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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Song of Solomon 1

 

 

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 1:1 The song of songs, which [is] Solomon’s.

Ver. 1. The song of songs.] Not a light love song - as some profane persons have fancied, and have therefore held it no part of the sacred canon - but a most excellent Epithalamium, a very divine ditty, a heavenly allegory, a mystical marriage song, called here the Song of Songs, as God is called the God of gods, [Deuteronomy 10:17] as Christ is called the King of kings, [Revelation 19:16] as the Most Holy is called the Holy of holies, to the which the Jewish doctors liken this canticle, as they do Ecclesiastes to the holy place, and Proverbs to the court, to signify that it is the treasury of the most sacred and highest mysteries of holy Scripture. (a) It streams out all along under the parable of a marriage, that full torrent of spiritual love that is between Christ and the Church (b) "This is a great mystery," saith that great apostle. [Ephesians 5:32] It passeth the capacity of man to understand it in the perfection of it. Hence the Jews permitted none to read this sacred song before thirty years of age. Let him that reads think he sees written over this Solomon’s porch, "Holiness to the Lord." (c) Procul hinc, procul este profani, nihil hic nisi castum. If any think this kind of dealing to be too light for so grave and weighty a matter, let them take heed, saith one, that in the height of their own hearts they do not proudly censure God and his order, who in many places useth the same similitude of marriage to express his love to his Church by, and interchangeably her duty toward him, as in Hosea 2:19, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25, with Ephesians 5:22-24, where the apostle plainly alludeth and referreth to this song of songs in sundry passages, borrowing both matter and frame of speech from hence.

Which is Solomon’s.] He was the penman, God the author. Of many other songs he was both author and instrument. [1 Kings 4:32] Not so of this, which therefore the Chaldee paraphrast here entitleth "songs and hymns," in the plural, for the surpassing excellence of it, "which Solomon the prophet, the King of Israel, uttered by the spirit of prophecy before the Lord, the Lord of all the earth." A prophet he was, and is therefore now in the kingdom of heaven, notwithstanding his foul fall, whereof he repented. For as it is not the falling into the water that drowns, but lying in it, so neither is it the failing into sin that damns, but dying in it. Solomon was also King of Israel, and surpassed all the kings of the earth in wealth and wisdom, [2 Chronicles 9:22] yea, he was wiser than all men. [1 Kings 4:31] And as himself was a king, so he made this singular song, as David did the 45th Psalm, "concerning the King," Christ and his spiritual marriage to the Church, who is also called Solomon, [Song of Solomon 3:11] and "greater than Solomon." [Matthew 12:42] If, therefore, either the worth of the writer or the weightiness of the matter may make to the commendation of any book, this wants for neither. That is a silly exception of some against this song, as if not canonical, because God is not once named in it; for as oft as the bridegroom is brought in speaking here, so oft Christ himself speaketh, who is "God blessed for ever." [Romans 9:5] Besides, whereas Solomon made "a thousand songs and five," [1 Kings 4:32] this only, as being the chief of all, and part of the holy canon, hath been hitherto kept safe when the rest are lost, in the cabinet of God’s special providence, and in the chest of the Jews, God’s faithful library keepers. [Romans 3:1-2; John 5:39] It being not the will of our heavenly Father that any one hair of that sacred head should fall to the ground.


Verse 2

Song of Solomon 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love [is] better than wine.

Ver. 2. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.] It must be premised and remembered that this book is penitus allegoricus et parabolicus, as one saith, allegorical throughout, and aboundeth all along with types and figures, with parables and similitudes. Quot verba, tot sacramenta, So many words, so many mysteries, saith Jerome of the Revelation, which made Cajetan not dare to comment upon it. (a) The like may be truly affirmed of the Canticles; nay, we may say of it in a special manner, as Possevinus doth of the whole Hebrew Bible, tot esse sacramenta, quot literae, tot mysteria, quot puncta, tot arcana, quot apices. so much is sacred, how many books, so much is mysterious, how many marked with vowel points, so much is secret, how many marked vowels. (b) Hence Psellus in Theodoret asketh pardon for presuming to expound it. But difficilium facilis est venia; et, in magnis voluisse sat est: In hard things the pardon is easy, and in high things let a man show his goodwill and it sufficeth. The matter of this book hath been pointed at already; as for the form of it, it is dramatic and dialogistical. The chief speakers are not Solomon and the Shulamite, as Castalio makes it, but Christ and his Church. Christ also hath his associates, those friends of the bridegroom, [John 3:29] viz., the prophets, apostles, pastors, and teachers, who put in a word sometimes; as likewise do the fellow friends of the bride - viz., whole churches, or particular Christians. The bride begins here abruptly, after the manner of a tragedy, through impatience of love, and a holy impotence of desire after, not a union only, but a unity also with him whom her soul loveth. "Let him kiss me," &c. Kissing is a token of love, [1 Peter 5:14 Luke 7:45] and of reconciliation. [2 Samuel 14:33] And albeit καταφιλειν ουκ εστι φιλειν, as Philo observeth, love is not always in a kiss - Joab and Judas could kiss and kill, Caveatur osculum Iscarioticum, consign their treachery with so sweet a symbol of amity [1 Peter 1:22] - yet those that "love out of a pure heart fervently," do therefore kiss, as desiring to transfuse, if it might be, the souls of either into other, and to become one with the party so beloved, and in the best sense suaviated. {kissed} That, therefore, which the Church here desireth, is not so much Christ’s coming in the flesh - that "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners had spoken in times past unto her by the prophets, would now speak unto her by his Son," [Hebrews 1:1-2] as some have sensed it - as that she may have utmost conjunction to him, and nearest communion with him, here as much as may be, and hereafter in all fulness of fruition. "Let him kiss me," and so seal up his hearty love unto me, even the "sure mercies of David." "With the kisses of his mouth"; not with one kiss only, with one pledge of his love, but with many - there is no satiety, no measure, no bounds or bottom of this holy love, as there is in carnal desires, ubi etiam vota post usum fastidio sunt. Neither covets she to kiss his hand, as they deal by kings, or his feet, as they do the pope’s, but his "mouth"; she would have true kisses, the basia, the busses of those lips, whereinto "grace is poured," [Psalms 45:2 and wherehence those words of grace are uttered {Matthew 5:2-12] "He openeth his mouth with wisdom, and in his lips is the law of kindness." [Proverbs 31:26] Hence her affectionate desires, her earnest pantings, inquietations, and unsatisfiablenesses. She must have Christ, or else she dies; she must have the "kisses of Christ’s mouth," even those sweet pledges of love in his Word, or she cannot be contented, but will complain, in the confluence of all other comforts, as Abraham did, "Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?" [Genesis 15:2] or as Artabazus in Xenophon did, when Cyrus had given him a cup of gold and Chrysantas a kiss in token of his special favour, saying that the cup that he gave him was nothing so good gold as the kiss that he gave Chrysantas. The poet’s fable, that the moon was wont to come down from her orb to kiss Endymion. It is a certain truth that Christ came down from heaven to reconcile us to his Father, to unite us to himself, and still to communicate unto our souls the sense of his love, the feeling of his favour, the sweet breath of his Holy Spirit.

For thy love is better than wine.] Heb., Loves. The Septuagint and Vulgate render it ubera, thy breasts; but that is not so proper, since it is the Church that here speaks to Christ, and by the sudden change of person shows the strength and liveliness of her affection, as by the plural "loves," she means all fruits of his love, righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost, assurance of heaven, which Mr Latimer calls the deserts of the feast of a good conscience. There are other dainty dishes at that feast, but this is the banquet, this is "better than wine," which yet is a very comfortable creature, [Psalms 104:15] and highly set by. [Psalms 4:7] Plato calls wine a music, miseriarum humanarum μαλακτικα, the chief allayments of men’s miseries.


Verse 3

Song of Solomon 1:3 Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name [is as] ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.

Ver. 3. Because of the savour of thy good ointments.] Or, To smell to, thy ointments are best. Odoratissimus es. As the panther casts abroad a fragrant savour; as Alexander the Great is said to have had a natural sweetness with him by reason of the good temperament of his body; so, and much more than so, the Lord Christ, that sweetest of sweets. He kisseth his poor persecuted people, as Constantine once kissed Paphnutius’s lost eye; (a) and departing, for here he comes but as a suitor only till the marriage be made up in heaven, he leaves such a sweet scent behind him, such a balmy verdure, as attracts all good hearts unto him, so that where this all-quickening carcase is there would "the eagles be also." [Matthew 24:28] The Israelites removed their tents from Mithcah, which signifies sweetness, to Hashmonah, which signifies swiftness; [Numbers 33:29] to teach us, saith one, that the saints have no sooner tasted Christ’s sweetness, but they are carried after him presently with incredible swiftness. Hence they are said to have "a nose like the tower of Lebanon," [Song of Solomon 7:4] for their singular sagacity in smelling after Christ, and to flee to the holy assemblies, where Christ’s odours are beaten out to the smell, "as the clouds," or "as the doves to their windows." [Isaiah 60:8] For what reason? they have "their senses habitually exercised to discern good and evil," [Hebrews 5:14] and "their love abounds yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment." [Philippians 1:9]

Thy name is an ointment poured forth.] There is an elegant allusion in the original between Shem and Shemen - that is, name, and ointment. And Christ hath his name both in Hebrew and Greek from ointment; (b) for these three words in signification are all one, Messiah, Christ, Anointed. See the reason, Isaiah 61:1, "The spirit of the Lord," - that oil of gladness [Hebrews 1:9] - "is upon me, because he hath anointed, and appointed, me to preach good tidings to the meek"; 2 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, &c. Now when this is done to the life, when Christ crucified is preached, when the Holy Ghost in the mouth and ministry of his faithful servants shall take of Christ’s excellencies, as it is his office to do, [John 16:14] and hold them out to the world; when he shall hold up the tapestry, as it were, and shew men the Lord Christ, with an Ecce virum, Behold the man, that one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; [1 Timothy 2:5] see him in his natures, in his offices, in his works, in the blessed effects of all; this cannot but stir up wonderful loves in all good souls; with hearty wishes, that "if any one love not the Lord Jesus Christ, he may be Anathema Maranatha," [1 Corinthians 16:22] accursed upon accursed, and put over to God to punish.

Therefore the virgins love thee,] i.e., All that are adjoined to me in comely sort, as chaste damosels to their mother and mistress. The elect and faithful are called virgins for their spiritual chastity. They are God’s hidden ones, as the word (c) here used signifieth, as they are called; [Psalms 83:3] they are not defiled with the corruptions that are in the world through lust, for they are virgins; [Revelation 14:4] else the bride would not suffer them about her. [Psalms 45:14] Of Queen Elizabeth it is said, that she never suffered any lady to approach her presence of whose stain she had but the least suspicion. (d) "These follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth," (ib.), as the other creatures follow the panther for his sweet odours; as birds of prey are carried after carcases. "Whom having not seen, yet ye love," and can do no less, [1 Peter 1:8] "because he first loved you," and hath "shed abroad his love in your hearts by his holy Spirit." [1 John 4:19 Romans 5:5] Amate amorem illius, oh love his love, saith Bernard, and cry out with Ignatius, O ερως ο εμος εσταυρωται, My love was crucified. If the centurion in the Gospel were held worthy of respect because he "loved our nation," said those Jews, "and built us a synagogue," [Luke 7:5] what shall we say of Christ, who "loved us, and washed us with his own blood" &c.? [Revelation 1:5] "Herein was love," &c. And should not love be the whetstone of love? (e) should we not reciprocate? shall we be worse than publicans? shall not the love of Christ constrain us? &c. [2 Corinthians 5:14]


Verse 4

Song of Solomon 1:4 Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

Ver. 4. Draw me.] Those very virgins, though they love Christ, and are affected with his incomparable sweetness, to the slighting of earthly vanities, and all tasteless fooleries of this present life, yet are they sensible of sundry obstacles and back-biasses, which cause them to call for help from heaven, "Draw me," &c., scil., by the effectual working of thy mighty Spirit, and by "the cords of kindness," [Hosea 11:4] that irresistible grace of thine, whereby thou dost fortiter, but yet suaviter, powerfully, but yet sweetly work upon the wills of them that belong to thee; and by a merciful violence pull them out of Satan’s paws, yea, bring them from the jaws of hell to the joys of heaven. [Jeremiah 31:3]

We will run after thee.] We will not only follow thee, as the straw follows the jet, or as iron the loadstone, as the seaman’s needle doth the north pole, or as the hop in its growing follows the course of the sun from east to west, winding about the pole, and will rather break than do otherwise; but we will "fulfil after thee," (a) as Caleb did; [Numbers 14:24] we will "run after thee," as David did; yea, we will so "run," [Psalms 119:32] that we may obtain, "finish our course, and receive our crown," [2 Timothy 4:7-8] whereof we shall not fail, if we run regularly, run forthright, [Proverbs 4:25] run after Christ, as the Church here promiseth to do, and not step before him, as Peter presumed to do, and therefore heard, "Get thee behind me, Satan." [Matthew 16:23] Christ is our "forerunner, gone before us into heaven." [Hebrews 6:10] We must "come after him," [Luke 9:23] press his footsteps, [1 Peter 2:21] follow him close, [Matthew 16:24 Ephesians 5:1] and, having him ever in our eye, "run with patience the race that is set before us." [Hebrews 12:1-2] Rubs and remoras {delays} we shall be sure to meet with, but that must not make us stop or step back. Christ ran with a courage, though he ran with the cross upon his shoulders all the way. "Gird up your loins," [1 Peter 1:13] and do likewise. Run to get the race, said blessed Bradford to his fellow sufferers, you are even almost at your journey’s end. If there be any way to heaven on horseback, it is by the cross. Look to the joy that is set before you, as Christ did; "steal a look from glory," as Moses did, απεβλεπε, [Hebrews 11:26] "lest ye be wearied and faint," or "loosened," εκλυομενοι, [Hebrews 12:3] as the nerves are in a swoon or palsy. "Lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees." [Hebrews 12:12] Lift up your feet, as Jacob did, [Genesis 29:1, marg.} after the vision at Bethel, and take long strides to Christ. Think thou hearest him say, as Cicero did once to his friend, Quamobrem, si me amas tantum, quantum profecto amas, si dormis, expergiscere; si stas, ingredere; si ingrederis, curre; si curris, advola. Credibile non est quantum ego in amore et fide tua ponam, (b) i.e., Wherefore if thou lovest me, as I am sure thou dost, if thou be asleep, wake thyself; if thou standest stilI, set forward; if thou art upon thy way, run to me; if thou art a-running, fly to me: little dost thou think how much I set by thy love and faithfulness. Therefore haste, haste, haste. "The joy of the Lord shall be thy strength," {Nehemiah 8:10] so that thou shalt "walk and not be weary, run and not faint." [Isaiah 40:31]

The king hath brought me into his chambers.] Into the bridechamber of heaven, and hath "made me sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," mine head and husband, [Ephesians 2:6] yea, into the inward part of the bedchamber, as the word here used signifieth, [Song of Solomon 3:4] there to have familiarity with him, that I may be filled with his graces, [John 1:16] and bring forth fruit to God. [Romans 7:4]

We will be glad and rejoice in thee.] Be glad inwardly, and rejoice outwardly; not in thy love tokens so much as in thyself. Vix diligitur Iesus propter Iesum. They that rejoice in anything but Christ, "rejoice in a thing of nought" (Amos 6:13, with Song of Solomon 1:4-6). The beginning of epistles and letters anciently was Gaudete in Domino, rejoice in the Lord.

We will remember thy love.] Or, Rehearse it. Men cannot but think and speak much of what they love and like. If David’s "heart be inditing a good matter," a song of love, his "tongue" will soon be the "pen of a ready writer." [Psalms 45:1-2] And as people, when drunk with wine, wherein is excess, are apt to sing and shout; so those that are filled with the Spirit cannot but utter those magnalia Dei, the wonderful works of God, [Acts 2:11] yea, express their spiritual jollity in "psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs." [Ephesians 5:18-19]

The upright love thee.] Heb., Uprightness; the abstract for the concrete, as pride for proud, [Jeremiah 50:31] rebellion for rebellious. [Ezekiel 2:7] This seemeth to be added to exclude hypocrites, those hangers on. They seem to love God, none more, but it is from the teeth outward only; and Christ may well say to them, as she did to Samson, "How canst thou say thou lovest me, when thy heart is not with me?" [ 16:15] Their hearts are upon their covetousness, then when with their mouths they make love, [Ezekiel 33:31] as the eagle hath his eye upon the prey when he soareth highest toward heaven. They follow Christ more for the loaves than for love, [John 6:26] they "serve not God, but serve themselves" [Romans 16:18] upon him; they serve him for gain, as children will not say their prayers unless we promise them their breakfasts. Sincerity is an utter enemy to sinisterity.


Verse 5

Song of Solomon 1:5 I [am] black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.

Ver. 5. I am black, but comely.] Heb., Black as the morning, or day dawning, which hath light and darkness, dimness at least, mixed together. It is not Hως ροδοδακτυλος, wherein there is more light than darkness, but κροκοπεπλος, wherein there is more darkness than light, as the grammarians distinguish. (a) This morning light is lovely, though not pure; so is the Church comely, though not dear. The coy daughters of Jerusalem might make a wonderment, that so black a dowdy, as the Church appeared to them that saw not her inward beauty, should ever hope to have love from the "fairest among men." We read how Aaron and Miriam murmured against Moses, who was "fair to God," (b) because of the brown skinned woman whom he had married. [Numbers 12:1] For answer to whom the spouse here grants that she is black, or blackish at least: - (1.) As having some hypocrites in her bosom, that as that blasted grain (c) [Matthew 13:25] smutcheth and sullieth the better sort; (2.) As being not fully freed from sin till after death. Sin is dejected, indeed, in the saints, but not utterly ejected while they are here. For what reason? It is in them as the spots of the leopard, not by accident, but by nature, which no art can cure, no water can wash off, because they are not in the skin, but in the flesh and bones, in the sinews and the most inward parts. Howbeit the Church is freed from the damning and domineering power of sin. And whereas (3.) She is looked upon as "black," [Job 30:30 Lamentations 4:8 Jeremiah 8:21] because of her afflictions, those fruits of sin, and seems to have lain among the pots, as the Psalmist hath it, places where scullions use to lie, and so are black and collied, yet shall she be "as the wings of a dove that are covered with silver," &c. [Psalms 68:13] Though she "sit in darkness, the Lord shall give her light." [Micah 7:8] And as black soap makes white clothes, so do sharp afflictions make holy hearts, where God is pleased to set in with his battle door, as that martyr said. (d) Puriores caelo afflictione facti sunt, saith Chrysostom of those that were praying for Peter. [Acts 12:13-17] And "some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white," saith the prophet of those suffering saints. [Daniel 11:35] The face of the Church is never so beautiful as when it is washed with its own tears; as some faces appear most orientally fair when they are most instamped with sorrow. Christ did so. [Isaiah 52:14]

But comely.] Or, Goodly, lovely, desirable, delectable, viz., for my double righteousness, those righteousnesses of the saints, [Revelation 19:8] imputed and imparted. Hence the Church may better sing than Sappho did -

Si mihi difficilis formam natura negavit,

Iustitia formae damna rependo meae.

Ingenio formae damna rependo meae. ” - Ovid. Epist.

As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.] Kedar signifieth black; and the Kedarens, a people of Arabia, descended from Ishmael, dwelt in black tents, made of hair cloth, and had no other houses; (e) they also dwelt not far from the Ethiopians, or blackmoors. [2 Chronicles 21:16]

As the curtains, &c., ] i.e., As his costly tapestry and other sumptuous household stuff, whereof read 1 Kings 10:1-2, &c. Josephus (f) also makes mention of the Babylonish rich furniture wherewith Solomon’s rooms were hanged. These are to set forth the Church’s comeliness, as the other did her homeliness. Let none be despised for his outward meanness; for within that leathern purse may be a pearl. Christ himself was hidden under the carpenter’s son and a poor outside. [Isaiah 53:2]

Saepe sub attrita latitat sapientia veste.

Often under the surface lies hidden the vesture of wisdom.


Verse 6

Song of Solomon 1:6 Look not upon me, because I [am] black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; [but] mine own vineyard have I not kept.

Ver. 6. Look not upon me, because I am black.] "Look not upon me," viz., with a lofty look, with a coy countenance; fix not your eyes upon mine infirmities and miseries so as to disdain me, or to disesteem me for them. Blackish I am, I confess, tanned, and discoloured. The old Latin translation renders it "brown" - lovely brown we call it; belle brunette, the French; others "somewhat black," - q.d., My blackness is not so much as you may think for; judge not, therefore, according to the appearance; stumble not at my seeming deformities. A faithful man may fall far, but the seed abideth in him; the new nature cannot be lost; the oil of God’s Spirit, wherewith he is anointed, setteth the colours, which are of his own tempering, so sure on, and maketh them cleave so fast together, that it is impossible he should ever return to his own hue, to be coal black, as before. Howbeit he is subject to much affliction, anguish, and distress, as it were to the scorching of the sun; and that, with many that have not senses exercised to discern good and evil, renders him despicable; but that should not be. Of Queen Elizabeth it is said that she hated, no less than did Mithridates, such as maliciously persecuted virtue forsaken of fortune; (a) as when a deer is shot, the rest of the herd push him out of their company.

Because the sun hath looked upon me.] By "sun" here some have understood the Sun of righteousness, whom, when the Church looks intently upon, she is bedazzled, and sees her own nothingness, in comparison to his incomparable brightness. Others by "sun" here will have original sin to be meant; which, indeed, hath brought the blackness of darkness upon the spirit of our minds, and bored out the eye of our understandings. The same original depravity they understand by the following words, "Sons of the same mother"; and by being "kindled with wrath," they understand sin increasing and raging, as it were; and by appointing the Church to "keep other vineyards," they understand the committing of the works of the flesh and the deeds of darkness with which she was, as it were, holden, so that she could do nothing else till the Lord had loosed her out of these chains. But they do best that by "sun" in this place understand the heat of persecution, and the parching of oppression, according to Matthew 13:6; Matthew 13:21, Lamentations 1:6; Lamentations 1:13-14, &c. What bonfires were here made in Queen Mary’s days, burning the dear saints of God to a black coal, lighting them up for tapers in a dark night, as they did in Nero’s days! After John Huss was burnt, his adversaries got his heart, which was left untouched by the fire, and beat it with their staves. The story of the Maccabees’ persecutions, prophesied of in Daniel 11:32-35, and recorded in Hebrews 11:35 to the end, is exceeding lamentable. Opposition is - as Calvin wrote to the French king - evangelii genius, and ecclesia est haeres crucis, saith Luther. (b) The Church hath its cross for its inheritance. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus," if they be set upon it so to do, "shall suffer persecution"; there is no avoiding it. [2 Timothy 3:12] When Ignatius came to the wild beasts, Now, saith he, I begin to be a Christian, and not till now. That Christian, saith Mr Bradford, hath not yet learned his A B C in Christianity that hath not learned the lesson of the cross, (c) &c. Omnis Christianus crucianus. (d) This the worldling cannot away with; and although he "make a fair show in the flesh," or ευπροσωπησαι, "set a good face" on it, as the word signifies, as if he had set his face toward Sion, yet when it comes to a matter of suffering, he stumbles at the cross, and falls backwards. He will not "suffer persecution for the cross of Christ." [Galatians 6:12] He looks at the Church with a vulture’s eye, as though he would behold nothing in her but corruption and carrion. He makes an ill construction of her infirmities, and will not stick to say, if he have a mind to shake her off, that she is black and despicable, that she provides but poorly for her followers, that the great ones favour her as little as the lords of the Philistines did David, &c. Cicero veram religionem splendore imperii, gravitate nominis Romani, maiorum institutis, et Fortunae successibus metitur, (e) Cicero’s marks of the true religion were the largeness of the Roman empire, their spreading fame, their ancestors’ ordinances, and their singular success. The Papists have the like arguments for proof of their Church. But what saith Luther? Ego non habeo aliud contra Papae regnum robustius argumentum, quam quod sine cruce regnat: (f) I have no stronger argument against the Pope’s kingdom than this, that he reigns without the cross.

My mother’s children were angry with me,] i.e., Worldly men, that are of the same human race that I am; these fretted at me, as Moab did at Israel, because they were of a different religion, [Numbers 22:3-4] or as Tobiah and his complices did at Nehemiah and his Jews. [Nehemiah 6:1] It was quarrel enough to Jerusalem that it would not be miserable. Hypocrites and heretics especially are here understood, as some conceive, such as pretend to be children of the Church, and her greatest friends as the Donatists would be the only Christians, and after them the Rogatian heretics called themselves the only catholics. So did the Arians, and so do the Papists, whose anger against the true children of the Church is far hotter than Nebuchadnezzar’s oven after it had been seven times heated for those three constant worthies. Hypocritis nihil est crudelius impatientius et vindietae cupidius, saith Luther, who had the experience of it, plane sunt serpentes, &c.: There is not a more cruel creature, more impatient and vindictive, than a hypocrite. He is as angry as an asp, as revengeful as a serpent, &c. He is of the serpentine seed, and carries the old "enmity," [Genesis 3:15] Cain’s club. [Genesis 4:8 John 3:12] "Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified." [Isaiah 66:5] Here was a fair glove drawn upon a foul hand. In nomine Domini incipit omne malum, In the name of God began all wickedness, was grown to a proverb here in times of Popery. (g)

They made me the keeper of the vineyards.] No marvel, therefore, that I am sunburnt, since I have "borne the burden and heat of the day"; [Matthew 20:12] it hath been my task to keep out boars, foxes, and other noisome creatures; yea, it hath been my lot to be put upon some servile offices - as those poor vinedressers were [2 Kings 25:12] - not so suitable to my place and station assigned me by God; yea, although I am "dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, yet as though living in the world," I have by these impostors and impositors been made to dogmatise ( δογματιζεσθε) after the commandments and doctrines of men. [Colossians 2:20; Colossians 2:22]

But mine own vineyard have I not kept,] q.d., Being burdened with human rights and traditions, and having been the "servant of men," [1 Corinthians 7:23] I have departed from the duty that God prescribed unto me. Sane bene, "Full well truly have I rejected or slighted the commandment of God, that I might keep men’s tradition." [Mark 7:9] Thus she shames and shents {hesitates} herself; she blusheth and bleedeth before the Lord for her carelessness in duty. Yea, she tells the world the true reason of her present blackness; somewhat she had to say against others, but most against herself. "After I was made known to myself," (h) said Ephraim - scil., by looking in the glass of God’s law - "I repented." [Jeremiah 31:19] Get thee this law, as a glass to look in, said Mr Bradford, so shalt thou see thy face foul arrayed, and so shamefully saucy, mangy, pocky, and scabbed, that thou canst not but be sorry at the sight thereof. Thus he. (i) Physicians, in some kind of unseemly convulsions, wish their patients to look themselves in a glass, which will help them to strive the more, when they shall see their own deformities. It is fit we should oft reflect and see "every man the plague of his heart," [1 Kings 8:38] the "error" [Psalms 19:12] of his life, keeping our hearts soft, supple, and soluble; for softness of heart discovers sin, as blots do run abroad and seem biggest in wet paper. When the cockatrice’s egg is crushed, it "breaks out into a viper." [Isaiah 59:5]


Verse 7

Song of Solomon 1:7 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest [thy flock] to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?

Ver. 7. Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth.] The sins of God’s elect turn to their good - Venenum aliquando pro remedio fuit, saith Seneca, (a) poison is by art turned into a medicine - make them cry more upon Christ, love him more with all their soul, desire more earnestly to be joined unto him, use all holy means of attaining thereunto; and that with such affection, that when others are at their rest or repast, the Christian can neither eat nor rest, unless he be with Christ.

Where thou feedest.] This Book of Canticles is a kind of pastoral, a song of a beloved concerning a beloved. The Church therefore gives, and Christ takes oft herein upon himself, the term and office of a loving and skilful Shepherd, that feeds his flock daily and daintily, feedeth them among the lilies and beds of spices, makes them to "lie down in green pastures, and leads them beside the still waters" [Psalms 23:2] - his Word and sacraments; makes them also to lie down at noon, i.e., as the chief pastor of his sheep, he wholly ordereth them in all their spiritual labours, toils, and afflictions, giving them safe repose in the hottest seasons. [Isaiah 49:10] See Ezekiel 34:13, John 10:1-2, 1 Peter 5:2, Jeremiah 30:10; Jeremiah 30:13.

For why should I be as one that turneth aside,] q.d., This would be no less to thy dishonour than my disadvantage, if I miscarry, thou wilt be no small loser by it. To urge God with the respect of his own glory lying now at stake, is a most effectual way of speeding in prayer. "If thou destroy this people, what will the Egyptians say?" [Exodus 32:12] how will the very banks of blasphemy be broken down, and they speak evil of thee with open mouth? If the Canaanites beat us, "what shall become of thy great name,." [Joshua 7:9] Interpone, quaeso, tuas preces, apud Deum pro me, et ora Christum cuius est causa haec, ut mihi adsit: quam si obtinuerit, mihi obtenta erit: sin veto causa exciderit, nec ego eam obtinere potero: atque ita ipse solus ignominiam reportabit. (b) Please pray for me, saith Luther to a friend of his that feared how it would fare with him when he was to appear at Augsburg before the cardinal; pray for me to Jesus Christ, whose the cause is, that he would stand by me: for if he carry the day, I shall do well enough; as, if I miscarry, he alone will undergo the blame and shame of it.

By the flock of thy companions.] Why should I have fellowship with thy pretended fellows, and so incur the suspicion of dishonesty. Christians must "abstain from all appearance of evil," [1 Thessalonians 5:23] shun and be shy of the very shows and shadows of sin, Quicquid fuerit male coloratum, as Bernard hath it, whatsoever looks but ill favouredly; "providing for things honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but in the sight of men; and avoiding this, that no man should blame us," [2 Corinthians 8:20-21] avoiding it, στελλομενοι, as shipmen shuns a rock or shelf, with utmost care and circumspection. Joseph would not breathe in the same air with his mistress, nor John the evangelist with the heretic Cerinthus, but "sprang out of the bath" (c) as soon as he came into it. St Paul would not give place by subjection to those false brethren, "no, not for an hour," [Galatians 2:5] lest the truth thereby should suffer detriment. Constantine would not read the Arians’ papers, but tear them before their eyes. And Placilla the empress besought her husband, Theodosius senior, not once to confer with Eunomius, lest being perverted by his speeches he might fall into heresy. (d) Memorable is the story of the children of Samosata, that would not touch their ball, but burnt it, because it had touched the toe of a heretical bishop, as they were tossing it and playing with it.


Verse 8

Song of Solomon 1:8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

Ver. 8. If thou know not, O thou fairest among women.] So Christ is pleased to style her, who erst held and called herself black and sunburnt. [Song of Solomon 1:5] Nothing more commends us to Christ than humility and lowly mindedness. [1 Peter 3:5] The daughter of Zion, for this is likened to "a comely and delicate woman," her enemies to shepherds with their flocks. [Jeremiah 6:2-3] False prophets also have their flocks, seducers drag disciples after them. [Acts 20:30] Faciunt favos et vespae, faciunt Ecclesias et Marcionitae, saith Tertullian; wasps also have their honeycombs; apes imitate men’s actions. These conventiclers the Church must studiously decline, and not viam per avia quaerere, seek truth by wandering through the thicket of errors, as Junius saith one in his time did, who confessed he had spent twenty-two years in trying religions, pretending that Scripture, "Prove all things." The spouse is here directed by the archshepherd to repair to the foddering places, to frequent the public assemblies, to tread in that sheep track, the footsteps of the flock, the shepherds’ tents. There Christ hath promised to feed his lambs (that have golden fleeces, precious souls), to call them by name, as he did Moses, [Exodus 33:12; Exodus 33:17] Cornelius Acts 10:1-2), &c., to "teach them great and hidden things, such as they knew not," [Jeremiah 33:3] to give them spiritual senses, ability to examine what is doctrinally propounded to them, to try before they trust - for all Christ’s sheep are rational, they "know his voice from the voice of a stranger" [John 10:5] - to be fully persuaded of the truth that they take up and profess, [Colossians 2:2 Luke 1:1] to feel the sweetness and goodness, the life and power of it within themselves, [Colossians 1:9 Job 32:8] to hate false doctrines, and those that would persuade them thereunto, [Psalms 119:104] buzzing doubts into their heads. [Romans 16:17 John 10:5] So that, though man or angel should object against the truth they have received, they would not yield to him. [Galatians 1:8-9] They know that Satan can, and doth, "transform himself into an angel of light," [2 Corinthians 11:14] and can act his part by a good man also, as he did by Peter once and again, [Matthew 16:23 Galatians 2:11-13] and as he did in our remembrance by Mr Archer, a holy man, who yet held and broached hellish opinions. Swenckfeldio non defuit cor bonum, sed caput regulatum, saith Bucholcerus: Swenckfeldius had a good heart, but a wild head, and so became a means of much mischief to many silly, shallow headed people, whom he shamefully seduced. This to prevent, Christ hath given gifts to men; pastors and teachers after his own heart; guides, to "speak unto them the word of God," [Hebrews 12:7] to "set in order for them acceptable words, "words of truth that may be as "goads, and as nails fastened by those masters of the assemblies which are given from one Shepherd": [Ecclesiastes 12:10-11] in fine, to "take heed to themselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers, to feed the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood," [Acts 20:28] that they might go in and out, and find pastures, such as will breed life, and life in more abundance. [John 10:9-10]

Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock.] Add endeavour to thy desire; up and be doing: for affection without action is like Rachel, that ancient shepherdess, beautiful, but barren. "Get thee forth therefore by the footsteps of the flock"; tread in the same track that good old Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Paul, &c., did, who followed the Lamb whithersoever he went. Keep to that "good old way," the way that is called holy, "and ye shall find rest to your souls." [Jeremiah 6:16] Walk in the footsteps of faithful Abraham, and ye shall one day rest in the bosom of Abraham. "Walk in the same spirit," in the same footsteps with Paul and Titus, [2 Corinthians 12:18] so shall you shortly and surely "receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls." [1 Peter 1:9]

And feed thy kids.] The Church also is a shepherdess, as were Laban’s and Jethro’s daughters, and hath a little little flock of young goats, that is, of green Christians, who are to be fed with "the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby." [1 Peter 2:2]

Beside the shepherds’ tents.] Turn to the undershepherds, the godly ministers, and so "return to the great Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." [1 Peter 2:25] Hold you close to these, and "hold fast the form of wholesome words," [2 Timothy 1:13] and linger not after unsound and unsavoury doctrines, so rife abroad - those murdering morsels that fat men indeed, but it is to the day of slaughter. Silly sheep do eat no grass more greedily than that which rots them. "But thou, O man of God, fly these things, and from such stand off." [1 Timothy 6:5; 1 Timothy 6:11]


Verse 9

Song of Solomon 1:9 I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.

Ver. 9. I have compared thee, O my love, &c.] My pastoral love, or shepherdess companion, my fellow friend, or familiar associate in the function of spiritual feeding; my neighbour, or next, as the Greek renders it. For the saints are not only like unto Christ, [1 John 3:2] but also next unto him, [Luke 22:30] yea, one with him, [John 17:21] and so above the most glorious angels, [Hebrews 1:14] as being the spouse, the bride; whereas angels are only servants of the bridegroom: and as being the members of Christ, and so in a nearer union than any creature. This the devil and his angels stomached, and so fell from their first principality.

To a company of horses.] Or, To my troop of horses in the chariots of Pharaoh. The saddle horse his, the chariots Pharaoh’s, saith an interpreter. "What is this, but that the spirit of strength and speed it is Christ’s; and the untoward flesh, which is to be drawn by the same divine Spirit, it is of the world, and the very chariot of Satan. Soul and body, as wheels and axle, do run which way the devil drives, till the stronger man Jesus have freed our chariot nature from that power of hell, and joined himself by his own Spirit unto our nature, that so, with Ezekiel’s chariot, it may go forth and return as his divine Spirit directeth." Thus he. (a)


Verse 10

Song of Solomon 1:10 Thy cheeks are comely with rows [of jewels], thy neck with chains [of gold].

Ver. 10. Thy cheeks are comely,] i.e., Thy whole face, by a synecdoche, though the cheeks are instanced, as being the seat of shamefacedness modesty, and beauty - such as was found in Esther, whose son, Artaxerxes Longimanus, was held the fairest man alive; (a) Aspasia Milesia, the wife of Cyrus, who was styled καλη και σορη, fair and wise and the Lady Jane Grey, whose excellent beauty was adorned with all variety of virtues, as a clear sky with stars, saith the historian, (b) as a princely diadem with jewels. Hence she became most dear to King Edward VI, who appointed her his successor. But nothing so dear to him, nor so happy in her succession, as the Church is to Christ, who lively describes her inward beauty, which he looks upon as a rich pearl in a rude shell, or as those "tents of Kedar" aforementioned, [Song of Solomon 1:5] which though coarse and homely for the outward hue, yet, for the precious gems, jewels, and sweet odours that were couched in them, were very desirable.

With rows of jewels.] A metaphor from fair women richly adorned. Holy women may be costly attired, gratior est pulchro, &c., though Seneca thinks that he was in an error that said so, since virtue needs no garnish, but is magnum sui decus, et corpus consecrat, its own greatest glory, and consecrates the body wherein it dwelleth. St Peter also prescribes ladies an excellent dress. [1 Peter 3:3-4] Tertullian comes after with his Vestite vos serico pietatis, &c., Clothe yourselves with the silk of piety, with the satin of sanctity, with the purple of purity. Taliter pigmentatae Christum habebitis amatorem, Being thus arrayed and adorned, you shall have Christ to be your suitor.

Thy neck with chains,] scil., Of pearl or precious stones, that is, of heavenly graces drawn all upon that one thread of humility, which is the ribbon or string that ties together all those precious pearls. Humility is των αρετων θησαυροφυλακιον, saith Basil, the treasuress of the rest of the virtues. It is συνδεσμος των αγαθων, saith Chrysostom, the bond of all good things, the "bond of perfection," as St Paul saith of charity. Hence St Peter’s word, εγκομβωσασθε, [1 Peter 5:5] Be ye clothed with humility, comes of κομβος, for a knot; and it signifies not only alligare, to knit the graces together, and to preserve them from being made a prey to pride, but also innodare, say some, to tie knots, as delicate and curious women use to do of ribbons to adorn their necks, or other parts; as if humility was the knot of every virtue, and the ornament of every grace. On the contrary, pride is said to "compass evil men about as a chain," [Psalms 73:6] which, oh how ugly and unseemly is it on the neck of beauty, back of honour, head of learning!


Verse 11

Song of Solomon 1:11 We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.

Ver. 11. We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.] We, the whole Trinity, will join together, as we do in all our works ad extra, in framing for thee these glorious ornaments, in putting upon thee our own comeliness, [Ezekiel 16:11-14] in increasing and embellishing thy graces, thy pure gold of holiness, with silver specks, studs, or embroidery. Thus the spouse promiseth, to make his bride, though he find her fair and fine, much fairer and finer by an addition of more and more graces and gifts, both ordinary and extraordinary, till she be "transformed into the same image from glory to glory." He will spare for neither gold nor silver to beautify her, such is his abundant love unto her. He clothes her with the particoloured (a) garment of a great variety (b) of graces, and this he borders with gold, and bespangles with silver. Her clothing is of "wrought gold," far more stately and costly than that of Esther in all her beauty and bravery; than that of Dionysius, whose mantle was sold to the Carthaginians for a hundred and twenty talents; (c) than that royal robe of Demetrius, King of Macedonia, that was so massive and magnificent that none of his successors would ever wear it, Propter invidiosam impendii magniflcentiam, for the unparalleled sumptuousness thereof.


Verse 12

Song of Solomon 1:12 While the king [sitteth] at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

Ver. 12. While the king sitteth at his table, &c.] Heb., At his round table, or ring sitting. In accubitu circulari: in orbem enim antiquitus ad mensam sedebant. "Send and fetch him, for we will not sit round till he come hither." [1 Samuel 16:11] The manner of the Turks to this day is to sit around at meat on the bare ground, with their legs gathered under them. (a) By the king is here meant "Messiah the prince," [Daniel 9:25] "Christ the Lord." [Acts 2:36] Et omnes sancti in circuitu eius, All his saints sit round about him; [Psalms 76:11] as the twelve tribes were round about the tabernacle; [Numbers 2:2] as the twenty-four elders are round about the throne [Revelation 4:4] - they are "a people near unto him"; [Psalms 148:14] they are those "Blessed that eat and drink with him in his kingdom," [Luke 14:15] first of grace, and then of glory. And while they thus sit with their King - a sign of sweetest friendsblp and fellowship - it was held a great honour and happiness to "stand before Solomon" [1 Kings 10:8] in his circled session.

My spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.] Saith the Church; that is, my faith is actuated, and all mine other graces exercised and increased, at the Lord’s table, that heavenly love feast: Ubi cruci haeremus, sanguinem sugimus, et inter ipsa redemptoris nostri vulnera figimus linguam, (b) whereat we climb the cross, as it were, suck Christ’s blood, "suck honey out of the rock," [Deuteronomy 32:13] feed heartily and hungerly upon his flesh, as eagles do upon the slain. [Matthew 24:28] This Luther calls crapulam sanctam, a gracious gormandise; (c) whiles we lean upon his bosom and "feed without fear"; sending forth our sweet odours, our pillars of incense, by lifting up many a humble, joyful, and thankful heart to him, living by his laws, and being a savour of life to others. But what shall we think of those that stink above ground, poison the very air they breathe upon, defile the visible heavens, which must therefore be purged by the fire of the last day; and by their rotten communication and unclean conversation spread their infections, and send the plague to their neighbours, as those Ashdodites, Gittites, and Ekronites did. [1 Samuel 5:1-12]


Verse 13

Song of Solomon 1:13 A bundle of myrrh [is] my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

Ver. 13. A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved, &c.] The bride proceeds to return all the glory to her bridegroom (of all that good that he had praised her for before) by a second similitude here, and by a third in the next verse; for in this argument she thinks she can never say sufficient. It is the manner of maids to wear nosegays of sweet flowers in their bosoms, and to make no small account of them. Myrrh is marvellous sweet and savoury (Psalms 45:8, Proverbs 7:17. See Plin., lib. xii., cap. 15, 16), but nothing so sweet as the Lord Christ is to those that have spiritual senses; Whom therefore the spouse here placeth between her breasts, that there hence the sweet savour may ascend into her nostrils. Again, Myrrh hath a bitter root; [Mark 15:23] Christ seems bitter at first because of afflictions, but if "we suffer with him, we shall also reign together with him." [2 Timothy 2:12] Thirdly, Myrrh was very precious; hence the wise men offered it to Christ at his birth. [Matthew 2:11] Christ is of that esteem with his people, "elect and precious," [1 Peter 2:6] that, as wise merchants, they make a thorough sale of all to purchase him. [Matthew 13:44-46] Lastly, Myrrh is of a preserving nature, and was therefore made use of at funerals. [John 19:39] In like sort Christ, as he doth by his Spirit’s heat, exsiccate, or dry up the superfluity of our degenerate nature, whereby body and soul is preserved to eternal life; so, after our bodies are turned to dust, he still preserves a substance, which he will raise again at the last day. Hence the saints are said to "sleep in Jesus," to be "dead in Christ," who shall "raise our vile bodies, and make them like unto his own glorious body," [Philippians 3:21] in beauty, brightness, grace, favour, agility, ability, and other angelical excellencies.

He shall lie all night between my breasts.] This is Christ’s proper place: "My son, give me thine heart." Christ should "dwell in the heart by faith." [Ephesians 3:17] But too too often he is shut out, and adultery found between the breasts; [Hosea 2:2] there they carried the signs of their idolatry (as Papists now do their crucifixes), to testify that the idol had their hearts. But what saith Mr Bradford, martyr, in a certain letter? (a) As the wife will keep her bed only for her husband, although in other things she is content to have fellowship with others, as to speak, sit, eat, drink, go, &c.; so our consciences (which are Christ’s wives) must needs keep the bed - that is, God’s sweet promises - alonely for ourselves and our husband to meet together, to embrace and laugh together, and to be joyful together. If sin, the law, the devil, or anything would creep into the bed, and lie there, then complain to thy husband Christ, and forthwith thou shalt see him play Phinehas’s part, &c. And again, in another letter, Think on the sweet mercies and goodness of God in Christ. Here, here is the resting place - here is the spouse’s bed, creep into it, and in your arms of faith embrace him. Bewail your weakness, your unworthiness, your diffidence, and you shall see he will turn to you. What said I? - you shall see? Nay, I should have said, you shall feel, he will turn to you, &c. (b)


Verse 14

Song of Solomon 1:14 My beloved [is] unto me [as] a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.

Ver. 14. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire.] "My beloved," and "unto me." This particular application is the very quintessence and pith of faith. H πιστις ιδιοποιει ται τον Cριστον. It is the property of true faith to individuate Christ, to appropriate him to herself, as if he were wholly and solely hers. She adjudgeth him in special to herself, with "My beloved," "My strength, and my Redeemer," "My Lord, and my God." This, when Thomas did, "Now thou believest," said our Saviour. [John 20:29] Were it not for this word of possession, mine, the devil might say the Creed to as good purpose: as any of us. He believes there is a God and a Christ; but that which torments him is, he can say my to never an article of faith. Wicked men likewise may Credere Deum, et Deo, sed non in Deum; they may hear with joy, and have a taste, yea, and apply the promises, but they do it presumptuously and sacrilegiously; because they accept not Christ upon Christ’s terms, take not whole Christ in all his offices and efficacies - would have him as a Saviour but not as a Sovereign - they make not a total resignation of themselves to Christ as Paul did [Galatians 2:19-20]

As a cluster of camphire.] Or, As the cypress berry, within its white flower - sweet, pleasant, and very fragrant. (a) They that talk here of the island Cyprus are as far from the sense as that island is from Engedi, which was a place in the land of Canaan, in the tribe of Judah, near unto the Dead Sea. Here fled David one time when Saul pursued him; and here Jehoshaphat had that notable victory over his enemies by the power of prayer. [2 Chronicles 20:1-28] This was a fruitful soil for gardens and vineyards. [Ezekiel 47:10] Now the cypress tree, as also other aromatic trees, grow best in vineyards; and the Church, forgetting herself, as it were, and transported with love to Christ, heaps up thus one similitude upon another. Amor Christi est ecstaticus, neque iuris se sinit esse sui. R. Solomon Jarchi doth out of their Agada note that this cophir in the text is a tree that bringeth fruit four or five times yearly. Christ is that tree of life, that yields fruit every month, [Revelation 22:2] being more fruitful than the lemon tree, or the Egyptian fig tree, that bears seven times a year, as Solinus reporteth. (b) Our English Bibles call it camphire, which being smelled unto, doth naturally keep under or weaken carnal lust, saith one. Now, if that should be here intended, how fitly is it here placed among the vines of Engedi, that is a medicine for bridling lust too soon stirred up by wine, which one well calls lac Veneris, the milk of Venus: -

Et Venus in vinis, ignis ut igne, furit.

Even Venus in wine, so rages fire by fire.


Verse 15

Song of Solomon 1:15 Behold, thou [art] fair, my love; behold, thou [art] fair; thou [hast] doves’ eyes.

Ver. 15. Behold thou art fair, my love.] Or, My fellow friend. {as Song of Solomon 1:9} And as she is his love, so he is her beloved, [Song of Solomon 1:16] and as he commends her, so she him no less. This should be all the strife between married couples, who should outstrip the other in mutual melting heartedness, and all loving respects either to other, in all passages, carriages, and behaviours whatsoever between them; accustoming themselves, as here, to speak kindly and cheerfully one to the other. This is that which will infinitely sweeten and beautify the married estate; it will make marriage a merry age, which else will prove a mar-age. And here let "husbands learn to love their wives, as Christ loved the Church," [Ephesians 5:25] celebrating her beauty in a song, repeating her just praises, to show his heartiness therein, and inviting others with an Ecce, Behold, to the due contemplation thereof. "Behold, thou art all fair, my love! behold, thou art fair!" Non est ficta aut frigida haec laudatio, This is no feigned or frigid commendation, but such as proceeds from entire affection, and breathes, abundance of goodwill. Full well might the prophet tell the Church, "Surely, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." [Isaiah 62:5] And again, "The Lord thy God will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love (and seek no further), he will joy over thee with singing." [Zephaniah 3:17] The Church had acknowledged [Song of Solomon 1:5] that she was "black," or at least blackish, and yet, by way of apology too, she had pleaded that she was "comely," and so not to be slighted. But Christ affirms her "fair," yea, "twice fair," yea, the "fairest among women" - sic suum cuique pluchrum, so doth he even "err in her love," as the wise man phraseth it [Proverbs 5:9] - as himself is said to be the "fairest among men," [Psalms 45:2] where the Hebrew word likewise is of double form - Thou art fair, thou art fair above the sons of Adam, to note out double, that is, excellent beauty, such as draweth love and liking. (a) Now it is a maxim in the civil law, Uxor fulget radiis mariti, The wife shineth with her husband’s beams, so doth the Church with Christ’s graces, wherewith she is decked, as Rebecca did wish Isaac’s jewels. Read Ezekiel 16:2-5, &c., and you will see that all the Church’s beauty is borrowed. The maids that were brought to Ahasuerus, besides their own native beauty, they were first purified and perfumed before he chose one [Esther 2:3] But here it is otherwise altogether, for when the Church was "in her blood, in her blood, in her blood" - three several times it is so said, that we might the better observe it, and be affected with it - Christ "sanctified and cleansed her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, holy and without blemish." [Ephesians 5:26-27] But a bloody spouse she was to him, who "loved her, and washed her with his blood." [Revelation 1:5]

Thou hast doves’ eyes.] Sweet, amiable, single, and chaste. In the eyes beauty sits, and shines more than in any part of the body besides, γλαυκωπις βοωπις, &c., apud Homerum. The Turks tell their desperate devotees of beautiful women, with full eyes, in their fools’ paradise; and thereby hearten them on to bold attempts. (b) The Hebrews say that in oculis, loculis, poculis, the heart of a man shows itself. The Church is here said not to have eagles’, vultures’, foxes’, apes’ eyes, but doves’ eyes. Now,

Felle columba caret, rostro non caedit, et ungues

Possidet innocuos, puraque grana legit. ”

The dove hath her name in the Hebrew, {c} from a root that signifieth to oppress and make a prey of any, as poor people, strangers, fatherless, &c., [Jeremiah 50:16] because, belike, this creature is subject to the prey and spoil of hawks; when pursued, they save themselves by flight, not fight; - the prophet Jonah was so called, as some think, quod columbae instar aufugeret, because he fled as a dove, when God sent him to Nineveh, but not with the wings of a dove - sometimes sitting in their dove cotes they see their nests destroyed, their young ones taken away and killed before their eyes, never offering to rescue or revenge, which all other fowls seem in some sort to do. This is very appliable to the persecuted Church, as may be seen in the Lamentations and Martyrologies. In Greek, the dove hath her name from her exceeding love to her mate and young ones. (d) Kυουσι γαρ αλληλους, saith Aristotle, they kiss one another; the Church likewise kisseth Christ, and is interchangeably kissed of Christ, [Psalms 2:12 Song of Solomon 1:2] being drawn together by a mutual dear affection, as the apostle’s word (e) imports. [Hebrews 11:13] As if at any time the dove and her mate fall out and fight; shortly after,

Qum mode pugnarunt, iungunt sua rostra columbae,

Quarum blanditias, verbaque murmur habet. ”

Differences may arise between Christ and his spouse (she may thank herself, for he grieves her not willingly {Lamentations 3:35} - Ille dolet quoties cogitur esse ferox), and some household words she may have from him; but soon after he takes her "into the wilderness, and speaks to her heart," [Hosea 2:14] yea, he takes her unto his wine cellar, [Song of Solomon 2:4] then when one would think he should carry her into a dungeon rather. He kisses her, as doves do one another, with the "kisses of his mouth"; then when one would think he should, upon such high provocations, kick her, nay, kill her, then he shows her matchless mercy, such as no man would show his wife. [Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:22] "For he is God, and not man," yea, such a "sin pardoning" God as never was heard of. [Micah 7:18] If there be but a dove’s eye in the heads of any of his, a columbine simplicity, if simple to do evil, bunglers at it, and have nothing to say in defence of it when it is done, [Romans 16:19] the amends is made; and love with her long mantle "covers a multitude of sins." [Proverbs 10:12]


Verse 16

Song of Solomon 1:16 Behold, thou [art] fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed [is] green.

Ver. 16. Behold thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant.] Behold thou art fair, my love, &c., said he to her (a) It were fitter a fair deal for me to say so to thee, saith she here to him, since all my beauty is but borrowed of thee; it is but a spark of thy flame, a drop of thine ocean. If I shine at all, it is with thy beams only; if I be any whit comely, it is with the comeliness that thou hast put upon me. Christ as a man (how much more as God blessed for ever?) was "fairer" by far "than all the children of men," [Psalms 45:2] because free from sin, and "full of grace and truth," as in Ezekiel 28:7 there is mentioned "beauty of wisdom." And the heathen philosopher (b) could say, that if moral wisdom (how much more spiritual?) could be seen with mortal eyes, it would draw all men’s hearts unto itself. But besides his inward beauty, which was inconceivable, inasmuch as in him, as in a temple, the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, that is, personally, in the body of Christ, there was a most fair form and a divine face. He had a good complexion, and such a comely countenance as did express a divinity in him. If St Stephen’s face, when he stood before the council, shone like an angel’s face, [Acts 6:15] and if his eye could pierce the heavens, [Acts 7:55] how much more may we think Christ did? True it is, that by reason of his sufferings in the flesh, "his visage was marred more than any man’s, and his form more than the sons of men." [Isaiah 52:14] And "he had no form nor comeliness" - viz., in the eyes of his perverse countrymen, who when they saw him they could discern no such beauty wherefore they should so desire him; "He was despised and rejected of men," For what reason? "He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," which had so drank up his spirits, and furrowed his fair face, that at little past thirty years of age he was reckoned to be towards fifty; he seemed to the Jews to be much older than he was indeed, as some are of the opinion. See John 8:57.

Yea, pleasant.] Sweet as a flower, sweet as a honeycomb, (c) Mell in ore, melos in aure, iubilum in corde, "sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." [Proverbs 16:24] He that hath once but lightly tasted how sweet the Lord Christ is, doth soon disrelish, yea, loathe, in comparison, all this world’s homely fare, tasteless fooleries.

Clitorio quicunque sitim de lento levarit,

Vina fugit, gaudetque meris abstemius undis. ”

- Ovid. Met. lib. 15.

Yea, our bed is green.] Our bridal bed, which was wont to be decked with garlands and green boughs. Or, "our bedstead" - so it may be rendered - "is green," made of green and growing timber, as Christ’s house is built of living and thriving stones. [1 Peter 2:5] There is a perpetual greenness - the fruit of the vegetative Spirit of God within them - upon all Christ’s olive trees. [Psalms 52:8] And these "green things must not be hurt." [Revelation 9:4] Or if they be by a wound at the root, so as that they suffer a fit of barrenness, or seem to be sapless, yet they shall revirescere, recover their former greenness, as the Philippians did, and had a new spring after a sharp winter; they had deflourished for a time, but now reflourised. {ανεθαλετε, Philippians 4:16}


Verse 17

Song of Solomon 1:17 The beams of our house [are] cedar, [and] our rafters of fir.

Ver. 17. The beams of our house are cedar,] Not my, but our house, as before, our bed, and after, our galleries. All is common between the bridegroom and the bride - bed, board, house, all. It should be so between married couples, who should not have several purses, interests, &c., but both bring in what they have or get to the common hive. The Church is Christ’s house, and every faithful soul is God’s building; [1 Timothy 3:15 Hebrews 3:6] he "plants the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, that he may say to Zion, Thou art my people." [Isaiah 51:16] The great Architect of the world doth as wonderful a work in converting a soul to himself as he did in setting up this goodly edifice of the universe. This stately structure of the new creature he makes of the best materials, cedar, cypress, boratine, &c. A mud wall may be made up of dirt, straw, stones of the street, &c.; not so a stately palace, a marble monument. Solomon’s temple was built of cedar wood; so was the temple of Diana of the Ephesians, as Vitruvius testifieth: the devil will needs be God’s ape. He knew that cedar is a tree strong and durable; and for the dryness of it, the timber chawneth not, rotteth not; yea, it hath a property to preserve other things from putrefaction. A late writer observeth of it that viventes res putrefacit et perdit, putridas autem restituit et conservat. (a) The Church is also stable, and cannot be ruined; it is founded upon a rock; the elect cannot be finally deceived the faithful ministers, by preaching law and gospel, kill the quick Pharisee, and quicken the dead publican; [Romans 7:9 2 Corinthians 2:16] they "declare unto man his righteousness," [Job 33:23] and show him how he may be "found in Christ" (viz., when sought for by the justice of God), "not having his own righteousness," [Philippians 3:9] those filthy garments, [Zechariah 3:4] but the bride’s "fine white linen, and shining," [Revelation 19:14] and after a few turns taken here with Christ in the terrace or galleries of the Church militant made of fir, he shall have places given him in heaven, to walk among "those that stand by"; [Zechariah 3:7] that is, among the seraphim, as the Chaldee paraphrast expounds it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/song-of-solomon-1.html. 1865-1868.

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