Song of Solomon 2
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
Ch. Song of Solomon 2:1-2. In Song of Solomon 2:1 the bride speaks, describing herself as a humble meadow flower unfit to be in such a luxurious place as that in which she now finds herself, and in Song of Solomon 2:2 Solomon replies.

1. Render, I am a crocus of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

the rose of Sharon] The Heb. word chabhatstseleth, which occurs besides only in Isaiah 35:1, can hardly mean a rose. The LXX, Vulg., and Targ. to Isaiah 35:1 translate it ‘lily,’ but as we have shôshannâh for lily in the next clause, it is probably some other flower. The Targum here gives narqôs rattîb, ‘the green narcissus,’ but Gesen. Thes. prefers the Syriac translation, Colchicum autumnale or meadow saffron, a meadow flower like the crocus, white and violet in colour, and having poisonous bulbs. This is the most probable of the proposed identifications, though Tristram, Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 476, decides for the sweet-scented narcissus, Narcissus tazetta, a native of Palestine, and a flower of which the natives are passionately fond. While it is in flower it is to be seen in all the bazaars, and the men as well as the women at that season always carry two or three blossoms which they are constantly smelling.

Sharon] is generally supposed to be the great plain of Sharon to the S. of Carmel on the Mediterranean coast, stretching from Caesarea to Joppa. But the word probably means ‘a plain,’ and might, consequently, be applied by the inhabitants of any district to the plain in their neighbourhood. This is supported by the fact that Eusebius states that the district from Tabor to the Lake of Gennesaret was called Sharon, so here we may render either a crocus of Sharon, or of the plain, as in the LXX.

the lily] Rather, a lily. Shôshannâh must be a red flower; cp. Song of Solomon 5:13, “His lips are like lilies.” Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 464, identifies it with the scarlet Anemone coronaria. It is found everywhere, on all soils and in all situations. It meets every requirement of the allusions in Canticles and is one of the flowers called susan by the Arabs.

As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
2. Solomon replies, turning her modest comparison into an exaltation of her above the ladies of the palace by saying, “My friend is indeed a lily and she is out of place, but only because the palace ladies are as thistles in comparison.” Chôach is perhaps a thistle here. Tristram, Fauna and Flora of Palestine, p. 336, says it is Notobasis Syriaca, a peculiarly strong and noxious thistle. But probably chôach meant many plants, and that the word does not always mean a thistle is shewn by its use in Proverbs 26:9, “as a chôach that goeth up into the hand of a drunkard,” where something of the nature of a brier must be intended. Cp. also the parable of Jehoash in 2 Kings 14:9.

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.
3. the apple tree] The Heb. word is tappûach. Tristram, Fauna and Flora of Palestine, p. 294, takes it to mean the apricot; while Delitzsch, in his commentary on Proverbs, suggests the citron or orange, but neither view has more than a slight support. As between apple, which is held to be the tree meant, by Löw, Prof. Robertson Smith, Dr Post in Hastings’ Bible Dictionary, and Prof. Driver on Joel 1:12, and quince, which is supported by the authors of the article ‘Apple’ in the Encycl. Bibl. and others, it is difficult to choose. A strong argument against the quince is contained in the last clause of the verse. The quince is not sweet, but rather bitter, and as the reference here is to the fruit in its natural state, we cannot get over the difficulty by saying that it is delicious when sweetened. Dr Post, who is a medical man living in Syria, remarks that to-day sick persons almost invariably ask the doctor if they may have an apple, and if he objects they urge their case with the plea that they want it only to smell. This is strikingly parallel to what we have in Song of Solomon 2:5, and on the whole we would decide for apple tree.

I sat down under his shadow with great delight] Lit. In his shadow I delighted and sat down. The A.V. gives the sense of the Heb. accurately, as the two verbs are intended here to express one idea, and the second verb, as is usual in such constructions, is the principal one.

his fruit] i.e. the joy of loving converse with him.

3–7. In these verses the Shulammite replies, but turns her thoughts away from her royal lover to her betrothed, and compares him as contrasted with other young men to a fruitful and shady tappûach tree among the other trees of the wood.

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
4. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love] Such expressions as ‘banqueting house’ and ‘his banner’ suggest a regal magnificence which could not belong to any kindness or hospitality which a rustic lover could shew to his loved one. But the first expression is simply house of wine, which has no such necessary association with splendour as ‘banqueting house.’ The name might, as far as we know, be applied to any place where wine was hospitably set forth for guests, and some plausibly suggest that it means here some tent in the vineyard where the watchers refreshed and rested themselves. On the other hand, it is quite possible that Beth-hayyayin may be a proper name (cp. Beth-hakkerem, ‘house of the vineyard,’ Jeremiah 6:1). Bruston renders it so, and suggests that it is the name of the village, near the Shulammite’s village, where the shepherd lover dwelt. Others think that it is to be taken figuratively, as meaning that his love intoxicates her. The word translated ‘banner’ is deghel, and it was supposed to be used of the banner which preceded the tribes in their march through the wilderness. But this has been disputed on plausible grounds by Gray in The Jewish Quarterly Review, Oct. 1898, who thinks the word means ‘company’ in Numbers 2:3; Numbers 10:14. Cheyne, however, Jew. Quart. Rev., Jan. 1899, would retain ‘banner’ as a possible meaning of the word, and if we do so the meaning of the phrase may be, as Gesen. Thes. suggests, “I follow the banner of love which my friend bears before me as soldiers follow the military standard and never desert it.” If the ‘house of wine’ be taken figuratively, as the tree with its shadow and its fruit in the previous verse must be, this gives quite a satisfactory meaning. The Shulammite was brought by her lover to the place where the wine of love was dispensed, and the standard he bore aloft was love. The best parallel to our passage is given in Lane’s Arabic Dictionary s.v. ‘uqab, where a saying of Abu Dhu-eyb describing wine is quoted. “It has a banner which guides the generous, like as the military banner guides and attracts warriors.” This gives an exact parallel and makes the simile clear. The lover is the possessor of the only wine she cares for. Cp. Ben Jonson’s Song to Celia,

“Drink to me only with thine eyes,

And I will pledge with mine,

Or leave a kiss but in the cup

And I’ll not look for wine.”

She comes to him for the ‘drink divine’ which she desires, and the flag which draws her and is a sign that it is there is his love. It was the custom in Arabia for the wine seller to hoist a flag and keep it flying so long as he had any wine to sell, but it may be doubted whether there is any reference to such a custom here.

Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
5. flagons] The Heb. ’ashîshôth means raisin cakes, cp. Hosea 3:1, and is connected possibly with Arab. ’assasa, ‘to found’ or ‘establish,’ and so ‘cakes of pressed fruit.’ The LXX translate ἐν μύροις and the Vulg. floribus, under the impression that the Shulammite calls for restoratives to prevent fainting, just as smelling-salts are used in our day. But that can hardly be the case, as ’ashîshôth would not be suitable for this purpose, nor apples either, though, as we have seen, the sick desire apples for their smell. Her love and longing have brought her into a state of physical weakness, to bear up against which she needs stimulating and sustaining food. This the raisin cakes and apples would supply. The ‘flagons’ of the A.V. is derived from the Rabbinic commentators, cp. Ibn Ezra on this verse, “ashîshôth, vessels of glass full of wine.” But there is no support for it.

sick of love] i.e. weakened and made faint by hope deferred and disappointed longing. Delitzsch’s idea that she is fainting because of excessive delight is less likely. A country girl would scarcely be liable to an excess of weakness demanding restoratives of this kind from such a cause.

His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
6. The verb here should be taken as expressing a wish. O that his left hand were under my head, and his right hand were embracing me: or, His left hand would be under my head. Cp. Song of Solomon 8:3, where the same words recur in a kind of refrain, and where they must unmistakeably be taken to express a wish.

I charge you, O 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.
7. I charge you] I adjure you.

by the roes, and by the hinds of the field] The tsěbhî, ‘roe,’ is according to Tristram (Fauna and Flora of Palestine, p. 5) the gazelle, Gazella dorcas. He says, “It is extremely common in every part of the country S. of Lebanon. I have seen it in the Mount of Olives close to Jerusalem.” The ayyâlâh = ‘hind’ is the female of the ayyâl, which, according to Post, in Hastings’ Dict. of Bible, is the Cervus dama, the true ‘fallow deer.’ Tristram also thinks the fallow deer is meant, or perhaps the red deer, but the latter has not been found in Palestine.

that ye stir not up, &c.] Rather, as R.V., that ye stir not up, nor awaken love, until it please. The adjuration does not refer to the rousing of a lover, but of the passion of love. The meaning is this. The speaker adjures the daughters of Jerusalem not to attempt any more to arouse or awake love. It should be allowed to rest until it awake of itself; and probably they are adjured by the gazelles and the hinds of the field because of the shyness and timidity of these creatures, or as Delitzsch suggests, because of their absolute freedom. The daughters of Jerusalem had been attempting to awake love for Solomon in her heart by fulsome praises of him, and she adjures them thus in order that they may cease from their vain attempt. This beautiful verse recurs at Song of Solomon 3:5 and Song of Solomon 8:4, and forms a kind of refrain which marks the close of certain sections of the book. It also expresses one of the main theses of it, viz. that a true and worthy love should owe nothing to excitements coming from without, but should be spontaneous and as unfettered as the deer upon the hills.

The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
8. The voice of my beloved] This is the literal rendering of the Hebrew, but the word qôl, ‘sound’ or ‘voice,’ is often used with a following genitive as an interjection, and then ‘Hark!’ is the best equivalent. (See Ges. Gramm. § 146 b.) Thus in Genesis 4:10, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground,” should be, “Hark! thy brother’s blood crieth,” &c. Cp. Isaiah 40:3. So here, Hark! my beloved, behold he cometh leaping over the mountains, &c.; i.e. it is not his voice, but the sound of his feet that she hears in imagination. (Cp. Oettli.) The mountains might be those round about Jerusalem, but more probably they are the Northern hills amidst which they now are.

Chap. Song of Solomon 2:8-17. The Beloved comes

The scene is evidently changed from Jerusalem to some royal residence in the country. The lover, like the Shulammite herself, belongs to the northern hills; and as he appears here, it is more natural to suppose that the scene has been transferred thither than that he has come to Jerusalem. Moreover the later references to Lebanon imply this change of scene, and it is most suitable to suppose that the change takes place here. The indirect way in which this is hinted is entirely congruous with the kind of poems we have taken these to be. The Shulammite starts up in uncontrollable agitation, imagining she hears her lover’s footsteps as he hastens to her over the hills, and she addresses her companions, the court ladies, tracing his approach until he reaches the lattices in the wall, Song of Solomon 2:8-9. Her lover speaks to her through these, and she, hearing him, repeats what he says, Song of Solomon 2:10-14. In reply to his desire to see her and hear her voice, as she cannot make herself visible, she sings a little vineyard song, Song of Solomon 2:15. In Song of Solomon 2:16 she gives herself up to a loving rapture, and then, Song of Solomon 2:17, fearing for her lover’s safety she exhorts him to depart till the evening. Some think the bride speaks here of some past scene when her lover came to meet her, over which she is now brooding. That is possible, but the view expressed above seems preferable. In any case these verses are among the most beautiful in the book, and take their place among the perfect love verses of the world. A modern parallel may be found in Tennyson’s lines,

“And all my heart went out to meet him

Coming, ere he came.”

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
9. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart] Preferably, like a gazelle or a young hart.

our wall] The possessive pronoun here must, on the hypothesis we have adopted, refer to the Shulammite and the court ladies among whom she is. She speaks of her lover as having now arrived, as standing outside the wall and looking into the chamber.

he looketh forth at the windows] Lit. he gazeth from the windows, glanceth from the lattices. These phrases may mean, either that the person referred to looks out, or that he looks in. All they imply is that the person looking directs his glances from the windows, and so they may legitimately be rendered, looketh in at the windows … glanceth through the lattices. The allegorical interpreters all made the bridegroom look out from a safe and quiet dwelling into which the bride desired to come. But, obviously, when the scene actually portrayed is realised, it is seen that he is outside, seeking her, and comes close up to the windows and lattices and peers in. The word translated glanceth denotes glimmering, shining, and indicates that the charakkim = ‘lattices’ are openings narrower than windows, and the lover had come so close to them that the gleam of his eyes could be seen.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
10. My beloved spake] Lit. has answered or answers, but the word ’ânâh is constantly used like its Greek equivalent ἀποκρίνεσθαι, of beginning to speak when occasion seems to demand it, though no word has been previously uttered (cp. the Gospels passim). This is the only instance of the introduction of he says, in the book, and Martineau would strike the words out, but without real ground.

my love] Rather, my friend, see chap. Song of Solomon 1:9, note.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
11. In this and the two following verses we have one of the loveliest descriptions of the spring in Syria that was ever penned.

the winter is past] The word sěthâw, used for winter, does not occur elsewhere in the O.T., but is the same as the Arabic shitâ, which is also used in the vulgar language to denote ‘rain.’ The Targums on Genesis 8:22 and Isaiah 18:6 use the word sěthâw for chôrçph, the ordinary Heb. word for autumn and winter. Probably it denotes the couldy season, the season of rain. This ends with the malqôsh or ‘latter rain,’ which falls in March and April; and after that for nearly six months rain is infrequent.

the rain is over and gone] Lit. has passed, and is gone away. The Heb. suggests the sweep of the rain clouds across the sky, and their disappearance from the horizon.

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
12. the flowers appear on the earth] The outburst of spring flowers in Palestine is wonderful. Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 139, says: “The hills and valleys … glow with what is peculiar to Palestine, a profusion of wild flowers, daisies, the white flower called the Star of Bethlehem, but especially with a blaze of scarlet flowers of all kinds, chiefly anemones, wild tulips and poppies. Of all the ordinary aspects of the country, this blaze of scarlet colour is perhaps the most peculiar.” Cp. also Dr Post, in Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, vol. 11. p. 24.

the time of the singing of birds is come] The words of birds, as is indicated by the italics in the A.V., are not in the Hebrew. All it says is that ‘çth hazzâmîr has come. Now zâmîr may mean either ‘pruning’ or ‘singing,’ and most of the ancient versions, e.g. LXX, Vulg., Targ., have translated it pruning, though the word does not occur elsewhere in the O.T. with this meaning. But in favour of this translation we have the fact that the various agricultural operations of the year are in Heb. named by words of an exactly similar form, e.g. qâtsîr, the harvest of grain, &c. Further, in Jeremiah 51:33, we have the entirely analogous expression ‘çth haqqâtsîr = ‘the time of harvest.’ It cannot, therefore, be doubted that the translation ‘the time of pruning’ is thoroughly justified. Against it there is the fact that in Song of Solomon 2:13 the vines are in bloom, and they cannot be pruned when they are at that stage. But there is what is called summer pruning, one purpose of which is to help in the formation of the fruit or blossom-buds of fruit trees. This is done while the shoots are yet young and succulent so that they may in most cases be nipped off with the thumb-nail. The time for this would be just before the blooming, and both pruning and blooming would be processes appropriate to spring. For the meaning singing, there is the fact that zâmîr occurs a number of times with the meaning song (e.g. Isaiah 25:5; 2 Samuel 23:1, &c.), but always of human singing. There is no instance of its being used of the singing of birds.

the voice of the turtle is heard in our land] The turtle-dove is named here, not as a singing bird, but as a bird of passage which “observes the time of its coming” (Jeremiah 8:7); that is, it unfailingly appears in the spring, and by its voice announces its presence in the now leafy woods where it cannot readily be seen. Tristram says (Nat. Hist. p. 219), “Search the glades and valleys in March, and not a turtle-dove is to be seen. Return at the beginning of April, and clouds of doves are feeding on the clovers of the plain. They stock every tree and thicket. At every step they flutter up from the herbage in front, they perch on every tree and bush, they overspread the whole face of the land, and from every garden, grove, and wooded hill, pour forth their melancholy but soothing ditty unceasingly from early dawn to sunset.”

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.
13. the fig tree putteth forth her green figs] The word for ‘green fig’ is paggâh, which occurs in its Aramaic form in the name Bethphage. According to Riehm’s Handwörterbuch, the fig bears two kinds of figs. (1) There is the early fig (Heb. bikkûrâh). These, when unripe, are called paggîm. They grow upon the old wood and appear before the leaf-buds, but require about four months, as a rule, to ripen. They are ripe towards the end of June. (2) The late figs (Heb. tě’çnîm) which grow successively upon the new branches so long as the development of vegetation continues, and ripen at various times. In Palestine they ripen from August onwards. Often, especially in the older trees, there are many figs still unripe when the leaves fall and vegetation stops. These remain on the tree in their unripe state throughout the winter and become ripe only in spring, partly before, and partly after, the coming of the leaves. These, which are usually darker and partly violet coloured, are called winter figs. These latter are the only ones that can be referred to here, for they are a mark of the coming of spring. Probably they too were called paggîm.

putteth forth] With regard to the word thus translated there is much difference of opinion. It is châněṭä́h, and the verb occurs elsewhere in Scripture only in Genesis 50:2; Genesis 50:26, where it means ‘to embalm.’ The dictionaries give two meanings, (1) to spice, (2) to embalm. The latter is here out of the question, but the words may mean, the fig tree spiceth her unripe figs, that is, gives taste and perfume to them. On the other hand it may be rendered reddeneth as the Heb. word for ‘wheat,’ viz. chiṭṭâh, is in all probability derived from this root, and means the red or reddish-brown (cp. Levy’s Neuhebr. Wörterb. 11. 203 a). The corresponding Arabic word which means to redden, occurs of leather only, but all the data suggest that it was also used of the colour of plants approaching maturity. Here consequently it most probably means, the fig tree maketh red ripe her winter figs, which grow red or even violet as they ripen.

and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell] Rather, as R.V., and the vines (are) in blossom, they give forth their fragrance. Blossom is in Heb. sěmâdhar, a word which occurs only in the Song of Solomon. The Rabbis and the Mishnah say that the word signifies the tender grapes when they first appear. Twenty days later they become bôsěrîm = ὄμφακες, and when they are fully ripe they are called ‘anâbhîm. Similarly Kimchi. But in the Targum to Isaiah 18:5 nitztzâh = ‘flower’ is translated by semâdhar, and in the Syriac version of Isaiah 17:11 the same word is used where we have, “thou makest thy seed to blossom,” so that probably it is to be taken as ‘bloom’ or flower, more especially as the vines would hardly have rudimentary grapes so early as April, which is the time when the rain is over and gone. The derivation of the word is unknown.

my love] Here, as in Song of Solomon 2:10 and elsewhere, my friend.

Arise, my love] should be Rise up, my friend.

O 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.
14. clefts of the rock] Rather, hiding places of the rock. The word chaghwç occurs only here and in the quotation from an older prophet which is found in Jeremiah 49:16 and Obadiah 1:3. There is no root known in Heb. from which the word can be derived, but its meaning is fixed by the Arab. hagan, ‘a place of refuge’ (cp. Oxf. Heb. Lex. s.v.), and this meaning is supported by the parallelism, for we have ‘secret place’ or ‘covert’ in the next clause.

in the secret places of the stairs] Better, as R.V., in the covert of the steep place. The word madhrçghâh occurs again Ezekiel 38:20 in the phrase “the steep places shall fall.” It probably has the same meaning here. Stairs rests entirely on the analogy of Arabic, and is here quite inappropriate. There is no necessary reference to the character of the place where the bride is. The wild dove chooses high and inaccessible rocks as its resting-place because of its shyness. The shyness and modesty of the bride is meant to be indicated. There may however be some reference to the fact that the lover cannot approach the place where she is.

let me see thy countenance] let me have sight of thee, for thy form is comely.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
15. In answer to her lover’s request that she should let him hear her voice the bride sings a fragment of a vineyard-watcher’s song. Probably, as Oettli suggests, he had heard her sing it before, and would recognise her by it, for she had not as yet revealed herself to him. He had been watching for her at the windows, and peering in at the lattices, and now she assures him of her presence. The word shû‘âl denotes an animal which digs into and dwells in the earth, for it means ‘the burrower,’ and is derived from the root which gives us also shô‘al, the hollow of the hand. It is the common fox here probably, though jackals are also called by this name, e.g. Psalm 63:10, where those slain by the sword are said to be a portion for shû‘âlîm.

that spoil the vines] Rather, the vineyards. This includes the vines, for though foxes are carnivorous animals in the main, they also devour plants, so that besides digging their holes in the vineyards, and making tracks among the vines and gaps in the fences, they actually bite the young shoots of the vines and eat the grapes. (Cp. Theocritus, Id. v. 112, where vines are said to be spoiled by their deadly bite.) In vine-growing countries, as for instance in Australia, foxes when killed have been found with nothing in their stomachs but grapes. Perhaps there may be a side reference here to the Shulammite’s danger in the royal hareem. She speaks of her person as her vineyard, and there may be here a call to her lover to deliver her from those who wish to profane it.

for our vines have tender grapes] for our vineyards are in blossom. Heb. semâdhâr (cp. Song of Solomon 2:13). The use by the bride of this peculiar word which her lover has just used may be meant to inform him that she has heard all he has just said.

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
16. This verse is addressed by the bride to her companions within the house, or is spoken in a loving rapture to herself. Some however think that it is sung to the lover.

he feedeth among the lilies] Rather, as in R.V., He feedeth his flock among the lilies. It may also be rendered, the shepherd among the lilies, the shepherd standing in apposition to the ‘him’ involved in ‘his.’

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 of Bether.
17. Alarmed for his safety, she now exhorts her lover to depart till the evening when he might return with greater safety.

Until the day break] R.V. Until the day be cool, lit. until the day blow, i.e. until the evening wind rises; cp. Genesis 3:8, where ‘at the wind of the day’ is properly rendered by the A.V. “in the cool of the day,” i.e. when the sun has lost its power. ‘When the shadows flee away,’ therefore, does not denote dispersion of the shades of night by the rising sun, but the disappearance of the shadows of rocks, trees, &c., when the sun sets.

be thou like, &c.] make thyself like a gazelle or a young hart on the cleft-riven mountains, i.e. flee swiftly away. The Heb. for the last clause is al hârç bether. There are three possible ways of explaining the word bether. (1) It may be a proper name, as the A.V. takes it to be, following some of the Greek versions (cp. Hastings’ Bible Dict.). (2) It may mean a division or cleft. The analogy of the word bithrôn, 2 Samuel 2:29, which appears to denote a mountain ravine, as the words there are, “they went through all the bithron” or ravine, would support this. It may be that ‘the ravine’ had become a proper name, just as ‘the valley’ has become in some places; but it probably was originally a mere descriptive name. This is the view of the LXX, and if that analogy holds hârç bether would mean cleft-riven mountains, as we have translated it. In the only other passages where bether occurs, Genesis 15:10, Jeremiah 34:18-19, it means the part of an animal cut in two at the making of a covenant. Reasoning from this, Ewald and others prefer to render mountains of separation, i.e. mountains that separate; but if the view of the situation which we have taken be correct, the Shulammite is not separated from her lover by mountains, for he is at her window. (3) Some authorities take bether to be a contraction of μαλάβαθρον, Lat. malabathron, and hold it to be some aromatic plant. But there is a difficulty in finding out what malabathron was. If, as some maintain, it is the equivalent of the Sanscrit tamalapatra and means the betel plant, then our phrase would mean ‘hills planted with betel.’ But the betel palm which bears the betel nut grows only in S. India, Ceylon, Siam, the Malay Archipelago, and the Philippine Islands, and nothing is known of either it or the betel vine (the plant in the leaves of which the betel nut is eaten) having been grown in Palestine. Moreover, the betel nut and leaf are not used for their perfume, as most who take bether as betel seem to suppose. They are not aromatic to any great extent, and they are cultivated and collected only for use as a masticatory (Enc. Brit. III. 616). There would appear, however, to have been another malabathron (cp. Field’s Hexapla, II. 416, quotations, and Horace, Carm. II. 8 with Macleane’s note), from which unguents were made. This was specially associated by the Romans with Syria, but it may have been so only because it was from traders of that country they obtained it. But if the plant grew in Syria, then mountains of bether would be parallel to mountains of spices (ch. Song of Solomon 8:4). Some would actually read here hârç besâmîm. Cheyne on the other hand would read hârç běrôthîm, i.e. ‘mountains of cypresses.’

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