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Ecclesiastes 3:1 - Song of Songs 8:14 (New Living Translation)

Ecclesiastes 3 - Song of Solomon 8

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. 15 What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

The Injustices of Life

16 I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! 17 I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.”

18 I also thought about the human condition—how God proves to people that they are like animals. 19 For people and animals share the same fate—both breathe[a] and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! 20 Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust. 21 For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die.

Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.

Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

“Fools fold their idle hands,
    leading them to ruin.”

And yet,

“Better to have one handful with quietness
    than two handfuls with hard work
    and chasing the wind.”

The Advantages of Companionship

I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

The Futility of Political Power

13 It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. 14 Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. 15 But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth[b] who replaces him. 16 Endless crowds stand around him,[c] but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

Approaching God with Care

[d]As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. [e]Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.

Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.

When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved.

Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.

The Futility of Wealth

Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land. For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy. Even the king milks the land for his own profit![f]

10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!

12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.

13 There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. 14 Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15 We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.

16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. 17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy.

A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead. His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man. He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use?

All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough. So are wise people really better off than fools? Do poor people gain anything by being wise and knowing how to act in front of others?

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

The Future—Determined and Unknown

10 Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.

11 The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they?

12 In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?

Wisdom for Life

A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
    And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
    After all, everyone dies—
    so the living should take this to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for sadness has a refining influence on us.
A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Better to be criticized by a wise person
    than to be praised by a fool.
A fool’s laughter is quickly gone,
    like thorns crackling in a fire.
    This also is meaningless.

Extortion turns wise people into fools,
    and bribes corrupt the heart.

Finishing is better than starting.
    Patience is better than pride.

Control your temper,
    for anger labels you a fool.

10 Don’t long for “the good old days.”
    This is not wise.

11 Wisdom is even better when you have money.
    Both are a benefit as you go through life.
12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything,
    but only wisdom can save your life.

13 Accept the way God does things,
    for who can straighten what he has made crooked?
14 Enjoy prosperity while you can,
    but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.
    Remember that nothing is certain in this life.

The Limits of Human Wisdom

15 I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. 16 So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? 17 On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? 18 Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.[g]

19 One wise person is stronger than ten leading citizens of a town!

20 Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.

21 Don’t eavesdrop on others—you may hear your servant curse you. 22 For you know how often you yourself have cursed others.

23 I have always tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts and actions. I said to myself, “I am determined to be wise.” But it didn’t work. 24 Wisdom is always distant and difficult to find. 25 I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things. I was determined to prove to myself that wickedness is stupid and that foolishness is madness.

26 I discovered that a seductive woman[h] is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.

27 “This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. 28 Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! 29 But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.”

How wonderful to be wise,
    to analyze and interpret things.
Wisdom lights up a person’s face,
    softening its harshness.

Obedience to the King

Obey the king since you vowed to God that you would. Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. His command is backed by great power. No one can resist or question it. Those who obey him will not be punished. Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble.

Indeed, how can people avoid what they don’t know is going to happen? None of us can hold back our spirit from departing. None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. There is no escaping that obligation, that dark battle. And in the face of death, wickedness will certainly not rescue the wicked.

The Wicked and the Righteous

I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. 10 I have seen wicked people buried with honor. Yet they were the very ones who frequented the Temple and are now praised[i] in the same city where they committed their crimes! This, too, is meaningless. 11 When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. 12 But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. 13 The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God. Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows.

14 And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!

15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.

16 In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. 17 I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim.

Death Comes to All

This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad,[j] ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.

It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”

The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,[k] there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.

11 I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

12 People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy.

Thoughts on Wisdom and Folly

13 Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. 14 There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. 15 A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. 16 So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long.

17 Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person
    than the shouts of a foolish king.
18 Better to have wisdom than weapons of war,
    but one sinner can destroy much that is good.

10 As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink,
    so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.

A wise person chooses the right road;
    a fool takes the wrong one.

You can identify fools
    just by the way they walk down the street!

If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit!
    A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.

The Ironies of Life

There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants!

When you dig a well,
    you might fall in.
When you demolish an old wall,
    you could be bitten by a snake.
When you work in a quarry,
    stones might fall and crush you.
When you chop wood,
    there is danger with each stroke of your ax.

10 Using a dull ax requires great strength,
    so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom;
    it helps you succeed.

11 If a snake bites before you charm it,
    what’s the use of being a snake charmer?

12 Wise words bring approval,
    but fools are destroyed by their own words.

13 Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions,
    so their conclusions will be wicked madness;
14     they chatter on and on.

No one really knows what is going to happen;
    no one can predict the future.

15 Fools are so exhausted by a little work
    that they can’t even find their way home.

16 What sorrow for the land ruled by a servant,[l]
    the land whose leaders feast in the morning.
17 Happy is the land whose king is a noble leader
    and whose leaders feast at the proper time
    to gain strength for their work, not to get drunk.

18 Laziness leads to a sagging roof;
    idleness leads to a leaky house.

19 A party gives laughter,
    wine gives happiness,
    and money gives everything!

20 Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts.
    And don’t make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom.
For a little bird might deliver your message
    and tell them what you said.

The Uncertainties of Life

11 Send your grain across the seas,
    and in time, profits will flow back to you.[m]
But divide your investments among many places,[n]
    for you do not know what risks might lie ahead.

When clouds are heavy, the rains come down.
    Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
    If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb,[o] so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.

Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.

Advice for Young and Old

Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.

When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless.

Young people,[p] it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.

12 Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.

Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.

Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.

Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Concluding Thoughts about the Teacher

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”

Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. 10 The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.[q]

11 The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd[r] drives the sheep.

12 But, my child,[s] let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.

13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

This is Solomon’s song of songs, more wonderful than any other.

Young Woman[t]

Kiss me and kiss me again,
    for your love is sweeter than wine.
How pleasing is your fragrance;
    your name is like the spreading fragrance of scented oils.
    No wonder all the young women love you!
Take me with you; come, let’s run!
    The king has brought me into his bedroom.

Young Women of Jerusalem

How happy we are for you, O king.
    We praise your love even more than wine.

Young Woman

How right they are to adore you.

I am dark but beautiful,
    O women of Jerusalem—
dark as the tents of Kedar,
    dark as the curtains of Solomon’s tents.
Don’t stare at me because I am dark—
    the sun has darkened my skin.
My brothers were angry with me;
    they forced me to care for their vineyards,
    so I couldn’t care for myself—my own vineyard.

Tell me, my love, where are you leading your flock today?
    Where will you rest your sheep at noon?
For why should I wander like a prostitute[u]
    among your friends and their flocks?

Young Man

If you don’t know, O most beautiful woman,
    follow the trail of my flock,
    and graze your young goats by the shepherds’ tents.
You are as exciting, my darling,
    as a mare among Pharaoh’s stallions.
10 How lovely are your cheeks;
    your earrings set them afire!
How lovely is your neck,
    enhanced by a string of jewels.
11 We will make for you earrings of gold
    and beads of silver.

Young Woman

12 The king is lying on his couch,
    enchanted by the fragrance of my perfume.
13 My lover is like a sachet of myrrh
    lying between my breasts.
14 He is like a bouquet of sweet henna blossoms
    from the vineyards of En-gedi.

Young Man

15 How beautiful you are, my darling,
    how beautiful!
    Your eyes are like doves.

Young Woman

16 You are so handsome, my love,
    pleasing beyond words!
The soft grass is our bed;
17     fragrant cedar branches are the beams of our house,
    and pleasant smelling firs are the rafters.

Young Woman

I am the spring crocus blooming on the Sharon Plain,[v]
    the lily of the valley.

Young Man

Like a lily among thistles
    is my darling among young women.

Young Woman

Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
    is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
    and taste his delicious fruit.
He escorts me to the banquet hall;
    it’s obvious how much he loves me.
Strengthen me with raisin cakes,
    refresh me with apples,
    for I am weak with love.
His left arm is under my head,
    and his right arm embraces me.

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem,
    by the gazelles and wild deer,
    not to awaken love until the time is right.[w]

Ah, I hear my lover coming!
    He is leaping over the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a swift gazelle
    or a young stag.
Look, there he is behind the wall,
    looking through the window,
    peering into the room.

10 My lover said to me,
    “Rise up, my darling!
    Come away with me, my fair one!
11 Look, the winter is past,
    and the rains are over and gone.
12 The flowers are springing up,
    the season of singing birds[x] has come,
    and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.
13 The fig trees are forming young fruit,
    and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming.
Rise up, my darling!
    Come away with me, my fair one!”

Young Man

14 My dove is hiding behind the rocks,
    behind an outcrop on the cliff.
Let me see your face;
    let me hear your voice.
For your voice is pleasant,
    and your face is lovely.

Young Women of Jerusalem

15 Catch all the foxes,
    those little foxes,
before they ruin the vineyard of love,
    for the grapevines are blossoming!

Young Woman

16 My lover is mine, and I am his.
    He browses among the lilies.
17 Before the dawn breezes blow
    and the night shadows flee,
return to me, my love, like a gazelle
    or a young stag on the rugged mountains.[y]

Young Woman

One night as I lay in bed, I yearned for my lover.
    I yearned for him, but he did not come.
So I said to myself, “I will get up and roam the city,
    searching in all its streets and squares.
I will search for the one I love.”
    So I searched everywhere but did not find him.
The watchmen stopped me as they made their rounds,
    and I asked, “Have you seen the one I love?”
Then scarcely had I left them
    when I found my love!
I caught and held him tightly,
    then I brought him to my mother’s house,
    into my mother’s bed, where I had been conceived.

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem,
    by the gazelles and wild deer,
    not to awaken love until the time is right.[z]

Young Women of Jerusalem

Who is this sweeping in from the wilderness
    like a cloud of smoke?
Who is it, fragrant with myrrh and frankincense
    and every kind of spice?
Look, it is Solomon’s carriage,
    surrounded by sixty heroic men,
    the best of Israel’s soldiers.
They are all skilled swordsmen,
    experienced warriors.
Each wears a sword on his thigh,
    ready to defend the king against an attack in the night.
King Solomon’s carriage is built
    of wood imported from Lebanon.
10 Its posts are silver,
    its canopy gold;
    its cushions are purple.
It was decorated with love
    by the young women of Jerusalem.

Young Woman

11 Come out to see King Solomon,
    young women of Jerusalem.[aa]
He wears the crown his mother gave him on his wedding day,
    his most joyous day.

Young Man

You are beautiful, my darling,
    beautiful beyond words.
Your eyes are like doves
    behind your veil.
Your hair falls in waves,
    like a flock of goats winding down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are as white as sheep,
    recently shorn and freshly washed.
Your smile is flawless,
    each tooth matched with its twin.[ab]
Your lips are like scarlet ribbon;
    your mouth is inviting.
Your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates
    behind your veil.
Your neck is as beautiful as the tower of David,
    jeweled with the shields of a thousand heroes.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
    twin fawns of a gazelle grazing among the lilies.
Before the dawn breezes blow
    and the night shadows flee,
I will hurry to the mountain of myrrh
    and to the hill of frankincense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
    beautiful in every way.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
    come with me from Lebanon.
Come down[ac] from Mount Amana,
    from the peaks of Senir and Hermon,
where the lions have their dens
    and leopards live among the hills.

You have captured my heart,
    my treasure,[ad] my bride.
You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes,
    with a single jewel of your necklace.
10 Your love delights me,
    my treasure, my bride.
Your love is better than wine,
    your perfume more fragrant than spices.
11 Your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride.
    Honey and milk are under your tongue.
Your clothes are scented
    like the cedars of Lebanon.

12 You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride,
    a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.
13 Your thighs shelter a paradise of pomegranates
    with rare spices—
henna with nard,
14     nard and saffron,
    fragrant calamus and cinnamon,
with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes,
    and every other lovely spice.
15 You are a garden fountain,
    a well of fresh water
    streaming down from Lebanon’s mountains.

Young Woman

16 Awake, north wind!
    Rise up, south wind!
Blow on my garden
    and spread its fragrance all around.
Come into your garden, my love;
    taste its finest fruits.

Young Man

I have entered my garden, my treasure,[ae] my bride!
    I gather myrrh with my spices
and eat honeycomb with my honey.
    I drink wine with my milk.

Young Women of Jerusalem

Oh, lover and beloved, eat and drink!
    Yes, drink deeply of your love!

Young Woman

I slept, but my heart was awake,
    when I heard my lover knocking and calling:
“Open to me, my treasure, my darling,
    my dove, my perfect one.
My head is drenched with dew,
    my hair with the dampness of the night.”

But I responded,
“I have taken off my robe.
    Should I get dressed again?
I have washed my feet.
    Should I get them soiled?”

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
I jumped up to open the door for my love,
    and my hands dripped with perfume.
My fingers dripped with lovely myrrh
    as I pulled back the bolt.
I opened to my lover,
    but he was gone!
    My heart sank.
I searched for him
    but could not find him anywhere.
I called to him,
    but there was no reply.
The night watchmen found me
    as they made their rounds.
They beat and bruised me
    and stripped off my veil,
    those watchmen on the walls.

Make this promise, O women of Jerusalem—
    If you find my lover,
    tell him I am weak with love.

Young Women of Jerusalem

Why is your lover better than all others,
    O woman of rare beauty?
What makes your lover so special
    that we must promise this?

Young Woman

10 My lover is dark and dazzling,
    better than ten thousand others!
11 His head is finest gold,
    his wavy hair is black as a raven.
12 His eyes sparkle like doves
    beside springs of water;
they are set like jewels
    washed in milk.
13 His cheeks are like gardens of spices
    giving off fragrance.
His lips are like lilies,
    perfumed with myrrh.
14 His arms are like rounded bars of gold,
    set with beryl.
His body is like bright ivory,
    glowing with lapis lazuli.
15 His legs are like marble pillars
    set in sockets of finest gold.
His posture is stately,
    like the noble cedars of Lebanon.
16 His mouth is sweetness itself;
    he is desirable in every way.
Such, O women of Jerusalem,
    is my lover, my friend.

Young Women of Jerusalem

Where has your lover gone,
    O woman of rare beauty?
Which way did he turn
    so we can help you find him?

Young Woman

My lover has gone down to his garden,
    to his spice beds,
to browse in the gardens
    and gather the lilies.
I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine.
    He browses among the lilies.

Young Man

You are beautiful, my darling,
    like the lovely city of Tirzah.
Yes, as beautiful as Jerusalem,
    as majestic as an army with billowing banners.
Turn your eyes away,
    for they overpower me.
Your hair falls in waves,
    like a flock of goats winding down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are as white as sheep
    that are freshly washed.
Your smile is flawless,
    each tooth matched with its twin.[af]
Your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates
    behind your veil.

Even among sixty queens
    and eighty concubines
    and countless young women,
I would still choose my dove, my perfect one—
    the favorite of her mother,
    dearly loved by the one who bore her.
The young women see her and praise her;
    even queens and royal concubines sing her praises:
10 “Who is this, arising like the dawn,
    as fair as the moon,
as bright as the sun,
    as majestic as an army with billowing banners?”

Young Woman

11 I went down to the grove of walnut trees
    and out to the valley to see the new spring growth,
to see whether the grapevines had budded
    or the pomegranates were in bloom.
12 Before I realized it,
    my strong desires had taken me to the chariot of a noble man.[ag]

Young Women of Jerusalem

13 [ah]Return, return to us, O maid of Shulam.
    Come back, come back, that we may see you again.

Young Man

Why do you stare at this young woman of Shulam,
    as she moves so gracefully between two lines of dancers?[ai]

[aj]How beautiful are your sandaled feet,
    O queenly maiden.
Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
    the work of a skilled craftsman.
Your navel is perfectly formed
    like a goblet filled with mixed wine.
Between your thighs lies a mound of wheat
    bordered with lilies.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
    twin fawns of a gazelle.
Your neck is as beautiful as an ivory tower.
Your eyes are like the sparkling pools in Heshbon
    by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose is as fine as the tower of Lebanon
    overlooking Damascus.
Your head is as majestic as Mount Carmel,
    and the sheen of your hair radiates royalty.
    The king is held captive by its tresses.
Oh, how beautiful you are!
    How pleasing, my love, how full of delights!
You are slender like a palm tree,
    and your breasts are like its clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree
    and take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like grape clusters,
    and the fragrance of your breath like apples.
May your kisses be as exciting as the best wine—

Young Woman

Yes, wine that goes down smoothly for my lover,
    flowing gently over lips and teeth.[ak]
10 I am my lover’s,
    and he claims me as his own.
11 Come, my love, let us go out to the fields
    and spend the night among the wildflowers.[al]
12 Let us get up early and go to the vineyards
    to see if the grapevines have budded,
if the blossoms have opened,
    and if the pomegranates have bloomed.
    There I will give you my love.
13 There the mandrakes give off their fragrance,
    and the finest fruits are at our door,
new delights as well as old,
    which I have saved for you, my lover.

Young Woman

Oh, I wish you were my brother,
    who nursed at my mother’s breasts.
Then I could kiss you no matter who was watching,
    and no one would criticize me.
I would bring you to my childhood home,
    and there you would teach me.[am]
I would give you spiced wine to drink,
    my sweet pomegranate wine.
Your left arm would be under my head,
    and your right arm would embrace me.

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem,
    not to awaken love until the time is right.[an]

Young Women of Jerusalem

Who is this sweeping in from the desert,
    leaning on her lover?

Young Woman

I aroused you under the apple tree,
    where your mother gave you birth,
    where in great pain she delivered you.
Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy[ao] as enduring as the grave.[ap]
Love flashes like fire,
    the brightest kind of flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
    nor can rivers drown it.
If a man tried to buy love
    with all his wealth,
    his offer would be utterly scorned.

The Young Woman’s Brothers

We have a little sister
    too young to have breasts.
What will we do for our sister
    if someone asks to marry her?
If she is a virgin, like a wall,
    we will protect her with a silver tower.
But if she is promiscuous, like a swinging door,
    we will block her door with a cedar bar.

Young Woman

10 I was a virgin, like a wall;
    now my breasts are like towers.
When my lover looks at me,
    he is delighted with what he sees.

11 Solomon has a vineyard at Baal-hamon,
    which he leases out to tenant farmers.
Each of them pays a thousand pieces of silver
    for harvesting its fruit.
12 But my vineyard is mine to give,
    and Solomon need not pay a thousand pieces of silver.
But I will give two hundred pieces
    to those who care for its vines.

Young Man

13 O my darling, lingering in the gardens,
    your companions are fortunate to hear your voice.
    Let me hear it, too!

Young Woman

14 Come away, my love! Be like a gazelle
    or a young stag on the mountains of spices.

Footnotes:

  1. 3:19 Or both have the same spirit.
  2. 4:15 Hebrew the second youth.
  3. 4:16 Hebrew There is no end to all the people, to all those who are before them.
  4. 5:1 Verse 5:1 is numbered 4:17 in Hebrew text.
  5. 5:2 Verses 5:2-20 are numbered 5:1-19 in Hebrew text.
  6. 5:9 The meaning of the Hebrew in verses 8 and 9 is uncertain.
  7. 7:18 Or will follow them both.
  8. 7:26 Hebrew a woman.
  9. 8:10 As in some Hebrew manuscripts and Greek version; many Hebrew manuscripts read and are forgotten.
  10. 9:2 As in Greek and Syriac versions and Latin Vulgate; Hebrew lacks or bad.
  11. 9:10 Hebrew to Sheol.
  12. 10:16 Or a child.
  13. 11:1 Or Give generously, / for your gifts will return to you later. Hebrew reads Throw your bread on the waters, / for after many days you will find it again.
  14. 11:2 Hebrew among seven or even eight.
  15. 11:5 Some manuscripts read Just as you cannot understand how breath comes to a tiny baby in its mother’s womb.
  16. 11:9 Hebrew Young man.
  17. 12:10 Or sought to write what was upright and true.
  18. 12:11 Or one shepherd.
  19. 12:12 Hebrew my son.
  20. 1:1 The headings identifying the speakers are not in the original text, though the Hebrew usually gives clues by means of the gender of the person speaking.
  21. 1:7 Hebrew like a veiled woman.
  22. 2:1 Traditionally rendered I am the rose of Sharon. Sharon Plain is a region in the coastal plain of Palestine.
  23. 2:7 Or not to awaken love until it is ready.
  24. 2:12 Or the season of pruning vines.
  25. 2:17 Or on the hills of Bether.
  26. 3:5 Or not to awaken love until it is ready.
  27. 3:11 Hebrew of Zion.
  28. 4:2 Hebrew Not one is missing; each has a twin.
  29. 4:8 Or Look down.
  30. 4:9 Hebrew my sister; also in 4:10, 12.
  31. 5:1 Hebrew my sister; also in 5:2.
  32. 6:6 Hebrew Not one is missing; each has a twin.
  33. 6:12 Or to the royal chariots of my people, or to the chariots of Amminadab. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
  34. 6:13a Verse 6:13 is numbered 7:1 in Hebrew text.
  35. 6:13b Or as you would at the movements of two armies? or as you would at the dance of Mahanaim? The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
  36. 7:1 Verses 7:1-13 are numbered 7:2-14 in Hebrew text.
  37. 7:9 As in Greek and Syriac versions and Latin Vulgate; Hebrew reads over lips of sleepers.
  38. 7:11 Or in the villages.
  39. 8:2 Or there she will teach me.
  40. 8:4 Or not to awaken love until it is ready.
  41. 8:6a Or its passion.
  42. 8:6b Hebrew as Sheol.
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New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


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