Spikenard and saffron
The former is the best sort of nard, and therefore mentioned and repeated, to which saints may be compared, because of the graces of the Spirit in them; which, when exercised, give a sweet odour, and are exceeding grateful to Christ; see ( Song of Solomon 1:12 ) ; and the latter, according to Schindler F19, seems to have been read "carcos", the same with "crocus", and is a plant well known by us for its cheering nature; and has its name from the Arabic, "zaffran", because of its yellow or golden colour; but "crocus", from "Corycus" F20, a mountain in Cilicia, where it grew; it is properly joined with spikenard, since itself is a "spica", and is sometimes called "spica Cilissa" F21. Next follow calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense;
"calamus" is the sweet cane in ( Isaiah 43:24 ) ; "cinnamon" is the rind or bark of a tree; both grow in India F23 and in Arabia F24; as also trees of "frankincense", which are only in Arabia; hence one of the Arabias is called "thurifera" F25, for they do not grow in all Arabia: the two first were ingredients in the holy anointing oil, and the latter in the holy perfume, ( Exodus 30:23 Exodus 30:34 ) ; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices;
Solomon's gardens might be furnished with all these; and with the above trees, plants, and spices, from Arabia Felix, where, as Appianus F26 says, "cassia" grew in marshy places; myrrh and frankincense were gathered from trees, cinnamon from shrubs, and their meadows naturally produced nard; hence called "aromatifera", the spicy country F1: myrrh was also an ingredient in the anointing oil; and aloes, according to the Targum, is the same with lign aloes; see ( Numbers 24:6 ) ; not the herb which has a very bitter juice, but the tree of a sweet odour, which Isidore F2 distinguishes, and is what is meant in ( Psalms 45:8 ) ( Proverbs 7:17 ) ; and were both of a very fragrant smell. Now all these trees, plants, and spices, signify truly precious souls, possessed of the graces of the Spirit; comparable to them for their valuableness and excellency, their sweet smell, and the reviving and refreshing nature of them; which make the subjects of these graces very agreeable to Christ, and to one another. What a garden is the church thus planted!
F19 Lexic. Pentaglott. col. 910.
F20 "Corycii pressura croci", Lucan. Pharsal. l. 9. v. 809.
F21 Ovid. Fast. l. 1. v. 76. in Ibin, v. 200. Propert. l. 4. Eleg. 6. v. 74.
F23 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 19, 22. Strabo, l. 15. p. 478.
F24 Herodot. Thalia, c. 107. "Cinnamoni et multi pastor odoris Araba", Propert. l. 3. Eleg. 13. v. 8, 9.
F25 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 14.
F26 Apud Schindler. Lexic. col. 1192.
F1 Strabo. Geograph. l. 16. p. 538. Vid. p. 535.
F2 Origin. l. 17. c. 8, 9.