Song of Solomon 7:5
Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.
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(5) Carmel.—Marg., crimson, from reading charmîl, which preserves the parallelism with the next clause better. But the whole passage deals in the author’s favourite figures from localities; and certainly the comparison of a finely-set head to a mountain is at least as apt as that in the preceding verse, of the nose to a “tower in Lebanon.” Besides, there may be a play on words, which in turn may have suggested the allusion to purple in the next clause, or possibly the vicinity of Carmel to Tyre may have led to the thought of its famous dyes.

Hair.—Heb. dallath, most probably = flowing tresses. For comparison—

“Carmine purpurea est Nisi coma.”

“Et pro purpureo dat pœnas Scylla capillo.

(Comp. πορφύρεος πλόκαμος in Lucian., and πορφυρᾶι χᾶιται in Anacreon.) So Collins:—

“The youths whose locks divinely spreading,

Like vernal hyacinths in sullen hue.”

Ode to Liberty.

The king is held (Marg., bound) in the galleries.—For galleries, see Note on Song of Solomon 1:17. Translate “A king caught and bound by thy tresses,” i.e., they are so beautiful that a monarch would be caught by them.


“When I lie tangled in her hair

And fettered in her eye.”)

Song of Solomon 7:5-6. Thy head is like Carmel — Eminent and pleasant to the eye, and fruitful as mount Carmel was: which may denote that her mind was replenished with knowledge, and other excellent gifts of the Holy Ghost. The hair of thy head like purple — Which colour was anciently much esteemed. The king is held in the galleries — In which he walks, and, having once espied thee, is unable to take off his eyes from thee. How fair, &c., for delights — For those various and lovely features which are in thee.

7:1-9 The similitudes here are different from what they were before, and in the original refer to glorious and splendid clothing. Such honour have all his saints; and having put on Christ, they are distinguished by their beautiful and glorious apparel. They adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things. Consistent believers honour Christ, recommend the gospel, and convince and awaken sinners. The church resembles the stately and spreading palm; while her love for Christ, and the obedience resulting therefrom, are precious fruit of the true Vine. The King is held in the galleries. Christ takes delight in the assemblies and ordinances of his people; and admires the fruit of his grace in them. When applied to the church and to each faithful Christian, all this denotes that beauty of holiness, in which they shall be presented to their heavenly Bridegroom.Compare and contrast with Sol 5:15. The rendering in the margin takes "Carmel" as the name of a color, equivalent to "carmine" (rendered "crimson" in 2 Chronicles 2:7, 2 Chronicles 2:14; 2 Chronicles 3:14). This interpretation is favored by the parallelism with "purple," but removes a beautiful image.

Purple - A deep violet black.

The king ... - Rather, "A king is bound in the tresses or windings of thy hair." These last words indicate the king's approach.

5. upon thee—the headdress "upon" her.

Carmel—signifying a well-cultivated field (Isa 35:2). In So 5:15 He is compared to majestic Lebanon; she here, to fruitful Carmel. Her headdress, or crown (2Ti 4:8; 1Pe 5:4). Also the souls won by her (1Th 2:19, 20), a token of her fruitfulness.

purple—royalty (Re 1:6). As applied to hair, it expresses the glossy splendor of black hair (literally, "pendulous hair") so much admired in the East (So 4:1). While the King compares her hair to the flowering hair of goats (the token of her subjection), the daughters of Jerusalem compare it to royal purple.

galleries—(so So 1:17, Margin; Re 21:3). But Maurer translates here, "flowing ringlets"; with these, as with "thongs" (so Lee, from the Arabic translates it) "the King is held" bound (So 6:5; Pr 6:25). Her purple crowns of martyrdom especially captivated the King, appearing from His galleries (Ac 7:55, 56). As Samson's strength was in his locks (Jud 16:17). Here first the daughters see the King themselves.

Thine head, which may signify the church’s mind or understanding, which is seated in the head,

upon thee, which is upon thee, or above the rest of thy body,

is like Carmel, eminent and pleasant to the eye, and fruitful as Mount Carmel was, as hath been formerly noted; which may note that her mind was adorned and replenished with knowledge and other excellent gifts of the Holy Ghost. Or, as others render it, like crimson or purple, which is called Carmel, 2 Chronicles 2:7 3:14, because those fishes out of which they had their purple were taken in the sea bordering upon Mount Carmel. And so the same thing is repeated in the next clause in other words.

Like purple; which colour was anciently much esteemed and commended, as by sacred, so also by profane writers.

The king is held in the galleries; in which he walketh, and having once espied thee, is captivated by thee, and unable or unwilling either to depart or to take off his eyes from thee, as if he were fast bound and chained to thee. The galleries may note either the ordinances, or rather the churches, in which Christ walketh, Revelation 2:1, in which Christ and believers converse together.

Thine head upon thee is like Carmel,.... Set with hair, thick and long, as Carmel with plants and trees. Now Christ is the church's Head in various senses; he is her federal and representative Head in eternity and time; her political Head, as a King to his subjects; an economical Head, as the husband to the wife, as parents to their children, and a master to servants; and, as such, may be compared to Carmel; for the multitude dependent on him, whom he represents, and is connected with under various relations; for his height, being higher than the kings of the earth, and all other heads; and for fruitfulness, all the fruits of the church, and of all true believers, coming from him. Some render the word, "as crimson", or "scarlet" (b); which may set forth his royal dignity and majesty, this colour being wore by kings and great personages; or the ardent love of Christ to his body, the church, and the members of it; or his bloody sufferings for them;

and the hair of thine head like purple; purple coloured hair has been in great esteem. Of this colour was the hair of King Nysus, according to the fable (c); and so the hair of Evadne, and of the Muses (d), were of a violet colour; the hair of Ulysses is said (e) to be like to the hyacinth flower, which is of a purple or violet colour; and Milton (f) calls the first Adam's hair hyacinthine locks; and here, in a figurative sense, the second Adam's hair is said to be like purple. By which believers that grow on Christ, the Head of the church, nay be meant, who have their dependence on him, and their strength and nourishment from him; see Sol 4:1; and these may be said to be like "purple", because of their royal dignity, being made kings unto God by Christ; and because of their being washed in the purple blood of Christ; and because of the sufferings they endure for his sake; and especially such may be so compared, who have spilt their blood and laid down their lives on his account;

the king is held in the galleries; the same with the Head of the church, the King of Zion, and King of saints, whose kingdom is a spiritual and everlasting one: and by the "galleries" in which he is held may be meant the ordinances of the Gospel; where Christ and his people walk and converse together; where he discloses the secrets of his heart to them, leads them into a further acquaintance with his covenant, and the blessings and promises of it; and from whence they have delightful views of his person and fulness; see the King in his beauty, and behold the good land which is afar off: the same word as here is rendered "rafters", and by some "canals", in Sol 1:17; See Gill on Sol 1:17. Now Christ being said to be "held in these galleries" may signify his fixed habitation in his house and ordinances; where he has promised to dwell, and delights to be; and where he is as it were fastened to them, and hatred in them.

(b) "veluti coccinum", Pagninus, Vatablus, Mercerus; "simile est coccineo", Junius & Tremellius; "est ut coccus", Piscator; so Ainsworth; "sicut carmesinum", Schindler. (c) Ovid. Metamorph. l. 8. Fab. 1. v. 301. De Arte Amandi, l. 1. & de Remed. Amor. l. 1. v. 68. Hygin. Fab. 198. Pausan. Attica, p. 33. (d) Pindar. Olymp. Ode 6. Pyth. Ode 1. v. 2.((e) Homer. Odyss. 6. v. 231. & 23. v. 155. (f) Paradise Lost, Book 4.

Thy head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thy head like purple; the king is {c} held captive by its locks of hair.

(c) He delights to come near you, and to be in your company.

5. Thine head upon thee is like Carmel] Mount Carmel, looked at from the North especially, is the crown of the country, towering over sea and land in solitary majesty; hence the comparison to a head proudly held. The A.V. margin, following some Jewish authorities, renders ‘crimson,’ regarding karmel as equivalent to karmîl, and Ginsburg, adopting this explanation, thinks that the words mean that her hair was arranged in the form of a murex shell.

the hair of thine head] The word translated ‘hair,’ which occurs nowhere else in the O.T., appears to mean flowing tresses.

like purple] Apparently the text means to indicate that the bride’s hair was of that intense black which is sometimes called blue black. For argâmân see note on Song of Solomon 3:10.

the king is held in the galleries] Better (cp. R.V.), a king is held captive in the tresses thereof. The word translated ‘tresses’ occurs in the O.T. three times only, Genesis 30:38; Genesis 30:41, and Exodus 2:16, where it means ‘water troughs.’ The connexion between these and a woman’s hair is not obvious, unless it be that it flows down like water from a water trough. That is hardly satisfactory, but that tresses is intended seems certain. The idea of a lover being held captive in the hair of his lady is common in the love poetry of all lands. Cp. Lovelace’s poem To Althea from Prison:

“When I lie tangled in her hair,

And fettered to her eye,

The birds that wanton in the air

Know no such liberty.”

Budde and Siegfried take the ‘king’ here to mean as usual the young husband of the king’s week. But in that case it would more naturally be the king.

Verse 5. - Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held captive in the tresses thereof. Carmel is called the "Nose of the mountain range" (Arf-ef-jebel). It is a promontory. The meaning, no doubt, is the exquisite fitness of the head upon the neck, which is one of the most lovely traits of personal beauty. Some, however, think that the reference is to colour - Carmel being derived from the Persian, and meaning "crimson." This is rejected by Delitzsch, as the Persian would be carmile, not carmel. The transition is natural from the position and shape of the head and neck to the hair. The purple shellfish is found near Carmel (cf. Lucian's πορφύρεος πλόκαμος and Anacreon's πορφυραῖ χαῖται, and similar expressions in Virgil's 'Georgics,' 1:405, and Tibullus, 1:4, 63). The locks of hair are a glistening purple colour, i.e. their black is purple as they catch the lights. Hengstenberg, however, thinks that the reference is to the temples, and not to the hair itself; but the use of the term in classical poets is decisive. The lovely head shaking the locks as the body moves gracefully in the dance fills the king with delight and admiration. He is quite captivated, and the ladies, having finished their description of the bride, look at the bridegroom, and behold him quite lost in the fascination - "held captive in the tresses." Delitzsch quotes a similar expression from Goethe, in the 'West Ostliche Divan,' "There are more than fifty hooks in each lock of thy hair." The idea of taking captive is frequent in Hebrew poetry (cf. Proverbs 6:25; Sirach 9:3, 4). Thus ends the song of the ladies in praise of the bride. We must suppose that the king, who is probably present, then takes up the word, and pours out his heart. Song of Solomon 7:55aa Thy head upon thee as Carmel.

We say that the head is "on the man" (2 Kings 6:31; Judith 14:18), for we think of a man ideally as the central unity of the members forming the external appearance of his body. Shulamith's head ruled her form, surpassing all in beauty and majesty, as Carmel with its noble and pleasing appearance ruled the land and sea at its feet. From the summit of Carmel, clothed with trees) Amos 9:3; 1 Kings 18:42), a transition is made to the hair on the head, which the Moslem poets are fond of comparing to long leaves, as vine leaves and palm branches; as, on the other hand, the thick leafy wood is called (vid., under Isaiah 7:20) comata silva (cf. Oudendorp's Apuleii Metam. p. 744). Grδtz, proceeding on the supposition of the existence of Persian words in the Song, regards כרמל as the name of a colour; but (1) crimson is designated in the Heb.-Pers. not כרמל, but כרמיל, instead of תולעת שׁני (vid., under Isaiah 1:18; Proverbs 31:21); (2) if the hair of the head (if ראשׁך might be directly understood of this) may indeed be compared to the glistening of purple, not, however, to the listening of carmese or scarlet, then red and not black hair must be meant. But it is not the locks of hair, but the hair in locks that is meant. From this the eulogium finally passes to the hair of the head itself.

5ab The flowing hair of thy head like purple -

       A king fettered by locks.

Hitzig supposes that כרמל reminded the poet of כּרמיל (carmese), and that thus he hit upon ארגּמן (purple); but one would rather think that Carmel itself would immediately lead him to purple, for near this promontory is the principal place where purple shell-fish are found (Seetzen's Reisen, IV 277 f.). דּלּה (from דּלל, to dangle, to hang loose, Job 28:4, Arab. tadladal) is res pendula, and particularly coma pendula. Hengst. remarks that the "purple" has caused much trouble to those who understand by דלה the hair of the head. He himself, with Gussetius, understand by it the temples, tempus capitis; but the word רקּה is used (Sol 4:3) for "temples," and "purple-like" hair hanging down could occasion trouble only to those who know not how to distinguish purple from carmese. Red purple, ארגּמן (Assyr. argamannu, Aram., Arab., Pers., with departure from the primary meaning of the word, ארגּון ,drow eht), which derives this name from רגם equals רקם, material of variegated colour, is dark-red, and almost glistening black, as Pliny says (Hist. Nat. ix. 135): Laus ei (the Tyrian purple) summa in colore sanguinis concreti, nigricans adspectu idemque suspectu (seen from the side) refulgens, unde et Homero purpureus dicitur sanguis. The purple hair of Nisus does not play a part in myth alone, but beautiful shining dark black hair is elsewhere also called purple, e.g., πυρφύρεος πλόκαμος in Lucian, πορφυραῖ χαῖται in Anacreon. With the words "like purple," the description closes; and to this the last characteristic distinguishing Shulamith there is added the exclamation: "A king fettered by locks!" For רהטים, from רהט, to run, flow, is also a name of flowing locks, not the ear-locks (Hitz.), i.e., long ringlets flowing down in front; the same word (Sol 1:17) signifies in its North Palest. form רחיט (Chethı̂b), a water-trough, canalis. The locks of one beloved are frequently called in erotic poetry "the fetters" by which the lover is held fast, for "love wove her net in alluring ringlets" (Deshmi in Joseph and Zuleika).

(Note: Compare from the same poet: "Alas! thy braided hair, a heart is in every curl, and a dilemma in every ring" (Deut. Morg. Zeit. xxiv. 581).)

Goethe in his Westst. Divan presents as a bold yet moderate example: "There are more than fifty hooks in each lock of thy hair;" and, on the other hand, one offensively extravagant, when it is said of a Sultan: "In the bonds of thy locks lies fastened the neck of the enemy." אסוּר signifies also in Arab. frequently one enslaved by love: asîruha is equivalent to her lov.

(Note: Samaschshari, Mufaṣṣal, p. 8.)

The mention of the king now leads from the imagery of a dance to the scene which follows, where we again hear the king's voice. The scene and situation are now manifestly changed. We are transferred from the garden to the palace, where the two, without the presence of any spectators, carry on the following dialogue.

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