Solomon’s Song of Songs Chapter 2 Notes

Song of Solomon Vineyards // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Chapter 2

v. 1: Murphy believes this is a modest statement on the part of the girl, something like, “I’m just a common girl, one of the many lilies of the valley.”  Perhaps he is right.  I am not sure.  To me, she seems to be praising her own beauty, but I do not think this should necessarily be interpreted as arrogance on her part.  The conventions of the love poetry might have allowed her to praise herself in this way without coming across as conceited.  After all, she has defended her beauty before this in 1:5.  Solomon’s answer certainly accentuates the metaphor in v. 2.  The girl returns the favor in v. 3.

v. 6: This describes her as being under him and in his embrace, “…in his shade with great delight” (v.3).

v. 7: The interpretation of this is difficult.  My best reading of the NKJ translation could be paraphrased as “You can’t hurry love….”  If part of the underlying history of these two lovers is that they were parted from each other for some period of time (perhaps by the girl’s brothers) then this sentiment would make sense in the context of the poem.  The beginning of chapter three describes a period of separation, and, immediately after the lovers are reunited, the girl repeats this same advice as a kind of refrain to the Daughters of Jerusalem (3:5).  Gordis, however, paraphrases this section differently: “She adjures the daughters of Jerusalem by a solemn oath to leave the lovers undisturbed, till their desire be spent.”

vs. 8-17: These verses describe a scene in which the Beloved comes in the night (v. 17) to the girl’s home (v.9) and invites her to “come away” (v. 13) with him or at least to let him see her beautiful face and hear her sweet voice (v. 14).  She, however, because her brothers are taskmasters (v. 15), sends him away “until the day breaks” (v. 17).

v. 9: I believe this scene takes place at the girl’s home where she lives with her brothers[1] and mother[2] before she is married.  I say it is before she is married because the lovers are prevented from coming together.  Note the difference between their interaction here and in 1:4, which reads, “The king has brought me to his chambers.”  There is no family in 1:4 to get in the way of the lovers’ desires.  See also v. 15, 8:1, and 8:8-10.

v. 13: He invites her to share in the delights of love and of love’s season: spring.

v. 15: Nobody is very confident about what this passage means.  As Murphy says, “This verse has always been recognized as enigmatic” (141).  Many believe it is the girl’s response to the Beloved’s invitation, but it is spoken in the plural first person and addresses a plural group: “Y’all catch us the foxes.”  The NKJ translation assumes that the speakers are the girl’s brothers.  Murphy calls the response “a song or ditty,” and Barnes basically agrees, labeling it a “fragment of a vine dresser’s ballad.” I take this passage, therefore, to be the girl’s response to the Beloved’s invitation.  She is saying she cannot go with him right now because her brothers keep her working and will not allow her to court anybody.  It is their voices she is mocking[3] when she sings, “Catch us the foxes…” by way of explaining her situation to him.  Perhaps she is making the song up on the spot, or perhaps she is referring to a familiar ballad and applying it to her situation.  Somebody might do the same today by applying the following ditty to herself:  “Cinderelly, Cinderelly/ Night and day it’s Cinderelly/ Make the fire, fix the breakfast/ Wash the dishes, do the mopping….”

It is also possible that she is being a little coy and flirtatious in this denial.  At least she seems to be so in 5:3, which I believe is a parallel passage.[4] There, she mentions other reasons for not accepting his invitation.

vs. 16: See also 4:5 and 6:3.

v. 17: Gordis believes that in this verse the girl accepts the Beloved’s invitation and that the lovers “taste the joys of love until dawn.”  I do not believe this is the proper interpretation, however.  In Gordis’s translation, the girl says, “Until the day breaks…Turn my love, and be like a gazelle…Upon the mountain of spices[5].”  The mountain of spices, then, would be a metaphor for the girl’s body, as it is in 8:14.  But the problem with his version is that the Hebrew word which he translates as “spices” (bether) here in 2:17 really means “separation,” not “spices.”  Murphy, who seems to agree with Gordis, explains:  “The etymology of [bether[6]] suggests ‘separation.’  Another possibility is to understand [bether] in light of 8:14, where [besem[7]] occurs in its place” (139).  So the mountain that she asks the Beloved to turn to is literally the mountain(s) of separation, the mountain(s) of Bether.  This name seems to suit the idea that she is asking him to depart from her more than the idea that she is inviting him to spend the night tasting “the joys of love” with her.  In addition to this, the very next chapter opens with the girl’s frantic search for her Beloved, from whom she is obviously apart.

Concerning the Hebrew word for “turn” here (cabab[8]), Murphy writes, “[Cabab] is ambiguous; it could mean also mean ‘return’ or ‘turn aside’” (139).  Thus, the word could mean either “turn to me” or “turn away from me.”  However, in order for her use of the word to mean “turn to me,” her Beloved would have to be already turned away from her, and I see no reason to believe that he is turned away from her in any sense of the expression.  He has just invited her to come away with him and certainly is not turned away from her at this point.  Thus, when she says, “Turn,” she must mean, “Turn away” until the dawn.  The poet definitely intends for Calab to have this sense in 6:5, the only other place it appears in the Song of Solomon:  “Turn your eyes away from me.”

[1] See note on 2:15.

[2] See 3:4.

[3] See 1:6.  The brothers have asked her to keep their vineyards, and this is not metaphorical, as her sunburned skin testifies.

[4] See notes on 5:2.

[5] Italics mine.

[6] Strong’s entry 1335.

[7] Strong’s entry 1314.

[8] Strong’s entry 5437.


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