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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 11–16
Verses 11–16

Christ having now returned to his spouse, and the breach being entirely made up, and the falling out of these lovers being the renewing of love, Christ here gives an account both of the distance and of the reconciliation.

I. That when he had withdrawn from his church as his spouse, and did not comfort her, yet even then he had his eye upon it as his garden, which he took care of (Song 6:11): “I went down into the garden of nuts, or nutmegs, to see the fruits of the valley, with complacency and concern, to see them as my own.” When he was out of sight he was no further off than the garden, hid among the trees of the garden, in a low and dark valley; but then he was observing how the vine flourished, that he might do all that to it which was necessary to promote its flourishing, and might delight himself in it as a man does in a fruitful garden. He went to see whether the pomegranates budded. Christ observes the first beginnings of the good work of grace in the soul and the early buddings of devout affections and inclinations there, and is well pleased with them, as we are with the blossoms of the spring.

II. That yet he could not long content himself with this, but suddenly felt a powerful, irresistible, inclination in his own bosom to return to his church, as his spouse, being moved with her lamentations after him, and her languishing desire towards him (Song 6:12): “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Ammi-nadib; I could not any longer keep at a distance; my repentings were kindled together, and I presently resolved to fly back to the arms of my love, my dove.” Thus Joseph made himself strange to his brethren, for a while, to chastise them for their former unkindnesses, and make trial of their present temper, till he could no longer refrain himself, but, or ever he was aware, burst out into tears, and said, I am Joseph, Gen. 45:1, 3. And now the spouse perceives, as David did (Ps. 31:22), that though she said in her haste, I am cut off from before thy eyes, yet, at the same time, he heard the voice of her supplications, and became like the chariots of Ammi-nadib, which were noted for their beauty and swiftness. My soul put me into the chariots of my willing people (so some read it), “the chariots of their faith, and hope, and love, their desires, and prayers, and expectations, which they sent after me, to fetch me back, as chariots of fire with horses of fire.” Note, 1. Christ’s people are, and ought to be, a willing people. 15d6 2. If they continue seeking Christ and longing after him, even when he seems to withdraw from them, he will graciously return to them in due time, perhaps sooner than they think and with a pleasing surprise. No chariots sent for Christ shall return empty. 3. All Christ’s gracious returns to his people take rise from himself. It is not they, it is his own soul, that puts him into the chariots of his people; for he is gracious because he will be gracious, and loves his Israel because he would love them; not for their sakes, be it known to them.

III. That he, having returned to her, kindly courted her return to him, notwithstanding the discouragements she laboured under. Let her not despair of obtaining as much comfort as ever she had before this distance happened, but take the comfort of the return of her beloved, Song 6:13. Here, 1. The church is called Shulamite, referring either to Solomon, the bridegroom in type, by whose name she is called, in token of her relation to him and union with him (thus believers are called Christians from Christ), or referring to Salem, the place of her birth and residence, as the woman of Shunem is called the Shunamite. Heaven is the Salem whence the saints have their birth, and where they have their citizenship; those that belong to Christ, and are bound for heaven, shall be called Shulamites. 2. She is invited to return, and the invitation most earnestly pressed: Return, return; and again, “Return, return; recover the peace thou hast lost and forfeited; come back to thy former composedness and cheerfulness of spirit.” Note, Good Christians, after they have had their comfort disturbed, are sometimes hard to be pacified, and need to be earnestly persuaded to return again to their rest. As revolting sinners have need to be called to again and again (Turn you, turn you, why will you die?) so disquieted saints have need to be called to again and again, Turn you, turn you, why will you droop; Why art thou cast down, O my soul? 3. Having returned, she is desired to show her face: That we may look upon thee. Go no longer with they face covered like a mourner. Let those that have made their peace with God lift up their faces without spot (Job 22:26); let them come boldly to his throne of grace. Christ is pleased with the cheerfulness and humble confidence of his people, and would have them look pleasant. “Let us look upon thee, not I only, but the holy angels, who rejoice in the consolation of saints as well as in the conversion of sinners; not I only, but all the daughters.” Christ and believers are pleased with the beauty of the church. 4. A short account is given of what is to be seen in her. The question is asked, What will you see in the Shulamite? And it is answered, As it were the company of two armies. (1.) Some think she gives this account of herself; she is shy of appearing, unwilling to be looked upon, having, in her own account, no form or comeliness. Alas! says she, What will you see in the Shulamite? nothing that is worth your looking upon, nothing but as it were the company of two armies actually engaged, where nothing is to be seen but blood and slaughter. The watchmen had smitten her, and wounded her, and she carried in her face the marks of those wounds, looked as if she had been fighting. She had said (Song 1:6), Look not upon me because I am black; here she says, “Look not upon me because I am bloody.” Or it may denote the constant struggle that is between grace and corruption in the souls of believers; they are in them as two armies continually skirmishing, which makes her ashamed to show her face. (2.) Others think her beloved gives the account of her. “I will tell you what you shall see in the Shulamite; you shall see as noble a sight as that of two armies, or two parts of the same army, drawn out in rank and file; not only as an army with banners, but as two armies, with a majesty double to what was before spoken; she is as Mahanaim, as the two hosts which Jacob saw (Gen. 32:1, 2), a host of saints and a host of angels ministering to them; the church militant, the church triumphant.” Behold two armies; in both the church appears beautiful.