The bridegroom calls on his spouse to admit him, 1-3. She hesitates; but arising finds him gone, seeks him, and is treated unworthily by the city watch, 4-7. Inquires of the daughters of Jerusalem, who question her concerning her beloved, 8, 9. This gives her occasion to enter into a fine description of his person and accomplishments, 10-16.
NOTES ON CHAP. V
Verse 1. I am come into my garden - ytab bathi, I came, or have come; this should be translated in the past tense, as the other preterite verbs in this clause. I think the latter clause of the preceding verse should come in here: "Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits. I have come into my garden, my sister, callah, or spouse; I have gathered my myrrh," &c. I have taken thee for my spouse, and am perfectly satisfied that thou art pure and immaculate.
Eat, O friends-drink abundantly - These are generally supposed to be the words of the bridegroom, after he returned from the nuptial chamber, and exhibited those signs of his wife's purity which the customs of those times required. This being a cause of universal joy, the entertainment is served up; and he invites his companions, and the friends of both parties, to eat and drink abundantly, as there was such a universal cause of rejoicing. Others think that these are the words of the bride to her spouse: but the original will not bear this meaning; the verbs are all plural.
Verse 2. I sleep, but my heart waketh - This is a new part; and some suppose that the fifthday's solemnity begins here. Though I sleep, yet so impressed is may heart with the excellences of my beloved, that my imagination presents him to me in the most pleasing dreams throughout the night. I doubt whether the whole, from this verse to the end of the seventh, be not a dream: several parts of it bear this resemblance; and I confess there are some parts of it, such as her hesitating to rise, his sudden disappearance, &c., which would be of easier solution on this supposition.
Or part of the transactions mentioned might be the effects of the dream she had, as rising up suddenly, and going out into the street, meeting with the watchmen, &c., before she was well awake. And her being in so much disorder and dishabille might have induced them to treat her as a suspiciovs person, or one of questionable character. But it is most likely the whole was a dream.
For my head is filled with dew - She supposed he had come in the night, and was standing without, wet, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather.
Verse 3. I have pet off my coat - The bride must have been in a dream or in much disorder of mind to have made the frivolous excuses here mentioned. The words relate to the case of a person who had gone to take rest on his bed. As they wore nothing but sandals, they were obliged to wash their feet previously to their lying down. I have washed my feet, taken off my clothes, and am gone to bed: I cannot therefore be disturbed.
A Hindoo always washes his feet before he goes to bed. If called from his bed, he often makes this excuse, I shall daub my feet; and the excuse is reasonable, as the floors are of earth; and they do not wear shoes in the house. - WARD.
Verse 4. My beloved put in his hand - If it were a real scene, which is mentioned in this and the two following verses, it must refer, from the well-known use of the metaphors, to matrimonial endearments. Or, it may refer to his attempts to open the door, when she hesitated to arise, on the grounds mentioned ver. 3. But this also bears every evidence of a dream.
Washed with milk - The white of the eye, exceedingly white. By the use of stibium, in the East, the eye is rendered very beautiful; and receives such a lustre from the use of this article, that, to borrow the expression of a late traveler, "their eyes appear to be swimming in bliss." I believe this expression to be the meaning of the text.
Fitly set. - Or, as the margin, very properly, sitting in fullness; not sunk, not contracted.
Verse 13. His cheeks are as a bed of spices - Possibly meaning a bed in the garden, where odouriferous herbs grew. But it has been supposed to refer to his beard, which in a young well-made man is exceedingly beautiful. I have seen young Turks, who had taken much care of their beards, mustachios, &c., look majestic. Scarcely any thing serves to set off the human face to greater advantage than the beard, when kept in proper order. Females admire it in their suitors and husbands. I have known cases, where they not only despised but execrated Europeans, whose faces were close shaved. The men perfume their beards often; and this may be what is intended by spices and sweet-smelling myrrh.
His lips like lilies - The Mynvwv shoshannim may mean any flower of the lily kind, such as the rubens lilium, mentioned by Pliny, or something of the tulip kind. There are tints in such flowers that bear a very near resemblance to a fine ruby lip.
Verse 14. His hands-gold rings set with the beryl - This really seems to refer to gold rings set with precious stones on the fingers, and perhaps to circlets or bracelets about the wrists. Some suppose it to refer to the roundness and exquisite symmetry of the hand and fingers. vyvrt tarshish, which we translate beryl, a gem of a sea-green tint, had better be translated chrysolite, which is of a gold colour.
His belly-bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. - This must refer to some garment set with precious stones which went round his waist, and was peculiarly remarkable. If we take it literally, the sense is plain enough. His belly was beautifully white, and the blue veins appearing under the skin resembled the sapphire stone. But one can hardly think that this was intended.
His countenance is as Lebanon - As Lebanon exalts its head beyond all the other mountains near Jerusalem, so my beloved is tall and majestic, and surpasses in stature and majesty all other men. He is also as straight and as firm as the cedars.