Matthew Poole's 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.Christ commendeth his church for her beauty, Song of Solomon 4:1-7. He calleth her to go with him, Song of Solomon 4:8, manifesting his love and affection for her, Song of Solomon 4:9. A further commendation of her, Song of Solomon 4:10-15. She prayeth for the effectual operation of his Holy Spirit on her to make her fruitful, Song of Solomon 4:16.
These and the following words are evidently spoken by the Bridegroom to and concerning his spouse.
Thou art fair, not in thyself, but by my beauty, being clothed with my righteousness, and adorned with all the graces of my Spirit, which I acknowledge to be in thee.
Thou art fair; he repeats it, both to confirm the truth of his assertion, and to show the sincerity and fervency of his affection to her.
Thou hast dove’s eyes; thou art harmless, chaste, &c., as appears by thine eyes, which commonly discover the temper of the mind or person. See more of this phrase Song of Solomon 1:15. And whereas the beauty of the spouse is here described in her several parts, we need not labour much about the application of each particular to some distinct member or grace of the church, this being the chief design of this description of a bride which is beautiful in all points, to show that completeness and absolute perfection which the church hath in part received, and shall more fully receive from Christ in the future life. Yet because the church is a body, consisting of divers members, and enriched with variety of gifts and graces, I know no reason but the several parts of this description may have a more special regard to one or other of them. And so her eyes may here note, either,
1. Her teachers, who are instead of eyes to her, as the phrase is, Numbers 10:31, whence they are called seers and guides, &c. Or,
2. The disposition of her mind or heart, which is compared to the eye, Matthew 6:22,23, and is oft discerned in the eye.
Within thy locks; which being decently composed, make the eyes appear more amiable: withal this intimates the modesty of her looks; her eyes are not wanton, and wandering, or lofty, but sober, and humble, and confined within their proper bounds, looking directly upon her husband, not looking asquint upon other lovers, nor minding other Gods or Christs. If the eyes signify teachers, the locks may note the people assembled together to hear their teachers, to whom they are a great ornament when they thrive by his teaching.
Thy hair; the hair of thine head, which is a great ornament to the female sex, 1 Corinthians 11:15. This hair may signify either,
1. The inward thoughts and meditations; or rather,
2. The outward conversation and visible fruits of holiness, which do greatly adorn the professors and profession of religion, as hair doth the head, as is implied, 1 Timothy 2:9,10 1 Peter 3:3-5.
As a flock of goats; which are comely and orderly in going, Proverbs 30:29,31, and afford a goodly prospect. Or rather, as the hair (which word is here to be understood, as appears both from the comparison itself, and from divers places where goats are put for goats’ hair, as it is in the Hebrew text, Exodus 25:4 26:7 35:26) of a flock of goats, which in these parts was of extraordinary length, and thickness, and softness, and comeliness, and much more like to the hair of a man or woman than the hair of our goats is, as is evident both from Scripture, as Genesis 27:16 1 Samuel 19:13; and from the testimony of other ancient writers, as Apulcius, Martial, &c.
That appear from Mount Gilead; that feeding there, or coming down thence, or going up thither, show themselves evidently to those who stand below it, or near them. Or, as it is rendered in our margin, and by others, that eat, or graze of, or upon. He mentions it as a very fruitful place, and fit for the breeding of all sorts of cattle, as is manifest from Numbers 32:1 Jer 1 19 Mic 7:14; and especially of goats, partly because it was a hilly and woody, country, and partly because it abounded with resinous, and oily, and gummy trees, as appears from Genesis 37:25 Jeremiah 8:22 46:11, wherewith the goats are much delighted, as Dioscorides observes. And some affirm that the hair of these goats was commonly of a yellow colour, as may seem probable from 1 Samuel 19:13,16, compared with 1 Samuel 16:12, and from Song of Solomon 7:5; which also was in ancient times esteemed a beauty in men or women, as the learned know.
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.Thy teeth are like a flock, numerous, and placed in due order, of sheep; which is here fitly supplied out of Song of Solomon 6:6, where it is expressed.
Even shorn; smooth and even, as also clean and white, whereas unshorn sheep retain much filth in their wool, even after their washing.
Every one bear twins; which seems to note the two rows of teeth, like twins, one directly answering to the other; which is a great part of the beauty or comeliness belonging to the teeth. Nor let any wonder to hear of sheep bearing. twins; for that there were many such in the Eastern countries is apparent, not only from Holy Scripture, but also from the express testimony of Aristotle, and other ancient writers.
None is barren among them; not one tooth is lacking. By the teeth some understand the teachers, which may be compared to teeth, because they prepare, and as it were chew, spiritual food for the people, and to such teeth as are here described for their great number and excellent order, and for that purity and fruitfulness which is required of them. Others understand some gracious qualification or action of the faithful, either their faith, which is compared to eating, John 6:41, &c., and elsewhere; which also purifies the heart and life, and produceth good works in abundance; or their meditation or study of God, and of his word, whereby, like the clean beasts under the law, they chew the cud; which also much promotes their purity and fertility. But, as I said on the first verse, there is no need of a distinct application of every particular, as it is in parables, where many things are added for decency, which belong not to the main scope, and therefore are neglected in the interpretation of them. The scope of this place is only to set forth the church’s perfection and beauty by the resemblance of a beautiful woman, and one part of beauty consists in the colour and order of the teeth.
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.Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet; fine, and smooth, and soft, and round, and red, in which the beauty of the lips consisteth. Thy speech is comely; which is added, partly as another ingredient of an amiable person, and partly to explain the foregoing metaphor. The communication or discourse of believers is edifying, and comfortable, and acceptable to God and to serious men. Compare Psalm 45:2 Colossians 4:6. Thy temples; under which doubtless he comprehends the cheeks, which are joined to them, and in which a great part of beauty lies, which therefore would not have been omitted in this description.
Like a piece of a pomegranate; in which there is a lovely mixture of red and white. This may note both the church’s beauty and her modesty, which showeth itself by blushes in those parts when she hath fallen into any sin, as the highest believers in this world sometimes do.
Within thy locks; a further evidence both of beauty and modesty. See on Song of Solomon 4:1.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.Thy neck: this may seem to represent the grace of faith, by which we are united to Christ, as the body is to the head by the neck, and through which Christians receive their spiritual food, and consequently their strength and ability for action.
Is like the tower of David; round, and smooth, and white, long, and straight, and upright, firm, and strong; and moreover, adorned with chains of gold or pearl, or the like ornaments; all which things, as they set forth the beauty of the neck, so they may signify the various excellencies and uses of faith. By this tower he understands either,
1. The strong hold of Zion, of which see 2 Samuel 5:7. Or rather,
2. Some other tower built by David, when he repaired, and enlarged, and fortified his royal city, 1 Chronicles 11:8, and used by him as an armoury. See Nehemiah 3:19,25-27.
A thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men; either,
1. Such as are fit and reserved for the use of mighty men. Or,
2. Such as had been used either by themselves, or by their enemies, from whom they took them by force, and were hung up there as trophies or monuments of victory; which is added, to show that the church is not only beautiful and glorious, but also strong and victorious over all her enemies, and to intimate the great power and exploits of faith, of which read Hebrews 11, and which is compared to a shield, Ephesians 6:16.
A thousand is here put indefinitely for a great number.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.Thy two breasts; another part in which beauty consists, Ezekiel 16:7. By which some understand the two testaments, or the two sacraments; but these are rather Christ’s than the church’s breasts. Others, the church’s fervent love to Christ, and to all the saints, for the breasts signify love, Proverbs 5:9 Song of Solomon 1:13. Others, her fruitfulness, both in good works, and in bringing up children unto Christ, like a nurse with her breasts. But the following similitude seemeth not to respect the use of the breasts, or the love which is signified or manifested by them, but their comeliness. And therefore this is generally to be understood of the church’s beauty in all parts, as hath been said.
Among the lilies, i.e. in the fields where lilies grew, as is evident, both from Matthew 6:28, where they are called the lilies of the field, and from other scriptures, and from the testimony of other writers. The lilies being white and swelling, and the roes of a reddish colour, and their bodies being hid from sight by the lilies, their heads only appearing above them, bear some resemblance to the red nipples appearing in the top of the lily white breasts. But we must remember that this book is a sacred pastoral, and the Bridegroom is represented as a shepherd, and the bride as a country maid; and therefore such similitudes are used as are agreeable to persons of that quality, and such are usual in profane writers of this kind, as the learned have observed. They are compared to
roes for their loveliness, of which see Proverbs 5:19; to young ones for their smallness, which in breasts is a beauty; to twins for their exact likeness.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.Until the day break, and the shadows flee away: these words are uttered by the bride, Song of Solomon 2:17, and here returned by the Bridegroom, as an answer to that request. And this place may be understood either,
1. Of the day of the gospel, when all legal shadows shall vanish; or,
2. Of the day of glory, or of the general resurrection, when all manner of shadows and ordinances shall cease; till which time either the spouse feeds among lilies, as was now said, Song of Solomon 2:5, or the Bridegroom gets him to the mountains, &c., as it follows. For the words are by most joined with the foregoing, and by some with the following clause.
To the mountain of myrrh, and to the kill of frankincense; either,
1. To the temple at Jerusalem, which is oft and fitly expressed by the name of a mountain or hill, because it was built upon a mountain, and which may be called a mountain of myrrh and frankincense, because of the abundance of myrrh and frankincense which was there used and offered; in which place the church was to feed, and Christ would continue his presence, until the dawning of the gospel day. Or,
2. To my church upon earth, which was typified by the mountain of Moriah, and the temple upon it, and which in prophetical writings is called a mountain, as Isaiah 2:2,3 Mic 4:1,2, and elsewhere; and which may well be called
a mountain of myrrh and frankincense, both for the acceptable services which are there offered to God, and for the precious gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit, which are of a sweet-smelling savour to God and men, and which there, and there only, are poured forth. Thus Christ directs his bride, to wit, particular believers, where they may find and enjoy him, namely, in his church and ordinances.
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.Thou art all fair; it is needless to mention the several beauties of all thy parts, for, in one word, thou art wholly beautiful; and it may be said more truly of thee than it was of Absalom, 2 Samuel 14:25, that from the sole of thy foot to the crown of thy head there is no blemish in thee.
There is no spot in thee; which is not to be understood simply and absolutely, as if the people of God were really perfect, and free from all sin; but either,
1. Comparatively, no such spot or blemish as is in wicked men, or as is inconsistent with true grace, of which Moses speaks, Deu 32:5. Or,
2. In regard of God’s gracious acceptation, in which respect he is said not to behold iniquity in Jacob, Numbers 23:21. God doth not look upon them with a severe eye, as they are in themselves, but in and through Christ, in whom he accepts them as if they were perfect, partly because it is their chief design, desire, and endeavour to be so, and partly because Christ hath undertaken to make them so, Ephesians 5:25,27, and they shall one day be such.
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.Come with me unto the mountains of myrrh, &c., mentioned Song of Solomon 4:6,
from Lebanon, a known mountain in the north of Canaan, which is sometimes mentioned as a pleasant and glorious place, as Song of Solomon 5:15 Isaiah 35:2 Hosea 14:6, &c., in regard of its goodly cedars; and sometimes as a barren wilderness, as Isaiah 29:17, and seat of wild beasts, as 2 Kings 14:9, &c. Which latter sense seems more agreeable, both to the opposition which is here tacitly made between this mountain and the mountain of myrrh, and to the quality of the other mountains here joined with Lebanon, and to the last clause of the verse. My spouse; this is the first time that Christ gives her this name, which he now doth, both to encourage and oblige her to go with him. Look to the place to which I invite thee to go, which from those high mountains thou mayst easily behold, the sight of which will certainly inflame thee with desire to go thither. He alludes to Moses’s beholding the Promised Land from Mount Pisgah.
Amana; not that Amana which divided Syria from Cilicia, which was too remote from these parts, but another of that name, not far from Lebanon.
Hermon may be the names of two tops of the same mountain, as Horeb and Sinai seem to have been. Or, Shenir or (the copulative and being put disjunctively for or, as it is in many places, which have been observed before)
Hermon, for this mountain is called both Shenir and Hermon, Deu 3:9, and the latter name, Hermon, may be added to the former, as being better known to the Israelites.
From the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards; from these or other such-like mountains, which are inhabited by lions and leopards; which seems to be added as an argument to move the spouse to go with him, because the places where now she was were not only barren, but also dangerous, as being the habitations of tyrants and persecutors, and wild or savage people, who are oft described by the names of wild beasts, whose natures they have, and whose practices they imitate.
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.Thou hast ravished my heart; I am overcome with thy beauty, and therefore am so desirous of thy company.
My sister; so he calls her, partly because both he and she had one and the same father, to wit, God, yea, and mother too, being both at this time born in and of the commonwealth and church of Israel; and partly to show the greatness of his love to her, which is such, as cannot be sufficiently expressed by any one relation, but must borrow the perfections and affections of all to describe it.
With one of thine eyes; with one glance of one of thine eyes: by which phrase he intimates the modesty and humility of the church, which was ashamed or afraid to look fully and directly upon the Bridegroom with both her eyes; and withal alludes to the ancient custom of virgins, who used to cover their faces with a veil, and to look out only with one of their eyes for the direction of their steps. By this one eye he seems to mean that fundamental grace of faith, by which Christians look upon Christ, and discern his beauty, and which is precious in the sight of God and of Christ.
With one chain of thy neck; with one of those other graces and perfections wherewith thou art adorned. How then should I be ravished if thou didst discover both thine eyes, and thy whole countenance, and all thy excellent gifts and graces!
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!How fair, how amiable and acceptable to me, is thy love! I do not disdain thy love, as I might do, but take it kindly, and prize it highly.
How much better is thy love than wine! of which See Poole "Song of Solomon 1:2", See Poole "Song of Solomon 1:4".
Of thine ointments; of the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit, wherewith thou art anointed. Compare Isaiah 61:1 1Jo 2:20,27.
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.Thy lips drop as the honey-comb; thy speeches both to me in prayer and praises, and to men for their edification, are highly acceptable to me.
Honey and milk; words more sweet and comfortable than honey or milk.
Under thy tongue; by which phrase he may possibly intimate that her words were not uttered in hypocrisy, or with evil design, as many fair and smooth speeches are, but proceed from her very heart, which is under her tongue, as mischief is said to be under his tongue, Psalm 10:7, who devised it in his heart. The smell of thy garments; of that righteousness wherewith I have clothed and adorned thee. Christ and the graces of the Spirit are oft, compared to garments, as Romans 13:14 Ephesians 4:24 1 Peter 5:5.
The smell of Lebanon; which is also mentioned and commended Hosea 14:6, which must needs be very sweet and grateful in regard of the great numbers of sweet-smelling spices and trees which grew in that mountain.
A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.A garden, for order and beauty, for pleasant walks, and flowers, and fruits.
1. Defended by the care of my providence; or,
2. Reserved for my proper use. She will not admit of other lovers, either false teachers or worldly lusts, but keeps herself close for me. She is chaste, and pure, and modest, as virgins are or should be.
A spring; either,
1. For others, sending forth the wholesome streams of saving doctrine, for the refreshing, and healing, and cleansing of those who receive it. Or,
2. Within herself, being well watered, i.e. replenished with spiritual graces and blessings, which are frequently compared to waters, both in the Old and New Testament, as Isaiah 44:3 John 4:10 7:38, for which the church is compared to a watered garden, or a spring of water, Isaiah 58:11.
Shut up; either,
1. To preserve it from all pollution or injury; or,
2. To reserve it for the use and service of its owner, for which reason springs were shut up in those countries where water was scarce and precious, as Genesis 29:3.
A fountain sealed; the same thing is here repeated in other words.
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,Thy plants, the plants of thy garden, believers which are planted in thee,
are an orchard; are like the plants or fruits of an orchard, which are pleasant to the eye, and delicious to the taste or smell, such as are here mentioned in the following words; whereby he signifies the variety and excellency of gifts and graces in the several members of the church.
Spikenard; which he mentions both here with camphire or cypress, and in the next verse with saffron, because it is mixed with both these, and being so mixed, yieldeth the more grateful smell.
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:Trees of frankincense; such trees as produce frankincense. Or, as others, both ancient and modern, render it, trees of Lebanon; such sweet-smelling trees and plants as grew in Lebanon, of which See Poole "Song of Solomon 4:11".
A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.These are the words either,
1. Of the bride, who returns this answer to the Bridegroom. Thou callest me a fountain, but in truth thou only art that fountain from whence I derive all my streams of comfort; or rather,
2. Of the Bridegroom, who hath hitherto been speaking to and of the church, and still continues his speech. He seems to add this by way of correction to or exposition of what he said, Song of Solomon 1:12. Though my spouse be in some sort a fountain shut up or sealed, yet that is not so to be understood as if she kept her waters to herself, for she is like a fountain or well of living or running water, which floweth into gardens, and maketh tho flowers and plants to grow and flourish. The church conveyeth those waters of life which she receiveth from Christ unto particular believers and congregations.
Streams from Lebanon; like those sweet and refreshing rivers which flow down from Mount Lebanon, of which Jordan is one.
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.Awake; or, arise; either,
1. To be gone, as being commonly hurtful to plants and gardens; or rather,
2. To come, as the next clause explains it. For both the north wind and the south wind have their several uses in gardens; the former to purge and cool the air, and to bring fair weather; the latter to warm and moisten the earth, and cherish the plants. And these winds may signify the several dispensations either of God’s providence, or rather of his Spirit, which is compared to the wind, John 3:8, whereby the following effects are produced.
My garden: this verse is spoken; by the spouse, as appears from the last clause of it. And she calls the garden both hers and his, because of that oneness which is between them, Song of Solomon 2:16, whereby they have a common interest one in another’s person and concerns.
That the spices thereof may flow out; that my graces may be exercised to thy glory, the edification of others, and my own comfort.
Let my Beloved come into his garden, let Christ afford his gracious presence more and more to his church, and eat his pleasant fruit; and let him delight himself in that service and glory which is given to him, both by the religious worship and by the holy conversations of his people.