THE SONG OF SONGS: THREE-PART INTERPRETATION

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Speaker Passage Action
The Narrator [1:1] The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s. This song by Solomon himself describes the events leading to his repentance of his idolatry and fornication.
Solomon [2] O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!

For your love is better than wine,

[3] your anointing oils are fragrant,

your name is oil poured out;

therefore the maidens love you.

[4] Draw me after you, let us make haste.

The Shulammite is in Solomon’s palace. He seeks to persuade her to give in to his advances.
The Shulammite The king has brought me into his chambers.
The Harem We will exult and rejoice in you;

we will extol your love more than wine;

The Harem seek to persuade the Shulammite to join them.
Solomon rightly do they love you.
The Shulammite [5] I am very dark, but comely,

O daughters of Jerusalem,

like the tents of Kedar,

like the curtains of Solomon.

[6] Do not gaze at me because I am swarthy,

because the sun has scorched me.

My mother’s sons were angry with me,

they made me keeper of the vineyards;

but, my own vineyard I have not kept!

The Shulammite explains her tanned appearance to the Harem. She offended her brothers they punished her by making her labour outdoors in the vineyards. There Solomon saw her and took her away to his palace imperilling her virginity.
[7] Tell me, you whom my soul loves,

where you pasture your flock,

where you make it lie down at noon;

for why should I be like one who wanders

beside the flocks of your companions?

The Shulammite addresses her true love the shepherd who is far away pasturing His flock.
The Narrator [8] If you do not know,

O fairest among women,

follow in the tracks of the flock,

and pasture your kids

beside the shepherds’ tents.

The Narrator replies to the Shulammite.
Solomon [9] I compare you, my love,

to a mare of Pharaoh’s chariots.

[10] Your cheeks are comely with ornaments,

your neck with strings of jewels.

Solomon resumes his effort to pursued her.
The Harem We will make you ornaments of gold,

studded with silver.

The Harem join in again.
The Shulammite [12] While the king was on his couch,

my nard gave forth its fragrance.

[13] My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh,

that lies between my breasts.

[14] My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms

in the vineyards of Enge’di.

The Shulammite thinks of the Shepherd.
The Shepherd [15] Behold, you are beautiful, my love;

behold, you are beautiful;

your eyes are doves.

The Shulammite [16] Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved,

truly lovely.

 

The Shepherd and The Shulammite Our couch is green;

[17] the beams of our house are cedar,

our rafters are pine.

Duet
The Shulammite [2:1] I am a rose of Sharon,

a lily of the valleys.

The Shepherd [2] As a lily among brambles,

so is my love among maidens.

The Shulammite [3] As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,

so is my beloved among young men.

With great delight I sat in his shadow,

and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

[4] He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his banner over me was love.

[5] Sustain me with raisins,

refresh me with apples;

for I am sick with love.

[6] O that his left hand were under my head,

and that his right hand embraced me!

The Shulammite reminisces about her and the Shepherd’s courtship
  [7] 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 it please.

The Shulammite addresses the Harem trying to persuade them not to pressure her into succumbing to Solomon’s advances pleading that love must be spontaneous and free.
  [8] The voice of my beloved!

Behold, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

[9] 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.

[10] My beloved speaks and says to me:

The Shulammite hears the Shepherd who has come to the city to find His love.
The Shepherd “Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

[11] for lo, the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

[12] The flowers appear on the earth,

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

[13] 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 away.

[14] 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.

The Shepherd announces that winter is over so He has returned from pasturing His flocks far away and would that his love join Him.
The Shulammite [15] Catch us the foxes,

the little foxes,

that spoil the vineyards,

for our vineyards are in blossom.”

[16] My beloved is mine and I am his,

he pastures his flock among the lilies.

[17] Until the day breathes

and the shadows flee,

turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle,

or a young stag upon rugged mountains.

Under the figure of a vineyard threatened with foxes the Shulammite tells Him of the threat to her virginity posed by Solomon and his Harem and pleads of the Shepherd that He rescue her.
  [3:1] 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.

[2] “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.

[3] The watchmen found me,

as they went about in the city.

“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”

Time has passed. The Shulammite awakens in the city and is unsure if she heard the Shepherd in a dream. She leaves the palace in search of Him. She asks the city guards.
  [4] 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 me.

The Shulammite finds the Shepherd and takes Him to her mother’s house in the city to avoid detection.
  [5] 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 it please.

The Shulammite reprises her address to the Harem trying to persuade them not to pressure her into succumbing to Solomon’s advances pleading that love must be spontaneous and free.
[6] What is that coming up from the wilderness,

like a column of smoke,

perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,

with all the fragrant powders of the merchant?

[7] Behold, it is the litter of Solomon!

About it are sixty mighty men

of the mighty men of Israel,

[8] all girt with swords

and expert in war,

each with his sword at his thigh,

against alarms by night.

The Shulammite sees Solomon returning to his palace and the city from her mother’s house.
The Shepherd [4:1] Behold, you are beautiful, my love,

behold, you are beautiful!

Your eyes are doves

behind your veil.

Your hair is like a flock of goats,

moving down the slopes of Gilead.

[2] Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes

that have come up from the washing,

all of which bear twins,

and not one among them is bereaved.

[3] Your lips are like a scarlet thread,

and your mouth is lovely.

Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate

behind your veil.

[4] Your neck is like the tower of David,

built for an arsenal,

whereon hang a thousand bucklers,

all of them shields of warriors.

[5] Your two breasts are like two fawns,

twins of a gazelle,

that feed among the lilies.

[6] Until the day breathes

and the shadows flee,

I will hie me to the mountain of myrrh

and the hill of frankincense.

[7] You are all fair, my love;

there is no flaw in you.

[8] Come with me from Lebanon, my bride;

come with me from Lebanon.

Depart from the peak of Ama’na,

from the peak of Senir and Hermon,

from the dens of lions,

from the mountains of leopards.

[9] You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,

you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,

with one jewel of your necklace.

[10] How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!

how much better is your love than wine,

and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!

[11] Your lips distil nectar, my bride;

honey and milk are under your tongue;

the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon.

The Shepherd turns to His bride, praises her and bids her come away with Him. He will leave the city before sunrise.
  [12] A garden locked is my sister, my bride,

a garden locked, a fountain sealed.

[13] Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates

with all choicest fruits,

henna with nard,

[14] nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,

with all trees of frankincense,

myrrh and aloes,

with all chief spices —

[15] a garden fountain, a well of living water,

and flowing streams from Lebanon.

The Shepherd praises the fidelity and virginity of the Shulammite.
The Shulammite [16] Awake, O north wind,

and come, O south wind!

Blow upon my garden,

let its fragrance be wafted abroad.

Let my beloved come to his garden,

and eat its choicest fruits.

The Shulammite appeals to the Shepherd to rescue her and marry her.
The Shepherd [5:1] I come to my garden, my sister, my bride,

I gather my myrrh with my spice,

I eat my honeycomb with my honey,

I drink my wine with my milk.

 

The Shepherd tells the Shulammite that he is on His way to rescue her and has somehow already done so.
Eat, O friends, and drink:

drink deeply, O lovers!

The Shepherd addresses the listeners and exhorts them to be faithful to true love.
The Shulammite [2] I slept, but my heart was awake.

Hark! my beloved is knocking.

 

The Shulammite was dreaming after all but now she is awoken by the real sound of her beloved knocking at the door.
The Shepherd “Open to me, my sister, my love,

my dove, my perfect one;

for my head is wet with dew,

my locks with the drops of the night.”

The Shepherd calls to the Shulammite through the door.
The Shulammite [3] I had put off my garment,

how could I put it on?

I had bathed my feet,

how could I soil them?

[4] My beloved put his hand to the latch,

and my heart was thrilled within me.

[5] I arose to open to my beloved,

and my hands dripped with myrrh,

my fingers with liquid myrrh,

upon the handles of the bolt.

[6] I opened to my beloved,

but my beloved had turned and gone.

My soul failed me when he spoke.

I sought him, but found him not;

I called him, but he gave no answer.

[7] The watchmen found me,

as they went about in the city;

they beat me, they wounded me,

they took away my mantle,

those watchmen of the walls.

The Shulammite describes for the listeners how she hesitated and reached the door too late. When she encountered the guards in real life they beat her.
  [8] I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,

if you find my beloved,

that you tell him

I am sick with love.

 

The Shulammite addresses the Harem and admits the real reason for her reticence toward Solomon is that she loves another and begs them to help her.
The Harem [9] What is your beloved more than another beloved,

O fairest among women?

What is your beloved more than another beloved,

that you thus adjure us?

The Harem are incredulous that another man should be preferable to King Solomon and ask what He can be like.
The Shulammite [10] My beloved is all radiant and ruddy,

distinguished among ten thousand.

[11] His head is the finest gold;

his locks are wavy,

black as a raven.

[12] His eyes are like doves

beside springs of water,

bathed in milk,

fitly set.

[13] His cheeks are like beds of spices,

yielding fragrance.

His lips are lilies,

distilling liquid myrrh.

[14] His arms are rounded gold,

set with jewels.

His body is ivory work,

encrusted with sapphires.

[15] His legs are alabaster columns,

set upon bases of gold.

His appearance is like Lebanon,

choice as the cedars.

[16] His speech is most sweet,

and he is altogether desirable.

This is my beloved and this is my friend,

O daughters of Jerusalem.

The Shulammite describes the Shepherd to the Harem.
The Harem [6:1] Whither has your beloved gone,

O fairest among women?

Whither has your beloved turned,

that we may seek him with you?

The Harem seem to be impressed and offer to help.
The Shulammite [2] My beloved has gone down to his garden,

to the beds of spices,

to pasture his flock in the gardens,

and to gather lilies.

[3] I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;

he pastures his flock among the lilies.

The Shulammite explains where the Shepherd has gone and reaffirms her dedication to Him.
The Shepherd [4] You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love,

comely as Jerusalem,

terrible as an army with banners.

[5] Turn away your eyes from me,

for they disturb me —

Your hair is like a flock of goats,

moving down the slopes of Gilead.

[6] Your teeth are like a flock of ewes,

that have come up from the washing,

all of them bear twins,

not one among them is bereaved.

[7] Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate

behind your veil.

[8] There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,

and maidens without number.

[9] My dove, my perfect one, is only one,

the darling of her mother,

flawless to her that bore her.

Far away the Shepherd praises her.
The Narrator The maidens saw her and called her happy;

the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.

The Harem is convinced and marvel at the Shepherd and His promised bride.
The Harem [10] “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn,

fair as the moon, bright as the sun,

terrible as an army with banners?”

They praise the Shulammite for her fidelity, purity, righteousness and fortitude.
The Shulammite [11] I went down to the nut orchard,

to look at the blossoms of the valley,

to see whether the vines had budded,

whether the pomegranates were in bloom.

[12] Before I was aware, my fancy set me

in a chariot beside my prince.

In the gardens of the city the Shulammite dreams of rescue by the Shepherd imagining Him as powerful as Solomon.
The Harem [13] Return, return, O Shu’lammite,

return, return, that we may look upon you.

Why should you look upon the Shu’lammite,

as upon a dance before two armies?

The Harem too anticipate the escape of the Shulammite and war between Solomon and the Shepherd and lament that they will see her again only on the opposing side.
Solomon [7:1] How graceful are your feet in sandals,

O queenly maiden!

Your rounded thighs are like jewels,

the work of a master hand.

[2] Your navel is a rounded bowl

that never lacks mixed wine.

Your belly is a heap of wheat,

encircled with lilies.

[3] Your two breasts are like two fawns,

twins of a gazelle.

[4] Your neck is like an ivory tower.

Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,

by the gate of Bath-rab’bim.

Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,

overlooking Damascus.

[5] Your head crowns you like Carmel,

and your flowing locks are like purple;

a king is held captive in the tresses.

[6] How fair and pleasant you are,

O loved one, delectable maiden!

[7] You are stately as a palm tree,

and your breasts are like its clusters.

[8] I say I will climb the palm tree

and lay hold of its branches.

Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,

and the scent of your breath like apples,

[9] and your kisses like the best wine

that goes down smoothly,

gliding over lips and teeth.

Solomon has returned. His appeals to the Shulammite grow more impassioned and threatening.
The Shulammite [10] I am my beloved’s,

and his desire is for me.

[11] Come, my beloved,

let us go forth into the fields,

and lodge in the villages;

[12] let us go out early to the vineyards,

and see whether the vines have budded,

whether the grape blossoms have opened

and the pomegranates are in bloom.

There I will give you my love.

[13] The mandrakes give forth fragrance,

and over our doors are all choice fruits,

new as well as old,

which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.

The Shulammite affirms her fidelity to the Shepherd and appeals to Him to rescue her and marry her.
  [8:1] O that you were like a brother to me,

that nursed at my mother’s breast!

If I met you outside, I would kiss you,

and none would despise me.

[2] I would lead you and bring you

into the house of my mother,

and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

I would give you spiced wine to drink,

the juice of my pomegranates.

[3] O that his left hand were under my head,

and that his right hand embraced me!

 

The Shulammite wishes the Shepherd were mistaken for her brother so that she could meet Him without detection and take Him to her mother’s house as she did in her dream.
  [4] I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,

that you stir not up nor awaken love

until it please.

She appeals one last time to the Harem not to force her to give in to Solomon.
The Harem [5] Who is that coming up from the wilderness,

leaning upon her beloved?

The Harem look down from the city and see that the Shulammite has escaped and approaches in confidence upon the Shepherd’s arm.
The Shepherd Under the apple tree I awakened you.

There your mother was in travail with you,

there she who bore you was in travail.

[6] Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm;

for love is strong as death,

jealousy is cruel as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

a most vehement flame.

[7] Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If a man offered for love

all the wealth of his house,

it would be utterly scorned.

The Shepherd recounts to the Shulammite how He did indeed come to the garden of her mother’s house and rescued her. He explains why Solomon could never have prevailed.
The Brothers [8] We have a little sister,

and she has no breasts.

What shall we do for our sister,

on the day when she is spoken for?

[9] If she is a wall,

we will build upon her a battlement of silver;

but if she is a door,

we will enclose her with boards of cedar.

The Shulammite’s brothers explain why they refused to allow their sister to marry the Shepherd. She was too young they needed to defend her virginity.

The Shulammite [10] I was a wall,

and my breasts were like towers;

then I was in his eyes

as one who brings peace.

 

The Shulammite replies proudly that she was not too young and she defended her own virginity very well against King Solomon. She was the true bringer of peace and not him.
  [11] Solomon had a vineyard at Ba’al-ha’mon;

he let out the vineyard to keepers;

each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver.

 

Solomon saw her when visiting his own vineyards let out for cash (a metaphor for the temporal goods by which he obtains the merely carnal affection of his Harem).
  [12] My vineyard, my very own, is for myself;

you, O Solomon, may have the thousand,

and the keepers of the fruit two hundred.

The Shulammite will marry who she choses for love Solomon and the families of the women surrendered their sisters to him have had their reward.
  [13] O you who dwell in the gardens,

my companions are listening for your voice;

let me hear it.

[14] Make haste, my beloved,

and be like a gazelle

or a young stag

upon the mountains of spices.

The Shulammite appeals to the Shepherd to rescue the other women imprisoned in the Harem.

 

 

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