Song of Solomon 5

CHAPTER V

The bridegroom calls on his spouse to admit him, 1-3.

She hesitates; but arising finds him gone, seeks him, and

is treated unworthily by the city watch, 4-7.

Inquires of the daughters of Jerusalem, who question her

concerning her beloved, 8, 9.

This gives her occasion to enter into a fine description of

his person and accomplishments, 10-16.

NOTES ON CHAP. V

Verse 1. I am come into my garden] bathi, I came, or have

come; this should be translated in the past tense, as the other

preterite verbs in this clause. I think the latter clause of the

preceding verse should come in here: "Let my beloved come into his

garden, and eat his pleasant fruits. I have come into my garden,

my sister, callah, or spouse; I have gathered my myrrh," &c. I

have taken thee for my spouse, and am perfectly satisfied that

thou art pure and immaculate.

Eat, O friends-drink abundantly] These are generally supposed to

be the words of the bridegroom, after he returned from the nuptial

chamber, and exhibited those signs of his wife's purity which the

customs of those times required. This being a cause of universal

joy, the entertainment is served up; and he invites his

companions, and the friends of both parties, to eat and drink

abundantly, as there was such a universal cause of rejoicing.

Others think that these are the words of the bride to her spouse:

but the original will not bear this meaning; the verbs are all

plural.

Verse 2. I sleep, but my heart waketh] This is a new part; and

some suppose that the fifth day's solemnity begins here. Though I

sleep, yet so impressed is my heart with the excellences of my

beloved, that my imagination presents him to me in the most

pleasing dreams throughout the night. I doubt whether the whole,

from this verse to the end of the seventh, be not a dream: several

parts of it bear this resemblance; and I confess there are some

parts of it, such as her hesitating to rise, his sudden

disappearance, &c., which would be of easier solution on this

supposition. Or part of the transactions mentioned might be the

effects of the dream she had, as rising up suddenly, and going

out into the street, meeting with the watchmen, &c., before she

was well awake. And her being in so much disorder and dishabille

might have induced them to treat her as a suspicious person, or

one of questionable character. But it is most likely the whole was

a dream.

For my head is filled with dew] She supposed he had come in the

night, and was standing without, wet, and exposed to the

inclemency of the weather.

Verse 3. I have put off my coat] The bride must have been in a

dream or in much disorder of mind to have made the frivolous

excuses here mentioned. The words relate to the case of a person

who had gone to take rest on his bed. As they wore nothing but

sandals, they were obliged to wash their feet previously to their

lying down. I have washed my feet, taken off my clothes, and am

gone to bed: I cannot therefore be disturbed. A Hindoo always

washes his feet before he goes to bed. If called from his bed, he

often makes this excuse, I shall daub my feet; and the excuse is

reasonable, as the floors are of earth; and they do not wear shoes

in the house.-WARD.

Verse 4. My beloved put in his hand] If it were a real scene,

which is mentioned in this and the two following verses, it must

refer, from the well-known use of the metaphors, to matrimonial

endearments. Or, it may refer to his attempts to open the door,

when she hesitated to arise, on the grounds mentioned So 5:3. But

this also bears every evidence of a dream.

Verse 5. My hands dropped with myrrh] It was a custom among the

Romans, as Brissonius, Isidore, and others relate, to conduct the

bride to the house of the bridegroom with lighted torches; and

those who brought her anointed the door-posts with fragrant oils,

whence the name uxor, or as it was formerly written unxor, for a

wife or married woman, because of the anointing which took place

on the occasion; for sometimes the bride herself anointed the

door-posts, and sometimes those who brought her; probably both

at the same time. The same custom might have existed among the

Jews. See Vossius' Etymologicon.

Verse 7. Took away my veil] They tore it off rudely, to discover

who she was. See on So 5:2. To tear the veil signifies, in

Eastern phrase, to deflower or dishonour a woman.

Verse 8. I am sick of love.] "I am exceedingly concerned for his

absence; and am distressed on account of my thoughtless carriage

towards him." The latter clause may be well translated, "What

should ye tell him?" Why, "that I am sick of love." This ends the

transactions of the third day and night.

Verse 9. What is thy beloved more than another beloved] This

question gives the bride an opportunity to break out into a highly

wrought description of the beauty and perfections of her spouse.

Verse 10. My beloved is white and ruddy] Red and white,

properly mixed, are essential to a fine complexion; and this is

what is intimated: he has the finest complexion among ten thousand

persons; not one in that number is equal to him. Literally, "He

bears the standard among ten thousand men;" or "He is one before

whom a standard is borne," i.e., he is captain or chief of the

whole.

Verse 11. His head is as the most fine gold] He has the most

beautiful head, fine and majestic. Gold is here used to express

excellence.

His locks are bushy] Crisped or curled. This may refer to

his mustachios.

Black as a raven.] His hair is black and glossy.

Verse 12. His eyes are as the eyes of doves] See on So 4:1.

Washed with milk] The white of the eye, exceedingly white. By

the use of stibium, in the East, the eye is rendered very

beautiful; and receives such a lustre from the use of this

article, that, to borrow the expression of a late traveller,

"their eyes appear to be swimming in bliss." I believe this

expression to be the meaning of the text.

Fitly set.] Or, as the margin, very properly, sitting in

fullness; not sunk, not contracted.

Verse 13. His cheeks are as a bed of spices] Possibly meaning a

bed in the garden, where odoriferous herbs grew. But it has been

supposed to refer to his beard, which in a young well-made man is

exceedingly beautiful. I have seen young Turks, who had taken much

care of their beards, mustachios, &c., look majestic. Scarcely any

thing serves to set off the human face to greater advantage than

the beard, when kept in proper order. Females admire it in their

suitors and husbands. I have known cases, where they not only

despised but execrated Europeans, whose faces were close shaved.

The men perfume their beards often; and this may be what is

intended by spices and sweet-smelling myrrh.

His lips like lilies] The shoshannim may mean any

flower of the lily kind, such as the rubens lilium, mentioned by

Pliny, or something of the tulip kind. There are tints in such

flowers that bear a very near resemblance to a fine ruby lip.

Verse 14. His hands-gold rings set with the beryl] This really

seems to refer to gold rings set with precious stones on the

fingers, and perhaps to circlets or bracelets about the wrists.

Some suppose it to refer to the roundness and exquisite symmetry

of the hand and fingers. tarshish, which we translate beryl,

a gem of a sea-green tint, had better be translated chrysolite,

which is of a gold colour.

His belly-bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.] This must refer

to some garment set with precious stones which went round his

waist, and was peculiarly remarkable. If we take it literally, the

sense is plain enough. His belly was beautifully white, and the

blue veins appearing under the skin resembled the sapphire stone.

But one can hardly think that this was intended.

Verse 15. His legs are as pillars of marble] Exquisitely turned

and well-shaped; the sockets of gold may refer to his slippers. On

these a profusion of gold and ornaments are still lavished in

Asiatic countries.

His countenance is as Lebanon] As Lebanon exalts its head beyond

all the other mountains near Jerusalem, so my beloved is tall and

majestic, and surpasses in stature and majesty all other men. He

is also as straight and as firm as the cedars.

Verse 16. His mouth is most sweet] His eloquence is great, and

his voice is charming. Every word he speaks is sweetness,

mildness, and benevolence itself. Then, her powers of description

failing, and metaphor exhausted she cries out, "The whole of him

is loveliness. This is my beloved, and this is my companion, O ye

daughters of Jerusalem."

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