Song of Solomon 1:17
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Rafters.—Marg., galleries (comp. Song of Solomon 7:5); LXX., φατνώματα; Vulg., laquearia; Heb., rahît, from rahat = run, flow: hence (1) a gutter, from the water running down (Gen. 3:38); (2) a curl, from its flowing down the neck (Song of Solomon 7:5—Hebrews 6); (3) here rafters, or roof beams, from their spreading overhead. “Our couch was the green grass, the arches of our bower the cedar branches, and its rafters the firs.” Others read rachitim, which is explained as a transposition for charitim = turned work. But the thought is plainly connected with the woods, not with a gorgeous house. For cedar see 1Kings 4:33.

Fir.—Heb., berôth (Aramaic form of berôsh), a tree often mentioned in connection with cedar as an emblem of majesty, &c. (Ezekiel 31:8; Isaiah 37:24; Isaiah 60:13). “The plain here has evidently been buried deep under sand long ages ago, precisely as at Beirût, and here are the usual pine forests growing upon it (Beirût is by some derived from berûth). These are the finest specimens we have seen in Palestine, though every sandy ridge of Lebanon and Hermon is clothed with them. In my opinion it is the Heb. berôsh, concerning which there is so much confusion in the various translations of the Bible . . . the generic name for the pine, of which there are several varieties in Lebanon. Cypress is rarely found there, but pine everywhere, and it is the tree used for beams and rafters (Thomson, The Land and Book, p. 511). The Pinus maritima and the Aleppo pine are the most common, the latter being often mistaken for the Scotch fir. (See Tristram, Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 353, &c.)

1:9-17 The Bridegroom gives high praises of his spouse. In the sight of Christ believers are the excellent of the earth, fitted to be instruments for promoting his glory. The spiritual gifts and graces which Christ bestows on every true believer, are described by the ornaments then in use, ver. 10,11. The graces of the saints are many, but there is dependence upon each other. He who is the Author, will be the Finisher of the good work. The grace received from Christ's fulness, springs forth into lively exercises of faith, affection, and gratitude. Yet Christ, not his gifts, is most precious to them. The word translated camphire, signifies atonement or propitiation. Christ is dear to all believers, because he is the propitiation for their sins. No pretender must have his place in the soul. They resolved to lodge him in their hearts all the night; during the continuance of the troubles of life. Christ takes delight in the good work which his grace has wrought on the souls of believers. This should engage all who are made holy, to be very thankful for that grace which has made those fair, who by nature were deformed. The spouse (the believer) has a humble, modest eye, discovering simplicity and godly sincerity; eyes enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit, that blessed Dove. The church expresses her value for Christ. Thou art the great Original, but I am but a faint and imperfect copy. Many are fair to look at, yet their temper renders them unpleasant: but Christ is fair, yet pleasant. The believer, ver. 16, speaks with praise of those holy ordinances in which true believers have fellowship with Christ. Whether the believer is in the courts of the Lord, or in retirement; whether following his daily labours, or confined on the bed of sickness, or even in a dungeon, a sense of the Divine presence will turn the place into a paradise. Thus the soul, daily having fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, enjoys a lively hope of an incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance above.Camphire - Rather, כפר kôpher," from which "cyprus" is probably derived (in the margin misspelled "cypress "),the name by which the plant called by the Arabs "henna" was known to the Greeks and Romans. It is still much esteemed throughout the East for the fragrance of its flowers and the dye extracted from its leaves. Engedi was famous for its vines, and the henna may have been cultivated with the vines in the same enclosures. 17. our house—see on [673]So 1:16; but primarily, the kiosk (Isa 11:10), "His rest." Cedar is pleasing to the eye and smell, hard, and never eaten by worms.

fir—rather, "cypress," which is hard, durable, and fragrant, of a reddish hue [Gesenius, Weiss, and Maurer]. Contrasted with the shifting "tents" (So 1:5), His house is "our house" (Ps 92:13; Eph 2:19; Heb 3:6). Perfect oneness of Him and the bride (Joh 14:20; 17:21). There is the shelter of a princely roof from the sun (Ps 121:6), without the confinement of walls, and amidst rural beauties. The carved ceiling represents the wondrous excellencies of His divine nature.

The beams of our house are cedar; not only strong and incorruptible, but also fragrant and delightful. Though I am in myself but a mean and rustic person, yet the house to which I invite thee, and where thou and I shall dwell together, is, by thy favour, built with cedar; whereby is here signified the stability of God’s church upon earth, which is called God’s house, 1 Timothy 3:15, and the firmness and sureness of God’s word and promises.

Rafters; the lesser beams. Or, as it is rendered in our margin, and by others, galleries, wherein we may walk.

Of fir; or, as the ancients and others render it, of cypress, which was used in buildings, which also was strong and fragrant, and therefore suits well with cedars. The beams of our house are cedar,.... Or "houses" (k); where their bed was, and where they had fellowship and communion together. By which may be meant particular congregations or churches, in which houses Christ has a property, being of his building and beautifying; where he takes up his rest and residence, and where he feeds and feasts with his people, and to the privileges of which all the saints have a right: and by the "beams" of these houses may be intended the ministers of the word, who are pillars here, as James, John, and Cephas, were; and who are the means of supporting and strengthening such communities, by their excellent doctrines and exemplary lives: or common saints may be meant, who are also beams and pillars in the churches of Christ; and serve greatly to support, strengthen, and cement the spiritual building, fitly framed together: and these being of "cedar" wood, of a pleasant smell, and durable, may denote their gratefulness and acceptableness to Christ and his church, in the exercise of grace, and discharge of duty; and of their continuance and perseverance therein, having in them the incorruptible and immortal seed of divine grace; see Psalm 92:12;

and our rafters of fir; which Pliny says (l) is the best and strongest wood for roofing and raftering: by these may be meant the ordinances of the Gospel, which are that to the churches as "rafters" are to a house, the means of supporting and strengthening it; so by the ordinances saints are supported in their spiritual state, and by them their spiritual strength is renewed; and these being said to be of "fir", which is a pleasant and lasting wood, may signify the delight that is had in ordinances, and the continuance of them. Some render the word by "cypress" (m); which is also of a pleasant smell (n), and very durable, never admits of worms, nor ever rots, nor is ever sensible of old age (o); and so may denote the pleasure that saints take in ordinances, and the long continuance of them, as of the present ones, which will remain until the second coming of Christ. Some think the "brutine" tree (p) is meant, which Pliny calls "bruta" (q); and is near in sound to the word here used, is much like the cypress, and of a sweet smell, like cedar; it grows beyond Pasitigris, on Mount Zagras. Some will have it to be the tree of paradise; and, so applied to ordinances, may signify the same as before. The word for "rafters" is elsewhere rendered "gutters" and "troughs" for water; and some (r) render it so here, and are so called from water running in them: and as the grace of God is often expressed by water, this is commonly conveyed in the use of ordinances; these are the canals in which it runs. Moreover the same word is translated "galleries", in Sol 7:5; which, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe, were buildings in high houses in which men walked from house to house, or from one end of the house to the other; and might be called by this name, from their droning along the sides of houses, and seem to be like our "balconies": now ordinances are the galleries or "walking places" (s), where Christ and his people walk and converse together.

(k) "domorum nostrarum", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, &c. "aedium nostrarum", Marckius. (l) Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 42. (m) Sept. "cypressina", V. L. Tigurine version; so David de Pomis, and others. (n) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 33. , Theocrit. Epigram. 4. v. 7. (o) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 33. 40, 49. (p) "E brutis", Junius & Tremellius, Ainsworth, Brightman, Marckius; "brutiua", Cocceius, Michaelis. (q) Nat. Hist. l. 19. c. 17. (r) "canales nostri"; so some in Vatablus, Tigurine version; "impluvium nostruim", Hiller. de Keri & Kethib, p. 84. (s) "Ambulachra nostra", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Marckius, Michaelis.

The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. Render, The beams of our houses are cedars, and our rafters are cypresses. The meaning is not that their houses are built of cedar, but that the cedar trees and fir trees form the roof over their heads as they seek shelter under them. Perhaps the plural houses may be significant. They have not one, but many palaces in the forest glades. The country maiden speaks as a country maiden whose couch was often in the green grass, and who had cedars and cypresses for walls and roof at her meetings with her lover.

our rafters] Heb. râchîtçnu. This word is not found elsewhere, and its meaning can only be conjectured. The context suggests some portion of the woodwork of the roof, hence the ‘rafters’ of the A.V. LXX, φατνώματα = laquearia, lacunaria, i.e. ‘panelled ceilings.’

of fir] are cypresses. The form of the Heb. word here is běrôthîm, which is supposed to be the North Palestinian pronunciation for the usual berôshîm. The Vulgate everywhere renders abies = pine, the LXX and Syriac give in many places ‘cypress.’ But the cedar and cypress were trees of Lebanon, and the most valued among them, and Solam, at the S.W. foot of Jebel-ed-Dahi (Oettli), was not very far from the forests of Lebanon. Probably therefore the cypress is meant.Solomon, while he was absent during the first scene, is now present. It is generally acknowledged that the words which follow were spoken by him:

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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