“Under the apple tree I awakened you.
There your mother was in labor with you.
There she who bore you was in labor.
Set me as a seal upon your heart.
Set me as a seal upon your arm.
Love is as strong as death.
Passion is as fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire.
It is a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love.
Neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
All the wealth of one’s house,
It would be utterly scorned.”
The male lover woke his lover up under the apple tree. He maintains that it was there that she was born from the labor of her mother. Now he wants his lover to bear his seal on her heart and on her arm. The seal was a sense of ownership. Then he went on to talk about the power of love. Love is just as strong as death. Passion is just as fierce as the grave. The love flashes of fire become a raging flame that no water can quench. Not even a flood can drown out love. If someone offers all the wealth they had, the lover would scorn it for his true love.
“I adjure you!
O daughters of Jerusalem!
Do not stir up love!
Do not awaken love
Until it is ready!”
The male lover responds as he did in chapters 2 and 3 by asking that the daughters of Jerusalem keep him from his lover until the right time, until her love is ready. Love should simmer and sleep. Then it awakens. However, here there is no mention of gazelles or wild does. He is swearing or adjuring to the daughters of Jerusalem to hold him back from his desires.
“How fair you are!
How pleasant you are!
O loved one!
You are stately as a palm tree.
Your breasts are like its clusters.
I will climb the palm tree.
I will lay hold of its branches.
O may your breasts be
Like clusters of the vine!
The scent of your breath is like apples.
Your kisses are
Like the best wine
That goes down smoothly.
They glide over my lips and teeth.”
What has been the effect of this female lover on the male lover? We find that he saw her as fair, pleasant, and delectable. She appeared stately as a palm tree. Then he went into an elaborate description of her breasts that were like clusters of a palm tree, not like gazelles or fawns. He wanted to climb this palm tree and grab hold of its branches, her breasts. He wanted her breasts to be like clusters in a vineyard. Then he went on to talk about her apple scented breath. He proclaimed that her kisses were sweeter than wine. They were in fact the best wine that went done smoothly over his lips and teeth. Certainly this was a vivid graphic description of how he perceived his lover.
“Why should you look upon the Shulammite?
Is she like a dance before two armies?”
This male lover wanted to know why they were looking at his female lover, the Shulammite, as if she was some kind of dancer in front of a couple of armies ready to do battle.
“There are sixty queens.
There are eighty concubines.
There are maidens without number.
My perfect one is the only one.
She is the darling of her mother.
She is flawless to her that bore her.
The maidens saw her.
They called her happy.
The queens saw her.
The concubines also saw her.
They praised her.
‘Who is this that looks forth like the dawn?
Who is as fair as the moon?
Who is as bright as the sun?
Who is as awesome as an army with banners?’”
Now this male lover or prince compares his lover to 60 queens, 80 concubines, and numerous maidens. Is this the king speaking about his various female companions or the prince speaking about them? His lover is considered better than all of them, since she is the perfect one. She was the flawless darling of her mother. Everyone, the queens, the concubines, and the maidens, seems to praise her. They are all looking forward to her as if she was like the dawn of a new day. She was like the moon and the sun combined. She was going to come with an awesome army of banners.
“You are as beautiful as Tirzah.
You are as comely as Jerusalem.
You are as awesome
As an army with banners.
Turn away your eyes from me.
They disturb me.
Your hair is
Like a flock of goats,
Moving down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are
Like a flock of shorn ewes,
That has come up from the washing.
They all bear twins.
Not one among them is bereaved.
Your cheeks are
Like halves of a pomegranate,
Behind your veil.”
Once again we have another poem that is pretty much a repeat of the opening of chapter 4. Here the male lover also proclaims the beauty of his lover. However, he compares her to the two capital cities of Judah and Israel, Tirzah in northern Israel, Jerusalem in southern Judah. In fact, he says that she is awesome like an army with banners. Instead of commending her eyes that were like doves, he wants her to turn her eyes away because they disturb him. He repeats what was in chapter 4 about her hair, teeth, and cheeks. However, he does not repeat what he said earlier in chapter 4 about her lips, mouth, neck, and breasts. Once again he talks about her hair being like a flock of goats coming down the mountain of Gilead. These goats were happy twins, while Gilead was east of the Jordan River. Her teeth were like a flock of young sheep that had just been washed. Her cheeks, although covered with the veil, were like half pomegranates, a fruit that was popular in Babylon.
“What is your beloved
More than another beloved?
O fairest among women!
What is your beloved
More than another beloved?
That you thus adjure us?”
The chorus asks this female lover why she is looking for his particular male lover. What makes him so special? What makes him better than any other men? Why was she appealing to them?
“I come to my garden.
I gather my myrrh
With my spice.
I eat my honeycomb
With my honey.
I drink my wine
With my milk.
The male lover came to the garden of his bride. He gathered his myrrh and spice. He ate the honey in his honeycomb. He drank milk with wine. That does not sound good. He or someone else asked him and his friends to eat and be drunk with love. Surely this is a love poem.
O north wind!
O south wind!
Blow upon my garden!
Let its fragrance be wafted abroad.
Let my beloved come to his garden.
Let him eat its choicest fruits.”
The female lover wants the winds, both north and south, to blow on her garden so that the fragrance would go out. Thus her male lover would smell this and come to the garden to eat her choicest fruits. There may be sexual overtures in this metaphor. However, this is one of the biblical passages that puts an emphasis on the sense of smell.
“You have ravished my heart!
You have ravished my heart
With a glance of your eyes,
With one jewel of your necklace.
How sweet is your love!
How much better is your love
The fragrance of your oils is better
Than any spice!
Your lips distil nectar!
Honey and milk are under your tongue.
The scent of your garments is
Like the scent of Lebanon.”
This male lover than goes into a praise of her wonders. He calls her a bride and a sister. Sister is a term of endearment in Egyptian poetry. Bride is used as an aspiration term, what he wants to happen. She has ravished his heart. She has stolen his heart with her glancing eyes and jeweled necklace. Her love is sweet and better than wine. Her fragrance is better than any spices. Her lips are like fruity nectar. She seems to have milk and honey under her tongue just like the Promised Land was always full of milk and honey. Her garments smelt like Lebanon. I assume that this was a good smell of cedar wood.