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Song of Songs 7:6 reads:

מַה יָּפִית וּמַה נָּעַמְתְּ אַהֲבָה בַּתַּעֲנוּגִים

All translations that I've seen interpret the word אַהֲבָה (love) here as a vocative expression (referring either to the woman or to love itself).

But could it be instead a kind of "accusative of respect", i.e. the woman is being told that she is

"... delightful with love in [its] pleasures"?

(cf. Isaiah 49:26, "and like sweet-wine, [with] their blood they shall be drunk", or Isaiah 29:9, "They are drunk, but not [with] wine; they stagger, but not [by virtue of] strong-drink", or Song 2:5, "I am sick [with] love".)

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  • In SS 7:6, "love" appears to be personified - a pet name for the woman. "How beautiful, and how pleasant you are, love, with your delights!"
    – Dottard
    Aug 19, 2021 at 22:58
  • @Dottard Yes, this is the interpretation that I often see, but I am wondering if an alternative interpretation is possible. Aug 20, 2021 at 3:07
  • "accusative of respect" references?
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 11, 2021 at 19:25

3 Answers 3

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The noun often has that meaning. But, why do the translations including the JPS Tanakh translate the noun as a woman? Your examples of "accusative of respect" are part of the objects of verbs. Thus, אַהֲבָ֖ה would need to be in the object of the previous verb (נָּעַ֔מְתְּ). It looks possible.

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Song of Solomon 7:6 New International Version

How beautiful you are and how pleasing, my love, with your delights!

O love,
אַהֲבָ֖ה (’a·hă·ḇāh)
Noun - feminine singular
Strong's 160: Love (noun)

with your delights!
בַּתַּֽעֲנוּגִֽים׃ (bat·ta·‘ă·nū·ḡîm)
Preposition-b, Article | Noun - masculine plural
Strong's 8588: Daintiness, luxury, exquisite delight

The preposition is the prefix on the word "delights", not on "love".

At https://biblehub.com/songs/7-6.htm, all 29 versions treat "love" as a person and not as an object.

Can Song 7:6 be interpreted "How beautiful you are, and how delightful you are with love in its pleasures"?

Unlikely.

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  • Thank you. Of course I recognise the prepositional prefix on the word "delights" - that's the "in" when I write "...with love in [its] pleasures/delights". But I'm asking about whether the word "love" itself could be an accusative of the verbs יָּפִית (you are beautiful) and נָּעַמְתְּ (you are delightful). It would not be a "direct object" accusative, but I wonder whether it could be the same kind of accusative as in the examples from Isaiah 29:9, Isaiah 49:26 and Song 2:5 that I gave. In those examples, there is no preposition, but we still translate with the word "with". Oct 14, 2021 at 19:50
  • It is possible but unlikely due to the Preposition-b being attached to the word right next to it :) Also, Hebrew has an accusative marker which is not being used here.
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 14, 2021 at 20:19
  • The accusative marker is for "direct object" accusatives, i.e. accusatives that we would translate into English without adding a preposition like "with"; the accusative marker does not appear in any of the "accusative of respect" examples that I gave. Oct 15, 2021 at 4:16
  • Weigh the pieces of evidence for and against. Then decide :)
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 14, 2021 at 15:59
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It is true that אַהֲבָה (ahabah) denotes love of several types:

  • Powerful intimate love between a man and woman, Gen 29:20, SS 2:4, 5, 7
  • Love between friends, 2 Sam 1:26
  • God's love for His people, Isa 63:9, Hos 3:1
  • Affection and faithfulness in a covenant relationship, Prov 15:17

What is the intended meaning in SS 7:6. Based on the context, it might be either of:

  • sexual love itself with it delights and pleasures (an abstract idea)
  • the man's bride and the delights a pleasure she brings him

Of these two options, I prefer the latter because of the following considerations:

  • SS 7:1-5 is a description of the naked bride standing before her husband and the exuberant expectation of what is about to happen
  • SS 7:7-9 sounds like a very intimate embrace and foreplay description (especially V8)
  • SS 7:6a is another expression of the bride's beauty

Given that Hebrew does not have much space for abstract ideas (it expresses most abstract ideas in concrete nouns and action verbs), I prefer אַהֲבָה (ahabah) to be a loving description, a pet-word, for the bride herself and how much the man is enjoying his bride. A few versions capture this well:

  • NIV: How beautiful you are and how pleasing, my love, with your delights!
  • NLT: Oh, how beautiful you are! How pleasing, my love, how full of delights!
  • ESV: How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights!
  • NASB: “How beautiful and how delightful you are, My love, with all your delights!
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  • Thank you for your helpful comments. As stated in the question, I am familiar with both of the interpretations that you mention, namely (1) where love itself is being addressed and (2) where the bride is addressed by the pet vocative expression "O love"; but I am asking about whether a third different interpretation is possible: namely, where ahabah is not vocative at all, but is an accusative of respect for the verbs yapit and naamt. Jan 1 at 2:30
  • @JulianNewman - "with love" would need to be an interpretive translation because no such preposition "with" can be wrung from the original language. The word "love" here is a simple noun in the nominative singular state.
    – Dottard
    Jan 1 at 3:13
  • How do you prove that it's nominative/vocative and not accusative? Hebrew doesn't have different noun endings for nominative, vocative, accusative, etc. like Greek does. In my question I gave four examples of accusatives of respect, where the original Hebrew does not have an explicit preposition corresponding to "with", and yet probably all formal-equivalence English translations will insert the word "with" or some similar preposition. My question is: how do we know that ahabah in SS7:6 cannot likewise be another example of an accusative of respect? Jan 1 at 3:33

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