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Chapter 7 Verse 13
mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits,
new and old; which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.
these words the church makes use of another motive or argument to prevail upon Christ to grant her his presence and company, taken from the variety of fragrant flowers and pleasant fruits, which she abounded with, and had ready at hand, and which she had carefully laid up and reserved for his use and service; all which are commended,
I.From the fragrancy of them; “the mandrakes give a smell.”
II.From the comprehensiveness of them; “all manner of pleasant fruits.”
III.These are said to be “new and old.”
IV.Not afar off, but at the very door; “at our gates.”
V.They are all for his use and service; “which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.”
I.The fragrancy of those flowers or fruits with which she abounds, is here expressed; “the mandrakes give a smell.” The Hebrew word µyawdd dudaim, translated mandrakes, is only found in this place, and in Genesis 30:14-16, in this sense; but what plant or herb is intended by it, is not very easy to determine: Junius and Tremellius have rendered it, in both places, by “flores amabiles, lovely flowers;” which they think best agrees with the etymology of the word: others932932R. Sol. Jarchi in Genesis 30:14. render it, Jessamin; others,933933Vid. Jun. In Genesis 30:14. lilies; others, violets: R. Solomon Jarchi would have it rendered baskets here, and refers to Jeremiah 24:1, where the people of Israel are represented by two baskets of figs; where a word derived from the same root, and of the same form is used; and that both sorts of people, there represented, may be here said to give a good smell, because now they all sought the face of the Lord. Ludolphus, in his Ethiopic history,934934L. 1. c. 9. n. 23. takes it to be the fruit which the Arabians call mauz or muza, (called, by some, the Indian fig) which, in the Abyssine country, is as big as a cucumber, and of the same form and shape; fifty of which grow upon one and the same stalk, and are of a very sweet taste and smell; from which cognation of a great many upon the same stalk, he thinks it took the name of dudaim. Some think, the fruit of the lote-tree is here intended; which, according to Homer,935935Odyss. 9. 5:94. Herodotus,936936Melpomene, sive 1. 4. c. 177. Ovid,937937Tristium, 1. 4. Epist. 1. 5:31 & De Ponto, 1. 4. eleg. 10. 5:18, and others,938938Vid. Strabo Geograph. 50:17. p. 574. Athenaei Deipnosophist. 1. 14. c. 18. Plin. 50:13. c. 17. & Pomponius Sabinus in Virgil. Georgic. 1. 2. p. 210. was a very sweet and delicious fruit; sweet apples, as some call them: there were a people in Africa, called Lotophagi, who lived upon it, as observed by the same authors: the mandrake of the Chinese is the famous root they call ginseng; which, with them, is a sovereign remedy for all weaknesses of body or mind; a preservative of health; and they call it the plant that gives immortality. Ravius, in his dissertation concerning the dudaim, thinks the words should be rendered, “the branches put forth their sweet-smelling flowers;” and that the branches of fig-trees are meant, which give a good smell, agreeable to chapter 2:13, and which, he supposes, to be the use of the word, in Jeremiah 24:1, and to his sense Heidegger939939Hist. Patriarch. tom. 2. exercit. 19. s. 9. 15. agrees; only he thinks the word branches, is not to be restrained to a particular species, but may signify branches of sweet-smelling flowers and fruits in general. But the generality of Translators and Interpreters render it, mandrakes; as do the Septuagint, both the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, on Genesis 30:14, though the Targum on this place renders it, balsam: but then it is questionable whether the same plant, which is known among us by the name of mandrakes, is here meant, because of its strong smell; but of this more hereafter. Let us consider what may be intended hereby. And,
1st, By these mandrakes may be meant, the saints and people of God; who are plants of God’s right hand planting, are both fragrant and fruitful; and may be compared unto them, 1. Because the mandrake is a cold plant, and therefore used for the assuaging inflammations, and healing ulcers:940940Fernel. Method Medend. 50:6. c. 1. and Plin 1. 26. c. 9, 10-14, 15. the people of God, though they ought not to be cold in divine things, nor lukewarm in the cause of Christ, and vindication of his truths and ordinances; vet are, or at least should be, of cooling spirits, to allay those heats, and heal those divisions which too often appear in the churches of Christ; which they may be instrumental in, by a prudent carriage, a moderate temper, and by using soft and “pleasant words;” which, as Solomon says (Prov. 15:1, 16:24), “turn away wrath” and are “sweet to the soul, and health to the bones:” and when they appear to be of hot and fiery tempers and dispositions, it is what is opposite to the principle which is wrought in them and that profession which they make. 2. Because the mandrake is supposed to excite love; hence the apples of it are called “apples of love;” and the Hebrew word here used comes from a root which signifies love: the saints may well be represented by them on this account; for they do not provoke Christ to love them, by the love they show him, or the obedience they perform unto him; yet these often draw out Christ’s affections to them; and what he himself has wrought in them, and put upon them, render them lovely in his eye; besides, it is their incumbent duty, and should be the great employment of their lives, to provoke one another “to love and good works.” 3. They have been also thought to help barrenness,941941Avicenna apud Castel. Animadv. Samar. In Genesis 30:14. and to make fruitful; which some have imagined to be the reason of that great contention between Rachel and Leah concerning them; and the same opinion of their prolific virtue remains in those eastern parts still, and they are applied for that purpose; and the plant is described as having a large leaf, bearing a certain sort of fruit, in shape resembling an apple, growing ripe in harvest, but of an ill savor, and not wholesome:942942Maundrel’s Journey from Aleppo, etc. p. 6,. edit. 7. hence the phrase here may intend the fruitfulness of the church in the first times of the gospel, through the vast numbers of souls which were born again therein, when that prophecy was fulfilled (Isa. 54:1), “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate, than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord:” which fruitfulness of the church may be considered as a very good argument used by her here, to prevail on Christ to grant her his presence and company. 4. The mandrake is a narcotic, has a sleepy virtue in it, as Pliny943943L. 25. c. 13. So Plutarch. Sympos. 50:3. P. 652. and Medici in Theodoret. in loc. Vid. Philostrat. Vita Apollon. 50:8. c. 3. observes, and much inclines thereunto; Levinus Lemnius944944Herb. Bibl. Explic. c. 2. writes of himself, that being in his study, he was suddenly taken with a sleepy fit, which he could by no means account for, until he espied a mandrake-apple upon one of the shelves, to which he ascribed it; and Plutarch945945De Audiendis Poetis, p. 15. relates, that mandrakes, which grow by vines, give the wine made of them such a virtue, that those who drink of it sleep mope sweetly: the saints are often in sleepy frames themselves; the wise virgins slept as well as the foolish; and conversation with sleepy professors makes others so likewise. 5. It not only inclines to sleep, but makes persons sluggish and slothful; hence those phrases, “to drink the mendrake, and to sleep under a mandrake,”946946Mandragoran pepwkosin, Demosth. Orat. Philip. 4. J Upo mandragora kaqeudiev, Lucian. in Timon. s. 1.Vid. Julian. Ep. 21. p. 139. are proverbially used of persons who are sluggish and inactive in the discharge of their office: the saints are too often so themselves, and the cause thereof in others; being “slothful in business, and not fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” as they ought to be. 6. The apples of the mandrake are very delightful to look upon, being of a yellow or golden color; and so are the saints in Christ’s eye; to them he looks, and with them he is well pleased, they being beautified with the garments of his salvation, and adorned with the graces of his Spirit. 7. These mandrakes are said to “give a smell:” it is true, it is not said that they give a good smell; but it may be reasonably supposed that such an one is intended, because their commendation is designed; and they are taken notice of by the church, as what might be inviting to Christ; and so no doubt Reuben’s mandrakes, which Rachel took such a fancy to, were fragrant, and of a sweet smell; or we may reasonably suppose the boy would not have gathered them, nor Rachel have took such a liking to them, no more than Leah would have contended with her about them, unless it was for a reason before given. But then the difficulty is to know what plant is intended, seeing our present mandrakes are of an ill and offensive smell; and so is the plant now shewn for it, as before observed; and such an account also Pliny947947Odor gravis ejus, sed radicis & mali gravior, 1. 25. c. 13. gives of it; though Dioscorides, Levinus Lemnius948948Herb. Bibl. Explic. c. 2. and Augustine,949949Contr. Faustum, 1. 22. c.56. who says, he saw the plant, and examined it, say, that it is of a very sweet smell; which though it does not agree with the plant which now bears the name, suits well with that intended here; for which reason the saints may be compared unto it, whose persons are of a sweet smell, being clothed with Christ’s garments, which “smell of myrrh, aloes and cassia,” and anointed with the savory ointments of the Spirit’s grace; whose prayers are so, being perfumed with Christ’s mediation; and their good works being accepted, with their persons, “in the beloved:” so the Jews950950T. Bah. Erubin, fol. 21, 2. interpret the mandrakes, of the young men of Israel; who have not tasted the taste of sin, pure and. holy persons, free from vicious habits. Or,
2dly, By these mandrakes, which give a good smell, may be meant the doctrines and promises of the gospel; which, 1. Like mandrakes, are of a healing and cooling nature: the law is a fiery law; and when it works, in a sinner’s conscience, it makes fiery work there; it worketh wrath, which is only assuaged through the application of gospel doctrines and promises, by the blessed Spirit. 2. Like mandrakes, these excite love; for though it is the law which enjoins and requires love both to God and to our neighbor; yet it is the gospel which moves and presses us to it, with the noblest motives and most powerful arguments; such as those which are taken from the love of God and Christ to us. 3. Like mandrakes; are the means of fruitfulness: it is by the gospel, as the instrumental means, that souls are begotten again to Christ; for though they are born of an incorruptible seed, and are begotten again according to the sovereign will of God, and as an instance of his abundant mercy, yet it is by the word of truth, which liveth and abideth for ever; 4. As the mandrake apples are delightful, so are the doctrines and promises of the gospel; which words being “fitly spoken, are like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” 5. As the mandrakes give a good smell, so do these; for to them that are saved, they are “the savor of life unto life.”
3dly, By these dudaim or lovely flowers, as Junius translates the word, may be meant the graces of the Spirit; such as faith, repentance, love, thankfulness, hope, humility, etc. 1. Faith may be one of those lovely flowers which give a good smell: this is a flower that does not grow in nature’s garden; bat is sown and raised in the Believer’s heart, by the power and Spirit of God; which at first is but like a grain of mustard-seed, that is the least of all seeds; but afterwards grows in some more, is others less; but in all it is “alike precious faith,” which emits a sweet fragrancy to God and Christ. 2. Repentance may be another of those lovely flowers; this grows in the same garden as faith does; they are sown and raised up together, and that by one and the same hand; and when attended with fruits becoming it, is highly valued by Christ Jesus. 3. Love may be another of those lovely flowers; this precious flower springs from, is raised up and influenced by, as well as scented with the love of Christ: and of all the flowers in the believer’s garden, none is fairer in Christ’s eye, or gives trim, with its smell, more pleasure and delight; for of this he says, in chapter 4:10, “How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! etc.,” 4. The grace of thankfulness is another of these flowers; nay, a certain Expositor951951Dr. Guild in loc. thinks, that it is chiefly intended: the exercise of this grace is required of us, far every mercy, both spiritual and temporal; and in every condition, state, and circumstance of life: this is more pleasing to God; and he smells a sweeter savor of rest in it, than in all burnt-offerings; and a contrary disposition is highly, resented by him, as appears from the case of the ten lepers that were cleansed, of which but one returned to give God thanks. 5. The grace of hope may be another of those lovely flowers: this is none of the meanest flowers which grow in the believer’s garden; this is raised by powerful efficacious grace; is watered with divine love; is made to abound through the power of the Holy Ghost; and in which Christ takes no small pleasure and delight “for the Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” 6. The grace of humility is another precious flower; “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price:” this grace so much adorns believers, that Christ says, “to this man will I look, that is poor and of a contrite spirit;” neither can he take his eye off them, nor will he remove from them, but dwell with them for evermore. I might have mentioned many more of those lovely and sweet-smelling flowers, as patience, self-denial, etc, but these may suffice.
II.The church’s fruits are commended from the comprehensiveness of them; she is possessed of “all manner of pleasant fruits.” Which may denote, 1. The plenty of them: believers have not only abundance of grace in Christ,, but also abundance in themselves; for “where sin abounded, grace does much more abound;” they have also a fullness of all spiritual blessings in Christ, as well as a plenty of gospel-doctrines, and exceeding great and precious promises. 2. This may likewise denote the variety of them: the graces of the Spirit are many and various; as are the blessings of the gospel, such as redemption through Christ’s blood, pardon of sin, justification by his righteousness, adoption, sanctification, etc. so are the doctrines and promises of the gospel, which are all suited to the several cases and circumstances of believers. 3. It also denotes the excellency of them; for here are not only plenty and variety of all manner of fruits, but all manner of pleasant fruits; such as do not grow every where, nor in any garden, but only in the garden of the church; whose “plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits, etc.” The allusion, no doubt, is to the most excellent fruits, with which the land of Judea abounded, as apples, figs, dates, pomegranates, etc. the word used includes every precious thing; not fruits only, but gold, silver, jewels, garments, etc.952952Vid. Schindler. Lex. Pentaglott. col. 970.
III.These fruits are said to be both new and old, which still heightens and increases the commendation of them; there is such plenty and fullness of them, as that the former year’s produce is not gone, when the new is gathered in; here is some of both years increase, which is an indication of great plenty, as well as of the goodness of the fruit that will keep so long. By these fruits new and old, 1. Some953953Bishop Patrick in loc. understand the gifts of the Spirit; which Christ, after his ascension, received for his church, and bestowed on it; together with those temporal blessings which she enjoyed before. Though, 2. Others think that by them are intended moral and natural virtues, which may be found in an unconverted man; and the graces of the Spirit, which are only in renewed souls. But, 3. It seems much better to understand them of those fresh supplies of grace which believers have from Christ; for they cannot live upon their old stock, but must have a new supply; which they are graciously indulged with from Christ, from whose fullness they continually “receive grace for grace.” Though, 4. I am rather inclined to think, that the doctrines of the Old and New Testament, which, for matter and substance are one and the same, are here meant with which; the church, and particularly her scribes and faithful ministers are furnished, so as they can “bring forth out of their treasure things new and old,” (Matthew 13:52).
IV.These fruits are also said to be at their gates; which is mentioned, 1. In opposition to the mandrakes which grew in the field; which appears to be a field-plant, from Genesis 30:14, where it is said, that “Reuben went in the days of wheat-harvest, and found mandrakes in the field;” but these fruits here grew at their very doors. 2. It may be an allusion to a custom of the eastern countries, in garnishing the doors of new-married persons with fruits and flowers; and not only at nuptial feasts, but at other festivals also;954954Vid. Plutarch. Amator. vol. 2. p. 755. & Barthiam ad Claudian. De Nupt. Honor. 5:208. Longos erexit janua ramos. Juvenal, Satyr. 12. 5:21; Necta coronam postibus. Ib. Satyr. 6. 5:51, 52. ornantar postes, 5:79, ornatas paulo ante fores, etc. 5:276, 227. janua laureata, Tertullian. ad Uxor. 1. 2. c. 6. Vid. Ovid. Metamorph. 50:14. fab. 17. which made it very inviting to go within. 3. It may also signify, that these fruits were near at hand; there was no occasion to go far for them; they were even at the door, as the judge is said to be (James 5:9), 4. It may denote the publicness of them: they are not hid in secret, but exposed to public view; as the graces and good works of the saints should be; “ Let your light,” says our Lord (Matthew 5:16), “shine before men,” etc. as well as the doctrines of the gospel, which are not to be spoken in a corner, but to be divulged upon the house-top. 5. By these gates may be meant, the means and ordinances of the gospel, where those fruits may be had; and it is therefore an encouragement to souls to “watch daily at wisdom’s gates, waiting at the posts of her door:” so some Jewish955955Targum in loc. and Zohar in Gen. fol. 179. 3. writers interpret them of their synagogues and schools.
V.All this plenty and variety of pleasant fruits which were just at hand, the church declares were all laid up for Christ; “which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved:” respect may be had to a custom with lovers, to lay up fruits for those they love; at least such a custom may be compared with this.956956Sunt poma gravantia ramos; sunt auro similes longis in vitibus uvae, sunt & purpureae; tihi ae has servamus & illus; Ovid, Metamorph, 1. 13. fab. 8. Christ had bestowed a large store and great plenty of fruit upon the church, which she had carefully reserved for him; she laid it up in her heart; she bore it in remembrance, which this phrase is sometimes expressive of: thus it is said (Luke 1:66), that all that heard of the surprising circumstances which attended the birth of John the Baptist, “laid them up in their hearts,” that is, bore them in remembrance; so should we lay up the word of God, and the doctrines of it in our minds, and not forget them: thus David said (Ps. 119:11), he did “Thy word,” says he, “have I hid or laid up,” it is the same word that is here used, “in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee:” so likewise should we treasure up in our minds all the instances of God’s grace and favor to us, and record the several experiences of his loving kindness; not as a stock to live upon, but to be brought out at proper times, to magnify the grace of Christ and to advance his glory; “for of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.” Now this appears to be a very great attainment and. a mighty instance of grace in the church, to have a stock of promises and experiences, and yet not live upon them herself, but upon Christ the author and donor of them; to lay them up for his service, and lay them out for his honor and glory: and her adding this endearing character, “O my beloved,” shows not only the strength of her affection to him, but may also serve to assure him of the truth of what she said; as well as be an inducement to him to comply with her request, which she passionately renews in the beginning of the next chapter.
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