Christian Churches of God
Commentary on Song of Songs: Part 3
(Edition 2.0 19951021-19990607)
We continue the Commentary here from Chapter 4:8 to Chapter 5:16.
Commentary on Song of Songs: Part 3
8Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
Metsudath David concludes that “Delighted with her promise, he continues, ‘Thy beauty is indeed ravishing; I will help thee to escape from this lair of lions and leopards’” (Soncino).
The Soncino notes that the rest of the chapter describes the lover pleading with her to flee from the royal palace. Note the fervour of his pleading: Come with me do not remain with him (Solomon). The plea is the same as that made to the Church to come out of the kingdom of this world and particularly its false religious structure of which Solomon himself fell foul (Rev. 18:4). The text rendered look from the top of Amana follows Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Kimchi and others. Metsudath David renders the text: depart from the top of Amana (cf. Isa. 57:9 for the meaning of the verb). Thus he urges her to leave the royal residence in Lebanon. Amana is the name of the south of the Anti-Libanus, the eastern chain of hills facing the plain of Damascus (cf. 2Kgs. 5:12) (Soncino). The Lebanon range in the extreme north of Palestine consists of several summits, the highest of which are Hermon and Senir. The Soncino holds that Solomon had probably built royal residences there. In Deuteronomy 4:48 Senir is called Sion and Deuteronomy 3:9 tells us that the Sidonians called it Sirion (see also Soncino). Lebanon and Senir were also the source for the construction of the satanic system portrayed as Tyre in Ezekiel 27:5. This was part of the lead in to the condemnation of Satan, the anointed covering cherub in Ezekiel 28, who sat on the mountains of God. The association with Eden is also not developed here when perhaps it might be appropriate.
9Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. 10How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! 11Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. 12A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
According to Akedath Yitschak the reunion has endowed him with courage to carry her away from enforced confinement. It has put new heart (lebab) into him. Thus here Messiah is to take captivity captive (Eph. 4:8). The process is commenced with the Church.
The next text refers to my sister, my bride. This process was first embodied in the relationship between Abraham and Sarah as explained in Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:1-18. Whoever interfered between Abraham and his wife was cursed and punished. The penalty paid by Abimelech was a thousand pieces of silver. In other words, the entire thousand of God had to be appeased. This process is understood where Messiah is both the husband of the elect and their brother where all are sons of God. He is the firstborn among many brethren and the Host regard the elect as their brethren (Rom. 8:29; Rev. 6:11; 12:10).
The glance of one eye is held to be seductive by Metsudath David. The kere has the feminine for the word one to agree with the word for eye, which in Hebrew is feminine. The meaning of the kethib is held by Daath Mikra to perhaps mean with one (glance) of thine eyes. The text goes on to read with one bead of thy necklace (cf. Prov. 1:9). Ibn Ezra explains this as a kind of ornamental band tied around the neck. The meaning is that one bead of the necklace, one eye of the body, is betrothed to the shepherd as a bride in their own right. This equates to the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Mat. 25:1-12).
The text thy lips... drop honey is continued on to the text honey and milk are under thy tongue. The praise of God delivers the response from God so that honey and milk are the reward of the prayers of the saints. The Council of the Elders are charged with monitoring those prayers (Rev. 5:8).
And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon is held by the Soncino to be an allusion to the oriental custom of perfuming clothes. Lebanon was renowned for its fragrance (cf. Hos. 14:7) (Metsudath David). The Soncino adds: The girl must have exchanged her humble dress for some splendid raiment worn by the ladies of the court.
The real answer was that the Shulemite did indeed obtain a new garment. This wedding garment was that obtained through baptism and the process of purification in the blood of the Lamb and through the Holy Spirit. It is fascinating that the symbolism of the elect after baptism is not taken up by the rabbinical authorities even though it is so consistent.
A garden shut up refers to the fact that the elect are a garden secluded unto all but its lawful possessor (as Metsudath David says). The Church is chaste and modest as gardens are walled to prevent the intrusion of strangers (cf. Isa. 5:5) (Ibn Ezra, Metsudath David).
Springs were sealed in the Middle East by clay which dried and had the effect of a seal thus making them private property. The capacity to drink from the waters of the elect was likewise sealed. The Holy Spirit was only advanced on a permanent basis to the elect being foreordained or predestined, chosen, called, justified and glorified (Rom. 8:29-30).
13Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, 14Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
The text here translated as thy plants is literally thy sendings forth are etc (Isaiah da Trani). The meaning is that the elect send forth fruit of the Holy Spirit which develops the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (see the paper The Mysteries of God (No. 131)) and also demonstrates and supports the elect or Church as the residence of God through the Holy Spirit. Malbim holds that she is not like an ordinary garden but is full of the most delicious fruit. Pardes or park is held to be of Persian origin (cf. Eccles. 2:5) (Kohut). Marcus claims it is of Phoenician origin (Soncino). For spikenard the Hebrew nerd is nard-oil (Midrash).
Saffron is obtained from the crocus in Palestine and is used as a condiment. In Mishnaic Hebrew, it is used in a verb form, meaning to become pale (see Kohut, Jastrow; Soncino). Calamus (Heb. kaneh) is a plant of reed like stem and tawny colour, well known to the ancients and imported into Palestine from India (Daath Mikra). Cinnamon is grown in the East Indies and reaches thirty feet in height. The Soncino notes, from the Midrash, Rabbi Huna as saying: “Cinnamon used to grow in the Land of Israel, and goats and sheep fed on it”. The Midrash, according to Aruch, holds myrrh to be the oil obtained from the plant mingled with wine.
Aloes grow in India. Its wood is very aromatic and venerated by the natives. R. Joshua says this is foliation - an ointment or oil prepared from the leaves of the spikenard. The use of the term ohel or tent was held to mean that the substance was obtained by importation by tent-dwellers i.e. Bedouin. Others held that it is referred to as tent because it is fragrant and spreads and fills the Tent of Meeting (Midrash).
All of these comparisons are seen to have relevance to the aspects of the elect in their relationship to the Holy Spirit and their tasks in the Kingdom of God. The addition with all the chief spices means that the report of the charms of the Shulemite spread as the scent of the most precious of aromatic herbs (Metsudath David).
15A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. 16Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits. (KJV)
This fountain of gardens and well of living waters displays the Church as it is under Messiah where from him living waters flow (Jn. 4:10,11; 7:38; Rev. 7:17) and the living bread (Jn. 6:51).
Song of Songs 5:1-16 I come to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gather my myrrh with my spice, I eat my honeycomb with my honey, I drink my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends, and drink: drink deeply, O lovers!
The context of Chapter 5 relates to the sacrifice of Messiah and the ongoing search for the Church. The first three verses refer back to the crucifixion and the resurrection. The later verses recapitulate the ascension and the subsequent persecution of the Church.
Verse 1: I am come into my garden. According to the Soncino, in Hebrew the perfect of the verb also expresses a definite future act (Metsudath David). Her lover already imagines himself there. Sforno, homilising the whole of the chapter, applies this verse to the religious education of children. The perfect of the verb might also indicate a definite completed act. The advent of Messiah was in two forms. The Messianic intent of this text has to be denied as a past- completed action as that implies two advents and in this case a completed action. We will see that this is in fact the meaning from a comparison with the Gospels.
The sister/bride symbolism is examined above. The brother/bride of the Church example of the parables includes the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25:1-13.
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. The root arah means ‘to gather fruit’ (cf. Psalm 80:13). The literal translation is ‘I have plucked my myrrh with my balsam’ (Daath Mikra).
The reference to Psalm 80:13 is relevant also because 80:8-13 refers to Israel as a vine once carefully tended but now forsaken and food for the wild beasts. The myrrh and spices are examined above and relate to the firstfruits.
The reference to honeycomb and honey is a play on the reference at 1Samuel 14:27. The brightness of Jonathan’s eyes was akin to the enlightenment of the Spirit. The text I have drunk my wine with my milk is avoided by the commentaries. The New Testament writers apply the concepts to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
The text, Eat O friend, is attributed by Rashbam as an invitation to the friends of the lovers to participate in the marriage feast. Most commentators make friends agree with beloved (which is plural) in accordance with the context and poetic parallelism (Soncino). The meaning of the friends participating in the marriage feast is explained by Christ at the parables of the wedding and again in the texts of Revelation.
Those that were originally bidden to eat at the wedding did not in fact come, so those who would have been considered less worthy were invited in their place (Mat. 22:1-14). These are the friends invited to eat. However, each must have a garment. These are they who are part of the general multitude who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17; 14:12; and 22:14 see KJV for intent). Thus the marriage supper is comprised of two groups, the brides and the friends. Both are in the Kingdom of God as we see from the distinction in Revelation between the 144,000 (Rev. 7:1-8) and the great multitude (Rev. 7:9-17). The great multitude also serve God before His throne, immediately following their redemption from the great tribulation. Thus this distinction was known from the OT in the Song.
Drink, yea, drink abundantly O beloved refers to the abundance of the feeding of the elect by the Lamb. The 144,000 are fed by the Lamb as firstfruits. They alone sing the Song of the Lamb before the throne of God and the four living creatures and the elders which comprise the inner council of the elohim (see Rev. 14:1-5). There is thus a distinction between the 144,000 and the great multitude that also serve before the throne.
The text then goes on to the complex issues involved in the crucifixion and the resurrection.
2I slept, but my heart was awake. Hark! my beloved is knocking. "Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night."
Here the Messiah slept but he qualifies the text. The rabbinical commentaries show the complex difficulties they face in applying the text while avoiding the Messianic concepts.
The Soncino (referring to Daath Mikra) says:
A day of excitement is followed by troubled dreams. In verses 2-7 she relates her dream (Daath Mikra). Earlier exegetes, however, interpret it as an actual happening: in verse 8 she asks the ladies of the court, who have offered to assist her in the search, to tell her lover, on finding him, that she is sick with love for him. They ask (verse 9) what she can see so extraordinary in him to warrant all her excitement, which provides her with the opportunity of painting a glorious picture of his graces (Soncino).
The understanding here is obvious. The daughters of Jerusalem and the beloved both seek Messiah. The beloved that did come was rejected of Judah because he was not extraordinary. They expected the king Messiah, not the priest Messiah. The Church then extolled the gospel of grace to Judah, which was not converted save for individuals.
The comment regarding My heart waketh deals with the resurrection through the grace of God holding the core of the Spirit. Daath Mikra explains that the heart was the seat of the passions, but also the seat of intelligence. On death, the Spirit of man goes back to God who gives it. Messiah had a command from God to be resurrected as Spirit. This is the meaning of the term my heart waketh. His Spirit was restored to life by command of God. The text then, from verse 3, proclaims the miracle of the resurrection and the subsequent baptism and salvation of the elect.
The text then goes on in verse 2 to say hark my beloved knocketh. The Soncino notes that: Seeing that the ladies are sympathetic she tells them her dream. This translation follows the LXX which takes dophek as a separate clause agreeing with dodi, ‘my beloved is knocking’.
For kol, with the meaning hark, see 2:8. This may also be rendered ‘my beloved is knocking aloud’ (see Heidenheim, Mecklenburg, [Gen. 4:10] (Soncino).
The call is to the elect to open to the Messiah. The term for he who knocks at the door is rendered in the Arabic form as Al Tarikh which is the name for the Morning Star. The Surah Al Tarikh is thus rendered in different forms. It is rendered as the Morning Star in Pickthall’s translation while it is rendered the Nightly Visitant by Darwood. It also means He who knocks at the door. The sense of the text is thus identified with Messiah from here and also from Revelation 3:20. Here the Messiah comes in and eats with those who open to him.
The comment that his head is drenched with dew is again a reference to the Nightly Visitant which contains, in the Arabic, a connection with the Morning Star (see also Pickthall). The Morning Star or Day Star, the Light Bearer or Lucifer is the rank of the elohim of this earth, which was held by Satan as anointed guardian cherub, as we know from Ezekiel 28:14 and Isaiah 14:12. This rank is given to Christ, which he shares with the elect (2Pet. 1:19; Rev. 3:27-28; 22:16). The dew also has reference to Judges 6:38 as is noted also from the Soncino.
The commentaries note that he may have come from his mother’s house in the night. It also notes he awaited all evening after his resurrection until the Sunday morning (Jn. 20:1,8-10,16-17) when he ascended into heaven as the wave sheaf offering and then returned that evening (Jn. 20:19).
3I had put off my garment, how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet, how could I soil them?
The text is applied exactly in the Gospels at the last supper. Christ laid aside (tithenai) his garment. This symbolised the laying aside of his life. The term, how could I put it on? shows the miracle of the resurrection through the power of God. Only God could put it on again. The term I had bathed my feet how could I soil them? is a reference to the symbolism of the footwashing of the Lord’s Supper done first for Messiah in spikenard. The first instance of the event shows that it is directly related to the forgiveness of sins (Lk. 7:38-50). John 11:2 shows that it was Mary who did this. The incident at John 12:3 was also done by Mary. She anointed his feet with nard in anticipation of his crucifixion. He arrived there six days before the Passover (i.e. 9 Nisan) and on 10 Nisan they gave him a supper and he was anointed. He was thus set aside as the Passover Lamb. He did not defile his feet. He died without blemish as the Passover. The same sense of being without blemish is applied to all who have their feet washed at the Lord’s Supper, through the blood of Messiah. The word for how in this text is a word found only in Esther 8:6. This text has the connotation of how can I let it happen. The word is SHD 346 ’ayeh meaning where? Seemingly derived from SHD 335 ‘ay where how or why. The sense is how can it be and the sense of the ongoing impossibility of being placed in that position.
4My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me.
The text shows the return of Messiah from the resurrection. The Soncino gives the meaning as: Hearing her lame excuses for not answering his knock, he departs, and his action causes her anxiety (Rashi). The translation here differs from that of the Soncino which applies the text as My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door. The explanation is given so it would appear that an unbolted door could be opened by inserting the hand in the hole (Isaiah da Trani, Daath Mikra). Others hold that the hole was also used to view and speak to the visitor.
The term heart is literally my bowels, which to the ancients were the seat of the emotions (cf. Jer. 31:19; Ps. 40:9).
5I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, upon the handles of the bolt.
The commentaries note that when the knocking ceased she became anxious.
Rushing to the door her hands touched the liquid scent with which her beloved had sprinkled the door, [perhaps as a gesture of love, or in pursuance of a custom to anoint the door of a beloved with fragrant spices] (Isaiah da Trani). Some commentators are of the view that she anointed herself with myrrh before retiring for the night (Rashi, Metsudath David).
The real position is that the beloved was not trying to enter here. He was trying to give the beloved the means of escape from the world system. From the very act of his opening, the beloved was anointed with the spices of the Spirit and freed from her environment. However, she could not yet be united with the lover. He had gone away for an extended period. The search of the beloved commences because she has contact with him only through the Spirit.
6I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.
This is the period of the Church in the wilderness. The commentaries say [Imagine her grief at not finding him there! The verbs chamak abar (had turned away, was gone) are most expressive, and the omission of the particle ‘and’ reflects her disturbed mind.] (Soncino).
Her soul failed her meant she felt faint (Metsudath David). The qualification when he spoke is significant. Rashi comments: ‘Because he said, “I will not now enter, since thou didst at first refuse to open to me”’. Metsudath David, Isaiah da Trani and Malbim follow this explanation. Akedath Yitschak, however, explains it as past perfect, ‘my soul had failed me when he spoke,’ i.e., when he said, ‘Open to me, my sister, my love’. I did not give his words the proper attention. I did not take them seriously. This is exactly the situation with Judah, the blood sister of Messiah. They did not heed him and thus he went away for the forty Jubilee period to end the time of the Gentiles and the period of Satan’s rule.
There was no answer from this period. There was no sign given his ministry save the sign of Jonah (see the paper Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013)).
7The watchmen found me, as they went about in the city; they beat me, they wounded me, they took away my mantle, those watchmen of the walls.
Metsudath David says that those who patrol the city at night, mistaking her for a wanton, attempt to stop her, and when she refuses, they have recourse to violence. This is exactly what happened to the Church not only in Judah but elsewhere. They took her mantle. The Soncino says, “The word (redid) occurs again only in Isaiah 3:23 (veil)”. It was worn by Oriental ladies out of doors, and may have been a fine lawn garment thrown over the whole dress. Kimchi thinks it was a silk veil. The concept from Isaiah 3:16-26 is that the finery of Judah and the daughters of Zion are removed because of their wanton arrogance. Isaiah 4:1ff. goes on to show how seven women shall seize a man to remove their shame. That is the time of Messiah when those who remain in Zion will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem. These are they written in the book of life of the Lamb. The filth of the daughters of Zion will be washed away by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning. At that time there will be a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies. Over all the glory there will be a canopy and a pavilion as a shade, a refuge and a shelter (Isa. 4:5-6).
8I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love.
The text here shows that the ladies of Jerusalem are asked to take part in the search. Conversion is thus extended to them. The Soncino says that Jewish commentators apply this verse to the intense love of Israel for God despite prolonged suffering. The text in verse 8 is however a question: What will you tell him? That I am lovesick. The question appears to be rhetorical, in that the lover is hardly likely to accept such an excuse for their behaviour.
The Soncino notes:
She urges them to tell her lover, on finding him, that all the wounds inflicted upon her by the watchmen were nothing compared to her love-sickness for him (Akedath Yitschak, Metsudath David).
The real explanation appears to be based upon the exchange between the beloved and the daughters of Zion. The relationship of the word in Isaiah 3:23 is noted. Yet not one reference to the action or criticism levelled at these women is even so much as mentioned by the commentators when it is obvious that there is a direct relationship between the texts. The reason is that the texts are clearly Messianic and the beloved of Messiah is not of the daughters of Jerusalem.
9What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?
The distinction is made even more apparent from this next verse. They see the distinct and passionate relationship between the Shulemite and the beloved. The Soncino says:
Surprised at her great passion they taunt her. What does she see in him to excite her emotions? The question provides her with an opportunity to give an account of his physical grace.
10My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. 11His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. 12His eyes are like doves beside springs of water, bathed in milk, fitly set. 13His cheeks are like beds of spices, yielding fragrance. His lips are lilies, distilling liquid myrrh. 14His arms are rounded gold, set with jewels. His body is ivory work, encrusted with sapphires. 15His legs are alabaster columns, set upon bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. 16His speech is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. (RSV)
The depiction of his beauty is also of spiritual connotation and can be cross-referenced to other texts; his clear white skin (cf. Lam. 4:7). His pre-eminence above ten thousand is understood by the commentaries as:
Just as a standard (degel) is raised above the head of a marching army, so does he tower above all others on account of his beauty (Akedath Yitschak, Isaiah da Trani). Ten thousand expresses a very large number (Kimchi)
The description most fine gold in the Hebrew is kethem paz, which is a figure of speech for excellency. Beginning with his head she describes in matchless imagery all the limbs of his shapely body. Ibn Ezra translates kethem by ‘a diadem’ and paz by ‘precious stones.’ Rashi renders it ‘choice things which kings treasure up’ and Rashbam: ‘Heap of gold, pearl-like in colour’. His locks are curled is literally ‘heaps upon heaps (taltallim), undulating like hills (tel) (Isaiah da Trani). The reference to the eyes like doves is also applied earlier. The concepts are clarity and beauty. The eye is noted as the window of the soul or the light of the body (Mat. 6:20). Clear eyes are required for the priesthood (Lev. 21:20). The cheeks are as raised flower beds of balsam (cf. arugah Ezek. 17:7). As banks of sweet herbs uses the Hebrew migdaloth or ‘towers’. Akedath Yitschak says that spices used to be placed in vessels like towers (the practice may have followed the text rather than the reverse however). The Soncino goes on:
The rounded form and variegated colour of his cheeks suggest this bold comparison. His beard sits perfumed on his cheeks and his breath is as sweet as the purest myrrh (Metsudath David).
It might be taken from this text that Messiah here is prophesied to have worn a beard. The text however might be applied to the spiritual symbolism of the aspects noted in Revelation. The text dropping with flowering myrrh is taken as indicating a sweet (Akedath Yitschak) or faultless conversation. Beryl or Tarshish is c[h]rysolite first found in Tartessus in Spain. In colour it is yellow and pellucid, thus suggesting the nails of the fingers which are transparently pink (see Bigdei Kehunnah, Shaffer, Jerusalem, 1964) (Soncino).
The term polished ivory suggests a white smooth body. The Soncino notes her purpose as:
to indicate that every inch of his body is far more precious to her than all the wealth of Solomon. Esheth (polished) denotes a mass (Rashi). Ibn Ezra explains ‘to shine with brightness’ [cf. Jer. 5:28].
The note by Rashi as denoting a mass has application to the body of the Messiah. The extended sense of the body being a mass and being more precious than the wealth of Solomon is reference to the elect as the body of Christ.
The sapphires are held to be perhaps the lapis lazuli descriptive of his purple tunic covering his glistening skin (see Ibn Ezra, Kimchi). His body is as beautiful as a piece of ivory studded with sapphires (Rashi, Metsudath David). Here we approach the concept of the purple wealth and authority, which was used for royalty. This is extended to the body, which is clothed in that symbolism.
The text as pillars of marble (on golden pedestals Ibn Ezra, Akedath Yitschak) has the concept of being upheld by the pillars of the Temple which are the Philadelphian system of Revelation 3:12.
The comparison with Lebanon is descriptive of majestic beauty. The references to Lebanon are as above (and also cf. Deut. 3:25). Ibn Ezra notes it is famed for fertility and beauty.
These cedars tower above all other trees (cf. Amos 2:9). Thus the beloved is outstanding among all men (Rashi). This is Messiah. His mouth is most sweet (Lit. “his palate”) as before, refers to the fact that his mouth utters nothing but pleasant things (Metsudath David). It might be more correct that his speech is blameless rather than innocuous.
The conclusion this is my beloved and this is my friend is a challenge to the daughters of Jerusalem. The Soncino says:
and now judge for yourselves wherein my beloved is more to me than any other.’ She feels that she has more than answered the scornful question contained in verse 9 (Malbim).
Thus the Shulemite has answered the daughters of Jerusalem. Judah stands convicted. Now comes the apparent change of heart.
Continue here with Part 4: (No. F022iv).