|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:9-17 The Bridegroom gives high praises of his spouse. In the sight of Christ believers are the excellent of the earth, fitted to be instruments for promoting his glory. The spiritual gifts and graces which Christ bestows on every true believer, are described by the ornaments then in use, ver. 10,11. The graces of the saints are many, but there is dependence upon each other. He who is the Author, will be the Finisher of the good work. The grace received from Christ's fulness, springs forth into lively exercises of faith, affection, and gratitude. Yet Christ, not his gifts, is most precious to them. The word translated camphire, signifies atonement or propitiation. Christ is dear to all believers, because he is the propitiation for their sins. No pretender must have his place in the soul. They resolved to lodge him in their hearts all the night; during the continuance of the troubles of life. Christ takes delight in the good work which his grace has wrought on the souls of believers. This should engage all who are made holy, to be very thankful for that grace which has made those fair, who by nature were deformed. The spouse (the believer) has a humble, modest eye, discovering simplicity and godly sincerity; eyes enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit, that blessed Dove. The church expresses her value for Christ. Thou art the great Original, but I am but a faint and imperfect copy. Many are fair to look at, yet their temper renders them unpleasant: but Christ is fair, yet pleasant. The believer, ver. 16, speaks with praise of those holy ordinances in which true believers have fellowship with Christ. Whether the believer is in the courts of the Lord, or in retirement; whether following his daily labours, or confined on the bed of sickness, or even in a dungeon, a sense of the Divine presence will turn the place into a paradise. Thus the soul, daily having fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, enjoys a lively hope of an incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance above.
Verses 12-14. - While the king sat (or, sits) at his table, my spikenard sent (sends) forth its fragrance. My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna flowers in the vineyards of Engedi. The preterite is best taken poetically for the present. The words are evidently a response to those of the king. As such they refer to present feeling and not to a past state. The bride expresses her delight in the king. The table is used generally. The Hebrew word is from a root "to sit round." The habit of reclining at table was introduced much later, during the Persian, Greek, and Roman period. The spikenard was a powerful perfume, probably of Indian origin, as the Indian word nalada, meaning "that which yields fragrance," shows. The Persian is nard, the Old Arabic nardu. It was made from an Indian plant, the Valeriana, called Nardo-stachys 'Gatamansi, growing in Northern and Eastern India. The hairy part of the stem immediately above the root yields the perfume. That it was "very precious" we see from the account of Mary's offering, which was worth more than three hundred denarii, i.e. £8 10s. (Mark 14:5; John 12:2). Horace promised Virgil a whole cask, i.e. nine gallons, of the best wine in exchange for a small onyx box full of the perfume. The metaphor represents the intense longing of love. Myrrh was an exotic introduced into Palestine from Arabia, Abyssinia, and India. Like frankincense, it is one of the amyridae. The Balsamodendron myrrha is the tree itself with its leaves and flowers. From the tree came a resin or gum (Gummi myrrhae), which either dropped from the leaves or was artificially obtained by incisions in the bark. The natural product was the more valuable. It was much prized as a perfume, and employed for many purposes. The Hebrew women were accustomed to carry little bags or bottles of myrrh suspended from their necks and hanging down between the breasts under the dress, diffusing an attractive fragrance round them. The word tseror is, properly, "a little bag," sacculus, "that which one ties up," rather than a "bundle." The meaning, of course, is rhetorical - He is at my heart and delightful to all my thoughts as the fragrance to my senses. The henna flowers, or cypress, in the vineyards of Engedi, is a very beautiful figure. Copher, the cypress cluster, - in Greek, κύπρος: in Arabic, al-henna (Lawsonia) - grows in Palestine and Egypt, as we are told by Pliny ('Nat. Hist.' 12:24). It is a tall shrub reaching to eight or ten feet, exceedingly beautiful in appearance, and giving forth a delightful odour. It is named from a root "to be white or yellow-white." The Moslem women stain their hands and feet with it to give them a yellow tint. Engedi was a lovely district on the west of the Dead Sea - Hazezon Tamar, now Ain Tidy, where Solomon made terraces on the hillsides and covered them with gardens and vineyards. The allusion confirms the date of the writing as contemporary with Solomon, as the gardens would then be in their perfection. The figure is, perhaps, intended to be an advance in rhetorical force upon that which preceded - the fragrance diffused and almost overpowering, as of a blossoming tree.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
While the King sitteth at his table,.... These are the words of the church, relating what influence the presence of Christ, her Lord and King, had upon the exercise of her graces, while he was keeping the nuptial feast, on account of his marriage with her. He was anointed King of saints from eternity, before his incarnation, when he was rejoicing before God his Father, as if at a feast; and while he was thus distant, the faith, hope, desire, and expectation of the saints, were exercised on him, as their Lord and King, that was to come: when he did come, he came as a King, as was foretold of him, though his kingdom was not of this world; and while he was here, the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven was preached, and emitted a sweet savour in Judea: and when he went up to heaven, after his resurrection, he was declared Lord and Christ, and sat down at the right hand of God, "in his circuit" (f), or at his round table; alluding to such the ancients used, and great personages fed on, peculiar to themselves (g); being encircled by angels and glorified saints: and in the mean while, before his second coming as King, when he will appear as such in a more glorious manner, he sits down at his table, in the ordinance of the supper, feasting with, entertaining, and welcoming his church and people. When as follows, she says,
my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof: or "nard", of which there are many sorts; but that which grows in spikes is reckoned the best, and from thence is called "spikenard": it was a chief ingredient in ointments, as Pliny says (h); see John 12:3; and was much used at festivals, to anoint guests with; and with which their head and hair being anointed, gave a fragrant smell, and therefore used to make them acceptable (i): in Syria, at royal banquets, as this here was, it was usual to go round the guests, to sprinkle them with Babylonian ointment (k). This may have respect to the grace of the Spirit in the church, comparable to the most excellent ointment; and which grace being in exercise in her, both before and after the incarnation of Christ, and since his ascension to heaven, and while he grants his presence in Gospel ordinances, is very delightful and acceptable to Christ; or this spikenard, according to some (l), may be meant of Christ himself, just as he is said to be "a bundle of myrrh" in Sol 1:13, and "a cluster of camphire", in Sol 1:14; and as ointments were used at feasts, and the church was at one with Christ, and as he was both master and feast, so he was the ointment of spikenard to her; and it is as if she should say, my beloved is at table with me; he is my food, and he is my spikenard (m) I need no other; he is instead of spikenard, myrrh, cypress, or any unguents made of these: his person is exceeding precious; his graces, of ointments, have a delightful savour in them; his sacrifice is of a sweet odour; his garments of righteousness and salvation smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia; he is all in all.
(f) "in circuitu suo", Montanus, Piscator, Michaelis. (g) Vid. Cuperi Observ. l. 1. c. 2. p. 13. (h) Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 12. (i) "Illius puro destillant tempora nardo", Tibullus, l. 2. Eleg. 2. v. 7. & 1. 3. Eleg. 7. v. 31. "Madidas nardo comas", Martial. l. 3. Ep. 56. "tinge caput nardi folio", ibid. "Assyriaque nardo potemus uncti", Horat. Carmin. l. 1. Ode 11. v. 16, 17. Vid. Ovid. de Arte Amandi, l. 3.((k) Athenaei Deipnosoph. l. 15. c. 13. p. 692. (l) Theodoret, Sanctius, and Marckius. (m) "Tu mihi stacte, tu cinnamomium", &c. Planti Curculio, Acts 1. Sc. 2. v. 6.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
12. While—It is the presence of the Sun of Righteousness that draws out the believer's odors of grace. It was the sight of Him at table that caused the two women to bring forth their ointments for Him (Lu 7:37, 38; Joh 12:3; 2Co 2:15). Historically fulfilled (Mt 2:11); spiritually (Re 3:20); and in church worship (Mt 18:20); and at the Lord's Supper especially, for here public communion with Him at table amidst His friends is spoken of, as So 1:4 refers to private communion (1Co 10:16, 21); typically (Ex 24:9-11); the future perfect fulfilment (Lu 22:30; Re 19:9). The allegory supposes the King to have stopped in His movements and to be seated with His friends on the divan. What grace that a table should be prepared for us, while still militant (Ps 23:5)!
my spikenard—not boasting, but owning the Lord's grace to and in her. The spikenard is a lowly herb, the emblem of humility. She rejoices that He is well pleased with her graces, His own work (Php 4:18).
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