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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Song of Solomon (Canticles) Chapter 1

Song of Solomon (Canticles) 1:1

sol 1:1

The "Song of songs," i. e., the best or most excellent of songs.

Which is Solomon's - literally, "to" or "for Solomon," i. e., belonging to Solomon as its author or concerning him as its subject. In a title or inscription, the former interpretation is to be preferred.

Song of Solomon (Canticles) 1:2

sol 1:2

the prologue. - The Song commences with two stanzas in praise of the king (now absent) by a chorus of virgins belonging to the royal household. Expositors, Jewish and Christian, interpret the whole as spoken by the Church of the heavenly Bridegroom.

Sol 1:2

Let him kiss me - Christian expositors have regarded this as a prayer of the Church under the old covenant for closer communion with the Godhead through the Incarnation. Thus, Gregory: "Every precept of Christ received by the Church is as one of His kisses."

Thy love - Better as margin, i. e., thy endearments or tokens of affection are more desired than any other delights.

Sol 1:3

Because ... - Better, For fragrance are thine ointments good, making with the clause that follows two steps of a climax: "thy perfumes are good, thy name the best of all perfumes." "Ointments" here are unguents or fragrant oils largely used for anointing at entertainments (compare Psa 23:5; Luk 7:46; Joh 12:3).

Thy name ... poured forth - As unguents are the sweeter for diffusion, so the king's name the wider it is known.

Sol 1:4

The king hath brought me - Made me a member of his household. This is true of every member of the chorus as well as of the bride.

The upright love thee - Better as in the margin: uprightly do they (i. e., "the virgins" of Sol 1:3) love thee. Compare the use of the same word in Psa 58:1; Pro 23:31.

Song of Solomon (Canticles) 1:5

sol 1:5

This section is made by the Targumist and other Jewish interpreters to adumbrate the condition of Israel in the wilderness; by some Christian expositors, that of the Gentile Church on her first conversion.

Sol 1:5

I am black ... - Dark-hued, as the tents of Kedar with their black goats' hair coverings, rough and weather-stained, "but comely (beautiful) as the rich hangings which adorn the pavilion of Solomon. Kedar was the name of an Arab tribe Gen 25:13; Psa 120:5. The word itself signifies "dark" or "black." Possibly "tents of Kedar" stand here poetically for shepherds' tents in general Isa 60:7.

Sol 1:6

Look not upon me - In wonder or scorn at my swarthy hue. It was acquired in enforced but honest toil: the sun hath scanned me (or "glared upon me") with his burning eye. The second word rendered "looked" is a word twice found in Job Job 20:9; Job 28:7, and indicates in the latter place the piercing glance of a bird of prey.

My mother's children, - Or, sons; a more affectionate designation than "brothers," and implying the most intimate relationship.

Angry - This anger was perhaps but a form of jealous care for their sister's safety (compare Sol 8:12). By engaging her in rustic labors they preserved her from idleness and temptation, albeit with a temporary loss of outward comeliness.

Mine own vineyard - A figurative expression for herself or her beauty.

Sol 1:7

whom my soul loveth - A phrase recurring several times. It expresses great intensity of affection.

Feedest - i. e., "Pursuest thy occupation as a shepherd;" so she speaks figuratively of the Son of David. Compare Sol 2:16; Sol 6:3; Psa 23:1.

Rest - Or, lie down; a term properly used of the couching of four-footed animals: "thy flock" is here therefore easily understood. Compare Eze 34:14-15; Psa 23:2; Jer 50:6.

As one that turneth aside - Or, goeth astray like an outcast.

Sol 1:8

The chorus, and not the king, are the speakers here. Their meaning seems to be: If thy beloved be indeed a shepherd, then seek him yonder among other shepherds, but if a king, thou wilt find him here in his royal dwelling.

Song of Solomon (Canticles) 1:9

sol 1:9

This and the next Cant. 1:15-2:7 sections are regarded by ancient commentators (Jewish and Christian) as expressing "the love of espousals" Jer 2:2 between the Holy One and His Church, first in the wilderness of the Exodus, and then in the wilderness of the world Eze 20:35-36.

Sol 1:9

Or, to a mare of mine in the chariots of Pharaoh I liken thee, O my friend. (The last word is the feminine form of that rendered "friend" at Sol 5:16.) The comparison of the bride to a beautiful horse is singularly like one in Theocritus, and some have conjectured that the Greek poet, having read at Alexandria the Septuagint Version of the Song, may have borrowed these thoughts from it. If so, we have here the first instance of an influence of sacred on profane literature. The simile is especially appropriate on the lips, or from the pen, of Solomon, who first brought horses and chariots from Egypt Kg1 10:28-29. As applied to the bride it expresses the stately and imposing character of her beauty.

Sol 1:10, Sol 1:11

Rows ... borders - The same Hebrew word in both places; ornaments forming part of the bride's head-dress, probably strings of beads or other ornaments descending on the cheeks. The introduction of "jewels" and "gold" in Sol 1:10 injures the sense and destroys the climax of Sol 1:11, which was spoken by a chorus (hence "we," not "I," as when the king speaks, Sol 1:9). They promise the bride ornaments more worthy and becoming than the rustic attire in which she has already such charms for the king: "Ornaments of gold will we make for thee with studs (or 'points') of silver." The "studs" are little silver ornaments which it is proposed to affix to the golden (compare Pro 25:12), or substitute for the strung beads of the bride's necklace.

Sol 1:12-14

The bride's reply Sol 1:12 may mean, "While the king reclines at the banquet I anoint him with my costliest perfume, but he has for me a yet sweeter fragrance" Sol 1:13-14. According to Origen's interpretation, the bride represents herself as anointing the king, like Mary Joh 12:3, with her most precious unguents.

Spikenard - An unguent of great esteem in the ancient world, retaining its Indian name in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. It is obtained from an Indian plant now called "jatamansi."

Sol 1:13

Render: A bag of myrrh is my beloved to me, which lodgeth in my bosom.

Sol 1:14

Camphire - Rather, כפר kôpher," from which "cyprus" is probably derived (in the margin misspelled "cypress "),the name by which the plant called by the Arabs "henna" was known to the Greeks and Romans. It is still much esteemed throughout the East for the fragrance of its flowers and the dye extracted from its leaves. Engedi was famous for its vines, and the henna may have been cultivated with the vines in the same enclosures.

Next: Song of Solomon (Canticles) Chapter 2