William Kelly Major Works Commentary
O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.Song of Solomon Chapter 8
The closing chapter appears to present summarily the object and principle of the Song, after a pouring forth of her affection, which the speaker desires might be gratified without reproof and in all purity, as will assuredly be when she becomes the bride of Messiah. No wonder if, after a review of her painful past mis- conduct and of His glory once despised, her heart needed re-assurance.
"Oh that thou wert as my brother,
That sucked the breasts of my mother !
Should I find thee without, I would kiss thee;
And they would not despise me.
I would lead thee-bring thee into my mother's house:
Thou wouldest instruct me;
I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine,
Of the juice of my pomegranate.
His left hand [would be] under my head,
And his right hand embrace me.
I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem,
Why should you stir up, why awake [my] love, till he please.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness,
Leaning upon her beloved?
I awoke thee under the apple-tree:
There thy mother brought thee forth,
There she travailed that bore thee.
Set me as a seal upon thy heart,
As a seal upon shine arm;
For love is strong as death,
Jealousy is cruel as the grave:
The flashes thereof are flashes of fire,
Flames of Jah.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it:
If a man gave all the substance of his house for love,
It would utterly be contemned.
We have a little sister,
And she hath no breasts:
What shall we do for our sister
In the day when she shall be spoken for?
If she be a wall,
We will build upon her a turret of silver;
And if she be a door,
We will inclose her with boards of cedar.
I [was] a wall, and my breasts like towers;
Then was I in his eyes as one that findeth peace.
Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon,
He let out the vineyard to keepers:
Every one for its fruit was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.
My vineyard, which is mine, is before me:
Thou, Solomon, shalt have the thousand,
And the keepers of its fruit two hundred.
Thou that dwellest in the gardens,
The companions hearken to thy voice:
Let me hear it.
Haste, my beloved,
And be thou like a gazelle or a young hart
Upon the mountains of spices" (vers. 1-14).
It is throughout the Spirit of prophecy, as in all the O.T. and again in the Revelation, after the present action of grace is over and the glorified saints are seen in heaven, respecting whom God foresaw some better thing. The testimony of Jesus, as we are told, reverts once more to that prophetic character which could not but be of old, before He came and suffered rejection at the hands of His own people, but therein also accomplished redemption, and as the firstborn from the dead became on high Head of the body, the church. But it has consequently the Holy Spirit sent forth and dwelling in it as the power of actual relationship and communion in a way beyond example, save His own when here below: only that He had it as the seal of personal acceptance, we solely through grace by His work and accepted in Him as the beloved. But Judah renewed, the godly remnant will look onward prophetically and through many a needed lesson of experience to the place in Messiah's love which is predestined. And what follows sketches how it will be effectuated.
After a final charge to the daughters of Jerusalem, there is a fresh vision of the bride coming up out of the wilderness leaning upon her beloved. Once of old the people had come up out of it, not without wonders of divine goodness and power; but all was vain, for they leaned not on Jehovah or His Christ, but on self and law, which for sinful man, and such they were, can only be death and condemnation. Far different will it be when the generation to come emerges from it leaning upon the beloved. What brings about so great a change? "I awoke thee under the apple tree; there thy mother brought thee forth; there she travailed that bore thee." As was noticed in Song of Solomon 2:3, Christ is meant by that tree; and it is His to awaken her from her long slumber and give her that life which alone lives to God. Compare Micah 5:3. Not till then will the residue of His brethren return unto the children of Israel. The rejection of the Ruler, the smitten Judge of Israel, was fatal for the time: they were given up therefore, and God brings out His heavenly counsels in Christ and the church, until the day when Israel gives birth to the destined bride for Messiah here below, and the Jewish link will be re- formed, not under law that works wrath, but by faith that it may be according to grace and stand in God's power, not ruin out of human weakness.
Then indeed will the prayer be answered, and Zion be set as seal on Messiah's heart and arm: how strong and jealous His love! and there is the answer to it in that day. Death and Sheol only proved His love; flames of Jah tested it, waters and floods could not quench it, unbought and above all price, so that all man could give is utterly despicable in presence of it.
But who is the "little sister" (vers. 8-10), when Jerusalem is thus renewed? The house of Israel, it would seem; for they will come forward later for blessing. They suffered for their idolatry, as Judah did afterward; but they did not return from captivity as Judah did to refuse the Christ, nor are they to receive the Antichrist. Consequently the dealings of grace with Israel by-and-by do not assume the deep and retributory character which will be the portion of Judah. Compare the type of Gen. 42-45. when Joseph makes himself known to his brethren, and especially Reuben on the one hand and Judah on the other.
The allusion to Solomon and his vineyard at Baal-hamon thus becomes clear. As Lord of multitudes, the King of Peace in that day will have His widely extended sphere of fruit let out to His servants, the keepers, and the kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall render tribute; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts; yea, all kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him. No doubt, the bride will have her especial vineyard, which will be kept (compare Song of Solomon 1:6); but the revenue she will lay at Messiah's feet, whatever may be the gain of others thereby. The bride no longer begrudges the Bridegroom's voice to others; she will be too restful in His love to doubt; but she desires to hear it for herself in that day. The closing verses reiterate the call for the coming of the beloved.
P.S. It may interest the reader to know that the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the most ancient witnesses extant of the Septuagint, itself the oldest version of the Hebrew original, divides the Song into four sections, each sub-divided into lesser parts, which briefly indicate the speakers and circumstances throughout.
The four sections are: (1,) Song of Solomon 1:1-14; (2,) Cant. 1: 15-3: 5; (3,) Cant. 3: 6-6: 3; and (4,) Cant. 6: 3-8: 13.
The reader that is curious about the copyist's view may see it all in the No. of the Journal of Sacred Lit. for April, 1865. It may suffice here to give as a sample the headings of the lesser part under § 1. (Song of Solomon 1:1-14): ver. 2, the bride; ver. 4, the bride to the damsels; ver. 4, the damsels speak, and again proclaim to the Bridegroom the name of the bride; ver. 5, the bride; ver. 7, the bride to Christ the Bridegroom; ver. 8, the Bridegroom to the bride; ver. 10, the damsels to the bride; ver. 12, the bride to herself and to the Bridegroom.
It is clear therefore that this weighty document bears testimony in the first half of the fourth century era to the application of the Bridegroom to Christ, rather than to Solomon, still less to a shepherd of the northern kingdom (Hitzig), or any one else. The Song was then by some at least read without hesitation reverentially and believingly.
But there is another inference, which if sound is even more remarkable, from the heading of Song of Solomon 4:16: "the bride asketh the Father that her Bridegroom may come down"; which is understood to point to the Jewish election as the bride in the copyist's judgment. Now the idea prevalent, among the Fathers so called in that age and since, identified her with the church, though individuals, as Theodoret lets us know, were not even then wanting who denied its spiritual reference. Origen, learned but precarious and even wild, had taught that the Bridegroom is the Word of God, and the bride either the soul or the church. The ancient Jews held to its allegorical character, God being the bridegroom and Israel the bride. Had they believed in the Messiah (Who is God), and seen the godly Jewish remnant of the future, the object of His restoring love in the latter day, it would have been more accurate. But this would have been the truth, known in the rejected but glorified Christ, and incompatible with Judaism as it has been and is.
Only the Christian can have the truth, because he has Christ and life in Him and the Holy Spirit guiding into all the truth. Alas! how many that bear the name abandon its privileges and lapse into a scepticism more guilty than heathenism or Judaism. It is the spirit of the apostasy that is at hand.
I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother's house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.
His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?
If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.
I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.
Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.
My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.
Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.
Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.