I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
Verse 1. - I am come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. My myrrh with my balsam (see 1 Kings 10:10). There were celebrated plantations at Jericho. The Queen of Sheba brought "of spices very great store;" "There came no more such abundance of spices as these which the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon." Is there a reference to the conversion of the heathen nations in this? The wine and milk are what God offers to his people (see Isaiah 55:1) without money and without price. Οἰογάλα is what Chloe gives to Daphnis (cf. Psalm 19:6). It would seem as though the writer intended us to follow the bridal procession to its destination in the royal palace. The bridal night intervenes. The joy of the king in his bride is complete. The climax is reached, and the rest of the song is an amplification. The call to the friends is to celebrate the marriage in a banquet on the second day (see Genesis 29:28; Judges 14:12; Tobit 11:18; and cf. Revelation 19:7 and Revelation 19:9). A parallel might be found in Psalm 22:26, where Messiah, at the close of his sufferings, salutes his friends, the poor, and as they eat at his table gives them his royal blessing, "Vivat cor vestrum in aeternum!" The perfect state of the Church is represented in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and in the New, as celebrated with universal joy - all tears wiped away from off all faces, and the loud harpings of innumerable harpers. Can we doubt that this wonderful book has tinged the whole of subsequent inspired Scripture? Can we read the descriptions of triumphant rejoicing in the Apocalypse and not believe that the apostolic seer was familiar with this idealized love song?
I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
Verse 2-ch. 8:4. - Part IV. REMINISCENCES OF LOVE DAYS. The bridegroom rejoicing in the bride. Verse 2. - The bride's reminiscence of a love dream. I was asleep, but my heart waked, It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, my locks with the drops of the night. There is a resemblance between this account of what was apparently a dream, and that which is related in Song of Solomon 3:1-4; but the difference is very clear. In the former case the lover is represented as dismissed for a season, and then the relenting heart of the maiden sought after him and found him. In this case he "stands at the door and knocks," coming in the night; and the maiden rises to open, but finds him gone, and so is drawn after him. The second dream is much more vivid and elaborate, and seems to be an imitation and enlargement of the other, being introduced apparently more for the sake of dwelling on the attractions of the beloved one and his preciousness in the eyes of the maiden than in self-reproach. Is it not possible that the poem originally concluded at Song of Solomon 5:1 with the marriage, and that the whole of the latter half was an amplification, either by Solomon himself, the author of the first half, or by some one who has entered into the spirit of the song? This would explain the apparent repetition, with the variations. But, at all events, the second part certainly is more from the standpoint of married life than the first. Hence the bride speaks at great length, which she does not in the earlier portion. Delitzsch thinks that this second love dream is intended to represent what occurred in early married life; but there are two objections to that - first, that the place is evidently a country residence; and secondly, that such an occurrence is unsuitable to the conditions of a royal bride. It is much more natural to suppose that the bride is recalling what occurred in her dream when the lover, having been sent away until the evening, as on the former occasion, returned, and in the night knocked at the door. "My heart waked" is the same as "My mind was active." The "heart" in Hebrew is the inner man, both intellect and feeling. "I was asleep, but I was thinking" (cf. Cicero, 'De Divinatione,' 1:30). The lover has come off a long journey over the mountains, and arrives in the night time. The terms with which he appeals to his beloved are significant, denoting
(1) equal rank - my sister;
(2) free choice - my love;
(3) purity, simplicity, and loveliness - my dove;
(4) entire devotion, undoubting trust - my undefiled. Tammanthi, "my perfection," as Arabic tam, teim, "one devoted to another." as a servant.
Similar passages are quoted from heathen love poetry, as Anacreon, 3:10; Propertius, 1:16-23; Ovid, 'Amor.,' 3:19, 21. The simple meaning of the dream is that she is full of love by night and by day. She dreamed that she was back in her old country home, and that her lover visited her like a shepherd; and she tells how she sought him, to show how she loved him. When we are united to the Saviour with the bonds of a pledged affection, we lose the sense of self-reproach in the delight of fellowship, and can even speak of our own slowness and backwardness only to magnify his grace. We delight to acknowledge that it was his knocking that led us to seek after him, although we had to struggle with the dull heart; and it was not until it was moved by his approach, by his moving towards us, that we hastened to find him, and were full of the thought of his desirableness. There are abundant examples of this same interchange of affection in the history of the Church's revivals and restorations.
I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
Verse 3. - I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? Evidently the meaning is, "I have retired to rest; do not disturb me." She is lying in bed. The cuttoneth, or χτιών, was the linen garment worn next the body - from cathan, "linen." The Arabic kutun is "cotton;" hence the French coton, "calico, or cotton" shift. Shulamith represents herself as failing in love, not meeting the condescension and affection of her lover as she should. Sloth, reluctance, ease, keep her back. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion!" The scene is, of course, only ideally true; it is not meant to be a description of an actual occurrence. Fancy in dreams stirs up the real nature, though it also disturbs it. Shulamith has forsaken her first love. She relates it with sorrow, but not with despondency. She comes to herself again, and her repentance and restoration are the occasion for pouring out the fulness of her affection, which had never really changed, though it has been checked and restrained by self-indulgence. How true a picture both of the individual soul and of the Church in its decline! "Leave me to myself; let me lie at ease in my luxury and my smooth, conventional ways and self-flattering deceit."
My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
Verse 4. - My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my heart was moved for him. The door hole is a part of the door pierced through at the upper part of the lock, or door bolt (מִן־הַחור), that is, by the opening from without to within, or through the opening, as if, i.e., to open the door by pressing back the lock or bolt from within. There was some obstacle. He tailed to open it. It had not been left so that he could easily obtain admittance. The metaphor is very apt and beautiful. How much he loved her! How he tried to come to her! As applied to the Saviour, what infinite suggestiveness! He would be with us, and not only knocks at the door, but is impatient to enter; tries the lock, and too often finds it in vain; he is repelled, he is resisted, he is coldly excluded. My heart was moved for him. מֵעַי, "my inner being" (cf. Isaiah 63:15, where the same word is used of God). It is often employed to express sympathy and affection, especially with tender regret. The later authorities, as the older translations, have "to him" (עָלָיו), i.e. over him, or on account of him, in the thought of his wounded heart.
I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
Verse 5. - I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with liquid myrrh, upon the handles of the bolt. The meaning seems to be that the lover had come to the door perfumed as if for a festival, and the costly ointment which he brought with him has dropped on the handles of the bolts. Similar allusions may be found in Lucretius and other heathen writers. This description is, of course, inapplicable to the shepherd theory. It would not be a rough country swain that came thus perfumed; but Solomon is thought of as at once king and lover. It would be stretching the poetry too far to suppose that Shulamith meant the natural sweetness of her lover was the perfume. Neither is there any probability in the explanation that she dipped her hand in perfumed oil before she opened the door. That would destroy all the form and beauty of the dream. It is her lover whose fragrance she celebrates, not her own. Whether he brought perfumes with him, or the innate personal sweetness of his presence left its fragrance on that which he touched, in either case it is the lover himself who is spoken cf. His very hand, wherever it has been, leaves behind it ineffable delight. His presence reveals itself everywhere. Those who go after him know that he is not far off by the traces of his loving approaches to them. The spiritual meaning is too plain to need much exposition.
I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.
Verse 6. - I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone. My soul had failed me when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. The meaning is this - The voice of my beloved struck my heart; but in the consciousness that I had estranged myself from him I could not openly meet him, I could not offer him mere empty excuses. Now I am made sensible of my own deficiency. I call after him. I long for his return, but it is in vain (cf. the two disciples going to Emmaus, Luke 24, "Did not our heart burn within us," etc.?). Similar allusion to the effect of the voice of the beloved is found in Terence, 'And.,' 1:5, 16, "Oratio haec," etc. The failing or departing of the soul at the sound of the voice must refer to the lack of response at the time, therefore it was that she sought him and cried out after him. When he spake; literally, in his speaking; i.e. when he said, "I will not now come because at first refused;" cf. Proverbs 1:20-33, the solemn warning against the loss of opportunity. It is a coincidence between the two books of Solomon which cannot be disregarded. If there is any spiritual meaning at all in Solomon's Song, it certainly is a book which he who wrote the first chapter of Proverbs is likely to have written.
The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.
Verse 7. - The watchmen that go about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my mantle from me. The intention is to show into what evil she fell by having to seek her beloved instead of being with him. She is mistaken and misjudged; she is smitten and wounded with reproaches and false accusations, as though she were a guilty and evil minded woman. She is subjected to abuse and ill treatment from those who should be her guardians. She had hard work to escape, leaving her robe behind her (cf. Genesis 39:12). The redhidh, like ridha in Arabic, is a plaid-like upper garment thrown over the shoulders - so says Aben Ezra; but it is derived, no doubt, from the root "to make broad or thin," to spread out - perhaps, therefore, "a thin, light upper robe" which was worn over the chiton, a summer overdress, a cloak (LXX., θερίστρον: Jerome, pallium; Luther, Schleier). If we take the dream thus described, and which seems to conclude at this point, as related to the surrounding ladies, then we must suppose that it is introduced for the sake of what follows. The bride feels that she does not love her beloved one half enough; she is so conscious of deficiencies, that she might even have acted as her dream represented. It had entered her soul and made her ill with inward grief and self-reproach. She might so act, she might so treat her husband. So she adjures her companions to tell him how much she loves him. The spiritual application is not difficult to see. When the soul loses its joy in Christ, it becomes the prey of fears and self accusations, and even of reproaches from Christ's servants and the guardians of his Church. For when our religion ceases to be a spontaneous delight to us, we are apt to carry on even the active work of our life in a manner to be misunderstood by sincere believers around us. Yea, the very efforts we make to recover peace may bring reproach upon us. Any Christian minister who has had to deal with religious despondency will quite understand this dream of the bride's. We may often smite and wound, and even deprive of the garment of reputation and esteem, those who are really seeking for Christ, because we have misunderstood them.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.
Verse 8. - I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love. This appeal to the ladies suggests that the bride is speaking from her place in the royal palace; but it may be taken otherwise, as a poetical transference of time and place, from the place where the dream actually occurred, to Jerusalem. It is difficult, in a poem of such a kind, to explain every turn of language objectively. We cannot, however, be far wrong if we say the bride is rejoicing, in the presence of her attendant ladies, in the love of Solomon. He has just left her, and she takes the opportunity of relating the dream, that she may say how she cannot bear his absence and how she adores him. The ladies enter at once into the pleasant scheme of her fancy, and assume that they are with her in the country place, and ready to help her to find her shepherd lover, who has turned away from her when she did not at once respond to his call. The daughters of Jerusalem will, of course, symbolically represent those who, by their sympathy and by their similar relation to the object of our love, are ready to help us to rejoice - our fellow believers.
What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?
Verse 9. - What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so adjure us? This, of course, is poetic artifice in order to give the opportunity to the bride to enter upon a glowing description of the object of her love. She wishes to say that he is perfect, everything that he can be.
My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.
Verse 10. - My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. The mingling of colours in the countenance is a peculiar excellence. The word tsach, from the root tsahach (cf. Lamentations 4:7), means a bright, shining clearness; it is not the same as lavan, which would mean "dead white." So in Greek λαμπρὸς differs from λεῦκος. The red adhom, from the root dam, which means "to condense," is dark red (rouge puce), no doubt as betokening health and vigour. The pure, delicate white among the Caucasians denotes high rank, superior training, hereditary nobility, as among ourselves the "aristocratic paleness" (cf. Hom., 'I1,' 4:141, "ivory with purple;" Virg., 'AEn.,' 12:65; Ovid, 'Am.,' 2; ' Eleg.,' 5:39; Hor., Od., 1:13, etc.; Tibull., 'Eleg.,' ext. 4, etc.). The chiefest, that is, the distinguished one, the chosen (so the Greek versions, Syriac, Jerome, Luther). The LXX. has ἐκλελοξισμένος, e cohorte selectus. Another rendering is "bannered," furnished with a banner or pennon (דֶּגֶל) hence the word דָּגוּל as a past participle (so the Venetian σεσημαιωμένος). The numeral (revava) "ten thousand" is simply used to represent an innumerable multitude; "myriad" is so used among ourselves (cf. Ezekiel 16:7).
His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.
Verses 11-16. - His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks; washed with milk and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as banks of sweet herbs; his lips are as lilies, dropping liquid myrrh. His hands are as rings of gold set with beryl; his body is as ivory work overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold. His aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. This description, which is complete in itself, is best regarded in its unbroken perfection. We must not expect to find a meaning for each separate part of it. There are ten corporeal excellences enumerated. We naturally recall the descriptions in Daniel and in the Apocalypse, which certainly have reference to this, and manifestly combine the attributes of greatness and beauty in the Son of man. Solomon, no doubt, as the son of Bathsheba, was distinguished by his personal attractions. Some of the details of description are differently rendered by different commentators. Delitzsch regards the description of the hair in ver. 11 as compared to a hill or hilly range" his locks hill upon hill," i.e. "his hair, seen from his neck upwards, forms in undulating lines hill upon hill." The black colour is no doubt mentioned as a contrast with the fair, white complexion. The eyes are not only pure and clear, but with a glancing moistness in them which expresses feeling and devotion. So Plutarch has ὑρότης τῶν ὀμμάτῶν to denote a languishing look, and we find the same figure in the 'Gitagovinda ' and Hafiz, and in Ossian. So Luther, "Und stehen in der Falle." The pureness of the white of the eye is represented in the bathing or washing in milk. They are full and large, "fine in their setting," referring no doubt to the steady, strong look of fine eyes. "The cheeks" are compared to towers of plants; that is, there is a soft elevation in them. LXX., ψύουσαι μυρεψικά: Jerome, Sicut areolae aromatum consitae a pigmentariis. The Targum says, "Like the rows of a garden of aromatic plants, which produce deep, penetrating essences, even as a (magnificent) garden aromatic plants" - perhaps referring to the "flos juventae," the hair on the face, the growth of the beard. "The lips" are described as the organs of speech as well as inviting to embrace. They drop words like liquid fragrance. "The bands" may be differently described according as they are viewed. Delitzsch says, "His hands form cylinders, fitted in with stones of Tarshish." Gesenius thinks the comparison is of the closed hand and the stained nails, but that seems farfetched. Surely it is the outstretched hands that are meant. The form of the fingers is seen and admired; they are full, round, fleshy like bars of gold. The word "Tarshish" may mean clay white, as in the Greek versions; that is, topaz, called Tarshish from Tartessus in Spain, where it is found. The description of the body is of the outward appearance and figure only, though the word itself signifies "inward parts." The comparison with ivory work refers to the glancing and perfect smoothness and symmetry as of a beautiful ivory statue, the work of the highest artistic excellence. The sapphire covering tempers the white. The beautiful blue veins appear through the skin and give a lovely tint to the body. So in the description of the legs we have the combination of white and gold, the white marble setting forth greatness and purity, and the gold sublimity and nobleness; intended, no doubt, to suggest that in the royal bridegroom there was personal beauty united with kingly majesty, as in the following description of his general aspect, which, like the splendours of the mountains, was awe-inspiring and yet elevating and delightful (cf. Psalm 80:11 (10): Jeremiah 22:7; Isaiah 37:24). His mouth, or palate, is sweetness itself; that is, when he speaks his words are full of winning love (cf. Proverbs 16:4; Psalm 55:16). We may compare with the whole description that given of Absalom, Solomon's brother, in 2 Samuel 14:25, 26. It has been truly remarked by Zockler that "the mention of the legs, and just before of the body, could only be regarded as unbecoming or improper by an overstrained prudishness, because the description which is here given avoids all libidinous details, and is so strictly general as not even to imply that she had ever seen the parts of the body in question in a nude condition." It merely serves to complete the delineation of her lover, which Shulamith sketches by a gradual descent from head to foot, and, moreover, is to be laid to the account of the poet rather than to that of Shulamith, who is in everything else so chaste and delicate in her feelings. Certainly it would be much less delicate regarded as the description of a shepherd lover who is seeking to obtain possession of the maiden taken from him, than of the royal bridegroom to whom Shulamith is at all events affianced, if not already married. The highest spiritual feelings of loving adoration of the Saviour have welcomed some parts of this description, and adopted them into the language of "spiritual songs." To some minds, no doubt, it is repellent; to those to whom it is not so, the warmth and glow of Eastern language is by no means too realistic for the feelings of delight in the Lord which express themselves in rapturous music.
His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.
His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.
His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.