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The Song of Songs 6:8-9

Context

6:8 There may be sixty 1  queens,

and eighty concubines,

and young women 2  without number.

6:9 But she is unique! 3 

My dove, my perfect one!

She is the special daughter 4  of her mother,

she is the favorite 5  of the one who bore her.

The maidens 6  saw her and complimented her; 7 

the queens and concubines praised her:

1 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).

2 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).

3 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.

4 tn Heb “the only daughter of her mother.” The phrase אַחַת לְאִמָּה (’akhat lÿimmah) 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.

5 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”).

6 tn Heb “daughters.”

7 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.



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