Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

Song of Solomon Ch.1 / 8 Ch.s


** This book is a Divine allegory, which represents the love
between Christ and his church of true believers, under figures
taken from the relation and affection that subsist between a
bridegroom and his espoused bride; an emblem often employed in
Scripture, as describing the nearest, firmest, and most sure
relation: see #Ps 45; Isa 54:5,6; 62:5; Jer 2:2; 3:1|; also in
Ezekiel, Hosea, and by our Lord himself, #Mt 9:15; 25:1|: see
also #Re 21:2,9; Eph 5:27|. There is no character in the church
of Christ, and no situation in which the believer is placed, but
what may be traced in this book, as humble inquirers will find,
on comparing it with other Scriptures, by the assistance of God
the Holy Spirit, in answer to their supplications. Much,
however, of the language has been misunderstood by expositors
and translators. The difference between the customs and manners
of Europe, and those of the East, must especially be kept in
view. The little acquaintance with eastern customs possessed by
most of our early expositors and translators, has in many cases
prevented a correct rendering. Also, the changes in our own
language, during the last two or three centuries, affect the
manner in which some expressions are viewed, and they must not
be judged by modern notions. But the great outlines, rightly
interpreted, fully accord with the affections and experience of
the sincere Christian.

* The title. (1) The church confesses her deformity. (2-6) The
church beseeches Christ to lead her to the resting-place of his
people. (7,8) Christ's commendation of the church, Her esteem
for Him. (9-17)

#1 This is "the Song of songs," excellent above any others, for
it is wholly taken up with describing the excellences of Christ,
and the love between him and his redeemed people.

#2-6 The church, or rather the believer, speaks here in the
character of the spouse of the King, the Messiah. The kisses of
his mouth mean those assurances of pardon with which believers
are favoured, filling them with peace and joy in believing, and
causing them to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Gracious souls take most pleasure in loving Christ, and being
loved of him. Christ's love is more valuable and desirable than
the best this world can give. The name of Christ is not now like
ointment sealed up, but like ointment poured forth; which
denotes the freeness and fulness of the setting forth of his
grace by the gospel. Those whom he has redeemed and sanctified,
are here the virgins that love Jesus Christ, and follow him
whithersoever he goes, #Re 14:4|. They entreat him to draw them
by the quickening influences of his Spirit. The more clearly we
discern Christ's glory, the more sensible shall we be that we
are unable to follow him suitably, and at the same time be more
desirous of doing it. Observe the speedy answer given to this
prayer. Those who wait at Wisdom's gate, shall be led into truth
and comfort. And being brought into this chamber, our griefs
will vanish. We have no joy but in Christ, and for this we are
indebted to him. We will remember to give thanks for thy love;
it shall make more lasting impressions upon us than any thing in
this world. Nor is any love acceptable to Christ but love in
sincerity, #Eph 6:24|. The daughters of Jerusalem may mean
professors not yet established in the faith. The spouse was
black as the tents of the wandering Arabs, but comely as the
magnificent curtains in the palaces of Solomon. The believer is
black, as being defiled and sinful by nature, but comely, as
renewed by Divine grace to the holy image of God. He is still
deformed with remains of sin, but comely as accepted in Christ.
He is often base and contemptible in the esteem of men, but
excellent in the sight of God. The blackness was owing to the
hard usage that had been suffered. The children of the church,
her mother, but not of God, her Father, were angry with her.
They had made her suffer hardships, which caused her to neglect
the care of her soul. Thus, under the emblem of a poor female,
made the chosen partner of a prince, we are led to consider the
circumstances in which the love of Christ is accustomed to find
its objects. They were wretched slaves of sin, in toil, or in
sorrow, weary and heavy laden, but how great the change when the
love of Christ is manifested to their souls!

#7,8 Observe the title given to Christ, O Thou whom my soul
loveth. Those that do so, may come to him boldly, and may humbly
plead with him. Is it with God's people a noon-time of outward
troubles, inward conflicts? Christ has rest for them. Those
whose souls love Jesus Christ, earnestly desire to share in the
privileges of his flock. Turning aside from Christ is what
gracious souls dread more than anything else. God is ready to
answer prayer. Follow the track, ask for the good old way,
observe the footsteps of the flock, look what has been the
practice of godly people. Sit under the direction of good
ministers; beside the tents of the under shepherds. Bring thy
charge with thee, they shall all be welcome. It will be the
earnest desire and prayer of the Christian, that God would so
direct him in his worldly business, and so order his situation
and employment, that he may have his Lord and Saviour always
before him.

#9-17 The Bridegroom gives high praises of his spouse. In the
sight of Christ believers are the excellent of the earth, fitted
to be instruments for promoting his glory. The spiritual gifts
and graces which Christ bestows on every true believer, are
described by the ornaments then in use, ver. #10,11|. The graces
of the saints are many, but there is dependence upon each other.
He who is the Author, will be the Finisher of the good work. The
grace received from Christ's fulness, springs forth into lively
exercises of faith, affection, and gratitude. Yet Christ, not
his gifts, is most precious to them. The word translated
"camphire," signifies "atonement or propitiation." Christ is
dear to all believers, because he is the propitiation for their
sins. No pretender must have his place in the soul. They
resolved to lodge him in their hearts all the night; during the
continuance of the troubles of life. Christ takes delight in the
good work which his grace has wrought on the souls of believers.
This should engage all who are made holy, to be very thankful
for that grace which has made those fair, who by nature were
deformed. The spouse (the believer) has a humble, modest eye,
discovering simplicity and godly sincerity; eyes enlightened and
guided by the Holy Spirit, that blessed Dove. The church
expresses her value for Christ. Thou art the great Original, but
I am but a faint and imperfect copy. Many are fair to look at,
yet their temper renders them unpleasant: but Christ is fair,
yet pleasant. The believer, ver. #16|, speaks with praise of
those holy ordinances in which true believers have fellowship
with Christ. Whether the believer is in the courts of the Lord,
or in retirement; whether following his daily labours, or
confined on the bed of sickness, or even in a dungeon, a sense
of the Divine presence will turn the place into a paradise. Thus
the soul, daily having fellowship with the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit, enjoys a lively hope of an incorruptible,
undefiled, and unfading inheritance above.