11:34; 21:21; 1 Sam 21:12; 29:5) (HALOT 569 s.v. מְחֹלָה). The noun מַחֲנֶה (makhneh) denotes “encampment, camp, army” and the dual form probably means “two armies” (HALOT 570 s.v. מַחֲנֶה). However, the meaning of the genitive-construct מְחֹלַת הַמַּחֲנָיִם (mÿkholat hammakhanayim) is unclear: “dance of the two camps/armies”[?]. W. F. Albright proposed “the dance of the Mahanaim” (“Archaic Survivals in the Text of Canticles,” Hebrew and Semitic Studies, 5). LXX translates ὠ χοροὶ τῶν παρεμβολῶν (w coroi twn parembolwn, “like the dances before the camps”).

15 tn The term חֵךְ (khek, “palate, mouth”) is often used as a metonymy for what the mouth produces, e.g., the mouth is the organ of taste (Ps 119:103; Job 12:11; 20:13; 34:3; Prov 24:13; Song 2:3), speech (Job 6:30; 31:30; 33:2; Prov 5:3; 8:7), sound (Hos 8:1), and kisses (Song 5:16; 7:10) (HALOT 313 s.v. חֵךְ; BDB 335 s.v. חֵךְ). The metonymical association of her palate/mouth and her kisses is made explicit by RSV which translated the term as “kisses.”

16 tc The MT reads שִׁפְתֵי יְשֵׁנִים (shifte yÿshenim, “lips of those who sleep”). However, an alternate Hebrew reading of שְׂפָתַי וְשִׁנָּי (sÿfata vÿsinna, “my lips and my teeth”) is suggested by the Greek tradition (LXX, Aquila, Symmachus): χείλεσίν μου καὶ ὀδοῦσιν (ceilesin mou kai odousin, “my lips and teeth”). This alternate reading, with minor variations, is followed by NAB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, NLT.

tn Or “his lips as he falls asleep.” Heb “the lips of sleepers.” Alternately, “over lips and teeth” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT).



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