Song of Solomon 2:17
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.
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(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.

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.

Song of Solomon 2:17Shulamith now further relates, in a dramatic, lively manner, what she said to her beloved after she had saluted him in a song:

17 Till the day cools and the shadows flee away,

     Turn; make haste, my beloved,

     Like a gazelle or a young one of the hinds

     On the craggy mountains.

With the perf., עד שׁ (cf. אם עד, Genesis 24:33) signifies, till something is done; with the fut., till something will be done. Thus: till the evening comes - and, therefore, before it comes - may he do what she requires of him. Most interpreters explain סב, verte te, with the supplement ad me; according to which Jerome, Castell., and others translate by revertere. But Psalm 71:21 does not warrant this rendering; and if Shulamith has her beloved before her, then by סב she can only point him away from herself; the parall. Sol 8:14 has בּרח instead of סב, which consequently means, "turn thyself from here away." Rather we may suppose, as I explained in 1851, that she holds him in her embrace, as she says, and inseparable from him, will wander with him upon the mountains. But neither that ad me nor this mecum should have been here (cf. on the contrary Sol 8:14) unexpressed. We hold by what is written. Solomon surprises Shulamith, and invites her to enjoy with him the spring-time; not alone, because he is on a hunting expedition, and - as denoted by "catch us" (v. 15) - with a retinue of followers. She knows that the king has not now time to wander at leisure with her; and therefore she asks him to set forward his work for the day, and to make haste on the mountains till "the day cools and the shadows flee." Then she will expect him back; then in the evening she will spend the time with him as he promised her. The verb פּוּח, with the guttural letter Hheth and the labial Pe, signifies spirare, here of being able to be breathed, i.e., cool, like the expression ha' רוּח, Genesis 3:8 (where the guttural Hheth is connected with Resh). The shadows flee away, when they become longer and longer, as if on a flight, when they stretch out (Psalm 109:23; Psalm 102:12) and gradually disappear. Till that takes place - or, as we say, will be done - he shall hasten with the swiftness of a gazelle on the mountains, and that on the mountains of separation, i.e., the riven mountains, which thus present hindrances, but which he, the "swift as the gazelle" (vid., Sol 2:9), easily overcomes. Rightly, Bochart: montes scissionis, ita dicti propter, ῥωξημούς et χάσματα. Also, Luther's "Scheideberge" are "mountains with peaks, from one of which to the other one must spring." We must not here think of Bithron (2 Samuel 2:29), for that is a mountain ravine on the east of Jordan; nor of Bar-Cochba's ביתר (Kirschbau, Landau), because this mountain (whether it be sought for to the south of Jerusalem or to be north of Antipatris) ought properly to be named ביתתר (vid., Aruch). It is worthy of observation, that in an Assyrian list of the names of animals, along with ṣbi (gazelle) and apparu (the young of the gazelle or of the hind), the name bitru occurs, perhaps the name of the rupicapra. At the close of the song, the expression "mountain of spices" occurs instead of "mountain of separation," as here. There no more hindrances to be overcome lie in view, the rock-cliffs have become fragrant flowers. The request here made by Shulamith breathes self-denying humility, patient modesty, inward joy in the joy of her beloved. She will not claim him for herself till he has 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 new-born world of spring. The whole scene permits, yea, moves us to think of this, that the Lord already even now visits the church which loves Him, and reveals Himself to her; but that not till the evening of the world is His parousia to be expected.

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