Matthew Poole's Commentary
Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.An inquiry after Christ, Song of Solomon 6:1. The church’s answer, Song of Solomon 5:2. The church confesseth her faith in Christ, Song of Solomon 6:3. Christ showeth the graces of his church, Song of Solomon 6:4, and the beauty of several parts, Song of Solomon 6:5-10. He acquaints her where he had been, and what he had been doing, Song of Solomon 6:11; and discovers his affection to her, Song of Solomon 6:12; with an invitation of her to return to him again, Song of Solomon 6:13.
These are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, last mentioned, whom this full and pathetical description of the Bridegroom’s excellency had inflamed with love to him.
Whither is thy Beloved turned aside, to wit, from thee, as thy words imply, Song of Solomon 6:6,8; where dost thou use to look for him, and to find him, when thou hast lost him? O thou who art well acquainted with all the places both of his usual abode, and of his diversion, inform us who are ignorant of them. That we may seek him with thee; we ask not with any evil design, but only because we desire an interest in him.
My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.The spouse had hitherto been at a loss for her Beloved, but having diligently sought him, and inflamed both her own and others’ affections with love to him by her just commendations, now at last she meets with a gracious answer from God, directing her where to find him, which also comes very seasonably, not only for her own relief and comfort, but also for the benefit of others, who inquired after him. The
garden seems to signify the church catholic, and the gardens, as it follows here, as also the beds, may note the particular assemblies of the faithful, in which Christ affordeth his presence and his blessing.
Beds of spices; in which the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit, which are fitly compared to spices or aromatical flowers, do appear and grow.
To feed; to refresh and delight himself, or to gather the flowers and fruits of it, as men use to do in their gardens.
To gather lilies; which may note either,
1. Particular believers, whom Christ gathereth to himself in his church, who are compared to lilies, Song of Solomon 2:2. Or,
2. The prayers and praises tendered to him by his people in the public congregations, and all their gracious dispositions and actions.
I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.No text from Poole on this verse.
Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.Thou art beautiful, O my love: these are the words of Christ, who had now again manifested himself to his church; whereby he declares, that though he had for a season hid his face from her, yet still he retained a sincere and fervent affection to her, and that, notwithstanding her manifold infirmities, she was yet beautiful in his eyes.
Tirzah; a very pleasant city, as its very name signifies, and therefore made the royal seat of the kings of Israel; of which see 1 Kings 14:17 15:31,33 16:6, &c.
Comely as Jerusalem; which was beautiful, both for its situation, Psalm 48:2, and for its goodly buildings, especially the temple. See Lamentations 2:15.
1. To strangers, whom by her grave and, majestic looks and carriage she affrights from rude or bold attempts, whereas some women invite others to familiarity with them by their loose and wanton carriage. Or,
2. To her enemies, whom God will certainly destroy.
Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.Turn away thine eyes from me, for I can scarce bear the lustre of them. It is a poetical and amatorious expression, signifying how beautiful the church was in Christ’s eyes, and how passionately he loved her.
Thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead: this clause, and the whole following verse, are repeated from Song of Solomon 4:1,2. And this repetition is not vain nor absurd, but very agreeable to the nature of a pastoral and song of love, as being an effect and testimony of vehement affection, and besides it confirms what was said before, and showeth that the church’s miscarriages, and Christ’s desertion of her upon it, had not made him change his opinion of her, or affection to her.
Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them.No text from Poole on this verse.
As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.This is also repeated from Song of Solomon 4:3.
There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.Threescore queens, and fourscore concubines; a certain number for an uncertain. The sense seems to be this, There are many beautiful queens and concubines in the world, in the courts of princes, and particularly in Solomon’s court; but none of them is to be compared with my spouse, and my heart is set upon none of them, but only upon my spouse, as the following verse declareth. Or the queens and concubines may note the particular congregations which are called by Christ’s name, and the virgins may signify the particular believers or professors; all which do make up one catholic church, as it follows. See Poole "Psalm 45:10", See Poole "Psalm 45:14", See Poole "Psalm 45:15". Virgins; either,
1. Which wait upon the queens and concubines. Or,
2. Which were reserved as a nursery, out of which queens and concubines were to be taken.
My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.Is but one; the only beloved of my soul, my only spouse, in comparison of whom I despise all others.
She is the only one of her mother; of Jerusalem above, which is the mother of us all, Galatians 4:26. Or if this seem to confound the mother and daughter, the words may be thus rendered,
she is the only one of her mother, i.e. she is as dear and as precious to me as only children use to be to their parents, and especially to their mothers. So there is only a defect of the note of similitude, which is frequently understood, as hath been formerly noted and proved by undeniable instances.
Daughters, called virgins, Song of Solomon 6:8.
They praised her; as more beautiful and worthy than themselves, which was so evident that they were forced to confess it.
Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?These are the words, either,
1. Of the Bridegroom; or,
2. of the queens and concubines last mentioned, as praising of her. And they are either words of inquiry, or rather of admiration and commendation:
Who, i.e. what manner of person, is this? how excellent and glorious! and so this pronoun who is understood Psalm 24:8 Mark 4:41, compared with Matthew 8:27.
As the morning; as the morning light, which coming after the darkness of the night is very pleasant and amiable, which also suddenly spreadeth itself from the east to the west.
Fair as the moon, to wit, when it is full and walking in brightness, as the phrase is, Job 31:26. But withal he seems to intimate that the church, like the moon, may have her eclipse, and be in darkness for a time.
Clear as the sun; without any such spots or dark specks as are in the moon; which is to be understood in the same sense that she is said to be without spot, or wrinkle, or blemish, Ephesians 5:27, which she is partly by God’s gracious acceptation of her as such in Christ, and through his righteousness; and partly because she shall be such in the future life.
Terrible as an army with banners: see Song of Solomon 6:4.
I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.I went down, to wit, when I went away from thee. So this is an account of the reason of his former departure from her. Or, I am come down to visit thee, my garden, Song of Solomon 4:12. Either way these are the words of the Bridegroom.
Into the garden of nuts; in which nuts and other fruits are planted. By nuts may be meant, either,
1. Ordinary nuts; and so this is supposed to intimate the mean and contemptible condition of the church in her outward estate, and that her sweetness is all inward and spiritual. Or,
2. Aromatical nuts, to wit, nutmegs; and so this notes how acceptable the church and her productions are to Christ.
The valley; which being low, and well watered, is most fruitful.
To see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded; what beginnings or appearances there were of good fruits or works among believers; whether their practices answered their professions.
Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.Or ever I was aware; I was surprised with a sudden and vehement desire of enjoying my spouse; which is to be understood figuratively, and so as to agree with the majesty and omnisciency of Christ.
My soul made me; I made myself; which may signify Christ’s activity in stirring up his affections to the church: or, I was made; for the active phrase is oft understood passively, and the soul is commonly put for the person.
Like the chariots of Ammi-nadib; eager in my desire and swift in my motion towards the church. Ammi-nadib is supposed to be some eminent charioteer then well known, and famous for his speed in driving chariots. But this clause with the former is otherwise rendered, both in the margin and by others, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew words, my soul set me on the chariots of my willing (or, as others, noble or princely) people, i.e. which mine and the bride’s friends had prepared to bring me to the bride with more expedition, into which I ascended with all my soul, as longing to come to my bride.
Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.Return: Christ recalls his spouse, who as when Christ was gone she pursued after him, so now when Christ was coming or come to her, she was ready to wander and go astray from him, according to the common and corrupt disposition and custom of mankind; and therefore he seeks to stop or to reclaim her, and to oblige her to return to her first love, and to repent more thoroughly than she had yet done. Return: this word is here repeated four times, to signify both Christ’s passionate love to her, and earnest desire of her return, and her backwardness to it, which made so many calls necessary.
Shulamite: this title signifies either,
1. One born in or belonging to Jerusalem, called also Salem, Psalm 76:2. Or,
2. The wife of Solomon, thus called after her husband’s name: see Isaiah 4:1. And as Christ is called by the name of Solomon, Song of Solomon 3:7,9,11, so the church is fitly described by the title of Solomon’s wife.
That we may look upon thee; that I and my companions and friends may contemplate thy beauty.
What will ye see? but what do you my friends expect to discover in her? Christ proposeth the question, that he may give the following answer, and that they should take special notice of this as a very remarkable thing in her.
The company, whereby he intimates that this one and only spouse was made up of the whole multitude of believers, of two armies; either,
1. Opposite one against the other; and so this may note the conflict between the flesh and Spirit which is in all the faithful in this life. Or,
2. Confederate together; and so this may signify either,
1. The re-collection and union of Jews and Gentiles which shall one
day be under Christ as their common Head, Ephesians 2:15. Or,
2. The safety and strength of the church, which is compared to an army
with banners, above, Song of Solomon 6:4,10, and here to a numerous host distributed into two armies; wherein also there may be an allusion to that story, Genesis 32:1, where this very word, here rendered two armies, is used.