Behold, you are fair, my love; behold, you are fair; you have doves' eyes.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Behold, thou art fair.—The song is now transferred to a male speaker—the advocates for the dramatic theory cannot agree whether Solomon or the shepherd; and no wonder, since the poem gives no indication.
My love.—Marg., companion, LXX. πλησίον, in Heb. rayati, is used for the female, dôdi being her usual term for her lover. Beyond this the terms of endearment used cannot safely be pressed for any theory.
Thou hast doves’ eyes.—Literally, thine eyes are doves’. The same image is repeated (Song of Solomon 4:1), and adopted in return by the heroine (Song of Solomon 5:12). The point of the comparison is either quickness of glance or generally tenderness and grace. The dove, a favourite with all poets as an emblem of love, is especially dear to this bard. Out of about fifty mentions of the bird in Scripture, seven occur in the short compass of this book. For general account of the dove in Palestine, see Psalm 55:6, and for particular allusions Notes below to Song of Solomon 2:11-12; Song of Solomon 2:14. (Comp. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, v. 3:—
“Or those doves’ eyes
That can make gods forsworn.”
“Do I hear her sing as of old,
My bird with the shining head,
My own dove, with her tender eye?”)Song of Solomon 1:15. Behold, thou art fair — This is the speech of Christ. The words are doubled to manifest his fervent affection for her. Thou hast doves’ eyes — Which are mild and harmless, chaste and faithful. And by the eyes he seems to design both her outward behaviour and the inward disposition of her mind.
doves' eyes—large and beautiful in the doves of Syria. The prominent features of her beauty (Mt 10:16), gentleness, innocence, and constant love, emblem of the Holy Ghost, who changes us to His own likeness (Ge 8:10, 11; Mt 3:16). The opposite kind of eyes (Ps 101:5; Mt 20:15; 2Pe 2:14).Behold, thou art fair: this is the speech of Christ. The words are doubled, partly to note the certainty of the thing, notwithstanding her mean and modest opinion of herself; and partly to manifest his high esteem and fervent affection for her, and to assure her that, notwithstanding all her infirmities, he was very well pleased with her.
Thou hast doves’ eyes; which are,
1. Comely and pleasant.
2. Modest and humble, not lofty, as the looks of some other creatures are.
3. Mild and harmless, not fierce and fiery, not looking and watching for prey, as the eyes of ravenous birds are.
4. Chaste and faithful, looking only to their mates; so that if any of them cast a lustful eye upon another, her companions are enraged against her, and quickly tear her in pieces; as some natural historians write. And such are the church’s eyes said to be. And by the eyes he seems to design partly her looks and outward behaviour or conversation, and partly and chiefly the inward disposition of her mind, which is commonly discovered, and in Scripture is oft signified, by the eye; in which sense we read of an evil eye, Proverbs 23:6 Matthew 6:23, of a bountiful eye, Proverbs 22:9, of a single eye, Luke 11:34, of a proud or lofty look, all which signify such tempers of men’s minds.
behold, thou art fair; exceeding fair, really so, both inwardly and outwardly; both with respect to justification and sanctification;
thou hast doves' eyes; or "eyes like doves" (d); these are taken notice because much beauty lies in the eyes, either in the size or colour of them (e); similes taken from doves are frequently used in this sacred poem, both with respect to the bride and bridegroom; see Sol 2:14; and it may easily be observed, that this creature furnishes much matter for poets (f), which they apply to lovers: and here the eyes of the bride are compared to the eyes of doves; meaning either the ministers of the Gospel, who are to the church what eyes are to the body; are set in the more eminent part in the church, to order, guide, and direct the members of it; to watch over them, lest any hurt come to them, and give warning of danger; to hold forth the word of light to them, and instruct them how to behave in the church and in the world: and they may be compared to the eyes of doves, for their clearness and perspicuity in discerning Gospel truths; and for their sincerity and simplicity, uprightness and faithfulness, in preaching them; and for the dove like gifts of the Spirit, whereby they are qualified for it; and for, their meekness and humility; or rather the eyes of her understanding are meant, being spiritually enlightened; and particularly the eye of faith by which believers take a view of Christ, of his glory, fulness, and suitableness, and look to him alone for life and salvation. And it may be compared to the eyes of doves for the clearness and quickness, of it, being the evidence of things not seen; and, for its singleness and chastity, the dove looks only to its mate, and destroys those that look with lustful eyes on others (g); believers, being espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ, look only to him as their beloved, to him only for acceptance, righteousness, pardon, and eternal life; and for its modesty and humility, excluding all boasting in the creature, and giving all glory to Christ; and for its beautifulness in the sight of Christ, so that he is even ravished with it, Sol 4:9.
(d) "oculi tui veluti columbarum", Pagninus, Munster, so Ben Melech. (e) So Juno is called "the large-eyed Juno", and Minerva "the blue-eyed goddess", and Chryseus "the black-eyed maid", Homer. Iliad. 1. v. 99, 206, 551. (f) Vid. Barthii Animadv. ad Claudian. in Nupt. Honor. Ode 4. v. 21. (g) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 34. Aelian. Hist. Animal. l. 3. c. 5. p. 44.Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)15. thou hast doves’ eyes] Rather, as R.V., thine eyes are (as) doves, i.e. are dove-like. As a rule in such comparisons the particle of comparison ke = as stands before the predicate (see Ges. Gramm. 141 d, note). But this form is more emphatic. The absence of the particle does not consequently compel us to translate as Oettli following the LXX does, thy eyes are doves, i.e. are glancing and shimmering in various colours, so as to resemble doves. That seems an improbable simile; more probably it is the innocence which is associated with doves’ eyes which is the point of comparison.
15–17. In these verses the king continues his praises of the Shulammite, while she continues to think only of her absent lover. In Song of Solomon 1:15 the pronouns and the corresponding adjectives are feminine, while in Song of Solomon 1:16 they are masculine. Consequently in Song of Solomon 1:15 Solomon is represented as addressing the Shulammite, while in Song of Solomon 1:16 the Shulammite speaks, addressing however not Solomon but her absent lover.Verse 15. - Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves; literally, thine eyes are doves. The king receives the worship of his bride and delights in her. She is very sweet and fair to him. The dove is a natural symbol of love; hence it was attached by the classical nations to the garden of love, together with the myrtle, rose, and apple, all of which we find introduced in this Hebrew poem. Hence the Arabic name for a dove, Jemima, as we see in the Book of Job, was the name of a woman (cf. Columbina). The language of the king is that of ecstasy; hence the interjection and repetition. The enraptured monarch gazes into the eyes of his beloved bride, and sees there only purity, constancy, and affection. In Song of Solomon 7:4 the eyes are compared to fish ponds, no doubt for their clear, liquid depth and serenity. Some have thought that the allusion is to the very lovely eyes of the doves; but there is no need of the limitation.
9 To a horse in the chariot of Pharaoh Do I compare thee, my love.
10 Beautiful are thy cheeks in the chains, Thy neck in the necklaces.
11 Golden chains will we make for thee, With points of silv.
Till now, Shulamith was alone with the ladies of the palace in the banqueting-chamber. Solomon now comes from the banquet-hall of the men (Sol 1:12); and to Sol 2:7, to which this scene extends, we have to think of the women of the palace as still present, although not hearing what Solomon says to Shulamith. He addresses her, "my love:" she is not yet his bride. רעיה (female friend), from רעי (רעה), to guard, care for, tend, ethically: to delight in something particularly, to take pleasure in intercourse with one, is formed in the same way as נערה; the mas. is רעה ( equals ra'j), abbreviated רע, whence the fem. rǎ'yāh (Judges 11:37; Chethı̂b), as well as rē'āh, also with reference to the ground-form. At once, in the first words used by Solomon, one recognises a Philip, i.e., a man fond of horses, - an important feature in the character of the sage (vid., Sur. 38 of the Koran), - and that, one fond of Egyptian horses: Solomon carried on an extensive importation of horses from Egypt and other countries (2 Chronicles 9:28); he possessed 1400 war-chariots and 12, 000 horsemen (1 Kings 10:26); the number of stalls of horses for his chariots was still greater (1 Kings 5:6) [4:26]. Horace (Ode iii. 11) compares a young sprightly maiden to a nimble and timid equa trima; Anacreon (60) addresses such an one: "thou Thracian filly;" and Theocritus says (Idyl xviii. 30, 31):
"As towers the cypress mid the garden's bloom,
As in the chariot proud Thessalian steed,
Thus graceful rose-complexioned Helen moves."
But how it could occur to the author of the Song to begin the praise of the beauty of a shepherdess by saying that she is like a horse in Pharaoh's chariot, is explained only by the supposition that the poet is Solomon, who, as a keen hippologue, had an open eye for the beauty of the horse. Egyptian horses were then esteemed as afterwards the Arabian were. Moreover, the horse was not native to Egypt, but was probably first imported thither by the Hyksos: the Egyptian name of the horse, and particularly of the mare, ses-t, ses-mut, and of the chariot, markabuta, are Semitic.
(Note: Eber's Aegypten u. die B. Mose's, Bd. I pp. 221f. 226; cf. Aeg. Zeitschr. 1864, p. 26f.)
סוּסה is here not equitatus (Jerome), as Hengst. maintains: "Susah does not denote a horse, but is used collectively;" while he adds, "Shulamith is compared to the whole Egyptian cavalry, and is therefore an ideal person." The former statement is untrue, and the latter is absurd. Sūs means equus, and susā may, indeed, collectively denote the stud (cf. Joshua 19:5 with 1 Chronicles 4:31), but obviously it first denotes the equa. But is it to be rendered, with the lxx and the Venet., "to my horse"? Certainly not; for the chariots of Pharaoh are just the chariots of Egypt, not of the king of Israel. The Chirek in which this word terminates is the Ch. compag., which also frequently occurs where, as here and Genesis 49:11, the second member of the word-chain is furnished with a prep. (vid., under Psalm 113:1-9). This i is an old genitival ending, which, as such, has disappeared from the language; it is almost always accented as the suff. Thus also here, where the Metheg shows that the accent rests on the ult. The plur. רכבי, occurring only here, is the amplificative poetic, and denotes state equipage. דּמּה is the trans. of דּמה, which combines the meanings aequum and aequalem esse. Although not allegorizing, yet, that we may not overlook the judiciousness of the comparison, we must remark that Shulamith is certainly a "daughter of Israel;" a daughter of the people who increased in Egypt, and, set free from the bondage of Pharaoh, became the bride of Jahve, and were brought by the law as a covenant into a marriage relation to Him.
The transition to Sol 1:10 is mediated by the effect of the comparison; for the head-frame of the horse's bridle, and the poitral, were then certainly, must as now, adorned with silken tassels, fringes, and other ornaments of silver (vid., Lane's Modern Egypt, I 149). Jerome, absurdly, after the lxx: pulchrae sunt genae tuae sicut turturis. The name of the turtle, תּוּד, redupl. turtur, is a pure onomatopoeia, which has nothing to do with תּוּר, whence דּוּר, to go round about, or to move in a circle; and turtle-dove's cheeks - what absurdity! Birds have no cheeks; and on the sides of its neck the turtle-dove has black and white variegated feathers, which also furnishes no comparison for the colour of the cheeks. תּורים are the round ornaments which hang down in front on both sides of the head-band, or are also inwoven in the braids of hair in the forehead; תּוּר, circumire, signifies also to form a circle or a row; in Aram. it thus denotes, e.g., the hem of a garment and the border round the eye. In נאווּ (vid., at 5a) the Aleph is silent, as in לאמר, אכל. חרוּזים are strings of pearls as a necklace; for the necklace (Arab. kharaz) consists of one or more, for the most part, of three rows of pearls. The verb חרז signifies, to bore through and to string together; e.g., in the Talm., fish which one strings on a rod or line, in order to bring them to the market. In Heb. and Aram. the secondary sense of stringing predominates, so that to string pearls is expressed by חרז, and to bore through pearls, by קדח; in Arab., the primary meaning of piercing through, e.g., michraz, a shoemaker's awl.
After Sol 1:11, one has to represent to himself Shulamith's adorning as very simple and modest; for Solomon seeks to make her glad with the thought of a continued residence at the royal court by the promise of costly and elegant ornaments. Gold and silver were so closely connected in ancient modes of representation, that in the old Aegypt. silver was called nub het, or white gold. Gold derived its name of זהב from its splendour, after the witty Arab. word zahab, to go away, as an unstable possession; silver is called כּסף, from כּסף, scindere, abscindere, a piece of metal as broken off from the mother-stone, like the Arab. dhuḳrat, as set free from the lump by means of the pickaxe (cf. at Psalm 19:11; Psalm 84:3). The name of silver has here, not without the influence of the rhythm (Sol 8:9), the article designating the species; the Song frequently uses this, and is generally in using the art. not so sparing as poetry commonly is.
(Note: The art. denoting the idea of species in the second member of the st. const. standing in the sing. without a determining reference to the first, occurs in Sol 1:13, "a bundle of (von) myrrh;" Sol 1:14, "a cluster of (von) the cyprus-flower;" Sol 4:3, "a thread of (von) scarlet," "a piece of pomegranate;" Sol 5:13, "a bed of balm" (but otherwise, Sol 6:2), Sol 7:9, "clusters of the vine;" Sol 7:3, "a bowl of roundness" (which has this property); Sol 7:10, "wine (of the quality) of goodness;" cf. Sol 8:2, "wine the ( equals of the) spicing." It also, in cases where the defined species to which the first undefined member of the st. const. belongs, stands in the pl.: Sol 2:9, Sol 2:17; Sol 8:14, "like a young one of the hinds;" Sol 4:1; Sol 6:5, "a herd of goats;" Sol 4:2, "a flock of shorn sheep;" Sol 6:6, "a flock of lambs," i.e., consisting of individuals of this kind. Also, when the second member states the place where a thing originates or is found, the first often remains indeterminate, as one of that which is there found, or a part of that which comes from thence: Sol 2:1, "a meadow-saffron of Sharon," "a lily of the valleys;" Sol 3:9, "the wood of Lebanon." The following are doubtful: Sol 4:4, "a thousand bucklers;" and Sol 7:5, "a tower of ivory;" less so Sol 7:1, "the dance of Mahanaim." The following are examples of a different kind: Genesis 16:7, "a well of water;" Deuteronomy 22:19, "a damsel of Israel;" Psalm 113:9, "a mother of children;" cf. Genesis 21:28.)
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