Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
See Song of Solomon 5:1ff for the passage comments with footnotes.
Chap. 7, Song 7:1. Come back, come back, Shulamith, etc. As according to our understanding of Song 7:11 and 12 Shulamith expresses in them her longing for the simpler circumstances of her native region and speaks of her elevation to the king’s throne as a distinction, which came to her without her knowledge, and contrary to her expectation, nothing is more natural than to conceive that she spoke this in a saddened and painfully excited mood, and to conjecture that her strong and painful feeling of home-sickness would be accompanied by a corresponding gesture. This gesture we must unquestionably suppose from the earnest and repeated call addressed to her by the ladies of the court “come back, turn back” (שׁוּבִי שׁוּבִי comp. Judg. 5:12) was that of intending to go away, to escape from the vicinity of the vicious court of the king, which had become offensive to her. She does not purpose to withdraw from the “king’s garden” (DÖPKE, DELITZSCH, etc.), in which besides she could scarcely have been at the time, but from the vicinity of the king altogether, who had greatly grieved her, and that of the ladies of his court, whose society she feels that she must henceforth avoid. Hence it is that the latter (for it is to them that Shulamith’s answer “what do you see in Shulamith?” is directed) call to her, entreating her to turn again and permit them still to look upon her charming person. For this is the only sense in which וְנֶחֱזֶה בָּךְ “that we may look upon thee” (חָזָה בְּ not materially different from רָאָה בְּ 6:11) can be taken, viz.: that of beholding with delight, feasting the eyes upon her to whom they had long before accorded the praise of beauty (comp. their frequent form of address, “fairest among women,” 1:8; 5:9; 6:1). That it is the ladies of the court, who address to her this summons to return and remain, and not Solomon (whom many of the older commentators regard as the speaker in these words, see STARKE), is either to be explained by Solomon’s uniting in the call of the women (comp. DÖPKE, EWALD, etc.), or better still by the assumption that he who was more affected than all others by her attempt to go away, does more than barely call her back, he seeks by loving force to detain her; and hence, speechless with passionate emotion, he first embraces and holds her, that he may afterwards fetter her by the fondest adulation1 (Song 7:2 ff.).—What do you see in Shulamith? This question asked by the party addressed is doubtless to be understood as modestly declining the praise indirectly bestowed upon her beauty in thus calling her. Shulamith wishes to be no longer looked at and admired by such people as Solomon’s concubines and the ladies of his court; this has become oppressive to her. The humility of her entire question certainly characterizes also her designation of herself בַּשּׁוּלַמִּית (lit., “in the Shulamitess,” i.e. not “in this Shulamitess” but “in one who is a Shulamitess;” comp. 1 Kin. 20:36: Isa. 7:14; Joel 4:3, etc.). Its meaning is certainly no other than “why do you look at me, a plain country girl (HITZIG)? what you see in the simple daughter of a Galilean village?” הַשּׁוּלַמִּית is, as the article shows both here and where it was used in the vocative, certainly not the proper name of a person (so most of the ancient versions and interpreters); no more is it an adjective meaning “favored, treated with kindness” (WEISSB.), but a gentile noun, synonymous with הַשּׁוּנַמִּית1 Kin.1:3; 2 Kin. 4:12, 25, of which it is only a dialectic variation; it is accordingly a designation of the person in question from שׂוּלֵם or שׁוּנֵם, the place of her abode.2 This place, the Σουλήμ of EUSEBIUS and JEROME in his Onomast. and the modern Sôlam appears to have received its name, which originally may have been = סֻלָּם “ladder,” on account of its location on a steep mountain declivity (comp. ROBINSON, Pal. II. 234), just as many other mountains, e.g. that mentioned 1 Mac. 11:59 bear the name Κλίμαξ (comp. HITZIG in loc. and “Urgeschichte der Philister,” p. 126). According to Josh. 19:18 this Shunem was situated in the tribe of Issachar, according to 1 Sam. 28:4; 29:1, 11; 31:1 not far from Mount Gilboa and the plain of Jezreel, according to 2 Kin. 4:22–25 not very remote from Mount Carmel (comp. on Song 7:6 of this chapter, and above on 2:8; 3:6; 4:1, 8; also the Introduction, p. 6). As the dance of Mahanaim. Some interpreters after the example of the VULG. (“quid videbis in Sulamite, nisi choros castrorum?”) connect the difficult words כִּמְחֹלַת הַמַּחֲנָֽיִם with the question “why will ye look upon Shulamith, as one looks upon the dance of Mahanaim?” (HAHN, WEISSB., RENAN, etc.,) or “as at the dance of M.” (HITZIG). But it seems more natural and better suited to the context with the majority of both the older and more recent commentators, to regard these words as the answer to the question of Shulamith, given of course by those who had asked her to return, and who take this mode of stating why they were in fact so much concerned to see Shulamith yet longer. They see in her “something that resembles the dance of Mahanaim,” something as magnificent and transporting as the dance of the angel-host, east of the Jordan on Jacob’s return home to the promised land. See Gen. 32:1–3, to which passage there is an unmistakable allusion here as DÖPKE, DELITZSCH, HENGSTENB., MEIER, etc., correctly assume. This occurrence in the early patriarchal history as celebrated as Jacob’s wrestling at Peniel (Gen. 32:28, comp. Hos. 12:4 ff.), this miraculous experience of the patriarch Jacob, to which the town of Mahanaim between Jabbok and the Jordan, the royal residence of the anti-Davidic northern kingdom under Ishbosheth (2 Sam. 2:8 ff.) owed its name, forms here the point of comparison and is evidently intended to represent the sight of Shulamith as of angelic beauty and heavenly sublimity, just as she had before been compared with the morning dawn, the sun and moon (6:10), and in agreement with the fact that in other passages dances in praise of God are attributed both to the stars and to the angels of God (comp. Job 38:7; Judg. 5:20; Ps. 103:21; 148:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Luke 2:13, etc.). The “dance of Mahanaim” is accordingly the well-known dance of the angels on the site where Mahanaim subsequently stood. It is not necessary to take הַמַּחֲנָֽיִם in its appellative sense “dance of the angel choirs” (DÖPKE) or “the angelic hosts” (GESEN.) or “the angel-camps” (DEL.) or “the double army” (UMBR., WEISSB.; comp. the TARG. in loc.). We must, however, decidedly reject every interpretation of these words, which sees in them an “invitation to dance,” whether it is Solomon (so BÖTTCHER), or the ladies of the court (Ew., DELITZSCH, etc.), or Solomon and his companions (DÖPKE), who are supposed to make request of Shulamith to execute the famous dance of Mahanaim in their presence. Such a dance, whether it be regarded as a solemn festive dance, in which several took part (EWALD, BÖTTCHER, etc.), or as a contra-dance of two ranks, one consisting of young men, and the other of young women (HITZIG), or as a solo dance by a “danseuse of the Harem” (REN.), or as a “country festival dance in the simple attire of a shepherdess or a vine-dresser” (DEL.) is as devoid of evidence for its historical existence, as it is impossible to demonstrate from the present context that it was in this instance actually performed. And if actually exhibited on the stage, and described in the terms that follow (Song 7:2 ff.), it certainly would not have afforded that “most chaste spectacle,” that “indication of Shulamith’s humility and childlike disposition” which DELITZSCH professes to see in it; comp. above No. 2, p. 94.
8. CONCLUSION. c.SOLOMON’S FINAL LAUDATION OF THE BEAUTY OF HIS BELOVED,7:2–6. DELITZSCH alone has put this description into the mouth of the daughters of Jerusalem instead of that of Solomon [so TAYLOR, GOOD, WILLIAMS, FRY, PATRICK, AINSWORTH and others on the ground chiefly that the king is spoken of in the third person, Song 7:5], against which, however, may be urged not only the sameness of the tone, which prevails in this as in the following brief section (Song 7:7–10), but also the circumstance that the caressing speeches here go further in one point at any rate, and to say the least, are more undisguised than could have been expected from the mouth of women (see Song 7:3). This description of the beauty of Shulamith also has the greatest similarity to those which Solomon had previously given (4:1 ff.; 6:4 ff.), only it enumerates her various charms in the reverse order, by ascending from the feet to the head, and thus proceeds in conformity with the customary Hebrew phrase “from the foot to the head” (2 Sam. 14:25; Isa. 1:6). That this inverted order of the description was not occasioned by the person described executing a dance, but simply arose from the poet’s desire for variety, is correctly recognized even by HITZIG; comp. also EWALD in loc. (vs. DELITZSCH, VAIH., RENAN and others). One point of contact with a preceding passage of like character in the poem is found in the ten beautiful parts of the body, which are here adduced as in Shulamith’s description of the charms of her lover (5:10-16).—How beautiful are thy steps in the shoes, O prince’s daughter! That the beginning is made with the steps (פְּעָמִים comp. Ps. 58:11; 2 Kings 19:24), i.e., with the feet as stepping, as in motion, proves nothing in favor of the dancing hypothesis already rejected. For “to step” is not = “to dance,” and Shulamith must have taken some steps at the beginning of this description, inasmuch as Solomon must have led her back to his or to her former position, or have conducted her to some seat after her purpose to go away. In doing so he points out to her her graceful and charming “steps in her shoes,” or in other words how very becoming the shoes, which she wears as a “prince’s daughter,” are to her as she walks! The shoes are manifestly mentioned as something which she did not wear originally and in common (comp. 5:3), as a constituent, therefore, of her new and elegant court dress, which had doubtless been prepared in a most luxurious manner, both in material and style, and probably were ornamented with bows of purple, yellow or variegated ribbons, like the showy sandals of noble Hebrew women in later times (comp. Ezek. 16:10; Judith 10:9; WINER R.-W.-B., Art. “Schuhe”). She is at the same time designated a “prince’s daughter” or “noble daughter” in order to indicate her present high rank (not her noble descent, which according to 1:6; 2:8 ff., 6:11 is improbable). בַּת is here used in a wide sense for female in general, to mark the fem. gender, as 2:2; 6:9; Gen. 30:13; Judg. 12:9, etc.; and the term נָדִיב “noble” may have been suggested by the עִַמּי נַדְיב which she had used just before. That this form of address is substantially synonymous with “my sister bride” has already been observed on 4:9 above. Thy rounded thighs are like jewels. Lit., “the roundings of thy thighs,” i.e., the rounded parts which constitute thy thighs (יְרֵכַיִךְ genit. of the material [GREEN’S Heb. Gram., § 254, 4] as Ps. 40:16: 68:31, etc.—The word חֲלָאִים is very variously explained “necklace” or “jewels” (SEPT., VULG., SYR., ROSENM., MAGN., VAIH., BÖTTCHER), “clasps” (EW.), “pearls” (HITZIG), “ornaments” (HENGSTENB.), or “ornamental chains.” As is shown by the singular חֶלְיָה ,חֲלִי, which occurs Prov. 25:12; Hos. 2:15, some elegantly made ornament must be intended, and according to the passage before us it must be composed of round, smoothly turned globules or pearls, as it is used to set forth the perfectly rounded shape of the thighs.—The work of an artist’s hands. The sing. מַעֲשֶׂה, which the SEPT. and SYR. correctly retain, is here employed because the numerous globules or pearls strung together, form but one whole, one necklace. The form אָמָן, of the same signification with אוּמָן Prov. 8:30, and with the Chald. and Syr. אוּמָן (see HITZIG in loc., and EWALD, Lehrbuch, § 152 b) serves to denote the artificer or artist (τεχνίτηςartifex) in contrast with the חָרָשׁ (τέκτων, faber) workman who only performs the coarser kind of work. That a skilful turner is here particularly intended appears from חֲלָאִים. The rotundity of the thighs is one of the noted beauties of the female figure, not merely according to Oriental, but also according to Grecian taste, as is shown by the well-known attribute of Aphrodite καλόπυος.
Song 7:3. Thy navel is a round bowl.שֹׁרֶר according to the unanimous testimony of the old translators = שֹׁר Ezek. 16:4, and = Arab. surr, i.e., “navel” (comp. on Prov. 3:8). But, as we learn from the comparison with a round bowl or mixing vessel (on אגן see just below), as well as from the following wish that this vessel may not lack mingled wine, the navel itself as such cannot be intended, but rather the whole belly (abdomen) with the navel as its centre. Correctly therefore HAHN, VAIH., WEISSBACH, etc., “dein Schooss,” (thy lap) by which expression the reference demanded by what follows is sufficiently intimated, whilst the translation “pudenda” (MAGNUS, DÖPKE, HITZIG) cannot be justified on linguistic grounds; for both שְׁרִיר Job 40:16, and the Arab, sirr (αἰδοῖον, arcanum) are only related, not identical ideas.—אַגָּן plur. אַגָנוֹת (Isa. 22:24; Ex. 24:6) does not denote a cup, but rather a bowl, a large round drinking vessel, here doubtless a bowl for mixing (κρατήρ, SEPT., VULG.) as the following מֶזֶג “mixed wine” shows. For that they prepared this drink (a mixture of wine with warm or cold water—Berachoth 7, 5; 8, 2: Pesach 7, 13; Maasser 4, 4) exclusively in smaller vessels as cups, goblets, etc., can scarcely be proved by the formula מְזֹג אֶת־הַכּוֹם (vs. HITZIG).—Let not mixed wine be lacking. This wish, which is not to be converted with the older interpreters into an objective statement, as “nunquam indigens poculis”VULG.) or “to which drink is never wanting” (LUTHER), contains without doubt an allusion of like nature, but not so delicate as that contained in 5:12 ff.3 (comp. Prov. 5:15 ff.). Some modern commentators vainly seek by various methods to escape this admission, e.g., BÖTTCHER. by the assumption that this wish was only designed to set forth in a vivid manner the circular form of the navel; HENGSTENB. by the allegorizing remark: “the capacity of the church to revive the thirsty with a noble refreshing draught is represented under the emblem of a bowl always full of mixed wine;” DEL. by the assertion: “The navel in so far as it became visible through her dress as she breathed harder in dancing (?) was like a circular cup which was not lacking in spiced wine” (but אַל with the following voluntative or jussive future!), “i.e., as full of blooming health (Prov. 3:8) as that of spiced wine.”—Thy body is a heap of wheat, set around with lilies.—עֲרִמַת חִטִּים is certainly not a “sheaf of wheat” (EWALD, who here has in mind Ruth 3:7, where, however, עֲרֵמָה rather means a heap of sheaves), but an accumulated heap of grain (comp. 2 Chron. 31:6 ff.; Neh. 3:34), so that the point of comparison lies on the one hand in its being arched over, and on the other in its yellowish-white color, and perhaps also subordinately in the fruitfulness of such a heap of grain. “Set around with lilies” appears to allude to the custom of “garnishing with flowers such a heap of wheat on the floor, when they threshed the grain in the open field immediately after the harvest” (DÖPKE),—a custom which, to be sure, has to be inferred solely from this passage. That the whole is a mere “fancy picture” (WEISSB., HITZIG) is improbable. Yet the comparison was probably suggested by the lily-red—we would have to say the rose-red—color of her dress which chastely and modestly covered, as it should, the body of the young lady, just as in 5:14 the sapphires enveloping the “ivory figure” indicated the color of the garment. At all events the characteristic feature, and the chief significance, perhaps, of the entire figure lies not in this subsidiary matter of setting it around with lilies, but in the heap of grain. Approximate parallels are adduced by DÖPKE, MAGN., etc., e.g., a passage from MOTANEBBI (v. HAMMER, p. 74), where the loins of a girl are likened to a sand-hill; OMMONRHEIF (Hamasa, in REISKE Taraf., p. 53), “Nates habet ut tumulos arenæ rore compactæ;”NUWEIRIUS (loc. cit., p. 131): “Poetæ comparant nates amatæ cum collibus arenaceis.”
Song 7:4. Thy two breasts are like two young roes,etc.—Comp. 4:5. “Feeding among the lilies” is omitted here, because the figure of lilies had just been employed with a somewhat different application; not from regard to Song 7:9, which has nothing to do with “feeding” either in figure or in fact (vs. WEISSBACH).
Song 7:5. Thy neck is like a tower of ivory.—The tert. comp. lies on the one hand in its being slender and straight, and on the other in the pure white skin of the neck; it is therefore similar, though not exactly like that in 4:4. The ivory tower here mentioned is certainly different from the tower of David named there, inasmuch as it is not to be conceived of as a tower for defence or an arsenal, but without doubt a structure designed for purposes of luxury, like Ahab’s ivory house (1 Kings 22:39; comp. Am. 3:15; Ps. 45:9), or like the ivory throne, on which Solomon sat, according to 1 Kings 10:18 ff.—Thine eyes pools in Heshbon.—As 5:12 the eyes of the lover are compared with “doves by brooks of water, bathing in milk, sitting on fullness,” so here the eyes of his beloved are likened to light blue pools or basins of water, which charmingly mirror back the rays of the sun. Comp. OVID, de arte amat., II., 722:—“oculos tremulo fulgore micantes, ut sol a liquida sæpe refulget aqua.” The pools near Heshbon, perhaps just two pools lying near together before one of the principal gates of this city, may have been especially suited for such a comparison by the clearness of their sheets of water and the loveliness of their banks. Modern travellers, as SEETZEN, BURCKHARDT, etc., still mention at least one large reservoir of water near Hesbân (the ancient Heshbon, the city of the Moabitish kings, Deut. 2:24 ff.; Isa. 15:4), lying in a wady south of the city, which is enthroned on a high hill, and consisting of excellent, masonry; comp. CROME, Palästina, I., 254 ff.—At the gate of the daughter of multitudes.—This “daughter of multitudes” (בַּת רַבִּים lit. “daughter of many,” λεωφόρος) or populous city is assuredly Heshbon itself (comp. the frequent designation of cities by the personifying expression בַּת “daughter,” e.g., Isa. 1:8; 10:32; 23:12; Ps. 137:6), a city which in the age of David and Solomon was certainly next to Rabbath Ammon, the most populous place in the neighboring kingdoms, or rather provinces of Israel east of the Jordan. HENGSTENBERG’S opinion is inadmissible that בַּת רַבִּים is only another expression for רַבָּה “Rabbah,” or רַבַּת בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן “Rabbath of the children of Ammon,” so that here the pools of two trans-jordanic cities would be named. And so is HITZIG’S notion that “the populous” is the name of a particular gate4 of the city of Heshbon (בַּת רַבִּים therefore not genitive but appositive), viz., that at which the markets and the tribunals were commonly held; for there is no example anywhere else of the personification of the gates of a city as daughters.—Thy nose like the tower of Lebanon, which looks toward Damascus.—Literally: as “a tower of Lebanon”5—but it does not follow from this absence of the definite article that one tower out of several of the same kind and situation is intended (HITZIG). For it is plainly designated as a watch-tower, or a look-out by צוֹפֶה וגו״; and though there may have been in all several structures of this description on Mount Lebanon (for according to 2 Sam. 8:6 David had set military garrisons in Damascene Syria), yet there could scarcely have been more than one that “looked toward Damascus,” i.e., which served for the military observation of this city, which since Rezon’s defection had become dangerous to Israel’s northern frontier (comp. 1 Kings 11:23, 24). Naturally enough it cannot now be accurately determined where this tower of Lebanon is to be looked for, whether at Fukra, in the neighborhood of which ROBINSON indicates a “remarkable tower” probably designed for military purposes (Zeitschr. d. Deutsch.-Morgenl. Gesellsch. VII. 1, 77), or at Magdol, a place in the same region, with a very ancient temple looking to the north (ibid., p. 72). At all events, however, this tower of Lebanon is totally distinct from the tower of David mentioned 4:4, and this the more certainly as the latter served to represent a majestic and beautifully ornamented neck, and the former a straight nose, forming a handsome profile.
Song 7:6. Thy head upon thee like Carmel.—On the somewhat inaccurate expression “thy head upon thee,” in which the head appears in some sort as an appendage to the entire man, comp. 2 Kings 6:31; Judg. 14:18.—The main thing to be regarded in the comparison with Carmel is, that next to Lebanon it is the loftiest mountain in Northern Palestine, and for this reason perhaps it is often designated רֹאשׁ הַכַּרְמֶל “head of Carmel” (1 Kings 18:42; Am. 9:3; comp. Jer. 46:18); probably also there may be a subordinate reference to its being covered with dense woods, an emblem of a luxuriant growth of hair (Mic. 7:14; comp. 5:13a above)—whilst its loveliness, which HENGSTENBERG would have to be most of all regarded, is probably left out of the account.—And thy flowing looks like purple.—דַּלָּה here coma pendula—literally “the pendant, that which hangs down from thy head” (comp. Isa. 38:12, where it denotes the thrum, i.e., the threads of the old web hanging down on the loom, to which the new are attached) from דללpendere, Job 38:4.—In the comparison of the hair with purple (אַרְגָּמָן particularly denoting the red purple in distinction from the dark violet-blue purple or תְּכֵלֶת) the color is not so much taken into consideration—for red hair, or such as at all inclines to a reddish cast, is not at all supposable in an Oriental beauty—as its dark lustre (comp. 5:11). As also with the Greeks πορφύρεος often has almost the same signification with μέλας, and hence, e.g., ANACREON (28:6, 7) uses πορφυραῖ χαῖται as the synonym of κόμαι μέλαιναι; PROPERTIUS, III., 17, 22, speaks of the purpurea coma of Nisus, and SUIDAS explains the Homeric κυανοχαίτης by “μελανόθριξ, πορφυρόθριξ” (other pertinent citations from TIBULL., VIRG., CIC., PLIN., etc., see in ROSENM. and DÖPKE in loc.). It is, moreover, also possible that some purple ornament, that Shulamith may have worn braided in her hair (comp. Iliad, 17:52), gave occasion to the comparison; whilst there is no need whatever of supposing an allusion to the later custom among the Hebrew women of dying their hair with henna and the like to give it a yellowish red appearance. Comp. DÖPKE in loc. and WINER R.-W.-B., Art. “Haar.”—A king fettered by curls. The noble lustre of his beloved’s head of hair just described makes the transition easy to the powerful effect which it, or more particularly her wonderfully beautiful locks, has wrought on him, her royal lover (comp. 4:9). On the comparison of pretty locks with nets or snares, in which the lover is caught, Ecclus. 9:3, 4, as well as numerous parallels from Oriental poets (in EWALD, HEILIGST., and DÖPKE); also Prov. 6:25, where this ensnaring effect is attributed to the eye-lashes, as Eccles. 7:26, to the arms of the beloved object. The VULG., SYR., LUTH., and more recently WEISSBACH and FRIEDRICH connect6מֶלֶךְ with אַרְגָּמָן: “as the king’s purple,” or as “purple of a king,” but in so doing involve themselves in inextricable difficulties in the explanation of the concluding words: אָסוּר בָּֽרְהָטים (e.g., FRIEDRICH: “as the purple of a king that is unbound like the folds in the troughs;” WEISSBACH: “as a king’s purple fastened in running water”—where an allusion is supposed to the purple dye-houses on the Phœnician side of Carmel)!
9. THIRD SCENE, a.SOLOMON: Song 7:7–11.
Song 7:7. How fair art thou, and how comely, O love, among delights.—It is no more necessary here than in 3:10, to take אַהֲבָה in the sense of אֲהֻבָה, as is done by the VULG. (“charissima”) and SYR., or to point it accordingly as HITZIG proposes. We evidently have to do with an apostrophe to love as such, like that contained in 4:10, only for the more concrete idea “thy love,” the more universal one of love in general is here substituted. אַהֲבָה has substantially the same sense as in 2:7, 5:8, 8:6, 7, or as in 2 Sam. 1:26, etc. In a strangely arbitrary manner WEISSBACH takes אַהֲבָה in its proper infinitive sense as in apposition with the predicate not as a vocative: “how fair art thou, and how comely, a loving in delight”—which is made to mean “one, to love whom awakens delight.”—תַּעֲנוּגִים (or תַּעֲנוּגוֹת Eccles. 2:8) are not “caresses” (HENGSTENB.), but the sensations of pleasure connected with them, “joys, delights” (comp. Prov. 19:10, Mic. 1:16, 2:9). Solomon does not mean by it vulgar, carnal pleasure, but the sweet joys of connubial intercourse, as he now experiences them anew in embracing Shulamith.—On the necessity of assuming either an exit of the chorus, or their withdrawal to the back-ground during the enthusiastic manifestations of conjugal tenderness which begin here, comp. above, No. 2, p. 100, where all that was necessary is noted respecting the propriety of having a new scene begin with this verse.
Song 7:8. This thy stature resembles a palm tree. The זֹאת “this” before קוֹמָתֵךְ “thy stature” is commonly regarded as referring back to the description of the beauty of the beloved, contained in Song 7:2–6, which however is the more inadmissible, as separate parts only of the body were there spoken of, for whose combination into one idea מַרְאֶה (5:15), and not קוֹמָה, would have been the proper expression. DELITZSCH correctly remarks: “As he lets her go from his arms, he surveys her figure with his eyes, and finds it like the palm-tree,” etc. To get a lively impression of her towering stature (comp. קוֹמָה in Isa. 10:33; Ezek. 31:3; Ps. 37:24), he must have let go of her for a moment at least, and have contemplated her more from a distance. The female name Tamar, which is not an unusual one in the Old Test., is based upon the comparison, which is quite a favorite with oriental poets, of a tall and slender stature with the palm (comp. FRAEHN on Ibn Fossl., p. 72; also HOMER, Od. vii. 160). And thy breasts clusters,i.e. those of the palm-tree, by which must be intended the date-palm, loaded with its clusters of fruit (correctly ROSENMUELLER, BÖTTCHER, HITZIG), especially as it is not until the following verse that the transition is made to clusters of grapes, which are expressly designated as such by the addition of הַגֶּפֶּן “the vine.” That the date clusters are rather hard, and to that extent appear not to correspond to the swelling softness of the breasts, does not impair the suitableness of the comparison, as the only thing regarded is the form (vs. WEISSB.) Moreover, the mention of breasts again in this passage (comp. Song 7:4) proves that the preceding description (Song 7:2–6) is not closely connected with that before us, and consequently that WEISSBACH’S opinion that twelve beauties are designedly enumerated in Song 7:2–11 (viz., the stature and the breasts, in addition to the preceding ten), lacks confirmation.
Song 7:9. I resolve I will climb the palm-tree,אָמַרְתִּי is not to be taken as a preterite “I said,” or “I resolved,” at some former time, etc., as though these words referred back to 5:1 (so VULG., LUTHER, etc.), but as a present, since several other wishes are uttered in what follows, but no mention is made of any previous fulfilment of these wishes. Comp. also תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ Song 7:11, which plainly points to a fond desire of her lover, just manifested afresh, not to one entertained at a former period. I will grasp its boughs.סַנְסִנִּים lit. “that which is on top” (kindred with תלל ,סלל to lift up), i.e., the branches and leaves forming the crown of the palm-tree. A more particular interpretation of the figure, e.g., so that the nose and mouth, which her lover wished to kiss, are here intended by the “branches” (WEISSB.), is inadmissible, and leads to offences against good taste.—And be thy breasts, please, like clusters of the vine (comp. on Song 7:8), and the breath of thy nose like apples. Nothing more is here expressed than the design to kiss, or to revel in the beauty and the sweetness of the face and the bosom of his beloved. Song 4:16, 5:1, is, therefore, not to be directly compared.—“The breath of the nose” (comp. Isa. 2:22, 2 Sam. 22:16) is here expressly mentioned, because this is what is perceived in kissing the mouth. The figure of apples is the more appropriate, because the apple תַּפּוּחַ derives its name in Hebrew from its delightful fragrance.
Song 7:10. And thy palate like the best wine. The palate is not named here as the organ of speech (HENGSTENB. and others), but as a substitute for the mouth or the lips in respect to the sweet breath or lovely kisses (comp. 5:13). יִיִן הַטּוֹב lit. “wine of the good” (comp. בִּרְכַּת־טוֹב Prov. 24:25), is equivalent to “delightful, excellent wine.” See on this periphrasis for the adjective, EWALD, Lehrb. § 287, b [GREEN’S Heb. Gram., § 254, 6, b].—Going down for my beloved smoothly. As the supposition that לְדוֹדִי “for my beloved” has slipped in here by mistake from the 11th verse following (AMM., HEILIGST., HITZ.: also EWALD formerly), is as arbitrary as its change to לְדוֹדַי “my love” (VELTH., MEIER), or to לְדוֹדִים “beloved ones, friends” (so EWALD now), there is no doubt that Shulamith here takes up the king’s words, in order as in 4:16 to continue his description, and to give him to understand, in the most flattering way, that she fully responds to his love, and is ready to grant him every enjoyment, of it.—Gliding over the lips of sleepers. Others: causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak (MERCERUS, HENGSTENB., DEL., etc., connecting דּוֹבֵב with דִּבָּה speaking (in a bad sense), slander); or “causing the lips of sleepers to long for it” (WEISSB.), etc. But for דבב—whence דּבֹ as the name of the bear with his slow and awkward gait—the signification “to flow gently,” or “to glide,” is suitable enough, and the meaning undoubtedly is, that pleasant tasting wine easily puts one to sleep, so that he who drinks it is insensibly overtaken by slumber (correctly EW.). There is certainly no allusion to the saliva oris of two lovers united in a kiss, (according to the expression in LUCRETIUS, “junguntque salivas oris,”etc.) for such an image of refined sensuality is inconceivable in the mouth of the chaste Shulamith.
Song 7:11. I am my beloved’s (comp. 6:3), and for me is his desire.—Lit.: “and on me (rests) his desire.” תְּשׁוּקָה as in Gen. 3:16, the passage which lies at the basis of this, of the longing desire of the man for the society of his wife, not of gross sensual desires for sexual intercourse. The whole is a triumphant exclamation in which Shulamith joyfully affirms that her lover cannot exist without her, and it thus prepares the way for her making the request of him, which follows. With indescribable vulgarity HITZIG asserts that “the concubine here recognizes with faltering voice and bursting eyes the mutual necessity of love.”
10. CONTINUATION AND CONCLUSION. b. Shulamith’s victorious assault on Solomon’s heart, 7:12–8:4.
Song 7:12. Come, my beloved, let us go out to the country.—The beloved (דּוֹד) who is addressed, can be no other than the one addressed just before in Song 7:10, 11, that is to say, Solomon, not the “shepherd,” to whom she certainly would not have been obliged in the first instance to have expressed her wish to escape from the contracted city walls into the country in the form of an earnest entreaty, and a fluent and impassioned persuasion, even if he were with her in Jerusalem (vs. BÖTTCH., HITZ., REN.); and if he was not with her, it was utterly useless to address these words to him when far remote (vs. EW., VAIH.). Her persuasion is plainly directed to a lover, who was really present, and besides was seriously meant, not a mere fantastical make-believe request, a desire which the petitioner was convinced beforehand could not possibly be granted (vs. WEISSB.).—Let us lodge in the villages.—To the country (שָׂדֶה) are here added villages (כְּפָרִים from כּפֶֹר 1 Sam. 6:18; construct כְּפַר) as in 1 Chron. 27:25. They are alone adapted to the idea of “lodging, passing the night” (לוּן), not “cypress-flowers” or “alhennas,” which DÖDERL., EW., MEIER unsuitably mingle in here, and which could scarcely have been so common then in the holy land, that people could sleep on them or under them (comp. on 1:14).—On the necessity of spending at least two nights on the way from Jerusalem to Shunem, see on 3:8 above (p. 82).
Song 7:13. Let us start early for the vineyards.—It is not vineyards lying on the route to Shunem, which they might visit on their way, that are here intended, but doubtless the vineyards at Shulamith’s home, and probably her own. For it was in these alone that she could take so lively an interest as is expressed in what follows.—We shall see whether the vine has sprouted, its blossoms opened.—The vines and pomegranates here named are the same as those in 6:11. Shulamith wishes to return with her lover to just those innocent rural occupations and pleasures, which are there described as belonging to her former mode of life. The season implied, as in 6:11 and in 2:11 ff., is the spring—that period in the year which most incites and allures to the enjoyment of external nature. It is inadmissible to suppose that precisely one year had elapsed between the spring depicted in those passages and that which is here implied (HITZ.). It is more probable—inasmuch as the whole action appears to run its course in two or three weeks (comp. on 2:8 ff. above, p. 69)—that the same spring is meant here as there, supposing the poet to have formed a clear conception of the intervals between the main particulars of the action.—There will I give thee my love.—דּוֹדַי means not “thy caresses bestowed on me,” but “mine bestowed on thee.” This to be sure, she has already granted him (see 4:16; 7:7 ff.), but not as yet continuously, nor without temporary disturbances and interruptions (comp. 6:4 f.; 6:11), nor as yet with the full and unreserved opening of her heart. But there (שָׁם with strong emphasis, as Am. 7:12) there amid the loveliness and joyous freedom of fair nature she will become entirely his.—Observe how little this passage again suits the so-called shepherd hypothesis; or even WEISSBACH’S supposition that Shulamith is not serious in uttering the wish before us, and that שָׁם אֶתֵּן is therefore to be taken conditionally: “There would I give—if it were only supposable that you could go with me” (?!).
Song 7:14. The mandrakes give forth their odor.—הַדּוּדָאִים are not “lilies” (LUTHER), but the fruit of the mandrake (mandragora vernalis, or atropa mandragora), a wild plant common in Palestine, particularly in Galilee (SCHUBERT, Reise, III., 117), of the same genus with the belladonna, with small whitish-green blossoms, which in May or June become small yellow apples, about the size of a nutmeg, of a strong and agreeable odor (μῆλα εὔοσμα, Test. Issachar, 100:1; comp. Dioscorid. IV. 76: εὐώδη μετὰ βάρους τινός). As now these apples have a pleasant smell, but not the blossoms nor the plant itself, Shulamith of course refers to the former, and here therefore looks forward to a more advanced season than in Song 7:13—that is to say, the time of wheat harvest (see Gen. 30:14), as in what follows in her mention of “this year’s fruit” her imagination goes still further forward.—These apples, according to Gen. 30:14–16, were regarded as an artificial provocative of sexual love (whence also the name דּוּדָאִים from דּוֹדִים ,דּוֹד) even in the earliest Oriental antiquity; so also by the Greeks and Romans, by whom they were therefore called κιρκαία, Circeta (comp. also the name Ἀφροδίτη μανδραγορῆτις in HESYCHIUS and PHAVORINUS), by the Arabs, who to this day call them tuffâh es-Shaitân, “Satan’s apples,” by all Christendom in the middle ages (see GRAESSE, Beiträge zur Litetur und Sage des Mittelalters, 1850), and by many still in modern times; comp., e.g., Father MYLLER in his Journey to the Promised Land: “This root (!), which I found in the wilderness of St. John the Baptist, and brought considerable of it away with me, has many medicinal virtues, removes barrenness, and makes efficacious love-potions.” (See DEL., Genesis, p. 467.) Shulamith certainly does not name the dudaim here on account of these supposed aphrodisiac qualities, much less does she mean to intimate an intention to prepare a magic potion from them to excite her lover to a higher degree of affection. This fruit is rather to her in her innocence and simplicity merely the symbol of love, and her naming them here like the “excellent fruits of all sorts over our doors” is merely designed to add to the attractions and enjoyments of her home, which she had before mentioned, such as were new and less familiar to her lover (see WEISSB. in loc.). MEIER goes too far in seeking a symbolic sense for the words, when he understands “the love apples are fragrant” to mean simply “I am deeply in love,” and “the old fruit and the new” there mentioned to signify the sweet fruits of love, of which she would give him to partake, the old love which had been in existence hitherto, and the new, which would meanwhile grow up and reach a heightened intensity. See in opposition to this allegorizing, which fritters away the simple freshness of a description so true to nature for the sake of insipid trivialities, HITZ. and WEISSB. in loc.—And over our doors are all sorts of excellent fruit, new as well as old.—By “our doors” Shulamith means the doors of her parental home in Shunem, where, besides her brothers and sister (1:6; 8:8), her mother still lived (comp. 3:4; 8:2). This house had probably several doors, at all events a front and a back door, and likely also side doors, whence the plural. On shelves in the inside over these doors they may have kept choice ripe fruit, as is often done in our farmers’ houses; hence the עַל “over” before פְתָהֵינוּ “our doors,” which can neither mean “in front of” (LUTHER, v. AMM.), nor “within” (MAGN.) nor “by” or “at” (COCC., HAHN, GOLTZ, etc.). Prov. 17:19 also seems to allude to a use of the beams or boards over the doors of rustic dwellings for keeping various objects (even if not exactly for the construction of regular store-rooms).—On מְגָדִים lit., “excellencies, precious things” comp. 4:13. כָּל־ refers to the various kinds of this fine fruit, not as WEISSB. affirms, to the distinction between this year’s and last year’s fruit. As regards these two expressions (חֲדָשִׁים גַם יְשֵׁנִים), they are both to be taken in the same sense as Mat. 13:52καινὰ καὶ παλαι̇ά (comp. also Lev. 25:22; 26:10), and as epithets limiting כָּל־מְגָדִים; they must not in violation of the accents be connected with the final clause “I have, my beloved, laid up for thee” (vs. MAGN., DEL., MEIER). This as well as the reference of the verb צָפַנְתִּי to the whole sentence from עַל־פְּתָחֵינוּ onward, as if the last three clauses of the verse formed one long period (EW., UMBR., WEISSB.) is inadmissible, for though she might speak of having stored old or last year’s fruit for her lover, the same could not be said of this year’s, which had still to ripen and grow.
See Song of Solomon 8:1 for DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL.
[The abruptness with which this verse is introduced and the ambiguity of some of its expressions make its meaning extremely doubtful and have led to a variety of uncertain conjectures, but do not justify the acceptance of the incredible sense here put upon it. According to the view which is entertained of the context it has been supposed to be addressed to the bride, who was rising to leave the speakers (TAYLOR), or had been borne away from them by her inward rapture figuratively described in the preceding verse (MOODY STUART), or who had parted from them in company with her husband (PATRICK), or who was timidly shrinking from meeting him (WILLIAMS, GOOD, the latter of whom renders thus: “virgins.—‘Return, return, O bride of Solomon! Return, return, that we may yet respect thee.’ Royal Bride.—‘What do you expect from the bride of Solomon?’ Virgins.—‘Fortitude, like the conflict of two armies’ ”). Or it is thought to be a call upon the bride to return from her alienation to her husband (AINSWORTH, BURROWES, as well as WORDSWORTH, who thinks that the iteration of the appeal denotes a summons “to both Jew and Gentile to return to God and to one another in Christ and His Church”), or to return in peace from victorious conflict (THRUPP, who compares Josh. 10:21; Judg. 8:9; 11:31; 1 Kin. 22:28).—TR.]
[The article as well as the form of the noun certainly favor its derivation from the place of her birth or residence. The chief objections to it are, first that Shunem is never called Shulem in the Bible but always Shunem and its inhabitants Shunammites; and secondly, the bride is called a prince’s daughter, 7:2. The derivation from Solomon (to which CLARKE compares Charlotte from Charles, Henrietta from Henry, etc.), is favored by most English commentators, and still divides the suffrages of the learned, though it does not satisfactorily account for the form of the name nor explain the presence of the article. Its derivation from Salem in the sense of Jerusalem, as though it were equivalent to Jerusalemite, as GILL and others suggest after KIMCHI and ABEN EZRA is utterly inadmissible. Others follow the example of AQUILA (έιρηνεν̓ονσα) and attribute to it an appellative sense as derived from the root שׁלם; so PATRICK: “perfect,” and THRUPP: “The peace-laden, lit., the bepeaced. The name is derived from the same root as Solomon and stands in partial correspondence with it.”—TR.]
[There is no reason for suspecting an indelicacy in this perfectly harmless expression. Neither the words employed, the mode of their employment, nor the connection in which they stand warrant such an imputation. NOYES correctly says the “spiced wine” is “mentioned merely to set off the beauty and richness of the cup.” MOODY STUART: “The dress of the bride is described throughout except where clothing is not worn, as on the neck and the face. The proof of this is ample and irresistible in the very first line of the picture—the feet ‘beautiful with shoes.’ The person might have been clothed, while the feet were unshod; but it was impossible that the feet should be beautified with the finest sandals, without the whole person being arranged as a bride adorned for her husband. Both the terms, therefore, in this verse are of necessity parts of dress covering the corresponding parts of the person, according to the tendency in all languages to transfer the names that designate the living body to the dress that both conceals and adorns it. There is a great agreement of critics, as well as obvious suitableness in interpreting the goblet of wine as an image of the clasp that secures the girdle, composed probably of rubies to which wine is often compared.” So substantially also PATRICK, HARMER, PARKHURST, TAYLOR, WILLIAMS, and others. GOOD, on the contrary, objects to the opinion “that the royal poet, instead of delineating the personal charms, ‘the unbought graces’ of his accomplished fair, is merely describing her different habiliments with the splendid figures which were wrought on them. Against such an interpretation I cannot but strongly protest, as equally unpoetical, and unjust to the text. In the literal sense of the original, I see no indelicacy whatever, and there ought to be no indelicacy in its translation. The royal bard is merely assuming a liberty, and that in the chastest manner possible, which we are daily conceding in our age to every painter and sculptor of eminence.” GOOD coincides in opinion with ZÖCKLER, that “navel” is here used in a wide sense for “the whole of the surrounding region,” and proposes the rendering “waist.” Adopting this suggestion, BURROWES presents the following picture as his conception of the figure here described: “First, the feet more beautiful in the elegant sandals; then the contour, the folds of the bridal dress falling around the hips, graceful as the curvature of a rich necklace wrought by a finished hand; next, the body like a heap of wheat encompassed with lilies; then, the waist expanding into the bosom, elegant as a goblet rounded gracefully upwards, and filled with the richest spiced wine.” SCOTT: “Comeliness of person, not richness of attire or ornament, is intended; otherwise the commendations would be equally appropriate to the most deformed, if splendidly attired, as to the most beautiful; nor is there any need to remove the garments in order to distinguish a very well proportioned and comely person from others in the most ordinary intercourse of life. Either men or women may disguise themselves by decoration; but becoming raiment sets off the form of those who wear it.”]
[So THRUPP: “That gate of Heshbon which opened northeastward in the direction of Rabbah of Ammon,” or “the gate of approach to the pools, the portal through which the multitude of the Gentile world presses to drink to the full of the clear and unruffled waters of Christian doctrine.”]
[The correct translation is “the tower of Lebanon,” the entire expression being rendered definite by the article before the last noun; See GREEN’S Heb. Gram. § 246, 3.—TR.]
[So too HOUBIGANT and THRUPP; the latter of whom renders: “like royal purple enfixed among the wainscotings. The picture is that of a rich chamber, on the walls of which are carved wooden panels alternate with purple hangings. The former serve to relieve and to show off the beauty of the latter, to which latter the well-ordered and well-fastened tresses of the bride’s hair are compared.”]
How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.