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The Song of Songs: Chapter 1

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The Song of Songs, by a Or “concerning.” Solomon.

1 2 b‐ Heb. “Let him give me of the kisses of his mouth!” Oh, give me of the kisses of your mouth, ‐b Heb. “Let him give me of the kisses of his mouth!” For your love is more delightful than wine. 3Your ointments yield a sweet fragrance, Your name is like finest c Meaning of Heb. uncertain. oil— Therefore do maidens love you. 4Draw me after you, let us run! d‐ Emendation yields “Bring me, O king, to your chambers.” The king has brought me to his chambers. ‐d Emendation yields “Bring me, O king, to your chambers.” Let us delight and rejoice in your love, Savoring it more than wine— a‐ Understanding mesharim as related to tirosh; cf. Aramaic merath. Like new wine ‐a Understanding mesharim as related to tirosh; cf. Aramaic merath. they love you! 5I am dark, but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem— Like the tents of Kedar, Like the pavilions of Solomon. 6Don't stare at me because I am swarthy, Because the sun has gazed upon me. My mother's sons quarreled with me, They made me guard the vineyards; My own vineyard I did not guard. 7Tell me, you whom I love so well; Where do you pasture your sheep? Where do you rest them at noon? Let me not be b‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. as one who strays ‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain. Beside the flocks of your fellows. 8If you do not know, O fairest of women, Go follow the tracks of the sheep, And graze your kids c As a pretext for coming. By the tents of the shepherds. 9I have likened you, my darling, To a mare in Pharaoh's chariots: 10Your cheeks are comely with plaited wreaths, Your neck with strings of jewels. 11We will add wreaths of gold To your spangles of silver. 12While the king was on his couch, My nard gave forth its fragrance. 13My beloved to me is a bag of myrrh Lodged between my breasts. 14My beloved to me is a spray of henna blooms From the vineyards of En‐gedi. 15Ah, you are fair, my darling, Ah, you are fair, With your dove‐like eyes! 16And you, my beloved, are handsome, Beautiful indeed! Our couch is in a bower; 17Cedars are the beams of our house, Cypresses the rafters.

Notes:

a Or “concerning.”

b‐b Heb. “Let him give me of the kisses of his mouth!”

c Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

d‐d Emendation yields “Bring me, O king, to your chambers.”

a‐a Understanding mesharim as related to tirosh; cf. Aramaic merath.

b‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

c As a pretext for coming.

Text Commentary view alone

1.1 :

Title. Internal evidence suggests that this v. is secondary, and does not represent an ancient tradition of authorship. Song of Songs is a superlative phrase meaning “the greatest or preeminent song.” By Solomon, or “about Solomon.” According to Jewish tradition, Solomon authored the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. These attributions are based on Song 1.1 and Eccl. 1.1 . Also, biblical tradition describes Solomon as the author of Proverbs and the Song, an expert in flora and fauna (1 Kings 5.9–14 ), and a lover of many women (1 Kings 11.1 ). In both the Targum and the midrash, the name “Shlomo” (Solomon) is interpreted as a reference to God. According to this interpretation, the Song is a description of the love between God and Israel. Modern scholars do not accept the idea of Solomonic authorship.

1.2–4 :

The woman expresses her desire for her lover.

2 :

Wine: The repeated references to wine ( 2.4, 7; 4.10; 5.1; 7.10; 8.2 ) may suggest an original context in wedding feasts or other celebrations where wine was drunk. Alternatively, wine is used poetically as a symbol of sensuous pleasure. Finest oil, or, “oil poured out”; the lover's excellent reputation is widespread.

4 :

The king: References to a king and to King Solomon ( 1.12; 3.9, 11; 6.8–9; 7.6 ) support interpretations of the Song as a royal wedding song or cultic song. In rabbinic interpretations, references to the king are understood as references to God, and the royal chambers refer to the Temple. In most modern readings, the references to the king are complimentary references to the male lover.

1.5–6 :

The woman describes herself.

5 :

Dark, but comely, or “dark and comely.” In 5.10 , fair skin is a sign of masculine beauty. Here, the woman's darkness may be either an asset or a liability, and is the likely result of her work outdoors, described in the following vv. Kedar, northern Assyrian nomadic tribe. Kedar means “dark.”

6 :

Vineyard: In the Song, the vineyard often represents both a physical place and the woman's own sexuality ( 1.14; 2.15; 7.13; 8.12 ).

1.7–17 :

Dialogue between the lovers.

9 :

I have likened‐.‐.‐.‐: Throughout the Song, the lovers use comparison to praise one another's beauty and charm. Mare in Pharaoh's chariots, either an image of adorned majesty (the horses were decorated with ornaments) or a reference to an ancient battle strategy in which a mare was let loose among cavalry to distract the stallions.

12–14 :

The physical closeness of the lovers—their scent—is described. Nard‐.‐.‐.‐myrrh‐.‐.‐.‐henna, precious spices used in perfumes. Nard and myrrh were exotic imports while henna was indigenous to biblical Israel.

14 :

En‐gedi, a fertile oasis in the Judean wilderness. Given that wine grapes did not grow there, this too is a likely allusion to the woman's own sexuality.

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