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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter One Verses 12-14

by James Durham


Verse 12. While the King sitteth at his table my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
13. A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
14. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.

The third part of the chapter follows in these three verses, 12,13,14. In it the Bride expresseth how refreshful Christ was to her, and how she did solace herself in him; this she holds forth, not only in the sweet and warm title she gives him; but further in these three things, 1. She declares the comfortableness of the fellowship she had with him, verse 12. 2. By two comparisons she illustrates it, in the beginning of the 13th and 14th verses. 4. She sets forth the warmness of her own affections to him in the end of verse 13.

The titles she gives him are two, 1. 'The King,' whereby his sovereignty and majesty is set forth. The second is, 'beloved' or 'well-beloved,' a title importing much love and affection: it differs from that title, 'my love,' which he gave her, verse 9, for that is a compellation given to her by him, as from a superior to an inferior, or as from an husband to a wife; this title which she here gives him, is as from an inferior, as a wife to her husband. The first holds forth condescending tenderness; the second respective love; but both agree in this, that they are most loving and affectionate titles.

She sets forth the comfortableness of Christ's fellowship, verse 12. Where, we are to consider these three things, 1. The privilege of his sweet company which she enjoyed, in these words, 'the King sitteth at his table.' 2. The effect thereof, held forth in this similitude, 'my spikenard,' &c. 3. The connexion of these two, in this expression, 'while the King sitteth,' &c.

First, the King here spoken of, is Christ, as was cleared, verse 4. 'His table,' or feasting-house is the gospel, Prov. 9:1, &c. where the 'feast of fat things' is prepared, Isa. 25:6. His sitting at his table, or her sitting with him at it, imports familiar fellowship with him by the gospel; so the 'table of the Lord' is taken, 1 Cor. 10:21, and Matt. 22:4. The comfortable fellowship that is to be had with him by the gospel, is held forth under the similitude of a great feast; as fellowship in glory and enjoying of him there, is set out by eating and drinking with him at his table, Luke 22:29,30. Now this is most friendly, when Christ not only furnishes a table, Psalm 23:5, but he comes and sits down, and sups with them, and admits them to sup with him, Rev. 3:21. It is called his table, because he both furnishes it, and is master and maker of the feast, yea, the matter of it also.

2. The effect of this fellowship is 'my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.' Spikenard here, signifies the graces of the Spirit wherewith the believer is furnished out of the treasure of the sweet spices that are in Christ: which are compared to spikenard, because grace is precious in itself, and savoury and pleasant to God, Psalm 141:2, and to others also, who have spiritual senses. To send forth the smell, is to be in lively exercise, and to be fresh and vigorous; grace without smell, or lively exercise, being like flowers somewhat withered, that savour not, or like unbeaten spice, that sends not forth its savour.

3. There is the connexion of this effect (which is so comfortable to her) with Christ's presence, as the cause; it is while she sits, that her spikenard sendeth forth its smell, it is then, and not else, that her graces flow; such influence hath his presence on her, as a cool wind hath on a garden, for making the smell thereof to flow out, as it is, chap. 4:16.

Here Observe. 1. Christ the Bridegroom is a king. 2. It makes all his condescending to sinners the more lovely, admirable and comfortable, that he is so excellent; that he being such a King, sitteth at the table with poor believers, is much; love in Christ, brings his majesty, as it were, below itself, to feed and feast his poor people. 3. There is a way of most sweet and comfortable communion to be had even with the King in his own ordinances. 4. There is a great difference betwixt an ordinance, or duty, and Christ's presence in it; these are separable. 5. It is Christ's presence that makes a feast to a believer, and makes all gospel ordinances, and duties so refreshful. 6. Believers may, and will observe when Christ is at the table, and when not: and it will be empty to them when he is absent. 7. All the provision wherewith believers' table is furnished, and they are feasted is Christ. 8. Christ should have a continued dwelling in the believer, and they a continual conversing with him, as those who diet ordinarily at one table.

The effect (namely the flowing of her graces) and its connexion with his presence, as the cause, shows, 1. There is a stock of grace, and spikenard in them, with whom Christ useth to sup, and there is no other but such admitted to his table. 2. The graces of the Spirit in believers, may be in a great part without savour, void of lively exercise, almost dead as to their effects. 3. It is exceedingly refreshful to believers, to have their graces flowing and acting. 4. Christ's presence hath much influence to make all things lively and savoury; where he sits, all things that are beside him (as it were) blossom and savour: the graces of his people are then very fresh and lively. And, 5. Though grace be savoury in itself, yet in Christ's absence, that savour will be restrained, and not seat forth; for it is implied, that when the King sat not at his table, her spikenard did not send forth its smell. 6. Christ's company, or fellowship with him, will not only be prized by believers, as it brings sensible comfort to them; but also as it revives their graces, and makes them lively.

2. Her satisfaction in Christ's fellowship, verses 13, and 14, is illustrated in two similitudes, whereby her holy fondness (to speak so) on him appears. The first similitude is, 'a bundle of myrrh.' Myrrh was a precious and savoury spice, made use of in the 'anointing oil,' Exod. 30:23. and in embalming Christ's body. A bundle of it, signifies abundance of it; not a stalk, or a grain, but a bundle that must be of more worth, and virtue than a lesser quantity. The second similitude, to the same scope is a 'cluster of camphire,' or cypress; a sweet odoriferous and precious wood in these parts; and a cluster of it, implies a congeries of it, having much of its excellency bound up together: and under these two similitudes (because one is not enough to set forth the thing) is understood a most precious, refreshful excellency which is to be found in Christ, and wherewith the most desirable excellency amongst the creatures being compared, he is much more excellent than they all; he is more sweet and precious than a cluster, even of that camphire which grows in the vineyards of Fngedi, where, it is like, the most precious of that kind grew. Now these expressions hold forth, 1. Christ's preciousness. 2. His efficacy and virtue. 3. His abounding in both; the worth and virtue that is in him cannot be comprehended, nor told. 4. The Bride's wisdom in making use of such things to describe Christ; and her affection in preferring him to all other things, and in satisfying herself in him, which is the last thing in these verses.

This respect of hers, or the warmness of her affection to him, is set forth two ways, 1. In that expression, 'he is unto me,' (which is both in the beginning of the 13th and in the beginning of the 14th verse) whereby is signified, not only Christ's worth in general, but, 1. His savouriness, and loveliness to her in particular: she speaks of him, as she herself had found him. 2. To express what room she gives him in her affection, he was lovely in himself, and he was so to her, and in her esteem, he is (saith she) a bundle of myrrh unto me, a cluster of camphire to me: this is further clear from that other expression, namely, 'he shall lie all night' (saith she) 'betwixt my breasts,' even as one hugs and embraces whom they love, or what they love; and keeps it in their arms, and thrusts it into their bosom; so (saith she) my beloved shall have my heart to rest in, and if one room be further in than another, there he will be admitted. Which imports, l. Great love. 2. A satisfying her spiritual senses on him. 3. Tenaciousness in keeping and retaining him, when he is gotten, and great lothness to quit, or part with him. 4. It shews his right seat and place of residence; the bosom and heart is Christ's room and bed. 5. It shews a continuance in retaining him, and entertaining him, she would do it not for a start, but for all night. 6. A watchfulness in not interrupting his rest, or disquieting of him, he shall not be troubled (saith she) but 'he shall lie all night,' unprovoked to depart. These are good evidences of affection to Christ, and offer ground for good directions how to walk under sensible manifestations, when he doth communicate himself.




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