(1) O that thou wert as my brother.—The poet makes his beloved recall the feelings she had for him before the obstacles to their union were removed. She dared not then avow her affection for him as a lover, and wished that their relationship had been such as to allow of their meeting and embracing without reproach. Marg., “They (i.e., her family and friends) should not despise (i.e., reproach) me.”
Leaning upon her beloved . . .—The LXX. add here shining white, and the Vulgate, flowing with delights.
I raised thee up.—Literally, aroused: i.e., I inspired thee with love. For this sense of exciting a passion, given to the Hebrew word, compare Proverbs 10:12; Zechariah 9:13. Delitzsch restores from the Syriac what must have been the original vowel-pointing, making the suffixes feminine instead of masculine.
There thy mother . . .—Not necessarily under the apple-tree, which is commemorated as the scene of the betrothal, but near it. The poet delights to recall these early associations, the feelings with which he had watched her home and waited her coming. The Vulg. has here ibi corrupta est mater tua, ibi violata est genetrix tua, which savours of allegory. So in later times the tree has been taken to stand for the Cross, the individual excited to love under it the Gentiles redeemed at the foot of the Cross, and the deflowered and corrupted mother the synagogue of the Jews (the mother of the Christian Church), which was corrupted by denying and crucifying the Saviour.
Jealousy.—Strong passion, from a word meaning to be red with flame; not in a bad sense, as the parallelism shows:—
“Strong as death is love,
Inexorable as Sheol is ardent passion.”
Grave.—Heb. sheôl. Perhaps, as in the LXX., Hades, with its figurative gates and bars (Psalm 6:5, Note).
Coals.—Heb. resheph; in Psalm 78:48, hot thunderbolts (comp. Habakkuk 3:5); in Job 5:7, sparks; Marg., sons of the burning; Deuteronomy 32:24, burning heat of the burning fever of the plague.
A most vehement flame.—Literally, a flame of Jah, the only place where a sacred name occurs in the book, and here, as in the Authorised Version, adverbially, to express something superlatively great and strong. Southey’s lines are a faint echo of this:—
“But love is indestructible,
Its holy flame for ever burneth,
From heaven it came, to heaven returneth.”
This fine passage, with its reference to the invincible might and untempted constancy of true love, hardly leaves a doubt that the poem, while an ideal picture of the passion, is also a reminiscence of an actual history of two hearts that had been tried and proved true both against difficulties and seductions.
A little sister . . .—The recollection is carried back to the childhood of the bride. Her brothers are supposed to be debating how to deal with her when an offer of marriage should be made for her.
In the day when she shall be spoken for?—i.e., asked in marriage (comp. 1 Samuel 25:29). At present she is unmarriageable.
Baal-hamon.—Many are the conjectures hazarded as to the locality of this place. It has been identified (1) with Baal-gad, or Heliopolis (Rosenmüller); (2) with Hammon, a place in the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:28, Ewald); (3) with Balamo (LXX. Βεελαμων), a place mentioned in the Book of Judith, Song of Solomon 8:3, in connection with Dothaim, which (if the same as Dothan) has possibly been discovered to the south of the valley of Esdraelon.—Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 463 (1871). (Comp. Judith 4:10; Judith 3:9; Meier, Hitzig, &c) But no identification is necessary. If the poet had any definite place in his mind he merely used it for the play on words (Baal-hamon=lord of multitude). The correct translation is “a vineyard was to Solomon as lord of a multitude.” The particle be often has this force. Exodus 6:3 : “I appeared as God Almighty.” Comp. Proverbs 3:26; Isaiah 40:10; 1 Chronicles 9:33, &c. We further note that Baal, as lord with us, often means husband, and Baal-hamon has a covert allusion to the polygamy of the king.
A thousand pieces of silver.—Supply shekels. The substantives denoting weight, measure, or time are frequently omitted (Genesis 20:16). (Comp. Isaiah 7:23 : a thousand silverlings, whence we see that it was customary to portion off vineyards into sections containing a certain number of vines.) For worth of shekel, see Genesis 23:15.