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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
Song of Solomon 2
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ song-of-solomon-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Song of Solomon 2:1 : I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. ‘I am,’ &c. Opinions divided as to who is the speaker. The Bridegroom. ORIGEN, THEODORET, and the great majority of Latin and Greek Fathers. The Bride. TARGUM, PHILO, PSELLUS, GREGORY OF NYSSA, and the great body of modern commentators. Either the Church, expressing the excellence of her grace and beauty received from Christ; or rather, Christ Himself, setting forth his own excellence. GILL. The Bridegroom, acknowledging the praises given to him by the Bride. PATRICK. More probably the Church, showing her graces received from Christ. AINSWORTH. Spoken by either; but rather by Christ, commending Himself to the notice, love, and acceptance of His people, like Isaiah 65:1. HAWKER. By the Bridegroom; the comparison made out of condescension. DURHAM, M. STUART. By Bride; no instance in the Song of either Bride or Bridegroom praising themselves. WEISS. Spoken by Bride with a becoming modesty. PERCY. In self-depreciation. BUSH. Representing her beauty as nothing extraordinary. NOYES. Speaks of herself as an object mean and contemptible amidst the beauties of the surrounding scene. FRY. Asserting she had no claim to such beauty as was ascribed to her. BOOTHROYD. Considering herself almost too mean for the Bridegroom. BARTH (Bible Manual). Speaking as well with self-respect as humility. DELITZSCH. AS lowly, yet lovely. FAUSSET.
‘The rose of Sharon’ (חְבַצֶּלֶת הַשָׁרוֹן Khabhattseleth hashsharon). חֲבַצֶּלֶת here rendered ‘rose,’ according to ancient interpreters, either the lily, as the SEPTUAGINT, VULGATE, and TARGUM of Isaiah 35:1; or the narcissus, as the TARGUM here; or the rose, as the VENETIAN GREEK, KIMCHI, and ABEN EZRA. According to most modern Hebraists, the rose to be rejected, as the flower must be one with a bulbous root, from בֵּצל (betsel), a bulb. According to BOCHART, HAHN, and DE WETTE, the narcissus. EWALD and GSSENIUS: the Meadow Saffron (Colchicum Autumnale), a meadow and autumnal flower like the crocus, with a bulbous root. So MICHAELIS, NOYES, WORDSWORTH, &C. EWALD derives the name from בֵצֶל and חָמֵץ ‘sour.’ Means, radically, a plant with a pungent bulb,—inapplicable to the rose. FAUSSET. HITZIG, however, connects the word with חָמֵץ ‘red.’ PARKHURST, followed by WILLIAMS, derives the word from חבה, to hide, and צל a, shadow; as if a rosebud, or rose shaded with the calyx. The SEPTUAGINT, VULGATE, and THEODOTION have here simply, ‘a flower.’ AQUILA: a ‘flower-cup.’ The SYRIAC: ‘a lily,’ as in second clause. WICKLIFF and DOUAI VERSION: a ‘flower.’ GENEVA BIBLE: a ‘rose.’ BISHOP’S BIBLE: a ‘lily.’ So MUNSTER, MERCER, COCCEIUS, RASHI. A flower,—left indefinite. CASTALIO. Flower or rose. J. H. MICHAELIS. The flower, par excellence,—the flower of the whole earth. WITHINGTON. The flower; only, however, in a generic sense. GREEN. A wild-flower. GINSBURG. WITHINGTON. The tulip. MAGNUS, VAIHINGER. The daisy. THRUPP. הַשָּׁרוֹן properly, the Plain; from יָשַׁר to be straight. GESENIUS. Or from שׁוּו, to look forth or around. BOCHART, EWALD. The word used as a proper name, and applied to the plain between Cæsarea and Joppa, fertile and abounding in lilies, roses, and narcissuses. GES., SANCTIUS. That between Mount Tabor and the Lake of Galilee. EWALD. Bride refers to her native place. GOOD. Sharon, the name of a district, then of a city in it (1 Chronicles 5:16; Acts 9:35). MERCER, PISCATOR. שָׁרון, a plain; any considerable portion of level ground, whether fertile or otherwise: more than one in the land of Israel: the great Sharon, that beyond Jordan, in the land of Gilead and Bashan (1 Chronicles 5:16): here, that between Tabor and the lake of Tiberias, rich in pastures, but not therefore suitable for roses and lilies. WEISS. SEPTUAGINT: a flower of the plain. VULGATE and WICELIFF: a flower of the field. BISHOP’S BIBLE: the lily of the field. DIODATI and MARTIN: The rose of Sharon. SANCTIUS: A flower of the field; fenced around with no hedges; set forth to the eyes and for the use of all. FROMONDI: I am a flower of the open field, where you will rather find me than on the green bed. HARMER, PERCY, &C.: A mere rose of the field, where thousands and thousands grow of equal value: the thought suggested by the assemblage of beauty collected at the royal nuptials. WILLIAMS. The spouse compares herself with the more humble natives of the fields and valleys. WITHINGTON. Is disposed to humility by reflecting on her present good fortune as the King’s Bride. ZÖCKLER. A flower of the field; alluding to Christ’s humiliation and incarnation. THEODORET. A humble scarlet flower; Christ lowly and red in His own blood. HONORIUS. Christ the flower of the heavenly plain, who far excels all cherubim and seraphim, and gives them all their beauty and excellence. FOLIOT. The flower of this whole world, of which Christ was the glory, inviting all to enjoy His sweetness. ORIGEN, AMBROSE, BEDE, DEL RIO. The Church of Israel with the Shekinah in her midst. TARGUM. The Church lowly, and delightful for odour and beauty (Hosea 14:7). AINSWORTH. Gratefully acknowledges the beauty given her by her Lord. DAVIDSON. The humility and faith expressed in Isaiah 45:24; Psalms 34:2. WEISS. Self-humiliation, the effect of a real manifestation of God to the soul. FRY.
‘The lily of the valleys.’ (שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִים shoshannath ha-’amaqim), שׁוֹשַׁנָּה shoshannah (from שׁוּשׂ shush, an unused root, ‘to be white or splendid’), a noun of unity, from שׁוֹשָׁן shoshan, a lily; a flower growing wild in the fields of Palestine and adjacent countries; of various colours, but especially white and light blue; also apparently red (chap. Song of Solomon 5:13). GESENIUS. Pliny speaks of red and purple lilies. Modern Jews, followed by LUTHER, MUNSTER, and CASTALIO, make שׁוֹשָׁן a rose, instead of a lily. KIMCHI, a violet. Signifies a lily in Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Persic; a six-petalled flower, from שֵשׁ (shesh), six: hence, not the rose, which has only five petals: only it is the red lily, familiar in the East. DELITZSCH. Not our Lily of the Valley (lilium convallium); but the noblest flower that adorns our gardens, and which in Palestine grows wild in the fields. WILLIAMS. One of the plants in which the number six predominates in the distribution of their parts, as the Crocus, Asphodel, Daffodil, Lily, &c. KITTO. Takes its name from its six leaves or petals, and from its vivid silver whiteness: a perfect specimen has seven flowers on the spike—one at the head and six on the sides of the stem. Threefold Mystery. MERCER and AINSWORTH think it may be the woodbine, which grows and flourishes in hedges, and is sometimes called the ‘lily among thorns.’ A common flower that throws itself out on every spot of ground. HARMER. ‘The Huleh lily is very large, and the three inner petals meet above and form a gorgeous canopy, such as art has never approached: this incomparable flower delights most in the valleys, but is found also on the mountains. THOMSON’S Land and the Book. הָעֲמָקִים from עֵמֶק (’emeq), a valley. The name not applied to ravines, but to the long broad sweeps sometimes found between parallel ranges of hills. STANLEY. Low places also fruitful places (1 Chronicles 27:29). AINSWORTH. Lily of the ‘valleys’ more beautiful than those of the mountains, because always watered and less exposed to the heat. RASHI. Indicates a district not far from Sharon, as mentioned with it (1 Chronicles 27:29). M. STUART. The expression denotes an isolated and wild lily in the valleys. WFISS. The point of comparison in both cases is both the diminutive size of these plants, compared with cedars, cypresses, &c., and also their beauty and elegance; the Bride, though referring to her lowliness and rural simplicity, yet saying nothing derogatory to herself. ZÖCKLER.
Further Intercourse between the Betrothed.
Chapter 2.Song of Solomon 2:1-3; Song of Solomon 2:1-3
(Song of Solomon 2:1)
I am the rose of Sharon,
And the lily of the valleys.
The King and Shulamite still seated on their grassy couch. She, happy in his fellowship and love, and remembering her humble origin, appears to feel herself all unworthy of such a position, and with her eye on the wild flowers around her, to sigh out: ‘I am but a wild flower of the plain, a humble lily in the valleys.’ This view of the words probably more correct than that to which we have long with pleasure been accustomed, and which is rather the one suggested by our English version, viz., that which ascribes these words to the King instead of the Bride. Scarcely likely that here, and here alone, the speaker commends himself. Self-commendation, however just and becoming in the true Bridegroom, not the language of love, nor in consonance with the context and the rest of the poem. The rose probably not the flower here intended; but one of the bulbous kind; perhaps the meadow-saffron, crocus, or narcissus. The flower both common and abundant, and with little or nothing striking in it. Natural, in the circumstances of the case, for Shulamite thus to depreciate herself in the presence of the King, of whose love she sees herself so unworthy. Commentators and versions divided on the passage; the older ones applying these words rather to the King, the moderns more generally to the Bride. The spiritual instruction precious in either case.
1. The believer’s feelings, in the enjoyment of the Saviour’s manifested presence and love, naturally those of deep humiliation and self-depreciation. Such the feelings of Mephibosheth at the King’s table, and of Peter on the revealed divinity of his Master in the fishing-boat. On the perception of Christ’s glory, and the sense of His love to ourselves, our thoughts naturally thrown on our own unworthiness. ‘I am not worthy of the least of (Heb., I am less than) all the mercies and of all the truth which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands’ (Genesis 32:10). So David: ‘What am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?’ (2 Samuel 7:18) and Elizabeth: ‘Whence is this unto me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?’ (Luke 1:42) Lowly views of one’s self, and lofty views of Christ, the legitimate fruit of Divine communion. The lasting wonder of heaven and earth, that the King of Kings, possessed of infinite dignity and matchless excellence, should ally Himself in bridal union with a poor vile sinner.
“How should it be, Thou heavenly King,
That Thou shouldst us to glory bring?
Make slaves the partners of Thy throne,
Deck’d with a never fading crown.”
“Hence our hearts melt; our eyes o’erflow;
Our words are lost; nor will we know,
Nor will we think of aught beside—
My Lord, my love, is crucified.”
2. The description in the text true of the believer.—
(1) Nothing more in him than in the millions of his race. A fallen child of Adam, shapen in iniquity, and a child of wrath even as others (Ephesians 2:2-3).
(2) Exposed to danger and destruction; like the flower of the field, ready to be trodden on, and crushed by every foot. Often accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Like his Master in the eyes of the world—‘a root out of a dry ground; despised and rejected of men.’
(3) Often chosen from among the poor and illiterate. ‘Ye see your calling, brethren; how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.’ ‘Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?’ ‘He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people’ (Psalms 113:7-8; 1 Corinthians 1:26; James 2:5).
THE KING’S COMMENDATION OF SHULAMITE
(Song of Solomon 2:2)
As the lily among thorns,
So is my love among the daughters.
To Shulamite’s self-depreciating remark—‘I am but a lily in the valleys,’—the King immediately replies: ‘But as a lily among thorns, so is my love among and in comparison with all other women.’ The more a believer sees and acknowledges his own unworthiness, the more lovely he appears in the eyes of the Saviour, and the more does the Saviour assure him of His esteem and love. The language of the text true as addressed by Christ to His people. His eyes, which are ‘as a flame of fire,’ view both believers and unbelievers in their real character. His testimony that of ‘the Faithful and True Witness.’ His Church collectively and His people individually, while in this world and in comparison with others, a
Lily among Thorns.
In this Divine assertion, notice—
I. The LILY. Uncertain what species of lily is meant. According to some, the Scarlet Martagon, which grows in profusion in the Levant. Possibly the White Amaryllis intended. A species mentioned by Salt, in his Voyage to Abyssinia, whose white petals are marked with a single streak of bright purple down the middle. Believers compared to lilies, from—
1. Their beauty. Jesus speaks of the lilies of the field as adorned with a beauty to which that of Solomon, in all his glory, could not be compared. The Scarlet Martagon an exceedingly gorgeous flower. The wild flowers of Palestine in general very beautiful. Believers possessed of a moral and spiritual beauty—the beauty of holiness. Made partakers of the Divine nature, which is love. Renewed after the image of God and conformed to the likeness of Christ, who is ‘fairer than the children of men,’ and the embodiment of all beauty. Believers, as members of Christ, adorned with the graces of His Spirit—‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, &c.’ Enabled by grace to cultivate, and increasingly to exhibit, ‘whatsoever things are pure, just, lovely, and of good report’ (Philippians 4:8; Galatians 5:22).
2. Their purity. The White Amaryllis, or our common white lily, an emblem of purity. Believers made, by Divine grace, pure both in heart and life. Enabled by the hope of seeing Christ as He is, to purify themselves even as He is pure. Have purified their hearts through obeying the truth. Are sanctified through the truth. Sanctified in Christ Jesus. Made clean through the Word He has spoken to them. As ‘pure in heart,’ are admitted at death to the beatific vision of God.
3. Their humility. The White Amaryllis rises only two or three inches from the ground. The common white lily, with its drooping head, an emblem of humility and modesty. Believers called to be ‘clothed with humility,’ and to learn of Him who was ‘meek and lowly in heart.’ Made by Divine grace to be ‘meek’ and ‘poor in spirit.’ Represented by the Publican in the temple. Enabled to grow in humility as in other graces. Exemplified in Paul. His first acknowledgment: ‘not worthy’ to be called an apostle;’ later on: ‘less than the least of all saints;’ last of all: ‘the chief of sinners.’ The heavier the ear of corn, the more it bends. A proud Christian a paradox. Faith essentially humble, as being simply emptiness receiving out of another’s fulness, and weakness leaning on a Saviour’s strength.
4. Their fragrance. According to Salt, the flower of the White Amaryllis is sweet scented, its smell ‘resembling that of the Lily of the Valley, but much more powerful. Believers, according as they walk with Christ and possess His spirit, enabled to exercise a beneficial influence on others, and to diffuse a moral fragrance which makes their very presence a blessing. God’s promise even to penitent backsliders: ‘I will be as the dew unto Israel;’ and as the consequence of it—‘he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon: his branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon’ (Hosea 14:5-6). The believer’s privilege so to carry Christ with him as to be a perfume and a benefaction wherever he goes.
II. The THORNS. The ungodly so called (2 Samuel 23:6). Compared to a thorn hedge (Micah 7:4). Thorns as being—
1. Unsightly. Little beauty in a thorn. As little in the unregenerate in the sight of God and angels. Men in their fallen state and still unrenewed by Divine grace, ‘corrupt, filthy, and abominable;’ ‘hateful and hating one another;’ under the power of a carnal mind, which is ‘enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ No truly good thing in them, or in the fallen nature which governs them. No longer bearing the moral image of God, but of His great adversary. ‘Alienated from the life of God’ who is love, and ‘dead in trespasses and in sins.’ Every imagination of the thoughts of their heart only evil continually (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Psalms 14:1-3; Romans 3:10, &c.; Song of Solomon 8:7-8; Titus 3:3; Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 2:1):
2. Hurtful. Thorns pierce the hand that takes hold of them, and tear those that come in contact with them. So the ungodly (2 Samuel 23:6). The unregenerate hurtful to their neighbours. Their influence, both conscious and unconscious, for evil rather than good. Their example injurious, as turning others away from God rather than turning them to Him. The Divine testimony: ‘One sinner destroyeth much good.’ Paul, in his unconverted state, ‘a persecutor, and injurious.’ The poison of asps under the lips of the ungodly. Their feet swift to shed blood. The impenitent and unbelieving often grieving thorns in the sides of believers, and even of their nearest relatives and best friends. Their words often such as to leave a stain on the mind and a wound in the heart of others.
3. Unprofitable. Thorns and thistles part of the curse of barrenness inflicted on the earth for man’s sin. ‘Do men gather grapes of thorns?’ Thorns only useful in making a hedge for the protection of what may do good to others. The Divine testimony regarding men in their natural state: ‘They are altogether become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good; no, not one’ (Romans 3:12). The unregenerate unable to benefit men as immortal souls. Aim neither at bringing glory to God nor salvation to men. Are only employed by God for subordinate purposes, and as His unintentional instruments for the protection of His people and the interests of His kingdom. The final sentence pronounced on the ungodly: ‘Take ye the unprofitable servant,’ &c.
4. Destined to destruction. Thorns, especially in the East, cut up to be burned, or set on fire as they grow (2 Samuel 23:6; Isaiah 9:18; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 27:4; Hebrews 6:8). The end of the ungodly (Matthew 25:41).
III. The SITUATION OF THE LILY. ‘Among thorns.’ Beautiful wild flowers in Palestine often seen growing in the midst of a thorn bush or a thorn hedge. Believers, while in this world, necessarily among unbelievers. In an ungodly world, though not of it. Saints in Cæsar’s household. The tares still suffered to grow among the wheat. The chaff and the wheat together till death separate them. Heaven or the new earth the only place where the thorns are not. The situation of believers among the ungodly over-ruled for their own improvement, for the benefit of others, and for the glory of Him whose grace makes them to differ, and whose power preserves them safe to His heavenly kingdom. The calling of believers, while in this world, to magnify the grace of God towards them, and to shew the excellency of His grace in them. Their aim to be among the unregenerate as the pure, modest, and harmless lily among thorns. Their loveliness, like that of the lily, to be all the more manifest and striking from their situation. Believers not to be surprised if called to suffer tribulation and persecution from the world. ‘A lily among thorns’ likely enough to be torn by them. Their comfort that it is only here, and for a short time, that their situation is that of a ‘lily among thorns.’
IV. The SUPERIORITY OF THE LILY TO THE THORN. The language expressive of comparison as well as situation. The lily superior to the thorns among which it grows. So believers in relation to the world (1 John 5:19). ‘The righteous more excellent than his neighbour.’ Believers superior to others—
1. In Character. Believers renewed in the spirit of their mind after the image of God. Have Christ dwelling in them as their inward life, so that they become like Him who was ‘holy, harmless, and undefiled.’ Created anew in Christ unto good works; and engrafted into Him, so as to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, &c.
2. In Usefulness to others. Believers, from the new Divine nature implanted in them, able to benefit others for eternity as well as for time. Enabled by the Spirit of Christ in them to act upon the words of Christ: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ‘Freely ye have received, freely give.’ Are qualified for being made, like Christ, a blessing to the world, by their example, their prayers, and their personal efforts. The salt of the earth, and the lights of the world. Unbelievers rather a hindrance than a furtherance to the real interests of others.
3. In their Final Destiny. Believers at death are transplanted in their spirits, and at the Lord’s appearing also in their bodies, to a happier clime, to bloom as immortal lilies in the Paradise of God. Destruction and eternal death the end of the impenitent and unbelieving (Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; Philippians 3:19). As thorns, destined to everlasting burnings (Isaiah 33:12; Isaiah 33:14; Revelation 21:8).
Application. The world divided into two parts, lilies and thorns—regenerate and unregenerate, believers and unbelievers. To which do I belong? Am I lily or a thorn? All are thorns by nature. Lilies only made such by regenerating grace. Have I undergone this change? Out of a thorn has almighty grace made me a lily? If not, am I willing that it should be so now? Thorns spared for this purpose. The grace that has transformed others able to transform you also. That grace offered. Jesus, working in the Gospel by His Spirit, still transforms lilies into thorns, and is ready even now to transform you. He says: ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved;’ ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; ‘He that believeth on me though he were dead, yet shall he live.’ ‘Wilt thou be made whole?’
SHULAMITE’S COMMENDATION OF HER BELOVED
Song of Solomon 2:3
As the apple-tree
Among the trees of the wood;
So is my beloved
Among the sons.
I sat down under His shadow
With great delight,
And His fruit
Was sweet to my taste.
Shulamite compares her beloved to an apple or citron tree growing among, or compared with, the common trees of the wood. The comparison natural. The lovers surrounded with trees as well as flowers. Observe—The more Christ shews His love to His people, the more they are drawn to commend Him as their Beloved. If Christ can commend the imperfect, and in Himself worthless, believer; how much more should the believer commend Him who is perfection and loveliness itself! Christ compared to
The word applicable to any tree of the class to which the apple-tree belongs. The Hebrew term expressive of the fragrance of the fruit. Probably the citron intended. The orange still common in Palestine, especially on the sea-coast. Perhaps more so than formerly. The citron-tree distinguished for its fruit, its foliage, and its shade. Hence its superiority to the common trees of the wood. Other trees might perhaps equal it in shade, but without the fruit or its beautiful appearance. All excellence and beauty comprehended in Christ. Compared with Him, mankind in general, and even believers themselves, only as the common trees of the wood, compared with the beautiful and shady citron or orange-tree with its golden, fragrant, and delicious fruit. The world itself little worth to him who knows Christ. ‘What things were gain to me these I counted loss for Christ; yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:7-8). Observe—
I. The COMPARISON made. ‘As the apple-tree,’ &c. The comparison of the Beloved to the apple or citron-tree made—
1. From its appearance. The citron-tree, larger, nobler, and more beautiful in appearance than the trees of the wood; for example, the dwarf oak, so common in Palestine. The citron or orange-tree, with its dark green glossy foliage, its white blossoms, and its golden fruit, a picture of beauty. So Christ; ‘the chief among ten thousand,’ ‘fairer than the children of men.’ Has in all things the pre-eminence over both angels and men. The first-born among many brethren. They priests; He the High Priest. They kings; He the King of kings. They pearls; He the One pearl of great price. The highest, greatest, and best among men but as the low stunted shrub, or common wild-tree, in presence of the noble and beautiful citron.
2. From its shade. The foliage of the citron or orange-tree not only beautiful, but thick, and affording an agreeable shade. So Christ affords shelter and shade—
(1) To awakened sinners, from the scorching sentence of God’s righteous and broken law. The sinner, while out of Christ, pursued by the fiery law with its terrible curse: ‘The soul that sinneth it shall die;’ ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.’ In Christ alone, as enduring the curse for him, can he find shelter. But there he can and does. ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us.’ ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins’ (Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 3:10). ‘There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
(2) To tried and tempted believers. Tribulation the appointed lot of believers in this world. Persecution unavoidable to those ‘who will live godly in Christ Jesus.’ For a season, at times in heaviness through manifold temptations. Sometimes tried with fiery trials. Christ then their shade and shelter. ‘In me ye shall have peace.’ ‘When thou walkest in the fire, I will be with thee. Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.’ His presence with them as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. His grace promised to be sufficient for their both doing and suffering all His will. Hence enabled to rejoice even in tribulation and made more than conquerors through Him that loved them. Christ crucified, the shadow between sinners and the heat of God’s wrath; Christ crowned, the shadow between believers and the wrath of men and devils. The shadow of Christ, the true apple-tree, gives life as well as peace and comfort to those who sit under it. Every other shadow only that of the deadly upas. A religion of the flesh to be avoided, which is only a sitting under the shadow of the ‘letter which killeth.’ Divine wisdom, to sit only under the shadow of Him who is the Truth and the Life.
3. From its Fruit. The fruit of the apple, citron, or orange tree, fragrant, delicious, and refreshing. Such the fruit of Christ. That fruit—
(1) The redemption accomplished on the cross, with all the varied blessings of the everlasting covenant for time and eternity, flowing out of it.
(2) The doctrines of grace in which that redemption is unfolded, and which are revealed in the Scriptures.
(3) The promises of the Word, ‘exceeding great and precious,’ adapted to every case and condition, and all ‘Yea and Amen to them that believe.’
(4) The ordinances of the Gospel; as prayer, the preaching of the Word, and pre-eminently the Lord’s Supper. The fruit Christ’s, as—
(1) Procured through Him in His obedience unto death.
(2) Found in Him.
(3) Communicated by Him. On this apple-tree hangs fruit for immortal souls and dying sinners, and that in richest abundance. Fruit sweeter than that of Eden, with neither sin nor danger in the eating of it. Instead of a prohibition and threatened death, here is a free invitation and promised life. Instead of a flaming sword turning every way to guard its access, a silver trumpet sounds, proclaiming liberty of approach to all comers: Come, buy and eat, without money and without price; eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. The fruit offered by the god of this world, however fair and inviting in appearance, found at last to be only wormwood: ‘the grapes of Sodom and the clusters of Gomorrha.’
II. The EXPERIENCE related. ‘I sat,’ &c. The very remembrance of an enjoyed Saviour sweet.
‘What peaceful hours I then enjoy’d!
How sweet their memory still!’
The text expressive of repose and enjoyment. A beautiful illustration of faith in exercise. Exhibits—
(1) Sense of exposure and weariness.
(2) Discovery in Christ of what meets our case.
(3) Trust in and appreciation of Him for the wants of our soul.
(4) Feeling of security, peace, and satisfaction.
(5) Continuance in such a state. Observe—
(1) Whatever Christ is, He is to be to us personally and experimentally. In whatever aspect He is exhibited in the world, in that He is to be appropriated, embraced, and made use of. Entire confidence to be placed, and full complacency taken, in Him and in His finished work. As the apple tree, we are to sit down under His cooling shade, and partake of His refreshing fruit. Not enough to be near the shade, or to gaze upon the fruit. Without appropriation and personal use, men die even in sight of the Apple-tree. The awakened sinner to believe the testimony concerning Christ as a Saviour, and cordially to appropriate it for his own present and eternal benefit.
(2) The preciousness of Divine grace that has not only made such provision for our souls’ necessities, but inclines and enables us to make use of it. ‘By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8).
‘Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room?
While thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come.
‘’Twas the same love which spread the feast,
That sweetly drew me in;
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin.’
(3) Coming under the shadow of Christ for defence from the law’s curse, we are invited to to sit down and partake of His fruit. The fruit of the apple-tree for those who come under its shadow. Joy and comfort in Christ the immediate result of faith in His blood. So the awakened jailor rejoiced, believing in the Saviour preached to him by Paul and Silas. The believing Eunuch ‘went on his way rejoicing’ (Acts 8:39; Acts 16:34).
(4) Christ’s fruit sweet to the taste of those who come under His shadow. ‘To you that believe He is precious.’ A spiritual taste and a carnal one. As a man is, so is his taste. Truth in the proverb—each man to his taste. The taste of the carnal and unrenewed only carnal, and for the things that are seen and temporal—the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season. The taste of a man different from that of the swine at the swine-trough. A refined and cultivated taste the result of civilization, training, and education. The taste of a believer the result of regeneration and the impartation of a new spiritual and divine nature. Hence his taste for what is spiritual, divine, and heavenly, instead of what is only carnal and earthly. Unspeakable mercy to be blessed with a renewed nature and a spiritual taste. A man’s misery to be left under the dominion of an earthly, carnal, and depraved taste. To such a taste Christ and heaven itself entirely without attraction. The place of torment the only future abode for a carnal taste. The object of the Holy Spirit’s work to change a man’s taste. Hence the first step in his conversion—conviction of his sin and misery, and the worthlessness of the world to a dying sinner and an immortal soul (John 4:13-14; Luke 15:14-19). To a renewed soul and a spiritual taste, Christ and His salvation infinitely sweeter than the choicest pleasures of a perishing world.
Application. Has this been my experience? Is it so now? Have I seen my exposure, as a sinner, to Divine wrath, and fled to Christ for shelter? Have I appropriated Him as just the shelter I need; and am I now using and enjoying Him as such? Have I found delight in Him and in His salvation? Has His work of redemption and the word of His grace been sweet to my taste? Is it so now? All have their different tastes: what is mine? Is it spiritual or carnal? Christ or the world? Lord, give me a spiritual taste. Make Christ precious to me as a sinner, as He is to all that believe. Give me, as a believing sinner, to sit down under His shadow with great delight, and to find His fruit sweet to my taste.
Song of Solomon 2:4 : His banner over me was love.
‘His banner,’ דִּגְלוֹ (diglo), from דֶּגֶל (degel), a military standard. The SEPTUAGINT and VULGATE read the word as a verb; the former in the imperative: ‘Marshal (τάξατε), love against me;’ the latter in the indicative: ‘He marshalled (ordinavit) love against me.’ WICKLIFE: He ordained me in charity. LUTHER: Love is his banner over me. DIODATI: The banner which he lifts up to me. MARTIN: Which I carry. THEODORET, expounding from the Septuagint: Teach me the manner of love. RASHI: My band who guide me to him is love. MUNSTER, MONTANUS, and PAGNINUS: His banner over me or about me. The expression, according to MENOCHIUS, equivalent to—‘He drew me with the cords of love.’ MERCER: He held love before me as a banner to attract me to himself. GROTIUS: ‘He carries his love as an ensign before me,’—I serve under his banner, which is love. Similarly GESENIUS: ‘I follow the banner of love which my Beloved presents to me, as soldiers follow a military standard and never desert it.’ TIRINUS: ‘Love,’ that is, his love to me, by which he might subdue me to himself; and mine to him, that he might take me and all I have for his own. PISCATOR, JUNIUS, and MERCER: ‘Having love towards me for a standard,—by which to call or draw me to himself.’ SANCTIUS, expounding from the Vulgate: ‘By his numerous kindnesses and sweetest blandishments he drew up all the array of his love against me.’ So Du VEIL: He subdued me entirely to himself under the banner of love: he caused that I should cleave to him alone in love, as soldiers follow their standard. PATRICK: I am enlisted under his banner whose motto is love: he has overcome my heart so as to submit entirely to his wonderful love. MICHAELIS: He attacked me under the banner of love. ROSENMÜLLER: His banner for me is love,—his love to me is conspicuous as a banner in an army. EWALD: Love was as a protecting banner over my head. ZÖCKLER: Love waves as a protecting and comforting banner over my head when I am near him. So DÖPKE, WORDSWORTH, and BURROUGHS. PERCY, and BOOTHROYD, reading the word as a verb in the imperative: ‘Spread the banner of love over me.’ FRY, following one of Dr Kennicot’s manuscripts: ‘They have set up their banner over me. FAUSSET: The banner inscribed with the name of the Captain who rescued us, Love. Some view the word as denoting the luminous standard carried before marriage processions. So PARKHURST; also HARMER: A cresset, or portable fiery standard. Others, perhaps still more correctly, as a ‘flag or pendant, probably displayed on festive occasions.’ So WILLIAMS. A banner usually displayed on the festive tent or banqueting house; perhaps having on nuptial occasions the word ‘Love’ inscribed on it. PERCY. A canopy, such as is carried over a Bride in the East. HUG.
SHULAMITE’S HAPPY EXERCISE
(Song of Solomon 2:4-6)
‘He brought me to the banqueting-house,
And his banner over me was love.
‘Stay me with flagons;
Comfort me with apples;
For I am sick of love.
‘His left hand is under my head,
And his right hand doth embrace me.’
Shulamite describes her happy enjoyment of her Beloved’s fellowship and love. Represents it under the figure of a banquet of wine. ‘He brought (or hath brought) me into the banquet-house’ (or house of wine). Such a banquet among the highest of earthly enjoyments. Hence queen Esther’s invitation to the king (Esther 5:4-6). The king’s love already declared by Shulamite to be ‘better than wine.’ She now realizes this to the full. Her longing desires after the enjoyment of his fellowship and love now fully gratified. She has found him whom her soul loved, and experienced intense delight in his presence. Observe—
(1) The soul that earnestly seeks Jesus, and the enjoyment of His fellowship and love, will not seek in vain. ‘Said I to the house of Jacob, seek ye me in vain?’ ‘Then shall ye seek me and shall find me, when ye search for me with all your heart.’
(2) The happiness in the enjoyment of Christ’s presence and love, such as infinitely to compensate for all the labour and pains in seeking Him. What it cost Shulamite to find her Beloved, forgotten in her happiness now that he is found. ‘In Christ, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Peter 1:8). Notice, in regard to the
I. The EXPERIENCE itself. The nature of the ‘banqueting house’ or ‘house of wine,’ indicated in the words that follow: ‘His banner over me was love.’ Perhaps in allusion to some practice of suspending bannerets with suitable mottoes or devices over the heads of honoured guests at entertainments; or to the burning cressets carried at the head of a marriage procession, to light the party to the banquet-house. The happy experience of the banqueting-house is the enjoyment of the King’s presence, and of that love which is ‘better than wine.’ The greatest earthly happiness experienced in the fellowship and love of one whom we ourselves greatly love. The poetry of every country full of this sentiment. Love, the poetry of life; the wine and cream of existence. Jacob’s hard service of seven years for Rachael seemed to him but a few days, ‘for the love he bare unto her.’ The banner that floats over the head of believers’ in the fellowship of Jesus, a banner of ‘love.’ Its emblem ‘a Lamb as it had been slain;’ and its mottoes: ‘He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it;’ ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ This love-banner manifestly suspended over the disciples at the Last Supper. The same banner waving over every Communion Table. Love, the ground of all the Lord’s dealings with His people. His love—
(1) An electing love;
(2) A redeeming love;
(3) A covenanting or bridal love. The manifestation of Christ’s love, the believer’s feast. His loving presence a banquet of wine. The assurance of His love the believer’s strength and joy in the battle of life.
‘With Thee conversing, I forget
All time, and toil, and care;
Labour is rest, and pain is sweet,
If Thou, my Lord, art there.’
Heaven but the full bloom of this enjoyment. Christ’s enjoyed presence and love the great attraction of Christian ordinances, especially of the Lord’s Supper. The keynote in the Song of Solomon. The Song, like Psalms 45, a ‘Song of Loves.’ The happiness in the enjoyment of Christ’s love, and the language of the Song in describing it, perfectly natural. The naturalness of such language in the case of mere earthly love unquestioned. Why in the case of a Divine and spiritual one? Infinitely more in the God-man to fill the soul with delight in the enjoyment of His fellowship and love than in the loveliest, most loving, and most beloved creature. Mere creature love and creature loveliness, beside Christ’s, a taper beside the sun. The love of the Man that is Jehovah’s fellow, revealed in His thorn-rent brow, His nail-pierced hands, and His spear-wounded side. The language of each scar in His sacred body, love—love unspeakable, inconceivable; love of the most worthy to the most worthless; love of the Prince of the kings of the earth to a beggar on the dunghill; love of the all-glorious Creator to the degraded creature; love of God to a contemptible worm, though a worm originally made after His own image, and capable of loving Him with the ardour of the loftiest seraph. This love and loveliness able to be apprehended, realized, and felt by the human soul, made at the same time deeply conscious of its utter unworthiness of it. The soul capable both of enjoying that amazing love and of reciprocating it: and of experiencing, while so doing, a joy superior to that connected with any mere earthly love—a joy characterized by one who knew it as ‘unspeakable and full of glory.’ Such joy in Divine fellowship and love, man’s normal experience as a rational creature in an un-fallen state. The object of Redemption to restore man to its enjoyment; with the superadded element, that the Creator has, for man’s sake, assumed his nature, and in that nature endured for his deliverance the awful curse incurred by his sin. Delight in the love and fellowship of a Divine Redeemer the experience even of Old Testement saints before that Redeemer became incarnate. Hence the impassioned language and longing of the ‘sweet Psalmist of Israel’: ‘In His favour is life.’ ‘My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; Thy loving kindness is better than life; my soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips, when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate upon Thee in the night watches. ‘As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee. O God.’ ‘My soul longeth, yea, even faintech, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God’ (Psalms 30:5; Psalms 63:1; Psalms 63:3; Psalms 63:5-6; Psalms 42:1; Psalms 84:2). Isaiah sings: ‘I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God’ (Isaiah 61:10). Zephaniah exhibits the joy on both sides: ‘Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord in the midst of thee is mighty: He will save; He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over Thee with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:14; Zephaniah 3:17). This joy in the Divine Redeemer and His love the experience of the early Christians. Raised them above the smiles and the frowns of the world, above the fear of torture and of death, of the lions and the stake. The experience of the Church in its times of greatest and spiritual prosperity, and of believers in their first-love and highest attainments in grace. Often specially realized by the Church and believers in times of suffering and persecution. The experience which gives such life, sweetness, and power to the hymns of Charles Wesley, the Moravian Brethren, and others. The ‘banqueting-house’ not confined to time or place; but especially found in the ordinances of God’s house, and most of all in that of the Lord’s Supper.
II. The AUTHOR of the experience. ‘He brought (or, hath brought) me,’ &c. The king recognized by Shulamite as not only preparing the banquet of love, but also bringing her to it. Her language that of amazement, admiration, gratitude, and joy. Our experience of the love and fellowship of Christ as our Bridegroom-Redeemer due entirely to Himself. Himself not only the Author of the bridal relation between Him and His people, but of their knowledge, acceptance, and enjoyment of it. The relation itself, with all the blessings connected with it, freely offered to men in the Gospel; but, apart from the grace of Christ, neither apprehended nor cared for. ‘Who hath believed our report?’ Wisdom hath mingled her wine, and furnished her table, and sent out her maidens with the invitation to the feast; but men reject the counsel of God against themselves, and begin to make excuse (Proverbs 9:1-3; Matthew 22:2-6; Luke 7:30). Blindness, carnality, pride and unbelief, only overcome by the same royal grace that spreads the feast. ‘Why was I made to hear Thy voice?’ &c. Christ brings to the banqueting-house—
1. By His electing love. ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.’ His love an everlasting love, which in time lays hold of its object (Jeremiah 31:3).
2. By His renewing grace. The carnal mind enmity against God, and so without any inclination to the banquet of His love. Its taste the swine-trough. Its enjoyment the creature, not the Creator.
3. By His gift of faith. Such amazing love to the worthless and undeserving not readily believed. Unbelief as to the freeness of the Gospel offer and the reality of Christ’s love, to be removed by divine grace. This done by Christ Himself through His Spirit. Christ the Author as well as Finisher of our faith. His to give as well as ‘increase’ it. Exalted to give repentance, which includes it.
4. By His conquest of the heart. His people willing in the day of His power (Psalms 110:3). Loved with an everlasting love, and, therefore, drawn with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3). Drawn with cords of a man, and with bands of love (Hosea 11:4). His free, forgiving love, apprehended by faith, breaks and conquers the heart. The case of the woman in Simon’s house. Her many sins freely forgiven. Hence she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little (Luke 7:47, &c.)
5. By helping the soul over every discouragement in the way of its full enjoyment of Christ’s fellowship and love, and preparing it, both by His providence and grace, for such enjoyment. So the woman ‘that was a sinner’ enabled to enjoy the banquet of love at Christ’s feet even in the Pharisee’s house.
6. By pouring His love into the heart, and affording the rich realization of it through His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Christ able to speak comfortably (margin, ‘to the heart’) even in the wilderness. ‘I will love them freely’ (Hosea 14:4; Hosea 2:14). So with the woman in Simon’s house: ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’ Christ able to tell the soul, ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love;’ ‘I have redeemed thee; thou art mine’ (Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 43:1).
III. The EFFECT of the experience. ‘Stay (or support) me with flagons (or cordials—perhaps raisin-cakes); comfort me (or surround me—strew my couch) with apples (or citrons—fruits of reviving fragrance): for I am sick of (or faint with) love. His left hand is (or, let His left hand be) under my head, and His right hand embrace me.’ Shulamite, overpowered by a sense of the king’s love, and the happiness she enjoyed in his fellowship, calls as if for aid in her fainting state, to the ‘daughters of Jerusalem,’ or ladies of the Court, perhaps waiting at some distance; though probably intending only the king himself, as indicated in her concluding words: ‘Let his left hand be under my head,’ &c. The effect of her present rapturous enjoyment a sense of fainting, which requires the application of reviving ordials and odours, and the support of the king’s own loving arms. ‘I am sick of (or faint with) love,’ implying—
(1) Overpowering sense of present enjoyment in the king’s love;
(2) Inability to sustain more of it in present circumstances;
(3) Need of support under it. The sense of Christ’s love sometimes attended with similar effects on the physical system. The human frame often unable to endure unusually powerful emotions without sensible weakness and derangement as the result. The language of one under the sense of Christ’s love: ‘Stay Thy hand or the vessel will burst.’ Mr. Flaved, under a similar enjoyment while riding on horseback, felt himself at length so weak as scarcely to be able to retain his seat, and discovered that the blood had been oozing from his limbs, and flowing into his boots. Two of the writer’s own friends the subjects of a similar experience. Observe—
(1) That love must be precious, and the experience of it desirable, which can cause the soul to faint under the sense of it.
(2) Such Divine love-sickness only relieved by more of that which is its cause. The fruit of the Apple-tree alone able to cure the sickness it makes. The Bridegroom’s own arms must support the soul fainting under a sense of His love. Such sickness followed by a blessed healing, both here and in a better world.
(3) Sense of Christ’s love the highest enjoyment to be experienced on earth. Such sense, enjoyed in a high degree, next door to the felicity of heaven.
(4) The soul filled with, and fainting under, Christ’s love, languishes for the fuller enjoyment of His presence in heaven. Full satisfaction only found where Christ is seen face to face. Love-sickness only on earth. Sense of Christ’s love the most effectual means of weaning the affections from the world. The ‘expulsive power of a new affection.’ The love-sick soul only longs the more for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
‘O Christ, He is the fountain,
That deep, sweet well of love;
On earth the streams I’ve tasted:
More deep I’ll drink above.’
(5) Affecting contrast between sickness from Christ’s love and surfeit from the pleasures of the world. The former followed with a still richer manifestation of that love, but with an enlarged capacity for its enjoyment. The latter succeeded by an eternal thirst, with nothing to allay it (Luke 16:19-25).
THE KING’S CHARGE
Song of Solomon 2:7
I charge you,
O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
By the roes and by the hinds of the field,
That ye stir not up,
Nor awaken my love,
Till he (or till she) please.
Uncertain from the original whether the ‘love’ be Shulamite or the king, or simply the love itself as now experienced and enjoyed. Translators and commentators divided in opinion as to the speaker. The words probably spoken by the king in regard to his Beloved, now so happy in his love, or perhaps sunk into sleep by his side. The charge addressed to the daughters of Jerusalem, or ladies of the Court, in the language of oriental poetry. ‘Roes and hinds’ familiar objects in the country. Beautiful, but timid animals, ready to start up at the slightest noise. From their affectionate disposition suitably introduced in connection with a matter of love. A man’s wife to be to him ‘as the loving hind and pleasant roe (Proverbs 5:19). Shulamite, Solomon’s Beloved, not to be disturbed in the enjoyment of his love, or in the sleep which was occasioned by it. Observe, in regard to the
Enjoyment of Christ’s Love,
1. The temporary and uncertain duration of that enjoyment in the present world. A limit to it so long as the Church is militant on earth. The banneret of love to be soon exchanged for the banner of war. The feast to give place to the fight. The banquet-house to be followed by the battle-field. Believers soldiers of Christ as well as His Bride. The bridal chaplet to be laid aside for the warrior’s helmet. The high enjoyment of the Bridegroom’s love on earth may be temporary, but not the love itself. That enjoyment easily disturbed, like the repose of the timid gazelle. Intimate fellowship with Christ a tender, delicate, and sensitive thing. Numerous causes of disturbance both within and without us. Even necessary duty in the battle of life and the service of the Master may disturb it. Sin, self, and the seductions of the world, however, its main disturbers. Satan as great a foe to such enjoyment as to that of our first parents in the bowers of Eden. Heaven the place of undisturbed enjoyment.
2. Great care necessary in order to preserve the enjoyment of Christ’s love. That enjoyment precious, as—
(1) Endearing the Saviour;
(2) Engaging us to His service;
(3) Deadening us to the world;
(4) Tending to crucify sin and increase holiness in the soul. The love of Christ constraineth us. The sense of it, therefore, to be carefully preserved. Hence the caution at the Supper Table: ‘Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation: Continue ye in my love.’ Important charge: ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God,’ that is, in the enjoyment of it (Jude 1:21). The sense and enjoyment of Christ’s love only preserved by
(1) Watchfulness against sin;
(2) Obedience to His will;
(3) Faithfulness in His service;
(4) Patient endurance of the cross. ‘If ye keep My commandments ye shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love’ (John 15:10). David and Peter lost for a time the joy of God’s salvation through sin, but not the salvation itself. Care to be taken to preserve a tender and an unsoiled conscience. Especial care necessary in our intercourse with the world, and even with the professing Church. Danger even of the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ disturbing our love. Believers to be most careful over themselves when they have been nearest to Christ.
3. The desire of Jesus that His people may enjoy the continuance of His fellowship and love. Exemplified at the Supper Table in the Upper Room. ‘Continue ye in my love: These things have I spoken unto you that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full’ (John 15:9-11). His desire to come in and sup with believers, and they with Him (Revelation 3:20). From no unkindness or unwillingness on His part if the enjoyment of His fellowship and love is not of longer continuance. Only necessity and duty compel the language: ‘Arise, let us go hence’ (John 14:31).
4. A time when sensible enjoyment of Christ’s love and fellowship may be safely and properly suspended. ‘Until he (or she) please.’ A suspension necessitated after the enjoyment in the Upper Room, both on the part of Christ and His disciples. Christ obliged to leave the ‘banqueting-house’ to go and redeem His lost sheep; believers to be ready to leave it to go and reclaim them. Others, still without, to be invited and brought to the Marriage-feast with ourselves. The loving self denial of the Master the best way to preserve the assurance of His love, and to secure the frequent repetition of the sense of it. The temporary suspension of our own enjoyment well repaid by the Saviour’s joy over another lost sheep found. Our love to Himself to be evinced by our care for His lambs (John 21:15). His promise to His faithful and self-denying servants: ‘I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice’ (John 16:22). Christ most likely to be found again by us, when joining Him in His own loved employment—seeking and saving that which is lost. ‘Feed thy kids beside the shepherds tents.’
Song of Solomon 2:12 : The time of the singing of birds iS come.
‘The time of the singing,’ עֵת הַזָּמִיר (eth ha-zamir). Two meanings given to זָמִיר (zamir). GESENIUS and others derive it from זָמַר (zamar), ‘to prune,’ as in Leviticus 25:3; and so understand the expression as the ‘time of pruning the vines,’ or spring. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, and the ancients generally. RASHI, KIMCHI, ABEN EZRA, and most of the modern interpreters, understand the word rather as denoting ‘singing,’ from זָמַר, ‘to sing.’ So EWALD, who observes that vineyards are not mentioned till Song of Solomon 2:13, and that the Greek ψάλλειν (psallein), equivalent to זָמַר is used of the singing of birds. ZÖCKLER understands the word of singing, but rather the ‘merry songs as of shepherds and country people.’ Some understand it of the ‘plucking and gathering of flowers.’ So GREGORY OF NYSSA, DU VEIL, TIRINUS, and POOLE. HARMER and KITTO think allusion is made to the nightingale, which is heard in Palestine during the greater part of the garden season, singing delightfully in the day time among the pomegranate groves, and from trees of loftier growth in the night season. The time of singing, as more agreeing with that of the turtle’s cooing. FAUSSET. SANCTIUS observes that vines are not pruned in spring, and prefers—‘the time of cutting the Cyprus in order to obtain its balsam in the gardens of Egedi.’ LUTHER simply translates: The time of spring. Variously allegorized. TARGUM: Time of cutting off the first born in Egypt. RABBINS: Time of Israel’s redemption, cutting off of the first born, and rooting up of idolatry. WEISS: Cutting off of the idolatrous nations of Canaan. ORIGEN: Pruning at the end of the world, when the axe of judgment is laid to the root of the trees. GREGORY: Removing the reprobate from the Church, that the end of the world may come. DEL RIO: A spiritual pruning in baptism and repentance for the remission of sins. FOLIOT: In sacred confession. WILLERAMUS: By the preaching of the Word. CASSIODORUS: The pruning of the saints in and by Christ. PHILO: A daily pruning from all sin necessary to those who wish to be Christ’s spouse. HONORIUS: Pruning the Church of its rebellious members. FROMONDI: Putting off of the old man and cutting away of the old shoots of vices. WICKLIFF: By the preaching of the Gospel. THREEFOLD MYSTERY: Pruning of the Gentiles after Christ’s coming. ABEN EZRA. Time of singing the song by the Red Sea. BROUGHTON: Time of the Jew’s return from the Babylonian captivity. FAUSSET: Time of rejoicing at the advent of Jesus.
CHAPTER Song of Solomon 2:8, TO CHAPTER Song of Solomon 3:11
SCENE FIRST. Place: Shulamite’s home in the country. Speaker: Shulamite alone with the Daughters of Jerusalem, or Ladies of the Court.
NARRATIVE OF THE BRIDEGROOM’S VISIT
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
The voice of my Beloved!
Behold, he cometh,
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
My Beloved is like a roe or a young hart:
Behold, he standeth behind our wall;
He looketh forth at the windows,
Shewing himself (glancing, like a rose bud) through the lattice.
My beloved spake and said unto me
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo! the winter is past;
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth:
The time of singing is come;
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs;
And the vines, with the tender grape, (or, now in blossom), give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Shulamite relates the visit of her Beloved when he came to take her to the nuptials. The visit probably made in spring. The bridegroom’s invitation, from its pleasant nature, poetically represented as a call to come forth and enjoy the beauties of that delightful season. The language implies a previous absence of the bridegroom. The believers most comfortable state on earth not abiding. Its interruption, however, subservient to higher advancement.—The parts of which the Song is composed appear to shift and melt into each other like the dissolving views of a diorama.
The text a poetical and allegorical representation of what takes place in the history of the Church as a whole, and in the experience of believers individually. Historically, the Church’s experience—
(1) At the return of the Jews from the captivity in Babylon;
(2) At the time of the Saviour’s incarnation and earthly ministry;
(3) At any time of great revival in the Church—pre-eminently, at the commencement of the Gospel Dispensation on the Day of Pentecost, and at the Reformation in the sixteenth century. A time of the Church’s
a time of Spring. The voice of the heavenly Turtle-dove, like the harbinger of an oriental Spring, then heard in the land. The Gospel,—the voice and dispensation of the Spirit—then clearly and earnestly preached, and accompanied with the Spirit’s own power. Sleepers awakened and the dead made alive. The anxious inquiry heard: What must I do to be saved? Sanctuaries thronged with thirsting hearers. Converts multiplied. Believers quickened—made holy, happy, and useful; bold in testifying for Christ, and their testimony blessed. The spirit of prayer—the voice of the Turtle-dove in the believer’s heart—eminently poured out. Gatherings for prayer, numerous, lively, and largely attended. The fruits of the Spirit conspicuous. Love, peace, and goodwill prevailing in the Church and in the neighbourhood. Satan may rage, and some may persecute; but the believers are unmoved, rejoicing to walk ‘in the footsteps of the flock,’ and to be counted worthy to suffer shame for their Master’s sake. Observe—A necessity laid on believers to pray for such a Spring-time to the Church and the world (Zechariah 10:1).—The Church’s experience farther indicated in the text—
(4) At the time of the Saviour’s second coming. The new heavens and the new earth then created. The whole creation, now groaning and travailing in pain together, then ‘delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.’ No more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain; ‘for the former things are passed away’ (2 Peter 3:13; Romans 8:21; Revelation 21:4).
The experience of individual believers exhibited—
(1) At the time of their first enjoyment of Christ’s manifested love;
(2) At subsequent repetitions of the same;
(3) In revived spiritual life and joy after a season of deadness and discomfort;
(4) At their departure to the ‘better country.’
There everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers.
The passage includes a lively and beautiful description of
Spring the emblem of all that is sweet and lovely, joyous and refreshing. The spring in nature only a picture of the spring in grace, and still more of the spring in glory. Its lessons manifold:—
1. That God is love. This proclained in the months of spring from every wood and hedge-row, every field and garden. Sung by the lark as it soars in the air; hummed by the insect as it flits from flower to flower; whispered by the daisy that shows its smiling face again after the snows and storms of winter. Spring a continually recurring testimony that God delights in the happiness of His creatures.
2. That He rules by His providence. By His care, the creatures he has made are again provided with the means of support and comfort which seemed for a time to be suspended. Life bursts forth out of death, and plenty out of want. His hand looses the bands of winter by preserving the earth in its motion, and the sun in its power. He brings back the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and looses the bands of Orion (Job 38:31).
3. That God is faithful to his promises. The time of the singing of birds comes, however long it seemed to be deferred. The voice of the turtle or cuckoo is again heard in the land, proclaiming that God is mindful of His promise that, while the world remains, seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). Weeping may endure for a night; joy, according to His promise, comes in the morning. ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’ (Psalms 30:5; Psalms 126:5). The fulness of the time arrives, and the Saviour appears.
4. That God is the author of beauty. Himself the perfection of beauty, He delights in imparting it to His creatures. Beauty the robe of Spring. Conspicuous everywhere,—in “the blue sky, green earth, and gleaming sea.” The world not a mere granary. The hand that fills the ear with the full corn for man’s food, clothes the grass of the field with beautiful flowers for man’s enjoyment. The voice of spring: “How great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty!” (Zechariah 9:17).
An interesting feature of Spring is the return of the migratory inhabitants of the woods. More especially that of the herald of Spring—with us the cuckoo,—in Palestine,
The Turtle Dove.
‘The voice of the turtle is heard in our land.’
The turtle-dove in the natural, an emblem of the Holy Ghost in spiritual, world His chosen form, in descending on the Saviour at His baptism. Probable allusion to the figure in the account of the Creator (Genesis 1:2): ‘The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.’ Literally, ‘brooded,’ as a bird over its young. ‘Dove-like, sat’st brooding’ (Milton). The dove an emblem of the Holy Spirit, as—
(1) Distinguished for its faithful love. In love, the Spirit visits loathsome hearts, which He renews for His abode, and then never entirely leaves.
(2) The cleanest and most delicate of birds. The least sin hateful and grieving to the Holy Spirit. Creates, in the soul He dwells in, the same holy hatred.
(3) A very timid creature. A hawk’s feather said to be sufficient to make it tremble. The Holy Spirit easily grieved, and creates in us a holy fear in regard to sin and spiritual danger.
(4) A gentle bird. The gentleness of the Spirit seen in the gentleness of Christ, in whom He dwelt in His fulness. ‘I am meek and lowly in heart.’ ‘He shall not strive nor cry. A bruised reed He shall not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench’ (Matthew 11:29; Matthew 12:20). Among the fruits of the Spirit are—long-suffering, gentleness, and meekness (Galatians 5:22-23).
(5) The turtle takes up its abode in the land renewed under the genial breath of Spring. The Holy Spirit loves to dwell in the heart He renews by His own gracious influence. The believer’s body as well as His soul the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). Care to be taken by the believer to cherish so blessed a guest.
The ‘voice’ of the Holy Spirit ‘heard in the land’—
(1) When the Gospel is preached in its purity. The Gospel the Dispensation of the Spirit. ‘The Spirit and the Bride say: Come.’ ‘As the Holy Ghost saith, Today, if ye will hear His voice.’ ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches’ (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 21:17; Hebrews 3:7).
(2) When the Gospel is preached with power. The Gospel to be preached ‘with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.’ ‘Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me’ (1 Peter 1:12; Acts 1:8).
(3) When the fruits of the Gospel appear in the lives of those who hear it These fruits—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (or self control). Exemplified in the first hearers of the Gospel at Jerusalem, at Samaria, Philippi, Corinth, &c. (Acts 2:44-47; Acts 8:8; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33-34; Philippians 1:3-7; 1 Corinthians 6:11). The voice of the turtle-dove never entirely silent in the earth since the first promise of a Saviour. Heard in the preaching of Enoch and Noah, in the Psalms of David, in the Proverbs and Song of Solomon, and in the strains of all the prophets. Carries in the Gospel the olive leaf of peace to a perishing but pitied world.
From the language of Shulamite in reference to her Beloved, observe—
1. The warm affection of a believer’s heart towards the Saviour. ‘The voice of my Beloved!’ The first faint sound of His voice eagerly caught as it falls on the ear. Shulamite speaks as if her heart leaped within her at the sound. ‘As soon as the voice of Thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy’ (Luke 1:44).
(2) The waiting and expectant state of the believer in regard to Christ. For His first Advent in the case of the Old Testament Church; His second Advent in that of the New; and His spiritual visits and appearances in the case of believers in general. Shulamite on the eager look out for her Beloved. The proper posture of believers in regard to Christ. His second and glorious Appearing the Church’s ‘blessed hope’ (Titus 2:13; Luke 12:36)
(3) The love of Christ to His Church. Shulamite’s Beloved represented as coming to her, in the eagerness of his desire, like a swift and sprightly gazelle or young antelope, bounding over mountain and hill. No obstacle too great for Christ to overcome in redeeming and blessing His Church. ‘He loved the Church and gave Himself for it.’ Jacob’s love to Rachael shewn by a hard service of fourteen years in keeping Laban’s flocks. A human life of thirty-three years to fulfil the precepts of the law; and a painful, ignominious, and accursed death, with the added misery of the hiding of His Father’s face, to satisfy its penalty—not too much for the love of Christ to His Church. ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not: then said I, lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; a body hast Thou prepared for me’ (Psalms 40:6, &c.; Hebrews 10:5-9).
3. The Saviour’s desire for the believer’s love and fellowship. Shulamite’s Beloved having reached her dwelling, waits outside till he obtains her consent to follow him. ‘He standeth behind our wall,’ &c. He addresses her by the most endearing titles, and employs arguments taken from the removal of every obstacle—‘the winter is past,’ &c.—and from the most attractive features of the country in the lovely season of an oriental Spring, as expressive of the sweetness enjoyed in the fellowship of love. Souls invited to receive and follow Christ by the blessedness imparted by His presence and love. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20).
4. The natural backwardness of the heart to the blessedness to which Christ invites His people. Shulamite’s backwardness indicated by the arguments employed by her waiting Beloved to overcome it. The believer’s spirit willing, while the flesh is weak. Weights hanging on the soul which have to be laid aside. The natural tendency, through the remains of the carnal mind, to settle down in a state of sloth and indolence, satisfied with little of spiritual life and communion with the Saviour. ‘My soul cleaveth to the dust; quicken Thou me according to Thy word’ (Psalms 119:25).
6. The necessity of leaving everything for Christ. Shulamite twice entreated ‘to rise up and come away.’ Like the exhortation addressed to the same Bride in the forty-fifth Psalm: ‘Harken, O daughter, and consider: forget also thine own people and thy father’s house’ (Psalms 45:10-11). The Saviour’s call: ‘Follow Me’—to be answered by a rising up, leaving all, and following Him (Matthew 4:19-22; Luke 5:27-28). ‘Whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple’ (Luke 14:33).
7. The whole passage descriptive of
The Saviour’s Call
I. What it COST to make it. Shulamite’s Beloved required to come from a distance, overcoming every obstacle, ‘like a roe or a young hind’ bounding over one mountain peak after another. The Son of God required to leave His Father’s house, assume our nature, empty Himself of His glory, take the form of a servant, be born of a humble woman, be brought forth in a stable, work as a carpenter, become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, be for a time with nowhere to lay his head, endure the contradiction, reproach, and opposition of sinners, and at last the hiding of His Father’s face amid the agony and shame of an accursed death. One mountain of suffering and one valley of humiliation after another, to be passed before He could call sinners to the enjoyment of salvation,—His chosen bride to the celebration of the marriage. Many also the provocations to be come over in His saving call to sinners, and His sanctifying call to believers, before He obtains their full consent to ‘rise up and come away.’ Jesus more eager to save and bless, than the sinner or the saint to experience His salvation and blessing (Psalms 81:10-16).
II. The MEANS through which He addresses the call. “The voice of my Beloved. He standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself (margin, ‘flourishing’—glancing like an opening flower) through the lattice.” Through these openings in the wall he addressed his invitation: ‘My beloved spake and said unto me.’ Through the ordinances instituted by Himself in His Church, Christ wooes sinners to become His Bride, and invites His Bride to the full enjoyment of union and communion with Him. ‘We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled unto God.’ ‘I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin unto Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 11:2). The voice of Christ Himself in the word and ordinances the only effectual means of awakening and drawing the soul to Himself. ‘My sheep hear my voice and follow me.’ The quickened soul able to distinguish that voice as the voice of the beloved. “They know not the voice of strangers.” The voice known to be that of the Saviour from its inward power and sweetness, and from its conformity to the written Word. Known by believers as having heard and experienced it before. Observe—
(1) A wall found standing between Christ and the soul whom He seeks. Our fleshly nature, both in respect to body and mind, such a wall. The ‘law of commandments’ which we have broken, another. Visible nature at present a separating wall. Ordinances themselves a wall, but a wall with openings in it; or ordinances these openings themselves. Through these openings Christ shows Himself to the soul He seeks.
(2) To obtain glimpses of Christ and hear His voice, it is necessary to be at the lattice of ordinances. Divine ordinances the meeting-place between Christ and His people (Exodus 25:22; Exodus 29:42-43; Exodus 30:6; Exodus 30:36). ‘Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the ports of my doors.’ ‘One thing have I desired, and that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His temple.’ ‘Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them.’ ‘Wherever I record my name, I will come and bless you’ (Proverbs 8:34; Psalms 27:4; Matthew 18:20; Exodus 20:24).
III. The ARGUMENTS employed in the call. Three arguments employed by Shulamite’s Beloved.
(1) His own love—expressed in the titles given her;
(2) The removal of hindrances: ‘The winter is past, the rain is over and gone;’
(3) The joyful prospect before her—‘The flowers appear on the earth,’ &c. Jesus invites sinners to become His Bride, and His Bride to come forth to the full enjoyment of His fellowship on the ground of—
1. His love to them. His great argument with Israel His argument with believers and with sinners still: I have loved Thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’ ‘I have redeemed thee; thou art mine.’ ‘Turn, O backsliding children, for I am married unto you’ (Jeremiah 31:3; Jeremiah 3:14; Isaiah 43:1). ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him might not perish.’ ‘The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.’ ‘Came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many’ (John 3:16; Luke 19:10; Matthew 20:28). Thus Jesus gained the woman at Jacob’s well, and the sinner that washed His feet with her tears. The sinner’s heart only thawed by a Saviour’s love. The cords that draw the soul to Christ ‘the cords of a man and the bands of love’ (Hosea 11:4). Only the revelation of redeeming love able to break down the barriers and undo the bolts of a sinner’s heart. A loving voice heard outside before the door is opened within (Revelation 3:20). None so fair in the eyes of Jesus as the penitent and believing soul (Luke 15:5-7).
2. The removal of hindrances. The winter of a Legal Dispensation now past. The covenant of works superseded by a covenant of grace. ‘Do this and live’ exchanged for ‘Believe and live.’ Fulfilment of moral precepts and observance of ceremonial ordinances no longer a term of union with the Beloved. The invitation: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth; come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money; Come, buy and eat; without money and without price.’ ‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely’ (Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17). Divine justice that demanded the sinner’s damnation now satisfied with the Surety’s blood. The sword that should have smitten the guilty sheep bathed in the blood of the Shepherd, and so put back into its scabbard. The way prepared on the cross for a righteous reconciliation with God, and the full forgiveness of the sinner. God now able to be just while justifying the ungodly. A just God now a Saviour. All things now ready for the salvation of the sinner, and his marriage with God’s own Son (Zechariah 13:7; Ephesians 2:13-16; Romans 3:21-26; Matthew 22:2; Matthew 22:4). Nothing wanting but the sinner’s consent. ‘Wilt thou go with this man?’ ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God’ (John 1:12).
3. The joy and blessedness attending compliance. ‘The flowers appear on the earth, &c.’ The soul invited by Christ to the joy and blessedness of an eternal spring, in the enjoyment of His society and love—in the new heavens of the new earth ‘wherein dwelleth righteousness.’ A rest remaining for the people of God, of which Canaan, clad in all the beauties of a lovely spring, was only a type. A time in prospect for the sinner that accepts the Saviour, when all the chill and gloom, the clouds and storms, the darkness and discomfort of the present state, shall give place to the sweetness and sunshine, the brightness and beauty, the light and gladness, of a land where the sun shall no more go down; where flowers that never fade bloom under cloudless skies; where the harps of angels and the songs of the Redeemed fill the air with celestial music, and where the tree of life bears its perennial fruit on both banks of the river that waters the Paradise of God. A ‘better country’ in prospect to every believing soul, where purity and peace, and joy and love—the voice of the heavenly turtle—is everywhere heard, and where the true Vine diffuses its fragrance, and with its precious clusters fills the happy inhabitants with ‘a joy unspeakable and full of glory.’
III. The CALL itself. ‘Rise up and come away.’ The call addressed by the Saviour to His first disciples: ‘Follow me.’ In obedience to it, they ‘rose up, left all, and followed him’ (Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:27-28). The general law: ‘Whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.’ ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.’ ‘Let us go forth unto Him, without the camp, bearing His reproach’ ‘Hearken, O daughter, and consider; forget all thine own people, and thy father’s house: so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty’ (Luke 14:33; Matthew 16:24; Hebrews 13:13; Psalms 45:10-11). The world to be given up in order to ‘come away’ with Christ. No man able to serve two masters of different interests and demands. ‘Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’ ‘If the Lord be God, serve Him; if Baal be God, serve him.’ A resolution and effort to be made to leave our present state in order to follow Christ. ‘Rise up.’ So the Prodigal Son: ‘I will arise and go to my father,’ &c. And he arose and went. The strength to arise is Christ’s: the act and effort our own. So with the Paralytic: ‘Take up thy bed, and go into thine house; and he arose and departed to his house’ (Luke 15:18; Luke 15:20; Matthew 9:6). Christ’s call is—
(1) To come to him;
(2) To come after Him. We are to come to Him as sinners; to come after Him as disciples. The former verified by the latter. The blessing of coming to Christ realized in coming after Him. ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ followed by—‘take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; and ye shall find rest to your souls’ (Matthew 11:28-29). Unspeakable gainers in giving up all for Christ. Christ the One Pearl of great price that makes a man up for time and eternity. Everything, therefore, wisely given up to obtain possession of it. The case of Paul that of all believers: ‘What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,’ &c. (Philippians 3:7-8).
BRIDEGROOM’S SECOND CALL
Song of Solomon 2:14
O my dove,
That art in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the stairs;
Let me see thy countenance,
Let me hear thy voice;
For sweet is thy voice,
And thy countenance is comely.
Love unwilling to take a refusal. Hence a repetition of the bridegroom’s call. Strange backwardness on the part of a sinner to comply with the call of a Saviour. Backwardness on the part of a believer to follow. Jesus to the enjoyment of a higher life of holiness and blessedness. In the Bridegroom’s Second Call, observe—
I. The TITLE of the Called one. ‘My dove.’ A term of endearment. Love sees in its object only what is beautiful and agreeable. The called one a sinner, with much that is not dove-like. Yet love says: ‘My dove.’ Yet in regard to a believer, the title thee. The believer is—
(1) A ‘dove,’ because renewed with a dove-like nature akin to that of Him who renews him and dwells in him—the Holy Spirit, whose emblem is the dove; the dove-like becoming the predominant one in him, and going on increasing until it reaches perfection and is the only one, and that for ever. Believers viewed and addressed by Christ in His love, according to their new, rather than their old nature.
(2) Christ’s dove, as—(i.) Given Him by the Father; (ii.) Purchased by His own blood; (iii.) Wooed and won by Him as His Bride, and made a member of His body. The little word ‘my’ as precious to Christ in reference to believers as it is to believers in reference to Christ.
an emblem of believers, as it is—
1. Helpless. Unable to defend itself against birds of prey (ComparePsalms 18:17; Psalms 18:17; Jeremiah 31:11).
2. Simple. With as little wisdom as strength to defend itself. ‘Ephraim is like a silly dove’ (Hosea 7:11). ‘O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth’ (Galatians 3:1). Hence Paul’s fear for the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:2).
3. Timid. Trembles at the sight of a hawk’s feather. ‘They shall tremble as a dove out of the land of Assyria’ (Hosea 11:11). Believers tremble at God’s word. Afraid to sin, though not afraid to suffer (Hebrews 11:25).
4. Sensitive. ‘They shall mourn love like doves in the valley.’ The dove’s note a mournful one. Believers sensitive to evils within and without them, about which others do not care. Concerned and troubled both for Christ’s cause and their neighbour’s souls. Sigh and cry for the abominations done in the land. Weep in secret places for the pride and destruction of others. Groan within themselves for the sins of their own nature and life. Their character and blessedness that they ‘mourn,’ and ‘sorrow after a godly sort’ (Matthew 5:4; 2 Corinthians 7:11).
5. Beautiful. Has ‘wings covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold’ (Psalms 68:13). Believers to be made like them. Adorned with the beauties of holiness. Comely with Christ’s comeliness put upon them.
6. Cleanly. Cleanly in its food, its feathers, and its nest. Believers called to be holy and without blame. Clean through the Word of Christ spoken to them. Purify themselves, as God is pure. Cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Cleansed by the blood, and sanctified by the Spirit of Christ (1 John 1:7; 1 Corinthians 6:11).
7. Harmless. The dove’s harmlessness proverbial. Believers made like Him who was ‘holy, harmless,’ &c. Their calling to be ‘blameless and harmless, as the sons of God;’ harmless in spirit, speech, and actions (Philippians 2:15).
8. Affectionate and faithful. Pairs only with one mate. Mourns over its loss. Believers’ love to Christ stronger than death. ‘Follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.’
9. The Bearer of Tidings. Doves employed for this purpose. A species of pigeon distinguished by this name. Noah’s dove. So believers the bearers of the glad tidings of the Gospel (Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 52:7; Psalms 68:11; Mark 16:15).
10. Often resorting to, and making their nest in the rocks. A species named from this circumstance. Hence what follows—
II. Their PLACE and CONDITION. ‘That art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs’ (or precipices). Possible allusion to the retired seclusion in which Shulamite was kept in her mother’s house; or to the sequestered situation of that house among the mountains. The description suggested by the title given: ‘My dove.’ Doves often found in the recesses of rocks. Indicates—
1. Timidity. The dove in the clefts of the rock from fear of her pursuers. Believers to pass the time of their sojourning here in fear. Work out their salvation with fear and trembling. ‘The wise man feareth and departeth from evil,’ while ‘the fool rageth and is confident’ (Proverbs 14:16). Sufficient cause for ‘fearing always,’ in a corrupt nature within us, a roaring lion and subtle serpent without us, and a world lying in wickedness around us.
2. Security. The dove safe in the clefts of the rock. Believers safe in the Rock of Ages. Their place of defence the munitions of rocks. Jehovah Himself their refuge. Sheltered in Jesus, the enemy may harrass, but not hurt them. Sin may rage, but not reign in them. Men and devils may persecute and persuade, but not prevail against them. Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (1 Peter 1:5).
3. Isolation and loneliness. Believers in the world, though not of it. Strangers and pilgrims. ‘The world knoweth us not, even as it knew Him not.’ Believers at present in this world as the Bride when the Bridegroom is taken away from her. Special times in their experience when they are ‘as a sparrow alone upon the house-top’ (Psalms 102:7; Psalms 38:11). Hence the promise: ‘I will not leave you comfortless (margin, ‘orphans’); I will come to you’ (John 14:18).
III. The CALL itself, ‘Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice.’ Christ’s desire in regard to His Church in the world—
(1) To enjoy their fellowship (Revelation 3:20);
(2) To see them trustful, cheerful, and happy in Himself (Philippians 3:1);
(3) To witness in them the exercise of faith and love (Hebrews 12:2);
(4) To enjoy their beauty—the reflection of His own—His own comliness which He has put upon them (Psalms 45:11). The believer’s countenance, lighted up with faith and love, the fairest sight in heaven and earth to Christ, next to His Father. The weakest believer invited to a free and familiar intercourse with the Saviour. The believer’s happiness, as well as the Saviour’s joy, to turn his countenance fully and constantly towards Him. Nothing, not even sin, to be allowed to turn it away from Him when He lovingly invites him to turn it to Him.
(5) To hear their voice (i.) In speaking to Him as well as of Him; (ii.) In cheerful song; songs given the believer even in the night—in painful and perilous, as well as pleasant and peaceful, times (Job 35:10; Psalms 42:8); (iii.) In thanksgiving and praise. To give thanks in everything, and to praise at all times, the will of God concerning us; (iv.) In confessing sin, and Jesus as a gracious and all-sufficient Saviour from it; (v.) In prayer and supplication—praying always and not fainting; in everything making their requests known unto God; coming boldly to the throne of grace through Him who is their elder brother and High Priest; casting their care upon Him who careth for them, and pouring out their hearts before Him. No situation or circumstances in which the soul should yield to the temptation of restraining prayer.
IV. The REASON of the Call. ‘For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.’ The voice of a believer, though heard in groans and lamentations, sweeter to Jesus than the hallelujahs of angels. The voice of the child for whom He gave His life, and of the Bride whom He redeemed with His own blood. Sweeter still when heard in songs of faith and love, or in happy communion with Himself. The believer’s countenance comely to Christ, though soiled with tears and dejected with sorrow. The Saviour’s refreshment in Simon’s house, not the viands on the table, but the woman at His feet with her countenance wet with the tears of penitence and love. The believing prayers and loving praises of a pardoned sinner sweeter to Christ than the songs of seraphim. The first cry of an awakened soul turns away his ear from the symphonies of heaven. His joy fulfilled, not in the angels that never fell, but in fallen and restored men. The joyous thanksgivings of redeemed sinners make the Son of God a double heaven. His joy of joys in the dead made alive again, in the lost one found. ‘He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing,’—like the mother who sings for joy over her infant that lies smiling in her lap (Zephaniah 3:17). ‘Hephzibah,’ the name He gives to His saved people: ‘My delight is in her’ (Isaiah 62:4).
Song of Solomon 2:15 : Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines. שֻׁעָלִים (shualim) foxes. So the old translators. Sometimes also used for jackals, as Judges 15:4; Psalms 63:11. GESENIUS. Probably both these dangerous animals; the word being a general name for animals of the fox and jackal species. EWALD. A term including jackals. FAUSSET. Jackals probably meant wherever the word occurs in the Old Testament. Dr. SMITH. ZÖCKLER, however, inclines to foxes, as jackals are always called איים or תן. But, as Ewald observes, these rather poetically so called. BOCHART: jackals. HARMER: Jackals gregarious, but not foxes; distinguished from the latter as ‘little foxes.’ HASSELQUIST calls the jackal the ‘little Eastern fox.’ Jackals roam in troops about the villages at night. Very destructive in Judæa. BOOTHROYD. COBBIN: ‘Eastern foxes very unlike ours: small delicate creatures; and while seemingly gentle and harmless, creep quietly into any chink left in the fence of a vineyard, and nibble at the young shoots which are thus injured or destroyed.’ ‘Little foxes.’ ZÖCKLER: Young ones. MERCER: Little; as more hurtful to the vineyard, and more bold in doing damage. SANCTIUS: As more easily taken than when full grown. DEL RIO: Still few and feeble in spring, the time of germinating: the double expression used for a single one; ‘the foxes, I say, while still little.’ EWALD: In the early part of the year a prudent farmer will expel the foxes, especially the young ones.
‘Take us,’ &c.; catch us foxes, &c. A little vintage song, or a fragment of one, sung by the Bride. HERDER, ZOCKLER. Sung while she hastens to her Beloved; the song bearing a delicate allusion to their love-relations. DELITZSCH. An intimation that she was not disinclined to his taking part with her in the care of her vineyard. ZÖCKLER. Spoken by the Bride. GOOD, BURROUGHS, NOYES, THRUPP. Words borrowed from a popular song, but receiving a new meaning here from their connection. GREEN. The beloved is conceived by the Bride as commanding the servants and bystanders. EWALD. ‘Let thy servants catch,’ &c. COBBIN. Addressed by Solomon to his companions. MERCER, BOTHROYD. Sending them on their assigned employ. FRY. Spoken by the virgins to the friends of the Bridegroom. WILLIAMS. By the Bridegroom to Shulamite, directing her to look well to her vineyard. WORDSWORTH. A summons to the chase. TAYLOR, WITHINGTON. Bridegroom’s words to his servants reported by the Bride as heard in her sleep. DEL RIO. Spoken to Shulamite by her brothers. GINSBURG. Uncertain whether spoken by Christ, or the Church, or both: more probably by Christ, and chiefly addressed to the ministers of the Church, directing them to discover and refute the errors of false teachers and heretics; and to judge, censure, and cast them out of the Church, or to avoid them if not of it. AINSWORTH, DURHAM, GILL.
SHULAMITE’S REPLY TO HER BELOVED
(Song of Solomon 2:15-17)
Take us the foxes,
The little foxes,
That spoil the vines;
For our vines have tender grapes.
My beloved is mine,
And I am his;
He feedeth among the lilies.
Until the day break
And the shadows flee away;
Turn my Beloved,
And be thou like a roe,
Or a young hart,
Upon the mountains of Bether.
Shulamite readily responds to her Beloved. Complies with His request to let Him hear her voice. Her song, a ‘song of loves’ (Psalms 45:0 title). Expresses her desire and joy. Believers, encouraged and invited by Jesus, lift up their voice in prayer and song to the praise and pleasure of their Beloved. The privilege of ‘the ransomed of the Lord’ to return to Zion with songs. ‘The inhabitant of the rock’ sings; though lonely, yet secure and happy. Believers enabled, through faith and love, to sing the Lord’s song even in a strange land (Psalms 137:4). Shulamite’s song a mirror of the believer’s experience. Expresses—
I. CONCERN. ‘Take us the foxes (or jackals), the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes’ (or, ‘are in bloom’). Expresses her concern that nothing may exist to cool their love, or mar the happiness of the anticipated union. Speaks of herself as, in her bridal character, a vineyard, the property as much of her Beloved as her own. The vines of that vineyard, the happy intercourse of the connubial state. These, as in Spring, only then in bloom; the marriage not yet consummated, and the intercourse being only that of parties betrothed. The married state, however, anticipated, when for a time the vines would still only ‘have tender grapes,’ or be in flower. Natural concern in the Bride that nothing may disturb or mar the felicities of their married life. Wishes every hurtful and disturbing element to be detected and removed at the very beginning. Even ‘the little foxes’ to be taken and destroyed. Greater danger from infirmities of temper, little jealousies, coolnesses, or estrangements, at the earlier period of their wedded intercourse than even afterwards. The thought of the possible existence of such things painful to the loving Shulamite. To remove the causes and guard against the occasions of such disturbance, the joint care of both parties, while especially lying upon the husband. ‘Take us the foxes.’ Observe—
1. Care to be taken to preserve unhurt the union and communion between believers and Christ. The peace as well as fruitfulness of believers easily marred and injured. Grace in the soul, and Christ’s presence in the Church, a tender and delicate thing. The Spirit easily grieved. Many foxes about the vineyard, both great and small. Injury to the Church as a whole, and to believers individually, from various causes. These apparent in the earliest period of the Church. Exhibited in the acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Revelation. Appeared both in the form of false doctrines and foul practices. Believers, and the Church in general, warned against them. Care, vigilance, and decision necessary to guard against their entrance and effects.
2. Errors in doctrine and sins in life to be especially guarded against in the Spring-time of grace, and in the revivals of the Church. Spiritual pride, uncharitableness, vain-glory, strife, error, exclusiveness, to be then especially watched against. To be crushed in their first appearances and small beginnings. ‘Take us the little foxes.’ More dangerous and more damaging then, as being more likely to be overlooked, and more easily admitted. Young foxes more injurious to the vines in Spring than the older ones. What might be regarded as small sins, and scarcely observable to others, often the most hurtful to the divine life, and the spiritual health of a Church. ‘I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly,’ &c. (Revelation 2:4-5).
3. Sins and errors in the Church an injury to Christ as well as to the Church itself, and to individual believers. ‘Take us the foxes; our vines have tender grapes.’ The purity, happiness, and fruitfulness of the Church, both collectively and individually, the common interest of Christ and His people. The Church Christ’s body. His chosen rest and abode. His walk among the seven golden candlesticks. Injury to them an injury to Him.
4. Christ and His Spirit’s agency necessary to the preservation of the Church’s purity and the believer’s peace. ‘Take us (or ‘for us’) the foxes.’ The Bride unable to do this herself. Believers ‘kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation’ (1 Peter 1:5). Christ alone able to keep His people from falling, and to preserve them blameless. ‘A vineyard of red wine: I the Lord do keep it: I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day’ (Isaiah 27:2-3). Without me ye can do nothing. My grace is sufficient for thee. The Church’s efforts made effectual by the Spirit’s agency. Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts’ (Zechariah 4:6). Little speed in soul-matters without Christ’s hand in the work.
5. The believer’s duty and interest prayerfully to put the preservation of his own soul, and of the Church at large, into Christ’s hands. ‘Take us the foxes’—the Bride’s earnest prayer to the Bridegroom. Paul’s conduct in regard to the thorn in the flesh: ‘For this I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me’ (2 Corinthians 12:8). Arise, plead thine own cause. What Christ can do, and has promised to do, He will do at His people’s earnest prayer (Ezekiel 36:37; Isaiah 45:11; Matthew 9:38.) Prayer the mightiest weapon put by her Lord into the Church’s hand, for the preservation of her purity and the conquest of her foes. Believers’ duty both to work and pray. ‘We will give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:4). The Church’s greatest triumphs won upon her knees.
II. JOY. ‘My beloved is mine and I am His.’ Shulamite expresses her joy in the possession of her Beloved, and in the entire surrender of herself to him as his own. This joy enhanced by the consideration of what he is and does—the excellence of his character, the happiness he imparts to his own, and the pleasure he takes in their society. ‘He feedeth among the lilies.’ The Beloved compared to a noble and beautiful gazelle that pastures only in the flowery meads. Only purest joys the Saviour’s choice. Only the pure His companions and friends. Purest enjoyments attend His presence. Lilies spring and bloom at His steps. Hence the believer’s joy and thankfulness. Justly congratulates himself on his untold treasure. ‘To you that believe He is precious.’ ‘The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places: I have a goodly heritage: the Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup.’ ‘My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.’ ‘I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be very joyful in my God.’
‘The opening heavens around me shine,
With beams of sacred bliss,
When Jesus tells me He is mine,
And whispers I am His.’
1. A real, complete, and lasting propriety in each other on the part of Christ and believers. Each, with all that he is and has, the property of the other. The humblest and poorest believer equally with the strongest and richest, the sharer of Christ and all that is His—His life, merits, death, resurrection, glory, power, kingdom, throne (Romans 8:17; Revelation 3:21). The believer entirely Christ’s—his affections, talents, powers, possessions, influence. The name of King Jesus stamped on all he has and is. ‘Holiness to the Lord’ engraven on the furniture of his house and the tools of his workshop.
2. The believer’s happiness that Christ is his and he is Christ’s. Christ such as to guarantee this happiness. ‘He feedeth among the lilies.’ His presence makes a Paradise to angels, still more to His redeemed. ‘Where thou art is heaven.’ Infinitely blessed Himself, He is able to make all blessed who are the object of His love. The special blessedness of the glorified, that the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, that the Lamb stands on Mount Zion in the midst of the redeemed, and that He appears even in heaven as a Lamb that ‘had been slain’ (Revelation 5:6; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 14:1).
3. The proper character of believers to be lily-like. ‘He feedeth among the lilies.’ Lilies the emblems of sweetness and purity. Descriptive of those among which the Holy and Fair One delights to dwell. The spotless and lovely One can only feed among lilies. He who is sweetness and beauty itself must have lilies for His companions and joy. This fact the guardian of the believer’s life and the security of his peace. To enjoy Christ and His fellowship we must be lilies. Christ only able to live in a pure heart (Matthew 5:8; Titus 2:14; 1 John 3:3).
4. Christ to be found among His people. ‘He feedeth among the lilies.’ Is to be found among such (ch. Song of Solomon 6:2). ‘Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ ‘He that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks’ (Matthew 18:20; Revelation 2:1). Christ still to be sought and found in the temple—His own body, the Church. Found sitting, not in the midst of proud Pharisees and captious Scribes, but among His humble disciples, and the ‘publicans and sinners’ that draw near to hear Him (Luke 15:1; Isaiah 66:1-2; Isaiah 57:15; Acts 7:48).
III. DESIRE. ‘Till the day-dawn (or breathe), and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved,’ &c. Shulamite’s desire, probably, for the day of the anticipated nuptials, and her Bridegroom’s frequent visits in the meantime. The day longed for that shall make her legally and publicly his own, and shall put her in possession of the happiness and privilege of his married wife. The day of the Lord’s second appearing that of the public nuptials of His Church. The espousals or betrothing, here; the marriage, hereafter (2 Corinthians 2:2; Revelation 19:7). The Bride not complete till the Bridegroom comes to be glorified in His saints and to make them all like Himself (2 Thessalonians 1:10; Philippians 3:20-21). That day the object of the believer’s longing. The blessed hope (Titus 2:13). The day looked for and hasted to (2 Peter 3:12). The speedy arrival of that day the last promise of the Bridegroom to His Church, and the last prayer of the Bride to her Beloved (Revelation 22:20). That day the termination of the Church’s night. With the Bridegroom’s advent the day dawns and the day star appears. Christ Himself the bright and morning star (Revelation 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19; Romans 13:12; Romans 8:18-23). His first advent the termination of the night of the legal dispensation; His second that of the present one (Luke 1:78). Meantime He visits and revives His people. ‘I will not leave you comfortless (orphans); I will come unto you’. Such visits their comfort and joy in the night of their pilgrimage (Psalms 17:3; Psalms 42:8; Job 35:10). Christ, in His love, like a roe, or a young hart bounding over the mountains of Bether (or of cliffs intersected with deep fissures and ravines), when coming in humiliation and weakness; no less so when coming in glory and power. Intervening events and epochs to transpire previous to His second as well as to His first advent. Perhaps the last of these mountains of Bether already reached, or soon to be so. The Lord hasten it in His time!