The trials of the church by the withdrawing of Christ. (1-5) The excellences of the church, The care of Christ for her. (6-11)
Verses 1-5 It was hard to the Old Testament church to find Christ in the ceremonial law; the watchmen of that church gave little assistance to those who sought after him. The night is a time of coldness, darkness, and drowsiness, and of dim apprehensions concerning spiritual things. At first, when uneasy, some feeble efforts are made to obtain the comfort of communion with Christ. This proves in vain; the believer is then roused to increased diligence. The streets and broad-ways seem to imply the means of grace in which the Lord is to be sought. Application is made to those who watch for men's souls. Immediate satisfaction is not found. We must not rest in any means, but by faith apply directly to Christ. The holding of Christ, and not letting him go, denotes earnest cleaving to him. What prevails is a humble, ardent suing by prayer, with a lively exercise of faith on his promises. So long as the faith of believers keeps hold of Christ, he will not be offended at their earnest asking, yea, he is well pleased with it. The believer desires to make others acquainted with his Saviour. Wherever we find Christ, we must take him home with us to our houses, especially to our hearts; and we should call upon ourselves and each other, to beware of grieving our holy Comforter, and provoking the departure of the Beloved.
Verses 6-11 A wilderness is an emblem of the world; the believer comes out of it when he is delivered from the love of its sinful pleasures and pursuits, and refuses to comply with its customs and fashions, to seek happiness in communion with the Saviour. A poor soul shall come up, at last, under the conduct of the Comforter; like a cloud of incense ascending from the altar, or the smoke of the burnt-offerings. This signifies pious and devout affections, and the mounting of the soul heaven-ward. The believer is filled with the graces of God's Spirit; his devotions now are very lively. These graces and comforts are from the heavenly Canaan. He, who is the Peace of his people, the King of the heavenly Zion, has provided for the safe conveyance of his redeemed through the wilderness of this world. The bed, or palanquin, was contrived for rest and easy conveyance, but its beauty and magnificence showed the quality of its owner. The church is well guarded; more are with her than are against her: believers, when they repose in Christ, and with him, though they have their fears in the night, are yet safe. The chariot here denotes the covenant of redemption, the way of our salvation. This is that work of Christ, which makes him loved and admired in the eyes of believers. It is framed and contrived, both for the glory of Christ, and for the comfort of believers; it is well ordered in all things and sure. The blood of the covenant, that rich purple, is the cover of this chariot, by which believers are sheltered from the wind and storms of Divine wrath, and the troubles of this world; but the midst of it is that love of Christ which passes knowledge, this is for believers to repose upon. Christ, in his gospel, manifests himself. Take special notice of his crown. Applying this to Christ, it speaks the honour put upon him, and his power and dominion.
Solomon 3:1-11 .
1. By night--literally, "By nights." Continuation of the longing for the dawn of the Messiah ( Solomon 2:17 , Psalms 130:6 , Malachi 4:2 ). The spiritual desertion here ( Solomon 2:17 , 3:5 ) is not due to indifference, as in Solomon 5:2-8 . "As nights and dews are better for flowers than a continual sun, so Christ's absence (at times) giveth sap to humility, and putteth an edge on hunger, and furnisheth a fair field to faith to put forth itself" [RUTHERFORD]. Contrast Solomon 1:13 , Psalms 30:6 Psalms 30:7 .
on . . . bed--the secret of her failure ( Isaiah 64:7 , Jeremiah 29:13 , Amos 6:1 Amos 6:4 , Hosea 7:14 ).
loveth--no want of sincerity, but of diligence, which she now makes up for by leaving her bed to seek Him ( Psalms 22:2 , 63:8 , Isaiah 26:9 , John 20:17 ). Four times ( Solomon 3:1-4 ) she calls Jesus Christ, "Him whom my soul loveth," designating Him as absent; language of desire: "He loved me," would be language of present fruition ( Revelation 1:5 ). In questioning the watchmen ( Solomon 3:3 ), she does not even name Him, so full is her heart of Him. Having found Him at dawn (for throughout He is the morning), she charges the daughters not to abridge by intrusion the period of His stay. Compare as to the thoughtful seeking for Jesus Christ in the time of John the Baptist, in vain at first, but presently after successful ( Luke 3:15-22 John 1:19-34 ).
found him not--Oh, for such honest dealings with ourselves ( Proverbs 25:14 , Jude 1:12 )!
2. Wholly awake for God ( Luke 14:18-20 Ephesians 5:14 ). "An honest resolution is often to (the doing of) duty, like a needle that draws the thread after it" [DURHAM]. Not a mere wish, that counts not the cost--to leave her easy bed, and wander in the dark night seeking Him ( Proverbs 13:4 Matthew 21:30 Luke 14:27-33 ).
the city--Jerusalem, literally ( Matthew 3:5 , John 1:19 ), and spiritually the Church here ( Hebrews 12:22 ), in glory ( Revelation 21:2 ).
broad ways--open spaces at the gates of Eastern cities, where the public assembled for business. So, the assemblies of worshippers ( Song of Solomon 8:2 Song of Solomon 8:3 Proverbs 1:20-23 Hebrews 10:25 ). She had in her first awakening shrunk from them, seeking Jesus Christ alone; but she was desired to seek the footsteps of the flock ( Solomon 1:8 ), so now in her second trial she goes forth to them of herself. "The more the soul grows in grace, and the less it leans on ordinances, the more it prizes and profits by them" [MOODY STUART] ( Psalms 73:16 Psalms 73:17 ).
found him not--Nothing short of Jesus Christ can satisfy her ( Job 23:8-10 Psalms 63:1 Psalms 63:2 ).
3. watchmen--ministers ( Isaiah 62:6 , Jeremiah 6:17 , Ezekiel 3:17 , Hebrews 13:17 ), fit persons to consult ( Isaiah 21:11 , Malachi 2:7 ).
found me--the general ministry of the Word "finds" individually souls in quest of Jesus Christ ( Genesis 24:27 , end of verse Acts 16:14 ); whereas formalists remain unaffected.
4. Jesus Christ is generally "found" near the watchmen and means of grace; but they are not Himself; the star that points to Beth-lehem is not the Sun that has risen there; she hastens past the guideposts to the goal [MOODY STUART]. Not even angels could satisfy Mary, instead of Jesus Christ ( John 20:11-16 ).
found him--( Isaiah 45:19 Hosea 6:1-3 Matthew 13:44-46 ).
held him, &c.--willing to be held; not willing, if not held ( Genesis 32:26 , Matthew 28:9 , Luke 24:28 Luke 24:29 , Revelation 3:11 ). "As a little weeping child will hold its mother fast, not because it is stronger than she, but because her bowels constrain her not to leave it; so Jesus Christ yearning over the believer cannot go, because He will not" [DURHAM]. In Solomon 1:4 it is He who leads the bride into His chambers; here it is she who leads Him into her mother's. There are times when the grace of Jesus Christ seems to draw us to Him; and others, when we with strong cries draw Him to us and ours. In the East one large apartment often serves for the whole family; so the bride here speaks of her mother's apartment and her own together. The mention of the "mother" excludes impropriety, and imparts the idea of heavenly love, pure as a sister's, while ardent as a bride's; hence the frequent title, "my sister--spouse." Our mother after the Spirit, is the Church, the new Jerusalem ( John 3:5-8 Galatians 4:19 Galatians 4:26 ); for her we ought to pray continually ( Ephesians 3:14-19 ), also for the national Jerusalem ( Isaiah 62:6 Isaiah 62:7 , Romans 10:1 ), also for the human family, which is our mother and kindred after the flesh; these our mother's children have evilly treated us ( Solomon 1:6 ); but, like our Father, we are to return good for evil ( Matthew 5:44 Matthew 5:45 ), and so bring Jesus Christ home to them ( 1 Peter 2:12 ).
5. So Solomon 2:7 ; but there it was for the non-interruption of her own fellowship with Jesus Christ that she was anxious; here it is for the not grieving of the Holy Ghost, on the part of the daughters of Jerusalem. Jealously avoid levity, heedlessness, and offenses which would mar the gracious work begun in others ( Matthew 18:7 , Acts 2:42 Acts 2:43 , Ephesians 4:30 ).
CANTICLE III.--(Solomon 3:6-5:1')--THE BRIDEGROOM WITH THE BRIDE.
Historically, the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth.
6. New scene ( Solomon 3:6-11 ). The friends of the Bridegroom see a cortege approach. His palanquin and guard.
cometh out--rather, "up from"; the wilderness was lower than Jerusalem [MAURER].
pillars of smoke--from the perfumes burned around Him and His bride. Image from Israel and the tabernacle (answering to "bed," Solomon 3:7 ) marching through the desert with the pillar of smoke by day and fire by night ( Exodus 14:20 ), and the pillars of smoke ascending from the altars of incense and of atonement; so Jesus Christ's righteousness, atonement, and ever-living intercession. Balaam, the last representative of patriarchism, was required to curse the Jewish Church, just as it afterwards would not succumb to Christianity without a struggle ( Numbers 22:41 ), but he had to bless in language like that here ( Numbers 24:5 Numbers 24:6 ). Angels too joyfully ask the same question, when Jesus Christ with the tabernacle of His body (answering to "His bed," Solomon 3:7 , John 1:14 , "dwelt," Greek "tabernacled," John 2:21 ) ascends into heaven ( Psalms 24:8-10 ); also when they see His glorious bride with Him ( Psalms 68:18 , Revelation 7:13-17 ). Encouragement to her; amid the darkest trials ( Solomon 3:1 ), she is still on the road to glory ( Solomon 3:11 ) in a palanquin "paved with love" ( Solomon 3:10 ); she is now in soul spiritually "coming," exhaling the sweet graces, faith, love, joy, peace, prayer, and praise; (the fire is lighted within, the "smoke" is seen without, Acts 4:13 ); it is in the desert of trial ( Solomon 3:1-3 ) she gets them; she is the "merchant" buying from Jesus Christ without money or price ( Isaiah 55:1 , Revelation 3:18 ); just as myrrh and frankincense are got, not in Egypt, but in the Arabian sands and the mountains of Palestine. Hereafter she shall "come" ( Song of Solomon 3:6 Song of Solomon 3:11 ) in a glorified body, too ( Philippians 3:21 ). Historically, Jesus Christ returning from the wilderness, full of the Holy Ghost ( Luke 4:1 Luke 4:14 ). The same, "Who is this," &c. ( Isaiah 63:1 Isaiah 63:5 ).
7. In Solomon 3:6 the wilderness character of the Church is portrayed; in Song of Solomon 3:7 Song of Solomon 3:8 , its militant aspect. In Song of Solomon 3:9 Song of Solomon 3:10 , Jesus Christ is seen dwelling in believers, who are His "chariot" and "body." In Solomon 3:11 , the consummation in glory.
bed--palanquin. His body, literally, guarded by a definite number of angels, threescore, or sixty ( Matthew 26:53 ), from the wilderness ( Matthew 4:1 Matthew 4:11 ), and continually ( Luke 2:13 , 22:43 , Acts 1:10 Acts 1:11 ); just as six hundred thousand of Israel guarded the Lord's tabernacle ( Numbers 2:17-32 ), one for every ten thousand. In contrast to the "bed of sloth" ( Solomon 3:1 ).
valiant--( Joshua 5:13 Joshua 5:14 ). Angels guarding His tomb used like words ( Mark 16:6 ).
of Israel--true subjects, not mercenaries.
8. hold--not actually grasping them, but having them girt on the thigh ready for use, like their Lord ( Psalms 45:3 ). So believers too are guarded by angels ( Psalms 91:11 , Hebrews 1:14 ), and they themselves need "every man" ( Nehemiah 4:18 ) to be armed ( Psalms 144:1 Psalms 144:2 , 2 Corinthians 10:4 , Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:17 , 1 Timothy 6:12 ), and "expert" ( 2 Corinthians 2:11 ).
because of fear in the night--Arab marauders often turn a wedding into mourning by a night attack. So the bridal procession of saints in the night of this wilderness is the chief object of Satan's assault.
9. chariot--more elaborately made than the "bed" or travelling litter ( Solomon 3:7 ), from a Hebrew root, "to elaborate" [EWALD]. So the temple of "cedar of Lebanon," as compared with the temporary tabernacle of shittim wood ( 2 Samuel 7:2 2 Samuel 7:6 2 Samuel 7:7 , 1 Kings 5:14 , 6:15-18 ), Jesus Christ's body is the antitype, "made" by the Father for Him ( 1 Corinthians 1:30 , Hebrews 10:5 ), the wood answering to His human nature, the gold, His divine; the two being but one Christ.
10. pillars--supporting the canopy at the four corners; curtains at the side protect the person within from the sun. Pillars with silver sockets supported the veil that enclosed the holy of holies; emblem of Jesus Christ's strength ( 1 Kings 7:21 ), Margin, "silver," emblem of His purity ( Psalms 12:6 ); so the saints hereafter ( Revelation 3:12 ).
bottom--rather, "the back for resting or reclining on" (Vulgate and Septuagint) [MAURER]. So the floor and mercy seat, the resting-place" of God ( Psalms 132:14 ) in the temple, was gold ( 1 Kings 6:30 ).
covering--rather, "seat," as in Leviticus 15:9 . Hereafter the saints shall share His seat ( Revelation 3:21 ).
purple--the veil of the holiest, partly purple, and the purple robe put on Jesus Christ, accord with English Version, "covering." "Purple" (including scarlet and crimson) is the emblem of royalty, and of His blood; typified by the passover lamb's blood, and the wine when the twelve sat or reclined at the Lord's table.
paved--translated, like mosaic pavement, with the various acts and promises of love of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ( Zephaniah 3:17 , 1 John 4:8 1 John 4:16 ), in contrast with the tables of stone in the "midst" of the ark, covered with writings of stern command (compare John 19:13 ); this is all grace and love to believers, who answer to "the daughters of Jerusalem" ( John 1:17 ). The exterior silver and gold, cedar, purple, and guards, may deter, but when the bride enters within, she rests on a pavement of love.
11. Go forth--( Matthew 25:6 ).
daughters of Zion--spirits of saints, and angels ( Isaiah 61:10 , Zechariah 9:9 ).
crown--nuptial ( Ezekiel 16:8-12 ); the Hebrews wore costly crowns or chaplets at weddings ( Psalms 2:6 , Revelation 19:12 ). The crown of thorns was once His nuptial chaplet, His blood the wedding wine cup ( John 19:5 ). "His mother," that so crowned Him, is the human race, for He is "the Son of man," not merely the son of Mary. The same mother reconciled to Him ( Matthew 12:50 ), as the Church, travails in birth for souls, which she presents to Him as a crown ( Philippians 4:1 , Revelation 4:10 ). Not being ashamed to call the children brethren ( Hebrews 2:11-14 ), He calls their mother His mother ( Psalms 22:9 , Romans 8:29 , Revelation 12:1 Revelation 12:2 ).
behold--( 2 Thessalonians 1:10 ).
day of his espousals--chiefly final marriage, when the number of the elect is complete ( Revelation 6:11 ).
gladness--( Psalms 45:15 , Isaiah 62:5 , Revelation 19:7 ). MOODY STUART observes as to this Canticle (Solomon 3:6-5:1'), the center of the Book, these characteristics: (1) The bridegroom takes the chief part, whereas elsewhere the bride is the chief speaker. (2) Elsewhere He is either "King" or "Solomon"; here He is twice called "King Solomon." The bride is six times here called the "spouse"; never so before or after; also "sister" four times, and, except in the first verse of the next Canticle, nowhere else. (3) He and she are never separate; no absence, no complaint, which abound elsewhere, are in this Canticle.