Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.
The daughters of Jerusalem now offer to seek along with Shulamith for her beloved, who had turned away and was gone.
1 Whither has thy beloved gone,
Thou fairest of women?
Whither has thy beloved turned,
That we may seek him with thee?
The longing remains with her even after she has wakened, as the after effect of her dream. In the morning she goes forth and meets with the daughters of Jerusalem. They cause Shulamith to describe her friend, and they ask whither he has gone. They wish to know the direction in which he disappeared from her, the way which he had probably taken (פנה, R. פן .R, to drive, to urge forward, to turn from one to another), that with her they might go to seek him (Vav of the consequence or the object, as at Psalm 83:17). The answer she gives proceeds on a conclusion which she draws from the inclination of her beloved.
My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
2 My beloved has gone down into the garden,
To the beds of sweet herbs,
To feed in the gardens
And gather lilies.
He is certainly, she means to say, there to be found where he delights most to tarry. He will have gone down - viz. from the palace (Sol 6:11; cf. 1 Kings 20:43 and Esther 7:7) - into his garden, to the fragrant beds, there to feed in his garden and gather lilies (cf. Old Germ. "to collect rsen"); he is fond of gardens and flowers. Shulamith expresses this in her shepherd-dialect, as when Jesus says of His Father (John 15:1), "He is the husbandman." Flowerbeds are the feeding place (vid., regarding לרעות under Sol 2:16) of her beloved. Solomon certainly took great delight in gardens and parks, Ecclesiastes 2:5. But this historical fact is here idealized; the natural flora which Solomon delighted in with intelligent interest presents itself as a figure of a higher Loveliness which was therein as it were typically manifest (cf. Revelation 7:17, where the "Lamb," "feeding," and "fountains of water," are applied as anagogics, i.e., heavenward-pointing types). Otherwise it is not to be comprehended why it is lilies that are named. Even if it were supposed to be implied that lilies were Solomon's favourite flowers, we must assume that his taste was determined by something more than by form and colour. The words of Shulamith give us to understand that the inclination and the favourite resort of her friend corresponded to his nature, which is altogether thoughtfulness and depth of feeling (cf. under Psalm 92:5, the reference to Dante: the beautiful women who gather flowers representing the paradisaical life); lilies, the emblems of unapproachable grandeur, purity inspiring reverence, high elevation above that which is common, bloom there wherever the lily-like one wanders, whom the lily of the valley calls her own. With the words:
I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.
3 I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine,
Who feeds among the lilies,
Shulamith farther proceeds, followed by the daughters of Jerusalem, to seek her friend lost through her own fault. She always says, not אישׁי, but דּודי and רעי; for love, although a passion common to mind and body, is in this Song of Songs viewed as much as possible apart from its basis in the animal nature. Also, that the description hovers between that of the clothed and the unclothed, gives to it an ideality favourable to the mystical interpretation. Nakedness is ערוה. But at the cross nakedness appears transported from the sphere of sense to that of the supersensuous.
Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.
With Sol 6:4 Solomon's address is resumed, and a new scene opens. Shulamith had found him again, and she who is beautiful in herself appears now so much the more beautiful, when the joy of seeing him again irradiates her whole being.
4 Beautiful art thou, my friend, as Tirzah,
Comely as Jerusalem,
Terrible as a battle-array.
In the praise of her beauty we hear the voice of the king. The cities which are the highest ornament of his kingdom serve him as the measure of her beauty, which is designated according to the root conceptions by יפה, after the equality of completeness; by נאוה, after the quality of that which is well-becoming, pleasing. It is concluded, from the prominence given to Tirzah, that the Song was not composed till after the division of the kingdom, and that its author was an inhabitant of the northern kingdom; for Tirzah was the first royal city of this kingdom till the time of Omri, the founder of Samaria. But since, at all events, it is Solomon who here speaks, so great an historical judgment ought surely to be ascribed to a later poet who has imagined himself in the exact position of Solomon, that he would not represent the king of the undivided Israel as speaking like a king of the separate kingdom of Israel. The prominence given to Tirzah has another reason. Tirzah was discovered by Robinson on his second journey, 1852, in which Van de Velde accompanied him, on a height in the mountain range to the north of Nabls, under the name Tullzah. Brocardus and Breydenback had already pointed out a village called Thersa to the east of Samaria. This form of the name corresponds to the Heb. better than that Arab. Tullûzah; but the place is suitable, and if Tullzah lies high and beautiful in a region of olive trees, then it still justifies its ancient name, which means pleasantness or sweetness. But it cannot be sweetness on account of which Tirzah is named before Jerusalem, for in the eye of the Israelites Jerusalem was "the perfection of beauty" (Psalm 50:2; Lamentations 2:15). That there is gradation from Tirzah to Jerusalem (Hengst.) cannot be said; for נאוה (decora) and יפה (pulchra) would be reversed if a climax were intended. The reason of it is rather this, that Shulamith is from the higher region, and is not a daughter of Jerusalem, and that therefore a beautiful city situated in the north toward Sunem must serve as a comparison of her beauty. That Shulamith is both beautiful and terrible (אימּה from אים) is not contradiction: she is terrible in the irresistible power of the impression of her personality, terrible as nîdgaloth, i.e., as troops going forth with their banners unfurled (cf. the Kal of this v. denom., Psalm 20:6). We do not need to supply מצנות, which is sometimes fem., Psalm 25:3; Genesis 32:9, although the attribute would here be appropriate, Numbers 2:3, cf. Song Numbers 10:5; still less צבאות, which occurs in the sense of military service, Isaiah 40:2, and a war-expedition, Daniel 8:12, but not in the sense of war-host, as fem. Much rather nidgaloth, thus neut., is meant of bannered hosts, as ארחות (not אר), Isaiah 21:13, of those that are marching. War-hosts with their banners, their standards, go forth confident of victory. Such is Shulamith's whole appearance, although she is unconscious of it - a veni, vidi, vici. Solomon is completely vanquished by her. But seeking to maintain himself in freedom over against her, he cries out to her:
Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.
5a Turn away thine eyes from me,
For overpoweringly they assail me.
Dpke translates, ferocire me faciunt; Hengst.: they make me proud; but although הרהיב, after Psalm 138:3, may be thus used, yet that would be an effect produced by the eyes, which certainly would suggest the very opposite of the request to turn them away. The verb רהב means to be impetuous, and to press impetuously against any one; the Hiph. is the intens. of this trans. signification of the Kal: to press overpoweringly against one, to infuse terror, terrorem incutere. The lxx translates it by ἀναπτεροῦν, which is also used of the effect of terror ("to make to start up"), and the Syr. by afred, to put to flight, because arheb signifies to put in fear, as also arhab equals khawwaf, terrefacere; but here the meaning of the verb corresponds more with the sense of Arab. r''b, to be placed in the state of ro'b, i.e., of paralyzing terror. If she directed her large, clear, penetrating eyes to him, he must sink his own: their glance is unbearable by him. This peculiar form the praise of her eyes here assume; but then the description proceeds as at Sol 4:1, Sol 2:3. The words used there in praise of her hair, her teeth, and her cheeks, are here repeated.
5b Thy hair is like a flock of goats
Which repose downwards on Giliad.
6 Thy teeth like a flock of lambs
Which come up from the washing,
All of them bearing twins,
And a bereaved one is not among them.
7 Like a piece of pomegranate thy temples
Behind thy veil.
The repetition is literal, but yet not without change in the expression, - there, גל מהר, here, מן־הגּל; there, הקּץ, tonsarum, here, הרח, agnarum (Symm., Venet. τῶν ἀμνάδων); for רחל, in its proper signification, is like the Arab. rachil, richl, richleh, the female lamb, and particularly the ewe. Hitzig imagines that Solomon here repeats to Shulamith what he had said to another donna chosen for marriage, and that the flattery becomes insipid by repetition to Shulamith, as well as also to the reader. But the romance which he finds in the Song is not this itself, but his own palimpsest, in the style of Lucian's transformed ass. The repetition has a morally better reason, and not one so subtle. Shulamith appears to Solomon yet more beautiful than on the day when she was brought to him as his bride. His love is still the same, unchanged; and this both she and the reader or hearer must conclude from these words of praise, repeated now as they were then. There is no one among the ladies of the court whom he prefers to her, - these must themselves acknowledge her superiority.
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.
As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.
There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.
8 There are sixty queens,
And eighty concubines,
And virgins without number.
9 One is my dove, my perfect one, -
The only one of her mother,
The choice one of her that bare her.
The daughters saw her and called her blessed, -
Queens and concubines, and they extolled her.
Even here, where, if anywhere, notice of the difference of gender was to be expected, המּה stands instead of the more accurate הנּה (e.g., Genesis 6:2). The number off the women of Solomon's court, 1 Kings 11:3, is far greater (700 wives and 300 concubines); and those who deny the Solomonic authorship of the Song regard the poet, in this particular, as more historical than the historian. On our part, holding as we do the Solomonic authorship of the book, we conclude from these low numbers that the Song celebrates a love-relation of Solomon's at the commencement of his reign: his luxury had not then reached the enormous height to which he, the same Solomon, looks back, and which he designates, Ecclesiastes 2:8, as vanitas vanitatum. At any rate, the number of 60 מלכות, i.e., legitimate wives of equal rank with himself, is yet high enough; for, according to 2 Chronicles 11:21, Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines. The 60 occurred before, at Sol 3:7. If it be a round number, as sometimes, although rarely, sexaginta is thus used (Hitzig), it may be reduced only to 51, but not further, especially here, where 80 stands along with it. פילגשׁ (פּלּגשׁ), Gr. πάλλαξ παλλακή (Lat. pellex), which in the form פּלּקתּא (פּלקתא) came back from the Greek to the Aramaic, is a word as yet unexplained. According to the formation, it may be compared to חרמשׁ, from חרם, to cut off; whence also the harem bears the (Arab.) name ḥaram, or the separated synaeconitis, to which access is denied. And ending in is (ש) is known to the Assyr., but only as an adverbial ending, which, as 'istinis equals לבדּו, alone, solus, shows is connected with the pron. su. These two nouns appear as thus requiring to be referred to quadrilitera, with the annexed שׁ; perhaps פלגשׁ, in the sense of to break into splinters, from פּלג, to divide (whence a brook, as dividing itself in its channels, has the name of פּלג), points to the polygamous relation as a breaking up of the marriage of one; so that a concubine has the name pillěgěsh, as a representant of polygamy in contrast to monogamy.
In the first line of Sol 6:9 אחת is subj. (one, who is my dove, my perfect one); in the second line, on the contrary, it is pred. (one, unica, is she of her mother). That Shulamith was her mother's only child does not, however, follow from this; אחת, unica, is equivalent to unice dilecta, as יחיד, Proverbs 4:3, is equivalent to unice dilectus (cf. Keil's Zechariah 14:7). The parall. בּרה has its nearest signification electa (lxx, Syr., Jerome), not pura (Venet.); the fundamental idea of cutting and separating divides itself into the ideas of choosing and purifying. The Aorists, Sol 6:9, are the only ones in this book; they denote that Shulamith's look had, on the part of the women, this immediate result, that they willingly assigned to her the good fortune of being preferred to them all, - that to her the prize was due. The words, as also at Proverbs 31:28, are an echo of Genesis 30:13, - the books of the Chokma delight in references to Genesis, the book of pre-Israelitish origin. Here, in Sol 6:8, Sol 6:9, the distinction between our typical and the allegorical interpretation is correctly seen. The latter is bound to explain what the 60 and the 80 mean, and how the wives, concubines, and "virgins" of the harem are to be distinguished from each other; but what till now has been attempted in this matter has, by reason of its very absurdity or folly, become an easy subject of wanton mockery. But the typical interpretation regards the 60 and the 80, and the unreckoned number, as what their names denote, - viz. favourites, concubines, and serving-maids. But to see an allegory of heavenly things in such a herd of women - a kind of thing which the Book of Genesis dates from the degradation of marriage in the line of Cain - is a profanation of that which is holy. The fact is, that by a violation of the law of God (Deuteronomy 17:17), Solomon brings a cloud over the typical representation, which is not at all to be thought of in connection with the Antitype. Solomon, as Jul Sturm rightly remarks, is not to be considered by himself, but only in his relation to Shulamith. In Christ, on the contrary, is no imperfection; sin remains in the congregation. In the Song, the bride is purer than the bridegroom; but in the fulfilling of the Song this relation is reversed: the bridegroom is purer than the bride.
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.
Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
10 Who is this that looketh forth like the morning-red,
Beautiful as the moon, pure as the sun,
Terrible as a battle-host?
The question, "Who is this?" is the same as at Sol 3:6. There, it refers to her who was brought to the king; here, it refers to her who moves in that which is his as her own. There, the "this" is followed by עלה appositionally; here, by הנּשׁ looking forth determ., and thus more closely connected with it; but then indeterm., and thus apposit. predicates follow. The verb שׁקף signifies to bend forward, to overhang; whence the Hiph. השׁקיף and Niph. שׁקף, to look out, since in doing so one bends forward (vid., under Psalm 14:2). The lxx here translates it by ἐκκύπτουσα, the Venet. by παρακύπτουσα, both of which signify to look toward something with the head inclined forward. The point of comparison is, the rising up from the background: Shulamith breaks through the shades of the garden-grove like the morning-red, the morning dawn; or, also: she comes nearer and nearer, as the morning-red rises behind the mountains, and then fills always the more widely the whole horizon. The Venet. translates ὡς ἑωσφόρος; but the morning star is not שׁחר, but בּן־שׁחר, Isaiah 14:12; shahhar, properly, the morning-dawn, means, in Heb., not only this, like the Arab. shaḥar, but rather, like the Arab. fajr, the morning-red, - i.e., the red tinge of the morning mist. From the morning-red the description proceeds to the moon, yet visible in the morning sky, before the sun has risen. It is usually called ירח, as being yellow; but here it is called לבנה, as being white; as also the sun, which here is spoken of as having risen (Judges 5:31), is designated not by the word שׁמשׁ, as the unwearied (Psalm 19:6, Psalm 19:6), but, on account of the intensity of its warming light (Psalm 19:7), is called חמּה. These, in the language of poetry, are favourite names of the moon and the sun, because already the primitive meaning of the two other names had disappeared from common use; but with these, definite attributive ideas are immediately connected. Shulamith appears like the morning-red, which breaks through the darkness; beautiful, like the silver moon, which in soft still majesty shines in the heavens (Job 31:26); pure (vid., regarding בּר, בּרוּר in this signification: smooth, bright, pure under Isa.Isa 49:2) as the sun, whose light (cf. טהור with the Aram. מיהרא, mid-day brightness) is the purest of the pure, imposing as war-hosts with their standards (vid., Sol 6:4). The answer of her who was drawing near, to this exclamation, sounds homely and childlike:
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.
11 To the nut garden I went down
To look at the shrubs of the valley,
To see whether the vine sprouted,
The pomegranates budded.
12 I knew it not that my soul lifted me up
To the royal chariots of my people, a noble (one).
In her loneliness she is happy; she finds her delight in quietly moving about in the vegetable world; the vine and the pomegranate, brought from her home, are her favourites. Her soul - viz. love for Solomon, which fills her soul - raised her to the royal chariots of her people, the royal chariots of a noble (one), where she sits besides the king, who drives the chariot; she knew this, but she also knew it not for what she had become without any cause of her own, that she is without self-elation and without disavowal of her origin. These are Shulamith's thoughts and feelings, which we think we derive from these two verses without reading between the lines and without refining. It went down, she says, viz., from the royal palace, cf. Sol 6:2. Then, further, she speaks of a valley; and the whole sounds rural, so that we are led to think of Etam as the scene. This Etam, romantically (vid., Judges 15:8 f.) situated, was, as Josephus (Antt. viii. 7. 3) credibly informs us, Solomon's Belvedere. "In the royal stables," he says, "so great was the regard for beauty and swiftness, that nowhere else could horses of greater beauty or greater fleetness be found. All had to acknowledge that the appearance of the king's horses was wonderfully pleasing, and that their swiftness was incomparable. Their riders also served as an ornament to them. They were young men in the flower of their age, and were distinguished by their lofty stature and their flowing hair, and by their clothing, which was of Tyrian purple. They every day sprinkled their hair with dust of gold, so that their whole head sparkled when the sun shone upon it. In such array, armed and bearing bows, they formed a body-guard around the king, who was wont, clothed in a white garment, to go out of the city in the morning, and even to drive his chariot. These morning excursions were usually to a certain place which was about sixty stadia from Jerusalem, and which was called Etam; gardens and brooks made it as pleasant as it was fruitful." This Etam, from whence (the עין עיטם)
(Note: According to Sebachim 54b, one of the highest points of the Holy Land.))
a watercourse, the ruins of which are still visible, supplied the temple with water, has been identified by Robinson with a village called Artas (by Lumley called Urtas), about a mile and a half to the south of Bethlehem. At the upper end of the winding valley, at a considerable height above the bottom, are three old Solomonic pools, - large, oblong basins of considerable compass placed one behind the other in terraces. Almost at an equal height with the highest pool, at a distance of several hundred steps there is a strong fountain, which is carefully built over, and to which there is a descent by means of stairs inside the building. By it principally were the pools, which are just large reservoirs, fed, and the water was conducted by a subterranean conduit into the upper pool. Riding along the way close to the aqueduct, which still exists, one sees even at the present day the valley below clothed in rich vegetation; and it is easy to understand that here there may have been rich gardens and pleasure-grounds (Moritz Lttke's Mittheilung). A more suitable place for this first scene of the fifth Act cannot be thought of; and what Josephus relates serves remarkably to illustrate not only the description of Sol 6:11, but also that of Sol 6:12.
אגוז is the walnut, i.e., the Italian nut tree (Juglans regia L.), originally brought from Persia; the Persian name is jeuz, Aethiop. gûz, Arab. Syr. gauz (gôz), in Heb. with א prosth., like the Armen. engus. גּנּת אגוז is a garden, the peculiar ornament of which is the fragrant and shady walnut tree; גנת אגוזים would not be a nut garden, but a garden of nuts, for the plur. signifies, Mishn. nuces (viz., juglandes equals Jovis glandes, Pliny, xvii. 136, ed. Jan.), as תּאנים, figs, in contradistinction to תּאנה, a fig tree, only the Midrash uses אגוזה here, elsewhere not occurring, of a tree. The object of her going down was one, viz., to observe the state of the vegetation; but it was manifold, as expressed in the manifold statements which follow ירדתּי. The first object was the nut garden. Then her intention was to observe the young shoots in the valley, which one has to think of as traversed by a river or brook; for נחל, like Wady, signifies both a valley and a valley-brook. The nut garden might lie in the valley, for the walnut tree is fond of a moderately cool, damp soil (Joseph. Bell. iii. 10. 8). But the אבּי are the young shoots with which the banks of a brook and the damp valley are usually adorned in the spring-time. אב, shoot, in the Heb. of budding and growth, in Aram. of the fruit-formation, comes from R. אב, the weaker power of נב, which signifies to expand and spread from within outward, and particularly to sprout up and to well forth. ב ראה signifies here, as at Genesis 34:1, attentively to observe something, looking to be fixed upon it, to sink down into it. A further object was to observe whether the vine had broken out, or had budded (this is the meaning of פּרח, breaking out, to send forth, R. פר, to break),
(Note: Vid., Friedh. Delitzsch, Indo-Germ. Sem. Studien, p. 72.)
- whether the pomegranate trees had gained flowers or flower-buds הנצוּ, not as Gesen. in his Thes. and Heb. Lex. states, the Hiph. of נוּץ, which would be הניצוּ, but from נצץ instead of הנצוּ, with the same omission of Dagesh, after the forms הפרוּ, הרעוּ, cf. Proverbs 7:13, R. נץ נס, to glance, bloom (whence Nisan as the name of the flower-month, as Ab the name of the fruit-month).
(Note: Cf. my Jesurun, p. 149.)
Why the pomegranate tree (Punica granatum L.), which derives this its Latin name from its fruit being full of grains, bears the Semitic name of רמּון, (Arab.) rummân, is yet unexplained; the Arabians are so little acquainted with it, that they are uncertain whether ramm or raman (which, however, is not proved to exist) is to be regarded as the root-word. The question goes along with that regarding the origin and signification of Rimmon, the name of the Syrian god, which appears to denote
Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.
Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.
Encouraged by Shulamith's unassuming answer, the daughters of Jerusalem now give utterance to an entreaty which their astonishment at her beauty suggests to them.
13 Come back, come back, O Shulamith!
Come back, come back, that we may look upon thee!
She is now (Sol 6:10.) on the way from the garden to the palace. The fourfold "come back" entreats her earnestly, yea, with tears, to return thither with them once more, and for this purpose, that they might find delight in looking up her; for ב חזה signifies to sink oneself into a thing, looking at it, to delight (feast) one's eyes in looking on a thing. Here for the first time Shulamith is addressed by name. But השּׁוּ cannot be a pure proper name, for the art. is vocat., as e.g., הבּת ירו, "O daughter of Jerusalem!" Pure proper names like שׁלמה are so determ. in themselves that they exclude the article; only such as are at the same time also nouns, like ירדּן and לבנון, are susceptible of the article, particularly also of the vocat., Psalm 114:5; but cf. Zechariah 11:1 with Isaiah 10:34. Thus השּׁוּ will be not so much a proper name as a name of descent, as generally nouns in (with a few exceptions, viz., of ordinal number, הררי, ימני, etc.) are all gentilicia. The lxx render השׁו by ἡ Σουναμῖτις, and this is indeed but another form for השּׁוּנמּית, i.e., she who is from Sunem. Thus also was designated the exceedingly beautiful Abishag, 1 Kings 1:3, Elisha's excellent and pious hostess, 2 Kings 4:8 ff. Sunem was in the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 19:18), near to Little Hermon, from which it was separated by a valley, to the south-east of Carmel. This lower Galilean Sunem, which lies south from Nain, south-east from Nazareth, south-west from Tabor, is also called Shulem. Eusebius in his Onomasticon says regarding it: Σουβήμ (l. Σουλήμ) κλήρου Ισσάχαρ καὶ νῦν ἐστὶ κώμη Σουλὴμ κ.τ.λ., i.e., as Jerome translates it: Sunem in tribue Issachar. et usque hodie vicus ostenditur nomine Sulem in quinto miliario montis Thabor contra australum plagam. This place if found at the present day under the name of Suwlam (Slam), at the west end of Jebel ed-Duhi (Little Hermon), not far from the great plain (Jisre'el, now Zer'n), which forms a convenient way of communication between Jordan and the sea-coast, but is yet so hidden in the mountain range that the Talmud is silent concerning this Sulem, as it is concerning Nazareth. Here was the home of the Shulamitess of the Song. The ancients interpret the name by εἰρημεύουσα, or by ἐσκυλευμένη (vid., Lagarde's Onomastica), the former after Aquila and the Quinta, the latter after Symm. The Targum has the interpretation: השׁלמה באמונתה עם ה (vid., Rashi). But the form of the name (the Syr. writes שׁילוּמיתא) is opposed to these allegorical interpretations. Rather it is to be assumed that the poet purposely used, not hshwb', but hshwl', to assimilate her name to that of Solomon; and that it has the parallel meaning of one devoted to Solomon, and thus, as it were, of a passively-applied שׁלומית equals Σαλόμη, is the more probable, as the daughters of Jerusalem would scarcely venture thus to address her who was raised to the rank of a princess unless this name accorded with that of Solomon.
Not conscious of the greatness of her beauty, Shulamith asks -
1ba What do you see in Shulamith?
She is not aware that anything particular is to be seen in her; but the daughters of Jerusalem are of a different opinion, and answer this childlike, modest, but so much the more touching question -
1bb As the dance of Mahanaim!
They would thus see in her something like the dance of Manahaaοm. If this be here the name of the Levitical town (now Mahneh) in the tribe of Gad, north of Jabbok, where Ishbosheth resided for two years, and where David was hospitably entertained on his flight from Absalom (Luthr.: "the dance to Mahanaaοm"), then we must suppose in this trans-Jordanic town such a popular festival as was kept in Shiloh, Judges 21:19, and we may compare Abel-meholah equals meadow of dancing, the name of Elisha's birth-place (cf. also Herod. i.:16: "To dance the dance of the Arcadian town of Tegea"). But the Song delights in retrospective references to Genesis (cf. Genesis 4:11, Genesis 7:11). At Genesis 32:3, however, by Mahanaaοm
(Note: Bφttcher explains Mahanaaοm as a plur.; but the plur. of מצנה is מצנות and מחנים; the plur. termination ajim is limited to מים and שׁמים.)
is meant the double encampment of angels who protected Jacob's two companies (Genesis 32:8). The town of Mahanaam derives its name from this vision of Jacob's. The word, as the name of a town, is always without the article; and here, where it has the article, it is to be understood appellatively. The old translators, in rendering by "the dances of the camps" (Syr., Jerome, choros castrorum, Venet. θίασον στρατοπέδων), by which it remains uncertain whether a war-dance or a parade is meant, overlook the dual, and by exchanging מחנים with מצנות, they obtain a figure which in this connection is incongruous and obscure. But, in truth, the figure is an angelic one. The daughters of Jerusalem wish to see Shulamith dance, and they designate that as an angelic sight. Mahanaam became in the post-bibl. dialect a name directly for angels. The dance of angels is only a step beyond the responsive song of the seraphim, Isaiah 6:1-13. Engelkoere angel-choir and "heavenly host" are associated in the old German poetry.
(Note: Vid., Walther von der Vogelweide, 173. 28. The Indian mythology goes farther, and transfers not only the original of the dance, but also of the drama, to heaven; vid., Gtting. Anziegen, 1874, p. 106.)
The following description is undeniably that (let one only read how Hitzig in vain seeks to resist this interpretation) of one dancing. In this, according to biblical representation and ancient custom, there is nothing repulsive. The women of the ransomed people, with Miriam at their head, danced, as did also the women who celebrated David's victory over Goliath (Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6). David himself danced (2 Samuel 6) before the ark of the covenant. Joy and dancing are, according to Old Testament conception, inseparable (Ecclesiastes 3:4); and joy not only as the happy feeling of youthful life, but also spiritual holy joy (Psalm 87:7). The dance which the ladies of the court here desire to see, falls under the point of view of a play of rival individual artistes reciprocally acting for the sake of amusement. The play also is capable of moral nobility, if it is enacted within the limits of propriety, at the right time, in the right manner, and if the natural joyfulness, penetrated by intelligence, is consecrated by a spiritual aim. Thus Shulamith, when she dances, does not then become a Gaditanian (Martial, xiv. 203) or an Alma (the name given in Anterior Asia to those women who go about making it their business to dance mimic and partly lascivious dances); nor does she become a Bajadere (Isaiah 23:15 f.),
(Note: Alma is the Arab. 'ualmah (one skilled, viz., in dancing and jonglerie), and Bajadere is the Portug. softening of baladera, a dancer, from balare (ballare), mediaev. Lat., and then Romanic: to move in a circle, to dance.)