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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on The song of solomon

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1.1 : Title.

Song of Songs, a superlative, “the best song,” like “king of kings” (Dan 2.37 ). Which is Solomon's, i.e., either “about Solomon” (he is named in 3.9,11 ), or more likely, “by Solomon” (as in Tg); it was common practice in antiquity to attribute authorship to a well‐known figure, e.g., David (Ps 3.1; 4.1 ), Solomon (Prov 1.1 ), Jeremiah (Gk of Lamentations). The Song, though, because of its relatively late date, was clearly not written by Solomon.

1.2–8 : Opening poem.

2 :

Wine is often associated with lovemaking ( 1.2,4; 2.4; 4.10; 5.1; 7.10; 8.2 ). Love, a plural form that likely refers to physical lovemaking ( 1.4; 4.10; 5.1; 7.13; cf. Ezek 16.8; 23.17; Prov 7.18 ).

3 :

The repetition of the Hebrew word “shemen” (oils/perfume) plays on the term for name (“shem”).

4 :

The king, i.e., the lover (also 1.12 and 7.6 ), perhaps a pet name or an erotic fantasy, though the royal motif is thematically significant throughout the sequence of poems. The antecedent of we is intentionally ambiguous, possibly signifying the woman and her companions (the “maidens” of v. 3 and the “daughters of Jerusalem” in v. 5 ) and/or the woman and her lover.

5 :

Though somewhat ambiguous, the Hebrew word order in the first line suggests that the and in I am black and beautiful is better rendered disjunctively, “Black am I, but beautiful” (as in Vg). The assertion, however, is affirmative, not apologetic. The woman extols the beauty of her own sun‐darkened skin even though a light complexion was apparently prized as a sign of health and beauty (cf. 5.10; Lam 4.7 ). Kedar, a north Arabian tribe whose name means “dark.” Solomon, or perhaps “Salmah,” another north Arabian tribe.

6 :

Mother's sons, a synonym for “brother” (Gen 27.29; Ps 50.20 ). Vineyard, both literally a garden place (cf. 7.12 ), and metaphorically a symbol of female sexuality (cf. 8.12 ).

7 :

Noon in warm climates is a time for rest and repose, and thus convenient for an amorous tryst. Presumably, the woman is veiled as a disguise, though an allusion to prostitution may also be teasingly intended (Gen 38.14–15 ).

8 :

Kids contributes to the image of the woman as a shepherdess, symbolizes love (Gen 38.17; Judg 15.1 ), and may be a figurative reference to the woman's breasts (see “gazelles/fawns,” 4.5; 7.3 ). As with the “gazelles/fawns” in 4.5 , the kids here are imagined as “grazing”; pasture (Heb “re'i”) occurs frequently in wordplays alluding to lovemaking ( 1.9 , “my love,” Heb “ra'yati”).

1.9–2.7 : A dialogue of mutual admiration:.

1.9–11 :

The man speaks.

9 :

My love, the man's name for the woman ( 1.9,15; 2.2,10,13; 4.1,7; 5.2; 6.4 ). Mare among Pharaoh's chariots, the focus is on the woman's beauty and her sexual allure, since the chariotry is only stallions.

10–11 :

The Hebrew terms for the ornaments are rare or unique. We, i.e., the two lovers.

12–14 :

The woman is speaking. Nard, an aromatic oil imported from the Himalayan mountains; myrrh, an aromatic resin; henna, the aromatic flower of the cypress. My beloved, the woman's designation for the man (occurring many times). En‐gedi, an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Its literal rendering, “spring of the kid,” puns on the earlier erotic use of “kids” ( 1.5 ). The Song shows a special fondness for exotic place names.

15–17 :

The man's (v. 15 ) and the woman's (v. 16 ) professions of admiration mirror each other.

2.1 :

The woman's self‐appraisal, boastful or humble, is unclear because the words translated (rose and lily) are unknown. Lily elsewhere is charged with eroticism ( 4.5; 6.2–3; 7.3 ). Sharon, either a generic term for “plain” or a reference to the fertile coastal plain.

2–3 :

The alternating compliments mirror one another, as in 1.15–16 . The apple (also 2.5; 7.9; 8.5 ), not so far identified, is a fragrant fruit and carries erotic overtones ( 2.5; 7.9 ).

4 :

Banqueting house, lit. “house of wine,” the couple's trysting place (as in 1.17 ). Intention, the act of lovemaking ( 2.7; cf. Jer 2.33; Prov 5.19 ).

6 :

Either a wish or a statement of fact, see 8.3 .

7 :

See 3.5; 8.4 .

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