Song of Solomon 4
Pulpit Commentary
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.
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.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
Verse 2. - Thy teeth are like a flock of ewes that are newly shorn, which are come up from the washing; whereof every one hath twins, and none is bereaved among them. The simile is very apt and beautiful Thy teeth are perfectly smooth, regular, and white; the upper set corresponding exactly to the lower set, like twin births in which there is no break (cf. Song of Solomon 6:6). The moisture of the saliva dentium, heightening the glance of the teeth, is frequently mentioned in love songs. The whiteness of wool is often used as a comparison (see Isaiah 1:18; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:14; Book of Enoch 46:1). Some think that קְצוּבות. should not be rendered "newly shorn," but "periodically shorn" (see Ginsburg) - a poetical epithet for וְחֵלֵים. The newly shorn would be washed first, תָּאַם, "to be double, be pairs," in the hiph. is "to make double," "to make pairs," "to appear paired." Perhaps the reference is to the sheep being washed in pairs, and going up side by side from the water. This would seem almost more exact than the idea of twin lambs, because the difference in size between the ewe and the lamb would suggest irregularity. The word שַׁכֻּלָּת, "deprived," "bereaved" (Jeremiah 18:21), may point merely to the loneliness of the single sheep going up by itself, suggesting one tooth without its fellow. Ginsburg says, "all of which are paired." Each keeps to its mate as they come up from the pool. This is a decided improvement on the Authorized Version. But the figure is clear with either rendering, and is very striking and suggestive of the pleasant country life to which the bride was accustomed.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Verse 3. - Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy mouth is comely; thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate behind thy veil. Scarlet; that is, shining, glistening red colour. Thy mouth (מִדְבָּרֵך). Thy mouth as speaking. So the LXX., Jerome, and Venetian, "thy speech," eloquium, conversation. But this is questioned, as it should then be דְּבוּרֵך. The word midhbar undoubtedly means "the mouth," from davar, "to speak," with the מ preformative, as the name of the instrument. It is the preterite for פִיך, but perhaps as referring specially to speech. Thy temples; Latin tempora, from the adjective רַק, "weak," meaning the thin, piece of skull on each side of the eyes, like the German schlafe, from schlaff, "slack." The inside of the pomegranate is of a red colour mixed and tempered with the ruby colour. Ginsburg, however, thinks that the cheeks are intended, and that the comparison is with the outside of the pomegranate, in which the vermilion colour is mingled with brown, and resembles the round cheek; but then why say, "piece of a pomegranate"? פֶלַת, from the root "to cut fruit" (see 1 Kings 4:39), certainly must refer to the cut fruit and the appearance of the inside. The meaning may be a segment, that is, so as to represent the roundness of the cheek. Possibly the reference may be to blushes on the bride's cheek, or to ornaments which appeared through the veil. We can scarcely expect to make out every particular in an Eastern description.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Verse 4. - Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all the shields of the mighty men. There is an evident change here in the character of the similitudes. The royal bridegroom does not forget to praise the majesty of his bride. The description now suits a royal queen. She is full of dignity and grace in her bearing. The tower referred to was no doubt that which was sometimes called "The tower of the flock" (Micah 4:4), that from which David surveyed the flock of his people (cf. Nehemiah 3:16, 25) - the government building erected on Mount Zion which served as a court of justice. The word talpiyoth is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον: LXX. θαλπίωθ, as if a proper name. Hengstenberg would render it "built for hanging swords," supposing it composed of two words - tal, from a root "to hang," and piyoth, "swords." But the word piyoth does not mean "swords," but the "double edges" of the swords. Kimchi renders. "an erection of sharp-cornered stones." Gesenius takes it from two roots, "to perish" and "to go," that is, exitialibus armis, which is very doubtful. Ewald's explanation seems the best, "built for close troops, so that many hundreds or thousands find room therein," taking it from a root, connected with the Arabic, meaning, "to wrap together." Delitzsch, however, observes that both in Aramaic and Talmudic Hebrew words occur, like this, in the sense of "enclosure," i.e. joining together, one working into the other, so that it may be taken as meaning, "in ranks together." This view is supported by Doderlein, Meier, Aquila, Jerome, Vulgate (propugnacula), and Venetian (ἐπάλξεις). If this be accepted, it may mean "terraced," i.e. built in stories one above another. This would convey the appearance of the tall, straight neck better than any. Surrounded with ornaments, the neck would so appear. There is another suggestion, supported by Ginsburg and taken from Rashi and Rashbun, Jewish writers, that the word is a contraction for a noun meaning "instruction," and means "the model tower" - the tower built for an architect's model. It would be rendered, "built for the builder's model." The meaning "armoury" takes it as composed of two words, tael," a hill," and piyoth," swords." It was decorated with a thousand shields, which was a customary adornment of towers and castles (see Ezekiel 27:11). All the shields of heroes. We can scarcely doubt the reference in such words to the time of Solomon, and therefore to his authorship, as the allusion to heroes, or mighty men of valour, would be customary soon after the time of David.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
Verse 5. - Thy two breasts are like two fawns that are twins of a roe, which feed among the lilies. This is a beautiful and yet perfectly delicate figure, describing the lovely equality and perfect shape and sweet freshness of the maiden's bosom. The meadow covered with lilies suggests beauty and fragrance. Thus the loveliness of the bride is set forth in seven comparisons, her perfections being sevenfold. "A twin pair of the young of the gazelle, lying in a bed covered with lilies, representing the fragrant delicacy and elegance of a chaste virgin besom, veiled by the folds of a dress redolent of sweet odour" (cf. Song of Solomon 1:13). The bridegroom, having thus delighted himself in praise of his bride's loveliness, then proceeds to declare his desire for her sweet society, but he is interrupted by the bride.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Verse 6. - Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. If this be the language of the bride, which most modern interpreters think, the meaning is to check the ardour of her lover, in the modesty of her fresh and maidenly feeling - Let me retire from such praises. They are too ardent for me. It is only a moment's interruption, which is followed by still more loving words from the bridegroom. We must naturally connect the words with Song of Solomon 2:17, where the bride certainly speaks. Louis de Leon thinks that the meaning is general, "shady and fragrant places." Anton (1773) suggests that she is desiring to escape and be free. It cannot be included as a description of the neighbourhood of the royal palace. She might, however, mean merely - Let me walk alone in the lovely gardens of the palace until the shades of night shall hide my blushes. It is unlikely that the words are in the mouth of Solomon; for then it would be impossible to explain their use by Shulamith previously. She is not referring to Lebanon and its neighbourhoed, and there can be no idea of looking back to a lover from whom she is torn. The interpretation which connects it with maidenly feeling is certainly the most in harmony with what has preceded. Perhaps the typical meaning is underlying the words - Let me find a place of devout meditation to feed my thoughts on the sweetness of this Divine love into which I have entered.
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.
Verse 7. - Thou art all fair, my love; and there is no spot in thee. The bridegroom speaks. The sweet humility and modesty of the bride kindles his love afresh. He praised the loveliness of her bodily form, and she by her response showed the exceeding loveliness of her soul. It must not be forgotten that, whether borrowed from this book or not, such language is undoubtedly employed in Scripture of the Church, the bride, the Lamb's wife, who is described as "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27). It should be noticed that the king immediately addresses his love as "bride," and "sister-bride," to show that there is more than admiration of her person in his thoughts. She is his by assimilation and by eternal union, and he invites her to enter fully into the new life which he has prepared for her, as in Psalm 45, "forgetting her own people, and her father's house." It is not enough that feeling should be stirred, or even that it should take possession of the soul, if it be only feeling; it is required of us that our inner life of emotion should become practical devotedness, "counting all things but loss" for the sake of him we love.
Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
Verse 8. - Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards. This seems to be simply the bridegroom rejoicing over the bride, the meaning being, "Give thyself up to me" - thou art mine; look away from the past, and delight thyself in the future. Delitzsch, however, thinks that the bridegroom seeks the bride to go with him up the steep heights of Lebanon, and to descend with him from thence; for while ascending the mountain one has no view before him, but when descending he has the whole panorama of the surrounding region lying at his feet. It is stretching poetical language too far to take it so literally and topically; there is no necessity to think of either the lover or his beloved as actually on the mountains, the idea is simply that of the mountainous region - Turn thy back upon it, look away from it. This is clearly seen from the fact that the names connected with Lebanon - Amana, Senir, Hermon - could have no reference to the bride's being in them. as they represent Anti-Libanus, separated from Lebanon by the Coelo-Syrian valley, stretching from the Banias northwards to the plain of Hamath (see 2 Kings 5:12, where Amana is Abana, overlooking Damascus, now the Basadia). Shenir, or Senir, and Hermon are neighbouring peaks or mountains, or possibly different names for the same (see Deuteronomy 3:9). In 1 Chronicles 5:23 they are mentioned as districts. Hermon is the chief mountain of the range of Anti-Libanus on the northeast border of Palestine (Psalm 89:12). The wild beasts abounded in that district, especially lions and panthers. They were found in the clefts and defiles of the rocks. Lions, however, have now altogether disappeared. In the name Amana some think there is an allusion to truth (amen) (see Hosea 2:22); but that would be too obscure. The general intention of the passage is simple and plain - Leave the rough places, and come to my palace. The words "with me" (אִתִּי) are taken by the LXX. and Vulgate as though written אֲתִי, the imperative of אָתָה, "to come," as a word of invitation, δεῦρο. The use of the verb תָּבואִי, "thou shalt come," i.e. thou hast come and be content, renders it improbable that such should be the reading, whereas the preposition with the pronoun is quite in place. The spiritual meaning is not far to seek. The life that we live without Christ is at best a life among the wild, untamed impulses of nature, and in the rough and dangerous places of the world. He invites us to go with him to the place which he has prepared for us. And so the Church will leave its crude thoughts and undeveloped life, and seek, in the love of Christ and in the gifts of his Spirit, a truer reflection of his nature and will (see Ephesians 4:14-16). The Apocalypse is based upon the same idea, the advancement of the kingdom of Christ from the place of lions and panthers to the new Jerusalem, with its perfection of beauty and its eternal peace.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
Verse 9. - Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. The bridegroom still continues his address of love, which we must not, of course, press too closely, though it is noticeable that the language becomes somewhat more sober in tone, as though the writer were conscious of the higher application to which it would be put. Some translators take the first clause as though the word "ravished" should be rendered "emboldened." Symmachus, ἐθαρσύνας με. The Hebrew word לִבֵּב, literally, "heartened," may mean, as in Aramaic, "make courageous." Love in the beginning overpowers, unhearts, but the general idea must be that of "smitten" or "captured." So the LXX., Venetian, and Jerome, ἐκαρδίωσας με, vulnerasti cor meum (cf. Psalm 45:6). My sister, my bride, is, of course, the same as "my sisterly bride," a step beyond "my betrothed." Gesenius thinks that "one of thine eyes" should be "one look of thine;" but may it not refer to the eye appearing through the veil, as again one chain of the neck may glitter and attract all the more that the whole ornamentation did not appear in view? If but a portion of her beauty so overpowers, what will be the effect of the whole blaze of her perfection? As the Church advances in her likeness to her Lord, she becomes more and more the object of his delight, and as the soul receives more and more grace, so is her fellowship with Christ more and more assured and joyful.
How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
Verses 10, 11. - How fair is thy love, my sister, my bride! How much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all manner of spices! Thy lips, O my bride, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. The expression of thy love, that is, the endearments, the embraces, are delightful. The allusion to the lips may be a mere amplification of the word "love," but it may also refer to speech, and we think of the nineteenth psalm and the description of the words and testimony of the Lord, "more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb" (cf. Genesis 27:27; Hosea 4:7; Psalm 45:9). The words of pure, inward joy flowing forth from the lips may be so described. So the Lord has said, in Isaiah 62:5, that he rejoiceth over his people as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.
Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
Verse 12. - A garden shut up is my sister, my bride; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. We must bear in mind that these words are supposed to be spoken on the journey in the marriage procession. The bride is not yet brought to the royal palace. She is still travelling in the royal palanquin. The idea of a paradise or garden is carried from the beginning of Scripture to the end, the symbol of perfect blessedness. The figure of the closed or shut-up garden represents the bridegroom's delight in the sense of absolute and sole possession - for himself and no other. The language is very natural at such a time, when the bride is being taken from her home. We may compare with the figures here employed those in Proverbs 5:15-20.
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
Verses 13, 14. - Thy shoots are an orchard of pomegranates, with precious fruits; henna with spikenard plants, spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices. Thy shoots; i.e. that which comes forth from thee, thy plants, or, as Bottcher puts it, "all the phenomena and life utterances of her personality." All the plants had their meaning in flower language. They are mostly exotics. But it is difficult now to suggest meanings, though they may have been familiar to Jewish readers at the time. The pardes, "park, or enclosure," was adorned especially with foreign and fragrant plants of great beauty. It is an Old Persian word, perhaps, as Delitzsch suggests, from pairi (περὶ) and dez (Pers. diz), "a heap." Precious fruit; literally, fructus laudam, "fruits of renown" or excellence (cf. Syriac magdo, "dried fruit"). The carcom, or saffron, a kind of crocus (Ind. safran), yields the saffron colour from its dried flower eyes, used both as a cosmetic and as a medicine (cf. Sansc. kuakuma). The calamus, simply a reed, the sweet reed, a corn indigenous to the East. Cinnamon (Quinnamon), Laurus cinnamomum, is indigenous on the east coast of Africa and Ceylon, found later in the Antibes. The inner bark peeled off and roiled together forms the cinnamon bark (see Pliny, bk. 12). There are seven spices mentioned. We need not trouble ourselves to identify them all, as they are mostly Indian, and such as Solomon would fetch from the far East in his celebrated ships. The description is highly poetical, and simply means that all sweetness and attractiveness combine in the fair one. But symbolically we may see an allusion to the spread of the Church over the world, and all the glory and honour of the nations" being introduced into it. So the graces of the individual soul expand themselves under the influence of Christian truth and fellowship.
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
Verse 15. - Thou art a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and flowing streams from Lebanon. Referring, of course, to the clear, cool streams coming down from the snowy heights. The sweet freshness of the country maiden suggested this. May we not see a symbol of the spiritual life in such language (cf. John 7:38)? Ethically, at least, the blending of the freshness of a mountain stream with the luxuriance and fragrance of a cultivated garden is very suggestive. To an Eastern monarch, such purity and modesty as Solomon found in his bride must have been a rare excellence which might well be made typical.
Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.
Verse 16. - Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his precious fruits. This is the answer of the bride to the lavish praises of her husband. I am all his. She is yet unworthy of the king and of his love until the seasonal changes have developed and unfolded and spread forth her excellences. The north represents cold; the south, heat. Let the various influences from different quarters flow gently over the garden and call forth the fragrance and the fruits (cf. Esther 2:12). There is rich suggestion in such words. Whether we think of the individual soul or of the Church of Christ, the true desire of those who delight in the love of the Saviour is that all the gifts and graces which can be bestowed may make them worthy of him who condescends to call his people his delight. Surely it is no mere romantic idyll that is before us. Such significance cannot be a mere coincidence when it is so transparent and so apt.

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