Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav

What is the interpretation of the Song of Solomon verse 5:16? And what does machmadim mean in Hebrew?

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cantique-des-cantiques-v-chagall

Song of Songs / Chagalle

In this chapter of the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon, as it is sometimes known in English), the woman is describing her lover to her female confidantes. Some of it is rather graphic—but thankfully, the verse you’re asking about is fairly tame:

חִכּוֹ, מַמְתַקִּים, וְכֻלּוֹ, מַחֲמַדִּים; זֶה דוֹדִי וְזֶה רֵעִי, בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם

Transliterated: Ḥiko mamtaqim, vekhulo maḥmadim—zeh dodi vezeh re’i, bnot Yerushalaim.

The King James version translates it as follows:

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

The word mamtaqim means literally “sweets” (i.e., she likes kissing him), and maḥmadim, which is its counterpart in the parallelism, means roughly “precious, good things”, or, in this case, “delights”.

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(Originally written in reply to a question at Quora.com).

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Author: יונתן אור-סתיו | Jonathan Orr-Stav

Hebrew-English translator, editor, author. מתרגם עברית–אנגלית, עורך באנגלית, וסופר.

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