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 14 (Missed Signals)
v 2 I was sleeping, but my mind was alert.
(Literally this should be translated as heart, but at this time the heart represented where one thinks, so we translate this as mind today)
She was likely just getting to sleep.
“Open for me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.
My head is full of dew, my locks with drizzle of the night.”
Note again the abundant compliments. I do not think the over the top amount of compliments is there by accident. Love is a very fragile, insecure thing, and reassurance of love is needed.
The man has been working late, and he is wet from being out in the weather. He is requesting intimacy.
v 3 “I have taken off my clothes (fine garments), should I get dressed again?
I have washed my feet, should I get them dirty?
Feet at this time are a euphemism for genitalia, likely due to the phrase “covering ones feet” as a euphemism for squatting to relieve oneself.
She is tired and has the mistaken impression that she needs to make herself beautiful for him, even though he is obviously a bit disheveled (the woman caring about her looks while the man cares a bit less than perhaps he should is a common marital discrepancy even today). She is also concerned that she has just washed and does not wish to have to bathe again. This may be due to the fact that he is less than freshly washed when he arrives…
In either case, he wishes to be intimate and she is less than excited.
v 4 My lover sent his hand through the hole, and my innards roiled towards him.
The hole is likely a hole in the door to unlatch it. Since most holes do not allow a human hand to get through, for obvious security reasons, most believe this is an euphemism.
The man is making another move towards intimacy, and the woman is responding.
I stood (woke?) up to open to my lover, and my hands dripped with myrrh and my fingers with liquid myrrh on the handles of the lock.
She is aroused and ready for intimacy. The myrrh may be a euphemism, or it may be that she has gotten up and prepared herself putting on perfume etc. In either case, there is an argument here for a ‘come as you are’ attitude in marriage; while also mentioning that women do not enjoy men who are less than clean, and take a little while longer to get in the mood.
v 6 I opened to my lover, but my lover had gone away; he had left.
He believes she does not want him, and gave up early.
My spirit had gone out at his speaking. I sought him, but did not find him.
I called him, but he did not answer;
She is now looking for him to restore the relationship.
Note throughout this that she misses him physically, mentally and spiritually.
v 7 The guards found me, those who make their rounds in the city.
They struck me; they bruised me.
They lifted my garments from me, those guards on the walls.
She wishes to go after him, but it is dangerous for a woman to be out alone, especially at night. Those who are supposed to guard her often don’t. This is a theme in this poem, as her brothers do not care for her as they should either. In his disappointment, he does not realize he has put her in a very unprotected/ vulnerable situation.
This also emphasizes societies unfriendliness/ judgmental attitude towards those with relationship issues. Instead of helping her, they are making her situation more taxing.
v 8 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my lover, what should you say to him? That I am sick with love!
The Women of Jerusalem
v 9 How is your lover better than (another) lover, O most beautiful of women?
How is your lover better than (another) lover, that we should so swear?
Why should we help you? Just get yourself a new lover.
She asks for their help, and they do not understand why she loves him so much when she could have any man. The thought here is that one man (or woman) is very much like another, so if this one is not satisfying you, find another. It also ignores that the initial problem was not entirely with him, but with her response to his advance (though there was fault/ miscommunication on both sides).
v 10 My lover is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand!
This man is energetic and works hard/ outside long enough to be tan/ slightly burnt. She believes he is better than any other man- as a wife should.
(Remember, there are not many inside jobs in this culture, so a hard working man would not be expected to be pale.)
v 11 His head is pure gold, (tanned)
His locks are wavy, black like a raven.
v 12 His eyes are like doves by water streams,
His teeth washed in milk (white), sitting by pools. (Each has its reflection- he has all his teeth.)
While we may not understand/ appreciate this imagery, it is clear she likes how he looks. Again, like the compliments the man gave to the woman, she starts at his head and works her way down.
v 13 His cheeks are like spice beds growing aromatics.
He has a full beard.
His lips are lilies, dripping with liquid myrrh.
v 14 His arms are bars of gold, set with Tarshish stones. (a yellow-gold jasper)
He is well muscled.
His member is an ivory tusk, ornamented with lapis (a blue stone- likely representing his veins).
v 15 His legs are pillars of marble, founded on gold pedestals.
White legs with tan feet.
His appearance is like Lebanon, choice like the cedars.
Lebanon is known for their cedar trees. He is built thick- like a tree.
v 16 His palate is sweet.
She enjoys his kisses. No bad breathe?
He is totally desirable.
She loves the way he looks, pale white legs and all!
This is my lover and this is my darling, O daughters of Jerusalem.
The Women of Jerusalem
Ch 6 v 1 Where did your lover go, O most beautiful of women?
Where did your lover turn, that we may search for him with you?
Her friends are now willing to help her find him. They are convinced that this is a relationship worth saving.
v 2 My lover went down to his garden,
to the bed of spices, to graze in the garden and to pluck the lilies.
The word garden is a euphemism for female sexuality. She has found her lover and they are intimate again.
v 3 I belong to my lover, and my lover belongs to me-
Note that this is a mutual belonging, an equality in relationship.
he grazes among the lilies.
and they are intimate. The relationship has been restored.