1The Song of Songs,#This construction conveys a superlative connotation, e.g., “The most exquisite song” which is for#Or “by Solomon” or “about/concerning Solomon” Solomon.
Maiden’s Soliloquy
2May#In the maiden’s soliloquy, she thinks about her beloved in her thoughts (“May he kiss me!”), then poetically speaks to him as if he were in her presence (“for your love is better than wine”). To avoid confusion, the translation uses the second-person form throughout vv. 2–4 you kiss me#Literally “May he kiss me” passionately with your lips,#Literally “with the kisses of his mouth”
for your love is better than wine.#The shift from the third person “he … his” to the second person “you … your” in vv. 2–4 should not be interpreted as suggesting two different referents, that is, one male whom the maiden is addressing as “you,” and another to whom she refers as “he.” Rather, this shift is a poetic device (called “grammatical differentiation”) that is not uncommon in Hebrew poetry (e.g., Gen 49:4; Deut 32:15; Psa 23:2–5; Isa 1:29; 42:20; 54:1; Jer 22:24; Amos 4:1; Mic 7:19; Lam 3:1; Song 4:2; 6:6). This shift is characteristic of a soliloquy, a dramatic or literary form in which a character reveals her thoughts without addressing a listener who is actually present (e.g., 2 Sam 19:4). In this case, the maiden’s private thoughts about her beloved (v. 2a) shift to an imaginary address to her beloved (vv. 2b–4a)
3As fragrance, your perfumes#Literally “your oil lotions” are delightful;#Literally “good”
your name is poured out perfume;#Literally “oil lotion”
therefore young women love you.
4Draw me after you, let us run!
May the king bring me into his chambers!#Or “The king has brought me into his chambers”
Let us be joyful and let us rejoice in you;
let us extol your love more than wine.
Rightly do they love you!
Maiden’s Self-Description
5I am black but beautiful,#Or “black and beautiful” O maidens of Jerusalem,#Literally “O daughters of Jerusalem”
like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.
6Do not gaze at me because I am black, #This is figurative for the maiden’s physical appearance; her skin was darkly tanned
because the sun has stared at me.
The sons of my mother were angry with me;
they made me keeper of the vineyards,
but my own “vineyard”#Literally “my vineyard that for me” I did not keep.
Dialogue between Shepherdess and Shepherd
7Tell me, you whom my heart#Literally “soul” loves,
where do you pasture your flock,
where do your sheep lie down at the noon?
For why should I be like#Literally “For to what will I be like” one who is veiled#The reading of the MT (“like one who is veiled”) is supported by the LXX. However, several ancient versions (Syriac Peshitta, Latin Vulgate, Symmachus) reflect an alternate Hebrew textual tradition in which two letters are transposed, resulting in the reading “like one who wanders about.” This makes good sense contextually, since the maiden does not know where her beloved would be at noon
beside the flocks of your companions?
8If you do not know, O fairest among women,
follow the tracks#Literally “in the tracks” of the flock,
and pasture your little lambs#Or “your kids” beside the tents of the shepherds.
Man’s Poetic Praise of His Beloved
9To a mare#Or “my mare” among the chariots#Or “chariot horses” of Pharaoh,
I compare you, my beloved.
10Your cheeks are beautiful with ornaments,
your neck with strings of jewels.
11We will make ornaments of gold for you
with studs#Or “droplets” of silver.
Maiden’s Poetic Praise of Her Beloved
12While the king was on his couch,
my nard gave its fragrance.
13My beloved is to me a pouch#Literally “the bag” of myrrh,
he spends the night#Or “he lays” between my breasts.
14My beloved is to me a cluster of blossoms of henna
in the vineyards of En Gedi.
Mutual Admiration
15Look! You are beautiful, my beloved.
Look! You are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.
16Look! You are beautiful, my beloved,
truly pleasant.
Truly our couch is verdant;#Literally “green”
17the beams of our house are cedar;
our rafter is cypress.
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