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Chapter 1 Verse 6

Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath
looked upon me: My mother’s children were angry with me; they
made me the keeper of the vineyards but mine own vineyard
have I not kept.

first wordchurch, here continues her discourse to the daughters of Jerusalem: And,

I.Desires of them, not to look upon her.

II.Gives a reason why she would not have them do so, because I am black; of which blackness she assigns several causes; some of which are mot, near, others more remote.

1st, “Because the sun had looked upon her.”

2dly, “Her mother’s children were angry with her.”

3dly, “They had made her the keeper of the vineyards.”

4thly, This occasioned a neglect of her own; mine own vineyard have I not kept; all which produced this blackness in her; for it was not her true and native color.

I.She desires the daughters of Jerusalem not to look upon her; which may be understood, either, 1. Of a look of scorn and disdain:7171Vide Alshech in loc. she was now in suffering circumstances, surrounded with a variety of enemies, exposed to a multitude of troubles, and liable to many failings and infirmities; for which reasons she might be jealous of falling under their scorn and contempt, and therefore says, Look not upon me. The meanness, poverty, and sufferings of the saints, render them contemptible to the world; and the failures and imperfections of their lives are oftentimes thrown in their teeth, and this, too often, by professors themselves; but this we should be very careful of, that we do not treat our fellow-Christians after such a manner: we should be far from slighting a believer under sufferings, or carrying with a disdainful air to a fallen saint; for we should consider, that we also are in the body, and liable to the same temptations. Or else, 2. It means a curious and prying look into her failings and infirmities; conscious she was to herself of them, but knew it was not their duty, tho’ perhaps they too often made it their business, to look into them. There are some who are never better, than when thus employed, in exposing of the saints; they watch for their haltings, and are glad to report and spread a tale of the infirmities of their brethren; their eyes pierce like vultures, and fasten upon nothing else but corruption: but such a curious, prying look as this, is condemned by Christ (Matthew 7:3, 4, 5). “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye,” etc. If God did as strictly observe and mark our iniquities, as we are too apt to mark one another’s, what would become of us! This consideration should deter us from a practice so vile in itself, so dishonorable to religion, and which is so highly resented by Christ. 3. It may also signify a looking with delight and pleasure at her afflictions and falls, which, perhaps, she was suspicious of: this was what Edom was blamed for, in Obadiah v. 12, 13. “but thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother,” that is, with joy and pleasure, as the following words shew; “neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah, in the day of their destruction,” etc. believers should be so far from such a temper as this is, that they should rather sympathize with them in their sufferings and fails, than triumph over them; for “let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” Or, 4. She would not have them look upon her as persons astonished and amazed at her present sufferings, as though some strange and unaccountable thing had happened to her; for they need not be surprised, when they consider, that Christ, her head and husband, the holy and the harmless one, was treated after the same, yea, after a much worse manner; that the sufferings which she underwent, were but what were appointed for her, and would all end in God’s glory, and her own good; therefore she would have them not be startled at them, nor be discouraged by them from joining with her. 5. She would have them not to look at her blackness only, but also at her beauty; it is true, she was black in herself, and that she acknowledges; but then she was comely in Christ, and that she would have them take notice of, as well as the other: she would have them look upon Christ, who is “white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand,” who is altogether lovely and exceeding comely, and consider her in him, and not as she was in herself, for that might be frightening and discouraging to them.

II.She proceeds to give the reason why she would not have them look upon her, because, says she, “I am black;” she had said this before; but here she uses the same word in another form, which some think is to diminish the signification of it, and that she was not so black as they thought her to be, or had represented her; and read it “blackish,” or “somewhat black”;7272tdjrjç memelanwmh>nh, Sept. Subnigra, Jnn. and Tremell, Piscator, Mercerus, Cocceius; paululum denigrata, Pagninus; so Ainsworth and Aben Ezra. though the doubling of the radicals seems rather to increase the signification, as in other places (see Ps. 45:5; Proverbs 8:31), and therefore should be read, “because I am very black or exceeding black;7373Valde fusca, Bochart. prorsus vel valde et tota nigra, Marckius, Michaelis. and this she here mentions again with this addition, that she might have an opportunity to give an account of the particular reasons thereof; which reasons are as follow:

1st, She declares, that one reason of her blackness was, “because the sun had looked upon her.” The Ethiopic version has it, “because the sun hath not looked upon me,” that is, not kindly and gently, which would be pleasant and delightful; but severely, as to scorch her, and therefore looked black: and so Ambrose7474De Isaac. c. 4. reads the words; but interprets them of the Sun of righteousness, who had not shone upon her, being deprived of which she had not attended to her devotion and observance of the commands, which had brought blackness upon her. 1. The Targum expounds this of the congregation of Israel, which was made black by the idolatrous worship of the sun and moon; against this, a law was provided, it was strictly prohibited by God (Deut. 17:3), but yet was very early in the world; most nations under the sun fell into it; some worshipped the sun under one name, and some under another, and all paid a regard unto it; this idolatrous worship seems to have obtained in Job’s time (see Job 31:26, 27), and the Jewish nation was not exempt from it; they frequently fell into it. and were blackened by it (see 2 Kings 23:5-11; Ezek. 8:16), for idolatry, error, and superstition, will make the church black. 2. Others understand it of Christ,7575Foliot and Cocceius in loc, “the Sun of righteousness;” and that she was made black, either by suffering for him, or else by being in his company, in whose presence, all other beauty, but his oxen, vanishes and disappears. Thus a person that is not of a fair complexion, being in the company of one that is, looks abundantly worse than if viewed alone: Christ’s beauty infinitely exceeds any that is in us; there is no comparison between them; we look black, exceeding black, when compared to Christ. But, 3. I should rather choose to understand it of the sun of persecution, for under this name it goes in Matthew 13:6 compared with v. 21, and this seems to suit better with the church’s present state and circumstances; and, indeed, every one “that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution,” from the tongues, if not from the hands of men: and this persecution, which the church underwent, seems to be a very vehement one, in that she compares it to the looks and scorchings of the sun; and it must continue some time upon her, to make and leave such visible marks and impressions upon it; and yet she patiently endured all, and bravely “bore the heat and burden of the day,” and seems to be no more ashamed of her sufferings, than she was of the person and cause for whom she suffered. The allusion is to persons burnt with the sun,7676Perusta solibus Pernicis uxor, Horat. Epod. Ode 2. 5:41, 42. Aleokauvan Theocrit. Idyll. 10. 5:27. and so made black or swarthy, as in some countries; and especially to such who are much in the fields, and employed in rural work, as the church is represented as a keeper of vineyards and of flocks of sheep, in the following words.

2dly, Her “mother’s children were angry with her.” To her outward persecutions were added intestine broils; it is therefore no wonder she looked so black as she did: oftentimes a man’s worst enemies are those of his own house. The Targum by mother’s children understands the false prophets, who taught the congregation of Israel to serve idols, and walk in the statutes of the people; by reason of which, she served not the Lord, neither walked in his statutes, nor kept his precepts and his laws. R. Sol. Jarchi thinks the Egyptians are intended, among whom the Israelites were brought up; many of whom came along with them out of Egypt, and were frequently the cause of their falling into sin: but rather we are to understand by mother’s children, either, 1. Indwelling sins and corruptions, which are produced with nature; lust conceived, as soon as we were conceived; nay, we were conceived with it, and in it, as the Psalmist says (Ps. 51:5), “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;” which brought forth sin in us, as soon as we were brought forth into the world: and these indwelling lusts and corruptions proclaim war against us; these war against the soul, and sometimes “bring it into captivity to the law of sin which is in the members;” they frequently draw us away to the performance of sinful actions, making us the keepers of other vineyards, and often divert us from our duty, and cause us to neglect it; they hinder us from doing the good we would; for “when we would do goods evil is present with us;” and so we may be said not to keep our own vineyard Or else, 2. Carnal professors may be here intended, who are members of the same society, externally children of the same mother, who profess themselves of the holy city, are pretenders to godliness, but enemies to it; such are they, who have “a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof,” in themselves, and hate it in others; which, perhaps, may be one reason why these children that were born after the flesh, these false brethren, were angry with the church here; as they frequently are at her zealous defense and vindication of gospel-truths and ordinances, in the power and purity of them, and at her faithful reproofs and admonitions to them and others, throwing all the scandal and reproach upon her that possibly they can: now these are generally her most bitter and implacable enemies, are thorns in her side, and give her the greatest uneasiness; causing more grief and trouble to her, than all her sufferings and persecution from the world; for hereby they blacken and lessen her reputation and character, more than any other whatever; and yet bear it she must, and patiently she ought to endure it; Christ himself was not free from it; for who were more bitter and implacable enemies to him and his gospel, than the Jews, God’s professing people, and the chief among them, the high-priests and Pharisees?

3dly, She says “they made her the keeper of the vineyards,” as an effect of their anger to her, and this, no doubt, added to her blackness; for being obliged to lie abroad in the fields, to keep the vineyards, she was exposed to the scorching sunbeams, and thereby got the hue she appeared with; this employment being not only very slavish, but base, mean, and reproachful; it was what was usually done by the poorer sort, and was much below the honor and dignity she was raised unto. By vineyards may be meant false churches; and by her keeping them, her falling in with their corrupt worship, and observance of the vain traditions and ordinances of men; which Christ complains of, and condemns in the Jewish church, who “made the commandment of God of none effect by their traditions:” But this the church was obliged unto by her mother’s children; her compliance does not seem to be voluntary, but forced, and she complains of it as an imposition; “they made me,” that is, forced and obliged me to do it. And this produced,

4thly, A neglect of her own vineyard, “but mine own vineyard have I not kept;” which still increased her blackness through outward persecution, intestine broils, and a sinful compliance to human traditions, arising either from fear or weakness, or both, her own vineyard, the church, or her own soul, was neglected, and the affairs of it; her duty and business incumbent on her,7777So Horace calls his own works Vineta, Epist. 1. 2. epist. 1. 5:220. the religious exercise she ought to have been employed in: with the Romans, neglect of fields and vineyards came under the notice of the censors, and did not go unpunished.7878A. Gell. Noct. Attic. 1. 4. c. 12. Every believer has talents more or less given him to occupy, grace to exercise, gifts to use, and a part assigned him in the Lord’s vineyard, to labor in; and when these things are neglected by him, either through the fear of men, or the corruptions of his own heart, he may be said, not to have kept his vineyard; which, perhaps, sometimes is like his who was “void of understanding, which was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof;” but when he is sensible of it, he will acknowledge and bewail it, as the church does here; she does not go about to extenuate her sin, by the anger of her mother’s children, nor by their obliging her to keep other vineyards, but ingenuously acknowledges that it was her fault to neglect her own; which, as it was prejudicial to herself, so it was highly resented by Christ, who thereupon removed his presence from her; for she seems to be at a loss to know where he was, as is manifest from the following words.

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