Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 5:6
6. had withdrawn himself] Lit. had turned away. This disappointment is just such as comes in dreams.
my soul failed when he spake] R.V. My soul had failed me when he spake. This is the explanation of his departure. She had fainted when she heard his voice, and when she came to herself and opened the door he was gone. This seems to be the simple explanation of a clause which has greatly vexed interpreters. Hitzig, Ewald, and Oettli would read for bĕdhabbĕrô = ‘when he spake,’ bĕdhobhrô, in the sense ‘when he turned away.’ But this is an Aramaic meaning, and though, according to the Oxford Heb. Lex. this is probably the root meaning of the word from which all the others are derived, the verb is not found in Heb. in this sense. As the ordinary signification of the verb gives a good meaning here it seems unnecessary to go beyond it.
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. Gen_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 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.
Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither hath thy beloved turned him, that we may seek him with thee? The dialogue still continues, possibly because, as Delitzsch suggests, the effect of the dream which Shulamith narrates is not passed away in the morning. Under the influence of it she goes forth and meets the daughters of Jerusalem, who offer their assistance. But there is no necessity for this. The poetry merely demands that the idea of the dream should be still kept before the mind of the reader. The scene is still in the palace. The ladies playfully carry on the bride’s cue, and help her to pour out her feelings. The bridegroom, they know, is near at hand, and is coming to delight himself in his bride; but the bride has not yet drawn him back completely to her side. This is evident from the fact that there is no distress in the language of the bride. She is not complaining and crying out in agony under a sense of desertion; she is waiting for the return of her beloved, and so she calmly sings of his love and his perfect truthfulness, even though absent from her. He is where his perfect beauty and fragrance might well be.
Cambridge Bible Archer
Song of Solomon 6:2
2. The bride gives them an evasive answer, becoming jealous perhaps of their eager interest. She simply says he has gone forth to his usual haunts. Budde would strike out Son_6:1-3, on the ground that the garden, the beds of spices, and the lilies are figures for the bride’s person, as similar natural objects are in Son_4:12 f., Son_5:13, Son_2:16, Son_5:1. Here they cannot be that, since the bride is confessedly describing an absent lover, and they must consequently on his theory be put in by someone who did not understand the other references. But this curious reversion to the allegorical interpretation of the Song in a physical sense, by the opponents of allegorical interpretation in a spiritual sense, must be rejected. In all the passages referred to, save Son_2:16, which must be taken literally, the simile or metaphor is fully stated; the bride is like so and so, or her cheeks are so and so. No one, consequently, could possibly misunderstand them. Here the absence of any indication of simile makes the literal interpretation necessary, and so understood these verses have a perfectly natural and appropriate meaning. The similes referred to are taken in the first instance from surrounding nature, and when the Shulammite’s lover disappears it would be among these surroundings he would disappear. Taken simply as they stand, the words mean that he has gone back for a time to his ordinary occupations, and she thinks of him as gathering a garland for her as he had often done before. Further, the expression lilqôt shôshannîm is in favour of this view. ‘To pluck lilies’ would be a very strange expression if lilies meant ‘lips’ here.
to feed] i.e. ‘to feed the flock.’
Son_6:2. My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of balm. This answer of Shulamith is certainly evasive, but scarcely jesting and roguish (Hitz.); it is rather sadly ironical. She does not seriously mean to represent Solomon as actually occupied with working in the garden or with rural pleasures (as Del. supposes). She merely intends to intimate that other matters seem more pressing and important to him than intercourse with her, his chosen love, and with this view she makes use of those pastoral and agricultural (horticultural) tropes, with which she is most conversant and most entirely at home (comp. Son_1:7; Son_1:14; Son_2:3; Son_2:16, etc.) It is further probable that “going down to the beds of balm” and “gathering lilies” may contain an allusion to amorous intercourse meanwhile indulged with others of his wives; and with this the primarily apologetic drift of her whole statement, which is purposely figurative and ambiguous, might very well consist. What Shulamith here says can in no event refer to a lover of the rank of a shepherd; for it would be trifling and in bad taste to attribute to him in that case besides his main business of feeding his flock, that of being engaged with beds of balm and other objects belonging to the higher branches of gardening (comp. Weissb. in loc.) and to explain the “garden” in the sense of Son_4:12-15 (that is, of Shulamith herself, as the locked garden, which her country lover had now come to Jerusalem to visit) must be regarded as the extreme of exegetical subtilty, and can neither be brought into harmony with the verb יָרַד “has gone down” (for which we would then rather expect עָלָה “has come up”), nor with the plur. בַּגַנִּים “in the gardens” (vs.Hitz., Böttch., Ren.).
Son_6:3. I am my beloved’s,etc.—The partial transposition of the words as compared with Son_2:16 is not due to chance, but is an intentional alteration; comp. Son_4:2 with Son_6:6; Son_2:17 with Son_8:14.—The connexion of the exclamation before us with Son_6:2 is given by Hitzig with substantial correctness: “The words of Son_6:2 are a rebuff to strangers concerning themselves about her lover; the averment in Son_6:3 that they belong to one another, indirectly excludes a third, and is thus inwardly connected with Son_6:2.” With which it must nevertheless be kept in view that this present assertion is not made without, at the same time, feeling a certain pain at the infidelity of one so purely and tenderly beloved.1—The remark made by Del. on this verse cannot be substantiated: “With these words, impelled by love and followed by the daughters of Jerusalem (?), she continues on her way, hastening to the arms of her lover” (similarly too Weissb.). The text does not contain the slightest intimation of such a departure of Shulamith to look for him, and a consequent change of scene. Comp. above, No. 2.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awaken love, until it please. This, of course, as the refrain of the song, must be taken as a general sentiment. Love is its own lord. Let it have free course. Let it perfect itself in its own best way. The form of the adjuration is abbreviated in this case. The omission of the words, “By the roes and by the hinds of the field,” is not without its significance. Is it not intended to intimate that the natural love, to which reference was made by the introduction of the beautiful wild creatures of the field, is now no more in the thoughts of the bride, because it has been sublimated into the higher sisterly love of which she has been speaking? She is not merely the lovely woman on whom the king dotes because of her personal beauty; she is his companion and dearest friend. He opens his heart to her. He teaches her. He lifts her up to his own level. She participates in his royal dignity and majesty. The ἔρως of her first estate of love is now exalted into the ἀγάπη, which is the grace never to be without its sphere, abiding forever. We must not press too closely the poetic form of the song. Something must be allowed for the framework in which the main ideas are set before us. It may not be possible to answer the question—Who are intended to be symbolized by the daughters of Jerusalem? There is no necessity to seek further into the meaning of the whole poem than its widest and most general application. But the daughters of Jerusalem are in a lower position, a less favoured relation to the bridegroom, than the bride herself. We may, therefore, without hesitation, accept the view that by the adjuration is intended the appeal of the higher spiritual life against all that is below it; the ideal love calling upon all that is around it and all that is related to it to rise with it to perfection. The individual soul is thus represented claiming the full realization of its spiritual possibilities. The Church of God thus remonstrates against all that hinders her advancement, restrains her life, and interrupts her blessedness. Jerusalem has many daughters. They are not all in perfect sympathy with the bride. When they listen to the adjurations of the most spiritual, the most devoted, the most heavenly and Christ-like of those who are named by the Name of the Lord, they will themselves be lifted up into the bridal joy of “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? We must compare this question with the corresponding one in So Son_3:6. In that case the inhabitants of Jerusalem are supposed to be looking forth, and behold the bridal procession approaching the capital. In this case the scene is transferred to the country, to the neighbourhood of the bride’s home, where she has desired to be with her lord. The country people, or the group of her relatives, are supposed to be gazing at the pair of lovers, not coming in royal state, but in the sweet simplicity of true affection, the bride leaning with loving confidence on the arm of her husband, as they were seen before in the time of their “first love.” The restoration of “first love” is often the prayer of the disciple, feeling how far he falls short of the affection which such a Master should call forth. The first feelings of the heart when it is won to Christ are very delightful.
“Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his Word?”
It is a blessedness when we come up from the wilderness. It is a joy to ourselves and a matter of praise to our fellow believers when we are manifestly filled with a sense of the Saviour’s presence and fellowship. The word midhbaur, translated “wilderness,” does not, however, necessarily mean a desolate and barren desert, but rather the open country, as the Valley of Jezreel The LXX. had either a different reading in the Hebrew or has mistaken it. They have rendered the last clause “clothed in white,” which perhaps Jerome has followed with his deliciis affluens. The word is, however, from the root rauvaq, which in the hiph. is “to support one’s self.” The meaning, therefore, is, “leaning for support.” It might, however, be intended to represent the loving confidence of married life, and therefore would be equivalent in meaning to the Greek and Latin renderings, that is, “Who is this? Evidently a young newly married wife with her husband.” Perhaps this is the best explanation of the words as preparing for what follows, as the bridegroom begins at once to speak of the first love. Some think that the road in which the loving pair are seen to be walking brings their footsteps near to the apple tree over against Shulamith’s house where they had first met. But there is no necessity for that supposition. It is sufficient if we imagine the apple tree to be in sight.
Under the apple tree I awakened thee; there thy mother was in travail with thee; there was she in travail that brought thee forth. I awakened thee; i.e. I stirred thee up to return the affection which I showed thee (cf. So Son_2:7). The Masoretic reading prints the verb עוֹרַרתִּיךָ, as with the masculine suffix, but this renders the meaning exceedingly perplexed. The bride would not speak of awakening Solomon, but it was he who had awakened her. The change is very slight, the ךָ becoming ךְ, and is supported by the Old Syriac Version. It must be remembered that the bridegroom immediately addresses the bride, speaking of her mother. The apple tree would certainly be most naturally supposed to be situated somewhere near the house where the bride was bore perhaps overshadowing it or branching over the windows, or trained upon the trellis surrounding the house. The bridegroom points to it. “See, there it is, the familiar apple tree beside the house where thy dear self wast born. There, yonder, is where thy mother dwelt, and where thou heartiest my first words of affection as we sat side by side just outside the house under the shade of the apple tree.” The language is exquisitely simple and chaste, and yet so full of the tender affection of the true lover. The spot where the first breathings of love came forth will ever be dear in the remembrance of those whose affection remains faithful and fond. The typical view certainly finds itself supported in these words. Nothing is more delightful and more helpful to the believer than to go over in thought, again and again, and especially when faith grows feeble, when the heart is cold and fickle under the influence of worldly temptations and difficulties of the Christian course, the history of the first beginning of the spiritual life. We recall how dear the Lord was to us then, how wonderful his love seemed to us, how condescending and how merciful. We reproach ourselves that we faint and fail; we cry out for the fulness of grace, and it is given us.
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it; if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, he would be utterly contemned. Is this to be regarded as the reply of the bride to the tender allusion of her husband to their first love; or is it, as some think, only the first words which belong to the bride, while the rest of the two verses are a kind of chorus echoing her loving appeal, and bringing the general action of the poem to a conclusion? It is difficult to decide this, and the meaning is not affected either way. Perhaps, however, it is best to take it as spoken by the bride, who continues her address to the end of the eighth verse. She is full of joy in the return of perfect confidence; she prays that the full tide of affection may never cease to flow, that there be no ebbing of that happy feeling in which she now delights; and then sings the praise of love itself, as though a prelude of praise to a long and eternal peace. The seal is the signet ring, chotham, from a root “to impress” It was sometimes carried by a string on the breast, and would, therefore, be near the heart (see Gen_38:18). It was sometimes worn on the hand (see Jer_22:24; and cf. Gen_41:42; Est_3:12). It was not worn on the arm like a bracelet (2Sa_1:10). Probably it was not the signet ring which is referred to in the second clause: “Set me as a seal on thine heart, and as a bracelet on thine arm.” The same simile is not infrequent in the prophets. The desire of Shulamith was to escape all possibility of those declensions of which she had spoken before. “Let me never be out of thy thoughts; let me never go back from my fulness of joy in thy love.” The true believer understands well such language. He knows that the maintenance of devout affection is not a matter of mere desire and will. The Lord himself must help us with his blessed gifts, the influence of his gracious Spirit to overcome the feebleness and fickleness of a fallen heart. We want to be close to the heart of the Saviour; we want to be constantly in his eye, and so diligently employed in his service, so closely associated with the work of his mighty arm, that we shall be ever receiving from him the signs and evidences of his approval and affection. The purity and perfection of true love are the theme of every sincere believer. The priceless value of such love is described in the Book of Proverbs (Pro_6:30), in Num_22:18, and 1Co_13:3. It is an unquenchable flame—nothing can resist it. We cannot but recall the rapturous language of one who himself was an example of the highest devotedness to the Saviour, who rejoiced over death and the grave in the consciousness of victory through him from whose love nothing can separate us (Rom_8:38; 1Co_15:54). Certainly the history of the sufferings and trials of the true Church form a most striking commentary upon these words. Floods of persecution have swept over it, but they have not quenched love. The flame has burst forth again and again when it seemed to be extinguished, and it has become a very “flame of the Lord.” The bush has been burning, but has not been consumed. By jealousy is intended love in its intensity not bearing arival. The “flame of the Lord” may be compared with “the voice of the Lord,” which is described in Hebrew poetry as connected with the fury of the storm. The flame, therefore, would be lightning and the voice thunder. The whole of this passage, which forms a kind of keynote of the poem, is more like a distinct strain introduced to give climax to the succession of songs than the natural expression of the bride’s feelings. It has been always regarded as one of the sublimest apostrophes to love to be found anywhere. The enemies of God and of humanity are represented as falling before it, death and the grave. Its vehemence and force of manifestation are brought vividly before us by the comparison of the flash of lightning. It is remarkable that this exaltation of love should be included in the Old Testament, thus proving that the Mosaic Law, with its formal prescriptions, by no means fulfils the whole purpose of God in his revelation to the world. As the New Testament would not have been complete without the message of the beloved disciple, so this Old Testament must have its song of love. Nor is it only the ideal and the heavenly love which is celebrated, but human affection itself is placed very high, because it is associated with that which is Divine. It is a more precious thing than mere wealth or worldly honour, and he that trifles with it deserves the utmost scorn and contempt of his fellows. It is well to remark how consistently the poetic framework is maintained. There is no attempt to leave the lines of human relations even at this point, whets evidently the sentiment rises above them. The love which is apostrophized is not removed from earth in order to be seen apart from all earthly imperfections and impurities. We are invited rather to look through the human to the Divine which embraces it and glorifies it. That. is the method of the Divine revelation throughout. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” We do not need to take Solomon’s Song as an allegory. It is a song of human love, but as such it is a symbol of that which is Divine.