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.
492 Blaâ„¦ej âˆtrba
reasonable enough when we realize that the expression occurs twice
after the most important statement of their mutual relationship,
2,16(a); 6,3(a). The reciprocal ownership excludes any individual
abuse and the joy of it is almost â€œintoxicatingâ€ to both of them. The
different wording of 6,3 only emphasises what she already stated
before, in 2,16:
16 (a) My beloved is mine and I am his
wl ynaw yl ydwd
(b) he feeds among Ï€Ã´Ï€annÃ®m
Twice the formula of reciprocal ownership, 2,16(a); 6,3(a) is used,
followed by the expression â€œfeeds among Âµynvwvâ€ (2,16(b); 6,3(b)). He
is not a â€œlotus-eaterâ€ at all, but the expression of eating among these
flowers confirms â€” and in no way weakens â€” the previous joyful
statement. The Âµynvwv are in service of sealing the idea of enjoyment of
this reciprocal ownership, as it is pleasant for her to state.
e) Cant 5,13
After it has been claimed that she is the â€œfairest among womenâ€
(5,9) she praises him in a descriptive poem (5,10-16). Here is the only
time when Âµynvwv are attributed to him: â€œhis lips are Âµynvwv, dripping
liquid myrrhâ€, v. 13. To grasp the tertium comparationis is tricky here
too. Keel proposes to see in Âµynvwv the life-giving characteristics of the
kisses. Pope in the same line finds support in Pr 24,26: â€œwhoever gives
an honest answer kisses the lipsâ€ (75). Schmoldt disagrees with this
understanding and holds to the traditional one (76) of the lips as red
There are some who argue that the tertium comparationis of Âµynvwv
is the colour red. The experts in â€œbiblicalâ€ plants try to find out the
corresponding flower of red colour like Lilium chalcedonicum (78). It
would be the only place in the MT where the plural masculine Âµynvwv
refers to a specific flower. The same authors have recognized that it
must have been a flower of exceptional beauty and not the simple
plant Anemone coronaria which is most often the choice for Âµynvwv in
5,13. The outstanding beauty and rarity of the flower is indeed
recognized, for the plant Lilium chalcedonicum is of scarlet colour.
(75) POPE, Song, 541.
(76) ENGEL, Susanna-ErzÃ¤hlung, 92.
(77) H. SCHMOLDT, â€œË†vWv Ï€Ã»Ï€anâ€, TWAT VII, 1207.
(78) MOLDENKE â€“ MOLDENKE, Plants, 129.