William Kelly Major Works Commentary
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.Song of Solomon Chapter 3
We have seen how faithful is the Bridegroom's attention to that Zion whom He loved and chose, and will in the end reclaim from all her long folly and from the hand of all her foes; and that the making of her heart true and responsive to His love is the object of this book. That there is a principle common to every believing heart, and so to the church as a whole, is certain and important, so it is with scripture generally. But it is as important to discern that Christ's special relationship here is with the Jewish bride for the earth, as in the Pauline Epistles and the Revelation with the church, the Lamb's wife for the heavens, though now rightly anticipated and enjoyed in the Spirit on earth. Truth has suffered through the same unbelieving ignorance, which has for ages since the apostles blotted out these immense differences, and merged O. and N. Testaments in the confusion of heaven and earth, Israel and the church, the present and the future, in one vague and undefined object of mercy from the beginning to the end of time, in collision with all scripture, to the enfeebling of truth, to the darkening of divine purposes and love, and to the sad marring of the affections, worship, and walk of faith, especially in Christians.
To us all is sovereign grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. The consequence is that believers, whether from Jews or Gentiles, are brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light by the gospel, and, resting on redemption in Christ through His blood, are sealed with the Holy Spirit; as by the same Spirit they are baptised into one body and made God's habitation (Eph. 1, 2). The Christian, the church, thus blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ, is responsible to walk accordingly, together no less than as individuals. If souls go back, it is fatal, as we see in Hebrews 10, whatever the grace that restores the repentant faithful; if there is public corruption maintained in pride under the plea of unity, as in Babylon and her daughters, there is no restoration but divine judgment.
With Israel it is wholly different. Her backsliding and rebellion under the law, the Jewish rejection of the Messiah, inexcusable as all was, are wholly different from the apostacy after redemption and the presence of the Spirit sent down from heaven. The Lord will come to take His own who await Him to the Father's house, when apostate Christendom and the mass of the Jews will ripen for judgment, which the Lord will execute as the second and displayed act of His advent, after working by grace in both Israel and the Gentiles separately (not in one body as now), as we see in Rev. 7 and elsewhere, to prepare earthly witnesses of His saving mercy before the beginning of the millennial age. Thus both heaven and earth are to have appropriate denizens, the O. T. saints and the church on high in their glorified bodies, saved Jews and Gentiles in their natural bodies, the living demonstration of His blessed power as a King reigning in righteousness, when the Man of God's right hand receives the kingdom that all the peoples may serve Him. The God of peace will bruise Satan under the feet of His saints.
But as long as the church is being called and formed for heavenly glory, the veil lies on Israel's heart: whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away (that is, in the interval during which the church is caught up, and before the Lord appears with His saints in glory). This interval has divine light cast dispensationally on it, largely in Daniel, and in the Revelation yet more. The Psalms richly express the working of conscience and heart in them, their hopes and their distress Godward, when converted but not brought into settled peace till they see the Lord and have the Spirit poured on them, as we have had since Pentecost. But it is a great error to confound that first and real work of grace, in which souls to be fully blest are born of God, with the rest and deliverance which only come through learning our own powerlessness as well as guilt and need, and thereon finding all met in Christ and His redemption. The Song of Songs supplies another lack, the bringing of the Israel of God, the earthly bride, into the sense of Messiah's personal relation and love to the people of His choice.
It need not be said that we have what is analogous in that bridal affection, so feebly developed among us, the saints since apostolic days, though we are already one spirit with the Lord before He come and the marriage of the Lamb celebrated on high. Hence, as we have in the N. T. no special book of psalms and hymns provided for us but are capacitated to pour them forth from hearts filled with the Spirit, so we have not like Israel the need of a book analogous to Canticles for kindling and strengthen our affections, as they will find here supplied in the most direct way. The sad truth is that Israel was married to Jehovah, as the prophets remind the people (Isa. 54; Jer. 3), and their unfaithfulness is branded therefore, not like the N. T. Babylon as prostitution, but as adultery (so in Hosea 3 and elsewhere), however His grace may by-and-by deal with Israel not as a guilty widow but as a woman forsaken and a wife of youth.
Hence then the painstaking labour of the Holy Spirit both in the Psalms and the Canticles to lead the godly remnant into all exercises of heart, not only as saints, but in their proper relationship to Messiah. But hence too its necessary form for Zion, after so grievous a breach, for that renewal of blessedness, which was never truly known of old, and which will stand assuredly as long as the earth lasts, the results of which pass not away but abide when the new heavens and new earth are come in the full and final sense.
"On my bed, by night
I sought him whom my soul loveth;
I sought him, but I found him not.
I will rise now and go about the city;
In the streets and in the broad ways
I will seek him whom my soul loveth;
I sought him, but I found him not.
The watchmen that go about the city found me-
Have ye seen him whom my soul loveth ?-
Scarcely had I passed from them,
When I found him whom my soul loveth;
I held him and would not let him go,
Until I had brought him into my mother's house,
And into the chamber of her that conceived me.
I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That ye stir not up nor awake [my] love,
Until he please.
Who is this, that [fem.] cometh up out of the wilderness
Like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
With all powders of the merchant?
Behold his litter, Solomon's own:
Threescore mighty men are about it,
Of the mighty of Israel.
They all handle the sword, experts in war.
Each hath his sword on his thigh
Because of fear in the night.
King Solomon made himself a palanquin
Of the wood of Lebanon.
Its pillars he made of silver,
The base of gold, its seat of purple,
The midst of it being paved [with] love
By the daughters of Jerusalem.
Go forth, daughters of Zion,
And behold king Solomon
With the crown wherewith his mother crowned him
In the day of his espousals,
And in the day of the gladness of his heart" (vers. 1-11).
It was not the day, but in hours of darkness the Beloved was sought. The heart truly turned to Him. So the Lord had warned, Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah. And she must know herself better to value Him aright. It is not the lesson of heart which the church, the Christian, knows in Him come and fully revealed through accomplished redemption. Yet souls now often pass through similar vicissitudes, because they put themselves under law instead of knowing that we, having died with Christ, are justified from sin (as well as our sins), our old man crucified with Him that the body of sin might be annulled that we should no longer serve sin. Whence we, Christians, are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. But the godly Jews here in view are in no such peace. Even when, after passing from the watchmen to whom she appeals she does find the Beloved, we are not to conceive it more than anticipatively in the Spirit of prophecy, as with others of old. It is not to the church but to Israel that the Son is born (see Rev. 12)
But there is progress after the second charge; and the vision is seen of the earthly bride coming out of the wilderness on one side, and on the other a greater than the Solomon of old in the delight of His heart for the day of His espousals.
Israel, however, is the mother whether of the Bridegroom or of the bride: not the church, which is never set forth in that relation, but solely as the Lamb's bride. We do hear of Sarah as the free mother of the heirs of promise in contrast with the bondmaid Hagar gendering to bondage. But this is another order of thought, where the church as such does not enter. It was the catholic system which confounded the two and spoke of "our holy mother" the church; as the Roman Catholic went farther astray and made her not mother only but "mistress" in human vanity and pride.
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?
It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?
Behold his bed, which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.
They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.
He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.