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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
The division of the chapters is unfortunate; Cant. 2 ought to have begun at Sol 1:15, or Cant. 1 to have been continued to Sol 2:7. The bride replies, "And I am like a lovely wild flower springing at the root of the stately forest-trees." The majority of Christian fathers assigned this verse to the King (Christ). Hebrew commentators generally assign it to the bride. It is quite uncertain what flower is meant by the word rendered (here and Isaiah 35:1) "rose." The etymology is in favor of its being a bulbous plant (the white narcissus, Conder). "Sharon" is usually the proper name of the celebrated plain from Joppa to Caesarea, between the hill-country and the sea, and travelers have remarked the abundance of flowers with which this plain is still carpeted in spring. But in the time of Eusebius and Jerome there was a smaller plain of Sharon (Saron) situated between Mount Tabor and the sea of Tiberias, which would be very near the bride's native home if that were Shunem.
2As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
The king resumes, taking up the bride's comparison: "As the lily excels in beauty the thorny shrubs among which it grows, so my friend excels her companions."
3As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
The bride's answer: "As the 'tappuach' with its fragrant fruit excels the barren trees of the wild wood, so my beloved his associates and friends etc." תפוח tappûach may in early Hebrew have been a generic name for apple, quince, citron, orange etc.
4He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
His banner - As the standard is the rallying-point and guide of the individual soldier, so the bride, transplanted from a lowly station to new scenes of unaccustomed splendor, finds support and safety in the known attachment of her beloved. His "love" is her "banner." The thought is similar to that expressed in the name "Jehovah-nissi" (see the Exodus 17:15 note).
5Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
Flagons - More probably cakes of raisins or dried grapes (2 Samuel 6:19 note; 1 Chronicles 16:3; Hosea 3:1). For an instance of the reviving power of dried fruit, see 1 Samuel 30:12.
6His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
Render as a wish or prayer: "O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand did embrace me!" Let him draw me to him with entire affection. Compare Deuteronomy 33:27; Proverbs 4:8.
7I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
Render: "I adjure you ... by the gazelles, or by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up nor awaken love until it please." The King James Version, "my love," is misleading. The affection or passion in itself, not its object, is here meant. This adjuration, three times significantly introduced as a concluding formula (marginal references), expresses one of the main thoughts of the poem; namely, that genuine love is a shy and gentle affection which dreads intrusion and scrutiny; hence the allusion to the gazelles and hinds, shy and timid creatures.
The complementary thought is that of Sol 8:6-7, where love is again described, and by the bride, as a fiery principle.
8The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
The bride relates to the chorus a visit which the beloved had paid her some time previously in her native home. He on a fair spring morning solicits her company. The bride, immersed in rustic toils, refuses for the present, but confessing her love, bids him return at the cool of day. It is a spring-time of affection which is here described, still earlier than that of the former chapter, a day of pure first-love, in which, on either side, all royal state and circumstance is forgotten or concealed. Hence, perhaps, the annual recitation of the Song of Songs by the synagogue with each return of spring, at the Feast of Passover, and special interpretations of this passage by Hebrew doctors, as referring to the paschal call of Israel out of Egypt, and by Christian fathers, as foreshadowing the evangelic mysteries of Easter - Resurrection and Regeneration. The whole scene has also been thought to represent the communion of a newly-awakened soul with Christ, lie gradually revealing Himself to her, and bidding her come forth into fuller communion.
Voice - Better, "sound." Not a voice, but the sound of approaching footsteps is meant (compare "noise," Isaiah 13:4).
9My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
Like a roe - Gazelle (compare Proverbs 5:19 note). The points of comparison here are beauty of form, grace, and speed of movement. In 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8, princes are compared to "gazelles."
Wall - The clay-built wall of the house or vineyard of the bride's family, different from the strong wall of a city or fortress Sol 5:7; Sol 8:9-10.
Looketh forth at the windows - The meaning evidently is, that he is looking in at, or through, the window from the outside. Compare Sol 5:4 note.
Shewing himself - Or, peering. Some, taking the marginal rendering, imagine that the radiant face of the beloved is thus compared to some beautiful flower entangled in the lattice-work which protects the opening of the window, from where he gazes down upon the bride.
10My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come away - The stanza begins and ends with this refrain, in which the bride reports the invitation of the beloved that she should come forth with him into the open champaign, now a scene of verdure and beauty, and at a time of mirth and mutual affection. The season indicated by six signs Sol 2:11-13 is that of spring after the cessation of the latter rain in the first or paschal month Joel 2:23, i. e., Nisan or Abib, corresponding to the latter part of March and early part of April. Cyril interpreted Sol 2:11-12 of our Lord's Resurrection in the spring.
11For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
12The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The time of the singing ... - i. e., The song of pairing birds. This is better than the rendering of the ancient versions, "the pruning time is come."
13The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
The vines ... - The vines in blossom give forth fragrance. The fragrance of the vine blossom ("semadar"), which precedes the appearance of "the tender grape," is very sweet but transient.
14O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
The secret places of the stairs - A hidden nook approached by a zig-zag path. The beloved urges the bride to come forth from her rock-girt home.
15Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
The bride answers by singing what appears to be a fragment of a vine-dresser's ballad, insinuating the vineyard duties imposed on her by her brethren Sol 1:6, which prevent her from joining him. The destructive propensities of foxes or jackals in general are referred to, no grapes existing at the season indicated. Allegorical interpretations make these foxes symbolize "false teachers" (compare Ezekiel 13:4).
16My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
Feedeth among the lilies - Pursues his occupation as a shepherd among congenial scenes and objects of gentleness and beauty.
17Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.
Until the day break - Or, rather, until the day breathe, i. e., until the fresh evening breeze spring up in what is called Genesis 3:8 "the cool" or breathing time of the day.
And the shadows flee - i. e., Lengthen out, and finally lose their outlines with the sinking and departure of the sun (compare Jeremiah 6:4). As the visit of the beloved is most naturally conceived of as taking place in the early morning, and the bride is evidently dismissing him until a later time of day, it seems almost certain that this interpretation is the correct one which makes that time to be evening after sunset. The phrase recurs in Sol 4:6.
Mountains of Bether - If a definite locality, identical with Bithron, a hilly district on the east side of the Jordan valley 2 Samuel 2:29, not far from Mahanaim (Sol 6:13 margin). If used in a symbolic sense, mountains of "separation," dividing for a time the beloved from the bride. This interpretation seems to be the better, though the local reference need not be abandoned.