Song of Solomon 6

The Lost Lover Found

The Maidens to the Beloved:

Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned?
Tell us,
The phrase “Tell us!” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness.
that we may seek him with you.
Heb “And we may seek him with you.” The vav-conjunctive on וּנְבַקְשֶׁנּוּ (unevaqshennu, “and we may seek him with you”) denotes purpose/result.

The Beloved to the Maidens:

My beloved has gone down to his garden,
The term גַּן (gan, “garden”) is used six other times in the Song. In five cases, it is used figuratively (hypocatastasis) to describe her body or the sexual love of the couple (4:12, 15, 16a, 16b; 5:1). There is only one usage in which it might refer to a real garden (8:13). Thus, this usage of “garden” might be figurative or literal: (1) He went to a real garden for repose. Solomon did, in fact, own a great many gardens (Eccl 2:4–7; 1 Chr 27:27). (2) The “garden” is a figurative description referring either to: (a) the young woman, (b) their sexual love, or (c) Solomon’s harem.

to the flowerbeds of balsam spices,
The phrase כַּעֲרוּגַת הַבֹּשֶׂם (kaarugat havvosem, “flower-beds of balsam”) is used elsewhere in the Song only in 5:13 where it is a simile comparing his cheeks to a flower-bed of balsam yielding perfumed spices. The term הַבֹּשֶׂם (“balsam-spice”) by itself appears five times in the Song, each time as a figure for sexual love (4:10, 14, 16; 5:1; 8:14). Thus, the two options are: (1) the term refers to a real flower-bed of balsam to which Solomon had gone or (2) this term is a figure for sexual love.

to graze
The verb לִרְעוֹת (lirot, “to browse”; so NAB, NIV) is from the root רָעָה (raah, “to feed, graze”) which is used seven times in the Song (1:7, 8a, 8b; 2:16; 4:5; 6:2, 3). All its uses appear to be either literal or figurative descriptions of sheep grazing. The verb is used twice in reference to sheep “grazing” in a pasture (1:7, 8). The participle is used once to designate “shepherds” (1:8), once in reference to two fawns which “which graze among the lilies” as a figurative description of her breasts (4:5), and twice as a figurative description of Solomon as “the one who grazes among the lilies” which is probably also a comparison of Solomon to a grazing sheep (2:16; 6:3). Therefore, it is likely that the usage of the term לִרְעוֹת (“to graze”) in 6:2 is also a figurative comparison of Solomon to a sheep grazing among garden flowers. Thus, there are two options: (1) nuance the term לִרְעוֹת as “to browse” (NAB, NIV) and take this as a literal action of Solomon walking through a real garden or (2) nuance the term לִרְעוֹת as “to graze” (NLT) and take this as a figure in which Solomon is pictured as a gazelle grazing on the flowers in a garden.
in the gardens,
and to gather lilies.
The term שׁוֹשַׁנָּה (shoshannah, “lily”) or שׁוֹשַׁנִים (shoshanim, “lilies”) appears eight times in the Song (2:1, 2, 16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2, 3; 7:2). Of these five are unequivocally used figuratively as descriptions of a woman or women (2:1, 2), the color and softness of her breasts (4:5), the attractiveness of his lips (5:13), and her waist (7:2). The closest parallel to 6:2 is the description “the one who grazes among the lilies” (2:16; 6:3) which is a figurative expression comparing his romancing of his Beloved with a sheep feeding on lilies. However, this still leaves a question as to what the lilies represent in 2:16; 6:2, 3. The phrase “to gather lilies” itself appears only here in the Song. However, the synonymous phrase “to gather myrrh and balsam spice” is used in 5:1 as a figure (euphemistic hypocatastasis) for sexual consummation by the man of the woman. There are three basic options as to how “lilies” may be taken: (1) The lilies are real flowers; he has gone to a real garden in which to repose and she is picking real lilies. (2) The term “lilies” is a figure for the young woman; he is romancing her just as he had in 2:16 and 5:1. He is kissing her mouth just as a sheep would graze among lilies. (3) The term “lilies” is a figure expression referring to other women, such as his harem (e.g., 6:8–9). Two factors support the “harem” interpretation: (1) Solomon had recently departed from her, and she was desperate to find him after she refused him. (2) His harem is mentioned explicitly in 6:8–9. However, several other factors support the Beloved interpretation: (1) She expresses her confidence in 6:3 that he is devoted to her. (2) The immediately following use of “lilies” in 6:3 appears to refer to her, as in 2:16 and 5:1. (3) He praises her in 6:4–7, suggesting that he was romancing her in 6:2–3. (4) Although his harem is mentioned in 6:8–10, all these women acknowledge that he is disinterested in them and only loves her. (5) Her exultation “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; the one who grazes among the lilies” (6:3) is a statement of assurance in their relationship and this would seem quite strange if he was cavorting with his harem while she said this.

Poetic Refrain: Mutual Possession

The Beloved about Her Lover:

I am my lover’s
This is the second occurrence of the poetic refrain that occurs elsewhere in 2:16 and 7:11. The order of the first two cola are reversed from 2:16: “My beloved is mine and I am his” (2:16) but “I am my beloved’s and he is mine” (6:3). The significance of this shift depends on whether the parallelism is synonymous or climactic. This might merely be a literary variation with no rhetorical significance. On the other hand, it might signal a shift in her view of their relationship: Originally, she focused on her possession of him, now she focused on his possession of her.
and my lover is mine;
Or “I belong to my beloved, and my lover belongs to me.” Alternately, “I am devoted to my beloved, and my lover is devoted to me.”

he grazes among the lilies.

The Renewal of Love

The Lover to His Beloved:

My darling, you are as beautiful as Tirzah,
He compares her beauty to two of the most beautiful and important cities in the Israelite United Kingdom, namely, Jerusalem and Tirzah. The beauty of Jerusalem was legendary; it is twice called “the perfection of beauty” (Ps 50:2; Lam 2:15). Tirzah was beautiful as well – in fact, the name means “pleasure, beauty.” So beautiful was Tirzah that it would be chosen by Jeroboam as the original capital of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs 15:33; 16:8, 15, 23). The ancient city Tirzah has been identified as Tel el-Far`ah near Nablus: see B. S. J. Isserlin, “Song of Songs IV, 4: An Archaeological Note,” PEQ 90 (1958): 60; R. de Vaux, “Le premiere campagne de fouilles a Tell el-Far`ah,” RB 54 (1947): 394-433.

as lovely as Jerusalem,
as awe-inspiring
The literary unity of 6:4–10 and boundaries of his praise are indicated by the repetition of the phrase אֲיֻמָּה כַּנִּדְגָּלוֹת (’ayummah kannidegalot, “majestic as bannered armies/stars in procession…”) in 6:4 and 6:10 which creates an inclusion. His praise includes his own personal statements (6:4–9a) as well as his report of the praise given to her by the maidens, queens, and concubines (6:9b–10). His praise indicates that he had forgiven any ingratitude on her part.
as bannered armies!
Turn your eyes away from me –
they overwhelm
The verb רָהַב (rahav) should be nuanced “overwhelm” or “arouse” rather than “storm against,” “make proud,” “confuse,” “dazzle,” or “overcome” (BDB 923 s.v. רָהַב).
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from Mount Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep
coming up from the washing;
each has its twin;
not one of them is missing.
Like a slice of pomegranate
is your forehead
Alternately, “your cheeks” or “your temple.” See 4:3.
behind your veil.
There may be sixty
The sequence “sixty…eighty…beyond number” is an example of a graded numerical sequence and is not intended to be an exact numeration (see W. G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry [JSOTSup], 144–50).
and eighty concubines,
and young women
The term עַלְמָה (’almah, “young woman”) refers to a young woman who is of marriageable age or a newly married young woman, usually before the birth of her first child (HALOT 835-36 s.v. עַלְמָה; BDB 761 s.v. עַלְמָה) (e.g., Gen 24:43; Exod 2:8; Ps 68:26; Prov 30:19; Song 1:3; 6:8; Isa 7:14). The only other use of the term “young women” (עֲלָמוֹת) in the Song refers to the young women of Solomon’s harem (Song 6:8). The root עלם denotes the basic idea of “youthful, strong, passionate” (HALOT 835 s.v. III). While the term עַלְמָה may be used in reference to a young woman who is a virgin, the term itself does not explicitly denote “virgin.” The Hebrew term which explicitly denotes “virgin” is בְּתוּלָה (betulah) which refers to a mature young woman without any sexual experience with men (e.g., Gen 24:16; Exod 22:15–16; Lev 21:3; Deut 22:23, 28; 32:25; Judg 12:12; 19:24; 2 Sam 13:2, 18; 1 Kgs 1:2; 2 Chr 36:17; Esth 2:2–3, 17, 19; Job 31:1; Pss 45:15; 78:63; 148:12; Isa 23:4; 62:5; Jer 2:32; 31:3; 51:22; Lam 1:4, 18; 2:10, 21; 5:11; Ezek 9:6; Joel 1:8; Amos 9:13; Zech 9:17; HALOT 166-7 s.v. בְּתוּלָה; BDB 143 s.v. בְּתוּלָה). The related noun בְּתוּלִים (betulim) means “state of virginity” (Lev 21:13; Judg 11:37–38; Ezek 23:3, 8; Sir 42:10) and “evidence of virginity” (Deut 22:14–15, 17, 20) (HALOT 167 s.v. בְּתוּלִים).
without number.
But she is unique!
Alternately, “She alone is my dove, my perfect one.” The term אַחַת (’akhat) is used here as an adjective of quality: “unique, singular, the only one” (DCH 1:180 s.v. אֶחָד 1b). The masculine form is used elsewhere to describe Yahweh as the “only” or “unique” God of Israel who demands exclusive love and loyalty (Deut 6:4; Zech 14:9). Although Solomon possessed a large harem, she was the only woman for him.

My dove, my perfect one!
She is the special daughter
Heb “the only daughter of her mother.” The phrase אַחַת לְאִמָּה (’akhat leimmah) is sometimes translated as “the only daughter of her mother” (NIV, NASB) or “the only one of her mother” (KJV). K&D 18:112 suggests that she was not her mother’s only daughter, but her most special daughter. This is supported by the parallelism with בָּרָה (barah, “favorite”) in the following line. Similarly, Gen 22:2 and Prov 4:3 use the masculine term אֶחָד (’ekhad, “the only one”) to refer to the specially favored son, that is, the heir.
of her mother,
she is the favorite
The term בָּרָה (barah) is sometimes nuanced “pure” (NASB) because the root ברר I denotes “to purify, purge out” (BDB 140-41 s.v. בָּרַר). However, the root בָּרַר also denotes “to choose, select” (BDB 141 s.v. 2) (Neh 5:18; 1 Chr 7:40; 9:22; 16:41). Most translations adopt the second root, e.g., “the choice one” (KJV), “the favorite” (NIV), “favorite” (JB). This is supported by the exegetical tradition of LXX, which translates בָּרָה as ἐκλεκτή (eklektē, “the chosen one”).
of the one who bore her.
The maidens
Heb “daughters.”
saw her and complimented her;
Heb “to call blessed.” The verb אָשַׁר (’ashar) is used of people whom others consider fortunate because they have prospered or are to be commended (Gen 30:13; Ps 72:17; Mal 3:12, 15). Likewise, the verb הָלַל (halal, “to praise”) is used elsewhere of people who are held in high esteem by others either due to a commendable moral quality (Prov 31:28, 31) or due to one’s physical beauty (Gen 12:15; 2 Sam 14:25). The actual content of their praise of her appears in Song 6:10 in which they compare her beauty to that of the dawn, moon, sun, and stars.

the queens and concubines praised her:
10  “Who
This rhetorical question emphasizes her position among women (e.g., Mic 2:7; Joel 2:1).
is this who appears
Alternately, “rises” or “looks forth.” Delitzsch renders הַנִּשְׁקָפָה (hannishqafah) as “who rises,” while NIV opts for “who appears.” The verb means “to look down upon [something] from a height” and is derived from the related noun “ceiling, roof, sky” (BDB 1054 s.v. שָׁקַף; HALOT 1645 s.v. שׁקף). The verb is used of looking down over a plain or valley from the vantage point of a mountain-top (Num 21:20; 23:28; 1 Sam 13:18); of God looking down from heaven (Ps 14:2); or of a person looking down below out of an upper window (Judg 5:28; 2 Sam 6:16; Prov 7:6). M. H. Pope (The Song of Songs [AB], 571-72) suggests that this verb implies the idea of her superiority over the other women, that is, she occupies a “higher” position over them due to his choice of her. But another interpretation is possible: The verb creates personification (i.e., the dawn is attributed with the human action of looking). Just as the dawn is the focus of attention during the morning hours and looks down upon the earth, so too she is the focus of his attention and is in the privileged position over all the other women.
like the dawn?
The common point in these four comparisons is that all are luminaries. In all four cases, each respective luminary is the focus or center of attention at the hour at hand because it dwarfs its celestial surroundings in majesty and in sheer brilliance. All other celestial objects pale into insignificance in their presence. This would be an appropriate description of her because she alone was the center and focus of his attention. All the other women paled into the background when she was present. Her beauty captured the attention of all that saw her, especially Solomon.

Beautiful as the moon,
The term לְבָנָה (levanah) literally means “the white one” (BDB 526 s.v. לְבָנָה) and is always used in reference to the moon. It is only used elsewhere in the OT in parallelism with the term used to designate the sun (Isa 24:23; 30:26), which likewise is not the ordinary term, but literally means “the hot one,” emphasizing the heat of the sun (Job 30:28; Ps 19:6). Both of these terms, “the white one” and “the hot one,” are metonymies of adjunct in which an attribute (i.e., color and heat) are substituted for the subject itself. The white moon in contrast to the dark night sky captures one’s attention, just as the red-hot sun in the afternoon sky is the center of attention during the day. The use of the figurative comparisons of her beauty to that of the dawn, sun, moon, and stars is strikingly similar to the Hebrews’ figurative comparison of Simon the high priest coming out of the sanctuary to the morning star, moon, sun, and rainbow: “How glorious he was when the people gathered round him as he came out of the inner sanctuary! Like the morning star among the clouds, like the moon when it is full; like the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High, and like the rainbow gleaming in glorious clouds” (See G. Gerleman, Ruth, Das Hohelied [BKAT], 171).
Heb “pure as the sun.”
as the sun,
The adjective אָיֹם (’ayom) has been nuanced “terrible” (KJV, RSV), “frightful, fear-inspiring” (Delitzsch), “majestic” (NIV), “awesome” (NASB). In the light of its parallelism with יָפָה (yafah, “beautiful”) and נָאוָה (navah, “lovely”) in 6:4, and יָפָה (“fair”) and בָּרָה (barah, “bright”) in 6:10, it should be nuanced “awe-inspiring” or “unnervingly beautiful.”
as the stars in procession?”
Heb “as bannered armies.” The term כַּנִּדְגָּלוֹת (kannidgalot, “as bannered armies”) is used figuratively (hypocatastasis) in reference to stars which are often compared to the heavenly armies. This nuance is clear in the light of the parallelism with the dawn, moon, and sun.

The Return to the Vineyards

The Lover to His Beloved:
It is difficult to determine whether the speaker in 6:11–12 is Solomon or the Beloved.

11  I went down to the orchard of walnut trees,
The term אֱגוֹז (’egoz, “nut”) probably refers to the “walnut” or “walnut tree” (juglans regia) (DCH 1:116 s.v. אֱגוֹז). The singular form is used collectively here to refer to a grove of walnut trees.

to look for the blossoms of the valley,
It is not clear whether the “valley” in 6:12 is a physical valley (Jezreel Valley?), a figurative description of their love relationship, or a double entendre.

to see if the vines had budded
or if the pomegranates were in bloom.
Most scholars agree that the Hebrew text of 6:12 is the most elusive in the entire Song. The syntax is enigmatic and the textual reading is uncertain. The difficulty of this verse has generated a plethora of different translations: “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me [like] the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (KJV), “Before I knew it, my soul made me like the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (AV), “Before I knew it, my fancy set me in a chariot beside my prince” (AT), “Before I knew…my desire hurled me on the chariots of my people, as their prince” (JB), “Before I knew it, my desire set me mid the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (JPSV), “I did not know myself, she made me feel more than a prince reigning over the myriads of his people” (NEB), “Before I knew it, my heart had made me the blessed one of my kins-women” (NAB), “Before I was aware, my soul set me [over] the chariots of my noble people” (NASB), “Before I realized it, my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people” (NIV), “…among the chariots of Amminadab” (NIV margin), “…among the chariots of the people of the prince” (NIV margin), and “Before I realized it, I was stricken with a terrible homesickness and wanted to be back among my own people” (NLT). For discussion, see R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 95; R. Tournay, “Les Chariots d’Aminadab (Cant. VI 12): Israel, Peuple Theophore,” VT 9 (1959): 288-309; M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 584-92; R. E. Murphy, “Towards a Commentary on the Song of Songs,” CBQ 39 (1977): 491-92; S. M. Paul, “An Unrecognized Medical Idiom in Canticles 6, 12 and Job 9, 21, ” Bib 59 (1978): 545-47; G. L. Carr, Song of Solomon [TOTC], 151–53.
I was beside myself with joy!
Alternately, “Before I realized it, my soul placed me among the chariots of my princely people.” There is debate whether נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul” = “I”) belongs with the first or second colon. The MT accentuation connects it with the second colon; thus, the first colon introduces indirect discourse: לֹא יָדַעְתִּי (lo yadati) “I did not know” or “Before I realized it….” According to MT accentuation, the fs noun נַפְשִׁי (“my soul”) is the subject of שָׂמַתְנִי (samatni, Qal perfect 3rd person feminine singular from שִׂים, sim, + 1st person common singular suffix, “to put”): “my soul placed me….” This approach is followed by several translations (KJV, NASB, AV, AT, JB, JPSV, NAB, NIV). On the other hand, the LXX takes נַפְשִׁי (“my soul” = “I”) as the subject of לֹא יָדַעְתִּי and renders the line, “My soul [= I] did not know.” NEB follows suit, taking נַפְשִׁי as the subject of לֹא יָדַעְתִּי and renders the line: “I did not know myself.” R. Gordis and S. M. Paul posit that לֹא יָדַעְתִּי נַפְשִׁי (literally “I did not know myself”) is an idiom describing the emotional state of the speaker, either joy or anguish: “I was beside myself” (e.g., Job 9:21; Prov 19:2). S. Paul notes that the semantic equivalent of this Hebrew phrase is found in the Akkadian expression ramansu la ude (“he did not know himself”) which is a medical idiom describing the loss of composure, lucidity, or partial loss of consciousness. He suggests that the speaker in the Song is beside himself/herself with anguish or joy (S. M. Paul, “An Unrecognized Medical Idiom in Canticles 6, 12 and Job 9, 21, ” Bib 59 [1978]: 545-47; R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 95).

There please give me your myrrh,
While MT reads מַרְכְּבוֹת (markevot, “chariots”) some medieval Hebrew mss add the locative preposition בְּ (be) or comparative particle כְּ (ke) before מַרְכְּבוֹת to produce “in/on/among/like the chariots.” Most translations supply a preposition: “My soul made me [like] the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (KJV, AV); “My fancy set me [in] a chariot beside my prince” (AT); “My soul set me [over] the chariots of my noble people” (NASB); “My desire set me [among] the chariots of Amminadab” (JPS, NJPS, NIV margin); “My desire set me [among] the royal chariots of my people” (NIV); “My desire set me [among] the chariots of the people of the prince” (NIV margin); “My desire hurled me [on] the chariots of my people, [as their] prince” (JB). R. Gordis offers a creative solution to the enigma of שָׂמַתְנִי מַרְכְּבוֹת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (samatni markevot ammi-nadiv) by redividing the text and revocalizing it as שָׁם תֵּנִי מֹרֶךְ בַּת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (sham teni morekh ammi-nadiv) “There, give me your myrrh, O nobleman’s daughter!” This involves two steps: (1) He redivides the MT’s שָׂמַתְנִי (“it placed me”) into two words שָׁם תֵּנִי (“There, give me”); and (2) He redivides the MT’s מַרְשְּׂבוֹת (“chariots”) into מֹרךְ בַּת (“your myrrh, O daughter”). This approach is supported somewhat by the LXX, which had a difficult time with the line: “There I will give my breasts to you!” The approach of R. Gordis is explained and supported by several factors: (1) He take מֹרךְ (“your myrrh”) as a figure (hypocatastasis) for her love (e.g., 4:6, 14; 5:1, 5, 13). (2) The word-division of בַּת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (“O noble kinsman’s daughter”) is paralleled by the nearly identical descriptive בַּת־נָדִיב (“O nobleman’s daughter”) in 7:2. (3) Arabs referred to a girl as bint el akbar (“nobleman’s daughter”). (4) The referent of שָׁם (“there”) is the garden/valley mentioned in 6:11. (5) This fits into the other literary parallels between 6:11–12 and 7:12–14, listed as follows: (a) “I went down to the nut grove” (6:11a) and “Let us go to the vineyards” (7:12a). (b) “to look for new growth in the valley, to see if the vines had budded, or if the pomegranates were in bloom” (6:11b) and “Let us see if the vines have budded, if the blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates are in bloom” (7:13a). (c) “There…give me your myrrh = love” (6:12b) and “There I will give you my love” (7:13b). See R. Gordis, Song of Songs and Lamentations, 95.
The meaning of MT נַפְשִׁי שָׂמַתְנִי מַרְכְּבוֹת עַמִּי־נָדִיב (nafshi samatni markevot ammi-nadiv) is enigmatic and has spawned numerous translations: “my soul made me [like] the chariots of Ammi-nadib” (KJV, AV); “my soul set me among the chariots of my princely people” (ASV), “my soul had made me as the chariots of my noble people” (NKJV); “my fancy set me [in] a chariot beside my prince” (RSV, NRSV); “my soul set me [over] the chariots of my noble people” (NASB); “my desire set me [among] the chariots of Amminadab” (JPS, NJPS, NIV margin); “my soul made me [like] the chariots of Amminadib” (WEB); “my desire set me [among] the royal chariots of my people” (NIV); “my desire set me [among] the chariots of the people of the prince” (NIV margin); “my soul set me over the chariots of my noble people” (NAU); “my desire hurled me [on] the chariots of my people, [as their] prince” (JB); “she made me feel more than a prince reigning over the myriads of his people” (NEB); “my heart had made me the blessed one of my kins-women” (NAB); “my soul troubled me for the chariots of Aminadab” (DRA); “I found myself in my princely bed with my beloved one” (NLT); “I was stricken with a terrible homesickness and wanted to be back among my own people” (LT); “But in my imagination I was suddenly riding on a glorious chariot” (CEV).

O daughter of my princely people.
MT vocalizes and divides the text as עַמִּי־נָדִיב (’ammi-nadiv, “my princely people”); however, several other mss read עַמִּינָדָב (’amminadav, “Amminadab”). This alternate textual tradition is also reflected in the LXX (Αμιναδαβ, Aminadab) and Vulgate.

The Love Song and Dance

The Lover to His Beloved:

13  [Heb. 7:1]
The chapter division comes one verse earlier in the Hebrew text (BHS) than in the English Bible; 6:13 ET = 7:1 HT, 7:1 ET = 7:2 HT, through 7:13 ET = 7:14 HT. Beginning with 8:1 the verse numbers in the Hebrew Bible and the English Bible are again the same.
Alternately, “Return…Return…!” The imperative שׁוּבִי (shuvi, “Turn!”) is used four times for emphasis. There are two basic interpretations to the meaning/referent of the imperative שׁוּבִי (“Turn!”): (1) The villagers of Shunem are beckoning her to return to the garden mentioned in 6:11–12: “Come back! Return!” R. Gordis nuances these uses of שׁוּבִי as “halt” or “stay” (“Some Hitherto Unrecognized Meanings of the Verb SHUB,” JBL 52 [1933]: 153-62); (2) In the light of the allusion to her dancing in 7:1 (Heb 7:2), several scholars see a reference to an Arabic bridal dance. Budde emends the MT’s שׁוּבִי to סוֹבִי (sovi, “revolve, spin”) from סָבַב (savav, “to turn around”). M. H. Pope (Song of Songs [AB], 595-96) also emends the MT to the Hebrew verbal root יָסַב (yasav, “to leap, spin around”) which he connects to Arabic yasaba (“to leap”). These emendations are unnecessary to make the connection with some kind of dance because שׁוּבִי has a wide range of meanings from “turn” to “return.”
, turn, O
The article on הַשּׁוּלַמִּית (hashshulammit) functions as a vocative (“O Shulammite”) rather than in a definite sense (“the Shulammite”). The article is often used to mark a definite addressee who is addressed in the vocative (e.g., 1 Sam 17:55, 58; 24:9; 2 Kgs 6:26; 9:5; Prov 6:6; Eccl 11:9; Zech 3:8). For the vocative use of the article, see GKC 405 #126.e; Joüon 2:506–7 #137.f; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 19, #89; IBHS 247 #13.5.2c.
Perfect One!
Heb “O Perfect One.” Alternately, “O Shunammite” or “O Shulammite.” The term הַשּׁוּלַמִית (hashshulammit) has been variously translated: “Shulammite maiden” (NEB); “maiden of Shulam” (JB); “O maid of Shulem” (NJPS); “the Shulammite” (KJV; NASB; NIV). The meaning of the name הַשּׁוּלַמִית is enigmatic and debated. LXX renders it ἡ Σουλαμιτἰ ({ē Soulamiti, “O Shulamite”) and Vulgate renders it Sulamitis (“O Shulamite”). A few Hebrew mss read the plural הַשּׁוּלַמוֹת (hashshulamot) but the Masoretic tradition reads הַשּׁוּלַמִית as the versions confirm. Eight major views have emerged in the history of interpretation of the Song. They are arranged, as follows, in order from most likely (views 1–2), plausible (views 3–5), unlikely (view 6), to bizarre (views 7–8): (1) שׁוּלַמִית is a substantival use of the adjectival form qutal שׁוּלָם (shulam, “perfection”) with the gentilic suffix ית- from the root שָׁלֵם (shalem, “to be complete, perfect”): “the perfect, unblemished one” (Fox). This approach is reflected in rabbinic exegesis of the 12th century: “The meaning of the Shulammite is ‘perfect, without spot’” (Midrash Rabbah). (2) שׁוּלַמִית is Qal passive participle with the feminine adjectival suffix ית- from the root שָׁלֵם (“peace”): “the peaceful one” or “the pacified one” (Andre, Robert, Joüon). This is reflected in Vulgate pacificus (“the pacified one”), and Aquila and Quinta ἡ ἐηρυνεούσα ({ē eēruneousa) “the peaceful one” (Andre Robert, Joüon). (3) שׁוּלַמִית is an alternate form of the gentilic name “Shunammite” (שׁוּנַמִית) used to refer to inhabitants of Shunem (1 Kgs 1:15; 2 Kgs 4:12). This is reflected in LXX ἡ Σουλαμιτἰ ({ē Soulamiti, “O Shulamite”). This is supported by several factors: (a) Gentilic names are formed by the suffix ית- and the prefixed article to a place-name, e.g., הַיְּרוּשָׁלַמִית (hayyerushalamit, “the Jerusalemite”) is from יְרוּשָׁלַם (yerushalam, “Jerusalem”); (b) the interchange between lateral dental ל (l) and nasal dental נ (n) is common in the Semitic languages (S. Moscati, Comparative Grammar, 32, #8.26); (c) the town of Shunem was also known as Shulem, due to the common interchange between נ (n) and ל (l) in Hebrew (Aharoni, 123), as seen in Eusebius’ Onomasticon in which Shunem = Shulem; and (d) later revisions of the LXX read ἡ Σουναμωτἰ (“the Shunamite”) instead of the Old Greek ἡ Σουλαμωτἰ (“the Shulamite”). Shunem was a town in the Jezreel Valley at the foot of Mount Moreh near Mount Tabor and situated about nine miles east of Megiddo, fifteen miles northwest of Beth-shean, and five miles north of Jezreel (Josh 19:18; 1 Sam 28:4; 2 Kgs 4:8). During the Roman period, the town was called Shulem. See Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, 24, 152, 172, 442, 308. Some scholars suggest that “Shul/nammite” refers to Abishag, the beautiful virgin from the village of Shunem who warmed elderly King David and was sought by Adonijah (1 Kgs 2:13–25). Other scholars argue that Abishag has been imported in the Song on too slender grounds. (4) שׁוּלַמִית is the feminine form of the masculine name שְׁלֹמֹה (shelomoh, “Solomon”), just as Judith is the feminine of Judah: “Shulamith” or “Solomonette” or “Solomoness” (Lowth, Goodspeed, Rowley). The feminine ending ־ית may be suffixed to masculine personal names to transform them into feminine names. A similar form occurs in the Ugaritic designation of Daniel’s wife as Lady Daniel (e.g., mtt dnty). An anonymous Jewish commentator of the 12th century wrote: “The Shulammite was beloved of Solomon, for she was called after the name of her beloved.” The 16th century commentator Joseph Ibn Yahya wrote: “And the calling of her ‘Shulammite’ was determined by reason of her devotion to the Holy One (Blessed be He) who is called Shelomoh.” (5) As a combination of views 1–2, שׁוּלַמִית is a wordplay formed by the combination of the feminine name שְׁלֹמִית (shelomit, “Shelomite”) from שְׁלֹמֹה (“Solomon”) and the gentilic name הַשּׁוּנַמִית (“the Shunammite”) denoting a woman from Shunem: “Solomoness/Shunammite.” (6) שׁוּלַמִית is related to the Arabic root salama “consummation gift” (given to a bride the morning after the wedding): “O Consummated One” or “O Bride” (Hirschberg). (7) Those espousing a cultic interpretation of Canticles take שׁוּלַמִית as the name or epithet of the Canaanite moon goddess Ishtar, designated by the feminine form of the name Shelem, the name of her lover Tammuz, called Dod or Shelem (T. J. Meek). (8) An alternate cultic interpretation takes שׁוּלַמִית as a conflation of the name of the Assyrian war-goddess “Shulmanith” (Ishtar) and the gentilic name “the Shunammite” for a woman from Shunem (Albright). See M. V. Fox, The Song of Songs and the Egyptian Love Songs, 157–58; T. J. Meek, “Canticles and the Tammuz Cult,” AJSL 39 (1922–23): 1-14; E. J. Goodspeed, “The Shulammite,” AJSL 50 (1933): 102-104; H. H. Rowley, “The Meaning of ‘The Shulammite’,” AJSL 56 (1938): 84-91; W. F. Albright, “The Syro-Mesopotamian God Sulman-Esmun and Related Figures,” AfO 7 (1931–32): 164-69; W. F. Albright, “Archaic Survivals in the Text of Canticles,” Hebrew and Semitic Studies, 5; H. H. Hirschberg, “Some Additional Arabic Etymologies in Old Testament Lexicography,” VT 11 (1961): 373-85; M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 596-600.

Turn, turn, that I
Heb “we.” In ancient Near Eastern love literature, plural verbs and plural pronouns are often used in reference to singular individuals. See note on Song 2:15.
may stare at you!

The Beloved to Her Lover:

Alternately, “What do you see in…?” or “Why should you look upon…?” The interrogative pronoun מַה (mah) normally denotes “what?” or “why?” (BDB 552 s.v. מָה; HALOT 550-52 s.v. מָה). However, Gesenius suggests that the phrase מַה־תֶּחֱזוּ (mah-tekhezu) is the idiom “Look now!” on the analogy of Arabic ma tara (“Look now!”) (GKC 443 #137.b, n. 1).
do you gaze upon the Perfect One
like the dance of the Mahanaim?
The MT reads כִּמְחֹלַת (kimkholat, “like the dance”), while other Hebrew mss read בִּמְחֹלוֹת (bimkholot, “in the dances”). The LXX’s ὠ χοροὶ (ō coroi, “like the dances”) reflects כִּמְחֹלוֹת and Symmachus’ ἐν τρώσεσιν (en tpōsesin, “in the injury”) reflects the locative preposition but a confusion of the noun.
Alternately, “like a dance or two camps” or “like a dance in two lines.” The phrase כִּמְחֹלַת הַמַּחֲנָיִם (kimkholat hammakhanayim) is difficult to translate: “as it were the company of two armies” (KJV), “as at the dance of the two companies” (NASB), “as at the dance of Mahanaim” (NIV), “in the Mahanaim dance” (NJPS). The meaning of the individual terms is clear: The noun מְחֹלָה (mekholah) denotes “dance in a ring” (Exod 15:20; 32:19; Judg 11:34; 21:21; 1 Sam 21:12; 29:5) (HALOT 569 s.v. מְחֹלָה). The noun מַחֲנֶה (makhneh) denotes “encampment, camp, army” and the dual form probably means “two armies” (HALOT 570 s.v. מַחֲנֶה). However, the meaning of the genitive-construct מְחֹלַת הַמַּחֲנָיִם (mekholat hammakhanayim) is unclear: “dance of the two camps/armies”[?]. W. F. Albright proposed “the dance of the Mahanaim” (“Archaic Survivals in the Text of Canticles,” Hebrew and Semitic Studies, 5). LXX translates ὠ χοροὶ τῶν παρεμβολῶν (ō coroi tōn parembolōn, “like the dances before the camps”).

The Lover to His Beloved:

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