The Lover to His Beloved:
as lovely as Jerusalem, 2
as awe-inspiring 3 as bannered armies!
6:5 Turn your eyes away from me –
they overwhelm 4 me!
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from Mount Gilead.
6:6 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep
coming up from the washing;
each has its twin;
not one of them is missing.
6:7 Like a slice of pomegranate
is your forehead 5 behind your veil.
and eighty concubines,
and young women 7 without number.
My dove, my perfect one!
She is the special daughter 9 of her mother,
she is the favorite 10 of the one who bore her.
the queens and concubines praised her:
1 tn He compares her beauty to two of the most beautiful and important cities in the Israelite United Kingdom, namely, Jerusalem and Tirzah. The beauty of Jerusalem was legendary; it is twice called “the perfection of beauty” (Ps 50:2; Lam 2:15). Tirzah was beautiful as well – in fact, the name means “pleasure, beauty.” So beautiful was Tirzah that it would be chosen by Jeroboam as the original capital of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs 15:33; 16:8, 15, 23). The ancient city Tirzah has been identified as Tel el-Far`ah near Nablus: see B. S. J. Isserlin, “Song of Songs IV, 4: An Archaeological Note,” PEQ 90 (1958): 60; R. de Vaux, “Le premiere campagne de fouilles a Tell el-Far`ah,” RB 54 (1947): 394-433.
3 sn The literary unity of 6:4-10 and boundaries of his praise are indicated by the repetition of the phrase אֲיֻמָּה כַּנִּדְגָּלוֹת (’ayummah kannidÿgalot, “majestic as bannered armies/stars in procession…”) in 6:4 and 6:10 which creates an inclusion. His praise includes his own personal statements (6:4-9a) as well as his report of the praise given to her by the maidens, queens, and concubines (6:9b-10). His praise indicates that he had forgiven any ingratitude on her part.
4 tn The verb רָהַב (rahav) should be nuanced “overwhelm” or “arouse” rather than “storm against,” “make proud,” “confuse,” “dazzle,” or “overcome” (BDB 923 s.v. רָהַב).
6 sn The sequence “sixty…eighty…beyond number” is an example of a graded numerical sequence and is not intended to be an exact numeration (see W. G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry [JSOTSup], 144-50).
7 sn The term עַלְמָה (’almah, “young woman”) refers to a young woman who is of marriageable age or a newly married young woman, usually before the birth of her first child (HALOT 835-36 s.v. עַלְמָה; BDB 761 s.v. עַלְמָה) (e.g., Gen 24:43; Exod 2:8; Ps 68:26; Prov 30:19; Song 1:3; 6:8; Isa 7:14). The only other use of the term “young women” (עֲלָמוֹת) in the Song refers to the young women of Solomon’s harem (Song 6:8). The root עלם denotes the basic idea of “youthful, strong, passionate” (HALOT 835 s.v. III). While the term עַלְמָה may be used in reference to a young woman who is a virgin, the term itself does not explicitly denote “virgin.” The Hebrew term which explicitly denotes “virgin” is בְּתוּלָה (bÿtulah) which refers to a mature young woman without any sexual experience with men (e.g., Gen 24:16; Exod 22:15-16; Lev 21:3; Deut 22:23, 28; 32:25; Judg 12:12; 19:24; 2 Sam 13:2, 18; 1 Kgs 1:2; 2 Chr 36:17; Esth 2:2-3, 17, 19; Job 31:1; Pss 45:15; 78:63; 148:12; Isa 23:4; 62:5; Jer 2:32; 31:3; 51:22; Lam 1:4, 18; 2:10, 21; 5:11; Ezek 9:6; Joel 1:8; Amos 9:13; Zech 9:17; HALOT 166-7 s.v. בְּתוּלָה; BDB 143 s.v. בְּתוּלָה). The related noun בְּתוּלִים (bÿtulim) means “state of virginity” (Lev 21:13; Judg 11:37-38; Ezek 23:3, 8; Sir 42:10) and “evidence of virginity” (Deut 22:14-15, 17, 20) (HALOT 167 s.v. בְּתוּלִים).
8 tn Alternately, “She alone is my dove, my perfect one.” The term אַחַת (’akhat) is used here as an adjective of quality: “unique, singular, the only one” (DCH 1:180 s.v. אֶחָד 1b). The masculine form is used elsewhere to describe Yahweh as the “only” or “unique” God of Israel who demands exclusive love and loyalty (Deut 6:4; Zech 14:9). Although Solomon possessed a large harem, she was the only woman for him.
9 tn Heb “the only daughter of her mother.” The phrase אַחַת לְאִמָּה (’akhat lÿ’immah) is sometimes translated as “the only daughter of her mother” (NIV, NASB) or “the only one of her mother” (KJV). K&D 18:112 suggests that she was not her mother’s only daughter, but her most special daughter. This is supported by the parallelism with בָּרָה (barah, “favorite”) in the following line. Similarly, Gen 22:2 and Prov 4:3 use the masculine term אֶחָד (’ekhad, “the only one”) to refer to the specially favored son, that is, the heir.
10 tn The term בָּרָה (barah) is sometimes nuanced “pure” (NASB) because the root ברר I denotes “to purify, purge out” (BDB 140-41 s.v. בָּרַר). However, the root בָּרַר also denotes “to choose, select” (BDB 141 s.v. 2) (Neh 5:18; 1 Chr 7:40; 9:22; 16:41). Most translations adopt the second root, e.g., “the choice one” (KJV), “the favorite” (NIV), “favorite” (JB). This is supported by the exegetical tradition of LXX, which translates בָּרָה as ἐκλεκτή (eklekth, “the chosen one”).
11 tn Heb “daughters.”
12 tn Heb “to call blessed.” The verb אָשַׁר (’ashar) is used of people whom others consider fortunate because they have prospered or are to be commended (Gen 30:13; Ps 72:17; Mal 3:12, 15). Likewise, the verb הָלַל (halal, “to praise”) is used elsewhere of people who are held in high esteem by others either due to a commendable moral quality (Prov 31:28, 31) or due to one’s physical beauty (Gen 12:15; 2 Sam 14:25). The actual content of their praise of her appears in Song 6:10 in which they compare her beauty to that of the dawn, moon, sun, and stars.
14 tn Alternately, “rises” or “looks forth.” Delitzsch renders הַנִּשְׁקָפָה (hannishqafah) as “who rises,” while NIV opts for “who appears.” The verb means “to look down upon [something] from a height” and is derived from the related noun “ceiling, roof, sky” (BDB 1054 s.v. שָׁקַף; HALOT 1645 s.v. שׁקף). The verb is used of looking down over a plain or valley from the vantage point of a mountain-top (Num 21:20; 23:28; 1 Sam 13:18); of God looking down from heaven (Ps 14:2); or of a person looking down below out of an upper window (Judg 5:28; 2 Sam 6:16; Prov 7:6). M. H. Pope (The Song of Songs [AB], 571-72) suggests that this verb implies the idea of her superiority over the other women, that is, she occupies a “higher” position over them due to his choice of her. But another interpretation is possible: The verb creates personification (i.e., the dawn is attributed with the human action of looking). Just as the dawn is the focus of attention during the morning hours and looks down upon the earth, so too she is the focus of his attention and is in the privileged position over all the other women.
15 sn The common point in these four comparisons is that all are luminaries. In all four cases, each respective luminary is the focus or center of attention at the hour at hand because it dwarfs its celestial surroundings in majesty and in sheer brilliance. All other celestial objects pale into insignificance in their presence. This would be an appropriate description of her because she alone was the center and focus of his attention. All the other women paled into the background when she was present. Her beauty captured the attention of all that saw her, especially Solomon.
16 tn The term לְבָנָה (lÿvanah) literally means “the white one” (BDB 526 s.v. לְבָנָה) and is always used in reference to the moon. It is only used elsewhere in the OT in parallelism with the term used to designate the sun (Isa 24:23; 30:26), which likewise is not the ordinary term, but literally means “the hot one,” emphasizing the heat of the sun (Job 30:28; Ps 19:6). Both of these terms, “the white one” and “the hot one,” are metonymies of adjunct in which an attribute (i.e., color and heat) are substituted for the subject itself. The white moon in contrast to the dark night sky captures one’s attention, just as the red-hot sun in the afternoon sky is the center of attention during the day. The use of the figurative comparisons of her beauty to that of the dawn, sun, moon, and stars is strikingly similar to the Hebrews’ figurative comparison of Simon the high priest coming out of the sanctuary to the morning star, moon, sun, and rainbow: “How glorious he was when the people gathered round him as he came out of the inner sanctuary! Like the morning star among the clouds, like the moon when it is full; like the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High, and like the rainbow gleaming in glorious clouds” (See G. Gerleman, Ruth, Das Hohelied [BKAT], 171).
17 tn Heb “pure as the sun.”
18 tn The adjective אָיֹם (’ayom) has been nuanced “terrible” (KJV, RSV), “frightful, fear-inspiring” (Delitzsch), “majestic” (NIV), “awesome” (NASB). In the light of its parallelism with יָפָה (yafah, “beautiful”) and נָאוָה (na’vah, “lovely”) in 6:4, and יָפָה (“fair”) and בָּרָה (barah, “bright”) in 6:10, it should be nuanced “awe-inspiring” or “unnervingly beautiful.”
19 tn Heb “as bannered armies.” The term כַּנִּדְגָּלוֹת (kannidgalot, “as bannered armies”) is used figuratively (hypocatastasis) in reference to stars which are often compared to the heavenly armies. This nuance is clear in the light of the parallelism with the dawn, moon, and sun.