The Beauty of the Woman
1M#a. [4:1–3] Sg 6:5–7., #b. [4:1] Sg 1:15. How beautiful you are, my friend,
how beautiful you are!
Your eyes are doves
behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
streaming down Mount Gilead.#This section (vv. 1–7) begins a wasf, a traditional poetic form describing the physical attributes of one’s partner in terms of the natural world (cf. 5:10–16; 6:5b–7; 7:1–7). Veil: women of the region customarily veiled their faces for some occasions (cf. 4:3; 6:7; Gn 24:65–67; 38:14–19).
2Your teeth#Teeth: praised for whiteness and evenness. are like a flock of ewes to be shorn,
that come up from the washing,
All of them big with twins,
none of them barren.
3Like a scarlet strand, your lips,
and your mouth—lovely!
Like pomegranate#Pomegranate: a fruit with a firm skin and deep red color. The woman’s cheek (or perhaps her brow) is compared, in roundness and tint, to a half-pomegranate. halves, your cheeks
behind your veil.
4#c. [4:4] Sg 7:5. Like a tower of David, your neck,
built in courses,
A thousand shields hanging upon it,
all the armor of warriors.#The ornaments about her neck are compared to the trophies and armaments on the city walls. Cf. 1 Kgs 10:10; 14:26–28; Ez 27:10.
5#d. [4:5] Sg 7:4. Your breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle
feeding among the lilies.
6#e. [4:6] Sg 2:17. Until the day grows cool
and the shadows flee,
I shall go to the mountain of myrrh,
to the hill of frankincense.#Mountain of myrrh…hill of frankincense: spoken figuratively of the woman; cf. 8:14.
7You are beautiful in every way, my friend,
there is no flaw in you!#Cf. the description of the church in Eph 5:27.
8With me from Lebanon, my bride!
With me from Lebanon, come!
Descend from the peak of Amana,
from the peak of Senir and Hermon,#Amana…Senir and Hermon: these rugged heights symbolize obstacles that would separate the lovers; cf. 2:14.
From the lairs of lions,
from the leopards’ heights.
9#f. [4:9] Sg 6:5. You have ravished my heart, my sister,#Sister: a term of endearment; brother-sister language forms part of the conventional language of love used in this canticle, the Book of Tobit, and elsewhere in poetry from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syro-Palestine. my bride;
you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one bead of your necklace.
10#g. [4:10] Sg 1:2–3. How beautiful is your love,
my sister, my bride,
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfumes than any spice!
11Your lips drip honey,#Honey: sweet words (cf. Prv 5:3) or perhaps kisses (1:2–3). Honey and milk: familiar descriptions for the fertile promised land (Ex 3:8, 17; Lv 20:24; Nm 13:27; Dt 6:3). my bride,
honey and milk are under your tongue;
And the fragrance of your garments
is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
The Lover’s Garden
12M#h. [4:12] Sg 6:2, 11. A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed!#Garden enclosed…fountain sealed: reserved for the lover alone. Cf. Prv 5:15–19 for similar images used to describe fruitful, committed relationship.
13Your branches are a grove of pomegranates,
with fruits of choicest yield:
Henna with spikenard,
14spikenard and saffron,
Sweet cane and cinnamon,
with all kinds of frankincense;
Myrrh and aloes,
with all the finest spices;#These plants are all known for their sweet fragrance.
15A garden fountain, a well of living water,
streams flowing from Lebanon.
16Awake,#Awake: the same verb is used of love in 3:5. The woman may be the speaker of 16a, as it is she who issues the invitation of 16b. His garden: the woman herself. north wind!
Come, south wind!
Blow upon my garden
that its perfumes may spread abroad.
W Let my lover come to his garden
and eat its fruits of choicest yield.
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