1The Song of Songs,* which is Solomon’s.
The Woman Speaks of Her Lover
for your love is better than wine,*
3better than the fragrance of your perfumes.*
Your name is a flowing perfume—
therefore young women love you.
The king has brought me to his bed chambers.
Let us exult and rejoice in you;
let us celebrate your love: it is beyond wine!
Rightly do they love you!
5W I am black and beautiful,
Daughters of Jerusalem*—
Like the tents of Qedar,
like the curtains of Solomon.
6Do not stare at me because I am so black,*
because the sun has burned me.
The sons of my mother were angry with me;
they charged me with the care of the vineyards:
my own vineyard I did not take care of.
7W Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
where you shepherd,* where you give rest at midday.
Why should I be like one wandering
after the flocks of your companions?
8M If you do not know,
most beautiful among women,
Follow the tracks of the flock
and pasture your lambs*
near the shepherds’ tents.
9M To a mare among Pharaoh’s chariotry*
I compare you, my friend:
10Your cheeks lovely in pendants,
your neck in jewels.
11We will make pendants of gold for you,
and ornaments of silver.
How Near Is Love!
12W While the king was upon his couch,
my spikenard* gave forth its fragrance.
13My lover* is to me a sachet of myrrh;
between my breasts he lies.
14My lover is to me a cluster of henna*
from the vineyards of En-gedi.
15Mc How beautiful you are, my friend,
how beautiful! your eyes are doves!*
16W How beautiful you are, my lover—
Verdant indeed is our couch;*
17the beams of our house are cedars,
our rafters, cypresses.
* [1:1] Song of Songs: in Hebrew and Aramaic the idiom “the X of Xs” denotes the superlative (e.g., “king of kings” = “the highest king”; cf. Dt 10:17; Eccl 1:2; 12:8; Ezr 7:12; Dn 2:37). The ascription of authorship to Solomon is traditional. The heading may also mean “for Solomon” or “about Solomon.”
* [1:2–8:14] This translation augments the canonical text of the Song with the letters W, M, and D, placed in the margin, to indicate which of the characters in the Song is speaking: the woman, the man, or the “Daughters of Jerusalem.” This interpretive gloss follows an early Christian scribal practice, attested in some Septuagint manuscripts from the first half of the first millennium A.D.
* [1:2–7] The woman and her female chorus address the man, here viewed as king and shepherd (both are familiar metaphors for God; cf. Ps 23:1; Is 40:11; Jn 10:1–16). There is a wordplay between “kiss” (Hebrew nashaq) and “drink” (shaqah), anticipating 8:1–2. The change from third person (“let him kiss…”) to second person (“…for your love…”) is not uncommon in the Song and elsewhere (1:4; 2:4; etc.; Ps 23:1–3, 4–5, 6; etc.) and reflects the woman’s move from interior monologue to direct address to her partner.
* [1:3] Your perfumes: shemen (perfume) is a play on shem (name).
* [1:4] Another change, but from second to third person (cf. 1:2). The “king” metaphor recurs in 1:12; 3:5–11; 7:6. Let us exult: perhaps she is addressing young women, calling on them to join in the praise of her lover.
* [1:5] Daughters of Jerusalem: the woman contrasts herself with the elite city women, who act as her female “chorus” (5:9; 6:1). Qedar: a Syrian desert region whose name suggests darkness; tents were often made of black goat hair. Curtains: tent coverings, or tapestries. Solomon: it could also be read Salma, a region close to Qedar.
* [1:6] So black: tanned from working outdoors in her brothers’ vineyards, unlike the city women she addresses. My own vineyard: perhaps the woman herself; see 8:8–10 for her relationship to her brothers.
* [1:7] Shepherd: a common metaphor for kings. Here and elsewhere in the Song (3:1; 5:8; 6:1), the woman expresses her desire to be in the company of her lover. The search for the lover and her failure to find him create a degree of tension. Only at the end (8:5–14) do the lovers finally possess each other.
* [1:8] Pasture your lambs: both the woman and the man act as shepherds in the Song.
* [1:9–11] The man compares the woman’s beauty to the rich adornment of the royal chariot of Pharaoh. My friend: a special feminine form of the word “friend,” appearing only in the Song (1:15; 2:2, 10, 13; 4:1, 7; 5:2; 6:4) and used to express endearment and equality in love. Cf. Hos 3:1 for the use of the masculine form of the term in a context with sexual overtones.
* [1:13] My lover: the woman’s favorite term for her partner (used twenty-seven times). Myrrh: an aromatic resin of balsam or roses used in cosmetics, incense, and medicines.
* [1:14] Henna: a plant which bears white scented flowers, used in cosmetics and medicines. En-gedi: a Judean desert oasis overlooking the Dead Sea.
* [1:15] Doves: doves are pictured in the ancient world as messengers of love.
* [1:16–17] Continuing the royal metaphor, the meeting place of the lovers, a shepherd’s hut of green branches, becomes a palace with beams of cedar and rafters of cypress when adorned with their love.