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4. 1. Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair,
Thine eyes are doves behind thy veil;
Thy hair is as a flock of goats,
On the slopes of Mount Gilead.
2. Thy teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep,
Which go up from the washing;
Which have all born twins,
And none is barren among them.
3. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,
And thy speech is comely;
As a piece of pomegranate are thy temples
Behind thy veil.
4. Thy neck is like the tower of David,
Built for an armoury:
A thousand bucklers hang thereon,
All shields of mighty men.
6. Thy two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle,
Which feed among the Lilies.
If the others are occupied with the glories of the King, he, on his part, delights to dwell upon the beauties and perfections of his bride. The bride delights to speak to others of the glories of the King, but it is his joy to unfold to the bride his thoughts about herself. It is blessed to witness to others of the glories of Christ, but for the establishment of our hearts in solid peace and joy, it is necessary to hear from the lips of Christ His own thoughts about His people. It is this that gives the prayer of John 17 such exceeding preciousness, for there we are permitted to hear His thoughts about His own.
The King repeats twice over, "Behold thou art fair," but is not content with a general expression of his appreciation of His bride, he dwells upon her several features. For us, doubtless, these different features set forth the moral graces that Christ sees in His people.
(1) The eyes are the windows of the soul expressing its character and moral condition. Likened to doves would set forth gentleness, purity, and devoted affection, but combined with modesty, for the eyes are seen behind the veil.
(2) The hair is likened to the black glossy hair of the goats seen in all the profusion that a flock would present on the slopes of Mount Gilead. Hair is used in Scripture as the symbol of "subjection" ( 1 Cor. 11 ), separation from the world, and consecration to God.
(3) The teeth likened to sheep coming up from the washing would indicate purity; the twins, uniformity, and none barren, completeness, nothing lacking, all qualities that Christ delights to see in His people.
(4) The lips like a thread of scarlet proclaim the healthy condition of the body, just as wholesome speech, of which the lips are a symbol, set forth the condition of the heart, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The Lord Jesus was full of grace and truth, and hence we read of Him, "Grace is poured into Thy lips"; and of the bride the King can say, "Thy speech is comely." If the love of Christ is in our hearts, the praise of Christ will be upon our lips, and the grace that was poured into His lips will be expressed by our lips.
(5) The temples. The forehead is used in Scripture to express either modesty or boldness. The prophet had to say of Israel, "Thou art obstinate . . . and thy brow brass" ( Isa_48:4 ). Jehovah asks, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?" and the answer is given, "They were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush" ( Jer_6:15 ; Jer_8:12 ). In contrast, the bride is marked by modesty. She can blush, so that her forehead becomes red "like a piece of pomegranate," but it is "within thy locks," or as it may read "behind thy veil." Under the outward symbol of subjection there was genuine modesty. Not outward subjection, and inward rebellion. Modesty found with subjection is a precious quality in the sight of Christ.
(6) The neck. The King viewing the neck of the bride adorned with precious jewels likens it to the tower of David adorned with a thousand shields that spoke of David's victories. So too Christ is going to be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe.
(7) The breasts set forth the affections. The figure of the roe is used in the same connection in Pro_5:19 , to indicate that which is pleasant. The "young" roe sets forth that which is fresh. In the eyes of Christ His people are marked by love that is truly pleasant and that will never grow old.
6. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away,
I will get me to the mountains of myrrh,
And to the hill of frankincense.
Night is coming and the King must leave his bride until the marriage morn. However blessed the communications of love by the way, yet the day of the gladness of the Bridegroom's heart is still future. The bride is in the wilderness; the marriage day is yet to come. Until that day dawns the Bridegroom will go to his own country reminding us, in mystic language, that during our wilderness journey it is the night of the absence of Christ. He may commune with us by the way; He may give us very blessed realizations of His presence with us in a spiritual sense, but personally He has gone to the mountains of myrrh and the hill of frankincense, until the day break and the shadows flee away.
7. Thou art all fair, my love;
There is no spot in thee.
If, for a time, the bride is left behind, it is not because of any lack in herself. In the eyes of the King she is all fair and without spot. And in like manner the Lord's people, viewed in the light of the Lord's purpose, are "holy and without blame before Him in love."
8. Come with me, from Lebanon, my spouse,
With me from Lebanon -
Come, look from the top of Amanah,
From the top of Shenir and Hermon,
From the lions' dens,
From the mountains of the leopards.
If for a time the bride is left in the wilderness, and the Bridegroom departs to the mountains of myrrh, he would at least carry with him the affections of the bride. "Come with me," he says, "look from the top of Amanah." In like manner we are called to "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God." Earth has no fairer scenes than Lebanon and Amanah, Shenir and Hermon; but hidden dangers lurk beneath earth's brightest prospects. The lion has his den, and the leopards roam, in the excellent places of the earth. The well watered plain of Jordan may appear fair as the garden of the Lord, but Sodom and Gomorrah are there. Let us beware of looking back, like Lot's wife, but rather may we "look from," and beyond, all "created excellencies," setting our affections on things above, and not on things of the earth.
9. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister [my] spouse!
Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes,
With one chain of thy neck.
10. How fair is thy love, my sister, [my] spouse!
How much better is thy love than wine!
And the fragrance of shine ointments than all spices!
11. Thy lips [my] spouse, drop [as] the honeycomb;
Honey and milk are under thy tongue;
And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
If the Bridegroom desires to carry away the affections of the bride, it is indeed because he can say to her, "Thou hast taken away my heart." Twice he repeats, "Thou hast taken away [or "ravished"] my heart." It is well for us to have our affections delighting in Christ, but nothing so establishes the heart and fills it with adoring joy as the realization of the delight that Christ finds in His people. Few and poor are our thoughts of Christ, but we may say with the Psalmist, "Many, O Lord my God, are thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee . . . they are more than can be numbered." Little wonder if our hearts were ravished with Christ, but that His heart should be ravished by His people is indeed a world's wonder. And what could the King see in the bride that his heart should be ravished? No great thing as men speak. It was but a glance of the eye and a chain of the neck. But that look was a look of love, and the chain spoke of the adorning that he himself had put upon her. As we should say, "We love Him because He first loved us." The glance of the eye speaks of the love of the heart, and the chain of the neck proclaims that the love of the heart is the fruit of His own love.
Of the Bridegroom's love the bride has already said it is better than wine, and His name as ointment poured forth, and now the King, using the same figures, but with increased intensity, expresses his delight in the love of the bride. Not only is her love better than wine, it is "much better," and the fragrance of her ointments exceeds all spices. So to the heart of Christ, His people's love is much better than all earthly joys, and the graces of His people beyond compare with all that can minister delight in nature. Simon may spread a sumptuous feast for the Lord, but the uninvited guest - the nameless woman that was a sinner - a yet greater feast for the heart of the Lord "for she loved much." As one has well said, "Our Lord Jesus takes special notice of the frame of the heart; He lays more weight on our lives than on our works, though true love can never be without works."
But not only the look of the eye and the chain of the neck proclaim the love of the bride, but the "lips," the "tongue" and the "garment" all minister delight to the King's heart. Of the wicked it is written, "the poison of asps is under their lips," but of His own He can say, "honey and milk are under thy tongue." Words fall from their lips that are sweet to the Lord, and the practical righteousness of the saints - their garments - are like the smell of Lebanon, the cedar wood that speaks of human perfection.
12. A garden enclosed is my sister, [my] spouse;
A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
13. Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates, with precious fruits;
Henna with spikenard plants;
14. Spikenard and saffron;
Calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense;
Myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
15, A fountain in the gardens,
A well of living waters,
Which stream from Lebanon.
Having expressed His delight in the bride, the King proceeds to liken her to a garden enclosed, thus setting forth how completely the bride is set apart for His delight. In the midst of a barren desert the King has His garden enclosed wherein there are fountains of water and pleasant fruits for the pleasure of the King.
From the beginning of time it has been God's purpose to have a garden in this world for His pleasure. In accord with this desire the Lord God placed a garden eastward in Eden. And in that garden there were trees pleasant to the sight and good for food, and a river that watered the garden and flowed from thence to the world around. But sin entered and the garden was marred and brought forth thorns and thistles.
But again, in the course of time, the Lord planted a garden. He chose Israel from among the nations and likened them to a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. Separating them from the nations, He "made a wall about" His vineyard, and gathered out the stones, and planted it with the choicest vine, and He looked for fruit. But again sin marred the garden, and it brought forth only wild grapes, and the garden was laid waste and became a place of briars and thorns ( Isa_5:1-7 ).
Moreover to-day the Lord has His garden upon the earth, for the Apostle can say of the Christian assembly, "Ye are God's husbandry," and in this garden one may plant and another may water, but God giveth the increase ( 1Co_3:6-9 ). But, alas, once again the garden has been marred, for "while men slept" the enemy has sown "tares among the wheat," with the result that God's broken and scattered people present but faint traces of the garden of the Lord.
But when we turn from the people of God to the word of God, we find enshrined in the Song of Songs a perfect description of the garden that is suited to the Lord. And as we linger within the precincts of this fair garden we realise not only what is suited to the Lord, but how little we answer to the desire of His heart.
Let us first remember that the garden of the Lord is "a garden enclosed." This speaks of separation, preservation, and sanctification. Under the eye of God this world is but "the barren place where Jesus died;" but in this waste there are those whom the Lord can call "His own," and as we listen to the desire of the Lord for His own as expressed in the great prayer of John 17 we begin to realise the deep spiritual meaning of "a garden enclosed." If "a garden enclosed" involves separation from the surrounding desert, then, in like manner, we hear the Lord telling the Father that His own are not of the world even as He is net of the world. If "a garden enclosed" has in view the preservation of the tender plants, then, in accord with this thought, we hear the Lord praying that His people may be kept from evil. And lastly, if "a garden enclosed" implies a spot set apart for the owner's enjoyment, then, in harmony with this, we hear the Lord's desire that His people might be sanctified.
Such are the desires of the Lord; to have a company in this world, definitely separated from the world, preserved from the evil of the world, and set apart for His pleasure, to form for Him "a garden enclosed."
But the garden of the King is not only "a garden enclosed," it is a watered garden. Israel in their decline are likened to "a garden that hath no water," but in the day of their future restoration the Prophet can say to Israel, "Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (cf. Isa_1:30 and Isa_58:11 ) And so the garden of the King has its "spring shut up, and fountain sealed." It is not dependent upon the surrounding desert for its supply, the spring is within the garden. And so with the Lord's people; they have a secret source of supply, the Holy Spirit, "whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not neither knoweth Him." He indeed is the "Spring," but let us not forget the Spring must be "shut up." It is possible to grieve the Spirit into silence, and then how parched our souls become, how unfruitful the Lord's people, when the Spirit is quenched. We need to carefully keep the door "shut" against the intrusion of the flesh, lest the Philistines once again stop the wells with earth as in the days of Abraham.
Moreover, the "spring shut up" is "a fountain sealed." A spring yields an unfailing supply, a fountain an abundant supply rising up to its source. The Holy Spirit is not only an unfailing spring, abiding with us, and meeting all our needs throughout our pilgrim path, but He is also a fountain within the believer springing up into everlasting life ( Joh_4:14 ). Moreover, the fountain is set apart for the King - it is "sealed." As the Spring the Holy Spirit is occupied with us and our needs, as the Fountain He is wholly occupied with Christ and engaging our hearts with Him.
Furthermore, the garden of the King is a fruitful garden. The plants of this garden form a paradise of pomegranates, with "precious fruits" and "trees of frankincense." and "all chief spices." The plants may vary in size and beauty, in fragrance and fruitfulness, but all are for the delight of the King. And so in the garden of the Lord; no two saints are alike, but all minister to His delight.
And lastly, the King's garden not only ministers to his delight, but it is a source of blessing to the regions beyond, it is like "a well of living waters, which stream from Lebanon." And so if the garden of the Lord is "enclosed," if it is watered with "a spring shut up, a fountain sealed," if it yields its precious fruit for the Lord, then indeed it will be a source of blessing to the world around, a channel for "rivers of living water" to flow to dying men.
How good for our souls to linger awhile within the garden of the King and seek to learn the spiritual significance of the walls by which it is enclosed, the spring by which it is refreshed, the fruits and spices which grow therein, and the streams which flow forth to the barren lands beyond.
And we need every lesson of the garden, for our service is oft-times poor and partial. We are apt to expend much labour on one part of the garden to the detriment of another portion. Thus in the history of the Lord's garden it has often come to pass that some have been so busy "hedging and ditching" that they have neglected the flowers and fruit. Such have almost wholly confined their labours to the maintenance of separation from the world and the exclusion of evil from the garden of the Lord, and have had little time for the care of souls, with the result that they have indeed secured an exclusive garden, but in it little fruit for the Lord and little blessing for the world around.
Then, again, others have forgotten to keep the spring "shut up." The flesh has been allowed to work unhindered in the garden of the Lord, and so the Holy Spirit has been grieved and hindered, and in this way the garden has ceased to yield its pleasant fruit to the Lord.
Others, again, have been so attracted by the flowers and the fruit that they have overlooked the hedges and the ditches, with the result that the encircling walls have fallen into disrepair, and evil has entered through the breaches, and the garden of the Lord has been choked with weeds and become unfruitful.
Finally, there are others who have been so engrossed with the streams that flow forth to the world around that they have overlooked the plants that grow within, and thus the garden has ceased to yield fruit to the Lord.
Let us remember the garden is not ours but the Lord's, as the King can say in the Song "My garden" (16). It is "enclosed" for the Lord; the spring is to water His garden; the precious fruits are for His delight; and if the streams of living water flow from the garden it is only to rear plants for the garden. Keeping this in mind, how careful should we be of any neglect that would render the garden of the Lord unfruitful.
16 Awake, north wind, and come [thou] south;
Blow upon my garden, [that] the spices thereof may flow forth.
The King calls for the cold blast from the north, and the scorching wind from the south, to blow upon his garden and thus make the spices thereof flow forth. Thus it is the Lord often calls for the contrary winds of this world to blow upon His people to call forth from them the precious fruits of His own grace. The plants in His garden have ever increased most and thriven best in times of hottest persecution.
16. Let my beloved come into his garden,
And eat its precious fruits.
The bride, taking up the figure used by the King, seems to say, "If I am a garden, and if the King can see in his garden a paradise of precious fruits, then let my beloved come into his garden, and eat its precious fruits." In the eyes of the bride the garden would be but a poor place without the presence of the King. And we may say, "What would heaven be without the presence of Christ? What would paradise be without the Lord? And what the assembly of His people on earth without Himself in the midst?" What gave all the blessedness to that garden enclosed when the "disciples were assembled" on that first day of the week in the upper room with the doors shut for fear of the Jews? Was it not that "then came Jesus and stood in the midst"? And do we not read of that same visit to His garden that one disciple "was not with them when Jesus came"? It was the coming of Jesus into the midst of His own that turned His garden into a paradise.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 4". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany