The Beauty of the Woman
1Ma, b How beautiful you are, my friend,
how beautiful you are!
Your eyes are doves
behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
streaming down Mount Gilead.*
2Your teeth* are like a flock of ewes to be shorn,
that come up from the washing,
All of them big with twins,
none of them barren.
3Like a scarlet strand, your lips,
and your mouth—lovely!
Like pomegranate* halves, your cheeks
behind your veil.
4c Like a tower of David, your neck,
built in courses,
A thousand shields hanging upon it,
all the armor of warriors.*
5d Your breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle
feeding among the lilies.
6e Until the day grows cool
and the shadows flee,
I shall go to the mountain of myrrh,
to the hill of frankincense.*
7You are beautiful in every way, my friend,
there is no flaw in you!*
8With me from Lebanon, my bride!
With me from Lebanon, come!
Descend from the peak of Amana,
from the peak of Senir and Hermon,*
From the lairs of lions,
from the leopards’ heights.
9f You have ravished my heart, my sister,* my bride;
you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one bead of your necklace.
10g How beautiful is your love,
my sister, my bride,
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfumes than any spice!
11Your lips drip honey,* my bride,
honey and milk are under your tongue;
And the fragrance of your garments
is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
The Lover’s Garden
12Mh A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed!*
13Your branches are a grove of pomegranates,
with fruits of choicest yield:
Henna with spikenard,
14spikenard and saffron,
Sweet cane and cinnamon,
with all kinds of frankincense;
Myrrh and aloes,
with all the finest spices;*
15A garden fountain, a well of living water,
streams flowing from Lebanon.
16Awake,* north wind!
Come, south wind!
Blow upon my garden
that its perfumes may spread abroad.
W Let my lover come to his garden
and eat its fruits of choicest yield.
* [4:1] This section (vv. 1–7) begins a wasf, a traditional poetic form describing the physical attributes of one’s partner in terms of the natural world (cf. 5:10–16; 6:5b–7; 7:1–7). Veil: women of the region customarily veiled their faces for some occasions (cf. 4:3; 6:7; Gn 24:65–67; 38:14–19).
* [4:2] Teeth: praised for whiteness and evenness.
* [4:3] Pomegranate: a fruit with a firm skin and deep red color. The woman’s cheek (or perhaps her brow) is compared, in roundness and tint, to a half-pomegranate.
* [4:4] The ornaments about her neck are compared to the trophies and armaments on the city walls. Cf. 1 Kgs 10:10; 14:26–28; Ez 27:10.
* [4:6] Mountain of myrrh…hill of frankincense: spoken figuratively of the woman; cf. 8:14.
* [4:7] Cf. the description of the church in Eph 5:27.
* [4:8] Amana…Senir and Hermon: these rugged heights symbolize obstacles that would separate the lovers; cf. 2:14.
* [4:9] Sister: a term of endearment; brother-sister language forms part of the conventional language of love used in this canticle, the Book of Tobit, and elsewhere in poetry from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syro-Palestine.
* [4:11] Honey: sweet words (cf. Prv 5:3) or perhaps kisses (1:2–3). Honey and milk: familiar descriptions for the fertile promised land (Ex 3:8, 17; Lv 20:24; Nm 13:27; Dt 6:3).
* [4:12] Garden enclosed…fountain sealed: reserved for the lover alone. Cf. Prv 5:15–19 for similar images used to describe fruitful, committed relationship.
* [4:14] These plants are all known for their sweet fragrance.
* [4:16] Awake: the same verb is used of love in 3:5. The woman may be the speaker of 16a, as it is she who issues the invitation of 16b. His garden: the woman herself.