The Beloved about Her Lover:
so is my beloved among the young men.
The Song of Songs 2:5Context
refresh me with apples, 11
for I am faint with love. 12
The Double Refrain: Embracing and Adjuration
The Song of Songs 7:9Context
flowing smoothly for my beloved,
gliding gently over our lips as we sleep together. 14
The Song of Songs 8:5Context
The Maidens about His Beloved:
8:5 Who is this coming up from the desert,
leaning on her beloved?
The Beloved to Her Lover:
Under the apple tree I aroused you; 15
there your mother conceived you,
there she who bore you was in labor of childbirth. 16
1 tn Like the preceding line, this is a case of emblematic parallelism. An illustrative simile appears in the A-line (object of the comparison) and the subject of comparison appears in the B-line. The particles כֵּן…כְּ (kÿ…ken, “like…so”) form an emphatic comparative construction (e.g., Ps 123:2); cf. IBHS 641-42 §38.5a.
2 sn Apple trees were not native to Palestine and had to be imported and cultivated. To find a cultivated apple tree growing in the forest among other wild trees would be quite unusual; the apple tree would stand out and be a delightful surprise. Like a cultivated apple tree, the Lover was unique and stood out among all other men. In ancient Near Eastern love literature, the apple tree was a common symbol for romantic love and sexual fertility (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 100-101). The “apple tree” motif is used in the Song in a similar manner (e.g., Song 2:3; 8:5). Likewise, the motif of “apples” is used as a symbol of fertility (Joel 1:12) and sexual desire (Song 2:5, 7, 9).
3 tn Alternately, “I desired” or “I took delight in.” The meaning of this use of the verb חָמַד (khamad, “delight, desire”) is debated. The root has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) “to take pleasure in, delight in” (Job 20:20; Pss 39:12; 68:17; Prov 1:22; Isa 1:29; 44:9; 53:2) and (2) “to desire passionately, to desire illicitly” (Exod 20:17; 34:24; Deut 5:21; 7:25; Josh 7:21; Prov 1:22; 6:25; 12:12; Mic 2:2) (HALOT 325 s.v. חמד; BDB 326 s.v. חָמַד). The related noun חֶמְדָּה (khemÿkhah) describes objects which are “delightful, precious, desirable” (HALOT 325 s.v. חֶמְדָּה). Commentators who adopt an erotic view of the extended metaphor in 2:3 opt for the sexual desire nuance: “I desired (sexually).” Those who adopt the less erotic approach favor the more general connotation: “I took delight in” or “I delight in.”
4 tn Heb “I delighted and I sat down.” Alternately, “I sat down with delight….” The verbs חִמַּדְתִּי וְיָשַׁבְתִּי (khimmadti vÿyashavti, “I delighted and I sat down”) form a verbal hendiadys (GKC 386 §120.d): “I sat down with delight…” or “I delight to sit….” The sequence of a perfect followed by another perfect with vav conjunctive creates the coordination of the complementary verbal idea (first verb) with the idea of the main (second) verb. The main idea is indicated by the second verb; the first verb indicates the manner of action. The first verb functions adverbially while the second verb carries its full verbal sense (see IBHS 653-54 §39.2.5).
5 sn The term צֵל (tsel, “shade”) is used figuratively to depict protection and relief. This term is used in OT literally (physical shade from the sun) and figuratively (protection from something) (HALOT 1024-25 s.v. צֵל): (1) Literal: The physical shade of a tree offers protection from the heat of the midday sun (Judg 9:15; Ezek 17:23; 31:6, 12, 17; Hos 4:13; Jonah 4:6; Job 7:22; 40:22). Similar protection from the sun is offered by the shade of a vine (Ps 80:11), root (Gen 19:8), mountain (Judg 9:36), rock (Isa 32:2), cloud (Isa 25:5), and hut (Jonah 4:5). (2) Figurative (hypocatastasis): Just as physical shade offers protection from the sun, the Israelite could find “shade” (protection) from God or the king (e.g., Num 14:9; Isa 30:2; 49:2; 51:16; Hos 14:8; Pss 17:8; 36:8; 57:2; 63:8; 91:1; 121:5; Lam 4:20; Eccl 7:12). The association between “shade” and “protection” is seen in the related Akkadian sillu “shade, covering, protection” (AHw 3:1101; CAD S:189). The epithets of several Akkadian deities are sillu and sululu (“Shade, Protector”). The motif of protection, rest, and relief from the sun seems to be implied by the expression וְיָשַׁבְתִּי (vÿyashavti, “I sat down”) in 2:3b. During the summer months, the temperature often reaches 110-130ºF in the Negev. Those who have never personally experienced the heat of the summer sun in the Negev as they performed strenuous physical labor cannot fully appreciate the relief offered by any kind of shade! Previously, the young woman had complained that she had been burned by the sun because she had been forced to labor in the vineyards with no shade to protect her (Song 1:5-6). She had urged him to tell her where she could find relief from the sun during the hot midday hours (Song 1:7). Now she exults that she finally had found relief from the scorching sun under the “shade” which he offered to her (Song 2:3). S. C. Glickman writes: “Whereas before she came to him she worked long hours on the sun (1:6), now she rests under the protective shade he brings. And although formerly she was so exhausted by her work she could not properly care for herself, now she finds time for refreshment with him” (A Song for Lovers, 40).
6 sn The term פִּרְיוֹ (piryo, “his fruit”) is a figure for the young man himself or perhaps his kisses which the young woman delights to “taste” (e.g., Song 4:11; 5:13). It is possible to take the imagery of the young woman tasting his “fruit” as kissing. Likewise, the imagery of the gazelles grazing among the lilies is probably a picture of the young man caressing and kissing his beloved (Song 2:16; 6:3).
7 sn The term מָתוֹק (matoq, “sweet”) is used literally and figuratively. When used literally, it describes pleasant tasting foods, such as honey (Judg 14:14, 18; Prov 24:13; Ps 19:11) or sweet water (Num 33:28; Prov 9:17). Used figuratively, it describes what is pleasant to experience: friendship (Job 20:12; Ps 55:15; Prov 27:9), life (Eccl 11:7; Sir 40:18), sleep for the weary (Eccl 5:11), eloquence in speech (Prov 16:21, 24), and scripture (Ps 19:11). Those who adopt the “hyper-erotic” approach opt for the literal meaning: his “fruit” tastes sweet to her palate. The nonerotic approach takes the term in its figurative sense: The experience of his love was pleasant.
8 tn Heb “my palate.” The term חִכִּי (khikki, “my palate”) is used metonymically in reference to the sensation of taste which is associated with a person’s palate. The idea of “tasting” is used as a metaphor in the OT for the experiential knowledge which is acquired through a person’s relationship with someone (e.g., Ps 34:9). Just as a person would learn whether a fruit was ripe and delicious by tasting it, so a person could learn of the quality of a person’s character by experiencing it through personal interaction. This extended metaphor compares the delights of his love to (1) the refreshment of sitting in the shade of a tree for refuge from the desert sun, and (2) the delight of tasting a sweet apple – a fruit that was not indigenous to Palestine.
9 tn The imperatives סַמְּכוּנִי (sammÿkhuni, “sustain me”) and רַפְּדוּנִי (rappÿduni, “revive me”) are both plural in address (Piel 2nd person masculine plural imperatives with 1st person common singular suffixes). Thus, some commentators suggest that the woman is speaking to a large audience, perhaps the banquet guests implied in 2:4 or the maidens mentioned in 2:7 (R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 82). However, the Hebrew plural can be used in reference to a single individual when functioning in an intensive sense (IBHS 122 §7.4.3a). Thus, the woman may be speaking to her beloved, as in the rest of 2:3-6, but with intense passion. Similarly, in Sumerian love literature the bride sometimes uses plural verbs in reference to herself or her bridegroom (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 92, 99).
10 sn The term אֲשִׁישׁוֹת (’ashishot, “raisin cakes,” from אֲשִׁישָׁה, ’ashishah) refers to an expensive delicacy made of dried compressed grapes (HALOT 95 s.v. אֲשִׁישָׁה; BDB 84 s.v. אֲשִׁישָׁה; Jastrow 128 s.v. אֲשִׁישָׁה). Raisin cakes were used as cultic offerings by many ancient Near Easterners, and were especially prominent in ancient Near Eastern fertility rites (e.g., Isa 16:7; Hos 3:1). In ancient Israel they were eaten during festive celebrations, being viewed as enhancing sexual fertility (2 Sam 6:19; 1 Chr 16:3). Scholars regard the “raisin cakes” as (1) literal food viewed as an aphrodisiac to “cure” her love-sickness; (2) a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) for sexual passion or lovemaking; or (3) double entendre referring to the literal food as an aphrodisiac and her desire for lovemaking.
11 tn Or “apricots.” The term תַּפּוּחִים (tappukhim, “apples,” from תַּפּוּחַ, tappukha) occurs four times in the book (Song 2:3, 5; 7:9; 8:5) and twice outside (Prov 25:4; Joel 1:12). It is usually defined as “apples” (BDB 656 s.v. תַּפּוּחַ); however, some argue for “apricots” (FFB 92-93). The Hebrew noun תַּפּוּחַ (“apple”) is derived from the Hebrew root נָפַח (nafakh, “scent, breath”) which is related to the Arabic root nafahu “fragrant scent” (HALOT 708 s.v. נפח). Hence, the term refers to a fruit with a fragrant scent. This may explain why the mere scent of this fruit was thought to have medicinal powers in the ancient Near East (G. E. Post, Flora of Syria, Palestine and Sinai, 128). This imagery draws upon two motifs associated with apples. First, apples were viewed as medicinal in ancient Syro-Palestinian customs; the sick were given apples to eat or smell in order to revive them. Similarly, the Mishnah and Talmud refer to apples as a medication like wine and grapes. Second, apples were considered an aphrodisiac in the ancient Near East. Both motifs are combined here because the Beloved is “love-sick” and only the embrace of her beloved can cure her, as 2:6 indicates (T. H. Ratzaby, “A Motif in Hebrew Love Poetry: In Praise of the Apple,” Ariel 40 : 14).
12 tn Heb “sick of love.” The expression חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה (kholat ’ahavah, “sick of love”) is an example of the causative use of the genitive construct: “I am sick because of love,” that is, “I am love-sick.” The expression חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה (kholat ’ahavah, “faint with love”) is a figure which compares physical or medical illness caused by a physically draining disease to sexual desire which is so intense that a person is so physically drained that they feel as if they could faint. The term חוֹל (khol, “sick”) refers to the physical weakness which consumes a person who is suffering from a medical illness (Gen 48:1; 1 Sam 19:14). It is used figuratively as a hyperbolic hypocatastasis for being so consumed with sexual desire that it saps one of his/her physical and emotional strength (BDB 317 s.v. 2). This is commonly referred to as “love-sickness.” It was associated with such deep longing for physical and sexual fulfillment that it weighed so heavily upon a person that he/she was physically and emotionally drained (2 Sam 13:2).
13 tn The term חֵךְ (khek, “palate, mouth”) is often used as a metonymy for what the mouth produces, e.g., the mouth is the organ of taste (Ps 119:103; Job 12:11; 20:13; 34:3; Prov 24:13; Song 2:3), speech (Job 6:30; 31:30; 33:2; Prov 5:3; 8:7), sound (Hos 8:1), and kisses (Song 5:16; 7:10) (HALOT 313 s.v. חֵךְ; BDB 335 s.v. חֵךְ). The metonymical association of her palate/mouth and her kisses is made explicit by RSV which translated the term as “kisses.”
14 tc The MT reads שִׁפְתֵי יְשֵׁנִים (shifte yÿshenim, “lips of those who sleep”). However, an alternate Hebrew reading of שְׂפָתַי וְשִׁנָּי (sÿfata vÿsinna, “my lips and my teeth”) is suggested by the Greek tradition (LXX, Aquila, Symmachus): χείλεσίν μου καὶ ὀδοῦσιν (ceilesin mou kai odousin, “my lips and teeth”). This alternate reading, with minor variations, is followed by NAB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, NLT.
tn Or “his lips as he falls asleep.” Heb “the lips of sleepers.” Alternately, “over lips and teeth” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT).
15 sn The imagery of v. 6 is romantic: (1) His mother originally conceived him with his father under the apple tree, (2) his mother gave birth to him under the apple tree, and (3) the Beloved had now awakened him to love under the same apple tree. The cycle of life and love had come around full circle under the apple tree. While his mother had awakened his eyes to life, the Beloved had awakened him to love. His parents had made love under the apple tree to conceive him in love, and now Solomon and his Beloved were making love under the same apple tree of love.
16 tn Or “went into labor.” The verb חָבַל (khaval, “become pregnant”) is repeated in 8:6b and 8:6c, and has a two-fold range of meaning: (1) transitive: “to conceive [a child]” and (2) intransitive: “to be in travail [of childbirth]” (HALOT 286 s.v. IV חבל). In 8:6b it denotes “to conceive,” and in 8:6c it is “to be in travail [of childbirth].”