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Chapter 1 Verse 13
bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me;
he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
church in these words continues the account of that comfort, delight and satisfaction which she had in Christ, expressing the greatest love and strongest affection for him: and therefore she compares him to the very best herbs and spices, and declares that if her spikenard, or the graces of the spirit in her sent forth an agreeable smell to him, whilst he was at his table, much more grateful and odorous was he, being as “a bundle of myrrh” unto her,
I.Here is a title or character which she gives him; “my well beloved.”
II.What Christ is unto her; “a bundle of myrrh.”
III.The entertainment she is resolved to give him; “he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts,”
I.Here is a title or character which she gives unto him, “my well beloved.” Ainsworth observes, that the Hebrew word Dodi, which is thus translated, is written with the same letters as David is, a name which is frequently given to Christ in the Old Testament (see Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23, 24; Hosea 3:5). David was a type of Christ, and of him, according to the flesh, he came; for he is “the root and offspring of David;” as he is God, he is David’s Lord; and as he is man, David’s son; both words, Dodi and David, signify beloved, and both David and Christ are beloved of God. “David was a man after God’s own heart,” and Christ his “beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased,” and both of them beloved of God’s people. The Septuagint render it by a word which signifies a nephew,129129Adelfido>v nepos ex fratre vel sorore. a brother or sister’s son, Christ is near akin to his church, he is partaker of the same flesh and blood as they are, is of the same nature with them; they are “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones;” the Hebrew word Goel, which is frequently rendered a Redeemer, signifies also a near kinsman; and being applied to Christ; as it is in Job 19:25, shews, that he, who is our Redeemer, is also our near kinsman: but the word is very well rendered here, “my beloved, or well beloved,” and is expressive, 1st, Of Christ’s love to the church; he is her “well beloved,” and has shewn his love by undertaking her cause, espousing her person, assuming her nature, and dying in her room and stead; which love of his is eternal, free, sovereign, unchangeable and unparalleled, and is the strongest motive to, and has the greatest influence upon her love to him; therefore she may well call him her “well beloved.” 2dly, It is expressive of her love to Christ, which springs and arises from the manifestations of his love to her, for “we love him, because he first loved us;” which love was now in exercise in her soul, he being present with her; and therefore she gives him this affectionate title as an evidence of it. 3dly, It shews that she had a sense of her interest in him, and his love; a greater blessing a soul cannot be possessed of, than an interest in Christ and his love, whose person is “the chiefest among ten thousand, and whose loving-kindness is better than life,” and all the comforts and blessings of it; and next to this is a knowledge and sense of it; a soul may have an interest in Christ, and yet not have the sense of it; the former renders this state safe and secure, the latter makes his life comfortable and pleasant, and is an additional blessing and favor; for a person is then able to say, he “hath loved me, and hath given himself for me.”
II.She declares that Christ her “well beloved, was a bundle of myrrh unto her.” By “a bundle of myrrh,” we are not, I think, to understand the twigs or branches of the myrrh-tree bound up in faggots, which the Arabians used to make fires with, the fumes whereof were very noxious and pernicious, as the historian130130Selin. polyhist. c. 46. tells us, and unless they burnt the gum, called storax, would produce incurable diseases; but either the little sprigs or flowers thereof bound up together, and put in the bosom as a pleasant nosegay to smell to, may be meant; for Christ is exceeding sweet and delightful to the believer, being “the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the vallies:” or else the gum stacte, which springs from the myrrh-tree, and so the Septuagint read it, “a bundle of stacte;” or liquid myrrh, which sweats from the tree of its own accord, without incision, and is accounted the best: and then by a bundle of it is meant a bag,131131rwdx folliculus, Cocceius; sacculum, Marckius; fasciculus vel sacculus, Michaelis. or bottle of it, the same word which is used is translated a bag, in Haggai 1:6; Job 14:17, and is an allusion to persons who carry bags of perfumes, and sweet powders, or smelling-bottles in their bosoms, for the reviving of their spirits; now what these are to such persons, that and much more is Christ to his church. R.. David Kinchi132132In lib. Shorash, rad. rwm relates out of Midrash Chazith, that Abraham, the father of the faithful, is there compared to myrrh; but Christ, who was the object of Abraham’s faith and joy, may be much better and more aptly compared thereunto133133So the cabalistic Doctors interpret it of Tiphereth, the bridegroom, Lexic. Cabal. p. 669. which I shall now consider. And,
1st, Christ may be compared to myrrh, if we regard the nature and properties of it; it being, 1. An excellent spice, and one of the most precious and principal spices; it is reckoned among the chief spices, chapter 4:14, and as such Moses is ordered to use it in the anointing oil (Ex. 30:23). Christ is “the chiefest among ten thousands,” and exceeding precious to every believer, in his person, office and grace; there is none among the angels in heaven, or saints on earth, so desirable to them as he is; nor none who deserves to have the preeminence in, and over all things, as he does; seeing he is “the image of the invisible God, and the first-born of every creature.” 2. It is very odorous, it is called “sweet-smelling myrrh,” chapter 5:5, and the church is said to be perfumed with it, chapter 3:6. Christ, in his person, sacrifice, and righteousness, is of a sweet-smelling savor, both to God and believers, as has been shewn on verse 12. Believers smell a sweet smell in all his offices, characters and relations; he is in all these as a bundle of myrrh, exceeding delightful to them. 3. Yet it is somewhat bitter in taste, it is gustu leniter amara, as Pliny134134Lib. 12. c. 16. observes; which may be expressive, (1.) Of the sufferings of Christ; which, though they were grateful, and of a sweet-smelling savor to God, for it pleased the Lord to bruise him; here was not only voluntas Dei, the will of God, but here was also voluptas Dei, the pleasure of God; yet they were bitter to Christ, witness his agonies in the garden, his sorrows on the cross, and the spirtings, buffettings, scourgings, and revilings of his enemies; his head being crowned with thorns, and his hands and feet pierced with nails; being forsaken by his God, and by his friends, could not be grateful and pleasant to him: but though these were so bitter to Christ, yet, like myrrh, how sweet and odorous is a crucified Christ to believers! They desire to know none but Christ, and him crucified; the bitter cup, which he drank, is the ground of their joy and triumph; his death and sufferings are the foundation of their comfort, and which only can secure them against the fears of hell and wrath; it is this which embitters sin unto them; sin never appears more odious than in the glass of Christ’s sufferings; and they never mourn for it in a better or truer sense, than when they “look upon him whom they have pierced;” repentance is a tear that drops from faith’s eye, and is never more evangelic than when faith views a sin-bearing and sin-atoning Savior; now from the sufferings of Christ, or from a crucified Christ, distil and drop down the sweet-smelling myrrh of spiritual blessings, as justification, sanctification, adoption, pardon of sin, peace, reconciliation, and a right to eternal glory; all which come to us through the blood, sufferings, and death of a crucified Jesus. (2) The myrrh, being bitter in taste, though sweet in smell, may shew, that the cross goes along with Christ; for as Luther says, Christianus estcrucianus, a Christian is a cross-bearer; it is required of every one that will follow Christ, that he take up the cross; for he that would wear the crown, must bear the cross; and he who would have the sweet, must have the bitter; indeed, the Christian generally has his share of afflictions, crosses and trials in this life. The passover-lamb was eaten with bitter herbs, to shew, that he that “will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution;” yet so sweet is Christ, this bundle of myrrh, to believers, and communion with him, under all afflictions, so delightful, that they would not be without him, though they might be freed from them; this tree of life sweetens these bitter waters of Marah; they have peace in him, when in the world they have tribulation: they are contented with, and rejoice in their portion, and are willing to have the bitter, so they may have but the sweet; for these bitter afflictions and tribulations which they endure for Christ’s sake, distil and drop down some precious gums of faith, patience, experience, and hope (see Rom. 5:3, 4, 5).
2dly, Christ may be compared to myrrh, for the use that has been made of it. 1. It being very valuable, and highly esteemed of, was used in gifts and presents to great persons; thus we find it in the present that Jacob made to his son unknown, then governor of Egypt (Gen. 43:11), and it was part of that which the wise men of the East brought to Christ at his incarnation (Matthew 2:11). Christ is the great gift of God’s grace to sinners, and an unspeakable one he is, which does not go alone, for “with him he freely gives all things:” When God gave Christ, he gave a manifest proof of his greatness and goodness; he gave like himself, and what was statable to us sinners; a favor which we neither deserved, desired, nor expected. O boundless grace! amazing love! 2. It was used, and was a principal ingredient in the anointing oil (see Ex. 30:23); and may signify that “oil of gladness which Christ is anointed with above his fellows,” which being poured upon his head, in its fullness, ran down to all his members, like the oil on Aaron’s head, which ran clown to the skirts of his garments; for it is from him that we receive that “anointing which teacheth all things.” 3. The stacte, which is the gum that drops from the myrrh-tree, was used in the sweet incense (see Ex. 30:34); and may represent the intercession of Christ, who stands at the golden altar, with a golden censor in his hand, to offer up the prayers of all his people, which he perfumes with his much incense; which is exceeding grateful and odorous, like sweet-smelling myrrh unto the saints. 4. It was used to render persons comely and acceptable in the eyes of others; thus Esther, and the rest of the maidens, were purified with oil of myrrh, for their admission into the presence of king Ahasuerus (Esther 2:12), it is in Christ the beloved, that saints only are accepted with God, being clothed with those garments of his, which “smell of myrrh, alloes and cassia:” Thus they have liberty of access into God’s presence now, and shall have a ready admittance into his kingdom and glory hereafter. 5. It was used in the embalming of dead bodies, being useful to keep them from putrefaction and corruption; for this purpose Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to preserve the body of Jesus, John 19:39, 40, an interest in Christ, this “bundle of myrrh,” and an application of him to our souls, will secure us from going down into the “pit of corruption,” and will eternally save us from perishing; nothing safer and better them to have this in our bosoms, without which sinners, “dead in trespasses and sins,” will rot and putrefy. 6. It is very useful in healing135135Fernel. method, med. 1. 6. c. 14, 15. wounds and ulcers. Christ is the great physician that heals all the diseases of his people, freely, perfectly, and infallibly, which he does in an uncommon and unusual way; he performs his cures by his blood and stripes; his blood is a panacea, a sovereign medicine for all diseases, and “by his stripes we are healed,” (Isa. 53:5).
3dly, Christ may be compared to “a bundle of myrrh.” 1. To denote the abundance of the spiritual odors of divine grace in him, he is “full of grace and truth,” as a man and mediator; “for it hath pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell in him;” which is communicated to believers, as they stand in need of it; who sometimes receive such large measures of it, that they can say, “the grace of our Lord is exceeding abundant” in them; Christ is “a bundle of myrrh” unto them; they have large views of his love, and sweet communications of his grace. 2. To shew the security of this grace in Christ; our life is sure in Christ’s hands, being bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord our God, “with all the mercies and blessings of it, both for time and eternity; therefore they are called “the sure mercies, of David, being hid with Christ in God, so that they can never be taken away from us. 3. To shew the inseparableness of Christ and his grace; Christ and the blessings of his grace never go separate; where God gives his Son, he gives all things with him; and where a soul enjoys Christ, he possesses all things; peace, pardon, righteousness, and life are all in Christ; and the believer is blessed with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places in him.
Now Christ is not so to all persons, only to them that “believe he is precious,” and to none but them; Christ is a “bundle of myrrh” to none but his church; “my beloved, is unto me, etc.; which shews not only the strength of her affection to Christ, the value that she had for him, and the delight she took in him; but also a particular application of him by faith, to her own soul; which is also expressed in the following verse, “my beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire, etc.”
III.In these words we have also the entertainment which she resolves to give him; “he shall lie all night betwixt my” breasts:”. Wherein is to be considered, 1st, The place she appoints him, “betwixt her breasts.” 2dly, How long we would have him lie there, “all night.”, And, 3dly, For what ends and purposes.
1st, The place allotted Christ by the church is, “betwixt her breasts.” R. Aben Ezra understands by them the two cherubim., or the midst of the camp of Israel; R. Solomon Jarchi, the two bars of the ark;136136Vide Yalcut in loc. but it would be much better to understand them either of the two Testaments, the Old and New, which are both full of Christ, where he is to be found, and does abide; or else of the two ordinances of the gospel, baptism and the Lord’s supper, which may be called the church’s “breasts of consolation;” see chapter 4:5; in these ordinances Christ shews himself, and grants his presence to his people: or rather by Christ’s lying “betwixt her breasts,” is meant his dwelling in her heart by faith, than which nothing, is more desirable to the saints; they have no better room than their own hearts, and therefore are desirous that he would lodge there; as Christ lays them in his bosom to testify his love to them, so they would have him dwell in their hearts to testify their love to him; and a wonderful condescension it is in Christ, who is “the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity,” to take up with such a residence as this. So R. Alshech explains the phrase “betwixt her breasts,” of being “in her heart.”
2dly, The time she mentions, is all night; by which may be meant the night of affliction, temptation, etc, it being in Christ alone that she could meet with any relief or comfort, under such dispensations; or else it means that she would have him with her, not as a stranger, sojourner, or guest for a short time, but would have him dwell in her heart, lie in her bosom, and grant her intimate communion with. himself, all the night of this life, until the everlasting day of glory breaks: communion with Christ here is frequently interrupted, which the church had a long experience of, to her grief and sorrow: and therefore she desires to enjoy it without interruption.
3dly, The ends and purposes for which she was desirous that he should lie all night betwixt her breasts, were, 1. For ornament; sweet flowers in the bosom are ornamental and are placed there often for that purpose. Christ “the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys,” being carried in the hand of faith, or in the bosom of love, exceedingly adorns the believer. 2. For delight, pleasure, and refreshment; nosegays are carried in the bosom, to delight the eye and refresh the spirits. Nothing more delightful to the eye of faith than Christ; and nothing more savory and of a sweeter smell to a believer, than his person, blood, and righteousness; the most delightful and sweet-smelling flowers fail short of expressing Christ’s beauty and savor. 3. That she might always have him in her eye, mind, and memory; persons out of sight are too apt to be forgotten, even our dearest friends and best enjoyments: The church had, no doubt, some experience of this, and therefore to remedy it, she would have Christ, this bundle of myrrh, always in her bosom, and in her sight, to contemplate upon and wonder at; as the Psalmist did, who says (Ps. 16:8), “I have set the Lord always before me.” 4. That she might keep him safe; thus persons often put things into their bosoms; which they would not lose; she had often lost a sight of Christ, and been without an enjoyment of his presence, which had given her a great deal of uneasiness; and for the future was therefore resolved to be more careful in keeping him, and for that reason would have him lie in her bosom. 5. To shew her singular value for Christ, and her invaluable chastity to him; she sets him in the highest places and gives him the best entertainment; she gives him admittance where she would allow none else; he, and none but he, “shall lie all night between nay breasts;” these were inaccessible to any but to Christ.
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