Song of Solomon 5
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
I 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, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
Ch. Song of Solomon 5:1. The great question regarding this verse is how the perfect tenses in it are to be understood. Some maintain that they must be rigorously taken as perfects; others think that they should be understood in one or other of the modified perfect senses which this tense may have in Heb. Grammatically we may render either, I have come, or I come (cp. Ges. Gr. § 106 i); or lastly I will come, perf. of confidence (Ges. § 106 n). Those who, like Delitzsch, suppose that the marriage has taken place, take the first; Budde, who regards the song as one sung after the marriage has been celebrated, but during the week of festivities, takes the second; those who regard the marriage as still in the future cannot but take the perfs. in the third sense. In that case the words indicate that after what the bride has revealed of her love, the bridegroom feels that the marriage is as good as accomplished.

I have gathered my myrrh with my spice] Rather, I have plucked my myrrh with my balsam.

eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved] The chief difficulty here is whether dôdhîm, the word translated ‘friends,’ should not be rendered ‘caresses,’ as it has meant hitherto throughout the book, or whether it is to be taken in the sense of ‘beloved friends,’ as its parallelism to rç‘îm would suggest. That dôdhîm may have this latter meaning seems clear, for in many languages the abstract word, ‘love,’ is used in a concrete signification. On the whole this rendering beloved friends seems the best here. Siegfried seeks to establish a distinction between dôdhîm written defectively (רדים), and the same word written fully (רֹודים), the former being used, he says, only of caresses, the latter of friends, quoting König, Lehrgeb. vol. 11. 2, 262 b. He translates, “Eat ye too, O companions, and intoxicate yourselves, O friends,” and says that the clause would mean in prose, ‘do ye marry also.’ But in that case some way of emphasising the ye would have been expected. It seems preferable to understand the words of an invitation to his friends to come to the marriage feast he has spoken of as being as good as made (Ewald).

drink abundantly] That the bridegroom should invite them to drink to satiety is in accord with what would appear to have been the custom, viz. to shew sympathy at such a feast by departing from the habitual abstemiousness of the East in regard to wine. Cp. John 2:10, the marriage at Cana of Galilee. That shâkhar may mean merely to drink to satiety, not to drunkenness, is proved by Haggai 1:6, “Ye eat, but ye have not enough, ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink”; where lěsŏbhâh is parallel to lěshokhrâh. Some prefer to take the last clause as an address by the daughters of Jerusalem (Ginsburg), or by the poet to the young pair (Hitzig).

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.
2. I sleep, but my heart waketh] This clause states the circumstances under which the succeeding action takes place. As the dream is narrated at a later time, the participles should be rendered by the past tense, I was sleeping, but my heart was awake.

it is the voice of, &c.] Rather, Hark! my love is knocking.

my sister] Oettli says Solomon never calls the Shulammite by this intimate name. Budde thinks it significant that he does not here call her kallâh = ‘bride.’ Evidently he thinks that a post-nuptial word, but it is not necessarily so.

my undefiled] Rather, ‘my perfect’ or ‘immaculate one.’

filled with dew] The dew in Palestine is often very heavy. Cp. Jdg 6:38. From the fact that he about whom she dreamed is imagined to be in such a case, it is probable that the shepherd lover rather than Solomon is the object of her thoughts, and that she dreams of him as coming to her mother’s house.

Chap. Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3. A Dream

On the hypothesis we have adopted, a night must be supposed to intervene between Song of Solomon 5:1-2. After the interview with the king and that with her lover night came; and as she slept she dreamed one of those troubled dreams consisting of a series of efforts frustrated, which so often follow on an agitated day. On the following morning she narrates the dream to the ladies of the court. Song of Solomon 5:2-7 relate the dream. In Song of Solomon 5:8 the Shulammite, having just awaked and being still under the influence of her dream, asks the ladies, if they should find her lost lover, to tell him she is sick from love. In Song of Solomon 5:9 they reply, asking with surprise what there is in her lover that moves her in such a fashion. In Song of Solomon 5:10-16 she gives a description of her lover as he dwells in her brooding imagination, and concludes in triumph, “This is my beloved and this is my friend.” In ch. Song of Solomon 6:1, the court ladies ask eagerly whither this model of manly beauty is gone, and to this, in Song of Solomon 5:2-3, the Shulammite replies vaguely and evasively, and claims her lover for herself alone. Now all this is quite in place if a love-tale is being presented in a series of songs, but in a collection of verses to be sung at weddings in general it is impossible that the bride could be made to speak thus. Such references to pre-nuptial love would be not only unbecoming, but impossible. But in still another way this song is fatal to Budde’s popular-song theory. In such a collection of wedding songs there is, of course, no connexion between the various lyrics. Each of them stands by itself, and there is no possibility of action of a dramatic kind on the part of the bride and bridegroom such as we undeniably have here. But Budde meets that by pointing out that Wetzstein reports a case in which a poet of the region where he discovered the wasf wrote a poem for a particular wedding. In that, before a description of the bride’s ornaments and person, an account is given of the agricultural processes by which the wealth expended on her trousseau had been obtained. But, besides the fact that in the case cited as parallel to this, the poem was not a popular song, but a poem prepared for the special occasion, the addition to the wasf there is a very legitimate extension of the description, and has none of the dramatic element in it. The dramatic element here is very pronounced, and is evidently intended to give unity and movement to the whole poem.

I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
3. As all commentators remark, the reasons for not opening the door are of a very trifling kind, and such as are insurmountable only in dreams.

my coat] or tunic, a garment, generally of linen, worn next the skin by both men and women. The man’s tunic reached to the knee, the woman’s was longer.

how] Heb. ’çkhâkhâh, found elsewhere in the O.T. only in Esther 8:6. The use of this form has consequently some bearing on the date of the book. Budde remarks in this connexion that all the words occurring in this passage which are not used elsewhere occur in Judaeo-Aramaic.

I have washed my feet] Budde sees in this phrase an indication that the Shulammite was accustomed to go barefoot; but all wearers of sandals would have to wash their feet as much as those who might go barefoot.

defile them] soil them, Heb. ’ătanněphçm, found here only in O.T., but occurring in the Heb. of the Mishnah and in the Talmud. The suffix for them here is masculine, though the word for feet is feminine. This is one of the grammatical inaccuracies which are frequent in this book, but this particular irregularity is not uncommon elsewhere.

My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
4. by the hole of the door] Lit. from the hole, i.e. the hole usually to be found in doors. This was not an opening through which the hand was inserted to unbolt the door, but one through which women could look out upon and speak with men, without being unduly exposed to observation themselves. Through this the Shulammite’s lover puts his hand, either to beckon to her, or as an expression of his longing to be near her.

my bowels were moved for him] R.V. my heart was moved for him. The heart (lçbh) was for the Hebrew the seat of the intellect. The viscera or internal organs (mç‘îm) were regarded as the seat of the affections, and were named where we should say ‘the heart.’ Cp. Psalm 40:8, “Thy law is within my mç‘îm,” i.e. within my heart. Budde proposes to add the third clause of Song of Solomon 5:6 to this verse, because he thinks it out of place there. He would read

“My love sent forth his hand, And his right hand from the hole.

And my heart was moved for him, My soul went forth when he spake.”

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.
5. and my hands dropped &c.] Rather, while my hands dropped myrrh. sweet smelling myrrh] Heb. môr ‘ôbhçr, lit. flowing myrrh, is that which flows out from the bark of the myrrh shrub of itself, and is specially valued, cp. Song of Solomon 5:13. It is called also môr dĕrôr, ‘freely flowing myrrh’ (Exodus 30:23).

the handles of the lock] R.V. the handles of the bolt. Some commentators, e.g. Delitzsch, suppose that the person who knocks has put the myrrh upon the bolt as an offering to the Shulammite, but the phrase, “my hands dropped myrrh upon,” &c., implies that the myrrh was not on the bolt before she tried to open the door. Of course in real life she would not drop myrrh upon the bolts, but in a dream she might imagine it, especially when she was in unusual circumstances and surrounded by unwonted luxury. Probably she had been anointing herself with perfumes before she went to sleep. Budde thinks that the text is in disorder here and would read,

“I arose to open to my beloved,

[And laid hold upon] the handles of the bolt,

While my hands dropped myrrh,

And my fingers flowing myrrh.”

Siegfried would strike out, “upon the handles of the bolt,” as a gloss, and would leave the rest as it stands. Neither change seems necessary.

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.
6. had withdrawn himself] Lit. had turned away. This disappointment is just such as comes in dreams.

my soul failed when he spake] R.V. My soul had failed me when he spake. This is the explanation of his departure. She had fainted when she heard his voice, and when she came to herself and opened the door he was gone. This seems to be the simple explanation of a clause which has greatly vexed interpreters. Hitzig, Ewald, and Oettli would read for bĕdhabbĕrô = ‘when he spake,’ bĕdhobhrô, in the sense ‘when he turned away.’ But this is an Aramaic meaning, and though, according to the Oxford Heb. Lex. this is probably the root meaning of the word from which all the others are derived, the verb is not found in Heb. in this sense. As the ordinary signification of the verb gives a good meaning here it seems unnecessary to go beyond it.

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.
7. In this dream all goes ill with her, in comparison with the former dream (Song of Solomon 3:1 ff.). Oettli suggests that this is due to the anxious state of mind in which she lay down to sleep, shrinking from the return of her undesired lover (Song of Solomon 4:6).

that went about the city] R.V. rightly, that go about the city; the participle here indicating their duty, what they were accustomed to do.

they smote me, they wounded me] Taking her for a suspicious character, they tried to stop her, but in her wild anxiety she refused, until they used violence.

the keepers of the walls] Better, the watchmen of the walls, the same probably as “the watchmen that go about the city.” They may however be different divisions of the watchmen of the city. Del. thinks that the fact that she sought her beloved, not in the open field, nor in the villages, but in the city, is fatal to the ‘shepherd’ hypothesis here as in the other dream, but see note there.

my vail] The word here is different from that for ‘veil’ in ch. Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:3. There it is tsammâh; here it is rĕdhîdh, a word which occurs again in the O.T. only in Isaiah 3:23, where the A.V. translates ‘veils,’ as here. But the LXX has in both places θἐριστρον, a thin summer garment, and here it should be translated mantle, or thin outer garment. Riehm, Handwörterbuch, p. 1428, says, “The veil mentioned in Song of Solomon 5:7 and in Isaiah 3:23 seems to have been a fine lawn garment which the women of the East still throw over their whole dress. Cp. Susanna v. 32.” Cheyne and Driver translate it mantle. The word occurs in Syriac and in Targum for the Heb. tsâ‘îph=‘a veil,’ and in the Mishnah.

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.
8. I charge you] Better, I adjure you, if ye find my beloved, what shall ye say unto him? That I am sick of love. The connexion here is difficult. The Shulammite’s loss was only in a dream, and how can the author represent her as carrying over her dream loss into real life? The answer made by some is, that this verse and the next contain matter which was inserted only to introduce the description of the Shulammite’s beloved. But even if that were the case we should still look for some rational and intelligible transition. That can be got only if we conceive of the dream being related by the Shulammite while she is still not quite awake. She is represented as not distinguishing between her dreams and reality.

What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?
9. What is thy beloved more than another beloved] This is the reply of the daughters of Jerusalem. The A.V. gives the meaning correctly enough, but there is considerable perplexity as to the exact translation of the Heb. As the italics in the A.V. shew, there is no Heb. word corresponding to another, and the question is whether the preposition min in the phrase middôdh is to be translated comparatively, as the A.V. takes it, or partitively, ‘what of a love is thy love?’ i.e. what kind of a love is thy love? as Ewald, Synt. § 328 a, and Davidson, Synt. § 8, R. 2, translate it. Probably the latter is the better view, but in either case the meaning is the same, ‘What is there so exceptional or extraordinary in this beloved, that thou adjurest us so?’

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.
10. white] The Heb. tsach is an adj. derived from tsâchach, ‘to shine’ or ‘glow,’ ‘to be brightly white.’ Here, and in Lamentations 4:7, where the word is used of the colour of the skin, it means a clear, white complexion. In the latter passage the phrase is, ‘more tsach than milk’ contrasted with ‘darker than blackness.’

the chiefest] Probably, as R.V. marg., marked out by a banner, or raised like a banner, ‘eminent,’ ‘distinguished.’ Some critics, however, connect the word with an Assyrian root meaning ‘to look,’ and explain ‘looked at,’ ‘admired,’ ‘conspicuous.’

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.
11. bushy] Heb. taltallîm occurs in the O.T. only here, and is a derivative from tâlal or tal = ‘to hang loosely down,’ and then ‘to throw down,’ but its exact meaning is uncertain. The A.V. margin gives the translation ‘curled’ or ‘curling,’ but it probably represents the view that the word means ‘hills’ or ‘undulations,’ as some Rabbinical writers understand it. (Cp. Midrash Rabba on Levit. § 19, and Talmud, Tract. Nedarim, fol. 9 b.) In that case the meaning would be, that his locks were undulating. The LXX however translate ἐλάται = ‘palm buds,’ or the sheaths of the palm bud, which Schleusner says denotes “curls like those which the spathes of the palm form when they burst to let the fruit appear,” when they hang down in ringlets. Others get the same meaning by taking taltallîm for the pendant parts of the vine, the tendrils.

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
12. His eyes, &c.] R.V. His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks. Here the idea is different from that in Song of Solomon 1:15 and Song of Solomon 4:1. It is not the innocent dove-like look of the eye that is referred to. The eyes themselves, or at least the pupils of the eyes, are compared to doves. Ginsburg’s quotation from the Gitagovinda is almost an exact parallel: “The glances of her eyes played like a pair of water birds of azure plumage, that sport near a full blown lotus in a pool in the season of dew.”

washed with milk] Rather, bathing in milk. This may refer to the eyes; the pupils move in the white of the eye as if bathing in milk. Or it may refer to the doves, in which case it would be an extension or correction of the previous part of the simile; ‘the eyes are like doves by brooks of water or rather streams of milk.’ The choice between these alternatives depends upon the reference of the next clause fitly set. If it refers to the eyes, then this would best be understood of the eyes also. But if that be understood of the doves, as probably it should be, then to avoid the awkwardness of connecting the two participles with different subjects, this clause should be understood of the doves also.

fitly set] The A.V. in margin gives this note, “Heb. sitting in fulness, that is, fitly placed, and set as a precious stone in the foil of a ring.” This is the traditional Jewish interpretation. Others explain full as opposed to sunken (Oettli). Possibly, as LXX suggest, the text is faulty and we should read yôshěbhôth al mělo’ hammayîm, and translate, sitting upon full streams, when the subject would, of course, be the doves. This latter reading and the rendering it suggests are simpler and more natural than any of the other varied conjectures that have been made.

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
13. as a bed of spices] Rather, as a bed of balsam shrubs. Probably we should read the plur. beds as in Song of Solomon 6:2, to correspond with the plur. cheeks. The Heb. for ‘bed’ is ‘arûghâh derived from ‘âragh, ‘to mount up,’ and signifying a raised flower-bed. Cp. Driver on Joel, Camb. Bible, p. 47. The points of comparison are the rounded form and the variegated colour.

as sweet flowers] This is rather a paraphrase than a translation. As they stand, the Heb. words mighdĕlôth merqâchîm mean ‘towers of perfume herbs.’ ‘Towers’ is taken to be a synonym of ‘arûghôth, but if these are only raised garden-beds, this can hardly be. Probably we should read with the LXX, Targ. Vulg. meghaddĕlôth for mighdĕlôth, i.e. rearing or producing perfumes. The point of the comparison is the growth of a perfumed beard on the cheeks.

like lilies] The redness of the shôshannâh is the point here. Tristram thinks it is the Anemone coronaria. Cp. note on Song of Solomon 2:1.

sweet smelling myrrh] or liquid myrrh (R.V.), i.e. the finest myrrh, that oozes from the bark of itself. Cp. note on Song of Solomon 5:5. The reference is to the perfume of the breath (cp. Song of Solomon 7:8).

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.
14. gold rings] Rather, cylinders of gold. In Esther 1:6, which is the only place in the O.T. besides this where the word occurs in a similar sense, it probably means ‘rods’ or ‘cylinders.’ Here it refers to the delicately rounded fingers forming the hand.

set] Cp. Exodus 28:17.

the beryl] Better, chrysolite, i.e. topaz (R.V. marg.). His finger-nails are compared to transparent pink chrysolite.

his belly] R.V. rightly, his body. This is a piece of ivory work. Budde suggests a sheet of ivory.

overlaid with sapphires] R.V. margin, encrusted. What is meant is that his body was as beautiful as a piece of ivory work studded with sapphires. This is the only part of this description which might appear unmaidenly, but understood as above, it is quite compatible with the situation as supposed.

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.
15. His legs] Heb. shôq is the part of the leg below the knee.

pillars of marble] i.e. white and firm like marble or alabaster. Here, seeing the lover is an Oriental, and therefore brown in complexion, alabaster would be the better comparison.

sockets] Perhaps rather, bases of fine gold.

his countenance] his aspect is like Lebanon, giving the same impression of majesty.

excellent] Heb. bâchûr = ‘chosen,’ LXX, ἐκλεκτός. The Targum translates it “a young man,” but in that case we should have had ‘a cedar,’ not ‘cedars.’ Goodly as the cedars would fairly give the sense.

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
16. His mouth] Lit. his palate, but here as elsewhere the mouth as the organ of speech.

is most sweet] Rather, is sweetnesses. The meaning is that his mouth utters nothing but pleasant things; cp. Proverbs 16:21. “This touch gives animation to the beautiful statue which has been described.” Oettli.

yea, he is altogether lovely] Lit. all of him is desirablenesses, cp. Ezekiel 24:16, “the desire of thine eyes” = that in which thine eyes take delight.

This … this] She points triumphantly to her picture. Has she not more than answered the scornful question of Song of Solomon 5:9?

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