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I have met Muslims and interacted with them directly and indirectly about their brief that the Islamic prophet Muhammad is mentioned in the Bible. One such claim is centred on the Song of Solomon 5:16. The following is how Muslims usually reason in support of their view:

In Song of Solomon 5:16 the original text reads: חכו ממתקים וכלו מחמדים זה דודי וזה רעי בנות ירושלם. The original Hebrew word in the verse mentioning the name Muhammad is “מחמד”. [These letters in English are MHMD and in Arabic are محمد (Muhammad)].

But, does the above understanding base on exegesis or eisegesis?

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    Answered here: skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/9484/21255
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 30 '20 at 7:36
  • The answer to this question is already widely in the public domain. And what does this have to do with Christianity ?
    – Nigel J
    Jul 30 '20 at 9:04
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    @NigelJ I hadn't encountered this view before, and therefore found this an interesting question - collecting such questions is surely the purpose of SE. That said, since it deals with the detail of the hebrew, I feel it may be a better fit for Bible Hermeneutics
    – Korosia
    Jul 30 '20 at 9:11
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    It seems like rather common sense to me that even if the name did appear in the Bible, the conclusion that Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh was named after the Biblical Muḥammad would make more sense than that the Bible was referring to Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh. Does anyone think that Biblical references to Thomas are referring to Thomas Aquinas? Jul 30 '20 at 20:09
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Q - Does the verse in Song of Solomon 5:16 contain the name of the Islamic prophet Muhammad?

A – No, it does not. In Song of Solomon 5:16, the maiden says of her lover, "His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, this is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem." The word translated as "lovely" is the Hebrew word ‘machamadim’. It is the plural of ‘machamad’, which means “lovely, cute, or desirable.” Although it is the root word of Muhammad, it does not follow that the verse refers to Muhammad, especially since the word used is a plural adjective, not the name of a person.

Q – Is the Muslim understanding of Song of Solomon 5:16 based on exegesis or eisegeis?

The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?

Eisegesis involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to the interpreter’s ideas.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/exegesis-eisegesis.html

A – It is based on eisegesis. One reason is that the Muslim interpretation fails to adhere to the rules of grammar. It fails the literal principle because it tries to spiritualize or allegorize words that literally mean “lovely, cute, or desirable.” It also fails the historical principle because it interprets Hebrew Scripture according to a modern culture/religion rather than placing scripture in its historical context. Finally, the Muslim interpretation of this Bible verse fails the “Synthesis Principle” of good exegesis:

The best interpreter of scripture is scripture itself. We must examine a passage in relation to its immediate context (the verses surrounding it), its wider context (the book it’s found in), and its complete context (the Bible as a whole). The Bible does not contradict itself. Any theological statement in one verse can and should be harmonized with theological statements in other parts of scripture. Good Bible interpretation relates any one passage to the total content of scripture.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-exegesis.html

Biblical exegesis does not support the Muslim interpretation of Song of Solomon 5:16.

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    I didn't know the word eisegesis before. Now I do. (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Jul 30 '20 at 9:05
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    Neither did I till I looked it up! It's always good to learn something new.
    – Lesley
    Jul 30 '20 at 9:55
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    Note that 'eisegesis' is almost always pejorative, I don't think I've heard of anyone who would claim the term as their approach. I'd think that some types of allegorical readings would qualify as eisegesis, but their adherents would obviously disagree.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 30 '20 at 10:52
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    I have noticed another method epigesis, which is to fill the page up with words, going round and round in circles, ignoring the actual text under discussion. Very common technique.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 30 '20 at 12:35
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    I'm a fan of the word narcigesis - interpreting scripture as though it were all about you. Jul 30 '20 at 16:13
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But, is the above understanding based on exegesis or eisegesis ?

To answer a question with another question:

Just as Christians themselves have no moral qualms in enriching the basic literal meaning of the aforementioned Old Testament passages with a distinctly Christian understanding, despite the protestations of the Jews, to whom these scriptures were originally given, so also Muslims do not hesitate to add a distinctly Islamic layer of meaning to this and other Old Testament passages, despite protestations from both Jews and Christians, in whose possession the Bible was found long before Muhammad arrived on the world scene.


The Hebrew מחמד and the Arabic حمد {which gave rise to Muhammad (محمد), Mahmud (محمود), Ahmad, Hamid, and Hamida} are indeed etymologically related, both stemming from the same Semitic root, Ḥ-M-D, corresponding to the Hebrew ח־מ־ד and the Arabic ح_م_د.

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    We know from Luke 24 that Cleopas and another (some say his wife) received special instruction after the resurrection from the Lord in how to recognize Old Testament passages that speak of him. Presumably the Apostles received similar instruction. Therefore they had access to a third means (besides eisegesis and exegesis) of correlating ancient Scripture passages with the words and events of Jesus' life. Maybe call it "Jesus-gesis". Jul 30 '20 at 16:45
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    "despite the protestations of the Jews, to whom these scriptures were originally given" No, they weren't. Modern-day Rabbinical Jews are ideological descendents of the Pharisees, not the original Hebrew religion from which Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism derive.
    – nick012000
    Jul 31 '20 at 4:25
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    Stereotyping Christians by using emotional language [Christians themselves have no moral qualms] would blind readers to approach the issue objectively. The reason why Christians see Jesus Christ in the Jewish Scriptures is because the Christian Scriptures explicitly quote them and interpret them. Whereas Muslims make the above claim even though their Scriptures I.e. Quran, doesn’t make any explicit reference to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Jul 31 '20 at 4:28
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    @Lucian: That's like comparing apples with oranges! What some Muslims do with Songs of Solomon 5:16 is not what Christians do with the Jewish scriptures [O.T.]. Rather it is the Christian scriptures [N.T.] that quote and interpret the Jewish scriptures [N.T.]. Jul 31 '20 at 8:52
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    @Lucian It seems that you're glossing over the distinctions that Telugu is pointing out, (1) between (a) Christians (today) and (b) (ancient) Christian Scriptures / authoritative teaching from Jesus; and (2) between (a) Muslims (today) and (b) (medieval period) Muslim Scriptures / authoritative teaching from Mohamed. You're drawing an equivalence between 1b and 2a, as the Qur'an doesn't interpret SoS 5:16 as referring to Mohamed, nor does any other source that Muslims consider divinely inspired.
    – LarsH
    Jul 31 '20 at 13:44
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Song of Solomon 5:16.

Here in this verse, the word used in the original Hebrew is makhmadd’im [מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים], neither Mahmad nor Muhammad nor even Mahmaddim. Being in the family of the Semetic languages both Hebrew and Arabic have many words with similar meanings as well as sounds, but not necessarily always they mean the same thing. Here are a couple of examples:

(i) In Hebrew the word ‘allah’ [אַלָּה] doesn’t mean ‘God’ like in Arabic, but oak tree. [Joshua 24:26]

(ii) The Hebrew word ‘akbar’ [עַכְבָּר] doesn’t mean ‘great’ like in Arabic, but mouse.[Lev.11:29]

Likewise, the Hebrew word makhmadd’im [מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים] doesn’t mean Muhammad, but all together lovely. This word was never understood as Muhammad or a proper name, for that matter, by its context and meaning. Which is why even in ancient translations such as Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament made in 2n Century B.C, the word used is ‘holos epithumia’ [όλος επιθυμία = entirely desirable] in place of Hebrew ‘makhmadd’im’ [מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים]

In the same chapter in the very beginning we can see that the person described in it is a wine drinker [5:1 “I have drunk my wine”]. I am not quite sure how many Muslims believe that the Islamic prophet was a wine drinker!

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    I would only agree that this should be left to linguistics rather than to similar sounds judged by non-native speakers. Your examples are wrong, the hebrew word akbar starts with an ʿayin (ע), not an alif (א) it is not the same as أكبر rather than عكابر which is a different word in Arabic. Similarly אֱלוֹהַּ is the Hebrew word related to Allah in Arabic, not the word for oak. Makhmadd is related to the Arabic Muhammad with Chamad\Hamad being the root of both, although you can argue whether it means the Islamic Prophet.
    – user50452
    Jul 31 '20 at 5:20
  • In Hebrew the word that SOUNDS like ‘akbar’ is עַכְבָּר, which is used in Leviticus 11:29. Its meaning is ‘a mouse.’ biblehub.com/hebrew/5909.htm The other Hebrew word that SOUNDS like ‘allah’ [אַלָּה] has been used in the Hebrew Bible in Joshua 24:26 [שָּׁ֔ם תַּ֚חַת הָֽאַלָּ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּמִקְדַּ֥שׁ]. It is used along with the definite article ‘the’ [הָ/ha]. It’s an oak tree in Hebrew. If you assume it’s an Arabic word referring to God then replace the word oak tree with Allah/God in Joshua 24:26 and see if it makes any sense at all! Both words were translated by Jewish sholars. Jul 31 '20 at 8:35
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    @UmH: I pointed out the same thing, resourcing it with several Wikipedia and Wiktionary articles, but my comment was deleted (most likely because it was considered a mini-answer).
    – Lucian
    Jul 31 '20 at 22:58
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There are a dozen other verses that contain the word מחמד, some even (unlike this one) without prefixes or suffixes. Among them:

"...whatsoever is pleasant (מחמד) in thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away" (I Kings 20:6)

"...behold, I take away from thee the desire (מחמד) of thine eyes with a stroke" (Ezekiel 24:16); "I will profane... the desire (מחמד) of your eyes" (ibid. v. 21)

"...and slew all that were pleasant to (מחמדי) the eye..." (Lamentations 2:4)

So if we're going to be consistent, we would have to conclude that these verses are foretelling that Muhammad will be taken away and killed!

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Ayin and Aleph are silent vowels, just because the hebrew word akbar starts with an ʿayin (ע), not an alif (א) that doesn't mean that the sound could be akbar, just like for example the word אלוהים which starts with Aleph, however the aleph is silent and the pronunciation is Elohim and not Alohim like one of the muslins friends is commenting

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    – agarza
    May 30 at 23:11
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You will find this to be a more complete answer than any other (exegesis). If you are really searching for the trurh I would start with going online & listen to a Rabbi read the verse yourself. You be the judge do you or do you not hear Muhammad. Along with that I give you the 5 points below. Unlike others I will not tell you what to think, Only you can know what your heart tells you deep inside & the effort made to ascertain the truth.

I do agree that scriptutre should interpret itself, so you should know that this is a UNIQUE word, ( מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים Machamaddîm) is only used once, the feminine plular where a singular masc. noun would normally be, is also extreemly rare when to be applied to a person, you see yhe same with [Eloh-im]I give you an example where it was the same for Abraham.

Lastly copy & paste in Machamaddîm (מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים ) into--->GOOGLE TRANSLATE---> there are 2 semetic language options, see what you get, its an unbiased reference point. (Amheric) ሙሐመዲም (Arabic) محمد

  1. Song of songs 5:16( מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים Machamaddîm)in the english translation "he's altogether lovely" is problematic. If the word is a PLURAL in number then lovilies should be the last term, but that does noty fit gramatically. Note directly below the three word to one word translation is also problematic, 2x-3x the number of lettrs required to transliterate that meaniing. "הוא לגמרי מקסים"-----> "He's absolutely adorable"

  2. The style the Biblical Hebrew use for this particular passage is called the ‘majestic plural’. It is a plural word to refer honorifically to a single person or entity such plural forms are most commonly used when referring to the God also it can also be used when referring to a human. Here is one beautiful example: in Genesis 24:9 וַיָּ֤שֶׂם הָעֶ֙בֶד֙ אֶת־יָדֹ֔ו תַּ֛חַת יֶ֥רֶךְ אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֲדֹנָ֑יו וַיִּשָּׁ֣בַֽע לֹ֔ו עַל־הַדָּבָ֖ר הַזֶּֽה So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter. (NIV) Here although all the translations render this passage to… “his master”… the hebrew word used is in plural adonaw אֲדֹנָ֑יו which literally means “his masters” not in singular form אֲדֹנוֹ adonó which means “his master” Having said that the word מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים Machamad-dîm must denotes something not just an ordinary noun, it must refer something of godly and holy qualities.What more interesting is out of 12 variations from the hebrew root-verb חמד (hammed) taking this majestic plural form, exists only one occurrence throughout the Bible. This boost prophetic significance for holy prophet Muhammad in this particular passage.

  3. First question is... is Machmad (מחמד) a name???

Book of Jasher 21. And Ishmael and his sons dwelt in the land, and they had children born to them, and they were fruitful and increased abundantly. 22. And these are the names of the sons of Nebayoth the first born of Ishmael; Mend, Send, Mayon; and the sons of Kedar were Alyon, Kezem, CHAMAD and Eli. 23. And the sons of Adbeel were CHAMED and Jabin; and the sons of Mibsam were Obadiah, Ebedmelech and Yeush; these are the families of the children of Ribah the wife of Ishmael. 24. And the sons of Mishma the son of Ishmael were Shamua, Zecaryon and Obed; and the sons of Dumah were Kezed, Eli, MACHMAD and AMED. ,

Jubilees:

24 And the sons of Mishma the son of Ishmael were Shamua, Zecaryon and Obed; and the sons of Dumah were Kezed, Eli, MACHMAD and Amed. 25 And the ...

  1. Now lets look at context: Song of Songs 5:10 says: דּוֹדִי צַח וְאָדוֹם, דָּגוּל מֵרְבָבָה 10 ‘My beloved is white and ruddy, pre-eminent above ten thousand. This is a very strong case to a prophecy of Prophet Muhammad as he conquered Mecca. It is a well known historically documented fact that in the year 630 CE Muhammad entered Mecca as the leader of an army of 10,000 “ten thousand men”. This verse and the preceeding verse (v. 11) רֹאשׁ֖וֹ כֶּ֣תֶם פָּ֑ז קְוּצּוֹתָיו֙ תַּלְתַּלִּ֔ים שְׁחֹר֖וֹתכָּעוֹרֵֽב 11 His head is as the most fine gold, His locks are curled, And black as a raven. This amazingly also match Prophet Muhammad’s physical description as found in hadith sources (light skin and black and wavy hair). Then the Song of Songs verse 5:15 compares this prophetic mystery man to the land of “Lebanon” which is the land of the Arabs. שׁוֹקָיו עַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ, מְיֻסָּדִים עַל-אַדְנֵי-פָז; מַרְאֵהוּ, כַּלְּבָנוֹן–בָּחוּר, כָּאֲרָזִים. 15 His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold; his aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. This undeniably implies that the mystery man would be an from Arab lineage. On the contrary to being the weakest evidence , Song of Songs 5:16 give very strong evidence for the prophecy of prophet Muhammad (p) in the Bible.

5.Now, it may suprise you to know that among the learned men of Judiasm, many consider the rendering to be "that prophet" for example Midrash Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, or you can check out Rabbi Mort from mahi ministries on you tube.

  1. Ish. 42 The context shows that the Servant here-or Meshullam, as he is called, the "devoted" or "submissive one," from the same root, and of much the same form as the Arabic Muslim-is the whole people; but they are entitled "Servant" only in order to show how unfit they are for the task to which they have been designated, and what a paradox their title is beside their real character. God had given them every opportunity by "making great His instruction" (Isaiah 42:21), and, when that failed, by His sore discipline in exile (Isaiah 42:24-25). "For who gave Jacob for spoil and Israel to the robbers? Did not Jehovah? He against whom we sinned, and they would not walk in His ways, neither were obedient to His instruction. So He poured upon him the fury of His anger and the force of war." But even this did not awake the dull nation. "Though it set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it kindled upon him, yet he laid it not to heart." The nation as a whole had been favoured with God’s revelation; as a whole they had been brought into His purifying furnace of the Exile. But as they have benefited by neither the one nor the other, the natural conclusion is that as a whole they are no more fit to be God’s Servant. Such is the hint which this paradox is intended to give us.

The Idea in Brief - This is a person

The plural form (maḥămaddîm) is not literary, but is to be understood in the literal sense. That is, Jewish sages over the centuries did not understand the plural form here in any literary (or abstract) sense, but in the most literal way. In this regard, the plural suffix was in reference to sweet words (plural) that emanate from the mouth of the beloved.

Targum Songs

For example, the Targum of the Song of Songs appeared between the 1st and 4th Century, and the provides the following translation from Hebrew into Aramaic.

enter image description here

Suggested translation: The words upon the palate of sweetness are like honey, and all his commands are pleasing to his wise counsellors than gold [or silver]. This is the splendor of God, my beloved, and this is the power of the strength of my Lord, my beloved, O prophets who prophesy in Jerusalem.

Rashi

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) lived in the 11th Century, and he also notes that the plural form of sweetness was the actual reference to the words in the mouth of the beloved. The following comes from the relevant cite reference on the www.chabad.org website.

[16] His palate is sweet: His words are pleasant, e.g. (Lev. 19:28): “And you shall not make a wound in your flesh for one who has died… I am the Lord,” faithful to pay reward. Is there a palate sweeter than this? Do not wound yourselves, and you will receive reward. (Ezek. 33:19): “And when a wicked man repents of his wickedness and performs justice and righteousness, he shall live because of them.” Iniquities are accounted to him as merits. Is there a palate sweeter than this? (emphasis added)

Midrash

Early Jewish Halakic (legal) midrash echos of the same. The Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, which are midrash ascribed to Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai who was one 2nd-century tannaitic sage in ancient Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple. The midrash notes the following:

enter image description here

The following translation comes from Nelson (2006).

Rather, “His mouth is delicious, etc.” (Song 5:16). And Scripture says, “...to the sound that comes out of His mouth” (Job 37:2).

The midrash here makes the explicit connection between words and the deliciousness of those words as the sound [of the words] coming from the same mouth.

Conclusion

In summary, rabbinic scholars over the centuries (who were intimate with Jewish oral tradition and the Jewish understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures) had understood the plural form (maḥămaddîm) as in literal reference to sweet words, and not to something abstract.

Reference:

Nelson, W. David (2006). Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 130.

enter image description here 7. Hebrew to Arabic Google Translate Hebrew to AmharicGoogle Translate

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