Song of Solomon 2:17
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be you like a roe or a young hart on the mountains of Bether.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Until the day break.—Heb., breathe, i.e., becomes cool, as it does when the evening breeze sets in. The time indicated is therefore evening, “the breathing blushing hour” (Campbell). (Comp. Genesis 3:8, “The cool of the day”—margin, wind. This interpretation is also fixed by the mention of the flying, i.e., lengthening shadows. Comp. Virg. Ecl. i. 84: “Majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbræ;” and Tennyson, The Brook

“We turned our foreheads from the falling sun,

And followed our own shadows, thrice as long

As when they followed us.”)

Bether.—Marg., of division; LXX., of ravines or hollows, either as separating the lovers or as intersected by valleys. Gesenius compares Bethron (2Samuel 2:29).

Song of Solomon 2:17. Until the day-break — Until the morning of that blessed day of the general resurrection, when all the shadows, not only of ignorance, and sin, and calamity, but even of all ordinances, and outward administrations, shall cease. Turn, my beloved — Return to me. For although Christ had come to her, and she had gladly received him, yet he was gone again, as is here implied, and evidently appears from the following verse. Which sudden change is very agreeable to the state of God’s people in this world, where they are subject to frequent changes; be thou like a roe — In swiftness; make haste to help me; upon the mountains of Bether — A place in the land of promise, where it seems those creatures were in great abundance. 2:14-17 The church is Christ's dove; she returns to him, as her Noah. Christ is the Rock, in whom alone she can think herself safe, and find herself easy, as a dove in the hole of a rock, when struck at by the birds of prey. Christ calls her to come boldly to the throne of grace, having a great High Priest there, to tell what her request is. Speak freely, fear not a slight or a repulse. The voice of prayer is sweet and acceptable to God; those who are sanctified have the best comeliness. The first risings of sinful thoughts and desires, the beginnings of trifling pursuits which waste the time, trifling visits, small departures from truth, whatever would admit some conformity to the world; all these, and many more, are little foxes which must be removed. This is a charge to believers to mortify their sinful appetites and passions, which are as little foxes, that destroy their graces and comforts, and crush good beginnings. Whatever we find a hinderance to us in that which is good, we must put away. He feedeth among the lilies; this shows Christ's gracious presence among believers. He is kind to all his people. It becomes them to believe this, when under desertion and absence, and so to ward off temptations. The shadows of the Jewish dispensation were dispelled by the dawning of the gospel day. And a day of comfort will come after a night of desertion. Come over the mountains of Bether, the mountains that divide, looking forward to that day of light and love. Christ will come over every separating mountain to take us home to himself.Until the day break - Or, rather, until the day breathe, i. e., until the fresh evening breeze spring up in what is called Genesis 3:8 "the cool" or breathing time of the day.

And the shadows flee - i. e., Lengthen out, and finally lose their outlines with the sinking and departure of the sun (compare Jeremiah 6:4). As the visit of the beloved is most naturally conceived of as taking place in the early morning, and the bride is evidently dismissing him until a later time of day, it seems almost certain that this interpretation is the correct one which makes that time to be evening after sunset. The phrase recurs in Sol 4:6.

Mountains of Bether - If a definite locality, identical with Bithron, a hilly district on the east side of the Jordan valley 2 Samuel 2:29, not far from Mahanaim (Sol 6:13 margin). If used in a symbolic sense, mountains of "separation," dividing for a time the beloved from the bride. This interpretation seems to be the better, though the local reference need not be abandoned.

17. Night—is the image of the present world (Ro 13:12). "Behold men as if dwelling in subterranean cavern" [Plato, Republic, 7.1].

Until—that is, "Before that," &c.

break—rather, "breathe"; referring to the refreshing breeze of dawn in the East; or to the air of life, which distinguishes morning from the death-like stillness of night. Maurer takes this verse of the approach of night, when the breeze arises after the heat of day (compare Ge 3:8, Margin, with Ge 18:1), and the "shadows" are lost in night (Ps 102:11); thus our life will be the day; death, the night (Joh 9:4). The English Version better accords with (So 3:1). "By night" (Ro 13:12).

turn—to me.

Bether—Mountains of Bithron, separated from the rest of Israel by the Jordan (2Sa 2:29), not far from Bethabara, where John baptized and Jesus was first manifested. Rather, as Margin, "of divisions," and Septuagint, mountains intersected with deep gaps, hard to pass over, separating the bride and Jesus Christ. In So 8:14 the mountains are of spices, on which the roe feeds, not of separation; for at His first coming He had to overpass the gulf made by sin between Him and us (Zec 4:6, 7); in His second, He will only have to come down from the fragrant hill above to take home His prepared bride. Historically, in the ministry of John the Baptist, Christ's call to the bride was not, as later (So 4:8), "Come with me," but "Come away," namely, to meet Me (So 2:2, 10, 13). Sitting in darkness (Mt 4:16), she "waited" and "looked" eagerly for Him, the "great light" (Lu 1:79; 2:25, 38); at His rising, the shadows of the law (Col 2:16, 17; Heb 10:1) were to "flee away." So we wait for the second coming, when means of grace, so precious now, shall be superseded by the Sun of righteousness (1Co 13:10, 12; Re 21:22, 23). The Word is our light until then (2Pe 1:19).

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away; until the morning of that great and blessed day of the general resurrection and judgment, when all the shadows, not only of ignorance, and sin, and calamity, but even of all ordinances and outward administrations, shall cease, and make way for the immediate enjoyment of my Beloved. And this clause may be joined either,

1. With the foregoing words; and so the sense is, Christ doth and will abide with his church as long as this life and world lasts; which agrees with Christ’s promises of being with his church to the end of the world, Matthew 28:20. But neither that nor this place imply that Christ will then forsake his people, but only secures God’s people against that which was the chief, if not only, matter of their fear, to wit, lest Christ should leave them, and cast them off in this life, which, if he did not, they were assured that hereafter they should be

ever with the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. For it is well known, and hath been oft observed already, that the word until doth not always exclude the time to come. Or,

2. With the following words,

Turn thou, my Beloved, until the day break, & c.

Turn; return to me. For although Christ had come to her, and she had gladly received and embraced him, yet he was gone again, as is here implied, and evidently appears from the next following verse; which sudden change is very agreeable both to the nature and method of such dramatical writings and amatorious transactions, and to the state of God’s people in this world, where they are subject to frequent changes and vicissitudes of Christ’s withdrawing from them, and returning to them again.

Like a roe or a young hart, in swiftness; make haste to help me, for I am ready to faint.

Bether; a place in the Land of Promise, possibly the same called Bithron, 2 Samuel 2:29, where it seems those creatures were in great abundance, or where they were commonly hunted, and so being pursued, they made all possible haste to escape. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away,.... Which may be connected with Sol 2:16; either with the former part, "my beloved is mine", &c. Sol 2:16; and then the sense is, as long as night and day continue, and God's covenant with both stands sure; so long union to Christ, and covenant interest in him, will abide: or with the latter part, "he feedeth among the lilies until", &c. even until his second coming: or with the next clause in this verse,

turn, my beloved; and so is a prayer for Christ's speedy coming to her, and continued presence with her, until the day should break: which may be understood either of the Gospel day made by the rising of Christ, the sun of righteousness, at his first coming in the flesh; when the shadows of the ceremonial law disappeared, Christ, the body and substance of them, being come, and the darkness of the Gentile world was scattered, through the light of the Gospel being sent into it: the words may be rendered, "until the day breathe", or "blow" (b); and naturalists observe (c), that, upon the sun's rising, an air or wind has been excited, and which ceases before the middle of the day, and never lasts so long as that; and on Christ's, the sun of righteousness, arising with healing in his wings, some cool, gentle, and refreshing breezes of divine grace and consolation were raised, which were very desirable and grateful: or this may be understood of Christ's second coming; which will make the great day of the Lord, so often spoken of in Scripture: and which suits as well with the Hebrew text, and the philosophy of it, as the former; for, as the same naturalists (d) observe, the wind often blows fresh, and fine breezes of air spring up at the setting as well as at the rising of the sun; see Genesis 3:8; and may very well be applied to Christ's second coming, at the evening of the world; which will be a time of refreshing to the saints, and very desirable by them; and though it will be an evening to the world, which will then come to an end, with them there will be no more night of darkness, desertion, affliction, and persecution; the shadows of ignorance, infidelity, doubts, and fears, will be dispersed, and there will be one pure, clear, unbeclouded, and everlasting day; and till then the church prays, as follows:

turn, my beloved; that is, to her; who seemed to be ready to depart from her, or was gone; and therefore she desires he would turn again, and continue with her, until the time was come before mentioned: or, "turn about" (e); surround me with thy favour and lovingkindness, and secure me from all enemies, until the glorious and wished for day comes, when I shall be out of fear and danger; or, "embrace me" (f); as in Sol 2:6; during the present dispensation, which was as a night in comparison of the everlasting day;

and be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether; the same with Bethel, according to Adrichomius (g); where were mountains, woody, set with trees, full of grass and aromatic plants; and so may be the same with the mountains of spices, Sol 8:14; where the Ethiopic version has Bethel; and so that and the Septuagint version, in an addition to Sol 2:9; here; see 2 Kings 2:23; unless Bithron is meant, 2 Samuel 2:29; a place in Gilead, beyond Jordan, so called, because it was parted from Judea by the river Jordan: and the words are by some rendered, "the mountains of division or separation" (h); which, if referred to Christ's first coming, may regard the ceremonial law, the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, broke down by Christ, and the two people divided by it, which were reconciled by him; if to his spiritual coming, the same things may be intended by them as on Sol 2:9; but if to his second coming, the spacious heavens may be meant, in which Christ will appear, and which now interpose and separate from his bodily presence; and therefore the church importunately desires his coming with speed and swiftness, like a roe or a young hart, and be seen in them; see Revelation 22:10.

(b) , Sept. "donec, vel dum spiret", Mercerus, Cocceius; "aspirat", Marckius; "spiraverit", Michaelis. (c) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 47. Senecae Nat. Quaest. l. 5. c. 8. (d) lbid. Aristot. Problem. s. 25. c. 4. "Adspirant aurae in noctem", Virgil. Aeneid. 7. v. 8. (e) "circui", Montanus, Sanctius; "circumito"; some in Michaelis. (f) "Complectere", Marckius. (g) Theatrum Terrae Sanctae, p. 16. (h) "in montibus divisionis", Vatablus, Piscator; "scissionis", Cocceius; "dissectionis", Marckius; "sectionis vel separationis", Michaelis.

Until the day shall break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a {k} roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.

(k) The church desires Christ to be most ready to help her in all dangers.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. Alarmed for his safety, she now exhorts her lover to depart till the evening when he might return with greater safety.

Until the day break] R.V. Until the day be cool, lit. until the day blow, i.e. until the evening wind rises; cp. Genesis 3:8, where ‘at the wind of the day’ is properly rendered by the A.V. “in the cool of the day,” i.e. when the sun has lost its power. ‘When the shadows flee away,’ therefore, does not denote dispersion of the shades of night by the rising sun, but the disappearance of the shadows of rocks, trees, &c., when the sun sets.

be thou like, &c.] make thyself like a gazelle or a young hart on the cleft-riven mountains, i.e. flee swiftly away. The Heb. for the last clause is al hârç bether. There are three possible ways of explaining the word bether. (1) It may be a proper name, as the A.V. takes it to be, following some of the Greek versions (cp. Hastings’ Bible Dict.). (2) It may mean a division or cleft. The analogy of the word bithrôn, 2 Samuel 2:29, which appears to denote a mountain ravine, as the words there are, “they went through all the bithron” or ravine, would support this. It may be that ‘the ravine’ had become a proper name, just as ‘the valley’ has become in some places; but it probably was originally a mere descriptive name. This is the view of the LXX, and if that analogy holds hârç bether would mean cleft-riven mountains, as we have translated it. In the only other passages where bether occurs, Genesis 15:10, Jeremiah 34:18-19, it means the part of an animal cut in two at the making of a covenant. Reasoning from this, Ewald and others prefer to render mountains of separation, i.e. mountains that separate; but if the view of the situation which we have taken be correct, the Shulammite is not separated from her lover by mountains, for he is at her window. (3) Some authorities take bether to be a contraction of μαλάβαθρον, Lat. malabathron, and hold it to be some aromatic plant. But there is a difficulty in finding out what malabathron was. If, as some maintain, it is the equivalent of the Sanscrit tamalapatra and means the betel plant, then our phrase would mean ‘hills planted with betel.’ But the betel palm which bears the betel nut grows only in S. India, Ceylon, Siam, the Malay Archipelago, and the Philippine Islands, and nothing is known of either it or the betel vine (the plant in the leaves of which the betel nut is eaten) having been grown in Palestine. Moreover, the betel nut and leaf are not used for their perfume, as most who take bether as betel seem to suppose. They are not aromatic to any great extent, and they are cultivated and collected only for use as a masticatory (Enc. Brit. III. 616). There would appear, however, to have been another malabathron (cp. Field’s Hexapla, II. 416, quotations, and Horace, Carm. II. 8 with Macleane’s note), from which unguents were made. This was specially associated by the Romans with Syria, but it may have been so only because it was from traders of that country they obtained it. But if the plant grew in Syria, then mountains of bether would be parallel to mountains of spices (ch. Song of Solomon 8:4). Some would actually read here hârç besâmîm. Cheyne on the other hand would read hârç běrôthîm, i.e. ‘mountains of cypresses.’Verse 17. - Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether. This is generally supposed to be the voice of the maiden addressing her suitor, and bidding him return in the evening, when the day cools, and when the lengthening shadows fall into night. Some have seen in such words a clear indication of a clandestine interview, and would find in them a confirmation of their hypothesis that the poem is founded on a romantic story of Solomon's attempt to draw a shepherdess from her shepherd. But there is no necessity to disturb the flow of the bride's loving recollections by such a fancy. She is recalling the visit of her lover. How, at first, she declined his invitation to go forth with him to the vineyards, but with professions of love appealed to him to return to the mountains, and in the evening come once more and rejoice in her love. But the words may be rendered, "during the whole day, and until the evening comes, turn thyself to me," which is the view taken by some critics. The language may be general; that is, "Turn, and I will follow." "The mountains of Bether" are the rugged mountains; Bether, from a root "to divide," "to cut," i.e. divided by ravines; or the word may be the abstract for the concrete - "the mountains of separation" i.e. the mountains which separate. LXX., ὄρη τῶν κοιλωματῶν, "decussated mountains." The Syriac and Theodotion take the word as for beshamim, i.e. offerings of incense (θυμιαματῶν). There is no such geographical name known, though there is Bithron, east of Jordan, near Mahauaim (2 Samuel 2:29). The Chaldee, Ibn-Ezra, Rashi, and many others render it "separation" (cf. Luther's scheideberge). Bochart says, "Montes scissionis ita dicti propter ῤωχμοῦς et χασματὰ." The meaning has been thus set forth: "The request of Shulamith that he should return to the mountains breathes self-denying humility, patient modesty, inward joy in the joy of her beloved. She will not claim him for herself till he have accomplished his work. But when he associates with her in the evening, as with the Emmaus disciples, she will rejoice if he becomes her guide through the newborn world of spring. Perhaps we may say the Parousia ot the Lord is here referred to in the evening of the world" (cf. Luke 24.). On the whole, it seems most in harmony with the context to take the words as preparing us for what follows - the account of the maiden's distress when she woke up and found not her beloved. We must not expect to be able to explain the language as though it were a clear historical composition, relating facts and incidents. The real line of thought is the underlying connection of spiritual meaning. There is a separation of the lovers. The soul wakes up to feel that its object of delight is gone. Then it complains.



11 For, lo! the winter is past,

     The rain is over, is gone.

12 The flowers appear in the land;

     The time of song has come,

     And the voice of the turtle makes itself heard in our land.

13 The fig-tree spices her green figs,

     And the vines stand in bloom, they diffuse fragrance; -

     Rise up, my love, my fair one, and go forth!

The winter is called סתו, perhaps from a verb סתה (of the same root as סתר, סתם, without any example, since סוּת, Genesis 49:11, is certainly not derived from a verb סוּת), to conceal, to veil, as the time of being overcast with clouds, for in the East winter is the rainy season; (Arab.) shataā is also used in the sense of rain itself (vid., D. M. Zeitsch. xx. 618); and in the present day in Jerusalem, in the language of the people, no other name is used for rain but shataā (not metar). The word סתיו, which the Kerı̂ substitutes, only means that one must not read סתו, but סתו, with long a; in the same way עניו, humble, from ענה, to be bowed down, and שׂליו, a quail, from שׂלה, to be fat, are formed and written. Rain is here, however, especially mentioned: it is called gěshěm, from gāshǎm, to be thick, massy (cf. revīvīm, of density). With עבר, to pass by, there is interchanged חלף, which, like (Arab.) khalaf, means properly to press on, and then generally to move to another place, and thus to remove from the place hitherto occupied. In לו הלך, with the dat. ethicus, which throws back the action on the subject, the winter rain is thought of as a person who has passed by. נצּן, with the noun-ending n, is the same as ניסן, and signifies the flower, as the latter the flower-month, floral; in the use of the word, נצּן is related to נץ and נצּה, probably as little flower is to flower. In hǎzzāmīr the idea of the song of birds (Arab. gharad) appears, and this is not to be given up. The lxx, Aquila, Symm., Targ., Jerome, and the Venet. translate tempus putationis: the time of the pruning of vines, which indeed corresponds to the usus loq. (cf. זמר, to prune the vine, and מזמרה, a pruning-knife), and to similar names, such as אסיף ingathering of fruit, but supplies no reason for her being invited out into the open fields, and is on this account improbable, because the poet further on speaks for the first time of vines. זמר (זמּר) is an onomatopoeia, which for the most part denotes song and music; why should זמיר thus not be able to denote singing, like זמרה, - but not, at least not in this passage, the singing of men (Hengst.), for they are not silent in winter; but the singing of birds, which is truly a sign of the spring, and as a characteristic feature, is added

(Note: It is true that besides in this passage zāmǎr, of the singing of birds, is not demonstrable, the Arab. zamar is only used of the shrill cry of the ostrich, and particularly the female ostrich.)

to this lovely picture of spring? Thus there is also suitably added the mention of the turtle-dove, which is a bird of passage (vid., Jeremiah 8:7), and therefore a messenger of spring. נשׁמע is 3rd:pret.: it makes itself heard.

The description of spring is finished by a reference to the fig-tree and the vine, the standing attributes of a prosperous and peaceful homestead, 1 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 18:31. פּג (from פּנג, and thus named, not from their hardness, but their delicacy) are the little fruits of the fig-tree which now, when the harvest-rains are over, and the spring commences with the equinox of Nisan, already begin to assume a red colour; the verb חנט does not mean "to grow into a bulb," as Bttch. imagines; it has only the two meanings, condire (condiri, post-bibl. syn. of בּשׁל) and rubescere. From its colour, wheat has the name חטּה equals חנטה; and here also the idea of colour has the preference, for becoming fragrant does not occur in spring-in the history of the cursing of the fig-tree at the time of the Passover, Mark (Mark 11:13) says, "for the time of figs was not yet." In fig-trees, by this time the green of the fruit-formation changes its colour, and the vines are סמדר, blossom, i.e., are in a state of bloom (lxx κυπρίζουσαι; cf. Sol 7:13, κυπρισμός) - it is a clause such as Exodus 9:31, and to which "they diffuse fragrance" (Sol 2:13) is parallel. This word סמדר is usually regarded as a compound word, consisting of סם, scent, and סמדר, brightness equals blossom (vid., Gesen. Thes.); it is undeniable that there are such compound formations, e.g., שׁלאנן, from שׁלה and שׁאן; חלּמישׁ, from (Arab.) ḥams, to be hard, and hals, to be dark-brown.

(Note: In like manner as (Arab.) karbsh, corrugare, is formed of karb, to string, and karsh, to wrinkle, combined; and another extension of karsh is kurnash, wrinkles, and mukarnash, wrinkled. "One day," said Wetstein to me, "I asked an Arab the origin of the word karnasa, to wrinkle, and he replied that it was derived from a sheep's stomach that had lain over night, i.e., the stomach of a slaughtered sheep that had lain over night, by which its smooth surface shrinks together and becomes wrinkled. In fact, we say of a wrinkled countenance that it is mathal alkarash albayt." With right Wetstein gathers from this curious fact how difficult it is to ascertain by purely etymological considerations the view which guided the Semites in this or that designation. Samdor is also a strange word; on the one side it is connected with sadr, of the veiling of the eyes, as the effect of terror; and on the other with samd, of stretching oneself straight out. E. Meier takes סמדר as the name of the vine-blossom, as changed from סמסר, bristling. Just as unlikely as that סמד is cogn. to חמד, Jesurun, p. 221.)

But the traditional reading סמדר (not סמדר) is unfavourable to this view; the middle ā accordingly, as in צלצל, presents itself as an ante-tone vowel (Ewald, 154a), and the stem-word appears as a quadril. which may be the expansion of סדּר, to range, put in order in the sense of placing asunder, unfolding. Symm. renders the word by οἰνάνθη, and the Talm. idiom shows that not only the green five-leaved blossoms of the vine were so named, but also the fruit-buds and the first shoots of the grapes. Here, as the words "they diffuse fragrance" (as at 7:14 of the mandrakes) show, the vine-blossom is meant which fills the vineyard with an incomparably delicate fragrance. At the close of the invitation to enjoy the spring, the call "Rise up," etc., with which it began, is repeated. The Chethı̂b לכי, if not an error in writing, justly set aside by the Kerı̂, is to be read לכי (cf. Syr. bechi, in thee, levotechi, to thee, but with occult i) - a North Palestinism for לך, like 2 Kings 4:2, where the Kerı̂ has substituted the usual form (vid., under Psalm 103 introd.) for this very dialectic form, which is there undoubtedly original.

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