Your neck is as a tower of ivory; your eyes like the fish pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: your nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looks toward Damascus.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Fishpools in Heshbon.—Literally, pools. The Authorised Version follows the Vulg. piscinœ, for which there is no authority. For Heshbon, see Note on Numbers 21:26. The ruins still remain, with the same name Hesban, in the Wady of that name (Robinson, p. 278). “There are many cisterns among the ruins; and towards the south, a few yards from the base of the hill, is a large ancient reservoir, which calls to mind the passage in Song of Solomon 7:4” (Smith’s Bib. Dict.). Captain Warren took a photograph of “the spring-head of the waters of Hesban,” published by the Palestine Exploration Fund. In regard to the image, comp.—
“Adspicies oculos tremulo fulgore micantes
Ut sol a liquida sœpe refulget aqua.”
Ovid. Art. Am., ii. 722.
Comp. also Keats:—
“Those eyes, those passions, those supreme pearl springs.
The gate of Bath-rabbim.—Doubtless the name of an actual gate, so called from the crowds of people streaming through it: daughter of multitudes.Song of Solomon 7:4. Thine eyes like the fish-pools — Full, and clear, and quiet, and pleasant; in Heshbon — A pleasant and well-watered city beyond Jordan; as the tower of Lebanon — Which was, in all probability, built by Solomon in the mountain of Lebanon, the northern border of the land of Israel; and therefore a very fit place for a watch-tower; which looketh toward Damascus — There was another tower or building, in or near Jerusalem, which was called the house of the forest of Lebanon, 1 Kings 7:2.1 Kings 10:21.
Fishpools in Heshbon - Or, simply pools. Among the ruins to the south of Heshbon still remain a number of deep wells cut in the rock, and a large reservoir of water. The simile well sets forth the appearance of a large clear liquid eye (compare Sol 5:12 note).
Gate of Bath-rabbim - Perhaps the gate looking toward Rabbath-Ammon on the north side of the city, though this does not agree with the wells above mentioned; or, the gate of the city "full of people" Lamentations 1:1; or, an expression indicating the gate itself as the scene of numerous gatherings.
Nose - Better perhaps "face "or "brow."
The tower of Lebanon - Possibly "the house of the forest of Lebanon" or part of it 1 Kings 7:2; 1 Kings 9:19, built by Solomon in the early part of his reign; or possibly a watchtower erected by David to overawe Damascus after his war with Hadadezer 2 Samuel 8:6.
fishpools—seen by Burckhardt, clear (Re 22:1), deep, quiet, and full (1Co 2:10, 15).
Heshbon—east of Jordan, residence of the Amorite king, Sihon (Nu 21:25, &c.), afterwards held by Gad.
Bath-rabbim—"daughter of a multitude"; a crowded thoroughfare. Her eyes (So 4:1) are called by Jesus Christ, "doves' eyes," waiting on Him. But here, looked on by the daughters or Jerusalem, they are compared to a placid lake. She is calm even amidst the crowd (Pr 8:2; Joh 16:33).
tower of Lebanon—a border-fortress, watching the hostile Damascus. Towards Jesus Christ her face was full of holy shame (see on So 4:1; So 4:3); towards spiritual foes, like a watchtower (Hab 2:1; Mr 13:37; Ac 4:13), elevated, so that she looks not up from earth to heaven, but down from heaven to earth. If we retain "nose," discernment of spiritual fragrance is meant.Thy neck, of which See Poole "Song of Solomon 4:4",
is as a tower of ivory, clear, and smooth, and long, and straight, and erected.
Thine eyes, See Poole "Song of Solomon 1:15"; See Poole "Song of Solomon 4:1",
like the fishpools, full, and clear, and quiet, and pleasant. Possibly here were two fish-pools, which being conveniently seated in a large field, might bear some resemblance to the eyes placed in the head.
Heshbon; a pleasant and well-watered city, beyond Jordan, as we may guess from Numbers 32, where doubtless there were some eminent and well-known fish-pools, as further appears by the exact description of the particular place here following, in which they were.
Thy nose; the instrument of smelling, and discerning between pleasant and loathsome things; which may signify the church’s sagacity in discerning between good and evil;
is as the tower of Lebanon; which though it be not elsewhere mentioned, was in all probability built by Solomon in the mountain of Lebanon, which was the northern border of the land of Israel towards Damascus, and therefore a very fit place for a watch-tower. To this tower her nose is compared, not for its greatness, but for its comely and convenient proportions, and beautiful aspect, which doubtless were in this as well as in the rest of Solomon’s buildings.
Which looketh toward Damascus; which words seem to be added to distinguish this from another tower or building in or near to Jerusalem, which was called the house of the forest of Lebanon, 1 Kings 7:2.
thine eyes like the fish pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim; Heshbon was formerly the seat of Sihon, king of the Amorites, Numbers 22:26; of which Bathrabbim was one of its gates; so called, either because it led to Rabbath, a city near it, and mentioned with it, Jeremiah 49:3; or because of the great numbers that went in and out by it; for it may be rendered, "the daughter of many", or "of great ones" (x): near this gate, it seems, were very delightful fish pools, to which the eyes of the church are compared. In the Hebrew language, the word for eyes and fountains is the same; the eyes having humours in them, and so fitly compared to fish pools. Of the eyes of the church, as they may design either the ministers of the word, or the eyes of her understanding, particularly faith; see Gill on Sol 1:15; here they are said to be like "fish pools", whose waters are clear, quiet, constant and immovable; and, seen at a distance, between trees and groves, look very beautiful: and, if applied to ministers, may denote the clearness of their sight in discerning the truths of the Gospel; and their being filled with the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ; and their being blessings to the churches of Christ, and to the souls of men the word for "fish pools" comes from a word which signifies "to bless" (y); and such being observed as were near the gate of Bathrabbim, may have respect to the multitude that attend their ministry, and receive benefit by it; in which they are constant and invariable, and all of a piece, and appear very beautiful to those to whom they are useful. And if applied to the church's eyes of understanding, those of faith and knowledge, may denote the perspicuity of them, in the discernment of spiritual things; and the fixedness and immovableness of them on the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ; looking alone to him, and off of every other object, and so very attractive to him, and beautiful in his sight, as well as their abounding with the waters of evangelic repentance and humiliation; see Sol 4:9;
thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon, which looketh towards Damascus; a tower on that part of Mount Lebanon which faced Damascus, which lay in a plain, and so open to view, as well as exposed to winds; hence called, by Lucan (z), Ventosa Damascus; which tower was so high, as Adrichomius (a) says, that from thence might be numbered the houses in Damascus: by which also may be meant the ministers of the word; nor need it seem strange that the same should be expressed by different metaphors, since the work of ministers is of different parts; who, as they are as eyes to see, so like the nose to smell; and having a spiritual discerning of Gospel truths, both savour them themselves, and diffuse the savour of them to others; and are both the ornament and defence of the church: the former is signified by the "nose", which is an ornament of the face, and the latter by the "tower of Lebanon", and this is looking towards Damascus, the inhabitants of which were always enemies to the people of Israel; and so may denote the vigilance and courage of faithful ministers, who watch the church's enemies, and their motions, and, with a manful courage, face and attack them. Moreover, this description may respect the majesty and magnanimity of the church herself; the former may be intimated by her nose, which, when of a good size, and well proportioned, adds much grace and majesty to the countenance; and the latter by its being compared to the impregnable tower of Lebanon, looking towards Damascus, signifying that she was not afraid to look her worst enemies in the face: or the whole may express her prudence and discretion in spiritual things: by which she can distinguish truth from error, and espy dangers afar off, and guard against them.
(t) "Eburnea cervix", Ovid. Epist. 20. v. 57. "Eburnea colla", ib. Metamorph. l. 3. Feb. 6. v. 422. & l. 4. Fab. 5. v. 335. (u) Ovid. Amor. l. 2. Eleg. 4. v. 41. (w) Ib. Fasti, l. 4. v. 135. Virgil. Georgic. 4. in fine. (x) Sept. "filiae muititudinis", V. L. "magnatum", Montanus; "nobilium", Pagninus. (y) a rad. "benedixit". (z) Pharsal. l. 3. v. 215. (a) Theatrum Terrae Sanctae, p. 100.Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. a tower of ivory] Not a tower entirely built of ivory, but some well-known tower, or kind of tower, adorned with enriching panels or medallions of ivory. Cp. “the ivory palaces,” Psalm 45:8, and “the divans of ivory,” Amos 6:4, and Driver’s note there. A tower-like neck has always been regarded as beautiful.
the fish pools in Heshbon] the pools. The A.V. follows the Vulg. piscinae. Heshbon was the ancient capital of Sihon king of the Amorites. Probably it had before that belonged to Moab (Numbers 21:27 ff.). After the conquest by Moses it was assigned to the tribe of Reuben; but in Isaiah’s time it had long been in the hands of Moab again. To-day it is represented by a large mound in the Wady Hesban, and among the ruins a large well-built tank has been found, which is probably one of the pools referred to here, as it lies outside the walls. The point of comparison is the soft shimmer of the eyes.
by the gate of Bath-rabbim] i.e. either opposite a gate which led to a place called by this name, or the gate of the populous city, literally ‘the daughter of many.’ But if the latter had been intended, ‘mother’ would have been more appropriate and natural than ‘daughter.’ But cp. “daughter of troops,” Micah 5:1 (Song of Solomon 4:14, Heb.).
thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus] This comparison seems to us inappropriate, for though we cannot now ascertain what particular tower was meant, the probability is that it was some watch-tower placed in a lofty and impregnable position on Anti-Libanus, to keep watch upon, or to overawe Damascus. The writer must have regarded a prominent nose as a beautiful feature.Verse 4. - Thy neck is like the tower of ivory; thine eyes are as the pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim; thy nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. This is plainly a partial repetition of the king's description. The ivory tower was perhaps a tower well known, covered with ivory tablets, slender in structure, dazzlingly white in appearance, imposing and captivating. No doubt in the lips of the court ladies it is intended that this echo of the royal bridegroom's praises shall be grateful to him. Heshbon is situated some five and a half hours east of the northern points of the Dead Sea, on an extensive, undulating, fruitful, high table-land, with a far-reaching prospect. "The comparison of the eyes to a pool means either their glistening like a water-mirror or their being lovely in appearance, for the Arabian knows no greater pleasure than to look upon clear, gently rippling water: cf. Ovid, 'De Arte Am.,' 2:722 -
"Adspicies oculos tremulo fulgore micantes,
Ut sol a liquida saepe refulget aqua" The nose formed a straight line down from the forehead, conveying the impression of symmetry, and at the same time a dignity and majesty inspiring with awe like the tower of Lebanon. The reference is perhaps to a particular tower, and in the time of Solomon there were many noted specimens of architectural and artistic splendour. "A tower which looks in the direction of Damascus is to be thought of as standing on one of the eastern spurs of Hermon or on the top of Amana (Song of Solomon 4:8), whence the Amana (Barada) takes its rise, whether as a watchtower (2 Samuel 8:6) or only as a look out from which might be enjoyed the paradisaical prospect."
To look at the shrubs of the valley,
To see whether the vine sprouted,
The pomegranates budded.
12 I knew it not that my soul lifted me up
To the royal chariots of my people, a noble (one).
In her loneliness she is happy; she finds her delight in quietly moving about in the vegetable world; the vine and the pomegranate, brought from her home, are her favourites. Her soul - viz. love for Solomon, which fills her soul - raised her to the royal chariots of her people, the royal chariots of a noble (one), where she sits besides the king, who drives the chariot; she knew this, but she also knew it not for what she had become without any cause of her own, that she is without self-elation and without disavowal of her origin. These are Shulamith's thoughts and feelings, which we think we derive from these two verses without reading between the lines and without refining. It went down, she says, viz., from the royal palace, cf. Sol 6:2. Then, further, she speaks of a valley; and the whole sounds rural, so that we are led to think of Etam as the scene. This Etam, romantically (vid., Judges 15:8 f.) situated, was, as Josephus (Antt. viii. 7. 3) credibly informs us, Solomon's Belvedere. "In the royal stables," he says, "so great was the regard for beauty and swiftness, that nowhere else could horses of greater beauty or greater fleetness be found. All had to acknowledge that the appearance of the king's horses was wonderfully pleasing, and that their swiftness was incomparable. Their riders also served as an ornament to them. They were young men in the flower of their age, and were distinguished by their lofty stature and their flowing hair, and by their clothing, which was of Tyrian purple. They every day sprinkled their hair with dust of gold, so that their whole head sparkled when the sun shone upon it. In such array, armed and bearing bows, they formed a body-guard around the king, who was wont, clothed in a white garment, to go out of the city in the morning, and even to drive his chariot. These morning excursions were usually to a certain place which was about sixty stadia from Jerusalem, and which was called Etam; gardens and brooks made it as pleasant as it was fruitful." This Etam, from whence (the עין עיטם)
(Note: According to Sebachim 54b, one of the highest points of the Holy Land.))
a watercourse, the ruins of which are still visible, supplied the temple with water, has been identified by Robinson with a village called Artas (by Lumley called Urtas), about a mile and a half to the south of Bethlehem. At the upper end of the winding valley, at a considerable height above the bottom, are three old Solomonic pools, - large, oblong basins of considerable compass placed one behind the other in terraces. Almost at an equal height with the highest pool, at a distance of several hundred steps there is a strong fountain, which is carefully built over, and to which there is a descent by means of stairs inside the building. By it principally were the pools, which are just large reservoirs, fed, and the water was conducted by a subterranean conduit into the upper pool. Riding along the way close to the aqueduct, which still exists, one sees even at the present day the valley below clothed in rich vegetation; and it is easy to understand that here there may have been rich gardens and pleasure-grounds (Moritz Lttke's Mittheilung). A more suitable place for this first scene of the fifth Act cannot be thought of; and what Josephus relates serves remarkably to illustrate not only the description of Sol 6:11, but also that of Sol 6:12.
אגוז is the walnut, i.e., the Italian nut tree (Juglans regia L.), originally brought from Persia; the Persian name is jeuz, Aethiop. gûz, Arab. Syr. gauz (gôz), in Heb. with א prosth., like the Armen. engus. גּנּת אגוז is a garden, the peculiar ornament of which is the fragrant and shady walnut tree; גנת אגוזים would not be a nut garden, but a garden of nuts, for the plur. signifies, Mishn. nuces (viz., juglandes equals Jovis glandes, Pliny, xvii. 136, ed. Jan.), as תּאנים, figs, in contradistinction to תּאנה, a fig tree, only the Midrash uses אגוזה here, elsewhere not occurring, of a tree. The object of her going down was one, viz., to observe the state of the vegetation; but it was manifold, as expressed in the manifold statements which follow ירדתּי. The first object was the nut garden. Then her intention was to observe the young shoots in the valley, which one has to think of as traversed by a river or brook; for נחל, like Wady, signifies both a valley and a valley-brook. The nut garden might lie in the valley, for the walnut tree is fond of a moderately cool, damp soil (Joseph. Bell. iii. 10. 8). But the אבּי are the young shoots with which the banks of a brook and the damp valley are usually adorned in the spring-time. אב, shoot, in the Heb. of budding and growth, in Aram. of the fruit-formation, comes from R. אב, the weaker power of נב, which signifies to expand and spread from within outward, and particularly to sprout up and to well forth. ב ראה signifies here, as at Genesis 34:1, attentively to observe something, looking to be fixed upon it, to sink down into it. A further object was to observe whether the vine had broken out, or had budded (this is the meaning of פּרח, breaking out, to send forth, R. פר, to break),
(Note: Vid., Friedh. Delitzsch, Indo-Germ. Sem. Studien, p. 72.)
- whether the pomegranate trees had gained flowers or flower-buds הנצוּ, not as Gesen. in his Thes. and Heb. Lex. states, the Hiph. of נוּץ, which would be הניצוּ, but from נצץ instead of הנצוּ, with the same omission of Dagesh, after the forms הפרוּ, הרעוּ, cf. Proverbs 7:13, R. נץ נס, to glance, bloom (whence Nisan as the name of the flower-month, as Ab the name of the fruit-month).
(Note: Cf. my Jesurun, p. 149.)
Why the pomegranate tree (Punica granatum L.), which derives this its Latin name from its fruit being full of grains, bears the Semitic name of רמּון, (Arab.) rummân, is yet unexplained; the Arabians are so little acquainted with it, that they are uncertain whether ramm or raman (which, however, is not proved to exist) is to be regarded as the root-word. The question goes along with that regarding the origin and signification of Rimmon, the name of the Syrian god, which appears to denote
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