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Chapter 1 Verse 1
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
by the assistance of God, to open and explain this mysterious part of the sacred writings, it will be proper,
I.To enquire into, and establish the authority of this book.
II.Shew the nature of it; it being a Song.
III.The excellency of it. it being called the Song of Songs
IV.The penman of it; which is Solomon.
I.I shall endeavor to prove the divine authority of this book, and vindicate it from those exceptions which are made against it: and,
1st, It was always received by the ancient Jews, to whom the oracles of God were committed, as a very valuable part of the sacred writings; and has been continued in the canon of the scriptures by the Christians in all ages to this very day The Jews had always a very venerable esteem of it, calling it, the holy of holies; forbidding their children the reading thereof, as well as the first chapter of Genesis, and the beginning and end of the prophecy of Ezekiel, until they were of thirty years of age,33Hieron. Praefat. in Ezekiel. Origen. Prolog. Cant. Cantic. because of the mysteriousness and sublimity of it. They say,44Seder Olam Rabba, p. 41. that Solomon when he was old and near death, the Holy Ghost dwelt upon him, and he composed the books of Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. Their ancient book of Zohar55In Exodus fol. 59. col. 3 Edit. Sultzbac. asserts, that Solomon composed it “by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit;” as does also the Targum upon this book, and R. Solomon Jarchi, and R. Alben Ezra, in their prefaces to their commentaries upon it; the latter of which has these words; “God forbid, God forbid, says he, that the Song of songs should be written or understood of things obscene; but it is entirely parabolical, and had it not been of very great excellency, it had not been written in the catalogue of the holy scriptures; for of it there has been no controversy, that it defiles the hands:”66Vide T. Bib. Megillah. fol. 7. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Abot Hatumaot, c. 9. sect. 6. for though there was once a controversy77Vide Vorit. not in Maimon. Yesode Hattorah, c. 6: sect 12. among the wise men concerning the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, who afterwards, as it became them, changed their minds; yet there never was any concerning this, as appears from their Mirnah; where they say88Tract Vadaim, c. 3. sect. 5. that “all the scriptures are holy, but the Song of songs is the holy of holies; and if the wise men have had any controversy, it has been only concerning Ecclesiastes:” so that this book appears to be authentic, according to the mind of the ancient as well as of the modern Jews; and as for the Christians, they have always looked upon it as a part of the holy scripture, a few only excepted, and have all along continued it in the canon as they found and received it. The ancient fathers and councils have always esteemed it sacred and venerable, not to take notice of authorities of a later date. The opinion of Theodorus of Mopsuest, who called the divine authority of this book into question, was condemned in the second council of Constantinople, which was held about the year 553. This book also appears in the catalogue of the canonical books of scripture, established in the council of Laodicea, Can. 59. held about the year 364. It is likewise in Origen’s catalogue, recorded by Eusebius,99Ecclesiastes Hist. 1. 6. c. 25. as well as in that which Melito1010Ibid. lib. 4. c. 26. brought from the East, and sent to his friend Onesimus, who flourished about the year 140. So that thus far, at least, we can trace up the authority of this book among the Christians: Not to take notice of the canons of the Apostles, in which it stands as a part of canonical scripture: nor the Constitutions of the Apostles with the larger epistles of Ignatius, in which citations are made from this book; which, if genuine, would prove the reception of it in the Christian church still more early; but because they are generally looked upon to be spurious, they are not to be insisted on. And it may be farther observed, that not only Origen, but Hippolytus in the third century,1111Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 1. 6. c. 22. 32. Carpathius, Gregory Nyssene in the fourth, and Theodoret in the fifth, and others in the following centuries, wrote commentaries upon this book; and Eusebius1212Contra Marcellum, 50:1. c. 2, ascribes it to Solomon, and so does Athanasius.1313Synopf. S. Script. 1. 16.
2dly, This book was wrote by one that was qeopneusov, divinely inspired; as appears by his being the penman of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; for why he should not be under the inspiration of the same Spirit in writing this, as he was in writing those, there appears no reason to conclude. The objection against it, taken from his great fall into lewdness and idolatry, produced by a late author,1414Mr. Whiston’s supplement to his essay toward restoring the text of the Old Testament, p. 11. 12. avails but little; especially, if, as some think, it should appear that it was written before; or if, with others, it is taken to be wrote after his fall, it will lie as strongly against the book of Ecclesiastes, which is generally allowed to be wrote after, as it does against this: Besides, it has pleased the all-wise God, who gives no account of his matters to his creatures, to make use of men, after very great falls into sin, as Amanuenses of his Holy Spirit, and penmen of the sacred scriptures, as David and Peter.
3dly, The dignity and sublimity of the matter contained herein, shew it to be no human composure; for never man spake or wrote like unto it; it is therefore called the Song of songs, being the most excellent of Songs; which cannot be equaled by any, but surpasses all others, not only human but divine; it is preferred to all scriptural songs, which, as one1515Durham, Clay. Cant. p. 5. observes, would be blasphemous to do, was it not of a divine rise and authority.
4thly, The majesty of its style bears a testimony to the divine original of it, which cannot be equaled by the most elaborate performances; it defies all the art and wisdom of man to come near it; and plainly shews itself to be the language of God himself, whose voice is powerful and full of majesty.
5thly, The power and efficacy which it has in and over the hearts of men, is another evidence of its being the word of God; which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. This book has been profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; which are so many arguments of its being given by inspiration of God; it effectually works in them that believe; it has been useful to thousands who have had their spiritual senses exercised, for the comfort of their souls, the raising of their affections, the increase of their faith, and their instruction in divine things: the reading and expounding of this excellent portion of scripture have been owned by God for the good of multitudes, who are so many sealing evidences of the authority of it.
6thly, The impartiality of it is another evidence of its divine original: the bride is here frequently introduced proclaiming her own weaknesses and infirmities, as in chapter 1:5, 6. and 3:1. and 5:2, 3. Now was it a mere human composure of Solomon’s, celebrating the amours between him and Pharaoh’s daughter, would it be reasonable to suppose, that he should so manifestly and openly declare the defects and imperfections of his bride? But to consider it as a divine poem, expressing the mutual love between Christ and his church, it agrees very well with the other parts of the sacred writings, wherein the infirmities of God’s own people are not concealed; not even of those who were themselves the penmen of them; which is a strong proof of their divine authority.
7thly, There is a very great agreement between this and other portions of scripture. Now this has been always looked upon as a considerable evidence of the authority of the sacred writings, that though they have been delivered at sundry times, and in divers manners, yet there has been always an entire harmony between them; the which also appears in this part of scripture; for though it is delivered in a mysterious and figurative style, yet it admits of senses which are very agreeable to the proportion or analogy of faith; nay, in many places of the New Testament, there seems to be manifest allusions to this song, as will be hereafter more particularly observed: but notwithstanding all these evidences of its divine original, there have not been wanting persons who have called in question its sacred authority; as Theodorus of Mopsuest, whose opinion was, that it was not wrote by inspiration, but was only designed by Solomon to celebrate his amours between him and Pharaoh’s daughter; which opinion of his was condemned in the sixth century by the second council of Constantinople, as has been before observed: Castalio in the sixteenth century was condemned for the same opinion, by the senate of Geneva, and was ordered to depart the city upon it: Grotius in the last century seemed to be much of the same mind; and Mr. Whiston in this has attempted in a set tract to weaken the authority of it, and make it appear to be a loose, profane and amorous song: His proposition is this; “The book of Canticles is not a sacred book of the Old Testament; nor was it originally esteemed as such, either by the Jewish or Christian church;” with what truth this is asserted, will in some measure appear from what has been already said. The arguments by which he endeavors to confirm and establish this proposition, are as follow, which I shall particularly consider.
1. Because as he asserts, “It was not written in his younger days, or when he was the good, the wise, the chaste, and the religious man; but long afterwards, when he was become wicked and foolish, and lascivious, and idolatrous.” And he affirms, that there are some very plain and particular chronological characters in this book, which determine it to belong to the latter and worser part of his life, and to that only. And,
The first passage in it, which he mentions to confirm this, is Song of Solomon 1:9. where the church is compared to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots; which he imagines refers to those horses and chariots which Solomon, contrary to an express command, Deuteronomy 17:16 had brought unto him out of Egypt, 1 Kings 10:28, 29 when he began to degenerate from his former piety: In answer to which, it may be replied, that the comparison in the text under consideration, is not made to a company of horses brought out of Egypt, which ran in Solomon’s chariots; but to a company of horses in Egypt, which ran in Pharaoh’s chariots; so that this text falls very much short of proving what it is produced for.
His other chronological evidence of this book’s belonging to the loose and vicious part of Solomon’s life, is Song of Solomon 7:12. where mention is made of the chariots of Amminadib; in which he supposes there are more proofs than one of what he contends for; the first is, that here are chariots referred to, as used in Judea, which, he says, we only meet with once before, since the days of Moses, namely, 2 Samuel 8:4 though that appears to be a mistake; for Absalom prepared himself chariots and horsemen, 2 Samuel 15:1 as did also Adonijah, 1 Kings 1:5 both which were before Solomon’s accession to the throne. His other proof from this text is, that this Amminadib was one of the twelve rulers of provinces, who married Taphath the daughter of Solomon, 1 Kings 4:11 and therefore he concludes that Solomon could not be a very young man when he wrote this book. To which I answer,
1st, That it is not Amminadib but Abinadab, that is there mentioned.
2dly, That it was not Abinadab, but the son of Abinadab, that married Solomon’s daughter.
3dly, It is not likely that King Solomon’s son-in-law should be a chariot driver, as this Amminadib is thought to be by many interpreters, who was famous for his skill, courage, and swiftness in driving.
4thly, This is not the proper name of any person, but are two words, as R. Aben Ezra, and R. Solomon Jarchi observe, and should be rendered, the chariots of my free or princely people; and therefore afford no chronological character of any part of Solomon’s life whatever.
The last chronological evidence he mentions, page 10, and which he takes to be the principal and most evident one, which shews in what particular time of Solomon’s life this book was written, is chapter 6:8, 9 where mention is made of sixty queens, and eighty concubines, and virgins without number; which he thinks refers to Solomon’s wicked practice of polygamy, expressly forbidden Deuteronomy 17:17. To which I reply,
1st, That the allusion does not seem to be made to the number of Solomon’s queens and concubines, but to the custom of some princes in the East, which Solomon had in view; for the number of queens and concubines here does not agree with the number of Solomon’s, recorded 1 Kings 11:3 where he is said to have seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines, which is vastly different from the account which is given here: and if it should be said, that though when he wrote this book, he had not arrived to that prodigious pitch of wickedness in the practice of polygamy, to which he afterwards did; yet he had begun, and gone a great way in it, and had at the time he wrote it, such a number of wives and concubines as are here mentioned, which he refers to. I answer,
2dly, That it is not likely that Solomon should prefer one of his wives, and praise her above all the rest; which would have been the way to have alienated their affections from him, and made her the object of their envy, as well as have raised such domestic feuds and quarrels; which would not easily be laid. Besides,
3dly, It does net seem reasonable to suppose that those other queens and concubines of Solomon’s should speak so much in the praise and commendation of his lawful wife, as these are said to do here; which is not usual for such sort of persons to do. As to those other texts referred to, namely, chapter 1:3, 5 and 2:7 and 3:5, 10, 11 and 5:8, 16 and 6:9 and 8:4, 6, 7 produced by Mr. Whiston, to prove that the person, who is the bridegroom in this song, loved many other women and virgins, of which his spouse is jealous; I need only say, that those texts do indeed express the love of the daughters of Jerusalem to him, and the notice which the spouse took of them, for whom she appears to have a very great value and affection, to whom she often points out her beloved, and directs them to observe the transcendent excellencies and beauties of his person, as well as strictly charges them to give him no disturbance: yet she also signifies her very great love and regard to him; but no where insinuates any wandering affection or wanton love in him unto others, or that she was jealous of him upon that account.
2. His next reason, page 12, 13 is, “that there is no foundation for an allegorical, or mystical sense of this book; there being not the least sign of a sober, virtuous, or divine meaning therein, nor any thing that in the least concerns morality or virtue, God or religion, the Messiah or his kingdom;” which, if true, would indeed go a great way against the authority of it; but I hope the following Exposition will make it appear that there is a good foundation in it for a mystical or allegorical sense, agreeable enough to the analogy of faith; as well as shew that there are many things in it which encourage morality and virtue, promote the cause of God and religion, and concern the Messiah and his kingdom; and Mr. Whiston has not thought fit to give any one instance which discover, the contrary.
3. He says, page 13, that 12 “the introduction of double or mystical senses of scripture among the Jews, is much later than the days of Solomon, and cannot therefore be supposed to belong to any book of his writing:” but this does not appear to be true, for surely the speech of Jotham to the men of Shechem, recorded in Judges 9 must be understood in an allegorical or mystical sense; and Nathan’s parable, 2 Samuel 12:1 which was delivered before Solomon’s time. Moreover, the forty-fifth Psalm is of the very same strain, and bears a very near resemblance with this song, which was wrote by David, Solomon’s father: besides, suppose this allegorical and mystical way of writing had not been used before by the inspired writers, it is no argument that it should not be used now, as it was afterwards in the writings of the New Testament, as Mr. Whiston confesses, page 22.
4. Another reason which he produces, page 23, is, that “neither the contemporary nor succeeding writers of the Old Testament, ever quote or allude to this book of Canticles, nor to any part thereof, upon any occasion whatsoever.” The same may be said of many other books of the Old Testament, whose authority was never yet called in question; nor can this be looked upon by judicious persons, a sufficient reason why any of them should.
5. He says, page 24, “The apocryphal writers of the Old Testament, never quote nor allude to this book, nor to any part thereof, upon any occasion whatsoever.” Which I persuade myself, wilt he no wars shocking or stumbling to any thoughtful Christian, nor belooked upon by them as a sufficient objection against the authority of it; had they expressly opposed it, it could not have been very considerably improved against it, much less will their silence have any force to explode it; and yet after all, in Ecclesiastes 47:18. Solomon is admired for his Songs, Proverbs, and Parables.
6. He urges, page 25, that “Philo, the eminent Alexandrian Jew, who was contemporary with Christ and his earliest apostles, and who was prodigious fond of mystical or allegorical senses of scripture, does yet never cite nor allude to this book of Canticles, nor to any part of it, on any occasion whatsoever.” Be it so, that it is not once cited or alluded to in his writings; for though they are voluminous, there are but few citations of scripture in them; yet it does not follow from thence that it must be spurious. Many books in the canon of scripture, whose authority is unquestionable, would yet stand upon a very precarious foundation, if citations out of them and allusions to them in human writings, were absolutely necessary to their continuance in it.
7. What he lays a considerable stress upon, and makes the main foundation for the exclusion of this book, is, that Josephus not only neither cites nor alludes to it, but has also left it out in his catalogue of the sacred writings. That he should neither cite nor allude unto it, in writing a history, need not be wondered at; but if it can be made to appear that it is not to be found in his catalogue, it will indeed be a considerable objection against it. Now the account which Josephus1616Contr. Apion. I. 17 gives of the sacred writings among the Jews is only this, namely, that they had only two and twenty books, five of which are books of Moses, thirteen wrote by the prophets, and the other four contained holy hymns and moral precepts. Now in this account he seems to have regard to the division of the books of the Old Testament into three parts,1717Buxtorf. Tiberias, c. 11. used by the Jews: which was first, the Law; secondly, the Prophets; and thirdly, the Hagiographa; which our Lord also takes notice of, Luke 24:44 where he saith, These are the words which I spake unto you: while 1 was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me; where by the Psalms is meant the whole third part called the Hagiographa, because it began with that book; which also contained the most plain and manifest testimonies, of the person, office, and sufferings of Christ; more than any other book in that part did. Now the order of the books, according to this division of them, which Josephus has a regard to, was this, namely,
In the Law, which was the first division, stood
These are the five books of Moses, according to Josephus.
In the Prophets, which was the second division, stood
These are the thirteen books of the prophets, according to Josephus.
2. Judges, with Ruth; which make but one book.
3. Samuel 1 and 2 but one book, hence Samuel is called a prophet, Acts 13:20.
4. Kings 1 and 2 but one book.
6. Jeremiah, with the Lamentations, but one book.
11. Ezra and Nehemiah, but one book.
13. Chronicles 1 and 2 but one book.
In the Hagiographa, which was the third division, stood
These are the four books containing holy hymns and moral precepts, according to Josephus.
4. Solomon’s Song; in all twenty-two.
From hence it appears, that there is no force in this objection; nor has Mr. Whiston any reason to charge Dean Prideaux with forcing this book of Solomon’s Song into Josephus’s catalogue; for his twenty-two books cannot be made up without it; though the Dean had no manner of reason to leave out the book of Chronicles, seeing Ezra and Nehemiah, which he makes to be two books, are comprehended in one by the Jews, which he himself also observes.1818Connection of the history, of the Old and New Testament, part 1. book 5. p. 332. 8vo. The Jews indeed, at this present time, reckon the books of the Old Testament to be twenty-four, and that by making Ruth, which is a continuation of the history of the book of Judges and the Lamentations, which were wrote by Jeremy; and so properly belong to him, two books distinct by themselves; and even in this account of theirs of the sacred writings, this book of Canticles keeps its place, nor did they ever pretend to exclude it.
8. Another argument used by Mr. Whiston, page 29, is, that “our blessed Savior himself does never once make the least allusion to this book, or to any part of it, on any occasion whatsoever.” To this I reply, that it appears plain and manifest, that several phrases used by our Savior bear a near resemblance with, are allusions to, and seem to be taken out of this book: thus the efficacious grace of God is expressed by drawing, John 6:44 agreeable to Song of Solomon 1:4. In his discourse with Nicodemus, he compares the Holy Spirit to the wind, John 3:8 which metaphor is used Song of Solomon 4:16, likewise he seems manifestly to allude in Matthew 13:52 where the instructed Scribe is said to bring forth things new and old, to Song of Solomon 7:13 where the very phrase is used: as also his comparing the church to a vineyard, and letting it out to husbandmen, are very agreeable to, and are the very phrases used Song of Solomon 8:11, 12. To all which might be added, several other resemblances and allusions, which are to be found in the evangelic history, as Matthew 25:1, 5 compared with Song of Solomon 5:2 and Matthew 9:13; John 3:29, where Christ is called the bridegroom, and the disciples the children of the bride-chamber, agreeable to the several parties in this song.
9. He says, page 30, that “when St. John, the beloved disciple, came at the end of his Revelation, to this very matter of the marriage of the Lamb, or Messias; yet have we not a word of it; that is, this book, nor the least allusion to it, nor to any part of it, whatsoever.” That John, in his book of Revelation, refers and alludes to this of Solomon’s song, seems undeniable; every one may easily observe what a likeness and resemblance there is between the description which the spouse gives of her beloved in Song of Solomon 5 and that which John gives of Christ in Revelation 1. Moreover, the phrase of Christ’s standing at the door, and knocking, Revelation 3:20. manifestly refers unto and plainly appears to be taken out of Song of Solomon 5:2. where the spouse says, It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, etc. Besides, what John says of the marriage of the Lamb, and the preparation of the bride for it if it is not an allusion to, yet it is a confirmation of what is said in this book, where the church is represented as beautifully arrayed and adorned, and as passionately wishing for the consummation of the marriage; nay, this, is spoken of as completed, Song of Solomon 2:16 and the glory and pomp of the solemnity described, Song of Solomon 3:11 with the joy that was expressed on that occasion; for there the day of his espousals is called the day of the gladness of his heart: also it deserves our notice, that those two books of Revelation and Solomon’s Song, conclude much in the same manner. John closes his book of the Revelation, and with it the canon of the scriptures, with a passionate wish for Christ’s second coming, saying, Amen: even so, come, Lord Jesus: and the church concludes the book of Solomon’s Song thus; Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.
10. As what he thinks will much prejudice the authority of this book, he says, page 30, that the writers of the known books of the New Testament, with their earliest companions the apostolical fathers of the first century; St. Matthew, St. John, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. James, St. Jude, St. Clement in his epistles, St. Barnabas, that prodigious allegorizer, and St. Hermas: I may add, says he, and St. Polycarp also, one of their later companions, do never once cite or allude to this book of Canticles, or to any part of it, on any occasion whatsoever.” That the evangelists, Matthew and John, either in using their own, or in recording the words of Christ, have alluded to some passages in this book, I have already shewn; and the same may be said of the other evangelists, Mark and Luke, who mention several of the very same things; for which see Mark 2:19, 20 and 12:1; Luke 5:34, 35 and 20:9, and it seems very evident, the apostle Paul has reference to it in many passages of his writings, as wilt appear from comparing 2 Corinthians 2:14, 15, 16;.17 Ephesians 5:2 with Song of Solomon 1:3 as also Colossians 2:16, 17; Hebrews 10:1 with Song of Solomon 2:17 and 4:6 to which may be added Ephesians 5:27 compared with Song of Solomon 4:7. So that seeing there are so many passages in several of the writers of the known books of the New Testament, which bear so near a resemblance, and have so manifest an allusion to some parts of this book, it need not much concern us that Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, and Polycarp take no notice of it.
11. What he thinks will much prejudice the authority of this book, is, “that the Apostolical Constitutions give no manner of reason to suppose that this book of Canticles was then looked upon as a book of scripture, but the direct contrary.” Now those books called The Constitutions of the Apostles, by Clement, Mr. Whiston looks upon to be truly authentic and apostolical; when they appear manifestly to be spurious, entirely destitute of apostolical authority, are of a much later date than the times of the apostles, and contain several things and doctrines directly opposite unto them. As for instance, praying with the face to the East is enjoined, 1. 2. c. 57. and 1. 7. c. 44. Trigamy is asserted to be an indication of incontinency; and such marriages as are beyond the third, are called manifest fornication, and unquestionable uncleanness, 1. 3. c. 2. Anointing with oil in baptism is enjoined, 1. 3. c. 15, 16, and 1. 7. c. 27, 41, 42. The keeping of the day of Christ’s nativity, Epiphany, the Quadragesima, or Lent, the feast of the passover, and the festivals of the apostles, 1. 5. c. 13 and 1. 8. c. 33. Fasting on the fourth and sixth days of the week, 1, 5. c. 15. Baptizing of infants, 1. 6. c. 15. Singing for the dead, and honoring of their relics, 1. 6, c. 30. Nay, praying for saints departed, 1. 8. c. 41, 42, 43, 44. As also crossing with the sign of the cross in the forehead, 1. 8. c. 12. Moreover the Lord’s Supper is called an unbloody sacrifice, 1. 6. c. 23 and 1. 8. c. 5, 46. It is likewise asserted, that Christ, in the celebration of that ordinance, mixed wine and water in the cup, 1. 8. c. 12. Nay, concubines, continuing so, are allowed an admittance to a participation of that sacred ordinance, 1. 8 c. 32 with many other things which appear foreign enough from the simplicity of the apostolic age, doctrine, and practice. And now who that reads and considers these things, will ever think that those writings can furnish out an argument sufficient to prejudice the authority of the book of Solomon’s Song? Had any thing been said in them, which was expressly against it, it would scarce have deserved consideration, much less should their silence about it be improved as an evidence against it. And yet after all, it is pretty to observe how much Mr. Whiston himself is foiled with two passages in them, which appear to be allusions and references to a passage in this book; the one is in 1. 6. c. 13. where the false apostles are called alwpe>kwn meridev kai< camaizh>lwn a<mpelw>nwn ajfanisai, the portion of foxes, and the spoilers of the low vineyards: And again, in the same book, c. 18. where those same persons are said to spoil the church of God, wjv ajlw>pekev mikroi> ajmpelw~nav, as the little foxes do the vineyards; which are manifest references to Song of Solomon 2:15, and over-against the later of which passages Mr. Whiston himself has placed this text as referring to it in the edition of the Constitutions which he has published. Now to evade the force of this, he is obliged to make this part of the work to be of a later date than the rest, even later than the destruction of Jerusalem; lest this book of Canticles should appear to have obtained authority too early in the world. He acknowledges that it is in the catalogue of the sacred writings mentioned in the Canons of the Apostles, Can. 85 which he looks upon to be genuine and authentic, though he questions its being in the original copies of those Canons; he allows, that Ignatius, in his larger epistle to the Ephesians, cites Song of Solomon 1:3, 4, and is very willing to grant it a place in Melito’s catalogue, which I have before mentioned: So that from the whole it appears, that the Apostolical Constitutions are so far from making against the authority of this book, that they rather make for it; though their testimony is good for nothing, the whole being a spurious work, and carries in it evident marks of falsehood and impiety, and was condemned as false and heretical by the sixth general synod held at Constantinople1919Vide Carranzae Summ. Concil. Conc. Constantinop. 6. Can. 2. about the year 680. Thus have I considered the several arguments and objections produced by Mr. Whiston to disprove the sacred authority of this book, which, notwithstanding, appears to have a divine stamp upon it.2020Since I wrote this, I have met with an answer to these arguments of Mr. Whiston by the very learned Carpzovius, Professor of Divinity in the University of Leipsick, published in his critics Sacra, par. 3. which was printed in the year 1728, the same year my Exposition of this Book first came out. In the year 1729 was published a translation of the Critica Sacra into English, so far as it is concerned with Mr. Whiston, by Moses Marcus, a converted Jew. There is one objection more made against it, which I think Mr. Whiston has took no notice of, and that is, that no proper name of God is to be found in this Song. To which I reply, in the words of Mr. Durham2121In Clav. Cant. p. 5.
1. “That it is so also in other scriptures, as in the book of Esther; the scripture’s authority doth not depend on naming the name of God, but on having his warrant and authority.
2. This Song being allegorical and figurative, it is not so meet nor consistent with its stile, to have God named under proper names, as in other scriptures: Yet,
3. There are titles and descriptions here given to an excellent person, which can agree to none other but Christ, the eternal Son of God; as, The King; O thou whom my soul loveth; the chief of ten thousands; the Rose of Sharon, and the like; whereby his eminency is “singularly set out above all others in the world.”
And yet after all, the name of God, Jah, the same with Jehovah, and a contraction of that, is mentioned in it, which is the greatest of the divine names, and is expressive of the being, eternity, and immutability of God. It is in chapter 8:6. hyAtbhlç the flame of God, or Jehovah, which we render a most vehement flame; the sense being increased by the word Jah being added, as the word God to mountains and cedars, in Psalm 36:6 and Psalm 80:10 for these are not one word as Ben Asher thinks, but two according to Ben Naphtali and Aben Ezra; see the exposition of the place.
Since the second edition of this Exposition was published in 1751, I have met with two learned gentlemen, I am sorry for it, and that I am obliged to take notice of them, who think that this book is of a later date than the times of Solomon, and so of course none of his, and which must sap the authority of it. The one observes2222Dr. Kennicot, Dissert. 1. p. 20 etc. that the word David, from its first appearance in Ruth, where it is written drd without the yod, continues to be so written through the books of Samuel, Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, but appears with a yod dyrd in the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zechariah; wherefore he suggests, that if it was customary to write this word without a yod till the captivity, and with one after it; then he thinks a strong argument may be drawn from hence against the antiquity of the Canticles, and its being made by Solomon, since this name is written with a yod in Song of Solomon 4:4 the only place in it in which it is used: But in answer to this, it must be said, it is not fact that the word is universally used without the yod in the books mentioned, particularly in the book of Kings: for the authors of the Masorah have observed on 1 Kings 3:14 that it is five times written full, as they call it, that is, with a yod, dyrd three of the places in the book of Kings I have traced out, 1 Kings 3:14; and 11:4, 36 and have found it so written in all the printed copies I have seen; and so it is read by the Eastern Jews in Ezekiel 37:24 and in several printed editions of Ezekiel 34:23. This learned man is aware that it is so written once in Hosea, and twice in Amos; books written two hundred years before the captivity; but then he observes that in the two last places in Bomberg’s edition it has a little circle (o) to mark it for an error, or a faulty word, though none over the word in Hosea: But it should be known, that that circle in hundreds of places is not used to point out any thing faulty in the copy, but is only a mark referring to the margin, and to what is observed there: and be it, that it does point out an error or a faulty word, the same circle is over the word in Canticles, and consequently shews it to be faulty there, and to be corrected and read without the yod, which observation destroys the argument from it; and so it is read in that place in the Talmud2323T. Bab. Beracot. fol. 30. 1. without it, and in the ancient book of Zohar;2424In Genesis fo1, 114. 3. and indeed it seems as if it was read without the yod in the copies seen by the authors of the Masorah, since in their note on 1 Kings 3:14 besides the five places where it is written full, or with the yod, they say it is so written throughout the Chronicles, the twelve minor prophets, and Ezra, which includes Nehemiah, but make no mention of Solomon’s Song; which one would think they would have done, had it been so written there in the copy or copies before them: so that upon the whole, the argument, if it has any force in it, turns out for, and not against the antiquity of Solomon’s Song. But this matter stands in a dearer light by observing the larger Masorah on 1 Kings 11:4 and on Ezekiel 34:23 in which the five places are mentioned where this word is written full, 1 Kings 3:14 and 11:4, 36, Song of Solomon 4:4, Ezekiel 34:23, in which places this word was originally so written, as well as throughout Chronicles, the twelve prophets, and Ezra; so that in all these places it is marked not as a faulty word, but as rightly written, though different from what it is in other places. The other learned man2525Heath, Comment. On Job 15:30. forms his argument from the use of the word tbhlç in Job 15:30, and in this Song, chapter 8:6 his words are, “I am much deceived if this word be not a strong proof of the age of this poem, (the book of Job) for it is not found but in Ezekiel and the Song of Solomon, the one written during the captivity, and the other after it.” This proceeds upon a false piece of criticism in a twofold respect; for he adds, “its construction which is evidently ç for rça, and tbhl the constructive form of hbhl flamma, shews very clearly its age; since that manner of abbreviation is not found in the books undoubtedly written before the captivity.” For, 1st, this abbreviation appears in books much more ancient than that, not only in the book of Solomon’s Song, the antiquity of which is not to be set aside by this observation, but frequently in the book of Ecclesiastes, undoubtedly written by Solomon, and in the Psalms of David his father before him; for it is not only in psalms without a title, all which are supposed by some to be David’s, as in Psalm 129:6, 7; 135:2, 8, 10; 136:23, and 146:5 but also in psalms which bear his name, as in Psalm 122:3, 4; 124:2, 6; 133:2, 3 and 144:15; yea it was in use long before the times of David, even in the times of the Judges. Deborah has it in her song, ytmqç ytmqç d[, Judges 5:7 and in other places in that book, chapter 6:17 and 7:12 and 8:26. 2dly, It is a mistake that the construction of the word tbhlç is ç for rça; and tbhl; for ç; in that word is not servile, but radical, as Aben Ezra and Ben Melech observe; it is an addition to the Hebrew word after the Chaldee manner, and has its derivation from a root in the Chaldee or Syriac language, bhlç, which signifies to kindle, inflame, and burn, as appears, not only from all the Syriac and Chaldee Lexicons, but from the frequent use of the word in the Syriac version of the Old Testament; nor is this the only Chaldee or Syriac word in Solomon’s Song; see chapter 1:17 and 2:11. Though perhaps as this writer from2626Preface, ibid. p. 11. the Chaldaisms, Syriasms, and Arabisms in the book of Job, argues its being a production of a later age than what is usually assigned to it; so another of the same way of thinking and reasoning may conclude from some Chaldee words used in Solomon’s Song that it must be of a later age than his: but why may not Solomon be thought to make use of Chaldee or Syriac words as wall as his father David, who makes use of words in the Syriac signification of them, as in Psalm 51:4 compared with Romans 3:4 and Psalm 60:4 and with Syro-chaldaic affixes, Psalm 103:3, 4, 5 and 115:7, 10? and why may not David and Solomon be thought to understand Chaldee or Syriac as well as Hezekiah’s courtiers? See 2 Kings 18:26 and certainly Solomon must understand it, if what is said of him is true, though I lay no stress upon it, that he wrote the book of Wisdom in the Chaldee language 2727R. Azarias, imre Binah, c. 57. fol. 175. z. though not by inspiration. Moreover, since the Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, etc. are supposed to be dialects of the same language, why may not a word in one dialect less frequently, used in a book appear in it without determining the age of it? since one dialect may be as early or nearly as early as another, and can be no evidence of a book being of a later production than is generally thought, or of its being written when the purity of the Hebrew language began to decline, and after the dispersion of the Jews throughout the East, when it began to receive a taint of the other dialects, as this writer suggests; for what taint of the other dialects, as he calls it, did the Hebrew language receive in the captivity, and by the dispersion of the Jews? what appearance is there of Chaldaisms, Syriasms, etc. in the book of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, excepting the names of the months, books written after the captivity, more than in any books before, or even so much? are they not written in as pure Hebrew as any of those books, which may be thought to be written when that language was in its greatest purity? and if so, a few words in another dialect here and there in a book, is no rule to judge of a book by, and determine the age of it. Upon the whole, it is irresistibly clear, that the sacred and divine authority of this book remains firm and unshaken, notwithstanding the above objections made against it; nor is there any reason for persons to scruple it, much less to reject it from the canon of the scriptures, nor to question in the least the antiquity and authenticity of it. I proceed,
II.To consider the nature and subject of this book; it being a Song in which the bride and bridegroom, with their friends and companions, the daughters of Jerusalem, bear their several parts; and it being a divine song, is, no doubt, intended for the glorifying of Christ, the cheering and refreshing of his church, and also the edification of others; for it is the duty of saints to be teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord. I shall not enter into the consideration of the controversy, whether singing of the praises of God vocally, is an ordinance to be used under the New Testament, though I firmly believe it to be so; nay, that it is one of the most noble, and most glorious branches of religious worship, it being that which comes nearest to the employment of saints in a glorified state; and what requires a great deal of light, knowledge, experience, faith, and love to perform in a right way and manner; nor shall I need to observe those several cases of conscience concerning singing, which have a very good solution from this tong; such as these, namely, whether the distressed cases of God’s children may be sung, or they sing when in distressed circumstances: whether complaints of their sins, failings and infirmities, may be put into their songs: whether eases different from theirs, yea, such as they have not attained unto, may be sung; as also whether it is lawful to sing the praises of God in mixed assemblies; all which may be answered in the affirmative, and for which this song affords a sufficient foundation; the church here bringing net sorrows and distresses into this song as well as her comforts and privileges, chapter 1:6 and 3:1 and 5:7; nay, her sins and failings, chapter 1:5, 6 and 5:2, 3, 4. Very different cases are also here sung; yea, such, which, if taken in a strict sense, she had not fully attained to, as in chapter 8:12. Moreover, she sings in the presence of, and joins with the virgins, the daughters of Jerusalem, who seemed in a great measure to be ignorant of Christ, chapter 5:8, 9 and 6:8, 9, 10, all which are largely and judiciously insisted upon by the excellent Mr. Durham, in his Exposition of this place, to which I refer the reader: I proceed more particularly to consider the nature and subject of this song; which,
1st, Is not a celebration of the amours between Solomon, and Pharoah’s daughter, which has been the opinion of some, as has been already observed; for there are some things in it which are spoken of this bridegroom, which cannot be applied to Solomon, as that he was both a king and a shepherd, as in chapter 1:4 compared with 5:7 that he was his wife’s brother, and she his sister, chapter 5:2 and 8:1. Nor is it likely that Solomon would ever give such commendations of himself, as are mentioned in chapter 5:10, etc. There are also many things spoken of the bride, which by no means agree with Pharoah’s daughter, as that she was a keeper of the vineyards, chapter 1:6 and yet a prince’s daughter, chapter 7:1 that she should be represented as running about the streets in the night, unattended, chapter 3:2 and be exposed to the blows and contempt of the watchmen, chapter 5:7; besides, several of the descriptions here given of her, if taken in a literal sense, would rather make her appear to be a monster than a beauty, as chapter 4:1-5 and chapter 7:1-5 all which agree very well, when understood of Christ and his Church. Nor,
2dly, Is it typical, that is to say, this book does not express the amours and marriage of Solomon and Pharoah’s daughter, as typical of that inexpressible love and marriage-union between Christ and his church; it is true, there is some resemblance between natural and spiritual marriage, as is manifest from Ephesians 5:23, 24, 25, 29, 31, 32 nor is it altogether to be denied, that Solomon was a type of Christ, in some respects, in his marriage of that person; but that this book is an epithalamium, or nuptial song composed by him on that occasion, and that in such a manner, as at the same time also to be expressive of the love of Christ to his church, must be denied; for Solomon’s marriage with Pharoah’s daughter was at least twenty years before this book was wrote, as appears from chapter 7:4 where mention is made of the tower of Lebanon, by which seems to be meant, the house of the forests of Lebanon: or some tower near unto it; now he was seven years in building the temple, 1 Kings 6:38 and thirteen more in building his own house, 1 Kings 7:1 after which he built this, 5:2. From hence it may be reasonably concluded, that this book was not penned on any such occasion; for Solomon would never write a nuptial song twenty years after his marriage, which should have been sung the same night he was married. M. Bossuet2828Vide Lowth. de Sacr. Poes. Hob. Praelct. 30. p. 393, 394. & Not. Michael, in ibid. p. 156-159. has an ingenious conjecture, though it seems to be without a solid foundation, that whereas the nuptial feast with the Hebrews was kept seven days, this song is to be distributed into seven parts, a part to be sung on each day during the celebration. The first day, chapter 1:1 - 2:6, the second day, chapter 2:7-17, the third day, chapter 3:1 - 5:1, the fourth day, chapter 5:2 - 6:9, the fifth day, chapter 6:10 - 7:11, the sixth day, chapter 7:12. - 8:3, the seventh day, chapter 8:4-14. Nor,
3dly. Is this book prophetic, expressing the state of the church and kingdom of Christ in the several ages of the world, with regard to particular historical facts and events, which had befell or should befall it, either under the Old or New Testament-dispensation; this way indeed go most of the Jewish interpreters, as the Targum, R. Solomon Jarchi, and R. Aben Ezra; who have been followed by many Christian writers, though with more judgment and greater regard to the analogy of faith, as well as to the times of the New Testament: and who consider this book as describing the state of the church of God, whether the church under the legal dispensation, from the times of David and Solomon; and before, and in, and after the captivity to the birth and death of Christ; or the church under the gospel-dispensation,, in its beginning, progress, various changes, and consummation, as Brightman and Cotton. Others interpret this book as pointing to the several ages and periods of the Christian church, in agreement with the seven churches of Asia, as Cocceius, and those that follow him, Hor-chius, Hofman, and Hennischius; which last writer makes this distribution of them: 1. The church at Ephesus, Song of Solomon 1:5-17 from the ascension of Christ to heaven, A.C. 33 to 370. 2. The church at Smyrna, Song of Solomon 2:1-17 from A.C. 371 to 707. 3. The church at Pergamos, Song of Solomon 3:1-11 from A.C. 708 to 1045. 4. The church at Thyatira, Song of Solomon 4:1 to chapter 5:1 from A.C. 1046 to 1383. 5. The church at Sardis, Song of Solomon 5:2 to chapter 6:8 from A.C. 1384 to 1721. 6. The church at Philadelphia, Song of Solomon 6:9 to chapter 7:14 from A.C. 1722 to 2059. 7. The church at Laodicea, Song of Solomon 8:1-14 from A.C. 2060, and onwards. But hereby the book is made liable to arbitrary, groundless, and uncertain conjectures, as well as its usefulness for the instruction and consolation of believers, in a great measure, is laid aside; for then such and such parts of it, which regard the church and believers, in such an age or period of time, can only be applied to them that lived at that time, and not to others; whereas all, and every part of this song, the first as well as the last, is applicable to believers in alleges of the world, which is a manifest proof that it cannot be historical, or prophetical. But,
4thly, The whole is figurative and allegorical, abounding with a variety of lively metaphors, and allusions to natural things; and so may be illustrated by the various things of nature, from whence the metaphors are taken, and to which the allusions be, and by the language and behavior of natural lovers to each others and which are to be observed in love-poems, though here expressed more decently and beautifully. This divine poem sets forth in a most striking manner the mutual love, unions and communion, which are between Christ and his church; also expresses the several different frames, cases and circumstances which attend believers in this life; so that they can come into no state or condition, but here is something in this song suited to their experience: which serves much to recommend it to believers, and discovers the excellency of it. Which,
III.Comes next to be considered, it being called the Song of songs, for this reason, because it is the most excellent of songs; so the holy of holies is used for the most holy, and the King of kings and Lord of lords, for the greatest King and chiefest Lord. This song. is more excellent than all human songs; there is no comparison between them, either in the subject, stile, or manner of composition: it has the ascendant of all those thousand and five songs which Solomon himself made, of which we read 1 Kings 4:32 nay, is preferable to all scriptural songs; the subject of it being wholly and purposely the love of Christ to his church, its stile is lovely and majestic; the manner of its composition neat and beautiful; and the matter of it full and comprehensive, being suited to all believers, and their several cases: This song indeed contains all others in it, and has nothing wanting and deficient therein. The Jews say in their ancient book of Zohar2929In Exod fol, 59, col. 3. that “this song comprehends the whole law; the whole work of the creation; the secret of the fathers; the captivity of Egypt, and the coming out of Israel from thence; the song that was sung at the sea; the covenant of mount Sinai; the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness; their entrance into the land of Canaan; the building of the temple; the crown of the holy name; the captivity of Israel among the nations, and their redemption; the resurrection of the dead; and the sabbath of the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come.”
IV.The author or penman of this song is said to be Solomon; the Song of songs, which is Solomon’s, that is, which is of, or concerning Solomon,3030hmlçl de Solomone Cocceius so Midrash in loc. as the words may be rendered; and so respect the subject of this song, which is Christ, the true Solomon, of whom Solomon was an eminent type, as is at large shewn in several particulars, on chapter 3:7. Now it is he that this song treats of; the transcendent glories and excellencies of his person; his inexpressible love unto, care of, and concern for his church and people, together with the nearness of access unto and sweet communion and fellowship with himself, which he indulges them with, are here particularly expressed and set forth; so that it may well be called the Song of songs, which is concerning Solomon; though, perhaps, the words may regard Solomon as the author and penman of it, who was used by the Holy Ghost as his amanuensis therein, which was no small honor to him; his wisdom, riches, and grandeur, did not set him above an employment of this nature; nay, his, being concerned herein, was a greater honor to him than all the rest: and it may not be amiss to observe, that his royal title, as king of Israel, is here omitted, which yet is put at the beginning of both his other books, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; the reason may be, either because such a title, expressive of majesty, would not so well have suited a song of loves; or else it is purposely omitted, lest he should be thought to be the king, so frequently spoken of in this song; or rather because that the subject of this song is the King of kings; and therefore, whilst he is speaking of the things which he had made, touching the Mug, he lays aside his own royal title, veils his majesty, and casts his crown at the feet of Him, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice. The time of his writing this book does not appear very manifest; some think that he wrote it in his youthful days, the subject being love, and the manner of its writing being poetry, both which the youthful age mostly inclines to, and delights in; but it appears from what has been already said, that it was not wrote until twenty years after his marriage, when he could not be a very young man; and so might be written in the middle part of his life, when in the most flourishing circumstances as to body, mind, and estate. Dr Lightfoot 3131See his works, vol. 1. p. 76. is of opinion it might be written in the thirtieth year of his reign, about ten years before his death, after he had built his summerhouse in Lebanon, to which he supposes he alludes in chapter 4:3 and 7:4 and upon his bringing Pharaoh’s daughter to the house prepared for her, 1 Kings 9:24. The Jewish chronologer 3232In Seder Olam Rabba, c. 15. p. 41 to Shir Hashirim. fol. 3. 3. says, that the books of Proverbs, the Song of songs, and Ecclesiastes, were all written in his old age, as indeed the last seems to be; and perhaps he wrote this also a little before his death, after his fall and repentance, when he had had a larger discovery of the love of God unto his own soul, notwithstanding all his sins, failings, and infirmities; and so a proper person for the Holy Ghost to use in setting forth the greatness of Christ’s love to his people, and the several different states, conditions, cases and circumstances, which they are, at one time or another, brought into in this life, of which he had had a very great experience. But from the title, I shall now proceed to the consideration of the book itself; which thus begins,
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