Song of Solomon 2:1-17

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Modestly, the Shulammite said about herself, “I [am] a meadow saffron [chavatstséleth (flower or blossom [LXX])] of the plain, a lily of the valleys.” She regarded herself as no more remarkable than a common flower, not as someone truly special. (2:1; see the Notes section.)

Codex Sinaiticus identifies the words of this verse as having been spoken to “the bride.” The beloved of the Shulammite considered her to be much more than a common flower. To him, she was like a “lily among thorns,” a young woman who, as his companion, stood out uniquely “among daughters” or other maidens. (2:2)

The Shulammite likened her beloved to an “apple tree among the trees of the forest.” Among “sons,” or other young men, he was unique, standing out from ordinary trees in a forest as would an apple tree. His company was a source of pleasure to her. She yearned for the shade he could provide in the form of affection and under which she could be refreshed as if sitting under a tree and partaking of its fruit. The delights he could offer her proved to be like fruit that she found to be “sweet” to her “palate” (“in [her] throat” [LXX]). (2:3; see the Notes section.)

The Shulammite spoke of her beloved as having brought her “into a house of wine,” and his “banner” over her was “love.” This may indicate that love motivated him to bring her to the location where they could enjoy one another’s company as though sharing in a banquet of wine. His love was like a banner proclaiming his feelings for her. In the Septuagint, the words of the Shulammite are expressed as a request, “Lead me into a house of wine. Appoint love over me.” The concluding phrase could mean to appoint love as a signal or to appoint love like an army against her, to completely captivate her. (2:4; see the Notes section.)

So intense was the Shulammite’s love for her dear one that it left her in a weakened state. She referred to herself as being “sick” (“wounded” [LXX]) with love and requested to be sustained with raisin cakes and supported or refreshed with apples. The Hebrew words for “sustain” and “support” or “refresh” are plural imperative verbs and were apparently directed to women in the royal court. (2:5)

The Shulammite longed for intimacy with her beloved, with his left hand under her head and his right hand embracing her. According to the Septuagint rendering, the word for “embrace” is a future tense verb (“will embrace”), indicating that she confidently anticipated enjoying intimacy in her dear one’s embrace. (2:6; see the Notes section.)

Wanting her love to develop naturally and not to be forced, the Shulammite put women in the royal court under oath, telling them, “I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by gazelles or by hinds of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love [in me] until it please” or until it is ready or inclined. Possibly the oath “by gazelles or by hinds of the field” denotes an adjuration by everything that is graceful and beautiful in the open land. The Septuagint says, “by the powers and by the strengths of the field.” (2:7; see the Notes section.)

The Shulammite portrayed her beloved as being anxious to see her. She is quoted as referring either to hearing his voice or to the sound of his swift approach. The introductory “look” in the next phrase apparently serves to focus on his eagerness to come to see her. He is represented as “leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills.” (2:8; see the Notes section.)

The Shulammite likened her beloved to a gazelle or to a young stag (literally, “young one of the stags” [“on the mountains of Baithel” (Bethel) (LXX)]). This comparison suggests that he was both swift and handsome. After his arrival, he is portrayed as outside the dwelling and anxiously trying to determine whether his beloved was there. “Look! He is standing behind our wall, gazing [or looking intently] through the windows, peering through the lattices.” Anciently, windows were rectangular openings in the wall of a house, and lattices made with crossed strips of wood were used to cover them. (2:9; see the Notes section.)

The beloved of the Shulammite invited her to accompany him, saying to her, “Arise, my companion, my beautiful one, [my dove (LXX)], and come away” (2:10), “for look, the winter has passed; the rain is over and gone.” (2:11) The rainy season of winter had ended, and spring had arrived. “Flowers” bloomed “on the land.” It was then a time for “trimming” (zamír) vines. Turtledoves had completed their migration from the southern location where they had wintered. Therefore, the beloved of the Shulammite is quoted as saying, “The voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (2:12; see the Notes section regarding zamír.)

Fig trees were then bearing unripe fruit and grapevines had blossoms that filled the air with their fragrance. Again the beloved of the Shulammite invited her to accompany him. “Arise, my companion, my beautiful one, [my dove (LXX)], and come away.” (2:13; see the Notes section.)

The Shulammite’s dear one affectionately called her “my dove.” At the time, she was hidden from him as if in a “concealed place of the rock” or crag, in a “hiding place of the cliff.” According to the Septuagint, he referred to her as his dove “in the shelter of the rock” that was around the area of the wall. He wanted to see her face and to hear her voice (“sound” [4QCantb]) — the voice he perceived to be “sweet” and the face he found to be beautiful. (2:14)

In view of the earlier mention of the Shulammite’s vineyard duty her brothers assigned to her (1:6), they probably are the ones saying, “Catch us foxes, the little foxes that are spoiling vineyards.” At the time, the grapevines were in blossom. (2:15; see the Notes section.)

The Shulammite or, according to the introductory comment in Codex Sinaiticus, “the bride” said regarding her beloved, “My beloved [is] mine, and I [am] his. He is pasturing [his flock] among the lilies.” (2:16)

The expression “until the day breathes and the shadows flee” may refer to the time when the sun rises and the shadows of the night vanish. A number of modern translations are explicit in conveying this significance (“until daylight comes and shadows fade away” [CEV]; “until the day breaks and the shadows flee” [NIV]). It is also possible that the reference is to the time of the evening breezes when the lengthening shadows begin to disappear. The Shulammite wanted her beloved one to “turn,” hastening back to be with her as if he were a “gazelle or a young stag [literally, young one of the stags] on the mountains of separation [ravines (LXX)].” The “mountains of separation” may refer to the barriers that kept the two lovers apart. It is also possible that the reference is to “cleft mountains,” “rugged mountains,” or to the “mountains of Bether” (an unknown location). (2:17; see the Notes section.)

Notes

“Meadow saffron” is one possible rendering for the Hebrew word chavatstséleth. (Verse 1) Lexicographers have also suggested that the Hebrew word may apply to the “crocus” or “asphodel.” In Codex Sinaiticus, an introductory comment identifies the words of this verse as having been spoken by “the bridegroom to himself.” It appears unlikely that he would have likened himself to a flower, especially in view of what he is quoted as saying to the Shulammite in the next verse.

Codex Sinaiticus precedes the words of verse 3 with the comment, “the bride to the bridegroom.”

In Codex Sinaiticus, the words of verse 4 are introduced with the comment, “the bride speaks to the young women.” Grammatically, this agrees with the second person plural imperative verbs (eisagágeté [“lead” or “bring”] and táxate [“appoint” or “set”]).

Codex Sinaiticus introduces the wording of verse 6 with the comment, “the bride to the bridegroom.”

The introductory comment of Codex Sinaiticus for the words in verse 7 is, “the bride to the young women.” In The Revised English Bible, the adjuration is interpretively worded to convey a cultic significance. “I charge you, maidens of Jerusalem, by the spirits and the goddesses of the field.” This rendering is questionable, for it would have been offensive to the Jews who accepted the poetic composition as belonging among their sacred writings.

In Codex Sinaiticus, the introductory comment for verse 8 is, “the bride heard the bridegroom.” This comment is followed by the words that may be rendered, “voice [or sound] of my beloved.”

Before the phrase about the beloved one in a standing position behind the wall (verse 9), Codex Sinaiticus includes the introductory comment, “the bride to the young women; she shows them the bridegroom.”

In verse 12, there is uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word zamír. Suggested possible meanings include “pruning,” “trimming,” and “singing” (that is, the singing of birds that were back in the land). The Septuagint rendering may be translated, the “time” or the “season of pruning has arrived.”

The first word of verse 13 in a Dead Sea Scroll (4QCantb) but not in the Masoretic Text is hinnéh (“look”).

The introductory comment in Codex Sinaiticus for verse 15 is, “the bridegroom [said the following] to the young women.” In this verse, a Dead Sea Scroll (4QCantb) and the Septuagint say “little foxes” (not “foxes, little foxes”).

In Codex Alexandrinus, the phrase that begins with the word that may be rendered “turn” (verse 17) is identified as being spoken by “the bride.”