I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
Verse 2. - As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. The king responds, taking up the lovely simile and giving it a very apt and charming turn, "My love is beyond comparison the chief and all around her are not worthy of notice beside her." The meaning is not thorns on the tree itself. The word would be different in that case. Rather it is thorn plants or bushes (choach); see 2 Kings 14:9. The daughters; i.e. the young damsels. The word "son" or "daughter" was commonly so used in Hebrew, the idea being that of simplicity, innocence, and gentleness.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
Verse 3. - As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. That these are the words of the bride there can be no doubt. The apple tree is noted for the fragrance of its blossom and the sweetness of its fruit; hence the name tappuach, from the root naphach, "to breathe sweetly." The trees of the wood or forest are specially referred to, because they are generally wild, and their fruit sour and rough, and many have no fruit or flower. The Chaldee renders, "citron;" Rosenmuller and others, "quince." The word is rare (see Proverbs 25:11; Joel 1:12). It is sometimes the tree itself, at other times the fruit. It occurs in proper names, as (Joshua 12:17), "The King of Tappuah," etc., and that shows that it was very early known in Palestine. It occurs frequently in the Talmud. The word is masculine, while "lily" is feminine. "I sat with delight" is expressed in true Hebrew phrase, "I delighted and sat," the intensity of feeling being expressed by the piel of the verb. By the shadow is intended both protection and refreshment; by the fruit, enjoyment. Perhaps we may go further, and say there is here a symbolical representation of the spiritual life, as both that of trust and participation. The greatness and goodness of the tree of life protects and covers the sinner, while the inner nature and Divine virtue of the Saviour comes forth in delicious fruits, in his character, words, ministry, and spiritual gifts. If there is any truth in the typical view, it must be found in such passages as this, where the metaphor is so simple and apt, and has been incorporated with all religious language as the vehicle of faith and love. Hymnology abounds in such ideas and analogies.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
Verse 4. - He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love; literally, to the house of the wine. Not, as some, "the house of the vines" - that is, the vineyard. The Hebrew word yayin corresponds with the AEthiopic wain, and has run through the Indo-European languages. The meaning is - To the place where he royally entertains his friends. Hence the reference which immediately follows to the protection with which the king overshadows his beloved. He covers me there with his fear-inspiring, awful banner, love, which, because of its being love, is terrible to all enemies. The word which is used for "banner" (דֶּגֶל) is from a root "to cover," that which covers the shaft or standard; the pannus, "the cloth," which is fastened to a shaft (cf. pennon). Her natural fear and bashfulness is overcome by the loving presence of the king, which covers her weakness like a banner. Some versions render it as an imperative. There can be no doubt of the meaning that the banner is the military banner, as the word is always so used (see Psalm 20:6; Numbers 1:52; Numbers 2:2). Perhaps there is a reference to the grandeur and military strength in which the young bride felt delight as she looked up at her young husband in his youthful beauty and manly vigour. The typical significance is very easily discovered. It would be straining it too much to see any allusion to the ritual of the Christian sacraments; but whether we think of the individual soul or of the people of God regarded collectively, such delight in the rich provisions of Divine love, and in the tender guardianship of the Saviour over those whom he has called to himself, belong to the simplest facts of believing experience.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
Verse 5. - Stay me with raisins, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. Again the intensive form of the verb is chosen. She is almost sinking; she cries out for comfort. The food for which she longs is the grape cakes - the grapes sufficiently dried to be pressed together as cakes, which is very refreshing and reviving; not raisins as we know them, but with more of the juice of the grape in them. So date cakes are now offered to travellers in the East. "Refresh me; for I am in a state of deep agitation because of the intensity of my love." Ginsburg thinks the cakes are baked by the fire, the word being derived from a root "to burn." The translation, "flagons of wine," in the Authorized Version, follows the rabbinical exposition, but it is quite unsupported by the critics. Love sickness is common in Eastern countries, more so than with us in the colder hemisphere. Perhaps the appeal of the bride is meant to be general, not immediately directed to the king, as if a kind of exclamation, and it may be connected with the previous idea of the banner. The country maiden is dazzled with the splendour and majesty of the king. She gives up, as it were, in willing resignation of herself, the rivalry with one so great and glorious in the expression of love and praise; she sinks back with delight and ecstasy, calling upon any around to support her, and Solomon himself answers the appeal, and puts his loving arm around her and holds up her head, and gives her the sweetest and tenderest embraces, which renew her strength. We know that in the spiritual life there are such experiences. The intensity of religious feeling is closely connected with physical exhaustion, and when the soul cries for help and longs for comfort, the presence of the Saviour is revealed; the weakness is changed into strength. The apostolic seer in the Apocalypse describes himself as overcome with the glory of the Saviour's appearance, and being brought back to himself by his voice (Revelation 1:17).
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
Verse 6. - His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. We may render the verb either as indicative or imperative. The hand gently smooths with loving caresses. The historical sense is more in accordance with the context, as the next verse is an appeal to the attendant ladies. Behold my happiness, how my Beloved comforts me!
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
Verse 7. - I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the toes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awaken love, until it please. The fact that these words occur again in Song of Solomon 3:5 and Song 8:4 shows that they are a kind of chorus or refrain. It is also evident that they are in the lips of Shulamith the bride. Some have suggested that they are uttered by some one else, e.g. the queen-mother subsequently referred to, Solomon himself, the heavenly Bridegroom, the shepherd lover from whom Shulamith had been taken. But all these suggestions are unnecessary and unsupported. The natural and simple view is that the same voice is speaking as in ver. 6. But what is the meaning of this adjuration? Is it merely, "I throw myself on the sympathy you have already expressed"? Ewald well remarks, "In common life people swore by things which belonged to the subject of conversation or were especially dear to the speaker. As, therefore, the warrior swears by his sword; as Mohammed by th e soul, of which he is just about to speak (see Koran, ch. 91:7); so here Shulamith by the lovely gazelles, since she is speaking of love." The Israelites were permitted to adjure by that which is not God, but they would only solemnly swear by God himself. Delitzsch thinks this is the only example of direct adjuration in Scripture without the name of God. The meaning has probably been sought too far away. The bride is perfectly happy, but she is conscious that such exquisite happiness may be disturbed, the dream of her delight broken through. She compares herself to a roe or a gazelle, the most timorous and shy of creatures (see Proverbs 5:19). The Septuagint has a peculiar rendering; which points to a different reading of the orignial ἐν δυναμέσι καὶ ἰσχυσέσι τοῦ ἀγροῦ "by the power and virtues of the field." Perhaps the meaning is the same - By the purity and blessedness of a simple country life, I adjure you not to interfere with the course of true love. It is much debated whether the meaning is, "Do not excite or stir up love," or, "Do not disturb love in its peaceful de light." It certainly must be maintained that by "love" is meant "the lover." The refer once is to the passion of love itself. A similar expression is used of the feeling of jealousy (Isaiah 42:13). The verb עורר (piel) is added to strengthen the idea, and is always used in the sense "to excite or awaken," as Proverbs 10:12 of strife; Psalm 80:3 of strength or power. We must not for a moment think of any artificial excitement of love as referred to. The idea is - See what a blessed thing is pure and natural affection: let not love be forced or unnatural. But there are those who dispute this interpretation. They think that the main idea of the whole poem is not the spontaneity of love, but a commendation of pure and chaste conjugal affection, as opposed to the dissoluteness and sensuality fostered by polygamy. They would therefore take the abstract "love" for the concrete "loved one," as in Song of Solomon 7:6 The bride would not have the beloved one aroused by the intrusion of others; or the word "love" may be taken to mean "the dream of love." Which ever explanation is chosen, the sense is substantially the same - Let me rejoice in my blessedness. The bride is seen at the close of this first part of the poem in the arms of the bridegroom. She is lost in him, and his happiness is hers. She calls upon the daughters of Jerusalem to rejoice with her. This is, in fact, the keynote of the song. The two main thoughts in the poem are the purity of love and the power of love. The reference to the toes and gazelles of the field is not so much to their shyness and timidity as to their purity, as distinguished from the creatures more close to cities; hence the appeal to the daughters of Jerusalem, who, as being ladies of the metropolis, might not sympathize as they should with the country maiden. The rest of the poem is a remembrance of the part which illustrates and confirms the sentiment of the refrain - Let the pure love seek its own perfection; let its own pleasure be realized. So, spiritually, let grace complete what grace begins. "Blessed are all those who trust in him."
The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
Verse 8-ch. 3:5. - Part II. SONG OF SHULAMITH IN THE EMBRACE OF SOLOMON. Recollections of the wooing time in the north. Verse 8. - The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. There can be little doubt as to the meaning of this song. The bride is going back in thought to the scenes of her home life, and the sweet days of first love. "The house stands alone among the rocks and deep in the mountain range; around are the vineyards which the family have planted, and the hill pastures on which they feed their flocks. She longingly looks out for her distant lover." The expression, "The voice of my beloved!" must not be taken to mean that she hears the sound of his feet or voice, but simply as an interjection, like "hark!" (see Genesis 4:10, where the voice of the blood crying merely means, "Hark how thy brother's blood cries;" that is, "Believe that it does so cry"). So here, "I seem to hear the voice of my beloved; hark, he is coming!" It is a great delight to the soul to go back in thought over the memories of its first experience of the Saviour's presence. The Church is edified by the records of grace in the histories of Divine dealings.
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
Verse 9. - My beloved is like a roe or a young hart; behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh in at the windows, he showeth himself through the lattice. The tsevi is the gazelle, Arabic ghazal. Our word is derived through the Spanish or Moorish gazela. The young hart, or chamois, is probably so called from the covering of young hair (cf. 2 Samuel 2:18; Proverbs 6:5; Hebrews 3:19). Shulamith represents herself as within the house, waiting for her friend. Her beloved is standing behind the wall, outside before the house; he is playfully looking through the windows, now through one and now through another, seeking her with peering eyes of love. Both the words employed, convey, the meaning of searching and moving quickly. The windows; literally, the openings; i.e. a window broken through a wall, or the meaning may be a lattice window, a pierced wooden structure. The word is not the common word for a window, which is shevaka (now shabbaka), from a root meaning "to twist," "to make a lattice." Spiritually, we may see an allusion to the glimpses of truth and tastes of the goodness of religion, which precede the real fellowship of the soul with God.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Verse 10. - My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. The word "spake" Conveys the meaning in answer to a person appearing, but not necessarily in answer to a voice heard. We most suppose that Shulamith recognized her beloved, and made some sign that she was near, or looked forth from the window. As the soul responds, it is more and more invited; the voice of the Bridegroom is heard calling the object of his love by name, "I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine" (Isaiah 43:1).
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
Verses 11-13. - For, lo, the winter is the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree ripeneth her green figs, and the vines are in blossom, they give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. Winter; i.e. the cloudy stormy time (sethauv). The Jews in Jerusalem to this day call rain shataa. The rain; i.e. the showers. The flowers, or the flowery time, corresponding with the singing time. Several versions, as the LXX. and other Greek, Jerome in the Latin, and the Targum and Venetian, render, "the time of pruning," taking the zamir from a root zamar, "to prune the vine." It is, however, regarded by most critics as an onomatopoetic word meaning "song," "music," like zimrah, "singing." The reference to the voice of the turtledove, the cooing note which is so sweet and attractive among the woods, shows that the time of spring is intended. Ginsburg says wherever zamir occurs, either in the singular or plural, it means "singing" (cf. 2 Samuel 23:1; Isaiah 24:16). The form of the word conveys the idea of the time of the action, as we see in the words for "harvest" (asiph) and "ploughing time" (charish). The fig tree and the vine were both employed as symbols of prosperity and peace, as the fig and grape were so much used as food (see 1 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 18:31). The little fruits of the fig tree begin, when the spring commences, to change colour from green to red (cf. Mark 11:13, where the Passover time is referred to). The word "to ripen" is literally, "to grow red or sweet." The blossoming vines give forth a very delicate and attractive fragrance. The description is acknowledged by all to be very beautiful. The invitation is to fellowship in the midst of the pure loveliness of nature, when all was adapted to meet and sustain the feelings of awakened love. The emotions of the soul are blended easily with the sensations derived from the outward world. When we carefully avoid extravagance, and put the soul first and not second, then the delights of the senses may help the heart to realize the deepest experience of Divine communion. But the bridegroom first solicits the bride. We reverse the true spiritual order when we place too much dependence on the influence of external objects or sensuous pleasures. Art may assist religion to its expression, but it must never be made so prominent that the artistic pleasure swallows up the religious emotion. Love of nature is not love of Christ. Love of music is not love of Christ. Yet the soul that seeks him may rejoice in art and music, because they blend their attractions with its devotion, and help it to be a joy and a passion.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Verse 14. - O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the steep places, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. The wood pigeon builds in clefts of rocks and in steep rocky places (see Jeremiah 48:28; and cf. Psalm 74:19; Psalm 56:1; Hosea 7:11). The bridegroom is still addressing his beloved one, who has not yet come forth from the house in the rocks, though she has shown herself at the window. The language is highly poetical, and may be compared with similar words in Homer and Virgil (cf. 'Iliad.' 21:493; 'Aeneid.' 5:213, etc.). The Lord loveth the sight of his people. He delightcth in their songs and in their prayers. He is in the midst of their assemblies. Secret religion is not the highest religion. The highest emotions of the soul do not decrease in their power as they are expressed. They become more and more a ruling principle of life. There are many who need this encouragement to come forth out of secrecy, out of solitude, out of their own private home and individual thoughts, and realize the blessing of fellowship with the Lord and with his people.
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Verse 15. - Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards; for our vineyards are in blossom. There is some difficulty in deciding to which of the persons this speech is to be attributed. It is most naturally, however, assigned to the bride, and this is the view of the majority of critics. Hence she refers to the vineyards as "our vineyards," which the bridegroom could scarcely say. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the words are abrupt regarded as a response to the beautiful appeal of the lover. The following are the remarks of Delitzsch on the subject: "This is a vine dresser's ditty, in accord with Shulamith's experience as the keeper of a vineyard, which, in a figure, aims at her love relation. The vineyards, beautiful with fragrant blossoms, point to her covenant of love, and the foxes, the little foxes, which might destroy those united vineyards, point to all the great and little enemies and adverse circumstances which threaten to gnaw and destroy love in the blossom ere it has reached the ripeness of full enjoyment." Some think that Shulamith is giving the reason why she cannot immediately join her beloved, referring to the duties enjoined upon her by her brethren. But there is an awkwardness in this explanation. The simplest and most straightforward is that which connects the words immediately with the invitation of the lover to come forth into the lovely vineyards. Is it not an allusion to the playful pleasure which the young people would find among the vineyards in chasing the little foxes? and may not the lover take up some well known country ditty, and sing it outside the window as a playful repetition of the invitation to appear? The words do seem to be arranged in somewhat of a lyrical form -
"Catch us the foxes,
Foxes the little ones,
Wasting our vineyards,
When our vineyards are blossoming." The foxes (shualim), or little jackals, were very numerous in Palestine (see Judges 15:4; Lamentations 5:18; Psalm 63:11; Nehemiah 4:3; 1 Samuel 13:17). The little jackals were seldom more than fifteen inches high. There would be nothing unsuitable in the address to a maiden to help to catch such small animals. The idea of the song is - Let us all join in taking them. Some think that Shulamith is inviting the king to call his attendants to the work. But when two lovers thus approach one another, it is not likely that others would be thought cf. However the words be viewed, the typical meaning can scarcely be missed. The idea of clearing the vineyards of depredators well suits the general import of the poem. Let the blossoming love of the soul be without injury and restraint. Let the rising faith and affection be carefully guarded. Both individuals and communities do well to think of the little foxes that spoil the vines.
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
Verse 16. - My beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth (his flock) among the lilies. These are the words of the bride. The latter clause is repeated in Song of Solomon 6:2, with the addition, "in the gardens," and it is evident that Solomon is lovingly regarded as a shepherd, because Shulamith delights to think of him as fully sympathizing with her simple country life. She idealizes. The words may be taken as either the response given at the time by the maiden to the invitation of her lover to come forth into the vineyards, or as the breathing of love as she lies in the arms of Solomon. Lilies are the emblem of purity, lofty elevation above that which is common. Moreover, the lily stalk is the symbol of the life of regeneration among the mystical mediaevalists. Mary the Virgin, the Rosa mystica, in ancient paintings is represented with a lily in her hand at the Annunciation. The people of God were called by the Jewish priests "a people of lilies." So Mary was the lily of lilies in the lily community; the sanctissima in the communio sanctorum. There may be an allusion to the lily forms around Solomon in his palace - the daughters of Jerusalem; in that ease the words must be taken as spoken, not in remembrance of the first love, but in present joy in Solomon's embrace. Some would render the words as simply praise of Solomon himself, "who, wherever he abides, spreads radiancy and loveliness about him," or "in whose footsteps roses and lilies ever bloom." At least, they are expressive of entire self-surrender and delight. She herself is a lily, and the beloved one feeds upon her beauty, purity, and perfection.
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.
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.