The Word Made Fresh
1Where, O fairest of women, has your lover gone?
Which way did he turn; we want to see him with you!
2My love has gone down to his garden, to his spice beds
to pasture his flock, and to gather lilies.
3I belong to him, and he belongs to me,
as he leads his flock to pasture among the lilies.
4You are beautiful, my love; as beautiful as Tirzah;
as lovely as Jerusalem;
and as stunning as an army waving its banners.
5Turn your eyes away from me; I am overwhelmed!
Your hair is like a flock of goats wandering down the slopes of Gilead.
6Your teeth are like a flock of ewes come up from the spring.
Each of them has a twin; not one of them is alone.
7They are like pomegranate halves behind your veil.
8You are escorted by sixty queens and forty companions,
lovely maidens without number.
9My perfect dove is the only one for me,
she is her mother’s darling, her flawless child.
The other maidens see how happy she is,
and she is praised by queens and girls in waiting.
10“Who is this?” they ask, “that comes forth like a new morning,
as fair as the moon and as bright as the sun;
as striking as an army raising its banners?”
11I went to the orchard of nut trees to see the blossoms in the valley,
where the vines had budded and the pomegranates were in bloom.
12Before I knew it I imagined myself in a chariot beside my prince.
13“Come back! Come back, Shulammite maiden!
Come back and let us see you!”
Why should you look upon her as you would
look upon a dance between two armies?
1-3: Her friends, having heard her description of him, want to know where he is, and her response is that he is tending his flock. Verse 3 may be intended to refer back to the imagery in 4:5.
4-10: Once again we have his fanciful description of her. She is almost too beautiful to look upon; locks of hair, no missing teeth. If you should line up countless other girls, she would be the only one worthy of your attention. Her beauty is as threatening to them as an army on the march.
11-13: She goes out to the orchard (in 1:6 she is a keeper of vineyards) and imagines she is with her lover. The other girls call for her to return, but she rebuffs them. Verse 13 is the only place where she is referred to as a Shulammite, and the word is a puzzle. Some scholars think it is the feminine form of Solomon. Others see in it a reference to an unidentified location. The “dance before two armies” (NRSV) is in other translations rendered “the dance of Mahanaim.” Mahanaim literally means “two camps,” and is the name Jacob gave to the place where he encountered angels after separating from Laban (see Genesis 32:2). Perhaps the sense of verse 13b is something like, “Why should you stare at Solomon’s lady as though she were some sort of camp-side entertainment?”
Love between a man and a woman overcomes all obstacles. No defects are found in the woman’s appearance, and the man cannot help but dream of their being together. For her part, she sees him as her sole desire, and nothing can dissuade her from her conclusion (delusion?) that he is the only one for her. Such is love when the desire of romance permeates their togetherness and draws the bonds tighter.