Song of Solomon 8



 1 O, that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts

of my mother! When I should find thee without, I would kiss thee;

yea, I should not be despised.   2 I would lead thee, and bring thee into my

mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink

of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate.  3 His left hand should

be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.”   The

meaning seems to be this — Let our relation to one another be the highest

and the purest and the most permanent possible. The sisterly relation is not

merely one of affection, but one of blood. The bond between husband and

wife may be broken by the caprice and weakness of human feeling, but

nothing can destroy the bond of blood. “A friend loveth at all times, and a

brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17); “There is a friend that

sticketh closer than a brother” (Ibid. ch.18:24). The brotherly bond

represents the strength of the blood relationship. When to that is added

personal affection, then THE TIE IS PERFECT. Shulamith means that she

would have their love freed from all the uncertainties of human fickleness. As

symbolically interpreted, therefore, we take this whole passage to signify

that the Church, when it is desiring the closest fellowship with the Saviour,

would be lifted above all the temptations of earthly life, which so often

lower the standard of Christian feeling and service. The words are specially

impressive in the lips of the bride of Solomon. It is a testimony to the

inspiration of the whole book that the voluptuous monarch, whose life fell

so far below the ideal of a godly king, should yet, indirectly though still

powerfully, condemn and rebuke his own departure from God, setting

clearly before us the surpassing excellence of pure love and the sanctity of

married life. In the king’s address to his bride he called her “sister” and

“sister-bride;” she now virtually returns his own sentiment and calls him

brother.”‘ She shows that she has risen in her love far above the mere

fleshly desires — “the lust of the fiesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of

life (I John 2:16).  She would blend her whole existence with that of her Lord.

I would kiss thee; yea, and none would despise me. Nothing can more exquisitely

and delicately express the fullness of affection. It is not merely a return for

that which is given; it is free and spontaneous. So should our spiritual

feelings be. They should be the natural outpouring of the soul towards the

Saviour; not a worked up, artificial, spasmodic impulse, not a cold, dead

formalism, not an unsympathetic service of conscience; but “doing the will

of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6). “Love is the fulfilling of the Law”

(Romans 13:10); “Faith worketh by love.” (Galatians 5:6).  The second verse

is differently rendered by some. Jerome,Venetian, and Luther take it as

referring to the bride’s dependence on her husband’s superior wisdom —

“Thou wouldest instruct me;” which, of course, is a very suitable sentiment

as addressed to the wise King Solomon.  The Targum expounds it thus:

“I would conduct thee, O King Messiah, and bring thee into the house of my

sanctuary; and thou wouldest teach me to fear God and to walk in His ways.”

Hitzig and our Revisers take the verb as in the third person feminine, and

applied to the mother. “She would teach me as a mother teaches a young bride,

from her own early experience.” The old view that the bride is the personification

of wisdom seems quite refuted by this speech of Shulamith’s. She desires and

waits for instruction. Solomon is wisdom. She is the soul of man, or the Church

of God, delighting to sit at his feet and learn of him. Whichever rendering we

choose, whether the mother or Solomon be regarded as teacher, the

meaning is the same. It is, as Delitzsch has observed, a deep revelation of

Shulamith’s heart. “She knew how much she yet came short of being to the

king all that a wife should be. But in Jerusalem the bustle of court life and

the burden of his regal duties did not permit him to devote himself to her;

in her mother’s house, if he were once there, he would instruct her, and

she would requite him with her spiced wine and with the juice of the

pomegranates.” The “spiced wine,” vinum conditura, aromatic wine,

probably grape wine “mixed with fragrant and pungent essences,” as in the

East. The juice, or pressed juice, of the pomegranate is a delicious drink.

There is no allusion to any love symbol. The grains of the pomegranates

were said by the Arabians to be from Paradise. Perhaps this

reference to exchange of gifts may be taken as symbolizing the happy state

of the Church when she pours out her treasures in response to the spiritual

blessings which she is freely receiving. The meaning is something beautiful

and precious. And that is the highest state of religious life when the service

we render and the gifts we place on the altar are felt to be the grateful

sacrifices of our hearts under a sense of Divine love. When the Church of

Christ depends for its support on such fellowship between itself and the

Saviour there will be no limits to its attainments, no achievements beyond

its powers. “All that see” such a state of the Church “shall acknowledge”

the glory of it, “that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed” (see the

whole of the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, which breathes the very spirit of

Solomon’s Song). The rejoicing bride then gives herself up to the thought

of her husband’s affection. In that beautiful simplicity and purity of her

childhood’s life she would realize the bliss of her new relation. Delitzsch

describes her state of mind thus: “Resigning herself dreamily to the idea

that Solomon is her brother, whom she may freely and openly kiss, and her

teacher besides, with whom she may sit in confidential intercourse under

her mother’s eye, she feels herself as if closely embraced by him, and calls

from a distance to the daughters of Jerusalem not to disturb this her happy

enjoyment.” Perhaps the sense of weakness and dependence is meant to be

expressed. The bride is conscious that her lord is everything to her. In that

identification which the highest love brings vividly into the soul, there is the

joy of exultation. “All things are ours; and we are Christ’s, and Christ is

God’s.”  (I Corinthians 3:22-23)


4 “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up,

nor awake my love, until he please.”  This, of course, as the refrain of the

song, must be taken as a general sentiment. Love is its own lord. Let it

have free course. Let it perfect itself in its own best way. The form of the

adjuration is abbreviated in this case. The omission of the words, “By the

roes and by the hinds of the field” (ch. 2:7)is not without its significance. Is it not

intended to intimate that the natural love, to which reference was made by

the introduction of the beautiful wild creatures of the field, is now no more

in the thoughts of the bride, because it has been sublimated into the higher

sisterly love of which she has been speaking? She is not merely the lovely

woman on whom the king dotes because of her personal beauty; she is his

companion and dearest friend. He opens his heart to her. He teaches her.

He lifts her up to his own level. She participates in his royal dignity and

majesty. The e]rwv eros(sensual) of her first estate of love is now exalted into

the  ajga>ph agapaelove - which is the grace never to be without its sphere,

abiding forever. We must not press too closely the poetic form of the song.

Something must be allowed for the framework in which the main ideas are set

before us. It may not be possible to answer the question — Who are intended to

be symbolized by the daughters of Jerusalem? There is no necessity to seek

further into the meaning of the whole poem than its widest and most

general application. But the daughters of Jerusalem are in a lower position,

a less favored relation to the bridegroom, than the bride herself. We may,

therefore, without hesitation, accept the view that by the adjuration is

intended the appeal of the higher spiritual life against all that is below it; the

ideal love calling upon all that is around it and all that is related to it to rise

with it to perfection. The individual soul is thus represented claiming the

full realization of its spiritual possibilities. The Church of God thus

remonstrates against all that hinders her advancement, restrains her life, and

interrupts her blessedness. Jerusalem has many daughters. They are not all

in perfect sympathy with the bride. When they listen to the adjurations of

the most spiritual, the most devoted, the most heavenly and Christ-like of

those who are named by the Name of the Lord, they will themselves be

lifted up into the bridal joy of “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

(Revelation 19:9)



Wishes of the Bride (vs. 1-4)


  • That she had known the bridegroom always. The bride continues the address

of ch.7. She is still speaking to the king, telling him of her love. He had again

and again called her his sister — his sister-bride. She now wishes that he were

to her as a brother; that they could have been children of the same mother;

that they could have known one another from infancy. So in the close

union of love between husband and wife there comes sometimes such a

longing, a desire that each could have known the other from the beginning;

that instead of the years in which they were strangers, and never heard one

another’s voice, or touched one another’s hand, they had always lived

together, and known one another through and through in all the varied

experiences of child life, of girlhood or of boyhood; sometimes there comes

a sort of innocent envy of the brothers or sisters who then knew one or

other of the wedded pair when they were unknown to one another. The

bride wishes that she had always thus known the bridegroom; that she

could have loved him always with a sisterly affection; that their mutual

endearments might have been, like those of brothers and sisters, without

shame, attracting no observation. How often the converted soul longs with

an intense longing that it had always from the beginning known and loved

the heavenly Bridegroom! How utterly wasted and lost those years now

seem which were spent without that knowledge of Christ which is ETERNAL

LIFE!   How ardently we wish that they could be blotted out of our

remembrance, with all their ignorance and all their sins, as we humbly hope

that through the atonement of the precious blood they are blotted out from

the handwriting “that was against us, that was contrary to us”

(Colossians 2:14)! Blessed be God we have His holy promise, “I have

blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins:

return unto me; for I have redeemed thee” (Isaiah 44:22). We know

that in His gracious mercy He so putteth away the sins of them that truly

repent that He remembereth them no more (Jeremiah 31:34;

Hebrews 8:12; 10:17-18). But though we believe in the forgiveness of sins,

and thank God heartily for that blessed revelation of His love, yet we

cannot but long — and that the more earnestly the nearer we draw to Him

— that we had always known Him with the knowledge of faith and love,

that we had always remembered Him, that we had kept our heart pure from

other loves, and loved Him always. There is a difference between the love

of the forgiven penitent and the love of saints like Enoch or Samuel, who,

as far as human imperfection allows, have always in the main bent and

purpose of their lives striven to walk with God. The love of the penitent is

more demonstrative, more passionate — if the word may be used, more

enthusiastic; the love of men like Samuel is calmer, quieter, fuller,

dominating the entire life in all its pursuits and amusements; and just

because it is not intermittent, but uniform, it is not so much observed of

men. The still waters run deepest; the interpenetration of the heart by the

long-continued influences of the Holy Spirit, without any marked and

sudden change visible to the eyes of men, produces a very high type of

Christian character. Enoch seems to have walked with God ALL HIS

LIFE!  He was not, for God took him;”  (Genesis 5:24).  “He had this

testimony, that he  pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). It is a poor offering to give

the dregs of our life to God, when the evil days when the temptations of youth

have lost their power over us; “when the evil days come, and the years draw nigh

when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). A life

dedicated to God from early childhood must be a thing well pleasing in His

sight, as Holy Scripture tells us it was in the case of Enoch. Such a life is

very rare, and we may well be full of thankfulness to Almighty God for His

gracious promises to the penitent sinner. He “will not despise the broken

and the contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).  “If the wicked will turn from all his

sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is

lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions

that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his

righteousness that he hath done he shall live”  (Ezekiel 18:21-22).  We thank

God for these gracious words. If we have been called at the sixth or at the

eleventh hour, it is enough to fill us with adoring gratitude (Matthew 20:1-16);

we wonder, as we look back upon the past, that God bore with us so long in

our sin and unbelief; we thank Him with all our heart for His long suffering

mercy. But when we remember that sin and that unbelief, we cannot but long

that we had given to God those lost and wasted years; that we had remembered

our Creator in the days of our youth, and not grieved the Holy Spirit of God by

so many transgressions, so much coldness and hardness of heart.


  • That she had brought him into her mothers house. Those lost years

involved the loss of many opportunities of doing good to others. The bride,

had she known the bridegroom in early youth, would have brought him, she

says, into her mother’s house. There (she adds in what seems to be the best

reading) “thou shouldest instruct me.” How much good we might have

done in our families, among our friends, if we had given our earliest years

to God, if we had lived then as in his presence, and had carried the

consciousness of that presence, with all the feelings of awe and reverence

and love which attend it, always with us in our family life, in our dealings

with relations and friends; if we had given Him of our best, and willingly

offered up for His service all that we most prized and valued, how much

calmer, holier, happier, our life would have been! For He would have

instructed us. He bids us learn of Him. He is the great Teacher, the Master.

“All thy children,” he says, “shall be taught of the Lord: and great shall be

the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54:13).


  • The bride repeats the aspirations of ch.2:1-7. If we had listened to

that instruction from the time when we were first made His disciples,

if we had given Him from the beginning that for which He thirsted

— our affections, our heart’s love — then he would now be wholly ours;

“his left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace

me.” That blessed union with the Saviour, growing ever nearer and closer,

is the object of the deepest longings of the Christian soul. We think

sometimes that if only we had always loved Him and walked with Him, our

walk now might be very close with God; we might have attained to that

calm and serene trustfulness which is the privilege of His saints; we might

have found rest for our souls in the embrace of His holy love. But though

we have greatly sinned, and have lost much through past neglect and

unbelief, yet even now that blessed rest is not beyond our grasp. It was to

Mary Magdalene, out of whom the Lord had cast seven devils, that those

words were said which seemed at first severe and forbidding, but really

involved the promise of a holier union, “Touch me not; for I am not yet

ascended unto my Father.” (John 20:17).  She was about to embrace His feet,

to cling to the human form of Him who had done such great things for her.

The Lord implies a promise of a better, spiritual communion. When He had

ascended into heaven, when He had sent down the blessed Spirit that He might

abide forever with His Church, then the believing soul might touch Him with

the touch of faith; might cling to Him with a holler, a more blessed embrace.;

then He would be with us all the days, guiding, strengthening, comforting.

His left hand under our head to support us when we seem to be ready to

fall, His right hand embracing us to shield us from all evil, to assure us of

His love.


  • The thrice-repeated charge to the daughters of Jerusalem. The bride’s

longings for the tokens of the bridegroom’s love again arouse her feelings

of maidenly reserve: as in ch.2:7 and 3:5, she bids her virgin friends not to stir

up or awaken love until it please to manifest itself.  The Christian’s aspirations

after the abiding presence of God arouse in him feelings of reverential awe. He

will remember the Lord’s caution, “Touch me not;” he will avoid expressions of

love which savor too much of merely human tenderness; he will shrink instinctively

from any approach to familiarity; he will remember that the Lord Jesus is the Word

of God, the King, the Judge of all; he will be reverent in all his approaches to the

Saviour; he will endeavor to instill reverence into those around him by

example, by tone, by manner, by word. We must wait on the Lord until He

pleases to manifest Himself; we must not be impatient; we must learn to say

with the psalmist, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou

disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is

the health of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11).



Oh that Men would Understand! (vs. 1-4)


Such seems to be the sentiment of these verses. She who speaks grieves

that those about her did not see how natural and right was her love for her

beloved. She could almost wish he were her brother instead of her

betrothed, for then those who saw her love for him would not, as now they

did, despise her for it. She could not have been already a bride, as is so

constantly assumed, for in that case her love could not have awakened

scorn. But they despised her for clinging to one who, compared with

Solomon, was in their esteem despicable. We may take the section as in

part parallel to the sentiments in Romans 9:1-3; 10:1. She who speaks

could not wish to be not betrothed, and only as a sister. Some, therefore

(Newton), have regarded these verses as an address to the unconverted and

unsaved. Others have held that the “brother” means only an infant brother.

But we take it that as Paul could wish himself unsaved for Israel’s sake, so

here, she who speaks could even wish that she did not hold so dear a

relationship to the beloved, but only that of a sister, so that those about

her, etc. (cf. supra). The words in Romans and here are to be regarded as

hyperbolical expressions, telling of strong desire for others’ good, but not

to be regarded au pied de la lettre. We note that:



NATURAL. The expression of affection between brother and sister all

understand, allow, and approve. And some expressions of religious feeling

they will also admit, provided they are marked by what, they deem sobriety

and conformity to general usage. All beyond that they despise.



THEY DESPISE. Several marks of such affection are suggested here.


Ø      Open avowal of love to Him. The religion of every sensible man,” said

one, “is that which every sensible man keeps to himself.” Therefore such

confession as is suggested by v. 1, “When I should find… I would kiss

thee,” is of course extravagant and to be despised.

Ø      Proselytizing in the family. (v. 2.) “I would bring thee into my

mother’s house.” Sincere religion is often deprecated as bringing

strife into households, and it is difficult to see how our Lord’s

word, “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword” (Matthew

10:34), can be escaped under such circumstances. And even if

there be not absolute proselytizing, the mere presence of an

earnest disciple in a house troubles those therein who have

no or but little love for Christ.

Ø      The habitual heed to his teaching. (v. 2.) “That thou mightest instruct

me” (Revised Version, margin). She would, like Mary, sit at her

Lord’s feet and listen to Him. And even good people like Martha

think such conduct not “a good part,” and that opportunity for

it ought to “be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:42).

Ø      The giving to him of her best. This the meaning of “the wine

prepared from the pomegranate” (v. 2). Such a sincerely loving

soul will not be content with mere ordinary and routine service,

but the best of all she has to give she will offer to him.

Ø      But all this wins scorn and dislike. She who speaks here was

evidently “despised” for her devotion to her beloved, and so

it is still when the like is seen towards Christ.




RIGHT. That men might see this is what is so desired here. But men are as

a child playing on a railway line in front of an advancing train. Some kind

bystander rushes forward and clutches the child and puts it out of danger

before the train is upon it. The child probably only stares displeasedly at

him who has roughly interrupted its play; no spark of gratitude is there. So

men now do not see what Christ has done for them and is willing to do,

and so their hearts are cold to Him. The truth, therefore, that “God so

 loved the world” (John 3:16) must be held up, insisted on, and shown

by lives consecrated to Him under the sense of that love.





5 “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning

upon her beloved?”  We must compare this question with the

corresponding one in ch. 3:6. In that case the inhabitants

of Jerusalem are supposed to be looking forth, and behold the bridal

procession approaching the capitol. In this case the scene is transferred to

the country, to the neighborhood of the bride’s home, where she has

desired to be with her lord. The country people, or the group of her

relatives, are supposed to be gazing at the pair of lovers, not coming in

royal state, but in the sweet simplicity of true affection, the bride leaning

with loving confidence on the arm of her husband, as they were seen before

in the time of their “first love”  (Revelation 2:3).  The restoration of “first love”

is often the prayer of the disciple, feeling how far he falls short of the affection

which such a Master should call forth. The first feelings of the heart when it is

won to Christ are very delightful.


“Where is the blessedness I knew

When first I saw the Lord?

Where is the soul-refreshing view

Of Jesus and His Word?”


It is a blessedness when we come up from the wilderness. It is a joy to

ourselves and a matter of praise to our fellow believers when we are

manifestly filled with a sense of the Saviour’s presence and fellowship. The

word midhbaur, translated “wilderness,” does not, however, necessarily

mean a desolate and barren desert, but rather the open country, as the

Valley of Jezreel The Septuagint had either a different reading in the Hebrew

Or has mistaken it. They have rendered the last clause “clothed in white,”

which perhaps Jerome has followed with his deliciis affluens. The word is,

however, from the root rauvaq, which in the hiph. is “to support one’s

self.” The meaning, therefore, is, “leaning for support.” It might, however,

be intended to represent the loving confidence of married life, and therefore

would be equivalent in meaning to the Greek and Latin renderings, that is,

“Who is this? Evidently a young newly married wife with her husband.”

Perhaps this is the best explanation of the words as preparing for what

follows, as the bridegroom begins at once to speak of the first love. Some

think that the road in which the loving pair are seen to be walking brings

their footsteps near to the apple tree over against Shulamith’s house where

they had first met. But there is no necessity for that supposition. It is

sufficient if we imagine the apple tree to be in sight. ‘I raised thee up

under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she

brought thee forth that bare thee.  I awakened thee; i.e. I stirred thee

up to return the affection which I showed thee (compare ch. 2:7). The

Masoretic reading prints the verb ÚyTirr"wO[, as with the masculine suffix,

but this renders the meaning exceedingly perplexed. The bride would not

speak of awakening Solomon, but it was he who had awakened her. The

change is very slight, the Ú becoming Ë, and is supported by the Old Syriac

Version. It must be remembered that the bridegroom immediately addresses

the bride, speaking of her mother. The apple tree would certainly be most

naturally supposed to be situated somewhere near the house where the bride

was bore perhaps overshadowing it or branching over the windows, or trained

upon the trellis surrounding the house. The bridegroom points to it. “See, there

it is, the familiar apple tree beside the house where thy dear self wast born. There,

yonder, is where thy mother dwelt, and where thou heartiest my first words

of affection as we sat side by side just outside the house under the shade of

the apple tree.” The language is exquisitely simple and chaste, and yet so

full of the tender affection of the true lover. The spot where the first

breathings of love came forth will ever be dear in the remembrance of those

whose affection remains faithful and fond. The typical view certainly finds

itself supported in these words. Nothing is more delightful and more

helpful to the believer than to go over in thought, again and again, and

especially when faith grows feeble, when the heart is cold and fickle under

the influence of worldly temptations and difficulties of the Christian course,

the history of the first beginning of the spiritual life. We recall how dear the

Lord was to us then, how wonderful His love seemed to us, how

condescending and how merciful. We reproach ourselves that we faint and

fail; we cry out for the fullness of grace, and it is given us.



The Christian Pilgrim (v.5)


Life with every man is a journey; a march from the cradle to the grave. To

the pious man this journey is religious; it has a moral character. It is not

simply the inevitable moving on from year to year; beside this, it is a

progress in knowledge, faith, holiness, and usefulness. The grave is not the

Christian’s goal. His goal is perfection — perfect excellence and perfect

joy. Every day’s experience is related to THE GREAT ETERNITY.   Each duty

well discharged, each sin conquered, each trouble patiently endured, is a distinct

step heavenward. It is not merely a movement onward; it is also a

movement upward. The journey of the Hebrews through the wilderness to

the earthly Canaan furnishes many instructive analogies with the Christian’s

passage to the skies. We, who possess the new life within, “seek a country,

that is, a heavenly.”  (Like Abraham – Hebrews 11:10,14-16)





Ø      It is a wilderness on account of its barrenness. So in our unregenerate

condition there was in us no fertility and no beauty. There may have

been a few barren stalks of common morality; but they yielded no

fragrance, they bore no fruit. In this wilderness there was nothing to

satisfy the desires and aspirations of the soul. This world has its

possessions, its pleasures, its honors, its shows, but none of these please

or elevate the soul. We aspire after righteousness, after moral excellence,

after the friendship of God; and with respect to these things this world

is barren and empty. No man can lie down fully contented in it. It is not

suitable for us as a possession; so that most men, burdened with care and

infirmity, sigh out, “I would not live alway.” “He that loveth silver shall

not be satisfied with silver”  (Ecclesiastes 5:10).  The vapid

joys of this world soon pall upon the appetite. They do not increase the

capacity for joy; they diminish it. And many a man who has taken his

fill of this world’s pleasure concludes life with this dismal verdict on

his lips, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!”  (Ibid.  1:2)


Ø      Moreover, this wilderness is infested with foes. If in the Arabian desert

the Hebrews were exposed to human foes, to wild beasts and fierce

serpents, so in this world many foes infest the way. Many and subtle

are the snares which the enemy sets for our feet. We are liable to ten

thousand annoyances. Evil men tempt us with a view to ruin us.

“Satan goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”

(I Peter 5:8).  We have need for perpetual watchfulness. We have to

fight with many adversaries. Clearly “this is not our rest.”



Tis an ascent.


Ø      Progress is the only way to perfection. It is true that God might have

brought about perfection by some other way; but, as a fact, He has

ordained this way, and this only. All the similitudes employed in

Scripture to set forth the Christian life describe it as a thing of progress.

The progress may be slow or more rapid; nevertheless, if there is life

there is growth. In some believers the processes of enlightenment,

conversion, and edification may be more rapid than in others (just as

in some climates the processes of budding, blossoming, and ripening

in fruit trees are more rapid than in our own land); still, in every

instance perfection is attained by distinct stages.  The life of every

Christian is a progress along the heavenly way.


Ø      Discomfort is incident to a pilgrimage. No one expects to find the same

comforts on a journey which he finds at home. On a journey one is

content with the bare necessaries of existence. Would it not be madness

to encumber one’s self with soft couches and luxurious indulgences

while on a journey? Would not such things seriously impede our progress?

And is it not the one desire of a pilgrim to advance as rapidly as possible?

To reach the end of his pilgrimage at the earliest hour is the uppermost

desire of every true pilgrim. Therefore needless burdens are left behind.

This is how ordinary pilgrims conduct themselves. And should not every

Christian be more eager to advance along the way than to cumber himself

with lands, or houses, or worldly honors? He who is bent on heavenly

progress is bent also on self-denial. To grow like Christ, that is the

Christian’s daily business. Every day another step.


Ø      The pilgrim often pursues a solitary path. He is much alone. In the

vision of the text only one is seen “coming up from the wilderness.” She

had left the broad path where many were found. She had left her old friends

and companions. More and more the Christian has to walk alone. When

first he resolved to follow Jesus he had to abandon former acquaintances;

and, as often as he essays to reach a loftier level, he has to part with some

comrades. He has learnt the art of personal decision. If others will not

ascend with him to the higher planes of holy living, he must go alone. He

would rather miss the company of a hundred than lose the company of his

Well-beloved. Hence the frequent solitariness of the pilgrim. So far as

outward connection with Christ’s disciples is concerned, he will not

separate himself. He cultivates all possible bonds of unity. He fosters

Church life. But with regard to the inner life of his soul, i.e. his personal

fellowship with Jesus, he is much alone. Yet, when most alone, he has the

best society.



her Beloved.”


Ø      This leaning implies a sense of Christs nearness. We cannot lean

upon anything that is not close at hand, yea, in actual touch with us.

Though we cannot perceive Jesus with the organ of the body, we

have a stronger proof still of His nearness. The experience of the soul

is far more real and far more reliable than any sensation of the body.

No organ is more easily deceived than the eye. Certainly our Immanuel

gains immediate entrance to the heart. This fact is contained in His

name, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  So, without the intervention

of words or other vehicle, He imparts good cheer and strength

straight to the soul. He comes nearer than any human friend can

come. He knows all the secret doors by which to pass in. He

touches all the secret springs of life and reanimates them.

He comes “to give life, to give it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)


Ø      Leaning means the transference of all our weakness to Jesus.

To lean is to find support in another. If I am too weak to walk a

distance of fifty miles, and I take a seat in a railway train, I transfer

my weakness to that steam engine, and I take the benefit of its

strength. At the outset of our Christian life we laid the whole weight

of our sin upon OUR SUBSTITUTE!  We said, “God be merciful,

for the sake of Jesus!” This was the foundation of our hope. As we

grow in grace we learn more and more to leave our burdens in the

hand of Jesus. We overcome the tempter, not by our own

native strength, but through Christ, “who strengtheneth us”

(Philippians 4:13).  “I live,” said Paul: “yet not I, but Christ

liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20).  This righteousness I have is

Christ’s righteousness. This love for sinful men is Christ’s love

shed abroad in my heart” (Romans 5:5).  This wisdom to instruct

and guide others is Christ’s wisdom. I am “leaning on my Beloved.”

He takes on Him all my weaknesses. He imparts to me His all-sufficient

strength. It is a sacred and a vital partnership. Faith is perpetual



Ø      This leaning implies that Jesus is a consenting party. He loves to be

used, loves to be trusted. Our weakness can never be a strain upon

Him, for His strength is omnipotence. He cannot fail, for such

faithfulness was never seen among men — no, nor among angels.

I could not trust to Him for my eternal well being if I did not know

that He shared in the Godhead. Clearly He is fully competent to take

the whole weight of my salvation. And equally certain is it that HE IS

WILLING!  His love is as great as His power. His patience

has often been severely tried, but it has proved abundantly adequate.

The sun may cease to shine, the mountains may bow their snowy crests,

the sea may vacate its bed; yet His loving kindness and His faithfulness

eternally abide — these cannot fail. It is to Him a real delight to help the

weak and needy. After fifty or sixty years’ experience of His tender grace,

(for me it is seventy – CY – 2014).  He says to us, “You have never half

used me yet; you have never trusted me half enough. Hitherto you have

asked nothing, comparatively nothing. “Ask, and ye shall receive”

(John 16:24).  So that our response ought to be spontaneous, “My soul,

wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him” (Psalm 62:5).

As the ivy clings for support to the oak, or as the limpet clings to the

solid rock, so may we in our native weakness cling to THE ETERNAL

STRENGTH!   As our faith grown, so will grow our love; and love, again,

will encourage faith. There is a beautiful interaction. We lean upon Jesus

 because He is our Well-beloved.



The Home Coming (v.5)


“Who is this that cometh up,” etc.? The end of this pastoral song is

approaching. The speaker in the former verses has finished her recital with

words telling of her yearning love for her beloved, and an adjuration to

those listening to her that they should not attempt to alter her mind

towards him (vs. 3-4). They are the same as in ch.2:7; 3:5. And now the

scene changes. She has been rescued from or permitted to leave her gilded but

none the less hated captivity in Solomon’s palace, and with her beloved is

returning to her old home. A band of friends exclaim, “Who is this,” etc.?

Applying the words spiritually, we may take them of the soul’s home

coming. And they tell:


·         WHITHER SUCH SOUL COMES. It is ever an upward coming. For all

the characteristics of the soul’s true home are far above the soul’s natural

condition. For here, assuredly, we have not peace. “Man is born,” not to

peace, but “to trouble” (Job 14:1).  Who knows not that? For sin is the

great troubler.  Therefore, for the soul to have what it so desires, it must

come up and away from the wilderness. Purity, likewise. How here can

we keep ourselves undefiled? Who amongst men unregenerate and unsaved

ever does so?


Find a thing which has created itself? 

                        If you had no existence,

                        How could you create yourself?

                        Nothing cannot produce anything!

                        How can a man recreate himself?

                        A man cannot create himself into a new condition,

                                    When he, himself has no being in that condition. 

Charles H. Spurgeon


 But as the soul in coming home enters into the peace of God, so

also shall it partake of His purity. Rest. The trials, crosses, and

disappointments of life, its manifold adversities, all ceaselessly proclaim to

the soul, “This is not your rest.” But “there remaineth a rest for the people

of God” (Hebrews 4:9).  And the soul, uprising in faith and love towards God, does even

here know much of the truth of Christ’s promise, “I will give you rest.”

And then there is the course and consummation of all these in the presence

of God eternally in heaven. Here we have pledges and foretastes, but there

only are we made perfect.


·         WHENCE. “From the wilderness.” How fit that word for the soul’s

condition here ere it is redeemed by Christ! Are not:


Ø      the distress of conscience,

Ø      the sense of guilt,

Ø      the tyranny and cruelty of sin,

Ø      the trials of life, and

Ø      at length the grave,


 are not all these wilderness like things? But when the soul comes home, it

comes away from all these. It is not a coming in them, as every soul has

to make acquaintance with them when it is born into the world; nor is it a

coming through them — that is what we are occupied in now whilst we

linger here; but it is coming from them, leaving them all behind. Oh,

blessed home coming of the soul!


·         HOW.   “Leaning upon her beloved.” This tells of the souls relation to

Christ. He is “her Beloved.” Of its union with Him. As it were linked

lovingly together as the soul leans upon Him. Of its dependence upon

Christ. It is a long, rough, lonely, and difficult way that the soul has to

traverse. It needs, therefore, that the Lord should be her “arm” every day

(Isaiah 33:2). Of its communion with Christ. Note the affectionate

converse of the next verse. The maiden is represented as coming to a

particular tree where once she had awaked him from a noonday slumber,

and where, too, he had been born (compare Genesis 35:16). And they

talk of these reminiscences. It was natural, and tells of the familiar

intercourse, the happy communion, which the soul enjoys with Christ.

Yes, it is thus that we make our way homeward, heavenward:


Ø      in union,

Ø      in dependence, and

Ø      in communion, with Christ.


Thus we come up from the wilderness leaning on our beloved Lord.


6 “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm:  for love

is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals

of fire,  which hath a most vehement flame.  7 Many waters cannot quench

love, neither can the floods drown it; if a man would give all the substance

of his house for love, he would be utterly contemned.”   Is this to be regarded as

the reply of the bride to the tender allusion of her husband to their first love; or is it,

as some think, only the first words which belong to the bride, while the rest of the

two verses are a kind of chorus echoing her loving appeal, and bringing the general

action of the poem to a conclusion? It is difficult to decide this, and the meaning is

not affected either way. Perhaps, however, it is best to take it as spoken by

the bride, who continues her address to the end of the eighth verse. She is

full of joy in the return of perfect confidence; she prays that the full tide of

affection may never cease to flow, that there be no ebbing of that happy

feeling in which she now delights; and then sings the praise of love itself, as

though a prelude of praise to a long and eternal peace. The seal is the

signet ring, chotham, from a root “to impress” It was sometimes carried by

a string on the breast, and would, therefore, be near the heart (see

Genesis 38:18). It was sometimes worn on the hand (see Jeremiah 22:24; and

compare Genesis 41:42; Esther 3:12). It was not worn on the

arm like a bracelet (II Samuel 1:10). Probably it was not the signet ring

which is referred to in the second clause: “Set me as a seal on thine heart,

and as a bracelet on thine arm.” The same simile is not infrequent in the

prophets. The desire of Shulamith was to escape all possibility of those

declensions of which she had spoken before. “Let me never be out of thy

thoughts; let me never go back from my fullness of joy in thy love.” The

true believer understands well such language. He knows that the

maintenance of devout affection is not a matter of mere desire and will.

The Lord Himself must help us with His blessed gifts, the influence of His

gracious Spirit to overcome the feebleness and fickleness of a fallen heart.

We want to be close to the heart of the Saviour; we want to be constantly

in His eye, and so diligently employed in His service, so closely associated

with the work of His mighty arm, that we shall be ever receiving from Him

the signs and evidences of His approval and affection. The purity and

perfection of true love are the theme of every sincere believer. The priceless

value of such love is described in Proverbs 6:34-35, in Numbers 22:18, and

I Corinthians 13:3. It is an unquenchable flame — nothing can resist it. We cannot

but recall the rapturous language of one who himself was an example of the highest

devotedness to the Saviour, who rejoiced over death and the grave in the

consciousness of victory through him from whose love nothing can

separate us (Romans 8:38-39; I Corinthians 15:54). Certainly the

history of the sufferings and trials of the true Church form a most striking

commentary upon these words. Floods of persecution have swept over it,

but they have not quenched love. The flame has burst forth again and again

when it seemed to be extinguished, and it has become a very “flame of the

Lord.” The bush has been burning, but has not been consumed. By jealousy

is intended love in its intensity not bearing a rival. The “flame of the Lord”

may be compared with “the voice of the Lord,” which is described in

Hebrew poetry as connected with the fury of the storm. The flame,

therefore, would be lightning and the voice thunder. The whole of this

passage, which forms a kind of keynote of the poem, is more like a distinct

strain introduced to give climax to the succession of songs than the natural

expression of the bride’s feelings. It has been always regarded as one of the

sublimest apostrophes to love to be found anywhere. The enemies of God

and of humanity are represented as falling before it, death and the grave. Its

vehemence and force of manifestation are brought vividly before us by the

comparison of the flash of lightning. It is remarkable that this exaltation of

love should be included in the Old Testament, thus proving that the Mosaic

Law, with its formal prescriptions, by no means fulfils the whole purpose of

God in His revelation to the world. As the New Testament would not have

been complete without the message of the beloved disciple, so this Old

Testament must have its song of love. Nor is it only the ideal and the

heavenly love which is celebrated, but human affection itself is placed very

high, because it is associated with that which is Divine. It is a more

precious thing than mere wealth or worldly honor, and he that trifles with

it deserves the utmost scorn and contempt of his fellows. It is well to

remark how consistently the poetic framework is maintained. There is no

attempt to leave the lines of human relations even at this point, where

evidently the sentiment rises above them. The love which is apostrophized

is not removed from earth in order to be seen apart from all earthly

imperfections and impurities. We are invited rather to look through the

human to the Divine which embraces it and glorifies it. That is the method

of the Divine revelation throughout. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt

among us”  (John 1:14).  We do not need to take Solomon’s Song as an allegory.

It is a song of human love, but as such it is a symbol of that which is Divine.



Love’s Characteristics (vs. 6-7)


These verses may be regarded as the theme of the entire song. All its chief

incidents are illustrative of the vigor, vehemence, and victory of true love.

The literal story tells of the triumph of such love as seen in the maiden and

her beloved, and as has often been seen in like human love. But as a parable

or allegory, it tells of the love of the soul to Christ, and of His to us.


  • ITS STRENGTH. “Strong as death.” Death reigns. Who can resist his

will? (compare Psalm 90). So love is all-powerful. It is a universal passion.

It bears away all men in its might. It is an irrepressible force. This is true of

human love. And in the love of the redeemed soul for Christ it has proved

itself again and again “strong as death.” Every one of the noble army of

martyrs has faced death and vanquished it. “They loved not their lives unto

the death” (Revelation 12:11); “For thy sake we are killed all the day long”

 (Romans 8:36).  And yet more in Christs love for us. Physical death, even

the death of the cross, could not daunt Him. Spiritual death, even that in

which we all were — dead in trespasses and sins — has not been and shall

not be too strong for Him, though sometimes it seems to be so. His love is

surely as strong as that death. “Where sin did abound, grace did much

more abound”  (Ibid. 5:20)


  • ITS TENACITY. “Jealousy,” or, rather, ardent, intense love — this is

what is meant, not the mean passion which is known as jealousy. The same

love is spoken of all through. And it is “cruel,” or rather firm, tenacious,

unyielding, “as the grave,” as Sheol. Does hell ever give up its dead? Can

we call back any from the grave? Can they who are there come back

thence? So love holds fast that which it loves. The story of this song, as

many a beautiful human story, proves the tenacity of true love. And the

story of the Christian Church, in her love for her Lord, shows the same.

What has not been done to compel redeemed souls to give up their love for

Christ? And His love for us above all. “My sheep shall never perish, neither

shall any pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).


  • ITS VEHEMENCE. “The coals thereof are coals of fire,” etc. Think

of what such fire is and does. How it melts, fuses, and subdues that which

comes under its power! How, as in volcanoes, it struggles for the mastery

until it finds vent in victory! How it burns, consumes, tortures! Apply all

this to intense human love — to the soul’s love for Christ, and His for us.

Are not many sinful souls conscious of Divine love’s torturing power? See

Peter when His Lord’s look of love drove him forth in agony from the scene

of his denial. Listen to Christ’s word to Saul, “It is hard for thee to kick

against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism

of fire (compare Luke 12:49-50).


  • ITS UNQUENCHABLENESS. “Many waters,” etc. There were such

many waters” which tried, in the beautiful human story of this song, but

they could not quench the maiden’s love for her beloved. And so has it

been again and again in human experience. And think of the waters that

sought to quench, and the floods to drown, the love of Christ in saintly

souls. And they have failed, and will fail. And think of the like that could

not extinguish, though so many more and fiercer far, the love which Christ

bore towards us. Think of them, and see if Christ’s love does not pass

knowledge.  (Then think of the unsuccessful flooding of the church by

Satan – Revelation 12:12-17 – CY – 2014)


  • ITS INCORRUPTIBILITY. “If a man would give,” etc. It is not for

sale; it cannot be bought or bribed. Again, apply this test to the three forms

of love we have spoken of — human, Christian, Christ’s. And apply all

these tests to our own love, and see if it will endure them. If it will, be

thankful indeed, and make it evident to all that it is so. If it will not — and

this is the sadder and more probable truth — behold, gaze on, contemplate

earnestly, Christ’s love to us; and then for us, too, it may come to pass,

whilst I was musing, the fire burned.”  (Psalm 39:30



Prayer for Full Assurance (vs. 6-7)


The marrow and essence of true religion is love. If there is no love to God,

there is no religion. If I am not the object of God’s love, I have no solid

hope of a blissful immortality. Hence it is our primary and supreme concern

to ascertain whether we have a place in God’s affection. Has God a care

for me? Has He put my name on His book of life? Is He engaged by solemn

covenant to be my Friend eternally? I want to know this. If I am left in

suspense, it is, of all things, most painful. It robs me of the inspiration and

the stimulus of hope. It weakens my endeavor after holiness. It damps my

zeal. It checks my cheerfulness, and kills my inward peace. Unless the

warm sunshine of Immanuel’s love encircle me, I shall not produce the ripe

fruits of goodness. Will my love be steadfast? Shall I hold out to the end?

Well, all is secure if I know that I share in the love of Christ; for that love is

endearing, unchanging, tender, all-victorious, everlasting. If my name is on

the heart of my Saviour, then my eternal fortune is certain. No ill can come

to me through time or through eternity. Therefore this prayer, “Set me as a

seal upon thy heart.”




Ø      It is a plea for love. Unless God had revealed to us the fact that in His

heart there glowed a vehement flame of love for sinning men, we could

never have surmised it. We might have carefully noted His many

arrangements in nature for ministering to our happiness. We might have

reasoned in our mind that, since He had given us the capacity to love, the

spring and fount of that love must be in His own breast. Yet this would

have been at the best conjecture. We could not have built on it any hope of

enjoying His personal friendship, or of sharing His society eternally. But

He has given us a veritable gospel. He has assured us that His highest love

centers in men. He has given us plain and practical proofs of the ardor of

His love. He has given us the sure pledge that His love is a permanent

force in His nature; yea, an attribute of His Godhead. Therefore this love

kindles our hope, excites our profoundest desire. God loves me; hence I

can become a better man. I can rise out of the mire of sin. I can emerge

out of the grave of dark despair. I can become a child of God, a prince in

the kingdom of heaven. My heart is deeply moved. I love Him who gave

Himself for me. I want to love Him more. But He must soften my nature,

And draw out my love. Will He condescend to do it? Will He have pity

On undeserving me? I want to have this question solved. Jesus, I pray

Thee make me thy friend!


Ø      It is a petition for the assurance of Christs love. The language is very

probably borrowed from an impressive scene in the temple. It was a part

of the duty of the high priest, when he went into the holy place, and

came into immediate contact with God, to wear upon his breast and

upon his shoulders the names of the tribes of Israel. These names were

graven upon precious stones, and this ceremony indicated the

affectionate interest which the high priest felt in the welfare of the people.

He lived for them. He made oblation for their sins. He interceded with

God on their behalf. Their misfortunes and their falls became his

misfortunes and his burdens. He identified himself completely with the

people. So his influence with God was used for them. Now, we too have

a great High Priest; not a frail, erring man like Aaron and his successors.

We have a perfect Mediator, even the Son of God Himself. He has passed

into the heavens as our Representative. If He will identify Himself with

me, and undertake my salvation, I am fully content. For so excellent is

He that His pleading always does and must prevail. Can I be sure that He

feels an interest in me? Yes, it is possible. If I ask for this blessing I shall

have it. Hence I pray, “Set me as a seal upon thy heart.”


Ø      This also is a plea for practical help. “Set me as a signet upon thine

arm.” The love of Jesus is not an inactive sentiment. It is sympathetic;

it is personally helpful. His love puts into gracious operation all the

energies of His being. I want the protection of a mighty arm. I want

superior help. My heart has grown very insensible through sin, and I

want Him to soften it. I want Him to eradicate from me the old roots

of lust and folly. I want Him to break off my letters of evil habit,

I want Him to remodel and revitalize my whole nature. No one else

can do it. His strength is almightiness. If He will use His Divine power

for my good, I shall be emancipated and purified and ennobled. I shall

run gladly in His ways. And He is willing to do it. He delights in saving

men and in doing good. So I will pray, “O Saviour, let thy great power

work in me. Put forth thy strength on my behalf. ‘Set me as a signet

on thy arm.’”



strong as death.” The Christian has large hope and has large expectation,

because the principle or quality in God concerned about his salvation is

love. So he argues with his heavenly Friend in this way: “It is for my

eternal good that my name should be engraven on thy heart, for this I

know that love is strong; yea, the mightiest thing in the world.”


Ø      This plea for the assurance of Gods love is founded on the power of

love. Commentators have differed whether the writer had in view here

Immanuel’s love to us, or our love to Him. But it is evident that the

inspired writer is thinking about love in the abstract. Real love

everywhere is strong. The timid bird, that usually flees from man or dog,

will, to defend its young, risk its own life and attack its fiercest foe. Love

is strong. What peril has not a human mother faced to save her child?

Can we measure the strength of love by any known test? Can we express

it by any metaphor? I cannot conceive any difficult feat too formidable

for love. I think of love as I observe its working among men. I think of it

as I experience its strength in me. It is next to omnipotent in man. It will

readily confront death and grapple that mysterious foe. Amongst men,

it is strong as death; yea, stronger, mightier! WHAT, THEN, MUST

LOVE BE IN OUR IMMANUEL?   Here it exists in perfect form,

 in uncreated measure, without a flaw or blemish. If love in Christ

be the same sort of thing as love in my breast (and it is), then that

love will endure anything to save its object. If my name is on Jesus’

heart, this is my best-founded security for all good, present and eternal.


Ø      The argument proceeds on this ground, that baffled love is poignant

pain. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave.” This, again, is spoken of jealousy

in the abstract. If I love, and my love is encouraged, and for a time

reciprocated, until it burns with ardor; then, if a rival comes between me

and my object, what pain, what fierce indignation, follows! Such

jealousy springs out of injured love, that the heart passion is

uncontrollable. It overleaps all barriers of law, all limits of reason.

You cannot hold it in check. “It is cruel as the grave;” cruel as hell.

Now, if Jesus has set His heart upon me; if He has sacrificed much

on my account; if He has attested His affection by the cross and

by the grave; then will He allow any rival to supplant Him? Would

there not be a feeling of intense pain, akin to jealousy, burning in

His breast if anything came between Him and the object of His love?

Hence, for His own sake, He will not cast me off. For His own

sake He will not cease to love me, nor cease to win my love in return.

We are told that “He hates putting away  (Malachi 2:16).  Here, then,

is a very forceful argument, that for His own peace of mind, for His

own honor, He will give me — poor, unworthy me — a larger place

in His heart. “Having loved His own, He loves them unto the end.”

(John 13:1)


Ø      The argument proceeds on loves unchangeableness. Literally

translated, it is, “The coals thereof are the coals of God.” This

flame never decreases; it is fed from a storehouse of infinity.

Changeableness is incident to man, but it has no place with God.

We may love a person under a false estimate of that person’s

excellence. The charms may be plausible and pretentious rather

than real. Hence our affections may diminish, undergo

complete change. This can never happen with God. He does not

love us because we are lovable. He loves us in order to make us

lovable and worthy of Himself. His love chose us when we were

aliens, rebels, depraved, dead in sin. (“But God commendeth His

love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, CHRIST

DIED FOR US  - Romans 5:8).  As there was nothing in us to

attract Him at the first, so nothing in us will drive Him away.

He will correct, chastise, prune, purify us, but will not allow His

love to change. Says He, “I have loved thee with an everlasting

love(Jeremiah 31:3).  The flame of love which glows in His

breast is a flame that cannot die out, so long as God is God.


  • THE RESPONSE TO THIS PRAYER. We may very properly regard

this verse as the bridegroom’s response. To the pathetic, yearning appeal of

the bride, he promptly replies, “Thy argument is most valid; cogent in the

extreme. Yea, verily, many waters cannot quench love, neither can the

floods drown it.”


Ø      Love is all-victories. If it be imaged forth as a flame of fire, then in one

respect the figure fails. You can extinguish flame with water, if only

you can pour on a sufficient quantity; but on this flame of love no

amount of coldness or opposition will cool it in the least degree. Let

Satan and his legions do their very utmost to lessen the intensity of

this heavenly flame, their labor is vain. They only prepare for

themselves a bitter disappointment. Or let the floods of human vice

and human antagonism rise as they may, they can never rise as high

as this heavenly flame. The finite can never o’ermaster the Infinite.

The love of God to men is a sacred principle, an integral part of the

Divine nature. There is nothing outside God to be compared in

potency with what is within Him. As the creature can never be a

match for the Creator, so no kind of opposition can ever

injure or diminish the eternal love of God. Just as nothing on earth

nor in hell can diminish God’s power or tarnish His righteousness,

so also nothing can lessen or dim the fervent flame of His eternal pity.

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that

fear Him”  (Psalm 103:13).  “Many waters cannot quench love;”

yea, love turns all human hatred into fresh coals to feed the flame.


Ø      Love has a priceless value. The argument on the part of the Bridegroom

seems to be, “Wherefore should my love abate. If it should, there must be

some reason for it. What reason can there be what advantage? what gain?”

Even were there some advantage to be gained, this would not weigh in the

scale. For love scorns all advantage. Love delights in sacrifice. Only let

love discover how it can make some new surrender, in order to bless the

fallen and the wretched, and straightway love makes the surrender. Jesus

will give up His heaven, His joy, His crown, today; give all up without

hesitation, if He can thereby lift some poor sinner into a righteous life. On

His part nothing shall impede the activities of His ardent love. Will He

ever listen to any proposal to allow His love to rest? Never! Will He at

any time prefer ease, or rule, or fame, or worship, to the outgoings of

practical love?  Never! A thousand times, never! Do I feel myself now

more unworthy of His love than ever in my past history? Then, my soul,

be hopeful! Here is greater scope for Immanuel’s love! Spirit of truth,

show me more clearly yet my guilt, my ingratitude, my inward

corruption!   For then shall I see how much I need my Saviour’s pity,

my Saviour’s help.  Then I know that He will run to my deliverance.

For “Christ died for the ungodly”   (Romans 5:6).  He loves

to save the needy. If I have had much sin forgiven, then shall I love

much. “Therefore, Lord, write my name upon thy heart, for in me thy

love shall have a glorious triumph!”


8 “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall

we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?” The term

“little” refers, of course, to her tender age, as in II Kings 5:2, the “little

maid;” and in Genesis 44:20, “a child of his old age, a little one,”

referring to Benjamin. “She hath no breasts” is equivalent to saying she is

not yet mature, of marriageable age (see Ezekiel 16:7). The question

which the bride asks of King Solomon refers to the promise which he is

supposed to have made, and which he is virtually pledging himself to fulfill

by this visit to the country home of his queen. “What shall be done for the

advantage of my little sister? Let us consult together” (compare Genesis

27:37; I Samuel 10:2; Isaiah 5:4). “The day when she shall be

spoken for” is the day when she shall attract the attention of a suitor. It

must necessarily be difficult to find satisfactory interpretations for every

detail in such a poem of human love as this. It might be sufficient to see in

this reference to the younger sister the general idea of love’s expansion.

Those who are themselves the objects of it, being full of exquisite

happiness, desire to call others into the same joy. This is true both of the

individual and of the Church. What shall be done for others? That is the

question which is awakened in every heart where true love is at work.

There is no need to explain the language further. But the allegorists have

been very ingenious in attempting to find meanings for every allusion of the

poem. Who is the little sister? What is her virginity? What is the day in

which she shall be spoken for? Some have said that the little sister

represents the first-fruits of the Jews and Gentiles received into the Christian

Church immediately after the time of our Lord’s ascension, as Beza and

others. Some, again, take it to mean the whole body of Jews and Gentiles

yet to be converted. Others would see in it those that are weak in faith, the

beginners in Christian life. And, again, it has been regarded as pointing to

the “daughter of Zion” at the time of the first beginnings of her conversion

to the heavenly Solomon, which is the view of Hengstenberg and others.

There is no end to such fancies. The broad general meaning is all that we

can rest upon. The bride naturally thinks of her sister. It is a lovely incident

in a perfectly idyllic poem. The visit to the home is quite in harmony with

the fresh, pure, and simple life which reveals itself in all the utterances of

the bride, and is honored by the devoted attention of the splendid

monarch. It is a real touch of nature when the young bride, in her family life

once more, asks what shall become of her sister. It is an exquisite type of

that sisterly solicitude with which all true Christians will care for the souls

around them. Delitzsch thinks that the question which is asked by the bride

is answered by her brothers, as they were the actual guardians of the little

sister (see Genesis 34:6-8). But there is no necessity to introduce any new

interlocutors at this point. The words are certainly addressed to Solomon.

It is quite natural that he should reply to them in a royal style, with the

pluralis majestatis which suits the corresponding position of the bride as a

suppliant for her sister.


9 “If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver:

and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.”  The

interpretation which Delitzsch suggests of these words is that the “wall”

represents firmness of character, and the “door” weakness and insecurity. If

she firmly and successfully withstands all immoral approaches, then we will

bestow high honor upon her, as a tribute to her maidenly virtue and

constancy. The turret or castle of silver would mean rewarding her with

increase. Silver is the emblem of holiness, gold of nobility. The meaning

may, however, merely be, “We will endow her with plenty.” The boards of

cedar are supposed to be special protections, as cedar is noted for its

hardness and durability. But is not the meaning much simpler and more

natural? It would be rather a far fetched use of the figure of a door that it

should suggest seduction, and would be rather unsuitable in the lips of the

bridegroom when speaking of the little sister of his own bride. May not the

meaning be no more than this? — She may become one of the most

substantial parts of the building, like a wall; in that case all that she can be

she shall be; we will put the highest honor upon her. She may be a door,

that is, though not so great and substantial as the wall, still in the very front

of the building and before the eyes of all. In that case we will beautify her

with costly and fragrant adornment. The gate shall be enclosed in cedar

wood. “The wall and the door,” says Zockler, “are mostly understood of

the steadfast and faithful keeping of the Word of God and of its zealous

proclamation to the Gentiles (I Corinthians 16:9); but some also

explain them of the valiant in faith and the weak in faith, or of the learned

and simple, or of faithful Christians and such as are recreant and easily

accessible to the arts of seduction. And then, according to these various

interpretations, the ‘silver bulwarks’ are now the miracles of the first

witnesses of Jesus, now the distinguished teachers of the Church, now

pious Christian rulers, now the testimonies of Holy Scripture by which faith

is strengthened. And, again, by the ‘cedar boards’ are sometimes

understood the ten commandments or the Law, sometimes Christian

teachers, sometimes the examples of the saints, sometimes the salutary

discipline of the cross and sufferings for Christ’s sake,” etc. All such

attempts at detailed interpretation fail to give satisfaction. Their effect is to

repel many from the study of the book altogether, just as the follies and.

extravagances of the interpreters of prophecy have greatly hindered the

study of the prophetic Scriptures. The wall and the door need not be taken

as opposed to one another, as they are not in our conceptions of a city.

They fulfill different functions. The wall is for defense; the door is for

admission. In the one case we think of strength, and in the other case of

beauty. The application of the symbols is very easy if the general meaning

alone is regarded. There is a variety of capacity and function in the Church

of Christ. There are differences in the forms of Christianity among different

nations. But the Lord will receive and bless all. Some are not fitted to be

built upon as strong wails, but they may still be beautiful examples of

Christian graces in the eyes of the world, through whom many gladly enter

into the truth and into THE FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST!




The Little Sister (vs. 8-9)


This verse seems to be an inquiry on the part of those who are heard

speaking in v. 5. They probably knew the story of her who was now

returning with her beloved, and their question shows their surprise. Then

they listen to her entreaty addressed to him whom she so loved (v. 6),

and to her recital of the characteristics of such love as hers. They now

interpose with the question in v. 8 concerning a younger sister, who is

not merely young, but, from the answer given (v. 9), seems also to have

been of uncertain and unsatisfactory character. But the question may be

taken as addressed to the beloved by her who has just been speaking. Many

think this; that it is she who is telling of her little sister, and asking what

shall be done for her. If so, then the question and answer lend themselves

as parables of great spiritual truths. It is not likely that these verses have

been or will be often preached upon; but should they be, they may, perhaps,

be profitably used by spiritualizing them as telling of the concern for others

which the redeemed soul cherishes. When the woman of Samaria found

Christ, she sought that others should find Him too. The Prophet Ezekiel

says, “Thy younger sister is Sodom” (Ezekiel 16:46). Hence we may

take this sister as telling of the whole heathen world, and that world in its

worst state. If so, then we may learn:



CHILDREN OF ONE FATHER.  (Acts 17:24-26).  “We have a sister.

“Christ stands in the relation of an elder Brother to the Gentile as well as to

the Jewish Church; therefore these two must be sisters.” All men are to say,

“Our Father which art in heaven.”



come a “day when she shall be spoken for.” Compare “Other sheep I have

which are not of this fold, them I also must bring.” (John 10:16); “Ask of me,

and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance” etc.  (Psalm 2:8).


  • THEY ARE NOT READY FOR HIM. Not ready for that spiritual

union with Christ into which His Church shall enter. How certain this is!

They are sunk in sin.



ARE CHRIST’S. “What shall be done for her?” This has been the impulse

of all true missions, of all endeavors to bring in others to Christ.



answer to the inquiry, “What shall be done?” “If she be a wall,” etc. In the

literal story this probably refers to her steadfastness in virtue (compare v. 10),

and the “door” to an opposite character. We may take the words as telling:


Ø      Of preparedness to receive the truth. There is amongst some people a

preparedness for the faith which greatly facilitates its reception. That

preparedness is as a wall which shuts out the inroads of the vile vices

which too commonly belong to heathenism, and, as a wall, strengthens

them in the maintenance of many excellences. Where this is, there

Christ will build a glorious Church (compare Psalm 48:12-13).


Ø      Of ordinary heathenism, which is as a door, in and out of which

come and go all manner and kinds of evils. If it be so, then, as in

Romans 2:7, then she should be shut in, enclosed with sacred

restraints, as with boards of cedar. And the providence of God

has in the past and will in the future so work that it will restrain

the grosser practices of heathenism. For often is it seen that even

where the heart is not yielded to Christ, yet the sacred

restraints of religious custom do tend to regulate conduct and hinder it

from much evil.   See the influence of Sunday on our national life. The

counsel suggested, therefore, as to what to do in regard to those as yet

not Christ’s, is that where there is preparedness, encourage it; and where

not, restrain the practice of evil, make sin difficult so far as you can.


10 “I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that

found favor.  11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard

unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of

silver.”  12 My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must

have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.”  The

meaning seems to be affectionate approval of the method just described.

Solomon says, “If the young sister be, worthy of love, she shall receive

more and more of defense and honor; she shall be all that I can make her.”

The bride takes up this thought. “So it is with me, and, in the spirit of

thankful acknowledgments and praise, I will respond to all the favor of

the king. King Solomon has loved me, and now I am rising higher and

becoming more and more glorious because of his love.” The typical

reference can scarcely be missed. The Church, the bride of the Lamb,

shines only in the light of Him whose favor is life, and whose loving

kindness is better than life  (Psalm 30:5; 63:3).  The comparison to a city with the

walls and towers, while it would seem a little far fetched in a love song, is quite in

place if the typical intention was in the mind of the writer. He was thinking

of the city of God, “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth”

(Ibid. 48:2).   “One that findeth peace” is the same as “one that findeth favor,”

that is, one who is the object of his affection. There are several references which

confirm this, such as Esther 2:17; Deuteronomy 24:1; Jeremiah 31:2; Psalm 41:10.

The word “peace” (shalom) is in all probability purposely chosen in this case as a

kind of play on the name Solomon, which appears immediately afterwards. “The king

of peace delights in me because I am peace in his eyes.” The Church is after the image

of the King. His likeness in her makes her beautiful. Men take knowledge of

Christians that they have been with Jesus (see I Chronicles 22:9). It is scarcely

necessary to point out that this language of the bride is entirely against the

shepherd theory. She could not have talked of finding peace in his eyes if

she was torn from her true lover. The bride then goes on to express her

devotedness to the king and her desire to bring forth abundance for him.

She uses as an example, which perhaps was typical in her time and country,

some remarkably fruitful vineyard of the king’s. She will, in like manner,

realize all his highest wishes. All that she has shall be his. The name Baal-hamon

(ˆwOmj;l["B") in the Septuagintg. Beelamw>n  - Beellamon  - (compare Judith 8:3),

designates  probably a place near to Sunem, somewhere to the north, on the further

side of the Plain of Jezreel.  The produce of the vineyard must have been

very large, as every keeper was to bring in for himself a thousand shekels

of silver. It is not stated how many keepers there were, but the word which

is employed is not “servants,” but “watchers, or overseers.” A vineyard

was divided into portions, with a certain definite prescribed number of

vines in each portion. In Isaiah 7:23 we read, “And it shall come to pass

in that day that every place where there were a thousand vines at a

thousand silverlings shall even be for briers and thorns.” Now, a thousand

silverlings was one shekel, so that if this passage can be taken as throwing

light on what the bride says, it would imply that, instead of one shekel

for every thousand vines, every keeper brought a thousand shekels. That

would seem impossible, so that the parallel can scarcely be strict. Perhaps

the largeness of the vineyard is referred to, and each of the keepers would

have many thousands of vines under his inspection. The general meaning,

however, is not obscure. The vineyard was a celebrated one, and was taken

as a typical instance of fertility and abundance. When the bride speaks of

her vineyard which is before her, there may be an allusion to her previous

manner of life as a rustic maiden employed in the vineyards, and to her own

position as a keeper or as one of the family. But this is not intended to be

prominently expressed. The whole spirit of the poem justifies the view that

she is speaking of her person. She invited Solomon to rejoice in the beauty

and fragrance of her garden, to pluck the fruits, to revel in the delights.

Everything that is pleasant and lovely is before him (see ch.4:12; 5:1).

Before me; that is, in my power is all this delight, and

my desire is to my husband; all that I have is his. Like the far-famed

keepers of Baal-hamon, I will give the king a thousand shekels, that is, the

utmost that the vineyard can produce, and “those that keep the fruit

thereof” shall have two hundred — perhaps meaning a hundred each, that

is a tenth, which was the ancient tithe due to the priests. It may be,

however, that a double tithe is intended. The king shall be satisfied, and all

those who labor for the king shall be more than ever rewarded. If we take

such words as typical, they point to a state of things in the history of the

kingdom of God when the spiritual and the temporal shall be perfectly

adjusted. The keepers of the vineyard have often made sad havoc of the

vineyard itself because of their greedy discontent. The fruits which have

been yielded by the Church have fallen very far short. The husbandmen

have ill treated the Lord’s servants. But all the judgments which have been

poured out both upon ancient Jews and upon the corrupt Christendom of

later times have been directed to one end, to make the vineyard of the Lord

more fruitful, to remove the things which are offensive in His sight, to

satisfy Him whose soul travailed for His people; for herein is the Father

glorified in the Son, when those who bear the name of the Beloved “bear

much fruit.” Then the keepers of the vineyard will themselves rejoice, not

that they reap a larger harvest of this world’s good, not “for filthy lucre’s

sake,” but because their hearts are one with His whose vineyard they keep,

and to see the fruit abound is to fill them with joy. Surely we shall

recognize in such language an anticipation of the many allusions which are

found both in the prophets and psalms and in the discourses of our Lord

Himself. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the

men of Judah his pleasant plant” (Isaiah 5:7)



Stewardship (v. 11)


This language is Oriental, yet the lesson is cosmopolitan. In every kingdom

there must be a system of economics. For a prosperous condition there

must be division of labor. The land must be cultivated. The people must

have food. The king’s household must be sustained. To this end scope

should be given to personal skill and personal enterprise. So a wise king

farms out his land to husbandmen, who are under obligation to render back

a fair proportion of the produce. This system brings the greatest advantage

to both parties. Now, all this has its counterpart in the kingdom of God.

Every man is a steward entrusted with God’s property. He cannot live for

himself. A day of reckoning is appointed, when the account must be

produced and examined. Life, with all its possessions and privileges, is a




the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein”

(Psalm 24:1; I Corinthians 10:16).  No part of this vast and illimitable universe

is exempt from His lordship.


Ø      His claim is founded on creation. GOD ALONE IS UNCREATED!

 The unfallen hosts of angels, all principalities and powers in heaven,

no less than the tiniest insect on earth, are the workmanship of His

skilful hands. Creation gives a prescriptive and an indisputable right.

What I make I claim as my own, though probably the raw material

belonged to another. But God created out of nothing, or rather out

of Himself; therefore His title is without a flaw.


Ø      His claim is founded on preservation. For preservation is simply a

continuous act of creation. He sustains in existence every atom of

material, every form of life, every dynamic force, and this THROUGH

EVERY SUCCESSIVE HOUR!  In this way He asserts perpetually

His supreme rights of property.  Every vineyard is His workmanship.

The life of every tree is His gift. The nourishing qualities of the soil;

the sunshine, dew, and rain; all influences of the revolving seasons —

all are His contributions to the maintenance of the vineyard. This is

simply a sample of God’s sustaining activity. My life hangs upon

Him through every hour. “In Him I live and move” (Acts 17:28);

“By Him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:17)


Ø      His claim is founded on acknowledgment. We admit that we are not

our own. The enlightened conscience of every man testifies that God

is the supreme Owner. We are not masters even of ourselves, nor of our

own life.  We did not choose in what year, or in what city, or in what

family, we would be born. We have no control over our continuance

in life. The voice from heaven says, “Return to the dust, ye children of

men!”  (Genesis 3:19; Psalm 90:3)  We have no control over the mode

or the time of our departure. Nor have we unlimited control over our

property. Sudden misfortune may scatter our wealth. “Riches make

themselves wings and fly away” (Proverbs 23:5).  We feel that we are

accountable to God; for to the bar of our own consciences are we

frequently brought, to be prejudged of the use we have made of life,

and the decision of this court will simply be ratified in the great assize.

We are tenants at will. We have only a life interest in our earthly

possessions. We are stewards, not proprietors.



STEWARDS. “He let out the vineyard unto keepers.” The interest of the

Proprietor is to be kept in view. We are “keepers” of His property. His

good, not ours, must be sought.


Ø      This stewardship comprises everything. My body is not my own; it is a

temple of the living God (I Corinthians 6:19).   Every organ of body

and of mind is simply entrusted to my care. My tongue is not my own;

it is an instrument for praising God. My learning is not my own; it

should be laid on God’s altar.  My will is not my own; it should be made

submissive to God’s will. Hourly my prayer should be, “Lord, what wilt

thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)  Even the skill for gaining money

belongs to another. “Say not in thine heart, My power, and the might

of my own hand, have gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt

remember the Lord thy God, for IT IS HE THAT GIVETH THEE

POWER TO GET WEALTH!”  (Deuteronomy 8:18)  If I live to

please myself, I am usurping the place of my Lord, and I incur His



Ø      We are stewards who know the will of our Master. He has not left us in

ignorance respecting the business of our life, or in what way His property

should be employed. The vineyard must be “kept,” and must be made

fruitful. His Word is full of instruction, which demands our careful study

and our faithful observation. In these living oracles He clearly speaks,

“Son, go work today in my vineyard” (Matthew 21:28).   “As ye have

 opportunity, do good unto all men” (Galatians 6:10).  “Follow me,”

says Jesus. In other  words, He means, “Live as I live.  Spend life in

doing good.” (Jesus went about doing good!  Matthew 9:35; Acts

10:38)  We cannot plead as an excuse for slothfulness that we know

not the will of our Master. And if we desire to obtain fuller direction,

the Master Himself is at hand, and guides every submissive soul

“Ask, and ye shall receive  (Matthew 7:8).  For the promise still runs,

“I will guide thee with mine eye.”  (Psalm 32:8)


Ø      We are stewards who have the ability to do our Masters will. He is no

hard Taskmaster, requiring the tale of bricks without providing raw

material. On the contrary, His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30).  In every

circumstance, His friendly voice whispers, “My grace is sufficient for

 thee (II Corinthians 12:9).  Often do we put up the prayer, “Thy

kingdom come, thy will be done.” But it behoves us to remember

that the means for attaining this great end lie within our reach.

Had all servants of God been faithful in their office, WHAT A


large a proportion of our fellow men would be in the kingdom of

God! It does not suffice that we serve Christ with one

talent, while we allow other talents to lie idle. We cannot, with

our money gifts, buy release from personal service. As no man can

transfer to another his mental endowments, or his social influence,

or his personal responsibility; so no man can transfer to another

man his work. In these vineyards, service by proxy is not allowed.

That person whom I presume to employ is already under the same

obligation as myself, and cannot therefore serve as my substitute.

Nor can we hope to see any great enlargement in the kingdom of

Christ until each separate disciple feels and realizes that the

burden of the world’s salvation rests upon him. “As each one hath

received the gift, let him minister the same, as a good steward

of the manifold grace of God”  (I Peter 4:10)



annual vintage season, the husbandman was required to make a proper

return to the owner. This return might be made either in kind or in some



Ø      There is a special season for this reckoning time. Speaking generally,

the reckoning time will be at the day of judgment. Yet, for all practical

purposes, this tenure terminates at death. Then our Lord comes, and

convoys His servant home. Then the authoritative voice says, “Give an

account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward”

(Luke 16:2).  Then the faithful servant gives in his account with joy.

“He has boldness in the day of judgment” (I John 4:17).  It is the

end for which he has toiled and waited. Just as the busy farmer

rejoices greatly when his last harvest sheaves are garnered,

because his toil has reached a successful end; so the disembodied

Christian presents himself before his Lord with rapturous joy. For,

with the fruits of his toil surrounding him, he confidently says,

“Here am I, Lord, and the children thou hast given me (Isaiah

8:18; Hebrews 2:13).  It is only thy talent I have thus multiplied.

Not unto me, not unto me, BUT UNTO THY NAME BE ALL

THE GLORY!”  (Psalm 115:1)


Ø      Note the system of the reckoning. In God’s kingdom the system must be

strictly equitable; on God’s part generous. That system is that a fair

proportion of the gain belongs to God. He that is entrusted with ten talents

is required to bring more gains than the man with only five. In proportion

to our faith, fidelity, and zeal will be the measure of our success. Divested

of all imagery, the simple fact is that each Christian is required to

increase righteousness, loyalty, and love in God’s world. I am expected

to leave this world better, i.e. holier, than I found it. My business in life

is to bring men nearer to God. If I can increase in men repentance, faith,

piety, mutual benevolence, I have fulfilled my stewardship in some

measure. If I have persuaded men to abandon a life of sin and to follow

Jesus, I have brought honor to my Master’s Name. My life work as a

Christian is to enlarge the spiritual empire of Messiah. As in the fields

of nature seed corn will produce sixty, or eighty, or a hundredfold;

so each servant of Jesus Christ should lead sixty, or eighty, or a

hundred men out of a state of rebellion into the covenant grace of

our Immanuel. Saved ourselves, it should be our main business in

life to save others.


“What is my being but for thee,

Its sure support, its noblest end?

Thy ever-smiling face to see,

And serve the cause of such a Friend?”


13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions

hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.”  There cannot be much doubt

that these are the words of the bridegroom. They are addressed to the

bride. She is the dweller in the gardens; that is, one who is at home in the

gardens, whose beauty blends with the rural loveliness around her. The

king wishes his bride to understand that she is only acceptable in his sight,

and that all that she asks shall be granted. It is delightful to him to hear her

voice, as it is delightful to those who have been accustomed to that voice

from her childhood. “Dear country girl, sing to me, and let me revel in the

sweetness of thy music. ‘Thy companions hearken for it’ — thy former

associates, the playmates of thy youth. And while they gather round us, and

you and I rejoice in one another, let the sound of thy voice mingle with the

peaceful beauty of this earthly paradise.” There is an exquisite tenderness in

this conclusion of the poem. The curtain falls, as it were, upon a scene of

mutual confidence and affection, the simplicity of the bride’s early home

being lifted up into the royal splendor of the king’s presence, the

companions beholding and praising, while, in the midst of all that sunny

bliss and peaceful content, the voice of the Bride is heard singing one of the

old, familiar strains of love with which she poured out her heart in the days

when her beloved came to find her in her home. It is impossible to conceive

a more perfect conclusion. It leads up our thoughts to the land of light and

song, where “the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be the

Shepherd” of those who shall “hunger no more, neither thirst any more;

neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat;” “and he shall guide

them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear

from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17). It is sad to think that Solomon

himself fell from such an ideal of human affection, and was unfaithful to

such a bride. But there is no need to trouble the clear, transparent beauty of

this typical poem by any reference to the incidents of the writer’s own

history. He placed it on the altar of God, no doubt, at a time when it

represented sincere feelings in his heart, and because he was inspired to see

that it would be profitable to the people of God as a mirror in which they

could behold the reflection of the highest truth. But though he himself fell

away from his high place as a prophet of God, the words which he left

behind him were still a precious gift to the Church. It is otherwise with Him

who is typified by the earthly monarch. He who is the heavenly Bridegroom

has Himself to lift up the weakness and fickleness of His bride by fellowship

with her, until she is above the reach of temptation, and partaker of His own

glory. And He does so, as this exquisite poem reminds us, by the power of

His love. It is the personal influence of the Lord Jesus Christ which must

glorify the Church and restore it to its original simplicity and spirituality.

The scene into which we are led in this story of bridal affection typifies a

state of the Church when the artificiality of court life shall be abandoned,

the magnificence of mere external pomp and ritual shall be left behind, and

the bride shall simply delight herself in the Bridegroom among the pure and

peaceful surroundings of a country home. The Church will realize the

greatness of her power when she is delivered from that which hides her

Saviour, when she is simply human and yet entirely spiritual; then the Lord

of her life, the second Adam, the perfect Man, who is from heaven and in

heaven, but still on earth, changing earth to heaven by His love, will fulfill

His promise. “He not merely concludes the marriage covenant with

mankind, but likewise preserves, confirms, refines, and conducts it step by

step to its ideal consummation, which is at the same time the palingenesia

(rebirth or re-creation) and perfection of humanity.”


14 Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a

young hart upon the mountains of spices.” This is a snatch of the old love

songs which the bride used to sing when love was fresh and young. She

sings it now at the request of her bridegroom himself, and in the delighted

ears of her companions. She goes forth from among, them leaning on her

beloved, to rejoice in the beautiful scenery and rural pleasures with him

whose presence heightens every joy, the life of her life, the soul of her soul,

“all her salvation, all her desire.” The bridegroom and the bride are seen

disappearing together over the flowery hills; and the music of the Song of

Songs dies away in the sweet fragrance of that closing scene; the vision of

love has, gazelle-like, leaped from point to point, and vanishes away at last

among the mountains of spices. It is well to notice that what were before

“mountains of Berber,” that is, of “separation,” are now “mountains of

Besamin” — balsam mountains. There is no more word of separation.

Henceforth the only note is one of peaceful enjoyment. My beloved is

mine, and I am his. Our home and haunt is the same. The concluding

words, we cannot doubt, are intended to open a perfect future to the eye.

Yet the poet, with consummate art, connects that future with the past and

the present by the voice of the bride heard singing the love song with which

she first expressed her love, now lifted up into anticipation of the

everlasting hills of fragrant and joyful life.



Entire Union of Wedded Love (vs. 5-14)




Ø      Approach of the bride. “Who is this?” The question is asked for the

third time.  In ch.3:6 the chorus of youths asks the question as the

bride is borne in royal state to meet the king in the city of his kingdom;

it occurs again in ch. 6:10, when the maidens of the chorus are struck

with admiration of her queen-like, majestic beauty. Now, apparently,

we have a narrative of a visit to the scenes of the bride’s early life,

according to her invitation in ch.7:11; and the question, “Who is this?”

is repeated once more. Here the circumstances are changed; there is no

magnificence as in ch. 3.; the bride is alone with the king; she is seen

coming up from thewilderness, leaning on her beloved. So the Church,

the bride of Christ, cometh up from the wilderness, leaning on the

heavenly Bridegroom. So the Church of the Old Testament went up from

Babylon when the wilderness was glad for them, when the ransomed of

the Lord returned and went up with singing to Zion. (Isaiah 51:11).  So

the Church of the New Testament came up from the wilderness of

persecution, leaning on the strength of Christ; so the same Church shall

come up at the call of the same holy Saviour to the heavenly Zion when

that blessed promise is fulfilled, “Upon this rock will I build my Church,

and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”  (Matthew 16:18).

Hades, the abode of the dead, shall not be able to retain within its

grasp the bride of Christ. For He saith, “I will ransom them from the

power of the grave [Sheol, or Hades]; I will redeem them from death:

O death, where are thy plagues? O grave, where is thy destruction?

Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes” (Hosea 13:14). And so now

each Christian soul cometh up, one after another, out of the wilderness,

leaning upon her Beloved. When He calls us and bids us come to Him,

we feel that the world is indeed a wilderness; that it hath nothing to

satisfy our cravings, our needs. And the soul cometh, drawn by the

Saviour’s love.  “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men

unto me.”  (John 12:32). The soul cometh up; it is a continual ascent.

As the Lord was lifted up from the earth, so the soul cometh up, away

from the world, nearer to the cross. Christ is calling us upwards. The

holiness to which He bids us aspire is very high; it seems above our

reach; it can be reached only by persevering effort; by climbing,

little by little, ever higher; by making all the little matters of daily life

opportunities of self-denial, means of disciplining our human wills into

submission to the holy will of God. The effort must be continuous,

conscious, real; there must be no looking back to the wilderness; no

hankering after the flesh pots of Egypt; no longing for the other masters,

the world, the flesh, and the devil, which we renounced when we gave

our heart to Christ. The soul cometh up from the wilderness. It is a

solemn thing; a sight which causes joy in heaven, for the angels know

the meaning of that ascent; they know the perils of the wilderness, the

utter vanity of its seeming pleasures; they know the toil, the difficulty

of that ascent; they know the great glory and gladness reserved for those

that have achieved it; they know, too, how very precious every Christian

soul is in the sight of the Lord, who bought it with His blood. At rest in

heaven themselves, they watch with a deep interest the heavenward

progress of each true disciple of the Lord (I Peter 1:12).  The long

procession upwards of the ransomed  saints must be a spectacle of

varied and intense interest in the presence of the angels of God. And

they see what was once seen by the King of Babylon, “Behold, I

see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have

no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel

3:25). The angels see that each soul that cometh up is leaning on her

Beloved. The journey is long and wearisome; the ascent is steep and

rugged; but the soul that has found Christ, and clung to Him with the

embrace of faith — the soul that can say, “My Beloved is mine, and

I am His,” is not left alone in its weakness. There is a strong arm, unseen

by the outward eye, but felt and realized by faith; there is a hand

stretched forth to help — the hand that once caught the sinking Peter,

and lifted him up out of the depths. Each faithful soul leaneth on her

Beloved. We need that support always, at every point of the long,

wearisome path; at every step of the toilsome, upward climbing.

Without Christ we can do nothing; we sink backwards; we

become listless and slothful. But while we feel His presence while

by faith we lean upon Him, resting our weakness on His strength,

then our progress is assured. We need that presence always:


o       in all the little trials of our daily lives,

o       in the greater sorrows and perplexities that emerge from

time to time.


That presence transfigures our life, turning troubles into blessings;

making sorrows so many steps upwards, ever nearer to God. To realize

THAT PRESENCE,  the Lord Jesus MUST BE my Beloved;”

I must give Him my whole heart; I must know Him with that holy

knowledge with which the true sheep know the good Shepherd;

and to gain the excellency of that blessed knowledge I must be content,

like Paul, to count all things else as dross, as very dung, that I may

win Christ, and be found in Him.  (Philippians 3:8-9)


“I need thy presence every passing hour:

What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

“I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;

Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;

Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if thou abide with me.”


Ø      The voice of the bridegroom. According to the present pointing of the

Hebrew, the second clause of v. 5 is an utterance of the bride. Many of

the Fathers and other Christian writers assign it to the bridegroom. This

last arrangement seems by far the most natural. The king points out the

birthplace of the bride; he recalls to her remembrance an incident of their

early attachment — he shows her the tree under which they first met. So

man and wife now, when united in a happy marriage, love to visit the

early haunts of one another, and especially the places endeared to both

by the memory of their first vows and promises. So to the Christian

 those places must be always full of sacred interest where the heavenly

Bridegroom first won the love of his bride, the Church — Bethlehem,

Gethsemane, Calvary.  So to each Christian soul those spots are hallowed

ground which are connected with events in our own religious life our

baptism, our confirmation, our first communion; or associated with

any great and abiding impressions or influences for good which

Almighty God has been pleased to grant to us from time to time.


Ø      The response of the bride. The bride is leaning on the bridegroom’s

arm; perhaps she was reclining her head upon his breast. She would

ever remain in that dear embrace, near to him as the seal which was

attached to the arm or neck. The seal of the king had great weight and

value; it gave his authority to the document which bore it (Daniel 6:17);

it was precious and sacred, and would, of course, be jealously guarded.

The king himself would wear it; it would be fastened on his arm, or it

would be suspended from his neck and rest upon his heart. There the

bride would ever be, encircled with her husband’s arms, pressed close

to his heart; it is her rightful place, for she is bound to him by the

indissoluble ties of holy wedlock. So the Church, the bride of Christ,

clings to her Lord. Without Him she can do nothing; but, borne up in

the everlasting arms, SHE HATH A STRENGTH NOT HER OWN!

She would be near to Him as a seal. She hath the seal of God, for she

is “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our

inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). She is God’s foundation upon the

holy hills (Psalm 87:1), built upon the Rock of ages; and “the

foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord

knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the

name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Timothy 2:19). So each

Christian longs to be borne up in the arms of Christ — those arms

that were opened wide upon the cross, as if to fold His chosen in the

embrace of His love; so each Christian longs to rest, as once John rested,

upon the Saviour’s breast; to be dear to Him (John 13:23), cherished

as a seal that lies in its owner’s bosom; so each Christian hopes to bear

the impress of that sacred seal stamped more and more deeply into his

inner life, that being now sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, he

may one day stand among the blessed, sealed with the seal of the living

God upon his forehead (Revelation 7:3).


Ø      Her praise of love. Why does she desire to be so close to the

bridegroom, to be as a seal upon his heart? Because, she says, “love is

strong as death.” She has given him her love, and that love entirely

fills and dominates her soul; she has taken him to be her husband till

death; she loves him with a love like that of Ruth: “The Lord do so

to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:17).

That love, strong as death, the love of those wedded souls who in true

affection have plighted their troth, either to other, “till death us do part,”

is a figure of the holy love that is betwixt Christ and his Church. Indeed,

the love of the heavenly Bridegroom was stronger than death; stronger

than a death of lingering torture, a death of ignominy and horror. “We

love Him, because He first loved us”   (I John 4:19).  His Church, drawn

by the constraining power of His most holy love, has striven to return it.

Many of His saints have loved Him with a love strong as death; they have

proved by the martyr’s death the strength of their love. How should we

have acted if we had lived in those days of fiery trial? It is a question

which we should often and earnestly press upon ourselves, for the Lord

has taught us that “he that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth

his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:25).

Stephen, the first martyr for the faith, and the long line of saints who

followed him, the noble army of martyrs, loved not their lives unto the

death. How would it be with the many half-hearted, careless Christians

who come to church, and call themselves disciples of the crucified

Saviour, but have not learned to take up the cross and deny themselves

for His sake — how would it be with them if they were suddenly

summoned to choose between Christ and death? Which of us would

be faithful unto death? Which of us would deny his Lord? It is an

awful question — a question full of the deepest interest; for it is

only such a love, a love strong as death, which can give us strength

to overcome temptation, and to fight the good fight of faith. He who

for the love of Christ endures hardness now, who puts aside his own

wishes, and does habitually for Christ’s sake things which but for the

love of Christ he would not have done; he who habitually for Christ’s

sake leaves undone things which but for the love of Christ he would

have gladly done, — he is learning to love Christ with a love strong

as death, a love which is giving him strength to kill out of his heart

worldly thoughts and earthly ambitions, so that, dying unto the world,

he may live unto Christ. We must all pray and strive for that love strong

as death; it should be the object of our highest ambition, our most

fervent longing. We need it now as much as the saints and martyrs of

the Lord needed it in the old times. For if they had to lay down their

lives for Christ, we have now to give Him our hearts, our lives; and

to do that always, in times of anxiety, or sickness, or lassitude,

requires a great love; a love strong as death; a love which we can

only learn of the Master who loved us with a love stronger than

death, who Himself set us the high example of self-sacrificing love,

and now helps and teaches us by the gracious influences of the

Holy Ghost, the other Comforter, whom He sendeth to abide

forever with His people. Love is strong as death, and jealousy is

hard as the grave (Sheol, or Hades). Death is strong; he is

the last enemy, the king of terrors. Hades is hard and stern; it is

rapacious; it hath never enough; it holds its prisoners firm. But love

is strong as death and Hades. Christ, who is Love, hath overcome

death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; the gates of

Hades shall not prevail against His Church. Neither death nor life

can separate from His love those who love Him with a true love, a love

strong as death; they, too, are more than conquerors through Him who

loved them (Romans 8:35-39).  And when love is strong as

death, the jealousy (in the good sense of the word), which is one of its

developments, is hard, tenacious, as Hades. God is love, the infinite

love, and He is a jealous God. “Thou shalt worship no other God:

 for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus

34:14). He asks for our whole heart; He is jealous of a divided

service; He will not accept a service to be shared with another

master. Such a service is stigmatized in Holy Scripture with the

stern name of adultery. “Ye adulteresses,” says James, in language

of awful severity, “know ye not that the friendship of the world

 is enmity with God?… Do ye think that the Scripture saith in

vain, The Spirit which he hath made to dwell within us, jealously

yearneth after us?” or, as the words may also be rendered, “He

jealously yearneth for the spirit which He made to dwell within us”

(James 4:4-5). God once breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life.

(Genesis 2:7).  He gave to man as his distinguishing possession a spirit.

“I pray God,” says Paul to the Thessalonians, “that your whole spirit

and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of

our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23). That spirit, His special

gift, should be wholly His. It is that part of our complex nature which

is receptive of the Holy Spirit of God, which, when illumined by His

presence, can attain unto such knowledge of God as is now granted

to us (“Now we see through a glass, darkly… now I know in part,”

I Corinthians 13:12), and dwell in communion with God. God jealously

desires the possession of that spirit. Therefore the Christian’s love for

God must be a jealous love; he must be very jealous of the intrusion of

Other loves, other ambitions, into the heart, which should be given

wholly to God; he must keep his heart for God with a godly jealousy

(see II Corinthians 11:2) — jealousy stern as that with which Hades

retains its prisoners. And this holy jealousy is ardent, too — ardent as

flames of fire; “a very flame of the Lord” (v. 6, Revised Version).

For its ardor comes from Him; it is he who gives that ardent zeal —

that zeal for the Lord which has urged His holiest servants to do

and dare such great things for His love’s sake. The great love of the

Lord Jesus for our souls calls for something more than the

lukewarmness of Laodicea. “Be zealous,” it says to us; “be

zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). The name of God occurs only

in this one place in the song; we read it here in the shortened form (Jah)

of the adorable name, as if to teach us the sacred lesson of the disciple

whom Jesus loved, that “God is love: and he that dwelleth in love

dwelleth in God, and God in him” (I John 4:16). Holy love comes only

from Him.  “Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God,

and knoweth God” (Ibid. v.7). Such love cannot be quenched. It is so

even with pure human love. “Many waters cannot quench it, neither

can the floods drown it.” The many waters of trouble, suffering, old

age, cannot stifle love; it lives on still. It cannot be bought. “If a man

would give all the substance of his house for love, he would utterly

be contemned” (v. 7).  Love cannot be bought or forced; it is essentially

free and spontaneous; it springs up spontaneously in the heart (“when it

 pleases,” v. 4; also see ch. 2:7; 3:5), in response to love, at the presence

of an object capable of calling it forth. SO IT IS WITH THE HOLY

LOVE OF GOD!  God’s love for us cannot be quenched. The many

waters of our unbelief, ingratitude, and sin have not — blessed be His

holy Name — quenched His gracious love. It cannot be bought; we

cannot buy it with earthly gifts, with gold or silver, or external good

works; it is given freely, graciously, and it abides in those who live in

the faith of the Son of God. Our love for God is a faint reflection of

His blessed love for us. It is called forth by that holy love. “We

love him, because he first loved us”  (I John 4:19).  The waters of

trouble and sorrow and temptation cannot drown it if it is true and real.

These verses are the Old Testament psalm of love (see Psalm 45, title),

corresponding to I Corinthians 13 or the First Epistle of John, in the

New Testament. They have a singular power and beauty; they are

treasured in the memories of God’s people; they have brought peace

and comfort to many a death bed.




Ø      For her sister. The bride has a sister not yet of marriageable years.

What shall be done for her? If she be a wall, firm and steadfast, she

shall be richly dowered; but if she be a door, too easily opened,

too accessible, she must be carefully guarded. The bride herself

is a wall, strong and steadfast in her virtue; therefore it was that

she found peace in the bridegroom’s eyes.  There may possibly

be an allusion here to the name Solomon, which follows in the

next verse: the bride found peace in the eyes of the peaceful

one. The bride is the Church, the little sister perhaps the Gentiles.

Those Gentile Churches that will be steadfast in the faith, like

Smyrna or Philadelphia (Revelation 2:8-11; 3:7-13), shall be built

upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ

Himself being the chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Those that

are like Thyatira, Sardis, or Laodicea (Revelation 2:24-3:6, 14-22),

still open to those other masters, the world, the flesh, and the devil,

must be treated with wholesome severity; they must be carefully

guarded and fenced in, and closed against the enemies of the Lord.

The bride intercedes for her little sister. She herself has set a good

example. Christian people must make intercession for the heathen,

that they may be converted; for missionary work, that it may be

prospered; and while they pray, they must be very careful to set a

good example themselves, that the great work may not be

hindered by any fault of theirs, but may go on and prosper till the

earth be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover

the sea.  (Isaiah 11:9)


Ø      For her brothers. She had spoken of their harshness (ch.1:6). “They

made me,” she said, “keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard

 [literally, as here, ‘my vineyard, which is mine’] have I

not kept.” Now she intercedes with the king for them. She would have

them to be keepers of her vineyard, and to receive a suitable recompense.

She compares King Solomon’s vineyard with her own. The king, she says,

had one of great extent and value; every one of the keepers was to bring

him a thousand shekels. Then she adds, “My vineyard, which is mine, is

before me.” Her vineyard was small; it lay before her eyes. It now passes

into the hand of Solomon; it is his. He must have a thousand shekels from

it. She wishes the keepers (her brothers, apparently) to have two hundred.

The greater than Solomon, the heavenly Bridegroom, has a vineyard. It is

the world (compare Matthew 13:38, “The field is the world”). Solomon’s

vineyard was at Baal-hamon, which means “the Lord of the multitude.”

We may perhaps see in the word an allusion to him who is called in Holy

Scripture “the prince of this world” (John 14:30). The Lord has a

vineyard in the world, which Satan strives to rule. And men have still,

as in Elijah’s time, to choose whom they will serve. “If the Lord be God,

follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kings 18:21). But though

Satan is called the prince of this world, and in one place (II Corinthians

4:4).   The god of this world,” he is a usurper; the vineyard is the Lord’s.

And the Lord has done all that could be done for His vineyard: “He has

hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower,

and let it out to husbandmen” (Matthew 21:33). The husbandmen were

to bring Him in due time of the fruits of His vineyard. They were to do so,

but, alas! They did not; they served Baal, many of them, rather than the

Lord. The Church’s vineyard is before her; it lies within a comparatively

narrow space; it does not cover a third of the population of the world. It

belongs now to the heavenly Bridegroom, for the Church is His. He loved

the Church, and gave Himself for her; and that unspeakable gift, that

stupendous ransom, has made her and all that she has wholly His. The

fruits which that vineyard brings forth must be paid duly to the Lord of the

vineyard. Those fruits are souls converted, sanctified, saved. The keepers

too, if they are found faithful, have their reward. The souls saved through

their means, their warnings, their example, their preaching, their labors,

are their best and most precious reward in this world (I Corinthians

3:14), and in the world to come, “when the chief Shepherd shall appear,

they shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away” (I Peter

5:4). Each Christian soul is the Lord’s vineyard; it must be cultivated for

Him, not for Baal. It may be a vineyard in Baal-hamon, set among a

multitude who follow the prince of this world; but it is the Lord’s, bought

with His most precious blood. It must not bring forth wild grapes, fit only

for the world, the flesh, and the devil; it must bring forth good fruit —

fruit meet to be rendered to the Lord, to be treasured in His granary;

the fruit of the Spirit love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness,

goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). And the

soul itself which keepeth the fruit; the soul that treasures up the graces

of the good Spirit of God, that listens with reverent attention to His

gracious warnings, and follows His guidance; the soul that worketh

out its own salvation with fear and trembling through the grace of God,

who worketh within both to will and to do, — that soul shall

receive of the fruit; for “blessed are they that do hunger and thirst

after righteousness: for they shall be filled”  (Matthew 5:6).  Love,

trustfulness, obedience rendered to Christ, bring their own great

reward in the irradiating presence of the Saviour. “If any man love

me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we

will come to him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)




Ø      The voice of the bridegroom. He addresses the bride as “Thou that

dwellest in the gardens” meaning, apparently, the vineyard which she

had just mentioned. She has done her best for it. He accepts her past

service.  Now the king and his companions were listening for her voice;

it was sweet to hear. “Cause me to hear it,” the king says, meaning,

it seems, that the voice of the bride was very sweet to him; he loved

to hear it; and perhaps also implying that he was ready to grant any

request that she might make, as well as that which she had already

made. When the Church does her duty, dwelling in the gardens of

the Lord, tending His vineyard, then there is joy in heaven, joy in

the presence of the angels of God; they hearken to the prayers and

praises of the Church. The Lord Himself, the heavenly Bridegroom,

delights to hear the voice of the bride; her prayers and adorations

are as the holy incense, acceptable to Him (Revelation 8:3-4).  The

Lord would have all Christian men to pray, and that constantly, His

will is that men should pray always, and not faint (Luke 18:1).

He graciously listens to the voice of His people when they speak to

themselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, when they

make melody in their hearts unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). And

He grants their requests. “If ye ask anything in my Name,” He says,

“I will do it;” “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full”

(John 14:14); “Whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”

(Matthew 21:22).  We must claim His blessed promise; we must make

Him hear our voice while we are “dwelling in the gardens,” while we

are laboring in the Lord’s vineyard. True prayer leads to faithful work;

faithful work stimulates prayer, and gives it energy and devotion. He

will hear our prayers for ourselves, our intercessions for others, if only

they are offered up in faith, in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.


Ø      The response of the bride. The king sought to hear the voice of the

bride. She in response repeats the last clause of her song in ch. 2:17;

but she makes one important change — the mountains are

no longer “mountains of Bether,” which means “separation,” but

“mountains of Besamin (“spices”). Perhaps there is a reference to

“the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense” in the royal

gardens (ch.4:6). The bride no longer thinks of the possibility of

separation. Formerly her beloved was separated from her for a while

in his hunting excursions; now he is to be as bright and exultant as of

old, but with her in their common haunts. The Church prays, “Thy

kingdom come.”  Her prayer is that God of His gracious goodness

would be pleased shortly to accomplish the number of His elect,

and to hasten His kingdom. The Christian prays and longs for the

coming of the Lord, beseeching Him in ever-deepening earnestness

to come, first in the kingdom of grace, into His people’s hearts, then

in the kingdom of glory, when the kingdoms of this world SHALL






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