Most English translations render Song 7:5c as “The king is captivated by your tresses.” “Captivated” is not a felicitous translation, since the “capture” embedded in the word has been largely lost. The king might be captivated, but the Hebrew says that he is bound, help captive.

“Tresses” is questionable for a different reason. The Hebrew rahat is used only four times in the Hebrew Bible, and all the other three times it refers to troughs or channels of water. Jacob piles the stripped rods “before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs” (Genesis 30:38, 41), and Moses fills the “troughs” for the seven daughters of Jethro when he arrives at Midian.

As a description of the bride’s hair in the Song, the word might better be rendered as “cascades,” which captures the physical appearance and retains the allusion to flowing water. She is a mountain (Carmel), and her hair is like the veil of water that falls from the mountain head. This translation might also link the Song back to patriarchal types scenes of men and women meeting at wells and springs.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

Loading...