I [am] the rose of Sharon, [and] the lily of the valleys.
] Whether Christ, or the church, is here speaking, is not certain: most of the Jewish writers F20, and some Christian interpreters F21, take them to be the words of the church, expressing the excellency of her grace, loveliness, and beauty, she had from Christ; and intimating also her being in the open fields, exposed to many dangers and enemies, and so needed his protection. The church may be compared to a "rose", for its beautiful colour and sweet odour F23, and for its delight in sunny places, where it thrives best, and is most fragrant. This figure is exceeding just; not only the beauty of women is expressed by the colour of the rose F24, as is common in poems of this kind; to give instances of it would be endless F25; some have had the name of Rhoda from hence; see ( Acts 12:13 ) . No rose can be more beautiful in colour, and delightful to the eye, than the church is in the eyes of Christ, as clothed with his righteousness, and adorned with the graces of his Spirit: nor is any rose of a more sweet and fragrant smell than the persons of believers are to God and Christ, being considered in him; and even their graces, when in exercise, yea, their duties and services, when performed in faith; and, as the rose, they grow and thrive under the warming, comforting, and refreshing beams of the sun of righteousness, where they delight to be. The church may also be compared to a "lily of the valleys", as she is, in the next verse, to one among thorns. This is a very beautiful flower; Pliny F26 says it is next in nobleness to the rose; its whiteness is singularly excellent; no plant more fruitful, and no flower exceeds it in height; in some countries, it rises up three cubits high; has a weak neck or body, insufficient to bear the weight of its head. The church may be compared to a lily, for her beauty and fragrance, as to a rose; and the redness of the rose, and the whiteness of the lily, meeting in her, make her somewhat like her beloved, white and ruddy; like the lily, being arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints; and like it for fruitfulness, as it is in good works, under the influence of divine grace, and grows up on high into her head, Christ Jesus; and though weak in herself, yet strong in him, who supports her, and not she him: and the church may be compared to a "lily of the valleys"; which may not describe any particular lily, and what we now call so; but only expresses the place where it grows, in low places, where plants are in danger of being plucked and trodden upon; though they may have more moisture and verdure than those in higher places; so the church of Christ is sometimes in a low estate, exposed to enemies, and liable to be trampled and trodden under foot by them, and to be carried away with the flood of persecution, were it not guarded by divine power; and, being watered with the dews of grace, it becomes flourishing and fruitful. But the more commonly received opinion is, that these are the words of Christ concerning himself; and which indeed best become him, and are more agreeable to his style and language, ( John 14:6 ) ( 15:9 ) ; and suit best with the words in the ( Song of Solomon 2:2 ) , as one observes F1; nor is it unfitly taken by the bridegroom to himself, since it is sometimes given by lovers to men F2. Christ may be compared to a rose for its colour and smell; to the rose for its red colour: and which may be expressive of the truth of his humanity, and of his bloody sufferings in it; and this, with the whiteness of the lily, finishes the description of him for his beauty, ( Song of Solomon 5:10 ) ; and for its sweet smell; which denotes the same things for which he is before compared to spikenard, myrrh, and camphire. The rose, as Pliny says F3, delights not in fat soils and rich clays, but in rubbish, and roses that grow there are of the sweetest smell; and such was the earth about Sharon F4; and to a rose there Christ is compared, to show the excellency and preferableness of him to all others. The word is only used here and in ( Isaiah 35:1 Isaiah 35:2 ) . Where it is in many versions rendered a "lily": it seems to be compounded of two words; one which signifies to "cover" and hide, and another which signifies a "shadow"; and so may be rendered, "the covering shadow": but for what reason a rose should be so called is not easy to say; unless it can be thought to have the figure of an umbrella; or that the rose tree in those parts was so large, as to be remarkable for its shadow; like that Montfaucon F5 saw, in a garden at Ravenna, under the shadow of the branches of which more than forty men could stand: Christ is sometimes compared to trees for their shadow, which is pleasant and reviving, as in ( Song of Solomon 2:3 ) ( Hosea 14:7 ) . Some render it, "the flower of the field" F6; which may be expressive of the meanness of Christ in the eyes of men; of his not being of human production; of his being accessible; and of his being liable to be trampled upon, as he has been. And as he is compared to a rose, so to a "lily", for its colour, height, and fruitfulness; expressive of his purity in himself, of his superiority to angels and men, and of his being filled with the fruits and blessings of grace; and to a lily of the valleys, denoting his wonderful condescension in his low estate of humiliation, and his delight in dwelling with the humble and lowly: some render the words, "I am the rose of Sharon, with the lily of the valleys" F7; by the former epithet meaning himself; and by the latter his church, his companion, in strict union and communion with him; of whom the following words are spoken.
F20 Zohar in Gen. fol. 46. 2. Targum, Aben Ezra, & Yalkut in loc.
F21 Ainsworth, Brightman, Vatablus; Cocceius; Michaelis.
F23 The rose, by the Arcadians, was called (euomfalon) , that is, "sweet-smelling", Timachidas apud Athenaei Deipnosophist. l. 15. c. 8. p. 682. and "rosy" is used for "beautiful"; "rosea cervice refulsit", Virgil. Aeneid. l. 1. Vid. Servium in ibid.
F24 So Helena, for her beauty, is called (rodocrwv elena) , in Theocrit. Idyll. 19. The rose was sacred to Venus, Pausaniae Eliac. 2. sive l. 6, p. 391.
F25 Vid. Barthii Animadv. ad Claudian. de Nupt. Honor. v. 247.
F26 Nat. Hist. l. 21. c. 5.
F1 Durham in Ioc.
F2 "Mea rosa", Plauti Bacchides, Sc. 1. v. 50. Asinaria, Act. 3, Sc. 3. v. 74. Curculio, Act. 1. Sc. 2. v. 6.
F3 Nat. Hist. l. 21. c. 4.
F4 Misnah Sotah, c. 8. s. 3.
F5 Diar. Italic, c. 7. p. 100.
F6 (anyov tou pediou) , Sept. "flos campi", V. L. Pagninus, Mercerus.
F7 "Ego rosa Sharon lilio vallium", Marckius.