שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלֹמֹהThe Song of Songs which is of Solomon
Update 2014 Music begins here.
What is it that we can know of Songs that this is the best? There are 30 songs in the Psalter. (Psalms 30, 45, 46, 48, 65, 66, 67, 68, 75, 76, 83, 87, 88, 92, 108, and the Psalms of Ascent 120-134) And there are others in the Scripture - like The Song of the Sea Exodus 15:1, or of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:1 or of David in 2 Samuel 22:1 (= Psalm 18 - not named as a song!) This article by Chris Brady at Targuman lists the top ten from the Targum on the Song. It is an intriguing list because it reveals how the compiler of the Targum read the Scripture as a whole. Chris Brady's article is very worth reading. (Midrash etc is also posting on the Song. Adam Couturier posting on Heschel is also worth noting in this respect.)
Why then is this the best? And how can we approach the text? Perhaps before starting, we should read all these other songs and see everywhere in Scripture where singing implies a song. Let's read every song. But we can't do it all at once so let the best be first. I am going to also mark the prefixes and suffixes. It forces me to read more slowly and see every particle.
See my 24 posts here for the 11 letters that form particles and affixes of grammatical significance.
There are three actors in this piece - the girl, the boy and the chorus. Imagine who the speaker is - it sometimes switches mid verse. And imagine to whom the speaker is addressing each word. The poet switches person like the psalmist does -e.g. verse 1 immediately. Like the psalms, it is possible to read the poem as prayer also.
|Verse||Hebrew text||A translation||What shall we say?|
יִשָּׁקֵנִי מִנְּשִׁיקוֹת פִּיהוּ
כִּי טוֹבִים דֹּדֶיךָ מִיָּיִן
|Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth|
for good are your loves compared to wine
|Perhaps in the spirit of the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, we should read the charge of Song 2:7 first. This charge ends four of the five parts of the Song. To read on, we must take on the persona of the daughters of Jerusalem and we are sworn by a hidden name not to rouse love till it please.|
לְרֵיחַ שְׁמָנֶיךָ טוֹבִים
שֶׁמֶן תּוּרַק שְׁמֶךָ
עַל כֵּן עֲלָמוֹת אֲהֵבוּךָ
|as for fragrance, your oils are pleasing.|
An oil poured out is your name.
So therefore the maidens love you.
|I am looking at each verse to divide it into twos and threes - though perhaps four will sometimes be found.This is a check against some rather bizarre translation I did on my first pass 2 years ago.|
הֱבִיאַנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ חֲדָרָיו
נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בָּךְ
נַזְכִּירָה דֹדֶיךָ מִיַּיִן
we will run.
The king brought me into his rooms.
We will rejoice and we will be glad in you
we will remember your loves more than wine.
The upright have loved you.
|How can we punctuate that line? I like to play with that word 'draw' - but I suspect it is too much of a stretch to see it in the 'I will draw all to myself'. But Jesus is the Bridegroom so don't put it out of mind. It would not surprise me to find additional allusions to John.|
Rooms is plural (same word and form in 1 Chronicles 28:11)
There are several differing words for beloved, love, and companion - I do not know yet how I will distinguish the sounds and tones of these words in English.
For the verb אהב, I will use love as verb, but it also occurs as noun though only singular.
For דוד, likely love as noun and beloved but if plural as here, then loves. Caresses or affections would work here but would lose connections that may be desirable to keep. Not love in the abstract, as if there were such a thing.
שְׁחוֹרָה אֲנִי וְנָאוָה
|Black am I but lovely|
O daughters of Jerusalem
like the tents of Kedar
like the pavilions of Salmah
|We will return to the place names. Place will be important in the overall scheme of things in a childish sort of a way.|
שֶׁאֲנִי שְׁחַרְחֹרֶת שֶׁשְּׁזָפַתְנִי הַשָּׁמֶשׁ
בְּנֵי אִמִּי נִחֲרוּ בִי
שָׂמֻנִי נֹטֵרָה אֶת הַכְּרָמִים
כַּרְמִי שֶׁלִּי לֹא נָטָרְתִּי
|Do not stare at me|
that I am swarthy
that the sun has scorched me.
The sons of my mother were charred with me.
They set me to mind the vineyards.
My own vineyard I could not mind.
|minding/keeping the vineyards - the word is also a frame in the poem occurring twice here and Song 8:11-12.'Set' שׂוּם may also be significant in this frame - Song 6:12, 8:6.|
אֵיכָה תַּרְבִּיץ בַּצָּהֳרָיִם
שַׁלָּמָה אֶהְיֶה כְּעֹטְיָה
עַל עֶדְרֵי חֲבֵרֶיךָ
|Make clear to me|
you that are the love of my being
O where will you graze?
O where will you pasture at noon?
for why I become as one herself enwrapped
by the herds of your companions?
|Here and in the next verse are two additional similarities to John's gospel. Teacher, where do you live? (John 1:38)|
חָבֵר fellow (this frame word occurs twice - once here and one at the end Song 8:13.)
I look for repeated words and sounds to see if they play a framing or a thematic role in the text.
אִם לֹא תֵדְעִי לָךְ
צְאִי לָךְ בְּעִקְבֵי הַצֹּאן
וּרְעִי אֶת גְּדִיֹּתַיִךְ
עַל מִשְׁכְּנוֹת הָרֹעִים
|If you do not know for yourself|
O most beautiful among the women
go for yourself in the footsteps of the flock
and graze your kids
by the shepherds' tents
|Come and see. I think there is no possible way of seeing for yourself than doing this one commandment. Is it fair of me to translate לָךְ as for yourself? I hate to leave both of them out as the KJV does. There is an argument for ה in a vocative role here. At least vocative is the easiest way to express the definite in this verse.|
|ט||לְסֻסָתִי בְּרִכְבֵי פַרְעֹה|
|To my mare in the chariots of Pharaoh|
I have compared you, my companion
|Is it one mare or my singular mare? |
רעיה companion (occurs 9 times) - it may indeed be a term of endearment but I cannot lose the distinction with דּוֹדִי a term used to pathetic effect by Dickens in his David Copperfield. It is curious how often רע occurs in several words here (graze, shepherd, Pharaoh, companion, green, and rouse/arouse, awaken, disturb). Maybe some day we can study pairs of letters.
|י||נָאווּ לְחָיַיִךְ בַּתֹּרִים|
|how lovely your cheeks in the circlets|
your neck with strings of beads
|Here we have the first of many epithets of praise on both sides. They will morph into long descriptions of the endearments each finds in the other. There's a technical term for these but I forget it.|
תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ
עִם נְקֻדּוֹת הַכָּסֶף
|circlets of gold we will make for you|
with drops of the silver
עַד שֶׁהַמֶּלֶךְ בִּמְסִבּוֹ
נִרְדִּי נָתַן רֵיחוֹ
|While the king is on his couch|
my spikenard gives its fragrance.
|In these verses there are several definitives that are often not translated. I hate to leave things out that the poet has put in. I think there is talk of things that are definite from outside the context of the poem What would be an equivalent in English? I chose 'that' as if there is a shared memory - but then when I did the music, I changed my mind.|
|יג||צְרוֹר הַמֹּר דּוֹדִי לִי|
בֵּין שָׁדַי יָלִין
|A pouch of the myrrh is my beloved to me|
between my breasts he will spend the night.
|יד||אֶשְׁכֹּל הַכֹּפֶר דּוֹדִי לִי|
בְּכַרְמֵי עֵין גֶּדִי ס
|A cluster of camphire is my beloved to me|
in the vineyards of my goat's eye
|Well perhaps it is the place Engedi -but it might be a joke (Camphire here and in Song 4:14 only - each to the other)|
הִנָּךְ יָפָה רַעְיָתִי
|Look at you, beautiful, my companion|
look at you, beautiful
your eyes are doves
|Note the repetition of hinak and yapah|
הִנְּךָ יָפֶה דוֹדִי
אַף עַרְשֵׂנוּ רַעֲנָנָה
|Look at you, beautiful, my love|
indeed our bed is green
|those letters are here reversed also! It may be insignificant.|
קֹרוֹת בָּתֵּינוּ אֲרָזִים רַהִיטֵנוּ בְּרוֹתִים
|the beams of our house are cedar|
our fretted ceilings are fir
אֲנִי חֲבַצֶּלֶת הַשָּׁרוֹן
|I am the crocus of the plain|
the lily of the valleys
כְּשׁוֹשַׁנָּה בֵּין הַחוֹחִים
כֵּן רַעְיָתִי בֵּין הַבָּנוֹת
|As a lily among the thorns|
so is my companion among the daughters
|Are you happy being compared to a definite set of thorns|
כְּתַפּוּחַ בַּעֲצֵי הַיַּעַר
כֵּן דּוֹדִי בֵּין הַבָּנִים
בְּצִלּוֹ חִמַּדְתִּי וְיָשַׁבְתִּי
וּפִרְיוֹ מָתוֹק לְחִכִּי
|As an apricot tree among the trees of the wood|
so is my beloved among the sons
in his shadow I delighted and I sat
and his fruit was sweet to my taste
|There are so many songs from these verses and those to come - here I remember Bairstow, I sat down.|
הֱבִיאַנִי אֶל בֵּית הַיָּיִן
וְדִגְלוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה
|He brought me to the wine house,|
and his banner over me was love
|There is a children's song on this verse.|
כִּי חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה אָנִי
|Support me with raisins,|
spread me out with apricots,
for sick with love am I
|The two dots are a placeholder and signify that I have nothing more to say here for the moment.|
שְׂמֹאלוֹ תַּחַת לְרֹאשִׁי
|His left hand is under my head,|
and his right hand embraces me.
|A frame with Song 8:3|
וְאִם תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת הָאַהֲבָה
עַד שֶׁתֶּחְפָּץ ס
|I charge You,|
O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the hosts of roe
or by the goodly hart of the field,
if you arouse
or if you rouse this love
till it please
|The play on words in the Hebrew I have rendered in the English: the Lord of hosts is present in the text in the names of the animals. This refrain occurs 4 times. It seems that the song divides thus in five parts. Of course you can take this as a negative admonition but it contains no negative.|
The Samech is for Selah about which no one quite knows either.
This series on the Song I | 2:4 II 3:5 | III | 5:10 IV 8:4 V