Song of Solomon 5:12
His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Fitly set.—Literally, sitting in fulness, which the Margin explains, according to one received method of interpretation, as beautifully set, like a precious stone in the foil of a ring. If the comparison were to the eyes of the dove, this would be a sufficient interpretation, the image being perfect, owing to the ring of bright red skin round the eye of the turtle-dove. But there is no necessity to have recourse to the figure comparatio compendiana here, since doves delight in bathing; and though there is a certain delicious haze of indistinctness in the image, the soft iridescence of the bird floating and glancing on the face of the stream might not too extravagantly suggest the quick loving glances of the eye. Keats has a somewhat similar figure:—

“To see such lovely eyes in swimming search

After some warm delight, that seems to perch

Dove-like in the dim cell lying beyond

Their upper lids;”

and Dr. Ginsburg aptly quotes from the Gitagovinda: “The glances of her eyes played like a pair of water-birds of azure plumage, that sport near a full-grown lotus in a pool in the season of dew.” The words washed in milk refer to the white of the eye, which swells round the pupil like the fulness of water, i.e., the swelling wave round the dove. The parallelism is like that of Song of Solomon 1:5.

5:9-16 Even those who have little acquaintance with Christ, cannot but see amiable beauty in others who bear his image. There are hopes of those who begin to inquire concerning Christ and his perfections. Christians, who are well acquainted with Christ themselves, should do all they can to make others know something of him. Divine glory makes him truly lovely in the eyes of all who are enlightened to discern spiritual things. He is white in the spotless innocence of his life, ruddy in the bleeding sufferings he went through at his death. This description of the person of the Beloved, would form, in the figurative language of those times, a portrait of beauty of person and of grace of manners; but the aptness of some of the allusions may not appear to us. He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all that believe. May his love constrain us to live to his glory.Or, His eyes are doves. The comparison is to doves seen by streams of water washing in milk (i. e., milk-white), and sitting on fulness (i. e., on the full or abundant water-flood).

Fitly set - This rendering supposes that the eyes within their sockets are compared to precious stones set in the foil of a ring (see the margin); but the other rendering is preferable. The milk-white doves themselves, sitting by full streams of water, or reflected in their flittings athwart the glassy surface, present images of the calm repose and vivid glances of the full pure lustrous eyes of the beloved.

12. as the eyes of doves—rather, "as doves" (Ps 68:13); bathing in "the rivers"; so combining in their "silver" feathers the whiteness of milk with the sparkling brightness of the water trickling over them (Mt 3:16). The "milk" may allude to the white around the pupil of the eye. The "waters" refer to the eye as the fountain of tears of sympathy (Eze 16:5, 6; Lu 19:41). Vivacity, purity, and love, are the three features typified.

fitly set—as a gem in a ring; as the precious stones in the high priest's breastplate. Rather, translate as Vulgate (the doves), sitting at the fulness of the stream; by the full stream; or, as Maurer (the eyes) set in fulness, not sunk in their sockets (Re 5:6), ("seven," expressing full perfection), (Zec 3:9; 4:10).

His eyes are as the eyes of doves, lovely and pleasant, chaste and innocent.

By the rivers of waters; where they delight to abide, and wherewith they bathe themselves, and wash their eyes; where also their eyes are most lively and beautiful, both by the reflection of the waters, and from that pleasure which they take in such places.

Washed with milk; which may belong either,

1. To the eyes, which are supposed to be washed with water, as white and pure as milk; or,

2. To the doves, which are intimated to be of a milk-white colour, which in those parts was most esteemed, which colour also made the eyes appear more lovely.

Fitly set; neither sinking into the head, nor standing out too much, but in a moderate and comely situation. Heb. sitting in fulness; which may note a full and competently large eye, which is esteemed one beauty of the eye. His eyes are as the eyes of doves,.... the church's eyes are said to be, Sol 1:15; which are her ministers, endowed with dove like gifts in measure, as Christ is without measure, in fulness; but these are Christ's eyes, which may signify his omniscience, who has seven eyes, Zechariah 3:9; especially as that has respect unto and is concerned with his people in a way of grace and mercy, and so must look very beautiful in their view: his eyes are like "doves' eyes"; not fierce and furious, but loving and lovely; looking upon his people, under all their trials and afflictions, with sympathy and concern, to deliver them out of them: and like the eyes of doves

by rivers of waters: Sanctius thinks the allusion is to the humours in which the eye is enclosed, and, as it were, swims in; hence the eyes are called "natantia lumina", by Virgil (h); but it denotes eyes like those of doves, quick and lively, as clean as milk white doves, as if they had been "washed in milk"; clear and perspicuous, sharp sighted, and behold all persons and things, in all places, and at once; and as doves look only to their mates, so Christ's eyes of love are only on his church; he looks to none but her with his eye of special and peculiar love. Moreover, his eyes are like the eyes of doves "by the rivers of waters"; which denotes the fixedness and constancy of them: doves, by the river side, keep their eyes fixed on the purling streams, and in drinking, as Pliny (i) observes, do not erect their necks, and lift up their heads, but, keeping their eyes upon the water, drink a large draught, in the manner the beasts do; and they delight in clean water, of which they drink, and with which they wash (k): Christ, being greatly delighted with his people, has fixed his eyes on them, and he never withdraws them from them; for these waters may point at the object of Christ's love, even Gospel churches, consisting of such as are justified and sanctified by his grace, compared to "clean water"; among whom the doctrines of the Gospel are powerfully preached, the ordinances purely administered, the waters of the sanctuary flow, by which souls are delighted and refreshed; and to these Christ looks, Isaiah 66:2; and his eyes being like doves' eyes,

washed with milk, may denote the purity of them, being purer eyes than to behold iniquity; and the meekness and mildness of them, not red and wrathful, but full of mercy, pity, and compassion, as if they had been washed with milk. And they are said to be,

fitly set; or "sitting in fulness" (l); such as exactly fill up their holes; are set neither too, high nor too low; neither sunk in too much, nor stand out too far; but are like precious stones, in an enclosure of gold or silver, to which the allusion is; as diamonds set in a ring; or as the precious stones in the high priest's breast plate, which exactly filled the cavities made for them, and hence are called "stones of fulness", Exodus 25:7; or, "set by fulness" (m); that is, by full channels of water, where doves delight to be; and may denote the fulness of grace, and the flows of it, by which Christ sits and dwells, and leads his people to, Revelation 7:17; or, "setting upon fulness" (n); on the world, and the fulness of it, which is his, and he gives as much of it to his people as he think fit; and on the vast numbers of persons and things in it, and the vast variety of actions done therein; which shows the extensiveness of his omniscience: and on the "fulness" of time, fixed by him and his Father, for his coming into the world, to do the great work of redemption in it; and which, before it came, he was looking, waiting, and watching, and as it were longing till it came: and on his "fulness", the church, which is the fulness of him that filleth all in all, until he has gathered them all in, and filled them with all the gifts and graces of the Spirit, designed for them: and on the "fulness" of the Gentiles, until they are all brought in: and on his own "fulness"; both personal, "the fulness of the Godhead", which he had his eyes upon, when he undertook the work of redemption, and which supported him in it, and carried him through it; and upon his dispensatory "fulness", or fulness of grace, as Mediator, to supply the wants of his people, under all their straits and difficulties, temptations and afflictions: all which must make him exceeding lovely in the eyes of his people.

(h) Aeneid. l. 5. So Ovid. Fast. l. 6. "animique oculique natabant". (i) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 34. (k) Varro de Rustic. c. 3. s. 7. (l) "siti insitione", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (m) "Ad plenitudinem", Tigurine version, Bochart; "juxta plenitudinem", Vatablus; so some in Brightman; "juxta fluenta plenissima" V. L. Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions. (n) "Super plenitudinem", Montanus, Mercerus.

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. His eyes, &c.] R.V. His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks. Here the idea is different from that in Song of Solomon 1:15 and Song of Solomon 4:1. It is not the innocent dove-like look of the eye that is referred to. The eyes themselves, or at least the pupils of the eyes, are compared to doves. Ginsburg’s quotation from the Gitagovinda is almost an exact parallel: “The glances of her eyes played like a pair of water birds of azure plumage, that sport near a full blown lotus in a pool in the season of dew.”

washed with milk] Rather, bathing in milk. This may refer to the eyes; the pupils move in the white of the eye as if bathing in milk. Or it may refer to the doves, in which case it would be an extension or correction of the previous part of the simile; ‘the eyes are like doves by brooks of water or rather streams of milk.’ The choice between these alternatives depends upon the reference of the next clause fitly set. If it refers to the eyes, then this would best be understood of the eyes also. But if that be understood of the doves, as probably it should be, then to avoid the awkwardness of connecting the two participles with different subjects, this clause should be understood of the doves also.

fitly set] The A.V. in margin gives this note, “Heb. sitting in fulness, that is, fitly placed, and set as a precious stone in the foil of a ring.” This is the traditional Jewish interpretation. Others explain full as opposed to sunken (Oettli). Possibly, as LXX suggest, the text is faulty and we should read yôshěbhôth al mělo’ hammayîm, and translate, sitting upon full streams, when the subject would, of course, be the doves. This latter reading and the rendering it suggests are simpler and more natural than any of the other varied conjectures that have been made.6 I opened to my beloved;

   And my beloved had withdrawn, was gone:

   My soul departed when he spake -

   I sought him, and found him not;

   I called him, and he answered me not.

As the disciples at Emmaus, when the Lord had vanished from the midst of them, said to one another: Did not our heart burn within us when He spake with us? so Shulamith says that when he spake, i.e., sought admission to her, she was filled with alarm, and almost terrified to death.

Love-ecstasy (ἐκστῆναι, as contrast to γενέσθαι ἐν ἑαυτῷ) is not here understood, for in such a state she would have flown to meet him; but a sinking of the soul, such as is described by Terence (And. I 5. 16):

"Oratio haec me miseram exanimavit metu."

The voice of her beloved struck her heart; but in the consciousness that she had estranged herself from him, she could not openly meet him and offer empty excuses. But now she recognises it with sorrow that she had not replied to the deep impression of his loving words; and seeing him disappear without finding him, she calls after him whom she had slighted, but he answers her not. The words: "My soul departed when he spake," are the reason why she now sought him and called upon him, and they are not a supplementary remark (Zckl.); nor is there need for the correction of the text בּדברו, which should mean: (my soul departed) when he turned his back (Ewald), or, behind him (Hitz., Bttch.), from דּבר equals (Arab.) dabara, tergum vertere, praeterire, - the Heb. has the word דּביר, the hinder part, and as it appears, דּבּר, to act from behind (treacherously) and destroy, 2 Chronicles 22:10; cf. under Genesis 34:13, but not the Kal דּבר, in that Arab. signification. The meaning of חמק has been hit upon by Aquila (ἔκλινεν), Symmachus (ἀπονεύσας), and Jerome (declinaverat); it signifies to turn aside, to take a different direction, as the Hithpa. Jeremiah 31:22 : to turn oneself away; cf. חמּוּקים, turnings, bendings, Sol 7:2. חבק and אבק (cf. Genesis 32:25), Aethiop. ḥaḳafa, Amhar. aḳafa (reminding us of נקץ, Hiph. הקּיף), are usually compared; all of these, however, signify to "encompass;" but חמק does not denote a moving in a circle after something, but a half circular motion away from something; so that in the Arab. the prevailing reference to fools, aḥamḳ, does not appear to proceed from the idea of closeness, but of the oblique direction, pushed sideways. Turning himself away, he proceeded farther. In vain she sought him; she called without receiving any answer. ענני is the correct pausal form of ענני, vid., under Psalm 118:5. But something worse than even this seeking and calling in vain happened to her.

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