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The Song of Solomon: Chapter 6

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1

Where has your beloved gone, O fairest among women? Which way has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you?

2

My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3 I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine; he pastures his flock among the lilies.

4

You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners. 5 Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me! Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead. 6 Your teeth are like a flock of ewes, that have come up from the washing; all of them bear twins, and not one among them is bereaved. 7 Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. 8 There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and maidens without number. 9 My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the darling of her mother, flawless to her that bore her. The maidens saw her and called her happy; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her. 10 “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?”

11

I went down to the nut orchard, to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom. 12 Before I was aware, my fancy set me in a chariot beside my prince. a Meaning of Heb uncertain

13

b Heb lapis lazuli Return, return, O Shulammite! Return, return, that we may look upon you.

Why should you look upon the Shulammite, as upon a dance before two armies? c Cn: Meaning of Heb uncertain

Notes:

a Meaning of Heb uncertain

b Heb lapis lazuli

a Cn: Meaning of Heb uncertain

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

5.2–6.3 : The woman's search.

This is the longest poem in the collection, unified by the dialogic frame set up between the woman and the “daughters of Jerusalem.”

5.2–8 :

A sequence like 3.1–4 . The verses are freighted with allusions to sexual intercourse.

2 :

The juxtaposition of verbs for “sleep” and “wakefulness” suggests a dreamy state. My, the repetition enacts the beloved's knocking.

3 :

The woman's response is probably meant teasingly.

5 :

I arose to open, better, “I started to open.” Myrrh, both the woman's toiletry (she has perfumed herself) and the palpable sign of her lover, who in 1.13 was likened to a “bag of myrrh.”

6 :

My soul failed me (lit. “went out”), the woman's deep emotional distress at missing her lover, akin to “she nearly dies” (Gen 35.18; Ps 146.4 ). When he spoke is surely not right. Either “because of him” or “when he left.”

7 :

The brutal treatment the woman receives at the hands of the sentinels is abrupt and shocking.

8 :

Tell him this is ambiguous. It may also be taken as a negative request: “Do not tell him.”

5.9–6.3 :

The woman's praise of her beloved frequently uses images derived from sculpture and the plastic arts, as does the man's praise song ( 4.1–7 ).

5.10 :

Radiant and ruddy, a sign of vigor and health (Ps 104.15; 1 Sam 16.12; 17.4; Lam 4.7 ).

12 :

Milk, associated elsewhere with the idyllic (Ex 3.8,17; Deut 6.3; Isa 55.1; Job 29.6; Song 4.12; 5.1; Lam 4.7 ). Fitly set assumes the practice of making statues with jeweled inlays for eyes (as in 5.14; cf. Ex 25.7; 1 Chr 29.2 ).

14–15 :

The imagery in these verses suggests a statue, the great value and surpassing beauty of which is uppermost in mind.

16 :

His speech (lit. “his palate”), meaning kisses as well as language (cf. 1.2; 7.10 ). Sweet in Neh 8.10 refers to a drink (cf. 7.10 ). My friend intentionally echoes one of the man's pet names for the woman (cf. 1.9 ).

6.4–10 : In praise of the woman's beauty

(cf. 4.1–7; 5.9–6.3; 6.13–7.6 ).

4 :

Tirzah (likely Tell el‐Farah North), the capital of the Northern Kingdom in the late tenth and early ninth centuries.

5b–7 :

Cf. 4.1b–3 .

10 :

Moon/sun, not the common terms but poetic metonyms, “whiteness” and “heat” (cf. Isa 24.23; 30.26 ), which more eloquently evoke dawn imagery.

6.11–12 :

The exact connection of these stanzas to the surrounding material is unclear.

11 :

The identity of the speaker is ambiguous. The garden imagery, usually associated with the woman (e.g., 4.12 ), may suggest that the man is speaking. If not, the woman at last responds positively to the man's invitation in 2.10 to accompany him (and it echoes the man's entrance into the garden in 4.16–5.1 ).

6.13–7.13 : Praise of the woman and her response.

6.13 : The exact significance of Shulammite is unclear. A dance before two armies, if correct, is also obscure.

7.1 :

Queenly maiden (Heb “bat nadab”), plays on the reference to “prince” (“nadab”) in 6.12 . Your rounded thighs, better, “the curves of your thighs.”

2 :

Navel, perhaps also a euphemism or double entendre for “vulva,” supported structurally by the couplet's placement between couplets describing the woman's thighs and belly. Your belly is a heap of wheat. The term for belly frequently designates “womb” (e.g., Gen 30.2; Judg 16.17; Isa 13.18 ). When combined with the image of a heap of wheat the associations with fertility and nourishment are palpable, and thus eroticism and fertility imagery are closely linked. At another level, the image of heaped wheat suggests the softness and gentle curve of the woman's stomach, as well, perhaps, as its golden and tawny hue.

4 :

Ivory, meant to convey a notion of splendor and opulence (cf. 1 Kings 10.18; Am 3.15; Ps 45.8 ). The association of eyes and pools puns on the Heb word “ayin,” which means both “eye” and “spring.” Heshbon is a city located in the central Transjordanian plateau ca. 20 km (12 mi) southwest of Amman. Excavations at Heshbon have revealed a large water reservoir from the ninth and eighth centuries BCE. Bath‐rabbim, “daughter of noblemen” or the like, as an epithet for the city of Heshbon, alludes to “O queenly maiden” in 7.1 ; as well as to epithets of personified cities elsewhere (Lam 1.6; 2.13; Isa 23.12 ). A tower of Lebanon is unknown. Lebanon in association with nose is suggestive of fragrance.

5 :

Carmel is the mountain range that runs southeast of modern Haifa. As a common noun, “karmel” means “garden, orchard.” Purple, a dye derived from murex shells, was commonly associated with royalty.

6 :

How fair echoes the opening of 7.1 (“How graceful”).

7–8 :

Palm tree denotes inaccessibility; vine and wine denote eroticism and sensuality, through the repetition of the term clusters. Breath (lit. “nose”), perhaps referring to the custom of nose kissing. Apples, See 2.3n.

9 :

Kisses (lit. “palate”), also a reference to wine.

10 :

The woman responds.

11 :

The word for villages is a homonym, also meaning “henna bushes.”

13 :

Mandrakes, considered an aphrodisiac (Gen 30.14–19 ). New as well as old, i.e., “all kinds of.”

8.1–4 :

A poem of yearning.

1–2 :

The woman wishes her lover were like a brother so that they could express their love freely and publicly without rebuke.

3–4 :

Cf. 2.6–7 .

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