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Chapter 2 Verse 7
charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the
hinds of the field, that ye stir net up, nor awake my love, till he
is some difficulty in these words concerning the person speaking, who it is, whether Christ or the church: interpreters are divided about it; and there are reasons, not to be despised, given on both sides.
Some think that they are the words of the church, charging the daughters of Jerusalem to give no disturbance to Christ, her love, and cause him to depart from her, with whom she now was, enjoying sweet communion with him; which seems to be the sense of our translators: and this sense of the words bids fair, if we consider, 1. The persons to whom these words are spoken, “the daughters of Jerusalem;” who were the friends of the church, “the virgins, her companions;” who attended and waited upon her: Christ is represented in this Song as having his friends with him; and the church, as having hers with her, and that in allusion to a nuptial entertainment; and therefore it seems most reasonable that she should speak to her friends, and not his. 2. In all other places, where these words are used, they seem to be the words of the church, and not of Christ; see chapter 3:5 and 8:4. 3. The manner of the speech shews it, which is not by way of command, which is proper to Christ; but by way of adjuration, or giving a charge with an oath, which is usual with the church to these persons; for which, beside the places before-mentioned, see chap. 5:8. 4. If we also consider the matter, it suits well with the church’s language; the character, “my love,” is very applicable to Christ, he being the person whom her soul loved; the charge that this love should not be stirred up, but at pleasure, agrees with Christ, who is endued with sovereignty, and ought to be at his own liberty to stay with, or remove from his people when he pleases. 5. It suits with the context and scope of the place: the church was now in Christ’s arms, where she lay with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction; and being willing to have communion with Christ continued, and not interrupted by these persons, she solemnly adjures them after this manner; which carefulness and solicitude of hers seems also to be the scope and design of those other places: chapter 3:5 and 8:4.
But there are others who think that they are the words of Christ, and not without some reason; for, 1. It was the church, Who having solace and ease in Christ’s arms, was fallen asleep there, and not he in hers; and therefore, that she might have no disturbance, he charges the daughters of Jerusalem by no means to awake her, till she herself thought meet. 2. The church in this Song, when she gives Christ a character, which is expressive of her love, does not use this word hbha ahabah, love, which is of the feminine gender; but another, ydwd dodi, my beloved, or well-beloved, which is of the masculine; but Christ makes use of this same word in giving a loving title to his church, as in chapter 7:6, and therefore they seem to be the words of Christ, speaking concerning and in behalf of his church. 3. Both the word jbha ahabah, love, and xpht techphatz, which is in construction with it, and is rendered he please, are both of the feminine gender, and so best agree with her282282So the Cabalistic doctors interpret the word of malcuth, or the bride Lexic. Cabal. p. 43, 44. and may be rendered, “that ye stir not up nor awake my love till she please.” 4. The following words seem to confirm this sense, “the voice of my beloved!” What voice was this she heard? Why, the charge he gave to the daughters of Jerusalem not to disturb her; which discovered so much love and goodness in him, and her heart was so much affected with it, that she breaks out into this pathetic exclamation, “the voice of my beloved!”
And now though the former sense is not to be despised, yet I must confess I chiefly incline to the latter, and having thus considered whose words they are, I shall now consider the words themselves; in which may be observed,
I.The charge given; not to “stir up nor awake the love till he or she please.” II.The persons to whom this charge is given; “the daughters of Jerusalem.”
III.The manner in which it is delivered; “I charge you by the roes and by the hinds of the field.
I.Here is a solemn charge given not to “stir up nor awake the love,” or “this love,” the well-known love,283283So lovers are frequently called amor & amores, Love and loves; vid. Theocrit. Idyll. 2. & Ovid. Briseis Achilli, 5:12. Plaurt Curculio, act. 2. sc. 3. 5:78. Miles, act. 4. sc. 8. 5:67. Mostel. Arg. 5:5 Perea: Arg 5:4 Poenulus, act. 5, sc. 3. 5:42. “till he, or she please;” which I have observed may be understood, either as the church’s charge to these persons not to disturb Christ, in whose company she now was; or else, as Christ’s charge to them, not to awake the church, who was now sleeping in his arms; and both these senses being pressed with such reasons as have been before observed, I shall consider the words both ways: and then if we consider them as the church’s charge, not to disturb Christ her love, they will lead us to observe, 1. That Christ is the object of the church’s love, and of all true believers; there is none in heaven or on earth, that has so great a share in their love as he has; they love hint with all their hearts and souls, and above all things else whatever; and that so sincerely and unfeignedly, that they can appeal, with Peter, to the searcher of hearts, and say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee;” which arises from the discoveries of Christ’s love to them, and the views which they have of his loveliness; and is still more and more increased, by having nearer communion, and more intimacy and acquaintance with him. 2. That Christ sleeps and takes his rest among his church and people; this is manifest from her carefulness not to have him stirred up and awaked; the Lord is sometimes said to sleep, and not to awake, when he does not arise to deliver his people from danger, or out of the hands of their enemies (see Ps. 35:22, 23, 44:22, 23); and sometimes when he grants his presence to them and communion with them, as here: the church is Christ’s resting-place, where he “rests in his love” towards his people, grants his presence to them, converses with them, and “lies all night betwixt their breasts.” 3. That Christ may be disturbed, and raised up from hence by the sins of his people; their vexatious contentions one with another, their unfriendly and ungrateful carriage to him, often provoke him to remove from them; they grieve his spirit, and cause him to hide his face, which is no ways for their honor or comfort. 4. That believers should be very careful that they do not provoke Christ to depart from them; and therefore should watch against the very first motions of sin, and “abstain from all appearance of it;” for sinful thoughts, as well as sinful actions, are an abomination to him, and lead on to the commission of them; and it is the desire of believers, under the influences and by the assistance of the Spirit of grace, so to do; which shews that communion with Christ is highly valued by them, and what they would not have by any means interrupted. 5. That communion which souls have with Christ, is entirely at his pleasure; they cannot have it, when and as long as they please, but when and as long as he pleases; for “when he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? so when he hideth his face, who then can behold him?” as Elihu says (Job 34:29). The discoveries of Christ’s love and grace to his people; the grants of his presence to them, and communion with them, as much depend upon his sovereign will and pleasure, as the first actings of his grace towards and upon sinners do: he may withdraw from his people without any provocation, as he sometimes does; for he is a God that “hideth his face from the house of Jacob;” and is not obliged to give any reason for it, but his own sovereign will; though he always designs their good, and his own glory by it; yet he is oftener caused to arise, and remove from them, through their carnality, lukewarmness, ingratitude and unbelief.
But if we consider the words as the charge of Christ to the daughters of Jerusalem, not to disturb the church, then we may observe, 1. That the church is Christ’s love; she is frequently called so by him in this Song, as in chapters 1:9, 15 and 2:10 and in other places: she has the greatest share in his affections, as he has in hers, and has given the fullest proofs of his love to her; which put it beyond all dispute, that she is the object of it, and will always continue so, notwithstanding all her failings and infirmities. 2. That the church sleeps and takes her rest in Christ’s arms; there is a sleepiness or drowsiness which attends God’s children, that is a sinful one; when they fold their own arms together, and do not lie in Christ’s; in this frame was the church, chapters 3:1 and 5:2, but this here is a rest which Christ gives, a sleep which he brings his into, when he puts under his everlasting arms, and embraces them in his bosom; for “so he giveth his beloved sleep,” (Ps. 127:2). 3. That Christ values the company and conversation of his children: these are “the excellent in the earth, in whom is all his delight;” he loves to see their persons, and hear their voice; the actings of their grace upon him are exceeding delightful to him, and therefore would not have them be disturbed, hence it can never be a work well-pleasing to Christ, for any to sadden the hearts, lessen the joys, and weaken the faith of God’s children. 4. That Christ would not have his church’s peace disturbed; though it oftentimes is by “quarrelsome and contentious persons,” who are always uneasy themselves, and endeavor to make others so; by “carnal professors, whose lives and conversations are wounding and grieving to pious souls;” by “errors and heresies,” which, “springing up” in churches, trouble some, and defile others; and often by “inward corruptions,” those domestic enemies, which are of all the worst and most afflicting; as well as by Satan, that unwearied enemy, who, though he cannot devour, yea will disturb; but whether this be done one way or other, it is no ways pleasing and grateful to Christ. 5. Though believers, when under the gracious influences of the blessed Spirit, are desirous of communion with Christ; and if they might have it as long as they please, they would have it always, and say, as the disciples did, “Lord, it is good for us to be here;” yet when they begin to be sleepy and drowsy, they grow careless and indifferent about it; which justly provokes Christ to deprive them of it. So much for the charge itself.
II.The persons to whom this charge is given, are the “daughters of Jerusalem;” by whom we are to understand young converts, as has been observed in chapter 1:5. Now these are very apt to disturb Christ by their impatience; who, like new born babes, are unwilling to wait till their food is prepared for them; till Christ’s own time is come, when he will more fully reveal himself unto them, and give them large discoveries of his love: and also by their frowardness who, when their food is prepared for them, grow sullen and will not eat it; and, like Rachel of old, “refuse to be comforted;” or else, through “the weakness of their faith, and living upon their frames,” which young converts are very apt to do; for no longer than they have the discoveries of Christ’s love, and sensible communion with him, can they believe their interest in him; and therefore, like froward and impatient children, or poor weaklings, give him a great deal of disturbance: and so taking them as the words of the church, she seems here to act the part of a mother; and charges these her children to be still and quiet, and give her loving husband no disturbance, whilst she enjoyed his delightful company.
Moreover, these daughters of Jerusalem, or young converts, are very apt to give the church disturbance; and therefore Christ may be represented as charging them not to do it: this they sometimes do through weakness, not being able to bear the doctrines of the gospel; such some of the Corinthians were, who were “babes in Christ,” and therefore the apostle fed them with milk, and not with meat, for they “were not able to bear it;” by reason of which, many contentions, divisions and disturbances, were raised in that church: as also, sometimes through” ignorance of gospel-order,” not being so well versed in, and acquainted with the rules, laws and ordinances of Christ’s house; so that oftentimes, for want of knowledge in gospel-discipline, as well as in gospel-doctrine, they give disturbance to the church of Christ; all which; Christ knowing full well, gives them this solemn charge.
III.The manner in which this charge is given, which is very” solemn and awful; it is with an oath, “I adjure you, or I cause you to swear by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye give no disturbance to my love; creatures which ran in fields, forests and woods, and were their native places. 284284Cerva silvicultrix, Catullus, 5:64, 72. The meaning is, not as if either Christ or his church swore by those creatures; for swearing by heaven or earth, or by any creature in them, is condemned by Christ (Matthew 5:34-37), an oath ought not to be taken in trifling cases, nor in any other name than in the name of God; which perhaps is the reason why the Targum thus paraphrases the words here: “I adjure you, O ye congregation of Israel, by the Lord of hosts,” or Tzebaoth, which same word is used for roes here, and by the strengths or fortresses of the land of Israel, etc. And either, 1. The words may be paraphrased thus, I charge you, who are among the toes and hinds of the fields, you daughters of Jerusalem, who are shepherdesses, and keep your flocks where toes and hinds skip and play; or who love to hunt them, and delight in such exercises;285285Virginibus Tyriis mos est gestare pharetram, Virgil. AEneid,1. 1. I charge you, that you give my love no disturbance. Or else, 2. Thus, I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, that ye remain or abide with the roes and hinds of the field, so Junius; mind your own business, keep your flocks, stand without whilst I and my love enjoy each others delightful conversation, without any interruption or molestation from you. Or, 3. Those creatures, the roes and hinds, it may be, are called in as witnesses to this solemn charge, and to be produced against them, if ever they should break it; as to which sometimes heaven and earth, animate and inanimate creatures, are called in scripture (see Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:27). Or, 4. This adjuration or charge is made by all that is dear, the toes and hinds being pleasant and lovely creatures, as in Proverbs 5:19 as if he or she should say, I charge you, O ye lovely daughters of Jerusalem, by the hinds and roes, which for beauty and loveliness are like to you, as R. Aben Ezra observes; if, O ye lovely ones, ye have any love for me, I beg, I earnestly entreat of you, that you will cause neither me nor my love any interruption. Or, 5. It may be considered as a severe threatening to those persons, if they should be unmindful of the charge given; and it is as if he should say, I swear, that if you stir up, or awake my love, that you shall be food as common to all, as the toes and hinds are; to which purpose as R. Sol. Jarchi’s gloss: and these creatures being very swift ones; may note the suddenness and swiftness of those judgments which should come upon them in case of disobedience. Or, 6. The sense may be this: that as ye would, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, be cautious how you start those timorous creatures,286286—.Pavldos formidlne cervos terret, Ovid. Fasti,1. 3. 5:173. Formidantes cervos, Ovid. Metamorph,1. 15. fab. 43. Timidi damae, Virgil. Bucol. eclog. 8. 5:28. & Georgic.1. 3. prope finem. Pavidae damae, Horat. Carmin.1. 1. ode?- v. 11, hence kradih elkfoio, cor cervi, Homer, Iliad,1. 1.v 225 the roes and hinds; so would I have you be as cautious how you stir up and awake my love, which is as easily and as quickly done. Or, 7. and lastly, I charge you, for the sake of these toes and hinds, the Gentiles and nations of the world, that ye do not disturb the peace of my church, by fomenting and increasing divisions in it; and so cause my name to be dishonored, my ways to be spoken evil of, and me to depart from you; but rather keep peace within, and “walk in wisdom towards them that are without;” and by so doing, you will gratify me, and allure these Gentiles to your society and fellowship; who otherwise, like timorous roes and hinds, will be frighted and scared from it.
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