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Song of Songs 3


The Bride's Troubled Dream A Troubled Night
(The Shulammite)
The Woman's Dream The Second Song
Second Poem
      (The Woman)
3:1-4 3:1-3 3:1-5   3:1-2
  3:4     3:4
3:5 3:5   3:5 (Lover)
Solomon's Wedding Day The Coming of Solomon
(The Shulammite)
A Wedding Procession The Third Song
Third Poem
3:6-11 3:6-8 3:6-11 (The Woman)
  3:9-11     3:7-8

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


This is a study guide commentarywhich 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.


OUTLINE BY POSSIBLE SPEAKERS (notice the lack of agreement)

3:1-4, Bride
3:5, Bridegroom
3:6-11, Chorus

4:1-6, Bridegroom    
4:7-15, Bridegroom 
4:16, Bride  

3:1-5, Shulammite

3:6-8, Shulammite
3:9-11, Shulammite
4:1-5, the Beloved
4:6-15, the Beloved
4:16, the Shulammite

2:16-5:5, the Woman 

3:6-11, the Woman

4:1-15, the Man

4:16, the Woman 

2:8-3:4, Beloved
3:5, Lover
3:6-11, Poet

4:1-15, Lover

4:16, Beloved


 1"On my bed night after night I sought him
 Whom my soul loves;
 I sought him but did not find him.
 2'I must arise now and go about the city;
 In the streets and in the squares
 I must seek him whom my soul loves.'
 I sought him but did not find him.
 3The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
 And I said, 'Have you seen him whom my soul loves?'
 4Scarcely had I left them
 When I found him whom my soul loves;
 I held on to him and would not let him go
 Until I had brought him to my mother's house,
 And into the room of her who conceived me."

3:1 "night after night" This is plural in the Hebrew, which refers to recurrent dreams. One theory is that 3:1-4 and 5:2-8 are dreams which the Shulammite had. It is quite normal to have fearful dreams the night before an important event. The other theory is that she is dreaming of a local lover back home in the north of Israel. I personally like the second option.

3:2 There are three cohortative verbs:

1. "arise" - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal cohortative

2. "go about" - BDB 685, KB 738, Poel cohortative

3. "seek" - BDB 134, KB 152, Piel cohortative

Whoever it was she was looking for ("whom my soul loves," Sol 3:1,2,3,4), she finds him in Sol 3:4. These three verbs speak of:

1. potential action (i.e., dream)

2. actual action (she actually went into the streets looking)

Since I think that there is a northern, local lover involved in the "story line," this could refer to her actually searching in her northern village for her lover. It is not until Sol 3:6 (i.e., the third poem, a totally separate unit) that Solomon's entourage approaches.

▣ "the city" This can refer either to Jerusalem (i.e., the harem) or to the girl's hometown in northern Israel (cf. Sol 3:4).

3:3 "the watchman" Watchmen (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal participle) were placed as sentinels on the walls of ancient cities as well as keepers of the gate.

3:4 This verse describes her joy (i.e., "I held on to him," BDB 28, KB 31, Qal perfect) in finding her lover! The problem comes in the last two lines. Are they synonymous parallelism or step parallelism? Also, how do we explain a secret, local lover being brought publically to the maiden's home?

If there is a plot line (and I am not convinced there is), then the words must be reinterpreted:

1. as a future longing

2. as a euphemism of intimacy


 5"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
 By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
 That you will not arouse or awaken my love
 Until she pleases."

3:5 Notice that this same refrain is repeated over and over throughout the book. However, in Sol 2:7 it is possible that the bridegroom is speaking but more probable that the bride is speaking. In Sol 3:5 it is the bridegroom.

▣ "Until she pleases" The Masoretic Text has "it" and, therefore, it speaks of his passion.

 6"What is this coming up from the wilderness
 Like columns of smoke,
 Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
 With all scented powders of the merchant?
 7Behold, it is the traveling couch of Solomon;
 Sixty mighty men around it,
 Of the mighty men of Israel.
  8All of them are wielders of the sword,
 Expert in war;
 Each man has his sword at his side,
 Guarding against the terrors of the night.
 9King Solomon has made for himself a sedan chair
 From the timber of Lebanon.
 10He made its posts of silver,
 Its back of gold
 And its seat of purple fabric,
  With its interior lovingly fitted out
 By the daughters of Jerusalem.
 11Go forth, O daughters of Zion,
 And gaze on King Solomon with the crown
 With which his mother has crowned him
 On the day of his wedding,
 And on the day of his gladness of heart."

3:6-11 Who is the speaker?

1. NASB - the chorus

2. NKJV, TEV, NJB - the maiden

3. REB - companions (NIV Study Bible footnote)

It is obvious that the poetic form of Song of Songs has various speakers. The problem is that there are no obvious textual markers to

1. tell us who is speaking

2. tell us the limits of their speaking

3. tell us the relationship between the different sections

The best option is to compare them to Egyptian and Syrian (i.e. Arabs living in Syria) wedding songs (wasfs).


TEV, NJB"What"

In Hebrew this is an interrogative (BDB 566) followed by a demonstrative adjective (feminine singular). It refers to a royal caravan of Solomon.

Now the question is:

1. is this a reference to Solomon (cf. Sol 3:7)

2. is this an allusion to his fame and wealth

3. is this historical or literary

4. is this a bride being brought to Jerusalem, as some see because it is feminine

5. does the feminine form refer to the royal aspect (BDB 641, cf. Sol 3:7).

I wish I knew! Many commentators assume this is an account of King Solomon's love affair with an Egyptian princess early in his reign. This interpretation must remain a valid option, but not the only option. When one compares the wedding songs of Egypt and Syria there are striking similarities in words and phrases. Solomon is a poor example of a mutual, monogamous (assumed, never stated) marriage (forecast, but not recorded until later in the book). The literary setting of Song of Songs may parallel Ecclesiastes (i.e. chapters 1-2), where Solomon is a literary foil. However, in Ecclesiastes he is never specifically named (though strongly alluded to). These are interpretive questions, not meant to deny the Bible's

1. inspiration

2. historicity

but to recognize its full range of literary genres and techniques.

▣ "the wilderness" This refers to the uninhabited pastureland, not the desert. However, the question is, where is it referring to? Usually the wilderness is south of Jerusalem, but if so, why is the caravan coming to the city of the king?

▣ "Like columns of smoke" This refers to a large royal caravan stirring up dust as it passes through dry terrain. This is either a reference to Solomon's coming to get his bride in the North or the bride entering Jerusalem for the wedding feast. It was the custom of the day for a large festival procession to bring the bride to the groom's home.

▣ "Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense" Solomon really smelled good! Myrrh (BDB 600) is the excretion from certain plants in the desert and was used for numerous activities:

1. holy anointing oil, Exod. 30:23

2. perfume for people and clothes (cf. Sol 1:13; 4:6,14)

3. one of the gifts for the Christ child, Matt. 2:11

4. mixed with wine for a drink during crucifixion, Mark 15:23

5. spice for burial, John 19:39


▣ "frankincense" Like myrrh, this was made from sweet-smelling tree sap from Arabia (cf. Jer. 6:20). It was used for several purposes:

1. cereal sacrifice, Lev. 2:1; 6:14-18

2. sin sacrifice, Lev. 5:11

3. holy incense, Exod. 30:34-38; 1 Chr. 9:29

4. put on the table of Showbread along with the twelve loaves, Lev. 24:7

5. personal perfume, Song of Songs 3:6; 4:6,14


3:7 "Sixty" This number does not usually carry a symbolic significance in the OT. Therefore, it probably relates here to an elite royal guard.


NASB"All of them are wielders of the sword"
NKJV"they all hold swords"
NRSV"all equipped with swords"
TEV"all of them skilful with the sword"
NJB"All of them skilled swordsmen"

Just a note to show how the verb of Sol 3:4 ("held on," BDB 28, KB 31, Qal perfect) is now used of the swords of the elite guards (Qal passive participle). She held on to her lover, they held on to their weapons! Human vocabulary must be flexible and figurative. This is the beauty and power of poetry and imagery!

▣ "the terrors of the night" This ambiguous phrase (BDB 808 and 538) has several connotations, here are two: (1) bandits or (2) evil spirits (Ps. 91:5).


NASB"sedan chair"

This (BDB 68, KB 80) term is difficult to define because there is no Semitic root to link it to. In later Aramaic (Targums) it refers to a litter for the bride at the wedding service (KB). Here it refers to some type of enclosed, wooden ride (cf. Sol 3:9-10) for a royal person (or a bride-to-be)!

3:10 "And its seat of purple fabric" Royalty is often associated with the color purple. It is made from the dye of crushed sea shells found off the coast of Phoenicia.

NASB"lovingly fitted out"
NKJV"paved with love"
NRSV"inlaid with love"
TEV"lovingly woven"
NJB"inlaid with ebony"
JPSOA"decked with love"

The feminine noun (BDB 13) is used several times in Song of Songs:

1. love between a man and a woman, 2:4,5; 5:8; 8:6,7(twice)

2. personified, 2:7; 3:5; 7:7; 8:4

3. figuratively, 3:10

The NEB and REB follow S. R. Driver and translate the term as being from an Arabic root meaning "leather" (cf. Hosea 11:4a). The Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible change the word to "ebony," while the New American Bible (both of these translations are from Catholic scholars) change it to "ivory." There has been one other suggestion based on Egyptian wall art (Othmar Keel), that it refers to love-making scenes painted or carved on the inner walls.

▣ "the daughters of Jerusalem" See note at Sol 1:5.

3:11 "daughters of Zion" This phrase is parallel to "daughters of Jerusalem" (cf. Sol 3:10). Jerusalem was built on seven hills (like Rome). Mt. Zion was where the old Canaanite city (i.e. Jebus) which David conquered was located (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:1-2; 2 Chr. 5:2) and became a way of referring to the whole city (e.g., Isa. 40:9; Micah 3:12).

It seems that the geographical setting would be Jerusalem if these women (whoever they were) are called on to come and watch. If so this may be the northern maiden being brought to Jerusalem in Solomon's royal litter.

These women are implored (commanded) to:

1. "go forth," BDB 422, KB 425, Qal imperative

2. "gaze," BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative


▣ "the crown" This is the word "wreath" (BDB 742 I). It was the custom in ancient Near Eastern weddings for the bride and groom to wear wreaths and for the bride to be veiled (cf. Sol 4:1, 3).

▣ "his mother crowned him" If this is literally Solomon getting married, then this refers to Bathsheba, although this incident is not specifically recorded in Scripture.

"on the day of his wedding" This specifically denotes the occasion for the processional, the wealth and the veil (cf. Sol 4:1,3). The poetry and imagery is of a wedding. This is the only place in this book where a wedding feast is specifically mentioned.


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