Christ sets forth the graces of the church. (1-7) Christ's love to the church. (8-15) The church desires further influences of Divine grace. (16)
Verses 1-7 If each of these comparisons has a meaning applicable to the graces of the church, or of the faithful Christian, they are not clearly known; and great mistakes are made by fanciful guesses. The mountain of myrrh appears to mean the mountain Moriah, on which the temple was built, where the incense was burned, and the people worshipped the Lord. This was his residence till the shadows of the law given to Moses were dispersed by the breaking of the gospel day, and the rising of the Sun of righteousness. And though, in respect of his human nature, Christ is absent from his church on earth, and will continue to be so till the heavenly day break, yet he is spiritually present in his ordinances, and with his people. How fair and comely are believers, when justified in Christ's righteousness, and adorned with spiritual graces! when their thoughts, words, and deeds, though imperfect, are pure, manifesting a heart nourished by the gospel!
Verses 8-15 Observe the gracious call Christ gives to the church. It is, 1. A precept; so this is Christ's call to his church to come off from the world. These hills seem pleasant, but there are in them lions' dens; they are mountains of the leopards. 2. As a promise; many shall be brought as members of the church, from every point. The church shall be delivered from her persecutors in due time, though now she dwells among lions, ( Psalms 57:4 ) . Christ's heart is upon his church; his treasure is therein; and he delights in the affection she has for him; its working in the heart, and its works in the life. The odours wherewith the spouse is perfumed, are as the gifts and graces of the Spirit. Love and obedience to God are more pleasing to Christ than sacrifice or incense. Christ having put upon his spouse the white raiment of his own righteousness, and the righteousness of saints, and perfumed it with holy joy and comfort, he is well pleased with it. And Christ walks in his garden unseen. A hedge of protection is made around, which all the powers of darkness cannot break through. The souls of believers are as gardens enclosed, where is a well of living water, ( John 4:14 , John 7:38 ) , the influences of the Holy Spirit. The world knows not these wells of salvation, nor can any opposer corrupt this fountain. Saints in the church, and graces in the saints, are fitly compared to fruits and spices. They are planted, and do not grow of themselves. They are precious; they are the blessings of this earth. They will be kept to good purpose when flowers are withered. Grace, when ended in glory, will last for ever. Christ is the source which makes these gardens fruitful; even a well of living waters.
Verse 16 The church prays for the influences of the blessed Spirit, to make this garden fruitful. Graces in the soul are as spices in these gardens, that in them which is valuable and useful. The blessed Spirit, in his work upon the soul, is as the wind. There is the north wind of conviction, and the south wind of comfort. He stirs up good affections, and works in us both to will and to do that which is good. The church invites Christ. Let him have the honour of all the garden produces, and let us have the comfort of his acceptance of it. We can invite him to nothing but what is his own already. The believer can have no joy of the fruits, unless they redound some way or other to the glory of Christ. Let us then seek to keep separate from the world, as a garden enclosed, and to avoid conformity thereto.
Solomon 4:1-16 .
1. Contrast with the bride's state by nature ( Isaiah 1:6 ) her state by grace ( Solomon 4:1-7 ), "perfect through His comeliness put upon her" ( Ezekiel 16:14 , John 15:3 ). The praise of Jesus Christ, unlike that of the world, hurts not, but edifies; as His, not ours, is the glory ( John 5:44 , Revelation 4:10 Revelation 4:11 ). Seven features of beauty are specified ( Solomon 4:1-5 ) ("lips" and "speech" are but one feature, Solomon 4:3 ), the number for perfection. To each of these is attached a comparison from nature: the resemblances consist not so much in outward likeness, as in the combined sensations of delight produced by contemplating these natural objects.
doves--the large melting eye of the Syrian dove appears especially beautiful amid the foliage of its native groves: so the bride's "eyes within her locks" ( Luke 7:44 ). MAURER for "locks," has "veil"; but locks suit the connection better: so the Hebrew is translated ( Isaiah 47:2 ). The dove was the only bird counted "clean" for sacrifice. Once the heart was "the cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Grace makes the change.
eyes--( Matthew 6:22 , Ephesians 1:18 ; contrast Matthew 5:28 , Ephesians 4:18 , 1 John 2:16 ). Chaste and guileless ("harmless," Matthew 10:16 , Margin; John 1:47 ). John the Baptist, historically, was the "turtledove" ( Solomon 2:12 ), with eye directed to the coming Bridegroom: his Nazarite unshorn hair answers to "locks" ( John 1:29 John 1:36 ).
hair . . . goats--The hair of goats in the East is fine like silk. As long hair is her glory, and marks her subjection to man ( 1 Corinthians 11:6-15 ), so the Nazarite's hair marked his subjection and separation unto God. (Compare Judges 16:17 , with 2 Corinthians 6:17 , Titus 2:14 , 1 Peter 2:9 ). Jesus Christ cares for the minutest concerns of His saints ( Matthew 10:30 ).
appear from--literally, "that lie down from"; lying along the hillside, they seem to hang from it: a picture of the bride's hanging tresses.
Gilead--beyond Jordan: there stood "the heap of witness" ( Genesis 31:48 ).
2. even shorn--is translated ( 1 Kings 6:25 ), "of one size"; so the point of comparison to teeth is their symmetry of form; as in "came up from the washing," the spotless whiteness; and in "twins," the exact correspondence of the upper and lower teeth: and in "none barren," none wanting, none without its fellow. Faith is the tooth with which we eat the living bread ( John 6:35 John 6:54 ). Contrast the teeth of sinners ( Psalms 57:4 , Proverbs 30:14 ); also their end ( Psalms 3:7 , Matthew 25:30 ). Faith leads the flock to the washing ( Zechariah 13:1 , 1 Corinthians 6:11 , Titus 3:5 ).
none . . . barren--( 2 Peter 1:8 ). He who is begotten of God begets instrumentally other sons of God.
3. thread--like a delicate fillet. Not thick and white as the leper's lips (type of sin), which were therefore to be "covered," as "unclean" ( Leviticus 13:45 ).
scarlet--The blood of Jesus Christ ( Isaiah 6:5-9 ) cleanses the leprosy, and unseals the lips ( Isaiah 57:19 , Hosea 14:2 , Hebrews 13:15 ). Rahab's scarlet thread was a type of it ( Joshua 2:18 ).
speech--not a separate feature from the lips ( Zephaniah 3:9 , Colossians 4:6 ). Contrast "uncircumcised lips" ( Exodus 6:12 ). MAURER and BURROWES translate, "thy mouth."
temples--rather, the upper part of the cheek next the temples: the seat of shamefacedness; so, "within thy locks," no display ( 1 Corinthians 11:5 1 Corinthians 11:6 1 Corinthians 11:15 ). Mark of true penitence ( Ezra 9:6 , Ezekiel 16:63 ). Contrast Jeremiah 3:3 , Ezekiel 3:7 .
pomegranate--When cut, it displays in rows seeds pellucid, like crystal, tinged with red. Her modesty is not on the surface, but within, which Jesus Christ can see into.
4. neck--stately: in beautiful contrast to the blushing temples ( Solomon 4:3 ); not "stiff" ( Isaiah 48:4 , Acts 7:51 ), as that of unbroken nature; nor "stretched forth" wantonly ( Isaiah 3:16 ); nor burdened with the legal yoke ( Lamentations 1:14 , Acts 15:10 ); but erect in gospel freedom ( Isaiah 52:2 ).
tower of David--probably on Zion. He was a man of war, preparatory to the reign of Solomon, the king of peace. So warfare in the case of Jesus Christ and His saints precedes the coming rest. Each soul won from Satan by Him is a trophy gracing the bride ( Luke 11:22 ); (each hangs on Him, Isaiah 22:23 Isaiah 22:24 ); also each victory of her faith. As shields adorn a temple's walls ( Ezekiel 27:11 ), so necklaces hang on the bride's neck ( Judges 5:30 , 1 Kings 10:16 ).
5. breasts--The bust is left open in Eastern dress. The breastplate of the high priest was made of "two" pieces, folded one on the other, in which were the Urim and Thummim (lights and perfection). "Faith and love" are the double breastplate ( 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ), answering to "hearing the word" and "keeping it," in a similar connection with breasts ( Luke 12:27 Luke 12:28 ).
roes--He reciprocates her praise ( Solomon 2:9 ). Emblem of love and satisfaction ( Proverbs 5:19 ).
feed--( Psalms 23:2 ).
among the lilies--shrinking from thorns of strife, worldliness, and ungodliness ( 2 Samuel 23:6 , Matthew 13:7 ). Roes feed among, not on the lilies: where these grow, there is moisture producing green pasturage. The lilies represent her white dress ( Psalms 45:14 , Revelation 19:8 ).
6. Historically, the hill of frankincense is Calvary, where, "through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself"; the mountain of myrrh is His embalmment ( John 19:39 ) till the resurrection "daybreak." The third Canticle occupies the one cloudless day of His presence on earth, beginning from the night ( Solomon 2:17 ) and ending with the night of His departure ( Solomon 4:6 ). His promise is almost exactly in the words of her prayer ( Solomon 2:17 ), (the same Holy Ghost breathing in Jesus Christ and His praying people), with the difference that she then looked for His visible coming. He now tells her that when He shall have gone from sight, He still is to be met with spiritually in prayer ( Psalms 68:16 , Matthew 28:20 ), until the everlasting day break, when we shall see face to face ( 1 Corinthians 13:10 1 Corinthians 13:12 ).
7. Assurance that He is going from her in love, not in displeasure ( John 16:6 John 16:7 ).
all fair--still stronger than Solomon 1:15 , Solomon 4:1 .
no spot--our privilege ( Ephesians 5:27 , Colossians 2:10 ); our duty ( 2 Corinthians 6:17 , Jude 1:23 , 1:27 ).
8. Invitation to her to leave the border mountains (the highest worldly elevation) between the hostile lands north of Palestine and the Promised Land ( Psalms 45:10 , Philippians 3:13 ).
Amana--south of Anti-Libanus; the river Abana, or Amana, was near Damascus ( 2 Kings 5:12 ).
Shenir--The whole mountain was called Hermon; the part held by the Sidonians was called Sirion; the part held by the Amorites, Shenir ( Deuteronomy 3:9 ). Infested by the devouring lion and the stealthy and swift leopard ( Psalms 76:4 , Ephesians 6:11 , 1 Peter 5:8 ). Contrasted with the mountain of myrrh, &c. ( Solomon 4:6 , Isaiah 2:2 ); the good land ( Isaiah 35:9 ).
with me--twice repeated emphatically. The presence of Jesus Christ makes up for the absence of all besides ( Luke 18:29 Luke 18:30 , 2 Corinthians 6:10 ). Moses was permitted to see Canaan from Pisgah; Peter, James, and John had a foretaste of glory on the mount of transfiguration.
9. sister . . . spouse--This title is here first used, as He is soon about to institute the Supper, the pledge of the nuptial union. By the term "sister," carnal ideas are excluded; the ardor of a spouse's love is combined with the purity of a sister's ( Isaiah 54:5 ; compare Mark 3:35 ).
one--Even one look is enough to secure His love ( Zechariah 12:10 Luke 23:40-43 ). Not merely the Church collectively, but each one member of it ( Matthew 18:10 Matthew 18:14 , Luke 15:7 Luke 15:24 Luke 15:32 ).
chain--necklace ( Isaiah 62:3 , Malachi 3:17 ), answering to the "shields" hanging in the tower of David ( Solomon 4:4 ). Compare the "ornament" ( 1 Peter 3:4 ); "chains" ( Proverbs 1:9 , 3:22 ).
10. love--Hebrew, "loves"; manifold tokens of thy love.
much better--answering to her "better" ( Solomon 1:2 ), but with increased force. An Amoebean pastoral character pervades the Song, like the classic Amoebean idylls and eclogues.
wine--The love of His saints is a more reviving cordial to Him than wine; for example, at the feast in Simon's house ( Luke 7:36 Luke 7:47 , John 4:32 ; compare Zechariah 10:7 ).
smell of . . . ointments than all spices--answering to her praise ( Solomon 1:3 ) with increased force. Fragrant, as being fruits of His Spirit in us ( Galatians 5:22 ).
11. drop--always ready to fall, being full of honey, though not always ( Proverbs 10:19 ) actually dropping ( Solomon 5:13 , Deuteronomy 32:2 , Matthew 12:34 ).
honeycomb--( Proverbs 5:3 , 16:24 ).
under thy tongue--not always on, but under, the tongue, ready to fall ( Psalms 55:21 ). Contrast her former state ( Psalms 140:3 , Romans 3:13 ). "Honey and milk" were the glory of the good land. The change is illustrated in the penitent thief. Contrast Matthew 27:44 with Luke 23:39 , &c. It was literally with "one" eye, a sidelong glance of love "better than wine," that he refreshed Jesus Christ ( Song of Solomon 4:9 Song of Solomon 4:10 ). "To-day shalt thou be with Me (compare Solomon 4:8 ) in Paradise" ( Solomon 4:12 ), is the only joyous sentence of His seven utterances on the cross.
smell of . . . garments--which are often perfumed in the East ( Psalms 45:8 ). The perfume comes from Him on us ( Psalms 133:2 ). We draw nigh to God in the perfumed garment of our elder brother ( Genesis 27:27 ; see Jude 1:23 ).
Lebanon--abounding in odoriferous trees ( Hosea 14:5-7 ).
12. The Hebrew has no "is." Here she is distinct from the garden ( Solomon 5:1 ), yet identified with it ( Solomon 4:16 ) as being one with Him in His sufferings. Historically the Paradise, into which the soul of Jesus Christ entered at death; and the tomb of Joseph, in which His body was laid amid "myrrh," &c. ( Solomon 4:6 ), situated in a nicely kept garden (compare "gardener," John 20:15 ); "sealed" with a stone ( Matthew 27:66 ); in which it resembles "wells" in the East ( Genesis 29:3 Genesis 29:8 ). It was in a garden of light Adam fell; in a garden of darkness, Gethsemane, and chiefly that of the tomb, the second Adam retrieved us. Spiritually the garden is the gospel kingdom of heaven. Here all is ripe; previously ( Solomon 2:13 ) it was "the tender grape." The garden is His, though He calls the plants hers ( Solomon 4:13 ) by His gift ( Isaiah 61:3 , end).
spring . . . fountain--Jesus Christ ( John 4:10 ) sealed, while He was in the sealed tomb: it poured forth its full tide on Pentecost ( John 7:37-39 ). Still He is a sealed fountain until the Holy Ghost opens it to one ( 1 Corinthians 12:3 ). The Church also is "a garden enclosed" ( Psalms 4:3 , Isaiah 5:1 , &c.). Contrast Psalms 80:9-12 . So "a spring" ( Isaiah 27:3 , 58:11 ); "sealed" ( Ephesians 4:30 , 2 Timothy 2:19 ). As wives in the East are secluded from public gaze, so believers ( Psalms 83:3 , Colossians 3:3 ). Contrast the open streams which "pass away" ( Job 6:15-18 , 2 Peter 2:17 ).
13. orchard--Hebrew, "a paradise," that is, a pleasure-ground and orchard. Not only flowers, but fruit trees ( John 15:8 , Philippians 1:11 ).
camphire--not camphor ( Solomon 1:14 ), hennah, or cypress blooms.
14. calamus--"sweet cane" ( Exodus 30:23 , Jeremiah 6:20 ).
myrrh and aloes--Ointments are associated with His death, as well as with feasts ( John 12:7 ). The bride's ministry of "myrrh and aloes" is recorded ( John 19:39 ).
15. of--This pleasure-ground is not dependent on mere reservoirs; it has a fountain sufficient to water many "gardens" (plural).
living--( Jeremiah 17:8 , John 4:13 John 4:14 , John 7:38 John 7:39 ).
from Lebanon--Though the fountain is lowly, the source is lofty; fed by the perpetual snows of Lebanon, refreshingly cool ( Jeremiah 18:14 ), fertilizing the gardens of Damascus. It springs upon earth; its source is heaven. It is now not "sealed," but open "streams" ( Revelation 22:17 ).
16. Awake--literally, "arise." All besides is ready; one thing alone is wanted--the breath of God. This follows rightly after His death ( Solomon 6:12 , Acts 2:1-4 ). It is His call to the Spirit to come ( John 14:16 ); in John 3:8 , compared to "the wind"; quickening ( John 6:63 , Ezekiel 27:9 ). Saints offer the same prayer ( Psalms 85:6 , Habakkuk 3:2 ). The north wind "awakes," or arises strongly, namely, the Holy Ghost as a reprover ( John 16:8-11 ); the south wind "comes" gently, namely, the Holy Ghost as the comforter ( John 14:16 ). The west wind brings rain from the sea ( 1 Kings 18:44 1 Kings 18:45 , Luke 12:54 ). The east wind is tempestuous ( Job 27:21 , Isaiah 27:8 ) and withering ( Genesis 41:23 ). These, therefore, are not wanted; but first the north wind clearing the air ( Job 37:22 , Proverbs 25:23 ), and then the warm south wind ( Job 37:17 ); so the Holy Ghost first clearing away mists of gloom, error, unbelief, sin, which intercept the light of Jesus Christ, then infusing spiritual warmth ( 2 Corinthians 4:6 ), causing the graces to exhale their odor.
Let my beloved, &c.--the bride's reply. The fruit was now at length ripe; the last passover, which He had so desired, is come ( Luke 22:7 Luke 22:15 Luke 22:16 Luke 22:18 ), the only occasion in which He took charge of the preparations.
his--answering to Jesus Christ's "My." She owns that the garden is His, and the fruits in her, which she does not in false humility deny ( Psalms 66:16 , Acts 21:19 , 1 Corinthians 15:10 ) are His ( John 15:8 , Philippians 1:11 ).