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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Five Verse 14

by James Durham

Verse 14. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl; his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

The sixth and seventh particulars instanced to commend Christ, are in verse 14. The sixth is, 'his hands:' the hands are the instruments of action, as the lips are of speaking: they are commended that they are as 'gold rings,' that is, as men or women's hands are adorned with gold rings, so his hands have a native loveliness beyond these: yet, this commendation (as all the former) answers not fully, therefore it is added, they are 'set with beryl:' this was a precious stone put in Aaron's breast-plate, Exod. 39:13. To be 'set' with it, signifies, as preciousness, so rare artifice; and such is seen in the right setting of precious stones.

By our Lord's hands, may be understood that powerful activity whereby he is fitted to bring about what he pleaseth, and that power which he exerciseth especially in the works of grace, as on verse 4, was cleared: or, we may understand the effects produced by that his power, or his works which are exceeding glorious; as, Psalm 109:27, 'That they may know, O Lord, that this is thy hand,' that is, 'that thou, Lord, hast done it.' So his hands signify such works especially, wherein his divine power, art and skill do manifest themselves for the good of his people: both agree well together; for, excellent power and skill produce excellent effects, and excellent effects demonstrate the excellent qualifications of the worker. This being a main piece of Christ's commendation, and which doth hold him forth to be exceeding lovely above all to the believer, (which is the scope) may well be taken here as the meaning, especially being subjoined to the commendation of his words: for, our Lord Jesus doth not only say well, but also doth well; he is a 'prophet, mighty both in word and deed,' Luke 24:19.

The commendation suits with his works, as if there were none of them but what are adorned (as it were) with excellent gold rings, there being much glory, grace, wisdom, and skill shining in them all; they are 'honourable and glorious,' Psalm 111:3, yea, 'great and marvellous are the works of the Lord God almighty,' Rev. 15:4. These are the deserved epithets of his actions: in sum, it is, as if she had said, Ask ye what my Beloved is, more than others? If ye saw but a glimpse of the white and red that is in his cheeks, and if ye heard the sweet words that proceed from his mouth, and if ye knew the excellent works which he hath performed, even to admiration, for the good of his people, and how much loveliness appears in all these, ye would (no doubt) say with me, He is the chiefest among ten thousand.

Observe. 1. Christ is an active husband, having hands, and working with them for the good of his Bride: a piece of his work we heard of chap. 3:9, in that noble chariot he is no idle spectator; he 'worketh hitherto,' John 5:17. 2. All our Lord Jesus his works, are exceeding excellent and beautiful, and when rightly discerned, they will appear wonderful, honourable, and glorious, as proceeding from him 'who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working,' Isa. 28:29. What a curious and excellent piece of work is that chariot, or the covenant of redemption signified thereby, chap. 3:9. There are many shining well set jewels, and rings upon every finger of his hands: there is nothing that can be done better than what he hath done. The works of Christ, in our redemption, do hold forth infinite skill, and gloriousness to be in the worker, all of them are so wisely contrived and exquisitely executed. 3. Christ's works do exceedingly endear him, and that deservedly to his people, and do infallibly demonstrate his worth above all beloveds in the world; who is like unto him? and who can do great works, such as he hath done? This makes heaven to resound with the praises of what this beloved hath done for his people. 4. Believers should be acquaint both with Christ's words and works, and should be well versed in the knowledge of the excellencies that are in them both, that so they may be the more affected with him them selves, and be more able to commend him to others. 5. Where Christ is lovely, all his works will be delightsome and it is by acquaintance with, and observation of, his excellent works, that the hearts of his people come to take him up, and to be rightly affected with him. 6. As ignorance of the excellency of Christ's works (especially of the work of redemption) makes many slight Christ, and prefer others to him (for, she would discover the daughters of Jerusalem their mistake of him, by instancing this among other things) so it is a kindly-like thing to have an honourable esteem of Christ's works in the heart. 7. Although the devil and mens' idols seem to promise much to their lovers, when they suit and entice them yet never one indeed can equal Christ, or compare with him in respect of what he hath done for his Bride; and this sets him up incomparably above them all: his hands, in respect of his magnificent works, are adorned, as it were, with gold rings; whereas they have hands, but work not for the help and relief of their lovers. Psalm 115:7.

The seventh part of this demonstration of Christ's worth is from his 'belly:' the word in the original is the same word, which verse 4, is rendered bowels, and we rather use it so here as it signifieth bowels, in the native signification of it, as not knowing why it should be altered in this verse; especially considering, that whatever it is attributed to God, it is translated 'bowels,' as, Isa 63:15, 'where is the sounding of thy bowels?' and, Jer. 31:20, 'my bowels are moved for him:' reading it then thus, 'his bowels are as bright ivory,' &c. The words at the very first, would seem to signify the intense love and tender affection, wherewith our Lord Jesus (who is full of grace) is filled and stuffed (to say so) for the behoof and good of his people; so that no mother is so compassionately affected towards the fruit of her womb, as he is towards his own. This exposition is confirmed, 1. From the ordinary signification of the word bowels, when it is applied to God, as, Isa. 63:15, and Jer. 31:20, and it is borrowed from the affection that mothers have to their children, whose bowels yearn on them, as, 1 Kings 3:26. and so Joseph was affected toward his brethren, Gen. 43:30. Hence the word, both in the Hebrew and Greek, in the Old and New Testament, which is made use of to set forth the Lord's tender compassion, flows from a root that signifieth bowels. 2. The scope will confirm this, for, is there any thing that makes Christ more lovely and admirable than his love? which makes the prophet cry out, Mic. 7:18, 'who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?' &c. 'because thou delightest in mercy;' or, is there any other thing that more commends him as a Beloved preferable to all, than his love? Love in a husband is a special property. Now 'Christ loved his church and gave himself for it,' Eph. 5:25, it is not like therefore, that this is omitted: and, 3. It follows well on the commendation of his works for, and about his people, as shewing the fountain from whence they proceed: the commendation of this is excellent.

1. It is as 'bright ivory:' ivory is rarely and singularly pure, and pleasant, being made of elephants' teeth: 'bright,' is added, to shew, that it is of the best sort, as all that is in Christ is. 2. It is 'overlaid with sapphires;' that was a stone in Aaron's breast-plate, and also is reckoned one of the foundation stones of the 'New Jerusalem,' Rev. 21:19, which shews, that it is very precious, though we know not the particular properties of it: the word 'overlaid,' may be from the original rendered curiously set, or, enameled: in sum, here, his love is described as most lovely, clean and pleasant, like ivory; rich and precious like sapphires; and well ordered and wisely vented for the good of his people, as bright ivory curiously enameled with sapphires: his love is a most excellent, curious, and pleasant object, the like whereof is not to be found amongst all the beloveds in the world. This verse commends Christ's heart and inside, which is unsearchable as to its height, depth, breadth, and length: it may therefore be hard, and someway hazardous to offer doctrines on, or to form expressions concerning, that 'which passeth knowledge,' Eph 3:18,19, the comprehending experimental knowledge of it will be the best commentary on it; yet these things are clear and safe.

1. There is singular love, affection, and bowels in our Lord Jesus to his people; so singular, that there is none can compare with him in this, no husband, nay nor wife, it passeth the love of women; no tender hearted mother, and much less any idol can compete with him in this; it's inconceivable in itself, and it is wonderful in its effects. 2. There is nothing that will contribute to make believers see Jesus Christ as admirable in himself, and lovely to them, than right apprehension of his love: this is the constraining, ravishing, engaging, and soul-inebriating consideration of Christ, the conceiving of him rightly in his admirable love; and they will never esteem of Christ rightly, who discern not that; it is (as it were) his crown: and the believing of it, is in a sort the putting the crown on his head. Amongst all his excellencies, none takes the believer more up than his love: and nothing is more remarkable in him than that; and right thoughts of Christ's love is no ill token. 3. Our Lord Jesus his love and bowels are a rich jewel when seen, a precious stately sight; 'bright ivory overlaid with sapphires' is but a small and dark shadow of it; Christ's love is a possession beyond jewels, a very beautiful object to look on, beyond the most excellent creature: it is both a wonder and a heartbreak that it is so little thought of, and that men are not more delighted in it. 4. Altho' there be much in many mouths of Christ's love, yet there are few that really know and believe the love that he hath to his people, 1 John 3:1. As this is the cause that so few love him, and why so many set up other beloveds beside him; so the solid faith of this, and the expectation of good from him, hath a great engaging virtue to draw sinners to him, Heb. 11:6, and for that end it is made use of here. 5. Whatever seeming smiles idols may give to their lovers, yet will they not prove lovers in the end to them; for, that is proper to Christ, he only hath strong love and bowels of affection to his own to the end, but other lovers in the end will fail men, only our Lord Jesus continueth a loving husband to the end: for, whom he loves he loves to the end. 6. It is, beyond all peradventure, good and desirable to be matched with Jesus Christ, where so much honour, riches, power, wisdom, loveliness, and love, meet all together; for, the scope of this, and of all the rest of the commendations, is to engage sinners to match with him. 7. There is no cause to be jealous of Christ's love, his people have a most loving husband, and never a spot or ground of jealousy hath defiled his bowels since the world began, but they to this day are, and will be for ever 'as bright ivory.' 8. Christ's love is excellent in itself, and is also excellent in the way of communicating itself to his people; therefore it is not as sapphires that are confusedly casten together, but that are artificially set; or, our Lord Jesus vents not his love fondly (to speak with reverence) or imprudently, but most wisely, skilfully, and seasonably, so as it may be for the good of his people; not as a fond and too indulgent mother, that gives that which is even hurtful because the child desires it, but as a wise father who gives that which is useful, though it he unpleasant: he guides his love by discretion, and according to expediency, as John 16:7, 'It is expedient for you that I go,' and therefore he will go, though they were even made sad with it. 9. Although some pieces of Christ's love, being considered in themselves, seem not so pleasant and lovely, like precious stones not rightly set, yet when all are seen together, and every thing taken up as in its own place, and proportionably corresponding with one another, and especially in respect of the fountain of love from which they come, they will then (being all looked on together) be seen to be very beautiful and pleasant and well ordered, like 'bright ivory,' that is regularly and curiously enameled, or indented with sapphires: the time comes, when Christ's love will be thought to be exquisitely and wisely let out and conveyed, even in these things wherein it is most suspected now by his own.



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