Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

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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)

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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 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.

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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!

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_2537

Poem 14 (Missed Signals)

The Woman

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).

The Woman

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.

The Woman

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.

Song of Songs (Chapter 1)

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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…

The Woman:

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.

For good

            is your lovemaking

                                    more than wine (most important point)

                                    (as for scent)

            your oils (semen)

are good.

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.

The Woman:

Righteousness loves you. (What they are doing is good in God’s eyes.)

Note:

  1. 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.
  2. She yearns for him.
  3. Their lovemaking is intoxicating- mood changing.
  4. The Song incorporates all the senses:

-taste: kiss

-smell- his scent

-hearing: compliments spoken

-sight: compliments re: body

-mind: wordplay/ joking

  1. Her friends confirm this is a good choice.
  2. 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)

The Woman:

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)

The Woman:

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.

The Man:

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.’

The Man:

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)

The Woman

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)

The Man:

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!

The Woman:

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.

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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 13 (Fan the Desire)

The Man

v 10 How beautiful your love, my sister, my bride!

How much better your love than wine (it makes him feel intoxicated)

and the scent of your oils from spices.

Note the compliments are lavish and many. He is attracted to her scent. Since it is better than spices, this is likely her natural odors.

v 11 Your lips drip with honey, O bride,

Honey and milk are under your tongue.

He enjoys kissing her. It is a deep kiss- note the mention of her tongue.

The scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon.

Lebanon is known for its cedar trees. Her garments smell like cedar. She stores her clothes carefully and changes them often (which is not a norm at this time).

v 12 You are a locked garden, my sister, my bride.

You are a locked garden, a sealed fountain.

Garden and fountain are euphemisms for female sexuality. She is not permiscuous. Her garden/ fountain are sealed, open only for him.

v 13 Your shoots (hairs) are a garden of pomegranates (fertility) with choice fruits (tasty), henna (hair color) and nard (fragrant oil that smells sweet, woody and spicy).

He is complimenting her genitalia.

v 14 Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.

He loves her smell. It is better than any spice.

v 15 You are a garden fountain, a well of living water, streaming down from Lebanon.

She refreshes him. Garden and fountain represent female sexuality. Their lovemaking does not just satisfy, it energizes him.

The Man

v 16 Wake up north wind, and come, south wind!

Blow on my garden (sexuality) and let its spices flow forth,

She wants to fan their desire.

Let my lover come into his garden and eat its choice fruit.

She is inviting him to intimacy- again.

Chapter 5

The Man

v1 I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride,

I have gathered my myrrh with my spices, I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk.

They have been intimate and he has enjoyed many different aspects of their love making, indicating the entire process is to be enjoyed, not just the finale.

The Women of Jerusalem

Eat, friends, drink! Be intoxicated, lovers!

Her female friends are supportive and encouraging of their relationship/ sexuality. They want them to be ‘intoxicated’ with each other, feeling the satisfaction/ “high” that comes with a full, satisfying relationship.

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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 12 (Closeness and Security)

The Man

v 8 With me from Lebanon, my bride; with me from Lebanon, come!

Come down from the top of Amana; from the top of Senir and Hermon,

from the dens of lions, from the heights of leopards.

She is distant; he wants her close. She is in danger; he wants her safe.

v 9 You drive me crazy, my sister, my bride!

You drive me crazy, with one glance from your eyes, with one jewel from your necklace.

It doesn’t take much for her to get his attention.

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