Matthew Poole's Commentary
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.The excellency of the majesty of Christ, Song of Solomon 2:1, and of his church, Song of Solomon 2:2. The benefits which the church receives from him, Song of Solomon 2:3. Christ’s love to his church, Song of Solomon 2:4. The church sick of love; her prayer for help, Song of Solomon 2:5. His ears for her in this condition, Song of Solomon 2:6. The hope and calling of the church, Song of Solomon 2:10-13. Christ’s care of the church, Song of Solomon 2:14,15. The profession of the church; her faith and hope, Song of Solomon 2:16,17.
These are the words either,
1. Of the spouse, continuing her discourse. Or rather,
2. Of the bridegroom, drawing forth the church’s affections to him. He compares himself to the rose and lily, for fragrancy and beauty. Nor is it in the least degree indecent that Christ should thus commend himself, partly because his excellency is so transcendently great, that he is free from all suspicion of vanity and self-flattery; and partly because it is suitable to the style of such writings, and to the present design of recommending himself to the affection of his spouse. He mentions the rose of Sharon, which was a very fruitful place, as is evident from 1 Chronicles 27:29 Isaiah 33:9 65:10, and famous for roses, as may seem probable from Isaiah 35:1,2. Or, as others translate it, the rose of the field, which may note that Christ is not only pleasant and beautiful, but free and communicative, offering himself to all that come to him. The
lily is a beautiful and glorious creature, Matthew 6:29, especially to one who beholds it through a magnifying glass. He saith,
the lily of the valleys, because they grew and flourished best in such low and waterish grounds.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.As the lily among thorns; compared with thorns, which it unspeakably exceeds in glory and beauty;
so is my love among the daughters; so far, and much more, doth my church or people excel all other assemblies or people. The title of daughter is oft given to whole nations; whence we read of the daughter of Babylon, and of Egypt, and of Edom, &c., Isaiah 47:1 Jeremiah 46:11 Lamentations 4:21. These are Christ’s words, to which the spouse makes the following reply. And it is observable here, that as Christ is here represented as a shepherd, and the spouse as a country virgin, so the similitudes here used are agreeable to that estate.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.As the apple tree, whose fruit is very pleasant and wholesome,
among the trees of the wood, which are either barren, or bear ungrateful and worthless fruit.
I sat down under his shadow; being weary and heavy laden with manifold sins and troubles, inward and outward, I confidently reposed myself under his protection, (which is commonly signified by a shadow, as Isaiah 4:6 25:4, &c.,) and by him was defended from the scorching heat of God’s wrath and from the curse of his fiery law, and from the mischief or hurt of all sorts of distresses. His fruit; the benefits which I received by him, the clear, and full, and certain knowledge of God’s will, and the way of salvation, adoption, and remission of sins, faith and repentance, and all manner of grace, and assurance of glory. Thus he was to me both a sun and a shield, as is said, Psalm 84:11.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.Banqueting-house, Heb. house of wine, or, by a common synecdoche, of feasting. By which he understands the places in which, or the means and instruments by which, believers receive the graces and blessings of Christ, to wit, the Holy Scriptures, ministers, and public assemblies, and all Christ’s institutions.
His banner over me; or, to or towards me; by the lifting up or displaying whereof I was invited and encouraged to come in to him, and to list myself under him, as soldiers are by the lifting up of a banner or ensign, of which see Isaiah 11:10 49:22.
Was love; the love of Christ crucified, which, like a banner, is displayed in the gospel, whereby sinners are drawn and engaged to come to Christ: see John 3:14 12:32 2 Corinthians 5:14. The motto or device of Christ’s banner was not like those of other great generals, a lion, or leopard, or eagle, but love, by which alone Christ made all his conquests.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.Stay me; or, support me; keep me from sinking or fainting. The spouse speaks this to her bridemaids, the daughters of Jerusalem, as it is expressed, Song of Solomon 2:7, or to the servants or friends of the Bridegroom there waiting, and to the Bridegroom himself; as a person ready to faint cries to any or all that are near to him or her for help.
With flagons; with wine, which is a good cordial, Psalm 104:15 Proverbs 31:6,7, and which was there present, Song of Solomon 2:4. Flagons are here, and 1 Chronicles 16:3, put for flagons of wine, as it is fully expressed, Hosea 3:1, or for the wine contained in them, as the cup is put for wine, Luke 22:20, by a common metonymy.
Comfort me with apples; with odoriferous apples, such as pomegranates, or the like, the smell whereof was grateful and useful to persons ready to faint. By these metaphors understand the application of the promises, and the comfortable and quickening influences of the Spirit.
I am sick of love; either,
1. With transports of joy, which sometimes causes a fainting of the spirits, as Genesis 45:26 1 Kings 10:5. Or,
2. With grief for his departure from her, of which we read Song of Solomon 3:1,2, or for fear of it. Or rather,
3. With ardent desire of a stricter union, and clearer discoveries of his love, and perfect and uninterrupted communion with him in glory. That sickness is sometimes the effect of love hath been oft observed by physicians.
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.Is under my head, as a pillow for me to rest upon. No sooner did I cry out for help, but he was at hand to succour me, and did manifest his tender care and dear love to 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.This verse is spoken either,
1. By the Bridegroom, who having reposed the sick church in his arms, chargeth them not to disturb her till she please, as the last clause in this case must be rendered. Or rather,
2. By the bride, as may be gathered,
1. From the connexion, because both the foregoing and following words are hers.
2. Because it was more decent for the bride than for the Bridegroom to give this charge to the bridemaids,
the daughters of Jerusalem; and therefore in all places in this book where they are mentioned the person speaking to them is the bride, and not the Bridegroom, and particularly Song of Solomon 3:5 8:4, where this verse is repeated, and is confessedly and evidently spoken by the spouse. Daughters of Jerusalem; my bridemaids, friends, and members, over whom I have authority.
By the hinds; either,
1. By the kindness you have to those pretty and amiable creatures, as
you would not injure nor disturb them, nor drive them away, but please yourselves with the sight of them, as shepherds and country damsels commonly do. Or,
2. By the example of those creatures, which are pleasant and loving in
their carriage towards one another. Of the field; which have their usual abode in the fields. That ye stir not up, nor awake; that you do not disturb nor offend him by your miscarriages, but permit him and me to enjoy a quiet repose. Do nothing to grieve him, or molest me. My love; my dearly beloved, called love emphatically, to express her great passion for him. So love is used Song of Solomon 7:6, and in other authors. Till he please, i.e. never, as this word until, in such like phrases, is commonly used, as Genesis 28:15 2 Samuel 6:23 Isaiah 22:14. For neither can sin ever please him, nor can the church bear it that Christ should ever be offended, or that her sweet fellowship with him should be interrupted.
The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.The voice of my Beloved! methinks I hear his voice. The spouse being now refreshed and revived with Christ’s presence, awakes out of sleep, and breaks forth into this joyful exclamation. Christ’s voice is nothing else but the word of grace revealed outwardly in the gospel, or the evangelical passages of the Old Testament, and inwardly to the heart of the spouse by the Spirit of God.
Behold, he cometh; either,
1. He is coming, or will shortly come, into the world; which Solomon and the rest of the Old Testament prophets and saints did earnestly desire and confidently expect. Or,
2. He is coming to me for my support and comfort.
Leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills; he saith leaping and skipping, to note that Christ came readily and swiftly, with great desire and pleasure; and he adds,
upon the mountains and hills, either with respect to Mount Zion or Jerusalem, in and from which Christ first discovered himself; or to signify Christ’s fixed resolution to come, in spite of all discouragements and difficulties which stood in his way; or to show that his coming was manifest and visible to the eye of her faith. Or in this phrase he may have a respect to the roes and harts here following.
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.Like a roe or a young hart; either,
1. In loveliness. Or rather,
2. In swiftness, by comparing this verse with the former. The swiftness of roes is noted 2 Samuel 2:18 1 Chronicles 12:8. He is coming to me with all speed, and will not tarry a moment beyond the appointed and proper season.
He standeth behind our wall; and whilst he doth for wise and just reasons forbear to come, he is not far from us. Though he be not yet come into the door of our house, yet he stands behind the wall of our house, and is always at hand, to give me that succour and comfort which I do or may need or desire. Both this and the following phrases seem to note the obscure and imperfect manner and degree of Christ’s manifesting himself to his people, either,
1. Under the law, in comparison of his discoveries in the gospel. Or,
2. In this life, in comparison of what he will do in the future life.
He looketh forth, from his high and heavenly palace, towards me, to watch over me, and refresh me with the prospect of his favour.
At the window: this phrase, and that,
through the lattice, intimate that the church doth indeed see Christ, but, as through a glass, darkly, as it is said even of gospel revelations, 1 Corinthians 13:12, and was much more true of legal administrations.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.My Beloved spake; invited and called me outwardly by his word, and inwardly by his Spirit.
Rise up; shake off sloth and security, and disentangle thyself more fully from all the snares of this world, and of thy own lusts, that thou mayst be more ready to come to me, and more fit for my embraces.
Come away unto me, and with me; follow me fully, serve me more perfectly, labour for a nearer union and more satisfying communion with me.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;The winter; which made the ways in some sort unpassable, and so might seem to hinder or affright thee from coming to me. This
winter, and the following
rain, may be understood either,
1. Of worldly tribulations, which he intimates to be past and gone, to wit, so far that they shall not destroy nor hurt the church, but, on the contrary, do her much good, both by multiplying her members, and increasing her graces; and promoting her eternal happiness. Or rather,
2. Of spiritual troubles arising in the minds and consciences of sinners, from a deep sense of the guilt of sin, the justice and wrath of God, the sentence and curse of the law; all which made them afraid to come unto God, and desirous, if possible, to run away from him. But, saith Christ, I have removed this great impediment, God is ready to be reconciled, and therefore cast off all discouragements and excuses, and come unto me.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;The flowers appear on the earth: this and the following clauses are here alleged as evidences of the spring time, which in the mystical and principal sense seems to signify the day of grace, or the glad tidings of salvation proposed to sinners in the time of the law, by types, and shadows, and promises, but much more clearly and fully in the gospel, and all the discoveries and communications of God’s grace to mankind in holy ordinances, in the gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit, vouchsafed unto and appearing in believers, as buds and blossoms do in the spring time.
The time of the singing of birds; when birds sing most freely and sweetly, as they do in the spring. Or, as the ancient translator’s render it, of cutting or cropping, not trees, which agrees not with that season, but the flowers, last mentioned, for nosegays, or other uses.
The turtle; which changeth its place according to the season, as is observed. Jeremiah 8:7, and by all other writers, who affirm that it disappears in winter, and appears in the spring, as some other birds also do; but this seems particularly to be mentioned, because it doth not only give notice of the spring, but also doth aptly represent the Spirit of God, which even the Chaldee paraphrast understands by this turtle, which appeared in the shape of a dove, and which worketh a dove-like meekness, and chastity, and faithfulness in believers.
In our land; in Immanuel’s land, as Canaan is called, Isaiah 8:8, in the church.
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.Green figs; which it shooteth forth as soon as it doth leaves, in the spring time, Matthew 24:32.
A good smell; which, though not strong, is pleasant and grateful, and given by it in the progress of the spring.
Come away: these words are here repeated, to show both the church’s infirmity and indisposition, which needs so many calls and arguments to press so necessary and advantageous a duty; and Christ’s tender compassion to her weakness, and fervent desire of converse with her.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.My dove; so the church is called, partly for her dove-like temper and disposition, because she is chaste, and mild, and harmless, &c.; and partly for her dove-like condition, because she is weak, and exposed to persecution, and given to mourning, as doves are, Isaiah 38:14 59:11 Ezekiel 7:16, and subject to many fears, and therefore forced to hide herself in rocks, as it follows, in the clefts of the rock; where she hid herself, either,
1. For fear of her enemies, whom to avoid she puts herself into the protection of the Almighty. Or,
2. Out of modesty, and a humble sense of her own deformities and, infirmities, which makes her endeavour to hide herself even from her Beloved, as ashamed to appear, in his presence, which is frequently the case of God’s people, especially after falls into sin. And this sense seems to be favoured by the following words, in which Christ relieveth her against such discouraging thoughts.
In the secret places of the stairs; in the holes of craggy and broken rocks, which resemble stairs. So the same thing is here repeated in other words.
Let me see thy countenance; be not afraid nor ashamed to appear before me; come boldly into my presence, and acquaint thyself with me.
Thy voice; thy prayers and praises.
Sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely; thy person and services are accepted by me, and are amiable in my sight.
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.The Bridegroom gives this charge to his bridemen or friends, whose office it is to attend upon him, and to observe his commands; by whom he understands those magistrates and ministers to whom, under Christ, the custody of the vineyards, to wit, the churches, principally belong. These he commands to take the
foxes, i.e. to restrain them from doing this mischief.
Us, Heb. for us, i.e. at our instance, and for our common good, as this spoiling of the vines was injurious and grievous to them both.
The foxes; the disturbers of the vineyard, or the church; seducers or false teachers, who are fitly compared to foxes here, and Ezekiel 13:4, partly to distinguish them from great tyrants and persecutors, who are compared to wild boars, or other wild beasts, Psalm 80:13, as to lions, 2 Timothy 4:17; and partly for their fox-like qualities and actions, because they are very crafty and deceitful, 2 Corinthians 11:13,14 Eph 4:14, and very mischievous also, Ezekiel 34:2,3 2 Timothy 4:17 Titus 1:10,11 2 Peter 2:2. He mentions foxes, because these abounded in that country, as is manifest from Judges 15:4 Psalm 63:10 Lamentations 5:18, &c., but under them he comprehends all noxious creatures, upon the same reason.
The little foxes: this he adds, not as if the great foxes were excused or exempted, but for more abundant caution, to teach the church to prevent errors and heresies in the beginnings of them, before they spread and grow strong and incurable.
That spoil the vines, which foxes do many ways, as those who write of them have observed, by gnawing and breaking the little branches and leaves, and the bark, by digging holes in the vineyards, and so spoiling the roots, by eating the grapes, and other ways.
Have tender grapes; which gives us hopes of a good vintage, and which are easily spoiled, if great care be not used to prevent it.
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.My Beloved is mine, and I am his: these are the words of the bride, who having come to him upon his gracious invitation, now maketh her boast of him, and of that intimate union and communion which was between them.
He feedeth among the lilies; either,
1. He feedeth his flock in sweet and lovely pastures, where there is not only herbage to feed them, but lilies to delight them. Or rather,
2. He feedeth himself, i.e. he abideth and refresheth himself amongst his faithful people, which are compared to lilies, above, Song of Solomon 2:2, and Hosea 14:5, as Christ also is here, Song of Solomon 2:1.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.Until the day break, and the shadows flee away; until the morning of that great and blessed day of the general resurrection and judgment, when all the shadows, not only of ignorance, and sin, and calamity, but even of all ordinances and outward administrations, shall cease, and make way for the immediate enjoyment of my Beloved. And this clause may be joined either,
1. With the foregoing words; and so the sense is, Christ doth and will abide with his church as long as this life and world lasts; which agrees with Christ’s promises of being with his church to the end of the world, Matthew 28:20. But neither that nor this place imply that Christ will then forsake his people, but only secures God’s people against that which was the chief, if not only, matter of their fear, to wit, lest Christ should leave them, and cast them off in this life, which, if he did not, they were assured that hereafter they should be
ever with the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. For it is well known, and hath been oft observed already, that the word until doth not always exclude the time to come. Or,
2. With the following words,
Turn thou, my Beloved, until the day break, & c.
Turn; return to me. For although Christ had come to her, and she had gladly received and embraced him, yet he was gone again, as is here implied, and evidently appears from the next following verse; which sudden change is very agreeable both to the nature and method of such dramatical writings and amatorious transactions, and to the state of God’s people in this world, where they are subject to frequent changes and vicissitudes of Christ’s withdrawing from them, and returning to them again.
Like a roe or a young hart, in swiftness; make haste to help me, for I am ready to faint.
Bether; a place in the Land of Promise, possibly the same called Bithron, 2 Samuel 2:29, where it seems those creatures were in great abundance, or where they were commonly hunted, and so being pursued, they made all possible haste to escape.