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SONG OF SOLOMON CHAPTER 1
A description of the earnest longing of the church after Christ, Song of Solomon 1:1-4. A confession of her deformity; prayeth for direction. Song of Solomon 1:5-7. Christ's direction and command, Song of Solomon 1:8. He showeth his love to her both for her strength and comeliness, Song of Solomon 1:9,Song of Solomon 1:10, and giveth her gracious promises, Song of Solomon 1:11. The church's commendation of Christ both for the sweetness of fellowship with him, and the excellency of ordinances, Song of Solomon 1:12-17.
The song of songs; the most excellent of all songs, whether composed by profane or sacred authors, by Solomon or by any other. So this Hebrew phrase is understood in other cases, as the holy of holies signifies the most holy; and the highest King is called King of kings; and there are multitudes of such instances, as hath been oft observed. And so this might well be called, whether you consider the author of it, who was a great prince, and the wisest of all mortal men, the two Adams only excepted; or the subject of it, which is not Solomon, but a greater than Solomon, even Christ, and his marriage with the church, as hath been noted; or the matter of it, which is most lofty and mysterious, containing in it the greatest and noblest of all the mysteries contained either in the Old or the New Testament; most pious and pathetical, breathing forth the hottest flames of love between Christ and his people; most sweet, and comfortable, and useful to all that read it with serious and Christian eyes. Nor is it the worse because profane and wanton wits abuse it, and endeavour to fasten their absurd and filthy senses upon some passages in it. The truth is, this book requires a sober and pious, not a lascivious and foolish readier; for which reason some of the ancient Hebrews advised young men to forbear the reading of it, till they were thirty years old.
Which is Solomon's; which was composed by Solomon; but whether before his fall, or after his repentance, is not easy to determine, nor necessity to be known.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. The beginning of this book is abrupt, and may seem disorderly; but is very suitable to and usual in writings of this nature, wherein things are not related in an historical and exquisite order, but that which was first done is brought in as it were accidentally after many other passages; as we see in Homer, and Virgil, and in the Greek and Latin comedians. These are the words of the spouse, as all acknowledge, wherein she breatheth forth her passionate love to the Bridegroom, whom she doth not name, but only intimate by the pronoun relative him, which is here put without and for the antecedent, as Psalms 87:1; Psalms 114:2; John 20:15; which manner of expression she useth, because it was needless to name him, as being so well known to the person or persons to whom site speaks, and being the only person who was continually in her thoughts and speeches. By kisses, which were the usual tokens of love and good will, she means nothing else but the communications and manifestations of his love and favour to her, as the following clause explains this; his graces and comforts breathed into her from the mouth and Spirit of Christ.
Thy love: this sudden change of the person is frequent, especially in such pathetical discourses. First she speaks of him as absent, and at a distance, but speedily grows into more acquaintance with him, and by ardent desire in faith embraceth him as present.
Than wine; than the most delicious meats or drinks, or than all sensual delights, this one kind being synecdochically put for all the rest, as it is Esther 5:6; Job 1:13; Proverbs 9:2; Ecclesiastes 2:3.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments; because of those excellent gifts and graces of God’s Spirit wherewith thou art replenished, and which flow from thee upon thy members,
Thy name; either,
1. Thou thyself;
names being oft put for persons, as Acts 1:15; Revelation 3:4. Or rather,
2. Thy fame or report, the very mention of thee, and all those things by which thou makest thyself known to men, thy word, and particularly thine offers and promises of pardon and salvation made to sinners, and all thy works, both ordinary and miraculous, especially that great work of redemption.
Is as ointment poured forth; most lovely, and acceptable, and refreshing.
The virgins, called the companions of the bride, Psalms 45:14, particular believers, who are called virgins, 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 14:4, who have their senses exercised to perceive this sweetness and fulness of Christ.
Draw me; by thy grace and Holy Spirit effectually inclining my heart to come unto thee, as this phrase implies, Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:4; John 6:44,John 6:45. As thou hast outwardly called and invited me, so do thou inwardly move me, who am naturally averse and backward to follow thee.
We; both I thy spouse, and the virgins my companions. And this change of numbers teaches us that the spouse in this book is one great body, consisting of many members, of whom therefore he speaks sometimes in the singular, and sometimes in the plural number.
Will run after thee; will follow thee readily, and cheerfully, and swiftly; which is opposed to her former sluggishness and listlessness. We will not receive thy grace in vain, but will improve it, and co-operate with it, and stir up all our strength to serve and obey thee.
The king; Christ, my Husband and Lord, the King of his church, as he is oft called, the King of kings, &c.
Hath brought me, Heb. hath caused me to come, by drawing me as I desired. He hath answered my prayer.
Into his chambers, where I may most freely and familiarly converse with him, and enjoy him. He hath taken me into intimate communion with himself. These
chambers seem to note either,
1. Those heavenly mansions into which believers are sometimes said to be brought, even in this life, as Ephesians 2:6, because they have a lively faith, and a well-grounded hope and assurance, and some comfortable foretastes of that blessed state. Or rather,
2. Those places and conditions upon earth in which they enjoy the special favour and fellowship of God in Christ, as the public assemblies, in which Christ is in a peculiar manner present, Matthew 18:20, where his word and ordinances are dispensed, and where he poureth forth his Spirit and blessings, and speaks great peace, and gives forth his loves unto his people. Yea, even the private closets wherein believers enjoy much of Christ, by prayer, and praise, and reading, and meditation, are such chambers also; for it is not the place, but the state, or privilege, which is here signified, and which is considerable.
In thee; or, for thee; in or for thy love and favour to us, which is the principal cause of our joy.
Remember, or commemorate, or celebrate. This shall be the matter of our thoughts and discourses.
The upright; those chaste and sincere virgins mentioned Song of Solomon 1:3, who are here opposed to hypocritical professors.
I am black. It might be objected, Who art thou, that thou shouldst have or pretend to such a royal Bridegroom, and such honours and favours? To this the church answers, I confess, as to myself and outward appearance in the eyes of the world, I have not that pomp and beauty which men admire, but am black, contemptible and deformed, both for my own infirmities and disorders, and for the scandals of some of my own members, and for the reproaches and persecutions of worldly men. She alludes to the complexion of Pharaoh’s daughter, who was black.
But comely; yet I am glorious within, Psalms 45:13, and comely, through the beauty which my Husband hath put upon me, by his graces and blessings conferred upon me, such as justification and sanctification, &c.
Daughters of Jerusalem; by which she understands particular believers, whose mother Jerusalem is called, Galatians 4:26, who had joined themselves to her, especially young converts and weak Christians, who were startled and offended at the contemplation of her blackness.
Of Kedar, i.e. of the wild Arabians, the posterity of Kedar, Genesis 25:13, who dwelt in tents, which were black and uncomely, both in themselves, and by the injuries of the weather, to which they were constantly exposed.
As the curtains of Solomon; as the hangings wherewith Solomon’s house was furnished, which none can doubt that they were most beautiful and glorious. So these two last clauses answer to the two first, and that in the same order in which they lie.
Look not upon me, with wonder and disdain, because of my blackness, as it follows.
Because the sun hath looked upon me: my blackness is not essential, and inseparable, but chiefly caused by the scorching beams of the sun, i.e. of sore persecutions and tribulations, which by God’s permission have befallen me, which are represented by the sun, Matthew 13:6,Matthew 13:21.
My mother’s children; false brethren, who pretend that the church is their mother, with their actions demonstrate that God, the Husband of the church, is not their Father; hypocritical professors, who are, and ever were, the keenest enemies to the true church and people of God, Isaiah 66:5; Galatians 4:29; false teachers, and their followers, who, by their corrupt doctrines, and divisions, and contentions which they raise, bring great mischief to the church. See 2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 2:4.
Were angry with me; or, fought against me, as the ancients render it, and so marred my beauty.
They made me keeper of the vineyards, i.e. of their vineyards, for to these she opposeth her own, in the next clause. Having prevailed against me, they used me like a slave, putting me upon the most dishonourable and troublesome services, such as the keeping of the vineyards was esteemed, 2 Kings 25:12; Isaiah 61:5; Matthew 20:1-7.
Mine own vineyard have I not kept; they gave me such a full and constant employment in their drudging work about their vineyards, that they left me no time to mind my own; they hindered me from doing my own duty, and from minding my own concerns; and therefore it is no wonder if in this posture and condition I be uncomely, and scorched by the sun. But because churches or societies of professors of religion, whether good or bad, are oft called vineyards, as Deuteronomy 32:32; Psalms 80:8; Isaiah 5:1,Isaiah 5:2,Isaiah 5:7, this and the foregoing clause may be thus understood, that they endeavored to seduce and corrupt the church with false doctrines, and superstitious or idolatrous worship, and to oblige her to countenance and maintain them, and thereby disturbed and hindered her from her proper work, which was the propagation and advancement of the true doctrine and worship in particular assemblies and persons belonging, or to be brought in, to her.
Whom my soul loveth, notwithstanding all these discouragements mid afflictions which I suffer for thy sake, and for my love to thee. Being reproached and persecuted by others, I flee to thee, O my only refuge and joy, and I beg direction and help from thee.
Where thou feedest, understand, thy flock, as Genesis 29:7; Genesis 37:16. Seeing false teachers and churches bear thy name, Mark 13:21,Mark 13:22, and thy true church sometimes lies hid, Revelation 12:14, discover to me which is thy true church, and which are those assemblies and people where thou art present, and where thine ordinances are dispensed in purity and power, and where thou dost and wilt command the blessing, even life for evermore, as it is expressed, Psalms 133:3, that I may join myself to them. This is the request of particular believers. For it must be minded, as that which will be useful to explain really difficulties in this book, that the church in this book is sometimes considered, and speaketh, or is spoken of, as one entire body, and sometimes with respect unto and in the name of her particular members, and that promiscuously; and in which of these capacities each place is to be understood is left to the prudent and diligent reader to gather out of the words and context.
At noon; in the heat of the day, when the shepherds in those hot countries used to carry their flocks into shady places; whereby he means the time of hot persecution, when it is hard to find and discover the true church, partly because she is deformed by it, and partly because she is obscured and driven into the wilderness, as is said, Revelation 12:14.
Be as one, i.e. be really one, the particle as being here a note of truth, as it is in many other places. Why wilt thou by withdrawing thyself from me, and denying thy direction to me, suffer me, or give occasion to me, to be such a one?
One that turneth aside; or, a wanderer, or vagabond, like a neglected and forlorn creature, exposed both to censure and danger, from both which it belongs to thee, my Husband, to protect and save me. By, or about, or towards, as this particle is elsewhere used, the flocks of thy companions; the assemblies of corrupt and false teachers and worshippers, by which I am like to be insnared, if thou dost forsake me. These he calls Christ’s companions, partly because they profess the name of Christ, and their conjunction with him in God’s worship; and partly because they set themselves up in Christ’s stead, and usurp his power in delivering and imposing their own laws and doctrines upon men’s consciences, and behave themselves like his equals or companions, not as becometh his subjects.
If thou know not, to wit, where I feed my sheep. For this is Christ’s answer to his spouse or people.
O thou fairest among women; though thou art black in thine own and others’ eyes, yet thou art very beautiful and amiable to me, as being washed white in my blood, and beautified with my gifts and graces.
Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock; observe and follow the paths which my sheep had trodden before thee, of my faithful servants, Abraham and others, whose examples are propounded for our imitation, Romans 4:12; Hebrews 6:12. For the church in all ages is one and the same, and there is but one way for the substance in which all the saints from the beginning to the end of the world do walk, Christ being yesterday, and to-day, and the same for ever, Hebrews 13:8, and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8.
Feed thy kids; take care for the feeding or teaching of all, and especially of young and weak Christians, who do and shall associate themselves to thee, whom the Holy Ghost calls lambs, John 21:15,John 21:16, as here kids. For although grown and wanton goats are commonly used in Scripture in a bad sense, yet the kids of the goats do sometimes note believers, as Isaiah 11:6, and kids were among those sacrifices which represented Christ, Hebrews 9:12-14. Beside the shepherds’ tents; under the conduct, and according to the instruction, of my faithful shepherds, or pastors; first and chiefly those who have gone before thee, the prophets and apostles, and after, and in subordination to them, and to their writings, others whom I shall raise from time to time to feed my people with wisdom and understanding.
I have compared thee, Heb. I have made thee like; which may be understood either,
1. Verbally, by comparing. Or,
2. Really, by making a real resemblance in quality or condition. To a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots; either,
1. For comeliness; for a horse is a very stately and beautiful creature, and the Egyptian horses were preferred before others, 1 Kings 10:28; Isaiah 31:1, and Pharaoh’s own chariot horses were doubtless the best of their kind. Or,
2. For excellent order and usefulness, as those horses did equally and orderly draw the chariot, and carried Pharaoh with ease and speed whither he designed to go. Or rather,
3. For strength and courage, to overcome all thine enemies. For horses are famous for that property, Job 39:21, &c. And the strength of the battle was then thought to consist very much in horses, Proverbs 21:31, and chariots, and especially in a company or multitude of them. And the church in this book is represented not only as fair and beautiful, but also as terrible to her enemies, Song of Solomon 6:10. Compare Revelation 19:11,Revelation 19:14.
Rows of jewels; which being fastened to the heads of brides, used to hang down upon and to adorn their cheeks, according to the manner in those times. He mentions the cheeks as the chief seat of beauty; and he intimates that the church’s beauty is not natural, nor from herself, but from the jewels wherewith Christ adorns her.
Thy neck; which is mentioned as another visible part and seat of beauty, Hosea 10:11. But to accommodate every part and ornament named in this book to some particular thing in the church, seems to have more of curiosity and artifice than of solidity and use.
Chains of gold; whereby, as well as by the rows of jewels, he may seem to design all those persons and things wherewith the church is made beautiful in the eyes of God and of men; such as excellent ministers, and saints, righteous laws, holy ordinances, and the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit, all which are given by God to the church, and are her best ornaments.
We; I thy Bridegroom, with the cooperation of my Father, and of the Holy Spirit. Such plural expressions are sometimes used in Scripture concerning one God, to note the plurality of persons in one Divine essence, as hath been noted upon Genesis 1:26, and elsewhere.
Borders of gold with studs of silver; beautiful and honourable ornaments, such as those Song of Solomon 1:10. Variety of expressions are used to signify the various kinds and improvements of the gifts and graces which are bestowed by Christ upon the church. The phrase here used may be compared with that of
apples of gold in pictures of silver, Proverbs 25:11.
The King, my royal Husband,
sitteth at his table; either,
1. With the spirits of just men and blessed angels in heavenly glory, to which Christ was advanced after his sufferings, and from which he poureth down his Spirit upon his people. Or rather,
2. With me in his gospel and ordinances, in which Christ entertaineth his people, and is in a special, and gracious, and glorious manner present with them, Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20, which also is oft represented in Scripture under the motion of a feast or banquet, of which see Proverbs 9:1-3,Proverbs 9:5; Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 8:11; Matthew 22:2; 1 Corinthians 10:21.
My spikenard; the graces of his Spirit conferred upon me, and drawn forth by his powerful presence, which is here compared to those sweet ointments which the master of the feast caused to be poured out upon the beads of the guests, of which see Mark 14:3; Luke 7:38, in which ointments spikenard was a chief ingredient, John 12:2,John 12:3.
Sendeth forth the smell thereof; which notes the exercise and manifestation of her graces, which is a sweet-smelling savour in the nostrils of her Husband, and of her companions.
A bundle of myrrh; or, a bag of myrrh; in which there was a considerable quantity of the gum which droppeth from the myrrh tree. Myrrh is bitter to the taste, but sweet to the smell, and therefore was ever reckoned amongst the best perfumes. See Exodus 30:23; Psalms 45:8; John 19:39.
Is my Beloved unto me; he is most precious and comfortable to me, and the author of my sweet smell last mentioned.
Betwixt my breasts; in the place where bundles or bags of myrrh or other perfumes hang down, being fastened about their necks, which yet were taken away and laid aside by night. But the church intimates that she will not part with Christ, neither day nor night. Or this phrase may note the church’s intimate union with and hearty affection unto Christ.
Camphire; or, cypress, as others render it. It was an odoriferous plant growing in vineyards, and some think that it was a most pleasant kind of vine, like that which bears muscatel grapes; yea, some very learned men understand it of that plant which dropped balm, which grew in or near the place here specified, as is affirmed not only by the Jews, but also by pagan writers, as Diodorus and Trogus. Nor are we concerned to know which or what it was; it being confessed and evident, that it was some pleasant and grateful plant, and that it sets forth that great delight which the church hath in the enjoyment of Christ.
En-gedi; a pleasant and well-watered place in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:62; Ezekiel 47:10, where there were many pleasant plants, whence it was called Hazazontamar, 2 Chronicles 20:2.
Behold, thou art fair: this is the speech of Christ. The words are doubled, partly to note the certainty of the thing, notwithstanding her mean and modest opinion of herself; and partly to manifest his high esteem and fervent affection for her, and to assure her that, notwithstanding all her infirmities, he was very well pleased with her.
Thou hast doves’ eyes; which are,
1. Comely and pleasant.
2. Modest and humble, not lofty, as the looks of some other creatures are.
3. Mild and harmless, not fierce and fiery, not looking and watching for prey, as the eyes of ravenous birds are.
4. Chaste and faithful, looking only to their mates; so that if any of them cast a lustful eye upon another, her companions are enraged against her, and quickly tear her in pieces; as some natural historians write. And such are the church’s eyes said to be. And by the eyes he seems to design partly her looks and outward behaviour or conversation, and partly and chiefly the inward disposition of her mind, which is commonly discovered, and in Scripture is oft signified, by the eye; in which sense we read of an evil eye, Proverbs 23:6 Matthew 6:23, of a bountiful eye, Proverbs 22:9, of a single eye, Luke 11:34, of a proud or lofty look, all which signify such tempers of men’s minds.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved. The church here again speaks, and retorts Christ’s words upon himself: If I am fair, it is only by thy grace and favourable acceptation; thou, and thou only, art fair indeed, thy beauty is exquisite and perfect.
Pleasant; as thou art beautiful in thyself, so thou art amiable and pleasant in thy condescension to me, and converse with me, in communicating thy blessed counsels, and graces, and comforts to me. Our bed; either,
1. Upon which we sit at meat, as the manner then was, Esther 1:5,Esther 1:6; Ezekiel 23:41. Or rather,
2. Upon which we lie, our nuptial bed; for the union and communion between Christ and his church is here represented under the notion of marriage. And accordingly the bed seems to denote the place or places where the church enjoyeth sweet fellowship with Christ, by his Spirit accompanying his ordinances, and imparting his merits, and graces, and comforts to her.
Is green; is pleasant, as that colour is to the eye; is prepared for us, being adorned with green garlands, or boughs and herbs, as the manner seems to have been with country brides, such as the spouse in this book is represented to be. Or, as others, both ancient and later interpreters, render it, is flourishing, i.e. fruitful. So it is a happy presage, that the church should not be barren, but bring forth many children to Christ; of which see Isaiah 54:1, &c. By these and the following words the church invites Christ to her bed and house, where she may freely and fully enjoy spiritual communion with him.
The beams of our house are cedar; not only strong and incorruptible, but also fragrant and delightful. Though I am in myself but a mean and rustic person, yet the house to which I invite thee, and where thou and I shall dwell together, is, by thy favour, built with cedar; whereby is here signified the stability of God’s church upon earth, which is called God’s house, 1 Timothy 3:15, and the firmness and sureness of God’s word and promises.
Rafters; the lesser beams. Or, as it is rendered in our margin, and by others, galleries, wherein we may walk.
Of fir; or, as the ancients and others render it, of cypress, which was used in buildings, which also was strong and fragrant, and therefore suits well with cedars.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24