Q&A: What is the interpretation of the Song of Solomon verse 5:16? And what does mahmadim mean in Hebrew?


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


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—its counterpart in the parallelism—means roughly ‘precious, good things’, or, in this case, ‘delights’.

Note: This question is often raised by Muslims, who are curious if the word maḥmadim is related to the name of—or perhaps, a harbinger—of the Prophet Muhammad. The answer is that while the verse has nothing whatsoever to do the Prophet Muhammad, the word maḥmadim is etymologically related to his name—although the meaning is somewhat different. The Arabic name means ‘praiseworthy’, while in Hebrew, the verb laḥmod means ‘to covet’.




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