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I am having some challenges interpreting Song of Songs 2:7 in terms of verb-subject-object gender matching.

The verse reads (KJV):

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

But this is the peculiar thing in the Hebrew:

  • "I charge you" is not an imperative. It is just a normal Hifil perfect 1st person singular. But the interesting part is that the "you" (אֶתְכֶ֜ם) is a MASCULINE PLURAL on the direct object marker and thus clearly the object of the verb.
  • But this seems to be a charge to the "Daughters of Jerusalem" (בְּנ֤וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֙ם֙). This is clearly a FEMININE PLURAL. This does not match the YOU which is the object of the verb.
  • Later on, the "do not stir" and "do not awake" are piel-imperative (intensified commands) and 2nd MASCULINE PLURAL. This seems to be refering back to the YOU after "I charge you."

So what is up with the gender here. Is the female voice here referring to the daughters of Jerusalem as all the translations seem to indicate or what? Why is there this screwy gender swapping on the YOU (MASCULINE PLURAL) which is the object of the first verb and the receiver of the imperatives? How does the purely feminine plural "Daughters of Jerusalem" fit into this sentence?

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  • The femininity of the daughters of Jerusalem reflects the Bride of Christ, which is a corporate concept, not singular. The masculinity reflects the sonship of the sons of God. The sons of God (by faith) are also the daughters of Jerusalem, who are the bride of the King of Salem. It is unsurprising to find gender allusions within the prophetic text. These allusions coalesce, change shape and are fluid as the concepts are given expression within language.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 22 '20 at 22:27
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    This is an anachronistic read of a pre-christian text. I do like the idea, however, that the gender mix up is pointing to the feminine language of the bride of god as the people of israel. This was where I was going.
    – Gus L.
    Oct 22 '20 at 23:09
  • Yes, it is only a comment, as such interpretations cannot be 'proved'. But such hints are there in scripture to be appreciated interpretatively.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 23 '20 at 7:47
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Sometimes the Hebrew bible flips from female plural to male plural as male plural is seen as more abstract. Another example of this is "וּמִ֨תּוֹכָ֔הּ דְּמ֖וּת אַרְבַּ֣ע חַיּ֑וֹת וְזֶה֙ מַרְאֵֽיהֶ֔ן דְּמ֥וּת אָדָ֖ם לָהֵֽנָּה׃ וְאַרְבָּעָ֥ה פָנִ֖ים לְאֶחָ֑ת וְאַרְבַּ֥ע כְּנָפַ֖יִם לְאַחַ֥ת לָהֶֽם׃" "And from within it was the appearance of four creatures and this is their (female plural) appearance: they (female plural) each had the appearance of man; there were four faces on one and four wings on one, for each of them (male plural)" (Ezekiel 1:5-6). The word חיות is feminine plural and it referred to as הן and הנה in the first verse which are both female plural, but in the second verse it flips to describing them as הם which is male plural. In both of these cases, the male plural pronoun is talking about the same collection as the female plural pronoun.

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  • Thanks! I'm trying to understand your example a bit better. Why does this create a "more abstract" take and why do you think the author needed more abstraction? The author of Song of Songs was already referring to the abstract "Daughters of Jerusalem." Was this reaching out to include Sons and Daughters? What abstraction do you see in Ezekiel?
    – Gus L.
    Nov 1 '20 at 23:55
  • What I mean by abstraction is that a female object can be referred to in the male, but not the other way around. This is why G-d is referred to in the male even though He does not have a gender. This flip is sometimes random, but the reason it can happen is because male is seen as more abstract.
    – aefrrs
    Nov 1 '20 at 23:58
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    Male plural is seen as more abstract as a woman can be in a collection described as male plural, but a man cannot be in a collection described as female.
    – aefrrs
    Nov 2 '20 at 0:22
  • I updated my response to answer your question a little bit better.
    – aefrrs
    Nov 2 '20 at 0:52
  • Thanks. I appreciate the insight. This is similar to Fishbane’s take in his JPS commentary on the Song
    – Gus L.
    Nov 2 '20 at 2:02

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