Christian Churches of God
Commentary on Song of Songs: Part 4
(Edition 2.0 19951021-19990607)
We continue the Commentary here from Chapter 6 to end Chapter 7.
Commentary on Song of Songs: Part 4
Song of Songs 6:1-12 Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.
The daughters of Jerusalem seem to have undergone a change of heart. If he is so wonderful then let us help thee to look for him (Akedath Yitschak, Metsudath David, Malbim). Similarly have the nations taunted Israel: Where is your God to help you? (Midrash). The text can thus be taken in the ironic. Judah is taunting the Church for its Messianic faith. The Shulemite replies allegedly evasively.
2My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.
The reply is allegedly evasive; the answer to the usual attitude of Judah when the Messiah is not here as King Messiah and ruler. This is the same problem as we saw during the ministry of Messiah and the reason that he was rejected in the first instance. The reply is held to be that he may have gone forth to his usual haunts, gathering garlands as before (Daath Mikra). The usual haunt of Messiah as the Angel of (Jehovah) Yahovah at the head of the nation (Zech. 12:8) was as the elohim of Israel (Zech. 12:8; Ps. 45:6-7; Heb 1:8-9) and its protector.
The evasive answers are held to be prompted because the daughters of Jerusalem tried to turn away her affections from him. This has been the continual problem of the Church with Judaism and those who espouse a Judaic system at the expense of the NT texts. The disappearance of the beloved only serves to make it still more overpowering. The dramatic elements which are pronounced in this chapter are intended to give unity and movement to the poem (Daath Mikra). The real understanding that Messiah had to go and return within the sign of Jonah could not be revealed within the mysteries of God.
The devotion of the Shulemite was not diminished. The term that feedeth among the lilies is held to mean that they are not to search. That is the duty of the Shulemite alone. The commentaries hold that jealousy now speaks. She is held to be anxious that she may have aroused their curiosity by singing his praises. Metsudath David thinks that this is spoken in fear of losing the beloved. It is rather a testimony to the faith of the elect. He notes however the term as meaning Just as I am still faithful to him, so is he still faithful to me. He ‘feedeth among the lilies.’ He has gone to bring me lilies from his garden (Metsudath David). Akedath Yitschak and Metsudath David are noted by the Soncino as holding the following:
Upon hearing the maiden’s pleasant words in her unlimited praise for him, and upon seeing the pain caused her by his absence and how her sins have been expiated, her beloved returns and endorses the words of the court ladies who had sung her charms.
The important point to note is that the commentators note here that the expiation of the sins of the Shulemite has occurred. This is specifically a function of Messiah. The commentators, at least Akedath Yitschak and Metsudath David, therefore must know that the text is Messianic. It is likely that the majority, if not all, know. We are verging here on the deliberate withholding of the truth from the people of Judah by the Scribes (see also the paper Measuring the Temple (No. 137)).
4Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners. 5Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead. 6Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them. 7As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.
The comments now reflect the praise before regarding the flock of goats from Gilead and also the pomegranates and the teeth. The elect are again praised for their purity of faith and their unity of purpose. There is in effect another trial here over the course of the history of the Church. During the history of the Church in Europe there was a concerted undermining of the Church in Eastern Europe by the Ashkenazi and the Church was infiltrated and diminished. This is what is referred to traditionally as the Thyatiran era.
The comment here in verse 4 relates to Tirzah. The commentaries allege that the king is now addressing her (see Soncino). Tirzah is an old Canaanite city (Josh. 12:24). It was famed for its beauty and was renowned as the royal residence of the kings of Israel after the revolt of Jeroboam. The Soncino says that it may have been linked here with Jerusalem instead of Samaria which was the capital of the northern kingdom, because of the evil repute in which the latter was held in Nehemiah’s day. Tirzah retained the distinction of being a royal residence until the days of Omri, who built Samaria (1Kings 16:15ff.). The city was of striking beauty, as is indicated by its Hebrew name, which means ‘to be pleasant’ (Metsudath David). Hence the remark of the Midrash, followed by Jewish commentators: ‘Thou (Israel) art beautiful when thou performest deeds that please Me.’ (Soncino).
There is thus a clear acknowledgment that beauty is allied with the adherence to the word of God. The contrast of the next part of the text being terrible as an army with banners is a direct comparison with Proverbs 7:26. The power of a seductive woman is compared with that of an armed host. Here the elect through its constancy is also as formidable as an army (also Metsudath David).
The comments are repeats of the praise already given, why should she seek praise from a lesser source? The comment, turn away thine eyes from me because they have overcome me, appears to be a strange plea.
The next text from verse 8 onwards is held to refer to a declaration by he who is presumably the beloved.
8There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. 9My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. 10Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
The Soncino says:
He approaches the daughters of Jerusalem and declares, ‘Solomon is the possessor of a harem of beautiful women, threescore queens, and fourscore concubines and maidens without number. Why should he hold my beloved against her will? (Malbim).
Malbim then goes on to state that is but one means: To me, she is but one. Moreover, to her mother, she is but one. He holds that all the daughters called her happy and the queens and concubines praised her despite their rivalry.
The praise in verse 10 is held to be her beloved citing the praise of the ladies when they first beheld her (Metsudath David, Malbim). These praises refer to the aspects of the elect in their relationship with Messiah at the restoration. Only then does the full stature of the elect become known. The woman is clothed with the sun and the moon and the stars (Rev. 12:1). She is of the day star.
11I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded. 12Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. (KJV)
The maiden here is held to give excuses for fleeing Solomon’s palace. She claims innocently, ‘I went down into the garden of nuts etc’. (Malbim). However, it is the beloved that appears to be speaking here. He is speaking of his activities. The Midrash likens Israel to nuts. Just as the shell of a nut, when falling into mud, protects the kernel from becoming unclean, so has Israel preserved its purity when dispersed among the nations. Thus we see that the Midrash understands that we are looking at the activities of Messiah. He goes to see the green plants of the valley and to see whether the vine budded. The symbolism is clearly that of Israel in the dispersion. The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the whole house of Israel and the nation of Judah, his pleasant planting (Isa. 5:7). Messiah is about his Father’s business.
The meaning is perhaps not fully explained from the KJV text, which like the LXX treats the words princely people as a proper noun ammi nadib. Rashi says the yad is not the suffix but a poetical termination. He interprets: “‘My soul has made me as the chariots for foreign princes to ride upon,’ i.e. I have unwillingly brought a foreign yoke upon myself. That is how she feels at court in their midst, quite out of place”. Verse 12 in the Soncino says:
Before I was aware, my soul set me Upon the chariots of my princely people.
The Soncino says:
… this is a difficult verse. She retracts her previous statement and states ‘Indeed I do not know why I fled the kings quarters. My soul, i.e. my beloved, who is my soul and my life, drove me as a chariot to the princely members of my people, that I no longer be imprisoned but free (Malbim).
Here the concept is that the Church was set by the beloved within the chosen of Israel that it be no longer imprisoned. That is what Messiah said when he stated that the Kingdom of God would be given to a nation showing the fruits of the Kingdom (Mat. 21:33-43). Thus the nation showing the fruits of it was also in Israel. The soul of the Church here is held to be the beloved. However the Holy Spirit is the mechanism by which this can occur. Thus the activity of Messiah within the elect through the Holy Spirit was seen from the Song.
The next phase is from Chapter 7. There is quite a disparity in the translations of 7:1,2ff.
The Soncino commences the text as:
1. Return, Return, O Shulammite; Return, Return, that we may look upon thee.
What will yet see in the Shulammite? As it were a dance of two companies.
2. How beautiful are thy steps in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The roundlings of thy thighs are like the links of a chain. The work of the hands of a skilled workman.
The text at verse 1 here is held to mean that after revealing to the daughters of Jerusalem her intention to return to her people and to her beloved, they appeal to her to return to Solomon’s chambers where they will bestow honour upon her (Malbim).
The question ‘what honour will you bestow upon the Shulemite?’ is held by Malbim to be a question that she asks them. The history of Shunem has been given above. It is a village in the plain of Esdraelon three and a half miles north of Jezreel, to the west of the feature called “Little Hermon”. It lies in Issachar where the Philistines encamped before the last battle of Saul (1Sam. 28:4). Abishag came from there and Elisha lodged there (2Kgs. 4:8).
The praise of the Shulemite or Shulammite is questioned by her. Praise from other than the beloved is irrelevant. The text as it were a dance of two companies is rendered by Malbim as ‘since I am surrounded by two companies’ i.e. I am imprisoned on all sides. Others interpret this as an appeal by her lover to return to him. She then replies to his request as per the last two sentences of the verse, meaning ‘What more can you see and praise in one whom the companies of the people have praised?’ (Akedath Yitschak). The more likely meaning is that the Shulemite is a dance of two companies. The first company is the 144,000. The second company is the great multitude that surrounds the Messiah and attends his marriage supper. The explanations are most unsatisfactory regarding this text. Indeed it does not appear in the KJV or the RSV as Chapter 7:1 (it is relocated to 6:13). It is in the Masoretic Text and appears in Green’s Interlinear in the main text but is of course relocated in the accompanying authorised text. Green translates the text as:
Return, return O Shulamite! Return, return that we may gaze upon you! What will you see in the Shulamite? As the dance of two (army) camps.
The concept is clearly that the Shulemite can be seen as the dance of two (army) camps. The armies of the living God are somehow epitomised by the stature of the Shulemite. Why was it relocated when it clearly has great bearing on the text?
The KJV and the RSV commence the Chapter with verse 2 as being verse 1. The text reads in the Oxford Annotated RSV: How graceful are your feet in sandals O queenly maiden!
Song of Songs 7:1-13
1How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.
There are two views of this text. Malbim thinks that if the daughters of Jerusalem are addressing her, they are saying in effect that Thy feet are beautiful in the sandals thou wearest in Solomon’s chambers, not so if thou art the barefooted wife of a simple shepherd.
Akedath Yitschak explains that he is praising her after he has married her and has been intimate with her. (Rashi renders the text: the secret places of thy thighs). That is the difference between the intimacy of these phrases and those in 4:1-5. The illusion to the skilled workman is held to refer to the beloved (from Metsudath David). However, Malbim seems to miss the point of the craftsmanship of God in the process (Ps. 139:13-18) which also relates to predestination (Rom. 8:29-30) and hold the text to mean only if they are bedecked with jewels, the work of a skilled workman, as in Solomon’s chambers, not so if thou become the wife of a poor shepherd (Soncino).
The Soncino holds that the term O prince’s daughter might better be “O born lady”. Bath nadib means a scion of a noble family, but may also signify the possessor of a noble character. The Shulemite is born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3). The perfection of Holy righteous character is the intent of the process in the fear of God (2Cor. 7:1). Christ was perfected on the third day (Lk. 13:32).
The elect or saints are perfected forever (Heb. 10:14; Eph. 4:13) and in them the love of God is perfected (1Jn. 2:5; 4:12). This is the intent of the perfecting of the House of God (2Chr. 8:16).
2Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.
The text is also rendered wherein no mingled wine is wanting (Soncino). The reference to a round goblet is important. The Hebrew is agan hasahar, lit. ‘a bowl of roundness’ (Soncino). ‘There are places where the moon is called sahara. Sahar is an allusion to the Sanhedrin sitting in semi-circular rows, like a half moon, which is likewise the shape of the threshing floor’ (Midrash).
This text thus refers to the placement of the council which mirrors that in Revelation 4:1 to 5:14. The Sanhedrin, as was the council of the priesthood, is a reflection of the celestial council, which serves the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 8:4-5). The rounded goblet perhaps has relationship also to those referred to as golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints in Revelation 5:8. The replacement of the Sanhedrin by the seventy [two] (Lk. 10:1,17) is reflected here in this symbolism of the beloved. The mingled wine is held to be a practice of the ancients making the wine milder (Metsudath Zion). The text is probably a reflection of Wisdom of Proverbs 9:1-5. The Wisdom here refers to the Holy Spirit which has sent out her maids which are the Church. We also see wine mixed with myrrh was offered to Christ at the crucifixion but he did not drink it (Mk. 15:23).
In Syria the perfect skin was that of the colour of wheat after it had been threshed and winnowed (Soncino). Metsudath David takes this as referring to the scent of her body. Isaiah da Trani and Ibn Ezra describe it as a description of her abdomen, wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. The reference to wheat is because the wheat harvest is the Pentecost harvest which represents the harvest of the Shulemite, who is the church. Setting the wheat about with thorns protected it from the cattle. The rabbis interpret this homiletically as a praise for Israel that they refrain from transgressing religious prohibitions although they are fenced with but light safeguards, compared to lilies (Soncino). The rabbis thus interpret this as the wall around the Torah. It is however the protection of Israel through the Spirit.
3Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.
Comparison is with 4:5 where the shepherd uses the same terms.
4Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.
The symbolism of the tower has been examined also in relation to the armies of the Lord. The body is described above as a dance of two (army) companies.
5Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.
Heshbon is the ancient capital of Sihon king of the Amorites, situated twenty miles east of the point where the Jordan enters the Dead Sea. It was originally a Moabite city (Num. 21:25), and later was possessed by the Amorites (Josh. 9:10). Moses assigned it first to Reuben and then to Gad. As the Soncino notes, it passed hands between the Israelites and the Moabites several times. For many years it was the pride of Moab. It was famous for its fertility and rich countryside with reservoirs or pools. Thus the peace and beauty of the Heshbon pools (Isaiah da Trani, Daath Mikra).
The term by the gate of Bath-rabbim is held to be either a proper noun (Metsudath David) or ‘the gate of the populous city’. The gates were the place of judgment and the focus or place of assembly of the populace (see also Rashi).
Bath-rabbim is a combination of two words, SHD 1337 and SHD 7227. SHD 1337 is held by Strong to be Bath rabbiym derived from 1323 meaning daughter and a masculine plural from 7227 meaning the daughter (or city) of Rabbah. 7227 rab means abundant (in quantity, quality, size, age, number or rank). Hence it means to abound, captain, elder, great etc, many, master, mighty officer, prince etc. (see Strong for applications). The same word is at SHD 7228 where it is also used as an archer. The Chaldean (7229) is the same word and means captain, chief, great, lord, master and also stout. The meaning of the words is the gate of the city of the Lord.
The text thy nose is like the tower of Lebanon is complex. Rashi says, “Since when is a prominent nose a sign of beauty”. The word translated nose is allegedly derived from SHD 639 ‘aph. This is derived from SHD 599 ‘anaph which is a prime root to breathe hard or be enraged, hence 639 can mean nose or nostril, hence the face or occasionally a person.
It also means from rapid breathing in passion, ire, anger or wrath. The same word is also SHD 637 ‘aph a prime particle meaning accession, also or yea. The Chaldean word is the same and means also. Thus the word has the implication of your accession or confirmation or acceptance which is used also of nose, and thus, as a play on words, is likened to the tower of Lebanon. We thus hearken back to the fortress of the elect. The commentaries have difficulty with this text and the Soncino says:
The word appech is therefore taken to mean ‘thy face.’ It would seem that the comparison is between the well proportioned nose and the beautiful projecting tower (Isaiah da Trani, Metsudath David).
This avoids the issue of the complex meaning of the text and the multiple possibilities.
Thy head upon thee is like Carmel is held to be like the summit of Carmel overlooking the sea in N.W. Palestine (Isaiah da Trani). The fate of Carmel is allied with the destruction and the glory of God (Isa. 33:9; 35:1-2). The Messiah is likened to Carmel (Jer. 46:18), when he is sent by the Lord of Hosts. Israel shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, Ephraim and Gilead in the restoration (Jer. 50:19). The hair being like purple and the king being held captive in the tresses thereof is held to be:
Common to the poetry of all times and climes is the idea of the lover held captive in a woman’s tresses. Like the lashes of the eyelids, the ringlets are described as ‘the net of love’ [cf. Prov. 6:25] (Malbim; Soncino).
The application of the colour purple to the hair and the captivity of the king have also the connotation that the king will himself become the subject of the very Shulemite he intended to imprison. The royalty of the elect as kings and priests are noted by the council of the elders in Revelation 5:10. The RSV has kingdom rather than kings but they are to be kings and priests of God.
6How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! 7This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
The praise now goes from the individual aspects of the body to the entirety of the Shulemite (see also Rashi). The Soncino holds that the king makes a last bid for the love of the Shulemite. She is attired in costly apparel, as befits her appearance before a king and “she causes the royal suitor to be more than ever enthralled with her.” (Soncino).
Again she thrusts his attention aside and concentrates upon her lover. The king has no alternative but to withdraw and abandon her to reunion with her lover (see Malbim; Soncino)
Here, the last attempt is made to seduce the bride from devotion to Messiah to the worldly system. The problems with the conversion of Judah and the stated synagogue of Satan are referred to also in Revelation 2:9. This was evident as we have seen from the Smyrna Church but in the last days we see this battle again.
The reference to the palm tree is quite ancient. Reference is made to the palm tree from the exodus. There were twelve springs and three score and ten palm trees at Elim (Ex. 15:27).
The waters had been made drinkable at Marah with a tree. This was Messiah. The twelve springs are references to the twelve apostles and the seventy palms are references to the council of the seventy. It was initially the Sanhedrin under the twelve judges but that was a foreshadow of the apostles and the elect. The term Elim or Eliym means also gods. The Beni Eliym are the sons of God (see DSS re Deut. 32:8).
From the waters of Meribah the injunction to keep the commandments was given in relation to the blessing and the curses (Ex. 15:25b-26).
8I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;
The supposed climbing of the palm tree is held by Malbim to denote the lengths to which the king claims he will go to attract the love of the Shulemite.
9And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.
The speech is held to be sweeter than the choicest wine (Metsudath David). The wine as the blood of the Lamb is a gospel message. There is also a comparison with Proverbs 23:31.
Wine is held to cause deep sleep and also unlock silent lips. The speech stirring pleasant emotions is held to be the import of this text (Metsudath David).
The rejection of the king is now final. Satan can’t win against the Church.
10I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. 11Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. 12Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.
She declares that she is the beloved’s and his desire is for her. None can separate her from her only beloved (Metsudath David). She then calls to the beloved to go into the field and then lodge in the villages. Some render kefarim (from SHD 3723 kaphar) as ‘henna flowers’ as in 4:13. The kaphar is a village protected by walls. The word comes from the proposition to cover (see also SHD 3724 kopher). It is thus a village that is covered in, and specifically bitumen as a covering or coating, and also the henna plant as used for dying. Figuratively, it means a redemption-price and this is its implied meaning here as is also connotated in 4:13. The word, particularly 3724, can mean a bribe, camphire, pitch, ransom, satisfaction, sum of money and a village. The complex play on words shows the redemption of Messiah of the beloved who then assists in ransoming the elect with him.
Malbim holds that he now reappears, and urges their departure from the palace to their former meeting-place in the fields. The symbolism is that Messiah is urging the Church to get up early to the vineyards and to care for the vine. The vine is to be examined to see whether it produces good fruit. The word Semadar, as examined in 2:13, is important here. The elect are being brought forth and this latter instance is very important and a continuation of the process free of the interference of the daughters of Jerusalem and the king of this world. The invitation to the Kingdom had been extended into the field and villages as we see that the invited guests did not come. The second invitees are those who end up producing the fruit of the Kingdom of God.
13The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved. (KJV)
Mandrakes were believed to be an aphrodisiac (partly from their shape) and in stirring up love (cf. Gen. 30:14f). The Hebrew name for the plant is dudaim. This word is connected with the word dodim or love (Kimchi). Rashi renders this as basket of figs. This concept then brings the text into the good figs / bad figs analogy of Jeremiah 24:1-10. The nation was thus split into two groups. This will happen at the last days also.
Continue here with Part 5 (No. F022v).