Bible Book List
Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–9
Verses 1–9

The title which Jesus Christ here gives to the church is new: O prince’s daughter! agreeing with Ps. 45:13; where she is called the king’s daughter. She is so in respect of her new birth, born from above, begotten of God, and his workmanship, bearing the image of the King of kings, and guided by his Spirit. She is so by marriage; Christ, by betrothing her to himself, though he found her mean and despicable, has made her a prince’s daughter. She has a princely disposition, something in her truly noble and generous; she is daughter and heir to the prince of the kings of the earth. If children, then heirs. Now here we have,

I. A copious description of the beauty of the spouse, which, some think, is given by the virgins her companions, and that those were they who called upon her to return; it seems rather to be given by Christ himself, and to be designed to express his love to her and delight in her, as before, Song 4:1; and Song 6:5, 6. The similitudes are here different from what they were before, to show that the beauty of holiness is such as nothing in nature can reach; you may still say more of it, and yet still come short of it. That commendation of the spouse, Song 4:1-16, was immediately upon the espousals (Song 3:11), this upon her return from a by-path (Song 6:13); yet this exceeds that, to show the constancy of Christ’s love to his people; he loves them to the end, since he made them precious in his sight and honourable. The spouse had described the beauty of her beloved in ten particulars (Song 5:11); and now he describes her in as many, for he will not be behindhand with her in respects and endearments. Those that honour Christ he will certainly honour, and make honourable. As the prophet, in describing the corruptions of degenerate Israel, reckons from the sole of the foot even unto the head (Isa. 1:6), so here the beauties of the church are reckoned from foot to head, that, as the apostle speaks, when he is comparing the church, as here, to the natural body (1 Cor. 12:23), more abundant honour might be bestowed on those parts of the body which we think to be less honourable, and which therefore lacked honour, v. 24. 1. Her feet are here praised; the feet of Christ’s ministers are beautiful in the eyes of the church (Isa. 52:7), and her feet are here said to be beautiful in the eyes of Christ. How beautiful are thy feet with shoes! When believers, being made free from the captivity of sin (Acts 12:8), stand fast in the liberty with which they are made free, preserve the tokens of their enfranchisement, have their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and walk steadily according to the rule of the gospel, then their feet are beautiful with shoes; they tread firmly, being well armed against the troubles they meet with in their way. When we rest not in good affections, but they are accompanied with sincere endeavors and resolutions, then our feet are beautified with shoes. See Ezek. 16:10. 2. The joint of the thighs are here said to be like jewels, and those curiously wrought by a cunning workman. This is explained by Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19; where the mystical body of Christ is said to be held together by joints and bands, as the hips and knees (both which are the joints of the thighs) serve the natural body in its strength and motion. The church is then comely in Christ’s eyes when those joints are kept firm by holy love and unity, and the communion of saints. When believers act in religion from good principles, and are steady and regular in their whole conversation, and turn themselves easily to every duty in its time and place, then the joints are like jewels. 3. The navel is here compared to a round cup or goblet, that wants not any of the agreeable liquor that one would wish to find in it, such as David’s cup that ran over (Ps. 23:5), well shaped, and not as that miserable infant whose navel was not cut, Ezek. 16:4. The fear of the Lord is said to be health to the navel. See Prov. 3:8. When the soul wants not that fear then the navel wants not liquor. 4. The belly is like a heap of wheat in the store-chamber, which perhaps was sometimes, to make show, adorned with flowers. The wheat is useful, the lilies are beautiful; there is every thing in the church which may be to the members of that body either for use or for ornament. All the body is nourished from the belly; it denotes the spiritual prosperity of a believer and the healthful constitution of the soul all in good plight. 5. The breasts are like two young roes that are twins, Song 7:3. By the breasts of the church’s consolations those are nourished who are born from its belly (Isa. 46:3), and by the navel received nourishment in the womb. This comparison we had before, Song 4:5. 6. The neck, which before was compared to the tower of David (Song 4:4), is here compared to a tower of ivory, so white, so precious; such is the faith of the saints, by which they are joined to Christ their head. The name of the Lord, improved by faith, is to the saints as a strong and impregnable tower. 7. The eyes are compared to the fish-pools in Heshbon, or the artificial fish-ponds, by a gate, either of Jerusalem or Heshbon, which is called Bath-rabbim, the daughter of a multitude, because a great thoroughfare. The understanding, the intentions of a believer, are clean and clear as these ponds. The eyes, weeping for sin, are as fountains (Jer. 9:1), and comely with Christ. 8. The nose is like the tower of Lebanon, the forehead or face set like a flint (Isa. 50:7), undaunted as that tower was impregnable. So it denotes the magnanimity and holy bravery of the church, or (as others) a spiritual sagacity to discern things that differ, as animals strangely distinguish by the smell. This tower looks towards Damascus, the head city of Syria, denoting the boldness of the church in facing its enemies and not fearing them. 9. The head like Carmel, a very high hill near the sea, Song 7:5. The head of a believer is lifted up above his enemies (Ps. 27:6), above the storms of the lower region, as the top of Carmel was, pointing heaven-ward. The more we get above this world, and the nearer to heaven, and the more secure and serene we become by that means, the more amiable we are in the eyes of the Lord Jesus. 10. The hair of the head is said to be like purple. This denotes the universal amiableness of a believer in the eyes of Christ, even to the hair, or (as some understand it) the pins with which the hair is dressed. Some by the head and the hair understand the governors of the church, who, if they be careful to do their duty, add much to her comeliness. The head like crimson (so some read it) and the hair like purple, the two colours worn by great men.

II. The complacency which Christ takes in his church thus beautified and adorned. She is lovely indeed if she be so in his eyes; as he puts the comeliness upon her, so it is his love that makes this comeliness truly valuable, for he is an unexceptionable judge. 1. He delighted to look upon his church, and to converse with it, rejoicing in that habitable part of his earth: The king is held in the galleries, and cannot leave them. This is explained by Ps. 132:13, 14, The Lord has chosen Zion, saying, This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell; and Ps. 147:11; The Lord takes pleasure in those that fear him. And, if Christ has such delight in the galleries of communion with his people, much more reason have they to delight in them, and to reckon a day there better than a thousand. 2. He was even struck with admiration at the beauty of his church (Song 7:6): How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love! How art thou made fair! (so the word is), “not born so, but made so with the comeliness which I have put upon thee.” Holiness is a beauty beyond expression; the Lord Jesus is wonderfully pleased with it; the outward aspect of it is fair; the inward disposition of it is pleasant and highly agreeable, and the complacency he has in it is inexpressible. O my dearest for delights! so some read. 3. He determined to keep up communion with his church. (1.) To take hold of her as of the boughs of a palm-tree. He compares her stature to a palm-tree (Song 7:7), so straight, so strong, does she appear, when she is looked upon in her full proportion. The palm-tree is observed to flourish most when it is loaded; so the church, the more it has been afflicted, the more it has multiplied; and the branches of it are emblems of victory. Christ says, “I will go up to the palm-tree, to entertain myself with the shadow of it (Song 7:8) and I will take hold of its boughs and observe the beauty of them.” What Christ has said he will do, in favour to his people; we may be sure he will do it, for his kind purposes are never suffered to fall to the ground; and if he take hold of the boughs of his church, take early hold of her branches, when they are young and tender, he will keep his hold and not let them go. (2.) To refresh himself with her fruits. He compares her breasts (her pious affections towards him) to clusters of grapes, a most pleasant fruit (Song 7:7), and he repeats it (Song 7:8): They shall be (that is, they shall be to me) as clusters of the vine, which make glad the heart. “Now that I come up to the palm-tree thy graces shall be exerted and excited.” Christ’s presence with his people kindles the holy heavenly fire in their souls, and then their breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, a cordial to themselves and acceptable to him. And since God, at first, breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and breathes the breath of the new life still, the smell of their nostrils is like the smell of apples, or oranges, which is pleasing and reviving. The Lord smelt a sweet savour from Noah’s sacrifice, Gen. 8:21. And, lastly, the roof of her mouth is like the best wine (Song 7:9); her spiritual taste and relish, or the words she speaks of God and man, which come not from the teeth outward, but from the roof of the mouth, these are pleasing to God. The prayer of the upright is his delight. And, when those that fear the Lord speak one to another as becomes them, the Lord hearkens, and hears with pleasure, Mal. 3:16. It is like that wine which is, [1.] Very palatable and grateful to the taste. It goes down sweetly; it goes straightly (so the margin reads it); it moves itself aright, Prov. 23:31. The pleasures of sense seem right to the carnal appetite, and go down smoothly, but they are often wrong, and, compared with the pleasure of communion with God, they are harsh and rough. Nothing goes down so sweetly with a gracious soul as the wine of God’s consolations. [2.] It is a great cordial. The presence of Christ by his Spirit with him people shall be reviving and refreshing to them, as that strong wine which makes the lips even of those that are asleep (that are ready to faint away in a deliquium), to speak. Unconverted sinners are asleep; saints are often drowsy, and listless, and half asleep; but the word and Spirit of Christ will put life and vigour into the soul, and out of the abundance of the heart that is thus filledthe mouth will speak. When the apostles were filled with the Spirit they spoke with tongues the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:10, 12); and those who in opposition to being drunk with wine, wherein is excess, are filled with the Spirit, speak to themselves in psalms and hymns, Eph. 5:18, 19. When Christ is thus commending the sweetness of his spouse’s love, excited by the manifestation of his, she seems to put in that word, for my beloved, as in a parenthesis. “Isa. there any thing in me that is pleasant or valuable? As it is from, so it is for my beloved.” Then he delights in our good affections and services, when they are all for him and devoted to his glory.