Song of Solomon 1:4-6
New English Translation
The Maidens[g] to the Lover:
The Beloved to Her Lover:
The Country Maiden and the Daughters of Jerusalem
The Beloved to the Maidens:
5 I am dark but lovely, O maidens[m] of Jerusalem,
dark[n] like the tents of Qedar,[o]
lovely[p] like the tent curtains[q] of Salmah.[r]
6 Do not stare at me because[s] I am dark,
for[t] the sun has burned my skin.[u]
My brothers[v] were angry[w] with me;
they made me the keeper of the vineyards.
Alas, my own vineyard[x] I could not keep![y]
- Song of Solomon 1:4 sn The verb מָשַׁךְ (mashakh, “draw”) is a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) which draws an implied comparison between the physical acting of leading a person with the romantic action of leading a person in love. Elsewhere it is used figuratively of a master gently leading an animal with leather cords (Hos 11:4) and of a military victor leading his captives (Jer 31:3). The point of comparison might be that the woman wants to be the willing captive of the love of her beloved, that is, a willing prisoner of his love.
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn The three verbs in this line are a good example of heterosis of person, that is, a shift from second person masculine singular to first person common plural to third person masculine singular forms: מָשְׁכֵנִי (mashekheni, “draw me!”; Qal imperative second person masculine singular from מָשַׁךְ, mashakh, “to draw” plus first person common singular suffix:), נָּרוּצָה (narutsah, “let us run!”; Qal cohortative first person common plural from רוּץ, ruts, “to run”), and הֱבִיאַנִי (heviʾani, “he has brought me” or “bring me!”; Hiphil perfect third person masculine singular בּוֹא, boʾ, “to bring” plus first person common singular suffix). Heterosis from second to third person occurs elsewhere in the Song in 1:2-3; 4:2; 6:6 (e.g, Gen 49:4; Deut 32:15; Ps 23:2-5; Isa 1:29; 42:20; 54:1; Jer 22:24; Amos 4:1; Micah 7:19; Lam 3:1).
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn Or “O king, bring me into your chambers!” The article on the noun הַמֶּלֶךְ (hammelekh, “the king”) may be taken in two ways: (1) the particularizing use of the article: “The king” (e.g., NIV “The king has brought me into his chambers”) or (2) the vocative use of the article: “O king!” (NJPS margin: “O king, bring me into your chambers!”) (For the vocative use of the article, see GKC 405 §126.e; Joüon 2:506-7 §137.f; R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 19, §89; IBHS 247 §13.5.2c). The syntactical classification of the article is dependent upon: (1) Whether the MT reading of the third person masculine singular suffix on חֲדָרָיו (khadarayv, “his chambers”) is retained or whether the text is emended to the second person masculine singular suffix form חַדְרֶךָ (khadrekha, “your chamber”) as reflected in Syriac (see textual note below). (2) Whether הֱבִיאַנִי (heviʾani, Hiphil perfect third person masculine singular from בּוֹא, boʾ, “to bring” plus first person common singular suffix) is classified as a perfect of past action (“The king has brought me into his chambers”) or a precative perfect (“O king, bring me into your chambers!”) (see syntactical note below). (3) Whether the consonantal form הביאני should be vocalized as הֱבִיאַנִי (heviʾani, Hiphil perfect third person masculine singular plus first person common singular suffix) as preserved in MT or as הֲבִיאֵנִי (haviʾeni, Hiphil imperative second person masculine singular plus first person common singular suffix) as reflected in Symmachus and Syriac (see textual note below).
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn Or “has brought me.” The verb הֱבִיאַנִי (heviʾani, Hiphil perfect third person masculine singular בּוֹא, boʾ, “to bring” plus first person common singular suffix) may be classified in two ways: (1) perfect of past action: “The king has brought me into his chambers” or (2) precative perfect: “May the king bring me into his chambers!” (J. S. Deere, “Song of Solomon,” BKCOT, 1012). While some older grammarians denied the existence of the precative (volitional) function of the perfect in Hebrew (e.g., S. R. Driver, Tenses in Hebrew, 25-26; GKC 312-13 §106.n, n. 2), its existence is accepted in more recent grammars (e.g., IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d; Joüon 2:365 §112.k). While the perfect of past action is the more common use of the perfect, the context suggests the more rare precative. As IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d notes, the precative can be recognized contextually by its parallelism with the other volitive forms. The parallelism of precative הֱבִיאַנִי (“bring me!”) with the volitives in the two preceding parallel colons—מָשְׁכֵנִי (mashekheni, “draw me!”; Qal imperative second person masculine singular from משַׁךְ, mashakh, “to draw” plus first person common singular suffix:) and נָּרוּצָה (narutsah, “let us run!”; Qal cohortative first person common plural from רוּץ, ruts, “to run”)—favors the precative function of the perfect. The volitive function of consonantal הביאני is reflected in Syriac. The BHS editors suggest revocalizing MT to הֲבִיאֵנִי “bring me!” The precative function of the perfect הֱבִיאַנִי may explain the origin of this variant vocalization tradition reflected in Syriac. In terms of connotation, the precative functions as a volitive as an example of the irreal modal or optative function of the perfect (IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d; Joüon 2:365 §112.k). In contrast to the use of the irreal perfect for situations which the speaker expresses as a wish without expectation of fulfillment (contrary-to-fact situations, hypothetical assertions, and expressions of a wish that is not expected to be realized), the precative refers to situations the speaker expresses his desire for and expects to be realized (IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4d). It is used most often in contexts of prayers to God which the speakers expect to be answered (e.g., Pss 3:8; 22:22; 31:5-6). Here, she expresses her desire that her lover consummate their love in his bedroom chambers; she expects this desire to be realized one day (e.g., 4:1-5:1). There are, however, several problems with nuancing the form as a precative: (a) this would demand emending MT חֲדָרָיו (khadarayv, “his chambers”) to חַדְרֶךָ (khadrekha, “your chamber[s]”)—which is, however, reflected by Syriac Peshitta and Symmachus, and (b) it would demand nuancing the article on הַמֶּלֶךְ (hammelekh) as a vocative (“O king!”).
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tc The MT reads the third person masculine singular suffix on a plural noun חֲדָרָיו (khadarayv, “his chambers”). This is reflected in LXX, Targums, and Vulgate. However, the second person masculine singular suffix on a singular noun חַדְרֶךָ (khadrekha, “your chambers”) is reflected by Syriac Peshitta and Symmachus. See preceding note on the text-critical significance of these variant readings.
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn The term חֶדֶר (kheder, “chamber”) is used frequently in reference to a bedroom (Gen 43:30; Judg 15:1; 16:9; 2 Sam 13:10; 1 Kgs 1:15; Ps 105:30; Isa 26:20). It refers explicitly to a bedroom when used with the noun מִשְׁכָּב (mishkav, “bed”) in the expression חֶדֶר מִשְׁכָּב “bedroom chamber” Exod 7:28 HT [8:3 ET]; 2 Sam 4:7; 2 Kgs 6:12; Eccl 10:20). The plural form חֲדָרָיו (khadarayv, “his chambers”) functions as a plural of extension rather than a plural or number; it refers to one bedroom composed of several parts rather than referring to several different bedrooms. The expression “Bring me into your chambers” is a metonymy of cause for effect, that is, her desire for lovemaking in his bedroom chambers.
- Song of Solomon 1:4 sn Normally in the Song, the person/gender of the pronouns and suffixes makes the identity of the speaker or addressee clear. However, in several places grammatical ambiguity makes it difficult to identify either the speaker or the addressee (e.g., 6:11-13; 7:9b). This is particularly true when first person common plural or third person common plural verbs or suffixes are present (1:3 ; 2:15; 5:1b; 8:8-9), as is the case in the three lines of 1:3b[4b]. There are four views on the identity of the speaker(s): (1) NASB attributes all three lines to the maidens, (2) NIV attributes the first two lines to the friends and the third line to the Beloved (= woman), (3) NJPS attributes all three lines to the Beloved, speaking throughout 1:2-4, and (4) the first line could be attributed to the young man speaking to his beloved, and the last two lines attributed to the Beloved who returns praise to him. The subjects of the first person common plural cohortatives and the second singular suffixes have been taken as: (1) The maidens of Jerusalem, mentioned in 1:4  and possibly referred to as the third person common plural subject of אֲהֵבוּךָ (ʾahevukha, “they love you”) in 1:3b[4b], using the first person common plural cohortatives in reference to themselves as they address her lover: “We (= maidens) will rejoice in you (= the young man).” (2) The Beloved using first person common plural cohortatives in a hortatory sense as she addresses her lover: “Let us (= the couple) rejoice in you (= the young man), let us praise your lovemaking…” (3) The Beloved using the first person common plural cohortatives in reference to herself—there are examples in ancient Near Eastern love literature of the bride using first person common plural forms in reference to herself (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 92, 99)—as she addresses the young man: “We (= I) will rejoice in you (= the young man).” Note: This problem is compounded by the ambiguity of the gender on בָּךְ (bakh, “in you”) which appears to be second person feminine singular but may be second person masculine singular in pause (see note below).
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn Alternately, “Let us rejoice and delight in you.” There is debate whether the cohortatives נָגִילָה (nagilah, Qal cohortative first person common plural from גִּיל, gil, “to exult”), וְנִשְמְחָה (venishmekhah, Qal cohortative first person common plural from שָמַח, shamakh, “to rejoice”) and נַזְכִּירָה (nazkirah, Hiphil cohortative first person common plural from זָכַר, zakhar, “to praise”) should be classified as (1) cohortatives of resolve, expressing the resolution or determination of the speakers to adopt or accomplish a course of action: “We will rejoice…we will delight…we will praise” (e.g., KJV, NASB, NIV) or (2) hortatory cohortatives, exhorting others to join in doing something: “Let us rejoice…let us delight…let us praise” (e.g., NJPS).
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn A shift occurs in 1:4 from first person common singular forms to first person common plural forms: “Draw me (מָשְׁכֵנִי, mashekeni)…Let us run (נּרוּצָה, narutsah)…Bring me (הֱבִיאַנִי, heviʾani)…We will be glad (נָגִילָה, nagilah)…We will rejoice in you (וְנִשְׁמְחָה, venishmekhah)…We will remember (נַזְכִּירָה, nazkirah)…They love you (אֲהֵבוּךָ, ʾahevukha)….” Several translations and many commentators end the words of the Beloved at 1:4a and begin the words of the Friends in 1:4b and revert back to the words of the Beloved in 1:4c. The subject of the first person common plural forms may be the “young women” (עֲלָמוֹת) previously mentioned in 1:3. This is supported by the fact that in 1:3 the Beloved says, “The young women love you” (עֲלָמוֹת אֲהֵבוּךָ, ʿalamot ʾahevukha) and in 1:4c she again says, “Rightly do they [the young women] love you” (מֵישָׁרִים אֲהֵבוּךָ, mesharim ʾahevukha). On the other hand, in ANE love literature the bride often uses plural pronouns to refer to herself (S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite, 92, 99). Some commentators suggest that the young man is addressing his beloved because בָּךְ (bakh) appears to have a second person feminine singular suffix. However, the suffix on בָּךְ is in pause (after the accent) therefore, the normal second person masculine singular suffix בָּךָ has reduced to shewa. The parallelism with the second person masculine singular suffix on דֹדֶיךָ (dodekha, “your love”) supports the second person masculine singular classification.
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn Alternately, “remember.” The verb נַזְכִּירָה (nazkirah, Hiphil imperfect first person common plural from זָכַר, zakhar) is traditionally rendered “we will remember” (KJV), but is better nuanced “we will extol” (NASB) or “we will praise” (NIV). The verb זָכַר has a wide range of meanings: “to remember, call to mind” (Gen 8:1; Deut 24:9; Judg 8:34), “to name, mention” (Jer 20:9; 23:36; 31:20; Pss 63:7; 77:4), “to summon, command” (Nah 2:6), “to swear by” (Amos 6:10; 1 Chr 16:4), and “to praise, extol” (Exod 23:13; Josh 23:7; Pss 45:18 HT [45:17 ET]; 71:16; Isa 26:13; 48:1; 62:6). The Hiphil stem has four denotations, and “to remember” is not one of them: (1) “to take to court,” (2) “to mention,” (3) “to make known,” and (4) “to praise, profess” (HALOT 269-70 s.v. I זכר). NJPS offers a poetic nuance that plays upon the wine motif: “savoring it more than wine.”
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn Alternately, “The righteous love you.” Scholars debate whether מֵישָׁרִים (mesharim) should be taken as a substantive (“the righteous”), abstract noun (“righteousness”), or adverb (“rightly”). The LXX’s εὐθύτης ἠγάπησεν σε (euthutēs ēgapēsen se, “righteousness loves you”) is awkward. The adverbial sense is preferred for several reasons: (1) The verb אֲהֵבוּךָ (ʾahevuka, “they love you”) in 1:4c is repeated from 1:3c where it was used in reference to the maiden’s love for her lover. (2) There is no group designated as “the righteous” elsewhere in the Song. (3) To introduce an additional party into this poetic unit is unnecessary when it can be easily understood as a reference to the maidens of 1:3c.
- Song of Solomon 1:4 tn Heb “they love you.” The words “the young women” do not appear in the Hebrew but are supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. The shift from the first person common plural subjects in the three cohortatives—נָגִילָה (nagilah, Qal cohortative first person common plural from גּיל, gil, “to exult”), וְנִשְׂמְחָה (venishmekhah, Qal cohortative first person common plural from שָמַח, shamakh, “to rejoice”), and נַזְכִּירָה (nazkirah, Hiphil cohortative first person common plural from זָכַר, zakhar, “to praise”)—to the third person common plural subject in the verb אֲהֵבוּךָ (ʾahevukha, Qal perfect third person common plural from אָהֵב, ʾahev, “to love” plus second person masculine singular suffix) suggests to many scholars that a shift in speakers occurs at this point: the maidens praise the young man in the first two lines, while the Beloved affirms the appropriateness of their praise in the last line (e.g., NIV). However, the shift in person might simply be another example of heterosis of person (as already seen in 1:2-4a)—this time from first person to third person. Thus, the shift in grammatical person does not necessarily indicate a shift in speakers. It is possible that the maidens are speaking throughout all three lines, and that the third line should be nuanced, “How rightly we love you!”
- Song of Solomon 1:5 tn Heb “O daughters of Jerusalem.”
- Song of Solomon 1:5 sn The term “dark” does not appear in the Hebrew in this line but is supplied in the translation from the preceding line for the sake of clarity. The poetic structure of this tricolon is an example of redistribution. The terms “black but beautiful” in the A-line are broken up—the B-line picks up on “black” and the C-line picks up on “beautiful.” The Beloved was “black” like the rugged tents of Qedar woven from the wool of black goats, but “beautiful” as the decorative inner tent-curtains of King Solomon (so J. L. Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry, 40; W. G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry [JSOTSup], 181).
- Song of Solomon 1:5 sn The comparison of her dark, outdoors appearance to the “tents of Qedar” is quite fitting for two reasons. First, the name “Qedar” refers to an ancient Arabian tribe of bedouin who lived in tents and inhabited a region in northern Arabia. Their tents were traditionally woven from the wool of black goats. They were not beautiful to look at; they were rough, rustic, rugged, and weather-beaten. Second, the terms שְׁחוֹרָה (shekhorah, “black”) and קֵדָר (qedar, “Qedar”) create a wordplay because the root קָדַר (qadar) means “dark, dirty” (HALOT 1072 s.v. קדר). The point of the comparison is that the Beloved had dark skin and a rugged outdoors appearance because she had been forced to work outdoors, and so her skin had become dark as 1:6 states.
- Song of Solomon 1:5 tn The term “lovely” does not appear in the Hebrew in this line but is supplied in the translation from the first line in this verse for the sake of clarity.
- Song of Solomon 1:5 sn There is debate whether the terms “tents” אָהֳלֵי (ʾohole, “tents”) and יְרִיעוֹת (yeriʿot, “tent-curtains”) used here as synonyms or antonyms. The term אֹהֶל (ʾohel, “tent”) is often used in reference to an overall tent assembly, with particular emphasis on the external structure (e.g., Gen 4:20; 18:1; 31:33; Exod 26:13; 40:19; Judg 4:17; Isa 54:2; Jer 37:10) (HALOT 19 s.v. I אֹהֶל). The term “tent-curtains” (יְרִיעוֹה) is used to refer to (1) inner hanging curtains, such as decorative hangings or tapestries inside a tent (e.g., Exod 26:1-2, 7; Num 4:25) and (2) a tent as a whole (e.g., 2 Sam 7:2; Jer 4:20; 10:20; Hab 3:7) (HALOT 439 s.v. יְרִיעוֹת). The two terms are often used in parallelism as an A-B word pair (Isa 54:2; Jer 4:20; 10:20; 49:29; Hab 3:7). Like the “tents” (אֹהָלִים) of Qedar which were made from the wool of black goats, “tent-curtains” (יְרִיעוֹה) also were sometimes made from goat hair (Exod 26:7). If the two are synonymous, the point is that the tents of Qedar and the tent-curtains of Salmah were both black but beautiful. If the two terms are antonyms, the point is that the tents of Qedar are black but the tent-curtains of Salmah are beautiful. In either case, her point is that she is black, but nonetheless beautiful. Rabbinic midrash misses the point; it views the metaphor as contrasting her swarthy outward appearance with her inner beauty: “Just as the tents of Kedar, although from outside they look ugly, black, and ragged, yet inside contain precious stones and pearls, so the disciples of the wise, although they look repulsive and swarthy in this world, yet have within them knowledge of the Torah, Scriptures, Mishnah, Midrash, Halachoth, Talmud, Toseftas and Haggadah” (Midrash Rabbah 4:54-55).
- Song of Solomon 1:5 tc The MT vocalizes שׁלמה as שְׁלֹמֹה (shelomoh, “Solomon”); however, the BHS editors suggest the vocalization שַׁלְמָה (shalmah); cf. NAB “Salma.” Salmah is the name of an ancient Arabian tribe mentioned in Assyrian and South Arabic sources, as well as Targum Onqelos (Gen 15:19; Num 24:21; Judg 4:17). Like the tribe of Qedar, Salmah was an Arabian nomadic tribe which inhabited a region in northern Arabia and the region of Petra. The proposed revocalization produces tighter parallelism between Qedar and Salmah, than Qedar and Solomon. This also creates a striking wordplay on the name שְׁלֹמֹה (M. H. Pope, Song of Songs [AB], 320).
- Song of Solomon 1:6 tn The relative pronoun שֶׁ (she) on שֶׁאֲנִי (sheʾani, “because I”) functions in a causal sense, as in the following colon (BDB 980 s.v. שֶׁ 3.b) (e.g., Song 5:2; Eccl 2:18).
- Song of Solomon 1:6 tn The relative pronoun שֶׁ (she) on שֶׁשֱּׁזָפַתְנִי (sheshezafatni) functions in a causal sense, as in the preceding colon (BDB 980 s.v. שֶׁ 3.b) (e.g., Song 5:2; Eccl 2:18).
- Song of Solomon 1:6 tn Heb “the sun has stared at me.” The verb שָׁזַף (shazaf) means “to look at, catch sight of, glance at” (e.g., Job 20:9; 28:7) (HALOT 1456 s.v. שׁזף; BDB 1004 s.v. שָׁזַף). The Beloved personifies the sun (הַשָּׁמֶשׁ, hashshamesh) as having looked at her too long, that is, it burned her skin.
- Song of Solomon 1:6 tn Heb “the sons of my mother.”
- Song of Solomon 1:6 sn The verb הָרָה (harah, “to burn in anger, to be angry”) creates an interesting wordplay or pun on the preceding line: “The sun burned me (= my skin).” The sun burned her skin, because her brothers had burned (נִהֲרוּ, niharu) in anger against her. This is an example of a polysemantic wordplay which explains the two basic meanings of הָרָה (“to burn, to be angry”) (W. G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry [JSOTSup], 241-42).
- Song of Solomon 1:6 sn The noun כֶּרֶם (kerem, “vineyard”) is used figuratively in this line (see following note on the wordplays in this verse). Some suggest that her “vineyard” refers to her virginity, that is, she lost her virginity. However, this runs contrary to the moral purity accorded to the Beloved throughout the Song (e.g., 4:12; 8:8-10). It is better to take the “vineyard” imagery as a reference to her ability to take care of her physical appearance which had been thwarted by being forced to work outside where her skin had been darkened by the scorching rays of the sun, as alluded to throughout 1:4-5 [5-6].
- Song of Solomon 1:6 sn The repetition of the noun כֶּרֶם (kerem, “vineyard”) and the verb נָטַר (natar, “to keep, maintain”) creates a series of eloquent wordplays. The first occurrence of כֶּרֶם (“vineyard”) and נָטַר (“to keep”) is literal, the second occurrence of both is figurative (hypocatastasis). Her brothers forced her to work outside in the sun, taking care of the vineyards; as a result, she was not able to take care of her appearance (“my own vineyard I could not keep”).