Song of Solomon 2:14
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.
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(14) O my dove . . . in the clefts of the rock.—The rock pigeon (Columba livia), the origin of the domestic races, invariably selects the lofty cliffs and deep ravines (comp. Jeremiah 48:28; Ezekiel 7:16) for its roosting places, and avoids the neighbourhood of men. The modesty and shyness of his beloved are thus prettily indicated by the poet. For the expression “clefts of the rock,” see Note, Obadiah 1:3.

The stairsi.e., steep places (comp. Ezekiel 38:20, margin), from root = to go up.

Song of Solomon 2:14. O my dove — So the church is called, for her dove-like temper, and for her dove-like condition, because she is weak, and exposed to persecution, and therefore forced to hide herself in rocks; in the secret places of the stairs — In the holes of craggy and broken rocks, which resemble stairs. Let me see thy countenance — Be not afraid to appear before me; let me hear thy voice — Thy prayers and praises. For sweet is thy voice, &c. — Thy person and services are amiable in my sight.

2:14-17 The church is Christ's dove; she returns to him, as her Noah. Christ is the Rock, in whom alone she can think herself safe, and find herself easy, as a dove in the hole of a rock, when struck at by the birds of prey. Christ calls her to come boldly to the throne of grace, having a great High Priest there, to tell what her request is. Speak freely, fear not a slight or a repulse. The voice of prayer is sweet and acceptable to God; those who are sanctified have the best comeliness. The first risings of sinful thoughts and desires, the beginnings of trifling pursuits which waste the time, trifling visits, small departures from truth, whatever would admit some conformity to the world; all these, and many more, are little foxes which must be removed. This is a charge to believers to mortify their sinful appetites and passions, which are as little foxes, that destroy their graces and comforts, and crush good beginnings. Whatever we find a hinderance to us in that which is good, we must put away. He feedeth among the lilies; this shows Christ's gracious presence among believers. He is kind to all his people. It becomes them to believe this, when under desertion and absence, and so to ward off temptations. The shadows of the Jewish dispensation were dispelled by the dawning of the gospel day. And a day of comfort will come after a night of desertion. Come over the mountains of Bether, the mountains that divide, looking forward to that day of light and love. Christ will come over every separating mountain to take us home to himself.The secret places of the stairs - A hidden nook approached by a zig-zag path. The beloved urges the bride to come forth from her rock-girt home.14. dove—here expressing endearment (Ps 74:19). Doves are noted for constant attachment; emblems, also, in their soft, plaintive note, of softened penitents (Isa 59:11; Eze 7:16); other points of likeness are their beauty; "their wings covered with silver and gold" (Ps 68:13), typifying the change in the converted; the dove-like spirit, breathed into the saint by the Holy Ghost, whose emblem is the dove; the messages of peace from God to sinful men, as Noah's dove, with the olive branch (Ge 8:11), intimated that the flood of wrath was past; timidity, fleeing with fear from sin and self to the cleft Rock of Ages (Isa 26:4, Margin; Ho 11:11); gregarious, flocking together to the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Isa 60:8); harmless simplicity (Mt 10:16).

clefts—the refuge of doves from storm and heat (Jer 48:28; see Jer 49:16). Gesenius translates the Hebrew from a different root, "the refuges." But see, for "clefts," Ex 33:18-23. It is only when we are in Christ Jesus that our "voice is sweet (in prayer, So 4:3, 11; Mt 10:20; Ga 4:6, because it is His voice in us; also in speaking of Him, Mal 3:16); and our countenance comely" (Ex 34:29; Ps 27:5; 71:3; Isa 33:16; 2Co 3:18).

stairs—(Eze 38:20, Margin), a steep rock, broken into stairs or terraces. It is in "secret places" and rugged scenes that Jesus Christ woos the soul from the world to Himself (Mic 2:10; 7:14). So Jacob amid the stones of Beth-el (Ge 28:11-19); Moses at Horeb (Ex 3:1-22); so Elijah (1Ki 19:9-13); Jesus Christ with the three disciples on a "high mountain apart," at the transfiguration (Mt 17:1); John in Patmos (Re 1:9). "Of the eight beatitudes, five have an afflicted condition for their subject. As long as the waters are on the earth, we dwell in the ark; but when the land is dry, the dove itself will be tempted to wander" [Jeremy Taylor]. Jesus Christ does not invite her to leave the rock, but in it (Himself), yet in holy freedom to lay aside the timorous spirit, look up boldly as accepted in Him, pray, praise, and confess Him (in contrast to her shrinking from being looked at, So 1:6), (Eph 6:19; Heb 13:15; 1Jo 4:18); still, though trembling, the voice and countenance of the soul in Jesus Christ are pleasant to Him. The Church found no cleft in the Sinaitic legal rock, though good in itself, wherein to hide; but in Jesus Christ stricken by God for us, as the rock smitten by Moses (Nu 20:11), there is a hiding-place (Isa 32:2). She praised His "voice" (So 2:8, 10); it is thus that her voice also, though tremulous, is "sweet" to Him here.

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.

O my dove,.... An epithet sometimes used by lovers (q), and is a new title Christ gives to his church, to express his affection for her and interest in her; and to draw her out of her retirement, to go along with him. The dove is a creature innocent and harmless, beautiful, cleanly, and chaste; sociable and fruitful, weak and timorous, of a mournful voice, and swift in flying; all which is suitable to the church and people of God: they are harmless and inoffensive in their lives and conversations; they are beautiful through the righteousness of Christ on them, and the grace of the Spirit in them; they are clean through the word Christ has spoken, and having their hearts purified by faith; they are as chaste virgins espoused to Christ, and their love to him is single and unfeigned; they cleave to him, are fruitful in grace and good works; and the church being espoused to Christ brings forth many souls unto him in regeneration; saints carry on a social worship and delight in each other's company; they are weak and timorous, being persecuted and oppressed by the men of the world; and mourn for their own sins and others, and often for the loss of Christ's presence; and are swift in flying to him for safety and protection. Under this character the church is said to be

in the clefts of the rock, the usual place where the dove makes its nest, Jeremiah 48:28; or retires to it for safety (r). Adrichomius says (s), there was a stone tower near Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of Olives, called "petra columbarum", "the rock of the doves", where often five thousand were kept at once, to which there may be an allusion here; or else it may have respect to the place where doves are forced to fly when pursued by the hawk, even into a hollow rock, as described by Homer (t); and may be expressive of the state of the church under persecution, when obliged to flee into holes and corners, and caves of the earth; when the Lord is a hiding place to her, in his love, and grace, and power; and particularly Christ is the Rock of his people, so called for height, strength, and duration, and they are the inhabitants of this Rock; and who was typified by the rock in the wilderness, and particularly by that into the clefts of which Moses was put, when the glory of the Lord passed before him: moreover, the clefts of this rock may design the wounds of Christ, which are opened for the salvation of men; and where saints dwell by faith, and are secure from every enemy (u). The Ethiopic version is, "in the shadow of the rock", to which Christ is compared, Isaiah 32:2; and so the Septuagint version, "in the covering of the rock", which is no other than the shade of it. Likewise the church is said to be

in the secret places of the stairs; Christ is the stairs or steps by which saints ascend up to God, have access to and communion with him; and the secret places may have respect to the justifying righteousness of Christ, and atonement by him, hidden to other men, but revealed to them; and whither in distress they betake themselves, and are sheltered from sin, law, hell, and death, and dwell in safety. Though as such places are dark and dusty, and whither the dove, or any other creature, may in danger betake itself, so upon the whole both this and the preceding clause may design the dark, uncomfortable, and solitary condition the church was in through fear of enemies; in which situation Christ addresses her, saying,

let me see thy countenance, or "face"; and encourages her to appear more publicly in, his house and courts for worship, and present herself before him, and look him full in the face, and with open face behold his glory, and not be shamefaced and fearful; not to be afraid of any thing, but come out of her lurking holes, and be seen abroad by himself and others, since the stormy weather was over, and everything was pleasant and agreeable;

let me hear thy voice; in prayer to him and praise of him, commending the glories and: excellencies of his person, and giving thanks to him for the blessings of his grace;

for sweet is thy voice; pleasant, harmonious, melodious, having a mixture of notes in it, as the word signifies; and so exceeds the voice of a natural dove, which is not very harmonious: Herodotus (w) makes mention of a dove that spoke with a human voice; and such a voice Christ's dove speaks with, and it is sweet; that is, pleasant and delightful to him, who loves to hear his people relate the gracious experiences of his goodness, and speak well of his truths and ordinances; prayer is sweet music to him, and praise pleases him better than all burnt offerings;

and thy countenance is comely; fair and beautiful, and therefore need not cover her face, or hang down her head, as if ashamed to be seen, since she was in the eye of Christ a perfection of beauty.

(q) "Mea columba", Plauti Casina, Acts 1. Sc. 1. v. 50. Doves were birds of Venus; her chariot was drawn by them, Chartar. de Imag. Deor. p. 218. Vid. Apulci Metamorph. l. 6. (r) "Quails spelunca subito commota columba, cui domus et dulces latebroso in pumice nidi", Virgil. Aeneid. 5. v. 213. (s) Theatrum Terrae S. p. 171. (t) Iliad. 21. v. 493, 494. (u) "In tegimento petrae", i.e. "tuta praesidio passionis meae et fidei munimento", Ambros. de Isaac, c. 4. p. 281. (w) Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 55.

O my dove, that art in the {h} 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.

(h) You who are ashamed of your sins, come and show yourself to me.

14. clefts of the rock] Rather, hiding places of the rock. The word chaghwç occurs only here and in the quotation from an older prophet which is found in Jeremiah 49:16 and Obadiah 1:3. There is no root known in Heb. from which the word can be derived, but its meaning is fixed by the Arab. hagan, ‘a place of refuge’ (cp. Oxf. Heb. Lex. s.v.), and this meaning is supported by the parallelism, for we have ‘secret place’ or ‘covert’ in the next clause.

in the secret places of the stairs] Better, as R.V., in the covert of the steep place. The word madhrçghâh occurs again Ezekiel 38:20 in the phrase “the steep places shall fall.” It probably has the same meaning here. Stairs rests entirely on the analogy of Arabic, and is here quite inappropriate. There is no necessary reference to the character of the place where the bride is. The wild dove chooses high and inaccessible rocks as its resting-place because of its shyness. The shyness and modesty of the bride is meant to be indicated. There may however be some reference to the fact that the lover cannot approach the place where she is.

let me see thy countenance] let me have sight of thee, for thy form is comely.

Verse 14. - O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the steep places, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. The wood pigeon builds in clefts of rocks and in steep rocky places (see Jeremiah 48:28; and cf. Psalm 74:19; Psalm 56:1; Hosea 7:11). The bridegroom is still addressing his beloved one, who has not yet come forth from the house in the rocks, though she has shown herself at the window. The language is highly poetical, and may be compared with similar words in Homer and Virgil (cf. 'Iliad.' 21:493; 'Aeneid.' 5:213, etc.). The Lord loveth the sight of his people. He delightcth in their songs and in their prayers. He is in the midst of their assemblies. Secret religion is not the highest religion. The highest emotions of the soul do not decrease in their power as they are expressed. They become more and more a ruling principle of life. There are many who need this encouragement to come forth out of secrecy, out of solitude, out of their own private home and individual thoughts, and realize the blessing of fellowship with the Lord and with his people. Song of Solomon 2:14Solomon further relates how he drew her to himself out of her retirement:

My dove in the clefts of the rock,

In the hiding-place of the cliff;

Let me see thy countenance,

Let me hear thy voice!

For thy voice is sweet and thy countenance comely.

"Dove" (for which Castellio, columbula, like vulticulum, voculam) is a name of endearment which Shulamith shares with the church of God, Psalm 74:19; cf. Psalm 56:1; Hosea 7:11. The wood-pigeon builds its nest in the clefts of the rocks and other steep rocky places, Jeremiah 48:28.

(Note: Wetstein's Reisebericht, p. 182: "If the Syrian wood-pigeon does not find a pigeon-tower, περιστερεῶνα, it builds its nest in the hollows of rocky precipices, or in the walls of deep and wide fountains." See also his Nord-arabien, p. 58: "A number of scarcely accessible mountains in Arabia are called alkunnat, a rock-nest.")

That Shulamith is thus here named, shows that, far removed from intercourse with the world, her home was among the mountains. חגוי, from חגו, or also חגוּ, requires a verb הגה equals (Arab.) khajja, findere. (סל, as a Himyar. lexicographer defines it, is a cleft into the mountains after the nature of a defile; with צוּר, only the ideas of inaccessibility and remoteness are connected; with סלע, those of a secure hiding-place, and, indeed, a convenient, pleasant residence. מדרגה is the stairs; here the rocky stairs, as the two chalk-cliffs on the Rgen, which sink perpendicularly to the sea, are called "Stubbenkammer," a corruption of the Slavonic Stupnhkamen, i.e., the Stair-Rock. "Let me see," said he, as he called upon her with enticing words, "thy countenance;" and adds this as a reason, "for thy countenance is lovely." The word מראיך, thus pointed, is sing.; the Jod Otians is the third root letter of ראי, retained only for the sake of the eye. It is incorrect to conclude from ashrēch, in Ecclesiastes 10:17, that the ech may be also the plur. suff., which it can as little be as êhu in Proverbs 29:18; in both cases the sing. ěshěr has substituted itself for ashrē. But, inversely, mǎraīch cannot be sing.; for the sing. is simply marēch. Also mǎrāv, Job 41:1, is not sing.: the sing. is marēhu, Job 4:16; Sol 5:15. On the other hand, the determination of such forms as מראינוּ, מראיהם, is difficult: these forms may be sing. as well as plur. In the passage before us, מראים is just such a non-numer. plur. as פנים. But while panīm is an extensive plur., as Bttcher calls it: the countenance, in its extension and the totality of its parts, - marīm, like marōth, vision, a stately term, Exodus 40:2 (vid., Deitrich's Abhand. p. 19), is an amplificative plur.: the countenance, on the side of its fulness of beauty and its overpowering impression.

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