|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:2-8 Churches and believers, by carelessness and security, provoke Christ to withdraw. We ought to notice our spiritual slumbers and distempers. Christ knocks to awaken us, knocks by his word and Spirit, knocks by afflictions and by our consciences; thus, Re 3:20. When we are unmindful of Christ, still he thinks of us. Christ's love to us should engage ours to him, even in the most self-denying instances; and we only can be gainers by it. Careless souls put slights on Jesus Christ. Another could not be sent to open the door. Christ calls to us, but we have no mind, or pretend we have no strength, or we have no time, and think we may be excused. Making excuses is making light of Christ. Those put contempt upon Christ, who cannot find in their hearts to bear a cold blast, or to leave a warm bed for him. See the powerful influences of Divine grace. He put in his hand to unbolt the door, as one weary of waiting. This betokens a work of the Spirit upon the soul. The believer's rising above self-indulgence, seeking by prayer for the consolations of Christ, and to remove every hinderance to communion with him; these actings of the soul are represented by the hands dropping sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the locks. But the Beloved was gone! By absenting himself, Christ will teach his people to value his gracious visits more highly. Observe, the soul still calls Christ her Beloved. Every desertion is not despair. Lord, I believe, though I must say, Lord, help my unbelief. His words melted me, yet, wretch that I was, I made excuses. The smothering and stifling of convictions will be very bitter to think of, when God opens our eyes. The soul went in pursuit of him; not only prayed, but used means, sought him in the ways wherein he used to be found. The watchmen wounded me. Some refer it to those who misapply the word to awakened consciences. The charge to the daughters of Jerusalem, seems to mean the distressed believer's desire of the prayers of the feeblest Christian. Awakened souls are more sensible of Christ's withdrawings than of any other trouble.
Verse 3. - I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? Evidently the meaning is, "I have retired to rest; do not disturb me." She is lying in bed. The cuttoneth, or χτιών, was the linen garment worn next the body - from cathan, "linen." The Arabic kutun is "cotton;" hence the French coton, "calico, or cotton" shift. Shulamith represents herself as failing in love, not meeting the condescension and affection of her lover as she should. Sloth, reluctance, ease, keep her back. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion!" The scene is, of course, only ideally true; it is not meant to be a description of an actual occurrence. Fancy in dreams stirs up the real nature, though it also disturbs it. Shulamith has forsaken her first love. She relates it with sorrow, but not with despondency. She comes to herself again, and her repentance and restoration are the occasion for pouring out the fulness of her affection, which had never really changed, though it has been checked and restrained by self-indulgence. How true a picture both of the individual soul and of the Church in its decline! "Leave me to myself; let me lie at ease in my luxury and my smooth, conventional ways and self-flattering deceit."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I have put off my coat,.... In order to lie down on her bed at night, and take her ease; meaning her conversation garments, which she had not been careful of to keep, but had betook herself to carnal ease and rest, and was off her watch and guard, Nehemiah 4:23; and being at ease, and free from trouble, affliction, and persecution, was unwilling to arise and go with her beloved, lest she should meet with the same trials and sufferings as before, for the sake of him and his Gospel; which may be greatly the sense of her next words;
how shall I put it on? which suggests an apprehension of difficulty in doing it, it being easier to drop the performance of duty than to take it up again; and shows slothfulness and sluggishness, being loath and not knowing how to bring herself to it; and an aversion of the carnal and fleshly part unto it; yea, as if she thought it was unreasonable in Christ to desire it of her, when it was but her reasonable service; or as if she imagined it was dangerous, and would be detrimental to her rest, and prejudicial to her health;
I have washed my feet; as persons used to do when come off of a journey, and about to go to bed (e), being weary; as she was of spiritual exercises, and of the observance of ordinances and duties, and so betook herself to carnal ease, and from which being called argues,
how shall I defile them? by rising out of bed, and treading on the floor, and going to the door to let her beloved in; as if hearkening to the voice of Christ, obeying his commands, and taking every proper step to enjoy communion with him, would be a defiling her; whereas it was the reverse of these that did it: from the whole it appears, that not only these excuses were idle and frivolous, but sinful; she slighted the means Christ made use of to awaken her, by calling and knocking; she sinned against light and knowledge, sleeping on, when she knew it was the voice of her beloved; she acted a disingenuous part in inviting Christ into his garden, and then presently fell asleep; and then endeavoured to shift the blame from herself, as if she was no ways culpable, but what was desired was either difficult, or unreasonable, or unlawful; she appears guilty of great ingratitude, and discovers the height of folly in preferring her present ease to the company of Christ.
(e) Homer. Odyss. 19. v. 317.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. Trivial excuses (Lu 14:18).
coat—rather, the inmost vest, next the skin, taken off before going to bed.
washed … feet—before going to rest, for they had been soiled, from the Eastern custom of wearing sandals, not shoes. Sloth (Lu 11:7) and despondency (De 7:17-19).
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