A correspondent wrote in convinced that Muhammad is mentioned in Song 5:16:
His mouth [is] most sweet:
yea, he [is] altogether lovely.
This [is] my beloved,
and this [is] my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.
“Lovely” is a translation of Hebrew machamaddim, which many Muslims see as a prophecy of Muhammad, and my LDS correspondent has been convinced that this is the correct reading; it should say in the second line “yea, he is Muhammad.” I wrote back with a brief, off the cuff rejection of this idea, but he was not convinced, so I decided to explore it in more detail here.
Rendered over literally, the first two lines in Hebrew say: “His mouth (is) sweetnesses and the whole of him (is) desires.” But to make sense of that, there are two things we have to understand. First, the parallel terms sweetness//desire, although nouns in form, in this instance have adjectival force and must be rendered as adjectives. Hebrew is a very adjective-poor language, and this lack is made up in various ways by certain circumlocutions of nouns. One linguistic strategy is the construct state, “plates of brass” to mean “brass plates.” Another is to simply use a noun in the predicate position where another language would require an adjective. The example Gesenius gives in Sec. 104 of his Hebrew Grammar is Genesis 1:2: “The earth was emptiness and desolation.” We of course translate the predicate nouns into English as adjectives: “The earth was empty and desolate.” Similarly in our passage, we would render sweet//desirable. Check any translation you like and it’s a safe bet that some sort of an adjective is used in the English rendering rather than a noun.
The words sweetness and desire are both in the plural. We know this is not a literal plural, as the referents (his mouth//him) are singular. The NET footnote suggests that this is an intensive plural; thus, his mouth was very sweet and all of him was very desirable.
The key word in the passage is machmad “desire,” from the verbal root chamad “to desire.” (The initial m- is a common noun forming participial formation in the Semitic languages.) In the plural that word is machamaddim, and if you lop of the plural ending you get machamad, which sounds rather like Muhammad. (Of course, when you lop off the plural ending you don’t get to keep the second syllable, but rather go back to machmad.)
The name Muhammad derives from the passive participial formation from the root H-M-D, and means something like “Praiseworthy.” That both the Hebrew word and the Arabic name begin with an M- is simply a function of the participial formation that is common to both languages. I do not know whether the Hebrew and Arabic roots are cognate (I assume someone will tell us in the comments), but they have different connotations in the two languages (desire v. praise).
People who have pushed this identification have taken “altogether lovely” as the translation of machamaddim. That’s what you’ll deduce from a simple online source like the Blue Letter Bible, but that is not entirely accurate. The KJV “altogether” is in part an attempt to represent wecullo, which means “and all of him” or “and the whole of him.” So now you have the putative text saying something very awkward: “His mouth is most sweet, and all of him is Muhammad.”
The Hebrew word machmad occurs 12 other times in the OT, and if you understand all of those uses as being a reference to Muhammad, none of those passages will make any sense, and some become downright offensive.
When we understand the repetitive nature of Hebrew poetry, the meaning “sweet” in the first line is a check on how to take mahamaddim in the second. “Desirable” makes sense as a synonymous parallel term to “sweet”; Muhammad does not.
If we want to play this game, an even better fit would be to take “my beloved” in the next line as David, since the word “beloved” is indeed DWD (with the first person singular pronominal suffix Y) and is actually related to the name “David.” But of course, no one would make such an argument that the beloved of this poem is a man named “David.”
To me, this is just like persistent LDS confusion between the KJV words Cain and Canaanites. The Canaanites are not the descendants of Cain; those two words are completely unrelated. The name Cain would be better represented in English as Qayin and has to do with metal smithing, and the word Canaan would be better represented in English as Kena’an (accent on the second syllable), and means something like “Westland.” We should not jump to conclusions based on nothing more than a superficial similarity in sound in English transliteration.
So no, Song 5:16 does not mention Muhammad.