Gazelles

Have you ever wondered why Jewish boys were prohibited from reading the Song of Songs until age 13?  I distinctly remember the first time I heard this as a young adolescent.  Guess what I went home to read that evening?  I also recall my disappointment…”is that all there is to it?”  Now, of course, I realize that a lot went over my head (isn’t God masterful?).

Rabbi Akiva said,

The entire world, all of it, is not equal in worth to the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel. Why? Because all other books in the Writings are holy, whereas the Song of Songs is holy of holies. (Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Section 136 – Song)

So while I have a more mature appreciation of Shir HaShirim these days, one phrase has continued to puzzle me–until today.

Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. Song of Solomon 4:5 (ESV)

And then I ran into this fascinating insight on the Blue Cord biblioblog:

…He (Marvin Pope) 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.

So there you go, you’ve always wondered and now you know.  I have a totally new appreciation for gazelles.

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