The Shulammite’s comments about her beloved aroused the curiosity of the “daughters of Jerusalem” (women of the royal court). Addressing her as “the beautiful one among women,” they asked her where her beloved had gone. Thereafter they are quoted as raising the same question and revealing their reason for doing so. “Where has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you?” (6:1; see the Notes section.)
The Shulammite’s response suggests that she came to realize that the glowing description of her beloved had made women of the royal court too curious about him. “My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture in the gardens and to gather” (or to pick) “lilies.” (6:2; see the Notes section.) She then made it clear to the women that he belonged to her alone and she to him, implying that she did not want them to share in any search for him. The Shulammite said, “I [am] my beloved’s, and my beloved [is] mine, [he] who is pasturing [his flock] among the lilies.” (6:3)
At this point, the king appears on the scene and expresses his admiration and love for the Shulammite. “You [are] beautiful, my companion, [beautiful] as Tirzah [goodwill (LXX)], comely as Jerusalem, awesome as [a military force with] banners” (plural participial form of dagál). The city of Tirzah is identified with a site about 37 miles (c. 60 kilometers) north of Jerusalem. Tirzah became the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel when Jeroboam, the first king of the realm, appears to have transferred his residence from Shechem to Tirzah. (1 Kings 12:25; 14:17) Possible meanings lexicographers have assigned to dagál include “bannered” (that is supplied with banners or standards), “row of flags,” and “[army with] banners.” Perhaps the Shulammite was being described as having an overwhelming impact like that of an army assembled with banners and ready for battle. In the Septuagint, the rendering of the plural participial form of dagál is the plural participial form of tásso, meaning to “station,” “appoint,” or “set.” The participial form has been understood to denote “ones arrayed for battle.” (6:4; see the Notes section.)
The request for the Shulammite to turn her eyes away suggests that just seeing them had an emotionally overwhelming effect on the king. He is then quoted as commenting about her with the same expressions as found in verses 1 to 3 of chapter 4 (which see). The king likened her hair to a “flock of goats descending from the slopes [literally, mountain or hill] of Gilead” (“having appeared from Galaad” [LXX]). Framing her face as it did, her black hair resembled a flock of goats descending a mountain slope in Gilead, a region east of the Jordan River. (6:5)
The Shulammite’s teeth are likened to a “flock of ewes” that had come up “from the washing.” Her teeth were white like washed sheep, and not a single tooth was missing. All the upper teeth beautifully aligned with the lower teeth, resembling “ewes bearing twins,” with not one missing (“barren” [LXX]) “among them.” (6:6)
Behind the Shulammite’s veil, her “cheek” or “temple” (raqqáh) looked like a “slice [rind (LXX)] of pomegranate.” A slice of the fruit may here relate to the color of the cheeks or temples. The reference in the Septuagint could be understood to apply to the smooth and glowing appearance of the skin. (6:7; see the Notes section.)
The king was a polygamist, mentioning his “60 queens and 80 concubines and maidens without number.” (6:8) Regarding the Shulammite, he said, “One” (meaning “only one”) is “my dove, my perfect one,” the “one” (unique one, the specially loved one) “of her mother,” the “one flawless [the choice or outstanding one (LXX)] to her that bore her.” “Daughters” or maidens saw the Shulammite “and pronounced her happy.” “Queens and concubines” also saw her, “and they praised her.” She was the object of her mother’s high regard and deep affection, and all the women in the royal court looked favorably upon the Shulammite. (6:9) Her beauty was beyond compare. Codex Sinaiticus attributes the words that follow to “daughters” or maidens “and queens” who saw “the bride and pronounced her happy.” In this context, however, the words may be regarded as a continuation of what the king said. “Who [is] this” who looks down [from above] “like the dawn, beautiful as the full moon, “pure” or bright (“choice” [LXX]) “like the sun” (literally, “heat,” with the application being to the source of heat or warmth), “awesome as [a military force with] banners?” Everything about the Shulammite was beautiful and radiant, and the impression she made on others was comparable to that of an army assembled with banners and ready for battle. (6:10; for additional comments about “banners,” see verse 4; also see the Notes section.)
The words spoken next are commonly attributed to the Shulammite. An introductory comment in Codex Sinaiticus, however, says, “the bridegroom to the bride.” “I went down to the garden of nut trees to look at the blossoms in the wadi, to see whether the vine had budded [and] the pomegranates were in bloom.” In the Septuagint, there is a concluding phrase that is not found in the extant Hebrew text. Codex Sinaiticus introduces this phrase with the words, “the bride to the bridegroom [as follows].” She is then quoted as saying, “there I will give you my breasts.” (6:11)
What the Shulammite encountered was unexpected. “I did not know [that] my soul [or my desire (that is, her desire to view the signs of spring] set me in [or beside] a chariot of my willing [or noble] people [or Ammi-nadib].” This might be understood to mean that she unexpectedly found herself where the king was encamped. According to the Septuagint, her “soul” (or desire) had set her like “chariots of Aminadab.” Translators have rendered the Hebrew text to convey a variety of meanings. “Before I realized it, my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people.” NIV) “Before I knew it, my desire set me mid the chariots of Ammi-nadib.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Before I was aware, my fancy set me in a chariot beside my prince.” (NRSV) “But in my imagination I was suddenly riding on a glorious chariot.” (CEV) “I did not recognize myself: she made me a prince chosen from myriads of my people.” (REB) (6:12)
Those who consider the Shulammite’s beloved to have been the shepherd believe that, after she turned away from him, the king said to her, “Return, return, O Shulammite; return, return, [that] we may look upon you.” These words have also been interpreted as a request from companions for the Shulammite to dance. The designation Shulammite could identify her as having her home in Shulam (which some have thought to be an alternate name for Shunem). Her response to the request to return has been interpreted as a refusal to do so or an acceptance of the request to dance. Translations vary in the way they render the obscure Hebrew text. “Why should you look upon the Shulammite, as upon a dance before two armies?” (NRSV) “Why will you gaze at the Shulammite in the Mahanaim dance?” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Why would you gaze on the Shulammite as on the dance of Mahanaim?” (NIV) “Why are you looking at the girl from Shulam, dancing between two lines of dancers?” (NJB) “How you love to gaze on the Shulammite, as she moves between the lines of dancers!” (REB) The Septuagint rendering may be translated, “Why will you look at the Soulamite? She is coming like a company [of dancers] of the camps.” (6:13 [7:1]; see the Notes section.)
For verse 1, the introductory comment in Codex Sinaiticus is, “The daughters of Jerusalem ask the bride where her beloved had gone.”
The “daughters of Jerusalem” (or women of the royal court) would have known what the king looked like. Therefore, their questions (verse 1) and the response of the Shulammite (verses 2 and 3) have been pointed to as indicating that her beloved was the handsome “shepherd” and not the king.
Codex Sinaiticus introduces the words of verse 2 with the comment, “But the bride answered.”
Codex Alexandrinus introduces the text of verse 4 with the words, “the bridegroom,” and Codex Sinaiticus says, “the bridegroom to the bride.” The translator of the Septuagint apparently did not understand Tirzah to be a city but rendered the Hebrew designation as eudokía (“goodwill,” “approval,” or “pleasure”). This rendering probably arose from linking the Hebrew designation for the city with the root ratsáh (“take pleasure in” or “be favorably disposed”).
In verse 7, the Septuagint includes the reference to the lips and speech (as in verse 3 of chapter 4, which see for comments.)
Codex Alexandrinus attributes the words of verse 10 to “the bride.”
Codex Sinaiticus introduces the words of verse 13 (7:1) with the comment, “the bridegroom to the bride.” Then, before the question about the Shulammite, this codex includes the comment, “The bridegroom [says what follows] to the queens and the daughters” or maidens.