Sunday, May 28th, 2023
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ song-of-solomon-6.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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SECOND INQUIRY BY THE
DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM
Chapter 6. Song of Solomon 6:1
Whither is thy beloved gone,
O thou fairest among women?
Whither is thy beloved turned aside?
That we may seek him with thee
Result of Shulamite’s description of her beloved on the women of the city. Their sympathy excited, and a desire awakened partly to aid her in her search, and partly to see so beautiful and excellent a person for themselves. Shulamite supposed to know something of her beloved’s haunts. Observe—
1. The faithful and loving tetimony for Christ not always unsuccessful. Often made the means of awakening in others the desire to seek Him and become acquainted with Him. ‘Encouragement to be ready to commend a precious Christ.’ Good for preachers and ministers to dwell on the beauty, excellence, and preciousness of the Saviour.
2. Earnest and loving seekers of a known Christ likely instruments in awakening the interest of others in regard to Him. A holy zeal for Christ the natural means of provoking many (2 Corinthians 9:2). Preachers, to be of use in winning others to Christ, must be in earnest about Him themselves, and be able to commend Him both as the Friend of sinners and their own.
3. One end of Christ’s dealings with His people, that they may be the means of leading others to the knowledge and possession of Him. The troubles and afflictions of believers, spiritual as well as physical, often designed for the good of others as well as their own.
4. Every exhibition of Christ’s preciousness and excellence to excite the desire to become personally acquainted with Him, and possess Him for ourselves. Description not to satisfy. ‘Come and see.’ Testimony to issue in personal knowledge. ‘Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42).
5. Earnest seekers of Christ, bearing faithful testimony of Him to others, not likely to be alone in seeking Him. ‘With Thee.’ Thorough earnestness sympathetic. Hence Zechariah 8:20-21. Apparent in extensive revivals of religion. The nature of enthusiasm, like fire, to extend itself. One heart kindled by the warmth of another.
6. Christ most likely to be found when sought in connection with the Bride—His living people. Good to seek Him alone; still better to seek Him with others who are able to help us.
7. ‘With Thee,’ an indication of the mystical and spiritual nature of the Song; otherwise an unacceptable compliment to the Bride.—Henry. Christ’s true lovers and possessors, desire to see their number multiplied as much as possible. Joy in the possession of Christ by one, not diminished but increased, by the possession of Him by another. The Spouse of Christ one body, consisting of a multitude of individuals.
8. Earnestness required in seeking Christ. The earnestness of the ‘daughters’ seen in their repeated inquiry: ‘Whither is thy beloved gone?’ &c.
9. Knowledge of Christ and His ways to be sought with a view to seeking and professing Him. The inquiry of the women made with a practical object: ‘That we may seek Him with thee.’ An unpractical and uninfluential knowledge of Christ of little value. A knowledge of Christ merely ‘after the flesh’ to be renounced (2 Corinthians 5:16).
10. Believers expected to know where Christ is to be found, and to be better acquainted with His ways than other people, to as to be able to guide them in their search after Him.
11. In regard to believers, Christ’s absence only a temporary ‘turning aside,’ not a final departure. ‘In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment’ (Isaiah 54:7-8). The covenant made with believers an everlasting covenant. ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever’ (Hosea 2:19). ‘The Lord will not cast off His people’ (Psalms 94:14; 1 Samuel 12:22).
12. A soul never fairer than when earnestly seeking Christ. The earnestly seeking spouse addressed four times as the ‘fairest among women.’
The inquiring ‘daughters of Jerusalem! represented historically by the Greeks at the Feast, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, the women that followed Christ to the cross and observed the place of His interment, and by the inquirers on and after Pentecost—‘devout men dwelling at Jerusalem, out of every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5; Acts 2:14).
THE INQUIRY ANSWERED
Song of Solomon 6:2
SHULAMITE, to the Daughters
My Beloved is gone down into his garden,
To the beds of spices;
To feed in the gardens,
And to gather lilies.
Shulamite continues her Narrative and Song. Relates her answer to the inquiring women. Suddenly recollects herself, and at once and unhesitatingly declares whither her Beloved is gone. ‘He is gone down to his garden.’ Literally, Solomon’s garden in a valley below Jerusalem, on the South East. The allusion, however, probably to the Bride herself, already called ‘his garden,’ which he had been invited by her to enter and ‘eat his pleasant fruits’ (chap. Song of Solomon 4:16). A delicate hint that the Bridegroom was expected to be with his Bride, and to find his chief enjoyment in her society. So Proverbs 5:15-20. Christ the Bridegroom of His Church to be found in the assemblies of His people (Matthew 18:20; Psalms 132:13-14). Walks among the golden candlesticks (Revelation 2:1). Never absent from His Church in general, though apparently and for a time from individual believers. Observe—
(1) By commending Christ to others we often find Him ourselves.
(2) The spiritual darkness of a believer often broken in upon by a ray of light which at once removes his difficulty and sorrow. Hagar’s eyes had but to be opened to see the fountain by her side. ‘Mary!’ suddenly and in a moment turned her sorrow into joy.
(3) Historically, Christ’s body, after His crucifixion, found in Joseph’s garden, and His Spirit in the paradise of God. The Bride’s answer suggestive of what constitutes
The Saviour’s Joy.
1. The fellowship of His believing people on earth. The Church His ‘garden.’ Separate congregations and individual believers His ‘gardens. Christ goes down ‘into His garden,’ ‘to feed in the gardens.’ Indicated in His call to the Church at Laodicea: ‘I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20). ‘The Lord’s portion is His people.’ ‘He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:17). The name given by Him to His Church: ‘Hephzibah,’ or ‘my delight is in her.’ ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in His people.’ ‘He walketh in the midst of thy camp.’ ‘I will walk in you.’ Christ delights in His Church and people as a man in his garden of fruits, flowers, and spices. Hence the responsibility resting on them to be such that Christ may find in them the enjoyment which He seeks. No unclean thing to be in Israel’s camp. The garden to be kept clean and orderly for the proprietor’s pleasure. Believers to keep their hearts and lives for Christ’s sake as well as their own. The Church to purge out the old leaven of malice and wickedness. To put away from among them the wicked person. To keep the ordinances as delivered to them. To see that all things are done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 14:40). Believers to see that they are bearing not only fruit, but much fruit. All the fruits of the Spirit to be produced in them—love, joy, peace, &c. (Galatians 5:22). ‘I looked that it should bring forth grapes.’ ‘My soul desired the first ripe fruit.’ His complaint that Israel was an empty (or yieding) vine, bringing forth fruit only to himself (Isaiah 5:4; Micah 7:1; Hosea 10:1). Christ leaves His heritage, and ‘gives the dearly beloved of His soul into the hand of her enemies, when it becomes to Him as a ‘speckled bird’ (Jeremiah 12:7-11). A lukewarm Church or Christian He can only spue out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). Believers to see that no root of bitterness springing up trouble them, and defile the garden of Christ. Spices, as well as fruits, to be growing in Christ’s garden. His people and Churches to be ‘beds of spices’—fragrant and attractive, as well as useful.
2. The presence of His people in heaven. ‘He goes down into His garden to gather lilies. Heaven a place of
Lilies, his believing people (chap. Song of Solomon 2:2). Gathered out of His garden on earth for His presence in heaven. Christ first transforms thorns into lilies, then transfers the lilies to Paradise. A world lying in wickedness not a place for His lilies to remain longer than is necessary. Every departed saint a gathered lily. The lilies enjoyed by Christ while growing in His garden below; still more when blooming in the Paradise above. The lilies gathered in fulfilment of His own promise (John 14:2). Preserved safe with Himself till His return, when He brings them with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10). Heaven delightful and attractive as the place of gathered lilies. ‘The spirits of just men made perfect.’ Those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Believers depart to be with Christ. ‘To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.’ Absent from the body, present with the Lord. Lazarus carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. Christ’s lilies in heaven without a spot in them. ‘Without fault before the throne of God.’ Presented as a chaste virgin to Christ. Faultless before the presence of His glory. A glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Holy and without blame before Him in love. All like Himself, seeing Him as He is. The former things passed away. The blessedness of heaven is, that it is free from all moral defilement. The happiness of the glorified, not so much that there is no more sorrow, as that there is no more sin. Christ’s people lily-like here; much more hereafter. No remains of the thorn in heaven. The flesh carried to the grave, but no farther. The lilies gathered for Christ’s own enjoyment as well as that of His people. Each departed believer an accession to the joy of heaven and of heaven’s King. Christ’s heaven to have the hundred and forty and four thousand of His redeemed around Him on Mount Zion, praising the Father in the midst of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn the (Hebrews 2:12; Hebrews 12:23). Hence—
(1) A reason why believers should gladly leave this world.
(2) A ground of sweet consolation in regard to friends who fall asleep in Jesus.
(3) Believers not to grudge Christ the lilies which He gathers.
Song of Solomon 6:3
I am my beloved’s
And my beloved is mine:
He feedeth among the lilies.
Shulamite repeats in presence of the Daughters the declaration of her devotedness to and interest in her beloved which she had formerly made to himself (chap. Song of Solomon 2:16). The declaration possibly now also made in his presence, at the conclusion of her narrative. Perhaps the whole sung in his presence at the Feast, or he himself comes now in view. The language of exultation and joy, as well as of devotedness and love. Observe—
(1) Faith and love in a believer never dead, though sometimes in a swoon. True faith like wood rather than iron—if it sink, it will rise again. A believer’s falls not final. ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not’ (Luke 22:32).
2. Withdrawals on the part of Christ no proof of abated love (John 13:1; Isaiah 54:8). The covenant of grace too firmly established to be broken by the infirmities of the flesh. That covenant steadfast, because of grace and not of works. Christ betroths believers to Himself in faithfulness for ever, because in righteousness and judgment, in loving kindness and in mercies (Hosea 2:19-20). The the way transgressors always hard; but transgression unable to cast out of the covenant of grace as it did out of the covenant of works. God’s faithfulness not affected by His people’s falls. The gifts and calling of God without repentance or change of mind on His part. He pardons His people’s sins though He takes vengeance on their inventions. Rebukes not only consistent with covenant love, but a necessary part of it. The Bridegroom bears with the Bride’s ill manners in the wilderness, though He wisely expresses His displeasure. Withdraws the joy of salvation for a time, though not the salvation itself.
3. The chastened and penitent believer restored to the full consciousness of his interest in Christ, and with that to joy and comfort. Joy unspeakable in a conscious interest in Christ and full surrender to Him.
4. Good for a believer frequently to recal his covenant relationship to Christ, his self-surrender to Him, and his interest in Him. Paul’s comfort in prison,—‘I know whom I have believed; and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day’ (2 Timothy 1:12).
5. Surrender of ourselves to Christ, and acceptance of Him, the two sides of a saving faith. ‘I am His,’ indissolubly connected with ‘He is mine.’ The two confirmatory of each other. Interest in Christ necessarily follows surrender to Christ. The consciousness of the one bound up with the consciousness of the other. Those fleeing to Christ and closing with Him may safely conclude that Christ is theirs.
6. The order of the two first clauses of the text changed from what it was before. The bride’s declaration of self-surrender now first, as having been placed in suspicion by her recent coolness. So Peter, after his threefold denial, must make a threefold declaration of his love. Renewed and open declaration of our faith and love necessary to full restoration to former enjoyment.
7. Christ’s presence, both on earth and in heaven, among His lily-like people. ‘He feedeth among the lilies.’ His presence promised to His Church till the end of the world, when faith is changed to sight. Christ both feeds others and has joy Himself in His Church and its ordinances. To enjoy His presence and His care we must be among the lilies. ‘Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.’ No mark of Christ’s sheep to ‘separate’ ourselves from the flock. The happiness of believers to find themselves among Christ’s people and in the enjoyment of His ordinances. ‘All my springs are in thee.’
8. The text historically verified in the disciples after Christ’s resurrection. ‘Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.’ The language of Shulamite that of Mary at Jesus’s feet—‘Raboonl,’—‘My Master!’ That of Thomas with his finger on the nail-prints,—‘My Lord and my God!’ That of penitent Peter,—‘Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thee.’
The King’s Admiration of His Bride
SCENE SECOND. Place: The Royal Garden. Speaker: The King to Shulamite
Song of Solomon 6:4-10
Thou art beautiful, O, my love, as Tirzah,
Comely as Jerusalem,
Terrible as an army with banners.
Turn away thine eyes from me,
For they have overcome me.
Thy hair is as a flock of goats,
That appear from Mount Gilead.
My teeth are as a flock of sheep,
Which go up from the washing,
Whereof every one beareth twins,
And there is not one barren among them.
As a piece of pomegranate
Are thy temples within thy locks.
There are threescore queens,
And fourscore concubines,
And virgins without number:
My dove, my undefiled, is but one;
She is the only one of her mother;
She is the choice one of her that bare her.
The daughters saw her,
And blessed her;
Yea, the queens and the concubines,
And they praised her:—
‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning,
Fair as the moon,
Clear as the sun,
Terrible as an army with banners?’
The king himself now appears, and expresses his joy in and admiration of his bride, notwithstanding her temporary coldness. Perhaps found by her in the royal gardens, where she had gone to seek him. Possibly only her exclamation on the conclusion of her song at the Marriage Feast. The place and circumstances of the dialogue now more difficult to determine. The application or spiritual meaning of the allegory, however, under the Spirit’s teaching, not difficult to find. Among the truths suggested by the passage, we notice—
1. Christ’s love not forfeited by His people’s falls. Shulamite is still ‘my love.’ So Christ revealed Himself after His resurrection to His disciples, who had forsake Him and fled; and to Peter, who bad thrice denied Him.
2. Earnest seeking after Christ sure to be followed by a happy finding of Him. Fervent longings for His presence succeeded by sweet enjoyment of it. Faith in and love to an unseen Christ sure of His blessing (John 20:29).
3. The penitent believer, seeking Christ sorrowing, the object of His admiration and delight.
4. Christ’s withdrawal from and silence towards His erring people not of long continuance. ‘In a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment,’ &c. (Isaiah 54:9).
5. Christ returns to His people in love when they return to Him in penitence. No upbraiding for past sin. Lays the lost sheep on His shoulder, and returns with it rejoicing (Luke 15:4).
6. The fruit of chastening after a fall only greater endearment.
7. Christ’s views of His people, like His love towards them, unchanged by their falls. Their beauty, on repentance, the same in His eyes as before. The diamond a diamond still, notwithstanding temporary sullying. The beauty of nature fading; that of grace, fast colours.
8. Beauty a character essentially belonging to the Church and believers. ‘Thou art beautiful.’ Observe, in regard to the
1. A moral and spiritual beauty to be recognized, as well as a corporeal or sensuous one. The former as far superior to the latter as the soul and spirit is more excellent than the body, and the divine nature is superior to the human. Spiritual beauty, or the beauty of holiness, a portion of the beauty that is in God Himself; or rather is that beauty itself. Holiness the divine nature and image. Its essence love. That moral and spiritual beauty the beauty of believers. Believers renewed in the image of God. Made partakers of the divine nature. Conformed to the image of Christ, the perfection of beauty. Love the essential feature in their character, and that which distinguishes the children of God. ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity (love), I am as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal,’ &c. (1 Corinthians 13:1). That love, embracing both God and man, the sum of moral beauty, or the beauty of holiness. Believers chosen in Christ by God the Father, and blessed with all spiritual blessings, that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4). Beautified with salvation—salvation from sin into holiness. The Church’s holy beauty the delight of her divine Lord (Psalms 45:10-11). The Bride’s beauty compared to that of Tirzah, the royal city of one of the ancient kings of Canaan, and afterwards the metropolis of the kings of Israel. In Solomon’s time the northern, as Jerusalem was the southern, capital of Palestine. Its name, denoting the ‘pleasant’ or ‘agreeable,’ probably given from its situation or appearance.
9. A comeliness as well as a beauty belonging to the Church and to believers. ‘Comely as Jerusalem.’ Comeliness closely allied to beauty. Conveys the additional idea of pleasantness. The sweetness and the pleasantness of beauty. Shulamite comely—pleasant to look upon and converse with, as well as beautiful. In this respect also the Bride’s beauty a counterpart and reflection of the Bridegroom: ‘Thou art fair, my beloved; yea, pleasant’ (chap. Song of Solomon 1:16). A comeliness, as well as a beauty, in holiness. The one to be cultivated and exhibited by believers as well as the other. Believers to be, like Christ, not only loving but lovely. Their character to embrace not only whatsoever things are true, just, and pure, and honest, but ‘whatsoever things are lovely’ (Philippians 4:8). Christ not only the holiest, but the most attractive of men, even to publicans, and sinners, and little children. Believers to resemble Him by imbibing His Spirit. ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Shulamite’s comeliness compared to that of ‘Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem the city of the great King. Beautiful for situation. The joy of the whole earth. At first a stronghold of the Jebusites; afterwards the metropolis of Palestine and residence of the kings of Judah. Its name—the ‘City or Foundation of Peace.’ Mostly surrounded by mountains. Compactly built. Fortified by lofty walls. Adorned with palaces. Beautified and ennobled especially by the temple, the peculiar abode of Jehovah, in the midst of it. An emblem of the Church in its unity and brotherhood, its security and peace, and especially in its being the chosen habitation of God through His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:20-21). The Church’s beauty not so much her own as that of Him who dwells in her.
10. A terribleness as well as comeliness in the Church’s beauty. ‘Terrible as an army with banners.’ Something in extraordinary beauty that awes beholders and forbids approach. ‘Terror in love and beauty, not approached by stronger hate.’—Milton. A terribleness in holiness or spiritual beauty. ‘He perceived how awful goodness is, while in its form most lovely.’ Terribleness and beauty combined in the Church when enjoying much of the Divine presence and blessing. ‘Kings of armies did flee apace,’ while Israel was ‘as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold’ (Psalms 68:12-13. So Psalms 48:1-6). The people magnified the Pentecostal Church at Jerusalem, while awed by its holiness and afraid to join themselves at its (Acts 2:43; Acts 5:13). Paul terrible both to Felix and Agrippa. Believers walking in their true character as kings and priests to God, not only amiable but awful. Observe, in regard to
The Church’s Terribleness
I. The GROUNDS of it.
1. Her holy and spiritual character. The Church terrible through the heavenly walk and spirit of her members. One believer, by this Christ-like spirit, able to overawe a multitude.
2. The presence of Christ, promised to His Church and to His people individually. ‘God is in the midst of her.’ ‘I am with you alway.’ ‘Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.’
3. The power committed to her. ‘Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come you.’ ‘Tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.’ That power exhibited—
(1) In the Church’s prayers and the answers to them. ‘By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us.’ The earthquake at Philippi connected with the prayers of Paul and Silas in the prison. The power of Elijah’s prayers to be repeated in the Church of Christ (James 5:16-18; Revelation 11:6). The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints ascending up before God, followed by ‘voices and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake’ (Revelation 8:4-5).
(2) In the Church’s ordinances, and especially its faithful preaching. ‘Strength’ as well as ‘beauty’ in God’s sanctuary. Power with the Word, both to convince and to convert. The hearers is ‘convinced of all and judged of all, and the secrets of his heart made manifest; so that falling down on his face he worships God and reports that God is among you for truth’ (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). So Felix trembled before Paul. ‘The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4).
(3) In its discipline. A disciplinary power committed to the Church by its Head,—to bind and to loose, to remit or to retain sins (Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18; John 20:23). The Kingdom of God not in word but in power. ‘I have judged already, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus’ (1 Corinthians 4:20; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5). Effects of the spiritual and faithful exercise of discipline by the Church realized from the age of the Apostles to our own.
II. The OBJECTS of it. The Church terrible to her adversaries (2 Corinthians 10:4). So Israel in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 33:29; Deuteronomy 2:25; Exodus 15:14-16; Numbers 24:5; Psalms 48:5-6; Psalms 68:12). ‘Satan trembles when he sees,’ &c. A holy Church and a spiritual believer the terror of the devil. ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?’ The Church terrible in the eyes of her adversaries only as she is beautiful in those of Christ. More formidable to her enemies when arrayed in the beauties of holiness, than when armed with Acts of Parliament, and the sword of the civil magistrate. The Church, when faithful, ever terrible to her adversaries and to the world in general. Tyrants made to tremble by the constancy and firmness of believers (Acts 24:25). Mary, Queen of Scotland, more afraid of Knox’s prayers than of an army of soldiers. Attila overawed by Leo and his attending presbyters. Sin and ungodliness often put to shame by the zeal and consistency of a single believer (Hebrews 11:33-35). Christ’s weak Bride, both collectively and individually, mightier by her faith, holiness, and prayers, than the combined hosts of earth and hell. Samson in his locks of consecration and Nazariteship, a terror to the Philistines.
III. The NATURE of her terribleness. ‘As an army with banners.’ The Church terrible in her militant character as arrayed against the powers of evil. An army with banners terrible from its arms and armour flashing in the sun, its numbers, its order and array, its unity and compactness, its courageous spirit, determined mien, undaunted aspect, and firm step; resolved to conquer or to die in the conflict. The Church of Christ terrible as an
Army with Banners,
1. With Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, as its commander-in-chief, the Captain of the Lord’s host, the Captain of our salvation. The Church led on by Him who has already ‘overcome the world,’ and ‘spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them in His cross’ (Colossians 2:15; John 16:33).
2. Marshalled under subordinate leaders. ‘He gave gifts; some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers’ (Ephesians 4:8-11). Every pastor and Church ruler an officer under Christ.
3. Arrayed with goodly order, and governed by wholesome discipline. The Apostle’s joy in beholding the ‘order’ of the Church at Colosse (Colossians 2:5). His direction: ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’ (1 Corinthians 14:40.) A Church with Scripture order and discipline something terrible to the world.
4. Divided into various sections. Israel marched through the wilderness in four divisions, exclusive of the Levites (Numbers 10:14-28). One Church and yet many Churches. An army composed of many regiments, each with its own uniform and banner, yet serving one King and obeying one Commander-in-chief. Christian Societies and Missions in the Church as the battalions and squadrons of an army.
5. Animated with one spirit. Unity without uniformity the order of Christ’s army. One body and one spirit; one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-5). The Church’s terribleness seen and felt when its members stand ‘steadfast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel’ (Philippians 1:27).
6. Furnished with suitable armour and weapons. The armour of Christ’s Church—the helmet of the hope of salvation; the breast-plate of righteousness, faith, and love; the girdle of truth; the shoes of the Gospel of peace; the shield of faith. As John Bunyan remarks—no armour for the back. Christ’s soldiers expected not to flee but to fight. Their weapons the arrows of truth, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and earnest, believing, and persevering prayer. Believers’ armour a panoply provided by God Himself—‘the whole armour of God’ (Ephesians 6:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8). The armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left (2 Corinthians 6:7). Their weapons not carnal, but mighty through God (2 Corinthians 10:4).
7. Distinguished by appropriate banners. Israel’s host in the wilderness said to have marched under four standards (Numbers 10:14-28). A banner given by Christ to be displayed because of the truth. His banner that waves over His people, Love. Christ himself set up for an ensign. Some of the emblems on the Church’s banners—a Lamb as it had been slain; a Cross; a Shepherd, carrying a lamb in His bosom. Some of their mottoes: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.’ ‘He loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.’ ‘The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.’
The army of the Church composed of all who as sinners accept of Christ as a Saviour, and surrender themselves to Him as their King. Every true conversion to Christ an enlistment. Every genuine Christian a soldier of Jesus Christ. Baptism and Church membership a nominal enrolment. The baptized and professors found in the ranks of the world and the devil, deserters from Christ. Professing Christians, with the heart still in the world, traitors in the camp. The Church, as an army, not only prepared for battle, but always in it. Its enemies the world, the flesh, and the devil. Their worst enemy within—fleshly lusts that war against the soul—the law in the members warring against the law of the mind (1 Peter 2:11; Romans 7:23). The devil to be daily resisted (1 Peter 5:8-9). The world to be overcome by the disciple as by the Master and in the Master’s strength (1 John 5:4-5). The world to be won for Christ. Hardness to be endured as by good soldiers. Perseverance in the conflict to be maintained to the end. Victory certain. Every believer already a conqueror, fully in Christ and partly in his own person. The conflict hastens to a close. The crowning at hand.
The true and spiritual Church of Christ, ‘His body and the fulness of Him that filleth all in all,’ the living embodiment of Christianity. That Christianity ‘no failure; not feeble, but strong; not vanquished, but valorous and victorious; a spiritual power in the midst of a godless world; working in the early centuries, and during the middle ages, and ever since; working in spite of resistance and corruption, in spite of violence and sophistry, in spite of errors and perversions; often apparently imperilled, but never really overcome; assailed, but invincible; warred against, but triumphant.’—Stoughton’s Ages of Christendom.
Christ’s joy in His Church not only from her beauty and comeliness, but her terribleness. Believers never fairer in His eyes than when going forth in His strength to the spiritual conflict, and fighting the good fight of faith. The Bridegroom delights in contemplating his Bride as an army with banners led on by Himself as Her Captain. The Church often fairest in Christ’s eyes when foulest in the eyes of the world. Most like her Lord when incurring the world’s hatred, because testifying against its sin. ‘Me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil.’ ‘If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you’ (John 7:7; John 15:18).
The description in the text realized in the Pentecostal Church to the present day. To be so still more hereafter (Revelation 19:8; Revelation 19:14).
The Bridegroom acknowledges the power of the Bride’s beauty over himself. ‘Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me.’ Eyes mentioned as the principal seat of beauty, and the expression of the soul. The language of the eye often more powerful than that of the tongue. A look from Christ broke Peter’s heart; a look from Peter overcomes His own. The part of the believer to have power with God as well as with men; with God first, then with men. The believer’s power with Christ in the look of penitence, dependence, and prayer. ‘He wept and made supplication unto him. He had power with the angel and prevailed’ (Hosea 12:3-4). Christ unable to hold out against the beseeching eye of the woman of Sidon. The pleading eye of the penitent thief drew forth from the dying Saviour His longest utterance on the cross. The eyes of the Spouse like those of doves. The more dove-like the believer, the more power he has with Christ. Doves’ eyes overcome the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The proper character of the believer’s eyes that they ‘are ever toward the Lord’ (Psalms 25:15). Not lofty, but waiting on the Lord until he have mercy (Psalms 123:1-2; Psalms 131:1). Hence the believer strongest when he is weakest. Paul’s paradox: ‘When I am weak, then am I strong.’ ‘The lame take the prey.’ ‘Christ constrained by the earnest love of His dependent people (Luke 24:29-30).
The particular description now given of the Bride’s beauty mostly a repetition of a former one (chap. Song of Solomon 4:1, &c.). Lips, neck, and breasts, only now omitted.
1. The Church’s beauty a permanent one. May, however, be more fully exhibited at one time than another. The same parts and features not always equally developed. In the Seven Churches, some things commended, and the want and weakness of others reproved. The Church at Ephesus praised for its patience and its works, but blamed for having left its first love. Israel’s love warmest at the earliest period of their history. ‘I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals.’ Peter’s fall brought his love into question, and perhaps for a time cooled its ardour. ‘Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.’ Young converts to preserve the ardour of their first love, and so to guard against the chilling influence of the world around them. Probably the earliest and the latest periods of the Church’s history those of its greatest spiritual beauty. Believers to seek to cultivate all the graces of the Spirit. To be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. To pursue, possess, and exhibit whatsoever things are true, just, pure, honest, lovely, and of good report: ‘if there be any virtue and if there be any praise.’
2. Christ’s love to His Church unchanged and unchanging. Speaks comfort according to the requirements of her case. Assurance of continued love and esteem needed after reproof for undutiful conduct. So with Peter after his fall. The charge to feed Christ’s lambs and sheep renewed as often as he had before denied His Master.
3. Truth requires repetition. Believers need to be reminded of what they have heard, and to have their minds stirred up by way of remembrance (Philippians 3:1; 2 Peter 3:1-2). More earnest heed to be given to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. Line to be given upon line, and precept upon precept. Truth not easily imprinted on the mind so as to be retained, recollected, and always realized. The Spirit specially given to bring to our remembrance whatsoever Christ has said to us in His Word. Words spoken by Christ to His disciples after His resurrection those He had spoken before, but which they had either not understood or had forgotten (Luke 24:44). Words spoken by Christ must be spoken again by Himself, in order to have their relish and effect. Believers to be frequently reminded of their proper character and holy calling as Christ’s Bride, in order to be the more careful to exemplify that character, and to walk according to that calling.
The Bride commended by the Bridegroom as superior to all others. ‘There are threescore queens,’ &c. Possible allusion to the Ladies of an Oriental Harem. Something similar in Solomon’s own Court at a later period of his life (1 Kings 11:1-3). Perhaps only a comparison intended between Shulamite and all other women, even the queens, concubines, or secondary wives, and virgins, or candidates for that position, belonging to all Oriental Courts. Solomon’s Bride attended by ladies of high rank. King’s daughters among his ‘honourable women,’ while the queen stood at his right hand, accompanied by her virgins (Psalms 45:9; Psalms 45:14). The comparison viewed in relation to the
Church of Christ,
1. The excellence of Christ’s Church or true believers. None of all the queens, concubines, or virgins to be compared with Shulamite. Christ’s ‘little flock’ more beautiful and precious in His eyes than all other members of the human family, whatever their position, talents, or acquirements. This, however, not from anything in themselves, either original or acquired by their own efforts. ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ ‘Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty,’ &c. ‘God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him.’ Christ’s chosen, redeemed, and regenerated people His ‘beautiful flock.’ Made comely with His comeliness put upon them. The best and most gifted of unrenewed men, in comparison to the subjects of His grace, but as ‘chaff to the wheat.’ The saints in Cesar’s household the true royalty—kings and priests unto God. The true ‘Sons of Zion,’ as partakers of Christ and His Spirit, ‘comparable to fine gold.’ Out of Christ, men at the best but flesh, and carnally minded. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. But the mind of the flesh is enmity against God. To be carnally-minded is death. The carnal mind not subject to the law of God, nor can be. ‘In me, that is, in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing.’ Apart from renewing grace, men have not the love of God in them. The character of the unregenerate, that they love the praise of men more than the praise of God; are alienated from the life of God; are without God in the world; and do not seek after God, but mind earthly things. The comparison in the text true also of the Church of Christ collectively, as a visible and organized community, in relation to all other bodies of men, whether civil or religious. True, notwithstanding all the defects to be found in the Church visible; but true in the degree in which it approaches the Scriptural model, ‘the pattern showed in the Mount.’ The reason is, that the Holy Spirit is ever more or less at work in it, renewing men in the image of God. ‘The abode of the Spirit in the Church, from Pentecost, is a fact. A succession of ages is presented, on all of which the spirit sets a seal.’ Even in those ages, ‘overshadowed by ignorance and spiritual despotism, the light of the Spirit’s presence may be traced amidst the gloom; not only amongst those who stood apart from the corruptions of Christendom, but even in the heart of the Roman Church. Faith, love, and purity may be found in the lives of many in that communion; connected, it is true, with error and superstition, with much that was foolish, and worse than foolish; but yet faith, love, and purity were there—all the more manifestly, indeed, for the evils and hindrance that surrounded them.’—Stoughton’s Ages of Christendom.
2. The Unity of the Church. ‘My love, my undefiled is one, the only one of her mother.’ This unity farther expressive of the Church’s excellence. Shulamite more precious and excellent in her mother’s eyes than all her other children, and in her Bridegroom’s eyes than all the Queens, concubines, and virgins united. Her excellence enabled her to stand alone—one against ten thousand. Perfection needs no help or addition, and admits of none. The one diamond in the ring more precious than all the stones set round about it. The Church of Christ one in herself. ‘Jerusalem is a city that is compact together’—united or made one in herself. ‘One body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’ Apostles and other gifts bestowed by the Church’s Head, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in (or into) the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:4-5; Ephesians 4:12-13). The Church many individuals, and many separate congregations and organizations, but one Church. Its true members the one Bride of Christ, united to Him by a living faith, and inhabited by His Spirit. United also to each other by a substantially common faith; by a common inward life, which is Christ Himself living in them by His Spirit; by a common birth and common nature, that of the Spirit, in virtue of which they are all made God’s children; and by a common love, as, notwithstanding all their diversities, brethren of each other. Christ’s prayer that that unity might be increasingly and perfectly developed and displayed to the world. That unity much more precious than uniformity in rites, ceremonies, and Church government, and independent of it. Exhibited in the Lord’s Supper: ‘We, being many, are one bread.’
3. The greatness of Christ’s love to His Church. Solomon’s love concentrated on Shulamite. So Christ’s love in regard to His redeemed. Israel loved by Jehovah with a peculiar love (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Psalms 147:19-20; Psalms 148:14). The Lord ‘loveth the stranger to give him food and raiment:’ but loved Israel with the love of a Bridegroom. ‘You only have I known of all the nations of the earth.’ The love of the Father and of Christ to the Church, also a peculiar love. A general divine love towards all mankind. ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,’ &c. A special love to His Church. Christ ‘loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.’
4. The undividedness of the Church’s love to Christ. ‘My dove, my undefiled.’ Shulamite’s love to the Bridegroom that of the dove, distinguished for its undivided attachment to its mate. Herself ‘undefiled,’ as loving him with an undivided love. The mark of Christ’s true Spouse to be able to say: ‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none on earth that I desire besides Thee.’ ‘What have I to do any more with idols?’ ‘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, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.’ ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.’ The whole heart sought by Christ, and yielded through His grace. ‘My son, give me thy heart.’ His complaint against the nominal Israel: ‘Their heart is divided.’ The prayer of the regenerate: ‘Unite my heart that I may fear Thy name.’ The part of grace to make the double heart single.
5. The smallness of the Church as compared with the world. Shulamite one; the queens, concubines and virgins many. So with the true spiritual Church of Christ at any period of her history. In comparison with the world, and even with religious professors, Christ’s believing people but a ‘little flock.’ ‘We are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.’ Among the Gentiles, as in Israel, the saved only a ‘remnant according to the election of grace.’ The gate of life straight, and ‘few there be that find it.’ The prophet’s complaint regarding Israel a general one: ‘Who hath believed our report?’ So the Saviour’s own, as addressed to the multitude: ‘Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.’ The Gospel preached among the nations to ‘take out a people for His name.’ God hath ‘chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty.’ Christ’s Church His ‘hidden ones,’ whom ‘the world knoweth not, even as it knew Him not.’ Yet collectively, a ‘multitude that no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues’ (Revelation 7:9).
Shulamite represented in the text as an object of admiration and praise to spectators. ‘The daughters saw her, and blessed her (pronounced her happy)’ &c. The Bride’s beauty and excellence thus strongly commended by her royal Bridegroom, who extols her as the object of admiration to those who might have been her rivals. The New Testament Church and converted Israel similarly spoken of by the prophet. ‘Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed’ (Isaiah 61:9). Jerusalem to be made a praise in the earth and a joy of many generations (Isaiah 60:15; Isaiah 62:7). Israel was to be an object of admiration and wonder to other lands, on account of the wisdom and understanding through the Divine law which had been committed to them, and to be made ‘high in praise, and in name, and in honour above all the nations’ (Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 26:19; Jeremiah 33:9). A thing which actually happened (Ezekiel 16:14; 1 Kings 10:8). So after the effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the people collected from every nation under heaven, wondered when they heard the illiterate Galilæans declaring in all their respective languages, ‘the wonderful works of God.’ Subsequently, the infant Church at Jerusalem ‘had favour with all the people’ who ‘magnified them’ (Acts 2:6-11; Acts 2:47; Acts 5:13). The rulers, ‘seeing the boldness of Peter and John, marvelled, and took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.’ The council ‘looking steadfastly on Stephen’ as he stood before them, ‘saw his face as it had been the face of an angel’ (Acts 4:13; Acts 6:15). King Agrippa, hearing and seeing Paul, ‘almost persuaded’ to become a Christian. The testimony of the heathen in regard to the early Christians: ‘See how these Christians love one another!’ ‘They are astonished who behold thy order.’—Theodoret. Believers the living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men. So to live that others seeing their good works may glorify their Father who is heaven. ‘They magnified the grace of God in me’ (Galatians 1:24). Men to see that faith in Jesus makes believers not only holy but happy. Others to be attracted to Christ by what they see in His people (Zechariah 8:23). ‘Now I saw in my dreams that Christian went not forth alone; for there was one whose name was Hopeful (being so made by beholding of Christian and Faithful in their words and behaviour, in their sufferings at the Fair), who joined himself unto him. Thus one died to bear testimony to the truth, and another rises out of his ashes to be a companion with Christian in his pilgrimage.’ The language of the admiring daughters apparently given: ‘Who is she that looketh forth,’ &c. Perhaps the exclamation of the king’s female attendants, as they saw Shulamite enter the garden while they had accompanied him. The language, not of ignorance, but of admiration. That in the Church of Christ fitted to awaken the wonder and admiration of the world. The Church a wonder in heaven (Revelation 12:1). The Apostles a ‘spectacle to the world, to angels and to men’ (1 Corinthians 4:9). In reference to
New Testament Believers,
The language suggestive of—
I. Their POSTURE. ‘That looketh forth as the morning.’ Indicates—
1. Deliverance and change for the better. The morning looks forth out of the darkness of the night. The shadow of death turned into the morning. The case—
(1) Of the Church at and after Pentecost. ‘Ye shall have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice.’ Darkness made light before them. ‘The day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness.’ ‘The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.’ At Pentecost the light of the moon made as the light of the sun.
(2) Of believers at conversion. ‘His going forth is prepared as the morning.’ The converted and believing soul goes forth out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberty, out of death into life. ‘Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.’ Believers are children of the light and of the day. Not of the night nor of the darkness. Possess of the day-star in their hearts.
(3) Of the Church at the Resurrection. All comparatively night with the Church till Jesus comes. Her chief beauty and blessedness connected with His glorious appearing, when she looks forth from the night of tribulation and the darkness of the grave. ‘In the beauty of holiness, from the womb of the morning, thou hast the dew of thy youth.’ ‘He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10).
2. Cheerfulness and confidence. The face not now hidden or cast down from sorrow, shame, or fear. From Mount Olivet the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy. After Pentecost they ‘did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God.’ The council marvelled at the boldness of Peter and John, and saw the face of Stephen as the face of an angel. Believers having peace with God through Jesus Christ, rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, glory in tribulation, and have joy in God Himself (Romans 5:1, &c.). Conscious enjoyment of God’s favour the health of a man’s countenance. In Christ we receive at conversion, ‘not the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father!’ Confidence towards God a fruit of faith in His Son. He hath given us, ‘not the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and of a sound mind.’ The promise connected with the Lord’s appearing: ‘For their shame they shall have double; and for their confusion they shall rejoice in their portion’ (Isaiah 61:7).
3. Interest in others. The law of Christ’s kingdom: ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.’ Believers after Pentecost looked forth with pity and concern on a world lying in wickedness. Their calling: ‘Ye shall be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.’ Preach ‘repentance and the forgiveness of sins in My name to all nations.’ ‘Freely ye have received; freely give.’ The Gospel committed to the Church for the world’s salvation. Believers to hold forth to others the Word of life. To look forth on the multitudes with the bowels of Christ. To go, in the spirit and steps of their Master, to ‘seek and save that which is lost.’ The world to be won for Christ.
II. Their APPEARANCE. A threefold comparison—
1. ‘Fair as the moon.’ The moon, with her borrowed light, an object of beauty for the whole earth she looks upon. Beautiful when rolling on with unclouded grandeur. So Homer—
——The moon, refulgent lamp of night,
O’er heaven’s clear azure spreads her sacred light.
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
And not a cloud o’ercasts the solemn scene.
——The conscious swains, rejoicing in the sight,
Eye the blue vaults and bless the useful light.
Still more beautiful when her path is through dark masses or patches of clouds—
Rising in clouded majesty, at length,
Apparent queen! unveil’d her peerless light,
And o’er the dark her silver mantle threw.
Still more so, perhaps, in her virgin crescent. So the Church of Christ, faithfully reflecting to a world still in darkness the light she receives from the Sun of Righteousness, an object of beauty to men and angels. All the more beautiful when her path is through dark clouds of trial and adversity—her usual course in this world. The proper character of believers to be ‘fair’ in their doings, dealings, and general demeanour. To cultivate and exhibit ‘whatsoever things are pure, lovely, and of good report.’ The Church’s fair face to be soiled with tears, but not with sin. Her character after Pentecost (Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:32-34).
2. ‘Clear as the sun.’ The Church’s path progressive. A refulgence belonging to the sun above that of the moon. The New Testament Church clothed with the sun, while the moon is under her feet (Revelation 12:1). The Lord Himself, the Sun of Righteousness, her everlasting light. Believers partakers of His glory. Even now the prayer of Deborah in part fulfilled: ‘Let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might’ (Judges 5:31). Fully hereafter. ‘The righteoun shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father’ (Matthew 13:43). We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory (1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:4). Believers to be clear in their character, their conscience, and their creed. Christ’s Church to be like Cesar’s wife—above suspicion.
3. ‘Terrible as an army with banners.’ The comparison to a bannered host already made. The allusion here not unlikely to the celestial host, the stars, as they appear marshalled in the midnight sky, when ‘He bringeth out their host by number.’ The third comparison probably taken from the same class of objects as the first and second. The stars, as seen in Syria, especially resplendent. Something overpowering and awe-inspiring in the countless starry worlds, varying in magnitude, brilliancy, and colour, as they throng the deep blue vault of heaven. The Church not only fair and clear but terrible; and terrible as she is fair and clear. Attractive yet terrible. Burning yet unconsumed. The Church’s faithful ministers especially, as stars in the Saviour’s right hand. They that turn many to righteousness to shine as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3). The whole regenerate Church to be seen one day by an astonished world as a countless starry host, of which ‘one star differeth from another star in glory.’ The description of the Church in this verse, and the kindred one in verse fourth, among the most magnificent passages in the Song. The distinction between the two, that the former takes its comparisons from terrestrial, the latter from celestial objects. Perhaps pointing to the distinction between the Church while militant on earth, and the same Church when triumphant in heaven; the former description concluding with the simile of an army marshalled for battle under its banner, the latter with that of glittering stars peacefully shining in the midnighty sky. Conflict first, then rest. First the fight, then the feast.
“There they who with their Leader,
Have conquer’d in the fight,
For ever and for ever,
Shall shine as stars of light.”
Song of Solomon 6:12. Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.
The speaker in this and the preceding verse differently understood by expositors. According to many, the Bridegroom is the Speaker. Among the moderns, HAHN observes: The King had gone down to enjoy the beauty of spring in his native plains, after the virgin’s refusal. KITTO: Had gone down to his garden to admire its beauty. J. H. MICHAELIS: Bridegroom relates his joyful doing and saying. A large portion of interpreters view the Bride as the speaker. THEODORET: Bride gives the reason for her not obeying the Bridegroom’s call. DELITZSCH: Bride relates where she had been. EWALD: Begins to relate how she had been surprised by the royal cortége while in her garden, and what happened to her on her first being brought to the King’s Court. ZOCKLER: Describes how she had been occupied before being brought to the royal Court, and how that had taken place. PERCY, GOOD, and BOOTHROYD: Spoken by the Bride, who had gone to meet her spouse. M. STUART: The Bride always the narrator in the Song. Some expositors, however, view the Bridegroom as the Speaker in the preceding verse, and the Bride in this.
‘Or ever I was aware,’ לֹא יָדַעְתִּי to yadha’ti; literally, I knew not. GESENIUS: I observed or expected not; יָדַע used also of observing. ZÖCKLER: ‘I knew not;’ viz., that her lover was the King. DELITZSCH: That my soul exalted me,’ &c. EWALD: ‘That my pleasure brought me,’ &c., i.e., it happened without my knowing it. ‘My soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib’ (שָׂמַתְנִי מַרְכְּבוֹת עַמִּי־נָדִיב samathni markebhoth ammi-nadhibh). A construction like Psalms 134:2, and Ezekiel 17:5. Perhaps מַרְכְּבוֹת for בּמַרְכּבוֹה, as 1 Samuel 8:11. Most of the MSS. read עַמִי נָדְיב as two words (ammi nadib i.e, my willing people); though upwards of twenty read as one, like the Septuagint and Vulgate. According to GESENIUS, עַמִּי is the construct state of עַם with Yod annexed, but not as the pronominal suffix, my. EWALD, however, reads with the suffix,—my people, i.e., the people to which I belong. GESENIUS understands the noun as denoting friends or company (from עָמַם to collect); and נָדִיב as another noun, ‘the prince;’ from נָדַב ‘to impel;’ hithpael, ‘to offer oneself willingly;’ hence נדיב ready, prompt, liberal, princely; and as a noun, a prince: the expression in the text denoting ‘the Prince’s people or company.’ NOYES: The prince’s train. M. STUART: the attendants of the prince. ZOCKLER: Expresses the full display of the pomp and power of the kingdom. According to others, the two words are united in the proper name of a person celebrated for his swift chariots. So MERCER, GROTIUS, PATRICK and others: some noted captain, who easily pursued his victories with the swittest chariots. HARMER: a furious driver of the age; the expression indicating the greatest precipitation. According to some Latin writers, Amminadib, the father of Naasson. For שָׂמַתְנִי Döderlein reads שַׂמַּתנִי ‘made me amazed;’ apparently the reading of the Vulgate, which has: My soul disturbed me on account of the four-horsed chariots of Amminadib. Similarly, SYMMACHUS: I was in perplexity for, &c. The SEPTUAGINT has: My soul knew not (reading ידעת) he (or it) made me, &c. WICKLIFF and the DOUAI Version follow the Vulgates: My soul disturbed or troubled me for, &c. CRANMER and the BISHOP’S BIBLE: I knew not that my soul had made me the chariots of the people that be under tribute. GENEVA. VERSION: I knew nothing; my soul set me as the chariots of my noble people. COVERDALE and MATTHEWS: Then the chariots of the proud of my people made me suddenly afraid. LUTHER: My soul knew it not, that he had set or made me the chariots of Amminadib. DIODATI: I was not aware that my desire rendered me like the chariots of A. MARTIN: I did not perceive myself, that my affection rendered me like the chariots of A. DUTCH: Before I knew it, my soul set me on the chariots of my willing people. CASTALIO: My soul rendered me unawares like, &c. MERCER: I knew not, my soul made or placed me the chariots, &c. PAGNINUS and BRIGHTMAN: As the chariots, &c. MUNSTER: To be the chariots, &c. PJSCATOR, JUNIUS, and TREMELLIUS: When I perceived not this, viz: that the vines were bending, &c. AINSWORTH: My soul set me, i.e., I put myself, &c.; the language of earnest desire and affection, as Ecclesiastes 7:28; Song of Solomon 1:7. DURHAM: I was made like, or, I was set on the chariots, &c. Editor of CALMET: My affections transported me like, &c J. H. MICHAELIS: I knew not how, my soul placed me on, &c. PERCY, GOOD, BOOTHROYD; I knew not the irresolution of my mind, which made me withdraw swift in the chariots, &c. DEL RIO: I perceived not [thy love to me, because] my mind disturbed me on account of, &c. ROSENMULLER: Made me like, i.e., swift as the chariots, &c. HOLDEN: Before I was aware, my soul hurried me away with anxious thoughts of my beloved. FRY: My heart made me like, &c. SANCTIUS: So courageous in following after the missing Bridegroom. UMBREIT: Made me into a chariot of, &c., i.e., a princess. GESENIUS, HITZIG, EWALD: Transported me; made me happy among the chariots, &c. HODGSON: My fancy conceived myself on the chariots, &c. MERCER explains: Unawares an incredible desire impelled me to go to the garden where my beloved was; and I went with such speed that I did not perceive I was like, &c. JUNIUS and PISCATOR: Not seeing the Bride ready for the marriage, I took speedy counsel what I should do for her until that time. VATABLUS: I used the quickest carriages, those used by prince; so quickly did I return to my Bridegroom, SANCTIUS: I knew not that the Bridegroom had gone down to the garden; my soul disturbed me for the chariots, &c., lest I should meet them; or lest! should not be permitted to ascend them. PATRICK: I did not know it, or think so,—was not conscious of such perfections: thy praises put such motions in my soul as to make me to aim at the highest perfection, and use all haste to its attainment. DURHAM: I knew not till I was transported with an irresistible power of love to my Bridegroom. A. CLARKE: Implies strong agitation of mind, palpitation of heart. FRY: Describes the fluttering of fear, being taken by surprise and driven to flight. PERCY: Expresses a heart palpitating between love, bashfulness, fear, and other tender passions; the meeting probably by appointment. FRY: I was not aware,—her retirement being suddenly interrupted. GESENIUS: Suddenly, while walking in the garden, I unexpectedly saw myself surrounded with the chariots of the king’s companions. WILLIAMS: The affection of the prince carried him to meet his Bride with the rapidity of a chariot of A. KITTO: Solomon unexpectedly sees Shulamite. CLAY: His soul bounds towards her in swift affection as she now makes her appearance in the garden. DELITZSCH: I knew not that my soul exalted me, &c.; it was not by self-exaltation, but by the impulse of her own love,—not forgetful of her humble origin. M. STUART: Expresses her ignorance as to where he was, and her diligence in seeking him; her great haste from the strength of her affection, or her courage and resolution in surmounting all difficulties for his sake. ZOCKLER: Indicates sudden elevation to royal dignity, and her desire to be wholly his.
The passage variously allegorized. TARGUM: The Lord consults with Himself for the good of Israel. RASHI: Israel complains of the consequence of her sin in falling under the power of Rome. THEODORET: The Church complains of the heathen whom she sought to evangelize, but who attacked her and became as Satan’s chariot. AMBROSE: The soul’s subjection to the four passions till Christ mounts the chariot. DEL RIO: The Jews converted in the latter days excuse their long continuance in blindness and obstinancy. BRIGHTMAN: The conversion of the Jews as a thing beyond all expectation, and the ready aid given by the Gentiles in their restoration (Isaiah 66:20). GREGORY and many of the Latins view the chariot as that of Christ, drawn by the four evangelists. COCCEIUS sees in the passage a prophetic reference to the warlike expeditions of the Hussites under Ziska; Christ’s pity for His oppressed people, and his ready assistance to their endeavours. AINSWORTH observes, that Christ uses His servants as chariots, for His ‘willing people’ to be brought as an oblation to the Lord. (Isaiah 66:20). GILL sees in the passage the swiftness as well as the majesty and glory with with which Christ visits His Church: not finding the plants as He expected, He speedily employs methods for making them so: or, He returns with a transport of love to His Church. Bride of Christ: Christ in viewing the plants planted by His Father, is filled with the joy of one who finds himself suddenly surrounded with His willing people. HAWKER: The Bride conscious of the effect of Christ’s visit to her, her soul being suddenly and blessedly on fire. M. STUART: The Bride suddenly transported with desire to return to her Lord and King. J. H. MICHAELIS: Christ speaks after the manner of men, as if not expecting such an event, or not knowing what to do. So CALOVIUS and COCCEIUS. DAVIDSON: Christ takes His willing people, as it were, in the chariots of His commands, and brings them to Mount Zion, the Christian Church. THRUPP: The Church unexpectedly made the source and channel of victorious might to all the willing people of God. HAHN: The Gospel in its fourfold history carried rapidly through the world; and, without thinking a moment longer, constrained by the long restrained love of His heart, Christ mounts, as Captain of the Host, the chariots of His people, to bring the penitent to Himself, and to fulfil. His vocation, as Israel’s King, in bringing back conquered Heathendom into the tents of Shem.
Married Life and its Incidents
CHAPTER 6:6, 10–8:14
SCENE FIRST. Place: The Royal Palace. Speakers: Solomon and Shulamite
THE KING’S HAPPINESS IN HIS BRIDE
Song of Solomon 6:11-12
I went down to the garden of nuts,
To see the fruits of the valley;
To see whether the vine flourished
And the pomegranate budded.
Or ever I was aware,
My soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.
The concluding part of the Song appears to exhibit the mutual happiness enjoyed by the married pair. In the words before us the King apparently presented as expressing the joy he experienced in the possession and society of his Bride. Exhibits, spiritually, the delight which the Lord Jesus finds in His Church as the Bride whom He has betrothed and united to Himself. Husbands taught to love their wives from the example of Christ in His love to His blood-bought Church (Ephesians 5:25).
The present section given in the form of narrative. As the Bride in the preceding part of the Song related her experience, so in this the Bridegroom appears to relate his. ‘I went down,’ &c. Not clear what particular incident is referred to, whether connected with the King’s first acquaintance with Shulamite, or his withdrawal, as related by the Bride, or a visit to the Bride in her own apartment at a time subsequent to the marriage. The last the most probable. The narrative possibly given, like the Bride’s, in a song at the Marriage Feast. In seeking spiritual profit from the passage, may we receive ‘the mind that hath wisdom!’ The privilege of believers, in searching the Scriptures, to plough with the Spirit’s heifer. (Judges 14:18). Observe in regard to—
The King’s Visit.
I. The PLACE of the visit. ‘I went down to the garden of nuts.’ The walnut probably intended. Fruit with a bitter husk, hard shell, and sweet kernel. Formerly common and luxuriant around the lake of Genesaret. Probably the ‘garden’ to be here viewed, as in chap. Song of Solomon 6:11 and Song of Solomon 6:2, as a figurative expression for the Bride. Now a ‘garden’ of nuts, as indicating a state of maturity, or the Bride as a married wife. Perhaps exhibits ‘the Bride’s graces ripened by her earnest search after Jesus.’ The privilege of believers to attain to a maturity in grace. ‘Be no more children.’ ‘Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age.’ (Hebrews 5:12-14; Ephesians 4:13-14). The Church of the New Testament thus distinguished, as a whole, from that of the Old Legal Dispensation. So the Millennial Church in relation to the present. ‘The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days.’ The Church and individual believers a
Garden of Nuts,
(1) The fruit is preserved safe in a hard shell. The Church in the world, but preserved from its pollution and its injury. ‘I, the Lord, do keep it; lest any hurt it, I do keep it night and day.’ ‘I will be a wall of fire round about her. ‘Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.’ ‘His truth shall be thy shield and buckler’ (Psalms 111:4-6; Isaiah 27:2). ‘I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil’ (John 17:15).
(2) The kernel hidden within the shell. Believers God’s ‘hidden ones.’ Their ‘life hid with Christ in God.’ ‘The world knoweth us not, even as it knew Him not.’ ‘The Lord knoweth them that that are His.’
(3) The fruit only reached when the shell is broken. Trouble and affliction often the means of discovering grace. Persecution often the occasion of bringing forth God’s hidden ones.
(4). A rough exterior and a bitter husk, but a sweet kernel. ‘God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.’ Believers, while in this world, often like their Master. (Isaiah 53:2-3). ‘Judge not according to the appearance.’ ‘The Lord looketh not on the outward appearance, but upon the heart.’ ‘If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together.’
(5) Nuts composed of shell and kernel: the former however to perish; the latter to be used as food, or to propagate as seed. Believers while in this world possessed of a twofold nature—the flesh and the spirit; the former, however hard to overcome, to perish at death, or the Lord’s appearing; the latter preserved for Christ’s enjoyment and service in the new heavens and the new earth.
(6). Nuts require much time for ripening. Believers ordinarily kept many years in the world for their maturity and perfection in grace. The maturity of the Church as a whole has, in the wisdom of God, required many centuries, and is not yet attained.
(7) Nuts ordinarily the last fruit in the garden. The Church of Christ to outlive the world, and grace to survive nature. ‘The righteous is an everlasting foundation.’ The earth and the things therein to be burned up. To be followed by a new earth, ‘wherein dwelleth righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:10-13). ‘The upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it; but the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it’ (Proverbs 2:21-22).
Observe further in regard to the king’s visit to the garden—
1. Christ seeks pleasure in His Church as a man in his garden. ‘This is my rest for ever, for I have desired it.’ The Church named by Himself—Hephzibah,—‘My delight is in her.’ If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20).
2. Unspeakable condescension in Christ’s visits to His Church. ‘I went down.’ His visits a coming down from the heights of glory to a sinful world. The Lord of glory visiting a worm. He humbles Himself even to ‘behold the things that are in heaven;’ yet comes down to earth to raise up the poor out of the dust, and to lift the needy out of the dung-hill (Psalms 113:6-7).
3. Mature believers Christ’s especial pleasure. ‘I went down to the garden of nuts.’ The promise—‘I will dwell in them and walk in them,’ connected with the precept—‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing’ (2 Corinthians 6:16-17). ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy. He will beautify the meek with salvation’ (Psalms 147:11; Psalms 149:4; Psalms 37:23).
II. The OBJECT of the visit. ‘To see the fruits of the valley,’ &c. A valley low in situation and generally fertilized by a stream of water; hence suitable for a garden. Christ’s Church lowly in her condition in respect to this world. ‘Not many mighty,’ &c. Lowliness of spirit the proper character of His people. ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ Christ’s Church well watered. ‘I will water it every moment.’ Sheltered as well as watered. ‘The city shall be low in a low place.’ Observe—
(1) Christ’s delight to see the spiritual fruits of His Church. ‘Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit: so shall ye be my disciples.’ ‘My soul desired the first ripe fruits.’
(2) Christ careful in observing the spiritual condition and progress of His Church. ‘To see whether the vine flourished and the pomegranates budded.’ Fruit expected. ‘I looked that it should bring forth grapes.’ ‘These three years I come seeking fruit.’ The first declaration in each of Christ’s letters to the Seven Churches: ‘I know Thy works.’ This followed by a description of their condition. The spiritual condition of congregations and individual believers carefully noted. Growth and progress looked for. The Church and the believer’s soul to be like Aaron’s rod that ‘budded, and blossomed, and bare almonds.’
(3) Grace found in different stages—the bud, the blossom, and the fruit. ‘First the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.’ The ‘bud’ precious in Christ’s eyes as well as the fruit. ‘Feed my lambs,’ His first charge to Peter. The day of small things not despised.
(4) Different kinds of fruit in Christ’s garden. Nuts, grapes, and pomegranates. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Passive as well as active virtues. The child’s docility, the maiden’s purity, the confessor’s boldness, and the martyr’s patience.
(6) Different characteristics and types among believers. Nut-trees, vines, and pomegranates, ‘Sons of consolation’ and ‘sons of thunder.’ Varieties found in the Church which are due not to the degree of grace, but to the natural character. Constitutional differences of individual character not extinguished or suppressed by grace, but hallowed and employed for different purposes in the Kingdom of God. Marthas as well as Marys, Jameses as well as Johns required in the Church of Christ.
III. The RESULT of the visit. ‘Or ever I was aware,’ &c. Apparently expressive of speedy, sudden, and unexpected delight. The king’s expectation quickly, suddenly, and more than gratified. Christ’s desire for fruit and enjoyment in His blood-bought Church fully and speedily realized on and after the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-2; Acts 2:41-47; Acts 4:31-37; Acts 5:12; Acts 5:14; Acts 5:41-42). The glorious change wrought on the New Testament Church the immediate result of the outpoured Spirit who, ten days after Christ’s ascension, came suddenly as a ‘mighty rushing wind’ that ‘filled all the house where they were sitting.’ The ‘chariots of Amminadib’ probably distinguished for the speed at which they were driven. ‘Amminadib’ possibly the name of a well-known charioteer. The meaning of the name—My willing, liberal, noble, or princely people. May point to the love and devotedness of the Pentecostal Church, when none of them said ‘that ought of the things which he professed was his own;’ and when, in the ardour of their love to one another, and their consecration to the Saviour’s cause, they ‘sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need’ (Acts 2:45; Acts 4:32). A fulfilment of the text also possibly in the boldness and zeal of the Apostles and primitive Church, in testifying for Christ and preaching His Gospel in the world according to His last and great commission: ‘Go ye unto all the world,’ &c. From the text we may observe—
1. Christ’s affections moved by the contemplation of His people’s graces. More especially—
(1) Their earnestness in seeking Him when absent, as Shulamite had previously sought her absent Bridegroom.
(2) Their penitence for past indifference and unfaithfulness.
(3) Their love in commending Him to others.
(4) Their zeal in carrying out His wishes in regard to the world. Christ’s joy for a time at least fulfilled in the New Testament Church, in their love to one another, their obedience to His word, and their devotedness to His service. Christ glorified in His saints. Moved with an intensity of feeling towards His people. ‘As the Bridegroom rejoiceth over the Bride, so will the Lord thy God rejoice over thee’ (Isaiah 62:5). His joy over them in proportion as they show themselves His ‘willing people.’ This their proper character (Psalms 110:3; 2 Corinthians 8:5).
2. Christ’s people to be His chariot in conveying the Gospel, and in winning others to His side. The Gospel the chariot in which Christ goes forth with His bow in His hand, ‘conquering and to conquer’ (Revelation 6:2). His people in general, and preachers in particular, the bearers of that Gospel, both at home and abroad. Hence His ‘battle-axe and weapons of war’ for breaking in pieces the nations (Jeremiah 51:20-25).
3. The cause of Christ’s joy in His people from and within Himself. ‘My soul made me like (or simply ‘made me’) the chariots,’ &c. His own ‘soul’ rather than anything really in them. ‘The believer has a notable friend in Christ’s own bosom.—Durham. ‘Of Me is thy fruit found.’ ‘Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit’ (John 15:16).
4. The privilege and happiness of Christ’s faithful and willing people that they are made His joy. ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full’ (John 15:11).
Song of Solomon 6:13. Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return. ‘Return.’ שׁוּבִי shubhi, return, come back. So most; though some, as Do WETTR. HAHN, and SANDERS render it, ‘turn round,’ for which a different word would probably be used. Spoken by Solomon and his female attendants. EWALD. By bride’s companions, who desire her to return back to the garden with them. DELITZSCH. By the bridegroom’s servants. THEODORET. By his friends. HOUBIGANT, PERCY. By chorus of women. MENOCHIUS. The Bride, finding her beloved, takes leave of the women, who call her to return. MERCER. GILL: Observing her bashfulness, they call her to turn her face, that they may behold it. HARMER: Spoken by Solomon or his attendants to the Jewish Queen, who had fled as not able to bear an interview with the King. SANCTIUS: Spoken by the ‘daughters of Jerusalem,’ desiring to see her beauty for themselves. M. STUART: By the ‘daughters,’ desiring in the King’s absence to see the Bride. WEISS: By first division of the ‘daughters.’ FRY: by the company who had broken in upon her retirement, while she turned away to conceal herself. NOYES: By the court ladies. ZÖCKLER: The ladies calling to her when appearing to leave the court. HAHN: The call of the King and his host out of the chariots to the virgin in her home which they have speedily reached. WILLIAMS: Seeing her at a distance, the king instantly turns back and flies to meet her. Thus allegorized. TARGUM: The Lord calls Jerusalem to receive His prophets. RASHI: To return to Himself. THEODORBT: Christ’s servants call to the Church, not to fear the attacks of persecutors. PHILO, TRES PATRES: Call to the imperfect to repent. AMBROSE: To return to the way of virtue and of heaven. BERNARD: Bridegroom calls to the Church to return from lukewarmness, torpor and pride—from foolish joy and useless grief. DEL RIO: The call of the Christian Church addressed to the latter day Jews in the four quarters of the world. HAHN: The call of the Gospel of peace to the heathen world. WORDSWORTH: The summons reiterated, as addressed to Jew and Gentile to return to God. THRUPP: Call to the Church to return in peace from victorious conflict. HAWKER: The call of the Triune Jehovah. ‘Shulamite.’ הַשּׁוּלַמִּית ha-shulammith. Different meanings and derivations of the name given. Probably named from Solomon. שְׁלֹמֹה Shelomo; ‘she who is Solomon’s Bride;’ or, ‘she who has been visited with peace.’ GESENIUS. The Bepeaced. THRUPP. A dialectic variation of Shunemite, from Shunem, also called Solam, the place of her abode. Zöckler. Shunem called Solam as early as the time of Eusebius, who refers to 1 Kings 1:3; 1 Kings 2:17, as a possible explanation of the term. GESENIUS. Inhabitant of Salem or Jerusalem. ABEN EZRA, KIMCHI, COCCEIUS, PATRICK, &c. From שָׁלֵם perfect, or שִׁלֵּם to restore; the perfect or restored one. WEISS. Perfect in thy faithfulness. RASHI. SEPTUAGINT: Sunamite; though the Complutensian and Royal Editions have Sulanute. VULGATE, SYRIAC, and ARABIC: Sulamite. AQUILA: She who is at peace. WICKLIFFE: Sunamytis. The name here used to remind her of her condition as Solomon’s bride, and so to remove her bashfulness. PERCY.
Ibid. As it were the company of two armies. The answer given by the Bridegroom. So THEODORET and the Fathers. By his friends. CALVIN. By the ‘daughters.’ ZÖCKLER and many moderns. A continuation of the Virgin’s question. DE WETTE and others ‘As it were the company,’ &c. כִּמְחֹלַת מַחֲנַיִם (kimkholath mahanaim). מְחֹלָה (mekholah) a choir or dance, to celebrate a victory; from חוּל to turn or go round, to dance. GESENIUS. מָחוּל (makhul) always a religious dance, or dance at a religious festival (Exodus 15:20; Judges 21:19; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:13). EWALD. מָחוּל a circular dance, well known and common to the Orientals in feasts and solemn occasions, performed by several companies at once and by ranks, moving in opposite directions; performed anciently round heathen idols. WEISS. מְחלָה, like מָחוֹל, a chorus or dance; processions or bands constantly employed on occasions of public rejoicing. FRY. מַחֲנַיִם (mahanaim); dual or plural of מַחֲנֶה, a camp or army; from חנה, to pitch tent: here, according to some, the heavenly hosts or angels. So GESENIUS and DELITZSCH. Two hosts or choral bands. PERCY, GOOD. Two bands; alluding probably to the two choruses or semi-chorusses that accompanied the Bride and Bridegroom. WILLIAMS. Two camps. A. CLARKE. Simply, Mahanaim: ‘The dance of Mahanaim.’ ZÖCKLER. What resembles the dance of M.: they would see her dance. EWALD, who observes: Mahanaim was an old city on the other side of Jordan celebrated in Jacob’s time (Genesis 32:3): must have become in the poet’s time celebrated for its female dancers at the solemn religious festivals, having been a holy city from antiquity through Jacob’s abode in it: home such dances, as at Shiloh (Judges 21:19), in the Kingdom of Israel, at first only at Dan and Beersheba (1 Kings 12:28-29), afterwards in in many other cities (Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5). These remarks, however, made on the supposition that the Song was composed by a later poet than Solomon. The SEPTUAGINT has: As choruses or dances of the camps. VULGATE: Unless the choruses of camps. WICKLIFF: But quires of tents. DOUAI: The dance of the angelic choirs. LUTHER: As the ranks at Mahanaim. DUTCH: A row of two armies. DIODATI and MARTIN: As a dance of two companies. VATABLUS, PAGNINUS, MERCER, &c.: As the chorus of a camp or camps. JUNIUS and TREMELLIUS: The quite of Mahanaim. BRIGHTMAN: What but as the company of an army. SANCTIUS: Indicates sweetest pleasure, whether it be a chorus of dancers or instrumental music. Refers to the songs or praises of warriors. RUPERT. Singing a triumph as conquerors. THEODORET. As it were the meeting or conflict of two hosts. PERCY. Rather the amiable junction of two friendly companies as in a dance. HARMER. The rushing together after the manner of dancers. GOOD. The squadrons of two hosts dazzling by their armour, and performing their evolutions with the greatest order and beauty. BOOTHROYD, COHBIN. Indicates the stateliness and majesty of two armies in battle array. GILL. Allegorically: In the Church is both warfare and festivity, choirs and camps; fighting first and singing afterwards. THEODORET. Indicates the glorious presence of God in the Christian Church, resembling what Jacob saw at Mahanaim, or in the hosts of heaven. PATRICK. The deliverance of Shulamite from her miseries, and the joy of men and angels for her victory. AINSWORTH. The union of Jews and Gentile; or rather, the conflict between the flesh and the spirit in a believer. GILL. Indicates only a certain terrible and wonderful majesty. MERCER. The Church’s excellence. DURHAM. A band of two camps united under one leader: seen in the desire of Luther and others in regard to the Bohemians in 1522 COCCEIUS. Points to the time when the Beloved shall he as an ensign to the nations, and the two armies of Jews and Gentiles shall be united. WEISS. Something as magnificent and transporting as the dance of the angel bands at Mahanaim: the sight of Shulamite one of angelic beauty and heavenly sublimity. ZÖCKLER.
THE CALL TO SHULAMITE
Song of Solomon 6:13
Return, return, O, Shulamite;
That we may look upon thee.
Probably the language of the King, speaking in the plural as in chap. Song of Solomon 1:11, perhaps as being attended by companions. Expressive of admiration of Shulamite’s beauty, and ardent desire for her presence and society. Shulamite, though entreated to return, supposed to be near enough to answer the call. ‘What will ye see in the Shulamite?’ Her attempted flight from the King, from whatever cause, supposed in the call. Probably from conscious unworthiness, as indicated in her answer, ‘What will ye see?’ &c. The reference in the words, and their connection with the preceding, obscure. Clearer on the supposition of the king relating his first meeting with his future Bride. Perhaps the allusion to the Bride’s own narrative. The spiritual application of the words little affected by the obscurity of the reference. The allegorical meaning, the principal matter, sufficiently obvious. Similar language too frequently addressed through the prophets by the heavenly Bridegroom to His ancient Church. The text in harmony with such passages as Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:12-14; Jeremiah 3:20-22; Jeremiah 4:1; Jeremiah 5:23; Jeremiah 31:22; Hosea 12:6; Hosea 14:1; Joel 2:13; Zechariah 1:3. May be viewed therefore as a prophetic intimation—
(1) of Israel’s departure from the Lord in the time of the kings, as well as in that of the Saviour; and of the earnestness with which the Lord, first by His prophets, then by Himself personally in the flesh, and subsequently by His Apostles and servants, sought to bring back His backslidden people. The Gospel to be first preached in Jerusalem and to the Jewish nation. Christ’s personal call and that of His forerunner: ‘Repent.’ ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings!’ The Apostles’ call to the same people: ‘Repent and be converted.’
(2) Of the same tendency in the New Testament Church. A similar call on the part of the Bridegroom heard in most of the Epistles to the Seven Churches. Because iniquity should abound, the love of many should wax cold. The caution as necessary for the New Testament Church as for the Old: ‘Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.’ The Epistle to the Hebrews written especially to guard the Hebrew Christians from backsliding and apostacy. Paul’s Epistle to the Churches of Galatia indicative of a similar danger: ‘O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?’ ‘Be not again entangled in the yoke of bondage.’ ‘I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel.’ ‘Ye did run well: who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth.’ Practical as well as doctrinal departures even then to be mourned over. ‘Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.’ Observe in regard to the
Call to Return.
I. The PARTY called. ‘O Shulamite.’ Different significations assigned to the name.
(1) Bride of Solomon; the name viewed as the feminine form of Solomon. The Bride thus named from her husband. So Christ’s new name to be written upon His faithful people (Revelation 3:12). Disciples called ‘Christians’ or ‘Christ’s people.’ The same name given to both the heavenly Bridegroom and the Bride: ‘The Lord our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:16).
(2) One who has been reconciled, or has obtained peace. As Solomon is ‘The Peaceful,’ or ‘The Peace-giver;’ so Shulamite, ‘The Pacified,’ or ‘The Peace—receiver.’ ‘Justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ‘He is our peace,’ ‘having made peace through the blood of His cross; and you hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death’ Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20; Colossians 1:22).
(3) The perfect One. So chap. Song of Solomon 4:7; Song of Solomon 6:9. Israel’s beauty said to have been ‘perfect’ through Jehovah’s comeliness put upon her (Ezekiel 16:14). Believers complete in Christ. Called to be perfect as God is perfect; to be ‘perfect and entire, wanting nothing;’ to ‘stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.’
(4) An inhabitant of Salem or Jerusalem (Psalms 76:2). The Bride made such by her union with Solomon. Believers, through union with Christ, made citizens of the new and heavenly Jerusalem—the Jerusalem which is above. Their citizenship in heaven, from whence they look for the Saviour (Philippians 3:19; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12; Galatians 4:23). Jerusalem also literally the birthplace of the New Testament Church, which had its first meetings in that city, and began from thence to publish the glad tidings of salvation and peace to the world (Luke 24:47; Isaiah 40:9).
(5) Equivalent to Shulamite, or an inhabitant of Shunem, early known as Sulem, and corresponding with the present Solam, a village about three miles north of Jezreel. The Bride thus apparently identified with Abishag (1 Kings 1:3), and reminded of her native home and humble origin. Believers not to forget the ‘hole of the pit’ from whence they were taken, and the dust and dunghill from which rich and sovereign grace stooped to lift them, in order to ‘set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory’ (1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 113:7-8; Isaiah 51:1). The text, viewed as Christ’s call to His timid, down-cast and backslidden people, thus given in the greatest tenderness and love, as to those whom He has already espoused to Himself. Reminds them of their abiding union with and interest in Him. Like that to Israel: ‘Turn O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married to you’ (Jeremiah 3:14). The bond that unites Christ’s people to Himself indissoluble. ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving kindness have I drawn thee.’ ‘I will betroth thee unto Me for ever’ (Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 2:19).
II. The CALL itself. ‘Return.’ The call, as addressed to Shulamite, not merely applicable to Solomon’s first meeting with her. Her own narrative indicative of its subsequent appropriateness. Man’s return to God the aim of all Divine revelation and the economy of redemption. Sin and the fall a departure from God. The first act of our fallen parents symbolical of the moral state into which the fall brought mankind—a fleeing from our Maker. The tendency in man’s fallen nature continually to do the same. Man now by nature actually in a state of departure and apostasy from God. The Bible a continuous call to men to return to Him from whom they have revolted. Christ’s redeemed Church naturally in this state of apostasy from God in common with others. The object of Christ to bring her back from her wandering. ‘I came not call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Hence the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Piece of Money, and the Prodigal Son. Every converted soul an example of obedience to the call in the text. The Gospel call: ‘Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?’ ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, for He will have mercy upon him.’ ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest.’ Same proneness to depart from God in the carnal nature still remaining in the believer. Constant tendency to backslide. The tendency too often yielded to. Believers not unfrequently in a backslidden state. The first of the Seven Epistles of the ascended Saviour a reproof for having left ‘first love,’ and a call to ‘repent and do the first works.’ The last of them a similar call to ‘be zealous and repent.’ Cowper’s lament too frequently to be made by Christ’s Bride: ‘Where is the blessedness I knew, when first I saw the Lord?’ Believers, like Peter, often requiring a second conversion. As addressed to believers, the call in the text to—
(1) The ardour of first love. So the call to the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4-5).
(2) Renewed zeal in His service. ‘Do the first works’ (Revelation 2:5).
(3) To a holy and Christlike life.
(4) To closeness of walk with God and with Jesus Christ. The nature of sin to cause coolness and distance between the soul and God.
(5) To the peace and comfort formerly enjoyed. David’s sin cost him broken bones and sleepless nights. The joy of God’s salvation lost through backsliding, though the salvation itself is not (Psalms 51:8; Psalms 51:12).
III. The MANNER of the Call. Indicated in the fourfold repetition of the same word: ‘Return.’ Intimates—
1. Its earnestness. Like the Call in Ezekiel: ‘Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?’ Yet even that double call here repeated. Shows the earnestness of Christ both for the return of a sinner, and of a backslidden believer. ‘Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together!’ Corresponds with all that He has done and suffered for the salvation of men. So He stands at the door and knocks, as if unwilling to depart.
2. Its continuousness. Not once or twice, but four times. ‘All day long have I stretched out my hand to a disobedient and gainsaying people.’ ‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?’ The patience of God with His backslidden people, and the continuousness of His call to sinners to repent, something wonderful.
3. Its kindness. Each successive ‘Return’ a declaration of His loving heart. One such call to a sinner or backslider a token of love. What when it is repeated four times over?
4. The difficulty of compliance. Great the unwillingness to return, or the difficulty of doing so, that requires a four times repeated call to overcome it. Much easier to stray and backslide than to return. Departure from God a downward motion. The return an ascent. Impossible to renew a certain once favoured class to repentance. Yet nothing impossible with God. Christ’s fourfold call, entering the ear and heart, the means of overcoming the natural reluctance and fear, as well of a sinner as a backsliding saint. The longer the Prodigal’s absence, the more difficult his return.
5. The seriousness of the case. No slight cause the occasion of a fourfold call. Awful condition of the soul away from Christ. Mournful, as well as hazardous, state of a backslider. Such a thing as a ‘drawing back unto perdition.’ Sad loss both to himself and others when a believer keeps at a distance from God.
6. The duty and necessity of immediate compliance. When Christ calls earnestly to return, hazardous as well as sinful to sit still. Such a Call to be at once followed by the Prodigal’s resolution: ‘I will arise and go to my Father.’
IV. The OBJECT of the Call. ‘That we may look upon Thee’—admire and enjoy Thy beauty. The language of the king, either for himself alone, or for others with him. Christ speaks to His people both in His own name and the Father’s. ‘My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him’ (John 14:23). The object of the Call to sinners and backsliders, to return that Christ the Father may rejoice in their spiritual beauty as restored, renewed, and saved souls. The pleasure and glory of God necessarily the object of all His dealings with His creatures. ‘He hath made all things for Himself.’ ‘For Thy pleasure they are and were created. So with believers: ‘This people have I formed for Myself, that they may show forth My praise’ (Isaiah 3:2). Believers chosen by God in Christ to be ‘holy and without blame before Him in love’ (Ephesians 1:4). God’s greatest glory and joy in looking on lost sinners restored, renewed, and saved by the obedience of His Son, and the grace of His Spirit. Saved souls the Saviour’s reward, and the subject of His joy (Isaiah 53:10-11; Luke 15:5). His love to sinners indicated in the joy He feels in their salvation. His lore to His people shown in the pleasure He has in their spirituality, beauty, and prosperity. His joy especially in beholding them returning from their wanderings, and giving up all for His sake. His delight in their beauty an argument for their entire consecration. ‘Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house. So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty’ (Psalms 45:10-11). The sinner exhorted to return for his own take; the saint for his Saviour’s. Yet a powerful argument with the sinner that God has pleasure in his salvation, not in his destruction. ‘Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die? I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he should turn unto Me and live’ (Ezekiel 18:18; Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11). An irresistible motive in the hands of the Spirit both with the sinner and the saint, that a Three-One God is glorified and rejoices in his return.
Song of Solomon 6:13
What will ye see in the Shulamite?
The question the reply to the Call. Shulamite little conscious of any such beauty and attractiveness. Acknowledges herself Solomon’s wife; or perhaps confesses to her humble origin. ‘What am I, and what is my father’s house?’ So Gideon when called to be Israel’s deliverer: ‘My family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house’ (Judges 6:14-15). One effort of grace to make us conscious of our unworthiness. Moses, on coming down from the Mount, wist not that his face shone. Isaiah in the Temple: ‘I am a man of unclean lips.’ Peter in the presence of a divine Saviour: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ Job: ‘Now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ The more light, the more defects seen. Company with Christ discovers our shortcomings. Formerly, before the marriage, Shulamite defended her beauty before the daughters of Jerusalem. After being for a little with her Beloved, she hangs her head: ‘I am but a common wildflower of the plain—a lily of the valley.’ Now, as the King’s married wife: ‘What will ye see in the Shulamite?’ So Paul, righteous in his own eyes before he had seen the Lord; then, ‘less than the least of all saints;’ last of all, ‘the chief of sinners.’ Sight of Christ shows us our own deformity. John Wesley’s dying testimony: ‘I the chief of sinners am; But Jesus died for me.’ That of William Wilberforce: ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ Humility, in God’s estimation the greatest beauty. ‘To that man will I look who is humble.’ The great Exemplar meek and lowly in heart. Humility the first lesson He teaches. The ‘poor in spirit’ the heirs of the kingdom. Humility to be the believer’s clothing. A believer puts on humility as he puts on Christ. The believer’s twofold testimony: ‘I am nothing; Christ is all.’ The glow-worm hides itself in the light which clothes it. The question of the Shulamite that of Peter and John after Pentecost: ‘Why look ye so earnestly upon us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?’ (Acts 3:12).
Yet, notwithstanding unworthiness, believers still Christ’s spouse. That relation to Christ to be maintained in the face of all shortcomings. Believers not to deny the grace of God in them and towards them. Sense of sin and unworthiness quite compatible with consciousness of acceptance in the Beloved and the joy of faith.
THE KING’S ANSWER
Song of Solomon 6:13
As it were the company of two armies
The King’s answer intended to dispel the diffidence of the Bride. Expressive of her grace and attractiveness in his sight. The ‘company’ properly a ‘dance,’ or a ‘company of dancers.’ Dances anciently a part of religious worship. Especially practised in connection with religious festivals, the celebration of victories, and other solemn and festive occasions. Performed by several companies at once, and by ranks moving in opposite directions. Always an expression of joy, whether in God or otherwise (Exodus 15:20-21; Exodus 32:19; Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 18:6-7; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:13; Psalms 149:3, doubtful; Luke 15:25; Matthew 11:11; Matthew 11:17). Religious dances still common in the East. Their introduction into the West an idea of Savanarola. The ‘armies, or camps’ either literally armies of men who, in celebration of a victory, engaged in such dances; or the angelic hosts; the word here used being the name given by Jacob to the place where the angels of God met him: Mahanaim, or, as in margin, ‘Two hosts or camps’ (Genesis 32:12). The dual form of the word, though not necessarily implying two, perhaps indicating two divisions or semi-choruses, as of the women of Israel (1 Samuel 18:7), or, of the Levites at the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:12; Nehemiah 12:31; Nehemiah 12:38; Nehemiah 12:40), the companies of Levites being also called ‘camps’ (1 Chronicles 9:18-19). The comparison expressive of—
1. Grace and beauty. The Bride from her beauty already compared to an army with banners, whether as marshalled for battle, on the march, or under review. The beauty, perhaps, still greater of military companies engaged in a martial or festive dance, or in performing their orderly evolutions. Even this much short of the beauty of a company, or, rather of two responsive bands of angels engaged in holy dance, as expressive of their joy and praise. Such the beauty and grace of the Bride in the eyes of her Beloved. Such the beauty of the Church in the eyes of Christ amid all her blemishes and defects. The mind of Christ Himself expressed by the Apostle when he wrote to the Church at Colosse: ‘Joying and beholding your order.’ What the beauty of the Church when she shall be presented to her Bridegroom, ‘a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing?’ Beautiful and glorious indeed when the Lord of glory Himself shall, on the day of His glorious appearing, ‘be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10). ‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’ Our vile bodies changed and ‘fashioned like His own glorious body.’
2. Grandeur and terribleness. The Bride already said to be ‘terrible as an army with banners.’ Something in great personal beauty that awes while it charms you. ‘Terror in beauty.’ So with spiritual beauty. ‘He perceived how awful goodness is.’ So with the Church after Pentecost. ‘Of the rest durst no man join himself to them; but the people magnified them’ (Acts 2:13). All that sat in the Council looking steadfastly at Stephen, ‘saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.’ A beauty in Christian meekness and patience that awes even persecutors.
3. Joy and adoration. The comparison, whether referring to things celestial or terrestrial, suggestive of joy and praise. The dance, like music in general, expressive of festive joy, and, like sacred song, employed, as already noticed, in connection with divine worship (Judges 11:34; Judges 21:21). God to be worshipped with holy gladness. Joy especially becoming in the service and worship of Him who is love itself and the fountain of every blessing. ‘O come let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.’ ‘Make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.’ ‘Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp and the voice of a Psalm; with trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord the King.’ ‘Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.’ ‘Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and organs’ (Psalms 95:1; Psalms 98:4-6; Psalms 100:2; Psalms 150:4). To rejoice in the Lord a repeatedly enjoined duty. That joy, however, far removed from levity and carnal mirth. Mingled with reverence and godly fear. A holy awe in the true worship of God, which deepens instead of damping the joy. Joy, as well as love and peace, a fruit of the Spirit, (Galatians 5:22). Joy in divine worship probably only hindered by the corruption of the heart and its coldness in respect to God, from expressing itself, at certain times, in dance as well as song. The beauty and attractiveness of grace heightened by the deep and holy joy which it produces.
4. Boldness and courage. A characteristic of ‘armies,’ whether human or angelic Holy courage a grace of the Spirit. ‘Add to your faith virtue,’ or courage. Believers called to quit themselves like men, and be strong. The fearful classed with the unbelieving. Courage the child of faith. By faith men ‘out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, put to flight the armies of the aliens. Verified in the Primitive Church and in times of persecution. The noble army of martyrs. ‘They loved not their lives unto the death.’ True courage, to fear God and have no other fear. Such courage a part of the Christian character. The Church while on earth necessarily militant. The believer’s adversaries the world, the flesh, and the devil. Carries in himself two contending armies, the flesh and the spirit (Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:7). The life of a believer a warfare, but a blessed one (1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). The Church enlisted under Christ as ‘the sacramental host of God’s elect,’ to do battle against its spiritual foes. Not less beautiful in the Bridegroom’s eyes because returning, like himself, with scars and wounds. A penitent and believing soul courageously fighting in the Saviour’s strength, against sin, Satan, and an evil world, more beautiful in Christ’s eyes than armies of Seraphim (Luke 15:6-7; Luke 15:10).
The whole redeemed Church of Christ known as two armies—the Church militant on earth, and the Church triumphant in heaven. With the latter the battle is fought, and the victory won; with the former, the fight still continues, but the victory certain. In the eye of the glorious Leader, both but ‘one army of the living God.’ The day at hand when they shall be visibly one, as ‘the armies which are in heaven,’ following their victorious Commander, who, as the Rider on the White Horse, ‘with righteousness doth judge and make war’ (Revelation 19:11-14).