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.
494 Blaâ„¦ej âˆtrba
precious oil ran down (cf. Ps 133,2), gradually releasing the perfume
which spread all around.
But the comparison 13(cd) does not rest only on the aromatic
fragrance. Although Âµynvwvâ€™s power has obviously a connotation with
precious scent, yet the cola (cd) seem to suggest that both myrrh and
Âµynvwv serve to produce a fascinating attraction rather than to present a
very beautiful odour. The verse 4,14 may be used as a chief argument
to discard the use of Âµynvwv as merely a fragrant flower. There are seven
flowers with fragrance spices some of which occur only in the Song or
only in this v. 14. After these seven plants the addition of the fullness
is expressed: â€œwith all chief spicesâ€. There is no mention at all of
hnvwv. If the strength of Âµynvwv was only in its fragrance should it not be
accounted among these seven flowers? The conclusion would be, that
since Âµynvwv is absent from the group of aromatic flowers in 4,14,
although it is an extremely scented flower, the strength of its symbol
must rest somewhere else.
The attraction is not in the form either. Another extra-biblical
example of this matter is given in an ancient Egyptian love song,
where a comparison with the flower Ï€Ï€n appears. The fingers of a
beloved (she) are compared to this flower. The metaphor has no
strength when based on the shape of the fingers, but rather on their
movement which awakens the deep passion of love and the desire of
her beloved (82).
Before closing the examination of Âµynvwv in 5,13 and of all other
single occurrences within the Canticle, the contextual considerations
may give us some indication about the meaning and thus a further
support for â€œlotusâ€ translation of the lexeme of hnvwv.
Referring again to the context of the Song the girlâ€™s very first
request is â€œLet him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!â€ (1,2a) (83).
Towards the end of the Song she presents herself ready to kiss him:
â€œIf I met you outside, I would kiss you, and no one would despise meâ€
(8,1b). These are the only two times when the kisses are mentioned in
the Song. At the very beginning, the first appeal of the main
protagonist is linked to the lipsâ€™ expression â€“ kisses. Towards the end
(82) A.H. GARDINER, The Library of A. Chester Beatty. Description of a
Hieratic Papyrus with a Mythological Story, Love-Songs, and Other miscellan-
eous Texts. Chester Beatty Papyri, No. 1 (London 1931) 30, XXIIA, 4; cf. KEEL,
(83) This kind of language and this verse itself is as easy (apparently) to
understand as to interpret in different ways.