Adventist Bible Commentary
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1. Title. The
book is commonly known as the Song of Solomon. Its Latin name is
Canticum Canticorum, from which is derived the title "Canticles,"
abbreviated below as Cant. In the Hebrew it is called Shir
Hashshirim, "the song of songs," perhaps idiomatic
for "the best of Solomon's many songs," in the same sense
that "the King of kings" means, "the supreme King."
Solomon "spake three thousand proverbs:
and his songs were a thousand and five" (I Kings 4:32). A book
of his Proverbs has been preserved in the Hebrew Old Testament canon,
but the Song of Solomon seems to have been the only one of his songs
to be included in the Hebrew canon.
Both the title and tradition are in favor of the Solomonic authorship.
It would seem strange if not even one of the many songs that Solomon
wrote (I Kings 4:32) should have been preserved for us. Some assign
Ps. 72 and 127 to Solomon.
Four main points sum up the internal evidence
in favor of a Solomonic authorship:
a. The knowledge
displayed of plants, animals, and other productions of nature, is in
accordance with what is said about Solomon in I Kings 4:33.
b. The evidence of wide
acquaintance with foreign products such as were imported in the time
c. Similarity of
the Song of Solomon with certain parts of the book of Proverbs (Cant.
4:5, cf. Prov. 5:19; Cant. 4:11, cf. Prov. 5:3; Cant. 4:14, cf. Prov.
7:17; Cant. 4:15, cf. Prov. 5:15; Cant. 5:6, cf. Prov. 1:28; Cant. 6:9,
cf. Prov. 31:28; Cant. 8:6, 7, cf. Prov. 6:34, 35).
d. The language
of Canticles is such as one would expect from the time of Solomon. It
belongs to the flourishing period of the Hebrew tongue. Highly poetical,
vigorous and fresh, it has no traces of the decay that became evident
in the declining period when Israel and Judah were divided.
None of these indications is in itself
conclusive, but together they point strongly to Solomon as the author.
Setting. The song has its setting in the golden age of the Hebrew
monarchy. It appears that the king wrote of his own love. The question
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naturally arises, Concerning which of his many wives did he compose
this love song? Solomon loved many strange women (I Kings 11:1), including
700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3). The number
given us in Cant. 6:8 is decidedly less - only 60 queens and 80 concubines.
Assuming that Solomon's song is a unity and that the marriage that it
celebrates is his own marriage, it would thus seem that he wrote the
song in his youthful days. The bride is described as a Shulamite country
girl. An attachment to one of this class would be a real "love
marriage," with no political or other reason of expediency, as
was the case with many of Solomon's marriages. This type of relationship
would make this story of Solomon's marriage a more appropriate illustration
of the relationship between Christ and the church, since parts of the
song, at least, have been considered illustrative of such an association.
Shulamite (Cant. 6:13) should probably
be Shunammite (see I Kings 1:3) as suggested by the LXX. If so the maiden
was from Shunem, a town in the territory of Issachar (see Joshua 19:18),
about 4 mi. northeast of Jezreel. Shunem was the scene of the touching
story recorded in 2 Kings 4:8-37, in which the prophet Elisha raised
to life the son of his Shunammite benefactress. The modern village of
Solem stands on the ancient site.
The Song of Solomon is a beautiful song of ideal Eastern love written
in the style of idyl poetry rather than in the more elegant style of
the epic, lyric, and dramatic forms of literature. Some regard the book
as an anthology of love songs, perhaps by different authors, rather
than a work with a unified plan, because of the difficulty of finding
the proper connection between the different parts of the poem. Others
contend for its unity. In favor of the latter view are the following
considerations: (1) The
name Solomon is prominent throughout (chs. 1:1, 5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11,
12); (2) there are
recurrences of similar words, illustrations, and figures throughout
(ch. 2:16, cf. ch. 6:3; ch. 2:5, cf. ch. 5:8);
(3) the references to the family of the
bride are consistent; the mother and brothers only are mentioned, never
the father (see chs. 1:6; 3:4; 8:2).
As to the exact plan or progress of the
narrative, there is much difference of opinion, and any system adopted
is at best artificial (see further on outline).
While the whole song is apparently a love
story of Solomon and a country girl of northern Palestine whom King
Solomon married only for love the story itself serves as a beautiful
illustration of the love of Christ for the church as a whole, and also
for each individual member of the church. Both the Old and the New Testament
Scriptures illustrate the tender union between God and His people by
the relationship of a husband to his bride (see Isa. 54:4, 5; Jer. 3:
14; 2 Cor. 11:2).
A word of caution should be added. According
to one commentator the Song of Solomon has been the "happy hunting
ground" of allegorists for many centuries. The introduction of
the allegorization of Scriptures into the Christian church can be traced
back to the Alexandrian school in Egypt and particularly to Origen (c.
A.D. 184 -c. 254) as the first great exponent of this method. The system
grew out of a fusion between Greek philosophy and Christianity. The
method has persisted with varying degrees of virility ever since. As
an illustration of the extreme lengths to which such methods tend are
the following examples drawn from various allegorical interpreters of
the Song of Solomon: the kiss of Christ - the
incarnation; the cheeks of the bride - outward
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and good works;
her golden chains - faith;
spikenard - redeemed humanity;
the hair of the bride like a flock of goats -
the nations converted to Christianity; the 80 wives of
Solomon - the admission
of the Gentile nations to Christianity; the navel of the
Shulamite - the cup from
which the church refreshes those that thirst for salvation;
the two breasts - the Old
and New Testaments.
The folly of such a method is that it assumes
a license for figurative interpretations without providing criteria
to control it. It offers as the validity of an interpretation only the
imagination of its exponent. True, there may be a general attempt to
make conclusions conform to the analogy of Scripture, but the attempt
is too weak to hold the interpreter's imagination in check.
A safe rule of exegesis is to allow only
inspired writers to interpret the symbolisms of prophecy, the features
of a parable, the spiritual import of historical incidents, and the
spiritual significance of visual aids in teaching, such as the sanctuary
and its services. Only when a Bible writer by the Spirit of prophecy
specifically points out the significance of a symbol can we know with
certainty its meaning. All other interpretations should be held with
the qualification that they are private interpretations with no "Thus
saith the Lord."
As a parable requires many details to complete
the narrative, details that have no direct bearing on the spiritual
interpretation, so does a historical incident. The narrative is given
in a complete, coherent form so as to present a consistent whole. But
only certain features of it may be intended to be illustrative. Which
features are thus intended can be known only by the confirmation of
That the love between Solomon and the Shulamite
is intended to illustrate the love between Christ and His people has
already been observed. To what degree the various historical incidents
in connection with the song are intended to have special significance
when applied to divine love we can know only to the extent that inspiration
reveals such a significance. We have no definite confirmation, since
the Song of Solomon is nowhere quoted in the NT.
In harmony with these principles this commentary
has adopted a working formula that will call attention to significant
inspired comments where such have been made. In other areas only a philological,
historical, and literary exposition will be given. The reader is left
free in these areas to make his own spiritual applications in harmony
with sound exegetical procedures. A number of interesting analogies
will suggest themselves.
The song is an Eastern poem, with much
of its imagery strange to the Occidental mind. This should ever be borne
in mind in a study of the song. We should also keep in mind that the
poem was written in an ancient, Oriental world, where men spoke more
forthrightly on many intimate matters than do we in our modern, Occidental
5. Outline. --
The following outline given exhibits only one of many possible arrangements
based on the assumption that there is an intended harmony between the
various parts of the song. That such a harmony does exist cannot definitely
be proved. The outline does not claim superiority over other outlines
that have been devised. It is simply set forth as one of many possible
working patterns. It is necessary to have a structure on which to build
an exegesis. The outline is based on the assumption that there are only
two principal characters in the poem, Solomon and the Shulamite maid.
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Most modern critics and commentators adopt an outline that has three
principal characters, Solomon, the Shulamite maid, and her shepherd
lover. According to this plot, Solomon brought the Shulamite maid to
his court to woo her love; but in this he was entirely unsuccessful,
the Shulamite remaining true to her country lover and resisting all
efforts to steal her heart. Such an outline, though it lends itself
to a literal interpretation of the song, does not provide a suitable
pattern for an illustration of Christ's love for the church.
II. The Marriage
of Solomon to the Shulamite Maid, 1:2 to 2:7.
A. A dialogue:
The Shulamite maid expresses her admiration for the bridegroom. The
ladies of the court respond, 1: 2-8.
B. Solomon enters.
He and the bride exchange mutual expressions of love, 1:9 to 2:7.
Recollections of Fond Associations, 2:8 to 3:5.
A delightsome rendezvous in the springtime, 2:8-17.
B. The bride
recounts a joyful dream, 3:1-5.
of Betrothal and Marriage, 3:6 to 5: 1.
royal procession, 3:6-11.
B. Solomon makes
an offer of marriage; the Shulamite accepts, 4:1 to 5:1.
Lost and Regained, 5:2 to 6:9.
bride harassed by an unhappy dream, 5:2 to 6:3.
B. Love recovered;
Solomon idolizes his bride, 6:4-9.
VI. The Bride's
Beauty Is Extolled, 6:10 to 8:4.
between the Shulamite and the daughters of Jerusalem, 6:10 to 7:5.
B. Solomon enraptured
by the beauty of his bride, 7:6-9.
VII. The Visit
to the Bride's Home in Lebanon, 7: 10 to 8:14.
A. The Shulamite's
yearning to visit her parental home, 7:10 to 8:4.
B. The arrival
of the royal pair, 8:5-7.
C. Dialogue between
the bride, the brothers, and the king, 8:8-14. Top
1 -- 1
The church's love unto Christ. 5 She
confesseth her deformity, 7 and prayeth
to be directed to his flock. 8 Christ
directeth her to the shepherds' tents: 9 and
shewing his love to her, 11
giveth her gracious promises. 12
The church and Christ congratulate one another.
song of songs, which is Solomon's. 2 Let
him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than
wine. 3 Because of the savour
of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore
do the virgins love thee. 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 remember thy love more
than wine: the upright love thee. 5 I
am black, but comely, 0 ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar,
as the curtains of Solomon. 6 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. 7
Tell me, 0 thou whom my soul loveth,
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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? 8
If thou know not, 0 thou fairest among women,
go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside
the shepherds' tents. 9
I have compared thee, 0 my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's
chariots. 10 Thy cheeks
are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold. 11
We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver. 12 While
the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell
thereof. 13 A
bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt
my breasts. 14 My beloved
is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-gedi. 15
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold,
thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes. 16
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. 17
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
VERSE 1. The
song of songs. The expression implies that this song is of peculiar
excellence. The Jews considered the Song of Solomon the most excellent
of all Bible songs. The original title presumably compared the song
with the other 1,004 composed by Solomon (I Kings 4:32).
him kiss me. The speaker is evidently the Shulamite maid. Her speech
continues to the end of v. 7, except for interruptions by the ladies
of the court indicated by the "we" of v. 4.
Thy love. The change in person from
the third in line 1to the second here is common in Hebrew poetry. The
word translated "love" is in the plural, indicating the many
attentions and manifestations of love.
Wine. Heb. yayin,
the juice of the grape (see Gen. 9:21; 1 Sam. 1:14; Isa. 5:11; etc.).
poured forth. Among the Orientals perfume and ointment were very
precious. For Solomon's bride the name of her beloved meant more to
her than any perfume, however sweet.
Virgins. Heb. 'alamoth,
"young women" (see Isa. 7:14). Solomon's bride is probably
thinking of herself, though in modesty she does not definitely name
herself. She says only that Solomon is the kind of man that a young
woman like herself would love.
here "to draw in love" (see Jer. 31:3; Hosea 11:4).
We will run. This address is probably
by the bride's attendants.
Into his chambers. Some see in vs.
2-4 an allusion to a bridal procession and in this phrase a description
of the entry into the palace.
We will be glad. Presumably the
bride's attendants speak again.
The upright love thee. Or, "they
love thee uprightly." These could be words of approval spoken by
the bride, who believes that all should feel kindly affection toward
a man as charming as her beloved. She feels that all will approve her
decision to marry Solomon.
am black. She probably means no more than that she is dark complexioned.
Kedar. Nomadic tribes of Ishmael
(Gen. 25:13) inhabiting the Arabian deserts (see Isa. 21:16; 42:11).
They are said to have lived in tents made of black goatskins.
upon me. This is evidence that her blackness was due to the sun
rather than to her race. The LXX here reads, "the sun has looked
unfavorably upon me."
My mother's children. It seems that
the bride's older brothers had left their little sister to take care
of the vineyards, thus causing her to become sunburned.
Mine own vineyard. That is, her
own personal beauty (see ch. 8:12). Her brothers had not allowed her
the leisure or the opportunity to give attention to her appearance.
flock. This verse presents a.difficulty in that it represents the
lover as a shepherd, which Solomon, of course, was not. It may be that
the bride, in poetic fancy, thinks of him as the companion of her simple
country life. Some have suggested that Solomon disguised himself as
a shepherd when he came to her home to court her.
Rest at noon. In hot countries the
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seek a place where they can retire for shelter both for themselves and
their flocks during the burning heat of the noonday sun.
One that turneth aside. Heb. 'otyah,
literally, "one that is veiled." If two of the Hebrew consonants
are transposed, the reading, "one who wanders," is obtained.
This reading is found in the Syriac, the Vulgate, and in the Greek translation
thou know not. Another voice is introduced. It may be that of Solomon,
or it may be the playful response of the court ladies telling the Shulamite
to be patient. In due time her lover will appear. In the meantime she
is to continue watching her flocks.
company of horses. Literally, "my mare." Solomon compares
his bride with her ornaments to a decked-out royal mare. The comparison
seems crude to a Western mind, but it is entirely appropriate in Oriental
Chariots. See I Kings 10:26, 28,
A powerful perfume probably obtained from India. The plant Nardostachys
jatamansi, from the roots of which the Hindus extracted the
aromatic perfume, grows in the upper pasturelands of the Himalayas at
an elevation of 11,000 to 17,000 feet. Spikenard
early became an article of commerce.
of myrrh. Myrrh was extracted from the aromatic resin of what was
probably the Arabian Balsamodendron
myrrha tree. The Hebrew women are reported to have worn under
their dresses, on occasions, a bottle or little bag of myrrh suspended
from their necks.
of camphire. Better, "cluster of henna flowers." The plant
grew in southem Palestine and produced odoriferous yellow and white
flowers. The flowers and twigs were sometimes ground into powder, from
which the Oriental women made a yellow dye to stain their hands and
En-gedi. Literally, "fountain
of the kid." It was a district to the west of the Dead Sea, about
midway between the mouth of the Jordan and the southern extremity of
the lake. A copious spring known today as
'Ain Jidi, still flows in the region.
bed is green. It is not certain whether the bride is here describine
a couch in the palace, or whether she is referring to her former natural
environment. Some see here a reference to the nuptial bed.
It would be natural for the bride to describe her present felicities
in figures borrowed from her familiar associations. Top
CHAPTER 2 -- 1 The
mutual love of Christ and his church. 8 The
hope, 10 and calling
of the church. 14 Christ's
care of the church. 16 The
of the church, her faith and hope.
am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. 2
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among
the daughters. 3 As
the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the
sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit
was sweet to my taste. 4
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. 5
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. 6
His left hand is under my head, and his
right hand doth embrace me. 7
I charge you, 0 ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds
of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please. 8 The
voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping
upon the hills. 9 My
beloved is like a roe or a youmg hart: behold, he standeth behind our
wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice. 10
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and
come away. 11 For, lo,
the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 12
The flowers appear on the earth: the time
of the singing of birds is come, and
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the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; 13
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines
with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away. 14 0 my dove, that
art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let
me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice,
and thy countenance is comely. 15 Take
us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines
have tender grapes. 16 My
beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. 17
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn,
my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains
Verse 1. I
am the rose of Sharon. The chapter division has led some to associate
v. 1 with what follows. Thus Solomon would be the speaker in this verse.
Hence, by spiritual application, both the titles "rose of Sharon"
and "lily of the valleys" have been referred to Christ. Grammatically
and contextually, however, it is more natural to consider this verse
a statement of the bride. The word for "lily" may have either
a masculine or a feminine form. The feminine form occurs here, whereas
the masculine form appears in chs. 2:16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2; 3; 7:2. The
feminine form occurs again in ch. 2:2, where it definitely applies to
the Shulamite maid. Contextual considerations also favor this view.
According to it the bride is confessing her modesty, stating that she
feels out of place in a palace. She is only a country flower.
The word translated "rose" occurs
only here and in Isa. 35:1, and the identity is uncertain. It may be
the meadow saffron or the crocus or possibly the narcissus. Some wild
flower seems to be intended.
"Sharon" means literally, "
a field," "a plain," and as a proper name signifies the
maritime plain between Joppa and Mt. Carmel. The LXX takes "Sharon"
here as a general designation of an open field.
lily among thorns. Not the thorns that appear on plants and trees,
but thorn plants Solomon assures his bride that all other
women, compared with her, are like thorn plants compared with a beautiful
apple tree. The bride returns the compliment. Her bridegroom, compared
with other men, is like a fruit tree compared with the nonfruit-bearing
trees of the forest.
Under his shadow. The bride not
only enjoys the shade but also eats the fruit with great pleasure.
These words have been taken to picture
the soul resting in the shadow of Christ's love, enjoying blessed companionship
with the Lord. The benefits of such a communion cannot be enjoyed by
those who pause but a moment in the presence of Jesus. Too often life's
busy activities crowd out the precious seasons of fellowship that are
so essential to a healthy growth in grace.
house. Literally, "house of wine" (see on v. 2). This
verse has been used to further illustrate fellowship with Christ (see
on v. 3).
me with flagons. Rather, "sustain me with cakes of dried grapes."
These cakes were considered to be stimulating, and hence beneficial
in cases of exhaustion.
Sick of love. In modern English
she would say that she was lovesick. The bride was completely overcome
with the thrill of her new experience and could not find figures adequate
to describe her ecstatic delight.
charge you. This verse is a refrain. It is repeated in chs. 3:5
and 8:4. The speaker is presumably still the bride.
My love. The "my" is supplied.
"Love" is from 'ahabah,
. a feminine form considering love in the abstract, and not the
lover. Pure and natural affection is extolled.
voice of my beloved! Verses 8-17 seem to be the bride's reminiscence
of a delightful rendezvous in the springtime. The whole is probably
spoken while she is in the loving embrace of her husband (see v. 6).
He cometh. The bride's quick sense
of love discerns a long way off the approach of her lover as he comes
to her mountain home.
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9. Roe. In modern English, a gazelle.
Looketh forth at the windows.
Literally, "gazing from [the outside of] the windows." Or
the clause may be translated idiomatically, "gazed through the
windows." Solomon is represented as playfully looking through the
windows in search of his beloved.
winter is past. Verses 11-13 constitute one of the most beautiful
poetic descriptions of springtime ever penned. The spring of the year
was the time when the joyful pilgrims made their way to the Passover
festival in Jerusalem.
The rain is over. The latter rain
ended in the early spring.
Heb. tor, the
turtledove, a species of pigeon. Tor
is onomatopoeic, that is, the sound of the word imitates the plaintive
note of the bird. Several species of the turtledove are migratory, and
their coming marks the return of spring (see Jer. 8:7).
forth her green figs. Literally, "spiceth its unripe figs,"
probably in the sense of ripening them.
The vines with the tender grape.
Literally, "the vines are blossom."
dove. The rock pigeon selects the lofty cliffs and deep ravines
(see Jer. 48:28) for its roosting places, and avoids the neighborhood
of men. Thus Solomon indicates the modesty and shyness of his loved
The stairs. Heb. madregah,
better, "steep places" as in Eze. 38:20.
us the foxes. The meaning of this line and the identification of
the speaker are matters of conjecture. Moulton suggests that the bride
hears her brothers speaking to her, or that they interrupt the bridegroom,
who says he wants to see her face and hear her voice. They give the
warning against the foxes that come in the spring and destroy the vines
that are just then in blossom. Some think that the Shulamite is giving
the reason why she cannot immediately respond to her beloved's invitation,
since she has domestic duties to perform. Others think that the reference
is merely to the playful pleasure the happy lovers would enjoy chasing
the little foxes in the aromatic vineyards.
beloved is mine. These words are a frequent refrain in this Song
of Solomon (see chs. 6:3; 7:10). The expresion illustrates the tender
attraction between Christ and His people.
the day break. Literally, "until the day breathes." Reference
may be either to the dawn of day, when the fresh morning breeze comes
up, or to the beginning of evening, when the fresh evening breeze comes
Mountains of Bether. No such geographical
mountains are known. Perhaps thr word here rendered "Bether"
should be translated instead. Bether
comes from root meaning "to cut in two," hence possibly cleft
mountains are meant. Top
3 -- 1 The
church's fight and victory in temptation. 6 The
church glorieth in Christ.
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but
I found him not. 2
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad
ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found
him not. 3 The watchmen
that go about the cio found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul
loveth? 4 It was but
a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul
p 9 --
loveth: I held
him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's
house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. 5
I charge you, 0 ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds
of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please. 6
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke,
perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant? 7
Behold his bed, which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about
it, of the valiant of Israel. 8
They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword
upon his thigh because of fear in the night. 9
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. 10
He made the pillars thereof of silver, the
bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof
being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem. 11
Go forth, 0 ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown
wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in
the day of the gladness of his heart.
VERSE 1. By
night. Verses 1-5 are best explained as the recounting of a dream
in which the maid dreamed that she had momentarily lost her beloved.
However, the separation was brief and the reunion most joyful.
mother's house. The women in the East have separate apartments,
into which no one but the immediate family enters. Isaac brought Rebekah
into his mother's tent when he made her his wife (see Gen. 24:67). The
maiden dreams of the marriage taking place not in the bridal chamber
of Solomon's palace but in her home in Lebanon (see on S. of Sol. 4:8).
charge you. See on ch. 2:7.
is this? The pronoun "this" and the accompanying verb
"cometh" represent feminine forms in the Hebrew. Either the
bride is referred to or the "bed" of v. 7, which is a feminine
form in the Hebrew. In the latter case the words should be translated
"what is this?" The speaker cannot be definitely identified.
A new section begins. A royal procession
is described. A description of the journey of the procession depends
upon the interpretation of "who is this." If this refers to
the Shulamite, the procession may be the one in which Solomon went to
Lebanon to fetch his country maiden. If "who is this" or "what
is this" refers to the "litter of Solomon," the bride
may be the one watching the approach of the procession, and giving an
eyewitness description of the impressive display.
Wilderness. Heb. midbar,
which may mean merely a pastureland or a wide, open space.
Like pillars of smoke. This probably
refers to the custom of heading a procession with burning incense which
pervades the route of the procession with fragrant odors. This is an
ancient and common custom in the East.
a couch for sitting, reclining, or reposing. The context suggests that
here it refers to the litter on which Solomon would be carried.
Threescore valiant men. These were
the guards that surrounded the pavilion of the bridegroom. The security
of the head of the state required the unwearying vigilance of such a
guard as this.
here probably synonymous with mittah
(v. 7), hence Solomon's "sedan," "litter," or "palanquin."
Presumably the bedposts or corner posts either made of solid silver
or covered with silver plate. Royal chariots were richly adorned.
The bottom. Heb. rephidah,
which seems rather to refer to the support, or railing, on the sides
of a litter.
The covering. Heb. merkab.
Rather the "seat" of the litter. The word appears in Lev.
15:9, where it is translated "saddle."
Paved with love. The latter part
of this verse reads literally, "its interior, paved love from the
daughters of Jerusalem." A free translation would be, "the
interior was decorated as a mark of love by the daughters of Jerusalem."
The paving with love may refer to verses worked on the counterpane,
the hangings, or the carpet by the daughters of Jerusalem as an expression
of their love for King Solomon and his bride. Top
p 10 -- CHAPTER
4 -- 1
Christ setteth forth the graces of the church.
8 He sheweth his love to her.
16 The church prayeth to be made fit
for his presence.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves'
eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear
from mount Gilead. 2
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came
up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren
among them. 3 Thy lips
are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples
are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks. 4
Thy neck is like the tower of David buiIded for an armoury,
whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. 5
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are
twins, which feed among the lilies. 6
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the
mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. 7
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no
spot in thee. 8 Come with me from
Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana,
from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains
of the leopards. 9 Thou
hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my
heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. 10
How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love
than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! 11 Thy
lips, 0 my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy
tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. 12
A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain
sealed. 13 Thy plants are
an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, 14
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon,
with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief
spices: 15 A fountain
of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. 16
Awake, 0 north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that
the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden,
and eat his pleasant fruits.
VERSE 1. Thou
art fair. Better, "thou art beautiful." The principal
speaker thus far in the song has been the Shulamite maid. Now begins
the most extended speech of the bridegroom. The reminiscent address
extols the beauty of the bride and culminatcs in a proposal for marriage,
which is accepted.
Doves' eyes. See ch. 1:15.
Thy locks. Rather, "thy veil."
The veil worn by many Eastern women is a dark cloth that is suspended
from the head. The forehead and the eyes are left uncovered. This veil
covers not only all the face except the forehead and eyes, but also
the neck, and hangs loosely down over the bosom.
A flock of goats. Her hair is black
and sleek like the hair of Palestinian goats which were mostly black
or dark brown im color.
of sheep. The teeth are beautirfully white, well formed, and evenly
pairet-4 None is missing.
Rather the "mouth" as an instrument of speech.
raqqah, from a root meaning "to be thin" "to
be weak," hence thin parts of the skull on each side of eyes. Some
suggest that the cheeks are intended.
Bucklers were frequently hung about towers, both as ornamaments and
to have at hand in time of emergency.
break. See on ch. 2:17. This seems to be another refrain spoken
by the bride in her modesty and humility, to check the fervor of the
bridegroom. He, however, immediately continues to pour forth his love
with new expressions of affection.
p 11 -- 7. Thou
art all fair. You are altogether lovely, you do not have a single
defect. Jesus is represented as saying these words to the church, His
The Anti-Lebanon Mts.
Shenir. The Amorite as well as the
Ugaritic and Akkadian name for Mt. Hermon (see Deut. 3:9). The two mountains
may stand in apposition here, or Shenir may be a prominent peak of Hermon.
Solomon wants the Shulamite maiden to leave all the beautiful mountains
of her northern country land.
my heart. The Hebrew verb is derived from the noun "heart."
Solomon said literally, "you have hearted me." Perhaps what
he meant was, "you have encouraged me."
love. Literally, "thy loves," that is, the many attentions
and manifestations of love (see ch. 1:2)
garden inclosed. Under the symbolic expression of an enclosed garden
King Solomon proposes marriage, and under the same symbol is accepted
by the Shulamite maiden (v. 16). No one has ever entered this garden,
no one has ever tasted this fountain, the seal of this fountain has
never been broken.
well of living waters. The language of this verse has been used
to describe the ever-refreshing draughts that may be drawn from the
Word of God.
into his garden. This is the answer of the Shulamite. She invites
him into his garden to eat of his fruits.
5 -- 1
Christ awaketh the church with his calling. 2 The
church having a taste of Christ's love is sick of love. 9
A description of Christ by his graces.
am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh
with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk
my wine with my milk: eat, 0 friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly,
0 beloved. 2
I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice
of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks
with the drops of the night. 3
I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet;
how shall I defile them? 4
My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were
moved for him. 5
I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and
my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
6 I opened to my beloved;
but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when
he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but
he gave me no answer. 7 The
watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded
me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. 8
I charge you, 0 daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that
ye tell him, that I am sick of love. 9
What is thy beloved more than another beloved, 0 thou fairest among
women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost
so charge us? 10 My
beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. 11
His head is as the most fine gold, his locks
are bushy, and black as a raven. 12 His
eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk,
and fitly set. 13 His
checks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies,
dropping sweet smelling myrrh. 14
His hands are as gold rings set with
p 12 --
the beryl: his belly
is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. 15
His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold:
his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. 16
His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved,
and this is my friend, 0 daughters of Jerusalem.
VERSE 1. Into
my garden. This verse belongs properly in the preceding chapter.
It is Solomon's response to the maid's consent to marriage.
Eat, 0 friends. Evidently spoken
to the guests at the wedding feast.
sleep. Here begins a new section. The bride relates a troubled dream.
She dreams that her beloved came to her at night, and by a moment's
delay she lost him. This is similar to the dream related in ch. 3:1-5,
only here the emphasis is on the trouble rather than on the happy outcome.
have put off my coat. She seems to be saying,
"I have retired for the night; do not disturb
Of the door. These words are supplied and
perhaps correctly so. Some think he may have extended his hand through
the latticed window of her home.
rose. Presumably still in her dream.
he spake. We may suppose an expression of disappointment as the
lover goes away.
I sought him. Probably still in
her troubled dream.
away my veil. Evidently to see who she was.
of Jerusalem. In her dream she finds herself accosting the daughters
of Jerusalem to help her find her beloved.
among ten thousand. A fitting title of Christ.
The description of the bridegroom continues
through v. 16 and reaches a climax in the expression "He is altogether
lovely." This description is frequently coupled with the title,
"chiefest among ten thousand," when referring to Christ. Top
CHAPTER 6 -- 1 The
church professeth her faith in Christ. 4 Christ
sheweth the graces of the church, 10
and his love towards her.
is thy beloved gone 0 thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved
turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. 2
My beloved is gone down into his garden,
to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3
I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine:
he feedeth among the lilies. 4 Thou
art beautiful, 0 my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as
an army with banners. 5 Turn
away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a
flock of goats that appear from Gilead. 6 Thy
teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof
every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them. 7
As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks. 8
There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without
number. 9 My dove,
my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the
choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed
her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. 10 Who
is she that looketh forth as
p 13 --
the morning, fair
as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? 11
I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley,
and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded. 12
Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. 13
Return, return, 0 Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee.
What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.
Whither. The daughters of Jerusalem now address the bride to
see what more she has to say.
into his garden. The anxiety concerning the loss of her beloved
is gone. She knows that he is engaged elsewhere. Nothing has really
come in to mar their felicity.
Tirzah. In vs. 4-10 Solomon pours forth lavish praise of his bride.
Tirzah is probably to be identified with
some 7 mi. northeast of Shechem, in the territory of Ephraim. It was
doubtless noted for its beauty.
Comely as Jerusalem. Solomon takes
his own capital city in southern Palestine to illustrate the outstanding
attractiveness of his bride. Jerusalem was noted for its beauty (see
Ps. 48:2; 50:2; Lam. 2:15).
queens. This is presumably a reference to Solomon's harem. The number
of wives is far less than that given in I Kings 11:3. Evidently this
song is written early in the reign of Solomon.
as an army. Beauty and strength are here combined in a description
that has appropriately been applied to the church. Some think that the
question of this verse is raised by the ladies of the court when they
first catch a glimpse of the Shulamite.
went down. This statement is obviously by the bride.
The meaning of this expression is obscure. Literally translated it means,
"My people, the noble." The bride imagines herself being lifted
up and placed in a chariot, no doubt with Solomon.
0 Shulamite. Perhaps this statement is by the members of the cortege,
who express a desire to look further on the now-acknowledged queen.
What will ye see? A charming display
The company. Literally, "the
dance." Some have suggested that this has reference to the choir
of the bride's maids and the choir of the bridegroom's best men. Others
think that the reference is to some local custom that we do not now
understand. Still others prefer to transliterate the words as "two
and see an allusion to the "dance" of the angel host at Mahanaim
upon Jacob's return to Canaan (see Gen. 32:1-3). If this be so, the
Shulamite, at this juncture, gives a performance of the "dance
7 -- 1
A further description of the church's graces. 10.
The church professeth her faith and desire.
1 How beautiful are thy feet with shoes,
O prince's daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work
of the hands of a cunning workman. 2 Thy
navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is
like an heap of wheat set about with lilies. 3 Thy
two breasts are like two young roes that are twins. 4
Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon,
p 14 --
gate of Bath-rabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh
toward Damascus. 5
Thine head upon thee is like Carmel,
and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries. 6
How fair and how pleasant art thou, 0 love,
for delights! 7 This thy stature
is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. 8
I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs
thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and
the smell of thy nose like apples; 9
And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth
down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. 10
I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. 11
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the
villages. 12 Let us
get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether
the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will
I give thee my loves. 13
The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant
fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, 0 my beloved.
VERSE 1. How
beautiful. Verses 1-5 are a laudation, probably by the ladies who
are looking on, although many consider that the words are spoken by
Like jewels. The emphasis is probably
on the jewels, cunningly wrought, that she now wears.
two young roes. Compare ch. 4:5.
a tower. Compare ch. 4:4.
Fishpools. Literally, "pools,"
as the same word is translated in 2 Sam. 2:13.
Heshbon. A city to the east of Jordan,
formerly held by the Amorites (Num. 21:25), but after its capture assigned
to the Reubenites (Joshua 13:15-17). A large reservoir for water is
still found near the ancient site.
Bath-rabbim. Literally, "daughter
of multitudes." Doubtless the name of one of the gates.
A range of hills about 1,800 ft. elevation, forming the southwestern
boundary of the plain of Esdraelon and the Bay of Acre.
Galleries. Heb. rehatim.
The meaning of the word here is uncertain. In Gen. 30:38, 41 it means
"watering troughs." It may come from a root meaning "to
run," "to flow," hence "a flowing down." From
this the definition "locks of hair" has been suggested. The
king speaks of himself as held in the locks of the Shulamite's hair.
tree. Heb. tamar.
The tall and graceful palm tree was an appropriate figure for female
beauty. The name Tamar was borne by several women (Gen. 38:6: 2 Sam.
am my beloved's. A refrain (see chs. 2:16; 6:3) ending the section
extolling the bride's beauty.
us go forth. In this section the bride expresses her longing for
her home in Lebanon. She may be imagined as begging her husband to take
her back to her own old home, with promises of a renewed love for him.
By popular etymology, "love apples." They were supposed to
excite amatory desire and favor procreation (see Gen. 30:14-16). Top
CHAPTER 8 --
1 The love of the church to Christ. 6
The vehemency of love.
8 The calling of the Gentiles.
14 The church prayeth
for Christ's coming.
0 that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother!
I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be
despised. 2. I would
lead thee, and bring thee into my mother's house, who would instruct
me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.
p 15 -- 3
His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace
I charge you, 0 daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake
my love, until he please. 5 Who
is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee
forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee. 6 Set
me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is
strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are
coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. 7
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if
a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly
be contemned. 8 We have
a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister
in the day when she shall be spoken for? 9
If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if
she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar. 10
I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one
that found favour. 11
Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers;
every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver. 12
My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, 0 Solomon, must have
a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred. 13
Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice:
cause me to hear it. 14 Make
haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon
the mountains of spices.
VERSE 1. As
my brother. The bride seems to reminisce of the time before the
obstacles to their union were removed. Not being able yet to declare
her affection to him as a lover, she wished that their relationship
had been that of brother and sister.
Despised. That is, her family and
her friends should not reproach her.
2. Who would
instruct me. As translated, the mother is the instructor. The verb
may, however, also be translated, "thou wilt
instruct." Either translation makes good sense. Mothers have sane
counsel for daughters about to be married. The wise Solomon, too, could
have thrilled the heart of his young bride by sharing with her his vast
fund of knowledge. In return she would reciprocate by supplying suitable
charge you. Compare chs. 2:7; 3:5. The repetition of this refrain
lends strong support to the idea of an intended unity of the song.
5. Who is this
that cometh? Verse 5 appears to be a description of the arrival
of the royal pair at the bride's home.
Raised thee up. Literally, "aroused
thee." Solomon probably means to say that they have come back to
the place where he first inspired his bride with love.
Thy mother. They have returned to
the home where his bride was born.
6. Set me as
a seal. The bride is speaking, as is evident in the Hebrew by the
masculine form of "thee." The Hebrew word for "seal,"
signet ring (see Ex. 28:11, 21; Job 38:14; 41:15; Jer. 22:24). The Hebrews
sometimes wore their signet ring suspended upon their breast by a string.
Solomon's bride wants her husband to view her as such a precious signet
Coals. Heb, reshaphim,
"flames," "fire-bolts," translated "hot thunderbolts"
in Ps. 78:48.
A most vehement flame. Literally,
"a flame of Jehovah." Probably the lightning.
7. Cannot quench love.
Pure love is such that nothing can destroy it. It cannot be bought.
The highest offer would be completely scorned. This passage, telling
of the invincible might and enduring constancy of true love, stands
without a parallel in literature for forcefulness of expression.
8. Little sister.
This statement may have been made by the Shulamite's brothers, in reminiscence
of the bride's childhood days. It appears they had been debating as
to how to deal with their little sister when an offer of marriage should
be made to her.
had a vineyard. This was doubtless one of Solomon's many vineyards.
p 16 --
12. My vineyard. The bride renews her
vows to her husband. She speaks of herself as the keeper of her own
vineyard, but she transfers these rights and privileges to her husband.
me to hear it. As the curtain falls, Solomon requests to hear once
more the voice of his beloved, perhaps in a refrain he had heard her
repeat in their courtship.
haste, my beloved. Thus the poem ends with two short verses that
cornpress into them all that has been repeated over and over under different
figures: the wooing and the wedding of two happy hearts.