- 6:1 Beautiful lady,
where did your lover go?
In which direction?
We’d like to help you find him.
Lady in love
- 6:2 My lover has come back to his garden,
And to his beds of fragrant spices.
He came to graze his flock
And to pick lilies.
- 6:3 I belong to my lover
And he belongs to me,
This man who is grazing his flock
Among the lilies.1
Gent in love
- 6:4 My darling, you are as beautiful as twin cities,
Tirzah and lovely Jerusalem.2
The awesome power of your beauty
Is like an army with high-flying banners.
- 6:5 Please, look away from me.
I can’t concentrate when you look at me like that.
Your hair flows gracefully upon your shoulders,
like a flock of goats gliding down Mount Gilead.3
- 6:6 Your teeth are as white as freshly sheared sheep
Climbing out of the bathwater.
Every one is there.
Not one is missing.
- 6:7 And those cheeks, rosy as two slices of pomegranate,
Hidden behind that veil.
- 6:8 If I had a harem of 60 queens and 80 slave wives4
And all the other women I could ever want
- 6:9 It wouldn’t be enough. The only one I want
Is my dove, my perfect match, my one and only.
She’s her mom’s only daughter.
She’s her mom’s great joy.
Other women see the happiness in her.
Queens and royal slave wives praise her and say,
- 6:10 "Who is this creature, glowing like dawn,
Beautiful as a full moon,
Pure as sunshine,
And awesome as an army, with its banners high?"
- 6:11 I went to the nut5orchard
To inspect the valley blossoms.
I wanted to see if there were buds in the vineyard
Or blooms on the pomegranate trees.
- 6:12 Suddenly, I imagined myself
As a prince, standing proud in a chariot before you.6
- 6:13a Shulammite,7 come back. Come back.
We want to look at you. Come back. Come back.
Lady in love
- 6:13b What’s so special about the Shulammite that makes you stare
Like you’re watching the dance of two armies in combat?
If you’re not reading between the lines yet, many scholars would say, you’re not reading this poem. The lady who says her man is picking lilies in the garden has previously identified herself as the “lily of the valley” (2:1) and a “garden open for business” (4:15).
Little-known Tirzah was a city in the Judean hills, in what is now the Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territory called the West Bank. The ruins of Tell el-Far’ah, North, are generally associated with the ancient city. It’s roughly 40 miles (64 km) north of Jerusalem. It served as capital of the northern Jewish nation of Israel for about half a century, starting under the rebel king Jeroboam and ending with King Ahab’s father, Omri. Since Jerusalem was the capital of the southern nation of Judah, the two capitals were seen as twin cities—until King Omri moved the capital of Israel to Samaria.
Perhaps he’s right about not being able to concentrate, since he’s repeating himself in 6:5-7. See Song of Songs 4:1-3.
Brace yourself. Some scholars say this is a double entendre. It’s not just a nut orchard. It’s a reference to testicles, they say. When it came time to decorate the honeymoon tent, people sometimes threw nuts around the room. They also decorated with some open nuts, a double entendre for the lady parts, the vulva. This is one reason some Jewish scholars in ancient times lobbied to exclude the Song of Songs from the Bible.
A nut orchard might sound to some like the perfect location for this verse. Scholars seem to have no idea what to do with these odd lyrics. They can’t even agree on the literal translation from Hebrew to English. The Septuagint, first-known Greek translation from Hebrew, shortly before the time of Jesus, reports the verse as “my soul did not know; it made me chariots of Aminadab.” The modern English translation that is perhaps most respected by biblical scholars translates it as: “Before I was aware, my soul set me // Over the chariots of my noble people” (New American Standard Version). The Common English Version: “But in my imagination // I was suddenly riding // on a glorious chariot.”
This is the only place this name appears in the poem. There are lots of theories about what the name means. Is it a reference to Sulmanitu, an ancient goddess of love and war? Or perhaps it links the Lady in love to the Israelite city of Shunem. Most popular theory, however, is that it’s a nickname for the Lady in love—possibly a feminine form of “Solomon,” and a way of describing her as royalty or as a peacemaker. Solomon united Israel and brought peace. The Lady in love brings peace to her lover and makes him feel complete, as the two become one. Still, these are all merely educated guesses.