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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Song of Solomon 4

 

 

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 4:1. Thy hair is as a flock, &c.— Thy hair is fine as that of a flock of goats, which come up sleek from mount Gilead. Bochart refers the comparison to the hair of the eastern goats, which is of the most delicate silky softness. Le Clerc observes, that the hair of the goats in Palestine is generally of a black colour, or of a very dark brown. Michaelis thinks the interpretation of this difficult place to be, Thy hair is like a flock of ascending goats, which is seen from mount Gilead; supposing the point of comparison chiefly to turn on the head's being covered with fine flowing locks, as mount Gilead was with the shaggy herd, reaching in an extended line from its foot to its summit. Houbigant renders it, that hang from mount Gilead: pendent; as Virgil, dumosa pendere procul de rupe. See the New Translation.


Verse 2

Song of Solomon 4:2. Whereof every one bear twins Which are all of them twins, and none hath lost its fellow. New Translation.


Verse 3

Song of Solomon 4:3. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet Thy lips are like a braid of scarlet, &c. Thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate—like the section of a pomegranate, &c. See New Translation, and Bishop Lowth's Prelections.


Verse 4

Song of Solomon 4:4. Thy neck is like the tower of David Thy neck is like the tower of David, built upon an eminence. This tower of David was probably remarkable for the elegance and nice proportion of its structure. This is Houbigant's interpretation. But some render the clause, built with battlements, or running up into spires. See Michaelis and the New Translation.


Verse 6

Song of Solomon 4:6. Mountain of Myrrh, &c.— Myrrh and frankincense were among the most valuable perfumes of the East: the bridegroom therefore concludes his encomium on the bride's person, by comparing her to an entire heap of those precious essences, and observing that she is completely fair and excellent. In this day's eclogue, the church, says our English Bible, glorieth in Christ, and Christ setteth forth the graces of the church. The beauty, the glory, the happiness of Solomon, are but figures of that heavenly bridegroom, and that heavenly host, who secure the church in her enjoyments, and take care of her continual safety, Song of Solomon 4:7-8. Nor can any representations, however elegant, sufficiently express the love of God, and the riches of his grace, in the great and precious promises, far dearer to all believers than thousands of gold and silver; which the gospel calls us not only to behold, but to enjoy, Song of Solomon 4:10 and in the view of which, faithful hearts cannot fail to admire and extol the surpassing glory of that great king, who shall appear clothed with glory, honour, and joy, on that happy day, when he shall publicly own the church of his faithful followers, and give her the highest testimony of his love; (See Revelation 19:6-9.) even that mystical body of Christ, whose virgin modesty, chap. Song of Solomon 4:1 whose pure and amiable discourse, including the candour, excellence, and instruction, of her ministers and teachers; and, in one word, whose admirable perfection of beauty has already so engaged his heart. See Song of Solomon 4:7 and Ephesians 5:27.


Verse 8

Song of Solomon 4:8. Come, &c.— Here begins the fourth day's eclogue, in which the bridegroom professes himself the bride's protector, &c. Song of Solomon 4:8, &c. In the first place, he gives the bride to understand that she is now under the cover of his protection, and is to apply to him only for relief under all dangers and difficulties. This, according to the Eastern manner, he does in the way of parable or figure; supposing her placed on the tops of mountains infested by wild beasts, whence he invites her to himself, as to a place of safety, and gives her to understand, that, now he is her guardian, she may look down in security amidst any dangers of which she was apprehensive, Song of Solomon 4:8. He then publicly declares, that she is a garden secured from intruders—an inaccessible spring, whose waters are unpolluted—an unsullied fountain under the sanction of an unbroken seal. And, having here compared her to a garden, he pursues the figure, and supposes all the finest and most precious vegetable productions to enrich and embellish it, Song of Solomon 4:13-15. She, catching up the metaphor, wishes that this garden, for which he has expressed so much fondness, might be so breathed on by the kindly gales, as to produce whatever might contribute to his delight, Song of Solomon 4:16. The bridegroom returns the encomium, chap. Song of Solomon 5:1 and professes that his wish is completely accomplished; and, still keeping up the metaphor, he invites his friends to rejoice with him. See New Translation.

Come with me from Lebanon, &c.— Come to me from Lebanon, &c. look down securely from the top. The summits of the mountains here mentioned were inhabited by wild beasts. Judaea was especially infested by lions. Lebanon, Amana, Shenir, and Hermon, were all of them places where some dangers were to be apprehended; and it is a usual beauty in poetry, to represent a general idea by particulars which largely partake of it, as here dangers by dangerous places. See New Translation, Michaelis, and Bishop Pococke's description of the East, p. 122. 136.


Verse 11

Song of Solomon 4:11. Thy lips—drop as the honey-comb Expressing her sweet, her divine, words; a metaphor common with the Greek as well as the Oriental writers. See Theocritus's 20th Idyllium.

The smell of thy garments In the East, where perfumes are exceedingly common, the garments on nuptial occasions were remarkably perfumed. See Psalms 45 which uses the same figure, and is, like to this, a beautiful epithalamium on the marriage of Christ and his church. Lebanon abounded with various odoriferous trees, from which the finest gums were extracted, particularly frankincense; whence some derive the name of Lebanon from לבונה lebonah, frankincense. See Chambers's Dictionary, and the New Translation.


Verse 12

Song of Solomon 4:12. A garden inclosed, &c.— See the note on Song of Solomon 4:8.


Verse 13

Song of Solomon 4:13. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates Thy predications are a paradise of pomegranates, with delicious fruits, cypress, and spikenard. The bridegroom, having in a former sentence called the bride an inclosed garden, here carries on the metaphor, and compares her virtues and accomplishments to all the choicest productions of an Eastern orchard, or of a paradise. Delicious fruits, is in the Hebrew, literally, Fruits of sweetness. See Le Clerc, and the New Translation.


Verse 14

Song of Solomon 4:14. Calamus, &c.— Sweet cane, and cinnamon, with all kinds of trees of incense, myrrh, and cedar-oil, &c.


Verse 15

Song of Solomon 4:15. A fountain of gardens, &c.— Houbigant reads it, A living fountain, a fountain of living waters, flowing as it were from Lebanon.


Verse 16

Song of Solomon 4:16. Awake, O north wind The bride here takes up the metaphor, and wishes that she could produce any thing to invite or please him. The author of the Observations, remarking that the south wind is extremely hot and troublesome in Palestine, gives a very different interpretation of this text from the usual one. None, I presume, says he, will deny, that the first word may signify awake or arise; all the hesitation, therefore, must be about the second, And come, thou south, which, I suppose, really signifies, Enter into thy repositories. That יצא jatza, and בוא boa, with their derivatives, are directly opposed to each other, we may learn from 2 Samuel 3:25. יצא Jatza is frequently applied to the causing the wind to blow, Psalms 135:7. Jeremiah 10:13 and Jeremiah 51:16. Consequently the verb בוא boa, should signify the direct contrary; that is, its ceasing to blow, or its entering into its repository; just as יצא jatza is used to express the rising of the sun, its coming out of its chamber, Psalms 19 and בוא boa its setting, or entering into it, Deuteronomy 11:30. Joshua 1:4.; and so the true explanation of the words will be, "Arise, O north wind, (and retire, thou south,) blow upon my garden; let the spices thereof flow forth; that my beloved may come into his garden, invited by the coolness and fragrancy of the air, and may eat his pleasant fruits." Observations, p. 41.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The description of the church's beauty, and that of every gracious soul which bears the Divine image: however despicable they appear in the eyes of men, or in their own, Christ regards them with delight and love; in his eyes they are fair; his love, loving him and beloved by him; and all the marks of beauty center in them; since they are found in him, and that he is, is theirs, and his grace makes them what he describes them.

The images here used are taken from the human form, and the beauties of the body are transferred to the hidden man of the heart.

The eyes of doves within the locks represent the modesty and humility, the sweetness and inoffensiveness of the genuine believer.

The hair compared to that of a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead, may signify the multitude of converts in the church; or the beauty of their outward walk or conversation, visible to all as the hair flowing in ringlets on the shoulders, or a flock of goats feeding on a distant precipice.

The teeth, even as a flock of sheep new shorn, white as their fleeces when come up from washing, may denote ministers in particular, who prepare the food for the infant converts, and in the purity of their lives adorn the doctrine which they profess, and, blest with success in their ministry, see numerous souls begotten in the gospel by their word, and none are barren among them; whatever superior gifts some may possess, or more abundant fruit may crown their labours, all who preach the truth are sure to see some fruit thereof. This may be applied also to believers in general, who feed upon the word of truth, are washed in the laver of regeneration, ascend upwards in their affections, and are fruitful in all good works.

The lips like a thread of scarlet may be considered as a mark of that florid health, and flourishing state of grace, in which the soul abides; or as the following words may explain them: Thy speech is comely, before men, in all gracious conversation, while the hearers delighted hang upon the speaker's lips; or before God, in prayer and praise, offered through the blood of Jesus, and therefore most pleasing and acceptable.

The temples like a piece of pomegranate within the locks, the colour of the fruit of which being red, may be applied to the conscious blush, with which a sense of his own unworthiness, in the presence of his Lord, covers the believer, and heightens his beauty.

The neck compared to a tower, built for an armoury, filled with the shields of the mighty, may represent the ministers of the sanctuary, who are next to Christ the head, and furnish believers with the spiritual weapons of their warfare: or it may be referred to the saints in general, who are each a strong tower filled with Divine artillery.

The breasts like two young roes that are twins, may be applied to the ministers, who give the sincere milk of the word; or, under the Christian dispensation, to the Old and New Testaments, those fountains of consolation.

2. The heavenly bridegroom retires for a while to wait till his beauteous bride hath made herself ready. Till the day of eternity break, and the shadows of mortality flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense; to the heavenly hill, whither the smoke of prayer and praise continually ascends, and whither the glorified Saviour is gone till the time of consummation.

3. Wherever he is, on earth or in heaven, he has the same regard for his spouse the church, and for every individual faithful soul. Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee; he sees none, his blood hath washed out every stain, and his Spirit fashions her throughout anew, so that she appears in perfect beauty, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, Ephesians 5:27; Ephesians 5:33.

2nd, Christ delights in his church, and wishes for her company at all times: Therefore,

1. He invites her to come with him, and adds the most endearing name to engage her to follow him, My spouse, that nearest, dearest relation; and which should, both from love and duty, constrain her to cleave to him; come with me from Lebanon, or thou shalt come with me; it is a gracious call to do so, or a gracious promise of being enabled for that which Jesus doth enjoin: Lebanon may signify Jerusalem, adorned with the wood of Lebanon, but become a den of thieves and murderers, out of which he calls his people to depart; or, as Lebanon was a goodly mountain, it may be a command to quit the joys of sense, and earth's vain pleasures and pursuits, to taste the purer delights which flow from a sense of his love: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards, which frequented those places: and such is this world, full of wicked men, fierce and cruel in their tempers as lions, spotted with sin as the leopard's skin, crafty, and lying in wait to destroy like these devouring animals: From such to depart, therefore, is but to consult our own safety; and to leave the ways of a world lying in wickedness, for communion with the Lord of life and glory, must be an exchange unspeakably to our own comfort.

2. Christ expresses his delight in his spouse, whom he honours also with another title, My Sister; for he is by his incarnation flesh of our flesh, and by adoption we are brought into that family, where he is the first-born of many brethren; thou hast ravished my heart, or, thou hast wounded my heart; intimating the strength of his affection to her; it drew him down from his throne in glory, and made him humble himself to death, and even shed his blood on a cross for her sake; behold how he loved her! Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, or one glance; for no sooner does the eye of faith look to him, but his arms of love are reached forth to embrace the soul; with one chain of thy neck, the pearls of divine grace, which adorn the temper and conversation of the saints, make them amiable in the eyes of their divine Lord; and this he with transport professes: How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! love to Jesus is the most grateful and pleasing oblation: He asks our hearts; and nothing but this inward genuine affection is in his sight of any price: how much better is thy love than wine! more cheering than wine to the weary, or more acceptable than all the drink-offerings which were poured forth at his altar; and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! the graces of the Spirit in her breathed a sweeter perfume than the spices which ascended in smoke from the golden altar of incense. Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honey-comb; the sweetest words of humble prayer and praise, of warm professions of love and duty; or communicating to all around that good conversation which ministers grace to the healers: honey and milk are under thy tongue; the doctrines of the gospel, so pleasant and so refreshing to the soul, of which the pious delight to speak, for their own and others' edification and comfort; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon; the garments of that holy profession which they make, and adorn with every good word and work, and which render them amiable in the eyes of God, and respected before men.

3. He compares her to a garden inclosed; separated from the world without, and set apart for himself; small, compared with the vast country around it; fenced from all intruders by Almighty love and power; planted with every choice seed of grace, and bringing forth fruit for every faithful soul unto eternal life: a spring shut up, a fountain sealed: such are the souls of the faithful, sealed of Christ for his own, and shut up to be no more polluted by sin. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, &c. the garden of the church is full of trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord; bearing all the richest fruits of grace, perfuming the place of their abode by their good conversation, most excellent and valuable in themselves, esteemed of Christ, and mutual comforts to each other.

3rdly, We have the reply of the church on hearing herself thus commended, ascribing to her Lord the praise of all.

1. He is to her a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon; or, O fountain of gardens, &c. as the words may be rendered, and immediately addressed to him. Christ is the glorious fountain-head, whence all our waters of grace and consolation flow; the author of all our fruitfulness, and the source of every blessing in time and in eternity; whatever we have we receive from him, and every gracious soul will ascribe the whole to him.

2. She prays for the influences of his blessed Spirit, that her garden may flourish, and, breathing fragrance, invite Christ's pleasing visits thither, and afford him satisfaction. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden: by these winds may be signified the operations of the Spirit, in his word, providences, and ordinances, suited to the case and necessities of the soul, as may most effectually conduce to its strength, comfort, and fruitfulness: sometimes the north wind of adversity is needful; and always the south wind of divine manifestations, to warm the heart, or to quicken it from its coldness, and to draw forth the graces into lively exercise, that the spices thereof may flow out in warm affections towards God and man, in zeal for his glory, in exemplary diligence to adorn our profession, and, in short, in every good word and work: let my beloved come into his garden, then, when thus breathing fragrance, let him visit our souls with a full sense of his presence and love; for we are his garden, purchased by his blood, sanctified by his grace, and by choice devoted to him; let him come and eat his pleasant fruits: whatever fruits of holiness we bear, it is by virtue of our union with him, who is the living root: he is the great author of all good in us, and takes delight in the works of his own hand; and this especially is what the believer longs for, that he may find gracious acceptance and favour with his divine Lord.

 


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

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