Bible Book List
Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–17
Verses 12–17

Here the conference is carried on between Christ and his spouse, and endearments are mutually exchanged.

I. Believers take a great complacency in Christ, and in communion with him. To you that believe he is precious, above any thing in this world, 1 Pet. 2:7. Observe,

1. The humble reverence believers have for Christ as their Sovereign, Song 1:12. He is a King in respect both of dignity and dominion; he wears the crown of honour, he bears the sceptre of power, both which are the unspeakable satisfaction of all his people. This King has his royal table spread in the gospel, in which is made for all nations a feast of fat things, Isa. 25:6. Wisdom has furnished her table, Prov. 9:1. He sits at this table to see his guests (Matt. 22:11), to see that nothing be wanting that is fit for them; he sups with them and they with him (Rev. 3:20); he has fellowship with them and rejoices in them; he sits at his table to bid them welcome, and to carve for them, as Christ broke the five loaves and gave to his disciples, that they might distribute to the multitude. He sits there to receive petitions, as Ahasuerus admitted Esther’s petition at the banquet of wine. He has promised to be present with his people in his ordinances always. Then believers do him all the honour they can, and study how to express their esteem of him and gratitude to him, as Mary did when she anointed his head with the ointment of spikenard that was very costly, one pound of it worth three hundred pence, and so fragrant that the house was filled with the pleasing odour of it (John 12:3), which story seems as if it were designed to refer to this passage, for Christ was then sitting at table. When good Christians, in any religious duty, especially in the ordinance of the Lord’s supper, where the King is pleased, as it were, to sit with us at his own table, have their graces exercised, their hearts broken by repentance, healed by faith, and inflamed with holy love and desires toward Christ, with joyful expectations of the glory to be revealed, then the spikenard sends forth the smell thereof. Christ is pleased to reckon himself honoured by it, and to accept of it as an instance of respect to him, as it was in the wise men of the east, who paid their homage to the new-born King of the Jews by presenting to him frankincense and myrrh. The graces of God’s Spirit in the hearts of believers are exceedingly precious in themselves and pleasing to Christ, and his presence in ordinances draws them out into act and exercise. If he withdraw, graces wither and languish, as plants in the absence of the sun; if he approach, the face of the soul is renewed, as of the earth in the spring; and then it is time to bestir ourselves, that we may not lose the gleam, not lose the gale; for nothing is done acceptably but what grace does, Heb. 12:28.

2. The strong affection they have for Christ as their beloved, their well-beloved, Song 1:13. Christ is not only beloved by all believing souls, but is their well-beloved, their best-beloved, their only beloved; he has that place in their hearts which no rival can be admitted to, the innermost and uppermost place. Observe, (1.) How Christ is accounted of by all believers: He is a bundle of myrrh and a cluster of camphire, something, we may be sure, nay, every thing, that is pleasant and delightful. The doctrine of his gospel, and the comforts of his Spirit, are very refreshing to them, and they rest in his love; none of all the delights of sense are comparable to the spiritual pleasure they have in meditating on Christ and enjoying him. There is a complicated sweetness in Christ and an abundance of it; there is a bundle of myrrh and a cluster of camphire. We are not straitened in him whom there is all fulness. The word translated camphire is copher, the same word that signifies atonement or propitiation. Christ is a cluster of merit and righteousness to all believers; therefore he is dear to them because he is the propitiation for their sins. Observe what stress the spouse lays upon the application: He is unto me, and again unto me, all that is sweet; whatever he is to others, he is so to me. He loved me, and gave himself for me. He is my Lord, and my God. (2.) How he is accepted: He shall lie all night between my breasts, near my heart. Christ lays the beloved disciples in his bosom; why then should not they lay their beloved Saviour in their bosoms? Why should not they embrace him with both arms, and hold him fast, with a resolution never to let him go? Christ must dwell in the heart (Eph. 3:17), and, in order to that, the adulteries must be put from between the breasts (Hos. 2:2), no pretender must have his place in the soul. He shall be as a bundle of myrrh, or perfume bag, between my breasts, always sweet to me; or his effigies in miniature, his love-tokens, shall be hung between my breasts, according to the custom of those that are dear to each other. He shall not only be laid their for a while, but shall lie there, shall abide there.

II. Jesus Christ has a great complacency in his church and in every true believer; they are amiable in his eyes (Song 1:15): Behold, thou art fair, my love; and again, Behold, thou art fair. He says this, not to make her proud (humility is one principal ingredient in spiritual beauty), but, 1. To show that there is a real beauty in holiness, that all who are sanctified are thereby beautified; they are truly fair. 2. That he takes great delight in that good work which his grace has wrought on the souls of believers; so that though they have their infirmities, whatever they think of themselves, and the world thinks of them, he thinks them fair. He calls them friends. The hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, is in the sight of God of great price, 1 Pet. 3:4. 3. To comfort weak believers, who are discouraged by their own blackness; let them be told again and again that they are fair. 4. To engage all who are sanctified to be very thankful for that grace which has made them fair, who by nature were deformed, and changed the Ethiopian’s skin. One instance of the beauty of the spouse is here mentioned, that she has doves’ eyes, as Song 4:1. Those are fair, in Christ’s account, who have, not the piercing eye of the eagle, but the pure and chaste eye of the dove, not like the hawk, who, when he soars upwards, still has his eye upon the prey on earth, but a humble modest eye, such an eye as discovers a simplicity and godly sincerity and a dove-like innocency, eyes enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit, that blessed Dove, weeping eyes. I did mourn as a dove, Ezek. 7:16.

III. The church expresses her value for Christ, and returns esteem (Song 1:16): Behold, thou art fair. See how Christ and believers praise one another. Israel saith of God, Who is like thee? Exod. 15:11. And God saith of Israel, Who is like thee? Deut. 33:29. Lord, saith the church, “Dost thou call me fair? No; if we speak of strength, thou art strong (Job 9:19), so, if of beauty, thou art fair. I am fair no otherwise than as I have thy image stamped upon me. Thou art the great Original; I am but a faint and imperfect copy, I am but thy umbra—the shadow of thee, John 1:16; 3:34. Thou art fair in thyself and (which is more) pleasant to all that are thine. Many are fair enough to look at, and yet the sourness of their temper renders them unpleasant; but thou art fair, yea, pleasant.” Christ is pleasant, as he is ours, in covenant with us, in relation to us. “Thou art pleasant now, when the King sits at his table.” Christ is always precious to believers, but in a special manner pleasant when they are admitted into communion with him, when they hear his voice, and see his face, and taste his love. It is good to be here. Having expressed her esteem of her husband’s person, she next, like a loving spouse, that is transported with joy for having disposed of herself so well, applauds the accommodations he had for her entertainment, his bed, his house, his rafters or galleries (Song 1:16), which may be fitly applied to those holy ordinances in which believers have fellowship with Jesus Christ, receive the tokens of his love and return their pious and devout affections to him, increase their acquaintance with him and improve their advantages by him. Now, 1. These she calls ours, Christ and believers having a joint-interest in them. As husband and wife are heirs together (1 Pet. 3:7), so believers are joint-heirs with Christ, Rom. 8:17. They are his institutions and their privileges; in them Christ and believers meet. She does not call them mine, for a believer will own nothing as his but what Christ shall have an interest in, nor thine, for Christ has said, All that I have is thine, Luke 15:31. All is ours if we are Christ’s. Those that can by faith lay claim to Christ may lay claim to all that is his. 2. These are the best of the kind. Does the colour of the bed, and the furniture belonging to it, help to set it off? Our bed is green, a colour which, in a pastoral, is preferred before any other, because it is the colour of the fields and groves where the shepherd’s business and delight are. It is a refreshing colour, good for the eyes; and it denotes fruitfulness. I am like a green olive-tree, Ps. 52:8. We are married to Christ, that we should bring forth unto God, Rom. 7:4. The beams of our house are cedar (Song 1:17), which probably refers to the temple Solomon had lately built for communion between God and Israel, which was of cedar, a strong sort of wood, sweet, durable, and which will never rot, typifying the firmness and continuance of the church, the gospel-temple. The galleries for walking are of fir, or cypress, some sort of wood that was pleasing both to the sight and to the smell, intimating the delight which the saints take in walking with Christ and conversing with him. Every thing in the covenant of grace (on which foot all their treaties are carried on) is very firm, very fine, and very fragrant.