The Lily among the Thorns and the Apple Tree in the Forest
The Beloved to Her Lover:
1 I am a#tn Or “the rose of Sharon…the lily of the valleys.” There is debate whether the expressions חֲבַצֶּלֶת הַשָּׁרוֹן (khavatselet hashsharon) and שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִים (shoshannat ha’amaqim) are definite (“the rose of Sharon…the lily of the valleys”) or indefinite (“a rose of Sharon…a lily”). Some translations adopt the definite sense (KJV, NKJV, NASB, NAU, NJB, NLT); others the indefinite sense (ASV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NIB, NAB, NJPS, CEV). meadow flower#tn Heb “meadow-saffron” or “crocus.” The noun חֲבַצֶּלֶת (khavatselet) traditionally has been translated “rose” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NJPS, NLT, CEV); however, recent translations suggest “crocus” (NIV margin, NJPS margin), “narcissus” (DBY) or simply “flower” (DRA, NAB). The LXX translated it with the generic term ἀνθος (anqos, “flower, blossom”). Early English translators knew that it referred to some kind of flower but were unsure exactly which type, so they arbitrarily chose “rose” because it was a well-known and beautiful flower. In the light of comparative Semitics, modern Hebrew lexicographers have settled on “asphodel,” “meadow-saffron,” “narcissus,” or “crocus” (BDB 287 s.v. חֲבַצֶּלֶת; HALOT 287 s.v. חֲבַצֶּלֶת; DCH 3:153 s.v. חֲבַצֶּלֶת). The Hebrew term is related to Syriac hamsalaita (“meadow saffron”) and Akkadian habasillatu (“flower-stalk, marsh plant, reed”). Lexicographers and botanists suggest that the Hebrew term refers to Ashodelos (lily family), Narcissus tazetta (narcissus or daffodil), or Colchicum autumnale (meadow-saffron or crocus). The location of this flower in Sharon suggests that a common wild flower would be more consonant than a rose. The term appears elsewhere only in Isa 35:1 where it refers to some kind of desert flower – erroneously translated “rose” (KJV, NJPS) but probably “crocus” (NASB, NIV, NJPS margin). Appropriately, the rustic maiden who grew up in the simplicity of rural life compares herself to a simple, common flower of the field (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 367). from Sharon,#sn Sharon is a low coastal plain stretching south from Mount Carmel. It is well watered due to the Kurkar ridges running parallel to the shore which trapped the water run-off from the Samaritan hills. The combination of low sandy hills and swampy lowlands produced heavy vegetation and an abundance of wild flowers in the area (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 367).
a lily#tn There is debate about the referent of שׁוֹשַׁנָּת (shoshannat, “lily”) because there are many different species of the lily family. Botanists note that among the many different species of the lily family only one grows in Palestine. This species may be identified as the Anthemis palaestina, the chamomile, a white-daisy-like plant, which was indigenous to Palestine (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 134-36). from the valleys.
The Lover to His Beloved:
2 Like#sn This is an example of emblematic parallelism. An illustrative simile appears in the A-line and the subject of the comparison is in the B-line. The particles כֵּן…כְּ (cÿ…ken, “like…so”) form an emphatic comparative construction (e.g., Ps 123:2), see IBHS 641-42 §38.5a. a lily among the thorns,#tn Alternately, “thorn bushes.” The term הַחוֹחִים (hahokhim) is probably derived from חוֹח (khokh,“thorn-bush, briars, thistles, thorns”; HALOT 296 s.v. I חוֹחַ; BDB 296 s.v. חוֹחַ) rather than חוֹח (khokh, “crevice”; HALOT 296 s.v. II חוֹחַ): “Like a lily among the thorns” rather than “Like a lily among the rock crevices.” The picture is of a beautiful flower growing in the midst of thorn bushes (1 Sam 14:11; 2 Kgs 14:9; 2 Chr 25:18; Job 31:40; Prov 26:9; Isa 34:13; Hos 9:6) rather than a beautiful flower growing in the midst of rocky outcroppings (1 Sam 13:6; 2 Chr 33:11). The Hebrew term is related to Akkadian hahu and haiahu “thorn” and hahinnu “thorny plants” (AHw 1:308) and Aramaic hahhu (HALOT 296). The “thorn bush” is a thistle plant (Poterium spinosum) which has prickly spines covered with thistles, but also sprouts beautiful small red flowers (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 184-85).sn The Lover accommodates her self-denigrating comparison, but heightens it to praise her: If she insisted that she was nothing more than a common flower of the field, then he insisted that all other women were like thorns by comparison. The term חוֹח (khokh, “thorn”) is often used as a figure for utter desolation and the cause of pain; it is the antithesis of fertility and beautiful luxuriant growth (Job 31:40; Isa 34:13; Hos 9:6).
so is my darling among the maidens.
The Beloved about Her Lover:
3 Like#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. an apple tree#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). among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
I delight#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.” to sit#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). in his shade,#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).
and his fruit#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). is sweet#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. to my taste.#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.
The Banquet Hall for the Love-Sick
The Beloved about Her Lover:
4 He brought me#tc The MT vocalizes consonantal הביאני as הֱבִיאַנִי (hevi’ani, Hiphil perfect 3rd person masculine singular with 1st person common singular suffix, “He has brought me”). However, several medieval Hebrew mss vocalize the form as הֲבִיאֻנִי (havi’uni, Hiphil imperative 2nd person masculine singular with 1st person common singular suffix, “Bring me!”). This is also reflected in LXX (εἰσαγαγετε με, eisagagete me, “Bring me!”) and Syriac. This alternate vocalization tradition has several factors that make it a viable option: (1) It respects the consonantal text; (2) It is supported by the LXX and Syriac; (3) It provides a tighter parallelism with the two identical imperatival forms in 2:5a (both 2nd person masculine plural imperatives with 1st person common singular suffixes); (4) It provides thematic unity to the entire poetic unit of 2:4-5; and (5) It helps make better sense of an enigmatic unit. This approach is strengthened if the MT reading וְדִגְלוֹ (vÿdiglo, “and his banner”) is revocalized to the imperative וְדִגְלוּ (vÿdiglu, “and feed [me]”) (see translator’s note below). In this case, the parallelism throughout 2:4-5 would be very tight. It would feature four parallel imperatives of request, all revolving around the theme of love-sickness: “Bring me into the banquet hall, feed me with love; sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, because I am faint with love.” The weakness with the revocalization to הֲבִיאֻנִי (“Bring me!”) is that it demands, due to the dictates of synonymous parallelism, the questionable revocalization of the MT’s וְדִגְלוֹ (“and his banner”) to the imperative וְדִגְלוּ (“and feed [me]”).tn Alternately, “Bring me!” into the banquet hall,#tn Heb “house of wine.” The expression בֵּית הַיָּיִן (bet hayyayin, lit. “house of wine” or “place of wine”) refers to a banquet house where wine is drunk or a vineyard where grapes to produce wine are grown (HALOT 409 s.v. יַיִן). G. L. Carr favors the vineyard view due to the agricultural metaphors in 2:1-5. However, most commentators favor the banquet house view because of the reference to “raisin-cakes” and “apples” (2:4) which were served at banquets in the ancient Near East. Moreover, the expression בֵּית הַיָּיִן in in Song 2:4 may be equivalent to בֵּית מִשְׁתֵּה הַיַּיִן (bet mishte hayyayin, “house of the drinking of wine”) in Esther 7:8 (HALOT 409 s.v. יַיִן). Second, raisin cakes are mentioned in this context in 2:5, and they were often eaten to celebrate festive occasions (2 Sam 6:19; Isa 16:7; Hos 3:1); therefore, the banquet motif finds support. Selected Bibliography: E. Würthwein, “Zum Verständnis des Hohenliedes,” TRu 32 (1967): 205; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 90-91.
and he looked#tc The MT vocalizes דגלו as the noun דְּגֶל (dÿgel) with 3rd person masculine singular suffix דִּגְלוֹ (diglo, “his banner [over me is love]”). However, several medieval Hebrew mss vocalize דגלו as Qal mp imperative וְדִגְלוּ (vÿdihlu, “Set [love before me].”) This is also reflected in LXX τάξατε ἐπ’ ἐμὲ ἀγάπην (taxate ep eme agaphn, “Set love before me!”).tn The meaning of the term דִּגְלוֹ (diglo) is debated. Five basic views have emerged: (1) “his banner over me was love.” BDB relates דִּגְלוֹ to the noun דְּגֶל (dÿgel, “standard, banner”; BDB 186 s.v. דֶּגֶל) which refers to (a) banners, standards (Num 1:52; 2:2) and (b) battalion, company of troops, or division of a tribe signaled by a banner or standard (Num 2:3, 10, 17-18, 25, 31, 34; 10:14, 18, 22, 25). Thus, most translations render דִּגְלוֹ as “his banner” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NJPS). However, the expression “His banner over me was love” is enigmatic. (2) “serve love to me!” Delitzsch revocalized the noun וְדִגְלוֹ (“his banner”) as an imperative וְדִגְלוּ (vÿdiglu, “serve [me]”) from the root דָּגַל (dagal, “to serve food”) which is related to Akkadian dagalu II (“to serve food”). Delitzsch renders the passage: “Bring me into the banquet hall and serve me love…for I am faint with love.” This is supported by LXX which reads: εἰσαγάγετέ με εἰς οἶκον τοῦ οἲνου, τάξατε ἐπ’ ἐμὲ ἀγάπην (eisagagete me eis oikon tou oinou, taxate ep’ eme agaphn, “Bring me into the wine house, and set love before me”). However, R. Gordis points out the difficulties with Delitzsch’s proposal: (a) The meaning “serve” for דָּגַל is unparalleled in Hebrew thus, it would create a homonymic hapax legomenon; (b) We would expect the preposition לִי (li, “to me”) rather than עָלַי (’ala, “over me”) after the imperative; and (c) The Akkadian parallel is uncertain. (3) “its banner above me is love.” HALOT relates דִּגְלוֹ to the Akkadian noun diglu (“eyesight, view, look, gaze”) and proposes the nuance “sign of an inn,” such as a flag placed over taverns (HALOT 213 s.v. דֶּגֶל). This approach renders the line: “He has brought me to the banquet hall, and its banner above me is love.” (4) “his look toward me was loving” = “he looked at me lovingly.” Several lexicons relate דִּגְלוֹ to the homonymic root דָּגַל, “look, glance” (e.g., DCH 2:415 s.v. II דָּגַל). The Hebrew noun degel II is related to the Akkadian noun diglu “eyesight, view, look, gaze” (CAD 3:21; AHw 1:14). Likewise, the Hebrew verb II דָּגַל (“to look, behold”; Song 5:10; 6:4, 10; Eccl 9:13; Ps 20:6) (BDB 186 s.v. דָּגַל; HALOT 213 s.v. I דגל; DCH 2:414 s.v. I) is related to the Akkadian verb dagalu I “to look upon, to gaze, to look with astonishment, to look at with admiration” (CAD 3:21; AHw 1:14). Those who adopt this approach render the line: “His glance upon me is love” (DCH 2:414) or “His look upon me was loving” (R. Gordis, “The Root dgl in the Song of Songs,” JBL 88 : 203-204; idem, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 81-82); or “He looked upon me with love.” (5) “his wish regarding me was lovemaking.” M. H. Pope (Song of Songs [AB], 376-77) notes that the Assyrian noun diglu may denote “wish,” i.e., desire or intent (CAD 3:136). He renders the line: “His wish regarding me was lovemaking” or “His intentions were to make love.” Pope’s suggestion has been adopted by several recent commentators (e.g., G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 91). at me lovingly.#tn The syntax of the noun אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) has been taken as: (1) predicate nominative: “His banner over me [was] love” or “His intention toward me [was] lovemaking” (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 376-77; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 91); (2) genitive of attribute/content: “His banner of love [was] over me,” and (3) adverbial or adjectival accusative: “His look upon me was loving” or “He looked upon me lovingly” (R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 81-82). Examples of adverbial or adjectival accusatives, e.g., “I am peace” = “I am peaceful” (Ps 120:7); “I will love them as a free gift” = “I will love them freely” (Hos 14:5).
5 Sustain#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). me with raisin cakes,#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.
refresh me with apples,#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).
for I am faint with love.#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).
The Double Refrain: Embracing and Adjuration
6 His left hand caresses my head,#tn Heb “His left hand is under my head.” Ultimately, the only cure for her love-sickness is the caress of her beloved. The ancient Near Eastern love songs frequently portray the embrace of the lover as the only cure for the speaker’s love-sickness. For example, one Egyptian love song reads: “She will make the doctors unnecessary, because she knows my sickness” (Papyrus Harris 4:11). Similarly, “My salvation is her coming in from outside; when I see her, I will be healthy. When she opens her eye, my body is young; when she speaks, I will be strong. When I embrace her, she exorcises evil from me” (Papyrus Chester Beatty, C5:1-2).
and his right hand stimulates me.#tn Heb “embraces.” Alternately, “May his left hand be under my head, and [may] his right hand embrace me.” The verb חָבַק (khavaq) has a two-fold range of meanings in the Piel stem: (1) to embrace or hug someone (Gen 29:13; 33:4; 48:10; Job 24:8; Prov 4:8; Eccl 3:5; Lam 4:5) and (2) to fondle or sexually stimulate a lover (Prov 5:20; Song 2:6; 8:3) (HALOT 287 s.v. חבק; BDB 287 s.v. חָבַק). The verb designates an expression of love by the position or action of one’s hands (TWOT 1:259). The term is probably used here as a euphemism. The function of the prefixed verbal form of תְּחַבְּקֵנִי (tÿkhabbÿqeni, “embrace me”) may be classified several ways: (1) ingressive: “His right hand is beginning to stimulate me,” (2) instantaneous: “His right hand is stimulating me [right now],” (3) progressive: “His right hand stimulates me,” (4) jussive of desire: “May his right hand stimulate me!” (5) injunction: “Let his right hand stimulate me!” or (6) permission: “His right hand may stimulate me.” Based upon their view that the couple is not yet married, some scholars argue for an imperfect of desire (“May his right hand stimulate/embrace me!”). Other scholars suggest that the progressive imperfect is used (“His right hand stimulates me”). For a striking parallel, see S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 105.
The Beloved to the Maidens:
7 I adjure you,#sn Frequently, when oaths were taken in the ancient world, witnesses were invoked in order to solemnize the vow and to act as jurists should the oath someday be broken. Cosmic forces such as the “heavens and earth” were often personified to act as witnesses to an oath (e.g., Deut 32:1; Isa 1:2; Mic 1:2; 6:1-2; Ps 50:2). In this case, the “witnesses” are the “gazelles and stags of the field” (2:7; 3:5). These animals were frequently used as symbols of romantic love in the OT (Prov 5:19). And in Egyptian and Mesopotamian love literature and Ugaritic poetry the gazelle was often associated with sexual fertility. For instance, in the following excerpt from a Mesopotamian incantation text the stag is referred to in the context of sexual potency in which a woman urges an ailing male: “With the love-[making of the mountain goat] six times, with the lovemaking of a stag seven times, with the lovemaking of a partridge twelve times, make love to me! Make love to me because I am young! And the lovemaking of a stag…Make love to me!” (R. D. Biggs, Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations [TCS], 26, lines 4-8). O maidens of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles and by the young does#tn Traditionally, “hinds.” A hind is a female deer, generally less than three years old. of the open fields:#tn Heb “of the field.” The Hebrew term refers to open fields or open country as the home of wild animals; if taken adjectivally this could modify the previous term: “wild young does” (cf. NRSV).sn The “gazelles” and “does of the fields” are probably zoomorphisms for love personified. In other words, the witness of this oath is “love” itself. Should the daughters violate this vow which they are asked to make, “love” itself would hold them accountable. Gazelles were often figures in Hebrew, Akkadian, and Ugaritic literature for mighty warriors or virile young men (e.g., 2 Sam 1:19; 2:18; Isa 14:9; Zech 10:3).
Do not awaken or arouse#tn Alternately, “arouse…awaken….” The root עוּר (’ur) is repeated twice in 2:7 for rhetorical emphasis. The first is the Hiphil imperative (“do not awake/excite…”) and the second is the Polel imperative (“do not awake/start to move…”). The Hiphil depicts a causative action (causing love to initially awaken) and the Polel depicts an intensive action (repeated efforts to awaken love or to set love into motion). On the other hand, G. L. Carr (Song of Solomon [TOTC], 94) writes: “The meaning is not stir up, i.e., a repetition of the same act, but is rather first the act of awakening or summoning something, and then doing what is necessary to sustain the activity already begun, i.e., being so fully awakened that sleep becomes impossible (e.g., 5:2).” The terms ָתּעִירוּ (ta’iru, “arouse”; Hiphil imperative from עוּר) and תְּעוֹרְרוּ (tÿ’orÿru, “awaken”; Polel imperative from עוּר) are probably figurative expressions (hypocatastasis) rather than literal, because the object does not refer to a person (her lover) but to an emotional state (“love”). The Hebrew root עוּר has two basic meanings: (1) to wake up and (2) to excite (HALOT 802 s.v. II עוּר). These two nuances are paralleled in the related Semitic roots: Ugaritic `r and `rr “to be excited” (UT 19.1849; 19.1926; WUS 2092) and Akkadian eru “to awake” (AHw 1:247) (HALOT 802 s.v. II). The Hiphil stem has a four-fold range of meanings: (1) to wake up someone/something, (2) to excite, put into motion, start to work, (3) to summons, (4) to disturb (HALOT 802-803 s.v. II). When used literally, the Hiphil describes waking up a sleeper (Zech 4:1) or stirring up a fire (Hos 7:4). When used figuratively, it describes stirring up (Isa 50:4; Pss 57:9; 108:3) strength (Dan 11:25), anger/wrath (Ps 78:38), jealous/zeal (Isa 42:13), and love/sexual passion (Song 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). The Polel stem has a three-fold range of meanings: (1) to awake, start to move, (2) to agitate, disturb, (3) to set in motion (HALOT 802-803 s.v. II). The expression “arouse or awaken love” is figurative (hypocatastasis). It draws an implied comparison between the literal action of arousing a person from sleep and stirring him/her up to excited action, with the figurative picture of a lover sexually stirring up, arousing and exciting the sexual passions of his beloved.sn What does the expression to “arouse or awaken love” mean? There are three major views: (1) to force a love relationship to develop prematurely rather than to allow it to develop naturally; (2) to interfere with the experience of passionate love; or (3) to stir up sexual passion, that is, to become sexually active. As noted above, אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) probably denotes “sexual passion” (DCH 1:141 s.v. I אַהֲבָה; HALOT 18 s.v. I אַהֲבָה) and עוּר (’ur, “awaken…arouse”) probably denotes “to stir up, excite” (HALOT 802-803 s.v. II עוּר). Likewise, the verb עוּר (“awake”) is used in Song 4:16 and Hosea 7:4 in reference to stirring up sexual passion to excitement. love#tn The syntactical function of the article on הָאַהֲבָה (ha’ahavah, “love”) is debated. Most translations view this as an example of the article denoting an abstract concept. However, a few translations (KJV, AV, JB, NEB) view it as an abstract use of the article for the concrete (abstractum pro concreto), and render it as “my love” as referring either to the woman’s own feelings or the feelings of her lover. Throughout the Song, the term אַהֲבָה (’ahavah, “love”) is not used as a term for endearment in reference to one of the lovers; it typically refers to sexual passion (Song 2:4, 5, 7; 3:5; 5:4; 8:4, 6, 7). When used of the man/woman relationship, the term אַהֲבָה (“love”) may refer to emotional love (Eccl 9:1, 6; Prov 15:17; Ps 109:4-5) or sexual love/desire (Gen 29:20; 2 Sam 1:26; 13:4, 15; Prov 5:19-20; 7:18; Jer 2:33; Song 2:4, 5, 7; 3:5; 5:4; 8:4, 6, 7) (DCH 1:141 s.v. I אַהֲבָה; HALOT 18 s.v. I אַהֲבָה). The reference to sexual desire in 2:4-5 and חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה (kholat ’ahavah, “love-sickness”) in 2:5 suggests that the use of אַהֲבָה (“love”) in 2:7 is sexual desire. Love is personified in this picture. until it pleases!#tn Heb “If you arouse or if you awaken love before it pleases….” Paraphrase: “Promise that you will not arouse or awaken love until it pleases!” This line is a typical Hebrew negative oath formula in which the speaker urges his/her audience to take a vow to not do something that would have destructive consequences: (1) The expression הִשְׁבַּעְתִּי (hishba’ti, “I adjure you”) is used when a speaker urges his audience to take an oath. (2) The conditional clause אִם־תָּעִירוּ וְאִם־תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת־הָאַהֲבָה (’im-ta’iru vÿim-te’orÿru ’et-ha’ehavah, “If you arouse or awaken love…”) reflects the typical construction of a negative oath formula which consists of two parts: (1) protasis: the warning introduced by the conditional particle אִם (“if”) and (2) apodosis: the description of the disaster or penalty which would befall the person who broke the vow and violated the condition of the oath. (3) If the consequences of violating the oath were extremely severe, they would not even be spoken; the statement of the consequences would be omitted for emphasis – as is the case here, that is, the apodosis is omitted for rhetorical emphasis. As is typical in negative oath formulas, the sanction or curse on the violation of the condition is suppressed for rhetorical emphasis. The curse was so awful that one could not or dare not speak of them (M. H. Pope, IDB 3:575-77).
The Arrival of the Lover
The Beloved about Her Lover:
8 Listen!#tn Heb “The voice of my beloved!” The exclamation קוֹל (qol, “Listen!”) is an introductory exclamatory particle used to emphasize excitement and the element of surprise. My lover is approaching!#tn The phrase “is approaching” does not appear in Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
Look!#tn The exclamation הִנֵּה־זֶה (hinneh-zeh, “Look!”) is used of excited speech when someone is seen approaching (Isa 21:9). Here he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills!
9 My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.#sn Gazelles are often associated with sensuality and masculine virility in ancient Near Eastern love literature. Gazelles were often figures in Hebrew, Akkadian, and Ugaritic literature for mighty warriors or virile young men (e.g., 2 Sam 1:19; 2:18; Isa 14:9; Zech 10:3). In ancient Near Eastern love literature gazelles often symbolize the excitement and swiftness of the lover coming to see his beloved, as in an ancient Egyptian love song: “O that you came to your sister swiftly like a bounding gazelle! Its feet reel, its limbs are weary, terror has entered its body. A hunter pursues it with his hounds, they do not see it in its dust; It sees a resting place as a trap, it takes the river as its road. May you find her hiding-place before your hand is kissed four times. Pursue your sister’s love, the Golden gives her to you, my friend!” (“Three Poems” in the Papyrus Chester Beatty 1 collection).
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the window,
peering through the lattice.
The Season of Love and the Song of the Turtle-Dove
The Lover to His Beloved:
10 My lover spoke to me, saying:
“Arise, my darling;
My beautiful one, come away with me!
11 Look! The winter has passed,
the winter rains are over and gone.
12 The pomegranates have appeared#tn Heb “are seen.” in the land,
the time for pruning and singing#tn Alternately, “the time of singing” or “the time of pruning.” The homonymic root זָמִיר (zamir) means “song, singing” (HALOT 273 s.v. I זָמִיר; DCH 3:117 s.v. זָמִיר a), while זָמִיר II means “pruning, trimming” (HALOT 273 s.v. II; DCH 3:117 s.v. II). The intended root is debated among the ancient versions (LXX, Aquila, Symmachus, Vulgate, Targum), Hebrew lexicographers (HALOT 273; DCH 3:117), and translations: “singing” (KJV, NIV, NASB margin, NJPS margin), “pruning” (NASB, NJPS). However, rather than choosing between these two roots, it is likely that this is an example of intentional ambiguity. The preceding line draws out the meaning of זָמִיר (“trimming, pruning”): “The pomegranates are seen in the land, the time of pruning has come.” The following line draws out the meaning of זָמִיר (“singing”): “The time of singing has come, the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.” This homonymic wordplay creates an example of “janus parallelism” between the three poetic lines which play off both root meanings of the intentionally ambiguous homonym. This elegant wordplay and the AB:BA “janus parallelism” may be represented thus: “The pomegranates are seen in the land, the time has come for pruning // singing, the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.” has come;
the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree has budded,
the vines have blossomed and give off their fragrance.
Arise, come away my darling;
my beautiful one, come away with me!”
The Dove in the Clefts of En-Gedi
The Lover to His Beloved:
14 O my dove,#sn The dove was a common figure for romantic love in ancient Near Eastern love literature. This emphasis seems to be suggested by his use of the term “my dove.” Just as the young man heard the voice of the turtledove in 2:12, so now he wants to hear her voice. Doves were often associated with timidity in the ancient world. Being virtually defenseless, they would often take refuge in crevices and cliffs for safety (Jer 48:28). The emphasis on timidity and the need for security is undoubtedly the emphasis here because of the explicit description of this “dove” hiding in the “clefts of the rock” and in “the hiding places of the mountain crevice.” Fortresses were sometimes built in the clefts of the rocks on mountainsides because they were inaccessible and therefore, in a secure place of safety (Jer 49:16; Obad 3). Perhaps he realized it might be intimidating for her to join him and communicate with him freely. She would need to feel secure in his love to do this. It would be easy for her to hide from such emotionally exposing experiences. in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places of the mountain crags,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
The Foxes in the Vineyard
The Beloved to Her Lover:
15 Catch#tn The imperative אֶחֱזוּ (’ekhezu, “catch”) is plural in form (Qal imperative 2nd person masculine plural from אָחַז, ’akhaz). Some commentators suggest that the woman is speaking to a large audience, perhaps the maidens of Jerusalem mentioned in 2:7. However, the Hebrew plural can function in an intensive sense when used in reference to a single individual (IBHS 122 §7.4.3a). As noted previously, the bride often uses the plural in reference to herself or to her bridegroom in Sumerian love literature. Thus, the woman simply may be speaking to her beloved, as in 2:16-17, but with particularly intense passion. the foxes#sn The term “foxes” is used metaphorically. Foxes are always spoken of in a negative light in the OT and in the ancient world were particularly associated with their destructive tendencies with regard to vineyards (Judg 15:4; Neh 4:3; Ps 63:10; Lam 5:18; Ezek 13:4). The description of these foxes as being destructive here seems to confirm that this is the point of comparison in mind. for us,
the little foxes,#sn In ancient Near Eastern love literature it was common to use wild animals to symbolize potential problems which could separate lovers and destroy their love. For instance, in Egyptian love songs it is the crocodile, rather than the foxes, which were used as figures for obstacles which might threaten a couple’s love. Here the “foxes” are probably used figuratively to represent potentially destructive problems which could destroy their romantic relationship and which could hinder it from ripening into marriage.
that ruin the vineyards#sn The term “vineyard” is also a figure. In 1:6 she used the vineyard motif as a metaphor for her physical appearance, but here it is “our vineyards” which is probably a figure for their romantic relationship. The phrase “in bloom” makes the metaphor more specific, so that the phrase “our vineyards are in bloom” means that their romantic love relationship was in its initial stages, that is, before it had ripened into marriage. –
for our vineyard is in bloom.
Poetic Refrain: Mutual Possession
The Beloved about Her Lover:
16 My lover is mine and I am his;
he grazes among the lilies.#sn This line may be translated either as “the one who grazes among the lilies” or as “the one who feeds [his flock] among the lilies.” The latter would picture him as a shepherd pasturing his flock among a bed of flowers which they were eating, while the former would be picturing him as a gazelle feeding among a bed of flowers. Because of the occurrence of the gazelle motif in the following verse, it is most likely that this motif is present in this verse as well. Although it seems likely that he is therefore being pictured as a gazelle eating these flowers, it is far from clear as to what this figurative picture denotes. It is possible that it conveys the peaceful nature of his relationship with her because she was earlier portrayed as a lily (e.g., 2:1).
The Gazelle and the Rugged Mountains
The Beloved to Her Lover:
17 Until the dawn arrives#sn Heb “until the day breathes,” which is figurative (personification) for the morning, that is, the time when the day begin its “life” (e.g., Song 4:6). Likewise, “the shadows flee” is figurative (personification) for the dawn, i.e., the time when the dark shadows of the night disappear, or the shadows of the evening which lengthen and are just as fleeting. and the shadows flee,
turn,#tn The exact meaning of סֹב (sov, Qal imperative 2nd person masculine singular from סָבַב, savav, “to turn”) in this context is uncertain. The imperatival form may be classified as an invitation. HALOT notes that סָבַב (“to turn”) occasionally denotes “to sit [lie] at a table” (1 Sam 16:11; Sir 9:9) and suggests that this is a figurative use of this nuance (HALOT 739 s.v. סבב 2c). The Beloved would be issuing an invitation to him to “turn aside to sit” at her table, that is, to enjoy the delights of her love. On the other hand, סֹב (“Turn!”) may simply be a synonym for the following parallel imperative דְּמֵה (dÿmeh, “Be like!”), that is, “turn, change” (HALOT 224 s.v. דָּם). In keeping with the extended simile in which the Beloved compares him to a gazelle or stag leaping upon the mountains, the term סֹב may simply denote “turn oneself around, change direction” (HALOT 739 s.v. 1). Rather than leaping somewhere else, so to speak, she invites him to leap upon the “mountain gorges.” my beloved –
be like a gazelle or a young stag
on the mountain gorges.#tn The expression הָרֵי בָתֶר (hare bater, “mountains of Bethar”) is difficult because there is no known mountain-range which was ever called by this name. The meaning of the noun בֶּתֶר (beter) is uncertain. DCH distinguishes between three homonymic nouns: (1) בֶּתֶר I noun “part, piece” (Gen 15:10; Jer 34:19) related to the verb בֶּתֶר “to cut in two” (Gen 15:10); (2) בֶּתֶר II noun “gorge” (Song 2:17); and (3) בֶּתֶר III place name “Bether” in Judah and 6.5 miles (11 km) SW of Jerusalem (Josh 15:59; 1 Chr 6:44; perhaps Song 2:17) (DCH 2:291 s.v. בֶּתֶר). Thus, הָרֵי בָתֶר might mean “mountains of gorge[s]” or “mountains of Bether” (DCH 2:291 s.v. III). The Hebrew root בָּתַר (batar, “cut in pieces, cut in half”) is related to Arabic batara “to cut off” (HALOT 167 s.v. בתר; BDB 144 בָּתַר). The word does not appear in Ugaritic, Akkadian, or Syriac. Aramaic בָּאתַר (ba’tar, “after, behind”) was used frequently in Northwest Semitic (DISO 45-46) and Late Hebrew (Jastrow 201 s.v. בָּאתַר); however, it offers little to this problem. Many scholars take בֶּתֶר as a genitive of description functioning as an attributive adjective. For example, BDB suggests that בֶּתֶר means “mountains of cutting,” that is, “cleft mountains” (BDB 144 s.v. בֶּתֶר), while Koehler posits “ravine,” that is, mountains with a ravine (HALOT 167 s.v. II בֶּתֶר). This is reflected in the LXX’s κοιλωμάτων (koilwmatwn, “hollow places, basin, cavity”): ὄρη κοιλωμάτων (orh koilwmatwn) “mountains with many ravines.” This approach is adopted by several translations, e.g., “rugged mountains” (NLT). On the other hand, Vulgate, Aquila, and Symmachus took it as a place name referring to the town of Bether (LXX Βαιθηρ = Mishnaic Hebrew בִּיתֵּר) located 6.5 miles (11 km) southwest of Jerusalem (Josh 15:59; 1 Chr 6:44). This approach is adopted by several translations: “mountains of Bether” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV margin, TEV). Theodotion takes it as a figurative expression, reading θυμιαματων (qumiamatwn, “incense”) which reflects a variant Hebrew reading of בְּשָמִים (bÿshamim, “balsam, perfume”) which also appears in Song 8:14. This approach is taken in a Jewish-English translation: “hills of spice” (NJPS). The botanist Löw connects Hebrew בֶּתֶר to Greek μαλαβάθρον (malabaqron) which was an Indian spice plant imported to Judah. See I. Low, Die Flora der Juden, 2:117-118. The expression “cleft mountains” (הָרֵי בָתֶר) might refer simply to a rugged and jagged mountain-range (NLT “rugged mountains”; NIV “rugged hills”). However, this may be a figurative description of the woman’s cleavage because similar imagery is used in Song 4:6 to describe her breasts. The name “Tihamah” (literally “the Great Deep”) was applied to the low-lying coastland between the mountains of Yemen and the Red Sea as well as to the depression of Djauf (Dumah) because of fresh-water springs which oozed up from below (Hebrew “Tehom” and “Tehomot,” Ugaritic “Tihamaten” or “Tahamatum,” Akkadian “Tiamat”). And it appears that in an Ammonite inscription that an area near the mountainous region of Rabbath-Amman is referred to by the name “Tymtn” (literally “The Two Depressions”), rather than by its real name (W. F. Albright, “Some Comments on the Amman Citadel Inscription,” BASOR 198 [April 1978]: 38-39).sn Scholars offer three interpretations of her figurative request: (1) The Beloved desires her Lover to embrace her breasts, like a gazelle romping over mountains (mountains are figurative); (2) The Beloved entreats her Lover to leave and go back over the hills from whence he had journeyed (mountains are literal); and (3) As her Lover prepares to leave her country village, the Beloved asks him to return to her again in the same way he arrived, like a gazelle bounding over the mountains in 2:8-10 (mountains are literal).
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