Song of Solomon 6:13
Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.
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Song of Solomon 6:13. Return — Christ recalls his spouse, who, as when Christ was gone, she pursued after him, so now, when Christ was coming to her, she was ready to wander from him. Return — This word is repeated four times, to signify both Christ’s passionate love to her, and her backwardness. O Shulamite — This title signifies the wife of Solomon, thus called after her husband’s name; see Isaiah 4:1; and as Christ is called by the name of Solomon, (Song of Solomon 3:7,) so the church is fitly described by the title of Solomon’s wife. That we may look upon thee — That I and my companions may contemplate thy beauty. What will you see — But what do you, my friends, expect to discover in her? Christ proposes the question, that they might take special notice of this as a very remarkable thing in her. The company — Whereby he intimates, that this one spouse was made up of the whole multitude of believers; of two armies — Confederate together, and so this may signify the union of Jews and Gentiles, and the safety and strength of the church, which is compared to a numerous host, distributed into two armies.

6:11-13 In retirement and in meditation the Christian character is formed and perfected. But not in the retirement of the idle, the self-indulgent, or the trifler. When the Christian is released from the discharge of his duties in life, the world has no attractions for him. His prayer is, that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow within him, and around him. Such are the interesting cares and employments of him whom the world wrongly deems unhappy, and lost to his true interests. In humility and self-abasement, the humble Christian would turn away from the sight of all; but the Lord delights to honour him. Chiefly, however, may the reference be to the ministering angels who shall be sent for the soul of the Christian. Their approach may startle, but the departing soul shall find the Lord its strength and its portion for ever. The church is called the Shulamite: the word signifies perfection and peace; not in herself, but in Christ, in whom she is complete, through his righteousness; and has peace, which he made for her through his blood, and gives unto her by his Spirit.Return, return - About to withdraw, the bride is recalled by the chorus, desiring yet a little longer to contemplate a grace and beauty which has won all hearts.

Shulamite - Probably the same as "Shunamite," i. e., a native of the town or district of Shunem, situated in the territory of Issachar Joshua 19:18, on the slopes of the Little Hermon, overlooking the plain of Jezreel. It is now called Salem.

See - Look or gaze at. The bride's modest reply, taking up their words, and wondering at their request. The chorus answer with a further petition.

As it were the company of two armies - Or, rather, the dance of Mahanaim (see the margin), a well-known sacred dance, taking its name from the locality in which it originated Genesis 32:2; Joshua 21:38. Some, taking "Mahanaim" to be an ordinary designation for "the Angels" or "Angelic Hosts," render here "a dance as it were of angel-choirs," i. e., one of special grace and beauty. The former of these interpretations is to be preferred.

13. Entreaty of the daughters of Jerusalem to her, in her chariot-like flight from them (compare 2Ki 2:12; 2Sa 19:14).

Shulamite—new name applied to her now for the first time. Feminine of Solomon, Prince of Peace; His bride, daughter of peace, accepting and proclaiming it (Isa 52:7; Joh 14:27; Ro 5:1; Eph 2:17). Historically, this name answers to the time when, not without a divine design in it, the young Church met in Solomon's porch (Ac 3:11; 5:12). The entreaty, "Return, O Shulamite," answers to the people's desire to keep Peter and John, after the lame man was healed, when they were about to enter the temple. Their reply attributing the glory not to themselves, but to Jesus Christ, answers to the bride's reply here, "What will ye see" in me? "As it were," &c. She accepts the name Shulamite, as truly describing her. But adds, that though "one" (So 6:9), she is nevertheless "two." Her glories are her Lord's, beaming through her (Eph 5:31, 32). The two armies are the family of Jesus Christ in heaven, and that on earth, joined and one with Him; the one militant, the other triumphant. Or Jesus Christ and His ministering angels are one army, the Church the other, both being one (Joh 17:21, 22). Allusion is made to Mahanaim (meaning two hosts), the scene of Jacob's victorious conflict by prayer (Ge 32:2, 9, 22-30). Though she is peace, yet she has warfare here, between flesh and spirit within and foes without; her strength, as Jacob's at Mahanaim, is Jesus Christ and His host enlisted on her side by prayer; whence she obtains those graces which raise the admiration of the daughters of Jerusalem.

Return: Christ recalls his spouse, who as when Christ was gone she pursued after him, so now when Christ was coming or come to her, she was ready to wander and go astray from him, according to the common and corrupt disposition and custom of mankind; and therefore he seeks to stop or to reclaim her, and to oblige her to return to her first love, and to repent more thoroughly than she had yet done. Return: this word is here repeated four times, to signify both Christ’s passionate love to her, and earnest desire of her return, and her backwardness to it, which made so many calls necessary.

Shulamite: this title signifies either,

1. One born in or belonging to Jerusalem, called also Salem, Psalm 76:2. Or,

2. The wife of Solomon, thus called after her husband’s name: see Isaiah 4:1. And as Christ is called by the name of Solomon, Song of Solomon 3:7,9,11, so the church is fitly described by the title of Solomon’s wife.

That we may look upon thee; that I and my companions and friends may contemplate thy beauty.

What will ye see? but what do you my friends expect to discover in her? Christ proposeth the question, that he may give the following answer, and that they should take special notice of this as a very remarkable thing in her.

The company, whereby he intimates that this one and only spouse was made up of the whole multitude of believers, of two armies; either,

1. Opposite one against the other; and so this may note the conflict between the flesh and Spirit which is in all the faithful in this life. Or,

2. Confederate together; and so this may signify either,

1. The re-collection and union of Jews and Gentiles which shall one

day be under Christ as their common Head, Ephesians 2:15. Or,

2. The safety and strength of the church, which is compared to an army

with banners, above, Song of Solomon 6:4,10, and here to a numerous host distributed into two armies; wherein also there may be an allusion to that story, Genesis 32:1, where this very word, here rendered two armies, is used.

Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return,.... By whom the church is meant, so called from her being the spouse of Christ, the true Solomon; it being common for the wife to have the same name with her husband; thus, with the Romans, if the man's name was Caius, the woman's name was Caia: is the name of Christ Solomon? the church's name is Shulamite; see Jeremiah 23:6. The word from which this is derived signifies both perfection and peace; and the church may be called the Shulamite from her perfection, not in herself, but in Christ, in whom she is complete, and perfectly comely through his righteousness; and is also denominated from the peace which she has from Christ, and he has made for her through his blood, and he gives unto her by his Spirit; and from what she does or should enjoy in her members, and from what she will be possessed of to all eternity. Now the church, the Shulamite, is very importunately desired by the daughters of Jerusalem to return; which is said no less than four times, which shows how vehemently desirous they were of her company: and perceiving she was about to go from them, most earnestly press her to return, or to "turn" (b); to turn herself, that her beauty and comeliness might be more plainly seen; for this is the end proposed by them,

that we may look upon thee; that they might still have more opportunity of viewing her, and more narrowly to examine her beauty, for which she was so much commended; and that they might enjoy more of her company and conversation, which had been, and they might hope would be, more useful and instructive to them. A question upon this follows,

What will ye see in the Shulamite? which question is put, either by the daughters among themselves; some wishing for her return, and others asking what they expected to see in her, should she return: or rather it is put by the church herself; who asks the daughters, what they expected to see in her, a poor, mean, unworthy creature, not fit to be looked on, having nothing extraordinary, nor indeed valuable or of worth, in seeing of her? Which question is thus answered,

As it were the company of two armies: either by the daughters, declaring what they expected to see in the church; either such a glorious and joyful meeting between Christ and her, as is often between great persons, attended with singing and dancing; so the word for company is rendered by the Septuagint (c) "choroi", a "company" of those that dance and sing; see Psalm 68:24; or such an appearance as an army makes at the reception of their prince, when it is divided into two bands, for the sake of greater honour and majesty. Or rather this answer is returned by the church herself; signifying that nothing was to be seen in her but two armies, flesh and Spirit, sin and grace, continually warring against each other; which surely, she thought, could be no desirable and pleasing sight to them; see Romans 7:23.

(b) Sept. "convertere", Sanctius, Marckius. (c) , Sept. "sicut chorus", Vatablus, Marckius, Michaelis, & alii.

Return, return, O {i} Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.

(i) O ye people of Jerusalem, for Jerusalem was called Shalem which signifies peace.

13. It is not clear at once who the speaker in this verse is. There must be either more than one person concerned in it, or quotation, for there is an evident interchange of question and answer. Probably we should, with Oettli, assign the verse to the bride. She is rehearsing all that happened on the eventful day when Solomon came upon her. When she found herself among the royal chariots she turned to flee, and the ladies called to her to return. Hearing the call, she stopped to ask, ‘Why would ye gaze at the Shulammite as upon the dance of Mahanaim’? See below.

O Shulammite] This name for the bride occurs here only, and cannot be a proper name, otherwise even in the vocative there would be no article, as there is here. It must, therefore, mean ‘maiden of Shulam’ (cp. the Shunammite, 1 Kings 1:3). Not knowing her name, the courtiers call her by the name of the village near which they were when they saw her. This village was doubtless Shunem, in the plains of Esdraelon, which belonged to the tribe of Issachar. It has been identified by Robinson (Researches, 11. 325) with the modern Solam, a village in the neighbourhood of Jezreel on the southern slope of the east end of Little Hermon, as Nain is upon its northern slope. From the fact that the modern name has l for n, it is probable that Shulam is a later form than Shunem.

that we may look upon thee] The Heb. verb with the construction it has here means generally ‘to look upon with pleasure,’ but also simply ‘to gaze at’ (cp. Isaiah 47:13). In the first clause here we have the first meaning, in the second the other according to many expositors. In this latter case, “What will ye see” should be What would ye gaze at? But it is better to keep the same meaning and translate, Why would ye look upon the Shulammite?

As it were the company of two armies] The R.V. gives As upon the dance of Mahanaim? and probably this is the right translation. As she endeavours to escape, the Shulammite asks, would they stare at her as at a public spectacle. Some have thought that there is a reference here to the angel hosts from which Jacob is said to have named the place (Genesis 32:2). But there is no hint that there was anything resembling a dance in their movements. The probability, therefore, is that after Jacob’s vision Mahanaim became a holy place, if it was not one before, and that God was there praised in the dance (cp. Jdg 21:21), and that these dances had become famous either for their gracefulness or for their splendour. That Mahanaim was a place of importance, whether for political or for religious reasons or for both, is clear from the fact that Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, set up his kingdom there, and that David fled thither when he was driven away from Jerusalem by Absalom. It was also a Levitical city. It lay to the N. of the Jabbok not far from the valley of the Jordan, on the heights above that valley. Its exact site is unknown, as it can hardly have been el-Michne as Robinson supposes, for that is too far both from the Jabbok and from the Jordan. That places were famed for dances is shewn by the name Abel-Mecholah = ‘Dance meadow.’ The R.V. has in the margin, “a dance of two companies.” This might be supposed to be a dance specially worth seeing. Such a dance is described by Wetzstein, who says that in the Gof, or as Palgrave writes it, the Djowf, a region of N. Arabia, there is a variety of the dance called Sahqa, which is danced by two companies of men standing opposite each other, as in our country dances. But these Bedouin and Arab customs have no known connexion with the people west of the Jordan. Budde would change the dual into the plural and would read machanim and translate “as upon a camp dance,” i.e. ‘a sword dance,’ which forms part of the marriage customs Wetzstein describes. But a camp dance would be a very odd name for the sword dance, and though it is true that the place-name Mahanaim does not occur with the article, the article here may quite well define the dance, not Mahanaim.

Verse 13a. - Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. Shulem is the same as Shunem (see 1 Kings 1:3; 2 Kings 4:8; Joshua 19:18). Shulamite will, therefore, mean "lady of Shulem." It is the first occurrence of the name. It cannot be a pure proper name, says Delitzsch, because the article is attached to it. It is a name of descent. The LXX. has ἡ Σοοναμῖτις, i.e. "she who is from Shunem." Abishag was exceedingly beautiful, and she came from the same district. It is the country in the tribe of Issachar, near to little Hermon, to the southeast of Carmel and south of Nain, southeast of Nazareth, southwest of Tabor. It is found at present under the name Sawlam, not far from the great plain of Jiszeal (now Zer'in), "which forms a convenient way of communication between Jordan and the seacoast, but is yet so hidden in the mountain range that the Talmud is silent concerning this Sulem, as it is concerning Nazareth." It is impossible to resist the impression of the fact that this part of Galilee so closely associated with our Lord and his ministry should be the native place of the bride. Delitzsch thinks that the Shulamite is on her way from the garden to the palace. That the words are addressed to her by the admiring ladies can scarcely be disputed; hence the "we" of the address. "The fourfold 'come back' (or, 'turn') entreats her earnestly, yea, with team, to return thither (that is, to the garden) with them once more, and for this purpose, that they might find delight in looking upon her." But Delitzsch is scarcely right in thinking that the garden of nuts to which the bride referred is the garden of the palace. She is, perhaps, turning to leave the company of ladies, Solomon himself beingamong them, as though she would escape from their gaze, which is too much for her in her simplicity, and the ladies, seeing her intention to leave them, call her back. Another view is that the word "return" is for "turn round;" that is, "Let us see thee dance, that we may admire the beauty of thy form and movements." This would explain the appropriateness of the bride's reply in the latter haft of the verse. Moreover, the fourfold appeal is scarcely suitable if the bride was only slightly indicating her intention to leave. She would surely not leave hastily, seeing that Solomon is present. The request is not that she may remain, but that they may look upon her. It would be quite fitting in the mouth of lady companions. The whole is doubtless a poetic artifice, as before in the case of the dream, for the purpose of introducing the lovely description of her personal attractions. Plainly she is described as dancing or as if dancing. Delitzsch, however, thinks that the dance is only referred to by the ladies as a comparison; but in that case he certainly leaves unexplained the peculiarity of the description in Song of Solomon 7:1-5, which most naturally is a description of a dancing figure. Verse 13b. - Why will ye look upon the Shulamite as upon the dance of Mahanaim? The Shulamite, in her perfect modesty and humility, not knowing how beautiful she really is, asks why it is that they wish still to gaze upon her, like those that gaze at the dance of Mahanaim, or why they wish her to dance. But at the same moment, with the complaisance of perfect amiability, begins to move - always a pleasure to a lovely maiden - thus filling them with admiration. Mahanaim came in later times to mean "angels," or the "heavenly host" (see Genesis 32:3), but here it is generally thought to be the name of a dance, perhaps one in which the inhabitants of Mahanaim excelled, or one in which angels or hosts were thought to engage. The old translators, the Syriac, Jerome, and the Venetian, render, "the dances of the camps" (choros castrarum, θίωσον στρατοπέδων), possibly a war dance or parade. The word, however, is in the dual. Delitzsch thinks the meaning is a dance as of angels, "only a step beyond the responsive song of the seraphim" (Isaiah 6.). Of course, there can be no objection to the association of angels with the bride, but there is no necessity for it. The word would be, no doubt, familiarly known in the age of Solomon. The sacred dances wore often referred to in Scripture. and there would be nothing degrading to the dignity of the bride in dancing before the ladies and her own husband. "After throwing aside her upper garment, so that she had only the light clothing of a shepherdess or vine dresser, Shulamith danced to and fro before the daughters of Jerusalem, and displayed all her attractions before them."

Song of Solomon 6:13Encouraged by Shulamith's unassuming answer, the daughters of Jerusalem now give utterance to an entreaty which their astonishment at her beauty suggests to them.

13 Come back, come back, O Shulamith!

     Come back, come back, that we may look upon thee!

She is now (Sol 6:10.) on the way from the garden to the palace. The fourfold "come back" entreats her earnestly, yea, with tears, to return thither with them once more, and for this purpose, that they might find delight in looking up her; for ב חזה signifies to sink oneself into a thing, looking at it, to delight (feast) one's eyes in looking on a thing. Here for the first time Shulamith is addressed by name. But השּׁוּ cannot be a pure proper name, for the art. is vocat., as e.g., הבּת ירו, "O daughter of Jerusalem!" Pure proper names like שׁלמה are so determ. in themselves that they exclude the article; only such as are at the same time also nouns, like ירדּן and לבנון, are susceptible of the article, particularly also of the vocat., Psalm 114:5; but cf. Zechariah 11:1 with Isaiah 10:34. Thus השּׁוּ will be not so much a proper name as a name of descent, as generally nouns in (with a few exceptions, viz., of ordinal number, הררי, ימני, etc.) are all gentilicia. The lxx render השׁו by ἡ Σουναμῖτις, and this is indeed but another form for השּׁוּנמּית, i.e., she who is from Sunem. Thus also was designated the exceedingly beautiful Abishag, 1 Kings 1:3, Elisha's excellent and pious hostess, 2 Kings 4:8 ff. Sunem was in the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 19:18), near to Little Hermon, from which it was separated by a valley, to the south-east of Carmel. This lower Galilean Sunem, which lies south from Nain, south-east from Nazareth, south-west from Tabor, is also called Shulem. Eusebius in his Onomasticon says regarding it: Σουβήμ (l. Σουλήμ) κλήρου Ισσάχαρ καὶ νῦν ἐστὶ κώμη Σουλὴμ κ.τ.λ., i.e., as Jerome translates it: Sunem in tribue Issachar. et usque hodie vicus ostenditur nomine Sulem in quinto miliario montis Thabor contra australum plagam. This place if found at the present day under the name of Suwlam (Slam), at the west end of Jebel ed-Duhi (Little Hermon), not far from the great plain (Jisre'el, now Zer'n), which forms a convenient way of communication between Jordan and the sea-coast, but is yet so hidden in the mountain range that the Talmud is silent concerning this Sulem, as it is concerning Nazareth. Here was the home of the Shulamitess of the Song. The ancients interpret the name by εἰρημεύουσα, or by ἐσκυλευμένη (vid., Lagarde's Onomastica), the former after Aquila and the Quinta, the latter after Symm. The Targum has the interpretation: השׁלמה באמונתה עם ה (vid., Rashi). But the form of the name (the Syr. writes שׁילוּמיתא) is opposed to these allegorical interpretations. Rather it is to be assumed that the poet purposely used, not hshwb', but hshwl', to assimilate her name to that of Solomon; and that it has the parallel meaning of one devoted to Solomon, and thus, as it were, of a passively-applied שׁלומית equals Σαλόμη, is the more probable, as the daughters of Jerusalem would scarcely venture thus to address her who was raised to the rank of a princess unless this name accorded with that of Solomon.

Not conscious of the greatness of her beauty, Shulamith asks -

1ba What do you see in Shulamith?

She is not aware that anything particular is to be seen in her; but the daughters of Jerusalem are of a different opinion, and answer this childlike, modest, but so much the more touching question -

1bb As the dance of Mahanaim!

They would thus see in her something like the dance of Manahaaοm. If this be here the name of the Levitical town (now Mahneh) in the tribe of Gad, north of Jabbok, where Ishbosheth resided for two years, and where David was hospitably entertained on his flight from Absalom (Luthr.: "the dance to Mahanaaοm"), then we must suppose in this trans-Jordanic town such a popular festival as was kept in Shiloh, Judges 21:19, and we may compare Abel-meholah equals meadow of dancing, the name of Elisha's birth-place (cf. also Herod. i.:16: "To dance the dance of the Arcadian town of Tegea"). But the Song delights in retrospective references to Genesis (cf. Genesis 4:11, Genesis 7:11). At Genesis 32:3, however, by Mahanaaοm

(Note: Bφttcher explains Mahanaaοm as a plur.; but the plur. of מצנה is מצנות and מחנים; the plur. termination ajim is limited to מים and שׁמים.)

is meant the double encampment of angels who protected Jacob's two companies (Genesis 32:8). The town of Mahanaam derives its name from this vision of Jacob's. The word, as the name of a town, is always without the article; and here, where it has the article, it is to be understood appellatively. The old translators, in rendering by "the dances of the camps" (Syr., Jerome, choros castrorum, Venet. θίασον στρατοπέδων), by which it remains uncertain whether a war-dance or a parade is meant, overlook the dual, and by exchanging מחנים with מצנות, they obtain a figure which in this connection is incongruous and obscure. But, in truth, the figure is an angelic one. The daughters of Jerusalem wish to see Shulamith dance, and they designate that as an angelic sight. Mahanaam became in the post-bibl. dialect a name directly for angels. The dance of angels is only a step beyond the responsive song of the seraphim, Isaiah 6:1-13. Engelkoere angel-choir and "heavenly host" are associated in the old German poetry.

(Note: Vid., Walther von der Vogelweide, 173. 28. The Indian mythology goes farther, and transfers not only the original of the dance, but also of the drama, to heaven; vid., Gtting. Anziegen, 1874, p. 106.)

The following description is undeniably that (let one only read how Hitzig in vain seeks to resist this interpretation) of one dancing. In this, according to biblical representation and ancient custom, there is nothing repulsive. The women of the ransomed people, with Miriam at their head, danced, as did also the women who celebrated David's victory over Goliath (Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6). David himself danced (2 Samuel 6) before the ark of the covenant. Joy and dancing are, according to Old Testament conception, inseparable (Ecclesiastes 3:4); and joy not only as the happy feeling of youthful life, but also spiritual holy joy (Psalm 87:7). The dance which the ladies of the court here desire to see, falls under the point of view of a play of rival individual artistes reciprocally acting for the sake of amusement. The play also is capable of moral nobility, if it is enacted within the limits of propriety, at the right time, in the right manner, and if the natural joyfulness, penetrated by intelligence, is consecrated by a spiritual aim. Thus Shulamith, when she dances, does not then become a Gaditanian (Martial, xiv. 203) or an Alma (the name given in Anterior Asia to those women who go about making it their business to dance mimic and partly lascivious dances); nor does she become a Bajadere (Isaiah 23:15 f.),

(Note: Alma is the Arab. 'ualmah (one skilled, viz., in dancing and jonglerie), and Bajadere is the Portug. softening of baladera, a dancer, from balare (ballare), mediaev. Lat., and then Romanic: to move in a circle, to dance.)


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