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Song of Songs 6

STANZA DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Mutual Delight in Each Other The Shulammites Troubled
(5:2-6:3)
The Woman's Search
(5:2-6:3)
The Fourth Song
(5:2-6:3)
Fourth Poem
(5:2-6:3)
6:1 (The Daughters of Jerusalem)
6:1
6:1 (The Woman)
6:1
(Chorus)
6:1
6:2-3 (The Shulammite)
6:2-3
6:2-3 (The Woman)
6:2-3
(Beloved)
6:2
        6:3
6:4-9 Praise of the Shulammite's Beauty
(The Beloved)
6:4-7
The Man's Song of Praise

6:4-10

The Fifth Song
(The Man)
(6:4-8:4)
Fifth Poem
(6:4-8:4)
(Lover)
6:4-7
  6:8-9     6:8-10
6:10-12 6:10   6:10-12  
  (The Shulammite)
6:11-12
The Woman Visits the Garden
6:11-12
  6:11-12
6:13a-b (The Beloved and His Friend)
6:13a-b
Praise of the Woman and Her Promise of Love
(6:13-8:4)
(The Women)
6:13a-b
(Chorus)
6:13a-b
6:13c-d (The Shulammite)
6:13c-d
6:13 (The Woman)
6:13c-d
(Lover)
6:13c-d
[7:1]

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 6:1
 1"Where has your beloved gone,
 O most beautiful among women?
 Where has your beloved turned,
 That we may seek him with you?"

6:1 This is a continuation of the two questions made to the maiden by "the daughters of Jerusalem":

1. 5:9, answered in Sol 5:10-16

2. 6:1, answered in Sol 6:2-3

The fourth love poem runs from 5:2 through 6:3. It must be remembered that the chapter and verse divisions of modern Bibles are not inspired. Although some ancient Greek Uncial manuscripts have some textual markers for context divisions in the Gospels, most of the modern markers are from the Middle Ages! Compare modern translations to see the options.

▣ "That we may seek him with you" This (BDB 134, KB 152) is a Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense. Again the identification of the group is uncertain. If it is the harem the reunion will be crowded!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 6:2-3
 2"My beloved has gone down to his garden,
 To the beds of balsam,
 To pasture his flock in the gardens
 And gather lilies.
 3I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine,
 He who pastures his flock among the lilies."

6:2 "to his garden" This seems to refer to the Shulammite maiden herself (cf. Sol 4:12-15,16; 5:2). This is a euphemism for lovemaking.

6:3 "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine" She asserts her trust in him and his faithfulness (cf. Sol 2:16; 7:10). This surely does not fit Solomon.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 6:4-9
 4"You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling,
 As lovely as Jerusalem,
 As awesome as an army with banners.
 5Turn your eyes away from me,
 For they have confused me;
 Your hair is like a flock of goats
 That have descended from Gilead.
 6Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
 Which have come up from their washing,
 All of which bear twins,
 And not one among them has lost her young.
 7Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate
 Behind your veil.
 8There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
 And maidens without number;
 9But my dove, my perfect one, is unique:
 She is her mother's only daughter;
 She is the pure child of the one who bore her.
 The maidens saw her and called her blessed,
 The queens and the concubines also, and they praised her, saying,

6:4-8:4 The fifth love poem runs from 6:4 through 8:4. As you can see from the first page of this chapter, there are several ways to divide the man's poems regarding the maiden's beauty:

1. NASB, TEV, 6:4-9, 10-12

2. NKJV, 6:4-7, 8-9,10, 11-12

3. NRSV, 6:4-10, 11-12

4. NJB, 6:4-7, 8-10, 11-12

The repetition of Sol 6:4, line 3 at Sol 6:10, line 4 seems to mark off a literary unit (cf. NRSV).

6:4 "Tirzah" This is the capital of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) before the reign of Omri (cf. 1 Kgs. 14:17). The word in Hebrew (BDB 953) means "delight" or "pleasant." It may be a metaphor, a geographical location, or both! She is distinctive, like a royal city.

▣ "As awesome as an army with banners" This is a very unusual and doubtful phrase that is repeated in verse 10. The term translated "awesome" is literally "terrible" (BDB 33, Exod. 15:16; 23:27, e.g., Job 33:7; Pro. 20:2), but is used here in the sense of awesome or awe-inspiring.

The second term is a verbal (BDB 186, KB 213, Niphal participle), found only here and in Ps. 20:6. It denotes the setting up or carrying of military banners as a show of strength. It seems to denote security or majesty. The TEV follows an Akkadian root meaning "look" (cf. UBS, Handbook for Translators, p. 177).

This root used in Sol 5:10 (KB 213 I and KB 213 II) is found here and Ps. 20:6.

The NET Bible has an interesting interpretation based on the parallelism of Sol 6:10. It translates the phrase "as an army with banners" as "as the stars in procession," thus making a fourfold allusion to objects in the sky. It is surely true that stars are often personified (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 613). The problem comes when this first use of the phrase (Sol 6:4) does not fit this parallelism.

6:5

NASB"Turn your eyes away from me,
They have confused me"
NKJV"Turn your eyes away from me,
For they have overcome me"
NRSV"Turn away your eyes from me"
For they overwhelm me"
TEV"Turn your eyes away from me;
They are holding me captive"
NJB"Turn your eyes away from me,
They take me by assault"

The verb in the first line is Hiphil imperative (BDB 685, KB 738). It denotes urgency! This is surprising because it is addressed to the maiden. It must be used metaphorically and not at all related to the concept of "the evil eye."

The verb of the second line is also a Hiphil (BDB 923, KB 1192, Hiphil perfect), which normally means "act like a storm" or "be boisterous" (cf. Isa. 3:5), but again that does not fit this context (words only have meaning in contexts). There have been several theories:

1. alarm me

2. awe me

3. disturb me

4. confuse me

5. embolden me (Ps. 138:3)

6. harry me

7. arouse me

8. tremble (Akkadian root)

Apparently when she looks at him it causes a tremendous emotional reaction in him (cf. Sol 4:9). He cannot keep his mind on anything else. She totally distracts him from his duties and responsibilities! He is helpless (love sick, cf. Sol 5:8, line 4) while in her gaze!

6:5-7 This is very similar to 4:1-6.

6:8 "There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,

 And maidens without number" This seems to refer to a harem. It may be another allusion to Solomon. Is it meant to refer to him directly? I would say no (cf. UBS, Handbook for Translators, p. 180). I think it is an aspect of Hebrew wedding poems which are related to both Egyptian love poems and Arab love poems from Syria. This may be "the daughters of Jerusalem" of Sol 5:9 and 6:1. It is difficult to be certain who is speaking:

1. the chorus, harem, or court women

a. are the same group, 6:1 and 6:8

b. speak again in Sol 6:13, lines 1 and 2

2. the maiden answers them in Sol 6:2-3 and possibly 6:11-12

3. the man's love poem begins in Sol 6:4 and runs through Sol 6:9 or Sol 6:12. He then responds to the group's comments (6:13, lines 1-2) in Sol 6:13, lines 3 and 4

This is all conjecture. There are no textual markers except:

1. gender change

2. subject change

3. the flow of context

The "queens" (BDB 573) refers to political marriages, while the "concubines" (BDB 811) are legal sexual partners with limited rights and limited inheritance rights for their children. The "maidens" (BDB 761, "young women of marriageable age") are attendants to the queens.

6:9 "my dove, my perfect one" This affectionate phrase is first used in Sol 5:2. There may be large harems, but for this man there is but one special lover (the maiden from the north). She is special to him as she was to her mother (Sol 6:9, lines 2 and 3). This specialness is even acknowledged by other women (Sol 6:9, lines 4 and 5).

NASB"is unique"
NKJV, NRSV"is the only one"
NJB"my only one"

This is first in the sentence. It (BDB 25) is used of the uniqueness and oneness of YHWH in Deut. 6:4.

▣ "She is the pure child" A better translation would be "she is the favorite child." The term (BDB 141 II, KB 153 II) means "pure," "clean" (i.e., Ps. 19:9; 24:4; 73:1), but it takes on an added connotation of "chosen" (i.e., 1 Chr. 7:40; 9:22; 16:41; Neh. 5:18). She is not the only daughter, but the special daughter (cf. "the choice," LXX).

"the maidens" Literally this is "daughters" (BDB 123 I). This seems to refer to "the daughters of Jerusalem" (cf. Sol 5:8,9; 6:1,13). The word in Sol 6:8 translated "maidens" (BDB 761) is different from the one in Sol 6:9 (BDB 123 I).

▣ "The queens and the concubines also" The NASB implies that Sol 6:10-12 are a response from the harem, but this is not at all certain from the Hebrew text.

▣ "they praised her" This verb (BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperfect) was also used to praise the physical beauty of

1. Sarai, Gen. 12:15

2. Absalom, 2 Sam. 14:25

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 6:10-12
 10"'Who is this that grows like the dawn,
 As beautiful as the full moon,
 As pure as the sun,
 As awesome as an army with banners?'
 11I went down to the orchard of nut trees
 To see the blossoms of the valley,
 To see whether the vine had budded
 Or the pomegranates had bloomed.
 12Before I was aware, my soul set me
 Over the chariots of my noble people."

6:10-13 These verses are extremely difficult to interpret and no satisfactory interpretation has been proposed.

It is uncertain who is speaking in these verses:

1. the man

2. the women of Sol 6:8-9

3. the chorus (NASB)

4. the man's friends (NKJV)

The NASB has

1. vv. 1-12, the man

2. v. 13, lines 1-2, the chorus

3. v. 13, lines 3-4, the man

The NKJV has

1. v. 10, the man

2. vv. 11-12, the maiden

3. v. 13, lines 1-2, the man and his friends

4. v. 13, lines 3-4, the maiden

 

6:10 This verse uses celestial objects and events to describe the woman's beauty:

1. looks down like the dawn

2. beautiful as the full moon

3. pure as the sun

She caught everyone's attention! She radiated light!

6:11 The metaphors from the garden appear again:

1. orchard of nut trees (rare term, the UBS Helps for Translators, "Fauna and Flora of the Bible," asserts that "nut" refers to a walnut, pp. 163, 193)

2. blossoms of the valley

3. budded vine

4. bloomed pomegranates

These all imply a readiness for love (i.e. Spring, cf. Sol 7:12-13)

6:12 This is a strange verse, especially the last line!

NASB"over the chariots of my noble people"
NKJV"as the chariots of my noble people"
NRSV"in a chariot beside my prince"
TEV"as a chariot drive is for battle"
NJB"onto the chariots of Amminadib"
JPSOA"Mid the chariots of Ammi-nadib"

No one knows what this means! There are many theories, but none fits well.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 6:13a-b
 13"Come back, come back, O Shulammite;
 Come back, come back, that we may gaze at you!"

6:13 At this verse the MT changes to 7:1.

▣ "Come back" This Qal imperative (BDB 996, KB 1427) is repeated four times! The question is who or what does it refer to:

1. she has left (possibly the garden of Sol 6:2-3) and gone somewhere

2. she is dancing a wedding dance, but has stopped for some reason (cf. Sol 6:13, lines 3-4)

 

▣ "that we may gaze at you" This is a Qal imperfect (BDB 302, KB 301) used in a COHORTATIVE sense. This may relate to 1:6, line 1. However, I am not convinced that there is a united plot. Song of Songs seems more like a series of love poems. There are too many "strange stanzas" (i.e., 5:7; 6:10-12; 8:8-9).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: SONG OF SOLOMON 6:13c-d
  13c-d"Why should you gaze at the Shulammite,
 As at the dance of the two companies?

6:13c

NASB, NRSV"the Shulammite"
NKJV"the Shulamite"
TEV, NJB"girl of Shulam"
JPSOA"maid of Shulem"

There have been several theories about the meaning of this noun with the definite article:

1. a description of the maiden, coming from the Hebrew root (view of the rabbis)

a. "to be perfect"

b. "to be peaceful"

2. Possibly "Solomon's girl" (feminine ending on a masculine name)

3. Possibly from a place:

a. Shulam or Shunem (cf. BDB 1002, LXX, 1 Kgs. 1:15)

b. place unknown

4. KB 1442 suggests as an option: "she who has been substituted"

5. Cultic origin from ancient Near East (most unlikely):

a. Canaanite moon goddess

b. Mesopotamian war/love goddess

The first or third option fits the context best.

▣ "the dance of the two companies" This is a very uncertain phrase! Several theories have been postulated:

1. it is a proper name, "Mahanaim," RSV (cf. Gen. 32:2)

2. "as bands of armies," Septuagint

3. "dancers of the camps," Vulgate

4. "between two rows of dancers," NJB and NEB

5. "the scene of two armies fighting," NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 919

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is the affair between Solomon and this maiden extra-marital, or are there flashbacks throughout this book?

2. What is so unusual about chapter 5:7?

3. Why is chapter 5:3 so unusual in the context of this book?

4. Does chapter 6:8 refer to Solomon's harem?