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Chapter 5 Verse 14
hands are as gold rings set with the beryl:
his belly is as bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires
words contain the sixth and seventh particular in stances of Christ’s beauty, or distinguishing characters of him, whereby he might be known from all other beloveds, and wherein he was preferable to them.
I.She describes him by “his hands;” which, she says, “are as gold set with the beryl.”
II.By “his belly or bowels;” which, she says, “is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.”
I.She sets forth the beauty and loveliness of his hands, by comparing them with “gold rings set with the beryl;” which is the sixth particular instanced in: it was usual in former times, as now, for gold rings to be set with one precious stone or another,705705Annuli gemmati, Liv. Hist. 50:1. c. 11. Gemma ornat manus, Propert. 1. 3. eleg. 6. 5:12. Vid. Macrob. Saturnal. 1. 7. c. 13. and particularly with the beryl.706706Et Selitum digito beryllum adederat ignis, Propert, 50:4. cleg. 7. 5:9. And by his hands may be meant, either,
1st, The munificence and liberality of Christ, manifested in the distributions of his grace to his own people: all grace is in Christ’s hands, being put there by God the Father, as an instance of his love to Christ, as mediator, and his regard to those whom he made his care and charge; “the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands,” (John 3:35), all fullness of grace is in Christ, of justifying, sanctifying, pardoning and adopting grace; all the blessings and promises of the covenant are in his hands; all fullness of wisdom and strength, light and life, peace, joy and comfort, is with him which is all lodged in his hands, in order to be distributed to God’s chosen ones: Christ, as the ascended Lord and King, “received gifts for men,” and as such, gives them to them; the daily experience of souls testify it, for “of his fullness we all receive, and grace for grace.” Christ does all this liberally, and upbraideth not; he does not do it with a reflection on our “unworthiness; nor does he hit us on the teeth of our manifold sins and transgressions: as he does not withhold the blessings of grace from those they belong to; so when he gives, he does not do it grudgingly, but freely and cheerfully; not sparingly, but plenteously; he openeth his hands wide, and largely communicates to his people: all which he does wisely and prudently, at such times and in such ways, as will best suit with their wants and necessities; for as a “wise and faithful steward” of God’s grace, he gives to every one “their portion of meat in due season.” And now these hands of Christ’s, which so faithfully and wisely, so liberally, freely and largely distribute the blessings of grace to the saints, are as beautiful and lovely as hands adorned with gold rings, set with the most valuable precious stones: How glorious does he appear to the eye of faith, “as exalted to be a prince and a Savior, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins,” with his hands full of grace, and a heart to give it! How beautiful do both his right and left hand look, in whose “right hand is length of days,” and in whose “left hand are riches and honor!” Or else,
2dly, By his hands may be meant his power in working: Christ’s hands have always been active; “my father worketh hitherto, and I work;” that is, I have been working, and I continue to do so. Those hands of Christ, which are said to be “as gold rings,” etc. laid the foundation of the heavens and the earth, formed all things out of nothing, reared up the beautiful structure of the universe, and filled it with proper inhabitants; for without him was not any thing made that was made:” and in doing this, his hands look like gold rings; there is a shine, a luster on them; the glory of the divine perfections appears in them; “the heavens declare his glory, and the firmament sheweth his handy-work;” these hands also bear up and support the pillars of the earth; and in this he appears to be the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, in that he upholds all things, by the word of his power: these hands likewise hold the reins of government; the government of the whole universe in general, as well as of the church in particular, is in the hands and upon the shoulder of our Lord Jesus Christ: but in nothing does Christ’s hands appear more beautiful and lovely, like gold rings set with the beryl, than in grasping, holding, and retaining the saints; who are put into his hand by God the Fathers where they are safe and secure; for out of his hands none can pluck: How beautiful do the hands of Christ look, in holding those bright stars, the ministers of the gospel there! for he “holdeth the seven stars in his right-hand:” and more do they appear so, when we view all the saints there; who are so many gold rings, jewels, pearls, and precious stones in Christ’s esteem. Or else,
3dly, By his hands may be meant, his works performed by his almighty power: as lips being the instruments of speech, intend Christ’s words in the former verse; so hands being the instruments of action, may intend his works in this; such as the works of creation and providence, which are all formed in a beautiful order, in a delightful connection with, and an agree, able subordination and subserviency to each other; his works of miracles here on earth, on all which were a shine of deity, and were a demonstration of his being the true Messiah and Savior of the world; and more especially his works of grace and redemption, which may be said to be “as gold rings set with the beryl.” 1. For the perfection of them: the circular form is accounted the most perfect, and therefore they are compared to gold rings, which are of such a form; Christ is a rocks and his work is perfect, and particularly that of redemption: he does none of his works by halves; and especially this, which he never left till he could say, it is finished; and so being made perfect himself through sufferings, having perfectly fulfilled both the preceptive and penal parts of the law, he became the complete author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him. 2. For the excellency and glory of them; gold rings are valuable, beautiful and ornamental: all Christ’s works of grace are glorious and honorable; and more especially this of redemption, in which the glory of all the three persons, and the glory of all the divine perfections, is manifestly displayed, and eternally secured; “his glory is great in thy salvation,” (Ps. 21:5). 3. For the variety of them; gold rings, in the plural number, are here mentioned: Christ’s works of grace are many and various, they are more than can be reckoned up; and even in the work of redemption, there is an admirable variety; many are the things which he has wrought out, brought in, and procured by his precious blood; such as a justifying righteousness, pardon of sin, peace and reconciliation, liberty of access to God, deliverance from all enemies, sin, Satan, hell, and death, etc. 4. Christ’s hands in working out redemption, may be said to be as gold rings set with the beryl: this is one of the precious stones in the high priest’s breast-plate, mentioned in Exodus 28:20 and is one of the pearl foundations of the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:20), the appearance of the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision, is said to be like it (Ezek. 1:16), and the body of that great person who appeared to Daniel, chapter 10:6, is said to be as this stone; so that it is no wonder that Christ’s hands should be said to be as gold rings set with it.
The Hebrew word Tarshish, here used, is sometimes the name of a person, and at other times the name of a place, and is used sometimes to signify the sea; and naturalists707707Plin 50:37. c. 5. Solin. c. 65. Ruaeus de Gemmis, 1. 2. c.8. De Boat. Hist. Gemm. 1. 2. c. 70. Berullou glaukhn liqon, Dions. Perieg. 5:1012. tell us, that the best beryl is that which most resembles the color of the sea; thus all the three Targums on Exodus 28:20 call it amy µwrk crum yamma, from its being of a sea color; and Junius and Tremellius here render it, beryllus thalassius, the sea coloured beryl: this stone is found in India; and being carried about by persons, is said708708Albertus Magnus, 1. 2. tract. 2. c. 2. de Rebus Metal. Ruaeus, 50:2. c. 8. to inspire them with courage to help them to conquer their enemies, and to put an end to strifes and controversies. Christ, whose hands are said to be as gold rings set with beryl, in working out man’s redemption, discovered the utmost courage, resolution and magnanimity of mind; when he was bearing his Father’s wrath, suffering the severe strokes of justice, and grappling with all his and our enemies; when he was deserted by his friends, forsaken by his God, and insulted by his enemies, he failed not, neither was he discouraged; when he saw that there was none to give him the least assistance, his own arm brought salvation to him; he stood the field, fought the battle alone, got an entire victory over all enemies, sin, Satan, and the world; saved us out of the hands of them all, and put an end to that grand controversy between God and us, occasioned by sin; he repaired that breach, made up that distance, and reconciled those two contending parties, by making peace between them, through the blood of his cross. 5. Some think that the chrysolite is here meant, as Ainsworth and others; which is a precious stone of a golden color,709709Plin. 1. 37. c. 9, 11. from whence it has its name; it is mentioned in Revelation 21:20 and is said710710Albertus Magnus, 50:2. tract. 2 c. 3. de Rebus Metal. Ruaeus de Gemmis, 1. 2. c. 7. to be good against melancholy, fear and folly, and to fill the mind with courage, cheerfulness and wisdom; which, being applied to Christ’s hands in working out redemption, may shew that Christ not only performed this work with courage, but with cheerfulness, and also with the utmost wisdom: his wisdom appears in all the works of his hands, as the psalmist says (Ps. 104:24), “O Lord, how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all!” but in none more than in this of redemption, wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence; this was so well contrived, and so fully effected, that all the divine perfections are glorified in it; he has herein secured the glory of justice and holiness, as well as given the greatest display of his grace and mercy; he has satisfied a broken law, and destroyed sin, and yet saved the sinner; herein appears the manifold wisdom of God; there is such a variety of it, and such a glory in it, that angels are amazed at it, and desire to look into it: Christ, as the great Redeemer, is not only the power, but also the wisdom of God; for in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; of which he gave the fullest proof when he was concerned in this work. 6. Others think that the hyacinth or jacinth is here intended; Pagnine renders it, “full of precious stones, like hyacinth; the Vulgate Latin and Tigurine versions render it the same way; this is likewise mentioned in Revelation 21:20, it is of a violet or purple color, for which reason the flower so called has its name;711711Plin. 1. 37. c. 9. Solin. c. 43. to be good against the bitings of venomous beasts; and being worn on the finger, and put about the neck, keeps strangers safe, and renders them grateful to their host: the bluish and purple color of this stone, and its ruby veins, which some say it has, may represent a crucified and bleeding Christ; when his precious hands, which are as gold rings, wrought out man’s salvation; by whose blue wounds and purple streams of blood, souls have a cure for every disease; and particularly for those wounds which their sins, those scorpions within, and Satan, that old serpent without, have made in them; for by his stripes we are healed; it is the precious blood of Christ, and spotless righteousness and glorious redemption wrought out thereby, which being applied by the Spirit, and laid hold on by faith, preserve souls safe from all enemies and evils, as sin, Satan, law, hell and wrath; and which only render them grateful and acceptable to God; for saints are only accepted in the beloved on the foot of redemption, and upon the account of his justifying righteousness; for the Lord is well pleased for his righteousness-sake, because he hath magnified the law, and made it honorable (Isa. 42:21). 7. Others have thought that the sardonyx is intended, as Cocceius; this is an Arabian gem, and one of the principal ones; it is a composition of the sardius and onyx stones712712Plin. 50:37. c. 1, 6. Solin. c. 46. Ruaeus de Gemmis, 50:2. c. 5. , as appears from the name; it is of a white and ruddy color, and much resembles the nail of a man’s hand, set in flesh, both for color and smoothness; and it used to be set in rings, and wore on the hand; hence an hand adorned with one, is called sardonychata manus713713Martial Epigr. 1. 2. cp. 25. ; and a ring set with this stone, was called sardonyche714714Juvenal. Satyr. 7. 5:144. Persii Satyr. i, v, 16. : this is also mentioned in Revelation 21:20, and may represent the glorious deity, innocent humanity, and bloody sufferings of Christ, whose hands have obtained eternal redemption for us; it was necessary that he should die, in order to satisfy for our sins, which he could not have done, had he had any sin of his own; neither would the sufferings of this innocent person have been sufficient, had he been a mere creature, and not truly God: it is by the precious blood of Christ that we are redeemed, and by the blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot and blemish; and what made this blood powerful and efficacious to such a purpose, is the influence of the divine nature: all these three may be observed in one verse (Heb. 9:14).
II.She describes him by his belly, which, she says, is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. The generality of ancient interpreters715715Isidore Foliot, & Alcuin in loc & omnes in Sanct in loc. understand by belly, the human nature of Christ, which is expressed by this part, because of the frailty and weakness of it: Christ’s human nature, though not attended with sinful, yet with all sinless infirmities; he was encompassed with them; and was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs; and yet, like ivory, was firm, constant, and immoveable in sufferings, being supported and .strengthened by the divine nature, he appeared to be the man, of God’s right hand, the son of man whom he made strong for himself; and, like bright and white ivory, pure, holy, innocent and spotless; and now like bright and white ivory overlaid: with sapphires, being glorified and exalted at God’s right hand. Ivory is used to express the beauty of persons; see chapter 7:7, so the beauty of Æneas is described by it716716Quale manus addunt ebori decus, Virgil Aeneid. 1. 1. ; even by such as has been in the hands of a workman, smoothed and polished by him, and so become bright, as here called: the sapphire is used to express the glory and majesty of the Divine Being, in Exodus 24:10.
The Septuagint render it thus, “his belly is an ivory box upon a sapphire stone717717Koili>a aujtou~ puxion elefantinon epi liqou sapfeirou, Sept. ,” and this serves very well to represent the body, and may very aptly be applied to the human nature of Christ, in which “the fullness of the Godhead dwells,” and displays its glory: but the words may be better rendered, “his bowels are as bright ivory,” etc.,718718wy[m ejus, Marckius, Michaelis. so the same word is translated in verse 4, and may express the love, grace, mercy, pity and compassion of Christ to poor souls; which may be compared to bright ivory, 1. For the valuableness and excellency of it: the ivory is the tooth of the elephant, and is very valuable; Solomon made himself a throne of it, and overlaid it with gold; that is, studded it, and enameled it with gold, as this is said to be sapphires: nothing is so valuable as Christ’s love; the brightest ivory, the richest jewels, most precious stones, and excellent sapphires, are not to be compared to it; his “loving; kindness is better than life,” or all the things which render life comfortable and delightful. 2. For the purity, sincerity, and chastity of it; there is no spot, stain, or blemish of hypocrisy and deceit in it; but like pure bright ivory, is without the least sully or tarnish: nor is there any reason for jealousy” of it; both the ivory and the sapphire are observed to be preservatives of chastity; and though God’s children are often jealous of Christ’s love, yet they have no reason for it; for as he loves them above all others, so he loves none but them in that way; and he “rests in his love” towards them, and is the “same yesterday, to day, and for ever.” 3. For the firmness, constancy and durableness of it; ivory is firm and lasting; Christ’s love is so; it is from everlasting to everlasting, always the same, never varies, and will continue so for ever; for “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” 4. For its reviving, refreshing and strengthening nature; ivory, to which Christ’s bowels are here compared, is said719719Fernel. Method. Medend 1. 5. c. 21, 23. to be a great strengthener of the bowels and inward parts: Christ’s love being shed abroad in our hearts, revives our fainting souls, puts new strength into our graces, and makes us not ashamed or confounded, even in a day of trouble. 5. It is like bright ivory “overlaid with sapphires;” that is, either covered with them, as the word signifies, or rather enameled with them: of this precious stone frequent mention is made in scripture; it is used to express the glory of God (Ex. 24:10), and the throne of his majesty is said to be as the appearance of it (Ezek. 1:26), the beauty of the Nazarites is represented by it (Lam. 4:7), and the glory of the church in the latter day: (Isa. 54:11), it was one of the precious gems in the high-priest’s breast-plate; and one of the foundations of the new Jerusalem: some of the Jewish writers720720Targum Jon. In Exodus 31:18. Targum in Cant. 1:11. & R. Sol. Jarchi in Exodus 34:1. say, that the two tables on which the law was engraven was made of this; it is a very clear and transparent gem721721Pith. 50:37. c. 9. Ruaeus de Gemmis, 1. 2. c. 2. Dionys. PerIeg. 5:1105. , of a coerulean or sky color, shining with golden specks; it is said722722Fernel. Method. MEdend. 50:5. c. 21. Ruaeus, ibid. to help those that are bitten with scorpions, to defend the heart from the infection of poison, and to cure intestine ulcers: this may all serve to set forth the glory and excellency of Christ’s love; it is this oil of love, grace and mercy, which being poured in by the good Samaritan, heals the wounds that sin has made, and preserves from the dreadful effects of its poison and venom. Albertus Magnus723723Lib. 2. tract. 2. c. 17. de Rebus Metal Ruaeus de Gemmis, 1. 2. c.2. says, that the sapphire creates peace and concord, and renders the mind pure and devout to God; but whether this be so or no, it is certain that the love of Christ, discovered to a poor distressed sinner, produces calmness and serenity of mind, creates “a peace which passeth all understanding;” removes that enmity, and weakens the remains of it, which is naturally in the heart of man against God, Christ, his gospel, people, ways and ordinances; there is nothing attracts our love to Christ as this does; “we love him because he first loved us:” nor is there any thing that more engages our hearts in acts of obedience to him than this; it is this which lays us under obligation, constrains us to, and enforces on us a regard to all his commands and ordinances, and makes us most cheerful in our observance of them.
But there are some interpreters724724Lira, Soo Major , Sanctius, & Bishop Patrick in loc. who think, that not any part of the body is here described, as the belly or bowels, but rather that some covering of those parts is intended; and in, deed it does not seem so agreeable with the rules of decency, nor consistent with the spouse’s modesty, to describe her beloved by those naked parts to the daughters of Jerusalem; any more than it does with the scope of the place, which is to give some distinguishing marks and characters of him to them, that they might know him from another; but these parts being out of sight, and not exposed to public view, a description of them could be of no service to them in this respect; nor indeed does what is said serve so much to commend the belly, as it does some covering of it: R. Aben Ezra thinks the girdle about the loins is here meant; and if so, it may intend either Christ’s royal girdle, which is a girdle of righteousness and faithfulness; all his regal administrations being performed, as well according to the strictest rules of justice and equity, as with the utmost wisdom and prudence: or else, his priestly girdle, which is called a golden one (Rev. 1:13), and is no doubt an allusion to what the high-priest wore: or else, the covering intended may respect the embroidered coat of the high-priest, which covered his whole body; whose embroidery were holes or incisures, in which, as Jarchi725725In Exodus 28:4. says, were put jewels and precious stones; and so as the church described Christ as a prince before, she is thought to describe him here as a priest: or rather, the ephod with the breast-plate is here alluded to, in which were twelve precious stones, and, among the rest, the sapphire, on which were engraven the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; and it is certain, that the Targum on this place has reference to it; for it mentions the stones one by one, with the several names of the tribes engraven on them: and this may represent Christ, as the great high-priest, bearing all his elect ones upon his heart in heaven, having entered there in their name to appear and plead for them, and to take possession of glory for them in their stead, until they are brought into the actual enjoyment of it themselves.726726See a discourse of mine, called Levi’s Urim and Thummim found with Christ, p. 34- 33.
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