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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Six Verse 13

by James Durham

Verse 13. Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.

The thirteenth verse continueth the same scope, and is a confirmation of the interpretation given of the former verse, and a new expression of his love, whereby as a kind husband having forgotten by-past failing in his wife, he invites her to return to her former familiarity, with a motive signifying the love which he had to her, and that upon so good ground (in his gracious estimation) as that by her yielding to return, he puts no question, but what he had spoken of her stately terribleness, would be found to be a truth. The verse contains these three, 1. A most affectionate invitation. 2. A most loving motive proposed, persuading to embrace it, which is his end. 3. An objection removed, whereby the motive is confirmed and illustrated. In the exhortation or invitation, Consider, 1. The party invited, or called. 2. The duty called for. 3. Its repetition. The party called, is a Shulamite: this word comes either from Solomon as the husband's name is named over the wife, Isa. 4:1, and it is from the same root that signifies peace, from which Solomon had his name; and it is in the feminine gender, because it is applied to the Bride: thus it holdeth forth, 1. The strict union betwixt him and her, that she with him partakes of the same name: see Jer. 23:6, compared with Jer. 33:16, where ye will find the like communication of his name to her. 2. It shews the privilege she was admitted unto, through her tie to him and union with him, by which she is made his, and is admitted to share with him in all that is his; for, it is not an empty style she gets, while called by his name, it being to signify that she was his, and that whatever he had (whereof she was capable, and might be for her good) was hers. 3. It shews his affection that he so names her now, wishing her a part of his own peace, and entitling her to it. Or, 2. This word may be derived from Salem, which properly taken, is Jerusalem, Psalm 76:1 and Heb. 8:1. Melchisedec was king of Salem, which signifieth peace, and so, as Shunemitish comes from Shunem, so Shulamite comes from Salem, and so taking the derivation thus, it comes to the same thing with the former, both being derived from the same root; and this holds forth his respect to her, as acknowledging her new-birth and original from the new Jerusalem. 2. The exhortation is, 'return:' this implies, 1. A distance whether in respect of sin, Jer. 3:1. for, sin breeds distance betwixt Christ and his people, Isa. 59:2, or, in respect of sensible manifestations of his love; for, howsoever, the distance brought on by sin, was in some measure taken away, and she returned to her former obedience and wonted tenderness, yet she wants the sense of his love, and is seeking after it 'return,' here then, supposeth somewhat of these. 2. A duty laid on her, to quit this distance and to return; this the very expression bears. 3. A kind offer of welcome, which is implied in his offers and exhortations, whenever he calls: so Jer. 3:14; Jer. 4:1, and thus the sense is, as if he had said, there hath been a distance betwixt as, and thou art suspicious of my love; but return and come hither, and neither thy former faults, nor present jealousy shall be remembered; and this shews, that the words are his, both because the scope is continued, and also because none can call the Bride properly or effectually to return but he, neither would the voice of another be so confirming to her of his affection, and his scope is to confirm her as to that.

3. This exhortation is twice doubled, 'Return, return,' and again, 'return, return:' 1. To shew the hazard she was in. 2. Her duty to prevent it. 3. The necessity of speedy putting the exhortation in practice. 4. The difficulty that there was to bring her over her discouragements. 5. His great and earnest desire to have them all removed, and to have the duty performed. These words shew, 1. That there may be a distance betwixt Christ and his Bride; even the beautiful believer may fall into a distance of sin. 2. Of indisposition. 3. Of comfortlessness. And, 4. Of discouragement and heartless ness, which follows on the former. 2. There is often a loathness to come home, when there hath been a straying; discouragement and shame may prevail so far, as to scare fainting believers (who fain would have him) from hearty applying of his allowances to themselves. 3. Souls that are at a distance from Christ, whatever kind of distance it be, should not sit down under it, or give way to it, but wrestle from under it, over all difficulties that are in their way. 4. This should be done speedily, and without all delay, dispute, or dallying; therefore doth the Lord so double his call; there will sure be no advantage by delaying or putting off this great business of returning from our distance to him. 5. The return of believers after a slip, to confident walking with Christ, and comforting of themselves in him, is allowed by him and well pleasing to him, as well as the conversion and coming home of a sinner at first. 6. Believers after their slips, are not easily persuaded of Christ's kindness, in the measure that he hath it to them; nor are they easily brought to that confidence of it, that formerly they had. 7. Our Lord Jesus allows his people to be fully confident of his love, and of obtaining welcome from him; for which reasons this return, as a sure evidence and testimony of his kind and hearty welcome, is four times repeated to shew that he is entreating and waiting for it, and cannot abide to have it delayed.

2. The end proposed, that makes him so serious, is in these words, 'that we may look upon thee:' it doth him good (to speak so) to get a sight of her: this looking of his, is not for curiosity, but for delightsome satisfaction to his affection, as one desires to look upon what he loves so, chap. 2:14, speaking to his Bride, 'Let me see' (saith he) 'thy face, for thy countenance is comely.' This is to take away all jealousy from the Bride, and to shew how he was taken with her, so that her returning would be a singular pleasure to him, which is indeed wonderful.

Observe. 1. Our Lord Jesus allows the Bride, when returning to him after her departings from him, to be confident in him, and familiar with him. 2. The more that nearness to him be sought after and entertained, he is the more satisfied. 3. When believers hide themselves from Christ, even though it be through discouragement, and upon just ground and reason, as they think; yet doth it someway mar Christ's delightsome complacency, and he is not satisfied till they shake off their discouragement, and shew themselves to him with confidence.

Again, we should consider, that it is not said, that I may look on thee; but that 'we,' &c. Which is to shew, that she is delightsome to many, her beauty may be seen by any that will look upon her: this word, 'we,' 1. May import the blessed Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit, as chap. 1:11, 'we will make,' &c. A returning sinner will be welcome to all the persons of the Godhead. 2. 'We,' that is, 'I,' with the angels, who (Luke 15:10,) 'Rejoice at the conversion of a sinner.' And, 3. 'We,' may import, 'I and all the daughters that admire thee.' The thriving of one believer, or, the returning of a sinner may make many cheerful, and is to be accounted a lovely thing by all the professors, of religion.

3. The third thing in the verse, comes in by way of question, either to heighten the loveliness that is in Christ's Bride; what is it that is to be seen in her? As, Luke 7:24, &c. 'what went ye out for to see?' No common sight: or, it is to meet with an objection that strangers may have, what delightsome thing is to be seen in her, that seems so despicable? Or, she herself might object, what is in me worth the seeing? It may be, when it is well seen, that it be less thought of. The Lord to prevent such doubts, especially in her, moves the question, that he himself may give the answer; 'what' (saith he) 'will ye see in the Shulamite? (that is) which may be pleasant and delightful: and he answers, 'as it were the company of two armies;' which in general holds out, 1. We will see much majesty and stateliness in her; even so much as I have asserted, in comparing her to an army with banners. 2. Two armies may be mentioned, to shew, that when she is rightly, and with a believing eye looked upon, her beauty will appear to be double to what it was said to be; and so, 'two armies' signify an excellent army, as, Gen. 32:1,2, God's hosts of angels get the same name in the original, it is Mahanaim, that same which Jacob imposeth as the name upon the place, where these hosts of angels met him; and there may be an allusion to this, these two ways, 1. Ask ye what is to be seen in her? even as it were Mahanaim, that is, for excellency she is like an host of angels, such as appeared to Jacob; she is an angelic sight, more than an ordinary army: this is a notable commendation, and serves his purpose well, which is to confirm her: and therefore, that his poor Bride may be encouraged to press in on him, and return to him, he tells her, she may be as homely with him as angels, that are holy and sinless creatures;, which is a wonderful privilege, yet such as is allowed on his people, by him who hath not taken on the nature of angels, but of men, that he might purchase them a room amongst angels 'that stand by,' Zech. 3:6,7. 2. It may allude thus, what is to be seen in her? Whatever it be to the world, it is to me (saith he) excellent and refreshful, as these hosts of angels were to Jacob at Mahanaim, when he had been rescued from Laban, and was to meet with Esau: either of these suits well the scope, and saith, it will be, and is a sweet and refreshful meeting, that is betwixt Christ and a returning sinner, a little view whereof is in that parable, Luke 15:20, of the prodigal his father's hearty receiving of his lost son, and making himself and all his servants merry with him.

Observe. 1. Our Lord Jesus is very tender of believers' doubts and perplexities, and therefore prevents their objections which they may make, by giving answers to them, before the objections be well formed or stated in their hearts. 2. Believers may and usually do, wonder what ground there is in them, for such kindness as Christ shews to them, when he magnifieth them and their graces so much, that are so defective and full of blemishes: and indeed it is such that are readiest to wonder most at his love, and esteem least of themselves, whom he makes most of, and of whom he hath the greatest esteem. 3. It is a wonderful welcome that Christ gives to repenting sinners, he receives them as angels, and admits them to such freedom with him, and hath such esteem of them, as if they were angels; for, to be received 'as an angel,' signifies honourable and loving entertainment, Gal. 4:14. 4. The returning of sinners to Christ, and Christ's loving welcome which he gives them upon their return, makes a heartsome and refreshing meeting betwixt him and them: and O what satisfaction and joy shall there be, when they being all gathered together, shall meet with him at the last day!


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