Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.III.
(1) A reminiscence (elaborated in Song of Solomon 5:2 seq.) of the intensity of their love before their union, put by the poet into his lady’s mouth. She “arises from dreams” of him, and goes to find him.
The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?(3) The watchmen that go about the city.—“Henceforward until morning the streets are deserted and silent, with only here and there a company returning from a visit, with a servant bearing a lantern before them. The city-guard creeps softly about in utter darkness, and apprehends all found walking in the streets without a light” (Thomson, Land and Book, p. 32—in description of Beirût).
It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul 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.(4) I held him . . .—Bossuet, following Bede, regards this as prophetic of Mary Magdalen (type of the Church) on the morning of the Resurrection.
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?(6) Who is this that cometh.—The dramatic feeling is decidedly shown in the passage introduced by this verse, but we still regard it as a scene passing only in the theatre of the fancy, introduced by the poet in his Epithalamium, partly from his sympathy with all newly-wedded people, partly (as Song of Solomon 8:11) to contrast the simplicity of his own espousals, of which all the joy centred in true love, with the pomp and magnificence of a royal marriage, which was a State ceremony.
Wilderness.—Heb., midbar. The idea is that of a wide open space, with or without pasture: the country of nomads, as distinguished from that of a settled population. With the article (as here) generally of the desert of Arabia, but also of the tracts of country on the frontiers of Palestine (Joshua 8:16; Judges 1:16; comp. Matthew 3:1, &c). Here = the country.
Like pillars of smoke.—The custom of heading a cortege with incense is both very ancient and very general in the East: probably a relic of religious ceremonials where gods were carried in processions. For Frankincense, see Exodus 30:34.
Behold his bed, which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.(7) Bed.—Heb., mitta. Probably, from context, a litter.
They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.(8) Because of fear—i.e., because of the alarms common at night. For fear in the sense of object of fear, comp. Psalm 91:5; Proverbs 3:25.
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.(9) A chariot.—Marg., bed; Heb., appiryôn. A word of very doubtful etymology. Its derivation has been sought in Hebrew, Persian, Greek, and Sanskrit. The LXX. render φορεῖον; Vulg., ferculum; and it seems natural, with Gesenius, to trace the three words to the root common in parah, φέρω, fero, fahren, bear, and possibly the sign of such a common origin in the Sanskrit pargana = a saddle (Hitzig). At all events, appiryôn must be a palanquin, or litter, both from the context, which describes the approach of a royal cortége, and from the description given of it, where the word translated covering suggests the notion of a movable litter, rather than of a State bed.
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.(10) Bottom.—Heb., rephidah = supports. Probably the back of the litter on which the occupant leaned.
The midst thereof . . .—Literally, its interior paved love from the daughters of Jerusalem. There are three possible renderings. (1) Its interior made bright by a lovely girl of, &c; and (2) its interior paved in a lovely way by, &c; (3) its interior tesselated as a mark of love by, &c. The last of these does the least violence to the text as it stands, but very possibly some words have dropped out between ratzuph, paved, and ahabah, love.