My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing* has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.”
–Song of Solomon 2:10-12 (ESV)
*The Hebrew text reads eth hazzamir. Most of the ancient versions, e.g. LXX, Vulgate, Targum, have translated זְמִיר zamir as “trimming, pruning,” though the word does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament with this meaning (some attribute the root to be זָמַר zamar, which means “to trim, prune” and occurs 3x in Leviticus 25:3-4; Isaiah 5:6). Verse 13 says that “the vines are in blossom,” but they cannot be pruned when are are at that stage. However, there is what is called ‘summer pruning,’ one purpose of which is to help in the formation of the fruit or blossom-buds of fruit trees. This is done while the shoots are yet young and succulent so that they may in most cases be nipped off with the thumbnail. The time for this would be just before blooming, and both pruning and blooming would be processes appropriate to spring. For the meaning “singing,” there is the fact that zamir occurs a number of times with the meaning “song,” but always of human singing (2 Samuel 23:1; Job 35:10; Psalm 95:2, 119:54; Isaiah 24:16).
This homonymic wordplay creates an example of “asymmetric Janus parallelism” between the three poetic lines which play off both root meanings of the intentionally ambiguous homonym. C.H. Gordon comments: “The poet knew how to exploit the double meaning of zamir. Retrospectively it parallels the first member of the tristich pertaining to the growth of the soil; proleptically it parallels the final member pertaining to song.”
A friend spoke a word over Noah and I that we would be entering a season of ‘painless pruning.’ This would certainly reflect an understanding of zamir as simultaneous “singing” and “pruning”! For a variety of reasons, last year was a long winter, but God is transitioning me into a new season, and I am excited to see what spring will hold.
You are welcome to follow my blog and join me on my journey as I grow in my identity as a daughter of the King, a member of the local body of Christ, and a newlywed wife.
Rev. Andrew Harper, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (London, Cambridge University Press: 1907) 14-15.
Gary Rendsburg, Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 99, No. 2 (The Society of Biblical Literature: June 1980) 291-293.
Abraham Mariaselvam, The Song of Songs and Ancient Tamil Love Poems: Poetry and Symbolism (Rome, Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico: 1988) 55.