Christ's answer. (1) The disappointments of the church from her own folly. (2-8) The excellences of Christ. (9-16)
Verse 1 See how ready Christ is to accept the invitations of his people. What little good there is in us would be lost, if he did not preserve it to himself. He also invites his beloved people to eat and drink abundantly. The ordinances in which they honour him, are means of grace.
Verses 2-8 Churches and believers, by carelessness and security, provoke Christ to withdraw. We ought to notice our spiritual slumbers and distempers. Christ knocks to awaken us, knocks by his word and Spirit, knocks by afflictions and by our consciences; thus, ( Revelation 3:20 ) . When we are unmindful of Christ, still he thinks of us. Christ's love to us should engage ours to him, even in the most self-denying instances; and we only can be gainers by it. Careless souls put slights on Jesus Christ. Another could not be sent to open the door. Christ calls to us, but we have no mind, or pretend we have no strength, or we have no time, and think we may be excused. Making excuses is making light of Christ. Those put contempt upon Christ, who cannot find in their hearts to bear a cold blast, or to leave a warm bed for him. See the powerful influences of Divine grace. He put in his hand to unbolt the door, as one weary of waiting. This betokens a work of the Spirit upon the soul. The believer's rising above self-indulgence, seeking by prayer for the consolations of Christ, and to remove every hinderance to communion with him; these actings of the soul are represented by the hands dropping sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the locks. But the Beloved was gone! By absenting himself, Christ will teach his people to value his gracious visits more highly. Observe, the soul still calls Christ her Beloved. Every desertion is not despair. Lord, I believe, though I must say, Lord, help my unbelief. His words melted me, yet, wretch that I was, I made excuses. The smothering and stifling of convictions will be very bitter to think of, when God opens our eyes. The soul went in pursuit of him; not only prayed, but used means, sought him in the ways wherein he used to be found. The watchmen wounded me. Some refer it to those who misapply the word to awakened consciences. The charge to the daughters of Jerusalem, seems to mean the distressed believer's desire of the prayers of the feeblest Christian. Awakened souls are more sensible of Christ's withdrawings than of any other trouble.
Verses 9-16 Even those who have little acquaintance with Christ, cannot but see amiable beauty in others who bear his image. There are hopes of those who begin to inquire concerning Christ and his perfections. Christians, who are well acquainted with Christ themselves, should do all they can to make others know something of him. Divine glory makes him truly lovely in the eyes of all who are enlightened to discern spiritual things. He is white in the spotless innocence of his life, ruddy in the bleeding sufferings he went through at his death. This description of the person of the Beloved, would form, in the figurative language of those times, a portrait of beauty of person and of grace of manners; but the aptness of some of the allusions may not appear to us. He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all that believe. May his love constrain us to live to his glory.
Solomon 5:1-16 .
1. Answer to her prayer ( Isaiah 65:24 , Revelation 3:20 ).
am come--already ( Solomon 4:16 ); "come" ( Genesis 28:16 ).
sister . . . spouse--As Adam's was created of his flesh, out of his opened side, there being none on earth on a level with him, so the bride out of the pierced Saviour ( Ephesians 5:30-32 ).
have gathered . . . myrrh--His course was already complete; the myrrh, &c. ( Matthew 2:11 , 26:7-12 , John 19:39 ), emblems of the indwelling of the anointing Holy Ghost, were already gathered.
have eaten--answering to her "eat" ( Solomon 4:16 ).
honeycomb--distinguished here from liquid "honey" dropping from trees. The last supper, here set forth, is one of espousal, a pledge of the future marriage ( Solomon 8:14 , Revelation 19:9 ). Feasts often took place in gardens. In the absence of sugar, then unknown, honey was more widely used than with us. His eating honey with milk indicates His true, yet spotless, human nature from infancy ( Isaiah 7:15 ); and after His resurrection ( Luke 24:42 ).
my wine--( John 18:11 )--a cup of wrath to Him, of mercy to us, whereby God's Word and promises become to us "milk" ( Psalms 19:10 , 1 Peter 2:2 ). "My" answers to "His" ( Solomon 4:16 ). The myrrh (emblem, by its bitterness, of repentance), honey, milk (incipient faith), wine (strong faith), in reference to believers, imply that He accepts all their graces, however various in degree.
eat--He desires to make us partakers in His joy ( Isaiah 55:1 Isaiah 55:2 John 6:53-57 1 John 1:3 ).
drink abundantly--so as to be filled ( Ephesians 5:18 ; as Haggai 1:6 ).
friends--( John 15:15 ).
CANTICLE IV.--(Solomon 5:2-8:4')--FROM THE AGONY OF GETHSEMANE TO THE CONVERSION OF SAMARIA.
2. Sudden change of scene from evening to midnight, from a betrothal feast to cold repulse. He has gone from the feast alone; night is come; He knocks at the door of His espoused; she hears, but in sloth does not shake off half-conscious drowsiness; namely, the disciples' torpor ( Matthew 26:40-43 ), "the spirit willing, the flesh weak" (compare Romans 7:18-25 Galatians 5:16 Galatians 5:17 Galatians 5:24 ). Not total sleep. The lamp was burning beside the slumbering wise virgin, but wanted trimming ( Matthew 25:5-7 ). It is His voice that rouses her ( Jonah 1:6 , Ephesians 5:14 , Revelation 3:20 ). Instead of bitter reproaches, He addresses her by the most endearing titles, "my sister, my love," &c. Compare His thought of Peter after the denial ( Mark 16:7 ).
dew--which falls heavily in summer nights in the East (see Luke 9:58 ).
drops of the night--( Psalms 22:2 , Luke 22:44 ). His death is not expressed, as unsuitable to the allegory, a song of love and joy; Solomon 5:4 refers to the scene in the judgment hall of Caiaphas, when Jesus Christ employed the cock-crowing and look of love to awaken Peter's sleeping conscience, so that his "bowels were moved" ( Luke 22:61 Luke 22:62 ); Song of Solomon 5:5 Song of Solomon 5:6 , the disciples with "myrrh," &c. ( Luke 24:1 Luke 24:5 ), seeking Jesus Christ in the tomb, but finding Him not, for He has "withdrawn Himself" ( John 7:34 , 13:33 ); Solomon 5:7 , the trials by watchmen extend through the whole night of His withdrawal from Gethsemane to the resurrection; they took off the "veil" of Peter's disguise; also, literally the linen cloth from the young man ( Mark 14:51 ); Solomon 5:8 , the sympathy of friends ( Luke 23:27 ).
undefiled--not polluted by spiritual adultery ( Revelation 14:4 , 4:4 ).
3. Trivial excuses ( Luke 14:18 ).
coat--rather, the inmost vest, next the skin, taken off before going to bed.
washed . . . feet--before going to rest, for they had been soiled, from the Eastern custom of wearing sandals, not shoes. Sloth ( Luke 11:7 ) and despondency ( Deuteronomy 7:17-19 ).
4. A key in the East is usually a piece of wood with pegs in it corresponding to small holes in a wooden bolt within, and is put through a hole in the door, and thus draws the bolt. So Jesus Christ "puts forth His hand (namely, His Spirit, Ezekiel 3:14 ), by (Hebrew, 'from,' so in Solomon 2:9 ) the hole"; in "chastening" ( Psalms 38:2 Revelation 3:14-22 , singularly similar to this passage), and other unexpected ways letting Himself in ( Luke 22:61 Luke 22:62 ).
bowels . . . moved for him--It is His which are first troubled for us, and which cause ours to be troubled for Him ( Jeremiah 31:20 , Hosea 11:8 ).
5. dropped with myrrh--The best proof a bride could give her lover of welcome was to anoint herself (the back of the hands especially, as being the coolest part of the body) profusely with the best perfumes ( Exodus 30:23 , Esther 2:12 , Proverbs 7:17 ); "sweet-smelling" is in the Hebrew rather, "spontaneously exuding" from the tree, and therefore the best. She designed also to anoint Him, whose "head was filled with the drops of night" ( Luke 24:1 ). The myrrh typifies bitter repentance, the fruit of the Spirit's unction ( 2 Corinthians 1:21 2 Corinthians 1:22 ).
handles of the lock--sins which closed the heart against Him.
6. withdrawn--He knocked when she was sleeping; for to have left her then would have ended in the death sleep; He withdraws now that she is roused, as she needs correction ( Jeremiah 2:17 Jeremiah 2:19 ), and can appreciate and safely bear it now, which she could not then. "The strong He'll strongly try" ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ).
when he spake--rather, "because of His speaking"; at the remembrance of His tender words ( Job 29:2 Job 29:3 , Psalms 27:13 , 142:7 ), or till He should speak. no answer--( Job 23:3-9 , 30:20 , 34:29 , Lamentations 3:44 ). Weak faith receives immediate comfort ( Luke 8:44 Luke 8:47 Luke 8:48 ); strong faith is tried with delay ( Matthew 15:22 Matthew 15:23 ).
7. watchmen--historically, the Jewish priests, &c. ( Isaiah 62:6 , Hebrews 13:17 ), faithful in "smiting" ( Psalms 141:5 ) too harsh; or, perhaps, unfaithful; disliking her zeal wherewith she sought Jesus Christ, first, with spiritual prayer, "opening" her heart to Him, and then in charitable works "about the city"; miscalling it fanaticism ( Isaiah 66:5 ), and taking away her veil (the greatest indignity to an Eastern lady), as though she were positively immodest. She had before sought Him by night in the streets, under strong affection ( Solomon 3:2-4 ), and so without rebuff from "the watchmen," found Him immediately; but now after sinful neglect, she encounters pain and delay. God forgives believers, but it is a serious thing to draw on His forgiveness; so the growing reserve of God towards Israel observable in Judges, as His people repeat their demands on His grace.
8. She turns from the unsympathizing watchmen to humbler persons, not yet themselves knowing Him, but in the way towards it. Historically, His secret friends in the night of His withdrawal ( Luke 23:27 Luke 23:28 ). Inquirers may find ("if ye find") Jesus Christ before she who has grieved His Spirit finds Him again.
tell--in prayer ( James 5:16 ).
sick of love--from an opposite cause ( Solomon 2:5 ) than through excess of delight at His presence; now excess of pain at His absence.
9. Her own beauty ( Ezekiel 16:14 ), and lovesickness for Him, elicit now their enquiry ( Matthew 5:16 ); heretofore "other lords besides Him had dominion over them"; thus they had seen "no beauty in Him" ( Isaiah 26:13 , 53:2 ).
10. ( 1 Peter 3:15 ).
white and ruddy--health and beauty. So David (equivalent to beloved), His forefather after the flesh, and type ( 1 Samuel 17:42 ). "The Lamb" is at once His nuptial and sacrificial name ( 1 Peter 1:19 , Revelation 19:7 ), characterized by white and red; white, His spotless manhood ( Revelation 1:14 ). The Hebrew for white is properly "illuminated by the sun," white as the light" (compare Matthew 17:2 ); red, in His blood-dyed garment as slain ( Isaiah 63:1-3 , Revelation 5:6 , 19:13 ). Angels are white, not red; the blood of martyrs does not enter heaven; His alone is seen there.
chiefest--literally, "a standard bearer"; that is, as conspicuous above all others, as a standard bearer is among hosts ( Psalms 45:7 , 89:6 , Isaiah 11:10 , 55:4 , Hebrews 2:10 ; compare 2 Samuel 18:3 Job 33:23 Philippians 2:9-11 Revelation 1:5 ). The chief of sinners needs the "chiefest" of Saviours.
11. head . . . gold--the Godhead of Jesus Christ, as distinguished from His heel, that is, His manhood, which was "bruised" by Satan; both together being one Christ ( 1 Corinthians 11:3 ). Also His sovereignty, as Nebuchadnezzar, the supreme king was "the head of gold" ( Daniel 2:32-38 Colossians 1:18 ), the highest creature, compared with Him, is brass, iron, and clay. "Preciousness" (Greek, 1 Peter 2:7 ).
bushy--curled, token of Headship. In contrast with her flowing locks ( Solomon 4:1 ), the token of her subjection to Him ( Psalms 8:4-8 , 1 Corinthians 11:3 1 Corinthians 11:6-15 ). The Hebrew is (pendulous as) the branches of a palm, which, when in leaf, resemble waving plumes of feathers.
black--implying youth; no "gray hairs" ( Psalms 102:27 , Psalms 110:3 Psalms 110:4 , Hosea 7:9 ). Jesus Christ was crucified in the prime of vigor and manliness. In heaven, on the other hand, His hair is "white," He being the Ancient of days ( Daniel 7:9 ). These contrasts often concur in Him ( Solomon 5:10 ), "white and ruddy"; here the "raven" ( Solomon 5:12 ), the "dove," as both with Noah in the ark ( Genesis 8:11 ); emblems of judgment and mercy.
12. as the eyes of doves--rather, "as doves" ( Psalms 68:13 ); bathing in "the rivers"; so combining in their "silver" feathers the whiteness of milk with the sparkling brightness of the water trickling over them ( Matthew 3:16 ). The "milk" may allude to the white around the pupil of the eye. The "waters" refer to the eye as the fountain of tears of sympathy ( Ezekiel 16:5 Ezekiel 16:6 , Luke 19:41 ). Vivacity, purity, and love, are the three features typified.
fitly set--as a gem in a ring; as the precious stones in the high priest's breastplate. Rather, translate as Vulgate (the doves), sitting at the fulness of the stream; by the full stream; or, as MAURER (the eyes) "set in fulness, not sunk in their sockets ( Revelation 5:6 ), ("seven," expressing full perfection), ( Zechariah 3:9 , 4:10 ).
13. cheeks--the seat of beauty, according to the Hebrew meaning [GESENIUS]. Yet men smote and spat on them ( Isaiah 50:6 ).
bed--full, like the raised surface of the garden bed; fragrant with ointments, as beds with aromatic plants (literally, "balsam").
sweet flowers--rather, "terraces of aromatic herbs"--"high-raised parterres of sweet plants," in parallelism to "bed," which comes from a Hebrew root, meaning "elevation."
lips--( Psalms 45:2 , John 7:46 ).
lilies--red lilies. Soft and gentle ( 1 Peter 2:22 1 Peter 2:23 ). How different lips were man's ( Psalms 22:7 )!
dropping . . . myrrh--namely, His lips, just as the sweet dewdrops which hang in the calyx of the lily.
14. rings set with . . . beryl--Hebrew, Tarshish, so called from the city. The ancient chrysolite, gold in color (Septuagint), our topaz, one of the stones on the high priest's breastplate, also in the foundation of New Jerusalem ( Revelation 21:19 Revelation 21:20 ; also Daniel 10:6 ). "Are as," is plainly to be supplied, see in Solomon 5:13 a similiar ellipsis; not as MOODY STUART: "have gold rings." The hands bent in are compared to beautiful rings, in which beryl is set, as the nails are in the fingers. BURROWES explains the rings as cylinders used as signets, such as are found in Nineveh, and which resemble fingers. A ring is the token of sonship ( Luke 15:22 ). A slave was not allowed to wear a gold ring. He imparts His sonship and freedom to us ( Galatians 4:7 ); also of authority ( Genesis 41:42 ; compare John 6:27 ). He seals us in the name of God with His signet ( Revelation 7:2-4 ), compare below, Solomon 8:6 , where she desires to be herself a signet-ring on His arms; so "graven on the palms," &c., that is, on the signet-ring in His hand ( Isaiah 49:16 ; contrast Haggai 2:23 , with Jeremiah 22:24 ).
belly--BURROWES and MOODY STUART translate, "body." NEWTON, as it is elsewhere, "bowels"; namely, His compassion ( Psalms 22:14 , Isaiah 63:15 , Jeremiah 31:20 , Hosea 11:8 ).
bright--literally, "elaborately wrought so as to shine," so His "prepared" body ( Hebrews 10:5 ); the "ivory palace" of the king ( Psalms 45:8 ); spotless, pure, so the bride's "neck is as to tower of ivory" ( Solomon 7:4 ).
sapphires--spangling in the girdle around Him ( Daniel 10:5 ). "To the pure all things are pure." As in statuary to the artist the partly undraped figure is suggestive only of beauty, free from indelicacy, so to the saint the personal excellencies of Jesus Christ, typified under the ideal of the noblest human form. As, however, the bride and bridegroom are in public, the usual robes on the person, richly ornamented, are presupposed ( Isaiah 11:5 ). Sapphires indicate His heavenly nature (so John 3:13 , "is in heaven"), even in His humiliation, overlaying or cast "over" His ivory human body ( Exodus 24:10 ). Sky-blue in color, the height and depth of the love of Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 3:18 ).
15. pillars--strength and steadfastness. Contrast man's "legs" ( Ecclesiastes 12:3 ). Allusion to the temple ( 1 Kings 5:8 1 Kings 5:9 , 7:21 ), the "cedars" of "Lebanon" ( Psalms 147:10 ). Jesus Christ's "legs" were not broken on the cross, though the thieves' were; on them rests the weight of our salvation ( Psalms 75:3 ).
sockets of fine gold--His sandals, answering to the bases of the pillars; "set up from everlasting" ( Proverbs 8:22 Proverbs 8:23 ) to the feet, "of fine gold." He was tried in the fire and found without alloy.
countenance--rather, "His aspect," including both mien and stature (compare 2 Samuel 23:21 , Margin; with 1 Chronicles 11:23 ). From the several parts, she proceeds to the general effect of the whole person of Jesus Christ.
Lebanon--so called from its white limestone rocks.
excellent--literally, "choice," that is, fair and tall as the cedars on Lebanon ( Ezekiel 31:3 , &c.). Majesty is the prominent thought ( Psalms 21:5 ). Also the cedars' duration ( Hebrews 1:11 ); greenness ( Luke 23:31 ), and refuge afforded by it ( Ezekiel 17:22 Ezekiel 17:23 ).
16. Literally, "His palate is sweetness, yea, all over loveliness," that is, He is the essence of these qualities.
mouth--so Solomon 1:2 , not the same as "lips" ( Solomon 5:13 ), His breath ( Isaiah 11:4 , John 20:22 ). "All over," all the beauties scattered among creatures are transcendently concentrated in Him ( Colossians 1:19 , 2:9 ).
my beloved--for I love Him.
my friend--for He loves me ( Proverbs 18:24 ). Holy boasting ( Psalms 34:2 , 1 Corinthians 1:31 ).