Blaz0ej S0trba, «hn#$w#$ of the Canticle», Vol. 85 (2004) 475-502
The term hn#$w#$ is revisited
primarily in the Canticle of Solomon. The most ancient translation –– "lily" ––
of this flower though questioned in recent decades is still widely used. The
LXX’s rendering kri/non is examined and found as the
best translation for the lexeme N#$w#$ –– meaning
"lotus" –– being an Egyptian loan word. This translation fits to the OT
references better than "lily". The textual employment of
hn#$w#$ in the poetry of the Canticle is a chief and commanding proof for
"lotus". The "lily" translation for both hn#$w#$
and kri/non for the majority of the OT cases is seen
as incorrect since it does not pay due attention to the literary and historical
context of the Canticle.
490 Blaâ„¦ej âˆtrba
The tertium comparationis, as in 2,2, does not rest on the shape or
form, but rather in the fertility of the belly (maternal womb) and in the
nutrition (wheat). It was a widespread custom in Egypt to decorate
every type of food with lotus flowers. This flower visualized the fresh
and regenerating power of the food (71).
The next verse (7,4) as O. Keel believes, would confirm this
representation of the quickening strength. The image of her breasts
which are like â€œtwo fawns, twins of a gazelleâ€ does not suggest form
or tenderness but rather alludes to their playful, life-giving power.
Since the inhabitants of the steppes and of the deserts, like gazelles,
survive the terrible territories of the desert, they could have easily
become a symbol of life and its renewal. These animals often appear
on the Egyptian seals and amulets too (72).
c) Cant 4,5
What has been said above is in accord with the words of the
beloved in the second half of the first descriptive song about her
5 (a) Your two breasts are like two fawns
Âµyrp[ ynvk Ëšydv ynv
(b) twins of a gazelle (that) feed among Ï€Ã´Ï€annÃ®m
Âµynvwvb Âµy[wrh hybx ymwat
In the Egyptian images the lotus flower appears often beside the
gazelles. It is a fact that the gazelles never feed among the lotuses;
therefore in this v. 5 â€œgazelleâ€ has symbolic meaning (73). Gazelles, as
in 2,9, primarily symbolize their agility, playfulness, softness and the
renewal of life (see above). The last characteristic is typical of the
breast along with blessing, nourishment, trust building and kindness
(Gen 49,25; Job 3,12).
Therefore, her breasts in 4,5 are compared to gazelles because
they denote the renewal of life. The gazelles are specified quite
precisely as those â€œwhich feed among Âµynvwvâ€. This reinforces the
power of imagery. The live-giving strength of her breasts must then be
multiplied when they are among flowers Âµynvwv.
d) Cant 6,2-3 and 2,16
In these passages it is the woman who speaks and her words convey
(71) KEEL, Hohelied, 216.
(72) KEEL, Hohelied, 138-140.
(73) KEEL, Hohelied, 138-139. Contra L. Bossina, â€œI gemelli di gazzella
(Ct 4,5)â€, RSO 73 (1999) 2-6.