Song of Solomon 6:11 MEANING

Song of Solomon 6:11
(11-13) I went down into the garden . . .--For a discussion on this obscure passage in its entirety, see Excursus III.

(11) Nuts.--Heb. egoz; only here. (Comp. Arabic ghaus = the walnut, which is at present extensively cultivated in Palestine.)

Fruits.--Heb. ebi=green shoots; LXX. ?? ????????.

Valley.--Heb. nachal; LXX., literally, ?????????, the torrent-bed. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic wady. Here the LXX. insert, "There I will give thee my breasts"; reading, as in Song i, 2, dada� (breasts) for doda� (caresses).

(12) Or ever I was aware.--Marg., I knew not; Heb. Lo yadahti, which is used adverbially (Psalm 35:8), "at unawares." (Comp. Proverbs 5:6; Jeremiah 50:24.) The LXX. read, "my spirit did not know."

Made me like . . .--Marg., set me on the chariots; but literally, according to the present Hebrew text, set me chariots, &c.

Ammi-nadib.--Marg., of my willing people, as though the reading were ammi hanadib, since the article ought to be present after a noun with suffix. For ammi = my fellow citizens, comp. Genesis 23:11; Lamentations 2:11. A better interpretation, instead of taking the yod as the suffix my, treats it as an old genitival ending, and renders, companions of a prince. But this does not make the passage more intelligible.

(13) O Shulamite.--Heb. hashulammit. This vocative, with the article, indicates a Gentile name rather than a proper name (Ges., ? 108, Eng. Trans.), and no doubt the LXX., ? ????????, "the Shunamite"--that is, maiden of Shunem--is correct.

Shunem was discovered by Robinson in Solam, a village on the declivity at the western end of Little Hermon (D-hy), and which answers to all the requirements of Shunem in 1 Samuel 28:4, 2 Kings 4:8 (comp. Joshua 19:18), and with a slight correction as to distance with the Sulem which Eusebius (Onomasticon) and Jerome identify with Sunem. For the interchange of n and l, comp. Zerin--Jezreel; Beitun = Bethel; lachats = nachats, to burn.

The fact that Abishag was a Shunamite, and that Adonijah sought her in marriage (1 Kings 1:3), has given rise to the conjecture that these two are the heroine and hero of this poem.

From a comparison with Song of Solomon 8:10, "then was I in his eyes as one that found favour" (Heb. shalom, peace), arises the untenable theory that Shulamite is a feminine of Solomon = the graceful one: untenable, because the feminine of Shelomah would be Shelomit.

As it were the company of two armies.--Marg., of Mahanaim; LXX., "she coming like dances of the camps;" Vulg., "unless dances of camps;" Heb. khimcholath hammachanaim. Mecholath is fem, of machol, which (see Smith's Bib. Dict., under "Dance") is supposed to be properly a musical instrument of percussion. The LXX. generally translate, as here, ?????; but in Psalm 32:11 (Hebrews 10:12) ????,, joy; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:14, ????????, assembly. In Psalm 149:3, cliv. 4, the Margin suggests pipe instead of dance; and many scholars derive it from chal = to bore (comp. chalil, a flute). (See Bible Educator, Vol. II., p. 70.) Its associated meaning would naturally be dance.

Machanaim is either a regular dual = of two camps, or there is some reference, which we cannot recover, to local customs at the place of that name. To see any connection between this passage and Genesis 32:2, and still more to think of angelic dances, borders on the absurd. But the connection between military sports and dancing has always been close in the East, and the custom now existing of performing a sword-dance at weddings possibly gives the clue to this curious passage.

Some conjectural interpretations will be found in the Excursus, but the whole passage is hopelessly obscure.

EXCURSUS III.--ON THE PASSAGE, Song of Solomon 6:11-13.

Translated word for word this passage runs as follows:--"Into the garden of nuts I descended to see the verdure of the valley, to see if the vine was shooting, if the pomegranates flourished. I did not know,--my soul,--put me,--chariots of my people--noble. Come back, come back the Shulamite. Come back, come back, in order that we may see thee. What do you see in Shulamite? Like the dance of two camps."

This the LXX. translate:--"Into the garden of nuts I descended to see among the vegetation of the torrent bed, to see if the vine flourished, if the pomegranate sprouted, there I will give thee my breasts. My soul did not know, the chariots of Amminadab put me--return, return, Shunamite, return, return, and we will contemplate thee. What will you see in the Shunamite? She that cometh like choruses of the camps."

The Vulgate does not insert the promise of love, and reads: "and I did not know, my soul troubled me on account of the four-horsed chariots of Amminadab. Return, return, Shulamite, that we may look at thee. What wilt thou see in the Shulamite; if not the chorus of camps."

A comparison of the above seems to show--

(1) That the Hebrew text has not come down to us in its integrity.

(2) That the Greek translators had before their eyes another text.

(3) That neither they nor St. Jerome understood the text which came to them already incomplete.

Yet this impossible passage, "the rags of a text irremediably corrupt," has become for many scholars the key to the entire book. The heroine in a moment of bewilderment strays into the midst of a cortege of King Solomon, who instantly falls in love with her; or perhaps into the midst of a detachment of his troops, who capture her for the royal harem, after a comparison of her simple country style of dancing with that of the trained court ladies. This, or some similar device, is resorted to by most of those who construct an elaborate drama out of this series of love-lyrics, the whole structure falling to pieces when we see that on this, the centre, the only passage giving a possible incident on which to hang the rest, no reliance whatever can be placed, since it is so obviously corrupt.

The following are a few of various suggested translations of this piece:--

"My heart led me--I know not how--far from the troop of my noble people. Come back, come back, they cry, that we may see thee, Shulamite. What do you see in me, a poor Shulamite?"

"My desire made of me, so to speak, a chariot of my noble people," &c.

"My desire brought me to a chariot, a noble one," &c.

"Suddenly I was seized with fright,--chariots of my people the Prince!"

As to "the dance of Mahanaim," even if by itself intelligible, as a, reference to an old national dance, as we say "Polonaise," "Scotch dance," or as a dance performed by two choirs or bands (see Note ad loc.) the connection with the context is almost inexplicable. The only suggestion which seems worthy of consideration, connects the words not with what precedes but with what immediately follows. If a word or words leading to the comparison, "like," &c, have dropped out, or if "like a dance of Mahanaim" may be taken as a kind of stage direction, to introduce the choric scene, the passage will become clear in the light thrown on it by the analogy of the modern Syrian marriage customs.

The question, "What do you see in Shulamite?" may be understood as a challenge to the poet to sing the customary "wasf" or eulogy on the bride's beauty, which accordingly follows in the next chapter. But before it began, a dance after the manner of the sword dance that forms at present a customary part of a Syrian wedding, would in due course have to be performed, and the words "(dance) like the dance of Mahanaim" would be a direction for its performance. See end of Excursus II. on the form of the Poem.

Verses 11, 12. - I went down into the garden of nuts to see the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine budded and the pomegranates were in flower. Or ever I was aware, my soul set me among the chariots of my princely people. There cannot he much doubt as to the meaning of these words. Taking them as put into the lips of the bride, and as intended to be a response to the lavish praises of the bridegroom, we may regard them as a modest confession that she had lost her heart immediately that she had seen King Solomon. She went down into her quiet garden life to occupy herself as usual with rustic labours and enjoyments, but the moment that her beloved approached she was carried away - her soul was as in a swift chariot. Delitzsch thinks that the words refer to what occurred after marriage. He supposes that on some occasion the king Look his bride with him on an excursion in his chariot to a plain called Etam. He refers to a description of such a place to be found in Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:07, 3, but the explanation is far fetched and improbable. The nut or walnut tree (Juglans regia, Linn.) came originally from Persia. The name is very similar in the Persian, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Syriac. One cannot help comparing the lovely simplicity of the bride's description with the tender beauty of Goethe's 'Herman and Dorothea.' The main point is this, that she is not the mere captive of the king, taken, as was too often the case with Eastern monarchs, by violence into his harem; she was subdued by the power of love. It was love that raised her to the royal chariots of her people. She beholds in King Solomon the concentration and the acme of her people's glory. He is the true Israel; she is the glory of him who is the glory of God.

6:11-13 In retirement and in meditation the Christian character is formed and perfected. But not in the retirement of the idle, the self-indulgent, or the trifler. When the Christian is released from the discharge of his duties in life, the world has no attractions for him. His prayer is, that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow within him, and around him. Such are the interesting cares and employments of him whom the world wrongly deems unhappy, and lost to his true interests. In humility and self-abasement, the humble Christian would turn away from the sight of all; but the Lord delights to honour him. Chiefly, however, may the reference be to the ministering angels who shall be sent for the soul of the Christian. Their approach may startle, but the departing soul shall find the Lord its strength and its portion for ever. The church is called the Shulamite: the word signifies perfection and peace; not in herself, but in Christ, in whom she is complete, through his righteousness; and has peace, which he made for her through his blood, and gives unto her by his Spirit.I went down into the garden of nuts,.... This is very properly taken notice of in this song of love; it being usual for newly married persons to get nuts, and throw them among children, to make pastime; to signify, among other things, that they now renounced childish things (u). These are the words of Christ, declaring to the church where he went, and what he employed himself about, when he departed from her; see Sol 6:2. Of the garden, as it intends the church; see Gill on Sol 5:12; into which he was invited to come, and did, as here; see Sol 4:16; here it is called a "garden of nuts", which may design a spot in it destined for this fruit; by which some understand "nutmegs", which is not very likely, since such grew not in those parts: rather "walnuts", which the Arabs call "gauz" or "geuz", which is the same word that is here used; Pistacia nuts were well known in Syria (w), which joined to Judea. And by "nuts", which grew in the garden, the church, true believers, may be designed; who, like them, have a mean outward appearance, but are valuable within, having the true grace of God in them; and because of their divers coverings, their outward conversation garments, the robe of Christ's righteousness, and the internal sanctification of the Spirit, which answer to the husk and shell, and the thin inward skin over the nut; and because of their hardiness in enduring afflictions and troubles, the shell may represent; and because of their best and most excellent parts being hidden, even grace, the hidden man of the heart, signified by the kernel, and which will not fully appear until the shell or tabernacle of the body is broken down; and because of their safety from harm and pollution, amidst the storms of afflictions, persecutions, and temptations, and pollutions of the world, the principle of grace, like the kernel, remains unhurt and undefiled; and because of the multitude of believers, united and cleaving together, which is delightful to behold, like clusters of nuts in a nut garden. Some render it, "the pruned garden", or "garden of pruning" (x); whose plants, trees, and vines, are pruned and kept in good order, by Christ's father, the husbandman and vinedresser; see Sol 2:12. The ends of Christ in going into it were,

to see the fruits of the valley; to observe the graces of his Spirit; the actings, exercise, and growth of them in humble souls, among whom he delights to be, Isaiah 57:15; the Septuagint version is, "the shoots of the brook" or "river": and may denote the fertile soil in which believers are planted, even by the river of divine love; with which being watered, they flourish, Psalm 1:3;

and to see whether the vine flourished; particular churches, or believers, compared to vines; who may be said to flourish, when they increase in numbers, and are fruitful in grace and good works; see Sol 2:13;

and the pomegranates budded; of which, see Sol 4:13; the budding, of them may design the beginnings, or first putting, forth, of grace in the saints; which Christ takes much notice of, and is highly pleased with.

(u) Vid. Chartarium de Imag. Deorum, p. 89. & Kipping. Antiqu. Rom. l. 4. c. 2. p. 697. "Sparge marite nuces", &c. Virgil. Bucolic. Eclog. 8. v. 30. "Da nuces pueris", Catuili Juliae Epithal. Ephesians 59, v. 131. (w) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 5. Athenaei Deipnosophist. l. 14. c. 17. p. 649. (x) "hortos putatos", Junius & Tremellius; Heb. "tonsionis", Piscator; "hortum putationis", Marckius.

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