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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Seven Verse 5

by James Durham

Verse 5. Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple: the king is held in the galleries.

The first part of verse 5, contains the ninth and tenth particulars, that are commended in the Bride: the ninth is her head; it looks here to be taken for the uppermost part of the head (from which sense and motion do flow) as being distinct from eyes and nose; therefore it is said, 'Thy head upon thee,' to wit, upon and above those parts before mentioned: next, it is said to be 'like Carmel;' which may be understood, 1. As it relates to a fruitful place, mentioned with Sharon, Isa. 35:2, 'The excellency of Carmel and Sharon:' 2. It may be translated scarlet or crimson, as the same word is, 2 Chron. 3:14, thus it is a rich colour, wherewith princes and great men used to be decorated; and the hair being in the next words compared to purple, it is not unlike that it is taken for a colour here also.

By 'head,' we must understand either Christ himself, who stands in that relation to the believer, and in respect of dignity is called 'a head to all men,' 1 Cor. 11:3. Or, 2. (which is not inconsistent with the former) some grace in the believer, acting on Christ, and quickening the new life; and seeing the scope is to commend the believer from inherent grace, and the new nature being compared to an inner-man, which is described from its several parts, and so must have an head, we think that it is some particular grace that is here especially aimed at. By 'head' then, we conceive the grace of hope may be understood, it being the grace whereby the soul sticks to Christ, expecting the enjoyment of him; for, not only is hope a grace necessary and commendable (and so it cannot be unsuitable to the scope, to take it in upon one branch or other) but it may be called the head, 1. Because it is above, having Christ himself for its object; and though the word may be said to be the object of hope, yet it is not so much the word, as Christ held forth in the word; and therefore, hope is said to be 'within the vail,' Heb. 6:19, for, properly we hope for him, because of his word, and so he is 'our hope,' 1. Tim. 1:1. 2. Hope is a grace, which hath its rise from faith, and is supported by it, as the head is by the neck; though hope be someway above faith, yet doth faith sustain it, and give it a being; the believer hopes, because he believes. 3. It hath much influence on all spiritual duties, and especially on our consolation, and is useful in the spiritual war, as being an essential piece of the believer's spiritual armour, and is therefore called the 'helmet' or head-piece 'of salvation,' 1 Thess. 5:8, and the head-piece may be someway called the head; so hope, which keepeth (to say so) grace's head, may not unfitly be called the head, seeing without it the head will be at least without its helmet; and taking it so, for this special piece of the believer's armour, it follows well on watchfulness: however, it is certain, that hope bears up the believer under difficulties, Rom. 7:24, and that it rests on Christ, who therefore is called our hope and so, co-relatively being considered, as acting on him, it may get the name of head, as faith is upon the like account called our righteousness, and thus our head is Christ hoped upon: and the commendation, that is, like crimson, will suit well this interpretation, the red or crimson colour having a special reference to Christ's death and sufferings, which puts the right colour on our hope, and makes it of this dye, that it is never ashamed or stained, Rom. 5:3. Observe. 1. The exercising of hope is a necessary piece of a believer's beauty, and as to have the heart sustained and comforted in the hope of what is not seen, is both necessary and profitable; so, when by the power of hope, a believer's head is helped up, and kept above in all waters, that he sink not, it is his singular ornament. 2. Hardly will a believer be in good case, without this grace of hope, and when other graces are lively, hope will be so also these pieces of armour, and spiritual decorating go together. 3. There is no other in the world that hath a well-grounded hope but the believer; it is only the believer, whose head is like crimson: all others, their hope makes ashamed, and their confidence shall be rooted out; whereas, his will be always fresh and green.

The tenth and last particular here commended in the Bride, is her 'hair:' this was spoken of, chap. 4:1. But here, both the word in the original, and the commendation that is given of it, do differ from that which is there recorded: the word here translated, 'hair,' is not elsewhere to be found, it comes from a root that gives ground to expound its smallness, or tenderness: therefore, it is taken by some, to signify a pin, or some of the small decorations of the head: and it is compared to 'purple,' for its preciousness, loveliness, and other reasons formerly mentioned in speaking of that colour.

We take the scope here to be, to shew the universal loveliness and preciousness of grace in a believer, even in the least things; what shall I say (saith he) that thy 'feet, navel, eyes' and 'head' are beautiful? Even thy 'hair,' or the pins that dress it, are lovely and excellent so glorious, princely, and stately a creature is this Bride, that there is not a wrong pin or hair to be found upon her: and thus, all the commendation is well closed with this. By the 'hair' then, we conceive is understood, even the meanest gestures and circumstances of a believer's walk, which being ordered by grace, are beautiful, and serve much to the adorning of the gospel.

Observe. 1. That grace makes an observable change upon the whole man, it regulates even the least things, it orders looks, gestures, and circumstances, wherein often men take too much liberty. 2. Grace vented in the meanest piece of a christian carriage, is very beautiful; it puts a special beauty and lustre upon the meanest circumstances of the christian's actions: or, when a believer squares all his walk, even in the least things, by the right rule, it makes his way exceeding lovely; whereas, often a little folly, or unwatchfulness in such, proves like a dead fly, that makes a whole box of ointment to stink, Eccl. 10:1. 3. Our Lord takes notice of the smallest things in a believer, even of the hair, yea, of the smallest thereof; there is nothing in his people so mean, but he takes notice of it, and there is nothing so little, but grace should be exercised therein; in a word all things in a believer should be suitable, 'eyes,' 'hair,' 'head,' &c.

The particulars of the Bride's commendation, of which we have spoken (if they were understood) certainly they contain much; but, as if these were little, he proceeds in expressing this beauty of, or rather his love to, his Bride, in three wonderful expressions, as proofs of what he hath said concerning her loveliness and beauty, or (if we may improperly so call them) aggravations thereof, whereby that commendation is raised and heightened to an exceeding great height. The first is in the end of the fifth verse, and it is this, 'the King is held' (or bound) 'in the galleries:' the sense in a word is, what ravishing loveliness is this that is to be found in this Bride, that the king is thereby (as it were) held and bound, and must stand to look upon it, he is so delighted with it? 1. This 'King' is our Lord Jesus, the prince of the kings of the earth; he is not only here, but elsewhere often styled 'the King,' because he is eminently so, and it is much to the believer's consolation that he is so; if the faith of it were fixed in them. Our Lord is a most royal kingly. person. 2. The 'galleries' here, are the same that were, chap. 1:17, called there 'rafters,' the word there, is our galleries. Galleries are places where great men use to walk, and here (Christ and the believer having one house, wherein they dwell together) the galleries signify the means or ordinances, wherein, in a more special way they come to walk together. 3. To be 'held' (or bound as the word is) signifies a holy constraint that was on him, that he could do no otherwise, because he would do no otherwise, it was so delightsome to him, as, chap. 3:4, and 4:9, and chap. 6:5,12, where, on the matter, the same thing is to be found. The word here used, is borrowed from the nature of affection amongst men, that detains them to look on what they love: in sum this in an abrupt manner comes in on the close of the particulars of the Bride's commendation; as if it were said, so lovely art thou, that Christ as captivated, or overcome, cannot withdraw, but is held (as, chap. 3:4.) to look upon thy beauty; which is the more wonderful, that he is so royal a person, whom enemies, death, and devils could not detain, yet he is so prevailed over by a believer. And it is observable, that there is not one thing oftener mentioned in this Song, than the wonderful expressions of Christ's yielding himself to be prevailed over by them, as if his might were to be employed for them, rather than for himself, and as if he gloried in this, that he is overcome by them, which is indeed the glory of his grace.

Observe. 1. There are some more than ordinary admissions to nearness with Christ, that believers may meet with; which are more than ordinary for clearness, so as they may be said to have him in the 'galleries,' and also for continuance, so as they may be said to have him 'held' there. 2. Christ Jesus by the holy violence of his peoples' graces (so to speak) may be held and captivated to stay and make his abode with them; it is good then to wrestle with Christ, that he may be held and prevailed with. 3. Holiness in a believer's walk, hath much influence on the attaining and entertaining of the most sensible manifestations of Christ: thus he is 'held in the galleries.' 4. Our Lord Jesus thinks no shame to be out of love prevailed over by his people; yea, he esteems it his honour, therefore is this so often recorded for the commendation of his love, and the comfort of believers.


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