Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. rose--if applied to Jesus Christ, it, with the white lily (lowly,
answers to "white and ruddy"
But it is rather the meadow-saffron: the Hebrew means
radically a plant with a pungent bulb, inapplicable to the
rose. So Syriac. It is of a white and violet color
[MAURER, GESENIUS, and WEISS]. The bride thus speaks of herself as lowly though
lovely, in contrast with the lordly "apple" or citron tree, the
so the "lily" is applied to her
(Isa 35:1, 2).
In North Palestine, between Mount Tabor and Lake Tiberias
Septuagint and Vulgate translate it, "a plain"; though
they err in this, the Hebrew Bible not elsewhere favoring it,
yet the parallelism to valleys shows that, in the proper name
Sharon, there is here a tacit reference to its meaning of lowliness.
Beauty, delicacy, and lowliness, are to be in her, as they were in Him
2. Jesus Christ to the Bride
Thorns, equivalent to the wicked
daughters--of men, not of God; not "the virgins." "If thou art the
lily of Jesus Christ, take heed lest by impatience, rash judgments, and
pride, thou thyself become a thorn" [LUTHER].
3. Her reply.
apple--generic including the golden citron, pomegranate, and
He combines the shadow and fragrance of the citron with the
sweetness of the orange and pomegranate fruit. The foliage is
perpetual; throughout the year a succession of blossoms, fruit, and
among the sons--parallel to "among the daughters"
He alone is ever fruitful among the fruitless wild trees
I sat . . . with . . . delight--literally, "I eagerly desired and
Isa 4:6; 25:4; 32:2).
Jesus Christ interposes the shadow of His cross between the blazing
rays of justice and us sinners.
fruit--Faith plucks it
Man lost the tree of life
(Ge 3:22, 23).
Jesus Christ regained it for him; he eats it partly now
Joh 6:55, 57;
(Re 2:7; 22:2, 14);
not earned by the sweat of his brow, or by his righteousness
Contrast the worldling's fruit
4. Historically fulfilled in the joy of Simeon and Anna in the temple,
over the infant Saviour
and that of Mary, too (compare
Spiritually, the bride or beloved is led
first into the King's chambers, thence is drawn after Him
in answer to her prayer; is next received on a grassy couch under a
cedar kiosk; and at last in a "banqueting hall," such as, JOSEPHUS says, Solomon had in his palace, "wherein all
the vessels were of gold" (Antiquities, 8:5,2). The transition
is from holy retirement to public ordinances, church worship,
and the Lord's Supper
The bride, as the queen of Sheba, is given "all her desire"
Eph 3:8, 16-21;
type of the heavenly feast hereafter
(Isa 25:6, 9).
his banner . . . love--After having rescued us from the enemy, our
seats us at the banquet under a banner inscribed with His name,
His love conquered us to Himself; this banner rallies round us the
forces of Omnipotence, as our protection; it marks to what country we
belong, heaven, the abode of love, and in what we most glory, the cross
of Jesus Christ, through which we triumph
Compare with "over me," "underneath are the everlasting
5. flagons--MAURER prefers translating, "dried raisin cakes"; from
the Hebrew root "fire," namely, dried by heat. But the "house of
Margin) favors "flagons"; the "new wine" of the kingdom, the
Spirit of Jesus Christ.
apples--from the tree
so sweet to her, the promises of God.
sick of love--the highest degree of sensible enjoyment that can be
attained here. It may be at an early or late stage of experience. Paul
In the last sickness of J. Welch, he was overheard saying, "Lord, hold
thine hand, it is enough; thy servant is a clay vessel, and can hold no
more" [FLEMING, Fulfilling of the
Scriptures]. In most cases this intensity of joy is reserved for
the heavenly banquet. Historically, Israel had it, when the Lord's
glory filled the tabernacle, and afterwards the temple, so that the
priests could not stand to minister: so in the Christian Church on
Pentecost. The bride addresses Christ mainly, though in her
rapture she uses the plural, "Stay (ye) me," speaking
generally. So far from asking the withdrawal of the manifestations
which had overpowered her, she asks for more: so "fainteth for"
also Peter, on the mount of transfiguration
"Let us make . . . not knowing what he said."
6. The "stay" she prayed for
(De 33:12, 27;
None can pluck from that embrace
His hand keeps us from falling
(Mt 14:30, 31);
to it we may commit ourselves
left hand--the left is the inferior hand, by which the Lord less
signally manifests His love, than by the right; the secret hand of
ordinary providence, as distinguished from that of manifested grace
(the "right"). They really go together, though sometimes they seem
divided; here both are felt at once. THEODORET
takes the left hand, equivalent to judgment and wrath; the
right, equivalent to honor and love. The hand of justice no
longer is lifted to smite, but is under the head of the believer to
the hand of Jesus Christ pierced by justice for our sin supports us.
The charge not to disturb the beloved occurs thrice: but the sentiment
here, "His left hand," &c., nowhere else fully; which accords with the
intensity of joy
found nowhere else; in
it is only conditional, "should embrace," not "doth."
7. by the roes--not an oath but a solemn charge, to act as cautiously
as the hunter would with the wild roes, which are proverbially timorous;
he must advance with breathless circumspection, if he is to take them;
so he who would not lose Jesus Christ and His Spirit, which is easily
grieved and withdrawn, must be tender of conscience and watchful
Eph 4:30; 5:15;
In Margin, title of
Jesus Christ is called the "Hind of the morning," hunted to
death by the dogs (compare
So 2:8, 9,
where He is represented as bounding on the hills,
Here He is resting, but with a repose easily broken
It is thought a gross rudeness in the East to awaken one sleeping,
especially a person of rank.
my love--in Hebrew, feminine for masculine, the abstract
for concrete, Jesus Christ being the embodiment of love itself
(So 3:5; 8:7),
where, as here, the context requires it to be applied to Him, not her.
She too is "love"
for His love calls forth her love. Presumption in the convert is as
grieving to the Spirit as despair. The lovingness and
pleasantness of the hind and roe
is included in this image of Jesus Christ.
--JOHN THE BAPTIST'S MINISTRY.
8. voice--an exclamation of joyful surprise, evidently after a long
silence. The restlessness of sin and fickleness in her had disturbed His
rest with her, which she had professed not to wish disturbed "till He
should please." He left her, but in sovereign grace unexpectedly heralds
His return. She awakes, and at once recognizes His voice
(1Sa 3:9, 10;
her sleep is not so sinfully deep as in
leaping--bounding, as the roe does, over the roughest obstacles
as the father of the prodigal "had compassion and ran"
upon the hills--as the sunbeams glancing from hill to hill. So
Margin, title of Jesus Christ
"Hind of the morning" (type of His resurrection). Historically,
the coming of the kingdom of heaven (the gospel dispensation),
announced by John Baptist, is meant; it primarily is the garden
or vineyard; the bride is called so in a secondary sense. "The voice"
of Jesus Christ is indirect, through "the friend of the bridegroom"
John the Baptist. Personally, He is silent during John's ministration,
who awoke the long slumbering Church with the cry. "Every hill
shall be made low," in the spirit of Elias, on the "rent mountains"
Jesus Christ is implied as coming with intense desire
disregarding the mountain hindrances raised by man's sin.
9. he standeth--after having bounded over the intervening space like
a roe. He often stands near when our unbelief hides Him from us
His usual way; long promised and expected; sudden at last: so, in
visiting the second temple
so at Pentecost
(Ac 2:1, 2);
so in visiting an individual soul, Zaccheus
(Lu 19:5, 6;
and so, at the second coming
(Mt 24:48, 50;
2Pe 3:4, 10).
So it shall be at His second coming
(1Th 5:2, 3).
wall--over the cope of which He is first seen; next, He looks
through (not forth; for He is outside) at the windows,
glancing suddenly and stealthily (not as English Version,
"showing Himself") through the lattice. The prophecies, types, &c.,
were lattice glimpses of Him to the Old Testament Church, in spite of
the wall of separation which sin had raised
clearer glimpses were given by John Baptist, but not unclouded
The legal wall of partition was not to be removed until His death
(Eph 2:14, 15;
Even now, He is only seen by faith, through the windows of His
Word and the lattice of ordinances and sacraments
not full vision
an incentive to our looking for His second coming
10, 11. Loving reassurance given by Jesus Christ to the bride, lest
she should think that He had ceased to love her, on account of her
unfaithfulness, which had occasioned His temporary withdrawal. He
allures her to brighter than worldly joys
Not only does the saint wish to depart to be with Him, but He still
more desires to have the saint with Him above
Historically, the vineyard or garden of the King, here first
introduced, is "the kingdom of heaven preached" by John the Baptist,
before whom "the law and the prophets were"
11. the winter--the law of the covenant of works
rain is over--
Then first the Gentile Church is called "beloved, which was not
So "the winter" of estrangement and sin is "past" to the believer
The rising "Sun of righteousness" dispels the "rain"
Ps 126:5; Mal 4:2).
The winter in Palestine is past by April, but all the showers were not
over till May. The time described here is that which comes directly
after these last showers of winter. In the highest sense, the coming
resurrection and deliverance of the earth from the past curse is
Re 21:4; 22:3).
No more "clouds" shall then "return after the rain"
"the rainbow round the throne" is the "token" of this.
12. flowers--tokens of anger past, and of grace come. "The summoned
bride is welcome," say some fathers, "to weave from them garlands of
beauty, wherewith she may adorn herself to meet the King." Historically,
the flowers, &c., only give promise; the fruit is not ripe yet;
suitable to the preaching of John the Baptist, "The kingdom of heaven is
at hand"; not yet fully come.
the time of . . . singing--the rejoicing at the advent
of Jesus Christ. GREGORY NYSSENUS refers the voice of the turtledove to
John the Baptist. It with the olive branch announced to Noah that "the
rain was over and gone"
So John the Baptist, spiritually. Its plaintive "voice" answers
to his preaching of repentance
(Jer 8:6, 7).
Vulgate and Septuagint translate, "The time of
pruning," namely, spring
The mention of the "turtle's" cooing better accords with our text. The
turtledove is migratory
and "comes" early in May; emblem of love, and so of the Holy Ghost.
Love, too, shall be the keynote of the "new song" hereafter
Re 1:5; 14:3; 19:6).
In the individual believer now, joy and love are here set forth in
their earlier manifestations
13. putteth forth--rather, "ripens," literally, "makes red"
The unripe figs, which grow in winter, begin to ripen in early spring,
and in June are fully matured [WEISS].
vines with the tender grape--rather, "the vines in flower,"
literally, "a flower," in apposition with "vines"
[MAURER]. The vine
flowers were so sweet that they were often put, when dried, into new
wine to give it flavor. Applicable to the first manifestations of Jesus
Christ, "the true Vine," both to the Church and to individuals; as to
Nathanael under the fig tree
Arise, &c.--His call, described by the bride, ends as it began
it is a consistent whole; "love" from first to last
(Isa 52:1, 2;
2Co 6:17, 18).
"Come," in the close of
as at His earlier manifestation
14. dove--here expressing endearment
Doves are noted for constant attachment; emblems, also, in their
soft, plaintive note, of softened penitents
other points of likeness are their beauty; "their wings covered
with silver and gold"
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
intimated that the flood of wrath was past; timidity, fleeing
with fear from sin and self to the cleft Rock of Ages
gregarious, flocking together to the kingdom of Jesus Christ
clefts--the refuge of doves from storm and heat
GESENIUS translates the Hebrew from a
different root, "the refuges." But see, for "clefts,"
It is only when we are in Christ Jesus that our "voice is
sweet (in prayer,
So 4:3, 11;
because it is His voice in us; also in speaking of
and our countenance comely"
Ps 27:5; 71:3;
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
Moses at Horeb
Jesus Christ with the three disciples on a "high mountain apart," at
John in Patmos
"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,
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
there is a hiding-place
She praised His "voice"
(So 2:8, 10);
it is thus that her voice also, though tremulous, is "sweet" to Him
15. Transition to the vineyard, often formed in "stairs"
or terraces, in which, amidst the vine leaves, foxes hid.
foxes--generic term, including jackals. They eat only grapes,
not the vine flowers; but they need to be driven out in time
before the grape is ripe. She had failed in watchfulness before
now when converted, she is the more jealous of subtle sins
In spiritual winter certain evils are frozen up, as well as good; in
the spring of revivals these start up unperceived, crafty, false
teachers, spiritual pride, uncharitableness, &c.
"Little" sins are parents of the greatest
Historically, John the Baptist spared not the fox-like Herod
who gave vine-like promise of fruit at first
at the cost of his life; nor the viper-Sadducees, &c.; nor the varied
subtle forms of sin
16. mine . . . his--rather, "is for me . . . for Him"
where, as here, there is the assurance of indissoluble union, in spite
of temporary absence.
entreating Him to return, shows that He has gone, perhaps through her
want of guarding against the "little sins"
The order of the clauses is reversed in
when she is riper in faith: there she rests more on her being
His; here, on His being hers; and no doubt her sense of love
to Him is a pledge that she is His
(Joh 14:21, 23;
this is her consolation in His withdrawal now.
I am his--by creation
feedeth--as a "roe," or gazelle
instinct is sure to lead him back to his feeding ground, where the
lilies abound. So Jesus Christ, though now withdrawn, the bride feels
sure will return to His favorite resting-place
title, terms his lovely bride's "lilies" [HENGSTENBERG] pure and white, though among thorns
17. Night--is the image of the present world
"Behold men as if dwelling in subterranean cavern" [PLATO, Republic, 7.1].
Until--that is, "Before that," &c.
break--rather, "breathe"; referring to the refreshing breeze of dawn
in the East; or to the air of life, which distinguishes morning from
the death-like stillness of night. MAURER takes this verse of the
approach of night, when the breeze arises after the heat of day
and the "shadows" are lost in night
thus our life will be the day; death, the night
The English Version better accords with
Bether--Mountains of Bithron, separated from the rest of Israel by the
not far from Bethabara, where John baptized and Jesus was first
manifested. Rather, as Margin, "of divisions," and
Septuagint, mountains intersected with deep gaps, hard to pass
over, separating the bride and Jesus Christ. In
the mountains are of spices, on which the roe feeds, not of
separation; for at His first coming He had to overpass the gulf
made by sin between Him and us
(Zec 4:6, 7);
in His second, He will only have to come down from the fragrant hill
above to take home His prepared bride. Historically, in the ministry
of John the Baptist, Christ's call to the bride was not, as later
"Come with me," but "Come away," namely, to meet Me
(So 2:2, 10, 13).
Sitting in darkness
she "waited" and "looked" eagerly for Him, the "great light"
(Lu 1:79; 2:25, 38);
at His rising, the shadows of the law
(Col 2:16, 17;
were to "flee away." So we wait for the second coming, when means of
grace, so precious now, shall be superseded by the Sun of righteousness
(1Co 13:10, 12;
Re 21:22, 23).
The Word is our light until then