|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 4. Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fish-pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim; thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon, which looketh toward Damascus.
In the fourth verse, three more of the Bride's parts (which make the sixth, seventh, and eighth) are commended. The sixth is the neck: it was spoken of, chap. 4:4, neither doth the commendation differ much: there, it was said to be like 'the tower of David,' here it is 'as a tower of ivory,' that is, both comely and precious, being made of the elephant's teeth, a tower whereof, must be very precious: and by this we conceive, the great defensive efficacy of faith is set forth, which is still a tower, yet comparable to many, it is so excellent and sure; they dwell safely who are believers, because they dwell in God, and in his Son, Jesus Christ. And so we may here observe, 1. Faith is a precious defence; for, Christ is a precious biding-place, and faith must be precious, because Christ is precious: hence it is not only precious as ivory, but 'much more precious than gold,' 1 Pet. 1:7. 2. Faith is a sure defence, and is the believer's tower, where to he betakes himself when he hath to do. 3. It is lovely and pleasant to Christ, when believers by faith betake themselves to him; he will never quarrel with them for it, seeing he so commends it. 4. There is no safe tower to any of the world, but what the believer hath; for, he, and he only, hath a tower of ivory to make use of: Christ is the only rock and sure foundation, and it is only believers that build their house upon him.
The seventh part instanced, is 'her eyes,' which were several times mentioned before; they point at her spiritual discerning, and understanding of spiritual things, and the believing uptaking of them; in which respect, all natural men are blind, because of their ignorance and unbelief; she only hath eyes. They are compared to 'fish-pools in Heshbon, at the gate of Bathrabbim:' this city Heshbon is mentioned, Num. 21:25,26. It was a royal city, where Sihon king of the Amorites dwelt; and it is like, there hath been some place there called Bethrabbim, for the great resort that was made thereunto: and the fish-pools that were there, it seems, were excellent and clear, and fit to give a shadow to those who looked into them. Now it would seem, that believers' eyes are compared to these pools, because of the clear, distinct, and believing knowledge they have of themselves, of Christ, and of other spiritual objects. And from this we may observe, 1. That solid and distinct knowledge in spiritual things, is very commendable. 2. That a believer hath another kind of insight in spiritual things, than the most understanding natural man: he hath eyes in respect of him; the natural man (who hath no experimental nor believing knowledge of spiritual things) is but blind. 3. He is sharpest sighted that discerns himself, and can rightly take up his own condition; 'the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way:' so believers' eyes, or knowledge, is compared to a fish pond, that gives representations of a man's face to him.
The eighth particular is, the nose, (it was not mentioned in her commendation, chap. 4). It is not to be taken here for the whole countenance, but for apart thereof therefore it is distinguished from the eyes, and is described as being eminent (like a tower) beyond the rest of the face, and so it is to be applied to the nose properly, which ariseth with a height on the face, like a tower, and is the seat of smelling to discover what is hurtful, or savoury; also anger or zeal appear in it, therefore is it in the Hebrew language in the Old Testament, sometimes put for these, because it shews a real indignation, when a man's anger smokes forth at his nose, Psalm 18:8. It is said,
1. To be like 'the tower of Lebanon:' there is no partitular mention of such a tower, but, that Solomon built there a stately house, 2 Chron. 8:3, called the 'house of the forest of Lebanon,' wherein, 2 Chron. 9:15,16, he put many 'targets' and 'shields;' and Lebanon being on the north side of Judah, near to Syria (where enemies soon brake out against Solomon) it is not unlike, but either this house was made use of as a frontier-tower, or that some other was there builded, for preventing of hurt from that hand, to which this alludes. Next, this tower is said to look 'towards Damascus:' Damascus was the head city of Syria; so, Isa. 7:8, it is said, 'the head of Syria is Damascus:' those that dwelt in it, were at that time amongst the most malicious enemies that Israel had; they were so in David's time, 2 Sam. 8:5, he slew two and twenty thousand of them; they were so in Solomon's time, 1 King 11:34. Rezon (whom God raised up to be an enemy to him) did reign in Damascus; and generally they continued to be so. They lay on the north of Judah (therefore it is called evil from the north, which came from Syria) and Lebanon was on the north border of Israel next to it: and it is like, that for this cause, either Solomon did change that place into a tower, or built some other of new, to be a watch especially against that enemy, which was his chief enemy, to prevent the hurt that might come from that hand; therefore, it is said to look toward (or to the face of) Damascus, as having a special respect to that enemy. Now we conceive, that by this, the Bride's watchfulness and zeal, in prosecuting and maintaining her spiritual war against her enemies, is understood; as also, her sagacity, in smelling and discovering the stirrings and motions of her spiritual enemies, as the nose doth easily smell and discover what is pleasant or hurtful to sense. Christ's Bride hath many enemies, and some more terrible than others; therefore, she hath her watches, and (as it were) sentinels at the post, to observe their motions, especially she hath an eye upon her most inveterate and malicious enemy, the enemy nearest her doors, that is naturally most predominant, and her great care is to be kept from 'her iniquity,' Psalm 18:21. This we conceive, agrees both with the scope, and also with the discription and comparison here made use of.
Observe. 1. The most beautiful Bride of our Lord Jesus hath enemies, and such enemies, as are strongly seated and fortified (as the Syrians at Damascus were) to watch against. 2. There are some particular quarters, or enemies, from which, and by which, believers often suffer most and although they have enemies on all hands, yet is there ordinarily some one particular enemy, more terrible, malicious and predominant than others, from which they are most in danger. 3. Believers should ever be on their watch against those enemies, and must neither make peace with them, nor be negligent to provide against them. 4. Although the believer should not be secure or careless, in reference to any ill, but every evil is to be carefully watched against; yet, where one ill doth more often assault him than others, and is more strong, by the concurrence of tentations from without, or from his own inclinations within, there the believer hath need of a special watch. 5. This watchfulness impartially extended, and constantly maintained, is a main piece of spiritual beauty, and hath much influence on the adorning of a believer, and is a good evidence of a person that is commendable before Jesus Christ.
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