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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 8–14
Verses 8–14

These are still the words of Christ to his church, expressing his great esteem of her and affection to her, the opinion he had of her beauty and excellency, the desire he had of, and the delight he had in, her converse and society. And so ought men to love their wives as Christ loves the church, and takes pleasure in it as if it were spotless and had no fault, when yet it is compassed with infirmity. Now, observe here,

I. The endearing names and titles by which he calls her, to express his love to her, to assure her of it, and to engage and excite her love to him. Twice here he calls her My spouse (Song 4:8, 11) and three times My sister, my spouse, Song 4:9, 10, 12. Mention was made (Song 3:11) of the day of his espousals, and, after that, she is called his spouse, not before. Note, There is a marriage-covenant between Christ and his church, between Christ and every true believer. Christ calls his church his spouse, and his calling her so makes her so. “I have betrothed thee unto me for ever; and, as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” He is not ashamed to own the relation, but, as becomes a kind and tender husband, he speaks affectionately to her, and calls her his spouse, which cannot but strongly engage her to be faithful to him. Nay, because no one relation among men is sufficient to set forth Christ’s love to his church, and to show that all this must be understood spiritually, he owns her in two relations, which among men are incompatible, My sister, my spouse. Abraham’s saying of Sarah, She is my sister, was interpreted as a denying of her to be his wife; but Christ’s church is to him both a sister and a spouse, as Matt. 12:50; a sister and mother. His calling her sister is grounded upon his taking our nature upon him in his incarnation, and his making us partakers of his nature in our sanctification. He clothed himself with a body (Heb. 2:14), and he clothes believers with his Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), and so they become his sisters. They are children of God his Father (2 Cor. 6:18) and so they become his sisters; he that sanctifies, and those that are sanctified, are all of one (Heb. 2:11); and he owns them, and loves them, as his sisters.

II. The gracious call he gives her to come along with him as a faithful bride, that must forget her own people and her father’s house, and leave all to cleave to him. Ubi tu Caius, ibi ego CaiaWhere thou Caius art, I Caia will be. Come with me from Lebanon, Song 4:8.

1. It is a precept; so we take it, like that (Song 2:10, 13), Rise up, and come away. All that have by faith come to Christ must come with Christ, in holy obedience to him and compliance with him. Being joined to him, we must walk with him. This is his command to us daily: “Come with me, my spouse; come with me to God as a Father; come with me onward, heavenward; come forward with me; come up with me; come with me from Lebanon, from the top of Amana, from the lions’ dens.” These mountains are to be considered, (1.) As seemingly delightful places. Lebanon is called that goodly mountain, Deut. 3:25. We read of the glory of Lebanon (Isa. 35:2) and its goodly smell, Hos. 14:6. We read of the pleasant dew of Hermon (Ps. 133:3) and the joy of Hermon (Ps. 89:12); and we may suppose the other mountains here mentioned to be pleasant ones, and so this is Christ’s call to his spouse to come off from the world, all its products, all its pleasures, to sit loose to all the delights of sense. All those must do so that would come with Christ; they must take their affections off from all present things; yea, though they be placed at the upper end of the world, on the top of Amana and the top of Shenir, though they enjoy the highest satisfactions the creature can propose to give, yet they must come away from them all, and live above the tops of the highest hills on earth, that they may have their conversation in heaven. Come from those mountains, to go along with Christ to the holy mountain, the mountain of myrrh, Song 4:6. Even while we have our residence on these mountains, yet we must look for them, look above them. Shall we lift up our eyes to the hills? No; our help comes from the Lord, Ps. 121:1, 2. We must look beyond them, to the things that are not seen (as these high hills are), that are eternal. From the tops of Shenir and Hermon, which were on the other side Jordan, as from Pisgah, they could see the land of Canaan; from this world we must look forward to the better country. (2.) They are to be considered as really dangerous. These hills indeed are pleasant enough, but there are in them lions’ dens; they are mountains of the leopards, mountains of prey, though they seem glorious and excellent, Ps. 76:4. Satan, that roaring lion, in the prince of this world; in the things of it he lies in wait to devour. On the tops of these mountains there are many dangerous temptations to those who would take up their residence in them; and therefore come with me from them; let us not set our hearts upon the things of this world, and then they can do us no hurt. Come with me from the temples of idolaters, and the societies of wicked people (so some understand it); come out from among them, and be you separate. Come from under the dominion of your own lusts, which are as lions and leopards, fierce upon us, and making us fierce.

2. It may be taken as a promise: Thou shalt come with me from Lebanon, from the lions’ dens; that is, (1.) “Many shall be brought home to me, as living members of the church, from every point, from Lebanon in the north, Amana in the west, Hermon in the east, Shenir in the south, from all parts, to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” Matt. 8:11. See Isa. 49:11, 12. Some from the tops of these mountains, some of the great men of this world, shall give themselves to Christ. (2.) The church shall be delivered from her persecutors, in due time; though now she dwells among lions (Ps. 57:4), Christ will take her with himself from among their dens.

III. The great delight Christ takes in his church and in all believers. He delights in them,

1. As in an agreeable bride, adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2), who greatly desires her beauty, Ps. 45:11. No expressions of love can be more passionate than these here, in which Christ manifests his affection to his church; and yet that great proof of his love, his dying for it, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, goes far beyond them all. A spouse so dearly bought and paid for could not but be dearly loved. Such a price being given for her, a high value must needs be put upon her accordingly; and both together may well set us a wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that love in which he gave himself for us and gives himself to us. Observe, (1.) How he is affected towards his spouse: Thou hast ravished my heart; the word is used only here. Thou hast hearted me, or Thou has unhearted me. New words are coined to express the inexpressibleness of Christ’s surprising love to his church; and the strength of that love is set forth by that which is a weakness in men, the being so much in love with one object as to be heartless to every thing else. This may refer to that love which Christ had to the chosen remnant, before the worlds were, when his delights were with the sons of men (Prov. 8:31), that first love, which brought him from heaven to earth, to seek and save them at such vast expense, yet including the complacency he takes in them when he has brought them to himself. Note, Christ’s heart is upon his church; so it has appeared all along. His treasure is in it; it is his peculiar treasure (Exod. 19:5); and therefore there his heart is also. “Never was love like unto the love of Christ, which made him even mindless of himself, when he emptied himself of his glory, and despised all shame and pain, for our sakes. The wound of love towards us, which he had from eternity in himself, made him neglect all the wounds and reproaches of the cross;” so Bishop Reynolds. Thus let us love him. (2.) What it is that thus affects him with delight. [1.] The regard she has to him: Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thy eyes, those doves’ eyes, clear and chaste (which were commended, Song 4:1), with one glance of those eyes. Christ is wonderfully pleased with those that look unto him as their Saviour, and through the eye of faith dart their affections to him, above any rival whatsoever, and whose eyes are ever towards him; he is soon aware of the first look of a soul towards him and meets it with his favours. [2.] The ornaments she has from him, that is, the obedience she yields to him, for that is the chain of her neck, the graces that enrich her soul, which are connected as links in chain, the exercise of these graces in a conversation which adorns both herself and the doctrine of Jesus Christ, which she professes to b 435c elieve (as a gold chain is an ornament to persons of quality), and an entire submission to the commanding power of his love. Having shaken off the bands of our neck, by which we were tied to this world (Isa. 52:2), and the yoke of our transgressions, we are bound with the cords of love, as chains of gold, to Jesus Christ, and our necks are brought under his sweet and easy yoke, to drawn in it. This recommends us to Jesus Christ, for this is that true wisdom which, in his account, is an ornament of grace unto the head and chains about the neck, Prov. 1:9. [3.] The affection she has for him: How fair is thy love! how beautiful is it! Not only thy love itself, but all the fruits and products of it, its working in the heart, its works in the life. How well does it become a believer thus to love Christ, and what a pleasure does Christ take in it! Nothing recommends us to Christ as this does. How much better is thy love than wine, than all the wine that was poured out to the Lord in the drink-offerings! Hence the fruit of the vine is said to cheer God and man, Jdg. 9:13. She had said of Christ’s love, It is better than wine (Song 1:2), and now Christ says so of hers; there is nothing lost by praising Christ, nor will he be behindhand with his friends in kindness. [4.] The ointments, the odours wherewith she is perfumed, the gifts and graces of the Spirit, her good works, which are an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God, Phil. 4:18. The smell of thy ointment is better than all spices, such as the queen of Sheba presented to Solomon, camel-loads of them (1 Kgs. 10:2), or, rather, than all the spices that were used in compounding the holy incense which was burned daily on the golden altar. Love and obedience to God are more pleasing to Christ than sacrifice or incense. The smell of her garments too, the visible profession she makes of religion, and relation to Christ, before men, and wherein she appears to the world, this is very grateful to Christ, as the smell of Lebanon. Christ having put upon his spouse the white raiment of his own righteousness (Rev. 3:18), and the righteousness of saints (Rev. 19:8), and this perfumed with holy joy and comfort, he is well pleased with it. [5.] Her words, both in her devotion to God and her discourses with men (Song 4:11): Thy lips O my spouse! drop as the honeycomb, drop that which is very sweet, and drop it freely and plentifully. If what God speaks to us be sweeter to us than the honey and the honeycomb (Ps. 19:10), what we say to him in prayer and praise shall also be pleasing to him: Sweet is thy voice. And if out of a good treasure in the heart we bring forth good things, if our speech be always with grace, if our lips use knowledge aright, if they disperse knowledge, they then, in Christ’s account, even drop the honeycomb, out-drop it. Honey and milk (the two staple commodities of Canaan) are under thy tongue; that is, in thy heart, not only reserved there for thy own use as a sweet morsel for thyself, but ready there for the use of others. In the word of God there is sweet and wholesome nourishment, milk for babes, honey for those that are grown up. Christ is well-pleased with those that are full of his word.

2. As in a pleasant garden. And well may a very great delight be compared to the delight taken in a garden, when the happiness of Adam in innocency was represented by the putting of him into a garden, a garden of pleasure. This comparison is pursued, Song 4:12-14. The church is fitly compared to a garden, to a garden which, as was usual, had a fountain in it. Where Solomon made himself gardens and orchards he made himself pools of water (Eccl. 2:5, 6), not only for curiosity and diversion, in water-works, but for use, to water the gardens. Eden was well watered, Gen. 2:10; 13:10. Observe, (1.) The peculiarity of this garden: It is a garden enclosed, a paradise separated from the common earth. It is appropriated to God; he has set it apart for himself; Israel is God’s portion, the lot of his inheritance. It is enclosed for secresy; the saints are God’s hidden ones, therefore the world knows them not; Christ walks in his garden unseen. It is enclosed for safety; a hedge of protection is made about it, which all the powers of darkness cannot either find or make a gap in. God’s vineyard is fenced (Isa. 5:2); there is a wall about it, a wall of fire. It has a spring in it, and a fountain, but it is a spring shut up and a fountain sealed, which sends its streams abroad (Prov. 5:16), but is itself carefully locked up, that it may not by any injurious hand be muddied or polluted. The souls of believers are as gardens enclosed; grace in them is as a spring shut up there in the hidden man of the heart, where the water that Christ gives is a well of living water, John 4:14; 7:38. The Old-Testament church was a garden enclosed by the partition wall of the ceremonial law. The Bible was then a spring shut up and a fountain sealed; it was confined to one nation; but now the wall of separation is removed, the gospel preached to every nation, and in Jesus Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew. (2.) The products of this garden. It is as the garden of Eden, where the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, Gen. 2:9. Thy plants, or plantations, are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant fruits, Song 4:13. It is not like the vineyard of the man void of understanding, that was all grown over with thorns and nettles; but here are fruits, pleasant fruits, all trees of frankincense, and all the chief spices, Song 4:14. Here is a great plenty of fruits and great variety, nothing wanting which might either beautify or enrich this garden, might make it either delightful or serviceable to its great Lord. Every thing here is the best of the kind. Their chief spices were much more valuable, because much more durable, than the choicest of our flowers. Solomon was a great master in botany as well as other parts of natural philosophy; he treated largely of trees (1 Kgs. 4:33), and perhaps had reference to some specific qualities of the fruits here specified, which made them very fit for the purpose for which he alludes to them; but we must be content to observe, in general, the saints in the church, and graces in the saints, are very fitly compared to these fruits and spices; for, [1.] They are planted, and do not grow of themselves; the trees of righteousness are the planting of the Lord (Isa. 61:3); grace springs from an incorruptible seed. [2.] They are precious and of high value; hence we read of the precious sons of Zion and their precious faith; they are plants of renown. [3.] They are pleasant, and of a sweet savour to God and man, and, as strong aromatics, diffuse their fragrancy. [4.] They are profitable and of great use. Saints are the blessings of this earth, and their graces are their riches, with which they trade as the merchants of the east with their spices. [5.] They are permanent, and will be preserved to good purpose, when flowers are withered and good for nothing. Grace, ripened into glory, will last for ever.