My beloved [is] unto me [as] a cluster of camphire in the
vineyards of Engedi.
] Engedi was a place near Jericho, and famous for palm trees, as that was, hence called Hazazontamar, ( 2 Chronicles 20:2 ) . Pliny
F15 sneaking of this place, which he calls Engadda, says, it is second to Jerusalem for fertility and groves of palm trees; and Josephus F16 observes, that there grew the best palm trees and opobalsam; wherefore Aben Ezra, and other Jewish writers, think that dates, the fruit of the palm trees, which grow in clusters, are here meant: and because the balsam tree also, grew in this place, as observed before from Josephus, and grew in the manner of vines, as others F17 assert; and this being said to, be in vineyards, some have thought that that might be in, tended; but what is valuable in it is a gum or tear, that drops from it, and not fruit in clusters, which it bears not: nor can it be supposed that what we call "camphire" should be meant, which grows not in clusters, and was unknown to the ancients; nor the "cyperus", or "cypirus", as Cocceius and others. The Septuagint version readers it "cyprus": and there was a tree of this name which grew in Askelon in Judea, which, according to Pliny F18, bore a white flower of a sweet smell; and which, in Italy, was called "ligustrum", the privet tree, commended by the poets F19 for its peculiar whiteness; and the cypress tree is reckoned by Josephus F20 among the odoriferous trees which grew about Jericho, near to which Engedi was. The word here used is to be found in the Misnah F21; and the commentators F23 on it say, it is the same which, in Arabic, is called "alhena", the cypress tree, and refer to this place; of which Dr. Shaw F24 says,
``this beautiful and odoriferous plant, "alhenna", if it is not annually cut, and kept low, grows ten or twelve feet high, putting out its little flowers in clusters, which yield a most grateful smell, like camphire.''But, after all, perhaps the Cyprus vine is here meant, which, according to Pliny F25, was the best and largest of vines; and which, though it grew in Cyprus, from whence it had its name, yet some plants of it might be obtained by Solomon, and planted in the vineyards of Engedi; or there were such there like them, and were called by the same name: Jarchi, from an ancient exposition of theirs, relates, that the vineyards of this place brought forth fruit four or five times a year; Alshech says seven. Now as Christ compares himself to a vine, ( John 15:1 ) ; the church may compare him to a cluster of the grapes of the Cyprus vine, reckoned the best; there being a cluster of all perfections, divine and human, in him; and of all the spiritual blessings of the everlasting covenant, and of all the precious promises in it; and of all the grace of the Spirit, and the fulness of it, which is in him. The Jews calls a man, eminent for virtue, and a large share of knowledge, "clusters" F26; and they interpret "eschol", a cluster, by (wh lkhv vya) , "a man that has all things in him" F1: such an one is Christ, in the highest sense, having all perfections, excellencies, and virtues, in him. Some leave the word untranslated, "copher" F2, and which has the signification of atonement and propitiation; and so well agrees with Christ, who is the propitiation for sin, and has made atonement for it. Bishop Patrick observes, that the ancient Hebrew doctors, by dividing the first word "eschol", found out the mystery of the Messiah; considering it as if thus read, (rpwk lk vya) , "my beloved is unto me the man that propitiates" or "expiates all things"; that is, all sins and transgressions: in the Talmud F3 it is explained,
``he, whose all things are, has atoned for my iniquity;''which Christ has done for his church and people; and which makes him precious, and is matter of joy and gladness to them, ( Romans 5:11 ) ( 3:25 ) ( 1 John 2:2 ) ( 4:10 ) .
F15 Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 17.
F16 Antiqu. l. 9. c. 1. s. 2.
F17 Justin. e Trogo, l. 36. c. 3. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 25. Vid. Foliot in loc.
F18 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 29.
F19 Virgil. Eclog. 2. v. 18. Ovid. Metamorph. l. 13. Fab. 8.
F20 De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. s. 3.
F21 Sheviith, c. 7. s. 6.
F23 Maimon. & Bartenora in ibid.
F24 Travels, p. 113, 114. edit. 2.
F25 Nat. Hist. l. 14. c. 1.
F26 Misnah Sotah, c. 9. s. 9.
F1 T. Bab. Temurah, fol. 15. 2. Jarchi, & Ez Chaysim in Sotah ibid.
F2 (rpk) "copher", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Marckius.
F3 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 88. 2.