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Chapter 5 Verse 15
legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold:
his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.
words contain the eighth and ninth particular instances of Christ’s beauty, given by the church to the daughters of Jerusalem, or distinguishing characters of him, whereby they might know and discern him from all others. And,
I.She describes him by “his legs,” which, she says,” are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold.”
II.By “his countenance;” which, she says, is, 1st, “As Lebanon.” 2dly, “Excellent as the cedars.”
I.She describes him by his legs; which she says, “are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold;” which is the eighth particular of this glorious description of Christ. The word translated legs, may as well be rendered thighs; which may very well be compared to marble pillars, both for form and color; especially when we consider, that it does not appear that the ancient Jews did in common wear any thing upon their thighs and legs, but only sandals upon their feet: or perhaps, by thighs may be meant, the femoralia727727Bishop Patrick in loc. , or garments on the thighs, which were wore by the priests when they ministered in holy things. I have observed that some interpreters think, that some garment of the high priest, either his girdle, or his embroidered coat, or the ephod, with the breast plate, is intended by the belly, in the latter part of the preceding verse; so that as Christ was described as a prince before, he is now described as a priest; which description may be still carried on here. These femoralia, or garments for the thighs, were made of fine linen (Ex. 28:42),nd so are very aptly represented by white marble; they are also said to be made of fine twisted linen (Ex. 39:28), which the Jewish Rabbins728728Vid. K. D. Kimchi, in lib. Shorash. rad. rzç Maimon. Cole Hamikdash, c. 8. s. 14. & Jarchi in Exodus 26:1. say, was of thread six times doubled; and therefore these breeches must sit very full and stiff, like pillars of marble: and this may set forth the pure mad spotless righteousness of Christ, which is called, in Revelation 19:8, fine linen, clean and white, it is this which covers our nakedness, hides the impunities of our nature, and renders us acceptable unto God.Moreover, below these breeches of the priest, was the hem of the holy robe, round about which were set pomegranates and golden bells; which perhaps may be meant by the “sockets of fine gold,” on which those pillars of marble were set; and may intend the glory and excellency of the righteousness of our great high. priest, Christ Jesus.
Moreover, in this description, the church seems to take in thighs, legs, and feet; his thighs and legs are compared to pillars of marble, and that very aptly; his feet are intended by “the sockets of fine gold; which either respects the sandals bound about the feet with golden ribbands; or the custom of some who used to adorn their shoes with gold and precious stones729729This is mentioned by Pliny, 50:9. c. 35. and 1. 37. c. 2. : and that nothing may be wanting to set off her beloved as the most excellent, she represents him as having such sandals or shoes upon his feet; golden sandals on his snow-white marble feet and legs730730Perque caput ducti lapides, per colla, manusque, ex pedibus niveis fulscrunt aurea vincla, Manilius de Margaritis, 1. 5. Littora marinoreis pedibus siguanda puellae, Ovid. Amor. 50:2. eleg, 11. 5:15. for white marble is meant, such as Parian marble, so Aquila and Theodotion render it; or shoes gilt in the upper part, as noblemen in Spain wore, as Lyra on the place observes. And now Christ’s legs being said to be “as pillars of marble, etc.,” may denote,
1st, The strength and power of Christ to bear tip and support what is or has been laid upon him: much of a man’s strength is in his legs; these are by Solomon called “the strong men,” (Eccl. 12:3), and are the pillars and support of the body which, when they begin to bow themselves, it is an indication that this earthly tabernacle is ready to be dissolved: Christ is the rock of ages in whom is everlasting strength; his legs are as pillars of marble, as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold, firm and immoveable, lasting and durable, 1. To bear the weight of the whole universe731731Several Jewish writer, by the pillars of marble, understand the six days work of creation (tho’ the Targum interprets them of the righteous) on which the world is founded; and by the sockets of gold, the doctrines of the law, Shirhashirim Rabba in loc. Bemidbar Rabba, parash. 10. Vajikra Rabba, parash, 25. : the earth, with all the inhabitants thereof, would soon be dissolved, did not he bear up the pillars of it; as he made all things, so he upholds all things by the word of his power; with all the created inhabitants of it, have their dependence on him and are upheld by him; for as “he is before all things, so by him do all things consist.” 2. To bear the whole weight of the covenant of grace: it was the business of the Levites to bear the ark of the covenant; but Christ is the covenant itself; he is so both materially and fundamentally; he is the matter, sum and substance of it ; he is the basis and foundation of it; all the blessings of it are upon him; and all the promises of it are in him, yea and amen: it is this which makes the covenant of grace, with all its blessings and mercies, sure, and renders it preferable to the covenant of works because it is “established upon better promises;” which promises are upon a better foundation, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. To bear all the persons of the elect: as the legs of a man bear and support the whole body, so Christ’s legs, which are as pillars of marble, bear up and support his whole body, the church: thus Christ bore and represented the persons of the elect in the everlasting covenant, and received all grace for them; and so he did when he hung upon the cross, when he died and rose again; and so he does now he is in heaven, even as Aaron bore the names of the children of Israel upon his breast-plate, for a memorial before the Lord. 4. To bear all their sins and transgressions: so Aaron bore the iniquity of the holy things of the children of Israel; and so did the scapegoat bear upon him their iniquities unto a land not inhabited; and therein were both types of Christ, who was manifested in our nature for this purpose; on whom God the Father laid the iniquity of us all, and who actually bore it in his own body on the tree; and by so doing, made satisfaction for it. 5. To bear all the punishment due to sin: sin being laid on him, he, as the sinner’s surety, bore the whole weight of his Father’s displeasure for it; he had not the least abatement of his wrath, but suffered the severest strokes of his justice; and yet he failed not, neither was he discouraged, or was not broken; it was enough to have broken the strength of men and angels; but he stood up under it, “his legs being as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold;” when God banished Cain from his presence, as an indication of his displeasure for his sin, he cried out, “My punishment is greater than I can bear;” and indeed, who can stand in his “sight when once he is angry?” and yet, what was this to what Christ bore in the room and stead of the elect? 6. “His legs are as pillars of marble, etc.,” to bear the whole care and government of his church: the government of the church in general is upon his shoulder; and indeed no other shoulder is capable of it but his who is “the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace:” it may be said of him, in a much more eminent senses what Paul said of himself (2 Cor. 11:28), that “the care of all the churches was upon him;” the care of every particular believer, as well as of the church in general, is upon Christ; for they cast their care upon him, who careth for them. 7. They are so, and need be so, to bear all the burdens of his people: there was a complaint of the Jews in Nehemiah’s time (Neh. 4:10), that the strength of the bearer of burdens was decayed, but this cannot be made of Christ, who is the bearer of his peoples burdens; for “his legs are as pillars of marble, etc.,” he has said (Ps. 55:22), “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee;” he has both willingness and ability, a heart and a hand to do it. 8. To bear up his people under all their afflictions, trials, and temptations: “in all their afflictions he is afflicted;” he supports and upholds them with the right hand of his righteousness; he suffers “no temptation” to befall them, but what he gives strength proportionate to it, “that they may be able to bear it;” he comfortably carries them through all the difficulties of life, and will not leave them till he has brought them to glory; for even “to hoary hairs” he will carry them; he has made, and he will bear them. 9. To bear them up and keep them from falling: he is able to do it, and he will do it; he is that “sure foundation,” on which their souls being built, “the gates of hell” cannot prevail against them; and though they may be attended with many failings and infirmities, yea, with many slips and falls, yet they shall never fall totally and finally; for he “upholdeth them with his hand.” 10. His legs are as “pillars of marble,” etc. to bear “all the glory of his father’s house;” for as he “builds the temple,” it is proper that he should “bear the glory:” Adam had a great deal of glory put upon him, in being made after God’s image and likeness, and in being the representative of, and a federal head unto all his posterity; but he “being in honor,” did not abide long; the crown was too heavy for him, it soon fell from his head, he being a mutable creature: but Christ is “the same, yesterday, today, and for ever;” and will for ever continue to bear the glory of the God-man and mediator, which no mere creature is capable of, being no ways able to effect the work. And now, when we consider all these things, Christ’s legs had need be, as indeed they are, “as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold.”
2dly, By Christ’s legs may be meant, his ways and paths732732So St Thomas and Beda in Sanct. in loc. , which he has trod in; for as legs are for the support of the body, so they are likewise the instruments of walking; and may intend, either, 1. Christ’s ways of love, grace and mercy in the covenant; “whose goings forth” in it were “from of old, from everlasting;” these were, like “pillars of marble,” firm and constant; his “counsels of old are faithfulness and truth,” and like such, “set upon sockets of fine gold,” glorious and excellent; the steps which were then taken, the measures and methods that were then concerted, were all to advance the glory of the three divine Persons, as well as to bring about and secure the salvation of sinners. Or, 2. The path of the incarnation which he trod in, as never any did before or since: it was a wondrous stoop, a surprising instance of his mighty grace, that he should come down from heaven, and converse with mortals on earth in our nature; and the manner in which this was done is no less amazing, as well as it is an indication of his love to his people, to be a partaker of the same flesh and blood with them. Or, 3. His walk and conversation here on earth, which, like “pillars of marble,” was always upright, even and constant: he never went awry, or stepped aside from the path of righteousness and holiness; but always acted in a perfect conformity to the law of God, which he made the rule of his obedience; and upon the whole of his conduct and conversation, there appeared a beauty, glory and luster; so that his legs looked like “marble pillars set upon sockets of fine gold.” Or else, 4. His walks in his churches, which are his “golden candlesticks;” among whom he delights to be, and to whom his presence is very beautiful and glorious, delightful and desirable. Or, 5. His providential dispensations to his people, which are sometimes “past finding out;” for his “way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters,” so that his “footsteps are not known;” he seems sometimes to come forth against his people in a way of anger and displeasure; and then “his feet are like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace,” as they are represented in Revelation 1:15. But yet these are, (1.) Like pillars, straight and upright; for he “is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” and though wicked men, and sometimes God’s own children, through peevishness, impatience and unbelief, may say that “the Lord’s way is not equal,” yet his is always equal, and theirs unequal. And, (2.) Like “pillars of marble,” are firm and constant; for “he is in one mind, and who can turn him?” and “what his soul desireth, even that he doth.” And, (3.) They are like such pillars, “set upon sockets of fine gold;” the basis and foundation of them are his eternal purposes and decrees; for he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” and this will all appear exceeding beautiful and glorious, when the book of purposes, ,and the book of providences are opened, and saints behold that delightful harmony and agreement which is between them; then will they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, saving, “Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints, who shall not fear thee?” etc. “for thy judgments are made manifest,” (Rev. 15:3, 4).
3dly, These legs may set forth the power of Christ, in treading under and trampling upon all his and our enemies; so his legs were like “pillars of marble,” etc. when he hung upon the cross, who then trampled upon and triumphed over sin, Satan, and the world; and so they are now he is in heaven, “for he must reign until he hath put all his enemies under his feet:” Christ’s legs and feet, in the government of his church, and in the subduing of his enemies, are not like the legs and feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, in Daniel 2:33, whose legs are said to be “of iron,” and “ his feet, part of iron and part of clay,” which were easily demolished and destroyed;” but Christ’s kingdom being a more glorious, durable, and lasting one, yea, an everlasting one, as in verse 44, therefore his legs are here compared to “pillars of marble,” and his feet to “sockets of fine gold;” his head and his feet are both of fine gold, which shows that his kingdom is glorious and excellent, and preferable to all others; and because Christ’s legs and feet are such, hence the saints are “more than conquerors,” and shall have all enemies trodden under their feet.
4thly, Some733733Foliot in loc. & Ambros. in Psalm cxvili. octon. 5. col. 914. & Carpathius in Sancr. in loc. by these legs understand Christ’s apostles, and the ministers of the gospel: who bear the name of Christ, carry his gospel, run to and fro, and diffuse “the savor of his knowledge in every place;” are pillars in his house, are instruments to support and strengthen his interest; and are marble ones, constant and immoveable in their work, cannot be diverted from it, either by the frowns or flatteries of the world: and in the discharge of their work, are very beautiful; “how beautiful are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!” and what makes their feet so beautiful? because they are as it were shod with gold; they are “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” with the golden truths of the gospel; and this makes them look like “pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold.”
II.She describes him by “his countenance;” or his appearance734734wtarm eidov aute, Sept. species ejus, Vulg. Lat. adspectus ejus, Montanus, Michaelis, etc. , look or aspect; which is the ninth particular instanced in: by this is meant, not his countenance or look by which he beholds others; but that by which he is visible to, and beheld by others, and which recommends him to them; as his grand and majestic form, his tall stature, his graceful mein and deportment, and stately walk. And this she says, is, First, As Lebanon; which intends, either,
1st, The mountain of Lebanon; which was a large and goodly mountain, abounding with fruitful and fragrant trees, situated on the north side of the land of Canaan: to which Christ may be compared, 1. For the height of it: Christ, as God, “is over all, blessed for ever;” as God-man and mediator, he has “a name given him above every name; he is, “higher than the kings of the earth,” or than all the angels in heaven; he is of a more excellent nature, and has “obtained a more excellent name than they,” 2. For pleasantness; Lebanon is called by Moses, that goodly mountain which before his death he had a great desire to see: Christ’s countenance, form or personage, is more glorious and excellent than Lebanon, or any other mountain whatever; he is “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.” 3. For the fruitfulness of it; Lebanon was a fruitful mountain for vines and cedars: on Christ all those “trees of righteousness” grow, which are the Lord’s planting; from him they receive their life and nourishment, their verdure and fruitfulness; and by him they are supplied with all needful grace; for in him all fullness of it dwells, 4. For the fragrancy of it; hence we read that the saints smell is as Lebanon (Hosea 14:6), the trees and plants which grew there, were very odoriferous, and diffused a grateful smell to passers by: Christ’s person, grace, righteousness, sacrifice, and all that belong to him, are exceeding savory to believers; and hence it is, that he is in this song compared to spikenard, myrrh, camphor, the rose and lily, etc. Lyra interprets this, not of the mountain of Lebanon, but of the aromatic tree, lebanah, or frankincense; so Theodoret.
2dly, It may be meant of the forest of Lebanon. Some think, that she has a regard in this part of the description to the attire of the high-priest, in whose garments were curiously wrought the figures of animals, trees and flowers; so that when he had his robes on him, he might be thought in some measure to resemble a forest, and particularly this of Lebanon, which was esteemed the most excellent; and so may be expressive of the glory and excellency of Christ, as our great high-priest, so far exceeds Aaron and all his sons. Or else,
3dly, It may be meant of the temple, which is sometimes called Lebanon, as in Zechariah 11:1, and it may be very well called so, because it was chiefly made of the wood of Lebanon: and Christ may be very well compared unto it, for the stateliness and magnificence of it; as well because that all that belonged to it, or were performed in it, were eminently typical of him, and did gloriously prefigure him; and hence he calls his body the temple, in John 2:19.
Secondly, She says, that his countenance is, or “he is excellent or choice as the cedars” which grew on Lebanon; and her meaning is, that as the cedars in Lebanon were the choicest, and were preferable to all other trees, so was Christ her beloved to her: saints are compared to cedars (see Ps. 92:12; Num. 24:5, 6); but Christ is the chief cedar, the choicest of all the cedars; in him these are planted and take root, and by him they are made fruitful; to these sort of trees Christ may be compared, for their tallness, stateliness, fragrancy and durableness; but these and all other things failing short to express his beauty, and set off his greatness, she concludes the description in the following words.
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