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Chapter 7 Verse 7

This thy stature is like to a palm-tree,
and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.

first word, having gone through the ten particular instances of his church’s beauty, in the five first verses of this chapter, and given a comprehensive summary of the whole, in verse 6, one would have thought he had done; but as not satisfied with the commendations he had given, and as not knowing when nor how to give over, the subject being so delightful to him, begins anew in these words; where he,

I.In general commends her stature, by comparing it to a palm-tree.

II.Her breasts in particular, which are likened to “clusters of grapes.”

I.He compares her stature to a “palm-tree.” Her stature is what arises from and is made up of the above said parts, which he had commended, as is manifest from the relative this; which being all set in their proper place, and in a just proportion, as the members of the church are by God (see 1 Cor. 12:12-18), look very beautiful and comely: the word properly signifies height, tallness, and straightness: to be of a tall stature, was accounted very honorable, and an indication of majesty; such an one was fit to be chosen a king, as Saul was, who “was higher than any of the people; from his shoulders and upwards;” and when Samuel came to anoint one of the sons of Jesse, as king in his stead, the first-born, Eliab, was presented to him; who, when he saw his comely countenance, and the height of his stature, judged him to be the Lord’s anointed; but the Lord bid him not look on these things, nor judge according to them as man does, for he was not the person he had his eye upon. As the tallness of men is expressed by the palm-tree; thus Moses is said to be admired by the Ethiopians for his beautiful stature, like the palm-tree;873873Sepher. Dibre Hayamim, fol. 7. 2. so the simile of a tree, as here of a palm-tree, is not an improper one to express the tall stature of women; so Galatea is, for height and tallness, compared to an alder and to a plane-tree;874874Ovid. Metamorph. 50:13. fabrg, and Helena, to a cypress-tree in a garden,875875Theocrit. Idyll. 18. 5:30. on the same account: and if Solomon here has any reference to Pharoah’s daughter, his wife, since the Egyptian palm-tree is said to be the best,876876A. Gell. Noct. Attic. 1. 7. c. 16. Vid. Strabo, 50:17. p. 563. he might think of that, which is described “of body straight, high, round and slender;”877877Sandy’s Travels, b. 2, p 79. and fitly expresses a good shape and stature, which recommended a person to their lovers.878878Amo forma pulchram, statura procerem, Theophilus apud Athen Deipnosoph. 50:13. c. 2. p. 563. Now the church being here represented as tall of stature, may be expressive of her royal majesty and greatness; and so the Septuagint render the words, “This thy greatness is like to the palm-tree.”879879dtmwq megeqov sou, Sept. statura tua, Vulgate Latin version. Moreover, tallness of stature was ever accounted no small addition to beauty; and therefore women have, in former as well as in latter ages, wore ornaments upon the very top of their heads, as well as high shoes on their feet, to make them appear the taller and perhaps this was the reason why the Jewish women walked “with stretched-forth necks,” as is observed in Isaiah 3:16, so that this may be taken notice of by Christ, as a commendation of the church’s beauty. The palm-tree is a beautiful tree; and some have been compared to it for their beauty; thus Homer880880Odyss. 6. 5:163, 164. compares the beauty of Nausicaa to the tender branch of a palm-tree; here the church is compared to it for her stature: and to be of a tall stature, is in many cases useful; and such, in many instances, have the advantage of others; Zaccheus, because he was low of stature, was obliged to climb a sycamore-tree, or he had lost the sight of Christ, which he was so desirous of gratifying his curiosity with, But to proceed: by the church’s stature, is meant no other than that “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ?” mentioned in Ephesians 4:13, which the church and all true believers are growing up to, and shall arrive at; for which reason the means of grace, the ministry of the word, and the ordinances of the gospel, are instituted and continued: and then will the church have arrived to this stature, when all the elect are gathered in, and every member joined to the body; and these all filled with the several gifts and graces of the Spirit designed for them; and are all grown up to a just proportion in the body: and in this state and condition Christ seems to view his church here; and therefore gives her this commendation. Now to this stature no addition can be made, but by the grace and Spirit of God; as no man, “by taking thought” or projecting ever so many ways and methods, “can add one cubit unto his bodily stature;” so none can, by any methods of their own, add to their spiritual stature, nor to the stature of the church of Christ: it is the Spirit of God that convinces and converts sinners; he works upon their wills and affections, and powerfully inclines their hearts to give themselves first to the Lord, and then to the churches; and when they are planted there, it is he that, by the effusions and influences of his grace, makes them grow up as “willows by the water-courses.”

Now this stature of the church, is by Christ compared to a palm-tree: a tree well known in Judea, where great plenty of them grew; and as Pliny881881Lib. 13 c. 4. says, the noblest and best of this sort of trees, and especially about Jericho; which is frequently in scripture called “the city of palm trees;” as is Engedi sometimes called Hazazon-tamar, from the palm-trees which grew there: and some882882Soto Major and Bishop Patrick in loc. Vid. Harduini Opera, p. 331. 2. 332. 1. 731. 1. 2, 735. 1. 743. 3. have observed that this tree, in future times, became an emblem of that country; and therefore the coin of several of the Roman princes had the figure of a palm-tree upon them, and particularly Vespasian’s and the medal of the emperor Titus was struck with the figure of a captive woman, sitting under a palm tree, with this inscription on it, Judaea capta, “Judaea is taken:” the metaphor is taken, as are usually all the metaphors, similies and comparisons in this book, from what was well known in this country; and it is no unusual thing in scripture for saints to be compared to palm-trees; in Psalm 92:12, it is said “the righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree;” and in Solomon’s temple, which was a figure of the church of Christ, were palm-trees carved upon all the wails of the house round about, and upon the doors of the oracle; to teach us, that none but saints ought to have a place in God’s house below, or shall be admitted into heaven above, signified by the oracle, or holy of holies: also in Ezekiel’s temple, which was shown him in a vision, were palm-trees and cherubim; between every cherub and cherub was a palm-tree; which temple was either a figure of the gospel-church, or of the church-triumphant in glory; and if that is true as some883883August. de Civit. Dei, 50:22. c. 1. & in Enchir.c. 29. have thought, that the places of the fallen angels are filled up with men redeemed by Christ; that the same number are redeemed among the one, as fell among the other; this description would give a beautiful illustration of it; for as a cherub and a palm-tree, a cherub and a palm-tree, were placed in this order throughout the house; so an angel and a saint, an angel and a saint, an equal number of each according to this notion, will be in the heavenly glory. But, to consider a little particularly why the church, and all true believers, may be compared to palm-trees: and they may, for these following reasons: 1. The palm-tree grows up very tall, straight and upright;884884Levin, Lemnii. Herb. Bibl. Azplic. c. 20. and therefore the idols of the Gentiles are compared unto it, in Jeremiah 10:5, “they are upright as the palm-tree:” and saints may be said to be so in a spiritual sense; and that if we consider them either in the exercise of their faith, or in the motions of their affections, or in the tendency of their desires, or agreeableness of their conversations; their faith looks straight upwards to a Christ above, and fixes its eye upon his person, blood, and righteousness; and does not look downwards to its frames, duties, services or performances: their affections move heavenwards, and are set on things above, and not on things on earth; and therefore are Compared to pillars of smoke, which move straight upwards, and which rise up in the form of palm-trees, as has been observed on chapter 3:6, their desires also steer the same course, and move after Christ; they want to have a larger knowledge of him, mote communion with him, and a neater conformity to him; they are breathing after the heavenly joys; and having seen the vanity and emptiness of this world, and the things of it, desire the better country and continuing city, which God is the builder and maker of; and long to be unclothed of this mortal body, that they might be clothed with their house from. heaven: thus, like the palm-tree, their souls move upward in their faith in, love to, and desires after Christ, and those unseen glories which he is preparing for his people: and as they are upright in their hearts, so they are in their conversations, which are often in heaven, and employed about heavenly things, even whilst they are here on earth, which renders them becoming the gospel of Christ Jesus. 2. The palm-tree will grow straight and upright, even though many weights are hung upon it:885885Levin. Lemnii Herb. Bibl. Explic. c. 20. saints have many weights and pressures upon them; the apostle says (Heb. 12:1), “let us lay aside every weight;” which shows that they have more than one; they have a body of sin and death, which presses them hard, and makes them groan, being burdened with it; as also a variety of afflictions which attend them; as well as a load of reproaches and censures thrown upon them by the world, which often fall very hard and heavy; besides the many persecutions of various sorts which they endure; and yet, as the apostle says (2 Cor. 4:8, 9), though they “are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;” they “are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, hut not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;” they are supported under all, and still grow upright like the palm-tree; “none of these things move” them, to turn or bend either one way or another; nor tempt them to desert the cause they have espoused; but continue in it with an unshaken mind, and a courageous and magnanimous spirit; so R. Solomon Jarchi applies this to the Jewish church, which stood as upright, as the palm-tree, refusing to be guilty of idolatry, in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, when other nations bowed and fell down before his golden image: nay, saints not only bear up under all these weights and pressures, but oftentimes grow the more in their faith, love, knowledge and experience, under them; as the children of Israel, who the more they were afflicted, the more they grew and multiplied. 3. The palm-tree is a fruit-bearing tree; it bears the fruit which is called dates, which is not only of a beautiful aspect, but of a delightful taste, and it is fit both for food and drink;886886Ibid. and this perhaps was the reason why the children of Israel pitched their camp at Elim (Num. 33:9), because there were not only “twelve fountains of water” there, but also “threescore and ten palm-trees:” the saints, being implanted and engrafted in Christ Jesus, and abiding in him, bring forth fruit; they are laden with all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, the graces of the Spirit, and the precious fruits of righteousness; all which fruit they have from Christ, who is their “green fir-tree.” 4. Naturalists887887Plin. 1. 13, c. 4. & Dalecamp. in idem tell us, that the vital force or power of the palm-tree is not in its root, as in other trees, but in its top, which they call the cerebrum, or brain; and that if its top is lopped off, it immediately becomes barren:888888Plin. 1. 17. c. 24. the saints life is not in themselves, but in their head, Christ Jesus; it is from him they receive all their grace and strength, their life and nourishment, their fruit and fruitfulness; and it was possible that any separation could be made between them and their head, they would not only become barren and unfruitful, but entirely dead and lifeless. 5. The leaves of the palm-tree are always green; it has on the top of it a tuft of leaves four feet long, which never fall off, but always continue upon it in the same verdure; it is a tree which never rots:889889Pile. 1. 16. c. 20. Lemnii Herb. Bibl. Explic. c. 20. the saints are frequently compared to trees in scripture, and that to such whose leaves do not wither, as in Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8, when hypocrites and carnal professors are called dendra fqinspwrina, “trees that are withered in autumn;”890890Jude 12. at which time not only the fruit is gone but the leaves fall: but saints being engrafted in Christ, and planted by the rivers of divine love and grace, continually retain their verdure, shall never perish, but persevere for ever. 6. The palm-tree is very long-lived,891891Plin. 50:16. c. 44. and continues flourishing a long time; it is, as Dr Shaw892892Travels, p. 244. was informed, in its greatest vigor about thirty years after it is planted, and continues in full vigor seventy years more, bearing all this while every year about three or four hundred pounds weight of dates; and Symmachus renders the words here; “this thine” age is like unto the palm-tree: hence the flourishing of the righteous is compared unto it, in Psalm 92:12, in opposition to that of the wicked, in 5:7, which is said to be as the flourishing of grass, which is soon over, and continues but a short time; but the palm-tree abides so for many years, as before observed:893893Vid. R. Abcn Ezram in Psal. xcli. 12. and this may be expressive of the perseverance of the saints, whose grace is immortal and incorruptible; whose persons shall never perish, nor ever be subject to the second death, but shall live for evermore. 7. The palm-tree grows and flourishes best in hot and sunny places;894894Plin. 50:13. c. 4. it will not grow in cold countries, and therefore we have it not here: so saints, being “planted in the house of the Lord,” where in the ordinances, they sitting under the warm and quickening beams of the “sun of righteousness,” Christ Jesus, “flourish in the courts of our God;” these are the best places for them, namely, the house and ordinances of God; here thy delight to be, and here they thrive most, because here “the Lord is a sun and a shield” unto them. 8. Branches of the palm-tree have been used as tokens of joy and emblems of victory; the Jews had a feast of tabernacles, which they kept as a time of rejoicing; and among other demonstrations of joy, this was only to carry palm-tree branches in their hands (Lev. 23:40), as did also much people of the Jews, when Christ rode in triumph to Jerusalem, as an indication of the joy they were filled with at his coming, and to welcome him into their city (John 12:13), so likewise the saints are described, who were come out of great tribulations, and had got the victory over all their enemies, as “clothed with white robes, and palms or palm-tree branches in their hands,” (Rev. 7:9), saints, of all persons in the world, have reason to rejoice in the views of an atoning sacrifice, a justifying righteousness, and peace and pardon by Christ Jesus, through whom they are made “more than conquerors” over sin, Satan, and the world; and a number of these, with palm-tree branches in their hands, will look like so many palm-trees. But,

II.The church’s breasts in particular are commended by Christ, and compared to “clusters of grapes:” this part has been already commended in chapter 4:5, and is repeated in verse 3 of this chapter; but here a different metaphor is made use of; there they are compared to “two young roes that are twins,” here to “clusters of grapes”; The word grapes is not in the Hebrew text; though the Targum supplies it, as our Translators do: R. Ahen Ezra thinks, that clusters of the vine are meant, which might be planted by, and run up upon the palm-tree; though I should rather think, that “clusters of dates,” the fruit of the palm-tree itself, are here intended; especially seeing this fruit, as Pliny895895Plin. 1. 13. c. 4. observes, grows in clusters, hanging upon the shoots, like bunches of grapes: moreover, her breasts are compared to: “clusters of the vine,” in the following verse; and it does not appear so probable, that Christ should use the same metaphor, to commend the same part in two verses together. What we are to understand by the church’s breasts, has been shown on chapter 4:5, but seeing a different metaphor is made use of here, it may not be improper to observe the agreement between them, And,

1st, By her breasts may be meant the ministers of the gospel. R. Solomon Jarchi would have Daniel, Hananiah, Misheel and Azariah, here understood who were as breasts to others in captivity: but it is much better to understand them of gospel-ministers; who not only direct men where they may have food, invite them to it, and dissuade them from every thing that would be pernicious to them; but also feed them themselves, with “the sincere milk of the word”, and bread of life; they rightly divide “or cut the word of truth” and, as wise and faithful stewards, give to every one their portion of meat in due season. These may be compared to clusters, either of grapes or dates, 1. Because of their number: it is a great mercy to the churches of Christ, when there are plenty of gospel-ministers; Christ advised his disciples to pray for it, because the “harvest was plenteous,” and laborers were but few (Matthew 9:37, 38). 2. Because of their unity, likeness and agreement; for though they have gifts and grace differing from each other, one has more than another has; yet they have one and the same commission, and preach one and the same Christ as the only way of salvation, though they may not be attended with equal success. 3. Like dusters of dates, the fruit of the palm-tree, they are the fruit of the church; and such are the best ministers, who are educated and brought up in churches, and approved and sent out by them. Or else,

2dly, By the church’s breasts may be meant, the Old and New Testaments; which, like breasts, are full of the “milk of the word;” than which, no two breasts are more like one another; like the two cherubim upon the mercy-seat, they look towards each other: these may be compared to clusters, because there are in them clusters of excellent doctrines and precious promises; there are not only here and there a berry, but clusters of them; which being pressed and squeezed by hearing, reading, meditation and prayer, yield both delight and nourishment to men. Or else,

3dly, By them may be meant the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper, which are “breasts of consolation” to believers; and when they have the presence of Christ in them, and the discoveries of his love to them, then they are not “dry breasts;” they cannot say, they have “no cluster to eat ;” but as when there is “new wine found in the cluster,” and one saith, “destroy it not, for a blessing is in it,” (Isa. 65:8), so have they much pleasure, satisfaction and delight therein: and the church’s breasts being thus like clusters full in themselves are also delightful and beautiful in Christ’s eye, and therefore are thus commended by him.

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