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Song of Songs 2

STANZA DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Bride's Admiration The Banquet
(1:2-2:7)
  The First Song
(1:2-2:7)
First Poem
(1:4-2:7)
    The Man's Song
(1:9-2:7)
  Dialogue of the Lovers
(1:5-2:7)
  (The Shulammite)
(1:16-2:1)
    (Duo)
(1:12-2:7)
2:1   2:1   2:1
2:2 (The Beloved)
2:2
2:2 (The Man)
2:2
2:2
2:3-6 (The Shulammite)
2:3
2:3-7 (The Woman)
2:3-7
2:3-5
  (The Shulammite to the Daughters of Jerusalem)
2:4-5
     
  2:6-7     2:6
2:7       2:7
  The Beloved's Request
(2:8-17)
The Lover's Spring Visit

2:8-15

The Second Song
(2:8-3:5)
Second Poem
(2:8-3:5)
2:8-9 (The Shulammite)
2:8-9
  (The Woman)
2:8-10a
(Beloved)
2:8-9a
        2:9b-c
2:10-13 2:10-13   (The Man)
2:10b-14
2:10-11
        2:12-13
2:14 2:14     2:14-15
2:15 (Her Brothers)
2:15
  2:15  
2:16-17 (The Shulammite)
2:16
2:16-17 (The Woman)
(2:16-3:5)

2:16-3:4

2:16
  (To Her Beloved)
2:17
    2:17

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:1
 1"I am the rose of Sharon,

The lily of the valleys."

2:1-2 There are no verbs in Sol 2:1-2; all are noun phrases.

These verses (and Sol 2:4) are often used as metaphors for the Messiah. However, this assumes that Song of Songs is an allegory (see Introduction). There is nothing grammatically or lexically that would make one think this book is about God's love for Israel or the church! Be careful of presuppositions and/or traditional interpretations that do not firmly hold to authorial intent.

2:1 "rose" This (BDB 287) can mean "crocus." It refers to a common wild flower (cf. Isa. 35:1, see Helps for Translators, Fauna and Flora of the Bible pp. 150-151).

▣ "Sharon" This refers to the low, flat coastal plains (about ten miles wide) beside the Mediterranean in northern Palestine. It was known for its lush plants (i.e., Isa. 35:2) and, therefore, a renowned pasture land (i.e., 1 Chr. 5:16; 27:29; Isa. 65:10).

▣ "lily" This term (BDB 1004) is used several times in the book:

1. 2:1,2; 7:3 - a flower describing the bride

2. 2:16 - a flower describing the groom

3. 4:5; 6:3 - flowers of the field

Hos. 14:5

4. 6:4 - an allusion to sexual activity (i.e., gardens, beds)

5. in 1 Kgs. 7:19,

22,26 - it refers to the carved top of pillars in Solomon's temple

6. in 2 Chr. 4:5- it refers to the brim of the laver in Solomon's temple

7. in Psalm 45, - it refers to a tune or musical term of some kind

60, 69, 80

In this context she is describing herself as pretty and fragrant, but not unusual, just one of many. This may be another way (like 1:5-7) to describe herself as a country girl (see UBS, Handbook for Translators, p. 52).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:2
 2"Like a lily among the thorns,
 So is my darling among the maidens."

2:2 He tells her that she is much more than a common wild flower (i.e., the other maidens).

NASB, TEV,
JPSOA, NIV"my darling"
NKJV, NRSV"my love"
NJB"my beloved"

This Hebrew word (BDB 946) means "companion" or "associate." It is used often to describe the maiden (cf. Sol 1:9,15; 2:2,10,13; 4:1,7; 6:4) and once for the man (cf. Sol 5:2). This is obviously a term of endearment.

NASB, NRSV"the maidens"
NKJV"the daughters"
TEV"women"
NJB"girls"

The question remains, to which group of women (BDB 123 I) is he referring:

1. harem in Jerusalem

2. chorus

3. local girls (cf. Gen. 24:13; 30:13) in the north

4. women at court

The more I try to read this as a unified document the more I am committed to:

1. a collection of unrelated love songs (cf. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, p. 806)

2. a northern lover in competition for the maiden of northern Israel

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:3-6
  3"Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
 So is my beloved among the young men.
 In his shade I took great delight and sat down,
 And his fruit was sweet to my taste.
  4He has brought me to his banquet hall,
 And his banner over me is love.
  5Sustain me with raisin cakes,
 Refresh me with apples,
 Because I am lovesick
  6Let his left hand be under my head
 And his right hand embrace me.

2:3 "apple" Wild apples do not grow well in Palestine, therefore, many have supposed this to be an apricot (NASB margin at Joel 2:12) or citrus tree (cf. Rotherhams, Emphasized Bible, p. 643). The term seems to mean "apples" (BDB 656, cf. Pro. 25:11). The identification of this fruit does not affect the overall understanding of the text. He compliments her; she compliments him!

The metaphorical meaning suggests lovemaking, intimacy (cf. Sol 4:11, NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 1151). Fruit is used literally in the process of reproduction in Genesis (e.g., 1:11,12) and metaphorically (e.g., 1:22,28,29; 8:17; 9:1,7), children are described as "the fruit of the womb." Smelling, eating, and commenting on someone using "fruit" obviously has sexual overtones and connotations.

▣ "In his shade, I took great delight and sat down" The rabbis say that Sol 2:3 and 4 refer to the study of the Torah, but in context they seem to be an allusion to sexual intimacy (i.e., Sol 2:6).

2:4 "banquet hall" This is a construct relationship between "house" (BDB 108) and "wine" (BDB 406). Again, to what does this refer:

1. Solomon's palace in Jerusalem (cf. Sol 5:2-7,8)

2. Solomon's travelling pavilion (cf. Sol 3:6-11)

3. a beautiful outdoor setting for a picnic in the northern countryside (cf. Sol 1:16-17)

4. a love nest hidden from everyone's eyes (cf. Sol 2:14)

 

▣ "his banner over me is love" This probably (BDB 186) refers to the concept of (1) a tribal flag (cf. Num. 1:52; 2:17,18,25) or (2) a military banner used as a signal (cf. Sol 6:4,10). He publicly acknowledges (opposite of Sol 1:7) his love for her in this manner (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 919). Others believe it referred to the practice of placing a brightly colored canopy over the honored guest at an outdoor banquet (i.e., Arab tradition, possibly 5:10). The NRSV translates the term as an Akkadian root, "wish" or "intend" (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 920).

2:5 "Sustain. . .refresh" These are both Piel imperatives (BDB 701, KB 759 and BDB 951 and 1276). The imagery is (1) of food providing the energy for sexual activity (cf. Sol 2:6) or (2) distracting one from the mental distress of being separated from a loved person.

▣ "with raisin cakes" These are often associated with fertility worship (i.e., Hosea 3:1; Jer. 7:18). Here it is not pagan worship, but the connotation of an aphrodisiac (this is possibly the implication of 2 Sam. 6:19 and 1 Chr. 16:3). Often in the OT sexual activity is linked to metaphors for eating:

1. negative- Prov. 7:18; 30:20

2. positive - Song of Songs 2:3-5; 4:11-16

Eating is a recurrent need and often an occasion for fellowship, friendship, family, and worship. Eating is a joyous and fulfilling experience.

▣ "Because I am love sick" This phrasing is very similar to Egyptian love songs of the same period. This phrase is repeated in Sol 5:8. She wants more intimacy!

2:6 This is a reference to an intimate sexual embrace while lying down (cf. Sol 8:3).

▣ "Let" This is in italics, which shows it is not in the MT, but the translators of NASB (1995 Update) are assuming that the Piel imperfect verb (BDB 287, KB 287), "embrace," is being used in a jussive sense, following the Piel imperatives of Sol 2:5.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:7
 7"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
 By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
 That you do not arouse or awaken my love
 Until she pleases."

2:7 This is either from the bridegroom (margin of NASB) or the bride (NKJV). This phrase is repeated throughout the book (cf. Sol 3:5; 5:8,9; 8:4).

In context it seems to be a suggestion to (1) wait until the lover is ready; (2) wait until the appropriate time; or (3) do not interrupt their lovemaking.

The verb "pleases" (BDB 342, KB 339, Qal imperfect) is used several times in this book (cf. Sol 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). It denotes a thoughtfulness about the feelings of the other person.

▣ "O, daughters of Jerusalem" See note at Sol 1:5. This closes out poem number one, while 2:8-3:5 will be poem number two.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:8-9
 8"Listen! My beloved!
 Behold, he is coming,
 Climbing on the mountains,
 Leaping on the hills!
 9My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
 Behold, he is standing behind our wall,
 He is looking through the windows,
 He is peering through the lattice.

2:8 The rabbis say that this refers to God giving the law at Mt. Sinai. However, this is an attempt at a "typological" interpretation based on climbing mountains. But again, if you let this type of interpretation be valid, there is no way to verify any interpretation. Context, context, context; authorial intent, authorial intent, authorial intent; genre, genre, genre!!!

This verse (Sol 2:8-9) speaks of the young man's virility and physical strength. Nothing, no barrier, can stop him from coming to his beloved. He is coming to her in her northern rural setting!

Grammatically, Sol 2:8-9 are a series of seven participles, which denotes it is a unified literary unit.

2:9 This is so typical of a young man's enthusiasm in visiting his girl who does not answer the door quickly.

This verse is hard to interpret because the words are rare:

1. "lattice" - BDB 355, referring to some kind of opening in the wall (cf. Jos. 2:15; Jdgs. 5:28)

2. "looking" - BDB 993, KB 1414, Hiphil participle, a rarely used verb from an Aramaic root

3. "peering" - BDB 847 II, KB 1013, Hiphil participle, used only here in the OT, also from an Aramaic root

4. "wall" - BDB 508, used only here in the OT

It is possible that Sol 2:9 should extend through Sol 2:17.

1. The maiden wants her lover to wait until evening so no one will see.

2. The maiden wants her lover to leave before dawn after staying with her all night.

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:10-13
 10"My beloved responded and said to me,
 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
 And come along.
  11For behold, the winter is past,
 The rain is over and gone.
 12The flowers have already appeared in the land;
 The time has arrived for pruning the vines,
 And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.
 13The fig tree has ripened its figs,
 And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.
 Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
 And come along!'"

2:10-14 This seems to be an invitation to (1) come out and enjoy the spring weather and (2) find a secret place so they can fully view each other (Sol 2:14).

2:10 "Arise. . .come" These are both Qal imperatives (BDB 877, KB 1086 and BDB 229, KB 246). They are spoken by a young man to his female lover. These commands are repeated in Sol 2:13.

The question still remains in all of these verses, "who is the male?":

1. Solomon

2. a northern young lover

 

2:11-13 Six characteristics of spring are listed here.

2:11 "the winter is past" The term "winter" (BDB 711) is an Aramaic loan word found only here in the Bible. Christian allegorists use this to refer to Christ's suffering. As Gordon Fee says, "a book that can mean anything, means nothing" (How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth).

▣ "the rain" The rains end in March. The lovers cannot go out into the fields and find a hiding place.

2:12 "The time has arrived for the pruning the vines" It seems better because of the time of year mentioned (i.e., Spring) that we should follow the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Targums in translating "pruning" (BDB 274 II, cf. Isa. 18:5, "pruning hooks") as "singing" (BDB 274 I, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, NIV, JPSOA).

▣ "the turtledove" These migratory birds reappear in Palestine in the Spring. Christian allegorists have used this to refer to Paul's preaching.

2:13 The poetic imagery using the flora and fauna of Palestine continues. Many of these terms had double meanings, most euphemisms for sexual activity:

1. to put forth new figs - young woman just old enough for sexual activity (this verb form, BDB 334, KB 333, Qal perfect, is found only here in the OT. It normally is translated "embalm" [cf. Gen. 50:2,26]. Here it implies change color [i.e., "reddened," Oxford Gesenius, p. 334])

2. vines - gardens and vineyards as places of fragrance, fertility, and privacy (possibly an allusion to Eden)

3. fragrance released - used often in Song of Songs to denote exotic senses (cf. Sol 2:13; 4:10,11,16; 7:8,13)

See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SEXUALITY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:14
 14"O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
 In the secret place of the steep pathway,
 Let me see your form,
 Let me hear your voice;
 For your voice is sweet,
 And your form is lovely."

2:14 There are two commands in Sol 2:14, both Hiphil imperatives (BDB 906, KB 1157 and BDB 1033, KB 1570).

The interpretive question is about the first one:

 

NASB"your form"
NKJV"your countenance"
NRSV, NJB,
JPSOA"your face"
TEV"your lovely face"

The Hebrew term "sight," "appearance," "vision" (BDB 909), in context, implies looking at the physical body (implication of being unclothed).

▣ "dove" This bird has several connotations in Hebrew usage:

1. a "clean" bird that eats no carrion, Gen. 8:8-12

2. the sacrifice of poor people, Lev. 5:7,11

3. gentleness and beauty, Psalms and Song of Songs (1:15; 2:14; 4:1; 5:2,12; 6:9)

4. the Hebrew root for lament (BDB 58), cf. Isa. 3:26; 9:11; 19:8; 38:14; 59:11

5. national Israel (cf. Hos. 7:11; 11:11)

6. Jonah's name

The rabbis believe that the "dove" refers to Israel and those who are hidden among the rocks refer to the students of the Torah.

"lovely" This root (BDB 610) means "comely" or "desirable." It is used several times in Song of Songs (cf. Sol 1:5,10; 2:14; 4:3; 6:4). These two young people desire each other and freely tell one another!

1. voice is sweet (BDB 787, "pleasant," cf. Sol 2:8)

2. form is lovely

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:15
 15"Catch the foxes for us,
 The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
 While our vineyards are in blossom."

2:15 "Catch the foxes for us" The verb (BDB 28, KB 31) is a Qal imperative. It is difficult to understand how this phrase fits the context. Some theories are: (1) her brothers want her to continue her work in the vineyard or (2) the couple wants to remove possible additional suitors. The UBS Handbook for Translators mentions that "foxes" is used in Egyptian love poems for "lusty young men" (p. 80). This may be accurate because of Sol 2:16a (cf. Sol 6:3; 7:10). The maiden is the speaker in Sol 2:15-17.

"While our vineyards are in blossom" This seems to refer to the couples' sexual maturity and eagerness for intimacy!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 2:16-17
 16"My beloved is mine, and I am his;
 He pastures his flock among the lilies.
 17Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away,
 Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle
 Or a young stag on the mountains of Bether."

2:16 "He pastures his flock among the lilies" This is suggestive of their sexual activity.

2:17 This refers to the cool of the evening. It may be a (1) a request to stay all night together or (2) a late evening rendezvous.

NASB"Until the cool of the day"
NKJV"Until the day breaks"
NRSV"Until the day breathes"
TEV"Until the morning breezes blow"
NJB"Before the day-breeze rises"

This personification ("day breathes") denotes the wind that blows at both daybreak and evening (cf. Sol 4:6). If Sol 2:17 is related to Sol 2:16 it refers to evening, but the phrase "the shadows fell away" points toward the sunrise.

There are two more Qal imperatives:

1. BDB 685, KB 738 - "turn about," "go around," "surround"

In this context it might mean show off your body by walking around.

2. BDB 197, KB 225 - "be like," "resemble"

Here, be like a virile male gazelle or stag.

NASB, NKJV,
TEV, NJB"mountains of Bether"
NRSV"cleft mountains"
JPSOA, REB"spices" (from similar word in Sol 8:14)
NIV"rugged hills"
LXX"mountains of the ravines"

Literally this means "rugged" or better "cleft" (i.e., sharply cut, BDB 144). The translation "spice," comes from the Peshitta (Syriac).