I [am] black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem
The church having obtained of Christ, what she wanted, turns to the daughters of Jerusalem, the same perhaps with the virgins her companions; they seem to be young converts, it may be not yet members of the visible church, but had a great respect for the church, and she for them; and who, though they had but a small knowledge of Christ her beloved, yet were desirous of knowing more of him, and seeking him with her; see ( Song of Solomon 3:9-11 ) ( Song of Solomon 5:8 Song of Solomon 5:9 ) ( 6:1 ) ; to these she gives this character of herself, that she was "black" in herself F24, through original sin and actual transgression; in her own eyes, through indwelling sin, and many infirmities, spots, and blemishes in life; and in the eyes of the world, through afflictions, persecutions, and reproaches, she was attended with, and so with them the offscouring of all things: "but comely" in the eyes of Christ, called by him his "fair one", the "fairest among women", and even "all fair", ( Song of Solomon 1:8 Song of Solomon 1:15 ) ( 4:7 ) ; through his comeliness put upon her, the imputation of his righteousness to her; through the beauties of holiness upon her; through, the sanctifying influences of his Spirit; and, being in a church state, walking in Gospel order, attending to the commands and ordinances of Christ; and so beautiful as Tirzah, and comely as Jerusalem, ( Song of Solomon 6:4 ) ; and upon all accounts "desirable" F25 to Christ, and to his people, as the word may be rendered; as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon:
each of which are thought by some to refer to both parts of her character; and suppose that the tents of Kedar, though they might look poor on the outside, were full of wealth and riches within; and Solomon's curtains, or hangings, might have an outward covering not so rich and beautiful as they were on the inside; but rather the blackness of the church is designed by the one, and her comeliness by the other. With respect to her blackness, she compares herself to the tents of Kedar, to the inhabitants of those tents, who were of a black or swarthy complexion; Kedar signifies the name of a man whose posterity these were, that dwelt in tents, even of Kedar the second son of Ishmael, and who inhabited some part of Arabia; and, their employment being to feed cattle, moved from place to place for the sake of pasturage, and so dwelt in tents, which they could easily remove, and hence were called Scenites; and the tents they dwelt in being made of hair cloth, and continually exposed to the sun and rain, were very black, and yet a number of them made a fine appearance, as Dr. Shaw relates F26; though black, yet were beautiful to behold; he says,
``the Bedouin Arabs at this day live in tents called "hhymes", from the shelter which they afford the inhabitants; and "beet el shaar", that is, "houses of hair", from the materials or webs of goats' hair whereof they were made; and are such hair cloth as our coal sacks are made of; the colour of them is beautifully alluded to, ( Song of Solomon 1:5 ) ; for nothing certainly can afford (says he) a more delightful prospect than a large extensive plain, whether in its verdure, or even scorched up by the sunbeams, than, these movable habitations pitched in circles upon them; of which (he says) he has seen from three to three hundred.''And for her comeliness the church compares herself either to the curtains of Solomon, about his bed, or to the rich hangings of tapestry in the several apartments of his palace, which no doubt were very costly and magnificent.
F24 "Nigra per naturam, formosa per gratiam", Aug. de Tempore, serm. 201. p. 354. tom. 10. "Fusca per culpam, decora per gratiam", Ambros. in Psal. cxviii. octon. 2. col. 881. tom. 2.
F25 (hwan) "optabilis", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Mercerus; so Aben Ezra.
F26 Travels, p. 220. edit. 2. See Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 28. Solin. Polyhist. c. 46.