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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Song of Solomon 1

 

 

Verses 1-17

Song of Solomon 1:1. The Song of songs, which is Solomon’s. Here our version varies from the Hebrew. The particle prefixed to the noun Solomon is rendered in the genitive, instead of the dative case. The particle so occurring in many other texts is rendered touching, concerning, &c. So Isaiah 5:1. A song touching his vineyard. Psalms 45:1. Things touching the king. Genesis 19:21, where the Lord says to Lot, I have accepted thee concerning this thing.

We must remark also, that the Hebrews often designate the superlative degree by repeating the noun, as “Oh Lord, the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee.” 1 Kings 8. So here, the Song of songs is equivalent to a song of the highest strain, or sublimest magnitude. Isaiah says of the church, The Lord thy Maker is thy husband: and St. Paul, Christ hath loved the church, and given himself for her. In this view, the ancient rabbins understood the book when they put it in their canon, and called it in relation to other books, the holy of holies. The sneers at this book are occasioned by not understanding the communion between Christ and the church. In old Hesiod’s theogony or generation of the gods, &c., we have the amours of Jupiter. But these were hallowed mysteries: no one ever understood them in an unhallowed sense. For instance, the brightness of Jupiter consumed Semele. The child Bacchus dropped from the uterus during pregnancy, and was according to the learned French bishop Huet, sewed up in his Father’s queve to complete the time of pregnancy. Our Dr. William Stukely, a principal founder of the Royal Society, says on this part of pagan fable, that the divine and the human geniture of the Messiah are designated. Solomon, no doubt, had ancient models for this kind of composition. The whole poem is highly oriental, with whose languages, or their dialects of the Persic, he appears to have been fully acquainted, and also with their flowery mode of writing.

Song of Solomon 1:5. I am black, but comely. The rabbins very generally refer these words to the glorious state of the gentile church, as described in the fifty fourth chapter of Isaiah.

Song of Solomon 1:7. Where thou feedest thy flock? The meaning here is spiritual and hallowed; for neither Solomon nor his princess ever fed a flock night and day, leading them to pens at night, to shades and to still waters at noon. Sheep will lap a little water in the course of the day, but when there is a heavy dew on the grass in the morning, they are indifferent about water.

Song of Solomon 1:12-14. Spikenard—a bundle of myrrh— a cluster of camphire. These fragrant perfumes were carried in the bosom, or otherwise disposed in the rooms. The Chinese put them in large jars with holes at the top, to perfume the rooms when full of company. These sweet odours are emblematical of the glory and grace of Christ; the perfumes of his merit ascending as sweet incense before the throne of God, and all the graces of his Holy Spirit.

REFLECTIONS.

Solomon opens his sacred drama by a tender sentiment, the longing of the spouse for her Lord’s return after some absence, that she might receive the accustomed caresses, and rejoice in his presence; for his love, accompanied with all the agrement, as the French say, of domestic bliss, was better than wine. So it is with the soul longing for the Saviour’s return, and for the light of his countenance to shine with new lustre. The church, refreshed with divine love shed abroad in the heart, can follow the Lord, as giants refreshed with wine. Christ himself has taught us so to improve this thought; for when he tasted the cup in the last supper he said, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it new in my Father’s kingdom. Hence those only must expect this high mark of the divine favour, who prefer it to wine, and every earthly love.

We have the harmony of grace and will. “Draw me;” let my Lord signify his pleasure to walk; and I and my virgins will run after thee. Knowing thy purity and worth, they love thee as the first of kings, and the best of masters. Hence, as the sun first warms the earth, and then the plants grow, so grace must first touch the heart, and warm the affections. But the soul is not afterwards to revolt and check the hallowing influences, but to run after him with all the ardour of prayer, praise and love. So said the Sire: when thou shalt enlarge my heart, I will run the ways of thy commandments. Psalms 119:32. Then the banqueting follows; and then the upright display their loyalty and love to JEHOVAH their King.

The church owns her defects. “I am black, but comely.” The Egyptian princess was no doubt of darker complexion than the Hebrew women; and the church is black in her original birth, and spotted by practice; but she is comely through the comeliness which the Lord puts upon her. She is tattered and defiled as the weather-worn tent of Kedar; but the adornings of grace array her in beauty fairer than the curtains of Solomon, whose texture, tints and embroidery were exquisite.

The world hate the church; and yet when it is their interest, they will entrust their property with saints in preference to sinners. “They made me keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” So ministers, and very pious men often make sacrifices of worldly good, and neglect their secular interests for the salvation of souls.

The church solicits communion with Christ, though in persecution and poverty. She desires to be with him when he feeds his flock at noon; for he somehow wonderfully shelters his faithful people, even when the sun of persecution is up. And when the poor saints in hot climates are obliged to work at noon, he promises that by and bye the sun shall not alight upon them, nor any heat; but he will shelter and refresh them for ever.

He directs her to go by the footsteps of the flock, the surest way not to err. Let us follow the steps of good men with an honest heart, and we shall soon come to their repose. Let us pray as they prayed, let us do good as they did, and never cease to trust in God; and then we shall be made perfect in one; for they without us cannot be made perfect.

The church is compared to a stud of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot. The state coach of that king was splendid for peace, and strong for war. So the Lord, who makes the clouds his chariots, shall surround himself with angels and saints. Then who will resemble them in majesty, or stand before their banners? In this sense Zechariah regards the church: Zechariah 10:3. Dr. Gill, by talking of the price, the food, and the harness of Pharaoh’s horses, appears to err: we greatly disfigure the majesty of the sacred scriptures by excess of allegory. Surely, if the prophets were permitted to call some preachers to an account for mangling their words, it would be in mortifying reproof.

The King sits at the table with his saints. Then the perfumes of grace are sweeter than bags of myrrh, or bundles of camphire in the gardens of Engedi, near the sea of Sodom. These bunches of flowers, much used on nuptial occasions, and all feasts, designate the fragrance of the Redeemer’s merits. Then the church is all fair, all glorious within, for his throne of glory in the heart makes her so. Then she has doves’ eyes: for purity of heart and infantine innocence, gives I know not what of heaven, and divine simplicity to the countenance of a saint. The face of Moses shone when he descended from the mount, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold him.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/song-of-solomon-1.html. 1835.

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