The mandrakes give a smell
Or, "those lovely flowers", as Junius and Tremellius, and Piscator, translate the words; even those the church proposed to give to her beloved, when in the fields Some take them to be violets; others, jessamine; others, more probably, lilies F7; as the circumstances of time and place, when and where they flourished, and their fragrant smell, and figure like cups, show. Ravius F8 contends, that the word signifies, and should be rendered, "the branches put forth their sweet smelling flowers"; and thinks branches of figs are meant, which give a good smell, agreeably to ( Song of Solomon 2:13 ) ; and which he supposes to be the use of the word in ( Jeremiah 24:1 ) ; and to his sense Heidegger F9 agrees; only he thinks the word "branches" is not to be restrained to a particular species, but may signify branches of sweet smelling flowers, and fruits in general. Ludolphus F11 would have the fruit the Arabians, call "mauz", or "muza", intended; which, in the Abyssine country, is as big as a cucumber, and of the same form and shape, fifty of which grow upon one and the same stalk, and are of a very sweet taste and smell; from which cognation of a great many on the same stalk he thinks it took the name of "dudaim", the word here used, and in ( Genesis 30:14-16 ) . But the generality of interpreters and commentators understand by it the mandrakes; and so it is rendered by the Septuagint, and in both the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, on ( Genesis 30:14 ) ; but it is questionable whether the same plant that is known among us by that name is meant, since it is of a strong ill scented and offensive smell; and so Pliny says F12 of it: though Dioscorides, Levinus, Lemnius F13, and Augustine
F14 (who says he saw the plant and examined it), say it is of a very sweet smell; which though it does not agree with the plant that now bears the name, yet it does with that here intended; for though it is only said to give a smell, no doubt a good one is meant, and such Reuben's mandrakes gave. And by them here may be intended, either the saints and people of God, compared to them for their fragrancy, being clad with the garments of Christ, which smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, and are anointed with the savoury ointments of the grace of the Spirit; whose prayers are sweet odours; and their works, with their persons, accepted with God in Christ: or rather the graces of the Spirit in lively exercise may be meant; such as those lovely flowers of faith, hope, love, repentance, patience, self-denial, humility, thankfulness, and others; and at our gates [are] all manner of pleasant [fruits];
in distinction from the mandrakes and flowers in the fields ( Genesis 30:14 ) ; and in allusion to a custom, in many countries, to garnish the posts of the door of newly married persons with branches of trees, and fruits, and flowers; and at other festivals, besides nuptial ones F15, which made it inviting to enter in: and these "all manner of pleasant [fruits]" may denote the plenty, variety, and excellency of the blessings of grace, and of the graces of the Spirit, believers have from Christ; and of the doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel, which are for their use; and may be said to be "at our gates", as being ready at hand, in the hearts of saints, and in the mouths of Gospel ministers; and open and visible, held forth to public view in the word and ordinances; and which are administered at Wisdom's gates, the gates of Zion, where they are to be met with and had. And which are new and old;
denoting the plenty of grace and blessings of it, of old laid up in Christ, and from whom there are fresh supplies continually: or rather the doctrines of the Old and New Testament; which, for matter and substance, are the same; and with which the church, and particularly her faithful ministers, being furnished, bring forth out of their treasure things new and old, ( Matthew 13:52 ) ; [which] I have laid up for thee, O my beloved;
Christ, whom her soul loved; for though the above fruits, the blessings, promises, and doctrines of grace, which she laid up in her heart, mind, and memory, to bring forth and make use of at proper times and seasons, were for her own use and benefit, and of all believers, yet in all for the honour and glory of Christ, the author and donor of them. Respect may be had to a custom with lovers, to lay up fruits for those they love; at least such custom may be compared with this F16.
F7 Pfeiffer. Dubia Vexata, cent. 1. loc. 59. p. 79.
F8 Dissert. de Dudaim.
F9 Hist. Patriarch. tom. 2. exercit. 19. s. 9, 15.
F11 Hist. Ethiop. l. 1. c. 9.
F12 Nat. Hist. l. 25. c. 13.
F13 Herb. Bibl. Explic. l. 2.
F14 Contr. Faustum, l. 22. c. 56.
F15 Vid. Plutarch. Amator. vol. 2. p. 755. & Barthium ad Claudian. de Nupt. Honor. v. 208. "Longos erexit janua ramos", Juvenal. Satyr. 12. v. 91. "Necte coronam postibus", Satyr. 6. v. 51, 52. "Ornantur postes", v. 79. "Ornatas paulo ante fores" v. 226, 227. "Junua laureata", Tertull. ad Uxor. l. 2. c. 6.
F16 "----Sunt poma gravantia ramos Sunt auro similes longis in vitibus uvae, Sunt et purpureae, tibi et has servamus et ilias". Ovid. Metamorph. l. 13. Fab. 8.