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Song of Songs 5

STANZA DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Torment of Separation A Troubled Night
(3:1-5:1)
The Man's Praise and Invitation
(4:1-5:1)
The Third Song
(3:6-5:1)
Third Poem
(3:6-5:1)
5:1 (The Beloved)
5:1a-b
5:1 5:1 (Lover)
5:1a-c
  (To His Friends)
5:1c-d
    (Poet)
5:1d
5:2-8 The Shulammite's Troubled Evening
(The Shulammite)
5:2
The Woman's Search
(5:2-6:3)
5:2-8
The Fourth Song
(5:2-6:3)
(The Woman)
5:2a-b
Fourth Poem
(5:2-6:3)
(Beloved)
5:2
      (The man)
5:2c-d
 
  5:3-5   (The Woman)
5:3
5:3-5
      5:4-6  
  5:6-8     5:6
      5:7 5:7
      5:8 5:8
5:9 (The Daughters of Jerusalem)
5:9
5:9 (The Woman)
5:9
(Chorus)
5:9
Admiration by the Bride

5:10-16

(The Shulammite)
5:10-13
5:10-16 (The Woman)
5:10-16
(Beloved)
5:10-16
  5:14-16      

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

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 5:1
 1"I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
 I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam.
 I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
 I have drunk my wine and my milk.
 Eat, friends;
 Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers."

5:1 "I have come into my garden" The verb (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal perfect) is used to denote that the man has come to and remained with his lover. "Garden" is often used in this book as a reference to a sexual encounter with the maiden (cf. Sol 4:12,15,16[twice]; 5:1; 6:2; 8:13). It is a euphemism for her sexual delights.

It should be noted that the garden metaphor is begun in Sol 4:12-15. The man is bidden to come into the garden (this act also has sexual connotations, cf. Gen. 6:4; Deut. 22:13; Ezek. 23:44). In Sol 4:16 and 5:1 is his arrival and enjoyment of the garden (i.e., the maiden)

1. I have come, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal perfect

2. I have gathered, BDB 71, KB 85, Qal perfect

3. I have eaten, BDB 37, KB 46, Qal perfect

4. I have drunk, BDB 1059, KB 1667, Qal perfect

 There is a surprising repetition of the personal pronoun, "my" (eight times).

▣ "my sister" This is an idiom used in Egyptian love songs to refer to one's lover and new family member. It is parallel to "bride" (cf. Sol 4:9).

▣ "balsam" This (BDB 141) is a fragrant resin taken from the roots of certain plants. It is also translated "spice" and was an ingredient of the holy anointing oil (cf. Exod. 25:4; 35:8). It is used several times in Song of Songs (cf. Sol 4:10,14; 5:1,13; 6:2; 8:14).

▣ "Eat, friends;

 Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers" This is a series of three Qal imperatives:

1. "eat," BDB 37, KB 46

2. "drink," BDB 1059, KB 1667

3. "imbibe deeply" (lit. "be drunk") BDB 1016, KB 1500

Both "eat" and "drink" can be literal (i.e., wedding feast) or euphemistic of physical love (i.e., Pro. 7:18). Many of the words used in this context have double meanings related to physical intimacy.

The first relates to the wedding guests and the second and third to their response to the newly married. Weddings were long-lasting community events.

▣ "friends" This (BDB 945) refers to special wedding guests (cf. Jdgs. 14:11,20), neighbors, or other family members.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 5:2-8
 2"I was asleep but my heart was awake.
 A voice! My beloved was knocking:
 'Open to me, my sister, my darling,
 My dove, my perfect one!
 For my head is drenched with dew,
 My locks with the damp of the night.'
 3I have taken off my dress,
 How can I put it on again?
 I have washed my feet,
 How can I dirty them again?
 4My beloved extended his hand through the opening,
 And my feelings were aroused for him.
 5I arose to open to my beloved;
 And my hands dripped with myrrh,
 And my fingers with liquid myrrh,
 On the handles of the bolt.
 6I opened to my beloved,
 But my beloved had turned away and had gone!
 My heart went out to him as he spoke.
 I searched for him but I did not find him;
 I called him but he did not answer me.
 7The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
 They struck me and wounded me;
 The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.
 8I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
 If you find my beloved,
 As to what you will tell him:
 For I am lovesick."

5:2 "I was asleep, but my heart was awake" This starts a new poem (5:2-6:3). This seems to be another dream like chapter 3:1-4.

▣ "Open to me, my sister, my darling,

 My dove, my perfect one" This is a memory of the voice of bridegroom from the dream of the bride, Sol 5:2-7. The verb "open" (BDB 834, KB 986, Qal imperative), like so many terms in this context has sexual connotations and may be a euphemism for sexual intimacy (cf. Sol 7:13). Notice it is repeated in Sol 5:5 and 6.

As one reads this ambiguous passage, one wonders if this is reality or dream imagination. Is this one of many attempts of the man to make love to the maiden at night in secret? Is it an event during the week-long wedding in a city? Is it a dream of rejection and immediate grief over that rejection?

Again, could this be an approach of Solomon to a new member of his harem? It seems strange to me:

1. that Solomon would leave and accept a sexual rejection from a new member of his harem (the verb "open" [BDB 834, KB 986] is a Qal imperative)

2. that a new member of the royal harem could escape into the city

3. that night watchmen would not recognize or ask who the woman was before they beat her (and why)

Could this rejection be because the maiden truly loved a northern shepherd and not Solomon?

▣ "For my head is drenched with dew,

 My locks with the damp of the night" The second line has one rare word (i.e., locks, BDB 881) and a rare phrase, "the damp of the night" (BDB 944 construct BDB 538). Heavy dew often falls in Palestine in the early morning hours. Obviously this is a reference to a late visit from her newly married lover or a night visit before they were married.

5:3 These are the two excuses the maiden uses for not opening the door to her lover:

1. she is undressed

2. she has washed her feet before getting into bed

These seem trivial if this referred to a newlywed or to her true lover (unless it was a nightmare).

As with several of the words in this literary unit, "feet" is a euphemism for genitalia (e.g., Jdgs. 3:24; Ruth 3:4; 1 Sam. 24:3; 2 Sam. 11:8,11).

5:4 "My beloved extended his hand through the opening" Literally this would refer to the small hole above the latch in ancient doors. It is possible to latch them in such a way that no one from the outside could open it and that is apparently what happened here. Because of the use of the term "hand" (BDB 388), in Isa. 57:8 and as the term describing a raised pillar or monument, which may have originally referred to the phallic symbol of Canaanite shrines (cf. 1 Sam. 15:12; 2 Sam. 18:18; 1 Chr. 18:3; Isa. 56:5, BDB 390, #4,a), some see this as a reference to male genitalia (BDB 390, #4,g and KB 387, #1, "penis").

Even the term "opening" may refer to the maiden's vagina (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 1032).

▣ "my feelings" This is the word for "bowels" (BDB 588). The ancients believed that the lower viscera (liver, kidneys, bowels) was the seat of the emotions:

1. negative, Isa. 16:11 (used of God); Jer. 4:19 (used of Jeremiah)

2. positive, Isa. 63:15; Jer. 31:20 (used of God); also Ps. 40:8 (used of David)

However, in this context it might refer to a sexual intensity (cf. Ps. 71:6; Isa. 49:1, "womb").

5:5 "I arose to open the door to my beloved" Obviously he had already left because she had taken too much time (1) to decide to open the door or (2) in preparing herself to receive him.

5:7 "They struck me and wounded me" This is a very strange verse. Two theories have been postulated: (1) they struck (BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil perfect and BDB 822, KB 954, Qal perfect, "bruise" [these are strong, violent terms, e.g., Ps. 38:5; Isa. 1:6]) her for disturbing the peace (i.e., Sol 5:6 line 5) or (2) she was trying to invade Solomon's private quarters (the king's sleeping room was separate from the harem).

▣ "The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me" They either (1) tried to stop her and she fled, leaving her shawl (BDB 921 or "veil") in their grasp or (2) after they had wounded her and removed her shawl they recognized her as a new member of the king's harem.

5:8 "I adjure you, O daughter of Jerusalem" This group responds in Sol 5:9 and in Sol 6:1. There are several possibilities for these "daughters of Jerusalem": (1) virgins of Jerusalem; (2) members of the harem; (3) married women of the royal court; or (4) narrators (chorus as in dramas).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 5:9
 9"What kind of beloved is your beloved,
 O most beautiful among women?
 What kind of beloved is your beloved,
 That thus you adjure us?"

5:9 "most beautiful among women" This phrase occurs in Sol 1:8; 6:1; and here. It appears to be a compliment. However, if the "daughters of Jerusalem" are the other members of the neglected harem, one could see how it could be sarcastic.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 5:10-16
 10"My beloved is dazzling and ruddy,
 Outstanding among ten thousand.
 11His head is like gold, pure gold;
 His locks are like clusters of dates
  And black as a raven.
 12His eyes are like doves
 Beside streams of water,
 Bathed in milk,
  And reposed in their setting.
 13His cheeks are like a bed of balsam,
 Banks of sweet-scented herbs;
 His lips are lilies
 Dripping with liquid myrrh.
 14His hands are rods of gold
 Set with beryl;
 His abdomen is carved ivory
 Inlaid with sapphires.
 15His legs are pillars of alabaster
 Set on pedestals of pure gold;
 His appearance is like Lebanon
 Choice as the cedars.
 16His mouth is full of sweetness.
 And he is wholly desirable.
 This is my beloved and this is my friend,
 O daughters of Jerusalem."

5:10-16 This is a prolonged poetic description of the man, apparently directed at "the daughters of Jerusalem" (cf. Sol 1:5; 2:7; 3:5,10; 5:8,16; 8:4). In Sol 5:9 and 6:1 they ask the maiden questions.

This love song of physical comparisons is parallel to the man's description of the maiden in Sol 4:1-7. These love poems use all physical senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) to heighten the desire, anticipation, and fulfilment of physical love. Human sexuality is a God-given desire for the expansion and preservation of humankind. It is a beautiful and godly experience until it is damaged by the self-seeking, me-first consequences of Genesis 3. See Special Topic at Sol 2:13.

5:10 "dazzling" This (BDB 850, KB 1018) refers either to physical health ("shining," "glowing," or "white" [cf. Lam. 4:7]) or character.

▣ "ruddy" This comes from the same root as "Adam" (BDB 9). It meant a reddish tint to the skin (BDB 10) and can be used for horses (cf. Zech. 1:8), cattle (cf. Num. 19:2), or humans (i.e., David, 1 Sam. 16:12).

▣ "Outstanding among ten thousand" He stood out in a crowd, at least for her. For Special Topic: Thousand (Eleph) see 4:4.

5:11 "His head is like gold" This could refer to:

1. a tan (cf. Sol 5:14)

2. his golden crown or other ornaments

 

"His locks" His hair is describes in parallels:

1. cluster of dates (a lot of wavy hair)

2. black as a raven (very dark)

This would characterize a young man of the Near East.

5:12 "His eyes" His eyes are described in parallels:

1. like doves (see note at Sol 1:15)

2. beside streams of water

3. bathed in milk (i.e., white eyes)

4. in their proper place (cf. BDB 443, #4) or "perching" (KB 444, Qal #2)

As the UBS, Handbook for Translators points out (pp. 160-161), it is uncertain which of these items listed above refer to the man's eyes or to the pair of doves. Poetry is powerful, but slippery!

It is interesting that in two of the descriptions of King David (cf. 1 Sam. 16:12) his "ruddiness" and "beautiful eyes" are used in this love poem about the man's handsomeness. Many scholars think that the imagery used in Song of Songs is royal imagery (i.e., David, Solomon) used as a literary foil for local weddings and they are characteristic love poems written and read during the wedding period. Even the titles "King" and "Queen" are found in Arabic love poems from Syria (cf. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, p. 807).

5:13 "His cheeks" These two lines of poetry refer to his fragrance.

▣ "His lips" His lips are described as

1. lilies, which refers to their beautiful shape or color (reddish)

2. dripping with liquid myrrh, which refers to his sweet tasting kisses (cf. Sol 5:16)

 

5:14 This may refer to:

1. jewelry worn on the arm or hand

2. tanned skin (cf. Sol 5:11,15)

3. as so often in this passage, these words have a euphemistic sense ("hands" can refer to penis, see note at Sol 5:4 and "abdomen" can also depict male arousal, cf. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, p. 778).

 

5:15 "alabaster" This is a soft white stone which was imported from Egypt. It was usually used in the making of perfume containers.