So 1:1-17. Canticle I. -- (So 1:2-2:7) -- The Bride Searching for and Finding the King.
1. The song of songs -- The most excellent of all songs, Hebrew idiom (Ex 29:37; De 10:14). A foretaste on earth of the |new song| to be sung in glory (Re 5:9; 14:3; 15:2-4).
Solomon's -- |King of Israel,| or |Jerusalem,| is not added, as in the opening of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, not because Solomon had not yet ascended the throne [Moody Stuart], but because his personality is hid under that of Christ, the true Solomon (equivalent to Prince of Peace). The earthly Solomon is not introduced, which would break the consistency of the allegory. Though the bride bears the chief part, the Song throughout is not hers, but that of her |Solomon.| He animates her. He and she, the Head and the members, form but one Christ [Adelaide Newton]. Aaron prefigured Him as priest; Moses, as prophet; David, as a suffering king; Solomon, as the triumphant prince of peace. The camp in the wilderness represents the Church in the world; the peaceful reign of Solomon, after all enemies had been subdued, represents the Church in heaven, of which joy the Song gives a foretaste.
2. him -- abruptly. She names him not, as is natural to one whose heart is full of some much desired friend: so Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre (Joh 20:15), as if everyone must know whom she means, the one chief object of her desire (Ps 73:25; Mt 13:44-46; Php 3:7,8).
kiss -- the token of peace from the Prince of Peace (Lu 15:20); |our Peace| (Ps 85:10; Col 1:21; Eph 2:14).
of his mouth -- marking the tenderest affection. For a king to permit his hands, or even garment, to be kissed, was counted a great honor; but that he should himself kiss another with his mouth is the greatest honor. God had in times past spoken by the mouth of His prophets, who had declared the Church's betrothal; the bride now longs for contact with the mouth of the Bridegroom Himself (Job 23:12; Lu 4:22; Heb 1:1, 2). True of the Church before the first advent, longing for |the hope of Israel,| |the desire of all nations|; also the awakened soul longing for the kiss of reconciliation; and further, the kiss that is the token of the marriage contract (Ho 2:19, 20), and of friendship (1Sa 20:41; Joh 14:21; 15:15).
thy love -- Hebrew, |loves,| namely, tokens of love, loving blandishments.
wine -- which makes glad |the heavy heart| of one ready to perish, so that he |remembers his misery no more| (Pr 31:6, 7). So, in a |better| sense, Christ's love (Hab 3:17, 18). He gives the same praise to the bride's love, with the emphatic addition, |How much| (So 4:10). Wine was created by His first miracle (Joh 2:1-11), and was the pledge given of His love at the last supper. The spiritual wine is His blood and His spirit, the |new| and better wine of the kingdom (Mt 26:29), which we can never drink to |excess,| as the other (Eph 5:18; compare Ps 23:5; Isa 55:1).
3. Rather, |As regards the savor of thy ointments, it is good| [Maurer]. In So 4:10, 11, the Bridegroom reciprocates the praise of the bride in the same terms.
thy name -- Christ's character and office as the |Anointed| (Isa 9:6; 61:1), as |the savor of ointments| are the graces that surround His person (Ps 45:7, 8). Ec 7:1, in its fullest sense, applies to Him. The holy anointing oil of the high priest, which it was death for anyone else to make (so Ac 4:12), implies the exclusive preciousness of Messiah's name (Ex 30:23-28, 31-38). So Mary brake the box of precious ointment over Him, appropriately (Mr 14:5), the broken box typifying His body, which, when broken, diffused all grace: compounded of various spices, &c. (Col 1:19; 2:9); of sweet odor (Eph 5:2).
poured -- (Isa 53:12; Ro 5:5).
therefore -- because of the manifestation of God's character in Christ (1Jo 4:9, 19). So the penitent woman (Lu 7:37, 38, 47).
virgins -- the pure in heart (2Co 11:2; Re 14:4). The same Hebrew is translated, |thy hidden ones| (Ps 83:3). The |ointment| of the Spirit |poured forth| produces the |love of Christ| (Ro 5:5).
4. (1) The cry of ancient Israel for Messiah, for example, Simeon, Anna, &c. (2) The cry of an awakened soul for the drawing of the Spirit, after it has got a glimpse of Christ's loveliness and its own helplessness.
Draw me -- The Father draws (Joh 6:44). The Son draws (Jer 31:3; Ho 11:4; Joh 12:32). |Draw| here, and |Tell| (So 1:7), reverently qualify the word |kiss| (So 1:2).
me, we -- No believer desires to go to heaven alone. We are converted as individuals; we follow Christ as joined in a communion of saints (Joh 1:41, 45). Individuality and community meet in the bride.
run -- Her earnestness kindles as she prays (Isa 40:31; Ps 119:32, 60).
after thee -- not before (Joh 10:4).
king ... brought me into -- (Ps 45:14, 15; Joh 10:16). He is the anointed Priest (So 1:3); King (So 1:4).
chambers -- Her prayer is answered even beyond her desires. Not only is she permitted to run after Him, but is brought into the inmost pavilion, where Eastern kings admitted none but the most intimate friends (Es 4:11; 5:2; Ps 27:5). The erection of the temple of Solomon was the first bringing of the bride into permanent, instead of migratory, chambers of the King. Christ's body on earth was the next (Joh 2:21), whereby believers are brought within the veil (Eph 2:6; Heb 10:19, 20). Entrance into the closet for prayer is the first step. The earnest of the future bringing into heaven (Joh 14:3). His chambers are the bride's also (Isa 26:20). There are various chambers, plural (Joh 14:2).
be glad and rejoice -- inward and outward rejoicing.
in thee -- (Isa 61:10; Php 4:1, 4). Not in our spiritual frames (Ps 30:6, 7).
remember -- rather, |commemorate with praises| (Isa 63:7). The mere remembrance of spiritual joys is better than the present enjoyment of carnal ones (Ps 4:6, 7).
upright -- rather, |uprightly,| |sincerely| (Ps 58:1; Ro 12:9); so Nathanael (Joh 1:47); Peter (Joh 21:17); or |deservedly| [Maurer].
5. black -- namely, |as the tents of Kedar,| equivalent to blackness (Ps 120:5). She draws the image from the black goatskins with which the Scenite Arabs (|Kedar| was in Arabia-Petræa) cover their tents (contrasted with the splendid state tent in which the King was awaiting His bride according to Eastern custom); typifying the darkness of man's natural state. To feel this, and yet also feel one's self in Jesus Christ |comely as the curtains of Solomon,| marks the believer (Ro 7:18, &c.; 8:1); 1Ti 1:15, |I am chief|; so she says not merely, |I was,| but |I am|; still black in herself, but comely through His comeliness put upon her (Eze 16:14).
curtains -- first, the hangings and veil in the temple of Solomon (Eze 16:10); then, also, the |fine linen which is the righteousness of saints| (Re 19:8), the white wedding garment provided by Jesus Christ (Isa 61:10; Mt 22:11; 1Co 1:30; Col 1:28; 2:10; Re 7:14). Historically, the dark tents of Kedar represent the Gentile Church (Isa 60:3-7, &c.). As the vineyard at the close is transferred from the Jews, who had not kept their own, to the Gentiles, so the Gentiles are introduced at the commencement of the Song; for they were among the earliest enquirers after Jesus Christ (Mt 2:1-12): the wise men from the East (Arabia, or Kedar).
daughters of Jerusalem -- professors, not the bride, or |the virgins,| yet not enemies; invited to gospel blessings (So 3:10, 11); so near to Jesus Christ as not to be unlikely to find Him (So 5:8); desirous to seek Him with her (So 6:1; compare So 6:13; 7:1, 5, 8). In So 7:8, 9, the bride's Beloved becomes their Beloved; not, however, of all of them (So 8:4; compare Lu 23:27, 28).
6. She feels as if her blackness was so great as to be gazed at by all.
mother's children -- (Mt 10:36). She is to forget |her own people and her father's house,| that is, the worldly connections of her unregenerate state (Ps 45:10); they had maltreated her (Lu 15:15, 16). Children of the same mother, but not the same father [Maurer], (Joh 8:41-44). They made her a common keeper of vineyards, whereby the sun looked upon, that is, burnt her; thus she did |not keep her own| vineyard, that is, fair beauty. So the world, and the soul (Mt 16:26; Lu 9:25). The believer has to watch against the same danger (1Co 9:27). So he will be able, instead of the self-reproach here, to say as in So 8:12.
7. my soul loveth -- more intense than |the virgins| and |the upright love thee| (So 1:3, 4; Mt 22:37). To carry out the design of the allegory, the royal encampment is here represented as moving from place to place, in search of green pastures, under the Shepherd King (Ps 23:1-6). The bride, having first enjoyed communion with him in the pavilion, is willing to follow Him into labors and dangers; arising from all absorbing love (Lu 14:26); this distinguishes her from the formalist (Joh 10:27; Re 14:4).
feedest -- tendest thy flock (Isa 40:11; Heb 13:20; 1Pe 2:25; 5:4; Re 7:17). No single type expresses all the office of Jesus Christ; hence arises the variety of diverse images used to portray the manifold aspects of Him: these would be quite incongruous, if the Song referred to the earthly Solomon. Her intercourse with Him is peculiar. She hears His voice, and addresses none but Himself. Yet it is through a veil; she sees Him not (Job 23:8, 9). If we would be fed, we must follow the Shepherd through the whole breadth of His Word, and not stay on one spot alone.
makest ... to rest -- distinct from |feedest|; periods of rest are vouchsafed after labor (Isa 4:6; 49:10; Eze 34:13-15). Communion in private must go along with public following of Him.
turneth aside -- rather one veiled, that is, as a harlot, not His true bride (Ge 38:15), [Gesenius]; or as a mourner (2Sa 15:30), [Weiss]; or as one unknown [Maurer]. All imply estrangement from the Bridegroom. She feels estranged even among Christ's true servants, answering to |thy companions| (Lu 22:28), so long as she has not Himself present. The opposite spirit to 1Co 3:4.
8. If -- she ought to have known (Joh 14:8, 9). The confession of her ignorance and blackness (So 1:5) leads Him to call her |fairest| (Mt 12:20). Her jealousy of letting even |His companions| take the place of Himself (So 1:7) led her too far. He directs her to follow them, as they follow Him (1Co 11:1; Heb 6:10, 12); to use ordinances and the ministry; where they are, He is (Jer 6:16; Mt 18:19, 20; Heb 10:25). Indulging in isolation is not the way to find Him. It was thus, literally, that Zipporah found her bridegroom (Ex 2:16). The bride unhesitatingly asks the watchmen afterwards (So 3:3).
kids -- (Joh 21:15). Christ is to be found in active ministrations, as well as in prayer (Pr 11:25).
shepherds' tents -- ministers in the sanctuary (Ps 84:1).
9. horses in Pharaoh's chariots -- celebrated for beauty, swiftness, and ardor, at the Red Sea (Ex 14:15). These qualities, which seem to belong to the ungodly, really belong to the saints [Moody Stuart]. The allusion may be to the horses brought at a high price by Solomon out of Egypt (2Ch 1:16, 17). So the bride is redeemed out of spiritual Egypt by the true Solomon, at an infinite price (Isa 51:1; 1Pe 1:18, 19). But the deliverance from Pharaoh at the Red Sea accords with the allusion to the tabernacle (So 1:5; 3:6, 7); it rightly is put at the beginning of the Church's call. The ardor and beauty of the bride are the point of comparison; (So 1:4) |run|; (So 1:5) |comely.| Also, like Pharaoh's horses, she forms a great company (Re 19:7, 14). As Jesus Christ is both Shepherd and Conqueror, so believers are not only His sheep, but also, as a Church militant now, His chariots and horses (So 6:4).
10. rows of jewels -- (Eze 16:11-13). Olerius says, Persian ladies wear two or three rows of pearls round the head, beginning on the forehead and descending down to the cheeks and under the chin, so that their faces seem to be set in pearls (Eze 16:11). The comparison of the horses (So 1:9) implies the vital energy of the bride; this verse, her superadded graces (Pr 1:9; 4:9; 1Ti 2:9; 2Pe 1:5).
11. We -- the Trinity implied by the Holy Ghost, whether it was so by the writer of the Song or not (Ge 1:26; Pr 8:30; 30:4). |The Jews acknowledged God as king, and Messiah as king, in interpreting the Song, but did not know that these two are one| [Leighton].
make -- not merely give (Eph 2:10).
borders of gold, with studs of silver -- that is, |spots of silver| -- Jesus Christ delights to give more |to him that hath| (Mt 25:29). He crowns His own work in us (Isa 26:12). The |borders| here are equivalent to |rows| (So 1:10); but here, the King seems to give the finish to her attire, by adding a crown (borders, or circles) of gold studded with silver spots, as in Es 2:17. Both the royal and nuptial crown, or chaplet. The Hebrew for |spouse| (So 4:8) is a crowned one (Eze 16:12; Re 2:10). The crown is given at once upon conversion, in title, but in sensible possession afterwards (2Ti 4:8).
12. While -- It is the presence of the Sun of Righteousness that draws out the believer's odors of grace. It was the sight of Him at table that caused the two women to bring forth their ointments for Him (Lu 7:37, 38; Joh 12:3; 2Co 2:15). Historically fulfilled (Mt 2:11); spiritually (Re 3:20); and in church worship (Mt 18:20); and at the Lord's Supper especially, for here public communion with Him at table amidst His friends is spoken of, as So 1:4 refers to private communion (1Co 10:16, 21); typically (Ex 24:9-11); the future perfect fulfilment (Lu 22:30; Re 19:9). The allegory supposes the King to have stopped in His movements and to be seated with His friends on the divan. What grace that a table should be prepared for us, while still militant (Ps 23:5)!
my spikenard -- not boasting, but owning the Lord's grace to and in her. The spikenard is a lowly herb, the emblem of humility. She rejoices that He is well pleased with her graces, His own work (Php 4:18).
13. bundle of myrrh -- abundant preciousness (Greek), (1Pe 2:7). Even a little myrrh was costly; much more a bundle (Col 2:9). Burrowes takes it of a scent-box filled with liquid myrrh; the liquid obtained by incision gave the tree its chief value.
he -- rather, |it|; it is the myrrh that lies in the bosom, as the cluster of camphire is in the vineyards (So 1:14).
all night -- an undivided heart (Eph 3:17; contrast Jer 4:14; Eze 16:15, 30). Yet on account of the everlasting covenant, God restores the adulteress (Eze 16:60, 62; Ho 2:2, &c.). The night is the whole present dispensation till the everlasting day dawns (Ro 13:12). Also, literally, |night| (Ps 119:147, 148), the night of affliction (Ps 42:8).
14. cluster -- Jesus Christ is one, yet manifold in His graces.
camphire -- or, |cypress.| The |hennah| is meant, whose odorous flowers grow in clusters, of a color white and yellow softly blended; its bark is dark, the foliage light green. Women deck their persons with them. The loveliness of Jesus Christ.
vineyards -- appropriate in respect to Him who is |the vine.| The spikenard was for the banquet (So 1:12); the myrrh was in her bosom continually (So 1:13); the camphire is in the midst of natural beauties, which, though lovely, are eclipsed by the one cluster, Jesus Christ, pre-eminent above them all.
En-gedi -- in South Palestine, near the Dead Sea (Jos 15:62; Eze 47:10), famed for aromatic shrubs.
15. fair -- He discerns beauty in her, who had said, |I am black| (So 1:5), because of the everlasting covenant (Ps 45:11; Isa 62:5; Eph 1:4,5).
doves' eyes -- large and beautiful in the doves of Syria. The prominent features of her beauty (Mt 10:16), gentleness, innocence, and constant love, emblem of the Holy Ghost, who changes us to His own likeness (Ge 8:10, 11; Mt 3:16). The opposite kind of eyes (Ps 101:5; Mt 20:15; 2Pe 2:14).
16. Reply of the Bride. She presumes to call Him beloved, because He called her so first. Thou callest me |fair|; if I am so, it is not in myself; it is all from Thee (Ps 90:17); but Thou art fair in Thyself (Ps 45:2).
pleasant -- (Pr 3:17) towards Thy friends (2Sa 1:26).
bed ... green -- the couch of green grass on which the King and His bride sit to |rest at noon.| Thus her prayer in So 1:7 is here granted; a green oasis in the desert, always found near waters in the East (Ps 23:2; Isa 41:17-19). The scene is a kiosk, or summer house. Historically, the literal resting of the Babe of Beth-lehem and his parents on the green grass provided for cattle (Lu 2:7, 12). In this verse there is an incidental allusion, in So 1:15, to the offering (Lu 2:24). So the |cedar and fir| ceiling refers to the temple (1Ki 5:6-10; 6:15-18); type of the heavenly temple (Re 21:22).
17. our house -- see on So 1:16; but primarily, the kiosk (Isa 11:10), |His rest.| Cedar is pleasing to the eye and smell, hard, and never eaten by worms.
fir -- rather, |cypress,| which is hard, durable, and fragrant, of a reddish hue [Gesenius, Weiss, and Maurer]. Contrasted with the shifting |tents| (So 1:5), His house is |our house| (Ps 92:13; Eph 2:19; Heb 3:6). Perfect oneness of Him and the bride (Joh 14:20; 17:21). There is the shelter of a princely roof from the sun (Ps 121:6), without the confinement of walls, and amidst rural beauties. The carved ceiling represents the wondrous excellencies of His divine nature.