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The Bridegroom’s Response
CHAPTER 5 Song of Solomon 5:1
SCENE SECOND. Place: Banquet Hall in the Palace. Speaker: The King
TO THE BRIDE
I am come into my garden,
My sister, my spouse;
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice;
I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;
I have drunk my wine with my milk.
TO THE GUESTS
Eat, O Friends;
Drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved.
I. The Bridegroom’s address to the Bride. ‘I am come,’ &c. The King, like Ahasuerus, accepts the Queen’s invitation to the banquet of wine. Expresses his readiness and delight to do so. The believer’s desire for Christ’s presence no sooner expressed than fulfilled. ‘Before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear’ (Isaiah 65:24). Christ’s visits not long delayed when His people are earnest and ready to receive them. ‘When the hour was come, He sat down with the twelve.’ The Bride herself the banquet; yet a material feast the accompaniment and outward expression of it. The marriage celebrated with a marriage feast. The feast now prepared, and the guests assembled. The bridegroom conducts his bride to the table. Picture of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, after the reception and presentation of the Bride. Also, historically, of the Last Supper, soon after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and immediately preceding the crucifixion. That Supper to be continued in the Church till Christ the Bridegroom come again. Believers, especially while seated at the Lord’s Table, and, according to His dying command, showing forth His death by eating and drinking the symbols of His body and blood in remembrance of Him—His garden and His banquet. The Bride, as well as the table and all its provisions, His own. These provisions only mentioned by the Bride, but enlarged and dwelt on by the rejoicing Bridegroom. A higher value set by Christ on the fruits of His Spirit and His own mediatorial work, than by the believer himself. Those fruits of great variety. Each of them a special delight to the Saviour. The myrrh of a believer’s repentance as acceptable to Christ as the spice of His love. The humblest gifts of love as acceptable as the most costly. The honeycomb as well as the more valuable honey within it. The common milk as well as the richer and more costly wine. The widow’s two mites more precious in His eyes than the larger offerings of the rich. Enough for Him when He can say: ‘She hath done what she could.’ The turtle dove or young pigeons of the poor as acceptable as the lamb or bullock of the rich, when laid in love upon the altar. ‘It is accepted according to what a man hath, and not what he hath not.’ The cheerfulness of the giver makes the acceptableness of the gift. ‘Where Christ gets a welcome, He never complains of the fare.’—Durham. When Christ was risen from the dead, ‘His disciples gave Him a broiled fish and a piece of a honeycomb, and He ate before them.’ (Luke 24:42-43). Probably designed by the Holy Spirit as another Connecting link between the Song and the Gospels.
II. The Bridegroom’s address to the guests. ‘Eat, O Friends,’ &c. The king invites his friends to partake of his joy. Recals the Saviour’s language to His disciples at the Supper table: ‘Take, eat: Drink ye all of it.’ ‘I have not called you servants, but friends: Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you.’ The Marriage Supper of the Lamb partaken of by His friends, who are also the Bride herself. Observe—
1. A high honour and privilege to be called Christ’s friends; though a higher still to be called His Bride.
2. Where Christ is, He wishes her friends to be with Him. Those who invited Christ must also invite His friends. At Cana, both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the marriage (John 2:1).
3. Christ’s desire that all who are His should share His joy. His reward to His faithful servants: ‘Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’
4. When Christ comes into His Church and people, He brings His provisions with Him; and while He sups with them, He gives them to sup with Him (Revelation 3:20).
5. The provisions of Christ’s house and table, of great variety, richness, and plenty (Psalms 36:8; Psalms 65:4). ‘I am come that my sheep might have life, and have it more abundantly.’ ‘I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness; I only satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished evey sorrowful soul’ (Jeremiah 31:14; Jeremiah 31:25). Christ’s provisions both nourishing and refreshing—both milk and wine. Correspond with the blessings of salvation offered in the Gospel (Isaiah 55:1). At His rich banquet, no danger either of surfeit or excess.
6. Christ gives not only wholesome and heaped cheer, but a hearty welcome.—‘Drink, yea drink abundantly.’ ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’ ‘Be ye filled with the Spirit’ (Psalms 81:10; Ephesians 5:18).
7. All the provisions of Christ’s table the purchase of His own suffering and death. Perhaps indicated in the first article mentioned by the king: ‘I have gathered my myrrh.’ Myrrh bitter to the taste. This gathered by the King Himself. Vinegar and gall, the symbol of His own bitter sufferings, handed to Him on the cross, before the wine and milk, emblems of the blessings of salvation, could be handed to us. The bread given at the Supper Table the symbol of His broken Body; the wine that of His shed Blood. ‘The bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:51).
8. A threefold Feast provided by Christ for His friends, as the Bridegroom of the Church—
(1) In their personal and private experience as they journey through the wilderness. The ‘feast of fat things’ made by Christ in His holy mountain, the Church, for the benefit of Zion’s travellers. The ‘bread eaten in secret’ (Revelation 3:20).
(2) In the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, as first instituted in the upper room at Jerusalem, and celebrated in the Church from time to time until He come again. The happiest experience of the believer often connected with that sacred Feast.
(3) The Marriage Supper of the Lamb after He has come to take the Bride to Himself, and she has made herself ready; the number of the elect being then accomplished, and the kingdom having come. The Lord’s Supper an image and foretaste of that heavenly banquet.
Song of Solomon 5:2 : I sleep, but my heart waketh. ‘Sleep,’ יְשֵׁנָה yeshenah, a participle or adjective, from יָשֵׁן to sleep. GESENIUS. The connection with what follows gives to יְשֵׁנָה and עֵר the sense of imperfects: ‘I was sleeping,’ &c. ZÖCKLER, HITZIG. So GOOD, PERCY, BOOTHROYD, &c. DIODATI, MARTIN, and DUTCH: I slept or was asleep. Was sleeping as if inebriated with delights. MICHAELIS, A. CLARKE. Had laid her head down on her couch, waiting for her beloved, and had fallen asleep, and now relates her dream to her companions. GREGORY. Ro-counts an adventure, or perhaps a dream. PERCY. Most likely the latter. A. CLARKE. A dream, indicating perplexity and unconnectedness, and containing reminiscences of the former one. EWALD. Another part of the poem begins here: in Solomon’s absence, the Bride relates a dream to her attendan’s or the daughters of Jerusalem. DELITZSCH. A dream, indicative of her state of mind some days after the marriage festivities, her longing having been awakened for her native home. ZÖCKLER. The scene transferred to the Bride’s lowly cottage in the city, where she refused her husband admittance at night; a scene in accordance with her original position, but most inconsistent with her present rank, and explicable only on the ground of allegory. M. STUART. Second half of the Book begins here, shewing the Bride’s original condition, and how her longing for the King was brought about. HAHN. ‘My heart waketh.’ Rather, was waking or awake. So EWALD, ZÖCKLER, &c. לִבִּי (libbi) ‘my heart;’ used in the O.T. sense, of the centre and organ of the entire life of the soul. ZÖCKLER. My soul. EWALD. My mind. DAVIDSON. The intellectual faculties or region of thought. HITZIG. Her sleep nearer waking than sleeping. SANCTIUS. Like Balaam, fallen asleep, but with the eyes open (Numbers 24:4). PATRICK. Spoken of one asleep, or partly so, being excited by an unexpected call. FRY. Her mind awake and filled with the object of her affection. NOYES. Thus allegorized; TARGUM: Israel, when carried to Babylon, like a man asleep and unable to awake. RABBINS: Asleep as to the commandments, but my heart awake to the duties of piety: asleep as to my redemption, but the Blessed One awake to redeem me. WEISS: Ancient Church relates her experience after the dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 12:1; Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 2:21; Sam. Song of Solomon 4:1); a moral sleep intended; a state of spiritual drowsiness and inactivity. AINSWORTH: The spouse having eaten and drunk largely of the blessings of Christ, begins to remit her zeal, and neglect the works of faith and love: the heart, however, or inner man, the spirit, or the man as he is regenerate, still awake. DEL RIO: Awake in the inward soul, while the external senses were lulled. HAHN: An unnatural sleep; the original condition of the Bride or the Gentile nations living without God; a life without liveliness, as a sleep. ZÖCKLER, and HENGSTENBERG: A dark scene: Apostasy of unbelieving mankind from God; especially the rejection of the Saviour. GREGORY and early interpreters: Saved from the billows, the Church falls asleep on the shore. BROUGHTON and COTTON: State of the Church in Constantine’s time. DAVIDSON: The disciples before Christ’s resurrection.
The Coolness and its Consequences
CHAPTER 5 Song of Solomon 5:2.—CHAPTER 6 Song of Solomon 5:9
SCENE FIRST. Place: The Palace at Jerusalem. Speakers: Shulamite and the Ladies of the Court, or the Daughters of Jerusalem
SHULAMITE RELATING A NIGHT’S EXPERIENCE
Song of Solomon 5:2
I sleep (or, was sleeping),
But my heart waketh (or, was awake).
The second great division of the Song now reached: the period after the marriage. The exposition more difficult. In the present section the Bride relates to the ladies of the Court her experience during the night. Probably a dream. The narrative, however, possibly given by the Bride in a song sung at the marriage, with the view of exhibiting both the Bridegroom’s excellences, her entire love to him, and, at the same time, her own unworthiness of him. She has retired to rest, perhaps at the close of one of the seven days during which the nuptial feast continued (Judges 14:15-17). Her ardent love to her husband, and the delight she enjoyed in his fellowship, give rise apparently to a dream, exhibiting, as often happens, the opposite of the reality. After she has retired to rest, her Beloved knocks at her door, desiring admittance. She strangely and unkindly hesitates, and makes silly and selfish excuses for not admitting him. After pleading in vain for admittance, he withdraws, but not until he has inserted his hand into the hole of the door as if, according to oriental custom, for the purpose of opening it. Seeing his hand, she relents, and rises to open; but too late. He has withdrawn and is gone. Full of distress, she searches for him in the city, but in vain. At last, as it recalling to mind his ordinary haunt, in the eagerness of her desire to find him, she hastens to the spot.
The narrative, whether given as that of a dream or otherwise, designed, like the rest of the Song, to exhibit the experience of believers individually, as well as that of the Church as a whole. What was, perhaps, a dream to Shulamite, too often the reality in the case of the believer and the Church. The experience, in either case, as in hers, the effect of sleep. The narrative illustrative of—
Spiritual Sleep and its Effects.
(1) In the state of the Jewish Church at the time of the Saviour’s advent. ‘He came to His own, but His own received Him not.’ Jerusalem knew not the day of her visitation.
(2) In the case of the disciples, after the Last Supper, in the garden of Gethsemane. Heavy with sleep and unable to watch but one hour with their Master agonizing under the dews of the night; and afterwards abandoning, denying, or betraying Him.
(3) In the experience and history of the Christian Church after the Apostolic age. That state of the Church in general represented by the Church at Laodicea. So described as readily to recall this portion of the Song (Revelation 3:19-20).
(4) In the occasional experience of a child of God. A believer’s enjoyment of the Saviour’s fellowship not unfrequently followed by a state of carnal security and sleep. The danger here indicated for our warning. ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’ ‘Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.’ The warning never more needed than at a time of special spiritual enjoyment. Like the Master Himself, believers often taken from the Jordan of enjoyment to the Wilderness of temptation.
The Bride asleep, though her heart was awake. In a believer’s worst state, spiritual life and love still in existence. His sleep that of carnal security, not that of spiritual death. His slumber that of the couch, not that of the grave; one from which an awakening is not difficult, and must sooner or later come. The flesh in a believer only asleep, while the spirit in him is still awake. Believers to distinguish between the two, and to understand their own spiritual experience.
THE BRIDEGROOM’S APPEAL
Song of Solomon 5:2
The voice of my beloved that knocketh,
Saying, open to me, my sister, my love,
My dove, my undefiled;
For my head is filled with dew,
And my locks with the drops of the night.
Natural for a husband to repair to his home after the fatigues of the day; and as natural for him to expect a cordial welcome. Christ’s love indicated in the fact that He, too, comes from time to time, and knocks for admission into the heart (Revelation 3:20). His desire to receive entertainment from His people, and to enjoy fellowship with them. ‘If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ The love and fellowship of His people the reward of His toil and travail for their salvation. The Son of God left His Father’s bosom to find a home in the sinner’s heart. His head, for our sakes, ‘filled with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night.’ His nights often spent under the open sky in prayer on our behalf, while others rested in their bed. His last night on earth a sleepless one in some part of the high priest’s palace, with His hands still bound with cords as a criminal. In the text we have—
Christ’s Call to His Sleeping Church.
I. The party CALLED. The Bride. Indicated in her own language: ‘The voice of my beloved.’ Also in that of the Bridegroom: ‘My sister, my love,’ &c. Strange that Christ’s Bride should ever be slow to admit Him. As true as it is strange. An effectual call addressed to those who constitute the Church whom He loved, and for whom He gave Himself. These found by Him originally in the sleep of death. Too apt to fall again into carnal slumber, though not into spiritual death. Only living souls able to distinguish Christ’s voice as the voice of their Beloved. Only a believer able to say: ‘I sleep, but my heart waketh.’
II. The STATE implied. One of spiritual sleep. Our natural state. One into which the believer may relapse, though never so deeply as before. Such
(1) Of security and ease.
(2) Of indifference and unconcern.
(3) Of indolence and sloth.
(4) Of carnal indulgence.
(5) Of spiritual inactivity.
(6) Of insensibility to one’s best interests.
(7) Of self-deception—sleep usually accompanied with dreaming. Such a state the result of—
(1) The body of sin and death still adhering to us.
(2) The world’s temptations—its cares, pleasures, pursuits, society.
(3) Satan’s endeavours—his old trade (Genesis 3:14; 2 Timothy 2:26, margin).
(4) Sense of safety experienced after believing.
(5) Neglect of watching unto prayer, and other appointed means.
(6) A state of comfort and enjoyment.
(7) An avoidance of the cross.
III. The KNOCKING. ‘The voice of my beloved that knocketh’ (or ‘knocking’). Christ’s Bride not allowed to remain in a state of spiritual sleep. Christ has to knock both before conversion and after it. Knocks both in outward warnings and inward calls. Knocks—
(1) By His Word. Every appeal in the Bible a knock at the sleeper’s heart. The language of Christ in the Scripture as well as of all His faithful servants: ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light.’
(2) By His Providence. A thorn in the flesh sent both to awaken and to keep awake. Christ’s knocks often heard on a bed of sickness, and in the chamber of death. His language often in trouble: ‘As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be ye zealous, therefore, and repent (Revelation 3:19).
(3) By His Spirit. The Spirit Christ’s Agent in dealing with men’s souls. Knocks from without before conversion; from within, after it.
IV. The CALL to open. The voice added to the knock. Christ in earnest to be admitted. ‘Open unto me.’ Will not force an entrance, but produce a welcome one. His people willing in the day of His power (Psalms 110:3). To ‘open’ implies—
(1) To invite His entrance. Like Laban to Eliezer, ‘Come in thou blessed of the Lord.’
(2) To give Him a hearty welcome as the inmate of our heart; glad to entertain Him and enjoy His fellowship.
(3) To remove the hindrances to His entrance—any sinful habit, indulgence, or disposition. ‘The dearest idol I have known.’ &c.
(4) To receive Him as an entire Savour, and to surrender ourselves to Him as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
V. The PLEA for admission. A threefold plea employed by the Bridegroom—
1. His relation to the sleeper. ‘My sister.’ Open to me. The last words emphatic. To ‘Me,’ thy husband and Saviour. To Me, whom thou hast sworn to love, honour, and obey. The person who knocks, the strongest of all arguments for admission. The greatest of all shames to keep such a friend and Saviour at the door. When Christ knocks for admission into the heart, it is either as already a husband, or seeking to become one.
2. His love to the sleeper. Indicated in the terms He employs: ‘My love, my dove, my undefiled.’ Christ’s love to sinners in general, and to His Church in particular, as seen especially in giving Himself for them, a powerful reason for admitting Him to their heart. That love further seen in passing over their defilement and unworthiness, and in regarding only the work of His Spirit in their hearts. The multiplication of the tenderest terms in addressing the sleeper, indicative—
(1) Of the Bridegroom’s great and unchanging love.
(2) Of His earnest desire for admission.
(3) Of the difficulty of awakening the sleeper.
3. What He has endured on the sleeper’s behalf. ‘My head is filled with dew,’ &c. In visiting the Bride, and in seeking admission as the Bridegroom of His Church, during His earthly ministry, this often literally true. ‘The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.’ Often spent the whole night in prayer for His people under the open sky. ‘Every man went unto his own house; but Jesus went into the Mount of Olives’ (John 7:53; John 8:1.) In redeeming His Church and saving a lost world, ‘His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.’ His last night on earth one of accumulated sufferings. His mental agony in the Garden towards midnight indicated by ‘great sweat-like drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ His betrayal and arrest at midnight, followed by long weary hours in the high priest’s palace, while He stood bound as a criminal before the tribunal, first of Annas and then of Caiaphas, and remained the rest of the night in the hands of ruffian menials in the guard-room—spit on, buffeted, struck with rods, and made the subject of their fiendish sport—till led away at daybreak to the general council-room to undergo a third examination. His sacred head filled with the wrath-drops of that awful night, and of a still more awful day that followed it. Such a night and day of anguish, suffering, and blood it cost the Son of God to obtain admission to the sinner’s heart, in order to fill Him with the joys of salvation. What more powerful plea can be used for admission?
THE UNKIND RESPONSE
Song of Solomon 5:3
I have put off my coat;
How shall I put it on?
I have washed my feet;
How shall I defile them?
Sad answer from the beloved spouse of a king. More like the answer in a dream than in reality. The language only of one oppressed with physical or moral sleep. The excuse for not opening at once as silly as it was selfish. No great difficulty in resuming a garment just laid aside. No great sacrifice in soiling the feet by walking across the floor. The effects of spiritual sleep—
(1) To see difficulties in the way of duty where none exist, and greatly to exaggerate those that do. The language only of the sluggard, ‘There is a lion in the street’ (Proverbs 20:4; Proverbs 26:3.Haggai 1:2-4; Haggai 1:2-4).
(2) To be unwilling to deny ourselves, or make sacrifices for Christ; and to think those we are called to make much greater than they really are.
(3) To be more careful about personal comfort and carnal case, than about the pleasures of Christ and the interests of His kingdom.
(4) To be oblivious of our own best interests.
(5) To forget our character and condition as believers, and to act in a way entirely inconsistent with it. Too common for believers to act in a way unlike themselves. In a low state of religion this usually the case. The wise virgins too often slumbering with the foolish ones. An early Apostolic rebuke to a Christian Church: ‘Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?’ Possible even for believers to act at times more according to the flesh than the Spirit.
(6) To act rather as in a dream than as one awake. The life and conduct of men in general. Possessed of deathless souls, yet caring only, or most, for a short-lived body. Born for eternity, yet concerned only, or most, for the things of time. Possessing interests inconceivably high, glorious, and important, and yet expending their time and energy on trifles. Sentenced as sinners to eternal damnation, but with the gracious offer of a free pardon; and yet under no concern to secure it. Under the power of a loathsome disease that must, unless removed, exclude them from heaven, and shut them up in hell; and yet slighting the freely proffered services of the only Physician who is able to cure them. The endless glories and felicities of heaven, with peace and comfort in the way to it, procured at an amazing cost by the Son of God, and freely offered, along with Himself, for the immediate acceptance even of the chief of sinners; and yet slighted and refused for the paltry enjoyments of time and ‘the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season.’ The testimony of Scripture true: ‘Madness is in their hearts while they live, and afterwards they go down to the dead’ (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
The language of the Spouse an example of the
made for not giving immediate attention to the Saviour’s call, and the concerns of the soul. Such excuses usually either—
(1) Want of time and leisure;
(2) The difficulty and sacrifice involved—as, loss of worldly favour, friendship, or enjoyment; the scoff and ridicule of neighbours and associates; the effort required to keep up a religious profession and attendance upon religious ordinances, &c.; or,
(3) The intention to give more heed to the things of eternity at a future and more favourable opportunity. Such excuses foolish and unreasonable; as—
1. Nothing of an earthly nature can for a moment be compared, in point of importance, with the concerns of eternity. ‘What shall a man be profited if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ Well-being for eternity obviously, with an immortal soul, the one thing needful.
2. No difficulty involved in accepting Christ and His salvation which His grace will not enable us to overcome; and no sacrifice which will not be infinitely more than compensated. His own testimony true: ‘My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ ‘When I sent you without purse or scrip, lacked ye anything? And they said: Nothing, Lord.’
3. The present moment only ours. A more favourable opportunity may never come. Felix never found his ‘more convenient season.’ With our salvation it may be now or never. Delay only hardens the heart, and makes salvation more difficult.
4. Persons of all classes, and in all circumstances and conditions, are continually by their example shewing the practicability and blessedness of receiving Christ and experiencing His salvation.
Main truths suggested by the passage in reference to believers:—
1. The carnal mind remaining in a believer always the same, and as much disinclined to spiritual communion as it was in his unconverted state.
2. That in a believer, through the remains of a carnal nature, which continually subjects him to condemnation, with the increased guilt arising from greater knowledge and past experience of the divine mercy.
3. Only the unchangeableness of Christ’s love, and of the Covenant of grace which has been made with him in Christ, along with the existence of a new and spiritual nature imparted to him at conversion, preserves the believer from final apostacy, and from sinking back into his former state of carnality and unbelief.
Song of Solomon 5:4 : My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door. ‘By the hole of the door’ (מִן־הָחוֹר, min ha-khor; literally ‘from the hole’). Through the latticed window. ZÖCKLER. The opening which served for a window. EWALD. At the window or casement. PATRICK. Probably rather a hole in the door. The hole in or near the door. RASHI. Above the lock. HAHN. In the wall. HITZIG. The attempt made to open the lock inside. Oriental houses still made with a hole in the door, or rather door-post, by which the master and domestics open the locks by putting in their hand, while strangers neither dare nor know how to do so, the locks being variously made; at night, additional bolts and bars so fasten the door that it cannot be opened from without. WEISS. When the bolt was too strong for the finger to move, or the hole too small, a key was used: otherwise, the finger inserted into the hole could move the bolt and open the door: at night, a pin was passed before the fore part of the bolt, to prevent its being opened on the outside: the Bridegroom had put in his finger to see if this had been omitted. DEL RIO. A key in the East usually a piece of wood with pegs or pins in it corresponding to small holes in a wooden bolt within, and is inserted through a hole in the door to push back the bolt. FAUSSET. The locks are placed on the inside of the doors of gardens and outer courts, and even on those of inner rooms of some places. To enable the owner to open them, a hole is cut in the door, through which he thrusts his arm and inserts the key. THOMSON, Land and Book. SEPTUAGINT: Withdrew his hand from, &c. So BURROUGHS and GINSBURG. VULGATE, followed by MARTIN. Put his hand. LUTHER, DIODATI, WICKLIFF: Through the hole. GENEVA: Through the hole of the door. PISCATOR and MONTANUS: From the hole. JUNIUS and TREMELLIUS: Had put down his hand from, &c. THEODORET: To awaken the Bride. PISCATOR: To effect an opening. SANCTIUS: To remove the bolt. PATRICK: As if attempting to draw her out of her bed, or threatening to punish her. HITZIG: As if intending to climb in by the window. HENGSTENBERG and WORDSWORTH: Forcibly to break a hole through the wall, like Ezekiel 8:7-8. Allegorically: His hand, the Divine energy. THEODORET. A secret inspiration on the heart. FROMONDI. Something tending to awaken the Church. BRIGHTMAN. To arouse the lingering and fearful. COCCEIUS. His vengeance in the days of Ahaz. RASHI. Efficacious grace. GILL. Historically, the reference to the incarnation. HONORIUS. To the scene in the judgment-hall of Caiaphas. M. STUART, FAUSSET. To the resurrection of Christ. PHILO, To the inward working of His Spirit, as at Antioch (Acts 2:19; Acts 2:21. AINSWORTH, FAUSSET.
Song of Solomon 5:4
My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door,
And my bowels were moved for him.
Shulamite continues her narrative. The Bridegroom, unwilling to take a refusal, employs further means for obtaining admission. Inserts his hand, through the hole made for opening the door in the inside. The sight of his hand gains the desired compliance.
1. Christ unwilling to take a refusal on the part of redeemed sinners, and especially of His believing though backslidden people. His patience unwearied, because His love is unchangeable (Hosea 11:7-9).
2. A work of Omnipotence needed as well for restoring saints as for converting sinners. The hand to be employed as well as the voice; the power of the Spirit as well as the call of His Word. Preachers successful because the Lord works with them, giving testimony to the Word of His grace, and confirming that Word with signs following. ‘The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord’ (Acts 11:21; Acts 14:3). The Lord’s hand also often put forth in Providence, when His voice is not hearkened to in His Word. The secret springs of the soul in the Saviour’s hand. ‘He that openeth, and no man shutteth: and shutteth and no man openeth.
3. Christ turns the heart, but employs suitable means and rational motives in doing so. The Bridegroom shewed his hand; but left the Bride to draw back the bolt herself ‘Christ puts no force upon our nature, but upon our ill nature.’—Henry. His people willing in the day of His power. God, in a work of grace, does His part, and leaves us to do ours. Believers to work out their salvation, because God works in them ‘both to will and to do.’ The apostles ‘so spake that many believed.’ The Lord opened Lydia’s heart, that she attended to the things spoken by Paul. The believing connected with the speaking as its result. The Lord opens the heart, but Lydia attends to what is spoken (Acts 14:24; Acts 16:14). Christ’s voice raised Lazarus from the dead, but the people were to remove the stone from the grave, and then to ‘loose him from his grave-clothes and let him go’ (John 11:39-44).
4. Faithful preachers not to despond. If one means or message fails, another may be made successful. ‘In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper.’ ‘If the axe be blunt, he putteth forth more strength.’ Sometimes a providence successful where the preacher has failed.
5. Christ acquainted with the best means of reaching the heart. Sometimes the least likely means the most successful. The Lord’s mere look broke Peter’s heart. The mere sight of the Bridegroom’s hand did more to melt the heart of the Bride than either his repeated knock or his imploring call. A preacher’s loving earnestness often the means of moving the careless more than the words be utters.
6. Inward motions necessary to outward action. ‘My bowels were moved for him’ (or, ‘in me’). The Spirit, in conversion or restoration, acts upon the conscience and feelings. The three thousand at Pentecost pricked in their hearts, and then cried: ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ The moving of Peter’s bowels the turning point of his second conversion.
7. The exhibition of Christ and His love the most effectual way of leading to true repentance. ‘My bowels were moved for, or on account of him.’ ‘They shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn because of Him’ (Zechariah 12:10). Preaching Christ, and Him crucified, the readiest as well as most Scriptural way of moving mens’ hearts.
8. Great and palpable effects on the soul under the Holy Spirit’s operation. ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof.’
9. Believers able to mark and record the operations of the Spirit on their heart, and their inward experience in relation to Christ.
Song of Solomon 5:5 : My hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling on the handles of the lock. ‘Dropped with myrrh.’ נָטְפוּ־מוֹר natephu mor, literally ‘dropped myrrh.’ So SEPTUAGINT, VULGATE, LUTHER, &c. MAR TIN: The myrrh dropping from my hand. The myrrh from Solomon’s having taken hold of the lock on the outside with profusely anointed hands. ZÖCKLER, WILLIAMS. From the unguent flowing in from the outer look through the keyhole. HITZIG. Some drops inserted by her lover through the hole or above the door, and trickling down on the inner lock, showing how richly anointed he had come to her. DELITZSCH. Left on purpose by himself. EWALD, THRUPP, ROWE. Proceeding from the moisture of his hand when he introduced his finger to remove the bolt. DEL RIO, NOYES, HAHN. She imagines how her beloved, while calling her, had smeared the lock with perfume for its smell to meet her. EWALD. LUCRETIUS speaks of lovers perfuming the doors of their mistresses. Some, on the other hand, view the perfume as having been brought by the Bride herself. So WORDSWORTH. SANCTIUS: Not having time to perfume her garments, she pours the myrrh on her hand, wishing thus to receive and gratify her Bridegroom. FAUSSET: Anointed herself profusely, as the best proof she could give him of a hearty welcome. WEISS: Just having gone to anoint herself as a delicate lady among the Romans. PATRICK and PERCY: Having taken it to anoint her husband’s head with it, she in her haste spilt it on her hands. A. CLARKE: Those who brought the Bride to the Bridegroom’s house often anointed the door posts with fragrant oils, and sometimes the Bride herself anointed them: hence uxor, for unxor. Allegorized by the Fathers generally as indicating penitence, chastity, and mortification of the flesh. DURHAM: Lively exercise of faith and other graces. AINSWORTH: Godly sorrow, faith, and love; or the sweet alluring odour left by Christ. PATRICK: Most ardent love with which the believer seeks to entertain his Saviour. BRIGHTMAN: Her endeavours as most acceptable to God. DEL RIO: The Bridegroom moving his Church to undertake the work of preaching the Gospel with the desire to endure hardship and even death for His sake. COCCEIUS: The Church’s begun labour that she and the brethren might be partakers of Christ. DAVIDSON: The application to the Church of all the efficacy of Christ’s atonement and resurrection, symbolized by the myrrh with which His body was embalmed, and which flows from Him as the Head to His members. Threefold Mystery: The setting forth anew of the precious doctrines of the atonement and mediation of Christ. M. STUART: Historically, the reference to the disciples with myrrh seeking Jesus in the tomb. FAUSSET: Also, to bitter repentance as the fruit of the Spirit’s anointing (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
THE BRIDE’S REPENTANCE
Song of Solomon 5:5
I rose to open to my beloved;
And my hands dropped with myrrh,
And my fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh,
On the handles of the lock.
Shulamite not only felt, but acted. ‘I rose to open to my beloved.’ In matters of religion, feeling valuable as it leads to action. Such actions to be prompt. ‘Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.’ ‘I made haste and delayed not.’ ‘Repentance, when real, puts the most careless on their feet.’—Durham. So the Prodigal Son: ‘I will arise and go to my father. And he arose and went.’ So the penitent Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
A circumstance connected with Shulamite’s action related. ‘My hands dropped with myrrh, &c., upon the handles of the lock.’ Did she bring it with her? or did she find it there? Probably the language only a poetic way of expressing the feelings of sweet and joyful ardour with which she hastened to admit her beloved, and anticipated his embrace. Thoughts of him were now to her in the place of the best sweet-smelling myrrh. Observe from the passage—
1. No time to be lost in opening to Christ. The Bride delayed and suffered for it. Now shakes off her sloth and rises at once. Christ’s call to Zaccheus that to each soul: ‘Make haste and come down, for to-day I must abide at thy house.’ The conduct of Zaccheus to be ours: ‘He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully’ (Luke 19:5-6).
2. A special sweetness accompanying true penitence and a hearty reception of Christ. Shulamite’s hands dropped with sweetest myrrh while attempting to open to her beloved. Every act of faith and self-denying obedience for Christ accompanied with a sweetness and satisfaction unable to be found in the pleasures of the world or in the indulgence of the flesh. True penitence a sweet sorrow. Myrrh bitter to the taste, but sweet to the smell. Christ brings sweetness with Him. His name: ‘Ointment poured forth.’
Grace acts in order to move the soul to action. When the Bridegroom puts forth his hand at the hole of the door, the Bride must put forth her hand to open to him. Believers to work out their salvation, because God works in them both ‘to will and to do of His own good pleasure.’
4. Nothing sweeter to Christ than a soul penitently and earnestly rising to open to Him. Fingers perfumed that open to Christ.
5. Grace supplied as the soul rises to perform its duty and obey Christ’s call. Only when Shulamite rose to open, her hands dropped with sweet-smelling myrrh. Duty earnestly and obediently attempted at the Saviour’s call found both easy and pleasant. The handles of the lock found perfumed with myrrh. Delay accumulates rust, and renders duty more difficult.
Song of Solomon 5:6. ‘My soul failed when He spate.’
‘My soul failed.’ נַפְשִׁי יָצְאָה naphshi yatseah, literally, ‘went forth.’ Failed, or fainted; breath forsook me; my soul almost went out of me. ZÖCKLER, EWALD, DELIZTSCH. Sunk. BURROUGHS. I swooned away, and was like a dead body (Genesis 35:18). FRY. I was not in my senses. DE WETTE, NOYES, SANCTIUS. My soul melted with anguish. ROWE. With sweet effusion of love. FROMONDI. Left me and flew away to my Bridegroom. DEL RIO. Was in great terror. COCCEIUS, Was in suspense. THRODORET. There remained no more spirit in her. DAVIDSON. VULGATE: My soul was melted. LUTHER: Went out. MARTIN: Fainted. DIODATI: I was out of myself. COVERDALE and MATTHEWS: My heart could not refrain. TIGURINE: My mind was disturbed. ‘When be spake.’ בְּדַבְּרוֹ bedhabbero, ‘at his speaking;’ from דִּבֵּר dibber, to speak. So GESENIUS. When he spoke. EWALD, DELITZSCH. While he yet spoke. WEISS, MERCER, LE CLERC, &c. When he was speaking, i.e., through the window. ZOCKLER. Had failed as he spoke; a supplementary remark. DOPKE. SEPTUAGINT: At his word. VULGATE: When he spoke. SYMMACHUS: While be spoke. WICKLIFF: As he spake COVERDALE and MATTHEWS: Now like as aforetime when he spake. LUTHER: After his word. DUTCH: On account of his word. MARTIN: From having heard him speak. RASHI: When he spoke this word. JUNIUS: On account of the word with which he addressed me. Assembly’s Annotations: My neglect of his speech troubled me when he was gone. BRIGHTMAN, AINSWORTH. BOOTHROYD: On remembering his words. BURROUGHS: In consequence of what he had said. SCOTT: Either remembering his tender and affectionate apeal or hearing a reproving word as he withdrew. NOYES and DE WETTE: I was not in my senses while he spoke—acted insanely in not admitting my beloved at his request. EWALD proposes to read בְּדָבְרוֹ ‘at his going away. HITZIG views the word as equivalent to אַחֲרָיו ‘after him.’ UMBREIT: ‘In order to follow him; from דִּבֵּר to follow. Some propose בִּדְבָרוֹ ‘on his account.’
Song of Solomon 5:6
I opened to my beloved;
But my beloved had withdrawn himself,
And was gone.
My soul failed when he spake.
I sought him;
But I could not find him.
I called him;
But he gave me no answer.
Shulamite’s delay has disappointment for its fruit. Christ’s call not to be trifled with. Duty may be attempted too late to be immediately successful. God forgives His sinning people, though He may see fit to chasten them. Indulgence of the flesh, even for a short time, may bear bitter fruit. David’s short sin produced long sorrow. Falls, though not fatal, may bring broken bones. Samson, awaking from his sleep in Delilah’s lap, ‘wist not that his strength was departed from him’ Observe, in regard to
1. These withdrawings real. A fact stated. ‘My beloved had withdrawn himself.’ Such a thing as God hiding His face.
2. These withdrawings such as to be observed and known. The Bride bears testimony to the fact. She knew it. Believers to know their case.
3. Well for believers and others to know when the Lord withdraws Himself. The saddest case for a man when God withdraws from him, and he either does not know it or pays no attention to it. Israel’s misery that ‘grey hairs were here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not’ (Hosea 7:9). An ill sign for men when God’s anger ‘sets them on fire round about, and they know it not; when it burns them, and they lay it not to heart’ (Isaiah 42:25).
4. The withdrawings of Christ, in the case of a believer, the result of love. The greatest sign of wrath when men are allowed to sleep and sin on. ‘As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.’
5. These withdrawings in wisdom, as well as in love. Wise as well as gracious reasons for them.
(1) To teach the sin of neglecting divine calls and invitations. Such sin to be seen and lamented (Jeremiah 2:19; Hosea 5:15).
(2) To make His presence more prized. The value of a blessing best known when it has been withdrawn. The misery of Christ’s absence to be sometimes learned by experience. Lamented absence better than slighted presence.
(3) To prove the believer’s love. Love unable to endure absence.
(4) To render more watchful and careful in the future.
6. Divine withdrawings the believer’s greatest distress. My soul failed (or fainted, as Genesis 42:28) when He spake (or, at His speaking—at the remembrance of what He had said). So with Peter (Matthew 26:75). The Bride’s felt calamity indicated by a double expression: ‘Had withdrawn himself, and was gone.’ The sweeter the past enjoyment of Christ, the greater the pain of His present withdrawal.
7. In the case of a believer, the joy of Christ’s presence withdrawn, but not His love. David mourned the loss of the joy of God’s salvation, but not of the salvation itself (Psalms 51:10).
Other lessons from the passage—
1. The remembrance of a Saviour’s slighted calls, one day the bitterest ingredient in the sinner’s cup. ‘My soul failed when he spake.’ Well when the remembrance is here, and not hereafter. An awful word to the rich man in hell: ‘Son, remember’ (Luke 16:25). One element of a true repentance, in the case of hearers of the Gospel, is the remembrance of a slighted Christ. The remembrance of past guilt an aggravation of present trouble.
2. Christ still loved by the believer in the midst of His withdrawing. ‘My beloved,’ &c. True love made more ardent by the withdrawing of its object. One of the lessons of the Song. Realized in the disciples after the Saviour’s resurrection. The proof of a believer that he loves even an absent Christ.
3. Better to follow Christ in sorrow, than to live at case in sin.
4. The more the soul has tasted of Christ’s love, the more deeply it repents its coldness.
5. Means to be diligently employed to recover a missing Christ. ‘I called,’ &c.
6. The prayer of a penitent believer not always immediately answered. ‘He gave me no answer.’
7. A withdrawn Christ not immediately found. ‘I sought Him, but I found Him not.’ The Saviour’s threatening to the Jews: ‘Ye shall seek me but ye shall not find me.’
8. Sin often visited with a corresponding chastisement. The Bridegroom had called, and the Bride had not answered. Now she calls to him, but receives no answer. Observe in regard to
Answers to Prayer.
1. Answers to prayer, and the contrary, to be carefully noted and recorded.
2. Prayers not immediately answered not therefore rejected. Efforts not immediately successful not therefore in vain. The promise of finding made not to search begun, but persevered in. Believers’ prayers often only apparently rejected. Never really unanswered without a greater benefit being bestowed. Moses not permitted to enter Canaan, but taken direct to a better land. Paul’s thorn in the flesh not removed, but more of Christ’s grace imparted to him. Direct answers to prayer often withheld for the best and wisest reasons (Job 30:20; Psalms 22:2; Lamentations 3:8; Lamentations 3:44). Prayer often answered by terrible things in righteousness (Psalms 65:5).
3. Strength and grace given a believer still to pray even when no answer is received. Such grace often an equivalent for a direct answer. The greatest praise bestowed by Christ in the Gospels on one who still prayed earnestly after repeated repulses (Matthew 15:21-28).
THE SEARCH AND ITS RESULTS
Song of Solomon 5:7
The watchmen that went about the city
Found me; they smote me; they wounded me:
The keepers of the walls
Took away my veil from me.
A painful experience awaited the Bride on returning to herself and her duty. Those who should have been for her protection and her help, now add to her distress. Her character suspected, and her veil taken from her as an immodest woman (Ezekiel 23:25-26). Her experience in seeking the Bridegroom and the conduct of the watchmen towards her, much more painful than in a former search. The reason, that was before marriage, this after it. The greater our privileges, and the higher the degree attained in the Divine life, the greater the sin in backsliding from and unfaithfulness to it. Hence the greater the difficulty and the more painful the experience in returning to it. The ways of transgressors hard, even in the case of
Often the most painful of all experiences connected with a missing Saviour, and a backslidden state. The very means of grace and messages of the Word often an aggravation of the grief. Promises apparently silent, and threatenings only uttering their voice. The two-edged sword of the Word felt only to cut and wound. Ministers seem only commissioned to smite. The backslider apt to lose the character of the spouse of Christ, and to be taken for a hypocrite. No help now, for a time at least, received from the ministers of the Word, as at a former period. No word now of Shulamite finding her beloved after only passing a little from them as before. Different effects from the preaching of the Word according to the condition of the hearer. Ministers and their messages only what the Master is pleased to make them. When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes his enemies to be at peace with him. When the opposite is the case, even his friends may be made to appear against him. Nevertheless, the conduct of the watchman unjustifiably rigorous, harsh, and unfeeling. On the part of
the greatest tenderness due to backsliders who are seeking Jesus sorrowing. The example of Jesus towards Peter. The braised reed not to be ruthlessly broken. An un-tender minister a great affliction to an exercised soul. The ‘tongue of the learned’ required to ‘speak a word in season to him that is weary’ (Isaiah 50:4). Sad when ministers talk to the grief of those whom God has wounded (Psalms 69:26). The part of hireling shepherds to thrust with the side and shoulder, and push at the diseased instead of healing them (Ezekiel 34:21). A sore calamity to the Church when its pastors become brutish (Jeremiah 10:21). False shepherds hunt the souls of God’s people, making the righteous sad, instead of binding up their wounds (Ezekiel 13:20). The reproofs of ministers to be an excellent oil which shall not break the head (Psalms 141:5). The truth to be spoken, but to be spoken in love. Ministers to be both plain and faithful, but neither harsh nor severe. The conduct of the watchmen in the text realised in that of the Jewish priests and elders in their treatment of the spouse of Jesus after His departure to heaven (Acts 4:1-3; Acts 5:17-18; Acts 5:33; Acts 5:40). The same spouse not unfrequently smitten by ecclesiastical rulers, as heretics and schismatics. Church rulers to be themselves a part of the spouse, and so acquainted with her exercises and temptations. Jesus Christ the model of Ministers. Had compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way. Is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Having Himself suffered in being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:2). Ministers to be not only lawfully called, but spiritually qualified.
Song of Solomon 5:8
I charge you,
O ye daughters of Jerusalem;
If ye find my beloved,
That ye tell him that I am sick of love.
Shulamite probably still relates her dream. Receiving stripes instead of sympathy from the watchmen, she addressed herself to the women of the city. Such incongruities natural in a dream. The language that of—
1. Intense concern: ‘I charge you,’ &c. A kind of adjuration, as in chap. Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4; indicative of the unity of the poem. Observe—
(1) The soul seeking a missing Saviour, glad to find sympathy and obtain help wherever it can. Necessity neglects no means.
(2) Sad to find private Christians more sympathizing and helpful to exercised souls than the ministers of the Word.
(3) Backsliding makes a believer an inquirer when he ought to have been a teacher. Guilt seals a believer’s lips, which only a renewed sense of pardon can open (Psalms 51:12-15).
(4) In darkness and desertion, others supposed to know better how and where to find Christ, and to have more access to Him, than the soul who is seeking Him.
(5) Young believers sometimes found to have nearer access to Christ, and more sensible communion with Him, than those of greater experience. The strongest believers sometimes in a condition to be assisted by the weakest (Romans 1:12). Times when the believer feels unable directly to address himself as usual to the Saviour. Power to pray not always present with the desire to pray.
(6) The duty and privilege of earnest seekers of Jesus to request the prayers and assistance of others. Pride often the hindrance to the anxious soul obtaining peace.
(7) Communion with Christians often the best way of finding a missing Christ. Believers to be able and ready to help others to find the Saviour.
2. Shulamite’s language indicative of confusion and distraction. ‘If ye find my beloved, that ye tell him,’ &c.; literally: ‘What shall ye tell him? that I am sick of love.’ Hardly knows what she wants, and what message to send, or how to express her feelings. A state of great perturbation and perplexity natural to a soul seeking a loved but offended and missing Saviour. Shulamite’s present case realized in Mary weeping beside the empty tomb, and addressing Jesus Himself as if He were the gardener: ‘Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away’ (John 20:14-15). Neither knowing to whom she spoke, nor what she said. Her soul absorbed with one thought, and not even naming the object of her search.
3. Her language that of ardent affection. ‘Tell him that I am sick of love.’ Formerly said in the enjoyment of Christ’s presence; now in distress for His absence (chap. Song of Solomon 2:5). Love to Christ not dependent on present enjoyment, or confined to happy frames. Pursues Him when absent, as well as rejoices in Him when present. Observe, in reference to
Love-sickness for Christ,
That it is—
1. Natural and reasonable. This true, whether the sickness arise from the overpowering enjoyment of Christ’s presence, as in chap. Song of Solomon 2:5; or, as here, from the painful sense of His absence. No reason in nature why love-sickness should exist in reference to an imperfect creature, and not to the all-perfect Creator, who has, at the same time in His love to me, become my Brother. Natural that the more excellent, lovely, and loving the object of our love, the more intense and ardent that love should be. Love due from an intelligent creature to the infinitely excellent Creator. That love not to be a cold and languid, lukewarm and formal love; but one ardent and intense—with all the heart, and soul, and strength, and mind—with all the affection which He has Himself implanted in our nature, and of which He is infinitely worthy (Revelation 3:15-16). The claims of a Creator upon our most ardent love unspeakably enhanced by those of a Redeemer. An evidence how far sin has blinded the mind, depraved the heart, and deadened the soul, that love-sickness for Christ is not as extensively experienced as the Bible is read and the Gospel preached. If the Creator, who is love and excellence itself, humbling Himself, in love, for the deliverance and happiness of His creatures, so as to assume those creatures’ nature, and in that nature to be bound and spit upon, scourged and crucified—is not ardently loved by those who profess to believe they have been the objects of suck love, the only reason must be that what the Bible declares about man’s heart is true, that it is ‘deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.’ The day will declare what every truly awakened and enlightened soul even now sees to be true, that it is man’s sin and shame that a creature should be loved with greater warmth, and longed for with greater intensity, than the Creator who died for them; and that the sentence pronounced by the inspired Apostle, and recorded in the Bible, is just: ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed’ (1 Corinthians 16:22).
2. Blessed and desirable. A love sickness according to truth and righteousness, and sure to obtain its end. A pain which those who feel it would not exchange, even for a moment, for all the pleasures of the world and sin during a lifetime. Ask Mary weeping at the empty grave, and the woman of the city washing the Saviour’s feet with her tears. Love-sickness for Christ one of the evidences of spiritual health. Good to carry such sickness with us to the grave. Death only welcome and agreeable to those who love and long for Christ. Paul’s experience: ‘I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ Death necessarily gain to the lovers of Christ, as it brings them to the sight and presence of Him ‘whom having not seen they loved’ (1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 3:2). One of the strongest proofs of Christ’s love to a soul is to make that soul sick of love for Himself. The prayer of Dr. Chalmers that of true enlightenment: ‘O God, spiritualize my affections: Give me an ardent love to Christ.’
FIRST ENQUIRY BY THE
DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM
Song of Solomon 5:9
What is thy beloved more than another beloved,
O thou fairest among women?
What is thy beloved more than another beloved,
That thou dost so charge us?
Greater tenderness and consideration from the daughters of Jerusalem than from the watchmen of the city. The people of Jerusalem ‘magnified’ the early converts, while the priests and rulers sought to put them to death. The Spouse, in the eyes of the daughters of Jerusalem, the ‘fairest among women;’ in those of the watchmen of the city, a mere street-walker. That, in Christ and His Church, revealed to babes, which is hidden from the wise and prudent. Hopeful and others in Vanity Fair attracted to Christain and Faithful, while the rest mocked and persecuted them. A hopeful indication to discern the beauty and excellence of holiness, especially in times of persecution and spiritual desertion. Observe from the appellation given to the Bride—
1. Something especially lovely and beautiful in a believing soul earnestly seeking after a missing Christ. Grace in exercise makes the most plain-looking lovely.
2. Believers to appear in the eyes of the world what they really are—possessed of a spiritual beauty which exalts them above others. ‘The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.’ The Spouse of Christ the ‘fairest among women.’ The world to be compelled by a believer’s life and spirit to acknowledge the reality and beauty of true religion. Christ’s preciousness and excellence to be seen in the character and disposition of His people.
From the inquiry of the daughters of Jerusalem: ‘What is thy beloved,’ &c., observe—
1. Earnest search after a missing Saviour often blessed to the awakening of a spiritual concern in others. The ‘daughters’ especially struck with the earnest manner and language of the Bride: ‘that thou dost so charge us.’ Nothing more likely to impress others than earnestness in seeking Christ. One living, loving, earnest Christian may shake a whole Church and neighbourhood out of its slumbers.
2. The world to learn from the earnestness of believers that there is a preciousness in Christ not to be found in anything else.
3. The world and mere nominal professors of religion, ignorant of Christ’s loveliness and excellence. This ignorance the reason why others are put in competition with Him, and preferred before Him.
4. Serious inquiry about Christ often the beginning of a new life. A hopeful inquiry of the Greeks: ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.’
5. All have something as a ‘beloved’—either Christ or something else. The world full of Christ’s rivals and candidates for men’s hearts.
6. Believers expected to give a reason for their attachment to Christ, and to show His superior excellence and claim to men’s affection.
7. Christ infinitely above all other ‘beloveds,’ and supremely worthy of men’s hearts; as
(1) More excellent and lovely in Himself—the sum and source of all loveliness and excellence.
(2) More satisfying as a portion, being more suited to man’s nature and requirements.
(3) More durable, never changing either in Himself or His love, and unable to be taken from us either in life or in death.
(4) More loving and kind; having given the greatest proof of His love in what He has done and suffered for us—humbling Himself, laying down His life for us, seeking us in our wandering, and bearing with our weakness and waywardness.
(5) The longer and better known, the more loved and admired.
(6) Able, as being divine as well as human, to be loved with the whole heart, without danger either of idolatry or excess.
SHULAMITE’S DESCRIPTION OF HER BELOVED
Song of Solomon 5:10-16
My beloved is white and ruddy,
The chief among ten thousand.
His head is as the most fine gold;
His locks are bushy,
And black as a raven.
His eyes are as the eyes of doves,
By the rivers of waters,
Washed with milk,
And fitly set.
His cheeks are as a bed of spices,
As sweet flowers;
His lips are like lilies,
Dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.
His hands are as gold rings,
Set with the beryl.
His belly (or body) is as bright ivory,
Overlaid with sapphires.
His legs are as pillars of marble,
Set upon sockets of fine gold.
His countenance is as Lebanon,
Excellent as the cedars.
His mouth is most sweet:
Yea, he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved,
And this is my friend,
O ye daughters of Jerusalem.
In reply to the daughters of Jerusalem, Shulamite gives a full-length portrait of her beloved. The description one of enraptured admiration and affection. ‘Superlatively glorious, and given in brief and comprehensible language.’ Rich specimen of Oriental poetry. Observe from it—
1. Believers able to give a true, if not a full description of Jesus. Living Christians well acquainted with Christ, and able to give a reason of their love as well as their hope.
2. Believers to be ready to make others acquainted with Christ. This their calling and privilege. ‘Ye shall be my witnesses.’
3. The joy of a living believer to testify for Jesus, and to guide inquirers to Him. ‘I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.’ Love must speak of its object.
4. Better to be employed in setting forth Christ’s excellence, than in dwelling on our own defects or troubles.
5. Testimony concerning Jesus to be borne with heartiness and love. The truth to appear not only in the matter but the manner of our testimony.
6. Thoughts of Jesus, and the expression of them, the best anodyne for a troubled spirit. McCheyne’s recipe: ‘For one look at self take ten at Christ.’ Confession of Christ often the shortest way to comfort in Christ. Speaking of Him for others, a precious help to our realizing Him for ourselves.
7. Testimony to Christ’s loveliness and excellence for others, to be accompanied with a personal appropriation of Him for ourselves. ‘This is my beloved,’ &c. Preachers to commend Christ and speak of Him as their own Beloved and Friend.
8. Christ’s excellence and preciousness the best subject for the fellowship of believers with each other. Believers thus to stir up their own love to Christ and that of others.
9. A pre-eminence and perfection of beauty in Jesus. The concentration of all creature loveliness. The union of all the elements of loveliness found in Him. The sum of all conceivable and all possible beauty and sweetness. ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men.’ The chief (conspicuous, or a standard-bearer) among ten thousand. The one Pearl of great price. Natural that the source of all beauty should Himself be the perfection of beauty.
10. The happiness of believers to be made to perceive, appreciate, and enjoy that beauty. Eyes anointed by the Spirit’s eye-salve, and hearts renewed by His grace, required for that perception and appreciation.
11. The beauty and excellence of Christ made up of a variety of particulars. The holy perfume composed of various ingredients (Exodus 30:34-35). His offices, relations, attributes, words and works, make up the one Christ.
12. Everything in Christ excellent and glorious in itself, as well as attractive and precious in the eyes of a believer. ‘Altogether lovely;’ or, ‘all desirable things.’ Christ an unalloyed congeries of excellencies and delights. Every divine and human perfection found in Him, and nothing but what is absolutely perfect.
13. That in Jesus which exceeds all description and all knowledge. The Bride breaks off as unable to describe the beauty and excellence of her beloved. A breadth, and length, and depth, and height in Jesus and His love, never to be fully comprehended. The duty and happiness of believers to grow in the knowledge of Christ. All comparisons fall short of fully exhibiting Him. The most beautiful and excellent things in nature and art employed, but fail.
The description of the bridegroom inclusive of his dress and ornaments, as well as his person. That of a youthful prince eminent for dignity and beauty. Probably such as Solomon himself appeared to the eyes of beholders in the early period of his reign. Corresponds to his father’s appearance at a similar age (1 Samuel 16:12). Not necessary to find in Jesus an exact counterpart in every particular. Yet every part suggestive of something to be found in Him. The application to be made as the Holy Spirit gives understanding. We have in
The Bridegroom’s Portrait,
1. His Complexion. ‘White and ruddy.’ Fair and blooming. The perfection of a beautiful and healthy complexion. Suggests the Saviour’s general loveliness, as well as His purity and spiritual health. ‘Holy, harmless, undefiled.’ ‘Fairer than the children of men.’ Recalls His spotless life and atoning death, as well as the union of the divine and human nature constituting the one God-man Redeemer. His meek and heavenly ‘visage’ not less lovely because, for our sakes, ‘marred more than the sons of men.’ His form not less beautiful because bruised and lacerated with the scourge and the nails, and ‘ruddy with His own precious blood.’
2. His Head. ‘As the most fine gold.’ For excellence, a mass of pure and precious gold. Perhaps including an allusion to the golden crown which at times adorned it. Suggests the kingliness and nobility of Jesus, as well as His ‘excellent wisdom.’ ‘Head over all things to His Church.’ ‘Head over all principality and power.’ ‘In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’
3. His Hair. ‘His locks are bushy (or curled and pendulous), and black as a raven.’ Expressive of youthful and manly vigour. Jesus only known on earth as one in the prime and bloom of life. His death at the age of thirty-three. Jesus ever young. The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Appears in heaven ‘as a Lamb that had been slain.’ In another description of his appearance: ‘his hair white as snow’ (Revelation 1:14), as expressive of His eternity—the Ancient of Days. His raven locks perhaps symbolical of His human, and His snow-white hair of His divine, nature.
3. His Eyes. ‘As the eyes of doves (or, as doves), by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set’ (or, ‘sitting in fulness’—in full streams). Suggestive of the love, tenderness, and gentleness of Him who was meek and lowly in heart; who, ‘when He beheld the city, wept over it,’ and when He saw the sisters of Lazarus weeping at his grave, and the Jews also weeping, wept along with them.
4. His Cheeks. ‘As beds of spices’ (or, balsams), as sweet flowers,’ (or, ‘towers of perfume’). The loving aspect of Jesus the index of His loving heart. His countenance ordinarily lighted up with gracious smiles that cheered the penitent, invited even publicans and sinners to draw near to Him, and made Him attractive even to little children. His benignant aspect made His presence like a bed of spices to such as, like Mary, ‘sat down at His feet, hearing His words.
5. His Lips. Like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.’ Expressive either of the gracious words that proceeded from His mouth, and which, as recorded in the Scriptures, have been the comfort of millions ever since, or the sweetness felt in the communication of His love to the soul—‘the kisses of His mouth’ (chap. Song of Solomon 1:2).
6. His Hands. ‘As gold rings (or cylinders), set with the beryl’ (chrysolite or topaz). The image probably from the rings that usually adorned the hands of Oriental princes. His hands themselves were as the costliest jewels. Suggestive of those works of benevolence and love—‘wonderful and glorious’—wrought by Jesus when on earth, as well as those which, though invisible, He is working still, as the Head and High Priest of His Church.
7. His Body. ‘His belly (or body) is as bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires.’ The tender compassion of Jesus, combined with heavenliest purity. He who said: ‘I have compassion on the multitudes,’ said also: ‘Which of you convinceth me of sin?’ ‘Ye are from beneath; I am from above: Ye are of this world; I am not of this world’ (John 8:23; John 8:46).
8. His Legs. ‘As pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold.’ The marble whiteness of His pillar-like legs suggestive of the spotless purity and integrity of His life, as well as His faithfulness and ability to support all who trust in Him. ‘His feet like sockets of fine gold,’ descriptive of Him who went about doing good. ‘Beautiful on the mountains,’ as the feet of Him who brought glad tidings to a perishing world.
9. His Figure or General Aspect. ‘Like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.’ The majesty and stateliness of His figure, resembling in its general character and aspect the ‘goodly mountain’ with its noble cedars, expressive of the amiable dignity of Him who is both Son of God and Son of Man, the man that is Jehovah’s fellow, the brightness of the divine glory, while not ashamed to call us brethren.
10. His Mouth. ‘Most sweet.’ Recalling the sweetness of the discourse of Him who ‘spake as never man spake.’ Suggestive also of the divine sweetness of that love which is ‘better than wine.’
The enraptured and magnificent description closes ‘with a holy admiration and amazement which ends in silence.’ ‘Yea, Ile is altogether lovely’ (or, ‘all of Him is lovely and desirable things.’) Winds up with an emphatic
Appropriation of the Beloved.
‘This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.’
Commendation of Christ to others to be accompanied with conscious choice and personal appropriation of Him by ourselves. That choice and appropriation of Christ by ourselves to be openly avowed while we commend Him to others. Conscious interest in Christ by ourselves, that which gives heart and life to our commendation of Him to others. The Bride’s language expressive of—
1. The believer’s personal apprehension of Christ’s loveliness and excellence. ‘This’—the person I have described to you—‘is my Beloved.’
2. Choice of Him in preference to all other objects of attraction.
3. Appropriation and personal possession of Christ as our own.
4. Consciousness of such choice and appropriation. ‘My Lord and my God.’ ‘I know whom I have believed.’ ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth.’
5. Unchanged and unchanging attachment. ‘My Beloved,’ notwithstanding present appearances. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,’ and love Him. ‘I will wait on him who hideth himself.’
6. Full satisfaction with and glorying in Him as our choice and portion, our beloved and friend. ‘My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.’
7. A bold and fearless confession of Him as the object of our choice, and the Saviour in whom we trust. Christ not only to be believed in with the heart, but confessed with the mouth (Romans 10:9-10).
8. Christ at once the believer’s beloved and friend—beloved and lover. The love a mutual one. Christ, as
The Christian’s Beloved,
(1) For what He is in Himself—the ‘chief among ten thousand,’ and ‘altogether lovely.’
(2) For what He is to us, Saviour, Redeemer, husband, brother, and friend.
(3) For what He has done for us—given Himself to humiliation and anguish, a bloody and shameful death, to satisfy, as our sacrifice and substitute, the demands of Divine justice upon us; sought us when we were wanderers; won our hearts, and espoused us to Himself as His own. That Christ is our beloved implies—
(1) Wonderful condescension and love on the part of Christ, that sinners should be able to call Him their beloved.
(2) Precious grace, that so changes the heart and renews the nature that we can thus truly and sincerely speak of Christ.
(3) Blessed condition of believers, that they are able to claim Jesus as their beloved. Christ, as
The Christian’s Friend,
(1) Loving, generous, and sympathizing.
(2) Faithful and true,—‘sticketh closer than a brother.’
(3) Unchanging—loving ‘to the end.’
(4) Rich and powerful. His hand able to answer the dictates of His heart.
(5) Tried and proved—proved both by suffering for us, and suffering from us. Performs all the offices of a loving and faithful Friend—
Pays our debts.
Redeems our person.
Supplies our wants.
Comforts us in trouble.
Counsels us in difficulty.
Warns us of danger.
Reproves and corrects our faults.
Confides to us His secrets.
Delights in our society.
Entrusts us with His interests.
Defends our name and reputation.
Takes our part against all adversaries.
Christ a friend in need and a friend indeed. Rich and blessed the pauper who has Christ for his friend; poor and wretched the prince who has not. A man’s highest wisdom to make Christ his friend while he may. Happy and only happy the man that can say of Him, ‘this is my beloved, and this is my friend.’ Reader, let this happiness be yours.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/