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Solomon’s Song of Songs Chapter 1 Notes

Posted by lehunt on June 9, 2015

Song of Solomon Vineyards // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Chapter 1

v. 4: “The Daughters of Jerusalem” may or may not be the speakers here (see Introduction), but they certainly do exist in the song.[5] The NKJ translation seems to treat them as a kind of chorus (as in a Greek play) that have a collective personality which is positive and helpful.[6]

v. 6: The Shulamite girl with whom Solomon is in love seems to have been a kind of Cinderella.  Instead of cruel stepsisters, the Shulamite had bullying brothers who were angry with her and made her keep their vineyards without giving her time to look after her own interests.[7] Also, her constant hard work gave her a rough appearance.  Just as Cinderella was dressed in rags and covered in ashes, so this girl has been tanned by her long exposure to the sun.  This darkness is not a mark of beauty.  Notice that she seems a little insecure about it, saying things like “I am dark but[8] lovely” (v.5) and “Do not look upon me, because I am dark.”

v. 7: We are not given much in the way of a detailed narrative here, but I imagine this conversation (7-10) taking place under the following circumstances.  While passing through the Shulamite’s native land, Solomon learns of her and is interested in courting her.  Disguising himself as a shepherd, the king approaches this girl among her flocks and wins her heart.  Then, when she asks where his flocks are (so she will not waste time searching fruitlessly for them in her attempt to rendezvous with him later), he directs her…

a) to his royal pavilions, which he has set up out of sight.  Perhaps they are near where the shepherds’ tents are typically set, or perhaps “beside the shepherds’ tents” is an example of litotes and refers to his royal pavilions.

Or

b) to a place she knows in the countryside where they can have a romantic tryst.[9] That, I assume, is her purpose in asking where he rests his flocks at noon.  If they are resting, then he need not watch them so closely and can attend to her.

v. 13: The whole poem is filled with vivid, exotic, and sensuous imagery.  Some of it (this verse for instance) is overtly erotic, and I suspect that there are many more erotic images in it than are obvious to me.  See note on 7:2.


[1] Nevertheless, the poem does have short narrative elements which are linear. See, for instance, 3:1-4.

[2] Gordis, for instance, entitles 3:1-5 as “The Dream of the Lost Lover,” (55) but Ronald E. Murphy, addressing the same passage, writes, “whether this is a dream or not remains open” (146).

[3] Gordis notes that the words for “apes” and “peacocks” in I Kings 10:22 are derived from Sanskrit, which suggests that “India was the point of origin of these luxuries” (22).

[4] See notes on Genesis 2:18.

[5] See 2:7, 3:5, and 5:8.

[6] See 1:11 and 5:8-6:1.

[7] Thus, she says, “But my own vineyard I have not kept.”  The vineyard is used as a metaphor for the girl’s body throughout the poem, and it may be so here.  If so, the quotation may be paraphrased as “I have not been able to care for my body as I would have liked,” which could allude to things like her dark, sunburned skin.

[8] Emphasis mine.

[9] Vs. 16 and 17 describe a moment of intimacy that takes place outdoors.

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