Song of Songs 8 – “Assorted Love Songs”

gazelle-pictureHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Chapter 8 consists of many discrete sections: the woman describes a desire for public affection, an occurrence under an apple tree is alluded to, the power of love is described, a younger sister is appraised for marriage, the man boasts about his lover, and the man and woman engage in an amorous dialogue.

II. Photo
The book ends with an invitation (v. 14): “Hurry, my beloved, Swift as a gazelle or a young stag, To the hills of spices!”

III. Important Verses
vv. 1-2: If only it could be as with a brother, As if you had nursed at my mother’s breast: Then I could kiss you When I met you in the street, And no one would despise me. I would lead you, I would bring you To the house of my mother, Of her who taught me — I would let you drink of the spiced wine, Of my pomegranate juice.
vv. 6-7: Let me be a seal upon your heart, Like the seal upon your hand. For love is fierce as death, Passion is mighty as Sheol; Its darts are darts of fire, A blazing flame. Vast floods cannot quench love, Nor rivers drown it. If a man offered all his wealth for love, He would be laughed to scorn.
vv. 8-10:  “We have a little sister, Whose breasts are not yet formed. What shall we do for our sister When she is spoken for? If she be a wall, We will build upon it a silver battlement; If she be a door, We will panel it in cedar.” I am a wall, My breasts are like towers. So I became in his eyes As one who finds favor.

IV. Outline
1-2. The woman’s wish for public affection (“if my lover were my brother…”)
3-4. The woman speaks to her friends
5. An occurrence under an apple tree
6-7. Fidelity; The power of love
8-10. A sister’s marriage arrangement
11-12. The man boasts about his vineyard (= woman) which is greater than King Solomon’s
13-14. Finale: the man’s request and the woman’s invitation

V. Comment
No comment today. I hope to revisit this chapter at the end of the cycle. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Photo taken from  http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/gazelle/pictures/gazelle-picture.jpg

Song of Songs 7 – “A Maiden Described; A Lustful Dialogue”

p_grapes

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
A maiden dances, and her body is described. The man then describes his intense physical desires in great detail, and the woman responds affirmatively. She then invites him to join her in the vineyards.

II. Photo
The woman invites her lover in v. 13: “Let us go early to the vineyards; Let us see if the vine has flowered, If its blossoms have opened, If the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give my love to you.”

III. Important Verses
v. 1:  Turn back, turn back, O maid of Shulem! Turn back, turn back, That we may gaze upon you. “Why will you gaze at the Shulammite In the Mahanaim dance?”
vv. 8-10: Your stately form is like the palm, Your breasts are like clusters. I say: Let me climb the palm, Let me take hold of its branches; Let your breasts be like clusters of grapes, Your breath like the fragrance of apples, And your mouth like choicest wine. “Let it flow to my beloved as new wine Gliding over the lips of sleepers.”
vv. 12-13: Come, my beloved, Let us go into the open; Let us lodge among the henna shrubs. Let us go early to the vineyards; Let us see if the vine has flowered, If its blossoms have opened, If the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give my love to you.

IV. Outline
1. Desire to gaze upon the Shulammite
2-6. A description of the Shulammite (feet, thighs, navel and belly, breasts, neck, eyes, nose, head, hair)
7-10. The man describes his physical desire for the woman
11. The woman responds affirmatively
12-14. The woman invites the man to join her in the vineyards so that she can give him her love.

V. Comment
No comment today. I hope to revisit this chapter at the end of the cycle. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Photo taken from http://worthenbury.com/images/p_grapes.jpg

Song of Songs 6 – “A Love Relationship; Praise”

pomegranate_2900595.jpegHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The woman tells her friends about the relationship she has with her lover. The man then praises the woman’s beauty and uniqueness. At the end of the chapter an occurrence in a nut garden is alluded to.
II. Photo
The man tells his lover that “The brow behind your veil [gleams] like a pomegranate split open.” (v. 7)

III. Important Verses
vv. 2-3: My beloved has gone down to his garden, To the beds of spices, To browse in the gardens And to pick lilies. I am my beloved’s And my beloved is mine; He browses among the lilies.
vv. 8-9: There are sixty queens, And eighty concubines, And damsels without number. Only one is my dove, My perfect one, The only one of her mother, The delight of her who bore her. Maidens see and acclaim her; Queens and concubines, and praise her.

IV. Outline
1. Friends ask about the whereabouts of the lover
2-3. The woman reiterates that the two belong to each other
4-10. The man praises the woman
11-12. An occurrence at a nut grove

V. Comment
No comment today. I hope to revisit this chapter at the end of the cycle. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Photo taken from  http://www.thenibble.com/zine/archives/pomegranate_2900595.jpeg

Song of Songs 5 – “Love Lost”

Pillars

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The woman expects to unite with her lover, but he is nowhere to be found. She then describes his physical characteristics to her friends.

II. Photo
The woman describes her lover in v. 15: “His legs are like marble pillars…”

III. Important Verses
v. 1: I have come to my garden, My own, my bride; I have plucked my myrrh and spice, Eaten my honey and honeycomb, Drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, lovers, and drink: Drink deep of love!
vv. 5-6: I rose to let in my beloved; My hands dripped myrrh — My fingers, flowing myrrh — Upon the handles of the bolt. I opened the door for my beloved, But my beloved had turned and gone. I was faint because of what he said. I sought, but found him not; I called, but he did not answer.
v. 8: I adjure you, O maidens of Jerusalem! If you meet my beloved, tell him this: That I am faint with love.
vv. 9-10: How is your beloved better than another, O fairest of women? How is your beloved better than another That you adjure us so? My beloved is clear-skinned and ruddy, Preeminent among ten thousand.

IV. Outline
1a. The man unites with the woman
1b. Exhortation for others to enjoy love
2-7. The woman loses her lover
8. Adjuration to friends
9. Friends request a description of the lover
10-16. The woman describes her lover’s body (complexion, head, hair, eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, torso, legs, mouth)

V. Comment
No comment today. I hope to revisit this chapter at the end of the cycle. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Photo taken from http://www.ammlegal.com/images/Pillars.gif

Song of Songs 4 – “Praise and Desire”

AlfredoNetoMakeupEyesHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The man praises his lover’s body. He then attempts to woo her, and she reciprocates.

II. Photo
The man speaks to his lover in v. 1: “Ah, you are fair, my darling, Ah, you are fair. Your eyes are like doves Behind your veil…”

III. Important Verses

v. 1: Ah, you are fair, my darling, Ah, you are fair. Your eyes are like doves Behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats Streaming down Mount Gilead.
v. 5: Your breasts are like two fawns, Twins of a gazelle, Browsing among the lilies.
v. 7: Every part of you is fair, my darling, There is no blemish in you.
vv. 10-11: How sweet is your love, My own, my bride! How much more delightful your love than wine, Your ointments more fragrant Than any spice! Sweetness drops From your lips, O bride; Honey and milk Are under your tongue; And the scent of your robes Is like the scent of Lebanon.
v. 16: Awake, O north wind, Come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, That its perfume may spread. Let my beloved come to his garden And enjoy its luscious fruits!

IV. Outline

1-7. The man tells his lover abour her beauty
    1a. Introduction
    1b-5. Praise of eyes, hair, teeth, mouth, face, neck, and breasts
    6. Declaration of intent
    7. Conclusion
8-15. The man’s song of admiration
    8. Invitation
    9-15. Descriptive metaphors
16. The woman invites the man

V. Comment
Chapter 4 contains two major units: the man’s description of his lover’s body (vv. 1-7), and the man’s song of admiration for his lover accompanied by her response (vv. 8-16). In terms of structure, the chapter contains the following inclusios: (1) v. 1 says hinnakh yafah “Ah, you are fair” and v. 7 says kullakh yafah “Every part of you is fair,” (2) v. 8 says itiy milevanon “From Lebanon come with me” and v. 11 says kereach levanon “like the scent of Lebanon,” and (3) v. 12 says gan na’ul “A garden locked” and v. 16 says ma‘yan gannim “a garden spring.” In regards to genre, Murphy writes that the first section is “a description of the physical beauty of one’s beloved. Such a description, which enumerates parts of the body in sequence, has become known by the Arabic term wasf. It has a long history in the Near East” (p. 114). For other examples of wasf in the Song of Songs, see 5:10-16 and 7:1-6.

The man invites the woman in v. 8: “From Lebanon come with me; From Lebanon, my bride, with me! Trip down from Amana’s peak, From the peak of Senir and Hermon, From the dens of lions, From the hills of leopards.” What does the mentioning of a mountain indicate? Also, are the lions and leopards significant? Garrett thinks that mountains and lions were associated with Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and sexuality. He writes (p. 192, parentheses removed): “This strophe depicts the woman in goddesslike terms. She is high in the mountains of the north where she dwells with lions and leopards. Keel points out that the Anti-Lebanon range is the highest in the vicinity of Israel, attaining to a height of 3,088 meters above sea level… Keel also notes that cylinder seals from the Akkad period (ca. 2200) depict Ishtar ascending a mountain or standing with her foot on the back of a leashed lion, and he reproduces an Egyptian image of a nude goddess standing on a lion.” Thus, it is possible that the man is alluding to a conventional love motif when he speaks of mountains and lions.

The chapter is permeated with metaphors, many of which sound strange. For example, v. 2 says: “Your teeth are like a flock of ewes Climbing up from the washing pool; All of them bear twins, And not one loses her young.” Garrett tries to explain this phenomenon. He writes (p. 199): “A man from the southern United States might well compare his beloved’s beauty to that of a magnolia blossom or declare that his love for her is as enduring as the flow of the Mississippi. A man from Colorado or Alberta might in his mind merge his love for his wife with his love for the Rocky Mountains. A man from the coast of Maine might experience something of the same feelings when he looks at waves breaking into stony cliffs or smells the sea air as when he looks upon his wife or smells her fragrance. This does not mean that the woman is an allegory for these regions or that the local natural history is an allegory for the woman. Still less does it mean that the woman actually looks like or smells like the regional metaphors. One’s love of homeland is often localized in particulars—the bluebonnet flowers of Texas, the desert flora of Arizona, or the magpies of Korea. When a man loves his wife and loves his homeland, the two loves can merge in a way that is complementary and not competitive. So strong is this bond that a soldier at war in a distant land may perceive himself to be fighting to protect wife and country almost as though they were one and the same… For us who are outsiders to the ancient land of Israel and its pastoral ways, many of these comparisons sound strange if not comical. But for the audience that knew and loved this land and its ways, his praise of her would have been evocative of deep sentiments and thus would have told them why the man so loved this woman. Love for one’s spouse, like love for one’s homeland, is specific and bound to particulars.”

Before finishing the comment, it is important to note that the word kallah “bride” appears five times in vv. 8-12 (it appears once more in 5:1). Indeed, Hakham titles this chapter “The Bride’s Praise.” Garrett belives that “this canto depicts a bridegroom calling his new bride on their wedding night to their first union. He tenderly woos her, in effect seducing her rather than simply claiming his right as husband to her body… The point is that to truly be a bride she must descend to him and open her garden to him. Finally in Song 5:1, at the celebration of their sexual union (as I interpret it), he calls her “bride” for the last time. From that point forward, she is no longer a bride but a wife.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Hakham, Chamesh Megillot: Shir Hashirim (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])
Garrett, Song of Songs (Word Biblical Commentary)

Photo taken from  http://www.bellydance-for-life.net/images/AlfredoNetoMakeupEyes.jpg

Song of Songs 3 – “A Midnight Rendezvous; King Solomon’s Procession”

Spices1205474474Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The woman tells her friends about a midnight rendezvous she once had with her lover. The chapter ends with a glorified description of King Solomon.

II. Photo
The woman is glorified in v. 6: “Who is she that comes up from the desert Like columns of smoke, In clouds of myrrh and frankincense, Of all the powders of the merchant?”

III. Important Verses
vv. 1-4: Upon my couch at night I sought the one I love — I sought, but found him not. “I must rise and roam the town, Through the streets and through the squares; I must seek the one I love.” I sought but found him not. I met the watchmen Who patrol the town. “Have you seen the one I love?” Scarcely had I passed them When I found the one I love. I held him fast, I would not let him go Till I brought him to my mother’s house, To the chamber of her who conceived me.
v. 11: O maidens of Zion, go forth And gaze upon King Solomon Wearing the crown that his mother Gave him on his wedding day, On his day of bliss.

IV. Outline
1-4. The woman seeks and finds her lover
5. Lesson about love (enigmatic)
6-11. Solomon’s procession

V. Comment
Chapter 3 contains two distinct sections. The first section is a narrative in which the female describes a nighttime search for her lover (vv. 1-4), and the second is a song in praise of King Solomon (vv. 6-11). The two sections are divided by v. 5, which is identical to 2:7 and related to 5:8. In terms of structure, the chapter contains many repetitions. For example, both of the words biqqeish “search” and metza’ah “find” appear four times in the first four verses, and Solomon’s name is mentioned three times (vv. 7, 9, and 11).

Vv. 1-2 begin a description of the woman’s search for her lover: “Upon my couch at night I sought the one I love — I sought, but found him not. ‘I must rise and roam the town, Through the streets and through the squares; I must seek the one I love.’ I sought but found him not.” The woman goes on to describe how she finds her lover and brings him to her mother’s house: “I met the watchmen Who patrol the town. ‘Have you seen the one I love?’ Scarcely had I passed them When I found the one I love. I held him fast, I would not let him go Till I brought him to my mother’s house, To the chamber of her who conceived me” (vv. 3-4). These verses seem to relate how an unmarried woman (she is living with her mother) brings her lover into her home, ostensibly for sexual purposes. This poses a problem for commentators who would like the book’s heroine to have more self-control. Some, like Hakham, interpret this entire episode to be a dream (apparently for this reason). He writes (p. 26, translation my own): “While the woman spoke of real events in the previous song, here she speaks about what happened to her in a dream… Everything happens quickly, as is fitting for a dream.” Yet, while this approach solves the “moral problem” of an unmarried girl enjoying a sexual rendezvous with her lover, it must be pointed out that there is no textual support for this episode being a dream.

After relating her story, the woman addresses the “Maidens of Jerusalem” in v. 5: “I adjure you, O maidens of Jerusalem, By gazelles or by hinds of the field: Do not wake or rouse Love until it please!” (cf. 2:7, 5:8) What is she telling them? While he admits that this phrase isn’t clear, Hakham gives three interpretations in regards to the oath: (1) the friends shouldn’t curse her for her dreams, (2) the friends shouldn’t try to uproot her love, (3) the friends shouldn’t fall in love with her lover. Garrett thinks the woman is speaking to her friends about their virginity. He writes (p. 175): “[She admonishes] her friends to hold on to their virginity until they are certain that the proper time has come. The parallel event, Song 5:2–8, describes not her anxiety over the loss of her virginity but the event itself. The message of Song 3:1–5 appears to be that the virgin who has not faced the emotions of this issue prior to her wedding night is not prepared for marriage.”

The second part of the chapter speaks about King Solomon and his procession, and many scholars believe that section is a wedding song. Garrett writes (p. 182) that the “marriage of a man and woman is here represented as an event that is both regal and divine. Of themselves, the man and woman are ordinary mortals, but the ceremonial bringing of the bride to the groom exalts both of them to the status of royalty.” That is why Solomon (i.e. the groom) is mentioned and glorified.  Also, note that in v. 11 we find the only explicit mention of a wedding in the entire book: “O maidens of Zion, go forth And gaze upon King Solomon Wearing the crown that his mother Gave him on his wedding day, On his day of bliss.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Hakham, Chamesh Megillot: Shir Hashirim (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])
Garrett, Song of Songs (Word Biblical Commentary)

Photo taken from http://www.veetee.com/admin/uploaded_file/Spices1205474474.jpg

Song of Songs 2 – “The Lover’s Call”

800px-LiliumBulbiferumCroceumBolognaHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
After partaking in a dialogue with her lover, the woman describes her lovesickness. She then describes the way in which her lover calls her and how she responds.

II. Photo
The male praises his lover in v. 2: “Like a lily among thorns, So is my darling among the maidens.”

III. Important Verses
v. 2:Like a lily among thorns, So is my darling among the maidens.
v. 3: Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth.
v. 5: Sustain me with raisin cakes, Refresh me with apples, For I am faint with love.
v. 8: The voice of my beloved! There he comes, Leaping over mountains, Bounding over hills.
v. 13: The green figs form on the fig tree, The vines in blossom give off fragrance. Arise, my darling; My fair one, come away!

IV. Outline
1-3. Descriptive dialogue
4-7. Female lovesickness
8-17. The female describes how the male calls her, and how she responds

V. Comment
Chapter 2 begins with a brief dialogue between the male and female (vv. 1-3). The woman speaks about her lovesickness (vv. 4-7), quotes the way which her lover calls her (vv. 8-14), and relates how she responds to him (vv. 15-17). In terms of literary form, the chapter contains many descriptive metaphors (cf. vv. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17).

In v. 1 the woman describes herself: “I am a rose (chavatzelet) of Sharon, A lily (shoshannat) of the valleys.” Like every metaphor, one might ask, “What does this mean?” It seems that scholars debate the issue. Some feel that she is being humble: since the lily is a common plant she is saying, “I am just one of many girls.” Yet, Garret points out that “it is not likely that she would make such a self-effacing statement in a song where the man and woman are extravagantly praising each other” (p. 148). Others feel that she is describing her importance. Indeed, the capitals of Solomon’s pillars had the (presumably important) lily design: “The capitals upon the columns of the portico were of lily design (ma’aseh shushan), 4 cubits high” (1 Kings 7:19, also see vv. 22, 26). Also, when Isaiah describes a state of rejuvenation he says: “The arid desert shall be glad, The wilderness shall rejoice And shall blossom like a rose (chavatzelet)” (Isa. 35:1). Which interpretation is correct? Garret thinks there is a kernel of truth in both: “On the one hand, she is saying, ‘I am one among many girls.’ But she does not mean by this that ‘I am nobody special.’ She is a flower, a thing of beauty and life. She emphasizes this when she declares that she is the ‘lotus of the valleys’ and invokes traditional notions of the power of the lotus. She does not claim that she is unique in all the world, but she does claim that her role as woman is beautiful and powerful.”

Having spoken about about love and lilies, it is important to point out that four psalms (45, 60, 69, 80) are introduced by the term lamenatzeach ‘al shoshannim “For the leader; on shoshannim.” While Ps. 60, 69, and 80 happen to be laments, it is interesting that Ps. 45 is the only “Wedding Psalm.” It is possible that the instrument called the shoshan was used because its name (“lily”) is associated with love poetry.

V. 15, which immediately follows the woman’s description of how her lover calls her, is enigmatic: “Catch us the foxes, The little foxes That ruin the vineyards — For our vineyard is in blossom.” The major questions are, “Who is speaking?” and “What is he/she/they saying?” The reason that the speaker’s identity is a mystery is that the verse speaks in the plural first person (in Biblical Hebrew there is no masculine/female marker for the first person). While some feel that this verse is a continuation of the male’s speech, and others feel that it is a chorus, many feel that it is the woman replying to her lover. If that is the case, what is she saying? Hakham thinks that she is teasing him (p. 24, translation my own): “The male sang her a second song about a dove (a symbol of simplicity), and she replies with a song about foxes (a symbol of trickery).” Yet, Hakham writes that “she does not reject him wholeheartedly; rather she ‘pushes him away with the left hand but pulls him close with the right hand.’ This is why she finishes with a song of commitment, comparing her lover to a gazelle on the hills of spice.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Garrett, Song of Songs (Word Biblical Commentary)
Hakham, Chamesh Megillot (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])

Photo taken from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LiliumBulbiferumCroceumBologna.jpg