In Song of Solomon 5:16, the verse in Hebrew transliteration is:

ḥikkōw mamṯaqqîm wəḵullōw maḥămaddîm zeh ḏōwḏî wəzeh rê‘î, bənōwṯ yərūšālim
חִכּוֹ֙ מַֽמְתַקִּ֔ים וְכֻלּ֖וֹ מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים זֶ֤ה דוֹדִי֙ וְזֶ֣ה רֵעִ֔י בְּנ֖וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

where maḥămaddîm is translated as "[is] lovely". But normally, in Hebrew, when the suffix "im" is added to a word, it's the use of majestic plural, that is giving respect to the entity referred to by the set of characters preceding "im". Just like "Eloh-im" (giving respect to Eloah).

So "maḥămaddîm" is translated as "lovely", and the "-im" added either means a normal plural or majestic plural, In either case, what is the reason for pluralizing an adjective like "lovely"?

  • 3
    The suffix -im is not, in itself, the 'majestic plural'. It is the normal masculine plural. Many nouns are pluralized in the Hebrew bible. Elohim is the plural form of Eloah. Behemoth is the (feminine) plural of behemah.
    – user2910
    Jun 22, 2016 at 1:17
  • 2
    my question is, what is the reason for pluralizing the word "maḥămadd" by adding "im" to it ?
    – user230994
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:27
  • 4
    @SteveTaylor See Pluralis Majestatis.
    – Susan
    Jun 29, 2016 at 8:34

6 Answers 6


The plural noun in classical Hebrew can do other "non-number" jobs than simply the plural of "majesty". One common one is the "plural of abstraction", and that is the way maḥămaddîm is typically understood here. Waltke-O'Connor para. 7.4.2(a) further refine this as refering to qualities:


Cf. Joüon-Muraoka, who explain it precisely the same way: a "plural of abstraction" dealing with "qualities" (see para. 134n, p. 471).


The Idea in Brief

The plural form (maḥămaddîm) is not literary, but is to be understood in the literal sense. That is, Jewish sages over the centuries did not understand the plural form here in any literary (or abstract) sense, but in the most literal way. In this regard, the plural suffix was in reference to sweet words (plural) that emanate from the mouth of the beloved.

Targum Songs

For example, the Targum of the Song of Songs appeared between the 1st and 4th Century, and the provides the following translation from Hebrew into Aramaic.

enter image description here

Suggested translation: The words upon the palate of sweetness are like honey, and all his commands are pleasing to his wise counsellors than gold [or silver]. This is the splendor of God, my beloved, and this is the power of the strength of my Lord, my beloved, O prophets who prophesy in Jerusalem.


Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) lived in the 11th Century, and he also notes that the plural form of sweetness was the actual reference to the words in the mouth of the beloved. The following comes from the relevant cite reference on the www.chabad.org website.

[16] His palate is sweet: His words are pleasant, e.g. (Lev. 19:28): “And you shall not make a wound in your flesh for one who has died… I am the Lord,” faithful to pay reward. Is there a palate sweeter than this? Do not wound yourselves, and you will receive reward. (Ezek. 33:19): “And when a wicked man repents of his wickedness and performs justice and righteousness, he shall live because of them.” Iniquities are accounted to him as merits. Is there a palate sweeter than this? (emphasis added)


Early Jewish Halakic (legal) midrash echos of the same. The Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, which are midrash ascribed to Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai who was one 2nd-century tannaitic sage in ancient Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple. The midrash notes the following:

enter image description here

The following translation comes from Nelson (2006).

Rather, “His mouth is delicious, etc.” (Song 5:16). And Scripture says, “...to the sound that comes out of His mouth” (Job 37:2).

The midrash here makes the explicit connection between words and the deliciousness of those words as the sound [of the words] coming from the same mouth.


In summary, rabbinic scholars over the centuries (who were intimate with Jewish oral tradition and the Jewish understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures) had understood the plural form (maḥămaddîm) as in literal reference to sweet words, and not to something abstract.


Nelson, W. David (2006). Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 130.

  • Doesn't "his words are pleasant" refer to חכו ממתקים (which doesn't seem to me the most "literal" interpretation in any case) rather than כלו מחמדים?
    – Susan
    Jun 30, 2016 at 4:55

The suffix 'im' is very common in this passage and throughout Song of Songs, as there are a lot of plurals present throughout. 'im' is just the simple plural ending for all masculine nouns in Hebrew

'His mouth is most sweet' is also conjugated in the plural here, as are many other words throughout this section of Song of Solomon. In each case, the plural isn't about majesty but rather intensity - it helps the text to flow poetically and presumably strengthens the compliments.

There's nothing particularly significant in this usage of maḥămaddîm, and the usage is very similar to what we see in Isaiah 64:11, using a slightly different plural conjugation:

"Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our maḥămaddênū have become ruins."

  • Apologies @David, I was in error because I was relying on errant material from an apologetics source. This verse is a very popular one in Islam (and I strongly suspect that's the 'real' reason for his interest) as it's taken as a transliteration of Muhammad, fulfilling one of his claims that the Law and Prophets spoke of him in ages past.
    – Steve can help
    Jun 29, 2016 at 22:06
  • @SteveTaylor - While you'll see I take a different line from yours :) you might still point to Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley (GKC) §124e in support of the notion of a "plural of intensification". (They treat "abstract plurals" in the preceding paragraph, §124d; they don't cite SoS 5:16 anywhwere in their treatment of the uses of plurals, though.) Hope that hepls!
    – Dɑvïd
    Jun 30, 2016 at 9:28
  • Why is the suffix common just to that passage? Is the language not common during that time? To reduce it just to the passage is a try to interpret own interest. At least by the same logic used by everyone, it could be exact targeted to Prophet Mohammed (Puh) too that his words are sweet. God is almighty to bring his words how he wants to explain to the humanity.
    – karadayi
    Mar 31, 2022 at 22:16
  • Hi @karadayi - yeah, I didn't explain myself well enough here. 'im' is the simple plural ending for all masculine words in Hebrew. It's the same in every book. The 'enu' on the other plural is a suffix of ownership, in Hebrew there would be no 'our' word - I only left the English word there so it makes more sense to non Hebrew readers.
    – Steve can help
    Mar 31, 2022 at 22:20

Is the Hebrew 'Elohim' dual or plural?

Marc ********, I am an Orthodox Jew and have studied in Kollel and Yeshivah.

People who do not speak Hebrew tend to look at it in a way too simplistic way. The Hebrew word “elohim” has multiple meanings and can be multiple OR singular depending on context

  1. in refernec eto G-d it is singular- the form used to denote majesty and greatness. If you read the Torah you will see that every time it is used for G-d, the verbs used for it are in the singular. It can be
  2. used for angels - in which case itnis plural
  3. It can be used for human judges- in which case it is plural.
  4. It can be used for a human put in a position do power over another in which case it is singular.

Thus to know what is meant and how it should be read, you need to know the context of the usage. S this is why linear translations of Hebrew texts fail- Hebrew is a context sensitive language and usage and grammar around a word can change its meaning and implications. (Source: Quora)

The translation describes the upcoming person with the exact name.


The use of the plural form ("-im") of the adjective for a singular noun seems to be poetic form, equivalent to our adding "-ness" to an adjective: "sweet-ness," "loveli-ness."

His mouth is sweetness, and everything about him is loveliness: this is my beloved, this is my companion, O daughters of Jerusalem.


The book of Solomon is actually showing the love relationship between Christ and the Church. So that Portions says that My friend is altogether lovely/desirable (paraphrased). Since that part is referring to Christ, It can be pluralized.

For those who argue that mahmadim means Muhammad, I think they got it wrong. Because some words in Hebrew are similar to the words in Arabic. Mahmad means desirable or lovely in both languages, which is also synonymous with Hammad or Muhammad which means Praiseworthy in Arabic.

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