Cambridge Bible Harper
Song of Solomon 1:7
7. where thou feedest, &c.] Rather, where thou wilt pasture (thy flock), where thou wilt make (them) rest at noon. ‘Feedest’ is in English ambiguous, but the Heb. word is not. Cp. Gen_37:16, “Tell me, I pray thee, where they feed (their flocks).”
as one that turneth aside] Vulg. ne vagari incipiam. The LXX, ὡς περιβαλλομένη = as one veiling herself, is more correct. The Heb. of the text is kě ‛ôtyâh, which is the participle fem. Qal for the usual ‛ôtâh (but perhaps it should be ‛ôtîyyâh; cp. Ges. Kautzsch Gramm. § 75 v) of the verb âtâh = to fold, or pack together; cp. Isa_22:17, “He will wrap thee up closely” (R.V.); and Jer_43:12, “He shall array himself” (literally wrap himself) “with the land of Egypt”; then ‘to veil’ or ‘cover,’ and this must be its meaning here; like one veiling herself. But what is the significance of her veiling herself? Delitzsch and others understand the reference here to be to the custom of harlots to disguise themselves, as Tamar, Gen_38:15, “He thought her to be an harlot, for she had covered her face,” but there is no plausible reason given why she should veil herself, especially if this interpretation could be put upon her doing so. Others, taking the text to be correct, make the meaning to be ‘as one mourning or forsaken,’ then ‛ôtyâh must have become a technical term from which the original meaning had almost wholly been stripped. The Syriac, the Vulgate, and Symm. apparently read, ‘wanderer,’ transposing the letters and making ‛ôtîyyâh into tô‛ iyyâh, the participle of the verb ‘to wander.’ Archdeacon Aglen’s suggestion in Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, that as the word ‛âtâh in Isa_22:17 is given the meaning of ‘erring,’ or ‘wandering about,’ by the Rabbinic commentators, probably the idea they had in their mind was that a person with the head wrapped up has difficulty in finding his way, and thus, even without any transposition of the letters, the word might come to be translated ‘wandering,’ is interesting and plausible. He would translate as one blindfold. This seems the best rendering.
(Chorus of ladies.) If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents. That another voice is here introduced there can be no doubt; and as it is not like the voice of the bridegroom himself, which is heard in the next verse, we must suppose it to be the chorus of attendant ladies. Delitzsch suggests very plausibly that they are pleasantly chiding the simplicity of the country maiden, and telling her that, if she cannot understand her position, she had better return to her country life. In that case, “if thou know not” would mean—If thou canst not rise up to thy privilege; the knowledge referred to being general knowledge or wisdom. The delicate irony is well expressed, as in the reference to the kids—”feed thy kids,” like a child as thou art. But there may be no intentional irony in the words; rather a playful and sympathetic response to the beautiful simplicity of the bride—If thou art waiting to be brought to thy beloved, if thou art seeking thy shepherd, thou most lovely woman, then go quietly on thy way, like a shepherdess tending the kids beside the shepherds’ tents; follow the peaceful footsteps of the flock, and in due time the beloved one will appear. This is better than to suppose the ladies presuming to indulge in irony when they must know that Shulamith is the king’s favourite. Besides, the first scene of the poem, which is a kind of introduction, thus ends appropriately with an invitation to peaceful waiting for love. We are prepared for the entrance of the beloved one. The spiritual meaning is simple and clear—Those that would be lifted up into the highest enjoyments of religion must not be impatient and doubt that the Lord will reveal himself, but go quietly and patiently on with the work of life, “in the footsteps of the flock,” in fellowship with humble souls, and in the paths of peace, in the green pastures and beside the still waters, ready to do anything assigned them, and the time of rejoicing and rapture will come.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves; literally, thine eyes are doves. The king receives the worship of his bride and delights in her. She is very sweet and fair to him. The dove is a natural symbol of love; hence it was attached by the classical nations to the garden of love, together with the myrtle, rose, and apple, all of which we find introduced in this Hebrew poem. Hence the Arabic name for a dove, Jemima, as we see in the Book of Job, was the name of a woman (cf. Columbina). The language of the king is that of ecstasy; hence the interjection and repetition. The enraptured monarch gazes into the eyes of his beloved bride, and sees there only purity, constancy, and affection. In So Job_7:4 the eyes are compared to fish ponds, no doubt for their clear, liquid depth and serenity. Some have thought that the allusion is to the very lovely eyes of the doves; but there is no need of the limitation.
Son_1:16. Lo! thou art fair, my beloved, yea sweet. The exactly analogous form of expression, with which Shulamith here answers the flattering caresses of the king, makes it appear to the last degree forced to regard these words of hers as addressed to a distant lover. The climacteric אַף נָעִים “yes sweet, yes charming” is only the expression of her loving transport, and finds an illustrative commentary in the description Son_2:3-5. [Will., Gins. connect this adjective with what follows: “Lovely is our verdant couch”].—Yea, our couch is green, lit.: “greens, grows green” (רַעֲנָנָה) a reference to the stately, verdant, and refreshing natural surroundings, in the midst of which to their delight their loving intercourse now takes place, and perhaps more particularly to a shady grassplot under the trees of the park, upon which they were for the moment sitting or reclining; comp. § 1 above, and Weissb. in loc. In opposition to Hengstenb., who takes עֶרֶשׂ in the sense of “marriage-bed,” and רַעֲנָן in a purely figurative sense of a gladsome and flourishing condition, may be urged that no mention can be made of a marriage-bed for Shulamith and Solomon before their nuptials, which are not described until Son_3:6, etc.; likewise the contents of the following verses, especially Son_2:1-3, which point to a continued stay of the lovers in the open air, under shady trees, and beside fragrant flowers.
Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 1:17
17. Render, The beams of our houses are cedars, and our rafters are cypresses. The meaning is not that their houses are built of cedar, but that the cedar trees and fir trees form the roof over their heads as they seek shelter under them. Perhaps the plural houses may be significant. They have not one, but many palaces in the forest glades. The country maiden speaks as a country maiden whose couch was often in the green grass, and who had cedars and cypresses for walls and roof at her meetings with her lover.
our rafters] Heb. râchîtçnu. This word is not found elsewhere, and its meaning can only be conjectured. The context suggests some portion of the woodwork of the roof, hence the ‘rafters’ of the A.V. LXX, φατνώματα = laquearia, lacunaria, i.e. ‘panelled ceilings.’
of fir] are cypresses. The form of the Heb. word here is běrôthîm, which is supposed to be the North Palestinian pronunciation for the usual berôshîm. The Vulgate everywhere renders abies = pine, the LXX and Syriac give in many places ‘cypress.’ But the cedar and cypress were trees of Lebanon, and the most valued among them, and Solam, at the S.W. foot of Jebel-ed-Dahi (Oettli), was not very far from the forests of Lebanon. Probably therefore the cypress is meant.
Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 2:1
Ch. Son_2:1-2. In Son_2:1 the bride speaks, describing herself as a humble meadow flower unfit to be in such a luxurious place as that in which she now finds herself, and in Son_2:2 Solomon replies.
1. Render, I am a crocus of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.
the rose of Sharon] The Heb. word chabhatstseleth, which occurs besides only in Isa_35:1, can hardly mean a rose. The LXX, Vulg., and Targ. to Isa_35:1 translate it ‘lily,’ but as we have shôshannâh for lily in the next clause, it is probably some other flower. The Targum here gives narqôs rattîb, ‘the green narcissus,’ but Gesen. Thes. prefers the Syriac translation, Colchicum autumnale or meadow saffron, a meadow flower like the crocus, white and violet in colour, and having poisonous bulbs. This is the most probable of the proposed identifications, though Tristram, Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 476, decides for the sweet-scented narcissus, Narcissus tazetta, a native of Palestine, and a flower of which the natives are passionately fond. While it is in flower it is to be seen in all the bazaars, and the men as well as the women at that season always carry two or three blossoms which they are constantly smelling.
Sharon] is generally supposed to be the great plain of Sharon to the S. of Carmel on the Mediterranean coast, stretching from Caesarea to Joppa. But the word probably means ‘a plain,’ and might, consequently, be applied by the inhabitants of any district to the plain in their neighbourhood. This is supported by the fact that Eusebius states that the district from Tabor to the Lake of Gennesaret was called Sharon, so here we may render either a crocus of Sharon, or of the plain, as in the LXX.
the lily] Rather, a lily. Shôshannâh must be a red flower; cp. Son_5:13, “His lips are like lilies.” Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 464, identifies it with the scarlet Anemone coronaria. It is found everywhere, on all soils and in all situations. It meets every requirement of the allusions in Canticles and is one of the flowers called susan by the Arabs.
Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 2:2
2. Solomon replies, turning her modest comparison into an exaltation of her above the ladies of the palace by saying, “My friend is indeed a lily and she is out of place, but only because the palace ladies are as thistles in comparison.” Chôach is perhaps a thistle here. Tristram, Fauna and Flora of Palestine, p. 336, says it is Notobasis Syriaca, a peculiarly strong and noxious thistle. But probably chôach meant many plants, and that the word does not always mean a thistle is shewn by its use in Pro_26:9, “as a chôach that goeth up into the hand of a drunkard,” where something of the nature of a brier must be intended. Cp. also the parable of Jehoash in 2Ki_14:9.
Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 2:15
15. In answer to her lover’s request that she should let him hear her voice the bride sings a fragment of a vineyard-watcher’s song. Probably, as Oettli suggests, he had heard her sing it before, and would recognise her by it, for she had not as yet revealed herself to him. He had been watching for her at the windows, and peering in at the lattices, and now she assures him of her presence. The word shû‘âl denotes an animal which digs into and dwells in the earth, for it means ‘the burrower,’ and is derived from the root which gives us also shô‘al, the hollow of the hand. It is the common fox here probably, though jackals are also called by this name, e.g. Psa_63:10, where those slain by the sword are said to be a portion for shû‘âlîm.
that spoil the vines] Rather, the vineyards. This includes the vines, for though foxes are carnivorous animals in the main, they also devour plants, so that besides digging their holes in the vineyards, and making tracks among the vines and gaps in the fences, they actually bite the young shoots of the vines and eat the grapes. (Cp. Theocritus, Id. v. 112, where vines are said to be spoiled by their deadly bite.) In vine-growing countries, as for instance in Australia, foxes when killed have been found with nothing in their stomachs but grapes. Perhaps there may be a side reference here to the Shulammite’s danger in the royal hareem. She speaks of her person as her vineyard, and there may be here a call to her lover to deliver her from those who wish to profane it.
for our vines have tender grapes] for our vineyards are in blossom. Heb. semâdhâr (cp. Son_2:13). The use by the bride of this peculiar word which her lover has just used may be meant to inform him that she has heard all he has just said.
Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 4:9
9. Thou hast ravished my heart] This clause is represented by one word in Heb., a denom. Piel verb, formed from the noun lçbhâbh = ‘heart.’ According to usage this might mean either ‘thou hast heartened me,’ i.e. as R.V. marg., given me courage, or ‘thou hast disheartened me,’ or stolen my heart away. The latter is the view of the A.V. and the preferable view. The translation, ravish, with its primary meaning ‘to carry off by violence,’ and its secondary one ‘to enchant’ or ‘charm,’ exactly corresponds to the Heb.
my sister, my spouse] R.V. my bride. The double name, as Budde remarks, can hardly have any other signification than an increase of tenderness, cp. Son_8:1, “O that thou wert my brother.” My sister bride occurs only in this chap. and in ch. Son_5:1, but, as Budde observes, in the ancient Egyptian love-songs, edited by Maspéro and Spiegelberg, ‘my sister’ and ‘my brother’ are the standing names for the lovers.
with one of thine eyes] From the use of the prep. min=‘from,’ with eyes here, and from the fact that in the text achaih, the masculine form of the numeral, stands, it is probable that some word such as ‘glance’ should be understood. Then we should translate, with one glance of thine eyes.
with one chain of thy neck] Chain here means a part of the necklace, but whether it means a single chain of the necklace, or a pearl or pendant is uncertain. Usage, in the only passages where the word occurs again, Jdg_8:26, and Pro_1:9, certainly is in favour of chain.
Son_4:10. How fair is thy love, my sister, my bride.דּוֹדִים here again, not “breasts” (Sept., Vulg., Luther), but “caresses, manifestations of love,” as Son_1:2. Comp. generally Son_1:2-3. Solomon here gives back to his beloved with larger measure, what she had there declared of him when absent.
Song of Solomon 4:11
11.Drop as the honeycomb — If her breath was like “incense on the air,” her words were most luscious. Some Arabian legends illustrate, incidentally, the extravagant fondness of Orientals for honey, and the hazards and adventures encountered in obtaining it among desert cliffs and in hostile territory. It was the only available sweet. The Scriptures speak of it in the same way. It was one of the “goodly things” of the Promised Land.
The smell of thy garments — As the Enamoured was now the guest of the king, she had received, as the eastern usage was, apparel fitting the place and occasion. (See the parable of the Wedding Garment.) This, as for a palace, would be sumptuous, and, as in the East, nothing if not fragrant. The perfume “of Lebanon” is like that of an American pine forest.
Song of Solomon 4:12
12.A spring shut up — Most critics give this, by the change of one letter, as a repetition of a garden enclosed, making greater emphasis. The fields of Palestine were not fenced, but the gardens were walled, as more private. Passers through the fields might take, if hungry, from the crops, enough for their relief, but not so from the gardens.
A fountain sealed — In the dry East fountains are often marked as private property, or the top is covered and sealed, and the water conveyed in pipes to the dwelling or garden of the owner. The idea is, of assurance of exclusive possession, and freedom from anxiety for the result of any arts and resources that the king may employ.
Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 4:12
12. a spring shut up] The word rendered spring is gal, not found elsewhere in this sense. Another derivative from the same root is used in Jos_15:19 and Jdg_1:15 in a similar sense. Some MSS., the LXX, the Vulg. and Syr. have gan=‘a garden,’ repeated, and Budde with others prefers this reading. But it is difficult to see why the perfectly simple and satisfactory gan should have been changed into the more difficult gal. The only argument for gan which seems to have much weight is that the ‘spring’ is mentioned again immediately under another name. But that is met by Delitzsch, who distinguishes the ‘spring’ from the ‘fountain’; the latter being the place whence the former issues forth.
a fountain sealed] Cp. Pro_5:15-18. The fountain is the condition precedent of the garden, so that the metaphor is not changed. Perhaps the three nouns of the verse should be distinguished thus: A garden shut in is my sister my bride, a streamlet shut in, a sealed spring. Del. points out that chôthâm, ‘a seal,’ is used directly of maiden-like behaviour.