Song of Solomon 3:6
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?
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(6) Who is this that cometh.—The dramatic feeling is decidedly shown in the passage introduced by this verse, but we still regard it as a scene passing only in the theatre of the fancy, introduced by the poet in his Epithalamium, partly from his sympathy with all newly-wedded people, partly (as Song of Solomon 8:11) to contrast the simplicity of his own espousals, of which all the joy centred in true love, with the pomp and magnificence of a royal marriage, which was a State ceremony.

Wilderness.—Heb., midbar. The idea is that of a wide open space, with or without pasture: the country of nomads, as distinguished from that of a settled population. With the article (as here) generally of the desert of Arabia, but also of the tracts of country on the frontiers of Palestine (Joshua 8:16; Judges 1:16; comp. Matthew 3:1, &c). Here = the country.

Like pillars of smoke.—The custom of heading a cortege with incense is both very ancient and very general in the East: probably a relic of religious ceremonials where gods were carried in processions. For Frankincense, see Exodus 30:34.

Song of Solomon 3:6. Who is this, &c. — The persons speaking seem to be the daughters of Jerusalem, who, upon occasion of the bride’s speech to them, make this reply. The person spoken of is the spouse: that cometh out of the wilderness — Believers were to be called, not only out of the holy land, which was as the garden of God, but also out of the Gentile world, which, in prophetical writings, is frequently described under the notion of a wilderness: like pillars of smoke — Being conducted out of the wilderness as by a pillar of smoke going before them, as the Israelites were led through the wilderness to Canaan, by a pillar of cloud and fire: perfumed with myrrh — The spouse is said to be thus perfumed, for her excellent virtues and religious services, which are pleasant and acceptable to God, and for the merits and graces of Christ, which are a sweet savour to God, wherewith she is enriched and beautified: with all the powders of the merchants — Which are fetched by the merchants from Arabia, or other remote parts.

3:6-11 A wilderness is an emblem of the world; the believer comes out of it when he is delivered from the love of its sinful pleasures and pursuits, and refuses to comply with its customs and fashions, to seek happiness in communion with the Saviour. A poor soul shall come up, at last, under the conduct of the Comforter; like a cloud of incense ascending from the altar, or the smoke of the burnt-offerings. This signifies pious and devout affections, and the mounting of the soul heaven-ward. The believer is filled with the graces of God's Spirit; his devotions now are very lively. These graces and comforts are from the heavenly Canaan. He, who is the Peace of his people, the King of the heavenly Zion, has provided for the safe conveyance of his redeemed through the wilderness of this world. The bed, or palanquin, was contrived for rest and easy conveyance, but its beauty and magnificence showed the quality of its owner. The church is well guarded; more are with her than are against her: believers, when they repose in Christ, and with him, though they have their fears in the night, are yet safe. The chariot here denotes the covenant of redemption, the way of our salvation. This is that work of Christ, which makes him loved and admired in the eyes of believers. It is framed and contrived, both for the glory of Christ, and for the comfort of believers; it is well ordered in all things and sure. The blood of the covenant, that rich purple, is the cover of this chariot, by which believers are sheltered from the wind and storms of Divine wrath, and the troubles of this world; but the midst of it is that love of Christ which passes knowledge, this is for believers to repose upon. Christ, in his gospel, manifests himself. Take special notice of his crown. Applying this to Christ, it speaks the honour put upon him, and his power and dominion.The principal and central action of the Song; the bride's entry into the city of David, and her marriage there with the king. Jewish interpreters regard this part of the poem as symbolizing the "first" entrance of the Church of the Old Testament into the land of promise, and her spiritual espousals, and communion with the King of kings, through the erection of Solomon's Temple and the institution of its acceptable worship. Christian fathers, in a like spirit, make most things here refer to the espousals of the Church with Christ in the Passion and Resurrection, or the communion of Christian souls with Him in meditation thereon.

Songs 3:6-11

Two or more citizens of Jerusalem, or the chorus of youths, companions of the bridegroom, describe the magnificent appearance of the bride borne in a royal litter, and then that of the king in festive joy wearing a nuptial crown.

Songs 3:6

"wilderness" is here pasture-land in contrast with the cultivated districts and garden-enclosures round the city. Compare Jeremiah 23:10; Joel 2:22; Isaiah 42:11; Psalm 65:12.

Pillars of smoke - Here an image of delight and pleasure. Frankincense and other perfumes are burned in such abundance round the bridal equipage that the whole procession appears from the distance to be one of moving wreaths and columns of smoke.

All powders of the merchant - Every kind of spice forming an article of commerce.

6. New scene (So 3:6-11). The friends of the Bridegroom see a cortege approach. His palanquin and guard.

cometh out—rather, "up from"; the wilderness was lower than Jerusalem [Maurer].

pillars of smoke—from the perfumes burned around Him and His bride. Image from Israel and the tabernacle (answering to "bed," So 3:7) marching through the desert with the pillar of smoke by day and fire by night (Ex 14:20), and the pillars of smoke ascending from the altars of incense and of atonement; so Jesus Christ's righteousness, atonement, and ever-living intercession. Balaam, the last representative of patriarchism, was required to curse the Jewish Church, just as it afterwards would not succumb to Christianity without a struggle (Nu 22:41), but he had to bless in language like that here (Nu 24:5, 6). Angels too joyfully ask the same question, when Jesus Christ with the tabernacle of His body (answering to "His bed," So 3:7; Joh 1:14, "dwelt," Greek "tabernacled," Joh 2:21) ascends into heaven (Ps 24:8-10); also when they see His glorious bride with Him (Ps 68:18; Re 7:13-17). Encouragement to her; amid the darkest trials (So 3:1), she is still on the road to glory (So 3:11) in a palanquin "paved with love" (So 3:10); she is now in soul spiritually "coming," exhaling the sweet graces, faith, love, joy, peace, prayer, and praise; (the fire is lighted within, the "smoke" is seen without, Ac 4:13); it is in the desert of trial (So 3:1-3) she gets them; she is the "merchant" buying from Jesus Christ without money or price (Isa 55:1; Re 3:18); just as myrrh and frankincense are got, not in Egypt, but in the Arabian sands and the mountains of Palestine. Hereafter she shall "come" (So 3:6, 11) in a glorified body, too (Php 3:21). Historically, Jesus Christ returning from the wilderness, full of the Holy Ghost (Lu 4:1, 14). The same, "Who is this," &c. (Isa 63:1, 5).

Who is this? the persons speaking seem to be the daughters of Jerusalem, who, upon occasion of the bride’s speech to them, make this reply; or the friends of the Bridegroom. The person spoken of is the spouse or bride.

That cometh out of the wilderness; from the country, which, in comparison of cities, is oft called a wilderness, as Isaiah 42:11 Luke 1:80 3:2, and elsewhere, from whence we little expected to see so beautiful and glorious a bride to come, such persons being usually bred in courts or noble cities. This phrase implies that believers were, and were to be, called out of the world, which for its barrenness, and disorder, and replenishment with wild beasts, may fitly be compared to a wilderness; and not only out of the Holy Land, which was as the garden of God, but also out of the Gentile world, which in prophetical writings is frequently described under the notion of a

wilderness, as Isaiah 35:1 43:19,20. Withal he seems to allude to the people of Israel, which to the wonder and astonishment of all those parts came up out of the wilderness into Canaan.

Pillars of smoke; to which the church may not unfitly be compared, partly for its excellent order and comely proportions; partly, for its direct and constant motion towards heaven; and partly, to imply that though she was really and inwardly glorious, yet she was outwardly obscure and despicable in the eyes of the world. Possibly the words may rendered thus, as with (which particle is very frequently understood, as hath been showed in divers foregoing texts)

pillars, or a pillar, (for the plural number is oft put for the singular,)

of smoke. And so the sense may be either,

1. Being conducted out of the wilderness as by a pillar of smoke going before them, as the Israelites were led through the wilderness to Canaan by a pillar of cloud and fire, Exodus 13:21,22. Or rather,

2. Attended with many prayers and praises, and other holy performances, which are perpetually ascending from her and offered by her unto God. So he alludes to those pillars of smoke which all the day long ascended from those numerous sacrifices which were offered in the temple, which also was a type of the prayers of the saints offered by Christ unto his Father, as may be gathered from Revelation 8:3-5. But this I only propose.

Perfumed: this doth not belong to the pillars, as appears by the difference of the numbers in the Hebrew words, the pillars being plural, and this word singular; but to the person, to wit, the spouse, who is said to be thus perfumed, partly, for her good name or renown, which is compared to perfumes, Ecclesiastes 7:1; partly, for her excellent virtues and religious services, which are pleasant and acceptable to God, and to angels, and to men; and partly, for the merits and graces of Christ, which are a sweet savour to God, Ephesians 5:2, and wherewith she is enriched and beautified.

Powders of the merchant; which are fetched by the merchants from Arabia, or other remote parts of the world, for the use of perfuming.

Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness,.... This is said by the daughters of Jerusalem, adjured in Sol 3:5; who, upon the happy meeting of Christ and his church, saw a greater glory and beauty in her than they had seen before; and therefore put this question, not as ignorant of her, but as admiring at her. By the wilderness she is said to "come out" of is meant either a state of nature, as Theodoret; in which all the elect of God are before conversion, and out of which they are brought by efficacious grace; called a wilderness, because of the barrenness and unfruitfulness of persons in such a state; and because of the perplexed ways and tracks in it, which bewilder a man that he knows not which to take; and because of the want of spiritual provisions in it; and because of the danger men are exposed unto through holes and pits, and beasts of prey: in such a state God finds his people, convinces them of it, and brings them out of it; which is an instance of surprising and distinguishing grace: or else the world itself may be meant, the wilderness of the people, Ezekiel 20:35; so called because of the roughness of the way, the many tribulations the saints pass through in it; and because of the traps and snares that are in it, through evil men, the lusts of the flesh, and the temptations of Satan; because of the many evil beasts in it, ungodly men, false teachers, and Satan the roaring lion; and because of the plentiful table God furnishes here for his people, feeding them in the wilderness with Gospel doctrines and spiritual ordinances, Revelation 12:14; and because of the many windings and turnings of Providence in it, through all which they are led in a right way to the city of their habitation: now though they are in the world, they are not of it; they are called out of it, and quit as much as may be the company and conversation of the men of it; and through the grace of God are more and more weaned from it, and long after another and better world; all which may be intended by their coming out of this: or else this may design a state of sorrow and distress when under desertion, and without the presence of Christ; which had lately been the case of the church, who had been in a bewildered condition, and not knowing where her beloved was, ran about here and there in quest of him, like one in a wood, seeking him and calling after him; but now having sight of him, and some communion with him, is represented as coming out of that state. She is further described as being

like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense; her heart being inflamed with love to Christ, her affections moved upwards, heavenwards, and were set on things above; and which were sincere and upright, rose up in the form of palm trees, as the word (n) signifies, a very upright tree; and these moved steadily towards Christ, and could not be diverted from him by the winds of temptation, affliction, and persecution; and though there might be some degree of dulness and imperfection in them, hence called "pillars of smoke"; yet being perfumed with the sweet smelling myrrh of Christ's sacrifice, and the incense of his mediation, became acceptable to God. It is added,

with all powders of the merchant: odorous ones, such are the graces of the Spirit, which Christ the merchantman is full of; and makes his people, their affections and prayers, of a sweet smelling savour with. Ben Melech interprets it of garments perfumed with spices; see Psalm 45:8; Some render the words, "above" or "more excellent than all powders of the merchant" (o), druggist or apothecary (p); no such drug nor spice to be found in their shops, that smell so sweet as Christ, his grace and righteousness.

(n) "ut columnae ad formam palmae assurgntes", Buxtorf; "ut palmae", Mercerus, Cocceius; "instar palmarum", Tigurine version, Michaelis. (o) so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt. (p) Sept. "pigmentarii", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus; "pharmacopolae", Tigurine version; "seplasiarii", Mercerus, Cocceius; "aromatarii", Junius & Tremellius, Marckius.

Who is this that cometh out of the {e} wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?

(e) This refers to the Church of Israel which was led in the wilderness for forty years.

6. Who is this that cometh out] In the Heb. as it stands, this is feminine, and the participles coming up and perfumed are in agreement with it. Hence many hold that the verse is spoken of a woman, either of a princess whom Solomon, even in the midst of his wooing of the Shulammite, is about to marry, or of the Shulammite, who is seen approaching Jerusalem with Solomon as her husband in a bridal procession. But it need not necessarily be so. This may be taken as neuter, the fem. often representing the neuter, as there is no special neuter form in Heb. In that case the translation here would be literally ‘Who is that which cometh up?’ This is strictly parallel to Esau’s question to Jacob, Genesis 33:8, “Who is all this camp?” i.e. ‘Who are the human beings in it?’ (Cp. Davidson, Heb. Synt. § 8, R. 1, and Ewald, Heb. Synt. E. T. p. 196.) This view is more in accord with the following words: for, obviously, the procession is too remote to permit of the spectators who speak here knowing that any lady in it is perfumed with myrrh, &c. It must, therefore, be the thing seen, not any person, which is perfumed. The idea is that something surrounded with incense, naturally supposed to be perfumed, is approaching. “The pomp is like that of a procession before which the censer of frankincense is swung” (Del.). Song of Solomon 3:7 tells us that this is the miṭṭâh of Solomon.

out of the wilderness] i.e. from the pasture lands as distinct from the cultivated lands. This is quite unintelligible on Budde’s hypothesis. Cp. Appendix ii, § 9.

like pillars of smoke] This expression strengthens the view taken of the last clause. This which is like pillars of smoke cannot be a person, but must be a litter or procession which is overhung by, or surrounded with, columns of smoke. The word for columns tîmǎrôth occurs again in the O.T. only in Joel 2:30 (Heb., 3:3). The LXX translate it by στελέχη, ‘trunks’ of smoke, evidently connecting the word with tâmâr, ‘a palm tree,’ to which a rising column of smoke has a great resemblance. It spreads out only at the top of the column-like stem, like a palm tree above its trunk. More probably, however, it is derived from a verb yâmar = ’âmar, the original meaning of which was ‘to rise high.’

perfumed] Lit. incensed, i.e. having incense burnt before it. The couch or litter, or the procession, is having perfume burnt before it, viz. myrrh and frankincense. For the former cp. ch. Song of Solomon 1:13, and for the latter Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 355. Frankincense is the gum of a tree which grows in the hill country of India, the Boswellia serrata of botanists. Probably it came to Palestine through Arabia, cp. Isaiah 60:6. The resin is obtained by simply slitting the bark.

with all powders of the merchant] i.e. with all the aromatic preparations which the wandering merchants brought from foreign lands.

Chap. Song of Solomon 3:6-11. The King’s Return

King Solomon must be supposed to be coming from Jerusalem, to the royal residence in the North where the Shulammite is, or to be returning thither after an absence. Apparently he comes in special splendour, seeking to overawe her thereby. She notices the approaching train, and asks what it may be, Song of Solomon 3:6. In the remaining verses a watchman or attendant tells her that it is the litter of Solomon surrounded by his guards, Song of Solomon 3:7-8. He then describes the litter, Song of Solomon 3:9-10, while in Song of Solomon 3:11 he exhorts the court ladies to go forth to see the king in all his splendour, crowned as he was by his mother in the day of his espousals. In Song of Solomon 3:6 the speaker might be a spectator or the watchman, but the fact that in every one of the lyrics hitherto the Shulammite has spoken leads us to suppose that she is the speaker here.

Verse 6-ch. 5:1. - Part III. NUPTIAL REJOICINGS. Verse 6. - Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant? This may be taken as spoken by a single voice, one of the ladies or inhabitants of Jerusalem, or it may be regarded as the exclamation of the whole population going out to see the splendid sight - a gorgeous procession coming towards the city. "Who is this coming?" (עֹלָה, feminine); that is, "Who is this lady coming?" There could be no difficulty in discerning that it was a bridal procession which is seen. Curiosity always asks, "What bride is this?" "Who is she?" not, "Who is he?" A maiden from Galilee is being conducted to Jerusalem; the procession naturally passes through the valley of the Jordan (Ghor). There is splendour and majesty in the sight. It must be some one coming to the royal palace. The censers of frankincense are being swung to and fro and filling the air with fragrant smoke. Columns of dust and smoke from the burning incense rise up to heaven, and mark the line of progress before and after. "The spices of Arabia" were famous at all times. Hence the names of the perfumes are Arabic, as murr, levona, and the travelling spice merchant, or trader, was Arabic (cf. the Arabic elixir). We can scarcely miss the typical colouring in such a representation - the wilderness, typical of bondage and humiliation, sin and misery, out of which the bride is brought; the onward progress towards a glorious destination (see Isaiah 40:3; Hosea 1:16; Psalm 68:8). The Church must pass through the wilderness to her royal home, and the soul must be led out of the wilderness of sin and unbelief into everlasting union with her Lord. Song of Solomon 3:66 Who is this coming up from the wilderness

   Like pillars of smoke,

   Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,

   With all aromatics of the merchants?

It is possible that זאת and עלה may be connected; but עני זה, Psalm 34:7 (this poor man, properly, this, a poor man), is not analogous, it ought to be העלה זאת. Thus zoth will either be closely connected with מי, and make the question sharper and more animated, as is that in Genesis 12:18, or it will be the subject which then, as in Isaiah 63:1; Job 38:2, cf. below Sol 7:5, Jonah 4:11, Amos 9:12, is more closely written with indeterminate participles, according to which it is rightly accented. But we do not translate with Heiligst. quid est hoc quod adscendit, for mī asks after a person, mā after a thing, and only per attract. does mī stand for mā in Genesis 33:8; Judges 13:17; Micah 1:5; also not quis est hoc (Vaih.), for zoth after mi has a personal sense, thus: quis (quaenam) haec est. That it is a woman that is being brought forward those who ask know, even if she is yet too far off to be seen by them, because they recognise in the festal gorgeous procession a marriage party. That the company comes up from the wilderness, it may be through the wilderness which separates Jerusalem from Jericho, is in accordance with the fact that a maiden from Galilee is being brought up, and that the procession has taken the way through the Jordan valley (Ghr); but the scene has also a typical colouring; for the wilderness is, since the time of the Mosaic deliverance out of Egypt, an emblem of the transition from a state of bondage to freedom, from humiliation to glory (vid., under Isaiah 40:3; Hosea 1:11; Psalm 68:5). The pomp is like that of a procession before which the censer of frankincense is swung. Columns of smoke from the burning incense mark the line of the procession before and after. תּימרות (תּים) here and at Job 3 (vid., Norzi) is formed, as it appears, from ימר, to strive upwards, a kindred form to אמר; cf. Isaiah 61:6 with Isaiah 17:6, Psalm 94:4; the verb תּמר, whence the date-palm receives the name תּמר, is a secondary formation, like תּאב to אבה. Certainly this form תּימרה (cf. on the contrary, תּולדה) is not elsewhere to be supported; Schlottm. sees in it תמּרות, from תּמרה; but such an expansion of the word for Dag. dirimens is scarcely to be supposed. This naming of the pillars of smoke is poet., as Jonah 3:3; cf. "a pillar of smoke," Judges 20:40. She who approaches comes from the wilderness, brought up to Jerusalem, placed on an elevation, "like pillars of smoke," i.e., not herself likened thereto, as Schlottm. supposes it must be interpreted (with the tertium comp. of the slender, precious, and lovely), but encompassed and perfumed by such. For her whom the procession brings this lavishing of spices is meant; it is she who is incensed or perfumed with myrrh and frankincense. Schlottm. maintains that מקטּרת cannot mean anything else than "perfumed," and therefore he reads מקּטרת (as Aq. ἀπὸ θυμιάματος, and Jerome). But the word mekuttěrěth does not certainly stand alone, but with the genit. foll.; and thus as "rent in their clothes," 2 Samuel 13:31, signifies not such as are themselves rent, but those whose clothes are rent (Ewald, 288b, compare also de Sacy, II 321), so וגו מקט can also mean those for whom (for whose honour) this incense is expended, and who are thus fumigated with it. מר .t, myrrh, (Arab.) murr (vid., above under Sol 1:13), stands also in Exodus 30:23 and Psalm 45:9 at the head of the perfumes; it came from Arabia, as did also frankincense levōnā, Arab. lubân (later referred to benzoin); both of the names are Semitic, and the circumstance that the Tra required myrrh as a component part of the holy oil, Exodus 30:23, and frankincense as a component part of the holy incense, Exodus 30:34, points to Arabia as the source whence they were obtained. To these two principal spices there is added ממּל (cf. Genesis 6:20; Genesis 9:2) as an et cetera. רוכל denotes the travelling spice merchants (traders in aromatics), and traders generally. אבקה, which is related to אבק as powder to dust (cf. abacus, a reckoning-table, so named from the sand by means of which arithmetical numbers were reckoned), is the name designating single drugs (i.e., dry wares; cf. the Arab. elixir equals ξηρόν).

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