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Chapter 6 Verse 8 & 9
are threescore queens and fourscore concubines;
and virgins without number.
My dove, my
undefiled, is but one; the is the only one of her
mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her: the daughters
saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and
they praised her.
having commended the church’s beauty, both in general and in particular instances, as she might be considered by herself, without respect to others, in the preceding verses; now commends her, as she might stand related to, or be compared with others. And,
I.The persons with whom she stands compared, and to whom she appears preferable, are “queens, concubines, and virgins without number.”
II.The things in which she appears to be preferable to them, are,
First, That she “is but one.” Secondly, “The only one of her me, thee.” Thirdly, “The choice one of her that bare her.” And then,
III.Her beauty is commended by the notice the “daughters, queens, and concubines” took of it; who, as soon as ever “they saw her, blessed and praised her.”
I.The persons with whom she stands compared, and appears preferable to, are, “the threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number,” mentioned in verse 8, which words may be considered, either as an assertion that there are so many, a certain number being put for an uncertain one; or else, as a supposition, though there may be so many, yet “my undefiled is but one,” etc. Queens are those who were the principal wives of kings, who brought portions with them; whose children inherited, and they themselves, with their royal husbands, had the management of affairs: Concubines are secondary wives, or half wives, as the word768768µyçnlyp quidam vocem compositam volunt ex blp divisit, & hça uxor, quasi uxor divisa vel dimidia, Buxtorf. secondariae uxores, Michaelis nmay be rendered; they were such who brought no portions with them;769769Vid Jarchium in Genesis 25:6. Schindler. Lex. Pentaglot. fol. 1508. David de Poinis Lex. Hebrews fol. 143. I. & Kimchi lib. Shoraah. In voce çwlyp. and though they were admitted to the fellowship of the bed, yet their children did not inherit, but had only some gifts given to them; nor had they themselves any share in the government of the house, but rather acted like servants under the other; such were Hagar, Zilpah, Bilhah, etc. “The virgins without number,” are unmarried persons; these were the maids of honor, who waited and attended upon the queens. Now there are in the words an allusion either to the custom and practice of kings and great persons, who had more wives than one, had many concubines, and a large number of virgins to attend upon them; and this was not only the practice of heathen, but also of Jewish princes, as David and Solomon; which latter, more especially, had a large number: and it is thought that a regard is had more particularly to his queens and concubines in this text; for which reason some have thought that this back was written before he gave so great a loose to his lusts, as we find he did; for we are told (1 Kings 11:3), that he had ‘seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines. Or else, the allusion is to a nuptial solemnity, and the ceremony of introducing the bride into the bridegroom’s house, who used to be attended with a large number of persons of distinction; so four times sixty virgins are said to attend the nuptials of Menelaus and Helena770770Theocrit. Idyll. 18. 5:24 (see Ps. 45), between which and this song there is a very great resemblance; and perhaps that was the plan of this: there the queen is represented as standing in “gold of Ophir,” which answers to Christ’s church and bride here, and means the same there: also “kings daughters,” which answer to the queens here, are said to be among her “honorable women” who were attendants on her; and the “virgins, her companions,” are said to “follow her,” when she was introduced into the king’s presence.
Now by these “threescore queens, fourscore concubines, and virgins without number,” may be meant, either,
1st, The several kingdoms and nations of the world: and by queens may be meant those kingdoms and countries, which are more large, rich, and flourishing; by concubines, those which are inferior to them, either in largeness, riches, or numbers; and by virgins, the vast multitude of inhabitants which fall them; and then the sense is this: though there are many large, rich and populous nations in the world; yet my church is preferable to them all: these all put together, cannot equal her; for “as the lily is among thorns,” and is preferable to them; ‘so my love is among the daughters,” the nations of the world, and is preferable to them all. Or,
2dly, By them may be meant false churches, who pretend to be the true spouse of Christ, but are not so: by queens may be meant, those who boast themselves of their riches and numbers, and would be esteemed on that account the true bride of Christ; as the church of Rome, who ‘saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow;” and yet is an harlot, nay, “the mother of harlots.” By concubines, such who are inferior in wealth and numbers, but equally corrupt in principles, and which make the same pretensions the others do; such are the Arian, Socinian, etc., churches: and by “virgins without number,” the large multitude of poor, weak and ignorant people, who are seduced and carried aside by them. But now Christ’s church, though it does not make so great a figure in the world; nor does it appear in so much external pomp and splendor; nor has it the riches and numbers that these may have; yet in Christ’s esteem is preferable to them all. Though,
3dly, Others771771Alcuin in loc. Thorn. & Bede in Sanct. in loc. think, that the several sorts of preachers in the church are here intended: and that by queens, are meant ministers of the first rank; who are faithful to Christ and his gospel, and are instrumental in bringing forth many souls unto him: and by concubines, such who “corrupt the word of God, and handle it deceitfully:” who are “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ;” who seek not Christ but themselves; not his honor, but their own applause: and by virgins, such who, though regenerated, vet at present are not fit for the ministry, but are training up for it in the several churches or schools of learning; and may be such, whom the apostle calls novices; not a novice, nefuton, a young tender plant; one that is newly planted in Christianity, and has arrived to some knowledge of the gospel, but as yet not fit for the office of a bishop. But,
4thly, The words seem rather to be understood of the several degrees of believers.772772So Durham in loc. & Nyssen. Homil. 15. Theodoret. in loc. Psellus & Tres Patres in ib. By queens, may be meant believers of the highest form; such whom Christ has honored with greater gifts and larger measures of grace; in whose hearts and lives grace reigns more gloriously than in others; and who have a greater nearness to Christ, and more communion with him than others have: and by concubines, believers of an inferior sort, who are of a more servile and legal spirit, have more of “a spirit of bondage than the spirit of adoption,” but yet these have fellowship and communion with Christ at times: and by virgins, young converts, newborn babes, that have not so much experience as either of the former: so that this distribution of believers into “queens, concubines, and virgins,” seems to suit with the division of them into “fathers, young men, and children,” which is made (1 John 2:13, 14), and what seems to strengthen this sense of the words, is their blessing and praising the bride in the following verse. In an ancient tract of the Jews, called Midrash Hanneelam,773773In Zohar in Genesis fol. 77. 1. the queens, in the next verse, are said to be the fathers or patriarchs; the concubines, the proselytes of righteousness; and the daughters, the daughters of Jerusalem. Now Christ’s church, considered as a collective body, is preferable to single believers, even to the greatest of them: and it is also well observed by one,774774Durham in loc. that there are more concubines than queens, and more virgins than either of them; for there are more weak believers and babes in Christ, than there are strong ones; those of the highest rank and form are very rare; there are but few to be found in comparison of the other; but Christ’s bride comprehends them all, and is preferable to them; which is the next thing to be considered.
II.Christ, in verse 9, commends his church above all these queens, concubines and virgins; he gives her two excellent titles, which show her to be superior to others; the first of which, “my dove,” has been explained in chapter 2:14, and the other, “my undefiled,” in chapter 5:2, and therefore need no farther explanation here. The things in which she appears to be preferable to all these fore-mentioned persons, are,
First, That she is but one, and they are many: which may be expressive, 1. Of the church’s fewness in number; who, if compared with the nations of the world, which is the first sense given of the former words, she is but like one to sixty or eighty, nay to an innumerable multitude; there are but few that are chosen, though many are externally called: Christ’s church is a remnant, according to the election of grace; it is but one of a city, and two of a family that Christ brings to Zion; they are but a little flock, to whom the heavenly kingdom is bequeathed. 2. Of the church’s unity in herself. (1.) She is but one body; as there are various members in an human body, and yet but one body; so likewise is the church, though consisting of many believers; as there are many sheep and lambs in a flock, and yet but one flock, under the care of one shepherd; many beds in a garden, and a variety of spices, flowers, herbs and plants in these beds, and yet but one garden; even so, though there are many particular congregated churches, and in those churches many believers; yet there is but one “general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven.” (2.) She has but one spirit, which actuates and influences this body, the same Spirit that dwells in the head, Christ, dwells in his body, the church; and the same that dwells in the body, dwells in every member of it; for though there are diversities of gifts, and various graces, yet there is but one Spirit who distributes them to the several members, for their use and profit. (3.) She has but one head and husband, Lord and Savior: she has but one head, to whom she holds, and from whom she receives life and nourishment, and so increases with the increase of God; but one husband, whom she owns and acknowledges as such, and to whom she is “espoused as a chaste virgin;” but one lord. under whose government she is, and to whom alone she yields obedience; and but one mediator, that she regards, and makes use of, and that is, “the man Christ Jesus.” (4.) Though the church consists of many members; yet being but one body united to one head, and actuated by one and the same Spirit, they enjoy the same privileges; they are built upon one and the same foundation, Christ; they are washed in the same blood; they wear the same righteousness, and receive from the same fullness, “grace for grace.” (5.) They make a profession of one and the same faith, for as there is but one Lord, so there is but one faith; the doctrine of grace is invariable; it is like the author of it, “the same yesterday, today, and for ever;” there never was another gospel, nor never will be; the faith which the church now professes, is what was “once delivered to the saints,” to be kept by them; and which they, standing fast in one spirit, should strive for the purity of; which cannot be, unless they are “perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. (6.) They are in the same one in worship: the object of worship is one and the same; and so is the Spirit which assists them in it, as well as the form of it; for as there is but one Lord, and one faith, so there is but one baptism: whose subjects and mode of administration should continue the same, without any variation, until the end of time: and but one Lord’s supper: and so it may be said of every other ordinance, and of every part of religious worship; for saints, as they worship one and the same God, under the influences of one and the same Spirit, and in the same way; so likewise should they, with one consent: which they cannot be said to do, when an ordinance is administered by some one way, and by some another. (7.) They are one in affections, or at least ought to be; their chief business should be to “keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,” and that from the aforesaid considerations: for this is one end of their calling, the glory of their profession, and a distinguishing character of their being the disciples and church of Christ. This may be also expressive of her being the only spouse and bride of Christ; “my dove, my undefiled is but one;” that is, though other princes may have their sixty queens and eighty concubines, and an innumerable company of virgins to wait upon them; yet I have but one, and am well satisfied with her, I desire none but her; my one is preferable to their many; as she says, “I am my beloved’s:” that is, I only am his, he has none besides me and “his desire is towards me,” and to none else.
Secondly, He says, that ‘she is the only one of her mother.” By her mother is meant “Jerusalem, which is above, which is the mother of us all:” and by her being “the only one of her mother,” we are to understand that she had no other but her: for though we read, in chapter 1:6, of “her mother’s children,” yet we are to understand them of carnal professors; who had the name, but not the nature of children; were not true sons of the church, were bastards, and not sons. Or else the meaning is, that she was to him as a mother’s only child; no mother could more tenderly love an only child, than he did her: so that it may be expressive of that strong affection and tender passion which he bore to her.
Thirdly, he says, that ‘she is the choice one of her that bare her,” which is a periphrasis of her mother; and her being the “choice one of her,” shows how much she was valued and esteemed by her; of all her mother’s children, she was loved the best. Moreover, the word may be translated, “the pure or clean one;”775775ayh hrb munda ipsa genitrici suae, Motanus; pura est genicrici suae, Cocceius, Mercerus: puram iliam apud genetricem suam, Junius. and so she is as clothed with that “fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints,” as washed in Christ’s blood, which “cleanseth from all sin;” as sanctified by the Spirit, purified by faith, and sprinkled with clean water, the grace of the everlasting covenant: also, as she was free from the pollution of error and false worship; was of an unspotted conversation; and was now, or at least had been lately, in the furnace of affliction, where Christ had purified her, and made her white and clean.
III.Christ commends her beauty, by observing what notice the daughters, queens and concubines took of it, and how much they praised and commended her for it: “The daughters saw her, and blessed her, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her:” it may seem strange that concubines should praise a queen; but it was not unusual in the eastern countries; with the Persians, as the queen admitted of many concubines, by the order of her lord the king; so the queen was had in great veneration, and even adored by the concubines.776776Dinon in Peraicis apud Athnani Deipuosphist. 50:13, c. 1. p, 456. Which may be understood, 1. Of the great esteem which the church had or should have in the world, and that from the great men of it; which will appear more visibly in the latter day, when those prophecies shall be fulfilled, of which we read in Isaiah 49:23 and 60:3,10,11, when kings shall be, her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers; and God’s Jerusalem, the church, shall be the praise of the whole earth. Or, 2. Of the great value and esteem which professors, and especially young converts, have of the church; in whose eyes she is “the fairest among women;” who, as soon as ever they saw her, were ravished with her beauty, loved her, and wished themselves as happy as she: for, 3. They blessed her; that is accounted her happy; as well they might, seeing she was “blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ;” and indeed whether we consider the saints, either as to their entertainment in God’s house, or their employment there, it may be said of them what the queen of Sheba said of Solomon’s servants (1 Kings 10:8). “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.” And, 4. They wished all happiness to her, and prayed for it, which also may be the sense of the words, they blessed her (see Ps. 129:8), they prayed for the peace of Jerusalem, which was their duty; and in doing which, they show their affection to the church: nay, 5. They not only thought well of her, and wished well to her; but they also praised her, that is, they spoke well of her, and highly commended her beauty: so that Christ was not alone in his opinion of her; for others thought her to be an accomplished beauty, as well as he: and this, as it serves to commend her beauty, so its being taken notice of by Christ, shows how much he was pleased with it, for as those that touch his people, “touch the apple of his eye;” and whatsoever is spoken against them, he takes as spoken against himself; so, whenever they are praised and spoken well of, he is well pleased with it.
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