I can see how "season of singing" connects with the birds' singing, but I don't see why so many translates interpret the literal meaning in that connected way. Is there some history or underlying grammar that connects pruning and singing? Is "singing" a common translation of the original language?

"Pruning" or "cutting" seems to be favored by ancient translations like LLX. At what point did "singing" become the favored translation and why?

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    – agarza
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 4:09

1 Answer 1


Great question - there appears to be a difference of lexical opinion about how the word זָמִיר (zamiyr) should be classified. Should it be:

  • זָמִיר (zamiyr - Strongs 2158) meaning singing/song as in 2 Sam 23:1, Job 35:10, Ps 95:2, 119:54, SS 2:12, Isa 24:16, 25:5, or,
  • זָמִיר (zamiyr - Strongs 2159) meaning branch/pruning occurring only in SS 2:12

I note the following from the various lexicons:

  • BDB is divided and lists the word twice under both headings
  • Wigram's "Englishman's Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament" uses a different classification essentially combining the two and suggesting that the meaning in SS 2:12 is "singing".
  • Baker and Carpenter's "Complete Word Study Dictionary of the Old Testament" essentially implies that Strong was wrong and that #2159 should be classified as #2158, "singing".

As the OP correctly notes, most modern versions appear to agree with the standard lexicons and translate the word as "singing". So why do an isolated few (NASB, NET, ASB) render this word "pruning"?

It appears to be an attempt to accommodate the LXX and its translation τομῆς (tomes) = "pruning". This is all I can suggest as the text itself strongly suggests "singing" because of the Hebrew parallelism - note the following (my translation):

  • The flowers appear on the land
  • The time of singing has come
  • The voice of the turtledove is heard in our land

Note the comments of Ellicott:

(12) The time of the singing—Heb., zamîr·—may mean pruning (so LXX. and Vulg.), but parallelism requires singing-time (a meaning which analogy will certainly allow us to give to the Hebrew word zamîr). Nor can the correctness of our version in inserting of birds be questioned, since from the context it is plainly “the untaught harmony of spring,” and not the voices of men intended.

Further, if it is the time of vine blossom and flowers (V13), then the time of pruning is already past.

The only way to explain this translation of the LXX is to assume that the LXX translators worked from a slightly different Hebrew text than that which has come down to us. This is also true in hundreds of other places on the OT, so this instance is anything but unusual.

  • Is it possible that the "branches/pruning" (as interpreted in LLX, possibly from a different Hebrew source) could be a mention of the birds nesting (pruning twigs for nests), which occurs shortly before mating? Rather than parallelism, this would interpret a quick timeline similar to 2:11 (Winter weather, spring rain). I mean, either way, it seems clear that the metaphor insinuates "love is pleased to be awakened" as in 2:7. I guess, to me, if the nesting interpretation is appropriate, it makes the metaphor more concrete.
    – mooman1264
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 23:57
  • @mooman1264 - perhaps but we cannot tell - that is reading a lot of meaning into the text that is unstated.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 0:04

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