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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 5

Verse 1

1. I am come Hebrew, I am coming. All these verbs are of present action; I am eating, etc. Here, in the full blaze of her charms, and the exhilaration which her love breathes into his heart, the Beloved finds all that he has described, and his soul is melting in raptures.

O friends The remainder of this verse an utterance by the Chorus is as from the “daughters of Jerusalem,” or the ladies of the court, bidding the happy lovers take full enjoyment of affections so pure and simple. Sad or guilty indeed must be the heart that has no sympathy with tender and faithful love! That is the holy light of the wedding day and the wedding feast always so joyous, if innocent and sincere and on which the Countenance that gladdens both earth and heaven beamed at Cana of Galilee. This brief utterance is a gush of natural, beautiful sympathy from women, who, by experience or by instinct, at once appreciate the feelings of lovers.

Verse 2

2. The Beloved now disappears. A great German poet has said, that next to love’s joys are love’s anxieties. The play of poetry which must always keep time with nature demands the relief which the darker emotions of regret convey. The Enamoured tells of a dream, made of such “stuff” as the course of love develops, a bit of peevishness and remorse. In the mystery of sleep and dreams, the partition between the affairs of actual life and the wild, free movement of uncurbed fancy, is thin, and the scenes and doings of dreams are a broken and grotesquely-set reproduction of the elements gathered from waking experiences. I sleep, but, etc. Hebrew, I was asleep, but my heart was awake. This verse is, in Hebrew, very animated and abrupt. It is the voice, etc. Better, Hark! my Beloved! He is knocking! Omit saying. For my head, etc. The dews in Palestine are, for a part of the year, very heavy, like those of Greece, “all cold and wet.”

Verse 3

3. Coat The Greeks took from the Phoenicians both the garment and its name preserved in our word tunic. It was a linen shirt, reaching below the knees, sometimes to the ankles and to the wrists. I have washed, etc.

The wearing of sandals made the washing of the feet a frequent necessity, and, of course, on retiring at night. These are trifling excuses. The labours of humble life, in which the Beloved is located, give him little leisure or control of his time. Even a late visit, after the toils of the day, perhaps far away, should have been welcomed, in view of its evident cost to him. So she quickly came to think.

Verse 4

4. Put in his hand The Land and the Book tells us that Eastern house-doors usually lock from within only, and a hole in the doorframe is left by which one can reach the keyhole from without. The Beloved will not enter unbidden, from a sense of true delicacy.

By the hole Hebrew, From the hole; that is, to withdraw the bolt. It is simply astonishing that this language, so expressive of modesty, the more beautiful because found in humble life, has ever been thought to have a character directly opposite. My bowels, etc. The Hebrew word signifies the upper viscera, and chiefly the heart. It means, figuratively, the sympathies, the anxieties. As soon as the Beloved had departed, her disquiet began.

Verse 5

5. I rose up, etc. Regretting her freak of harshness, she rises in a flood of tender feeling.

My hands dropped with myrrh Figuratively, these words imply that her hands shared the emotion of her heart. Literally, which is better, they mean that the Beloved had left the cost of which he must have felt a perfume of myrrh upon the very doorhandle. This token of his faithful love increases her pain.

Verse 6

6. My soul failed, etc. Hebrew, Departed because he had so spoken; had solicited admission and been slighted. She goes out in search of him. In just this way Virgil represents Dido, after her rejection by AEneas, as dreaming of following in vain pursuit of him through desert lands, until her dream turns to sick and weary despair.

Verse 7

7. The watchmen The darkness gave no token, and the only words then spoken were her own. The watchmen and keepers treated her as a vagrant.

Veil An external garment, worn only out of doors. They rudely tore it from her face to see who she was.

Verse 8

8. Wayward as her dream had been, in her waking hours she was true. Of this she assures the ladies.

That ye tell him Better, What will ye tell him? A question abruptly inserted to give force to the thought.

Sick of love That is, utterly enthralled by it.

Verse 9

9. What is thy Beloved The Chorus draw out by this question a fuller description of the Beloved. The glimpse which they have had of him seems to have given them no particular impression of his superiority. They find it entertaining to listen as the ardent girl gives forth a portraiture in which love quickens fancy. The description illustrates the adage, that love has eyes.

Verse 10

10. White and ruddy His bright and flush complexion make him as conspicuous among common men as a standard-bearer is in an army.

Chiefest Hebrew, Standard-man, colour-bearer. The phrase among ten thousand is of military origin.

Verse 11

11. His head, etc. Literally, His head is gold, gold; the repetition of the original giving emphasis. The idea is, that his head is among men as gold among metals, kingly and grand.

His locks Literally, his curls. A pure, soft, black hair was much admired by ancient poets next to the colour of sunbeams, the gold-yellow hair of Moses and Apollo, “the rare gift of the gods.” A beautiful woman is called “a bird of raven wing and snowy breast.”

Verse 12

12. His eyes, etc. Hebrew, His eyes are doves, etc. Doves are fond of bathing and dressing their plumage, and the blue creatures tricking their feathers by a full and sparkling summer stream form a lively and agreeable picture. But the eyes seem to bathe in milk.

Fitly set Rather, Framed in fulness, that is, with ample development, full-orbed, and gushing copious light.

Verse 13

13. Cheeks… bed of spices The wearing of the full beard is ancient and uniform in the East. The growth of the cheeks of the Beloved, in its soft, early luxuriance, is like “beds of balsams, rising growths of spiceries.”

From this growth, gracefully dressed, his lips appear as lilies. The Hebrew word here used is not the one for the white lily of the valley, but means, probably, the red crown lily. Dropping, etc. refers to the lips, not the lilies, meaning pleasant words.

Verse 14

14. His hands, etc. The rings … better as an adjective, smoothly rounded. The arms and fingers taper, preserving their fulness to the nails, which are like enamel of beryl, or chrysolite, (Hebrew, the stone of Tarshish,) now called topaz, of a clear brown yellow and of glassy lustre.

His belly This word may refer to the entire surface of the body, and the word body would more truly translate it. The sapphire of the ancients was both our true sapphire a sky-blue stone, nearly as valuable as the diamond and the lapis lazuli, a blue with yellow specks. Probably the former is here meant, and as it overlays the body, it refers to the tunic. The hue of the sapphire is admirable to relieve and vary the general picture; nor is there anything indelicate in allusion to such parts of the person as, being usually covered, keep their whiteness.

Verse 15

15. His legs Hebrew, The calves of his legs.

Sockets Better, pedestals.

His countenance Literally, His appearance; that is, his whole mien and bearing. The general impression of his stature is like that of “that goodly mountain, even Lebanon,” which, rising to ten thousand feet, always, in sun-shine or in storm, was the Jewish ideal of lofty majesty.

And as Lebanon wears its cedars, unconscious of the crown they give it, so the Beloved bears himself, nobly unaware of the perfect, comeliness of his features.

Verse 16

16. His mouth Better, His voice, is tuneful, sweet.

Altogether Hebrew, His whole; his tout-ensemble. In concluding this portrayal, the Enamoured puts on an air and look of triumph, as one feels in her words, as if she said: “Have I not proven my statement, that he is the banner-man of a host?” A young Indian chief, who, injured in battle, came into the writer’s cave, was of so perfect bodily development as to realize the ideal of this description. Of lofty stature, his structure, to his finger ends, was formed for beauty and grace, and, at the same time, for manly strength.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.