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Song of Solomon 5:1. I have eaten my honey-comb, &c.— Taylor, in his Concordance, interprets this passage, I have eaten my pure wood honey with the honey of the pan; explaining wood honey to be that which in hot weather bursts the comb, and runs down the hollow trees or rocks, where, in Judaea, the bees made great store of honey. This interpretation has some considerable authorities in its favour: yet our rendering is supported by 1Sa 14:27 and דבשׁ debash, is evidently the honey of bees in Judges 14:8; Judges 9:18. The verbs in this verse should be read throughout in the present tense; and the last clause might be rendered, Yea, drink abundantly of our loves. This invitation is only metaphorical, the bridegroom calling upon his friends to come and feast upon the sight of their mutual happiness. Christ, in this day's eclogue, to use the words of our English bible, sheweth his love to the church, who prayeth to be made fit for his presence, Son 5:16 while he awakeneth the church with his calling. The 8th verse of the preceding chapter contains Christ's assurance of protection to his church from the rage and cruelty of persecutors, while, to encourage the church's confidence, he expresses strongly the satisfaction he has in the unity and graces of her members, Son 5:9-10 in the excellence and purity of her doctrines, Son 5:11 and, in short, in that divine composition of graces, which is visible in the church, and which makes her members acceptable to God, and useful to men, Song of Solomon 5:12-14.;—virtues and graces which are preserved in life and vigour by that heavenly doctrine which flows from Him as plentifully and as perpetually as waters do from the springs of Mount Lebanon, Song of Solomon 5:15. On this declaration of his love, the church earnestly intreats to be made worthy of it; praying that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and his manifold gifts, may not be wanting to her, but breathe perpetually upon her, as the cooling winds do upon a pleasant garden; thus rendering her a paradise indeed, not only enabling her to fill the world with the sweet odour of the knowledge of Christ, but giving her boldness to invite Him, the beloved of her soul, to come and reap the delightful fruits of his own care and labour, Song of Solomon 5:16. We are promised that no petitions for the Divine Spirit sent up from believing hearts, shall be rejected. Christ therefore replies with much complacence to his spouse, chap. Song of Solomon 5:1.—"I am well pleased to see the fruitfulness of my garden, and therefore have not denied thy request; but am present in it, and have brought it to such perfection, that it hath produced many excellent persons, more precious than myrrh and all the spices before-named, with whose services I am not only well pleased, but I rejoice in the purity of their doctrine, and of their lives; inviting all who bear any love to me, both in heaven and earth, to rejoice and be exceedingly glad with me." See Luke 15:7-10.
Song of Solomon 5:2. I sleep, but my heart waketh— The fifth day's eclogue commences here; and contains a solemn declaration from the bridegroom, that he prefers his spouse to all others, chap. Song of Solomon 6:9. The word תמתי tammathi, rendered my undefiled, signifies completely accomplished; one consummately possessed of all endowments both of body and mind. New Translation.
Song of Solomon 5:4. Put in his hand by the hole of the door— Through the opening of the door.
Song of Solomon 5:6. My soul failed when he spake— My soul failed at the remembrance of his words. New Translation.
Song of Solomon 5:7. The watchmen that went about the city— The watchmen that go about the city, found me; they smote me, they hurt me: the keepers of the walls plucked my veil off me.
Song of Solomon 5:8. I charge you, O daughters, &c.— I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved—What should you tell him, but that I am sick of love? Thus we have at beautiful aposiopesis, which is lost in the common translation. Houbigant gives part of these words to the virgins, thus; What should we tell him? SPOUSE. That I am sick of love.
Song of Solomon 5:10. My beloved is white and ruddy— Fair and bright. Bochart. The chiefest among ten thousand. Pitts, in his account of his return from Mecca, thus describes those lights by which they travel in the night in the desert, and which are carried on the tops of high poles, to direct their march: "They are somewhat like iron stoves, into which they put short dry wood, with which some of the camels are loaded: It is carried in great sacks, which have a hole near the bottom, where the servants take it out, as they see the fires need a recruit. Every cottor hath one of these poles belonging to it, some of which have ten, some twelve of these lights on their tops, more or less; and they are likewise of different figures, as well as numbers; one perhaps oval, or like a gate; another triangular, or like an N, or M, &c. so that every one knows by them his respective cottor. They are carried in the front, and set up in the place where the caravan is to pitch, before that comes up, at some distance from each other. They are also carried by day, not lighted; but yet by the figure and number of them the Hagges are directed to what cottor they belong, as soldiers are by their colours where to rendezvous: and without such directions it would be impossible to avoid confusion in such a vast number of people." This account may tend to throw some light upon the present passage. The spouse says, My beloved is white and ruddy; the chiefest among ten thousand; or, as the margin of our English Bibles has it, a standard-bearer among ten thousand. All the ground for making these words synonymous, is, I presume, the supposing the standard-bearer to be the chiefest of the company; which by no means appears to be true: it is not so among the modern people of the East, any more than among us. I will not however press this, since what is meant is, One before whom a standard is borne; which is a mark of dignity in the East, as well as in the West; and which the word must signify, if any thing of this sort, any dignity be meant, since דגול dagul, is a passive, not an active participle in the Hebrew; that is to say, the word does not signify "one who lifts up a banner," but "one whom the listing up of the banner some way respects or concerns." It is not, however, so natural upon the whole to understand this passage of one before whom an ensign of dignity was borne, because the original word is most probably to be understood of a portable beacon, which is necessary to travellers in the night, but not, as far as I know, ever considered as a mark of dignity, on the one hand; whilst, on the other, a very easy sense may be put on the word, if it be understood of one of those eastern flambeaux; for in that view the participle paul of the verb will signify enlightened, and consequently dazzling, glittering, or something of that kind; and so the meaning of the spouse will appear to have probably been, (the words being now considered in their literal sense,) that her bridegroom was dazzling beyond ten thousand, or was dazzling like a person surrounded with ten thousand lights. It may not be unsuitable to add, that those places which speak of the standards of the tribes, and this which I am now endeavouring to illustrate, are all the passages in which the Hebrew word דגל dagal, occurs; excepting Psa 20:5 and chap. Song of Solomon 2:4. The word beacon occurs indeed in another place in our version; Isaiah 30:17.; but it is not there, in the original, that word which I am supposing to signify a portable beacon, but another; which may possibly incline the learned reader not to admit that sense which I have affixed to this passage, and which I have been illustrating, as unwilling to suppose that there are two words in so limited a language to signify a beacon: It ought, however, to be remembered, that though our version renders תרן toren, a beacon, it properly signifies no more than a sign, whatever that sign might be; whether the raising of a spear, or displaying a flag, or any thing else. See Observations, p. 227, &c.
Song of Solomon 5:11. His head is as the most fine gold— A metaphorical expression, to denote consummate excellence in beauty.
Song of Solomon 5:12. And fitly set— Sitting at the full streams. The literal meaning is, "His eyes are sparkling and yet mild, like those of milk-white doves, when they are delighted as they sit by the water-side." See Patrick, Bochart, &c.
Song of Solomon 5:13. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, &c.— His cheeks are as a bed of spices, sweetly budding forth. Bishop Patrick supposes that the word translated lilies, alludes to a sort of lilies of a deep rich red colour, and particularly to that called by Pliny, rubens lilium, which he tells us was much esteemed in Syria. The expression of lilies dropping sweet-smelling or precious myrrh, denotes the sweetness of his conversation; and it is supposed by Sir Thomas Brown to refer to the roscid and honey drops observable in the flowers of Martagon, and inverted-flowered lilies: it is probably the standing sweet dew on the white eyes of the crown imperial, now common among us, which is here figuratively used. See his Observations, and the New Translation.
Song of Solomon 5:14. His hands are as gold rings— His hands are as gold finely turned, beset with a chrysolite. New Translation. Michaelis renders it, His hands are golden cylinders, set with chrysolites. The chrysolite is of a gold colour.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Swift are the returns of prayer; the request is no sooner asked than granted: Lo! Christ is here. I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; he admits the garden to be his own, and willingly visits the soul that by faith waits for his coming; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; all the produce is his own, and he delights in the gifts and graces that he hath bestowed; I have eaten my honey-comb with my honey; the doctrines of his gospel, in the faithful dispensation of which he delights; I have drunk my wine with my milk; sitting at the table of his grace, and partaking of the banquet which his spouse, like Esther, hath provided; yet she can give him only of his own: nor doth he partake alone of the provision, but welcomes and invites all his friends, the faithful members of his church, to come and sup with him: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved; in the gospel there is grace abounding; and whosoever will may come and feast upon the wine and milk, the great and precious promises contained in the word of God, without money and without price.
2nd, After the sweet communion which had passed between Christ and his church, we have a sad account of the interruption which arose from her security and slothful Spirit: negligent of her mercies, she is punished by having them withdrawn.
1. Sleep froze upon her. I sleep; alas! unfaithfulness brought on a decay of grace; and, through the prevalence of corruption, her heart grew cold and careless in too great a degree: yet there was still a strong desire after the Bridegroom; my heart waketh: though temptation prevailed, there was still a struggle.
2. Christ will not leave the soul in a backsliding state without warning. It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh: he is still beloved in some measure; and his voice, though indistinctly heard, is known: he knocks at the door of the heart, by the calls of his word, the convictions of his Spirit, and the alarms of his providences; and he pleads hard for admittance, with every endearing appellation: Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; nothing can engage our hearts, if his love doth not: this he pleads as the most constraining argument; and adds what he has suffered on her account: My head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night, particularly of that fatal night when he agonized in the garden, and when his head was crowned with thorns, and covered with clotted gore. How stupid must be the heart which remains unaffected by such amazing grace! how grievous to requite such dying love with coldness and neglect!
3. With frivolous excuses she wants to cover her sinful slothfulness; as a person undressed and in bed, whose feet are washed, fears to dirty them, and hates to be disturbed, so she cared not to expose herself to any inconveniences for his sake, and rather chose to sleep on still and take her rest. Note; (1.) They who want to turn away from Christ, have always some pretext for their conduct. (2.) When we have once given way to corruption, and grown negligent in the path of duty, we shall find the difficulties of returning to it exceedingly great.
4. Christ by his power and grace overcomes our corruption, when we return to him in prayer and faith. My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, to unbar it, and open himself a passage to her heart; and this effectually wrought upon her: for,
5. My bowels were moved for him; gracious relentings, and a sense of base ingratitude, began to work; love kindled afresh in her heart, and fire could no longer contain. I rose up to open to my beloved, shook off dull sloth, and ran to meet him, and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock, with tears of bitter and penitential sorrow for her unfaithfulness, which were to Christ a favour of a sweet smell; or when she put her hands on the lock, she found the sweet favour of his grace; for those who draw near to Christ will, by blessed experience, ever taste how good the Lord is.
6. To her bitter disappointment, when she expected to meet her beloved, he was withdrawn in displeasure at her slothfulness. I opened to my beloved to give him a welcome reception; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone, and left her to mourn her folly and negligence; or departed, to prove her sincerity and earnestness in searching after him; and with grief and eagerness she cries, He is gone, he is gone: my soul failed when he spake: either at his parting in displeasure, or at the kind language that he used, which served to upbraid her base ingratitude. Note; (1.) When we have been faithless, no wonder if, even after our return, the Lord punish us by leaving us comfortless for a time. (2.) A soul, that hath ever tasted the sweetness of communion with Jesus, must be hardened indeed by unfaithfulness, if she do not grieve at his absence. (3.) It is a gracious symptom of some remaining grace, when the heart possesses tender sensibility, and feels the evil and ingratitude of its departures from God.
7. She sets herself to seek him, but meets with sad discouragement. I sought him, in the ordinances of his service, and the courts of his house, but I could not find him: I called him aloud, in fervent prayer, but he gave me no answer, no sensible tokens of his regard. Nay, she was not only forsaken, but abused, while through the city she inquired as before after her beloved; the watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me: which may refer to the true ministers of God, who sometimes are too severe in their upbraidings, and harsh in their censures, and with the terrors of the law wound those who need the healing of the gospel. Or rather false teachers are intended, who persecute and afflict the true members of Christ, and with pernicious errors and heretics rend the peace of the church. The keepers of the walls took away my veil from me: they, who by office and profession should have been her comforters, expose her to shame, and do her the greatest injury; enemies often both to the doctrines and practice of true godliness, and most effectually undermining the interests of the church, which they pretend to serve. The treacherous watchmen of Zion have ever done her greater injuries than her most avowed enemies.
8. She earnestly beseeches the daughters of Jerusalem to befriend her. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, or adjure you: charges them on oath, which intimates her own eagerness and fervent affection; if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him that I am sick of love. The absence of Jesus is insupportable to truly penitent souls; and as the fainting hart thirsteth for the water-brooks, so eager are their longings after him their Saviour.
3rdly, In answer to the charge given,
1. The daughters of Jerusalem inquire after the description of the person whom the church so earnestly sought. What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? Such is the title they give her, and most deserving of it she appears; for no beauty is like the beauty of holiness, wherein the saints are arrayed; and the image of Jesus, stamped on all his living members, makes them glorious in the eyes of God and all good men. What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? which some take as a slighting question, as if he, whom she seemed so distressed about, was scarcely worthy such concern; and then these daughters of Jerusalem must be the formal professors, who are strangers to the warmth of a zealous heart; and, having never known the excellencies of the Lord Jesus themselves, wonder at, or deride, the eagerness and solicitude which others shew in seeking him. But it may also be the serious inquiry of young converts, desiring themselves to be more acquainted with Christ, his person, and offices, that they might know him better, and love him with more enlarged affection.
2. She launches out into a description of his excellencies, in images borrowed from the human form. My beloved is white and ruddy, the lily and rose unite in him; not so much respecting his human form while he abode upon earth in the flesh; but, as God incarnate, to save sinners he was full of grace and truth, fairer than the children of men, in the unsullied purity of the human nature, and infinitely exalted above them in the glory of the divine: the chiefest among ten thousand, nor earth beneath, nor heaven above, affords his fellow, neither angels nor men are to be compared with him; or a standard-bearer over ten thousand, under his banners his faithful people are collected, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, and he exalted above them all, as an ensign on a hill. His head is as the most fine gold, which may refer to his divine nature, which gave value to all the sufferings of the humanity; or may signify his sovereign dominion and authority over his church, and the powerful influences that each member derives from him their glorious head: his locks are bushy, and black as a raven; the faithful, who spring from him, are thus numerous and beautiful; or it expresses his eternal youth, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. His eyes are as the eyes of doves, sharp-sighted, yea, all-seeing, withal full of gentleness and love, looking with tenderest sympathy on his poor afflicted people; by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set, appearing in their greatest beauty: his cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers, when manifesting his presence in the midst of his people, and shedding abroad his love in their hearts, they enjoy delightful communion with him, and rejoice in the light of his countenance: his lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh, pure are all his words, precious all his promises, inestimably fragrant the doctrines of his grace, which speak pardon, righteousness, and salvation to the souls of believers. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl, all the works of his hands in providence and grace are exquisite, and to be admired: or his hands are full of the gifts of his munificence, the graces and consolations of his Spirit, which he liberally dispenses to all believers, whom, as a king, he is pleased to honour: his belly is, or his bowels are, as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires, which some understand of the human nature of Christ, as exalted by its union with the divine; others of that tenderness and pity, which lead him to yearn over the distresses of his saints. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold; he is Almighty, to sustain the weight of the sins of a world, which are laid upon him; and of the government of his church and kingdom; and also to trample under foot all his enemies and theirs. His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars; majestic, exalted higher than the kings of the earth. His mouth is most sweet, or sweetnesses; the very essence of delight, when speaking in his gospel the great and precious promises, the most reviving news that ever greeted sinners' ears; or when sealing with the kisses of his love our pardon and peace. Yea, he is altogether lovely; description cannot paint his excellence; when fancy hath lavished all her stores, and imagination collected every beauty that the creatures ever yet possessed, the half of his glory is not told us.
3. She concludes with triumphant exultation in her beloved. This is my beloved; I love him; no wonder, since his beauty is so transcendant; and this is my friend, on whom I have placed all my dependence, whose kindness ten thousand times I have proved: know him therefore, love him, seek him, O daughters of Jerusalem.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany