Song of Solomon 1
Pulpit Commentary
The song of songs, which is Solomon's.
Verse 1. - The song of songs, which is Solomon's. This is certainly the title of the book which follows, although in our present Hebrew Bible it is the first verse of the book preceded by the shorter form, 'The Song of Songs.' The Septuagint has simply the title Ασμα, So that our English title in the Authorized Version, 'The Song of Solomon,' has no ancient authority. It is well altered in the Revised Version to 'The Song of Songs.' The word "song" (שִׁיר) does not necessarily convey the meaning. composed to be sung to music. If the performance of the words were chiefly in view, the word would have been מִוְמור, carmen, "lyric poem," "hymn," or "ode." The Greek Ασμα ἀσμάτων, and the Latin of the Vulgate, Canticum canticorum, accord with the Hebrew in representing the work as taking a high place either in the esteem of the Church or, on account of the subject, in the esteem of the writer. Luther expresses the same idea in the title he attaches to it, 'Das Hohelied,' that is, the chief or finest of songs. The reference may be to the excellence of the literary form, but probably that which suggested the title was the supreme beauty of the love which prompted the songs. The title may be regarded as applied to the whole book, or to the first portion of it giving the name to the whole. If it be a collection of separate songs strung together, as some think) by mere resemblance in style and subject, then the words, "which is Solomon's" (לְִשל מו אֲשֶׁר) apply to the first song alone. But the unity which is clearly to be traced through the book to the end makes it probable that the title is meant to ascribe the work to the authorship of Solomon. This is the opinion of the majority of critics. It must have come either from the wise king himself, or from some one of his contemporaries or immediate successors. The preposition is the lamedh auctoris. If the meaning were "referring to," another preposition (עַל) would have been employed. It has been remarked by Delitzsch that the absence of any description of Solomon as "King of Israel" or "son of David," as in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, confirms the view that Solomon himself was the sole author. Some have argued against the authenticity of the title on the ground that the longer form of the relative, אֲשֶׁר, is used in it, whereas in the book itself the shorter form, שְׁ, is found, but no dependence, can be placed on that argument regarded by itself, for the same writer employs both forms, as e.g. Jeremiah, who uses the longer form in his prophecies and the shorter in Lamentations. The shorter form is, in fact, the elder, being Old Canaanitish or Phoenician, אשׁ, which is a lengthened form of שׁ, and afterwards became אֲשֶׁר. One writer, however Fleischer), holds that the relative pronoun as a substantive origin, and compares it with the Arabic ithe and the Assyrian asar, meaning "track" or "place," like the German welcher, which comes from wo. But whether this be so or not, it is certainly unsafe to date any book by the form found in it of the, relative pronoun. We know that in poetry the abbreviated form is common. It was probably a North Palestine provincialism, as we see in the Book of Kings. It became common in prose writings after the Captivity because of the degradation of Hebrew, but it was not unknown before that time either in prose or poetry. With regard to the exact description of the poetic form of the Song of Songs, the difference among critics is considerable, but the question is scarcely worth discussing. There undoubtedly is unity of conception in the songs which are brought together, but it cannot be of importance to prove that there is dramatic unity strictly speaking; there is no dramatic procedure, nor can we suppose that there is any ultimate aim at dramatic representation. But the Exposition which follows will suffice to show that there are facts of history in the background of the poem; if the suggestions of the language and scenery be followed, the facts are very beautiful and even romantic - the love of the great king for one of his own subjects, a lovely northern maiden, whose simplicity and purity of character are a great attraction and lend much force to the religious sentiment of the song. In 1 Kings 5:12 we read that "the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him." That divinely inspired wisdom enabled him, notwithstanding his own personal errors, to idealize and sanctify the lovely episode of his lifo which lies at the foundation of his poem. And the Church of God in every age has appreciated, more or less widely, the inspiration, both of matter and of form, which breathed in it. We are told that Solomon composed one thousand and five songs (1 Kings 4:32); whether this is a part of that collection or not we cannot certainly say, but that it is a mere fasciculus, or collection of separate songs, strung together by their general erotic character, is what we cannot believe. No doubt, as Dr. Mason Good has observed, the Arabian poets were accustomed to arrange their poems in what they compared to a string of pearls, but we can scarcely carry such a fact into the Bible, and deal with sacred books as mere literary remains. There must be a deep religious meaning in such language, and it is in accordance with Eastern usage that amatory songs should be so employed. What the meaning is we must persistently ask, and however much has been wrongly said in the past, while we believe in the Divine authority of the Old Testament we must not renounce the endeavour to find the Song of Songs worthy of its title and its place.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Verse 2-ch. 2:7. - Part I. MUTUAL LOVE. Song of Shulamith in the royal chambers. Chorus of ladies, daughters of Jerusalem. Verse 2. - Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Whether we take these words as put in the lips of the bride herself, or of the chorus as identifying themselves with her, is of little consequence. It is certain that the idea intended to be expressed is that of delight in the approach of the royal bridegroom. The future is used optatively, "Let me be taken up into the closest fellowship and embrace." All attempts to dispense with the amatory phraseology are vain. The "kisses" must be interpreted in a figurative sense, or the sacred character of the whole book must be removed. The words may be rendered, with one of his kisses; i.e. the sweetness of his lips is such that one kiss would be rapture. Some have thought that allusion is intended to the custom among idolaters referred to in Job 31:27, "My mouth hath kissed my hand;" but the meaning is simply that of affection. The great majority of Christian commentators have regarded the words as expressive of desire towards God. Origen said, the Church of the old dispensation longing after higher revelations, as through the Incarnation, "How long shall he send me kisses by Moses and the prophets? I desire the touch of his own lips." It is dangerous to attempt specific applications of a metaphor. The general truth of it is all that need be admitted. If the relation between God and his people is one that can be set forth under the image of human affection, then there is no impropriety in the language of Solomon's Song. "To kiss a kiss" (נָשָׁק נְשִׁקָה) is the ordinary Hebraic form (cf. "to counsel a counsel"). Thy love is better than wine. The plural is used, "loves," as in the word "life" (חַיִים) - the abstract for the concrete, perhaps in order to indicate the manifestation of love in many caresses. The change from the third person to the second is common in poetry. The comparison with wine may be taken either as denoting sweetness or exhilarating effects. The intoxicating power of wine is but rarely referred to in Scripture, as the ordinary wine was distinguished from strong drink. Some, as Hitzig and Bottcher, would read יַשְׁקֵנִי, changing the pointing, and translating, "Let him give me to drink;" but there is no necessity for a reading so forced and vulgar. The Septuagint, altering the vowels of the word "love," turn it into "breasts," and must therefore have supposed it addressed to the bride. The word is connected with the Arabic, and runs through the languages, dodh (cf. Dada, Dido, David). Perhaps the reference to wine, as subsequently to the ointments, may be explained by the fact that the song is supposed to be sung while wine is presented in the chamber, and while the perfumes are poured out in preparation for the entrance of the royal bridegroom. We can scarcely doubt that the opening words are intended to be the utterance of loving desire on the part of the bride in the presence of the daughters of Jerusalem. Some have suggested that vers. 1-8 are from a kind of responsive dialogue, but the view of the older interpreters and of Ewald, Hengstenberg, Weissbach, and others of the moderns, seems more correct, that all the first seven verses are in the mouth of Shulamith, and then ver. 8 comes in naturally as a chorus in reply to the song of the bride. The use of the plural, "We will run after thee," etc., is easily explicable. The bride is surrounded by her admiring companions and attendants. They are congratulating her on the king's love. She speaks as from the midst of the company of ladies.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Verse 3. - Thine ointments have a goodly fragrance; thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee. There is some slight difference among critics as to the rendering of this verse, but it does not affect the meaning. Lovely and delightful thou art. As thy perfumes are so precious, so is thy name; the more it is spread, the more delight is found in it. The idea is that the person is the sweetest, and that his communications are elevating and inspiring. The "virgins" may be taken generally, "Those who are full of the sensibility of youth appreciate thy attractions." The word almah is much disputed about, but the meaning is simply that of "young woman," whether virgin or married. "Thou art the delight of all the young." Mason Good renders the verse -

"Rich thy perfumes; but richer far than they
The countless charms that round thy person play;
Thy name alone, more fragrant than the rose,
Glads every maid, where'er its fragrance flows."
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
Verse 4. - Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will make mention of thy love more than of wine: rightly do they love thee. This is best taken as all spoken by the bride. It is the language of the purest affection and adoring admiration. "I drew them," God says (Hosea 11:4), "with cords of a man, with bands of love." "The Lord appeared of old unto me," says Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:3), "saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." In the same sense the Greek word ἐλκυεῖν is used by our Lord himself of the Father drawing to the Son, and of the Son, uplifted on the cross, "drawing" all men unto him (cf. John 6:44; John 12:32). If the spiritual meaning of the whole poem is admitted, such language is quite natural. The king's chambers are the king's own rooms in the palace, i.e. his sleeping, rooms and sitting rooms - the penetralia regis. We may take the preterite as equivalent to the present; i.e. "The king is bringing me into closest fellowship with himself, not merely as a member of his household, but as his chosen bride." The concluding words have caused much discussion. The meaning, however, is the same whether we say, "The upright love thee," or "Thou art rightly loved." The intention is to set forth the object of love as perfect. The plural, מֵישָׁרִים, is used to signify the abstract of the word, thought, or act; i.e. "righteous," for "rightly" (cf. Psalm 58:2; Psalm 75:3); but the best critics think it could not be the abstract for the concrete plural, as in the Vulgate, Recti diligunt re. The same use of the word is seen in eh. 7:9, "The best wine that teeth down smoothly for my beloved" (cf. Proverbs 23:31). Before going further in the song, it is well to observe how chaste, pure, and delicate is the language of love; and yet, as Delitzsch has pointed out, there is a mystical, cloudy brightness. We seem to be in the region of the ideal. It is not a mere love song, though it may have been the commemoration of an actual past. The Eastern form of the words may be less suited to our taste than it would be to those who first embraced Christianity, and to the nineteenth century than to the first; but the loving rapture of the Church in fellowship with the Saviour is certainly seeking a more vivid expression in song, and there are many of the most simple-minded and devoted Christians whose joy in Christ pours itself out freely in strains not much less fervid and almost as sensuous as anything to be found in Solomon's Song. Some are beginning to remonstrate against this freedom of devotional language, but the instinct of the Church seems to justify it as the demand of the heart under the influence of the Word of God itself. Perhaps there is a state of religious feeling coming into the experience of Christians which will remove the veil from such a book as the Song of Songs, and we shall yet find that its language is needful and is not extravagant.
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Verse 5. - I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. The word "black" (שְׁחורָה) does not necessarily mean that the skin is black, but rather sunburnt, dark brown, as in Lamentations 4:8, where the same word signifies the livid or swarthy appearance of one who has suffered long from famine and wretchedness. There is certainly no reason to take the word as an argument for the bride being Pharaoh's daughter; but it points to what is confirmed by the rest of the poem - the rustic birth and northern blood of the bride. She has been living in the fields, and is browned with the ruddy health of a country life. The best explanation of the words is that they are drawn out by the fact that the bride is surrounded by her ladies. Some think that they look askance at her, or with indignation at the boldness of her words; but that is quite unnecessary, and would be inconsistent with the dignity of the bride. The country maiden feels the greatness of the honour, that she is chosen of the king, and with simple modesty, in the presence of courtly ladies around her, sets forth her claim. The simile is not uncommon in poetry, as in Theocritus and Virgil. Comely; i.e. attractive, agreeable. Kedar (whether from the Arabic, meaning "powerful," or from the Hebrew, "black") designates the tribes of the North Arabian descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13; Isaiah 21:17), Kedareens, referred to by Pliny, and remaining in Arabia until the time of the Mohammedans. The Bedouin still calls his tent his "hair house;" it is covered with goat's-hair cloth, mostly black or grey. Whether the reference is to the colour of the goat's hair or to the tents being browned or blackened by the heat of the sun, we cannot doubt that the allusion is to the complexion, and the rest of the simile would then be applicable to the lovely shape and features of the maiden, the curtains of Solomon being the curtains of a pavilion, or pleasure tent, spread out like "a shining butterfly," i.e. the beautiful cloth or tapestry which formed the sides of the tent or the tent coverings, the clothing of the framework, or tent hangings (see Isaiah 54:2; Exodus 26:36; 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17:1, etc.). Egyptian hangings were particularly prized. The custom prevailed among Eastern monarchs of sojourning once in the year in some lovely rural district, and at such times their tents would be very magnificent. The LXX. has, ὡς δεῥῤείς Σολομὼν, "as the skins of Solomon;" but this is a mistake. The word is derived from a root "to tremble," i.e. "to glitter in the sun." Those who desire to find an allegorical interpretation think there is an evident allusion here to the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness, or the admission of the Gentiles into the covenant; but there is no reason for any such strain upon the meaning. The simile is merely poetical. The soul realizes its own acceptance before God, but ascribes that acceptance to his grace. "The bride, the Lamb's wife," sees the beauty of the Lord reflected in herself, and rejoices in her own attractions for his sake. There is no immodesty in the consciousness of merit so long as that merit is ascribed to him from whom it comes. There is often more pride in the assumption of humility than in the claim to be acknowledged. The same apostle who declared himself less than the least of all saints also maintained that he was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Verse 6. - Look not upon me, because I am swarthy, because the sun hath scorched me. My mother's sons were incensed against me; they made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. The meaning seems to be - Do not let the swarthiness of my complexion lower me in your eyes. Literally the words are, Do not see me that I am; i.e. do not regard me as being, because I am. There is no necessity to suppose any looks of the ladies to have suggested the words. They are the words of modest self-depreciation mingled with joyful sense of acceptance. It is difficult to render the Hebrew exactly. The word translated "swarthy" (shecharchoreh) is probably a diminutive from shechorah, which itself means "blackish;" so that the meaning is, "that my complexion is dark." The reference to the sun explains the word still further, as pointing, not to a difference of race, but to mere temporary effects of an outdoor life: "The sun has been playing with my complexion;" or, as the LXX. renders it, Παρέβλεψέ μὰ ὁ ἡλίος, "The sun has been gazing at me." So other Greek versions. Some, however, include the idea of burning or scorching, which is the literal meaning of the verb, though in Job 3:9 and Job 41:10 it is used in the sense of looking at or upon. The sun is the eye of the heavens (see 2 Samuel 12:11), and with delicate feeling it is spoken of here as feminine, the bride playfully alluding, perhaps, to the lady seen in the heavens preceding the ladies of the court in gazing on her beauty. It is difficult to explain with perfect satisfaction the next clause of the verse. Doubtless "mother's sons" is a poetical periphrasis for brothers - not "step-brothers," as some have said. Perhaps the mother was a widow, as no father is mentioned. The best explanation is that the bride is simply giving an account of herself, why she is so browned in the sun. The brothers, for some reason, had been incensed against her, possibly on account of her favour in the eyes of the king, but more probably for private, family reasons. They would not have her shutting herself up in the house to take care of her complexion; they would have her in the vineyards. In the word "keeper" (noterah instead of notzerah) we have an instance of the northern dialect - a kind of Platt-Hebrew - hardening the pronunciation. My own vineyard have I not kept no doubt refers simply and solely to her complexion, not to her virginity or character. She means - I was compelled by my brothers to go into the vineyards in the heat of the sun, and the consequence was, as you see, I have not been able to preserve the delicacy of my skin; I have been careless of my personal beauty. The sun has done its work. The reference helps us to recognize the historical background of the poem, and leads naturally to the use of the pastoral language which runs through the whole. The king is a shepherd, and his bride a shepherdess. Without straining the spiritual interpretation, we may yet discover in this beautiful candour and Simplicity of the bride the reflection of the soul's virtues in its joyful realization of Divine favour; but the true method of interpretation requires no minute, detailed adjustment of the language to spiritual facts, but rather seeks the meaning in the total impression of the poem.
Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?
Verse 7. - Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest thy flock, where thou makest it to rest at noon: for why should I he as one that is veiled beside the flock of thy companions? These words carry on the associations suggested by the previous verse. The bride is longing for the bridegroom; but she cannot think of him yet in any other light than as a companion of her simple country life - he is a shepherd, and she a shepherdess. "Take me into closer fellowship with thyself; let me not remain still only one amongst the many." Perhaps there is intended to be an allusion to the common metaphor - the king as the shepherd and the people as his flock; but the uppermost thought of the bride is separation unto her husband. The soul which longs for the enjoyment of fellowship with God desires to be carried away out of all distractions, out of all restraints, lifted above reserve and above doubt into the closest and most loving union. The idea of the veil may be either the veil of mourning or the veil of modesty and reserve. Probably the latter is the true reference. The LXX. has, ὡς περιβαλλομένη. There is some difference of opinion among critics. Ewald thinks it refers to strangeness - "like one unknown," and therefore veiled; Gesenius says, "one fainting;" others connect the word with the root "to roam," "to wander" (see Isaiah 22:17), which is confirmed by Symmachus, the Vulgate, the Syriac, the Chaldee, Jerome, Venetian, and Luther. The simplest explanation is that the bride compares herself, in her absence from her lord, among the ladies of the court, to a veiled woman travelling beside the flocks of the shepherds, seeking her friend, but not yet brought to him.
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.
Verse 8. - (Chorus of ladies.) If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents. That another voice is here introduced there can be no doubt; and as it is not like the voice of the bridegroom himself, which is heard in the next verse, we must suppose it to be the chorus of attendant ladies. Delitzsch suggests very plausibly that they are pleasantly chiding the simplicity of the country maiden, and telling her that, if she cannot understand her position, she had better return to her country life. In that case, "if thou know not" would mean - If thou canst not rise up to thy privilege; the knowledge referred to being general knowledge or wisdom. The delicate irony is well expressed, as in the reference to the kids - "feed thy kids," like a child as thou art. But there may be no intentional irony in the words; rather a playful and sympathetic response to the beautiful simplicity of the bride - If thou art waiting to be brought to thy beloved, if thou art seeking thy shepherd, thou most lovely woman, then go quietly on thy way, like a shepherdess tending the kids beside the shepherds' tents; follow the peaceful footsteps of the flock, and in due time the beloved one will appear. This is better than to suppose the ladies presuming to indulge in irony when they must know that Shulamith is the king's favourite. Besides, the first scene of the poem, which is a kind of introduction, thus ends appropriately with an invitation to peaceful waiting for love. We are prepared for the entrance of the beloved one. The spiritual meaning is simple and clear - Those that would be lifted up into the highest enjoyments of religion must not be impatient and doubt that the Lord will reveal himself, but go quietly and patiently on with the work of life, "in the footsteps of the flock," in fellowship with humble souls, and in the paths of peace, in the green pastures and beside the still waters, ready to do anything assigned them, and the time of rejoicing and rapture will come.
I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots.
Verse 9. - (Entrance of the bridegroom.) I have compared thee, O my love, to a steed in Pharaoh's chariots. There can be no reasonable doubt that these words are put into the mouth of the king. The "steed" is in the feminine (סוּסָה); some would point the word with the plural vowels, that is, "to my horses," or a "body of horses." There is no necessity for that. The reference to a particular very lovely mare is more apt and pointed. In 1 Kings 10:26 we read in the LXX. Version of τεσσάρες χιλίαδες θηλειαὶ ἵπποι, which Solomon had for his chariots - fourteen hundred war chariots and twelve thousand horsemen. The Pharaoh chariots were those which the king had imported from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28, 29; 2 Chronicles 9:28). It may be that the reference is to the splendid decoration of the trappings. Delitzsch very rightly sees in such a figure a confirmation of the view that Solomon himself was the author. The horses from Egypt were famed at that time as those of Arabia became afterwards. The names both of horses and chariots in the Egyptian language were borrowed from the Semitic, as they were probably first imported into Egypt by the Hyksos, or shepherd kings. Other examples of the same comparison are found in poetry, as in Horace, Anacreon, and Theocritus. In the last ('Idyl.,' 18:30, 31) occur the following lines, rendered into English verse: -

"As towers the cypress 'mid the garden's bloom,
As in the chariot proud Thessalian steed,
Thus graceful, rose-complexioned Helen moves."
The idea is that of stately beauty and graceful movements. The old commentators see the Divine love of espousals (Jeremiah 2:2), as in the wilderness of the Exodus, and afterwards in the wilderness of the world. The Bible is full of the expression of Divine tenderness and regard for man.
Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
Verses 10, 11. - Thy cheeks are comely with plaits of hair, thy neck with strings of jewels. We will make thee plaits of gold with studs of silver. This language may be suggested by the comparison first employed - the trappings of the horse. "The head frame of the horse's bridle and the poitral were then certainly, just as now, adorned with silken tassels, fringes, and other ornaments of silver. Torim, 'round ornaments,' which hang down in front on both sides of the headband or are also inwoven in the braids of hair in the forehead." The strings of jewels were necklaces - three rows of pearls. The ornamentation is, however, quite in accordance with female dress. The king makes the promise of gold and silver decoration as an expression of his personal delight in his bride and acceptance of her. Gold and silver were closely connected; hence silver was called, in the Old Egyptian language, "white gold." The idea seems to be that of silver points sprinkled over golden knobs. Compare the description in 'Faust' of Margaret's delight in the casket she finds in her room. The LXX. and Vulgate have mistaken the word torim for a similar word for "doves," taking the simile to be the beautiful colours of the dove's neck. The bride does not seem to reply immediately to the king; but we may suppose that the king takes his bride by the hand, and leads her into the banqueting chamber. But the next three verses, which are certainly in the lips of the bride, may be taken as her expression of delight in her husband, either while he feasts in the banquet or when it is over. The banquet is a familiar emblem of the delight of mutual love. Hence the feasts of love in the primitive Church were regarded, not only as seasons of fellowship between Christians, but times of rejoicing, when the soul entered into the full appreciation of the Saviour's presence.
We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.
While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
Verses 12-14. - While the king sat (or, sits) at his table, my spikenard sent (sends) forth its fragrance. My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna flowers in the vineyards of Engedi. The preterite is best taken poetically for the present. The words are evidently a response to those of the king. As such they refer to present feeling and not to a past state. The bride expresses her delight in the king. The table is used generally. The Hebrew word is from a root "to sit round." The habit of reclining at table was introduced much later, during the Persian, Greek, and Roman period. The spikenard was a powerful perfume, probably of Indian origin, as the Indian word nalada, meaning "that which yields fragrance," shows. The Persian is nard, the Old Arabic nardu. It was made from an Indian plant, the Valeriana, called Nardo-stachys 'Gatamansi, growing in Northern and Eastern India. The hairy part of the stem immediately above the root yields the perfume. That it was "very precious" we see from the account of Mary's offering, which was worth more than three hundred denarii, i.e. £8 10s. (Mark 14:5; John 12:2). Horace promised Virgil a whole cask, i.e. nine gallons, of the best wine in exchange for a small onyx box full of the perfume. The metaphor represents the intense longing of love. Myrrh was an exotic introduced into Palestine from Arabia, Abyssinia, and India. Like frankincense, it is one of the amyridae. The Balsamodendron myrrha is the tree itself with its leaves and flowers. From the tree came a resin or gum (Gummi myrrhae), which either dropped from the leaves or was artificially obtained by incisions in the bark. The natural product was the more valuable. It was much prized as a perfume, and employed for many purposes. The Hebrew women were accustomed to carry little bags or bottles of myrrh suspended from their necks and hanging down between the breasts under the dress, diffusing an attractive fragrance round them. The word tseror is, properly, "a little bag," sacculus, "that which one ties up," rather than a "bundle." The meaning, of course, is rhetorical - He is at my heart and delightful to all my thoughts as the fragrance to my senses. The henna flowers, or cypress, in the vineyards of Engedi, is a very beautiful figure. Copher, the cypress cluster, - in Greek, κύπρος: in Arabic, al-henna (Lawsonia) - grows in Palestine and Egypt, as we are told by Pliny ('Nat. Hist.' 12:24). It is a tall shrub reaching to eight or ten feet, exceedingly beautiful in appearance, and giving forth a delightful odour. It is named from a root "to be white or yellow-white." The Moslem women stain their hands and feet with it to give them a yellow tint. Engedi was a lovely district on the west of the Dead Sea - Hazezon Tamar, now Ain Tidy, where Solomon made terraces on the hillsides and covered them with gardens and vineyards. The allusion confirms the date of the writing as contemporary with Solomon, as the gardens would then be in their perfection. The figure is, perhaps, intended to be an advance in rhetorical force upon that which preceded - the fragrance diffused and almost overpowering, as of a blossoming tree.
A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.
Verse 15. - Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves; literally, thine eyes are doves. The king receives the worship of his bride and delights in her. She is very sweet and fair to him. The dove is a natural symbol of love; hence it was attached by the classical nations to the garden of love, together with the myrtle, rose, and apple, all of which we find introduced in this Hebrew poem. Hence the Arabic name for a dove, Jemima, as we see in the Book of Job, was the name of a woman (cf. Columbina). The language of the king is that of ecstasy; hence the interjection and repetition. The enraptured monarch gazes into the eyes of his beloved bride, and sees there only purity, constancy, and affection. In Song of Solomon 7:4 the eyes are compared to fish ponds, no doubt for their clear, liquid depth and serenity. Some have thought that the allusion is to the very lovely eyes of the doves; but there is no need of the limitation.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.
Verse 16-ch. 2:1. - Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our couch is green. The beams of our house are cedars, and our rafters are firs. I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley. We take these three verses together as being, in all probability, the address of the bride to her royal husband. This was the view taken by the Masoretic editors and preserved in our present pointing of the Hebrew, as we see in the masculine form of the first word, הִגֶּך, which replies to the feminine form in ver. 15, הִגָּך. The seventeenth verse is apparently abrupt. Why should the bride pass so suddenly from the general address of affection, "Thou art fair, thou art pleasant," to a particular description of a rural scene? The explanation suggested by some of the critics is not farfetched, that Solomon whispers to her that she shall go back with him to her country life if she pleases, or she reminds him of his promise made at some other time. Undoubtedly the point of Shulamith's response lies in ch. 2:1, "I am not at ease in this palatial splendour; I am by nature a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley. Take me to the green couch, and let me lie under the cedars and the firs." The couch is the divan (cf. Amos 6:4), from a root "to cover over" (like "canopy" in Greek, κωνωπεῖον, so called from its protecting the person under it from the κώνεπες, or "gnats). It is not that the nuptial bed is particularly intended, or even the bridal bower, but the home itself as a bowery resting place. "Our home is a sweet country home; take me, there, beloved one." The word "green" is very suggestive in the Hebrew. It is said to "combine in itself the ideas of softness and juicy freshness, perhaps of bending and elasticity, of looseness and thus of overhanging ramification, like weeping willow." Beams, from a root "to meet," "to lay crosswise," "to hold together." But the meaning depends upon the idea of the whole description. Some would render "fretted ceilings," or "galleries;" but Dr. Ginsburg gives it, "our bower is of cedar arches," which excludes the idea of a formal structure made of cedar beams. The same meaning is conveyed in the last clause, "our rafters are firs." The word rendered "rafters" (יָחִיט) literally signifies "a place upon which one runs" (like שׁוּק, a "street"), i.e. a charming or pleasant spot. The beroth is the cypress tree, an Aramaic word, or one used in the north of Palestine. The meaning is, "our pleasant retreat is cypresses" - is beautiful and fragrant with the cypress tree. Delitzsch, however, and others would take it differently as describing the panels or hollows of a wainscoted ceiling, like φατναί, lacunae, lacunaria, and the LXX., φατνωμάτα: Symmachus, φατνωσεῖς: Jerome, laquearii (cf. Isaiah 60:13). But the concluding words would then be unfitting. The bride is not describing a splendid palace, but a country home. "I am a tender maiden," she says, "who has been brought up in retirement; take me to a forest palace and to the green, fragrant surroundings, where the meadow flower, the valley lily will be happy." We are so accustomed to the rendering of Song of Solomon 2:1, which our Revised Version has adopted from the Authorized, that it would be wrong to destroy the effect which it borrows from long familiarity unless it were absolutely necessary. The word chavatseleth, however, has been differently translated; it is literally any wild flower - rose, saffron crocus (Colchieum autumnale), tulip, narcissus, lily. The crocus is, perhaps, nearest . to the meaning, as the name is probably derived from a root "to form bulbs" or bulbous knolls. It occurs only once again, in Isaiah 35:1, where it is rendered "rose" in the Authorized Version; LXX., ἄνθος: Vulgate, flos. Some derive it from the root chavaz, "to be bright," with ל as termination. Sharon may be here a general denomination of the open field or plain, from יָרַשׁ, "to be straight, plain." There was a district called Sharon on the coast from Joppa to Caesarea. There was another Sharon beyond the Jordan (see 1 Chronicles 5:16). According to Eusebius and Jerome, there was yet another, between Tabor and Tiberias, and this, as being in the north, may be referred to. Aquila renders "a rosebud of Sharon." The lily (shoshannah) is only found as here in the feminine form in the Apocrypha. The red and white lily were both known. Some would derive the word from the numeral (shesh) "six," because the liliaceae are six-leaved, while the rosaceae are five-leaved; but it is probably akin to shesh, "byssus," shayish, "white marbles" (cf. Hosea 14:5, "He shall bloom as a lily"). Our Lord's reference to "the lilies of the field" reminds us that they were in Palestine both very beautiful and very abundant. Zockler thinks it is not the strongly scented white lily (Lilium candidam) to which reference is made, but the red lily (Lilium rubens); but either will convey the same idea of a flower of the field which is meant. "My beauty is the beauty of nature - artless and pure."



The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
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Ecclesiastes 12
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