Somehow Chapter 1 disappeared from the feed, so here is a reprint…
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
v 1 The Song of Songs, which concerns Solomon
Poem 1: The Woman’s Pursuit
Note: In Song of Songs the woman speaks 53% of the time and the man 39%. While some commentaries make much of this, to me, it seems like a normal relationship…
v 2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
For your lovemaking is better than wine.
v 3 How wonderful the scent of your oils (semen);
Your name (sem in Hebrew) is poured out oil (semen).
-This is wordplay, a joke within a compliment. “Name” in scripture indicates what a person is known for, in this relationship she is implying he should be known for his lovemaking- a compliment I believe most men would enjoy!
This poem also changes pronouns randomly- this is not uncommon in poetry of this region.
V 2 and 3 contain a chiasm, a simple poem with repetition and the main idea at the ‘point.’ It is not a perfect chiasm, but you will get the idea.
is your lovemaking
more than wine (most important point)
(as for scent)
your oils (semen)
The repetition of ‘good’ indicates his lovemaking/ semen (equivalent points) are better than wine for making her feel good.
Therefore the young women love you.
–She is likely referring to herself in the third person plural in an exaggerated compliment, ie Who could resist you? (Also a compliment men typically enjoy.)
v 4 Draw me after you; Let’s run! (note her urgency)
The king has brought me into his bedroom. (can also be translated as private place or storeroom)
Note: She wants to run to privacy, she is excited and sure he wants her sexually.
The Women of Jerusalem: (Chorus)
We will rejoice and feel happy for you! (no jealousy or condemnation)
We will praise/ celebrate your love.
– Her friends confirm she has made a good choice. This is not lust and she is not deluded by love, she has made a wise decision and her friends acknowledge it. They are also happy for her. These are good women who are glad their friend is doing well.
Righteousness loves you. (What they are doing is good in God’s eyes.)
- The married woman takes initiative for sex (Draw me after you… Let him kiss me…). She is not forcing, or throwing herself at him, but asking and confident in a positive response.
- She yearns for him.
- Their lovemaking is intoxicating- mood changing.
- The Song incorporates all the senses:
-smell- his scent
-hearing: compliments spoken
-sight: compliments re: body
-mind: wordplay/ joking
- Her friends confirm this is a good choice.
- A wedding ritual in this region has the groom as a ‘king’ and the bride as a ‘queen.’ They would be crowned as such in the ceremony. A king is the best, most powerful man, worthy of the highest honors, likewise a queen is the best, most powerful woman, also worthy of highest honors.
Poem 2 (Insecurities)
v 5 I am dark (likely tanned due to working in the sun- not pampered)
but beautiful (healthy self-esteem)
daughters of Jerusalem (she is now speaking to the pampered women who would look down on her)
like the tents of Qedar, like the curtains of Solomon (she compares herself to 2 powerful, respected groups)
v 6 Don’t look at me, because I am swarthy (dark) because the sun scorched me.
She is speaking to the other woman and hoping for understanding/ compassion/ empathy. There is no indication re: whether, or not, they respond positively. The implication is that they should show understanding.
My mother’s sons (implies a different father- 2nd marriage?) were angry with me.
She may have rejected their advances. Remember during this time half-siblings married- think Sarah and Abraham.
They made me guard/ work the vineyards,
but my vineyard I did not guard/ tend.
While vineyard can refer to sexuality, here is it likely an actual vineyard as she becomes tan when working it. She has not taken care of herself. She is also associated with the laboring/ farm class.
Note that brothers are supposed to protect sisters and arrange for their marriages. These brothers did not indicating she does not come from a supportive, wonderful family.
Poem 3 (Time Together)
v 7 Tell me, one whom my soul loves, Where will you graze?
Where will you make your flocks lie down at noon?
(She does not like being separated from him.)
Why should I be like a veiled woman (prostitute/ having to hide her identity- remember Tamar wore veils when she posed as a prostitute with Judah),
around the flocks of your companions?
She does not like the social taboos that do not allow a wife to be with her husband while he is out with the flocks, but do allow prostitutes. She feels it is stupid that she, who rightfully belongs as a wife, has to be circumspect and stay away. She wants to be near him, by his side and there is an implication that this is where she belongs. The social taboos make no sense.
v 8 If you do not know, most beautiful of women (compliment),
follow the tracks of the sheep,
and feed your young goats by the dwellings of the shepherds.
The man too, wants to be with her. He tells her to bring her goats so that she appears to be a shepherdess (like Rebekah and Zipporah) so she does not appear to be inappropriate. He is guarding her honor (like Boaz does for Ruth) while figuring out how to be with her.
Also take note of how many verbal compliments are contained in this Song. This indicates that love is fragile, and much verbal affirmation is a good, perhaps necessary, thing.
Poem 4 (Compliments and Gifts)
Remember- compliments change with time…. Not all women want to be called a ‘mare.’
v 9 To a mare among Pharoah’s chariots (strong, powerful, beautiful, sleek, opulent)
I liken you, my darling. (note the term of endearment)
Typically stallions, not mares, drove the chariots. This could be saying she is as good as any man, an equal, in his eyes. There is another theory however. There was a battle strategy where a mare in heat was sent amongst the enemy’s chariots to distract their stallions. He may be saying she is very distracting to him.
v 10 Your cheeks are lovely between earings, your neck with a necklace.
This implies she has been given gifts of jewelry- come things do not change!
v 11 Earings of gold we will make for you along with studs of silver.
Given her background, she likely does not have a lot of jewelry. He will give her the things she desires.
Poem 5 (The Cuddle)
v12 While the king is on his couch, my nard gives off its scent.
She is aroused by him.
v 13 My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh, lodging between my breasts.
The imagery of smell implies they are close to each other. She is likely lying with him, with his head on her bossom.
v 14 A cluster of henna blossoms is my lover to me in the vineyards of En-Gedi.
En-gedi is a beautiful oasis surrounded by desolate land.
Poem 6 (Compliments)
v 15 Behold, you are beautiful, my darling.
You are beautiful; your eyes are doves.
Note the repetitive compliments and term of endearment.
We have no clue what aspect of the dove her eyes would be (though there are guesses), but it does sound better than being compared to a mare these days!
v 16 You are beautiful my lover, so lovely; our bed is verdant!
Verdant can mean luxurious, flourishing or having to do with trees.
v 17 The boards of our house are cedars, its rafters are junipers.
These are strong woods and it implies the foundation of their home/ marriage is strong.
Location: They could be in a well-built house, or in a private part of the woods. Since the previous poem mentioned the oasis En-Gedi, it could be either, with most scholars believing they are outside.
Notice that both the male and the female compliment each other. Here the woman compliments the man on their location implying he had something to do with it. He has either built them a strong house, or arranged a tryst in a secluded location. Either way, he has put some time and effort into this setting and she is grateful.