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.
The Song of Songs 5:13Context
His lips are like lilies dripping with drops of myrrh.
1 sn In the genitive construct phrase עֲרוּגַת הַבֹּשֶׂם (’arugat havvosem, literally, “beds of balsam”) the term בֹּשֶׂם (bosem) is a genitive of composition, identifying what these gardens were composed of. The term עֲרוּגַת (“garden-beds”) refers to a private garden terrace or garden bed, a rare luxury in Palestine and very expensive to own (Ezek 17:7, 10) (BDB 788 s.v. עֲרוּגָה). The term בֹּשֶׂם (bosem, “balsam”) refers to balsam trees which yielded sweet-smelling oils from which perfumes were produced. The balsam trees should be identified either as Astragalus tragacantha which grew everywhere in Palestine and exude resin from its thorns, or as Commiphora opobalsamum which was not native to Israel but to South Arabia from whence it had to be imported at great cost (2 Chr 9:1) (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 177-78). She is comparing the beautiful scent of his cologned cheeks to fragrant beds of spice.
2 tn Alternately, “towers of perfume.” The MT reads מִגְדְּלוֹת (migdÿlot) which yields the awkward “towers of perfume.” The term מִגְדָּל (migdal, “tower”) is normally used in reference to (1) watch-towers, defended towers along the city wall, and individual towers in the countryside to protect the borders, (2) storehouses, and (3) a tower in a vineyard (HALOT 543-44 s.v. I מִגְדָּל). It is never used in OT in association with a flower garden. On the other hand, LXX reads φυουσαι (fuousai, “yielding”) which reflects an alternate vocalization tradition of מְגַדְּלוֹת (mÿgaddÿlot; Piel participle feminine plural from גָּדַל, gadal, “to increase, produce”). This makes good sense contextually because the Piel stem of גָּדַל means “to grow” plants and trees (Isa 44:14; Ezek 31:4; Jonah 4:10) (HALOT 179 s.v. I גדל 2). This revocalization is suggested by BHS editors, as well as the Hebrew lexicographers (HALOT 544 s.v. 2; 179 s.v. I 2; BDB 152 s.v. גָּדַל 1). Several translations follow LXX and revocalize the text (RSV, NIV, NJPS margin): “His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume” (NIV) and “His cheeks are like beds of spice producing perfume” (NJPS margin). The other translations struggle to make sense of the MT, but are forced to abandon a literal rendering of מִגְדְּלוֹת (“towers”): “banks sweet herbs” (ASV), “banks sweetly scented” (JB), “treasure-chambers full of perfume” (NEB), “banks of sweet scented herbs” (NASB), and “banks of perfume” (JPS, NJPS).