|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:9-16 Even those who have little acquaintance with Christ, cannot but see amiable beauty in others who bear his image. There are hopes of those who begin to inquire concerning Christ and his perfections. Christians, who are well acquainted with Christ themselves, should do all they can to make others know something of him. Divine glory makes him truly lovely in the eyes of all who are enlightened to discern spiritual things. He is white in the spotless innocence of his life, ruddy in the bleeding sufferings he went through at his death. This description of the person of the Beloved, would form, in the figurative language of those times, a portrait of beauty of person and of grace of manners; but the aptness of some of the allusions may not appear to us. He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all that believe. May his love constrain us to live to his glory.
Verses 11-16. - His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks; washed with milk and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as banks of sweet herbs; his lips are as lilies, dropping liquid myrrh. His hands are as rings of gold set with beryl; his body is as ivory work overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold. His aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. This description, which is complete in itself, is best regarded in its unbroken perfection. We must not expect to find a meaning for each separate part of it. There are ten corporeal excellences enumerated. We naturally recall the descriptions in Daniel and in the Apocalypse, which certainly have reference to this, and manifestly combine the attributes of greatness and beauty in the Son of man. Solomon, no doubt, as the son of Bathsheba, was distinguished by his personal attractions. Some of the details of description are differently rendered by different commentators. Delitzsch regards the description of the hair in ver. 11 as compared to a hill or hilly range" his locks hill upon hill," i.e. "his hair, seen from his neck upwards, forms in undulating lines hill upon hill." The black colour is no doubt mentioned as a contrast with the fair, white complexion. The eyes are not only pure and clear, but with a glancing moistness in them which expresses feeling and devotion. So Plutarch has ὑρότης τῶν ὀμμάτῶν to denote a languishing look, and we find the same figure in the 'Gitagovinda ' and Hafiz, and in Ossian. So Luther, "Und stehen in der Falle." The pureness of the white of the eye is represented in the bathing or washing in milk. They are full and large, "fine in their setting," referring no doubt to the steady, strong look of fine eyes. "The cheeks" are compared to towers of plants; that is, there is a soft elevation in them. LXX., ψύουσαι μυρεψικά: Jerome, Sicut areolae aromatum consitae a pigmentariis. The Targum says, "Like the rows of a garden of aromatic plants, which produce deep, penetrating essences, even as a (magnificent) garden aromatic plants" - perhaps referring to the "flos juventae," the hair on the face, the growth of the beard. "The lips" are described as the organs of speech as well as inviting to embrace. They drop words like liquid fragrance. "The bands" may be differently described according as they are viewed. Delitzsch says, "His hands form cylinders, fitted in with stones of Tarshish." Gesenius thinks the comparison is of the closed hand and the stained nails, but that seems farfetched. Surely it is the outstretched hands that are meant. The form of the fingers is seen and admired; they are full, round, fleshy like bars of gold. The word "Tarshish" may mean clay white, as in the Greek versions; that is, topaz, called Tarshish from Tartessus in Spain, where it is found. The description of the body is of the outward appearance and figure only, though the word itself signifies "inward parts." The comparison with ivory work refers to the glancing and perfect smoothness and symmetry as of a beautiful ivory statue, the work of the highest artistic excellence. The sapphire covering tempers the white. The beautiful blue veins appear through the skin and give a lovely tint to the body. So in the description of the legs we have the combination of white and gold, the white marble setting forth greatness and purity, and the gold sublimity and nobleness; intended, no doubt, to suggest that in the royal bridegroom there was personal beauty united with kingly majesty, as in the following description of his general aspect, which, like the splendours of the mountains, was awe-inspiring and yet elevating and delightful (cf. Psalm 80:11 (10): Jeremiah 22:7; Isaiah 37:24). His mouth, or palate, is sweetness itself; that is, when he speaks his words are full of winning love (cf. Proverbs 16:4; Psalm 55:16). We may compare with the whole description that given of Absalom, Solomon's brother, in 2 Samuel 14:25, 26. It has been truly remarked by Zockler that "the mention of the legs, and just before of the body, could only be regarded as unbecoming or improper by an overstrained prudishness, because the description which is here given avoids all libidinous details, and is so strictly general as not even to imply that she had ever seen the parts of the body in question in a nude condition." It merely serves to complete the delineation of her lover, which Shulamith sketches by a gradual descent from head to foot, and, moreover, is to be laid to the account of the poet rather than to that of Shulamith, who is in everything else so chaste and delicate in her feelings. Certainly it would be much less delicate regarded as the description of a shepherd lover who is seeking to obtain possession of the maiden taken from him, than of the royal bridegroom to whom Shulamith is at all events affianced, if not already married. The highest spiritual feelings of loving adoration of the Saviour have welcomed some parts of this description, and adopted them into the language of "spiritual songs." To some minds, no doubt, it is repellent; to those to whom it is not so, the warmth and glow of Eastern language is by no means too realistic for the feelings of delight in the Lord which express themselves in rapturous music.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
His head is as the most fine gold,.... Here the church enters into a particular description and commendation of her beloved, which continues to the end of the chapter; and she begins with his "head", which she compares to the most fine gold. Some think that some ornament of the head is meant, as a diadem or crown of gold; or else the hair of the head, which, though afterwards said to be black, yet being powdered with gold dust, looked of the colour of gold, especially in the rays of the sun upon it; as did the hair of Solomon's youths that attended him, being thus decorated, as Josephus (u) relates; and which custom of powdering the hair with gold dust was used by some of the Roman emperors (w). The gold here is called "gold of Phaz", or "Uphaz", as in Daniel 10:5. "Fez", with the Arabs, signifies gold; the city of Fez had its name from hence; in a place where it was built, a quantity of gold was found in it, which gave it its name (x): according to Schultens (y), gold is called "phaz", from its leaping as it were out of the clods of the earth, and shining forth and glistering after a shower of rain falling on the earth, where there is a mine of it, by which means it is discovered; and of such gold, as the finest and purest, Diodorus Siculus (z) speaks, as found in Arabia; and which, from the purity of it, was called "apyron", because it needed no purifying by fire: and this being the best and finest, is used to express the superlative excellence of Christ; for it may be rendered, "the gold of gold" (a), there is none like it. By Christ's "head" some understand the Father of Christ, said to be the Head of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:3 not as Christ is a divine Person, but as man and Mediator; who, as such, was subject to his Father, supported and upheld by him; and who, for his excellent glory, is compared to the most fine gold, there being no glory like his. Or else the divine nature in Christ may be meant, which is the head, the chief and principal nature in him; which puts a glory on him, and an efficacy in all he did and suffered; and which is like pure, fine, shining gold, in which all the perfections of deity shine resplendently. Or rather the headship of Christ over his church is meant; as Nebuchadnezzar's monarchy is represented by a head of gold, Daniel 2:32; so Christ's, because his kingdom is great and glorious, pure and spiritual, solid and substantial, lasting and durable, yea, everlasting;
his locks are bushy, and black as a raven; which figures are used to set forth the beauty and comeliness of Christ: thick, bushy, well set hair, or "pendulous" (b), as some render the word, hanging down upon the forehead and cheeks in a beautiful manner, makes very comely; and black hair was reckoned comely (c); and the blackness of a raven is accounted a very fine black: and naturalists (d) say, that the eggs, brains, and blood of ravens, have been used to make the hair black. By these "bushy and black locks" of Christ some understand the thoughts and purposes of God, the Head of Christ; which, like hair, and like black bushy hair, are intricate, dark, and obscure, unsearchable and incomprehensible; and yet, so far as known, are beautiful and delightful; especially as they appear in the scheme of salvation, drawn in the eternal mind: or rather, as by others, believers in Christ are meant, for their numbers, dependence on Christ, and nourishment from him; See Gill on Sol 4:1; and, being like "locks" of hair beautifully set, as when congregated and united together in Gospel order, are an ornament to Christ the Head, and afford a delightful sight to spectators, Colossians 2:5; and these being like "crisped" or "curled" hair (e), as some render the word, may denote the hardiness and strength of believers, to perform duty, withstand enemies, and endure hardness, as good soldiers of Christ; curled hair being the hardest and strongest (f). But it seems best to understand by them the administrations of Christ's kingly office; which are executed with the utmost prudence, vigour, and strength; for curled hair is a sign of a dry brain (g), which produces acuteness and sharpness of wit, as well as of vigour, strength, and courage; and which, how dark and obscure they may seem to be, and to carry in them severity to enemies; yet being managed with wisdom, as before observed, and also according to the rules of justice and equity, look very beautiful when made manifest, and are admired by the saints, Revelation 15:3.
(u) Antiqu. l. 8. c. 7. s. 3.((w) Vid. Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 9. col. 154. (x) Leo African. Descript. Africae, l. 3. p. 273. (y) Comment. in Proverbs 8.19. & xxi. 5. (z) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 133. & l. 3. p. 179. (a) "aurum auri", Mercerus. (b) "penduli", Arabic, Bochart, so Jarchi. (c) "Spectandum----nigroque capillo", Horat. de Arte Poet. v. 37, "nigroque crine decorum", ib. Sermon. l. 1. Ode 32. v. 11. (d) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 29. c. 6. Aelian de Animal. l. 1. c. 48. (e) "Crispi", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator, Cocceius; "crispaturae", Buxtorf. Marckius. (f) Aristot. de Gen. Animal. l. 5. c. 3.((g) Ibid.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. head … gold—the Godhead of Jesus Christ, as distinguished from His heel, that is, His manhood, which was "bruised" by Satan; both together being one Christ (1Co 11:3). Also His sovereignty, as Nebuchadnezzar, the supreme king was "the head of gold" (Da 2:32-38; Col 1:18), the highest creature, compared with Him, is brass, iron, and clay. "Preciousness" (Greek, 1Pe 2:7).
bushy—curled, token of Headship. In contrast with her flowing locks (So 4:1), the token of her subjection to Him (Ps 8:4-8; 1Co 11:3, 6-15). The Hebrew is (pendulous as) the branches of a palm, which, when in leaf, resemble waving plumes of feathers.
black—implying youth; no "gray hairs" (Ps 102:27; 110:3, 4; Ho 7:9). Jesus Christ was crucified in the prime of vigor and manliness. In heaven, on the other hand, His hair is "white," He being the Ancient of days (Da 7:9). These contrasts often concur in Him (So 5:10), "white and ruddy"; here the "raven" (So 5:12), the "dove," as both with Noah in the ark (Ge 8:11); emblems of judgment and mercy.
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