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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Song of Solomon 1

 

 

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 1:1. The song of songs, which is Solomon's This is a Hebraism, which signifies the most excellent song: the latter part of the title ought perhaps to have been rendered, which is concerning Solomon. The first day's eclogue commences at this chapter, and is continued to ch. Song of Solomon 2:7.


Verse 2

Song of Solomon 1:2. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth The Hebrew idiom delights in redundancies of this kind; so in Psalms 17:10. With their mouth they speak: Psalms 66:17. I cried with my mouth: and in ch. Song of Solomon 8:7 of this song, would be utterly contemned is in the original, contemning they would contemn.


Verse 3

Song of Solomon 1:3. Because of the savour, &c.— The eastern nations, and indeed the ancients in general, dealt much in unguents, which in the hot countries are necessary to brace and close up the pores of the body: fragrant ointments were especially used on nuptial and other festival occasions. See Psalms 45:8.; Proverbs 7:17.; Amos 6:6.; 2 Samuel 12:20. Hence the odour of sweet ointments became a common metaphor, to express the extensive acceptableness of a good name. Ecclesiastes 7:1. Houbigant connects this sentence with the preceding words thus, For thy love is more excellent than wine, and thy fragrance than fine ointments. New Translation.


Verse 4

Song of Solomon 1:4. Draw me, &c.— The author of the New Translation renders this verse thus; SPOUSE: O draw me after thee: VIRGINS: We will run to the fragrance of thy perfumes. SPOUSE: The king hath brought me into his apartments. VIRGINS: We will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will celebrate thy love more than wine. Thou art every way lovely. The LXX, Vulgate, and Ethiopic, add the words, to the fragrance of thy perfumes. The Chaldee countenances this addition. Perhaps the speech of the chorus might more properly have been rendered, We will follow the fragrance of thy perfumes. The translation given of the last clause of this verse, which is from Sanctius, seems well to answer the context, "All the loves are with thee; or, Thou art altogether lovely." Houbigant renders the whole to this effect: We will celebrate thy loves; we love thee more than generous wine, or wine that goes down smoothly. See his note, Le Clerc, and the New Translation.


Verse 5

Song of Solomon 1:5. I am black, but comely The word שׁחורה shechorah, rendered black, signifies brown, swarthy, or dark-complexioned, and denotes such a duskiness as that of the morning, when some little light begins to appear. The appellation of fair, which is given to the bride in the sequel, is only meant in the general sense of lovely or beautiful. The tents of the wild Arabs, called in Scripture קדר אהלי ahalei keidar, are to this day of a dark or black colour, being made of the shaggy hair of their black goats.


Verse 6

Song of Solomon 1:6. Look not upon me, &c.— Look not down upon me, because I am brown; for the sun hath discoloured me. My mother's children were severe unto me: they made me keeper of the vineyards: mine own vineyard have I not kept. There is a peculiar emphasis in the original of the last clause; mine own vineyard, which is mine, have I not kept. Houbigant translates the word שׁלי shelli (which is mine)—quietly; but this translation is not admissible, if, with Bishop Patrick and others, we allow vineyard to be the eastern phraseology for an office committed to a person, or any interest he is concerned in.


Verse 7

Song of Solomon 1:7. Where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon In the hot countries, the shepherds and their flocks are always forced to retire to shelter during the burning heats of noon. One that turneth aside is rendered by Houbigant and the New Translation, a wanderer. This verse contains a fine apostrophe, and strongly marks the affection of the bride. See Virgil's Culex, ver. 116.


Verse 8

Song of Solomon 1:8. If thou know not, &c.— This is the reply of the virgins, and it breathes all the simplicity of pastoral life.


Verse 9

Song of Solomon 1:9. I have compared thee—to a company of horses This, says the author of the New Translation, is the speech of the bridegroom, who, meeting the bride and her virgin companions, says, I have compared thee, O my love, to my well-trained steed in Pharaoh's chariots. We ought not to think the comparison coarse or vulgar, if we consider what beautiful and delicate creatures the eastern horses are, and how highly they are valued; and, withal, the very strong figurative expressions which the oriental writers are continually using. Theocritus, as is observed by Grotius and others, has made use of the very same image to express the beauty of Helen; Idyll. ver. 29. Though here, indeed, the bridegroom does not seem to have in view to compliment the bride on her beauty, so much as to celebrate her conjugal fidelity. She is anxiously concerned for his absence, and fondly goes in search of him. Upon seeing her thus employed, he is charmed with her affection for him, and, as the words may be paraphrased, commends her for drawing well in the marriage yoke. The chariots of Pharaoh are mentioned, probably, because Egypt was at that time most celebrated for its horses and chariots; and the phrase may signify in general a chariot of the most elegant and excellent sort.


Verse 12

Song of Solomon 1:12. While the king sitteth at his table While the king shall be in his tent, or pavilion, Houbigant. The New Translation has it, While the king sitteth in the circle of his friends; namely, at the nuptial banquet. The tables of the ancients were so framed that the guests formed a circle.


Verse 13

Song of Solomon 1:13. A bundle of myrrh The orientals were accustomed to tie up myrrh in bundles, and to put them into the bosom to exhilarate the spirits. Some interpret the words המר צרור tserror hammor, a wreath, or nosegay of flowery myrrh. See Bishop Patrick and Castalio.


Verse 14

Song of Solomon 1:14. As a cluster of camphire As a cluster of cypress flowers; the New Translation. By cypress here, is not meant the trees so called, but an aromatic plant which, Sir Thomas Brown tells us, produces a sweet and odoriferous bush of flowers; out of which was made the oleum cyprinum. See his "Observations on Plants mentioned in Scripture." The vineyards at Engedi, near Jericho, were not so much for vines as aromatic shrubs. These the Jews cultivated for the sake of their gums, balsams, &c. in which they carried on a considerable commerce. Such shrubs were managed after the manner of vines. Hence the nurseries of them were called vineyards: see Bochart. Hieroz. tom. 2: p. 724. Hasselquist is of opinion, that Solomon here refers to a cluster of the Cyprus grape. See his Travels, p. 448.


Verse 15

Song of Solomon 1:15. Thou hast doves' eyes To conceive the force of this expression, we must not refer it to our common pigeons, but to the large and beautiful eyes of the doves of Syria. They who have seen that fine eastern bird, the carrier-pigeon, will need no commentary on this place. See Brown's Observations.


Verse 16

Song of Solomon 1:16. Yea, pleasant: also, &c.— The author of the New Translation puts a full stop at beloved; and renders the next clause thus; and how pleasant, how green, is our flowery bed! remarking, that the generality of versions seem not to have attended to the beautiful force of the original, where the particle ףּא ap is repeated. Literally, the whole passage, according to the proposed amendment, would be, Behold, thou art fair, my beloved. Yea, pleasant, yea, green, or flowery, is our bed. Or, it may be rendered, Behold, thou art fair, my beloved; yea, pleasant. Yea, our bed, or couch, is strewed with flowers; for the word rendered green, is translated flowery by the best critics.


Verse 17

Song of Solomon 1:17. And our rafters of fir And our carved-works of cypresses. Hiller. Our ceilings of cypress. Houbigant, and New Translation. ברותים berothim, are a peculiar kind of trees, which might be called after the original, brutine trees. They resemble the cypress in form, and the cedar in smell. See Ainsworth.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The title of the book, The song of songs, one of the most excellent of all that ever were composed, both respecting the matter of which it treats, the love of Christ and his church; and the manner of its execution, which is most elegant and beautiful.

2. The penman, which is Solomon, inspired by the Holy Ghost, or concerning Solomon, the divine Redeemer, of whom he was a type, the Prince of peace, the God of love, who makes his people happy in communion with himself; and in the sense of his favour gives them a joy and happiness, which the world knoweth not of.

2nd, Filled with a transport of delight and love in contemplating the glorious object of her affections, the church,

1. With abrupt address, as enraptured with the sight of her beloved, breaks forth, Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, as a token of reconciliation, which the sinner above all things desires; who, trembling under the sense of guilt, cries for pardon, and begs that God would seal it to his soul, and make him rejoice in the comfort of it, by giving some sweet manifestation of himself, and shedding abroad his love in the heart: for thy love is better than wine, more pleasing to the soul than the most delicious wine to the palate, and more reviving and exhilarating than the richer cordial, as they who have tasted it find by delightful experience. Because of the savour of thy good ointments, the unction from the Holy One, the fulness of divine grace resident in Jesus, and from him communicated to his people, thy name is as ointment poured forth, diffusing the most delightful fragrance, and making glad the heart of the miserable, who beholds in Jesus a saviour of sinners, and, in Immanuel, God with us, an all-sufficient Saviour; therefore do the virgins love thee, engaged by his excellence, and longing for nearer and more intimate communion of spirit with him; and virgins, in the purity of their affections, the fidelity of their attachment, and their beauty and comeliness adorned with the graces of his Spirit.

2. She prays to experience fresh constrainings of divine love. Draw me with the cords of love, for we are weak and impotent, unable to follow Jesus one step farther, unless his everlasting arms be under us, and his grace strengthen us; and then we will run after thee, with warm affection and eager desire; and, from experience of the sweetness of the way, shall be inviting others to come with us, and taste how good the Lord is.

3. She acknowledges the favourable answer given to her requests. They are no sooner offered than granted. The king, the anointed Redeemer, the eternal Prince and Saviour, the glorious Bridegroom, hath brought me into his chambers, graciously condescending to take the sinful soul into nearest union with himself, and putting it in possession of all the riches of divine grace stored up for the use of his bride: well therefore may such a one say, we will be glad and rejoice in thee; of ourselves we have nothing to rejoice in, much to be ashamed of, much to lament; but in Jesus we have the most abundant cause for joy unspeakable and full of glory, both in his person, offices, and relation to us; and, on account of what he has done, is doing, and is willing further to do for us and in us. We will remember thy love more than wine; his love was more grateful than the most exquisite wines, which at feasts are so eagerly sought; and the remembrance of it, not like the impressions made on our senses, which quickly die away, but deeply engraven on the soul, and the delightful sense of it continually abiding: O that this were more our own blessed experience! The upright love thee; this is the character of the Bridegroom's friends; their souls are renewed by grace, God's word is their rule, love is their principle, holiness their path, and glory their end; when they who now love the Lord Jesus Christ sincerely and perseveringly, shall then love him in the highest perfection, shall, in the fullest sense, dwell in love, shall dwell in God, and God in them.

4. She addresses herself to the daughters of Jerusalem: I am black as the sooty tents of Kedar: black with persecutions, reproaches, afflictions, sufferings; because the sun hath looked upon me, as those who are exposed to its scorching beams have their skins discoloured: my mother's children were angry with me; for, usually, from false brethren and carnal professors the severest trials of the faithful come; they made me keeper of the vineyards, seduced by temptation, and drawn to compliance with their false ways and worship: but mine own vineyard have I not kept; with shame, like a true penitent, whom we must imitate, she acknowledges her past neglects and departures from God. Yet, notwithstanding, she can now say, Look not upon me, because I am black, with an eye of contempt or disdain; for, amidst all my infirmities and suffering, I am comely as the curtains of Solomon, comely in the eyes of God, sprinkled with the blood, and adorned with the graces of the divine Redeemer, shining in patience amid the darkness of affliction, and coming from the furnace of persecution bright as silver purified seven times in the fire.

3rdly, We find the Lord for a while departed, and the church, through her unfaithfulness, left to lament his absence, and anew to seek his face.

1. She earnestly inquires after him, and pleads hard for his returning favour. Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth; tell me where thou feedest the flock of thy pasture, where thou makest it to rest at noon, that my soul may be with thee, enjoy thy presence, join in thine ordinances, sit under thy shadow, and again be refreshed with the sense of thy love: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? who pretend to be such, but are really hypocritical and heretical, teaching doctrines of lies and delusion: and to be suffered to be seduced by them, nay, to be only suspected of leaning towards such false teachers, could not be thought of by a sincere soul without grief and anguish.

2. The gracious Redeemer quickly answers her inquiry, and points her to the paths of peace: none err finally, who sincerely and perseveringly look to him for direction. If thou know not, or seeing thou knowest not, the way, bewildered through ignorance, O thou fairest among women; such an endearing title does he give her; and though the church, and every real member, blush and are confounded at their backslidings, yet these will Jesus guide and lead aright; go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, be found in the ordinances of divine worship, and mark the good old way in which holy men have walked, and the faithful continue to follow, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents; attend the ministry of those who labour in the word and doctrine, and lay themselves out in the service of immortal souls: nor should they who have the charge of others come alone, their children, relations, servants should be encouraged to draw near the shepherds' tents, the courts of the sanctuary.

3. Christ expresses his high regard to his church: I have compared thee, O my love, (so tender an appellation does he give to those who of themselves are so unworthy of his regard,) to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots; the most beautiful of their kind, and drawing with mutual and united efforts. Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold; beautiful with the graces, gifts, and consolations of the Spirit, more precious than the richest jewels, and shining brighter than burnished gold: and greater glories still in store for her and every faithful soul; he who has decked her in these bright ornaments will add thereunto. We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver, that she may be complete and perfect, lacking nothing, especially in the great day of consummation, when she shall be presented in all the beauty of holiness before the throne of God: and this is the work of the sacred Three.

4thly, We have the communion maintained between Christ and his church.

1. She expresses her loyalty and affection towards him, her husband and Lord. While the king sitteth at his table: he is a king, reigning from eternity, and in a peculiar manner has established his throne in the hearts of his people, who submit to his government, and are safe and happy under his protection: he is infinitely condescending, sitting at his table, inviting the poor and miserable sinner to come and partake of all his rich provision of gospel-grace, and giving the kindest reception to those who in faith and love draw near at his bidding; and when he manifests his presence in the midst of his people, then my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof; the graces of his saints are in lively exercise, their faith strong, their love ardent, their zeal flaming; and this is to him a favour of a sweet smell, more pleasing than the most fragrant spices. A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; beloved, well-beloved, best-beloved; compared with Christ, a gracious soul may be said to hate every thing besides: he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts, constantly embraced with the warmest affections of her heart, and yielding a joy to the faithful soul, preferable to the sweetest perfume placed in the bosom, till the night of time shall give place to the rising morning of eternal day. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire, or cypress, in the vineyards of Engedi. The sense is evident,—that Christ is inestimably precious; all fullness of excellence resides in him; his atonement, intercession, and grace, are more delightful to the heart than the sweetest camphire or cypress to the smell, or the most delicious cluster of grapes to the taste.

2. Christ testifies his complacence in her, well-pleased with the profession of her warm attachment to him. Behold, thou art fair, my love: the words speak Christ's gracious regard and tender affection towards his people: thou hast doves' eyes; the piercing eyes of faith, the modest eye of simplicity, and dove-like innocence. Note; (1.) However contemptible in the eyes of others, or loathed in his own, a believer may be, he is precious in the eyes of his Lord. (2.) We must remember, that, however our adorable Lord is pleased to account of us, or whatever good we possess, it is all of grace; we have nothing that we have not received.

3. The church echoes back the words of her spouse with mutual professions of like endearment. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved; the faithful scarcely know how to admit this character to themselves, but to their gracious Lord with greatest propriety it belongs; he is fair, indeed, in uncreated beauty; he is the sun without a spot; she but the moon, who borrows all her light and beauty from him; yea, pleasant, shining on his faithful people with cherishing rays; no frowns cloud his brow, but the endearing smiles of tenderness make glad their hearts continually; and all his promises are Yea and Amen, speaking peace and joy to their souls: also our bed is green; between husband and wife there is a community of goods; when we are Christ's, all his things are ours: the bed is the church of the redeemed, where the faithful assemble to meet their Lord in the ordinances of his service; and green, to denote the pleasantness of the courts of the Lord's house, or the numerous converts that are collected therein, or the flourishing state of their souls. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir, or galleries; which may refer to the ministers of the gospel, who, instrumentally under Christ, support the glorious fabric; or to the faithful in general, whose liability, and gratefulness to him, are hereby shadowed forth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/song-of-solomon-1.html. 1801-1803.

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