How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.
Verse 1. - How beautiful are thy feet in sandals, O prince's daughter! The joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman. To the ladies who are looking on the bride appears simply noble and royal. The word naudhib which is used, translated "prince's daughter," means "noble in disposition," and so in birth and rank, as in 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalm 113:8; so in Song of Solomon 6:12, "the princely people." The description, which is perfectly chaste, is intended to bring before the eye the lithe and beautiful movements of an elegant dancer; the bendings of the body, full of activity and grace, are compared to the swinging to and fro of jewelled ornaments made in chains. The cunning workman or artist is one who is master of that which abides beautiful. אָמָּן, like, יָמִין, "whose truthful work can be trusted." The description passes from the thighs or loins to the middle part of the body, because in the mode of dancing prevailing in the East the breast and the body, are raised, and the outlines of the form appear through the clothing, which is of a light texture. We must not expect to find a symbolical meaning for all the details of such a description. The general intention is to set forth the beauty and glory of the bride. The Church of Christ is most delightful in his sight when it is most full of activity and life, and every portion of it is called forth into manifest excellence. "Arise, shine," is the invitation addressed to the whole Church, "shake thyself from the dust," "put on thy beautiful garments," be ready for thy Lord.
Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.
Verse 2. - Thy navel is like a round goblet, wherein no mingled wine is wanting: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. It must be remembered that ladies are speaking of one who is in the ladies' apartment. There is nothing indelicate in the description, though it is scarcely Western. The "round goblet," or basin, with mixed wine, i.e. wine with water or snow mixed with it, is intended to convey the idea of the shape of the lovely body with its flesh colour appearing through the semitransparent clothing, and moving gracefully like the diluted wine in the glass goblet. The navel is referred to simply as the center of the body, which it is in infants, and nearly so in adults. Perhaps Delitzsch is right in thinking that there may be an attempt to describe the navel itself as like the whirling hollow of water in a basin. In the latter part of the verse the shape of the body is undoubtedly intended. "To the present day winnowed and sifted corn is piled up in great heaps of symmetrical, half-spherical form, which are then frequently stuck over with things that move in the wind, for the purpose of protecting them against birds. The appearance of such heaps of wheat," says Wetstein, "which one may see in long parallel rows on the threshing floors of a village, is very pleasing to a peasant; and the comparison of the song every Arabian will regard as beautiful." According to the Moslem Sunnas, the colour of wheat was that of Adam. The white is a subdued white, denoting both perfect spotlessness and the purity of health. The smooth, round, fair body of the maiden is seen to advantage in the varied movements of the dance.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.
Verse 3. - Thy two breasts are like two fawns that are twins of a roe. So in Song of Solomon 4:5; but there the addition occurs, "which feed among the lilies." This is omitted here, perhaps, only because lilies are just before spoken cf. The description is now in the lips of the ladies; before it was uttered by the king himself.
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.
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."
Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.
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.
How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!
Verses 6-9. - (Song of the bridegroom rejoicing over the bride.) How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will climb up into the palm tree, I will take hold of the branches thereof: let thy breasts be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy breath like apples; and thy mouth like the best wine, that goeth down smoothly for my beloved, gliding through the lips of them that are asleep. The abstract "love" is plainly here used for the concrete, "O loved one." It is just possible that the meaning may be - How delightful is the enjoyment of love! but the bodily description which follows suggests that the words are addressed directly to Shulamith. We certainly have in 1 Corinthians 13, an apostolic apostrophe to love, which Delitzsch calls the Apostle Paul's spiritual song of songs. But it would be somewhat irrelevant here. The king is deeply moved as he watches the beautiful figure before him, and delights in the thought that so lovely a creature is his own. The rapture which he pours out may be taken either as a recollection of how he was captivated in the past, or the past may be used for the present, as it frequently is in Hebrew. The meaning is the same in both cases. The palm tree may be selected on account of its elegance, but it is commonly employed in Eastern poetry as the emblem of love. The mystical writers use it to denote the Divine manifestation. The comparison of the breasts to clusters of grapes is quite natural, but no doubt reference is intended to the fruit as luscious and refreshing. Both the palm and the vine in the East are remarkable for the abundance and beauty of their fruits. In the case of the palm - "dark brown or golden-yellow clusters, which crown the summit of the stem and impart a wonderful beauty to the tree, especially when seen in the evening twilight." The palm and the vine are both employed in Scripture in close connection with the Church. "The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree;" "The vine brought out of Egypt" (Ps Psalm 80.), and the "vineyard of the beloved" (Isaiah 5.), and the "true vine," to which the Lord Jesus Christ compares himself, remind us that the illustration was perfectly familiar among the Jews; and we can scarcely doubt that the reference in this case would be understood. The Lord delighteth in those "fruits of righteousness" which come forth from the life and love of his people. They are the true adornment of the Church. The people of God are never so beautiful in the eyes of their Saviour as when they are covered with gifts and graces in their active expression in the world. Then it is that he himself fills his Church with his presence. The ninth verse is somewhat difficult to explain. The words are no doubt still in the lips of the king. There is no change of speaker until ver. 10, when Shulamith replies to the king's adoring address. Ginsburg says, "Her voice is not merely compared to wine because it is sweet to everybody, but to such wine as would be sweet to a friend, and on that account is more valuable and pleasant." The Authorized Version is supported by some critics as the best, "causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak." Delitzsch adheres to this. The LXX. renders it thus: ἱακανουμὲνος χειλεσί μου καὶ ὀδοῦσιν, "accommodating itself to my lips and teeth." So Symmachus, προστιθέμενος. Jerome, Labiisque et dentibus illius ad ruminandum. Luther strangely renders, "which to my friend goes smoothly down and speaks of the previous year" (pointing יְשֵׁנִים as יְשָׁנִים). Another rendering is, "which comes unawares upon the lips of the sleepers." Some think it refers to the smacking of the lips after wine. "Generous wine is a figure of the love responses of the beloved, sipped in, as it were, with pleasing satisfaction, which hover around the sleepers in delightful dreams, and fill them with hallucinations." Another reading substitutes "the ancient" for "them that are asleep." The general meaning must be wine that is very good and easily taken, or which one who is a good judge of wine will praise. It is possible that there is some slight corruption in the text. The passage is not to be rendered with absolute certainty. Delitzsch and others think that it is an interruption of the bride's, but they have little support for that view. The bride begins to speak at ver. 10.
This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;
And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.
I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me.
Verse 10. - I am my beloved's, and his desire is towards me. So in Song of Solomon 6:3 and Song 2:16. It seems possible that a portion of the bride's speech may have dropped out - "My beloved is mine" - or she may wish to adopt the language of Genesis 3:16, and represent herself as a true wife, whose husband is wrapt up in her love. By "desire" is intended the impulse of love, תְּשׁוּקָה, from a root שׁוּק, "to move or impel." The thought seems to be this - As my beloved is full of worshipping affection, and I am wholly his, let his love have free course, and let us retire together away from all the distractions and artificiality of the town life to the simplicity and congenial enjoyments of the country, which are so much more to my taste. The more real and fervent the religious emotions of the soul and the spiritual life of the Church, the more natural and simple will be their expression. We do not require any profuse ceremonies, any extravagant decorations, any complicated and costly religions services, in order to draw forth in the Christian Church the highest realization of the Saviour's fellowship. We want the Christianity we profess to take possession of us, body and soul. And so it will be as Christians learn more of Christ.
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.
Verses 11, 12. - Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine hath budded and its blossom be open, and the pomegranates be in flower: there will I give thee my love. All true poets will sympathize with the exquisite sentiment of the bride in this passage. The solitude and glory and reality of external nature are dearer to her than the bustle and splendour of the city and of the court. By "the field" is meant the country generally. The village or little town surrounded with vineyards and gardens was the scene of Shulamith's early life, and would always be delightful to her. The word is the plural of an unused form. It is found in the form copher (1 Samuel 6:18), meaning "a district of level country." Delitzsch renders, "let us get up early," rather differently - "in the morning we will start" - but the meaning is the same. The word dodhai, "my love," is "the evidences or expressions of my love" (cf. Song of Solomon 4:16; Song of Solomon 1:2). No doubt the bride is speaking in the springtime, the Wonnemond of May, when the pulses beat in sympathy with the rising life of nature.
Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.
The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.
Verse 13. - The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and at our doors are all manner of precious fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved. The dudhai after the form Lulai, and connected probably with דּוד, are the "love flowers," the Mandragora officinalis (Linn.), whitish-green in colour, with yellow apples about the size of nutmegs; they belong to the order of Solanaceae, and both fruits and roots were employed as aphrodisiac, to promote love. We are, of course, reminded of Genesis 30:14, where the LXX. has, μὴλα, μανδραγορῶν, when the son of Leah found mandrakes in vintage time. They produce their effect by their powerful and pleasant fragrance. They are said to be only rarely found in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, but they were abundant in. Galilee, where Shulamith was brought up. The Arabs called them abd-el-sal'm, "servant of love" - postillon d'amour. We are not wrong in using that which is perfectly natural and simple for the cherishing and increasing of devout feeling. The three elements which coexist in true spiritual life are thought, feeling, and action. They support one another. A religion which is all impulse and emotion soon wears itself out, and is apt to end in spiritual vacuity and paralysis; but when thought and activity hold up and strengthen and guide feeling, then it is scarcely possible to endanger the soul. The heart should go out to Christ in a simple but fervent worship, especially in praise. There are no Christians who are more ready to devote themselves to good works than those who delight much in hearty and happy spiritual songs.