3

Song of Songs 2:16-17 (without punctuation) reads:

דּוֹדִי לִי וַאֲנִי לוֹ הָרֹעֶה בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים עַד שֶׁיָּפוּחַ הַיּוֹם וְנָסוּ הַצְּלָלִים סֹב דְּמֵה-לְךָ דוֹדִי לִצְבִי אוֹ לְעֹפֶר הָאַיָּלִים עַל-הָרֵי בָתֶר

which translates roughly as

my beloved is mine and I am his
who feeds [i.e. feeds his flock] among the lilies
until the day breathe and the shadows flee
turn and make yourself resemblant, my beloved, of a gazelle or of a fawn of deer
upon the cloven mountains.

[The part about being resemblant of a gazelle or a fawn of deer on the mountains is a reference to earlier, where she says that her beloved was coming "leaping upon the mountains, bounding upon the hills", "resemblant of a gazelle or of a fawn of deer".]

Likewise, 4:5-6 (without punctuation) reads:

שְׁנֵי שָׁדַיִךְ כִּשְׁנֵי עֳפָרִים תְּאוֹמֵי צְבִיָּה הָרוֹעִים בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים עַד שֶׁיָּפוּחַ הַיּוֹם וְנָסוּ הַצְּלָלִים אֵלֶךְ לִי אֶל-הַר הַמּוֹר וְאֶל-גִּבְעַת הַלְּבוֹנָה

which translates roughly as

your two breasts are as two fawns
twins of a gazelle
which feed among the lilies
until the day breathe and the shadows flee
I will take myself to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense

My question:

Every translation I've seen of these passages takes the interpretation:

"...feed(s) among the lilies. Until the day breathe and the shadows flee, turn/I will...".

But why not take the interpretation:

"...feed(s) among the lilies until the day breathe and the shadows flee. Turn.../I will..."?

(I recognise that in 6:3, we have "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine, who [m.] feeds [his flock] among the lilies" at the end of the section, without mention of the day breathing and the shadows fleeing. But on the flipside, in the very final verse (8:14) we have "Hasten, my beloved, and make yourself resemblant of a gazelle or of a fawn of deer upon the mountains of spices", also without mention of the day breathing and the shadows fleeing.)


By the way, Brown-Driver-Briggs takes "the day breathing" to refer to the day "growing cool", and takes "the shadows fleeing" to refer to the disappearance of shadows at evening, as on a sundial.

2

You present two translation possibilities, both linguistically acceptable, theoretically:

(a) "[...] who feeds [his flock] among the lilies. Until the day breathe and the shadows flee turn and make yourself resemblant [...].";

(b) "[...] who feeds [his flock] among the lilies until the day breathe and the shadows flee. Turn and make yourself resemblant [...].".

Between the two wording the first is better. Why?

(1) It has a more fluent sense, namely, the girl (Shunamite) knows his dear shepherd is grazing his flock 'among the lilies'. So, she asks him to come to her before the day declines (it seems to me that an ancient shepherd hardly did linger with his flock until the day declines...).

(2) The Leningradensis Codex (B19a), the 'basis' of BHS, has a little space blank between the terms 'lilies' (ׁׁׁׁׁשׁושׁנים) and 'until' (עד), as you may see in the caption I present here. This little space blank can be correctly transformed - in our modern translation - in a full stop.

enter image description here

I hope this data will be useful for you.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Thank you, this is interesting. I think your point (2) is essentially a further example of people taking the former rather than latter interpretation, albeit a rather ancient example relative to today (10th/11th century AD it seems?). But what I find interesting about your point (1) is that you are interpreting עַ֤ד - which has the meanings "as far as, even to, up to, until, while" - as carrying the sense of "an action to have occurred by evening" rather than "something that continues as far as evening". – Julian Newman May 10 at 12:42
  • But perhaps what is most compelling - and maybe the ultimate answer to why the former interpretation has consistently been the preferred one - is that it is probably a bit odd for people to be feeding their sheep from morning/noon (as implied in 1:7) right up until evening. – Julian Newman May 10 at 12:46
-1

There may be a grammatical answer related to starting a sentence with "until"... But I'll try my "reading" answer.

As this is the love story between a believer and her Lord (2 Cor 11:2; Jn 5:39; Lk 24:27), constituted of her transformation (2 Cor 3:18) for maturity (Philip 3:12-15), there's no point for her to say He pastures His flock (SS 2:16) until the day dawns (or breathes) and the shadows flee away. That's because the flock represents the Body (of Christ), Ac 20:28, while this book emphasizes her personal relationship with Him. Here I see her desire for her own problems and darkness to go away.

(I find it odd to say that the shadows "flee away" only to be replaced by a big shadow--namely nighttime. So I understand the day "dawns." So does the flock pasture, or fawns feed among the lilies, until nightfall? Until daybreak? If one is factually wrong, then that clause shouldn't be attached to the shadows fleeing.)

In SS 4:5 He is describing her. Again there seems to be no point in Him adding "until the day dawns..." to her description. It doesn't add to a reader's visualization of her person. Additionally, her love ("breasts") feeding on her Christ--just like the eating by the flock in 2:16--is eternal (Jn 6:57; Rv 7:17). So the word "until" wouldn't apply.

Her personal request to Him, to "turn" (SS 2:17); or her personal intent, to, herself, go to the mountain of myrrh (4:6); should be attached to the shadows fleeing and day dawning. The latter clause can also indicate her desire to be transformed and pure (1 Pet 3:18; 1 Jn 1:5; 3:3; 2 Cor 4:6), regardless whether she really comprehends what that means.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.