My beloved is to me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Camphire.—Marg., cypress: Heb., côpher. There is no doubt of the identity of this plant with the Henna of the Arabs, the Lawsonia aïba or inermis of botanists. Robinson found it growing in abundance at En-gedi (where alone it is found), and suggested the identification (see his Note, Researches, ii. 211). Tristram describes it thus: “It is a small shrub, eight or ten feet high, with dark back, pale green foliage, and clusters of white and yellow blossoms of a powerful fragrance. Not only is the perfume of the flower highly prized, but a paste is made of the dried and pounded leaves, which is used by the women of all ranks and the men of the wealthier classes to dye the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the nails” (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 339). (Comp. also Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 602, who, however, prefers to identify côpher with some specially favourite kind of grapes, but without giving any sufficient reason.) For En-gedi, see Joshua 15:62. It is the only place in Southern. Palestine mentioned in this poem, the other allusions (except Heshbon, Song of Solomon 7:4, which is in Moab) being to northern localities.
camphire—or, "cypress." The "hennah" is meant, whose odorous flowers grow in clusters, of a color white and yellow softly blended; its bark is dark, the foliage light green. Women deck their persons with them. The loveliness of Jesus Christ.
vineyards—appropriate in respect to Him who is "the vine." The spikenard was for the banquet (So 1:12); the myrrh was in her bosom continually (So 1:13); the camphire is in the midst of natural beauties, which, though lovely, are eclipsed by the one cluster, Jesus Christ, pre-eminent above them all.
En-gedi—in South Palestine, near the Dead Sea (Jos 15:62; Eze 47:10), famed for aromatic shrubs.Camphire; or, cypress, as others render it. It was an odoriferous plant growing in vineyards, and some think that it was a most pleasant kind of vine, like that which bears muscatel grapes; yea, some very learned men understand it of that plant which dropped balm, which grew in or near the place here specified, as is affirmed not only by the Jews, but also by pagan writers, as Diodorus and Trogus. Nor are we concerned to know which or what it was; it being confessed and evident, that it was some pleasant and grateful plant, and that it sets forth that great delight which the church hath in the enjoyment of Christ.
En-gedi; a pleasant and well-watered place in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:62 Ezekiel 47:10, where there were many pleasant plants, whence it was called Hazazontamar, 2 Chronicles 20:2. 2 Chronicles 20:2. Pliny (o) sneaking of this place, which he calls Engadda, says, it is second to Jerusalem for fertility and groves of palm trees; and Josephus (p) observes, that there grew the best palm trees and opobalsam; wherefore Aben Ezra, and other Jewish writers, think that dates, the fruit of the palm trees, which grow in clusters, are here meant: and because the balsam tree also, grew in this place, as observed before from Josephus, and grew in the manner of vines, as others (q) assert; and this being said to, be in vineyards, some have thought that that might be in, tended; but what is valuable in it is a gum or tear, that drops from it, and not fruit in clusters, which it bears not: nor can it be supposed that what we call "camphire" should be meant, which grows not in clusters, and was unknown to the ancients; nor the "cyperus", or "cypirus", as Cocceius and others. The Septuagint version readers it "cyprus": and there was a tree of this name which grew in Askelon in Judea, which, according to Pliny (r), bore a white flower of a sweet smell; and which, in Italy, was called "ligustrum", the privet tree, commended by the poets (s) for its peculiar whiteness; and the cypress tree is reckoned by Josephus (t) among the odoriferous trees which grew about Jericho, near to which Engedi was. The word here used is to be found in the Misnah (u); and the commentators (w) on it say, it is the same which, in Arabic, is called "alhena", the cypress tree, and refer to this place; of which Dr. Shaw (x) says,
"this beautiful and odoriferous plant, "alhenna", if it is not annually cut, and kept low, grows ten or twelve feet high, putting out its little flowers in clusters, which yield a most grateful smell, like camphire.''
But, after all, perhaps the Cyprus vine is here meant, which, according to Pliny (y), was the best and largest of vines; and which, though it grew in Cyprus, from whence it had its name, yet some plants of it might be obtained by Solomon, and planted in the vineyards of Engedi; or there were such there like them, and were called by the same name: Jarchi, from an ancient exposition of theirs, relates, that the vineyards of this place brought forth fruit four or five times a year; Alshech says seven. Now as Christ compares himself to a vine, John 15:1; the church may compare him to a cluster of the grapes of the Cyprus vine, reckoned the best; there being a cluster of all perfections, divine and human, in him; and of all the spiritual blessings of the everlasting covenant, and of all the precious promises in it; and of all the grace of the Spirit, and the fulness of it, which is in him. The Jews calls a man, eminent for virtue, and a large share of knowledge, "clusters" (z); and they interpret "eschol", a cluster, by , "a man that has all things in him" (a): such an one is Christ, in the highest sense, having all perfections, excellencies, and virtues, in him. Some leave the word untranslated, "copher" (b), and which has the signification of atonement and propitiation; and so well agrees with Christ, who is the propitiation for sin, and has made atonement for it. Bishop Patrick observes, that the ancient Hebrew doctors, by dividing the first word "eschol", found out the mystery of the Messiah; considering it as if thus read, , "my beloved is unto me the man that propitiates" or "expiates all things"; that is, all sins and transgressions: in the Talmud (c) it is explained,
"he, whose all things are, has atoned for my iniquity;''
(o) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 17. (p) Antiqu. l. 9. c. 1. s. 2.((q) Justin. e Trogo, l. 36. c. 3. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 25. Vid. Foliot in loc. (r) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 29. (s) Virgil. Eclog. 2. v. 18. Ovid. Metamorph. l. 13. Fab. 8. (t) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. s. 3.((u) Sheviith, c. 7. s. 6. (w) Maimon. & Bartenora in ibid. (x) Travels, p. 113, 114. edit. 2.((y) Nat. Hist. l. 14. c. 1.((z) Misnah Sotah, c. 9. s. 9. (a) T. Bab. Temurah, fol. 15. 2. Jarchi, & Ez Chaysim in Sotah ibid. (b) "copher", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Marckius. (c) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 88. 2.My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. camphire] R.V. henna-flowers, the Lawsonia inermis or henna plant, from which Eastern women get the reddish yellow colour with which they stain their hands and feet (Tristram, op. cit. p. 340). It has a strongly perfumed flower which takes the form of yellowish white clusters. It is found to-day in Palestine only at En-gedi.
the vineyards of En-gedi] Martineau seems to take these words as an indication that the lover had his vineyards there, but this is highly improbable. En-gedi means the fountain of the kid, and the place still retains the name Ain Jidy. To this day the rocks and precipices above and about the well are frequented by wild goats. “The plain of En-gedi,” says Dr Porter in Murray’s Guide, “is a rich plain about half a mile square, sloping very gently from the declivity of the mountains to the shore of the Dead Sea, and is shut in on the North by the cliffs of Wady Sudeir, which are the highest along the whole Western coast. About one mile up the mountain side, and at an elevation of some 400 feet above the plain, is the fountain from which the place gets its name. The water is pure and sweet though the temperature is as high as 81 degrees Fahr. The plain is very fertile, and anciently its vineyards, and palm groves, and balsam plants were celebrated, but now none of these are to be seen there.”
Go after the footprints of the flock,
And feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.
היּפה, standing in the address or call, is in the voc.; the art. was indispensable, because "the beautiful one among women" equals the one distinguished for beauty among them, and thus is, according to the meaning, superlative; cf. Judges 6:15; Amos 2:16, with Judges 5:24; Luke 1:28; Ewald, 313c. The verb יפה refers to the fundamental idea: integrum, completum esse, for beauty consists in well-proportioned fulness and harmony of the members. That the ladies of the court are excited to speak thus may arise from this, that one often judges altogether otherwise of a man, whom one has found not beautiful, as soon as he begins to speak, and his countenance becomes intellectually animated. And did not, in Shulamith's countenance, the strange external swarthiness borrow a brightness from the inner light which irradiated her features, as she gave so deep and pure an expression to her longing? But the instruction which her childlike, almost childish, navete deserved, the daughters of Jerusalem do not feel disposed to give her. ידע לא signifies, often without the obj. supplied, non sapere, e.g., Psalm 82:5; Job 8:9. The לך subjoined guards against this inclusive sense, in which the phrase here would be offensive. This dat. ethicus (vid., Sol 2:10-11, Sol 2:13, Sol 2:17; Sol 4:6; Sol 8:14), used twice here in Sol 1:8 and generally in the Song, reflects that which is said on the will of the subject, and thereby gives to it an agreeable cordial turn, here one bearing the colour of a gentle reproof: if thou knowest not to thee, - i.e., if thou, in thy simplicity and retirement, knowest it not, viz., that he whom thou thinkest thou must seek for at a distance is near to thee, and that Solomon has to tend not sheep but people, - now, then, so go forth, viz., from the royal city, and remain, although chosen to royal honours, as a shepherdess beside thine own sheep and kids. One misapprehends the answer if he supposes that they in reality point out the way to Shulamith by which she might reach her object; on the contrary, they answer her ironically, and, entering into her confusion of mind, tell her that if she cannot apprehend the position of Solomon, she may just remain what she is. עקב (Arab. 'aḳib), from עקב, to be convex, arched, is the heel; to go in the heels (the reading fluctuates between the form, with and without Dag. dirimens in ק) of one equals to press hard after him, to follow him immediately. That they assign to her not goats or kids of goats, but kids, גּריּת, is an involuntary fine delicate thought with which the appearance of the elegant, beautiful shepherdess inspires them. But that they name kids, not sheep, may arise from this, that the kid is a near-lying erotic emblem; cf. Genesis 38:17, where it has been fittingly remarked that the young he-goat was the proper courtesan-offering in the worship of Aphrodite (Movers' Phnizier, I 680). It is as if they said: If thou canst not distinguish between a king and shepherds, then indulge thy love-thoughts beside the shepherds' tents, - remain a country maiden if thou understandest not how to value the fortune which has placed thee in Jerusalem in the royal palace.
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