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The Song of Songs 1:15-16

Mutual Praise and Admiration

The Lover to His Beloved:

1:15 Oh, 1  how beautiful you are, my beloved! 2 

Oh, how beautiful you are!

Your eyes 3  are like doves! 4 

The Beloved to Her Lover:

1:16 Oh, how handsome you are, my lover! 5 

Oh, 6  how delightful 7  you are!

The lush foliage 8  is our canopied bed; 9 

1 sn His praise begins with the exclamatory particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “behold!”). This is often used to introduce a statement in which the speaker either newly asserts or newly recognizes something (BDB 244 s.v. הִנֵּה b.a).

2 sn The term רַעְיָתִי (rayati, “my darling”) is from רֵעַ (rea) “companion, friend” in general (e.g., Job 2:11; 6:27; 12:4; Pss 35:14; 122:8; Prov 14:20; 17:17; 19:6; 27:10) and “darling, beloved” in romantic relationships (e.g., Job 30:29; Jer 3:1, 20; Hos 3:1; Song 5:1, 16) (HALOT 1253-54 s.v. II רֵעַ; BDB 945 s.v. II רָעָה II.1). This is the most common term of affection to address the Beloved (Song 1:9, 15; 2:2, 10, 13; 4:1, 7; 5:2; 6:4).

3 sn In the ancient Near East there was an unusual emphasis on beauty of a woman’s eyes. This was probably due to the practice of women veiling themselves and wearing long robes so that no portion of their body or face was exposed to sight except for their eyes (e.g., Gen 26:17). The only indication of a woman’s beauty was her eyes. There was no better (and no other, in light of the attire) way to praise a woman’s beauty in the ancient Near East (G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 86).

4 tn Heb “Your eyes are doves.” This metaphor compares her eyes to doves. There is no lack of suggestions as to the point of the comparison: (1) Arabic love literature describes doves having sentimental eyes, the point here (Marcia Falk, Love Lyrics from the Bible, 113). (2) The comparison has to do with the color of her eyes (G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 86). (3) The comparison has to do with the glistening color of the dove and its quick movements, that is, her eyes had a beautiful color and had lively motion (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 356). (4) The comparison has to do with the fluttering of her eyes which reminded him of the fluttering of a dove’s wings (M. D. Goulder, The Song of Fourteen Songs [JSOTSup], 5). (5) The comparison has to do with gentleness and purity, as well as longing and simplicity (K&D 18:38).

5 sn The statement הִנָּךְ יָפָה רַעְיָתִי (hinnakh yafah rayati, “How beautiful you are, my darling”) in 1:15 is virtually mirrored by the Beloved’s statement in 1:16, הִנְּךְ יָפֶה דוֹדִי (hinnÿkh yafeh dodi, “How handsome you are, my lover”).

6 tn The term אַף (’af, “how”) is used to: (1) introduce additional information; (2) to emphasize a point; (3) to enhance a statement; (4) to create an antithesis (HALOT 76 s.v. אַף). The usage here is to enhance “how pleasant” or “certainly pleasant” (HALOT 76). The particle אַף is often used in Hebrew poetry to emphatically introduce a thought in the second colon which is a step beyond what was asserted in the first colon (e.g., Deut 33:3, 20, 28; 1 Sam 2:7; Pss 16:6, 7, 9; 18:49; 65:14; 68:9, 17; 74:16; 89:28; 93:1; Prov 22:19; 23:28) (BDB 64 s.v. b.1). Sometimes, אַף is used to introduce a surprise or something unexpected (e.g., Job 14:3; 15:4) (BDB 65 s.v. a.1). The particle אַף (“Oh!”), which introduces this line, is often used in Hebrew poetry to emphatically introduce a new thought and indicates that this is an addition to the previous statement; it is something far greater.

7 tn The term נָעִים (naim, “pleasant, delightful”) can refer to physical attractiveness or to personal character (BDB 653 I נָעֵם; HALOT 705 s.v. I נעם). Some suggest that it refers to the pleasantness of his character and personality; however, it is better to take this as a reference to his handsome physical appearance for several reasons: (1) The terms יָפֶה (yafeh, “handsome”) and נָעִים (“delightful”) are probably used in synonymous rather than synthetic parallelism. (2) The emphasis in 1:15-16 is on physical beauty as the repetition of the term “beautiful, handsome” (יָפֶה) suggests. (3) The related verb נָּעַמְתְּ (naamtÿ, “to be delightful”) is used in Song 7:7 in synonymous parallelism with יָפָת (yafat, “to be beautiful”) in the description of the Beloved’s physical beauty. (4) Hebrew lexicographers classify this usage of נָעִים in Song 1:16 in terms of physical beauty rather than personal character (BDB 653 s.v. 2).

8 tn The term רַעֲנָנָה (raananah, “lush, verdant”) refers to the color “green” and is often used in reference to luxuriant foliage or trees (Pss 37:35; 52:8; Jer 11:16; Hos 14:8). The impression 1:16c-17 gives is that the young man and young woman are lying down together on the grass in the woods enjoying the delights of their caresses. They liken the grass below and the green leaves above to a marriage couch or canopied bed.

9 tn Or “The lush foliage is our marriage couch.” The term עֶרֶשׂ (’eres, “bed”) describes a canopied bed (Pss 6:7; 41:4; 132:2; Prov 7:16) or marriage couch (Song 1:16) (BDB 793 s.v. עֶרֶשׂ).

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