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Chapter 2 Verse 3
the apple-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.
having commended the church in the former verse, and declared that she was as preferable to all others, as the lily was to the thorns; she in this verse returns the commendation to him, and asserts that he as much excelled all the sons, as the fruitful apple-tree did the wild and barren trees of the wood;244244Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi, Virgil. Bucolic. eclog, 1. v. 26. Lenta salix, etc. eclog. 5. 5:16t and at the same time gives an account of that sweet experience she had of his excellency, preciousness, and usefulness to her. Now in the words may be observed,
I.A comparison which she makes of him to an apple-tree; in which she sets forth his excellency and preferableness to all others.
II.She instances in two particular things; in which, by good experience, she found him to be so to her own soul. First, The shadow of this apple-tree was delightful to her; “I sat down under his shadow with great delight.” Secondly, The fruit thereof was exceeding sweet to her; “his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
I.She compares him to an apple-tree, and that no doubt of the best sort. The Targum renders it, a pome-citron, or citron-apple, tree: which, 1. Is a very large tree;245245Solin. Polyhist. c 59. and so may be fitly used to express the greatness and excellency of Christ, who is possessed of all divine perfections, and is “over all, God blessed for ever.” He is a Savior, and a great One; who has, as an instance of his great love, condescension and power, wrought out a great salvation for great sinners. He is an high priest, and he is a great one, both in the glory of his person, and in the virtue and efficacy of his sacrifice and intercession. He is the king of saints, and as such is higher than the kings of the earth: He is equal with God, therefore greater than angels, and more excellent than all the sons of men. 2. It is a very fruitful tree; it is sometimes so full of fruit, that it is even pressed down with the weight thereof246246Ibid. and is, as Pliny says247247lib. 12. c. 3. omnibus boris pomifera, “always hearing fruit:” it has at one and the same time flowers, ripe and unripe fruit; whilst some are putting forth, others are dropping off; so Christ abounds with the fruits of divine grace; he is not the barren fig-tree, but the green fir-tree, from whom our fruit is found, and that at all times; for he is that “tree of life which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations,” (Rev. 22:2). Here may believers come at all times, and pluck and eat; for here is not any deficiency of fruit, it is always growing, always plucking, and yet never lessened. 3. The fruit of this tree248248Solin & Pliny in locis citatis. is of a bitter taste, but of an exceeding sweet smell, as are also the leaves; which being put among garments, not only give them a delightful odor, but also drive away noxious creatures from them; for the same reason is Christ compared to myrrh in chapter 1:13; for tho’ his sacrifice, death and sufferings, are sweet and savory, both to his Father and to his people, yet they were bitter unto him, who not only tasted of, but drank up the whole cup of his Father’s wrath: and though the blessings which spring from hence are of a sweet smell, exceeding grateful and delightful to believers, yet are they enjoyed in this life with a variety of crosses, afflictions, and: tribulations; this passover-lamb is eaten with bitter herbs. 4. It is an excellent remedy against poison.249249Solin. & Pliny 1: ibid. & Fernel. method, med. 1. 5. c. 21 Sin is that poison of asps which has infected all human nature, and spread itself over all the powers and faculties of the souls of men, as well as over all the members of their bodies: now Christ is the sovereign antidote against it; this fruit of the citron-apple-tree is the most pro, per remedy for it; his righteousness justifies, his blood cleanses, and his grace will eternally clear his people from their sins. 5. It is very good for shortness of breath, and to remove a stinking one;250250Pliny 1. 11. c. 53, &1. 12. c. 3. Athen. Deipnosophist. 1. 3. c. 7. P. 83. hence the Parthian nobles used to boil the kernels of it in their food for that purpose: it is the presence of Christ, and communion with him, that only can cure our panting souls when we are wearied, and almost out of breath in seeking him; and it is the sweet incense of his mediation that perfumes our prayers, which are the breath of our souls, and which otherwise would be so far from being grateful to God, that it would be strange unto him. And thus may Christ be compared to a citron-apple-tree; though perhaps the common apple-tree is here intended, which the Talmud251251T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 88. 1. interprets of the Israelites, but R. Aben Ezra understands it of the Shekinah, as do the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi of the holy and blessed God, and Lord of the world; as also does R. Chaya, in the book Zohar:252252In Leviticus fol. 3p. 4. who says, that the congregation of Israel set forth the praises of the holy and blessed God by an apple, because of its colors, smell and taste; so the Cabalistic doctors interpret it of tiphereth, or the bridegroom, because of the same.253253Lexic. Cabal. p. 138. Christ is this Shekinah, the holy and blessed God, and Lord of the world, who may be compared to an apple-tree, (1.) Because it is a very fruitful tree. There are various sorts of fruit which it bears; Christ is full of fruit; he is Joseph’s antitype, who is called “a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the mall:” all the fruits of righteousness grow on him, every grace is in him; he is that “tree of life which bears twelve manner of fruits;” there are justifying and pardoning grace, sanctifying and adopting grace in him; all that a believer can want here, and all that can make him happy hereafter: and as fruitful boughs bend downwards, being laden with fruit, and may be easily reached, so Christ, being full of grace and truth, gives to sinners the utmost liberty of access to him for grace from him; for though as God, he is “the high and lofty one,” yet as man and mediator, he is meek and lowly, and condescends to take notice of, and admits into familiarity, poor, mean, and abject creatures; he gives them a gracious allowance to approach near unto him; that apple-tree, whose fruitful boughs of divine grace hang so low, that the hand of faith may easily reach them, where the poor sinner is heartily welcome to pluck and eat at pleasure. (2.) It is of a very beautiful aspect when laden with fruit, and especially as growing among the trees of the forest. Some have thought that the fruit of this tree is what was forbidden our first parents; which being so “pleasant to the eyes,” was a temptation to the woman to eat thereof; therefore is in Latin called malum, evil, because sin entered into the world hereby: though others think it was another sort of fruit. The Jewish writers differ much about it; some say it was the fig-tree, so R. Sol. Jarchi, and some others in R. Aben Ezra on Genesis 3:6 which they gather from Adam and Eve’s immediate sewing of fig-leaves together, as soon as they had sinned, to cover themselves with: others, that it was the pome-citron, or citron-apple tree, so Baal Hatturim in Genesis 1:29 but the same author on Numbers 5:3, seems to intimate as if it was the grape, the fruit of the vine; which is also the opinion of the Jews in Zohar254254In Exodus fol. 59. 5:& in Numbers fol. 53 3. who think that it is particularly the black grape: though others have thought it to be the apple, as the author of the old Nizzachon255255P. 147. apud agensad. Tela Ignea..384 which was either his own and the opinion of some other Jews, or else he took it from the common notion of Christians. But whether it was the apple-tree or no, which was so pleasant and desirable to the eyes of the woman, yet it is certain that this is very pleasant and delightful to the sight, when laden with fruit. Christ as mediator is a beautiful sight to believers, as he stands in all his endearing characters and relations; as he may be viewed undertaking their cause, assuming their nature, suffering, bleeding, and dying in their stead, rising again for their justification, ascending into heavens and entering there with their names and persons upon his hearts and there ever living to make intercession for them: Christ, as possessed of all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, being the surety, mediator, and messenger of it., is exceeding delightful to the eye of faith; “his glory is as the glory of the only begotten of the Fathers” when he appears to souls full of grace and truth. (3.) The fruit which grows upon the apple-tree, as it is of various sorts, and of a beautiful aspect to the eye, so it is of a cooling and comforting nature. Christ has cooled, turned away, and appeased the fierceness of his father’s fiery wrath, by his death and blood; and does by his mighty grace sweetly cool and refresh the heart of a poor sinner, inflamed by a fiery law, and commands serenity and peace in its conscience, filled with wrath and terror; and when his people are ready to faint and sink, he comforts them with his apples, the sweet discoveries of his love and grace, of which the church having had some experience, and desiring some renewed instances thereof, says, in verse 5 “comfort me with apples;” where I shall more largely take notice of this, as well as of their pleasant and delightful smell. (4.) The apple-tree has been accounted an hieroglyphic of love;256256The apple was sacred to love, Scholiast. in Aristoph. Nubes, p. 180. the statue of Venus had an apple in one hand, and a poppy in the other, Pausan, Corinth. sive 1. 2. p. 103. under it lovers used to meet, with the fruit thereof they entertained each other, under its delightful shade they sat; to which perhaps an allusion is not only made in this verse, but also in chapter 8:5. “I raised thee up under the apple-tree.” Christ and his church are throughout this song introduced as lovers, and the subject of their whole conversation is love: He who if the apple-tree is the church’s beloved, whom she loves and prefers before all others; it is his love her soul is ravished with; his fruit she feeds upon; his shade that she with so much content and pleasure sits under, where she is delighted with his love and grace, and sensibly feels her soul all enamored with him, Some other things might have been taken notice of, particularly the fruit and shadow of this tree, which are both mentioned in the text; but these will be considered under another head.
Now Christ, whom the church here compares to an apple-tree, is by her preferred to all others; and she signifies, that as much as the apple-tree excels the wild and unfruitful trees of the wood, so much does Christ excel all the sons: by whom may be meant either the angels, so the Targum, who are by creation the sons of God; but not in so high and eminent a sense as Christ is: he has a more excellent name and nature than they; as God, he is their Lord and Creator, and the object of their highest worship and adoration; and as Mediator, they are obliged unto him, being upheld and secured by his grace in that state wherein they are; and though in his human nature he was made a little lower than they, yet now an the very same nature he is exalted above them; for “to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit at my right-hand.” Or else by them may be meant the saints, who are the sons of God by adopting grace: Christ, the eternal son of God has the preeminence in, and over these; he is their Creator and Redeemer, their lord and king, their head and husband, their everlasting father and glorious mediator, to whom they are infinitely obliged for all the needful supplies of grace here, and for all the glory they expect here after. Or else by them may be meant the men of the world, the sons of Adam; and these Christ infinitely excels, as much as the apple-tree does the trees of the wood; for he is “fairer than the children of men;” there is none like him in all the armies of heaven, nor any to be compared with him among all the inhabitants of the earth; if both worlds were to be searched with the utmost scrutiny, not one single individual person could be found comparable to him: and perhaps, particularly by these may be meant the great princes and monarchs of the world, who are sometimes in scripture compared to large and lofty trees (see Ezek. 31:3, 5, 6, 8; Dan. 4:20-22). But Christ is far preferable to these in beauty, glory and majesty; he is “higher than the kings of the earth, they receive their crowns and kingdoms from him;” they are at his command, and under his dominion; he sets them up, and puts them down at pleasure; these must all submit to his awful judgment, even as the poorest peasant; and will be equally as fearful of “the great day of his wrath,” which when come, they will call to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the face of this omnipotent Judge. Moreover, with respect to the saints, the fruits of Christ’s grace are to them far preferable to the kingdoms, crowns, and scepters of the greatest monarchs, nay, reproach, for Christ’s sake, is more highly esteemed of by them, and accounted greater riches than all the treasures of this world. Though it seems as well to be understood in general of all wicked, Christless, and unconverted sinners, who are like to the trees of the wood, wild, barren, and unfruitful; and what fruit they do bring forth, is sour, wild, and unprofitable; and though like the trees of the wood, they may run up a great height, yet they shall be cut down and thrown into everlasting burnings: for, “the ax is laid to the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire,” (Matthew 3:10). Thus the church, by this comparison, sets forth the excellency and preferableness of Christ to all others. But,
II.She instances in two excellent properties of this apple-tree, of which she had had some comfortable experience. First, The shade of it was delightful to her; “I sat down under his shadow with great delight.” Secondly, The fruit of it was sweet unto her; “his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
First, The shade of this apple-tree was very delightful to her; “I sat down under his shadow with great delight:” in which may be inquired, 1st, What is meant by the shadow under which she sat. 2dly, What her sitting there intends or supposes. 3dly, What she desired to sit there for. 4thly, From whence that pleasure and delight arose, which she was filled with.
1st, It will be proper to inquire what is meant by the shadow of Christ, under which she sat. Some257257Ambrose in Psalm 118 octou. 5. col. 928. have thought that the ceremonial law, with its festivals, is here intended, which was a shadow of good things to come, of which Christ was the sum and substance; under this shadow the Old Testament saints sat during the legal dispensation:, where their souls were much delighted and sweetly refreshed by viewing Christ, represented in the types and sacrifices of that law. The Targum understands it of the shadow of God’s Shekinah, or divine majesty, under which the congregation of Israel desired to sit, when God gave the law on mount Sinai: but that dispensation was not so desirable; the law which was then given, was a fiery one; and the words which were then spoke were such, that they that heard them, intreated that they should not be spoken to them any more: therefore it may be better understood of the gospel and the ordinances of it, than either of the moral or ceremonial law; under this refreshing shadow saints delight to sit; here they enjoy sweet communion and fellowship with Christ; the sound of the gospel is joyful to them; the truths and doctrines of it are nourishing; the ordinances of it are comfortable and delightful; these tabernacles are amiable and lovely; and all wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness; and therefore it is no wonder that souls desire to sit under this shadow, and when they do, it is with delight.
Moreover, some258258Sanct. in loc. and so R. Simeon Ben Jochai seems to understand it in Exodus vol. 43. 1. think that an allusion is here made to the nuptial ceremony of spreading the skirt; used by the Jews at the time of marriage; of which, see Ruth 3:9 and to which an allusion is made in Ezekiel 16:8 or to that veil; which being borne up with four rods or staves, was carried over the heads of the new-married couple, at the time that the bridegroom brought home the bride into his own house, where the whole solemnity was finished; this nuptial ceremony perhaps may give the best light to Luke 1:35 “the Holy” Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee:” so that this phrase of sitting under Christ’s shadow, may be expressive of the church’s being married to Christ, and of that delightful communion which she enjoys with him as her husband, when brought home to his own house; of which we have an account an the next verse, where she is entertained after a noble manner; and has as much of his love manifested to her, as she is capable of bearing, nay so much, that she is overcome with it. But! rather think that the metaphor is continued from the former part of the verse; and that the allusion is made to the shadow of an apple-tree, such an one as Christ was; whose shadow arises from his person, blood and righteousness; which shadow is, 1. A protecting one from heat; such as Jonah’s gourd was to him, or as the pillar of cloud was to the Israelites in the wilderness, or as a great rock to a weary traveler in a hot country. Christ and his righteousness are a shadow, which protect souls from the heat of his Father’s wrath; he, by making atonement for sin, and satisfaction to divine justice, hath delivered his own people from the wrath to come, and will eternally screen them from it; for though showers of divine. wrath will fall on Christless sinners, yet those that are under this shadow of Christ’s righteousness, shall not have one drop of it fall on them; for being justified by his blood, they shall be saved from wrath through him; also it is this, laid hold on by faith, which screens from the curses of a fiery law, and from the heat of that wrath which it sometimes works in the conscience; which is only rightly removed by the sprinklings of that blood which speaks peace and pardon, and by the application of that righteousness which justifies from all sin, and produces a peace which passeth all understanding: likewise Christ is the shadow which protects and shelters from the fiery darts of Satan; he is as a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones, those fiends of hell, is as a storm against the wall; his blood and righteousness keep off Satan’s fiery darts, preserve from his suggestions, and protect from the violence of his temptations; and the soul is still more secured by the prevalent mediation, and intercession of Christ in heaven, which is founded upon his blood and righteousness; so that what faith makes use of on earth to oppose to Satan’s temptations, Christ does in heaven to secure his people from his false charges and accusations: to this might also be added, that he is the shadow which protects from the heat of persecution, under which he causes his flock to rest at noon; when this sun smites them with the greatest violence, he is then their shade on their right hand, so that the sun shall not smite them by day; and this is their comfort and support under all their fiery trials, that they have such a shadow to have recourse to. 2. It is also a refreshing one; for if it is a shadow from the heat of God’s wrath, the terrors of the law, the temptations of Satan, and the persecutions of the world, it must needs be so; what can be more refreshing to a weary traveler, that is almost scorched, and ready to faint with heat, than a cooling and delightful shade? So refreshing is Christ to poor sinners, who is as “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land;” nay, is a large spreading apple-tree, that at once furnishes them with an agreeable shelter and suitable provisions. 3. It is a fructifying one; the shadows of some trees, as Pliny259259Lib. 17. c. 12. Juniperi gravis umbra, nocent et frugibus umbrae. Virgil. Bucol. eclog 10; in fine. informs us, are very hurtful and noxious to some plants that grow under them, and others are very nourishing and fructifying: Christ’s shadow is such an one; for “they that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon,” Hosea 14:8 and indeed all the fruitfulness of those who are the Lord’s planting comes from Christ; for, unless they abide in and under him, they can bring forth no fruit. The shadows of some trees are injurious to men that lie under them;260260Arboribus certis gravis umbra tributa est, Lucret. 1. 6. 5:783. not so Christ’s shadow; but there are others261261—Ubi mollis amaracus illum floribus et dulci aspirans complectitur umbre, Virg. AEneid. 1. 1. prope finem. Opportuna sua blanditur populas umbra, Ovid. Metam. 1. 10. very delightful and wholesome, to which he may be compared.
2dly, It may also be inquired what her sitting under this shadow is expressive of, or does suppose. And, 1. It shews the sense she had of herself, and present condition, and the need she stood in of Christ as a shadow; she was not only scorched with the sun of persecution, with afflictions, temptations, etc. but she was likewise sensible thereof, and therefore betook herself to a proper shade. 2. It manifestly appears from her sitting under this shadow, that she looked upon Christ to be a suitable one for her in such cases; and that as the idolaters in Hosea 4:13. sacrificed on mountains, and burnt incense under oaks, poplars and elms, “because the shadow thereof was good;” so the church here sat under this shadow of Christ’s, because she looked upon it to be a good one, and preferable to all others. 3. It is expressive of her faith and confidence in Christ: the vain confidence of the Israelites in an arm of flesh, is called their “trust in the shadow of Egypt,” Isaiah 30:2, 3. and the holy confidence and faith of God’s children in him, is frequently called a “trusting in the shadow of his wings;” (see Ps. 36:7, 57:1) which seems to be the same with sitting under it here: the church did not sit idle under Christ, but her faith was in exercise upon him; and she was rejoicing alone in him, having “no confidence in the flesh.” 4. It seems to intimate that security, peace, quietness, and satisfaction of soul, she enjoyed; here she sat as under her own vine and fig-tree, and none to make her afraid; where, being safe and secure from all her enemies, she solaced herself under this delightful shade, enjoying much peace of conscience, and satisfaction of mind; for she did not sit here with any manner of uneasiness, but with the utmost delight and pleasure. 5. It denotes her continuance here; faith takes up its dwelling in Christ; it will not move from hence, and is desirous of always enjoying sensible communion with him; “he that dwelleth in the secret of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” (Ps. 91:1). But,
3dly, What was it she desired to sit here for? For thus may the words be rendered, “I desired, and I sat down”;262262ytbçyw ytdmj concupivi et fedi, Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Marckius. that is, I desired to sit down, and I did sit down, I had what I wished for; and what was that? no doubt, protection from heat, rest and refreshment for her weary and fainting soul; that she might be comforted with those apples which grew on this tree, and be revived by tasting of and feeding upon the sweet fruit thereof, as well as be comforted with its delightful shade.
4thly, She sat here with delight; and indeed it could not be otherwise when its shade was so agreeable, and the fruit so sweet: this pleasure and delight of hers arose from the enjoyment of Christ’s presence, “in whose presence is fullness of joy, and at whose tight-hand are pleasures for evermore;” from the discoveries of his love to her soul, which is better than life, and all the comforts of it; and were had in the exercise of faith upon him, in the actings of which grace the soul is filled with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Secondly, The fruit of this apple-tree was sweet unto her taste: by this fruit are either meant the fruit of his doings, what his hands have wrought out, and his blood has procured for sinners, even all the blessings of grace, such as peace and reconciliation, justification, sanctification, pardon of sin, adoption, nearness of access to God, etc. or else, the fruit of his lips; such as his word and gospel, preached by himself, which is sweet to a believer’s taste, and is preferred to his necessary food; his promises, which are exceeding great and precious, and are highly valued by believers, for his mouth is most sweet, from whence they proceed; and his ordinances and corn, mands, in which they enjoy sweet communion with him, and have the discoveries of his love to their souls; and therefore “are more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than the honey or the honey-comb.”
These are called his fruits; they are his in a covenant-way; all the blessings of grace, which make up the everlasting covenant, are in Christ’s hands, and at his dispose, being placed there for that purpose by God the Father; and they are also his, being procured by him; for though they are all the gifts of free grace, yet are they all obtained by Christ, and come to us through his blood: likewise they may be said to be his, because in his possession; every grace in its fullness is in him, he is full of grace and truth, and is communicated to us from him, for from him all our fruit is found; remission of sin, justifying righteousness, adopting grace, etc. come to us through and by him; and we are indulged with the gospel-promises and ordinances, as instances of his grace to us.
Now these are all sweet to the taste of a believer, though not to a natural man who hath a vitiated taste, and calls evil good, and good evil; puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter; he savors the things of the flesh; sin is his food, from whence he receives an imaginary pleasure; and therefore disrelishes all spiritual things, looks upon them as poor and insipid, and finds no more taste in them than in the white of an egg; which arises from the predominancy of sin, that hinders from tasting any sweetness in divine things, and will do so whilst their taste remains in them; and their scent is not changed: but as for a spiritual man he savors the things of the Spirit, and disrelishes others; sin is rendered odious, bitter, and unpleasant to him; it is in some measure expelled, so that he can taste that the Lord is gracious; and therefore every thing he says or does is sweet unto him; for as his taste can discern perverse things, so it can relish spiritual ones; such as the fruit before-mentioned is, which grows upon and drops from the apple-tree, Christ Jesus: this delightful shade and excellent fruit, which believers find in Christ, render him very acceptable to them, and preferable to all others. Now when souls at any time have some experience of Christ’s love and grace, in such a way and manner, it is very proper to speak of it, for the glory of Christ, and the encouragement of other souls, as the church does here; which she also continues to do in the following verse, where she meets with a larger display of it.
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