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The Song of Songs 6:13--7:6

Context
The Love Song and Dance

The Lover to His Beloved:

6:13 (7:1) 1  Turn 2 , turn, O 3  Perfect One! 4 

Turn, turn, that I 5  may stare at you!

The Beloved to Her Lover:

Why 6  do you gaze upon the Perfect One

like the dance of the Mahanaim? 7 

The Lover to His Beloved:

7:1 (7:2) How beautiful are your sandaled 8  feet,

O nobleman’s daughter! 9 

The curves 10  of your thighs 11  are like jewels,

the work of the hands of a master craftsman.

7:2 Your navel 12  is a round mixing bowl 13 

may it never lack 14  mixed wine! 15 

Your belly 16  is a mound of wheat,

encircled 17  by lilies.

7:3 Your two breasts are like two fawns,

twins of a gazelle.

7:4 Your neck is like a tower made of ivory. 18 

Your eyes are the pools in Heshbon

by the gate of Bath-Rabbim. 19 

Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon

overlooking Damascus.

7:5 Your head crowns 20  you like Mount Carmel. 21 

The locks of your hair 22  are like royal tapestries 23 

the king is held captive 24  in its tresses!

7:6 How beautiful you are! How lovely,

O love, 25  with your delights! 26 

1 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.

2 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.”

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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).

7 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”).

8 sn Solomon calls attention to the sandals the “noble daughter” was wearing. While it was common for women in aristocratic circles in the ancient Near East to wear sandals, women of the lower classes usually went barefoot (e.g., Ezek 16:10).

9 tn Alternately, “noble daughter” or “magnificent daughter.” The title בַּת־נָדִיב (bat-nadiv, “princely daughter” or “daughter of the prince”; HALOT 673 s.v. נָדִיב; BDB 622 s.v. נָדִיב 2) suggests to some that this woman is not the Israelite country maiden of chapters 1-4 and 8, but the daughter of Pharaoh whom Solomon later married (1 Kgs 11:1). While the term נָדִיב often denotes nobility of position (“nobleman”), it can also denote nobility of character (“noble, willing, magnificent”) (e.g., Prov 17:26; Isa 32:5, 8) (HALOT 673-74; BDB 622 s.v. 2).

10 tn The term ַַחמּוּק (khammuq, “curve”) describes the shapely curvature of her legs (HALOT 327; BDB 330 s.v. 2) rather than a curving, dancing motion (Arabic bridal dance view). Although the verb חָמַק (khamaq, “turn”) appears twice (Song 5:6; Jer 31:22), the noun חַמּוּק is a hapax legomenon. In postbiblical Hebrew it refers to “rundles” (Jastrow 476 s.v. חַמּוּק). The term here has been translated in various ways: “[thigh] joints” (KJV), “rounded [thighs]” (RSV), “curves [of thighs]” (NASB), “graceful [thighs]” (NIV).

11 tn The term יָרֵךְ (yarekh, “thigh”) may refer to (1) the fleshy upper part of the thigh where the leg joins the pelvis (Gen 32:25-32; 46:26; Exod 1:5; Judg 8:30) or (2) the outside of the thigh from the hip down (Exod 32:27; Judg 3:16, 21; Ps 45:4; Song 3:8). The first usage is usually restricted to a figure for the male loins, the source of male procreation (Gen 46:26; Exod 1:5) and the locus of an oath (Gen 24:2, 9; 47:29).

12 tn The noun שֹׁרֶר (shorer) is a hapax legomenon, appearing in the OT only here. There is debate whether it means “navel” or “vulva”: (1) Lys and Pope suggest that שֹׁרֶר is related to Arabic srr (“secret place, pudenda, coition, fornication”). They suggest that this is contextually supported by three factors: (a) His descriptive praise of her is in ascending order, beginning with her feet and concluding with her hair. The movement from her thighs (7:1b), to her vulva (7:2a), and then to her waist (7:2b) would fit this. (b) The descriptive comparison to a glass of wine would be grotesque if her navel were in view – her navel was moist or filled with liquid? – but appropriate if her vulva were in view. (c) The navel would be a somewhat synonymous reference to the belly which is already denoted by בִּטְנֵךְ (bitnekh, “belly”) in the following line. Because 7:1-7 does not use synonymous parallelism, the term שֹׁרֶר would have to refer to something other than the belly. (2) The term שֹׁרֶר denotes “navel”: (a) It may be related to the bi-consonantal noun שֹׁר (shor, “navel, umbilical cord”) (Prov 3:8; Ezek 16:4). (b) Mishnaic Hebrew שָׁרָר (sharar) denotes “navel, umbilical cord” (Jastrow 1634 s.v. שָׁרָר). For example, in a midrash on the Book of Numbers, the noun שֹׁרֶר appears in an allusion to Song 7:3 to justify the seating of the Sanhedrin in the middle of the synagogue: “As the navel (שֹׁרֶר) is placed in the centre of the body, so are the Sanhedrin…” (Num. Rab. 1:4). On the other hand, the meaning “vulva” never appears in Mishnaic Hebrew. Therefore, apart from this disputed usage there is no evidence that this term was ever used in this manner in Hebrew. (c) Rather than שֹׁרֶר being related to Arabic sirr (“pudenda”), it could just as easily be related to the Arabic noun surr “navel.” It is methodologically more sound to define שֹׁרֶר as “navel” than as “vulva.” (d) The nuance “navel” is not as out of line contextually as Lys and Pope suggest. The navel would not be out of place in the ascending order of praise because the בִּטְנֵךְ (“abdomen”) which follows may be viewed as both above and below the navel. The figurative association of the שֹׁרֶר as a mixing bowl filled with wine does not imply that this bodily part must actually be moist or filled with liquid as Pope suggests. The point of comparison is not physical or visual but one of function, i.e., it is intoxicating. The comparison of the navel to a mixing bowl of wine is no more out of line than the comparison of the belly to a heap of wheat in the next line. In fact, the two go together – she is both the “drink” and “food” for Solomon. The shape of the navel is as congruent with the metaphor of the “round bowl” as the vulva; both are round and receding. (3) Since both terms are derived from the same geminate root – Hebrew שֹׁרֶר and Arabic srr – it is more prudent to take the term as a synecdoche of whole (lower region) for the parts (including navel and vulva). The attempt to decide between these two options may be illegitimately splitting hairs. See K&D 18:123; J. S. Deere, “Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 199-200; D. Lys, “Notes sur de Cantique,” VTSup 17 (1969): 171-78; M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 617; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon (TOTC), 157.

13 sn The expression אַגַּן הַסַּהַר (’aggan hassahar, “round mixing bowl”) refers to a vessel used for mixing wine. Archaeologists have recovered examples of such large, deep, two handled, ring-based round bowls. The Hebrew term אַגַּן (“mixing bowl”) came into Greek usage as ἂγγος (angos) which designates vessels used for mixing wine (e.g., Homer, Odyssey xvi 16) (LSJ 7). This is consistent with the figurative references to wine which follows: “may it never lack mixed wine.” Selected Bibliography: J. P. Brown, “The Mediterranean Vocabulary for Wine,” VT 19 (1969): 158; A. M. Honeyman, “The Pottery Vessels of the Old Testament,” PEQ 80 (1939): 79. The comparison of her navel to a “round mixing bowl” is visually appropriate in that both are round and receding. The primary point of comparison to the round bowl is one of sense, as the following clause makes clear: “may it never lack mixed wine.” J. S. Deere suggests that the point of comparison is that of taste, desirability, and function (“Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 202). More specifically, it probably refers to the source of intoxication, that is, just as a bowl used to mix wine was the source of physical intoxication, so she was the source of his sexual intoxication. She intoxicated Solomon with her love in the same way that wine intoxicates a person.

14 tn The phrase אַל־יֶחְסַר (’al-yekhsar) has traditionally been taken as an imperfect: “it never lacks mixed wine” (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 619); “which wanteth not liquor” (KJV); “in which liquor is never lacking” (RSV); “that never lacks mixed wine” (JB); “with no lack of wine” (NEB); “that shall never want for spiced wine” (NEB); “that never lacks blended wine” (NIV). This is also how LXX understood it: μὴ ὑστερούμενος κρᾶμα (mh usteroumenos, “not lacking liquor”). However, the negative אַל (’al) normally precedes a jussive expressing a wish or request: “May it never lack mixed wine!” (J. S. Deere, “Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 202). This approach is adopted by several translations: “that should never lack for mixed wine” (NASB) and “Let mixed wine not be lacking!” (NJPS).

15 sn The term מָזֶג (mazeg, “mixed wine”) does not refer to wine mixed with water to dilute its potency, but to strong wine mixed with weaker wine. The practice of mixing wine with water is not attested in the Hebrew Bible. Both מָזֶג and מֶסֶךְ (mesekh) refer to strong wine mixed with weaker wine. The rabbis later distinguished between the two, stating that מָזֶג was strong wine mixed with weak wine, while מֶסֶךְ was wine mixed with water (Aboda Zara 58b). However, both types of wine were intoxicating. Mixed wine was the most intoxicating type of wine. In a midrash on the Book of Numbers a comment is made about the practice of mixing strong wine with weaker wine (e.g., Isa 5:22; Prov 23:30), stating its purpose: “They used to mix strong wine with weak wine so as to get drunk with it” (Num. Rab. 10:8). See J. P. Brown, “The Mediterranean Vocabulary of Wine,” VT 19 (1969): 154. The comparison of a wife’s sexual love to intoxicating wine is common in ancient Near Eastern love literature. Parallel in thought are the words of the Hebrew sage, “May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her love (or breasts) always intoxicate you, may you ever stagger like a drunkard in her love” (Prov 5:18-19).

16 tn Alternately, “your waist.” The term בִּטְנֵךְ (bitnekh) probably refers to the woman’s “belly” rather than “waist.” It is associated with a woman’s abdominal/stomach region rather than her hips (Prov 13:25; 18:20; Ezek 3:3). The comparison of her belly to a heap of wheat is visually appropriate because of the similarity of their symmetrical shape and tannish color. The primary point of comparison, however, is based upon the commonplace association of wheat in Israel, namely, wheat was the main staple of the typical Israelite meal (Deut 32:14; 2 Sam 4:6; 17:28; 1 Kgs 5:25; Pss 81:14; 147:14). Just as wheat satisfied an Israelite’s physical hunger, she satisfied his sexual hunger. J. S. Deere makes this point in the following manner: “The most obvious commonplace of wheat was its function, that is, it served as one of the main food sources in ancient Palestine. The Beloved was both the ‘food’ (wheat) and ‘drink’ (wine) of the Lover. Her physical expression of love nourished and satisfied him. His satisfaction was great for the ‘mixed wine’ is intoxicating and the ‘heap of wheat’ was capable of feeding many. The ‘heap of wheat’ also suggests the harvest, an association which contributes to the emotional quality of the metaphor. The harvest was accompanied with a joyous celebration over the bounty yielded up by the land. So also, the Beloved is bountiful and submissive in giving of herself, and the source of great joy” (“Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 203-204).

17 tn Heb “fenced around by.”

18 tn Alternately, “the ivory tower.” The noun הַשֵּׁן (hashshen, “ivory”) is a genitive of composition, that is, a tower made out of ivory. Solomon had previously compared her neck to a tower (Song 4:4). In both cases the most obvious point of comparison has to do with size and shape, that is, her neck was long and symmetrical. Archaeology has never found a tower overlaid with ivory in the ancient Near East and it is doubtful that there ever was such a tower. The point of comparison might simply be that the shape of her neck looks like a tower, while the color and smoothness of her neck was like ivory. Solomon is mixing metaphors: her neck was long and symmetrical like a tower; but also elegant, smooth, and beautiful as ivory. The beauty, elegance, and smoothness of a woman’s neck is commonly compared to ivory in ancient love literature. For example, in a piece of Greek love literature, Anacron compared the beauty of the neck of his beloved Bathyllus to ivory (Ode xxxix 28-29).

19 sn It is impossible at the present time to determine the exact significance of the comparison of her eyes to the “gate of Bath-Rabbim” because this site has not yet been identified by archaeologists.

20 tn Heb “your head [is] upon you.”

21 sn The Carmel mountain range is a majestic sight. The mountain range borders the southern edge of the plain of Esdraelon, dividing the Palestinian coastal plain into the Plain of Acco to the north and the Plains of Sharon and Philistia to the south. Its luxuriant foliage was legendary (Isa 33:9; Amos 1:2; Nah 1:4). Rising to a height of approximately 1750 feet (525 m), it extends southeast from the Mediterranean for 13 miles (21 km). Due to its greatness and fertility, it was often associated with majesty and power (Isa 35:2; Jer 46:18). The point of the comparison is that her head crowns her body just as the majestic Mount Carmel rested over the landscape, rising above it in majestic and fertile beauty. See ZPEB 1:755; C. F. Pfeiffer and H. F. Vos, Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands, 100.

22 sn The term דַּלָּה (dallah, “locks, hair”) refers to dangling curls or loose hair that hangs down from one’s head (HALOT 222-23 s.v. I דַּלָּה). The Hebrew term is from a common Semitic root meaning “to hang down,” and is related to Arabic tadaldala “dangle” and Ethiopic delul “dangling curls” (KBL 222-23).

23 tn Heb “like purple” or “like purple fabric.” The term אַרְגָּמָן (’argaman, “purple fabric”) refers to wool dyed with red purple (HALOT 84 s.v. אַרְגָּמָן). It is used in reference to purple threads (Exod 35:25; 39:3; Esth 1:9) or purple cloth (Num 4:13; Judg 8:26; Esth 8:15; Prov 31:22; Jer 10:9; Song 3:10). NASB translates it as “purple threads,” while NIV nuances this term as “royal tapestry.” M. H. Pope (The Song of Songs [AB], 629-30) adduces several ancient Near Eastern texts and suggests that it refers to purple hair-dye. The comparison is to hair which entangles Solomon like binding cords and therefore, it seems most likely that the idea here must be purple threads. The Hebrew noun is a loanword from Hittite argaman “tribute,” which is reflected in Akkadian argamannu “purple” (also “tribute” under Hittite influence), Ugaritic argmn “tax, purple,” Aramaic argwn “purple” (HALOT 84). Purple cloth and threads were considered very valuable (Ezek 27:7, 16) and were commonly worn by kings as a mark of their royal position (Judg 8:26).

24 tn Alternately, “captivated.” The verb אָסַר (’asar, “to bind, capture, hold captive, put in prison”) is commonly used of binding a prisoner with cords and fetters (Gen 42:34; Judg 15:10-13; 16:5-12; 2 Kgs 17:4; 23:33; 25:7; 2 Chr 33:11) (HALOT 75 s.v. אסר). It is frequently used as a figure to depict absolute authority over a person (Ps 105:22). The passive participle סוּר means “to be bound, held captive, imprisoned” (2 Sam 3:34; Jer 40:1; Job 36:8). Like a prisoner bound in cords and fetters and held under the complete control and authority of his captor, Solomon was captivated by the spellbinding power of her hair. In a word, he was the prisoner of love and she was his captor. Similar imagery appears in an ancient Egyptian love song: “With her hair she throws lassoes at me, with her eyes she catches me, with her necklace she entangles me, and with her seal ring she brands me” (Song 43 in the Chester Beatty Cycle, translated by W. K. Simpson, ed., The Literature of Ancient Egypt, 324). J. S. Deere suggests, “The concluding part of the metaphor, ‘The king is held captive by your tresses,’ is a beautiful expression of the powerful effect of love. A strong monarch was held prisoner by the beauty of his Beloved” (“Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 206-207). This is a startling statement because Solomon emphasizes that the one who was being held captive like a prisoner in bonds was the “king”! At this point in world history, Solomon was the ruler of the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world (1 Kgs 3:13; 10:23-29). And yet he was held totally captive and subject to the beauty of this country maiden!

25 tn Alternately, “O beloved one.” Consonantal אהבה is vocalized by the Masoretes as אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”). However, a variant Hebrew ms tradition preserves the vocalization of the passive form אֲהֻבָה (’ahuvah, “beloved one, one who is loved”), as is also reflected in the Vulgate and Syriac. The term אַהֲבָה (“love”) usually refers to sexual (2 Sam 13:15; Prov 5:19) or emotional love between a man and a woman (2 Sam 1:26; Song 8:6-7) (HALOT 18 s.v. I אַהֲבָה).

26 tc The MT preserves a syntactically difficult reading בַּתַּעֲנוּגִים (battaanugim, “in/with delights”). A variant Hebrew textual tradition preserves the alternate reading בַּת תַּעֲנוּגִים (bat taanugim, “daughter of delights” or “delightful daughter”). The textual variant is either due to haplography (mistakenly writing ת once instead of twice) or dittography (mistakenly writing ת twice instead of once). The alternate textual tradition is reflected in Aquila θυγάτηρ τρυφῶν (qugarhr trufwn, “daughter of delights”). However, the MT reading אַהֲבָה בַּתַּעֲנוּגִים (’ahavah battaanugim, “O love, in your delights”) is אַהֲבָה בַּתַּעֲנוּגִים (“O love, in your delights”) is supported by LXX (Old Greek) ἀγάπη, ἐν τρυφαῖς σου (agaph, en trufais sou, “O love, in your delights”).

tn The term תַּעֲנוּג (taanug, “luxury, daintiness, exquisite delight”) is used in reference to: (1) tender love (Mic 1:16); (2) the object of pleasure (Mic 2:9); (3) erotic pleasures (Eccl 2:8); (4) luxury befitting a king (Prov 19:10). The term may have sexual connotations, as when it is used in reference to a harem of women who are described as “the delights” of the heart of a man (Eccl 2:8) (BDB 772 s.v. תַּעֲנוּג).



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