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In Song of Songs 4:3 and 6:7, we have

כְּפֶלַח הָרִמּוֹן רַקָּתֵךְ מִבַּעַד לְצַמָּתֵךְ

which translates

"As a cut of pomegranate is your * behind your veil."

The missing word * is רַקָּה, which some translations render "temples" while others render it "cheeks". Apparently it is the noun derived from the adjective for "thin".

What is the best way to translate רַקָּה here?

Might "cheekbone" be an acceptable approximate translation?


Some translations:

Cheeks

ESV:

Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.

NLT:

Your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates behind your veil.

NRSV:

Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.

Cheek

Brenton Septuagint Translation:

Thy cheek is like the rind of a pomegranate, being seen without thy veil.

Scott B. Noegel & Gary A. Rendsburg (2009):

Like a slice of pomegranate is your cheek,

Behind your braids.

Temples

Green's Literal Translation:

Your temples behind your veil are like a piece of pomegranate.

JPS Tanakh 1917:

Thy temples are like a pomegranate split open

Behind thy veil.

KJV:

As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.

NASB:

Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate Behind your veil.

NIV:

Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate.

NKJV:

Like a piece of pomegranate

Are your temples behind your veil.

Temple

Young's Literal Translation:

As the work of the pomegranate [is] thy temple behind thy veil.

Brow

Berean Study Bible:

Your brow behind your veil is like a slice of pomegranate.

Christian Standard Bible:

Behind your veil, your brow is like a slice of pomegranate.

Forehead

NET Bible:

Like a slice of pomegranate is your forehead behind your veil.

  • Good question, well researched. (+1). – Nigel J Apr 11 at 23:37
  • Gesenius covers what you mention. All the other Lexicons i have just have temple (of head). Cheeks seems to be based on context. – Perry Webb Apr 12 at 1:04
  • @PerryWebb Thank you. I have now looked at Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (1846): Yes, he gives רַקָּה as (1) "temple", citing Judges 4:21-22 and 5:26; and (2) poetically for "cheek", citing only Songs 4:3 and 6:7, but then says to compare this with the appearance of "tempora" (Latin, "temples") in Propertius' Elegies Book II.24:3 [perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/… ]. I think this translates roughly as "For whom wouldn't sweat sprinkle the temples at these words?" I don't understand why Gesenius interprets this as "cheeks"? – Julian Newman Apr 12 at 12:51
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The comparison between the mentions of רקה in Song and in Judges invite us to agree with the conclusion that the Shulamite's anatomic part of the head is the temple.

Moreover, the Hebrew conceptual root (including some allomorphic variants of the expressed idea, namely רקע, and רקח) cover the meaning of 'to grind, to stamp, to reduce an element into very small parts'. And, the temple (along with the eyes area) is a part of the head in which the skin is very thin ('fine-grained skin [or leather]' is an English expression related to this Song's concept).

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  • Thanks for this. What would you think of saying "forehead" rather than "temple"? Might this make sense in both the Song and Judges passage? If I understand correctly, the "temple" consists of the left side and right side of the upper head. So if the speaker is really referring specifically to this, I would have guessed that he would say something like, "As two cuts of a pomegranate...". It seems strange for the speaker to refer to the two sides of the temple collectively as being like one "cut of pomegranate". So, could the singular noun רקה refer to the whole of the forehead+temple? – Julian Newman Jul 24 at 12:16
  • Thanks for your comment. I prefer opt for 'temple' (a dual body part) for two grounds: 1) when I cut a pomegranate in two parts, these latter forming a (quasi-)symmetrical figure, so from a single cut I have two parts; 2) it is very improbable that Jael drove the pin through the Sisera's forehead (see the usage of the word at issue in Judges 4:21-22; 5:26). – Saro Fedele Jul 24 at 14:56

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