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In Song of Songs 6:11-12 (NLT)

Young Woman

11 I went down to the grove of walnut trees and out to the valley to see the new spring growth, to see whether the grapevines had budded or the pomegranates were in bloom.

12 Before I realized it, my strong desires had taken me to the chariot of a noble man.

Yet in NASB the exact same verses are attributed to the Groom

11 I went down to the orchard of nut trees To see the plants of the valley, To see whether the vine had grown Or the pomegranates had bloomed.

12 Before I was aware, my soul set me Over the chariots of my noble people.”

Are these two verses attributed to him or to her?

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SS 6:11, 12 is a troublesome part of the text as it almost certainly corrupt. There is nothing in the text itself of these two verse that confirms much about the identity of the speaker, male or female.

Clues suggesting it is male:

  • V10 suggests a male (king) to follow
  • V12 suggests a kingly (Solomonic) procession

Clues that suggest it is female:

  • V13 suggests a female, "Shulamite" but this is not certain.

Ellicott has a fascinating discussion of the textual problems here:

EXCURSUS III.—ON THE PASSAGE, Song of Solomon 6:11-13.

Translated word for word this passage runs as follows:—“Into the garden of nuts I descended to see the verdure of the valley, to see if the vine was shooting, if the pomegranates flourished. I did not know,—my soul,—put me,—chariots of my people—noble. Come back, come back the Shulamite. Come back, come back, in order that we may see thee. What do you see in Shulamite? Like the dance of two camps.”

This the LXX. translate:—“Into the garden of nuts I descended to see among the vegetation of the torrent bed, to see if the vine flourished, if the pomegranate sprouted, there I will give thee my breasts. My soul did not know, the chariots of Amminadab put me—return, return, Shunamite, return, return, and we will contemplate thee. What will you see in the Shunamite? She that cometh like choruses of the camps.”

The Vulgate does not insert the promise of love, and reads: “and I did not know, my soul troubled me on account of the four-horsed chariots of Amminadab. Return, return, Shulamite, that we may look at thee. What wilt thou see in the Shulamite; if not the chorus of camps.”

A comparison of the above seems to show—

(1) That the Hebrew text has not come down to us in its integrity.

(2) That the Greek translators had before their eyes another text.

(3) That neither they nor St. Jerome understood the text which came to them already incomplete.

Yet this impossible passage, “the rags of a text irremediably corrupt,” has become for many scholars the key to the entire book. The heroine in a moment of bewilderment strays into the midst of a cortége of King Solomon, who instantly falls in love with her; or perhaps into the midst of a detachment of his troops, who capture her for the royal harem, after a comparison of her simple country style of dancing with that of the trained court ladies. This, or some similar device, is resorted to by most of those who construct an elaborate drama out of this series of love-lyrics, the whole structure falling to pieces when we see that on this, the centre, the only passage giving a possible incident on which to hang the rest, no reliance whatever can be placed, since it is so obviously corrupt.

The following are a few of various suggested translations of this piece:—

“My heart led me—I know not how—far from the troop of my noble people. Come back, come back, they cry, that we may see thee, Shulamite. What do you see in me, a poor Shulamite?”

“My desire made of me, so to speak, a chariot of my noble people,” &c.

“My desire brought me to a chariot, a noble one,” &c.

“Suddenly I was seized with fright,—chariots of my people the Prince!”

As to “the dance of Mahanaim,” even if by itself intelligible, as a, reference to an old national dance, as we say “Polonaise,” “Scotch dance,” or as a dance performed by two choirs or bands (see Note ad loc.) the connection with the context is almost inexplicable. The only suggestion which seems worthy of consideration, connects the words not with what precedes but with what immediately follows. If a word or words leading to the comparison, “like,” &c, have dropped out, or if “like a dance of Mahanaim” may be taken as a kind of stage direction, to introduce the choric scene, the passage will become clear in the light thrown on it by the analogy of the modern Syrian marriage customs.

The question, “What do you see in Shulamite?” may be understood as a challenge to the poet to sing the customary “wasf” or eulogy on the bride’s beauty, which accordingly follows in the next chapter. But before it began, a dance after the manner of the sword dance that forms at present a customary part of a Syrian wedding, would in due course have to be performed, and the words “(dance) like the dance of Mahanaim” would be a direction for its performance. See end of Excursus II. on the form of the Poem.

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  • Wow thank you Dottard. Ellicott's approach is for me inspiring next time stumbling across this line of questions! Jun 6 at 10:44

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