Song of Solomon 1:6
Look not on me, because I am black, because the sun has looked on me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but my own vineyard have I not kept.
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(6) Look not . . .—i.e., with disdain, as in Job 41:34 (Heb. 26).

Black.—Literally, blackish.

The sun . . .—The word translated looked upon occurs only twice besides (Job 20:9; Job 28:7). The “all-seeing sun” is a commonplace of poetry; but here with sense of scorching. The heroine goes on to explain the cause of her exposure to the sun. Her dark complexion is accidental, and cannot therefore be used as an argument that she was an Egyptian princess, whose nuptials with Solomon are celebrated in the poem.

Mother’s childreni.e., brothers, not necessarily step-brothers, as Ewald and others. (Comp. Psalm 50:20; Psalm 69:8.) The reference to the mother rather than the father is natural in a country where polygamy was practised.

Mine own vineyard . . .—The general sense is plain. While engaged in the duties imposed by her brothers, she had been compelled to neglect something—but what? Some think her beloved, and others her reputation; Ginsburg, literally, her own special vineyard. But the obvious interpretation connects the words immediately with the context. Her personal appearance had been sacrificed to her brothers’ severity. While tending their vines she had neglected her own complexion.

Song of Solomon 1:6. Look not upon me — With wonder and disdain; because the sun hath looked upon me — My blackness is not essential and inseparable, but chiefly caused by the scorching beams of the sun; that is, sore persecutions and tribulations, which, by God’s permission, have befallen me, represented by the sun, Matthew 13:6-21. My mother’s children were angry with me — False brethren, who pretend that the church is their mother, when their actions demonstrate, that God, the husband of the church, is not their father; hypocritical professors, who are, and ever were, the keenest enemies to the true church and people of God; false teachers, and their followers, who, by their corrupt doctrines, and divisions, and contentions, bring great mischief to the church. Made me keeper of the vineyards — Having prevailed against me, they used me like a slave, putting me upon the most troublesome services, such as the keeping of the vineyards was esteemed, 2 Kings 25:12; Isaiah 61:5; Matthew 20:17. Mine own vineyard have I not kept — They gave me such a full employment in the drudging work about their vineyards, that they left me no time to mind my own; they hindered me from doing my own duty, and from minding my own concerns. And therefore it is no wonder if I be uncomely, and scorched by the sun.1:2-6 The church, or rather the believer, speaks here in the character of the spouse of the King, the Messiah. The kisses of his mouth mean those assurances of pardon with which believers are favoured, filling them with peace and joy in believing, and causing them to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost. Gracious souls take most pleasure in loving Christ, and being loved of him. Christ's love is more valuable and desirable than the best this world can give. The name of Christ is not now like ointment sealed up, but like ointment poured forth; which denotes the freeness and fulness of the setting forth of his grace by the gospel. Those whom he has redeemed and sanctified, are here the virgins that love Jesus Christ, and follow him whithersoever he goes, Re 14:4. They entreat him to draw them by the quickening influences of his Spirit. The more clearly we discern Christ's glory, the more sensible shall we be that we are unable to follow him suitably, and at the same time be more desirous of doing it. Observe the speedy answer given to this prayer. Those who wait at Wisdom's gate, shall be led into truth and comfort. And being brought into this chamber, our griefs will vanish. We have no joy but in Christ, and for this we are indebted to him. We will remember to give thanks for thy love; it shall make more lasting impressions upon us than any thing in this world. Nor is any love acceptable to Christ but love in sincerity, Eph 6:24. The daughters of Jerusalem may mean professors not yet established in the faith. The spouse was black as the tents of the wandering Arabs, but comely as the magnificent curtains in the palaces of Solomon. The believer is black, as being defiled and sinful by nature, but comely, as renewed by Divine grace to the holy image of God. He is still deformed with remains of sin, but comely as accepted in Christ. He is often base and contemptible in the esteem of men, but excellent in the sight of God. The blackness was owing to the hard usage that had been suffered. The children of the church, her mother, but not of God, her Father, were angry with her. They had made her suffer hardships, which caused her to neglect the care of her soul. Thus, under the emblem of a poor female, made the chosen partner of a prince, we are led to consider the circumstances in which the love of Christ is accustomed to find its objects. They were wretched slaves of sin, in toil, or in sorrow, weary and heavy laden, but how great the change when the love of Christ is manifested to their souls!Look not upon me - In wonder or scorn at my swarthy hue. It was acquired in enforced but honest toil: the sun hath scanned me (or "glared upon me") with his burning eye. The second word rendered "looked" is a word twice found in Job JObadiah 20:9; Job 28:7, and indicates in the latter place the piercing glance of a bird of prey.

My mother's children, - Or, sons; a more affectionate designation than "brothers," and implying the most intimate relationship.

Angry - This anger was perhaps but a form of jealous care for their sister's safety (compare Sol 8:12). By engaging her in rustic labors they preserved her from idleness and temptation, albeit with a temporary loss of outward comeliness.

Mine own vineyard - A figurative expression for herself or her beauty.

6. She feels as if her blackness was so great as to be gazed at by all.

mother's children—(Mt 10:36). She is to forget "her own people and her father's house," that is, the worldly connections of her unregenerate state (Ps 45:10); they had maltreated her (Lu 15:15, 16). Children of the same mother, but not the same father [Maurer], (Joh 8:41-44). They made her a common keeper of vineyards, whereby the sun looked upon, that is, burnt her; thus she did "not keep her own" vineyard, that is, fair beauty. So the world, and the soul (Mt 16:26; Lu 9:25). The believer has to watch against the same danger (1Co 9:27). So he will be able, instead of the self-reproach here, to say as in So 8:12.

Look not upon me, with wonder and disdain, because of my blackness, as it follows.

Because the sun hath looked upon me: my blackness is not essential, and inseparable, but chiefly caused by the scorching beams of the sun, i.e. of sore persecutions and tribulations, which by God’s permission have befallen me, which are represented by the sun, Matthew 13:6,21.

My mother’s children; false brethren, who pretend that the church is their mother, with their actions demonstrate that God, the Husband of the church, is not their Father; hypocritical professors, who are, and ever were, the keenest enemies to the true church and people of God, Isaiah 66:5 Galatians 4:29; false teachers, and their followers, who, by their corrupt doctrines, and divisions, and contentions which they raise, bring great mischief to the church. See 2 Corinthians 11:26 Galatians 2:4.

Were angry with me; or, fought against me, as the ancients render it, and so marred my beauty.

They made me keeper of the vineyards, i.e. of their vineyards, for to these she opposeth her own, in the next clause. Having prevailed against me, they used me like a slave, putting me upon the most dishonourable and troublesome services, such as the keeping of the vineyards was esteemed, 2 Kings 25:12 Isaiah 61:5 Matthew 20:1-7.

Mine own vineyard have I not kept; they gave me such a full and constant employment in their drudging work about their vineyards, that they left me no time to mind my own; they hindered me from doing my own duty, and from minding my own concerns; and therefore it is no wonder if in this posture and condition I be uncomely, and scorched by the sun. But because churches or societies of professors of religion, whether good or bad, are oft called vineyards, as Deu 32:32 Psalm 80:8 Isaiah 5:1,2,7, this and the foregoing clause may be thus understood, that they endeavored to seduce and corrupt the church with false doctrines, and superstitious or idolatrous worship, and to oblige her to countenance and maintain them, and thereby disturbed and hindered her from her proper work, which was the propagation and advancement of the true doctrine and worship in particular assemblies and persons belonging, or to be brought in, to her. Look not upon me,.... Meaning not with scorn and disdain because of her meanness; nor as prying into her infirmities to expose her; nor with joy at her trials and afflictions; neither of these can be supposed in the daughters of Jerusalem addressed by her: but rather, not look on her as amazed at her sufferings, as though some strange thing had befallen her; not at her blackness only, on one account or another, lest they should be stumbled; but at her beauty also;

because I am black; or "blackish" somewhat black (a), but not so black as might be thought, or as she was represented: the radicals of the word being doubled, some understand it as diminishing; but rather it increases the signification; see Psalm 14:2; and so it may be rendered "very black" (b), exceeding black; and this she repeats for the sake of an opportunity of giving the reason of it, as follows;

because the sun hath looked upon me; and had burnt her, and made her black; which effect the sun has on persons in some countries, and especially on such who are much abroad in the fields, and employed in rural services (c); as she was, being a keeper of vineyards, as in this verse, and of flocks of sheep, as in the following. This may be understood of the sun of persecution that had beat upon her, and had left such impressions on her, and had made her in this hue, and which she bore patiently; nor was she ashamed of it; nor should she be upbraided with it, nor slighted on account of it, see Matthew 13:6;

my mother's children were angry with me; by whom may be meant carnal professors, members of the same society, externally children of the same mother, pretend to godliness, but are enemies to it: these were "angry" with the church for holding and defending the pure doctrines of the Gospel; for keeping the ordinances as they were delivered; and for faithful reproofs and admonitions to them and others, for their disagreeable walk: and these grieved the church, and made her go mourning, and in black; and more blackened her character and reputation than anything else whatever: though it may be understood of any carnal men, who descend from mother Eve, or spring from mother earth, angry with the church and her members preciseness in religion; and particularly violent persecutors of her, who yet would be thought to be religious, may be intended;

they made me the keeper of the vineyards; this is another thing that added to her blackness, lying abroad in the fields to keep the "vineyards" of others, by which may be meant false churches, as true ones are sometimes signified by them; and her compliance with their corrupt worship and ordinances, which was not voluntary, but forced; they made me, obliged her, and this increased her blackness; as also what follows;

but mine own vineyard have I not kept; which made her blacker still; her church state, or the spiritual affairs of her own, her duty and business incumbent on her (d), were sadly neglected by her: and this sin of hers she does not pretend to extenuate by the usage of her mother's children; but ingenuously confesses the fault was her own, to neglect her own vineyard and keep others, which was greatly prejudicial to her, and was resented by Christ; upon which it seems he departed from her, since she was at a loss to know where he was, as appears from the following words. With the Romans, neglect of fields, trees, and vineyards, came under the notice of the censors, and was not to go unpunished (e).

(a) "paululum denigrata", Pagninus, Mercerus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius; so Ainsworth and Aben Ezra. (b) "Valde fusca", Bochart; "prorsus vel valde, et teta nigra", Marckius, Michaelis. (c) "Perusta solibus pernicis uxor", Horat. Epod. Ode 2. v. 41, 42. Theocrit. Idyll. 10. v. 27. (d) So Horace calls his own works "Vineta", Epist. l. 2. Ep. 1. v. 220. (e) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 4. c. 12.

Look not upon me, because I am {i} black, because the {k} sun hath looked upon me: {l} my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but my own vineyard have I not {m} kept.

(i) Consider not the Church by the outward appearance.

(k) The corruption of nature through sin and afflictions.

(l) My own brethren who should have most favoured me.

(m) She confesses her own negligence.

6. because I am black] The word for black here is a diminutive of the former word, and would be better translated swarthy.

the sun hath looked upon me] Rather, hath scorched me (R.V.).

my mother’s children] Lit. sons. These are not, as Ewald and others conjecture, her step-brothers. They are rather her full brothers, and the pathos of her case is deepened by that fact. Even her own brothers, in their anger, set her menial tasks. From there being mention only of her mother and her brothers, and from the authority her brothers exercised over her, we may infer that her father was dead. This is one of the undesigned touches which compel us to assume a connected story of some kind as a background for the book. Those who deny any connexion between the songs and assert that they are only the fragments of a professional singer’s répertoire cannot satisfactorily explain this reference,

but mine own vineyard have I not kept] i.e. she did not take fitting care of her own beauty; or it may be that the reference is to the carelessness which had brought her into her present danger. The former is more probable since she affirms most strongly (cp. Song of Solomon 8:10; Song of Solomon 8:12) that in the sense of her person she has kept her ‘vineyard.’Verse 6. - Look not upon me, because I am swarthy, because the sun hath scorched me. My mother's sons were incensed against me; they made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. The meaning seems to be - Do not let the swarthiness of my complexion lower me in your eyes. Literally the words are, Do not see me that I am; i.e. do not regard me as being, because I am. There is no necessity to suppose any looks of the ladies to have suggested the words. They are the words of modest self-depreciation mingled with joyful sense of acceptance. It is difficult to render the Hebrew exactly. The word translated "swarthy" (shecharchoreh) is probably a diminutive from shechorah, which itself means "blackish;" so that the meaning is, "that my complexion is dark." The reference to the sun explains the word still further, as pointing, not to a difference of race, but to mere temporary effects of an outdoor life: "The sun has been playing with my complexion;" or, as the LXX. renders it, Παρέβλεψέ μὰ ὁ ἡλίος, "The sun has been gazing at me." So other Greek versions. Some, however, include the idea of burning or scorching, which is the literal meaning of the verb, though in Job 3:9 and Job 41:10 it is used in the sense of looking at or upon. The sun is the eye of the heavens (see 2 Samuel 12:11), and with delicate feeling it is spoken of here as feminine, the bride playfully alluding, perhaps, to the lady seen in the heavens preceding the ladies of the court in gazing on her beauty. It is difficult to explain with perfect satisfaction the next clause of the verse. Doubtless "mother's sons" is a poetical periphrasis for brothers - not "step-brothers," as some have said. Perhaps the mother was a widow, as no father is mentioned. The best explanation is that the bride is simply giving an account of herself, why she is so browned in the sun. The brothers, for some reason, had been incensed against her, possibly on account of her favour in the eyes of the king, but more probably for private, family reasons. They would not have her shutting herself up in the house to take care of her complexion; they would have her in the vineyards. In the word "keeper" (noterah instead of notzerah) we have an instance of the northern dialect - a kind of Platt-Hebrew - hardening the pronunciation. My own vineyard have I not kept no doubt refers simply and solely to her complexion, not to her virginity or character. She means - I was compelled by my brothers to go into the vineyards in the heat of the sun, and the consequence was, as you see, I have not been able to preserve the delicacy of my skin; I have been careless of my personal beauty. The sun has done its work. The reference helps us to recognize the historical background of the poem, and leads naturally to the use of the pastoral language which runs through the whole. The king is a shepherd, and his bride a shepherdess. Without straining the spiritual interpretation, we may yet discover in this beautiful candour and Simplicity of the bride the reflection of the soul's virtues in its joyful realization of Divine favour; but the true method of interpretation requires no minute, detailed adjustment of the language to spiritual facts, but rather seeks the meaning in the total impression of the poem. As we render zeh kol-haadam as expressive of the same obligation lying on all men without exception, this verse appropriately follows: "For God shall bring every work into the judgment upon all that is concealed, whether it be good or bad." To bring into judgment is, as at Ecclesiastes 11:9 equals to bring to an account. There the punctuation is בּמּשׁ, here בּמשׁ, as, according to rule, the art. is omitted where the idea is determined by a relative clause or an added description; for bemishpat 'al kol-ne'llam are taken together: in the judgment upon all that is concealed (cf. Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5, τὰ κρυπτά). Hitzig, however, punctuates here בּמשׁ, and explains על as of the same meaning as the distributive ל, e.g., Genesis 9:5, Genesis 9:10; but in this sense על never interchanges with ל. And wherefore this subtlety? The judgment upon all that is concealed is a judgment from the cognition of which nothing, not even the most secret, can escape; and that על משׁפט is not a Germanism, is shown from Ecclesiastes 11:9; to execute judgment on (Germ. an) any one is expressed by ב, Psalm 119:84, Wisd. 6:6; judgment upon (ber) any one may be expressed by the genit. of him whom it concerns, Jeremiah 51:9; but judgment upon anything (Symm. περὶ παντὸς παροραθέντος) cannot otherwise be expressed than by על. Rather על may be rendered as a connecting particle: "together with all that is concealed" (Vaih., Hahn); but כל־מעשׂה certainly comprehends all, and with כל־נעלם this comprehensive idea is only deepened. The accent dividing the verse stands rightly under נעלּם;

(Note: Thus rightly pointed in F. with Dagesh in lamed, to make distinct the ע as quiescent (cf. 1 Kings 10:3; and, on the other hand, Nehemiah 3:11; Psalm 26:4). Cf. תּחשּׁ with Dagesh in shin, on account of the preceding quiescent guttural, like יח, Ecclesiastes 9:8; התּ, Leviticus 11:16; נח, Numbers 1:7, etc.; cf. Luth. Zeitsch. 1863, p. 413.)

for sive bonum sive malum (as at Ecclesiastes 5:11) is not related to ne'llam as disjoining, but to kol̇ma'aseh.

This certainty of a final judgment of personal character is the Ariadne-thread by which Koheleth at last brings himself safely out of the labyrinth of his scepticism. The prospect of a general judgment upon the nations prevailing in the O.T., cannot sufficiently set at rest the faith (vid., e.g., Psalm 73; Jeremiah 12:1-3) which is tried by the unequal distributions of present destiny. Certainly the natural, and particularly the national connection in which men stand to one another, is not without an influence on their moral condition; but this influence does not remove accountability, - the individuum is at the same time a person; the object of the final judgment will not be societies as such, but only persons, although not without regard to their circle of life. This personal view of the final judgment does not yet in the O.T. receive a preponderance over the national view; such figures of an universal and individualizing personal judgment as Matthew 7:21-23; Revelation 20:12, are nowhere found in it; the object of the final judgment are nations, kingdoms, cities, and conditions of men. But here, with Koheleth, a beginning is made in the direction of regarding the final judgment as the final judgment of men, and as lying in the future, beyond the present time. What Job 19:25-27 postulates in the absence of a present judgment of his cause, and the Apocalyptic Daniel 12:2 saw as a dualistic issue of the history of his people, comes out here for the first time in the form of doctrine into that universally-human expression which is continued in the announcements of Jesus and the apostles. Kleinert sees here the morning-dawn of a new revelation breaking forth; and Himpel says, in view of this conclusion, that Koheleth is a precious link in the chain of the preparation for the gospel; and rightly. In the Book of Koheleth the O.T. religion sings its funeral song, but not without finally breaking the ban of nationality and of bondage to this present life, which made it unable to solve the mysteries of life, and thus not without prophesying its resurrection in an expanded glorified form as the religion of humanity.

The synagogal lesson repeats the 13th verse after the 14th, to gain thereby a conclusion of a pleasing sound. The Masoretic Siman (vox memorialis) of those four books, in which, after the last verse, on account of its severe contents, the verse going before is repeated in reading, is קק''ית. The י refers to ישׁעיה (Isaiah), ת to תריסר (the Book of the Twelve Prophets), the first ק to קהלת, the second ק to קינות (Lamentations). The Lamentations and Koheleth always stand together. But there are two different arrangements of the five Megilloth, viz., that of the calendar of festivals which has passed into our printed editions: the Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Koheleth, and Esther; and the Masoretic arrangement, according to the history of their origin: Ruth, the Song, Koheleth, Lamentations, and Esther.

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