The Shulammite’s dear one responded to her invitation to enjoy the expressions of her love that were comparable to everything available to one who had been granted exclusive admittance into a private garden. Affectionately, he addressed her as his “sister,” his “bride,” telling her that he had come into his garden, “gathered [his] myrrh with [his] spice,” eaten his “honeycomb [bread (LXX)] with [his] honey,” and drunk his “wine with [his] milk.” In Codex Sinaiticus, the encouragement to eat and to become intoxicated is that of the bridegroom to companions or friends. The Hebrew text has been variously translated. “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.” (NIV) “Eat, friends, drink! Drink freely of love!” (NAB) “Eat, friends, and drink deep, till you are drunk with love.” (REB) “Eat, friends, and drink, drink deep, my dearest friends.” (NJB) (5:1; see the Notes section.)
Although the Shulammite was asleep, her “heart” was awake. This suggests that her beloved was continually in her thoughts so that even her dreams were about him. The words that follow indicate that she had a disturbing dream. She heard her beloved knocking (“on the door” [LXX]) and saying to her, “Open to me, my sister, my companion, my dove, my flawless one.” The hair of his head was wet with dew. He also referred to the dew as “drops of the night.” (5:2; see the Notes section.)
The response of the Shulammite was one that might be expected as being spoken in a dream but not one that would have been expressed had she been fully awake. “I have taken off my garment; how can I put it on [again]? I have washed my feet; how can I dirty them [again]?” (5:3; see the Notes section.)
The beloved of the Shulammite put his hand through an opening in the door. Possibly this hole was that for the latch, and the objective would have been to raise the latch to open the door. Just the sight of her dear one’s hand affected the Shulammite emotionally in her inmost self. She is quoted as saying, “My inward parts [belly (LXX)] were stirred up within me [for him (LXX)].” (5:4)
Before retiring for the night, the Shulammite may have rubbed fragrant ointment on herself. Therefore, when she got up to open the door for her beloved, she is quoted as saying, “My hands dripped with myrrh and my fingers with liquid myrrh on the handles of the bolt.” (5:5)
When the Shulammite opened the door for her beloved, he was no longer there. He “had turned, passed on.” Regarding the effect on her, she is quoted as saying, “My soul went out in [or at] his speaking [in (or at) his word (LXX)].” This could mean that she was emotionally overcome or felt faint when she heard him speak. The Shulammite tried to find her dear one, but she could not. She “called him, but he did not answer” her. (5:6; see the Notes section.)
In the quest to locate her beloved, the Shulammite came upon the watchmen that went about in the city. They struck her, wounding her. Those who guarded the walls removed her wraparound (redíd). The Hebrew word redíd probably designates some kind of linen or wool wraparound for the upper part of the body. It could have been a wide shawl. In the Septuagint, the corresponding designation is théristron, which may here apply to a lightweight garment, a veil, or a headcloth. (5:7)
The Shulammite adjured the “daughters of Jerusalem,” or women in the royal court, that, if they found her beloved, they should tell him that she was lovesick. According to the Septuagint, she put them under oath “by the powers and by the strengths of the field.” (5:8)
Addressing the Shulammite as “beautiful one among women,” the daughters of Jerusalem, or women in the royal court, asked her how her beloved proved to be more than some other beloved or was better, more outstanding, or unique. In view of her having put them under oath, they wanted to know why he was superior to some other dear one. An introductory comment in Codex Sinaiticus indicates that the “daughters of Jerusalem and the watchmen [or guards] of the walls” were the ones who asked “the bride.” (5:9)
The Shulammite responded to the questioning with a glowing description of her beloved. “He [is] radiant,” dazzling, “white” (LXX) “and ruddy” or red (reddish brown or fiery), “outstanding,” distinguished, unique, or “selected” (LXX) “among ten thousand.” (5:10; see the Notes section.) “His head” is “gold, refined gold” (paz). “His locks” (the locks of his hair) are “date palm panicles” (taltallím) or “firs” (LXX), “black like a raven.” The rendering “date palm panicles” is a possible meaning for the Hebrew designation taltallím. It has been understood to be descriptive of wavy hair or hair resembling waving palm branches. (5:11; see the Notes section.)
The Shulammite continued to describe her beloved. She likened “his eyes” to “doves” by “wadis of waters” or, according to the Septuagint, “upon an abundance [plural form of pléroma (fullness)] of waters.” In this context, the comparison to doves appears to apply more specifically to the pupils and irises of the eyes, for the next phrase refers to them as “bathing in milk.” This suggests that the white of the eyes is depicted as glistening water flowing through wadis. The next phrase contains the Hebrew word millé’th. Suggested meanings of lexicographers for this word include “rim,” “socket,” “border,” “fullness,” or “full place.” The thought could be that the irises are “sitting” as if in borders or rims that the white of the eyes surround. In the Septuagint, the concluding phrase is rendered like the one at the beginning, “sitting upon an abundance [plural form of pléroma] of waters.” The “waters” seemingly designate the white of the eyes. (5:12)
The “cheeks” of the Shulammite’s beloved were “like beds of spices, towers of fragrant herbs.” This description apparently applies to cheeks with a well-groomed beard that is compared to a garden filled with aromatic plants. In the Septuagint, the reference is to “cheeks like bowls” (probably in the sense of garden beds), yielding aromatic herbs. The Shulammite likened her dear one’s “lips” to “lilies, dripping with liquid myrrh.” This suggests that she found the words passing his lips as delightful as a fragrant substance. (5:13) The “hands” of the beloved were like “cylinders of gold filled with topaz” (tarshísh; transliterated as tharsis in LXX). According to the Septuagint, the hands were gold worked in relief. In this context, “hands” may be understood to apply more specifically to the fingers, with the fingernails being what fills them as with topaz, a transparent or translucent gemstone. (5:14; see the Notes section.)
The Shulammite spoke of her beloved’s “abdomen” as being like a “plate” or “tablet of ivory” covered with sapphires. Possibly this means that he was wearing a blue garment (the color of sapphire) over the light skin of his firm outer belly. (5:14) “His legs” were like “pillars of alabaster” or “marble,” straight and strong, with the feet being “like bases of gold.” “His appearance” was “like Lebanon, choice like cedars.” Lebanon was known for its magnificent cedars, and the allusion could be to his being tall and handsome, truly outstanding as one of the choice cedars there. (5:15) The reference to his “palate” (“throat” [LXX]) being “sweetnesses” could mean that the speech that passed his palate or came from his throat was “most sweet” or truly pleasurable to the Shulammite. She referred to her beloved as being altogether an object of desire (plural in Hebrew), and concluded with the words, “This is my companion, daughters of Jerusalem” (or women of the royal court). (5:16)
Codex Sinaiticus introduces the words of verse 1 with the comment, “the bridegroom to the bride,” and Codex Alexandrinus says, “the bridegroom.”
In verse 2, the Septuagint rendering that includes the words about “knocking on the door” are preceded by the phrase, “voice of my beloved.” Codex Sinaiticus here has an introductory comment indicating that the “bride” perceived that the “bridegroom” was knocking on the door. The request for the Shulammite to open the door begins with the introductory comment, “the bridegroom.”
Codex Sinaiticus identifies the words of verse 3 as being those of “the bride.”
In verse 6, the Hebrew word translated “speaking” is an infinitive form of davár followed by a third person masculine suffix. A number of modern translations have opted to emend this text in a way that is considered to better fit the context, not using any word that suggests speaking. “My soul failed at his flight.” (NJB) “My heart sank when he turned his back.” (REB) “My heart sank at his departure.” (NIV) These renderings, however, do not have the support of the Septuagint (lógo [the dative form of the Greek noun for “word”] nor of the Vulgate (locutus [the active perfect participle form of the word for “speak”]).
Codex Sinaiticus identifies the words that start in verse 10 as those of “the bride” that describe what her beloved is like.
The translator of the Septuagint appears not to have understood the Hebrew word paz (in verse 11) and transliterated it as phaz, referring to the “head” of the Shulammite’s beloved as “gold and phaz.”
“Topaz” (verse 14) is one meaning lexicographers have suggested for tarshísh. It may have been a precious stone from the Iberian Peninsula to which Tarshish (as a geographical location) has been linked.