Title and Prologue[a]
1 The Song of Songs by Solomon.[b]
Longing for Love
2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.
Your[c] love is more delightful than wine;
3 fragrant is the scent of your anointing oils.[d]
Your name is a perfume poured out,
and that is why the maidens love you.
4 Take me with you, and let us make haste;
bring me into your chamber, O king.
We will exult and rejoice in you;[e]
we will praise your love more than wine;
how right it is to love you.
Tell Me, You Whom My Heart Loves
Let Me Not Be Found Wandering . . .[f]
5 I am dark[g] but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
like the curtains of Salma.
6 Do not stare at me because I am dark,
for I was scorched by the sun.
My mother’s sons vented their rage against me;
they forced me to look after the vineyards,
but my own vineyard[h] I could not watch over.
7 Tell me, you whom my heart loves,
where you pasture your flocks,
and where you rest them at midday,[i]
so that I may not be found wandering
beside the flocks of your companions.
8 If you do not know,
O fairest among women,
follow the tracks of the flocks
and pasture your young goats
close to the tents of the shepherds.
To Sit in His Shadow Is My Delight[j]
9 I compare you, my beloved,
to a mare[k] harnessed to Pharaoh’s chariot.
10 Your cheeks are beautiful with pendants
and your neck with its jeweled necklaces.
11 We will make ornaments of gold for you
that are studded with silver.
12 While the king reclines on his couch,
my nard[l] yields its fragrance.
13 My beloved is for me a sachet of myrrh[m]
that lies between my breasts.
14 My beloved is for me a cluster of henna[n] blossoms
in the vineyards of En-gedi.
15 How beautiful you are, my beloved,
how beautiful you are;
your eyes are doves.[o]
16 How handsome you are, my love,
and how you delight me.
Our couch is verdant.[p]
17 The beams of our house are cedar;
our rafters are all of pine.
- Song of Songs 1:1 Solomon composed poems and songs, and tradition decided to place this Book under his patronage. But let us go on to the text itself.
The bride is seized with the desire to rejoin her bridegroom in a perfect and joyous union. She issues a call for him to be with her and musters up her hope. In uninterrupted variations, the Song will take up again the same call and the same hope.
Is it not equally true that the people of God in the solitude of the Exile wait impatiently for the day on which God, their King, will manifest himself anew and lead them back to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Today, the Church—and every believer with her—remains in wait for the coming of her Lord.
- Song of Songs 1:1 The speakers are indicated by the captions Bride, Bridegroom, and Companions respectively. In some cases, the divisions are open to question. By Solomon: Solomon is said to have authored one thousand and five songs (1 Ki 5:12).
- Song of Songs 1:2 Him . . . his . . . Your: these all refer to the bridegroom. Love: i.e., expressions of love (see v. 4; 4:10; 7:12; see also Prov 7:18; Ezek 16:8; 23:17). More delightful than wine: words used by the bridegroom in Song 4:10.
- Song of Songs 1:3 Fragrant . . . your anointing oils: an image of the charms that attract the heart. Maidens: perhaps members of the royal court (see Song 6:8-9). They may also stand for the nations (see Isa 23:12; 37:22; 47:1; Jer 14:17).
- Song of Songs 1:5 We will exult and rejoice in you: joy is one of the greatest blessings of the Messianic prophecies of salvation (see Pss 14:7; 16:9; 21:1; Isa 9:2; 66:10; Joel 2:21, 23; Zep 3:17).
- Song of Songs 1:5 A bride separated from her bridegroom shows signs of the trial. Her entourage may no doubt give her grief concerning some weaknesses, but she rediscovers her self-esteem and decides to set out in search of her lover. Her companions form the chorus that will continuously intervene in the unfolding of these poems that are more or less arranged in the form of a drama. Hearing the calls of the bride, they jest with her and suggest that she follow the other shepherds!
Thus, far from the land from which it has been exiled as a result of too many infidelities, Israel seeks God; but how can the temptation for its people to turn toward foreign gods be rooted out? No matter what defeats may be incurred, the community of believers must unceasingly rediscover its hope on its pilgrimage to the Lord.
- Song of Songs 1:5 Dark: burnt by the sun from laboring in the vineyard of her brothers. Daughters of Jerusalem: the chorus (Companions) with whom the bride and the bridegroom interact (see Song 5:9; 6:1). Kedar: name of a Bedouin tribe descended from Ishmael (Gen 25:13) that lived in the Desert of Arabia and was famous for its flocks (see Isa 60:7; Ezek 27:21).
- Song of Songs 1:6 My own vineyard: i.e., her body (see Song 2:15; 8:12). She has given her heart to the bridegroom.
- Song of Songs 1:7 The bride is now seeking the bridegroom because they are apart. This theme runs throughout the Book (Song 3:1-4; 4:8; 5:2-8; 6:1), and the resolution occurs at the end of the Book with the mutual possession of the couple (see Song 8:5). Midday: a time for rest in hot climates. It also stands for supreme happiness (see Job 11:17; Ps 37:6; Isa 58:10).
- Song of Songs 1:9 The bridegroom has heard the call of his beloved and soon appears. They have a feast, each one singing the charms and the presence of the other as well as evoking the plants and flowers of Israel. The lovers withdraw to a corner brimming with greenery. The beloved falls into the arms of her lover and rests in the dream of love fulfilled.
In somewhat the same way, God responds to his people’s call. If Israel returns to him with love, she will remain his beloved among the nations. The Lord, her King, will be for her joy and favor. The last Book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation, foresees the day when believers will be filled with the refound joy of God.
- Song of Songs 1:9 Mare: allusion to the splendid mounts of the Pharaoh. The comparison was a classic one in the East.
- Song of Songs 1:12 Nard: a precious perfume (see Song 4:13-14; Mk 14:3; Jn 12:3), which symbolizes the bride (see Song 4:14).
- Song of Songs 1:13 Myrrh: a feminine perfume (see Est 2:12; Prov 17:7). The sachet of myrrh, which women carried in their bosom, was a sign of love for their husbands. Myrrh was also used on royal nuptial robes (see Ps 45:8).
- Song of Songs 1:14 The henna plant had highly perfumed blossoms. En-gedi: an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, to which David retreated when hunted by Saul (see 1 Sam 24:1).
- Song of Songs 1:15 Your eyes are doves: symbolic of an innocent and personable individual.
- Song of Songs 1:16 The lovers embrace in the field under the trees.