2118 L Tue 13 Nov 2001
A day at home studying today, with two exams tomorrow.
A few days ago I did an assignment for biblical studies. It
is "notes" rather than an "essay". Here is
the start and commentary section, which may make more sense than
BS317 Tutorial notes of 1500 words, due 14 Nov 2001, by John
Exegesis of Song of Songs 2:8 - 3:5, based on tutorial by
The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle, or a young stag. Behold, there
he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking
through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my fair
one, and come away;
for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice
is sweet, and your face is comely.
Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom."
My beloved is mine and I am his, he pastures his flock among
Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved,
be like a gazelle, or a young stag upon rugged mountains.
Upon my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought
him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.
"I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and
in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves." I sought
him, but found him not.
The watchmen found me, as they went about in the city. "Have
you seen him whom my soul loves?"
Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him
into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the
hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until
'my beloved...' Keel 64-5
Term originally meant uncle, then came to mean cousin, who
was a common marriage partner. Naturally came to designate the
lover or the beloved.
'leaping...' Pope 389
Verb dlg also used in Isa 35:6, 2 Sam 22:30, Ps 18:30,
'bounding...' Pope 389
Usual meaning of qps is "draw together",
"shut". Meaning "jump" is not used elsewhere
in the Bible, but is attested in Aramaic.
'mountains ... hills' Pope 389
Standard poetic parralels both in the Bible and in Ugaritic.
'gazelle ... young stag...'
Murphy 139 same word for "gazelle" and "beauty".
Pope 390-391. "non-homologous homophones" in Hebrew.
Stag chosen, since clearly the animal, using parallelism.
Murphy 139 Hebrew word for "peering" usually means
"blossom" but from context and parallelism the ancient
versions understood it as "look".
Pope 391 Indicates "to stare, look intently". Peering
verb sws a hapax legomenon.
Murphy 139 word for "lattices" a hapax legomenon
Pope 391-392 Plural - seems more likely to be indetermination,
rather than "runs from window to window".
'my beloved speaks...' Pope 393 NRSV has "My beloved
speaks and says...". Pope notes: "some critics suppress
it, on metrical or other dubious grounds". The two verbs
are frequently coordinated in Job and Daniel.
'Arise and come ...'
Murphy 139 Repeated as an inclusio at end of verse 13b.
Keel 100 The Hebrew words often used together and always
mean "arise and go" (eg. 2 Sam 13:15, 1 Kgs 14:12,
2 Kgs 8:1, Mic 2:10). Translation "come" is not from
Hebrew, but from context. The Hebrew suggests the urgency of
Pope 393-4 Vulgate and some manuscripts of LXX add hasten.
Some see as "raise herself from her stupor" others
as "joyous appeal".
'winter .. the rains...'
Keel 100 Merely states a favorable time to go. Winter has flooding
rains, over by the end of April.
Pope 394 Word for "winter" setaw a hapax
legomenon in the Bible, but occurs elsewhere. Word gesem
always designates heavy rain.
'on the earth...'
Keel 101 "obviously means the open country in contrast
to the houses of the walled city (cf. Lev. 25:23-31)."
Pope 396-7 Repetition in 12a and 12d seems unnecessary and
"it seems best to eliminate it" in 12d.
Keel 101The Hebrew word for "flowers" includes
flowery meadows, blossoming of bushes and trees, especially the
Pope 395 Translates as "blossoms". "The spring
flowers of Palestine are a striking spectacle".
Murphy 139 NRSV translates 12b as "the time of singing
has come". Murphy translates as "the time for pruning
has arrived". He writes that the word is a hapax and the
commentators vary between the two.
Keel 101 Has to mean singing, since vines pruned between
January and March (too early for other phenoma), grapes harvested
August/September (too late for other phenoma).
Pope 395 Difficult to decide. Most moderns favour singing,
since pruning supposedly comes too late in the year. Meek inclined
to singing, noting this same word in Akkadian appears in the
title of Tammuz ritual songs.
Keel 101 A migratory bird that shows up in Israel about the
middle of April.
Pope 396 Mentioned in Jer 8:7 with other migratory birds
that know and keep their proper times. There cooing is a sure
sign of spring.
Murphy 139 A hapax, but occurs in Aramaic and Arabic, and
designates the first, unripe fruit.
Pope 397-8 Budding of the fig tree a sure sign of spring
and harbinger of summer, as in Mark 13:28.
'vines' Keel 101 May indicate the place where the young
woman is supposed to go, because its mention closes the section
of the man's speech that seeks to motivate her movement. According
to "traditional Jewish literature fo the first centuries
A.D." young women went to vineyards on 15th of Ab and on
Yom Kippur (August and October). From Mishnah would "dance
in the vineyards". Judges 21:19-21 refers to yearly festival
at Shiloh. The Benjamites are instructed: "Go and lie in
wait in the vineyards and watch; when the young women of Shiloh
come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards
and each of you carry off a wife for himself...". (NRSV).
No date is given for this. Song 2:10-13 and 7:11-13 suggest a
festival at the end of April, begging of May.
'in blossom...' Pope 398-9 The term semadar
is used here as attributive accusative, "the vines (being)
Keel 69, 103-6 Dove associated with goddess of love in ANE.
'let me see...' Keel 106 Reminiscent of request of
Moses (Exod 33:18).
'sweet... comely...' Keel 107 The voice is just as
infatuating as the face is ravishing. The usual translations
"pleasent" , "lovely", etc. fail to do justice
to the intensity that livens this song.
Keel 108-10, Changes to a group addressing a group. The women,
since the vineyards are in bloom, need to have the foxes caught.
Keel 108-110. Foxes must be caught, since destroying the
vineyard, but hunt not taken too seriously.
Keel 110 Can scarely mean anything other than women. Fits
well in the context of the vineyard festival discussed.
Keel 8 Origen (185-253) saw as profane poetry, wedding
song. In this literal way it was mere superficial babble. He
advocated a typological meaning, that it was actually a model
for a higher reality. However he warned that it be read only
by those deaf to the entices of physical love and approved of
the Jewish regulation that only allowed mature (over age 30)
people read it.
Keel highlights the delicate balance required for a theological
"It goes without saying that both synagogue and church have
had trouble with the Song and with Ecclesiastes. Both little
books contain a measure of anarchy. When our hearts condemn us
for doing wrong (and rightly so, according to church and synagogue),
these books give us a glimpse of a God who is greater than our
hearts and who knows everything ...".
Murphy in NJBC (463) "Israel resisted the divinization
of sexuality of the ancient Near East. ... Human sexual love
was seen as intrinsically good; it could even be a symbol of
Presents us with a biblical model of intimacy - mutuality, fidelity,
sensuousness, devotion. It is widely held that it was preserved
and transmitted by sages of Israel who recognized it as a song
expression of the values of human love. Christianity can be grateful
for this, particularly in the light of early gnostic doctrines.
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 13 November 2001.