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Archive for February, 2017

Song of Songs (Introduction)


Song Of Songs

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

This translation of Song of Songs was picked because it is more literal, and takes fewer liberties than most. I did not focus on the prophetic nature as much as the relational teachings.

The standard type is Longman’s translation. The italics is my gleanings from his notes. Some points are entirely mine, while others are my interpretation of his comments in the book. For the sake of brevity I did not differentiate.

One of my pet peeves is that we clean up scripture to the point that it is not understood. This translation of the Song of Songs allows us to learn what the Bible teaches about marital relationships.

If married, or planning on marriage, it would be good to discuss the Song of Songs and its teachings. It would also be good to examine Proverbs 31, how Boaz treats Ruth in the book of Ruth and how Esther behaves as a wife.

Contained in the Song of Songs are many wasfs- descriptive poems that the lovers recite to each other. Writing a wasf to your spouse may be a creative way to understand how the other sees you.

Song of Songs (Poem 23, Ch 8)


Photo by Matija Barrett

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 23 (Ch 8)

(Let Others Know There is Love)

The Man

v 13 You who dwell in the gardens,

companions are listening,

let me hear your voice!

The Woman

v 14 Sneak away, my lover, and be like the gazelle,

or a young stag on the mountains of spices.

The man addresses the woman and acknowledges that her companions are listening, He wants her to express her wishes publically, to let others know that she loves him. She responds by again asking him to sneak away with her- quickly. Their love has not dulled and it is not to be hidden.

Song of Songs (Poem 22, Ch 8)


This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 22 (Ch 8)

(The Rest of the Wives…)

The Woman

v 11 Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon;

he entrusted the vineyard to guards,

each one brings a thousand pieces of silver for his fruit.

v 12 My vineyard is mine alone;

the thousand is for you, Solomon,

and the two hundred for the ones who guard its fruit.

Here is a reference to Solomon’s harem. Obviously the woman is not happy that it exists and makes reference to the fact that she does not wish to share her vineyard. The two hundred are likely ‘wives’ he has not yet slept with. This woman lives apart from the rest of his woman. We know that his Egyptian wife, who was also his first wife, had her own palace so many guess that this is the identity of the woman of the poem. Remember, in this culture, polygamy is the norm. Here it is not portrayed in glowing terms. The woman does not like it. She implies that the someone has paid so that these women would bear Solomon’s offspring.

Song of Songs (Poem 21, Ch 8)


This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 21 (Ch 8)

(Caring for Each Other’s Family)

The Man

v 8 Our sister is small,

and she has no breasts,

What should we do for our sister

on the day she is spoken for?

v 9 If she is a wall, we will build a silver battlement for her.

But if she is a door, we will enclose her with a cedar board.

There is a sister. Since the woman was not properly cared for, it can be assumed that her sister is not either. The man is taking responsibility for her. If she is shy, lacking confidence, he will adorn her with strength. If she is permiscuous, naive, undiscerning- trusting and letting everyone in, he will keep guard her closely.

The Woman

v 10 I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers,

Thus I will be in his eyes like one who brings peace.

The woman’s presence in his life is one of strength, protection and peace. That she is a ‘wall’ indicates that she will not open herself to anyone but him.

Song of Songs (Poem 20, Ch 8)

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001IMG_2933

Poem 20 (Ch 8)

(The Character of Love)

The Women of Jerusalem

v 5 Who is this that comes up from the wilderness,

leaning on her lover?

The couple is publically affectionate. They are defying the norms.

The fact that they are leaning on each other indicates mutual dependency. It also implies that they were more affectionate in the wilderness. This couple spends frequent amounts of time away together.

The Woman

Under the apple tree, I aroused you.

There your mother conceived you,

There the one who gave you birth conceived you.

Apparently this is a popular trysting place, likely on family property, showing that they are not unusual in their love, but the norm. There is also a hint that she is hoping to have conceived herself.

v 6 Set me like a seal on your heart,

like a seal on your arm.

For stronger than death is love,

tenacious like the grave is jealousy.

Its flame is an intense fire,

a god-like flame.

Love is a powerful force. A seal on the arm is a sign to all that he belongs to her. A seal on the heart is a sign that he loves her. The jealousy she desires is a right jealousy, not wanting to share the intimacy they have with any other. True love is also intense, like a flame.

v 7 Many waters are not able to extinguish love,

nor rivers flood it.

Even if a person gave all the wealth of his house for love,

he would be completely despised.

Love should withstand all trials, but you cannot buy it. If you try to buy true love the right person will despise you for it. True love cannot be bought.

Song of Songs (Poem 19, Ch 8)


This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 19 (Ch 8)

(Public Displays of Affection)

The Woman

v 1 Oh, that you were like my brother,

who sucked at the breast of my mother!

Then I would find you in public and kiss you,

and they would not shame me.

The woman is wishing that it was socially acceptable for the couple to show affection (a friendly kiss) in public as one would with a brother or sister. This shows the backwardness of societal rules, where a married couple, who should rightly be affectionate, are required to be more chaste than two people who are not as intimate. It is therefore acceptable, for married couples show a modicum of affection in public.

The reason for defining that they have the same mother is that polygamy is common during this time and siblings with different mothers would not be as close as they would not be raised in as close a proximity. Brothers and sisters with the same mother would also have the same father, and as full siblings they would not be able to marry as half siblings could.

v 2 I would lead you; I would bring you

to the house of my mother who taught me.

I would make you drink spiced wine,

from my own pomegranate wine.

Since pomegranates symbolize fertility, this is likely a euphemism for sexuality. Her mother’s house is likely a home in the city, where the two can get away instead of having to go all the way home.

This section also implies that it is her mother who taught her about intimacy. In a culture without sex education, the internet and where books are expensive there is no other place to learn. It also implies that parents should teach their children the facts of life.

v 3 His left hand is under my head,

and his right hand embraces me.

They are laying together.

v 4 I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem,

do not awaken and do not arouse love until it desires.

The woman is again warning the single women not to rush into love, but to wait until it is right. The implication is that if you do not wait, it will not be as wonderful as what she has.

Song of Songs (Poem 18, Ch 7)

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Photo by Matija Barrett

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 18 (Ch 7)  (Renewed Love)

The Woman

v 12 Come, my love

Let’s go out to the field,

Let’s spend the night in the villages.

Notice that the woman does more of the inviting in these poems than the man, while the man does the majority of the complimenting.

Here the woman wishes to get away from their daily life and spend some time alone with him.

v 13 Let’s go early to the vineyards;

Let’s see if the vine has budded,

The bud has opened,

The pomegranates have blossomed

There I will give my love to you!

Vineyards are often a euphemism for female sexuality, and pomegranates represent fertility. This section seems to indicate that there was a time she was not feeling very sexual, perhaps after childbirth, but the sexual feeling are returning and some ‘alone time’ would be appreciated.

v 14 The mandrakes give off their scent,

Mandrakes are known at this time to increase fertility (remember Rachel and Leah who both suffered from infertility at times were fighting over mandrakes).

And our entrance is a very precious gift,

This is the entrance to their home. It may be a euphemism, but more likely it symbolizes their life together.

The new and well as the old I have treasured up for you my love.

This is a mature relationship. They still enjoy the things they did in the beginning, but they have expanded their repertoire and, in the context of getting away, she is promising him a wide variety of sensual enjoyment.

Song of Songs (Poem 17, Chs 6-7)

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This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 17 (Ch 6-7)

(The man compliments the woman- likely after childbirth)

The Women of Jerusalem

v 13 Return, return, O Shulammite!

Return, return and let us look at you!

The Woman has been absent from society and the other women wish to see her again.

The Woman

Why should you gaze at the Shulammite as the dance of two war camps?

In war, the opponents pay very close attention to each move the other makes. The woman is questioning the motives of the other women in paying close attention to her. It is likely they are looking for flaws. It may be due to her now noble status, her beauty, jealousy over how much she is loved, or due to the fact that she may have recently given birth, which would explain her absence from them. The imagery of her hips and belly in the man’s description could indicate that her figure has changed and is now more rounded- but obviously still very pleasing to him.

The name ‘Shulammite’ may be a place name, but it is also the feminine of Solomon and may indicate that she is his equal, his mirror, his other half- she completes/ compliments him.

The Man

How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O noble daughter!

Unlike the other descriptive poems he now begins with her feet and not her head. This may be because she is literally dancing and the earlier phrase ‘the dance of two war camps’ is not entirely metaphoric.

Rounded are your hips, like rings, the work of the hands of a craftsman

The rounding of her hips may indicate she has given birth and has a new, more rounded, shape.

v 3 Your navel is a rounded bowl which does not lack wine

This may be her actual navel, though some argue it is a euphemism for female genitalia as navels are not typically moist like wine.

Your belly is a heap of wheat, bordered by lilies.

The wheat and lilies are descriptions of her female anatomy, including hair.

Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.

Remember, this is an age before supportive female undergarments. They move when she moves and he has noticed. If she has just given birth they are likely larger and he is complimenting the difference.

v 5 Your neck is like an ivory tower,

Your eyes are like pools in Hesbon, by the gate of Bat-rabbim.

Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon keeping watch toward Damascus.

She has a long, slim neck, nice eyes and a ‘stately’ nose. He likes her features.

v 6 Your head is like Carmel

Carmel is a mountain range. Likely he is indicating that she stands tall and dignified.

And the hair on your head is purple

There is debate over why the word, literally translated as purple, is here. It could be that he is saying her hair is like expensive royal cloth, which is commonly purple. Purple is also a range of colors at this time, which includes red, so she could have red hair, or have reddish hues. It could also be that she has dark black hair with almost purplish hues, or that the purple hues are the result of her hair products, which are typically made with flowers for scent.

The king is ensnared by your tresses.

v 7 How beautiful you are, how pleasant,

O love with (your) delights.

v 8 This- your stature- is like a palm tree,

and your breasts are like fruit clusters.

She is tall and this, like a palm tree, and the fruit is likely the coconut.

By the way, the name Tamar (used three times in scripture) means palm tree.

v 9 I said, ‘I will climb up the palm tree, I will grasp its date blossoms!’

I think you can figure this one out on your own!

May your breasts be like clusters of the vine,

and the smell of your breath be like apples

v 10 May your palette be like fine wine

running straight to me

flowing over my lips and teeth.

This is a very deep kiss.

The Woman

v 11 I belong to my lover and his desire is for me.

This poem ends with an indication that their affection for each other is mutual and this is a close relationship.

If this poem is after childbirth, it is a reminder that women need to be reassured that they are still beautiful to/ desired by their man even after the shape of their body, which he was previously attracted to, has changed. The fact that this is a poem of descriptive words, and not merely a description of actions, shows the importance of verbalizing one’s appreciation.

Song of Songs: Poem 16 (Ch 6)


photo by Matija Barrett

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 16 (A Good Wife/ A Noble Husband)

The Woman

v 11 I went down to the nut grove to see the new growth in the valley,

to see the budding of the grapevine, in the bloom of the pomegranates.

It is spring, and many believe this is the setting of a tryst.

These verses are highly debated. The NLT has them spoken by the woman, while the NLT has them spoken by the man.

v 12 I did not realize that my desire had placed me in a chariot of a noble man.

The woman, like many wives, does not see her husband as a ‘noble man’ but as a fallible human. This may also be an indication that, with a good wife, a man is helped to greatness, a theme that is common in the Bible. By seeing him as he is, and helping, the woman makes her husband more likely to achieve greatness.

Song of Songs: Poem 15

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Photo by Matija Barrett

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 15

(The Man Compliments the Woman- Again. Here the theme is ‘She is unique and wonderful!’)

Notice that the Song of Songs contains many more compliments from the man to the woman, though the woman does lavishly compliment the man. This may be an indication that women need more reassurance than men. Whether that is societal- men receive many more compliments from others, as they are out in society more at this time, or whether this is due to innate differences between men and women is up for debate.

The Man

v 4 You are beautiful, my darling, as Tirzah, attractive as Jerusalem.

Tirzah is the capitol of the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam before Omri moved it to Samaria. In Psalm 50:2 Jerusalem is described as the perfection of beauty. These are two powerful cities. It also emphasizes that he believes she is the most beautiful woman anywhere. Today, comparing a woman to cities, no matter how grand may not be as appreciated…

Awesome as an army under banners.

She is strong and capable- impressive.

v 5 Turn your eyes away from me; for they unsettle me;

He is aroused by her attention.

Your hair is like a flock of goats, streaming from Gilead.

She has long, thick hair- though this is another compliment that may not go over as well with women today.

v 6 Your teeth are like a flock of ewes, coming up from the washing.

Each is paired, not one of them is missing.

Having all your teeth was more unusual when this was written…

v 7 Like a slice of pomegranate is your temple behind your veil.

v 8 There may be sixty queens and eighty concubines, even countless young women,

v 9 but my dove, my flawless one- she is unique!

He believes his wife to be unique, the best among women of any class. We see this sentiment in Proverbs 31 as well.

She is the only one of her mother; She is favored of the one who bore her.

There is an implication that parental attention is important in raising a wonderful human being.

The daughters (of Jerusalem) saw her and called her blessed!

Queens and concubines praised her!

She is praised by others- we see this in Proverbs 31 as well. She is capable, competent and likable and others acknowledge this as well.

v 10 Who is like this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army under banners?

He believes that she is the best!

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