Victoria Beckham’s Hebrew Tattoo Patiently Explained


The net overflows with pictures of Victoria’s tattooed neck and back. But no one has explained the Hebrew words, how one pronounces them, what the imagery means. Those who tried got it wrong (see below)!  A picture of Victoria’s tattoo is reproduced below.
Hebrew is a gorgeous language, and the Song of Solomon is magnificent love poetry. For a short introduction and sample poetic translation, go here.
If you are thinking about learning Hebrew, find a teacher and go for it! You will not be disappointed. Some tips for those who wish to pursue Hebrew are available here.
This is the Hebrew on Victoria’s back (from top to bottom across her neck and back, read from right to left here; I subdivide the text into three thoughts):
אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי
וְדוֹדִי לִי
הָרֹעֶה בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים
 It’s a quote from Song of Solomon 6:3.
 This is how one pronounces it, phrase-by-phrase (capitalized syllables receive stress):
 אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי
Ah-NEE  le-doh-DEE
 וְדוֹדִי לִי
 Ve-doh-DEE  LEE
הָרֹעֶה בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים
 Ha-roh-EY ba-shoh-sha-NEEM
Here is a translation (a girl speaks):
I am my love’s
and my love is mine,
who browses among the lilies.
(Song of Solomon 6:3 - my translation)
 What does it mean? That’s pretty obvious, except for the last phrase. Ancient Hebrew can be very roundabout in its erotic expressions. The lover who grazes, or browses, among the lilies, is elsewhere described in these terms (once again, a girl speaks):
 A sachet of myrrh
is my love to me;
between my breasts he lodges.
            (Song of Solomon 1:13 - my translation)
 By now the meaning of the imagery should be clear.
Victoria Beckham has excellent taste in love poetry. Did you know the Bible has love poetry in it? It does, some of the best ever written.
In another way, the Bible is an exchange of love letters between God and humanity. The letters are full of desire and wrath and sweetness. A stormy love, in which God’s faithfulness saves the day against all odds more than once.
The Bible will always be worth reading. Here are links to translations that are accurate but not too difficult to follow, with introductions and notes to each book:
Jewish Study Bible
HarperCollins Study Bible with New Testament and Apocrypha
By the way, when it comes to Hebrew Tattoos, Buyers Beware!
As an aid to some of my friends who always have their nose in a book, Victoria Beckham, born Victoria Caroline Adams, is best-known as "Posh Spice" of the famous Spice Girls.


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John, have you ever read "The Greatest Song" by Calvin Seerveld? Seerveld examines The Song of Songs and retranslates it literally for musical chorus and solo voices. The most interesting critique to me was that he finds two male solo voices instead of the traditional one. As a result, in addition to the erotic love relationship between the maiden and her lover, he also finds a thread of lust by an older, lecherous Solomon toward the maiden. The maiden rebuffs Solomon’s efforts to “know her” and remains faithful to her real lover. It's a fascinating treatment of the text and a real contrast to the translation we normally see.