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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Song of Solomon 2

 

 


Verse 1

Song of Solomon 2:1. I am the rose of Sharon I am a rose of the field. We have here followed all the ancient versions, in preference to those of the moderns, who generally, interpret שׁרון Sharon as a proper name; yet a little attention to the context will convince us, that the bride does not here mean to extol the charms of her person, but rather the contrary. The Bridegroom had just before called her fair; she, with a becoming modesty, represents her beauty as nothing extraordinary, as a mere common wild-flower. But this the Bridegroom denies, insisting upon it that she as much surpasses the generality, as the flower of the lily does that of the bramble; and she again in return speaks with admiration of the Bridegroom. The words may have a still further force, and imply a tacit comparison. The rose of Sharon expresses eminence; whereas she calls herself a rose of the field, in opposition to the rose of the garden, which has more beauty, and is distinguished for its richness and variety of colouring; whereas the rose of the field, and the lily of the valley, owe their distinction to the less ornamented flowers which grow around them. See the New Translation and Houbigant.


Verse 3

Song of Solomon 2:3. As the apple-tree, &c.— As the citron-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the youths; New Translation; in this rendering following the Chaldee paraphrase, which observes, with what superior beauty that rich fruitful plant must appear among the barren trees of the wood. The word תפוחים tappuchiim, rendered apples, in the 5th verse, should also be rendered citrons. The author of the Observations remarks, that citron-trees are very noble, being large, their leaves very beautiful, of an exquisite smell, and affording a most delightful shade: the fragrance of the fruit is admirable.


Verse 4

Song of Solomon 2:4. He brought me to the banqueting-house O bring me into the banqueting-house: spread the banner of love over me. I rather choose, with the LXX, to translate the word in the imperative mood, because by this means the passage is rendered much more spirited, and corresponds more exactly with the following verse.


Verse 5

Song of Solomon 2:5. Stay me with flagons Instead of stay, we might render the word support; and as flagons would be a very improper support on this occasion, and likewise seem to carry with them a very low idea, we should, agreeably to the meaning of the word, as derived from the Arabic, read verdant herbs. The whole passage might be rendered, Support me with verdant herbs, refresh me with citrons, for I am wounded with love. See Michaelis's notes, p. 157. Parkhurst says, that the original word signifies some confectionary prepared by fire. See 2 Samuel 6:19. Hosea 3:1. Isaiah 16:8.


Verse 7

Song of Solomon 2:7. I charge you, &c.— This is a rural form of adjuring: the bride intreats her virgin companions by those creatures in which they may be supposed to have taken frequent pleasure; but we must never forget that Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, is the supreme, yea, in a true sense, the sole object of her love. The word rendered love is emphatical, and signifies my amiable one. See Hasselquist, p. 192 and the New Translation.

Though I so largely enter, both in my preface, and in my reflections at the end of every chapter, into the spiritual meaning of this divine song—the only meaning for which it was dictated by the Holy Spirit, and recorded in the canon of Scripture—yet I cannot refrain from adding also a few spiritual remarks at the close of every eclogue. By the spouse is meant the CHURCH, who, possessed with the most passionate, love of the promised Redeemer, expresses in ch. i, Song of Solomon 2:2 her fervent desire for his appearance in the flesh; declaring, at the same time the excellence of his name and grace, and confessing her own unworthiness, as having been too long seduced by false teachers, and lost in gentile idolatry, Song of Solomon 2:5-6. Under the sense of this, she earnestly desires to know and learn the way of true religion, Song of Solomon 2:7 a desire pleasing to the Bridegroom, who exhorts her to enter into the holy assemblies of pious souls, and to bring her young converts to be instructed by such pastors as the great Shepherd will appoint in his church, Song of Solomon 2:8 where she may receive spiritual strength and beauty, Song of Solomon 2:9-10 where all her members, by their union in religion, may add splendor and glory to her, Song of Solomon 2:11 where her graces may diffuse their odours, and her heart rejoice in reciprocal affection, and all the acts and offices of fervent piety, Song of Solomon 2:12-17 and chap. Song of Solomon 2:1-7.; for the mutual expressions of esteem in these verses seem evidently calculated to set forth the superlative pleasures and heartfelt delights of communion between Christ and the sincere Christian; particularly as experienced in all the acts and offices of religion.


Verse 8

Song of Solomon 2:8. The second day's eclogue begins here, belongs wholly to the spouse, and is addressed by her in a continued narration to the chorus of virgins.


Verse 9

Song of Solomon 2:9. My beloved is like a roe, &c.— This should be connected more properly with the preceding verse. My beloved resembles a roe, &c. leaping and skipping upon the hills. The following part of this verse would be better rendered thus: Behold, he stood behind our wall; he looked in through the windows; he shewed himself through the lattice.


Verse 11

Song of Solomon 2:11. The winter is past One part of the winter is distinguished from the rest of it by the people of the East, in the latitude in which Solomon lived, on account of the severity of the cold. At Aleppo it lasts about forty days, and is called by the natives maurbanie. I would propose it to the consideration of the learned, whether the word סתיו setaiv, here used and translated winter, may not be understood to mean what the Aleppines express by the term maurbanie. It occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament; and another word is used for the rainy part of the year in general. If this thought be admitted, it will greatly illustrate, in a critical sense, the words of the bridegroom, Lo! the winter is past; the rain is over, is gone: for then the last clause will not be explanatory of the first, and signify that the moist part of the year was entirely past; with which Dr. Russell assures us all pleasantness withdraws at Aleppo;—but the words will import, "The maurbanie is past and over; the weather become agreeably warm; the rain too has just ceased, and consequently has left us the prospect of several days of serenity and undisturbed pleasantness." The weather of Judaea was, in this respect, I presume, like that at Algiers; where, after two or three days of rain, there is usually, according to Dr. Shaw, a week, a fortnight, or more, of fair and good weather. Of such a sort of cessation of rain alone, the bridegroom, methinks, is here to be understood, in the literal sense, and not of the absolute termination of the rainy season, and the summer-drought's being come on; and if so, what can the time that was past mean, but the maurbanie? Indeed Dr. Russell, in giving us an account of the excursions of the English merchants at Aleppo, has undesignedly furnished us with a good comment on this and the two following verses. "These gentlemen (it seems) dined abroad under a tent, in spring and autumn, on Saturdays, and often on Wednesdays: they do the same during the good weather in winter; but they live at the garden, in April and part of May. In the heat of the summer they dine at the gardens, instead of under the tent; that is to say, I suppose once or twice a week they dine at the gardens, as once or twice a week they dine under a tent in autumn and spring." The cold weather is not supposed, according to the letter of the text, to have been long over, since it is distinctly mentioned; and the Aleppines make these excursions very early: the narcissus flowers during the whole of the maurbanie, and hyacinths and violets flower also at least before it is quite over. The appearing of flowers then does not mean the appearing of the first and earliest flowers, but must rather be understood of the earth's being covered with them; which at Aleppo is not till after the middle of February, a small crane's-bill, appearing on the banks of the river there about the middle of February, quickly after which comes a profusion of flowers. The nightingales too, which are there in abundance, not only afford much pleasure by their songs in the gardens, but are also kept tame in the houses, and let out at a small rate, to divert such as choose it in the city: so that no entertainments are made in the spring without a concert of these birds. No wonder then that Solomon makes the bridegroom speak of the singing of birds; and it teaches us what these birds are, which are expressly distinguished from turtle-doves, and are here used by the Holy Spirit of God to represent much more noble concerts. It would be disparaging the reader's taste to point out to him the beauty and elegance of this whole address.


Verse 13

Song of Solomon 2:13. The fig-tree putteth forth, &c.— The fig-tree giveth sweetness to her green figs. The fig-trees in Judaea bear double crops, the first of which is ripe in spring. פגיה paggeiha, signifies the unripe fig. The word חנט chanat, which we render putteth forth, properly signifies to preserve with aromatics. By a metaphor it is applied to fruits, and implies to maturate or sweeten. Several of the versions, both ancient and modern, read the vines in blossom, instead of the vines with the tender grape; but our version is very justifiable.


Verse 14

Song of Solomon 2:14. O my dove, &c.— O my dove, through the clefts of the rocks, through the secret places of the stairs let me see thee, &c. New Translation.


Verse 15

Song of Solomon 2:15. Take us the foxes—that spoil the vines More literally, spoil the vineyards;—for our vineyards, &c. Foxes abound in Judaea, and are observed by a multitude of authors to love grapes, and to make great havoc in vineyards. Galen in his book Of Aliments, tells us, that the hunters in his country did not scruple to eat the flesh of foxes in autumn, when they were grown fat with feeding on grapes. While the vines were just putting forth the tender grape, it would be easy for the foxes to do most mischief, by gnawing the young buds. See the New Translation and Patrick.


Verse 17

Song of Solomon 2:17. Until the day break, &c.— Until the day breathe, or, till the day blow fresh, for this is the literal meaning of the original. This is a local beauty; for in those hot countries the dawn of the day is attended with a fine refreshing breeze, which is exceedingly grateful. See Vatablus, and the New Translation. As in this verse, so in that preceding, the bride considers the bridegroom under the metaphor of a roe or young hart. Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that the rock which parted David from Saul was one of those mountains which Solomon here calls בתר הרי harei bather, the mountains of Bether, interpreted in the margin of our English Bibles the mountains of division: others have thought that Bather was a strong town in the country of Bithron, not far from Trachonitis; probably the same which Adrian besieged in the 17th year of his reign, and is named Badr by Abu-Giafar in his history of the Saracens. See Capellus and Le Clerc.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The heavenly bridegroom describing his own excellence, and the beauty of his bride: I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys; all perfections center in him; his person adorned with that fulness of the spirit, which God without measure gave unto him; his humanity white as the lily, without spot of sin; blushing as the rose, when on the bloody tree he made the atonement; in the purity of his life, and in the sacrifice of his death, diffusing a fragrance well-pleasing, yea, most acceptable to God; and from which we derive all the sweetness of the great and precious promises which grow in the garden of God. As the lily among thorns, so it my love among the daughters; she resembles him, therefore is beloved by him; he sees in her his own image, and delights therein. Among the thorns of evil men, and a world lying in wickedness, does this lily grow, and as infinitely preferable to them as that sweet flower in look and smell exceeds the briars of the field.

2. The spouse returns the commendations on her Beloved, and professes her joy in him, her dependance upon him, her solicitude to please him.

(1.) She prefers him before all others. As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons; none of the sons of men on earth, none of the sons of the mighty in heaven, are to be compared with the Lord; when he stands forth in his transcendent beauty, they hide their diminished heads.

(2.) She declares the delight that she had in his presence and company. I sat down under his shadow with great delight; Christ is the shadow of a great rock in a weary land; the sinful soul, scorched with the fire of wrath, flies thither, and finds a happy resting-place: under his shadow are pardon, peace, and joy, protection from danger, and possession of every desire of the soul. Blessed and happy are they who there take up their abode. And his fruit was sweet to my taste: they who by faith feed on Christ, will find the promises of his word, the gifts of his grace, and the manifestations of his love most delightful, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. He brought me to the banqueting-house; led me thither by the hand of his grace, where the richest provision of every blessing that a miserable sinner can need, was provided; and his banner over me was love; love boundless and infinite contrived and executed the plan of man's salvation: love reared the banner of the Gospel, inviting lost souls to Jesus, the captain of their salvation; love sweetly, powerfully, engages them to list under his colours; love constrains, emboldens, enables them to fight under his standard, and be more than conquerors. Lord, over me display this banner of thy love!

(3.) She professes the fervency of her love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love; overcome with the sense of the amazing grace of God in Jesus Christ; and, like the spirit of Jacob, fainting with joy at the glad tidings; or sick with the vehement desires, which nothing but a sense of Christ's presence and love could satisfy; and therefore desiring a manifestation of his favour, to revive the drooping soul, as wine restores the fainting spirits.

(4.) She acknowledges the ready answer vouchsafed, to her request. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me; though for a while dejected, and destitute of spiritual delight, the praying soul shall certainly experience divine supports.

(5.) She expresses her solicitude to preserve her communion with the Lord. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, all the members of the church of Christ, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, by every thing that is dear and desirable, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please, by any quarrels and unchristian disputes among yourselves, or by your sins provoking him to depart. We should be watchful against every thing that would cause him to arise and leave us. The way to keep our peace and comfort abiding is, to be careful and jealous over our own hearts.

2nd, It should seem as if, notwithstanding the charge given, the Lord had been disturbed, and had withdrawn; but now returning in mercy the church with rapture hears his voice, and welcomes his approach.

1. She triumphs in her Beloved. The voice of my beloved! how pleasing, how delightful, the well-known voice; the sound of which makes the heart leap for joy: behold, with wonder, his amazing grace, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills: thus the Old Testament church beheld him descending from the everlasting hills to be incarnate; thus the church of Christ and every true believer, now behold him hasting to their relief, when mountains of inbred sin seem to separate them from him; and thus all his devout followers are looking for him, when the second time he shall bow the heavens and come down, his voice awake the dead, and his saints be finally triumphant in glory. My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart; so amiable in himself, so swift to fly to the relief of his believing people: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice; so they beheld him before his incarnation, behind the wall of ceremonies, at the windows of his promises, and through the lattice of sacrifices, types, and figures: and we still see him through the glass of faith, but darkly when compared with what we hope for: the vail of flesh is between us; we get now and then a glimpse of him at the windows of his grace and promises, and through the lattice of his ordinances maintain some near communion with him; but we expect to see him shortly face to face, and to know no more those separations which the body of flesh now occasions. Hasten, Lord, that happy day.

2. She relates the gracious invitation which her beloved had given her. My beloved spake and said unto me, with infinite condescension and tenderness, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away; appellations expressive of the endearing affection of Jesus, whose love indeed passeth knowledge; and the call, Rise up, intimates the slumbering frame into which she had fallen, and the need that she had to be awakened. The argument which he uses to prevail with her, is the beauty of the returning spring, when, winter's lowering clouds blown over, the vernal sun decks in its gayest livery the earth with flowers, and every grove resounds with feathered songsters; the turtle cooes, the fig-tree buds, the grape shoots forth her tendrils, and all around breathes fragrance. This description may be applied,

(1.) To the state of the sinner's soul, when Christ in the word of his gospel comes to awaken him from the sleep of spiritual death: frozen, dark, barren, and unprofitable is the natural heart, incapable of producing blossoms or fruits of holiness, till Christ the sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings: by his mighty agency a glorious and universal change ensues; the soul is softened to sensibility; impregnated by his bright beams of love, it teems with life, the flowers of heavenly dispositions appear, the heart sings for joy in the good ways of God, and the fruits of grace bud forth to the glory of God.

(2.) To the state of believers under temptations, when storms of inward corruption, or despondent thoughts, beat against their souls: but when the Lord comes to their relief, they bud and blossom as the rose, the tears are wiped from their eyes, the voice of joy is heard, they sing as the birds, and bring forth fruit abundantly. Hear then this hour, thou tossed with tempest, and not comforted, hear this sweet voice of Jesus reiterating the call, Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

3rdly, We have,

1. The same gracious invitation continued: O my dove; to which creature the believer's soul may be compared; often timorous, through conscious weakness; beautiful in the feathers of silver, the graces of the Spirit; meek and inoffensive; chaste and faithful to Jesus as the turtle to her mate: In the clefts of the rock; fled to the shelter of a Saviour's side, opened by the spear, a small but sure retreat: In the secret places of the stairs; hid in Christ, and maintaining an intercourse with him which the world knoweth not of: or these expressions may intimate her guilty fears which led her to hide her head, and seek, like Adam in the garden, a covert from her conscious shame; from which retirement, therefore, Christ would draw her forth: Let me see thy countenance, be not afraid or ashamed to come with open face into the assembly of the saints, where Jesus manifests his presence; let me hear thy voice in prayer and praise; for sweet is thy voice; inharmonious as to us it may appear, and unworthy as we think ourselves to open our polluted lips before him, he graciously condescends well-pleased to accept our lispings; and thy countenance is comely; loathsome as we seem in our own eyes, and covering our faces with confusion in the dust, he wipes away the defilement, and, transforming us into his own image, delights in the beauties which he bestows.

2. A charge is given to seize and remove what was hurtful to the vineyard. Take us the foxes; by foxes are meant false teachers, who with many fair speeches deceive the hearts of the unwary, and introduce errors, heresies, and schisms into the church; even the little foxes, which must be crushed in their nest; that spoil the vines; corrupting the faith, debauching the morals, and debating the discipline of the church: for our vines have tender grapes; young converts, whose tender years, or weak attainments, need an especial guard against the wiles of deceivers. Notes; Every corruption in the heart is a little fox, which would rob us of our comfort, and threatens to root up the vine of grace; we must watch over them therefore, and check the motions of evil in the birth.

3. The church exults in her interest in her Lord. My beloved is mine; mine as the gift of God; the faithful bride-groom united in bonds of divine love; mine in possession and enjoyment, all his things are mine; his merit and grace are mine, the property of the faithful soul, and I am his, the creature of his hand, the purchase of his blood; renewed by his Spirit, by choice devoted to him, subservient to his will, zealous for his interest, and living in love and duty for him alone: he feedeth among the lilies, manifesting himself in the midst of his people, beautiful as the lilies; or, as a shepherd crowned with wreaths of this sweet flower; he watches over the flock of his pasture, and feeds them with his divine consolations.

4. She expresses her expectation of his speedy coming: Until the day break and the shadows flee away; or, connected with the following clause, the words are a prayer for Christ's appearing, either incarnate to his Old Testament saints, or in the manifestation of his love to praying souls labouring under darkness and desertion, or in his glory at the great day of final consummation, when all the shadows of remaining ignorance, infirmity, affliction, will be for ever fled away, and one eternal day of light, joy, and blessedness unutterable, succeed: turn, my beloved, unto me, be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether, or of separation; swift as the bounding roe, fly to relieve me from the pains of absence, and let no mountains separate my soul from thee; come with the comforts of thy love below, or take me to the enjoyment of thy blessed Self above! Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/song-of-solomon-2.html. 1801-1803.

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