Song of Solomon 4:1
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
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(1) Locks.—Heb., tsammah, only besides in Song of Solomon 6:7 and Isaiah 47:2. The derivation, and the existence of cognate Arabic words, leave no doubt that it means veil. So, in Isaiah 47:2, the LXX. understood it, though here they have given the strange and meaningless translation, “out of thy silence,” which the Vulg. has still further mystified into “from that which lies hid within,” a rendering which has been a fruitful source of moral allusion to the more hidden beauties of the soul. If the veil was worn in ancient times in Palestine, as by Eastern ladies now, covering the lower part of the face, but allowing the eyes to be seen, the description is very appropriate.

That appear.—Marg., that eat of; Heb., galash: only here and in the corresponding passage, Song of Solomon 6:5. The word has had a variety of most contradictory interpretations. The Authorised Version follows the LXX., and has the support of Ewald’s great authority. The marginal eat of rests only on the existence of cognates in Syriac and Arabic = obtained, collected (see Lee’s Heb. Dict.), which would rather point to such a rendering as, “which they obtain from mount Gilead.” The Vulg., quœ ascenderunt, is followed by some commentators, though the bulk give the exactly opposite: “come down,” or “run down,” or “hang down from.” In such a difficulty only the context can decide, and any translation suggesting the dark hair flowing in masses round the shoulders is allowable. At the same time, from a tendency of the author to accumulate, and sometimes to confuse, his figures (Song of Solomon 4:12; Song of Solomon 4:15, Song of Solomon 5:12-13), probably here it is the long, soft, delicate, generally black hair of the Oriental goat which is compared to that of the lady, as well as the general appearance presented by the whole flock suspended on the mountain side.

Song of Solomon 4:1. Behold — These words are evidently spoken by the bridegroom; thou art fair — Being clothed with my righteousness, and adorned with all the graces of my Spirit. Behold, thou art fair — He repeats it both to confirm his assertion, and to show the fervency of his affection. Thou hast dove’s eyes — Whereas the beauty of the spouse is here described in her several parts, we need not labour much about the application of each particular to some distinct grace of the church, it being the chief design of the description to show that completeness and absolute perfection which the church hath in part received, and shall more fully receive in the future life. Thy hair is as a flock of goats — That is, as the hair of a flock of goats, which in these parts was of extraordinary length, softness, and comeliness; that appear from mount Gilead — A very fruitful place, fit for breeding all sorts of cattle, and especially of goats, because it was a hilly and woody country.

4:1-7 If each of these comparisons has a meaning applicable to the graces of the church, or of the faithful Christian, they are not clearly known; and great mistakes are made by fanciful guesses. The mountain of myrrh appears to mean the mountain Moriah, on which the temple was built, where the incense was burned, and the people worshipped the Lord. This was his residence till the shadows of the law given to Moses were dispersed by the breaking of the gospel day, and the rising of the Sun of righteousness. And though, in respect of his human nature, Christ is absent from his church on earth, and will continue to be so till the heavenly day break, yet he is spiritually present in his ordinances, and with his people. How fair and comely are believers, when justified in Christ's righteousness, and adorned with spiritual graces! when their thoughts, words, and deeds, though imperfect, are pure, manifesting a heart nourished by the gospel!Thou hast doves' eyes ... - Thine eyes are doves behind thy veil. So also in Sol 4:3; Sol 6:7; Isaiah 47:2, "veil" is better than "locks."

That appear from ... - Or, "that couch upon Mount Gilead." The point of comparison seems to be the multitudinousness of the flocks seen browsing on the verdant slopes of the rich pasture-lands Numbers 32:1; Micah 7:14.


So 4:1-16.

1. Contrast with the bride's state by nature (Isa 1:6) her state by grace (So 4:1-7), "perfect through His comeliness put upon her" (Eze 16:14; Joh 15:3). The praise of Jesus Christ, unlike that of the world, hurts not, but edifies; as His, not ours, is the glory (Joh 5:44; Re 4:10, 11). Seven features of beauty are specified (So 4:1-5) ("lips" and "speech" are but one feature, So 4:3), the number for perfection. To each of these is attached a comparison from nature: the resemblances consist not so much in outward likeness, as in the combined sensations of delight produced by contemplating these natural objects.

doves'—the large melting eye of the Syrian dove appears especially beautiful amid the foliage of its native groves: so the bride's "eyes within her locks" (Lu 7:44). Maurer for "locks," has "veil"; but locks suit the connection better: so the Hebrew is translated (Isa 47:2). The dove was the only bird counted "clean" for sacrifice. Once the heart was "the cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Grace makes the change.

eyes—(Mt 6:22; Eph 1:18; contrast Mt 5:28; Eph 4:18; 1Jo 2:16). Chaste and guileless ("harmless," Mt 10:16, Margin; Joh 1:47). John the Baptist, historically, was the "turtledove" (So 2:12), with eye directed to the coming Bridegroom: his Nazarite unshorn hair answers to "locks" (Joh 1:29, 36).

hair … goats—The hair of goats in the East is fine like silk. As long hair is her glory, and marks her subjection to man (1Co 11:6-15), so the Nazarite's hair marked his subjection and separation unto God. (Compare Jud 16:17, with 2Co 6:17; Tit 2:14; 1Pe 2:9). Jesus Christ cares for the minutest concerns of His saints (Mt 10:30).

appear from—literally, "that lie down from"; lying along the hillside, they seem to hang from it: a picture of the bride's hanging tresses.

Gilead—beyond Jordan: there stood "the heap of witness" (Ge 31:48).Christ commendeth his church for her beauty, Song of Solomon 4:1-7. He calleth her to go with him, Song of Solomon 4:8, manifesting his love and affection for her, Song of Solomon 4:9. A further commendation of her, Song of Solomon 4:10-15. She prayeth for the effectual operation of his Holy Spirit on her to make her fruitful, Song of Solomon 4:16.

These and the following words are evidently spoken by the Bridegroom to and concerning his spouse.

Thou art fair, not in thyself, but by my beauty, being clothed with my righteousness, and adorned with all the graces of my Spirit, which I acknowledge to be in thee.

Thou art fair; he repeats it, both to confirm the truth of his assertion, and to show the sincerity and fervency of his affection to her.

Thou hast dove’s eyes; thou art harmless, chaste, &c., as appears by thine eyes, which commonly discover the temper of the mind or person. See more of this phrase Song of Solomon 1:15. And whereas the beauty of the spouse is here described in her several parts, we need not labour much about the application of each particular to some distinct member or grace of the church, this being the chief design of this description of a bride which is beautiful in all points, to show that completeness and absolute perfection which the church hath in part received, and shall more fully receive from Christ in the future life. Yet because the church is a body, consisting of divers members, and enriched with variety of gifts and graces, I know no reason but the several parts of this description may have a more special regard to one or other of them. And so her eyes may here note, either,

1. Her teachers, who are instead of eyes to her, as the phrase is, Numbers 10:31, whence they are called seers and guides, &c. Or,

2. The disposition of her mind or heart, which is compared to the eye, Matthew 6:22,23, and is oft discerned in the eye.

Within thy locks; which being decently composed, make the eyes appear more amiable: withal this intimates the modesty of her looks; her eyes are not wanton, and wandering, or lofty, but sober, and humble, and confined within their proper bounds, looking directly upon her husband, not looking asquint upon other lovers, nor minding other Gods or Christs. If the eyes signify teachers, the locks may note the people assembled together to hear their teachers, to whom they are a great ornament when they thrive by his teaching.

Thy hair; the hair of thine head, which is a great ornament to the female sex, 1 Corinthians 11:15. This hair may signify either,

1. The inward thoughts and meditations; or rather,

2. The outward conversation and visible fruits of holiness, which do greatly adorn the professors and profession of religion, as hair doth the head, as is implied, 1 Timothy 2:9,10 1 Peter 3:3-5.

As a flock of goats; which are comely and orderly in going, Proverbs 30:29,31, and afford a goodly prospect. Or rather, as the hair (which word is here to be understood, as appears both from the comparison itself, and from divers places where goats are put for goats’ hair, as it is in the Hebrew text, Exodus 25:4 26:7 35:26) of a flock of goats, which in these parts was of extraordinary length, and thickness, and softness, and comeliness, and much more like to the hair of a man or woman than the hair of our goats is, as is evident both from Scripture, as Genesis 27:16 1 Samuel 19:13; and from the testimony of other ancient writers, as Apulcius, Martial, &c.

That appear from Mount Gilead; that feeding there, or coming down thence, or going up thither, show themselves evidently to those who stand below it, or near them. Or, as it is rendered in our margin, and by others, that eat, or graze of, or upon. He mentions it as a very fruitful place, and fit for the breeding of all sorts of cattle, as is manifest from Numbers 32:1 Jer 1 19 Mic 7:14; and especially of goats, partly because it was a hilly and woody, country, and partly because it abounded with resinous, and oily, and gummy trees, as appears from Genesis 37:25 Jeremiah 8:22 46:11, wherewith the goats are much delighted, as Dioscorides observes. And some affirm that the hair of these goats was commonly of a yellow colour, as may seem probable from 1 Samuel 19:13,16, compared with 1 Samuel 16:12, and from Song of Solomon 7:5; which also was in ancient times esteemed a beauty in men or women, as the learned know.

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair,.... The same as in Sol 1:15; here repeated by Christ, to introduce the following commendation; to express the greatness of his love to his church; and show that he had the same opinion of her, and esteem for her, notwithstanding what had passed between that time and this;

thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks; the same comparison; see Gill on Sol 1:15; only with this difference, here her eyes are said to be "within her locks": which, whether understood of the ministers of the Gospel; or of the eyes of the understanding, particularly of, the eye of faith, as has been observed on the above place; do not seem so much to design the imperfection of the sight of the one or of the other, in the present state, as eyes within or under locks and in some measure covered with them, hinder the sight of them; as the modesty of either of them; locks being decently tied up, as the word signifies (i), is a sign thereof, as the contrary is a sign of boldness and wantonness. Doves' eyes themselves are expressive of modesty and humility, and, this phrase added to them, increases the idea; such ministers, who have the largest gifts, greatest grace, light, and knowledge, are the most humble, witness the Apostle Paul; and this phrase expresses the beauty of them, not only in the eyes of Christ, but in the eyes of those to whom they publish the good tidings of salvation: and so it may denote what an exceeding modest grace faith is, which receives all from Christ, and gives him all the glory, and takes none to itself; and what a beauty there is in it, insomuch that Christ is ravished with it, Sol 4:9; and seems rather to be the sense here;

thy hair is as a flock of goats; like the hair of goats, so Ben Melech. Hair adds much to the comeliness of persons, and is therefore frequently mentioned, both with respect to the bride and bridegroom, in this song, Sol 5:1; and so in all poems of this kind (k); and one part of the comeliness of women lies in their hair;

"let a woman, says Apuleius (l), be adorned with ever such fine garments, and decked with gold and jewels, yet, without this ornament, she will not be pleasing; no, not Verus herself.''

The women (m) in Homer, are described by their beautiful hair; nor is it unusual to compare the hair of women, and represent it as superior to a fleece of the choicest flock (n). And here the church's hair is said to be like the hair of goats, for that is the sense of the expression; and which is thought to be most like to human hair, 1 Samuel 19:13; and it is compared to that, not so much for its length and sleekness, as for its colour, being yellowish; which, with women formerly, was in esteem, and reckoned graceful (o); this being the colour of the hair of some of the greatest beauties, as Helena, Philoxena, and others, whose hair was flaxen and yellow; hence great care was taken to make it look so, even as yellow as gold (p): the Jewish women used to have their perukes, or false hair, of goats' hair, and still have in some places to this day (q); and it should seem the Roman women also had, to which the poet (r) refers. And the church's hair here is said to be like the hair of a flock of goats,

that appear from Mount Gilead; or rather "on Mount Gilead", as Noldius: Gilead was a mountain in the land of Israel, beyond Jordan, famous for pasturage for cattle, where flocks of goats were fed, as was usual on mountains (s); and, being well fed, their hair was long, smooth, neat, and glistering; and so to spectators, at a distance, looked very beautiful and lovely; especially in the morning at sun rising, and, glancing on them with its bright and glittering rays, were delightful. So R. Jonah, from the use of the word in the Arabic language, which signifies the morning, interprets it, which "rise early in the morning"; and which, as Schultens (t) observes, some render,

"leading to water early in the morning;''

the Vulgate Latin version is, "that ascend from Mount Gilead", from a lower to a higher part of it; which is approved of by Bochart (u). Now the hair of the church may be interpreted either of believers, the several members of the church of Christ; the hairs of the head are numerous, grow upon the head, and have their nourishment from it; are weak in themselves, but depend upon the head, and are an ornament to it: so the saints, though few in comparison of the world, yet by themselves are a great number, which no man can number; these grow upon Christ, the Head of the church, and receive their nourishment from him; and, though weak in themselves, have strength from him, and have their dependence on him; and are an ornament and crown of glory to him; and who are cared for and numbered by him, so that no one can be lost; see Ezekiel 5:1. Or rather it may be interpreted of the outward conversation of the saints; hair is visible, is a covering, and an ornament, when taken care of, and managed aright, and has its dependence and is influenced by the head: the good conversation of the church and its members is visible to all, as the hair of the head, and as a flock of goats on Mount Gilead; and is a covering, though not from divine justice, yet from the reproaches of men; is ornamental to believers, and to the doctrine they profess; especially when their conversation is ordered aright, according to the weird of God, and is influenced by grace, communicated from Christ, the Head.

(i) "intra ligamina tua", some in Vatablus; "vittam suam", Cocceius; "constrictam comam tuam", Michaelis, so Jarchi. Vid. Horat. Carmin. l. 2. Ode 11. v. 23, 24. (k) Vid. Barthii Animadv. ad Claudian. Nupt. Honor. Ode 1. v. 12. (l) Metamorph. l. 2.((m) Juno, Iliad. 10. v. 5. Diana, Odyss. 20. v. 80. Minerva, Iliad. 6. v. 92. Latona, Iliad. 1. v. 36. & 19. v. 413. Circe, Odyss. 10. v. 136, 220, 310. Calypso, Odyss. 5. v. 30. Helena, Iliad. 3. v. 329. & passim; Thetis, Iliad. 18. v. 407. & 20. v. 207. Ceres, Odyss. 5. v. 125. Nymphs and others, Odyss. 6. v. 222, 238. & 12. v. 132. & 19. v. 542. So Venus is described by Claudian. de Nupt. Honor. v. 99. "Casariem tunc forte Venus subnixa corusco fingebat solio". (n) "Quae crine vincit Boetici gregis vellus", Martial. l. 5. Ephesians 38. (o) "Nondum illi flavum", &c. Virgil. Aeneid. 4. prope finem. Vid. Horat. Carmin. l. 1. Ode 5. v. 4. Martial. Epigr. l. 5. Ephesians 65. (p) "Aurea Caesaries", Virgil. Aeneid. 8. v. 659. Vid. Barthii Animadv. ad Claudian. de Rapt. Proserp. l. 3. v. 86. (q) Vid. Braunium de Vest. Sacerdot. l. 1. c. 9. p. 201. (r) "Hoedina tibi pelle", &c. Martial. Epigr. l. 12. Ephesians 38. (s) Theocrit. Idyll. 3. v. 1, 2.((t) Animadv. in loc. (u) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 5. col. 628.

Behold, thou art {a} fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a {b} flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

(a) Because Christ delights in his Church, he commends all that is in her.

(b) He has respect for the multitude of the faithful, which are many in number.

1. my love] my friend.

thou hast doves’ eyes] thine eyes are (as) doves. Cp. Song of Solomon 1:15.

within thy locks] from behind thy veil. The translation locks is that of the Jewish commentators, Kimchi and Rashi. The burqu‘ or face-veil of a lady is thus described in Lane’s Modern Egyptians, vol. 1. p. 57. It is a long strip of white muslin, concealing the whole of the face except the eyes, and reaching nearly to the feet. It is suspended at the top by a narrow band, which passes up the forehead, and which is sewed, as are also the two upper corners of the veil, to a band which is tied round the head. Lane remarks that though worn for the purpose of disguising whatever is attractive in the wearer, it fails in accomplishing its main purpose, displaying the eyes, which are almost always beautiful, making them to appear still more so by concealing the other features which are seldom of equal beauty. But as it was not the custom that Hebrew women should be secluded, as is now the custom in Syria, the veil must have been used as part of full dress. This would account for its being worn in the house as it appears to be here.

thy hair is as a flock of goats] i.e. each braid in its glossy blackness is like a separate goat of the herd. The usual colour of goats was black.

that appear from mount Gilead] Literally, that recline from mount Gilead. The picture the words suggest is that of a herd of goats reclining on the slopes of mount Gilead, and raising their heads when disturbed. This gives a picture of rows of goats reclining on an undulating slope, and this latter is the point of comparison. For, if the Heb. gâleshû is connected with the Arabic galasa, as seems likely, it means ‘to sit up after lying down.’ It may be doubted however whether so much can be legitimately put by pregnant construction into the from. Budde connects the word with the movement of the herds, and refers to the late Heb. gâlash, which means ‘to boil up,’ and is used of water. Levy also, sub voce, translates this passage, “which go by in waves”; F. Delitzsch’s “swarm forth from,” quoted in the Variorum Bible, is practically the same. Budde says mount Gilead is the S. portion of the range called now the Belqa, which is mostly pasture land. It lies within view of Judah and Jerusalem.

Chap. Song of Solomon 4:1-7. The Royal Suitor

King Solomon is here the speaker, and in these verses he presses his suit anew by praise of the Shulammite’s beauty. The whole song is evidently modelled, as several of the succeeding songs are, on the wasf or description of the bride, which is so prominent a thing at marriage festivals in Syria to this day. To have established this is Wetzstein’s great merit, for until his Essay on the Threshing-Board appeared these descriptions were to a large extent inexplicable. But the discovery that the wasf is an ancient form of song connected by prescription with love and marriage explains its appearance here. In a series of love-songs disposed so as to give scenes of a connected narrative, it was natural and almost inevitable that the wasf should be imitated. It has been noticed by many that the spontaneity and originality of the other poems disappear in these descriptions. This is due to their being written according to a stereotyped form. That the wasf was imitated when no regular marriage wasf was intended, but only a love-song, is proved by the fact that in one of the Mu‘allaqât, the seven poems said to have been hung in the Caaba at Mekka in pre-Islamic times, that viz. of Amru ibn Kulthum, in Song of Solomon 4:13-16 inclusive, there is a description of a woman much in the tone of this.

Verse 1. - Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves behind thy veil; thine hair is as a flock of goats, that lie along the side of Mount Gilead. We commence, at this verse, the loving converse of the bridegroom with the bride, which we must suppose is heard as they travel together in the bridal procession. The words of adoring affection are chiefly spoken by the bridegroom, as is natural in the circumstances, and the reference to the journey, and its consummation in ver. 8, make it certain that the intention is to carry us in thought to the palanquin and the breathings of first love in bridal joy. The poetry is exquisite and truly Eastern, while yet absolutely chaste and pure. The praise of the eyes is common in all erotic poetry. Her eyes gleam, in colour, motion, and lustre, like a pair of doves from behind the veil; showing that the bride is thought of as travelling. The bride was always deeply veiled (see Genesis 24:65), as the Roman bride wore the velum flamineum. The LXX. have mistaken the meaning, rendering, ἐκτὸς τῇς σιωπήσεώς. The veil might typify silence or reserve, but the word is tsammah, which is from a root "to veil," and is righty rendered by Symmachus κάλυμμα. The hair was long and dark, and lay down the shoulders uncovered and free, which added much to the graceful attraction of the bride. In later times it was customary for the hair to be adorned with a wreath of myrtle or roses, or a golden ornament representing Jerusalem. The goats in Syria and the neighbouring countries are mostly black or dark brown, while the sheep are white. Delitzsch says, "A flock of goats encamped upon a mountain (rising up, to one looking from a distance, as in a steep slope and almost perpendicularly), and as if hanging down lengthwise on its sides, presents a lovely view adorning the landscape." It would be especially lovely amid the romantic scenery of Gilead. The, verb rendered "lie along" is otherwise taken by the LXX., ἀπεκαλύφησαν, and by the Vulgate ascenderunt. The rabbis differ from one another in their renderings. One says, "which, look, down;" another, "make bare," "quit," or "descend;" another, "are seen." The modern translators vary. Luther says, "shorn;" Houbigant, "hang down;" Kleuken and Ewald, "shows itself;" Gesenius and others, "lie down;" Ginsburg, "rolling down," "running down." Our Revised Version gives, lie along, which is a very probable meaning. The reference is to the luxuriance and rich colour of the hair. Gilead would be a recollection of the bride's native place. Song of Solomon 4:11a Lo, thou art fair, my friend! yes, thou art fair!

     Thine eyes are doves behind thy veil.

The Gr. Venet. translates, after Kimchi, "looking out from behind, thy hair flowing down from thy head like a mane." Thus also Schultens, capillus plexus; and Hengst., who compares πλέγμα, 1 Timothy 2:9, and ἐμπλοκὴ τριχῶν, 1 Peter 3:3, passages which do not accord with the case of Shulamith; but neither צמם, Arab. ṣmm, nor ṭmm signifies to plait; the latter is used of the hair when it is too abundant, and ready for the shears. To understand the hair as denoted here, is, moreover, inadmissible, inasmuch as מבעד cannot be used of the eyes in relation to the braids of hair hanging before them. Symm. rightly translates צמה by κάλυμμα veil (in the Song the lxx erroneously renders by σιωπήσεως behind thy silence), Isaiah 47:2. The verb צמם, (Arab.) ṣmam, a stopper, and (Arab.) alṣamma, a plaid in which one veils himself, when he wraps it around him.

(Note: Regarding this verbal stem and its derivatives, see The's Schlafgemach der Phantasie, pp. 102-105.)

The veil is so called, as that which closely hides the face. In the Aram. צמם, Palp. צמצם, means directly to veil, as e.g., Bereshith rabba c. 45, extr., of a matron whom the king lets pass before him it is said, פניה צימצמה. Shulamith is thus veiled. As the Roman bride wore the velum flammeum, so also the Jewish bride was deeply veiled; cf. Genesis 24:65, where Rebecca veiled herself (Lat. nubit) before her betrothed. בּעד, constr. בּעד, a segolate noun, which denotes separation, is a prep. in the sense of pone, as in Arab. in that of post. Ewald, sec. 217m, supposes, contrary to the Arab., the fundamental idea of covering (cogn. בגד); but that which surrounds is thought of as separating, and at the same time as covering, the thing which it encompasses. From behind her veil, which covered her face (vid., Bachmann, under Judges 3:23), her eyes gleam out, which, without needing to be supplemented by `עיני, are compared, as to their colour, motion, and lustre, to a pair of doves.

From the eyes the praise passes to the hair.

1b Thy hair is like a flock of goats

     Which repose downwards on Mount Gilead.

The hair of the bride's head was uncovered. We know from later times that she wore in it a wreath of myrtles and roses, or also a "golden city" (עיר שׁל זהב), i.e., an ornament which emblematically represented Jerusalem. To see that this comparison is not incongruous, we must know that sheep in Syria and Palestine are for the most part white; but goats, for the most part, black, or at least dark coloured, as e.g., the brown gedi Mamri.

(Note: Burns, the Scottish poet, thinking that goats are white, transfers the comparison from the hair to the teeth:

"Her teeth are like a flock of sheep,

With fleeces newly washen clean,

That slowly mount the rising steep;

And she's twa glancin', sparklin' een.")


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