Song of Solomon2:17

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Until the day breathes in refreshing coolness

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and the shadows become indistinguishable,

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turn, my Love, and be

like a gazelle or like a young stag

on the rugged mountains.

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When encouraging and refreshing times come, and when discouraging times come,

turn your focus, my Love, away from the difficulties and be swift and agile; be strong and swift

amid insurmountable difficulties.


1: “coolness”

The Hebrew says, “until the day breathes,” meaning, “until the day becomes cooler, as the evening breezes replace the heat of the day.” Thus this phrase does not refer to morning time, but evening time. Some time ago I thought about this phrase when I went outside in the early morning and noted that it is usually cooler in the early morning than in the evening. But later I learned this is not a comparison of cool and cooler; it is a comparison of hot and cool. In that part of the world the heat builds up during the day and then it is replaced by the refreshing coolness of the evening. It is not a measurement of exact temperature that matters here, but a sense of relief and refreshing that comes as the hottest part of the day passes and one does not suffer as much from the heat. A number of translations render this phrase, “when the day breaks,” but the meaning of the word is entirely related to “breathing, blowing, or uttering;” a large number of scholars acknowledge this.

Re: Imagery: This is obviously a picture of refreshing encouragement.

2: “become indistinguishable”

This phrase is even more difficult than the first one. It says, “and the shadows disappear or are chased away.” At first glance this sounds like morning, when the sun makes the shadows smaller and smaller till by noon they are very small. But that would be a contradiction with the phrase which precedes it. So, what is going on here? It appears that what is disappearing, or being chased away, is not the presence of shadows, but the ability to perceive shadows as distinguishable shapes. This is referring to the time of evening when shadows grow long and become nothing more than a mass of indistinguishable darkness. Support for this interpretation comes from such noted scholars as BDB, the Cambridge Bible, Ellicott, Barnes, and Jamieson-Fausset-Brown. The common translations available today are split on the matter.

In my opinion, the symbolism of this phrase points in the opposite direction of the phrase just preceding it. Because of the lack of light and the dark shadows, the symbolism seems to point to things like discouragement, doubt, or even danger.

3: “rugged mountains”

The word used here means “cut or divided,” and in other passages emphasized the pieces that have been cut apart. In English we would not say the “cut mountains,” but rather the “broken up mountains,” or “the rugged mountains.”

The same word is used for mountains or hills with very little distinction. The symbolism is the same whether you translate it mountains or hills.

Be Like a Gazelle

For the man to be swift and agile may mean he is “decisive in decision-making;” he is a man of action, yet flexible when flexibility is needed.

Her calling him to “be” is the kind of support a wife should give, encouraging him to be what she knows he is or can be. Rather than cutting her husband down for what he is not doing, she should tell him she believes in him and supports him because she knows what he is capable of. She should become his loudest cheerleader. Think of the Rocky movies. In all the ones I have seen and remember (I–IV), there is a turning point in Rocky’s willingness to fully invest himself in the training process. That turning point always comes when his wife, Adrian, stuffs her worries and begins to show her support for her man. A wife who replaces criticism and doubts with support and encouragement for her husband will discover a powerful tool. As men, we know when we have failed, we don’t need it shoved in our faces. Instead we need a wife who is supportive, encouraging and willing to go on this journey with us. A man needs to be able to say, “she believes in me;” he should never have to say, “she has no confidence in me.”

A woman’s most basic need is two-fold: to be made to feel secure, and to be cherished above everything else (except God). For that reason most women are not comfortable with a high level of risk. For instance, they are constantly worried about the finances of the home. Husbands are often willing to take much more risk than their wives are comfortable with. So wives naturally put on the brakes at every hint of risk. Men call this nagging. But here is the nugget of truth wives need to understand: the more a wife resists all risk the more her husband will pull the other way; he takes her concern as a lack of trust. However, if a wife can learn to be supportive most of the time and believe in her man and share his dreams, when he crosses a line into the “stupid zone” and she does register her concerns about too much risk, he will be more likely to listen and reconsider. When that balance is achieved the couple is functioning as a strong team. So guys, be careful about taking too much risk, and gals, give your man the freedom to take small risks so that he will listen to you when your concern is justified.

This also speaks to one of the basic ways a man can encourage his wife; he encourages her by being the kind of man she needs him to be. He motivates her and settles her insecurities by being the kind of man she needs, and she encourages him to be that kind of a man by telling him she knows he has it in him, she knows he can succeed.