|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:8-12 The church pleads for the Gentiles, who then had not the word of God, nor the means of grace. Those who are brought to Christ themselves, should contrive what they may do to help others to him. Babes in Christ are always seen among Christians, and the welfare of their weak brethren is an object of continual prayer with the stronger believers. If the beginning of this work were likened to a wall built upon Him the precious Foundation and Corner-stone, then the Gentile church would become as a palace for the great King, built of solid silver. If the first preaching of the gospel were as the making a door through the wall of partition, that door should be lasting, as cased with boards of durable cedar. She shall be carefully and effectually protected, enclosed so as to receive no damage. The church is full of care for those yet uncalled. Christ says, I will do all that is necessary to be done for them. See with what satisfaction we should look back upon the times and seasons, when we were in his eyes as those that find favour. Our hearts are our vineyards, which we must keep with all diligence. To Christ, and to his praise, all our fruits must be dedicated. All that work for Christ, work for themselves, and shall be unspeakable gainers by it.
Verse 8. - We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? The term "little" refers, of course, to her tender age, as in 2 Kings 5:2, the "little maid;" and in Genesis 44:20, "a child of his old age, a little one," referring to Benjamin. "She hath no breasts" is equivalent to saying she is not yet mature, of marriageable age (see Ezekiel 16:7). The question which the bride asks of King Solomon refers to the promise which he is supposed to have made, and which he is virtually pledging himself to fulfil by this visit to the country home of his queen. "What shall be done for the advantage of my little sister? Let us consult together" (cf. Genesis 27:37; 1 Samuel 10:2; Isaiah 5:4). "The day when she shall be spoken for" is the day when she shall attract the attention of a suitor. It must necessarily be difficult to find satisfactory interpretations forevery detail in such a poem of human love as this. It might be sufficient to see in this reference to the younger sister the general idea of love's expansion. Those who are themselves the objects of it, being full of exquisite happiness, desire to call others into the same joy. This is true both of the individual and of the Church. What shall be done for others? That is the question which is awakened in every heart where true love is at work. There is no need to explain the language further. But the allegorists have been very ingenious in attempting to find meanings forevery allusion of the poem. Who is the little sister? What is her virginity? What is the day in which she shall be spoken for? Some have said that the little sister represents the firstfruits of the Jews and Gentiles received into the Christian Church immediately after the time of our Lord's ascension, as Beza and others. Some, again, take it to mean the whole body of Jews and Gentiles yet to be converted. Others would see in it those that are weak in faith, the beginners in Christian life. And, again, it has been regarded as pointing to the "daughter of Zion" at the time of the first beginnings of her conversion to the heavenly Solomon, which is the view of Hengstenberg and others. There is no end to such fancies. The broad general meaning is all that we can rest upon. The bride naturally thinks of her sister. It is a lovely incident in a perfectly idyllic poem. The visit to the home is quite in harmony with the fresh, pure, and simple life which reveals itself in all the utterances of the bride, and is honoured by the devoted attention of the splendid monarch. It is a real touch of nature when the young bride, in her family life once more, asks what shall become of her sister. It is an exquisite type of that sisterly solicitude with which all true Christians will care for the souls around them. Delitzsch thinks that the question which is asked by the bride is answered by her brothers, as they were the actual guardians of the little sister (see Genesis 21:50, 55; 34:6-8). But there is no necessity to introduce any new interlocutors at this point. The words are certainly addressed to Solomon. It is quite natural that he should reply to them in a royal style, with the pluralis majestatis which suits the corresponding position of the bride as a suppliant for her sister.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
We have a little sister,.... Which seems to be the Gentile church, so called by the Jewish church; for as the church catholic, or universal, with respect to its parts, is called a mother, as often in this Song; so these parts, with respect to each other, as the Jewish and Gentile churches, may be called sisters; and the rather, as they belong to the same Father and family, are partakers of the same grace, and are of the same faith and religion as to the substance of them; and the object and nature of their worship the same, though as to circumstances different: and it may be observed that the Gentile church is not only sister to the Jewish church, but to Christ, and therefore she says, not I, but we, have such a sister; of which relation, see Sol 4:9; also that she stood in this relation to Christ and to the Jewish church before the coming of Christ, and before the Gospel was preached to her, and she was called and separated from the world; as elect Gentiles are also called the sheep of Christ, and children of God, before that time, John 10:16. This church is described as a "little sister", younger in age than the Jewish church, and in some respects less honourable, Romans 3:1; the same with the younger son and brother, in the parable of the prodigal; little in esteem among men, especially the Jews, Ephesians 2:11; little in stature, light, knowledge, and faith, at first conversion; and but few in number, particularly at first, and in comparison of the world: and so the church of Christ, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, is called a little flock, Luke 12:32. As a further description of her, it is added,
and she hath no breasts: is not arrived to years of ripeness, nor marriageable; see Ezekiel 16:7; the time of her open espousal to Christ was not yet come: at this time she had no ministers nor ordinances, from whence she could have the sincere milk of the word, or share it with others; and it was some time after the Gospel came among the Gentiles before they had a settled ministry;
what shall we defer our sister? or, "what shall be done for her?" being moved with pity to her, in her forlorn and helpless condition, like a little infant, Ezekiel 16:4; and willing to do anything for her that lay in her power, though seeming at a loss to know what to do for her: the believing Jews were very assisting to the Gentiles, in carrying the Gospel among them at first; and in supplying them with ministers, and with money too, to carry on the interest of Christ among them. The Jewish church here is not forgetful of the chief and principal agent, Christ, and therefore says, what shall we do? she was willing to do what she could; but she knew all would be insignificant without Christ, his agency and blessing. The time she was concerned what should be done for her in is,
in the day when she shall be spoken for, or "with", or "unto" (y): when she should be wooed or treated with for marriage, by the ministers of the word, at the first preaching of the Gospel to her; or be spoken to by her enemies, by fair words, or severe menaces, to desert the faith. Or, "be spoken of" (z); the fame of her be spread abroad, far and near, for her light, knowledge, and faith; for her profession, and her sufferings for it; and the concern is, how she should behave under all the noise and talk about her: or, "be spoken against" (a); as she would be by unbelieving Jews, and by ignorant Heathens, for embracing the Christian religion, for receiving the Gospel of Christ, submitting to his ordinances, and professing his name, Acts 28:22. Now the old church might be concerned, that she might stand firm to her faith and the profession of it, notwithstanding the reproaches and persecutions of men.
(y) "alloquenda est", V. L. "fiet sermo cum ea", Pagninus; "in colloquendum", Tigurine version. (z) "Sermo fiet de ea", Brightman, Mercerus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Michaelis, so Cocceius. (a) So the Targum, Shir Hashirim Rabba, & Jarchi in loc. Bereshit Rabba, s. 39. fol. 34. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. The Gentile Church (Eze 16:48). "We," that is, the Hebrew Church, which heretofore admitted Gentiles to communion, only by becoming Judaic proselytes. Now first idolatrous Gentiles are admitted directly (Ac 11:17-26). Generally, the saint's anxiety for other souls (Mr 5:19; Joh 4:28, 29).
no breasts—neither faith nor love as yet (see on So 4:5), which "come by hearing" of Him who first loved us. Not yet fit to be His bride, and mother of a spiritual offspring.
what shall we do—the chief question in the early Church at the first council (Ac 15:23-29). How shall "the elder brother" treat the "younger," already received by the Father (Lu 15:25-32)? Generally (2Sa 15:15; Joh 9:4; Ac 9:6; Ga 6:10).
In the day … spoken for—that is, when she shall be sought in marriage (Jud 14:7), namely, by Jesus Christ, the heavenly bridegroom.
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