If thou know not
Or, "seeing thou knowest not" F13; the saints in this imperfect state know but in part, are ignorant of many things, and in some measure of themselves; for though they know much of the sinfulness and deceitfulness of their hearts, yet they know not all; and of their imperfection and weakness, yet not the whole of it; and some render the words, "if thou know not to thee", or, "for thyself", as Ainsworth; or "know [not thyself]" F14, as others; hence Ambrose F15 observes, that "nosce teipsum" was not originally from the Pythian oracle; Solomon had it before that, and he from Moses, ( Deuteronomy 4:9 ) ; Saints have not a perfect knowledge of Christ and his truths, and are sometimes at a loss to know where he is, his word is purely preached, and his ordinances faithfully administered; O thou fairest among women;
these are not the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, as some think, who were not capable of giving her the following advice and directions; but of Christ himself, to whom the church applied for it; who, though black in her own eyes, and in the eyes of others, yet was fair, surpassingly fair, fairer than all others in his eye, even notwithstanding her late sinfulness and negligence; which shows the invariableness of his love; who directs her as follows; go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock;
not "from the footsteps" F16; as if it was an exhortation to depart from false teachers, their doctrine and worship, and the abettors of them, she was tempted to turn aside to; but the "footsteps" are the rule and mark by which she was to go, and on which she was to keep her eye, and steer her course by, in seeking after Christ: for by "the flock" is meant the flock of Christ; and by the "footsteps" of it the ways and ordinances in which saints walk in obedience to Christ; and who are to be followed so far as they follow him; their steps are to be trod in; and this is the readiest and most likely way to find Christ, even where saints meet together, the word is preached, and ordinances administered; and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents;
the faithful ministers of the word, who are Christ's undershepherds, have their mission and commission from him, and are qualified by him to feed his flocks, and do feed them by the pure administration of the word and ordinances; and by the tents are meant the places of public worship, where they usually preach the Gospel, and administer ordinances. The allusion is to the tents of shepherds pitched for the convenience of feeding their flocks; and "by" or "near" F17 these the church is directed to "feed [her] kids", young converts weak in the faith; men of "little faith", as Aben Ezra interprets it; called "kids" or young goats, lascivious F18, and of an ill smell; because of sin in them, of an ill smell to themselves and others; and of whom the world have an ill opinion; and such on all accounts need encouragement from the church and ministers. It was common in the eastern countries, as Philo says F19 of the Arabs, not for men only to keep flocks, but women also, and young virgins; and not the common people only, but nobles; of women keeping flocks see ( Genesis 29:9 ) ( Exodus 2:16 ) ; This verse and ( Song of Solomon 1:7 ) show this song to be a pastoral; since the bridegroom and bride, the principal persons in it, are represented in it as a shepherd and shepherdess.