James Comper Gray.

The Biblical museum : a collection of notes, explanatory, homiletic, and illustrative, on the Holy Scriptures, especially designed for the use of ministers, Bible students, and Sunday school teachers (Volume 7) online

. (page 63 of 67)
Online LibraryJames Comper GrayThe Biblical museum : a collection of notes, explanatory, homiletic, and illustrative, on the Holy Scriptures, especially designed for the use of ministers, Bible students, and Sunday school teachers (Volume 7) → online text (page 63 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I. Precious — a very valuable drug. II. Pleasant. III. Perfum-
ing. IV. Preserving. V. A disinfectant. VI. A cui-e. VII. A
beautifier. VIII. It was connected with sacrifice/

A chiKter of ca dij) hi re. —This is the al-hennah, or Cyprus. It is
here mentioned as a perfume, and its clusters are noticed. This
beautiful, odoriferous plant, if it is not annually cut and kept
low, grows ten or twelve feet high, putting out its little flowers
in clu.sters, which yield a most grateful smell, like camphire, and
may therefore be alluded to (Cant. i. 14). Its plants, after they
are dried and powdered, are disposed of to good advantage in all
the markets of this kingdom of Tunis. For with this all the
African ladies that can purchase it tinge their lips, hair, hands,
and feet, rendering them thereby of a tawny, saffron colour,
which, with them, is reckoned a great beauty. Russel mentions
the same practice of dyeing their feet and hands with hennah as
general among all sects and conditions at Aleppo. Hasselquist
assures us he saw the nails of some mummies tinged with the al-
hennah, which proves the antiquity of the practice. And as this
plant does not appear to be a native of Palestine, but of India
and Egypt, and eeems mentioned (Cant. i. 14) as a curiosity

Cap. ii. 1, 2.]



growing in the vineyards of Engedi, it is probable that the Jews
mis'ht be acquainted with its use as a dye or tinge before they
had experienced its odoriferous quality, and might, from the
former circumstance, give it its name. See more concerning the
henuah, or al-hennah. in Harmer's Oittlinesof a New Commentary
on Solomon's Sung, p. 218, etc?

15 — 17. (15) doves' eyes,« all Oriental poets are fond of
doves" eyes. Comp. ch. v. 12. Some think the likeness of the
bride's eyes is to doves, to the lustrous and shimmeiing plumage
of the dove, not precisely to its eyes. (16) pleasant, '• full of
moral grace and charm." green, referring to their then sitting
together on a flowery bank. No reference to a bed. as they were
resting at noontide. (17) house, fancifully referring to the
trees that hung over and shaded them, as if they were pillars and
beams of a palace, rafters, or galleries ; in allusion to the
avenues of trees.

Most fair {r. 16). — I. Jesus is fair from every point of view.
1. How amiable in our trials; 2. In our afflictions; 3. In our
perseculious. II. He is fair in all His offices. III. In every act
of His life. IV. In every trait of His character. Learn to be
constantly looking unto Jesus.

The ei/cs of the dove. — The eyes of a dove, always brilliant and
lovely, kindle with peculiar delight by the side of a crystal
brook, for this is her favourite haunt : here she loves to wash
and to quench her thirst. But the inspired writer seems to inti-
mate that, not satisfied with a single rivulet, she delights especially
in those places which are watered with numerous streams, whose
full flowing tide approaches the height of the banks, and ofl'ers
her an easy and abundant supply. They seem as if they were
washed with milk, from their shining whiteness ; and fitly,
rather fully set, like a gem set in gold, neither too prominent nor
too depressed, but so formed as with nice adaptation to fill up the


1, 2. (1) rose, prob. some plant with a bulbous root."
Evidently some wild flower is meant. Sharon, the most beau-
tiful meadow land of Palestine, lily, not the white lily with
wh. we are familiar, but the red lily.* or a red anemone. (2)
among thorns, set off by the contrast. Thorny shrubs and
plants abound in Palestine.

Tlte lily /imont/ thorns (r. 2). — I. This illustrates the lavish
b?ste)wment of the love of God. II. It illustrates the power
possessed by the love of of rendering beautiful objects
morally unsightly. III. It illustrates also the tenacity of Divine
love. IV. It suggests also the jealousy and power of the love of
Christ of and over all other and opposite plants and principles.

The roKC of Sharon. — The plain of Sharon is still renowned
for its fertility and beauty, though roses, properly speaking, do
not grow there. The flower referred to is no doubt the cistus,
which is found there in abundance, and is well known in our
English gardens. It is supposed that the myrrh (ladanum)
referred to in verse 13 of last chapter, as well as in Gen.
xsixvii. 25, was the product of this plant. A writer in Scripture

bosoms. "


a "The protni-
neiit features of
her beauty, gen-
tleness, and con-
stant luve. era-
bk'Di of the Holy
Ghost, who
changes us to
His own like-
ness." — Fuusset.

v.\T. R.ifkhell,
Bamp. Lee. 240.

" Your eye dis-
courses with
more rhetoric
than all the gild-
ed tongues of
orators." — Mar-

" 'WTiat needs a
tongue to such
a speaking eye ?
that more per-
suades than win-
ning oratory." —
Old f'liiy, '• Ed-
%tai-d the Third."

b Paxton,

a Thomsnn iden-
tifies with tho
nmlva, or marsh

Fansset says mfa-
dotc-stiffron, with
flower of whlta
or violet colour.

6 " There is a
wild flower ex-
triinely common
in all Western
Asia, wliich pre-
sents the appear-
ance of a small
tulip, wliile it is
sujierior to it in
beauty, and it is
mistaken easily
for it. In French




called the mea-
dow anwi'i,ii,>,
and niiplit descr-
vt'dli' be callvd
the queen of the
nieatlows. This
delicate and
grucefid fiowcr is
reniaika'ulc for
the eivat variety
of colour? it as-
sumes; it is often
seen of a bright
scarlet, and of
every shade of
purple and pink,
as well as straw
colour and
white." — Van

vv. 1—4. 5. E.
Pierce, 101.

•.2. S.Lee,Ecdes.

vv. 2, 3. R.
AJ'Clieyne, 310.


a Pr. xxT. 11;

Joel i. 12.

"It is a generic
word (like ma-
lum in Latin),
and may include
the citron and
lemon." — yy'vids-

h Delitzsch.

eStemsand Twigs.

" The bride,
transplanted fr. a
lowly station to
new scenes of un-
wonted splen-
dour, finds sup-
port and safety
in the known at-
tachment of her
beloved. His
" love " is her
" banner." — Sp/c.

Ps.lxv. 4.

V. 3. T. ifanton,
iii. 42 ; T. Boston,
iii. 165; R. Er-
tkine, ix. 60; T.
Blackley, i. 212.

Nntiivnl Hixfory of the Society for Promoting- Christian Kuow-
I'llg'.". spcakinj;- of the cistus. says: — " Several kinds of it pro-
duce a swe<^t-sc;.m Led g-um, called ladanum, which is thought to
be the drug- intended in two passa.^res of the Book of Genesis,
where the word is rendered myrrh. This gum was found sticking
to the beards of goats, by the Arabs, who at length discovered
that their charge had been feeding on the young branch s of
the cistus, and had procured the gum from them. After this the
precious gum was obtained by passing leather whips over the
shrubs, wounding but not destroying them ; it was then allowed
to dry on the whips, and afterwards carefully scraped off. It
exudes most about sunrise. The gum is now used, mixed with
frankincense, mace, and mint, as a streng-thening plaster ; while
I the more liquid juice isemjiloyed to produce sleep, being, in fact,
tincture of opium." — " In the East this flower is extremely
fragrant, aud has always been much admired. In what e.steein
it was held by the ancient Greeks, may be seen in the Odes of
Anncrcon, and the comparisons in L'rch/.'i. 24, 14, 18, L. 8. show
that the Jews were likewise much delighted with it. ' In no
country of the world does the rose grow in such perfection as in
Persia ; in uo country is it so cultivated and prized by the
natives. Their gardens and courts are crowded with its plants,
their rooms ornamented with vases, filled with its gatheied
bunfhos. aud every bath strewn with the full-blown flowers,
plufked from the ever-replenished stems. Even the humblest
individual, who pays a piece of copper money for a few whiffs
of a kelioun, feels a double enjoyment when he finds it stuck
with a bud from his dear native tree.' "*

3, 4. (.S) apple tree, Heb. tai>pnach,<^ perhaps the citron,
the fjinnce, or the orange. Still, nothing can exceed the beauty
of the apple tree, with its tinted blossoms and its rich fruits,
shadow, a term more suited to the citron tree. (4) banquet-
ing house, lit. house of n-ine. or " bower of delight." banner,
etc., •' love waves as a protecting and comforting banner over
my head when I am near Him.'"*

The hieroglyphic of lore (v. 3). — ^The apple tree was the
emblem of love. This emblem teaches us — I. The great supe-
riority of Divine love. Consider — 1. The majesty of Divine love ;
2. The compass of Divine love ; 3. The expressions of Divine
love. II. The abundant provisions of Divine love. 1. Shelter;
2. Refreshment ; 8. Enjoyment. III. The blessed freeness of
Divine love, " I sat down," etc.*

The apple. — In the East the apple is of no value : and there-
fore seems by no means entitled to the praise with which it is
honoured by the Spirit of inspiration. The inhabitants of Pales-
tine and Egypt import their apples from Damascus, the produce
of their own orchards being almost unfit for use. The tree, then,
to which the spouse compares her Lord in the Song of Solomon,
whose shade was so refreshing, and whose fruit was so delicious,
so comforting, so restorative, could not be the apple tree, whose
fruit can hardly be eaten ; nor could the apple tree, which the
prophet mentions with the vine, the fig, the palm, and the pome-
granate, which furnished the hungiy with a grateful repast, the
failure of which was con.sidered as a public calamity, be really
of that species. " The vine is dried up, the fig tree lan-
guisheth, tiie pomegranate tree, the palm tree, also the apple 3, 4.]



tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered : because joy
is withered away from the sons of men." M. Forskall says the
apple tree is extremely rare, and is named tyffah by the in-
habitants of Palestine. In deference to his authority, the editor
of Cahnet, with eveiy disposition to render the oiig-iml term by
the citron, is inclined to revert again to the apple. But if. as
Forskall admits, the apple tree is extremely rare, it cannot, with
propriety, be classed with the vine, and other fruit-bea- ing trees. ]
that are extremely common in Palestine and Sj'ria. And if it |
grow " with diflBcnlty in hot countries." and reijuired ev i the |
" assiduous attention " of such a monarch as SoLmon, before it |
could be raised and propagated, an inspired writer certainly
would not number it the " trees of the field," which, as
the phrase clearly implies, can live and thrive without the fos- 1
tering care of man. The citron is a large and beautiful tree,
always green, perfuming the air with its exijuisite odour, and
extending a deep and refreshing shade over the panting inha-
bitants of the torrid regions. Well, then, might the si'ouse
exclaim : " As the citron tree among the trees of the wood ; so
is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow
with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." A more
beautiful object can hardly be conceived than a large and
spreading citron, loaded with gold-colouvcd apples, and clothed
with leaves of the richest green. Waundrell preferred the
orange garden, or citron grove, at Beroot, the palace of the Emir
Facardine, on the coast of Syria, to everything else he met with
there, although it was only a large quadrangular plot of ground,
divided into sixteen smaller squares : but the walks were so
shaded with orange trees, of a large spreading size, and so richly
adorned with fruit, that he thought nothing could be more per-
fect in its kind, or, had it been duly cultivated, could have been
more delightful. When it is recollected that the difference
between citron and orange trees is not very discernible, excepting
by the fruit, both of which, however, have the same golden
colour, this passage of Maundrell's may serve as a comment on
the words of Solomon, quoted in the beginning of the section.''
— Shade, according to Mr. Wood, in his description of the rains of
Balbec, is an essential article in Oriental luxury. The greatest
people seek these refreshments, as well as the meaner. So Dr.
Pococke found the patriarch of the Maronites (who was one of
their greatest families) and a bishop sitting under a tree. Any
tree that is thick and spreading doth for them : but it must
certainly be an addition to their enjoying of themselves, when
the tree is of a fragrant nature, as well as shady, which the citron
tree is. Travellers there, we find in their accounts, have made use
of plane trees, walnut trees, etc., and Egmont and Heyman were
entertained with coffee at Mount Sinai, under the orange trees of
the gai-den of that place. The people of those countiies not only
fi-equently sit under shady trees, and take collations under them,
but sometimes the fruit of those trees under which they sit is
shaken down upon them, as agreeableness. So Dr. Pococke tells
us, when he was at Sidon, he was entertained in a garden, in
the shade of some apricot trees, and the fruit of them was shaken
upon him. He speaks of it indeed as if it was done as a great
proof of their abundance, but it seems rather to have been
designed as an agreeable addition to the entertainment.*

V. 4. J. Shower, 1.
195 ; J. a Miller,


"Tliat you may
be beloreil, be
amiable." — Orid.
" Love will often
m a li e a wise
man act like a
fool." —Grerille.
'• No cord or cable
can draw so for-
cibly, or bind so
fast, as love can
do with only a
single thread,"—
Biirlon. " Love
sees wliat no eye
sees ; love hears
w li a t no ear
hears ; and what
never rose in the
lieurtof man. love
prepares for its
" The pleasu'e of
love is in loving."
~La Hnchefou-
ciiiihl. "They do
nut love tliat do
not show their
lo ve."- ..S/(f( ke-
spmre. " Love is
an alchemist,
tliat can tn'ns-
mute poison into
food."- Bolton.
The classic poets
represent love as

d Paxton.
" The true one
of youth's love
proving a faith-
ful helpmate in
those years when
the dream of life
is over, and we
live in its reali-
ties."— ,SoH//(e2/.
" Thou sweetest
thing, that e'er
did tixitshghtly-
fibred sprays to
the rude rock,
ah I wouMstthou
cling to me ?
Rough and storm
worn I am, yet
love me as thou
truly dost, I will
love thee again
with true and
honest heart,
though all un-
meet to be the
mate of such
sweet gentle-
ness " — Joanna
e Ilarmer.


soxa OF soLOjfoy.

[Cap, li. 5-7.

« " The original
term m o a ii s
grapes comiircss-
eil into cakos,
which wore an
article of food." -

Hos. iii. 1. Spe
also 1 Sa. XXX. 12

6 " The agreeable
and Ileal tlifiil
qualities of the
apiiles of Syria
are celebrated by
travell;n-s and
physiologists." —

"The district of
Askelon is espe-
cially celebrated
for itsapplt>s, \vh.
are the largest
and best I liave
ever seen in this
c o u n 1 1 y." —

c " It is thought
a irross ni leness
ill the East to
an'aken uiesleep-
i:r_'. csp. a person
of rauK." — Faus-

e. 7. "Here
again the custom
illustrates the
passage ; it would
be considered
barbarous in the
extreme to awake
a person out of
his sleep. IIow
often, in going to
the house of a
native, you are
saluted with
' Xltlera - kuUn -
irt/nr,' i.e. ' He
sleeps.' Ask
them to arouse
liim : the reply is,
' Komlnlha,' i.e.
' I cannot.' In-
deed, to request
8uch a thing
shows at once
tliat you are grif-
fin, or new-comer.
' Only think of
that igncirant
Englishman : he
went to the house
of our chief, and
being told he was
osleep, he said he
must see him, and
actually made
Buch a noise as to

5 — 7. (5) flagons," cakes of raisins, or dried grapes, com-
fort, or refresh me. apples, prob. the fruit we so name.*
sick, feeling faiut and exhausted, so as to need reviving i'uod.
Siokue,ss of stomach is often one result of excited feeling-. (i'>)
left, rfc, the attitude of one who would support another when
fainting' and sick. (7) charge you, call upon you, adjure you.
roes, or gazelles ;, with the hinds, are shy and gentle
creatures, and she intimates that genuine love can as little beaf
to be disturbed as they."

Note on v. 5. — Dr. Boothroyd : — " Support me with cordial ;
support me with citrons : for still I languish with love." Dr.
A. Clarke : — " The ver.sious in general understand some kind of
ointments or perfumes by the first term,"' if. flagons. '• Com-
fort me with apples : "' they had not apples, as we in England ;
it is therefore x^i'obable that the citron or the orange (both of
which are believed to be good for the complaint alluded to) is
the fruit meant. "I am sick of love." Is it not amusing to see
parent,-? and physicians treating this affection as a disease of a
very serious nature.' It is called the (Jdina-Cdi'hnl, i.e. Cupid's
fever, which is said to be produced by a wound inflicted by one
of his five arrows. When a j'oung man or woman becomes
languid, looks thin, refuses food, sei'ks retirement, and neglects
duties, the father and mother hold grave consultations ; they
apply to the medical man, and he furnishes them with
medicines, which are forthwith to be administered, to relieve the
poor patient. I believe the '' versions in general" are right in
supposing " ointments or perfumes " are meant, inst:ead of
flagons, because they are still considered to be most efficacious in
removing the complaint. Thus, when the fever is most
distressing, the sufferer is washed with rosewater, rubbed with
perfumed oils, and the dust of wood. The margin has,
instead of comfort, ''straw me with apples;" which pro))ahly
means the citrons were to be put near to him, as it is belies ed
they imbibe the heat, and consequently lessen the fever. It is
also thought to be highly beneficial for the young sufferer to
sleep on the tender leaves of the plantain tree (I/tiiiann), or the
lotus flowers ; and if, in addition, strings of pearls are tied to
different parts of the body, there is reason to hope the patient
will do well.''

T/ie antelope. — The antelope, like the hind, with which it is so
frequently associated in Sci ipture, is a timid creature, extremely
jealous and watchful, sleeps little, is easilj' disturbed, takes
alarm on the slightest occasion : and the moment its fears are
awakened, it flies, or seems rather to disappear, from the sight
of the intruder. Soft and cautious is the step which iuterrujits
not the light slumbers of this gentle and suspicious creature. It
is probable, from some hints in the sacred volume, that the
shepherd in the Eastern desert sometimes wished to beguile the
tedious moments by contemplating the beautiful form of the
sleeping antelope. But this was a gratification he could not
hope to enjoy, unless he appi'oached it with the utmost care, and
maintained a profound silence. "WTien, therefore, an Oriental
charged his companion, by the antelope, not to disturb the repose
of another, he intimated, by a most expressive and beautiful
allusion, the necessity of iising the greatest circumspection.
This statement imparts a great degree of clearness and energy

Cap. ii. 8-13.]

sajtra of solomon.


to the solemn adjui-ation wliicli the spouse twice addresses to the
daughters of Jenisalem, when she charged them not to disturb
the repose of her beloved one : " I charge you, O ye daughters of
Jerusalem, by the roes (the antelopes), and by the hinds of the
field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.''
In this language, which is pastoral, and equally beautiful and
significant, the spouse delicately intimates her anxiety to detain
her Lord, that she may enjoy the happiness of contemplating His
glory ; her deep sense of the evil nature and bitter consequences
of sin ; her apprehension lest her companions, the members of
her family, should by some rash and unholy deed provoke Him
to depart : and how reasonable it was that they who coveted
the society of that beautful creature, and were accustomed to
watch over its slumbers in guarded silence, should be equally
cautious not to disturb the communion which she then enjoyed
with her Saviour.*

8, 9. (8) voice, or sound of his footstep." (9) wall, " the

clay-built wall of the house or vineyard of the bride's family."
A different word from that meaning the strong wall of a city or
fortress, windows . . lattice,* the beloved was looking in
from the outside, shewing himself, i.e. peering or peeping.

The voice of the ieloced {v. 8). — I. The beloved. Christ is — 1.
The beloved of the Father ; 2. Of the angels ; 3. Of His people.
II. The revelation of the beloved — the voice. He reveals Him-
self — 1. By His Word ; 2. By His Spirit dwelling in the heart.
Note — This voice is pleasant, instructive, influential. III. The
coming of Christ. 1. This was the language of primitive and
expectant saints ; 2. He came by His incarnation ; 3. He comes
to the penitent sinner ; 4. To the afflicted saint ; 5. He comes at
death to receive the soul to glory ; 6. He will come in judgment
to complete the salvation of His people.'

Windows in, the East. — In Ea^^tern countries the windows are
made of lattice-work, so closely set together, that a person out-
side cannot see what is taking place within ; while any one
within can see all that goes on outside. In the centre of this
lattice work, however, there is a small door, opening on hinges,
about the size of a face, through which a person can hold com-
munication with any one outside. ^\'hen one does not wish to be
seen at the opening, or to communicate with the outside, he has
only to step a little aside, where he is unobserved, though he can
observe. " The mother of Sisera looked out at the window, and
cried through the lattice," Judg. v. 28. Windows, in Eastern
countries, from their peculiar construction, have thus suggested
the images, so expressive and beautiful, used in many passages
of Scripture.

10 — 13. (10) rise up, etc., invitation to a time of fellowship.
(11) winter, wh. keeps people within the house, rain, "for
the six summer months rain rarely falls in Palestine." (12)
singing, not merely of bii-ds, though spring is the special time
for their songs, turtle, a kind of dove," wh. was a bird of
passage in Palestine ; so its return indicated spring, as does the
return of the cuckoo and the swallow with us. (13) fig, etc.,
lit. " the fig tree spices its fruit." * vines, when just in blossom.

A song of three eras {vv. 12, 13). — We may regard these words —
I. As a prophetic song of the first advent, when the winter of

awake liim ; and
tlien laughed at
what he had
done.'" — Roberts,
d Roberts.

" The desire of
power to excess
caused angels to
fall ; the desire
of knowledge to
excess caused
man to fall ; but
in charity is no
excess, neither
can man nor
angels come into
danger by it." —

€ Paxlon,

a "We Tiave
started up and
sent leaping over
tlie plain another
of cfol.'s favour-
ites. What ele-
gant creatures
those gazelles are,
and how gi-ace-
fully they bound!
These lovely
harts are very
tindd, and de-
scend at night to
the plains to feed
among the lilies
until the day-
break, and the
shadows flee

b " Windows of
female members
of the household
are screened with
lattice- work
made of narrow
slats of wood, ar-
ranged diagon-
ally at right
angles with each
other, and so
close together
that persons
within can see
without being
sfeen." — Van Len-
c Pulpit Themes.

a " The more
common species
of turtle-doves
come up from
the south in the
early spring, and
graiiually fill the
whole land, not
only of Palestine
and Syria, but
the whole Penin-
sula of Asia Ml*


nor." — Van Len-

Lauil rippii abmit
the end of June.

''This description
©f spring has not
perhaps its equal
iu any of our
poets (Greek or


[Cap. ji. 14. 15.

tii>. 10—13. T.
Pierce, 110 ; T.
Jones, 283.

TO.12, 13. /". Oa/tf-

ley, 245.

e. 13. R. Erskine,

ix. 205.

e Stems and Tioigs.

d Paxton.

" A lover's hope
resembles the
bean in the nur-
sery tale ; let it
once take root,
and it will grow
so rapidly, that,
in the course of
a few hours, the
giant Iniagina-
nation builds a
castle on the top,
and by-and-by
comes Disap-
pointment with

Online LibraryJames Comper GrayThe Biblical museum : a collection of notes, explanatory, homiletic, and illustrative, on the Holy Scriptures, especially designed for the use of ministers, Bible students, and Sunday school teachers (Volume 7) → online text (page 63 of 67)