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.
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.
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.
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.