Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon 3

Smith's WritingsSmith's Writings

Verses 1-11

3: 1. By night, on my bed,

I sought him whom my soul loveth:

I sought him, but I found him not.

The night visit of the King has awakened the affections of the bride. But it was only a visit; he had revealed himself through the lattice; he had unfolded to his bride the. vision of another and a brighter world - a world of sunshine and song; he had called her to arise and come to that good land beyond the mountains and the hills; and then, having awakened her affections, he had withdrawn to his own place, and the bride is left behind in the night. She has heard of the day and looks forward to the daybreak, but she is yet in the night. The presence of the King will bring the day, even as his absence makes the night. So too we may say it is the presence of Jesus makes our day, and the absence of Jesus makes our night. But if the bride is left behind in the night, she is left with deep yearnings of heart for her beloved. She has been aroused from her slumbers. Love has been awakened, and now she delights to speak of her beloved as the one that her soul loveth. Four times over she uses the expression, "Him whom my soul loveth."

But awakened love is not content without its object. Love makes her a seeker. Hitherto the Bridegroom has been the seeker, but now at last the bride is the one that seeks. As with a hardened sinner, so with a sleeping saint. Christ must first be the seeker. There would be no seeking sinner, if there was not first a seeking Saviour. If the Son of Man had not first come to seek and save the lost, we never should have heard of the poor publican who "sought to see Jesus." If "Jesus Himself" had not drawn nigh to the two sorrowing saints on the road to Emmaus, they never would have returned to Jerusalem, that same night, to find "Jesus Himself" in the midst of His own.

Further, we do well to remark that it is the Bridegroom himself that is sought by the bride. It is not the daybreak, the time of singing, or the land of song, that she seeks; it is a person, himself that she longs to see. In her eyes he is fairer than the fairest land, and better than all the blessings that he brings. When love is awakened, Christ alone can satisfy the heart of the Christian. As home-sick saints we welcome the thought that soon the last tear will be wiped away, the last sorrow will be passed, and the last enemy overcome; but as lovesick saints we want "Jesus Himself." To the dying thief, saved by grace, the Lord could not only say, "To-day shalt thou be in Paradise," but "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." The heavenly city, with its walls of jasper, its gates of pearl, and its streets of gold, would be no heaven without Christ. There, indeed, will be "songs and everlasting joy," but Christ is the theme of the song and the source of the joy. "The Lamb is the light thereof."

But this seeking bride will yield us further instruction. Love has been awakened; love has made her a seeker, but she does not at once obtain the object of her quest. Though she sought the Bridegroom she has to admit, more than once, "I found him not." Why is this? Is she not seeking the right person? Indeed she is, but at first she seeks him in a wrong way. She says, "On my bed, I sought him." She sought him, but, at the same time, she sought to retain her ease. She was not at first prepared to forego her own comfort in the quest for her beloved. How many of us would like to have Christ if we could spare the flesh. The love of Christ would impel us to follow after Christ, but the love of ease would hold us back. We seek Him, as it were, on our bed; and therefore we find Him not. We forget the word which declares, "If any man come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."

2. I will rise now and go about the city,

In the streets and in the broadways

Will I seek Him whom my soul loveth:

I sought him, but I found him not.

The power of love prevails with the bride, and she says, "I will rise now and go about the city." She overcomes her love of ease, but only to fail again. She had sought her beloved in a wrong way, she now seeks him in a wrong place. He is not to be found in the city streets and broad highways; he feeds among the lilies. And we too may fall into the same snare. We would like to have Christ, but, we would like to have Christ and the broad highways of this world. But if we cannot have Christ and spare the flesh, neither can we have Christ and retain the world. If the cross witnesses to the dying love of Christ, it also expresses the undying hatred of the world to Christ. Cast out by the world, He has "suffered without the gate," and if we would find Christ we must "go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."

3. The watchmen that go about the city found me: -

Have ye seen him whom my soul loveth?

For the third time the bride fails in her quest. She has sought the Bridegroom in the wrong way, she has sought him in the wrong place, now she appeals to the wrong people. The business of the watchmen is to govern and keep order. They may administer righteousness, but they cannot help in the quest of love. "If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness," the Gallios of this world will deal with it; but if it is a matter of "love" and "Jesus," then, in the world's sight, it is only "a question of words and names," and the world "will be no judge of such matters." Or if at times they turn judge in such matters, it will only be to persecute the seeker after Christ. In vain, therefore, do we appeal to an arm of flesh, though Christians from early times have fallen into this snare, only to learn that the princes of this world have crucified the Lord of glory. Like the blind man of Bethsaida, with his partly restored sight, we are apt to view men out of all proportion to their true importance. We "see men as trees walking." But the love of Christ would bring us, like the disciples of old, to see "no man any more save Jesus only."

4. It was but a little that I passed from them,

When I found him whom my soul loveth

I held him, and would not let him go

Until I had brought him into my mother's house,

And into the chamber of her that conceived me.

When every hindrance is overcome - the bed, the city, the watchmen - it was but a little ere the bride found her beloved. And when found she "held him, and would not let him go." And may we not say, in our day, the one great need of the Lord's people is this same energy of love, which, overcoming every hindrance, links the soul to Christ, and will not let Him go. But alas, in the light of the prevailing apathy and lack of affection for Christ, we have once again to cry with Isaiah, "There is none . . . that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee" ( Isa_64:7 ). In the day of His presence on earth there came a time when many professed followers "went back and walked no more with Him"; but the twelve "held Him, and would not let Him go." The Lord asks, "Will ye also go away?" And they reply, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." And in these days of His absence in glory, when the love of many grows cold, when hands hang down, and knees grow feeble, when again many turn back and walk no more with Him, how imperative it is that we should stir ourselves up "to take hold of Him"; and, having taken hold of Him in the affection of our hearts, refuse to let Him go.

In the close of the first canticle the Bridegroom conducts the bride into the banqueting house of the King, but in this closing scene the bride conducts the Bridegroom into her mother's house. For the earthly bride the mother represents the nation of Israel ( Rev. 12 ). Not until God's earthly people give the King His rightful place in connection with the nation will they come into blessing. For Christians, Jerusalem, which is above, is the mother of us all. We may attempt to bring Christ back to earth - in other words, we may seek to connect Christ's name and authority with this world - but it will be in vain. Christ is not to be found in the city and broadways of this world, and if He is not found here, He cannot be enjoyed here. He can only be known, and enjoyed, in connection with the heavenly scene where He is and to which we belong. If, as we have seen, He can only be found "without the camp," the "mother's house" would teach us that He can only be enjoyed "within the veil."

5. I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem

By the roes, and by the hinds of the field,

That ye stir not up, nor awaken love till it please.

The canticle closes, like the first, with the earnest appeal to the daughters of Jerusalem, that nothing should be allowed to disturb the enjoyment of love between the Bridegroom and the bride. And in like spirit we may well sing -

"Take Thou our hearts, and let them be

For ever closed to all but Thee;

Thy willing servants, let us wear

The seal of love for ever there."

Canticle 3 . Son_3:6-5:1 .

The Communion of Love.

The Daughters of Jerusalem.

(3: 6).

3: 6. Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness

Like pillars of smoke,

Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,

With all the powders of the merchant?

In this canticle we no longer see the bride resting upon her bed, calling forth the grace of the Bridegroom to arouse her flagging energies and awaken her waning love. She is rather presented as enjoying the communion of love and coming up from the wilderness on her way to share the glories of the King. The daughters of Jerusalem inquire, "Who is this?" or as it can be translated, "Who is she?"

Strictly the scene presents a beautiful picture of Israel, of whom the Lord could say, "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness," and again, "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought" ( Hos_9:10 and Hos_13:5 ). It is true that Jehovah "drew them with cords of a man," and "with bands of love," into a land flowing with milk and honey, but they turned from the Lord and went after strange gods. Yet in the days to come God will again bring Israel into the wilderness, will there "speak to her heart," and from thence open to her "a door of hope" that will lead to the kingdom glories of the true Solomon ( Hos_2:14-23 ).

The Church, too, has her wilderness journey - the time of her earthly pilgrimage - before the end is reached in heavenly glory. In this lovely canticle we see the unfolding of this journey, not in its weakness and failure, but according to the thought of God, taken in the communion of love. For the wilderness has its privileges as well as its privations, and this the Song presents, for the journey is made in the King's palanquin. Moreover the very privations become the occasion of calling forth a sweet odour, just as the path of the bride is marked by the smoke of ascending incense, and perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, and with all powders of the merchant. There is spiritual significance in the fact that the powders of the merchant are compounded from plants gathered in the wilderness. The trials, the testings, and the privations of our wilderness journey, when taken from the hand of God, become the occasion of developing the graces of Christ, which ascend as "an odour of a sweet smell" even now, and will be found unto praise and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. It is this aspect of the wilderness journey that the Song presents, not the wilderness with our infirmities and God's provision, as in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but the wilderness with its privations and its privileges, as in the Epistle to the Philippians. Paul has to taste the privations of the wilderness, but he rejoices greatly in the Lord that his trials become the occasion of calling forth the grace of Christ in the saints as "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice, acceptable, well pleasing to God." And we, like Paul, can turn our privations into privileges if we but see that every trial is a God-sent opportunity to call forth some Christian grace; Alas, how often the trials by the way call forth some ugly exhibition of the flesh - its tempers and its violence, its envy and its pride, its impatience and its murmurings. We open the door to the flesh by letting our wilderness circumstances come between our souls and God. Let us but keep God between ourselves and our circumstances and then indeed they will call forth the graces of Christ. Faith, hope, love, meekness, lowliness, long-suffering and patience will be the outcome of the trials, and our journey through the wilderness will be fragrant before God with "myrrh and frankincense" and "all powders of the merchant."

Friends of the Bridegroom.

(3: 7-11).

7. Behold his couch, Solomon's own:

Threescore valiant men are about it,

Of the valiant of Israel.

8. They all hold the sword, experts in war:

Each hath his sword upon his thigh

Because of fear in the night.

The bed, or litter, on which the bride journeys through the wilderness is provided by the King. In like manner the Christian has not to travel at his own charges, or according to his own thoughts, but in the way that God has provided. This, however, entails conflict, and hence the wilderness journey, while developing Christian graces, also calls for Christian warfare. For this we need the "valiant men." Paul not only exhorts Timothy to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," but He also says, "Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" ( 2Ti_2:1-3 ).

And the soldiers that accompany the litter are well equipped. They "all hold swords"; they are "expert" in the use of their swords; and they are ready to use them, for "every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.''

So too the good soldier of Jesus Christ is armed with "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" ( Eph_6:17 ). Paul reminds Timothy that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

But to have Scripture is not all that is needed. We must be expert in the use of Scripture, and so Timothy is further exhorted to have "an outline of sound words," "rightly dividing the Word of truth" ( 2Ti_1:13 ; 2Ti_2:15 ).

Moreover, we must not only be "armed" and "expert" but ready - every man with "his sword upon his thigh." It was so in Nehemiah's day. "Every man had his sword girded by his side, and so builded" ( Neh_4:18 ). The moment of attack will give no time for girding on the sword. We must be ready to "preach the Word," in season and out of season.

9. King Solomon made himself a palanquin

Of the wood of Lebanon.

10. Its pillars he made of silver,

The base of gold, its seat of purple,

The midst thereof was paved with love

By the daughters of Jerusalem.

The introduction of the valiant men is followed by the description of the palanquin, or litter, which they are called to defend. In the details of the palanquin do we not see set forth great truths as to the Person of Christ - the support of our souls and the foundations of our faith? The cedar wood speaking of His perfect humanity, fragrant and incorruptible; the pillars of silver telling of His redeeming power; the gold, of His divine righteousness; the purple, of His royalty; and the pavement of love, of divine love, the foundation of all. Love comes last: as one has said, "There is something beyond gold, there is nothing beyond love."

These are the vital truths that the enemy is opposing and Christendom giving up, but for which the good soldier of Jesus Christ must contend.

11. Go forth, daughters of Zion,

And behold King Solomon

With the crown wherewith his mother crowned him

In the days of his espousals,

And in the day of the gladness of his heart.

The daughters of Jerusalem had been occupied with the bride and the bridal procession, but now they are called to behold the King. Our wilderness journey with its trials and conflicts will end in the Kingdom glories. We have known the King in this wilderness world with the crown of thorns, but we shall yet behold Him in the day of espousals with the crown of glory. The wilderness journey will soon be past. The day of espousals is coming when His people will be presented to Him "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Then indeed will be "the day of the gladness of His heart," when "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" ( Isa_53:11 ).

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 3". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/song-of-solomon-3.html. 1832.
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