The song of songs, which is Solomon's.
The "Song of songs," i. e., the best or most excellent of songs.
Which is Solomon's - literally, "to" or "for Solomon," i. e., belonging to Solomon as its author or concerning him as its subject. In a title or inscription, the former interpretation is to be preferred.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
the prologue. - The Song commences with two stanzas in praise of the king (now absent) by a chorus of virgins belonging to the royal household. Expositors, Jewish and Christian, interpret the whole as spoken by the Church of the heavenly Bridegroom.
Let him kiss me - Christian expositors have regarded this as a prayer of the Church under the old covenant for closer communion with the Godhead through the Incarnation. Thus, Gregory: "Every precept of Christ received by the Church is as one of His kisses."
Thy love - Better as margin, i. e., thy endearments or tokens of affection are more desired than any other delights.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Because ... - Better, For fragrance are thine ointments good, making with the clause that follows two steps of a climax: "thy perfumes are good, thy name the best of all perfumes." "Ointments" here are unguents or fragrant oils largely used for anointing at entertainments (compare Psalm 23:5; Luke 7:46; John 12:3).
Thy name ... poured forth - As unguents are the sweeter for diffusion, so the king's name the wider it is known.
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.
The king hath brought me - Made me a member of his household. This is true of every member of the chorus as well as of the bride.
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
This section is made by the Targumist and other Jewish interpreters to adumbrate the condition of Israel in the wilderness; by some Christian expositors, that of the Gentile Church on her first conversion.
I am black ... - Dark-hued, as the tents of Kedar with their black goats' hair coverings, rough and weather-stained, "but comely (beautiful) as the rich hangings which adorn the pavilion of Solomon. Kedar was the name of an Arab tribe Genesis 25:13; Psalm 120:5. The word itself signifies "dark" or "black." Possibly "tents of Kedar" stand here poetically for shepherds' tents in general Isaiah 60:7.
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.
Look not upon me - In wonder or scorn at my swarthy hue. It was acquired in enforced but honest toil: the sun hath scanned me (or "glared upon me") with his burning eye. The second word rendered "looked" is a word twice found in Job JObadiah 20:9; Job 28:7, and indicates in the latter place the piercing glance of a bird of prey.
My mother's children, - Or, sons; a more affectionate designation than "brothers," and implying the most intimate relationship.
Angry - This anger was perhaps but a form of jealous care for their sister's safety (compare Sol 8:12). By engaging her in rustic labors they preserved her from idleness and temptation, albeit with a temporary loss of outward comeliness.
Mine own vineyard - A figurative expression for herself or her beauty.
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?
whom my soul loveth - A phrase recurring several times. It expresses great intensity of affection.
Feedest - i. e., "Pursuest thy occupation as a shepherd;" so she speaks figuratively of the Son of David. Compare Sol 2:16; Sol 6:3; Psalm 23:1.
As one that turneth aside - Or, goeth astray like an outcast.
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.
The chorus, and not the king, are the speakers here. Their meaning seems to be: If thy beloved be indeed a shepherd, then seek him yonder among other shepherds, but if a king, thou wilt find him here in his royal dwelling.
I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots.
This and the next Cant. 1:15-2:7 sections are regarded by ancient commentators (Jewish and Christian) as expressing "the love of espousals" Jeremiah 2:2 between the Holy One and His Church, first in the wilderness of the Exodus, and then in the wilderness of the world Ezekiel 20:35-36.
Or, to a mare of mine in the chariots of Pharaoh I liken thee, O my friend. (The last word is the feminine form of that rendered "friend" at Sol 5:16.) The comparison of the bride to a beautiful horse is singularly like one in Theocritus, and some have conjectured that the Greek poet, having read at Alexandria the Septuagint Version of the Song, may have borrowed these thoughts from it. If so, we have here the first instance of an influence of sacred on profane literature. The simile is especially appropriate on the lips, or from the pen, of Solomon, who first brought horses and chariots from Egypt 1 Kings 10:28-29. As applied to the bride it expresses the stately and imposing character of her beauty.
Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
Rows ... borders - The same Hebrew word in both places; ornaments forming part of the bride's head-dress, probably strings of beads or other ornaments descending on the cheeks. The introduction of "jewels" and "gold" in Sol 1:10 injures the sense and destroys the climax of Sol 1:11, which was spoken by a chorus (hence "we," not "I," as when the king speaks, Sol 1:9). They promise the bride ornaments more worthy and becoming than the rustic attire in which she has already such charms for the king: "Ornaments of gold will we make for thee with studs (or 'points') of silver." The "studs" are little silver ornaments which it is proposed to affix to the golden (compare Proverbs 25:12), or substitute for the strung beads of the bride's necklace.
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.
The bride's reply Sol 1:12 may mean, "While the king reclines at the banquet I anoint him with my costliest perfume, but he has for me a yet sweeter fragrance" Sol 1:13-14. According to Origen's interpretation, the bride represents herself as anointing the king, like Mary John 12:3, with her most precious unguents.
Spikenard - An unguent of great esteem in the ancient world, retaining its Indian name in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. It is obtained from an Indian plant now called "jatamansi."
A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
Render: A bag of myrrh is my beloved to me, which lodgeth in my bosom.
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
Camphire - Rather, כפר kôpher," from which "cyprus" is probably derived (in the margin misspelled "cypress "),the name by which the plant called by the Arabs "henna" was known to the Greeks and Romans. It is still much esteemed throughout the East for the fragrance of its flowers and the dye extracted from its leaves. Engedi was famous for its vines, and the henna may have been cultivated with the vines in the same enclosures.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.