Those Twins of a Gazelle

It’s nice to see people like Tyler Williams and Kevin Wilson in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Kevin has some things to say about that wondrous piece of Hebrew love poetry, the Song of Songs:

“Whenever I teach an upper level class that includes the Song of Song, I always have the students try to draw what the lovers looked like according to the descriptions in chapter 4. It is always a fun exercise…

“One of the pieces of imagery that had always baffled me was the reference to the woman’s breasts, which are described as ‘two fawns, twins of a gazelle.’ Several years back, however, I found an explanation. I think it was in Marvin Pope’s massive commentary on the Song of Songs. He notes that in Akkadian, ‘anpu means ‘nose,’ just as its cognate ‘ap does in Hebrew. But in Akkadian, it also means ‘nipple.’ Hebrew probably also had this meaning, but it is not preserved. So, just as the face of the gazelle slopes down to the nose, so does the breast slope down to the nipple. It is not only a wonderful image but a great play on words as well.”

I’d always wondered at the metaphor myself, and now I can appreciate it thanks to Kevin. Maybe I’ll try it out today on someone in need of a Valentine.

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