1. rose -- if applied to Jesus Christ, it, with the white lily (lowly, 2Co 8:9), answers to |white and ruddy| (So 5:10). But it is rather the meadow-saffron: the Hebrew means radically a plant with a pungent bulb, inapplicable to the rose. So Syriac. It is of a white and violet color [Maurer, Gesenius, and Weiss]. The bride thus speaks of herself as lowly though lovely, in contrast with the lordly |apple| or citron tree, the bridegroom (So 2:3); so the |lily| is applied to her (So 2:2),
Sharon -- (Isa 35:1, 2). In North Palestine, between Mount Tabor and Lake Tiberias (1Ch 5:16). Septuagint and Vulgate translate it, |a plain|; though they err in this, the Hebrew Bible not elsewhere favoring it, yet the parallelism to valleys shows that, in the proper name Sharon, there is here a tacit reference to its meaning of lowliness. Beauty, delicacy, and lowliness, are to be in her, as they were in Him (Mt 11:29).
2. Jesus Christ to the Bride (Mt 10:16; Joh 15:19; 1Jo 5:19). Thorns, equivalent to the wicked (2Sa 23:6; Ps 57:4).
daughters -- of men, not of God; not |the virgins.| |If thou art the lily of Jesus Christ, take heed lest by impatience, rash judgments, and pride, thou thyself become a thorn| [Luther].
3. Her reply. apple -- generic including the golden citron, pomegranate, and orange apple (Pr 25:11). He combines the shadow and fragrance of the citron with the sweetness of the orange and pomegranate fruit. The foliage is perpetual; throughout the year a succession of blossoms, fruit, and perfume (Jas 1:17).
among the sons -- parallel to |among the daughters| (So 2:2). He alone is ever fruitful among the fruitless wild trees (Ps 89:6; Heb 1:9).
I sat ... with ... delight -- literally, |I eagerly desired and sat| (Ps 94:19; Mr 6:31; Eph 2:6; 1Pe 1:8).
shadow -- (Ps 121:5; Isa 4:6; 25:4; 32:2). Jesus Christ interposes the shadow of His cross between the blazing rays of justice and us sinners.
fruit -- Faith plucks it (Pr 3:18). Man lost the tree of life (Ge 3:22, 23). Jesus Christ regained it for him; he eats it partly now (Ps 119:103; Joh 6:55, 57; 1Pe 2:3); fully hereafter (Re 2:7; 22:2, 14); not earned by the sweat of his brow, or by his righteousness (Ro 10:1-21). Contrast the worldling's fruit (De 32:32; Lu 15:16).
4. Historically fulfilled in the joy of Simeon and Anna in the temple, over the infant Saviour (Lu 2:25-38), and that of Mary, too (compare Lu 1:53); typified (Ex 24:9-11). Spiritually, the bride or beloved is led (So 2:4) first into the King's chambers, thence is drawn after Him in answer to her prayer; is next received on a grassy couch under a cedar kiosk; and at last in a |banqueting hall,| such as, Josephus says, Solomon had in his palace, |wherein all the vessels were of gold| (Antiquities, 8:5,2). The transition is from holy retirement to public ordinances, church worship, and the Lord's Supper (Ps 36:8). The bride, as the queen of Sheba, is given |all her desire| (1Ki 10:13; Ps 63:5; Eph 3:8, 16-21; Php 4:19); type of the heavenly feast hereafter (Isa 25:6, 9).
his banner ... love -- After having rescued us from the enemy, our victorious captain (Heb 2:10) seats us at the banquet under a banner inscribed with His name, |love| (1Jo 4:8). His love conquered us to Himself; this banner rallies round us the forces of Omnipotence, as our protection; it marks to what country we belong, heaven, the abode of love, and in what we most glory, the cross of Jesus Christ, through which we triumph (Ro 8:37; 1Co 15:57; Re 3:21). Compare with |over me,| |underneath are the everlasting arms| (De 33:27).
5. flagons -- Maurer prefers translating, |dried raisin cakes|; from the Hebrew root |fire,| namely, dried by heat. But the |house of wine| (So 2:4, Margin) favors |flagons|; the |new wine| of the kingdom, the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
apples -- from the tree (So 2:3), so sweet to her, the promises of God.
sick of love -- the highest degree of sensible enjoyment that can be attained here. It may be at an early or late stage of experience. Paul (2Co 12:7). In the last sickness of J. Welch, he was overheard saying, |Lord, hold thine hand, it is enough; thy servant is a clay vessel, and can hold no more| [Fleming, Fulfilling of the Scriptures]. In most cases this intensity of joy is reserved for the heavenly banquet. Historically, Israel had it, when the Lord's glory filled the tabernacle, and afterwards the temple, so that the priests could not stand to minister: so in the Christian Church on Pentecost. The bride addresses Christ mainly, though in her rapture she uses the plural, |Stay (ye) me,| speaking generally. So far from asking the withdrawal of the manifestations which had overpowered her, she asks for more: so |fainteth for| (Ps 84:2): also Peter, on the mount of transfiguration (Lu 9:33), |Let us make ... not knowing what he said.|
6. The |stay| she prayed for (So 2:5) is granted (De 33:12, 27; Ps 37:24; Isa 41:16). None can pluck from that embrace (Joh 10:28-30). His hand keeps us from falling (Mt 14:30, 31); to it we may commit ourselves (Ps 31:5).
left hand -- the left is the inferior hand, by which the Lord less signally manifests His love, than by the right; the secret hand of ordinary providence, as distinguished from that of manifested grace (the |right|). They really go together, though sometimes they seem divided; here both are felt at once. Theodoret takes the left hand, equivalent to judgment and wrath; the right, equivalent to honor and love. The hand of justice no longer is lifted to smite, but is under the head of the believer to support (Isa 42:21); the hand of Jesus Christ pierced by justice for our sin supports us. The charge not to disturb the beloved occurs thrice: but the sentiment here, |His left hand,| &c., nowhere else fully; which accords with the intensity of joy (So 2:5) found nowhere else; in So 8:3, it is only conditional, |should embrace,| not |doth.|
7. by the roes -- not an oath but a solemn charge, to act as cautiously as the hunter would with the wild roes, which are proverbially timorous; he must advance with breathless circumspection, if he is to take them; so he who would not lose Jesus Christ and His Spirit, which is easily grieved and withdrawn, must be tender of conscience and watchful (Eze 16:43; Eph 4:30; 5:15; 1Th 5:19). In Margin, title of Ps 22:1, Jesus Christ is called the |Hind of the morning,| hunted to death by the dogs (compare So 2:8, 9, where He is represented as bounding on the hills, Ps 18:33). Here He is resting, but with a repose easily broken (Zep 3:17). It is thought a gross rudeness in the East to awaken one sleeping, especially a person of rank.
my love -- in Hebrew, feminine for masculine, the abstract for concrete, Jesus Christ being the embodiment of love itself (So 3:5; 8:7), where, as here, the context requires it to be applied to Him, not her. She too is |love| (So 7:6), for His love calls forth her love. Presumption in the convert is as grieving to the Spirit as despair. The lovingness and pleasantness of the hind and roe (Pr 5:19) is included in this image of Jesus Christ.
Canticle II. -- (So 2:8-3:5) -- John the Baptist's Ministry.
8. voice -- an exclamation of joyful surprise, evidently after a long silence. The restlessness of sin and fickleness in her had disturbed His rest with her, which she had professed not to wish disturbed |till He should please.| He left her, but in sovereign grace unexpectedly heralds His return. She awakes, and at once recognizes His voice (1Sa 3:9, 10; Joh 10:4); her sleep is not so sinfully deep as in So 5:2.
leaping -- bounding, as the roe does, over the roughest obstacles (2Sa 2:18; 1Ch 12:8); as the father of the prodigal |had compassion and ran| (Lu 15:20).
upon the hills -- as the sunbeams glancing from hill to hill. So Margin, title of Jesus Christ (Ps 22:1), |Hind of the morning| (type of His resurrection). Historically, the coming of the kingdom of heaven (the gospel dispensation), announced by John Baptist, is meant; it primarily is the garden or vineyard; the bride is called so in a secondary sense. |The voice| of Jesus Christ is indirect, through |the friend of the bridegroom| (Joh 3:29), John the Baptist. Personally, He is silent during John's ministration, who awoke the long slumbering Church with the cry. |Every hill shall be made low,| in the spirit of Elias, on the |rent mountains| (1Ki 19:11; compare Isa 52:7). Jesus Christ is implied as coming with intense desire (Lu 22:15; Heb 10:7), disregarding the mountain hindrances raised by man's sin.
9. he standeth -- after having bounded over the intervening space like a roe. He often stands near when our unbelief hides Him from us (Ge 28:16; Re 3:14-20). His usual way; long promised and expected; sudden at last: so, in visiting the second temple (Mal 3:1); so at Pentecost (Ac 2:1, 2); so in visiting an individual soul, Zaccheus (Lu 19:5, 6; Joh 3:8); and so, at the second coming (Mt 24:48, 50; 2Pe 3:4, 10). So it shall be at His second coming (1Th 5:2, 3).
wall -- over the cope of which He is first seen; next, He looks through (not forth; for He is outside) at the windows, glancing suddenly and stealthily (not as English Version, |showing Himself|) through the lattice. The prophecies, types, &c., were lattice glimpses of Him to the Old Testament Church, in spite of the wall of separation which sin had raised (Joh 8:56); clearer glimpses were given by John Baptist, but not unclouded (Joh 1:26). The legal wall of partition was not to be removed until His death (Eph 2:14, 15; Heb 10:20). Even now, He is only seen by faith, through the windows of His Word and the lattice of ordinances and sacraments (Lu 24:35; Joh 14:21); not full vision (1Co 13:12); an incentive to our looking for His second coming (Isa 33:17; Tit 2:13).
10, 11. Loving reassurance given by Jesus Christ to the bride, lest she should think that He had ceased to love her, on account of her unfaithfulness, which had occasioned His temporary withdrawal. He allures her to brighter than worldly joys (Mic 2:10). Not only does the saint wish to depart to be with Him, but He still more desires to have the saint with Him above (Joh 17:24). Historically, the vineyard or garden of the King, here first introduced, is |the kingdom of heaven preached| by John the Baptist, before whom |the law and the prophets were| (Lu 16:16).
11. the winter -- the law of the covenant of works (Mt 4:16).
rain is over -- (Heb 12:18-24; 1Jo 2:8). Then first the Gentile Church is called |beloved, which was not beloved| (Ro 9:25). So |the winter| of estrangement and sin is |past| to the believer (Isa 44:22; Jer 50:20; 2Co 5:17; Eph 2:1). The rising |Sun of righteousness| dispels the |rain| (2Sa 23:4; Ps 126:5; Mal 4:2). The winter in Palestine is past by April, but all the showers were not over till May. The time described here is that which comes directly after these last showers of winter. In the highest sense, the coming resurrection and deliverance of the earth from the past curse is here implied (Ro 8:19; Re 21:4; 22:3). No more |clouds| shall then |return after the rain| (Ec 12:2; Re 4:3; compare Ge 9:13-17); |the rainbow round the throne| is the |token| of this.
12. flowers -- tokens of anger past, and of grace come. |The summoned bride is welcome,| say some fathers, |to weave from them garlands of beauty, wherewith she may adorn herself to meet the King.| Historically, the flowers, &c., only give promise; the fruit is not ripe yet; suitable to the preaching of John the Baptist, |The kingdom of heaven is at hand|; not yet fully come.
the time of ... singing -- the rejoicing at the advent of Jesus Christ. Gregory Nyssenus refers the voice of the turtledove to John the Baptist. It with the olive branch announced to Noah that |the rain was over and gone| (Ge 8:11). So John the Baptist, spiritually. Its plaintive |voice| answers to his preaching of repentance (Jer 8:6, 7). Vulgate and Septuagint translate, |The time of pruning,| namely, spring (Joh 15:2). The mention of the |turtle's| cooing better accords with our text. The turtledove is migratory (Jer 8:7), and |comes| early in May; emblem of love, and so of the Holy Ghost. Love, too, shall be the keynote of the |new song| hereafter (Isa 35:10; Re 1:5; 14:3; 19:6). In the individual believer now, joy and love are here set forth in their earlier manifestations (Mr 4:28).
13. putteth forth -- rather, |ripens,| literally, |makes red| [Maurer]. The unripe figs, which grow in winter, begin to ripen in early spring, and in June are fully matured [Weiss].
vines with the tender grape -- rather, |the vines in flower,| literally, |a flower,| in apposition with |vines| [Maurer]. The vine flowers were so sweet that they were often put, when dried, into new wine to give it flavor. Applicable to the first manifestations of Jesus Christ, |the true Vine,| both to the Church and to individuals; as to Nathanael under the fig tree (Joh 1:48).
Arise, &c. -- His call, described by the bride, ends as it began (So 2:10); it is a consistent whole; |love| from first to last (Isa 52:1, 2; 2Co 6:17, 18). |Come,| in the close of Re 22:17, as at His earlier manifestation (Mt 11:28).
14. dove -- here expressing endearment (Ps 74:19). Doves are noted for constant attachment; emblems, also, in their soft, plaintive note, of softened penitents (Isa 59:11; Eze 7:16); other points of likeness are their beauty; |their wings covered with silver and gold| (Ps 68:13), typifying the change in the converted; the dove-like spirit, breathed into the saint by the Holy Ghost, whose emblem is the dove; the messages of peace from God to sinful men, as Noah's dove, with the olive branch (Ge 8:11), intimated that the flood of wrath was past; timidity, fleeing with fear from sin and self to the cleft Rock of Ages (Isa 26:4, Margin; Ho 11:11); gregarious, flocking together to the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Isa 60:8); harmless simplicity (Mt 10:16).
clefts -- the refuge of doves from storm and heat (Jer 48:28; see Jer 49:16). Gesenius translates the Hebrew from a different root, |the refuges.| But see, for |clefts,| Ex 33:18-23. It is only when we are in Christ Jesus that our |voice is sweet (in prayer, So 4:3, 11; Mt 10:20; Ga 4:6, because it is His voice in us; also in speaking of Him, Mal 3:16); and our countenance comely| (Ex 34:29; Ps 27:5; 71:3; Isa 33:16; 2Co 3:18).
stairs -- (Eze 38:20, Margin), a steep rock, broken into stairs or terraces. It is in |secret places| and rugged scenes that Jesus Christ woos the soul from the world to Himself (Mic 2:10; 7:14). So Jacob amid the stones of Beth-el (Ge 28:11-19); Moses at Horeb (Ex 3:1-22); so Elijah (1Ki 19:9-13); Jesus Christ with the three disciples on a |high mountain apart,| at the transfiguration (Mt 17:1); John in Patmos (Re 1:9). |Of the eight beatitudes, five have an afflicted condition for their subject. As long as the waters are on the earth, we dwell in the ark; but when the land is dry, the dove itself will be tempted to wander| [Jeremy Taylor]. Jesus Christ does not invite her to leave the rock, but in it (Himself), yet in holy freedom to lay aside the timorous spirit, look up boldly as accepted in Him, pray, praise, and confess Him (in contrast to her shrinking from being looked at, So 1:6), (Eph 6:19; Heb 13:15; 1Jo 4:18); still, though trembling, the voice and countenance of the soul in Jesus Christ are pleasant to Him. The Church found no cleft in the Sinaitic legal rock, though good in itself, wherein to hide; but in Jesus Christ stricken by God for us, as the rock smitten by Moses (Nu 20:11), there is a hiding-place (Isa 32:2). She praised His |voice| (So 2:8, 10); it is thus that her voice also, though tremulous, is |sweet| to Him here.
15. Transition to the vineyard, often formed in |stairs| (So 2:14), or terraces, in which, amidst the vine leaves, foxes hid.
foxes -- generic term, including jackals. They eat only grapes, not the vine flowers; but they need to be driven out in time before the grape is ripe. She had failed in watchfulness before (So 1:6); now when converted, she is the more jealous of subtle sins (Ps 139:23). In spiritual winter certain evils are frozen up, as well as good; in the spring of revivals these start up unperceived, crafty, false teachers, spiritual pride, uncharitableness, &c. (Ps 19:12; Mt 13:26; Lu 8:14; 2Ti 2:17; Heb 12:15). |Little| sins are parents of the greatest (Ec 10:1; 1Co 5:6). Historically, John the Baptist spared not the fox-like Herod (Lu 13:32), who gave vine-like promise of fruit at first (Mr 6:20), at the cost of his life; nor the viper-Sadducees, &c.; nor the varied subtle forms of sin (Lu 3:7-14).
16. mine ... his -- rather, |is for me ... for Him| (Ho 3:3), where, as here, there is the assurance of indissoluble union, in spite of temporary absence. So 2:17, entreating Him to return, shows that He has gone, perhaps through her want of guarding against the |little sins| (So 2:15). The order of the clauses is reversed in So 6:3, when she is riper in faith: there she rests more on her being His; here, on His being hers; and no doubt her sense of love to Him is a pledge that she is His (Joh 14:21, 23; 1Co 8:3); this is her consolation in His withdrawal now.
I am his -- by creation (Ps 100:3), by redemption (Joh 17:10; Ro 14:8; 1Co 6:19).
feedeth -- as a |roe,| or gazelle (So 2:17); instinct is sure to lead him back to his feeding ground, where the lilies abound. So Jesus Christ, though now withdrawn, the bride feels sure will return to His favorite resting-place (So 7:10; Ps 132:14). So hereafter (Re 21:3). Ps 45:1, title, terms his lovely bride's |lilies| [Hengstenberg] pure and white, though among thorns (So 2:2).
17. Night -- is the image of the present world (Ro 13:12). |Behold men as if dwelling in subterranean cavern| [Plato, Republic, 7.1].
Until -- that is, |Before that,| &c.
break -- rather, |breathe|; referring to the refreshing breeze of dawn in the East; or to the air of life, which distinguishes morning from the death-like stillness of night. Maurer takes this verse of the approach of night, when the breeze arises after the heat of day (compare Ge 3:8, Margin, with Ge 18:1), and the |shadows| are lost in night (Ps 102:11); thus our life will be the day; death, the night (Joh 9:4). The English Version better accords with (So 3:1). |By night| (Ro 13:12).
turn -- to me.
Bether -- Mountains of Bithron, separated from the rest of Israel by the Jordan (2Sa 2:29), not far from Bethabara, where John baptized and Jesus was first manifested. Rather, as Margin, |of divisions,| and Septuagint, mountains intersected with deep gaps, hard to pass over, separating the bride and Jesus Christ. In So 8:14 the mountains are of spices, on which the roe feeds, not of separation; for at His first coming He had to overpass the gulf made by sin between Him and us (Zec 4:6, 7); in His second, He will only have to come down from the fragrant hill above to take home His prepared bride. Historically, in the ministry of John the Baptist, Christ's call to the bride was not, as later (So 4:8), |Come with me,| but |Come away,| namely, to meet Me (So 2:2, 10, 13). Sitting in darkness (Mt 4:16), she |waited| and |looked| eagerly for Him, the |great light| (Lu 1:79; 2:25, 38); at His rising, the shadows of the law (Col 2:16, 17; Heb 10:1) were to |flee away.| So we wait for the second coming, when means of grace, so precious now, shall be superseded by the Sun of righteousness (1Co 13:10, 12; Re 21:22, 23). The Word is our light until then (2Pe 1:19).