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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Song of Solomon 3

 

 

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 3:1 By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

Ver. 1. By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth.] She had not a name good enough for him, she therefore makes use of this powerful periphrasis. Before he had been "her beloved," but now "the love of her soul," because now he had withdrawn himself. It was night with her now; she "walked in darkness, and had no light," as Isaiah 50:10, and as before daybreak the darkness is greatest, so was it now with the woeful spouse. She was indeed upon her bed of ease, but to her in this case it was a little ease, a bed of unrest; her soul was tossed and troubled with solitary seeking, longing and looking after him whom "her soul loved." "By night," therefore, or "night after night," sundry nights together, as some read it, "she sought and sought," being constant, instant, and indefatigable in the search; she sought him early and earnestly, with utmost attention and affection, with her "whole heart and soul," [Jeremiah 29:13] according to the measure of her love to him, which was modus sine modo, as Bernard hath it. Now whatsoever a man loves, that he desires, and what he desires, that he seeks after, especially if he apprehend some singular worth in it. "In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." [Colossians 2:3] He is "better than rubies," saith Solomon, "and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared unto him." [Proverbs 8:11] Hence the good soul seeks him as eagerly as the mammonist seeks silver, the ambitionist honour, the famished man bread, the condemned prisoner a pardon, or as one that seeks for a lost jewel, he overlooks all till he hath found it; Christ I must have, saith she, whatever it cost me - this gold cannot be bought too dear. She longeth sore, as David did, saying, "Oh that one would give me of the water of the well of Bethlehem!" [1 Chronicles 11:17] Oh for a blessed armful of the babe of Bethlehem! such as Simeon once had; give me Christ or else I die. None but Christ, none but Christ. All is but dung and dross to Christ. [Philippians 3:8] God offered Moses an angel to go along with them in the wilderness; he would have no angel, nor stir a step unless God himself would conduct them. Barak would not march without Deborah, &c.

I found him not,] i.e., I had not so full a presence nor so fast hold of him as I desired. He had got behind the wall or the window, as in the former chapter, and, Joseph like, concealed his love out of increasement of love, as also that he may stir up strong affections after him in the hearts of his people, for he well enough knows how to commend his mercies to us, as Laban did his daughter Rachel to Jacob - by holding us off - by suspending us for a season. Even barren Leah, when unloved and unlooked on, becomes fruitful; and the drowsy spouse, when she misseth her beloved, becomes restless till she have recovered him. "In their affliction they will seek me early." [Hosea 5:15] Affliction excites devotion, and makes the saints seek again with a redoubled diligence, as here. See Psalms 78:34-35. It fares with the best sometimes as it did with St Paul and his company in the shipwreck, [Acts 27:20] when they saw neither sun nor stars for many days and nights together. In this dismal and disconsolate condition, if they can but cast anchor and pray still for day, Christ will appear (as here, Song of Solomon 3:3), and all shall clear up; the day will dawn, and the daystar appear in their hearts. "Mourning lasteth but till morning," [Psalms 30:5] and "the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: it will surely come, it will not tarry." [Habakkuk 2:3] But what shall we do in the meanwhile? may some say. How shall we sustain our spirits, since "hope deferred makes the heart sick?" "Though it tarry, wait for it," saith the prophet. Have patience, and learn to "live by faith. The just shall live by his faith." [Song of Solomon 3:4] We are usually too hasty, and do antedate the promises. Neither will any reason satisfy us, unless we may have all Christ’s sweetness at once, and at present. Excellent is that discourse that Mr Bradford the martyr makes in a consolatory letter to a good woman that was troubled in conscience. (a) You are not content, saith he, to kiss Christ’s feet, with Magdalen, but you would be kissed even with the kisses of his mouth. You would see his face, with Moses, forgetting how he biddeth to seek his face, [Psalms 27:8] yea, and that for ever, [Psalms 105:4] which signifieth no such sight as you desire to see in this present life, which would see God now face to face, whereas he cannot be seen but covered under something, yea, sometime in that which is clean contrary unto God, as to see his mercy in his anger, &c. How did Job see God, but, as ye would say, under Satan’s cloak? &c. You know that Moses, when he went to the mount to talk with God, he entered into a dark cloud; and Elias had his face covered when God passed by. Both these dear friends of God heard God, but saw him not. But you would be preferred before them. See now, my dear heart, how covetous you are. All, be thankful! be thankful! But, God be thanked, your covetousness is Moses’ covetousness. Well, with him you shall be satisfied. But when? Forsooth when he shall appear, &c. God would have his people discontentedly contented with what measures of grace and feelings they have attained unto, and to know that tota vita boni Christiani sanctum desiderium est, (b) the whole life of a good Christian is a holy desire after more, and that those very pantings, inquietations, and dissatisfaction cannot but spring from truth of grace and some taste of Christ.


Verse 2

Song of Solomon 3:2 I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

Ver. 2. I will rise now, and go about the city, &c.] The holy city Jerusalem, whither "the tribes went up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel." [Psalms 122:4] There was the likeliest place to find Christ; there his parents found him once, after three days’ search, [Luke 2:46] sitting in the temple; there he dwelt among men; there he gave gifts unto men, and therehence he went forth abroad the whole world, "conquering, and to conquer." [Revelation 6:2] Here, therefore, the spouse seeks him among the people of God, and in his word and ordinances. She knew well that he fed his flock among those lilies, used to go down into that his garden of spices [Song of Solomon 6:1-2] to take a turn amidst those golden candlesticks, [Revelation 1:13] to take a view of his wedding guests, [Matthew 22:11] yea, to eat and drink in their presence, and to teach in their streets. [Luke 13:26] Abroad she gets, therefore, and that presently.

I will rise now.] Saith she, lest I lose mine opportunity; for if so, I may seek it with tears, and go without it with sorrow. Men may purpose, promise, and expect a time of healing and curing, when they shall be deceived, and find a time of trouble. [Jeremiah 14:17] "Many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able," [Luke 13:24] yea, "they shall go with their flocks, and with their herds, to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him: he hath withdrawn himself from them." [Hosea 5:6] They came too late, belike; they sought not the Lord while he was to be found ( vel sero, vel certe non serlo qucerebant); they called not upon him while he was near; they stayed till he was out of call; [Proverbs 1:28] till he was resolved to return either no answer at all, or such a sad answer as the Jews had from him, because they stood out their day of grace: "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come." [John 7:34] And again, "I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins." [John 8:21] Oh, dreadful sentence! The Church herself here, though never so dear to Christ, seems to some to be guilty of sloth and slackness in seeking after Christ, and doing it in her bed (as loath at first to disease herself), or in holding him while she had him, if, while she was sleeping, he slipped away from her side. The wise virgins also were napping and nodding, [Matthew 25:1-46] and holy Augustine (a) confesseth that he could not answer that clear text, whereby he was called out of his sinful course. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and stand up from the dead," &c., but only by that wish of the sluggard, Modo et ecce modo, Sinite paululum, &c. A little more sleeps, a little more slumbers, &c.; little, and yet sleeps, in the plural. Thus, Modo et modo non habent modum, et Sinite paululum ibit in Iongum, as that father hath it. Somewhat it was, surely, that makes the Church resolve, as here, "I will rise now," or "Let me rise now"; I will stir up the gift of God that is in me; I will stir up myself to take better hold of Christ. Here is a tacit taxing herself for some former slackness, after her former enjoyments and familiar intercourse with Christ. We are too ready, after we have run well, to lie down and take cold, which may cause a consumption; to please ourselves in unlawful liberties, when we have pleased the Lord in lawful duties. Hezekiah, after his notable service, both of prayer and thanksgiving, fondly over-shoots himself to the Babylonish ambassadors. Jonah, after his embassage, faithfully discharged, to the Ninevites, breaks forth into anger against the Lord. Peter, being commended by Christ for the profession of his faith, fell presently so far wide, that he heard, "Get thee behind me, Satan." [Matthew 16:1-28]

I sought him, but I found him not.] For trial and exercise of her faith and constance. "Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord." [Hosea 6:3] So then shall we find, if we follow on to seek Christ, fetching him out of his hidingplace, as the woman of Canaan did. For he would have hid himself, saith the text, but he could not, for a certain woman, &c. [Mark 7:24-25] And as she set him out, so she followed him close, refusing to be either said nay, or sit down with silence or sad answers. The like did Jacob. [Genesis 32:1-32] He wrestled with might and slight. He would have a blessing whether God would or no, as we may say with reverence. "Let me go," saith God. No, thou shalt not, saith Jacob. "Let me alone, that I may destroy this people." No, by no means, saith Moses. In seeking of Christ, faith is not only importunate, but even impudent, [Luke 11:8] (b) and threatens heaven, as Nazianzen said of his sister Gorgonia. If he have lost his mercy, she will find it for him. [Isaiah 63:15] If he look strange and stern, she will both know him, and claim him amidst all his austerities. Isaiah 63:16, "Art not thou our father?" If he be gone never so far, she will "follow hard after him," [Psalms 63:8] so David’s phrase is; even as hard as her old legs will carry, as Father Latimer said; with "Return, for thy servant’s sake. We are thine." [Isaiah 63:17; Isaiah 63:19] O Lord, saith the Church in Habakkuk, "Art not thou from everlasting, my God, and mine Holy One?" It was a bold question, but God assents to it in a gracious answer, ere he went further. We shall not die, say they abruptly. [Habakkuk 1:12] Nay, "after two days" - for so long, it may be, he will hold us off, to try how we will hold out seeking - "he will revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." [Hosea 6:2] Or if we should die in this waiting condition, and in a spiritual desertion, yet we could not miss heaven, because he hath said, "Blessed are all they that wait for him." [Isaiah 30:18]


Verse 3

Song of Solomon 3:3 The watchmen that go about the city found me: [to whom I said], Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?

Ver. 3. The watchmen that go about the city found me,] i.e., The angels, who are God’s watchmen (a) over the world, and are so called somewhere in Scripture, as also ministering spirits, guardians of the saints, &c. But here I conceive are meant either those princes of the world, strangers to the mystery of Christ, [1 Corinthians 2:8] and therefore can tell no tale nor tidings of him. For what reason? They are of Gallio’s religion, which is no better than a mere irreligion, [Acts 18:15] being de regione magis soliciti quam de religione, as one saith: or else, the officers and ministers of the Church, set as "Watchmen upon Jerusalem’s walls, with charge never to hold their peace, day nor night." [Isaiah 62:6] But they, alas! prove too too oft "blind watchmen, dumb dogs; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber." [Isaiah 56:10] And such it seems were these here, by the small directions they gave the Church, or intelligence of her best beloved. Howbeit, because the priests’ lips should preserve knowledge, and they are given for guides to God, [Hebrews 13:17] however they prove, she repairs to them, or rather, lighting upon them, inquires for Christ.

Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?] They that love Christ in sincerity, are apt to imagine that others also do love him no less than they. So much worth they find in him, that they wonder how any can do otherwise than affect and admire him. This made Mary Magdalene, who "loved much," to ask the gardener, for so she took him to be, what he had done with the Lord’s body, [John 20:15] whereabout she thought he had been as solicitous as herself. So the Church here, Have you seen him? when they perhaps were perfect strangers to him. But be they as they will, they should have known and loved the Lord Jesus Christ, upon pain of utter cutting off, [1 Corinthians 16:22] and whether they do or do not, they shall know that she loves him; Quis enim celaverit ignem? For who can hide fire in his boston, or musk in his pocket? The love of Christ cannot possibly be concealed. A man may as easily hide the wind with his fist, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself, as Solomon speaketh in another case. [Proverbs 27:16] He that "believes with his heart, will confess with his mouth." [Romans 10:10] Christ’s true worshippers are marked "in their foreheads." [Revelation 7:3] Antichrist’s limbs receive his mark "in their hands," [Revelation 13:16] which they can cover or discover, as they see the occasion. We have also many political professors among us, who for want of true love to Christ, either run away in the plain field, [Hebrews 10:36-39] and so incur the danger of martial law; or else, under a colour of discretion, fall back into the rearward: the battle is sharp, and it is not good to be too forward. "But is this thy love to thy friend?" as he said to Hushai the Archite. David’s parents and brethren came down to him to the cave of Adullam, though to their great danger; [1 Samuel 22:1] and Basil being blamed for his forwardness to appear for his friend in danger, answered, Ego aliter amare non didici. A friend is made for the day of adversity.


Verse 4

Song of Solomon 3:4 [It was] but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

Ver. 4. It was but a little that I passed from them.] It is probable that, lighting upon these watchmen, she promised herself much counsel and comfort from them, but was disappointed. It pleaseth God many times to cross our likeliest projects, that himself alone may be leaned upon. The poor soul in distress is apt to knock at the creature’s door for comfort, to shark abroad, and to look this way and that way, as David did, for help. Yea, many use the means as mediators, and so fall short of Christ. It is a good note that one (a) makes upon this text, that she was a little past the watchman; which shows, saith he, that the Lord delays comfort, to draw his Church, through all his means, from the lowest to the highest, where she findeth in short time comfort; but many times not till she is past, that they might not attribute it to the excellence of the means, but unto God.

But I found him whom my soul loveth.] Christ, as he therefore threateneth that he may not be put to punish, (b) so he therefore hides himself, otherwhise, that he may come in again to his people with more comfort: and his usual time to come in to them is, when they have well-nigh done looking after him, as he dealt by those two that were travelling to Emmaus, [Luke 24:13] when they have hanged up their hopes and their harps together, and are ready to cast away their confidence, and to leave looking any longer. "When the Son of man comes" - viz., with an answer to his people’s prayers, which they have now even given up for lost labour - "shall he find faith upon the earth?" [Luke 18:8] i.e., Will anybody ever think that, having stayed so long, he would yet come at last? Christ loves to comfort those that are forsaken of their hopes, and to give a blessing to those times and means whereof we despair. The pains cannot be cast away which we resolve to lose for Christ.

I held him, and would not let him go.] She held him with both hands earnestly; for faith hath two hands, one receiving Christ from God, the other giving the believer to God. With both she holds Christ - "the king is held in her galleries" by the bonds of love, by the cords of kindness, [Song of Solomon 7:5] he is even held prisoner in her company - but especially with the former. She holds him as Jacob did, [Genesis 32:26] though with much conflict. The devil strikes hard at her hand, and would make her loose her hold. Hence faith is fain to tug and wrestle, even till it sweat again. And therefore Paul calls it το εργον, the difficult "work of faith," [1 Thessalonians 1:3] because the believer hath such ado to hold his own. If he cannot hold with his hands, he will make use of his teeth - as it is reported (c) of Cynegirus, that noble Athenian, and of our Sir Thomas Challoner, (d) in the wars of Charles V - any shift he will make rather than part with Christ, whom his soul loveth: having fastened on the tree of life, rather than drown, he is resolved to pull it up by the very roots. Let God fight against him with his own hand, and offer, as it were, to kill him, yet he will hang on still; he will trust, in an angry God, in a killing God, as Job; and as Jacob, he will wrestle, and not let go, though alone, and in the night, and upon one leg. "Lo! this is the generation of them that seek him, of them that seek thy face": this is Jacob; [Psalms 24:6] these be "Israelites indeed." [John 1:47]

Until I had brought him into my mother’s house.] That is, Into my conscience, say some - where faith dwelleth, and Christ by faith. [Romans 10:10 Galatians 4:19] Into the synagogues of the Jews, say others, or into the congregations of the Gentiles. They do best that understand it of the Catholic Church, the supernal Jerusalem, that "Mother of us all," figured by Sarah, [Galatians 4:24; Galatians 4:26] where Christ hath most delightful dwelling, a comfortable commoration, and, as it were, conjugal cohabitation with his spouse, chamber fellowship. [ 15:1]


Verse 5

Song of Solomon 3:5 I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake [my] love, till he please.

Ver. 5. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.] As a further fruit of her revived faith, she renews her contestation and charge of sanctification of life, such as becometh the gospel; that Christ, whom she resolves now to retain with her, be not provoked by sin to leave his people. [Numbers 32:15] And in this vehement adjuration, no doubt, saith an interpreter, but the Church had a special regard to the custom used then, and yet even at this day used among us - namely, that songs are sung before the bride chamber, and certain noises of instruments brought to wake the bride and bridegroom from sleep. {See Trapp on "Song of Solomon 2:7"}


Verse 6

Song of Solomon 3:6 Who [is] this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?

Ver. 6. Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness?] "Who is this?" say the angels, those friends of the bridegroom, as some will have it, admiring the Church’s high expressions, and continual ascensions in her affection to Christ. But I rather think it is the voice of the bridegroom himself, ravished with the beauty and sweetness of his spouse, and wondering at his own comeliness put upon her; as well he may, for quantum mutatur ab illa. (a) Such a change he hath wrought in her, as never was known in any. [Ezekiel 16:6-14] Moses married an Ethiopian woman, and could not change her hue. David married a scornful dame, a mocking Michal, and could not mend her conditions. Job’s wife continued to be, as it is said of Helena, after the Trojan troubles caused by her, η παλαι γυνη, the same woman still - no changeling she: but the Church and all her genuine children are strangely altered and metamorphosed - as the apostle’s word is [Romans 12:2, μεταμορφουσθε] - and this change is not moral, formal, merely mental, temporal, partial, but spiritual, real, universal, both in respect of subject and object; for it is an entire change of the whole man, from the whole service of Satan to the living and true God, in sincere obedience to the whole law, the whole course of his life throughout. A change so conspicuous and so stupendous, that not only strangers take notice of it, ξενιζονται, strange at it, [1 Peter 4:4] and marvel much at the matter, saying, Who is this? [Matthew 21:10] What is come to the man of late, that now it is, Ego non sum? But Christ himself stands wondering at his own work, as he did once in Nathanael, "Behold an Israelite indeed" [John 1:47] - an Ishmaelite by nature, but an Israelite by grace, as Gether, [1 Chronicles 7:17 2 Samuel 17:3] and as before that in Araunah, that famous Jebusite. [2 Samuel 24:18 Zechariah 9:7]

That cometh out of the wilderness,] scil., Of this world, fitly called a wilderness, for the paucity of good people in it - the wilderness of Judea, where John preached was so called, because but thinly inhabited - and plenty of bears and boars, lions and leopards, and other wild creatures, whereunto wicked men for their savageness are commonly compared in Scripture. This ascending of the Church out of the world, as Israel did out of Egypt, and their orderly marching through the wilderness into the promised inheritance is worthily called a wonderful separation. [Exodus 33:16] And as that angel that appeared to Manoah, by ascending up in the flame of the altar, is said to do wondrously, [ 13:19-20] so do the saints by their daily devotions, as so many pillars of smoke, elationibus fumi, aspiring to eternity, and coming up, as Cornelius’s prayers and alms did, "for a memorial before God." [Acts 10:4] And albeit their best performances are as smoke, black and sooty in regard to infirmities and imperfections, yet they have a principle in them to carry them upward; they have also the high priest of the New Testament, not to present them only, but to perfume and scent them, as it is here, with myrrh and frankincense, and sweetest powders of the spice merchant - that is, with the merit and mediation of his own most precious passion, [Hebrews 9:24] those sweet odours poured as out of vials into the prayers of saints, [Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:4] and so making both them and their services acceptable to his Father. And as he promised, [John 12:32] that "being lifted up" himself by the cross to the kingdom, he would "draw all his to him"; so we see it fulfilled in the saints, those heavenly eagles, soaring out of sight - lowly in their speeches, lofty in their actions, but especially in their affections carried above all earthly objects, [Colossians 3:2] and not content till they are gotten home to heaven; their commoration is here, their conversation above. These heavenly stars, though seen sometimes in a puddle, though they reflect there, yet they have their situation in heaven. These birds of paradise, though they may touch happily upon earth, yet they are mostly upon the wing, and those outward comforts and creatures are to them but scalae et alae, "wings, and wind in their wings," [Zechariah 5:9] to carry them upward. Let shallow men wonder at worldly things, as the disciples did at the huge and fair stones of the temple; [Matthew 24:1-3] let them be nailed fast to the earth, as Sisera was by Jael; let them ever bow downward, as that woman in the gospel that had a spirit of infirmity; let them grovel and go upon their bellies and feed upon earth, as the serpent. [Genesis 3:14] The saints are of another alloy; their "civil conversation ( πολιτευμα) is in heaven," [Philippians 3:20] their political bent, aim, and fetch is for heaven; they are immortalitatis candidati, as the ancients called Enoch and Elias; they do paradisum mente deambulare, as Jerome bids the young hermit take a turn ever and anon in paradise, and after some serious thoughts of that blessed place they break out as Monica, Augustine’s mother did, into a Quid hic facio? What make I here? why hasten I not home to mine own country? They send up many pious ejaculations, many holy sallies, and as it were egressions of soul, many a humble, joyful, and thankful heart to God. Mittunt preces et lachrymas cordis legatos, as he saith, pillars of prayers, volleys of hearty wishes they send up continually, laying up treasure in heaven, and thinking long of the time or ere they get thither.


Verse 7

Song of Solomon 3:7 Behold his bed, which [is] Solomon’s; threescore valiant men [are] about it, of the valiant of Israel.

Ver. 7. Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s, &c.] Or, Behold the bed of Solomon, as the Greek, explaining the Hebrew, hath it. Solomon was a famous figure of Christ; of his bed we read nothing, but may well conceive it was, as everything else about him, stately and costly, and thereby is meant here heaven, say some, whither the Church is brought in ascending in the preceding verse, and by the valiant warders they understand the angels, those mighties. [Psalms 103:20] But because they are said to be "valiant men of Israel," I rather assent to those that think the godly ministers are here meant by the "mighties," and the Church by Christ’s "bed," where he reposeth and "resteth in his love," [Zephaniah 3:17] lodging "between her breasts." [Song of Solomon 1:13] There is nothing more sure than that the blessed angels do watch over the Church. [Hebrews 1:14] What a guard by them had Jacob at Mehanaim, [Genesis 32:1-2] where they made a lane for him, as the word imports, to provide for his safety! The like we may say of Elisha at Dothan, and various others. I doubt not, saith one, but as the angels waited at Christ’s sepulchre, so for his sake they watch also over our graves, called our beds. [Isaiah 57:2] Howbeit here understand we it of the ministers of the word that "watch for men’s souls," and are frequently called watchmen. Sixty of them they are said to be, because a great number, as the Levites were scattered up and down the tribes of Israel, as salt is strawed thick upon flesh to keep it from putrifying. Ye are the salt of the earth [Matthew 5:13-16] And "valiant" they are said to be, for valour and courage invincible is necessary to a minister who shall be sure to be put hard to it, and therefore had need to be, as Athanasius was, an adamant for his resolute stout carriage, and to partake with the diamond in the high priest’s breastplate for hardness and hardiness in standing to and for the truth. Israelites also they ought to be Jews inwardly, not scoffing Ishmaelites, profane Edomites, false Philistines, but the valiants of Israel, such as David’s band of worthies was; [1 Chronicles 11:10-47; 1 Chronicles 12:1-37] faithful and godly patterns of piety such as will "take heed to themselves and to the flock," waiting upon the Lord’s work and "watching for men’s souls as they that must give account," &c. [Hebrews 13:17] It is a great matter to be of Christ’s bodyguard. Remember what David said of Abner. [1 Samuel 26:15]


Verse 8

Song of Solomon 3:8 They all hold swords, [being] expert in war: every man [hath] his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.

Ver. 8. They all hold swords, being expert in war.] They not only bear arms, but can handle them. Young Jether wore a sword, but he durst not draw it, [ 8:20] or strike with it when he should have killed Zeba and Zalmunna. Themistocles said of the Eretrians, a cowardly people, that they were like the sword fish, which hath a sword indeed, but wants a heart. (a) Such white livered soldiers, such faint hearted swordmen our Solomon hath no need of; our Gideon will not employ them so far as to break a pitcher or to bear a torch. [ 7:3] The fearful and unbelieving shall never set foot in his kingdom, much less be esquires of his body; those in that office must hold fast the faithful word, that sword of the Spirit, that twoedged sword, far beyond that of Goliath, and yet David said there was none to that, that they may be able and apt by sound doctrines both to exhort the tractable and to "convince the gainsayer." [Titus 1:9] Those that either cannot or will not do thus, are no way fit to be of Christ’s guard, because they are more likely to betray him into the hands of his enemies than to defend him from them, to act a Judas’s part than a Peter’s, who manfully cut off Malchus’s ear, and chose rather to be held temerarious than timorous. Jeremiah complains of the pastors of his time that they were "not valiant for the truth," [Jeremiah 9:3] they had no spiritual metal in them; but as harts and stags have great horns and strength, but want courage, so it was with these. St Augustine professeth this was it that heartened him, and made him to triumph in his former Manicheeism, that he met with feeble opponents, and such as his nimble wit was easily able to overturn. If gainsayers be not powerfully convinced, how will they set up their crests and cry victoria! If they be not stoned with arguments, (b) how will they start up and outstare the truth! There must be, therefore, skill and will in all her champions. They must also every man have his sword upon his thigh, and be ready for an assault. Seneca reports of Caesar that he had quickly sheathed his sword, but never took it off. And Suetonius tells us that he would never tell his soldiers of any set time of removal or onset, that he might never find them unready, (c) Christ expects the like care and courage in his ministers, lest the proverb be verified on them, ungirt, unblest.

And because of fear in the night.] Lest evil should befall Solomon, as it did Ishbosheth, who was slain upon his bed by the sons of Rimmon; lest deeds of darkness be done in a land of light, and while the watchmen slack their duty, the rulers of the darkness of this world break in and play their pranks. While men slept, tares were sown by the evil man. [Matthew 13:25]


Verse 9

Song of Solomon 3:9 King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.

Ver. 9. King Solomon made himself a chariot.] Hic locus lubricus est et difficilis. This is a hard text, saith one. It had been easier, perhaps, if commentators had not made it so hard. The word rendered chariot, is by others rendered a bridechamber, a bed, a throne, a palace. The Hebrew word is found in this place only; (a) it hath the name of fairness and fruitfulness. Rabbi Solomon saith it is thalamus honorificus, a bedchamber of honour, whereby we are to understand again the Church, as we did by "bed" in the former verse. She is oft compared to a house, here to a bridechamber, and Solomon’s bridechamber, which must needs be supposed very trim, and set forth to the best. It is further set forth here by the causes: efficient, Solomon himself; material, cedar, silver, gold, &c.; formal, paved with love; final, for himself first, and then for the daughters of Jerusalem. First, Solomon himself made it, though a king. Stupenda sane dignatio, a wonderful condescension. The Church is Christ’s own "workmanship," his "artificial facture," or creature (as the Greek word signifieth, Ephesians 2:10, ποιημα), that masterpiece of his architecture, wherein he hath showed singular skill, by erecting that glorious fabric of the new man, that "new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." [2 Peter 3:13] For "he planteth the heavens and layeth the foundations of the earth, that he may say to Zion, Thou art my people," that he may "rejoice in the habitable part of God’s earth," [Proverbs 8:31] that he may say, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." [1 Corinthians 6:16] Christ wrought the centurion’s faith, as God; he wondered at it, as man. God wrought, and man marvelled; he did both to teach us where to bestow our wonder. Paul prays for his Ephesians, that their eyes might be enlightened to see the power that wrought in them. [Ephesians 1:18]

Of the wood of Lebanon.] {See Trapp on "Song of Solomon 1:17"} The saints are the Church’s materials. [Romans 1:7 1 Corinthians 1:2] "The precious sons of Zion are comparable to fine gold." [Lamentations 4:2] "Her Nazarites are purer than snow, whiter than milk, more ruddy than rubies; their polishing is of sapphire." [Song of Solomon 3:7] And yet Bellarmine is not ashamed to say, Nos etiamsi credimus in ecclesia inveniri omnes virtutes, &c. (b) Although we doubt not but that all virtues are found in the Church; yet that a man may be absolutely called a member of that true Church spoken of in Scripture, we hold not that any inward virtue is required, but only an external profession of the faith, and participation of the sacraments. Belle hoc convenit Ecclesiae Romanae, saith a learned man. (c) This description suits very well with the Church of Rome. For certainly if there be any virtuous persons in that Church, id eis convenit per accidens, it is by mere accident, and not as they are in that Church, but as they dissent from it; like as Cicero saith wittily of the Epicureans, that if any were good among them, it was merely from the goodness of their nature, for they taught and thought otherwise. And as Peter Moulin said of many of the priests of France, that they were for their loyalty not beholden to the maxims of Italy; and yet Bellarmine hath the face to say, Sunt quidem in Ecclesia Catholica plurimi mali, sed ex haeriticis nullus est bonus: (d) Among Papists there are many bad men, but among Protestants not one good man is to be found.


Verse 10

Song of Solomon 3:10 He made the pillars thereof [of] silver, the bottom thereof [of] gold, the covering of it [of] purple, the midst thereof being paved [with] love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.

Ver. 10. He made the pillars thereof,] i.e., The faithful ministers, called "pillars," [Galatians 2:9] and that, Atlas-like, bear up the pillars of it. [Psalms 75:3] Those that offer violence to such, Samson-like, they lay hands upon the pillars to pluck the house upon their own heads. Yea, they attempt to pull stars out of Christ’s hand, [Revelation 1:16] which they will find a work not feasible.

Of silver.] For the purity of matter, and clearness of sound; for their beauty, stability, and incorruption. Let ministers hereby "learn how they ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth." [1 Timothy 3:15]

The bottom thereof of gold.] Understand it either of God’s Word, which is compared to the finest gold, or of that precious grace of faith, the root of all the rest; whence it is laid by St Peter as the bottom and basis, the foundation and fountain of all the following graces: 2 Peter 1:5, "Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge," &c. They are all in faith radically. Every grace is but faith exercised; hence we read of the "joy of faith," the "obedience of faith," the "righteousness of faith," &c. She is the mother grace, the womb wherein all the graces are conceived. Hence the bottom of Christ’s fruitful bed, the pavement of his glorious bride chamber, the Church, is here said to be of gold; that is, of faith, which is called gold, [Revelation 3:18 1 Peter 1:7] "that the trial of your faith" (or your well tried faith, for it seems to be a Hebraism), "being much more precious than that of gold." And here, Melius est pallens aurum quam fulgens aurichalcum, (a) gold, though paler, is better than glittering copper. The faith of God’s elect is far more precious than the shining sins (b) of the beautiful abominations of mere moralists. Suppose a simple man should get a stone, and strike fire with it, and thence conclude it a precious stone; why, every flint or ordinary stone will do that. So to think one hath this golden grace of faith, because he can be sober, just, chaste, liberal, &c.; why, ordinary heathens can do this. True, gold will comfort the fainting heart, which alchemy gold will not. Think the same of faith.

The covering of it of purple.] I am of their mind that expound it of Christ’s blood, wherewith, as with a canopy, or a kind of heaven overhead, the Church is covered and cured. [Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 7:14; Romans 6:3-4] Purple was a rich and dear commodity among them. [Proverbs 31:22; Proverbs 7:5 Mark 15:17 Luke 16:19] The precious blood of Christ is worthily preferred before gold and silver. [1 Peter 1:18-19]

The midst thereof being paved with love.] For Christ loved us, and washed us with his blood. [Revelation 1:5] He also fills his faithful people with the sense of his love, who therefore cannot but find a great deal of pleasure in the ways of God, because therein they let out their souls into God, and taste of his unspeakable sweetness; they cannot also but reciprocate and love his love. So the bottom, the top, and the middle of this reposing place are answerable to those three cardinal graces, faith, hope, and love. [1 Corinthians 13:1-13]

For the daughters of Jerusalem.] This chariot or bridal bed he made for himself, he made it also for the daughters of Jerusalem; for all his is theirs, union being the ground of communion. As we must do all for Christ - according to that, Quicquid agas propter Deum agas; and again, Propter te, Domine, propter te; choice and excellent spirits are more taken up with what they shall do for God than what they shall receive from God - so Christ doth all for us, and seeks how to seal up his dearest love to us in all his actions and achievements. "Christ’s death and bloodshed," saith Mr Bradford, "is the great seal of England, yea, of all the world, for the confirmation of all patents and perpetuities of the everlasting life whereunto he hath called us. This death of Christ, therefore, look on as the very pledge of God’s love towards thee, &c. See, God’s hands are nailed, they cannot strike thee; his feet also, he cannot run from thee. His arms are wide open to embrace thee, his head hangs down to kiss thee; his very heart is open, so that therein look, nay, even spy, and thou shalt see nothing therein but love, love, love to thee. Hide thee, therefore, lay thine head there with the beloved disciple, join thee to Christ’s chariot, as Philip did to the noble eunuch’s. This is the cleft of the rock wherein Elias stood. This is for all aching heads a pillow of down," &c. (c)


Verse 11

Song of Solomon 3:11 Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.

Ver. 11. Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion,] i.e., All ye faithful souls which follow the Lord Christ, the Lamb that stands upon Mount Zion. [Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:4] Ye shall not need to go far - and yet far ye would go, I daresay, to see such a gallant sight as King Solomon in his royalty: the Queen of Sheba did - behold he is at hand, "Tell ye the daughters of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh," &c. [Matthew 21:5] Go forth therefore, forth of yourselves, forth from your friends, means, all, as Abraham did, and the holy apostles, confessors, and martyrs, and as the Church is bid to do, "forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house." [Psalms 45:10] Good Nazianzen was glad that he had something of value - to wit, his Athenian learning - to part with for Christ. Horreo quicquid de meo est, ut meus sim, saith Bernard. He that will come to me, must go utterly out of himself, saith our Saviour. All St Paul’s care was, that he might be found in Christ, but lost in himself. Ambula in timore et contemptu tui, et ora Christum, ut ipse tun omnia faciat, et tu nihil facias, sed sis sabbatum Christi, saith Luther, (a) Walk in the fear and contempt of thyself, and rest thy spirit in Christ; this is to go forth to see King Solomon crowned, yea, this is to set the crown upon Christ’s head. When Queen Elizabeth undertook the protection of the Netherlands against the Spaniard, all princes admired her fortitude; and the king of Sweden said, that she had now taken the diadem from her own head, and set it upon the doubtful chance of war. (b) He that forsakes all for Christ, and puts himself by faith under his protection, submitting to the sceptre of his kingdom, and "sending a lamb to this ruler of the land," [Isaiah 16:1] in token of homage and fealty, his "eyes shall see the King in his beauty"; and instead of a Vivat Rex, Let the king live, he shall break forth into this glorious acclamation, "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king, and he will save us." [Isaiah 33:17; Isaiah 33:22] It was St Augustine’s wish that he might see Romam in flore, Paulum in ore, et Christum in corpore, Rome, as of old, flourishing; Paul, as he did once, preaching; and Christ, as in the days of his flesh, going up and down doing good. There are those who hold, that by Solomon crowned here is meant Christ incarnated, taking flesh, as a crown, off his mother Mary; and that this was "the day of his espousals," when "the Word was made flesh," and "the day of the gladness of his heart," when he "rejoiced in the habitable part of God’s earth," - that is, in the human nature, wherein the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily - "and his delights were with the sons of men." [Proverbs 8:31] Some understand it to be the crown of thorns set upon him by his mother, the synagogue. Others, the resurrection, and that name above all names [Philippians 2:9] that he got by his death. I am of Mercer’s mind, who expounds it to be that glory which Christ hath when he is preached up as the sole and absolute Saviour, and so believed on in the world, [1 Timothy 3:16] that the obedience of faith is yielded unto him. When faith and obedience make a perfect pair of compasses, then Christ’s head is compassed with a crown. Faith, as the one foot, is pitched upon the crown of Christ’s head; while obedience, as the other, walks about in a perfect circle of good duties, "whereby he is made glad." [Psalms 45:8]

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/song-of-solomon-3.html. 1865-1868.

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