Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
1. Contrast with the bride's state by nature (Isa 1:6) her state by grace (So 4:1-7), "perfect through His comeliness put upon her" (Eze 16:14; Joh 15:3). The praise of Jesus Christ, unlike that of the world, hurts not, but edifies; as His, not ours, is the glory (Joh 5:44; Re 4:10, 11). Seven features of beauty are specified (So 4:1-5) ("lips" and "speech" are but one feature, So 4:3), the number for perfection. To each of these is attached a comparison from nature: the resemblances consist not so much in outward likeness, as in the combined sensations of delight produced by contemplating these natural objects.
doves'—the large melting eye of the Syrian dove appears especially beautiful amid the foliage of its native groves: so the bride's "eyes within her locks" (Lu 7:44). Maurer for "locks," has "veil"; but locks suit the connection better: so the Hebrew is translated (Isa 47:2). The dove was the only bird counted "clean" for sacrifice. Once the heart was "the cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Grace makes the change.
eyes—(Mt 6:22; Eph 1:18; contrast Mt 5:28; Eph 4:18; 1Jo 2:16). Chaste and guileless ("harmless," Mt 10:16, Margin; Joh 1:47). John the Baptist, historically, was the "turtledove" (So 2:12), with eye directed to the coming Bridegroom: his Nazarite unshorn hair answers to "locks" (Joh 1:29, 36).
hair … goats—The hair of goats in the East is fine like silk. As long hair is her glory, and marks her subjection to man (1Co 11:6-15), so the Nazarite's hair marked his subjection and separation unto God. (Compare Jud 16:17, with 2Co 6:17; Tit 2:14; 1Pe 2:9). Jesus Christ cares for the minutest concerns of His saints (Mt 10:30).
appear from—literally, "that lie down from"; lying along the hillside, they seem to hang from it: a picture of the bride's hanging tresses.
Gilead—beyond Jordan: there stood "the heap of witness" (Ge 31:48).
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
2. even shorn—the Hebrew is translated (1Ki 6:25), "of one size"; so the point of comparison to teeth is their symmetry of form; as in "came up from the washing," the spotless whiteness; and in "twins," the exact correspondence of the upper and lower teeth: and in "none barren," none wanting, none without its fellow. Faith is the tooth with which we eat the living bread (Joh 6:35, 54). Contrast the teeth of sinners (Ps 57:4; Pr 30:14); also their end (Ps 3:7; Mt 25:30). Faith leads the flock to the washing (Zec 13:1; 1Co 6:11; Tit 3:5).
none … barren—(2Pe 1:8). He who is begotten of God begets instrumentally other sons of God.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
3. thread—like a delicate fillet. Not thick and white as the leper's lips (type of sin), which were therefore to be "covered," as "unclean" (Le 13:45).
scarlet—The blood of Jesus Christ (Isa 6:5-9) cleanses the leprosy, and unseals the lips (Isa 57:19; Ho 14:2; Heb 13:15). Rahab's scarlet thread was a type of it (Jos 2:18).
speech—not a separate feature from the lips (Zep 3:9; Col 4:6). Contrast "uncircumcised lips" (Ex 6:12). Maurer and Burrowes translate, "thy mouth."
temples—rather, the upper part of the cheek next the temples: the seat of shamefacedness; so, "within thy locks," no display (1Co 11:5, 6, 15). Mark of true penitence (Ezr 9:6; Eze 16:63). Contrast Jer 3:3; Eze 3:7.
pomegranate—When cut, it displays in rows seeds pellucid, like crystal, tinged with red. Her modesty is not on the surface, but within, which Jesus Christ can see into.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
4. neck—stately: in beautiful contrast to the blushing temples (So 4:3); not "stiff" (Isa 48:4; Ac 7:51), as that of unbroken nature; nor "stretched forth" wantonly (Isa 3:16); nor burdened with the legal yoke (La 1:14; Ac 15:10); but erect in gospel freedom (Isa 52:2).
tower of David—probably on Zion. He was a man of war, preparatory to the reign of Solomon, the king of peace. So warfare in the case of Jesus Christ and His saints precedes the coming rest. Each soul won from Satan by Him is a trophy gracing the bride (Lu 11:22); (each hangs on Him, Isa 22:23, 24); also each victory of her faith. As shields adorn a temple's walls (Eze 27:11), so necklaces hang on the bride's neck (Jud 5:30; 1Ki 10:16).
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
5. breasts—The bust is left open in Eastern dress. The breastplate of the high priest was made of "two" pieces, folded one on the other, in which were the Urim and Thummim (lights and perfection). "Faith and love" are the double breastplate (1Th 5:8), answering to "hearing the word" and "keeping it," in a similar connection with breasts (Lu 12:27, 28).
roes—He reciprocates her praise (So 2:9). Emblem of love and satisfaction (Pr 5:19).
among the lilies—shrinking from thorns of strife, worldliness, and ungodliness (2Sa 23:6; Mt 13:7). Roes feed among, not on the lilies: where these grow, there is moisture producing green pasturage. The lilies represent her white dress (Ps 45:14; Re 19:8).
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
6. Historically, the hill of frankincense is Calvary, where, "through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself"; the mountain of myrrh is His embalmment (Joh 19:39) till the resurrection "daybreak." The third Canticle occupies the one cloudless day of His presence on earth, beginning from the night (So 2:17) and ending with the night of His departure (So 4:6). His promise is almost exactly in the words of her prayer (So 2:17), (the same Holy Ghost breathing in Jesus Christ and His praying people), with the difference that she then looked for His visible coming. He now tells her that when He shall have gone from sight, He still is to be met with spiritually in prayer (Ps 68:16; Mt 28:20), until the everlasting day break, when we shall see face to face (1Co 13:10, 12).
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.
7. Assurance that He is going from her in love, not in displeasure (Joh 16:6, 7).
all fair—still stronger than So 1:15; So 4:1.
no spot—our privilege (Eph 5:27; Col 2:10); our duty (2Co 6:17; Jude 23; Jas 1:27).
Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
8. Invitation to her to leave the border mountains (the highest worldly elevation) between the hostile lands north of Palestine and the Promised Land (Ps 45:10; Php 3:13).
Amana—south of Anti-Libanus; the river Abana, or Amana, was near Damascus (2Ki 5:12).
Shenir—The whole mountain was called Hermon; the part held by the Sidonians was called Sirion; the part held by the Amorites, Shenir (De 3:9). Infested by the devouring lion and the stealthy and swift leopard (Ps 76:4; Eph 6:11; 1Pe 5:8). Contrasted with the mountain of myrrh, &c. (So 4:6; Isa 2:2); the good land (Isa 35:9).
with me—twice repeated emphatically. The presence of Jesus Christ makes up for the absence of all besides (Lu 18:29, 30; 2Co 6:10). Moses was permitted to see Canaan from Pisgah; Peter, James, and John had a foretaste of glory on the mount of transfiguration.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
9. sister … spouse—This title is here first used, as He is soon about to institute the Supper, the pledge of the nuptial union. By the term "sister," carnal ideas are excluded; the ardor of a spouse's love is combined with the purity of a sister's (Isa 54:5; compare Mr 3:35).
one—Even one look is enough to secure His love (Zec 12:10; Lu 23:40-43). Not merely the Church collectively, but each one member of it (Mt 18:10, 14; Lu 15:7, 24, 32).
chain—necklace (Isa 62:3; Mal 3:17), answering to the "shields" hanging in the tower of David (So 4:4). Compare the "ornament" (1Pe 3:4); "chains" (Pr 1:9; 3:22).
How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
10. love—Hebrew, "loves"; manifold tokens of thy love.
much better—answering to her "better" (So 1:2), but with increased force. An Amoebean pastoral character pervades the Song, like the classic Amoebean idylls and eclogues.
wine—The love of His saints is a more reviving cordial to Him than wine; for example, at the feast in Simon's house (Lu 7:36, 47; Joh 4:32; compare Zec 10:7).
smell of … ointments than all spices—answering to her praise (So 1:3) with increased force. Fragrant, as being fruits of His Spirit in us (Ga 5:22).
Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
11. drop—always ready to fall, being full of honey, though not always (Pr 10:19) actually dropping (So 5:13; De 32:2; Mt 12:34).
honeycomb—(Pr 5:3; 16:24).
under thy tongue—not always on, but under, the tongue, ready to fall (Ps 55:21). Contrast her former state (Ps 140:3; Ro 3:13). "Honey and milk" were the glory of the good land. The change is illustrated in the penitent thief. Contrast Mt 27:44 with Lu 23:39, &c. It was literally with "one" eye, a sidelong glance of love "better than wine," that he refreshed Jesus Christ (So 4:9, 10). "To-day shalt thou be with Me (compare So 4:8) in Paradise" (So 4:12), is the only joyous sentence of His seven utterances on the cross.
smell of … garments—which are often perfumed in the East (Ps 45:8). The perfume comes from Him on us (Ps 133:2). We draw nigh to God in the perfumed garment of our elder brother (Ge 27:27; see Jude 23).
Lebanon—abounding in odoriferous trees (Ho 14:5-7).
A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
12. The Hebrew has no "is." Here she is distinct from the garden (So 5:1), yet identified with it (So 4:16) as being one with Him in His sufferings. Historically the Paradise, into which the soul of Jesus Christ entered at death; and the tomb of Joseph, in which His body was laid amid "myrrh," &c. (So 4:6), situated in a nicely kept garden (compare "gardener," Joh 20:15); "sealed" with a stone (Mt 27:66); in which it resembles "wells" in the East (Ge 29:3, 8). It was in a garden of light Adam fell; in a garden of darkness, Gethsemane, and chiefly that of the tomb, the second Adam retrieved us. Spiritually the garden is the gospel kingdom of heaven. Here all is ripe; previously (So 2:13) it was "the tender grape." The garden is His, though He calls the plants hers (So 4:13) by His gift (Isa 61:3, end).
spring … fountain—Jesus Christ (Joh 4:10) sealed, while He was in the sealed tomb: it poured forth its full tide on Pentecost (Joh 7:37-39). Still He is a sealed fountain until the Holy Ghost opens it to one (1Co 12:3). The Church also is "a garden enclosed" (Ps 4:3; Isa 5:1, &c.). Contrast Ps 80:9-12. So "a spring" (Isa 27:3; 58:11); "sealed" (Eph 4:30; 2Ti 2:19). As wives in the East are secluded from public gaze, so believers (Ps 83:3; Col 3:3). Contrast the open streams which "pass away" (Job 6:15-18; 2Pe 2:17).
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
13. orchard—Hebrew, "a paradise," that is, a pleasure-ground and orchard. Not only flowers, but fruit trees (Joh 15:8; Php 1:11).
camphire—not camphor (So 1:14), hennah, or cypress blooms.
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
14. calamus—"sweet cane" (Ex 30:23; Jer 6:20).
myrrh and aloes—Ointments are associated with His death, as well as with feasts (Joh 12:7). The bride's ministry of "myrrh and aloes" is recorded (Joh 19:39).
A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
15. of—This pleasure-ground is not dependent on mere reservoirs; it has a fountain sufficient to water many "gardens" (plural).
living—(Jer 17:8; Joh 4:13, 14; 7:38, 39).
from Lebanon—Though the fountain is lowly, the source is lofty; fed by the perpetual snows of Lebanon, refreshingly cool (Jer 18:14), fertilizing the gardens of Damascus. It springs upon earth; its source is heaven. It is now not "sealed," but open "streams" (Re 22:17).
Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.
16. Awake—literally, "arise." All besides is ready; one thing alone is wanted—the breath of God. This follows rightly after His death (So 6:12; Ac 2:1-4). It is His call to the Spirit to come (Joh 14:16); in Joh 3:8, compared to "the wind"; quickening (Joh 6:63; Eze 27:9). Saints offer the same prayer (Ps 85:6; Hab 3:2). The north wind "awakes," or arises strongly, namely, the Holy Ghost as a reprover (Joh 16:8-11); the south wind "comes" gently, namely, the Holy Ghost as the comforter (Joh 14:16). The west wind brings rain from the sea (1Ki 18:44, 45; Lu 12:54). The east wind is tempestuous (Job 27:21; Isa 27:8) and withering (Ge 41:23). These, therefore, are not wanted; but first the north wind clearing the air (Job 37:22; Pr 25:23), and then the warm south wind (Job 37:17); so the Holy Ghost first clearing away mists of gloom, error, unbelief, sin, which intercept the light of Jesus Christ, then infusing spiritual warmth (2Co 4:6), causing the graces to exhale their odor.
Let my beloved, &c.—the bride's reply. The fruit was now at length ripe; the last passover, which He had so desired, is come (Lu 22:7, 15, 16, 18), the only occasion in which He took charge of the preparations.
his—answering to Jesus Christ's "My." She owns that the garden is His, and the fruits in her, which she does not in false humility deny (Ps 66:16; Ac 21:19; 1Co 15:10) are His (Joh 15:8; Php 1:11).