Song of Songs 1

Song of Songs 1 (abbreviated as Song 1) is the first chapter of a book called "Song of Songs" or "Song of Solomon" in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.[1][2] This book is one of the Five Megillot, a collection of short books, together with Book of Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther, within the Ketuvim, the third and the last part of the Hebrew Bible.[3] Jewish tradition views Solomon as the author of this book, and this attribution influences the acceptance of this book as a canonical text, although this is now largely disputed.[3] This chapter contains the superscription, songs of the main female characters and the opening song of the male character.[4]

Song of Songs 1
Song of songs Rothschild mahzor.jpg
Illumination for the opening verse of Song of Songs, the Rothschild Mahzor, Manuscript on parchment. Florence, Italy, 1492.
BookSong of Songs
Christian Bible partOld Testament
Order in the Christian part22


A handwritten Hebrew scroll of the Song of Songs by the scribe Elihu Shannon of Kibbutz Saad, Israel (circa 2005).

The original text is written in Hebrew language. This chapter is divided into 17 verses.

Textual witnessesEdit

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter in Hebrew are of the Masoretic Text, which includes the Aleppo Codex (10th century), and Codex Leningradensis (1008).[5] Some fragments containing parts of this chapter were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, assigned as 6Q6 (6QCant); 50 CE; extant verses 1-7).[6][7][8]

There is also a translation into Koine Greek known as the Septuagint, made in the last few centuries BCE. Extant ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint version include Codex Vaticanus (B;  B; 4th century), Codex Sinaiticus (S; BHK:  S; 4th century), and Codex Alexandrinus (A;  A; 5th century).[9]


Modern English Version (MEV) groups this chapter into:

Superscription (1:1)Edit

The end of the book of Ecclesiastes and the beginning of the first chapter of Song of Songs in a family Bible, bound with the Book of Common Prayer, 1607.

A superscription in biblical books functions like a title page of modern books, containing information about the genre, author, and sometimes also the subject matter and the date of the book (in prophecy books for examples, Isaiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; in wisdom books: Proverbs 1:1; Ecclesiastes 1:1).[10]

Verse 1Edit

The song of songs, which is Solomon's.[11]

The verse is a detached description of the book content, containing two phrases: "the song of songs" and "which is Solomon's".[12]

  • The "song of songs" (Hebrew: שיר השירים‎, shîr ha-shî-rîm[13]): The form of the words indicates a superlative statement as the "Best Song",[14] but can also denote "a single poem composed of many poems".[15]
  • "Song" (Hebrew: שיר, shîr;[13] also meaning "poem") in noun form appears only here in this book, out of 166 times in the Hebrew Bible (mostly in the Book of Psalms).[14]
  • "Which is Solomon's" ("that concerns Solomon"; Hebrew: אשר לשלמה, ’ă-sher liš-lō-mōh[13]): can have the interpretation that (1) Solomon is the author; (2) the book is dedicated to Solomon; or (3) it was merely a 'part of royal holding'.[16]
  • "Solomon": outside twice this first chapter (verse 1, 5), his name is only mentioned in two other passages (3 times in 3:6–11 and 2 times in the last chapter 8:10–12), for a total of seven times in the whole book.[17]

Female: Longing for her lover (1:2–7)Edit

Heart shaped shadow cast by a ring on the pages of the Bible. Song of Solomon chapter 1 is shown on the right page.

This section is the first part of the Prologue, containing the description of the first coming together and intimacy (1:2–2:7).[18] The speaker is a woman as definitely established in verse 5 from the adjectival form shehora ("black").[19]

Verses 2–4 contains a 'romantic soliloquy' of a woman about her lover, with two distinctive word-patterns: "your_love (or 'lovemaking') more_than_wine" (verses 2, 4; Hebrew: דדיך מיין, ḏō-ḏe-ḵā mî-ya-yin[20]) and "they love you" (verses 3, 4; Hebrew: אהבוך, ’ă-hê-ḇū-ḵā.[20]).[21]

The first appearance of the first word-pattern is a part of a chiastic structure (verses 2b–3a):[21]

A. good
B. your lovemaking
C. wine
C'. scent
B'. ointments
A'. good

The second chiastic structure of the same word-pattern could be found in verse 4(c–d).[21] The word for the noun "love" (ḏôḏîm) is plural, indicating more that one romantic act, so here "lovemaking" is a better rendering than a simple word "love".[22]

One Hebrew word (ahebuka) becomes the second word-pattern "[they] love you" which is used 'twice as the last word of a tricolon' in verses 3 and 4.[21] The root verb "love" (aheb) is used seven times in the whole book (verses 1:3, 4, 7; 3:1, 2, 3, 4) and always translated in Greek using the same verb 'agapaō' in Septuagint (LXX) (also only seven times in these seven verses of the book).[23]

Verse 3Edit

[The Shulamite]

Because of the fragrance of your good ointments,
Your name is ointment poured forth;
Therefore the virgins love you.[24]
  • "The virgins" (Hebrew: עלמות, ‘ălāmōṯ[25]): from the root word ‘ălmā ("maiden"), which is only used seven times in the whole Hebrew Bible, twice in this book (the second one in 6:8),[a] none denies the possibility of the interpretation of "virgins", some even suggest it, but the most certain meaning is "unmarried women who are, or shortly will be, sexually mature".[27]

Verse 4Edit

The word "אחריך", meaning "after you", from Song of Solomon 1:4a in the Leningrad Codex (hand-written) and in the Hebrew Bible print edition of the BHS (which omits the Rafe diacritic)
According to the New King James Version (NKJV)

[The Shulamite]

Draw me away!

[The Daughters of Jerusalem]

We will run after [a]you.

[The Shulamite]

The king has brought me into his chambers.

[The Daughters of Jerusalem]

We will be glad and rejoice in [b]you.
We will remember your love more than wine.

[The Shulamite]

Rightly do they love you.[28]
  • [a]"You": masculine singular, referring to "the Beloved" ("the man").[29]
  • [b]"You": feminine singular, referring to "the Shulamite" ("the woman").[30]

Verse 5Edit

I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.[31]

The phrase "daughters of Jerusalem" ("friends of the woman" in MEV heading; "girls of Jerusalem" in Living Bible) is introduced as one of the three identifiable speaking voices and principal characters in this chapter, other than the woman who speaks until verse 1 and the man, whom the woman talks about in 1:2-4 and 7 (he starts to speak in 1:9-11).[32]

  • "Solomon": one of the seven times this name is mentioned in the whole book (together with verse 1, 3 times in 3:6–11 and 2 times in the last chapter 8:10–12).[17]

Verse 6Edit

Do not gaze at me, because I am dark,
because the sun has looked upon me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
they made me the keeper of the vineyards,
but my own vineyard I have not kept.[33]
  • "My mother's sons": suggesting her "full brothers" (not "half-brothers"), who seem to assume responsibility on the woman (cf. Song 8:8), a common practice in the patriarchal societies, especially with no mention of her father in the whole book.[34] The woman's mother is mentioned in five places (Song 1:6; 3:4, 6:9; 8:1,2), whereas the man's mother is mentioned once (Song 8:5) and one mention of Solomon's mother (Song 3:11).[34][35]

Verse 7Edit

17th-Century French tapestry with the text of Song 1:7 in Latin on the center bottom ("Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest"). Palace of Tau, Rheims.
Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
where you pasture your flock,
where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who wanders
beside the flocks of your companions?[36]
  • "Noon": in warm climates, such as in Palestine, is a time for 'rest and repose', and a convenient occasion for 'an amorous tryst'.[37]

Male: Response with invitation and praise (1:8–11)Edit

Hess notes the distinct structure of the verses containing the male's response in term of the syllable count for the lines in each one:[38]

  • Verse 8: 11, 6, and 12
  • Verse 9: 7 and 6
  • Verse 10: 8 and 6
  • Verse 11: 7 and 6

It is clear that verse 8 is structurally out of sequence among these verses and different in the content as well: verse 8 provides the answer to the female's prior question, whereas verses 9–11 focus on her beauty.[38]

Verse 8Edit


If you do not know,
O most beautiful among women,
follow in the tracks of the flock,
and pasture your young goats
beside the shepherds' tents.[39]

All three finite verbs in this verse ("know", "follow" and "pasture") have the woman as the subject, and the second-person feminine singular form is used for "you" or "your".[38] The structure of this verse duplicates the woman's question and plea of verse 7.[38] MEV applies this verse to the "Friends of the woman".[40]

Verse 9Edit

[The Man]

I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.[41]

The man calls his lover, "my love" (or "my [female] friend"; Hebrew: רעיתי, ra‘-yā-ṯî[42]) a specific term of endearment for women that is used 9 times in the book (Song 1:9, 15; 2:2,10, 13; 4:1,7; 5:2; 6:4).[43][44] The masculine form of the same root word to call the man ("my [male] friend"; Hebrew: רעי, rê-‘î[45])[b] is used in a parallel construction with "my beloved" (Hebrew: דודי, ḏōḏî[45]) in Song 5:16.[43]

Female: Her lover as fragrance (1:12–14)Edit

Illustration of "A disciple washes Christ's feet" (Luke 7:38) with the text on the bottom from Song of Solomon 1:12 in Latin (English: "While the king was at his repose, my spikenard sent forth the odour thereof.")
Lawsonia inermis, known as "camphire" or "henna".

In these three verses, the woman describes her lover in the first line and their relationship in the second line.[47] The second word in each of the verses—the king, the myrrh, the henna—are the only words preceded by the definite article הַ (ha) in this section, indicating their identification with one another.[47]

Verse 12Edit

While the king is at his table,
My spikenard sends forth its fragrance.[48]

Verse 14Edit

Ein Gedi (=Engedi) nature reserve, Judaean Desert, Israel. (2009)
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.[55]
  • "Camphire" (Hebrew: כפר, kō-p̄er[56]) or "Henna" (Lawsonia inermis) from Arabic: حِنَّاء‎ (ALA-LC: ḥinnāʾ).[57] This small shrub (8–10 feet high) produces "clusters of white and yellow blossoms with a powerful fragrance" and continues to grow in En-gedi area from the ancient time until the modern era, providing an enduring illustration of this verse.[58]
  • Engedi: lit. "spring of the kid"; an "oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea".[59]

Male: Praise of beauty (1:15)Edit

Verse 15Edit

Behold, you are fair, my love!
Behold, you are fair!
You have dove's eyes.[60]

In this verse and the following, the lovers exchange a mutual admiration in a parallel fashion:[61]

  • first the man (verse 15)
a. Ah!
b. you are beautiful
c. my love (ra‘-yā-ṯî)
  • then the woman (verse 16):
a'. Ah!
b'. you are beautiful
c'. my love (ḏōḏî)[61]

The response of the man comprises seven words, two of which are repeated (Hebrew: הנך יפה hināḵ yāp̄āh, "behold_you_[are] fair"[62]).[63] The exclamation "you are beautiful" is used most frequently by the man to describe his lover (1:8,15; 2:10, 13; 4:1,7,10; 7:1,6 [Masoretic: 7:2,7]).[64]

Female: Love in paradise (1:16–2:1)Edit

Verses 16–17 focus on the subject of trees, with a closure in verse 2:1 on the subject of flowers, to provide a 'picture of the bed as a spreading growth', using a theme of nature's flora.[65]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The seven verses containing the word formed from ‘ălmā are Song 1:3 and Song 6:8, Genesis 24:43, Exodus 2:8, Psalm 68:26 (68:25 English), Proverbs 30:19, and Isaiah 7:14.[26]
  2. ^ Another use of rê·‘î in the Hebrew Bible is in Job 31:9.[46]


  1. ^ Halley 1965, p. 278.
  2. ^ Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook. Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 2012.
  3. ^ a b Brenner 2007, p. 429.
  4. ^ Brenner 2007, p. 430.
  5. ^ Würthwein 1995, pp. 36-37.
  6. ^ Ulrich, Eugene, ed. (2010). The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants. Brill. p. 739. ISBN 9789004181830. Retrieved May 15, 2017.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  7. ^ Dead sea scrolls - Song of Songs.
  8. ^ Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (2008). A Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 107. ISBN 9780802862419. Retrieved February 15, 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  9. ^ Würthwein 1995, pp. 73-74.
  10. ^ Longman 2001, p. 87.
  11. ^ Song 1:1 KJV
  12. ^ Longman 2001, pp. 87-88.
  13. ^ a b c Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 1:1. Biblehub
  14. ^ a b Hess 2005, p. 37.
  15. ^ Longman 2001, p. 88.
  16. ^ Bergant 2001, p. 3.
  17. ^ a b Longman 2001, pp. 88, 132.
  18. ^ Hess 2005, p. 35.
  19. ^ Exum 2005, pp. 92, 100.
  20. ^ a b Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 1:4. Biblehub
  21. ^ a b c d Bergant 2001, p. 8.
  22. ^ Bergant 2001, p. 9.
  23. ^ Hess 2005, p. 52.
  24. ^ Song 1:3 NKJV
  25. ^ Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 1:3.
  26. ^ Hess 2005, p. 51.
  27. ^ Hess 2005, pp. 51–52.
  28. ^ Song 1:4 NKJV
  29. ^ Note [a] on Song 1:4 in NKJV
  30. ^ Note [b] on Song 1:4 in NKJV
  31. ^ Song 1:5 KJV
  32. ^ Exum 2005, p. 100.
  33. ^ Song 1:6 MEV
  34. ^ a b Bergant 2001, p. 16.
  35. ^ Exum 2005, p. 141.
  36. ^ Song 1:7 RSV
  37. ^ Coogan 2007, p. 960 Hebrew Bible.
  38. ^ a b c d Hess 2005, p. 61.
  39. ^ Song 1:8 ESV
  40. ^ Song 1:8 MEV
  41. ^ Song 1:9 MEV
  42. ^ Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 1:9. Biblehub
  43. ^ a b Bergant 2001, p. 19.
  44. ^ Strong's Concordance: 7474. rayah. Biblehub
  45. ^ a b Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 5:16. Biblehub
  46. ^ Englishman's Concordance: rê·‘î — 2 Occurrences. Biblehub
  47. ^ a b Hess 2005, p. 68.
  48. ^ Song 1:12 NKJV
  49. ^ Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 1:12. Biblehub
  50. ^ Strong's Concordance: 4524. mesab or mesibbim or mesibboth. Biblehub
  51. ^ Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Song of Solomon 1. Accessed 28 April 2019.
  52. ^ Note [a] on Song of Solomon 1:12 in NKJV
  53. ^ Tristram 1868, pp. 484–485.
  54. ^ Exell, Joseph S.; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice (Editors). On "Song of Solomon 1". In: The Pulpit Commentary. 23 volumes. First publication: 1890. Accessed 24 April 2019.
  55. ^ Song 1:14 KJV
  56. ^ Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 1:14. Biblehub
  57. ^ Strong's Concordance: 3724. kopher. Biblehub
  58. ^ Tristram 1868, pp. 339–340.
  59. ^ Coogan 2007, p. 961 Hebrew Bible.
  60. ^ Song 1:15 NKJV
  61. ^ a b Bergant 2001, p. 21.
  62. ^ Hebrew Text Analysis: Song of Solomon 1:15. Biblehub
  63. ^ Hess 2005, p. 71.
  64. ^ Bergant 2001, pp. 21–22.
  65. ^ Hess 2005, pp. 72–73.


External linksEdit