The key to the understanding of the Song of Songs lies where few have sought for it. It is found at the centre of this great poetic drama, at the point where the Church passes from her Old Testament state into the full glory and experience of the New Covenant ushered in by the long expected coming of the Saviour into the world. The eight chapters of the Song are divided equally at the last verse of chapter 4, where the Old Testament Church, nourished for so long on the promise and expectation of the Messiah, cries out in expectancy, “Let my beloved come into his garden and eat his pleasant fruits”.
But Messiah, the Anointed One, comes unexpectedly, at midnight. The hour is unpropitious. Spiritual slumber prevails. Christ knocks at Israel’s door and cries “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse. Open to me....” But Israel is taken up with present comfort. Her feet are washed. The outward washing of the Law of Moses is good enough for her. Why should she defile her feet by leaving her Old Testament bed to go out into the night? Alas, “He came unto His own, but His own received Him not” (John 1:11).
There is a stirring in Israel, however. Spurned and rejected, Christ departs, but many are now aroused to seek after Him. They go out into the night—Israel’s night—seeking for Him whom they have despised and rejected. They are discovered by Israel’s cruel watchmen, the scribes and Pharisees. They are beaten and put to shame. The proud priesthood of Israel disowns them, but “the daughters of Zion,” the gentiles, join with the remnant of Israel to seek Him whom their souls desire. They find the bruised and persecuted Bride and ask of her a description of her absent Lord, and are given such an unveiling of the beauty and glory of Christ as will fit only Deity Itself (see chapter 5, verses 10-16). This is the full unveiling of Christ in the New Testament revelation.
In short the Song of Songs is the mystical history of Christ and the Church under the two Testaments, the Old and the New—the first four chapters dealing with the Old Testament preparation and anticipation, and the last four the New Testament fulfillment and realisation.
One would have thought that the long procession of excellent men who since the Reformation have written commentaries on the Song of Songs, would have perceived the prophetic significance of the words of the heavenly Bridegroom, “I am come….” at the head of chapter 5. On the contrary there has been almost complete unanimity among them that the first verse of chapter 5 is misplaced and should be removed so as to be the last verse of chapter 4. The error is fatal to the right understanding of the Song. James Durham, a most worthy man, whose commentary on the Song has recently been reprinted, fails, despite all his excellence, to perceive the testamentary significance of the first words of chapter 5, and leads the rout in claiming that they rightly belong to chapter 4 (the Hebrew Bible notwithstanding, for the Hebrew holds the verse to its proper place in chapter 5). “The Learned Dr. Gill” makes the same error, though he comes so close to the true significance of the versification that it might almost be said of him that he misses immortality by a hairsbreadth!
Most of those who have succeeded these good men down to the present day have only underwritten the same mistake. Even Dr. E. W. Hengstenberg of Berlin joins himself unheedingly to the same company and disrupts his entire study of the Son thereby. Matthew Henry does not follow them, but seems unable to extricate himself from the personal as against the testamentary meaning of the Song.
Few can read the Song however without surely becoming aware that the description of Christ, the heavenly Solomon, in the last four chapters transcends that of the first four even as the New Testament unveiling of Christ exceeds that of the Old Testament as the reality must always transcend the type.
We are not without the consolation however, of knowing that we have on our side the first—and many would say, the greatest—exegete of them all—ORIGEN, the Father of Biblical Exegesis, born in Alexandria in the year 135 AD. History has grievously treated this holy and accomplished man, as indeed was his fate at the hands of the jealous prelates of those early centuries. He and his pupil Jerome were the last divines of the age of the Fathers who understood the Hebrew. That knowledge was not regained for a thousand years, when it was revived with the Reformation. Origen had a firm hold on the testamentary character of the Song of Songs, and this appears clearly in his observations on the first verse proper of the Song, to which we now refer, with the greatest confidence that the reader will perceive a once that this verse is the true key to the grand mystery.
In brief, the Song of Songs consists of two evenly divided parts, the first part presenting the Church under the Old Covenant and the other, the Church under the New Covenant. The Song is properly divided in our Authorised Version (and also in the Hebrew Bible) at the last verse of chapter 4, where the Church of the Old Covenant cries in expectation of the full realisation of her desire for the coming of the promised Redeemer:
“Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits”. (Verse 16)
The first verse of Chapter 5 (Hebrew Bible and Authorised Version) proclaims the Advent of the Messiah:
“I am come into my garden….”
John the Baptist sends his disciples to inquire of the Saviour:
“Art thou HE THAT SHOULD COME....”. (Matthew 11:3)
Christ again and again uses the same words to show to Israel that He is the One who should come—the One for whom the Old Testament Church had waited for so long and for whose coming she cried in that last verse of chapter 4 of the Song.
Thus declares the Saviour:
“I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not”. (John 5:43)
“Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind”. (John 9:39)
“I am come that they might have life....” (John 10:10)
“I am come a light into the world”. (John 12:46)
See also Matthew 11:3; Luke 13:7; John 3:19 and 16:28.
In short we have here the great Shiloh prophecy of Jacob, “Till Shiloh Come” (Genesis 49:10), to which both John the Baptist and our Lord refer in the quotations above. There are those who have actually held that nowhere in the New Testament is the Song of Songs quoted. We hope to show on the contrary that the Song is the most quoted of all. A notable example is found in the last Book of the Bible, Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me”. The sleeping bride (Song 5:2) roused from slumber but still clinging to the comfort of her Old Testament couch, says, “I sleep, but my heart waketh. It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me….” The OT Church (Israel) refuses to open to Him, but after He has withdrawn Himself from earthly visibility to His heavenly state, the true Church within the Church, rises from her Old Testament couch, ventures out into the night seeking for Him, is challenged, beaten and put to shame by the watchmen of earthly Israel (the scribes and Pharisees and priests) and she flees to the gentile world where she pours forth the most glorious description of Christ ever to have been expressed in Old Testament or New, with the result that the daughters of Jerusalem, the gentile Church of the New Testament, join with her in the search for Christ (see chapters 5 and 6 of the Song).
It will be seen therefore that the Song is a graphic picture of the passage of the Church from her limited Old Testament state to New Testament fulness of revelation, and cannot be understood in any other way. The Song was so understood in the early days of the New Testament Church (that is, in the days of the Fathers) but the key has since been lost or overlooked, and most of the commentaries since the Reformation have indulged in tasteless, often embarrassing emotional applications of the Song to individual believers. Hence the indelicate situations which are created by applying to the individual the marriage relationships and intimacies which are part of the poetry of the Song.
THE CHURCH AND THE INDIVIDUAL
If writers and commentators and preachers had perceived the testamentary nature of the Song and its true division at the end of chapter 4 (as that ending is found in the Hebrew Bible and in our Authorised Version) we should have been spared many of the embarrassments, and the confusion which is aroused by the endeavour to apply to the individual believer that which belongs to the Church and to the Church alone.
This is not to debar individual experience in its entirety from the Song, for after all, the Church is composed of individual believers. Rather it is to exalt the worship and adoration of the believer, as part of the Church. “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it”. (Eph. 5.25) — “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me”. (Gal. 2:20) Here are expressed by Paul the personal and the corporate aspects of the love of the Redeemer, but we must beware of an indiscriminate application to the individual of those intimacies which belong only to the Church as the Bride of Christ.
Robert Calmet wrote: “To the relations of an individual soul with Christ, the descriptions of this Book can be applied only by way of accommodation; and here the greatest caution is necessary. A false interpretation may here easily mislead to mysticism which has far more connexion with the dogma of Persian Sufism than with the Gospel; to a degradation of that which is most holy, inasmuch as the moral relation of the soul to Christ is perverted into a matter of taste; to a spiritual intoxication, which cannot but be fatal to Christian humility and self-denial. It surely not an accidental circumstance that in the whole of the Old and New Testaments, the relation of God or of Christ to the souls of individuals is never described under the figure of marriage. Although, indeed, the relation of Christ to His Church and to individual souls is essentially the same, still, in the former case there is less room for the excitement of physical or carnal feelings than in the latter”.
In the Old Testament the Lord frequently uses the figure of marriage to denote His relationship to Israel, but never in an individual sense. “God betrothed the people of Israel to Himself,” writes Matthew Henry; “He entered into covenant with them, and it was a marriage covenant.” Hence in the days of Israel’s apostasy idolatry became the spiritual adultery of the nation.
In chapter 62 of Isaiah, the Lord presents His relationship to the new Israel, the Church, in rich marriage figures. She becomes “a crown of glory and a royal diadem in the hand of the Lord”. She is named Hephzibah (“My delight is in her”) and Beulah (“The Lord delighteth in thee”), and the words are added: “Thy land shall be married”. By no manner of means can such descriptions apply to individual believers.
Again, in the same chapter the Lord declares (pursuing still the same marriage figure): “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee”. (v. 5)
Nowhere is the individual believer represented under the figure of the Bride of God or of Christ. Always it is the Church as such which is espoused to Christ.
“Come hither,” says the angel to John the apostle, “I will shew thee the bride the Lamb’s wife” and forthwith the apostle is carried away in the spirit to a great and high mountain where he sees the holy city, the New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:9-10). Always the marriage relationship is reserve for the Church as such, and never is it applied to individual believers. The individual believer can never be a city, though he could well be one of the dwellers therein.
So in the Song of Songs the Bride is always the Church, whether of Old Testament or New, and if, as most interpreters agree, the Song takes its rise from David’s great 45th Psalm, which Solomon fully understood in terms of the Church’s marriage to the Son of God, there can be no room for any interpretation which exceeds these discreet boundaries.
We commend to the reader the discreet words of Samuel J. Stone, in the hymn “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”.
ORIGEN LEADS THE WAY
The first verse proper of the Song, which is our second verse, confirms the purpose of the poem which is to express the longing of the ancient Church for the coming of Messiah, the Lord’s anointed:
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, For thy love is better than wine.”
Origen was probably the first in the Christian era to perceive the prophetic nature of this utterance, as being the prayer of the Church under the Old Covenant (that is, Israel) “for closer communion with the Godhead through the incarnation” (Speaker’s Commentary). Thus (says Origen) “How long shall he send me kisses by Moses and the prophets? I desire the touch of His own lips”.
Origen, blessed man! was right. The Song in this place represents the true worship of the Old Testament Church as she longed for the fulfillment of the original messianic promise in Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman would bruise the head (that is the dominion and power) of the serpent. The shadow of that coming of the great Deliverer falls across the whole of the Old Testament. By prophecy, by type and shadow, in the songs composed by David the sweet psalmist of Israel; by the increasing light of the prophets as the time drew nearer to fulfillment, the faithful were taught to look for and long for the coming of Him who was the Incarnate God, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, the Son of Man, the Son of God.
Jacob wrestled with Him and prevailed; Isaiah saw Him in all the dread, mysterious prospect of cruel death; John the Baptist pointed to Him as He walked in the crowd, and cried, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world”. The true Israel, as represented in the Song of Songs, cried for the time of fulfillment, and for the reality of redemption accomplished. No longer would the heavenly Bridegroom be known only in shadow, or promise, but in glorious and gracious presence would minister of His love directly to the Church and by the kisses of His own mouth would claim His mystic Bride, finding her not only in the earthly tribes of Israel, but in all the far-flung tribes of mankind, for —
“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. (John 3:16)
The gospel was proclaimed in all its fulness when Christ was manifested. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”. (John 1:14)
The “kisses of His mouth” therefore are the full application of the Gospel, in the grace and power of the Eternal Spirit, claiming the Church for Christ, assuring her of His Eternal Love, comforting her in her desolation by the reality of His presence —“Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world”.
The fulfillment is always greater than the promise, and the reality than the expectation. To the prophets of the Old Testament (and Solomon was one of them) the vision of the Coming One was indeed glorious, but greater far is that reality by which now we know Him, who loved us and gave Himself for us. The mystery of Christ as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world could only be known in part to the ancient Church. Even David when he wrote, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22) understood not the meaning of the words. Not even Isaiah could comprehend what it meant, when he proclaimed, “And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all’.
Israel as a nation knew not, and still does not know. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not”. (John 1:11)
Yet to the humble believer, how precious are those moments when with clearer vision and understanding we stand with Paul and say “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. (Galatians 2:20)
The humblest and most obscure believer in Christ can now say more than Moses, more than David, more than the prophets, using the very words of the prophet which the prophets themselves used (yet understood not what they wrote), when they spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow (1 Peter 1 11-12). They truly were saved by the blood of the Redeemer even as we, but in anticipation only of that suffering which Christ endured, and which they foreshadowed. They were not partakers of the fulness of that light which could only appear when He who is the light of men, rose at last to shine forth in the darkness of a sinful world. What they saw in shadow we see in the fulness of the divine glory Yet even our eyes have not yet beheld Him, but believing the report of the Gospel and being fully furnished by the Spirit of God with the unveiled truth of our redemption we say with Peter, “Whom having not seen we love; in whom though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full o glory”. (1 Peter 1:8)
To live after the event of Christ’s first coming is to inherit all the comfort and joy and certitude of that reality which in the Old Testament was only seen in twilight shadow.
So Solomon wrote, to raise the expectation of the true Israel, speaking of Him who was to come, and the enlargement of comfort and joy and peace which the fulness of the revelation of Christ would bring,
“Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for thy love is better than wine.”
Let no-one however take so carnal a view of the Scriptures as to fall into the grievous error of an earthly, fleshly conception of that which can only be spiritually understood. There are those today who would use these words in a carnal sense though without intending to nourish merely the flesh. Let all believers clearly understand that the carnal, the fleshly, is not to be found in the Song of Songs, nor do we as individual believers stand as the Church, but only collectively, as a living part of that mystic Bride whose final day of full realisation of the divine love is still awaited. It is a grievous error for any believer to use these mystic words in a fleshly or individual sense. The kisses of Christ are those words of truth by which we are nourished and strengthened in the assurance of His great love and mercy. By humble obedience, repentance, self-examination, confession of sin, and daily dying to it, we take up the cross and follow Him.
The full assurance that these things are true and that our redemption has been accomplished; that He is our life, as day by day we humbly yield ourselves to Him knowing that we are not our own any longer, but bought with so high a price, ever His own blood—being so assured, we with all the Church render to Him again and always, the glory and the praise. These facts and promises are the direct “kisses” of the Bridegroom for which the ancient Church hungered.
He who is the Lamb slain, even from the foundation of the world (that is, in the purposes of God to whom all things are eternally present), has proved His love to His people and to all the world, and our love is the response of humble obedience and submission even after our painful and shameful lapses and forgetfulness, so that to us, as to Peter, comes ever the sad, yet tenderly reproachful words, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21)
Our superiority over the saints of the Old Covenant lies in the fulness of the light we now have, and which they never could possess in the same degree. To live after the event of Calvary is a great and high privilege. The forgiveness and subsequent anguish of the Magdalen in beholding the cross and the thorns and the dying, is reflected in the Church of which we as believers form a part. We enter with the awe and wonder she felt who saw the cross and felt the anguish and remembered the sin, and was crushed by the sense of her own undeserving and the foulness of that offence which brought the Beloved to the place of so vast a sacrifice and so poignant an identification with all of us. “He was made sin for us, though He knew no sin”. (2 Cor. 5:21)
Hence the prophetic cry of the believing Church of ancient times, before the event of Calvary, as their prophet Solomon began on their behalf to say (in effect):
Give me not Moses and the prophets, but give me the One of whom they wrote and testified, that I with them may be nourished, and my soul be ravished by the full revelation of redeeming love. “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for thy love is better than wine.”
“THY LOVE IS BETTER THAN WINE”
The contrast here is between the wine of the Old Covenant and the direct experience we now have of Christ in the Gospel. This is what the ancient Church of the Old Testament longed for—the full revelation of Christ in the New Covenant. The change of the personal pronouns from the third to the second—“Let him kiss meThy love is better” — is to be noted. Hengstenberg’s terse comment is the correct one: “The changing of the pronouns is, for the defenders of the literal explanation (that is, the theory that the Song deals with an existing situation between two parties, of whom king Solomon was one) an almost insoluble problem. But we are pointed to an ideal relationship. The bridegroom is both absent and present. In reality he has not yet appeared, but faith and hope anticipate his appearance, bringing close the One who is afar off.”
Hengstenberg quotes with approval the interpretation of Calmet: “It is the Jewish Church (of the Old Testament) that appeals to the Word Himself saying, How long wilt thou keep thy people waiting? All the promises of thy prophets fail to satisfy me. All the imagery of thy love in no way fulfils my expectation; it is from thee alone, in Person, that I look for the fulfillment of my love, and the end of my pain.”
Hengstenberg also quotes from the old Jewish Midrash (the ancient interpretation
of the Hebrew scriptures since the time of Ezra, when the knowledge of Hebrew was fast dying out): “Moses taught them from the Law and what they learned they did not forget. They said unto Moses, Oh that God would reveal Himself unto us and let Him kiss us with the kisses of His mouth, that His teaching may be strengthened in our hearts. Moses answered them: This cannot be now, but it shall come to pass in the days of Messiah, as it is written, I will implant my law and write it upon their hearts.”
It is disconcerting to find how few of our English commentators seem to be aware of the fundamental testamentary nature of the Song of Songs, but persist in the personal, individualistic treatment of the text with only occasional glances at the wider horizon which sees the Bride as the Church. Durham, despite his sensitive devotional spirit, gives us little or no help to the true understanding of the Song.
THE SHILOH PROPHECY OF THE VINE
The figure of the Vine is taken directly from the fundamental Messianic prophecy of dying Jacob, which we have already shown in our Introduction to be the basis of the Song. There we are told (Genesis 49:10-12) that the heavenly Shiloh prefigured by Solomon, would “bind his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes; His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk”.
Similar is the gospel prophecy of Isaiah 55, verse 1 derived from the same fundamental source:
“Ho everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
All the Christian world knows that this is a prophecy of the coming of Christ in the Gospel, and that the wine and milk are the lifegiving blessings of the new covenant in Christ.
The Shiloh prophecy of the binding of the colt to the vine receives a spectacular emphasis in the action of the Saviour when He rode into Jerusalem on the colt, and proclaimed—with tears—the impending destruction of the city (see Luke 19:41).
“The Redeemer’s Tears Wept Over Lost Souls” is the title which the great Puritan John Howe gave to his treatise on the Saviour’s ride into Jerusalem.
The next day the Lord again rode into the city, and on the way came to the barren fig tree, and finding no fruit thereon, cursed it with the words, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever”. That fig tree was Israel after the flesh, upon whose blasted stem no fruit has been borne from that day to this.
There followed the wonderment of the disciples at the withering of the tree, and the words of the Saviour that if they had faith they would not only do this which had been done to the fig tree, but “If ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and cast into the sea, it shall be done”—words which not only the disciples did not then understand, but very few of our present day commentators, yet the meaning is simple and plain in history. “This mountain” was the Mount of Olives, a prophetic symbol of Israel, shortly to be removed because of her unbelief, and cast into the sea of this world. For so was this word fulfilled a generation later when Israel persisting in her unbelief, rejected and slew the prophets and apostles sent unto her, till there was no remedy.
But what relevance has all this imagery with our leading verse in the Song of Solomon? Much every way. It tells us that the enlightened bride of Christ, realising that the wine of the Old Testament can bring her no relief, seeks direct communion with Christ who alone can satisfy her spirit. So much better than wine are the kisses of Christ. The wine of the New Covenant, on the contrary, is the divine communion of love between Christ and the Church. Here we see at last the true significance of the Upper Room and the mystery unfolded of the unity of the heavenly Bridegroom with the Church, reverently symbolised in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine: “This is my body which is given for you. This is my blood of the New Covenant shed for you and for many”. It is for this the Bride yearned when she cried, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for thy love is better than wine”. She longed for that direct communion with the Beloved, symbolised at the LAST SUPPER.
The only wine which is better than wine is that atoning work of the New Covenant by which sin has been removed, and through which the soul discerns that highest demonstration of love which gives all, by giving Itself for the one beloved, and thus discloses the secret of all creation and the secret of the heart of God:
Amazing love, and can it be, That thou my God should’st die for me?
Thus does our Song look to the end of that which is merely external, and rejoices in the new life of the Spirit in the full communion of Christ’s presence. The privileges of Israel were brought to an end and the full revelation of Christ, and communion with Him, became that life of the Church for which the faithful always longed: “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them which have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven…which things angels desire to look into”. (1 Peter 1:12)
As Hengstenberg tersely expressed it, “The Shiloh prophecy required that the whole world should be involved in the work of Christ”.
The fulness of the Gospel, for which all heaven and earth waited, is most significantly marked in the writings of the beloved John:
“The Holy Ghost was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7. See verses 37-39).
Again, John records those imperishable words which assure us that though it was expedient for the Saviour to ‘go away’ yet in reality He returns at once in the more intimate gift of the Holy Spirit. Hence, “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him unto you”. (John 16:7) Thus is made clear the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, and hence also the cry of the Bride in her Old Testament state, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine”.
The figure of the vine and the winepress in the prophetic scriptures is almost inexhaustible. It is fundamental to the prophecy of Shiloh—“He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk” (Gen. 49:11-12). Isaiah (chapter 63) sees Christ coming from Edom (which means Red), “in dyed garments from Bozrah” (the chief city of Edom)—“glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save”.
Why are his garments red, ‘like him who treadeth in the winefat?”
Christ replies, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger and trample them in my fury and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.”
The picture is of the complete overthrow of all powers which stand in the way of the deliverance of the Church.
This vision of Isaiah 63, based as it is on the Shiloh prophecy, describes in almost unparalleled eloquence how the enemies of the Lord’s people are trodden down by Christ whose garments are stained with the blood of the foe. It is the victory of the Cross, the triumph of the Resurrection, the overthrow of Satan and all his host, which is the subject of this vast and most glorious representation of the Saviour’s redeeming work. It is for this glorious day that the Bride in the Song expresses such longing as she cries, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine”.
THE OLD VINE AND THE NEW
We have in Isaiah’s 5th chapter the rejection of Israel under the figure of a vine which brought forth wild grapes when the Lord of the vineyard looked for the true harvest:
“Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.”
Here is portrayed by Isaiah the failure of Israel under the Old Covenant and the consequent rejection of the nation to make way for the new Vine which is none other than Christ, the promised Shiloh, who thus presents Himself on the dark betrayal night to His disciples in the Upper Room.
CHRIST THE TRUE VINE
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
The vine of the Law has in it no savour, no sweetness, compared with that outflow of divine love which we know as the gospel. The bride longs for the full manifestation of the divine love of Christ, as it is held forth in the New Testament. True, the Law is holy, just and good (as Paul declares in Romans 7:12) but it has no saving virtue in itself. It cannot quench the thirst of the soul which cries out for Him who declares “If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink—the water that I shall give Him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. (This spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified).”
Small wonder then that the desolate bride of the Song should cry out that the Law was no substitute for Christ, and she would be satisfied with no less.
THE LAST SUPPER
Hence at the Last Supper we hear the Lord declaring, “I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine till that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of God”. (Mark 14:25) That “kingdom of God” in the Saviour’s words, is not to be understood as the eternal kingdom in heaven, but rather that Gospel kingdom which was ushered in at His resurrection. In other words the Lord, who has promised never to leave nor to forsake His people pledges to be with them even to the end of the world. During the long day of the Gospel He will drink with them the new wine of the Kingdom of God which He was about to usher in by His death and passion, by His glorious resurrection from the dead and His triumphant ascension into heaven.
His people therefore are in constant communion with Him, not only in the sacred formalities of the Supper, but in the communication of the Spirit of God, drinking with Him the ‘royal wine of heaven’.
It was for this that the Bride yearned long ago in the days of Solomon. For this intimacy with Christ she thirsted, and found in the ordinances of the Law no substitute for the knowledge and presence of Christ who to His Church says, “Lo, am with you always even to the end of the world”.
Worshippers in the Old Testament had a real fellowship with Christ, but not in the fulness of knowledge which the Church now possesses. It is one thing to look forward to the coming event of redemption but another to have the complete and perfect knowledge unveiled in the Gospel. Paul tells us that the people of God in ancient times were under ‘tutors and governors’ and enjoyed but the status of servant under the schoolmaster of the Law, until the age of majority when as “sons” the people of God entered into the full inheritance of the kingdom of God. (See Galatians 4:1-7.) The Holy Spirit was not given in His New Testament fulness until Calvary, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection made possible the full communion of the soul with God. The language of Paul, “The Son of God loved me and gave him self for me” (Galatians 2:20) could not have been spoken or written till the blesses and eternal Son, obedient to death, even the death of the Cross, had fulfilled the divine destiny by dying for His own fallen creation, receiving in His own bosom till sharp arrows of death, enduring the cross, despising the shame. Having proved His own love for the promised bride by giving Himself for her life, He sends forth the Spirit of God to woo and to win her whom He loved with an everlasting love—a love which never began and will never end.
It was not possible (even if it had been told—as indeed it had been told, though in language which none at that time could fully comprehend)—it was not possibly even for the Old Testament prophets, to grasp what manner of love the Father had determined to bestow. Indeed, we ourselves need to be instructed more and more in this unveiling of the love of Christ for us. David and Solomon spoke of it. Solomon came nearer perhaps than any to an apprehension of the deep mystery of love which was moving through the shadows of time. The very cry of the mystic bride in the Song was after all, only the articulation of the cry which already existed in the soul of the king of Israel, who found himself crying out that the helps and aids of the Old Covenant were not enough to relieve the burden which lay heavily upon hi heart. “Thy love is better than this Old Covenant wine” was what his soul was trying to articulate. His ancestor Jacob, who bequeathed to him the name of Shiloh met his God in the darkness of the ford Jabbok, holding for an instant the Almighty in his ten fingers and crying out that he would not let his mysterious antagonist go unless He first told His Name.
So, once more to recall the words of Peter (1 Peter 1:10-12):
“Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”
“IN DUE TIME CHRIST DIED....”
It was therefore neither possible nor expedient fully to unveil the love of God in Christ before that ‘due time’ when Christ should die for the ungodly. The bride who yearns to know the fulness of the bridegroom’s love can never be satisfied until the moment when that love is put to the supreme test. In the case of Christ, the Bride does not lose her beloved by death, but rather, finds Him. If the atonement had been made immediately on the first sin of man, it could never have drawn forth that return of love which the Church is now able to render against the background of shame and sin which only four thousand years of history could supply. The cry of the Bride for the full communion she desired with her Beloved is understandable, but sin and its consequences are not so easily or lightly dealt with. Time must run its course until ‘in due time’ Christ should die for the ungodly.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die, But God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. (Romans 5:7-8)
Truly the wine of the Law (which could not satisfy the longings and yearnings of the Bride) has in it no sweetness, no savour, when compared with that grace of God and that divine love and mercy which we know as the gospel. Not till the event of Calvary could those words be written—“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life”. (John 3:16)
It becomes evident that the inspired Solomon who, as we have tried to show recognises himself as a type of the promised Shiloh, was taught by the Spirit of inspiration to distinguish between the type and the reality, the temporal and the eternal. As the Bride had already shown her longing for the reality which is in Christ as against the discipline of the Old Covenant, so it is not of ordinary wine that she speaks when she declares of the heavenly Shiloh, “Thy love is better than wine”. She longs for the full manifestation of the holy love of Christ such as is only held forth in the New Testament.
True, the law is holy, just and good, but it has no saving virtue in itself. It cannot quench the thirst of the soul which cries out to Him who proclaims, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink”. It cannot satisfy the longing of the Bride who thirsts for that love which is better than wine.
THE KEY TO THE SONG
This understanding of the opening verse of the Song proper, is the key to the Song. If the kiss of Christ is the full revelation of Himself as the One of whom the prophets spake, so that we no longer look to the shadow of things to come, but enjoy the reality of His presence; the clear reality of who and what He is; what He has achieved by His atoning death, if in short this is the New Covenant—the New Testament in His blood—then are we blest indeed in the privilege of being born after Calvary, when the darkness is past and the true light now shines (1 John 2:8). We have also what few writers seem to have discerned (and the Church has been impoverished accordingly)—namely, a clear understanding of what the Bride is saying so early in the Song. This is the true key which unlocks all the mysteries of the Song of Songs.
The excellent James Durham has nothing relevant to say on this verse, and those who have come after him, as well as many who have gone before Him, have equally failed to do justice to this vital opening verse which contains within itself the clue to the meaning of the entire Song.
THE SHADOW AND THE REALITY
The first half of the verse, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” is linked with the second part by the word ‘for’ or ‘because’. Hence we could reverse the order of the words and lose nothing of the meaning, thus:
“Because thy love is better than wine, therefore let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”
The verse is stating one thing—that the Church, in the time before the advent of Christ, had to be satisfied with the outward elements of the Law which gave only a typical view of Christ’s redemptive work. The shadow caused the ancient church to long for, and look eagerly unto, the reality which was to be revealed. The Old Covenant was but a temporary expedient to bridge the gap till Christ should appear. The true church, the true Israel of the Old Testament (not the nation as a whole, but the believing part which looked and longed for the coming of Messiah) cried earnestly for the reality and refused to be content with the shadow.
What are the blood-soaked altars of Moses compared with the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world? What are the words of the prophets compared with the lifegiving kiss of the Son of God? What is the vine of Israel compared with Him who declared on that dark betrayal night—“I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman”?
It was for this the Bride of the Song yearned. For this she was consumed with thirst such as the wine of the Law could not satisfy. “Drink ye all of this” said the Saviour as He gave the cup to the disciples—“This is the New Testament in my blood....” What is the shadow to the substance? What is the type to the reality? This then is the meaning of the Bride as she seeks direct communion with her Lord.
Nor must we fall into the error of taking even the New Testament shadow for the thing signified. Sacramentalism makes the same mistake as did many in the Old Testament. To the sacramentalist the type is the reality, and hence lifegiving virtue is attributed both to the water of baptism and the elements in the Supper. There is in the heart of natural man a dangerous tendency to seek the inward grace in the outward form, but Christ only offers Himself to faith and love. “Do this in remembrance of me”, is for the communion of saints, not for the salvation of the soul. The reality lies not in the crumbs but in the faith which sees beyond the visible, to the glorious invisibility of Christ who says, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world”.
Truly Christ could say to the vain hearers of His day, “The men of Nineveh shall rise up and condemn this generation because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, a greater than Jonah is here”. Here too is the meaning made plain of those mysterious words of the Saviour, “Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation”. (See Matthew 12:40-45) The year AD 70 was barely 40 years on from the crucifixion and Israel’s rejection of the Saviour….A solemn warning indeed.
THE MIRACLE OF CANA
At the very outset of His ministry, the Lord Christ prepared His apostles and disciples for that greatest of all epochal events in the history of the world, the change of the Covenants—a change which, as we are endeavouring to prove, is the key to the cry of the Bride at the very beginning of the Song of Songs: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine”.
John's Gospel is unique. Christ appears there without genealogy or descent such as is found in Matthew and Luke. John’s mission from the beginning was to present Christ as God, in the full possession from eternity to eternity, of the glory of the Godhead. Hence, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (John 1:1)
The ministry of Christ actually commenced with the miracle at Cana, the changing of the water into wine, recorded only by John (John, Chapter 2). That Christ began His ministry at a wedding feast showed what the object of His ministry would be—the goal that was in view. All creation has its meaning in marriage—,the marriage of the King’s Son to the Bride promised to Him before the foundation of the world—a mystery which is clearly perceived by Solomon in the Song. How terrible is the trivialising of the Song by those writers who see in it only an eastern love lyric, without depth, mystery or meaning.
At Cana we witness the change of the covenants—the Old giving place to the New—which was the subject of the cry of the mystic bride.
The circumstances of the miracle of Cana were carefully assembled by divine and holy providence. It must needs be that the first miracle should be at a marriage feast, for that is what the entire revelation of God is about—as Solomon also perceives in his Song of Songs. The new covenant is an eternal marriage covenant, consummated at last in the vision of John in the last chapters of Revelation. “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready”. (Revelation 19:7)
The ‘mother of Jesus’ must be there, at the Cana wedding feast because she represented in this case the Old Covenant which prepared the way for the birth of the New. See Song of Songs, chapter 3, verse 11: “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart”. The “mother” of the Song is the Old Covenant which made way for the New.
Hence the words of Mary, at the feast, addressing the servants of the Old Covenant, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”. (John 2:5) The business of the Old Covenant was to prepare the way for the New.
The waterpots at the feast were six in number because six is the number of Creation, the six ‘days’ of which were consummated in the great sabbath of rest which typified the accomplishment of the task to which the Lord set Himself. The waterpots at Cana represented the requirements of the Old Law “for the purifying of the Jews”. The changing of the water into wine was a clear and intended picture of the change of the Covenants to the “better than wine” of the New, for which the Bride of the Song yearned and sought.
We have now shown how the first words of the Bride contain within themselves the key to the meaning of the entire Song. Here is no dreamy, exotic love-tone, distasteful to every spiritual mind, or a dangerous and unhealthy imagining of a relationship to Christ which belongs only to the Church as a whole and never to the individual believer. From this point, having (as we trust) established the ground of a true interpretation of the Song, we hope to succeed in our task (as God should lengthen our days) of helping the Church to understand more clearly and profitably, the debt she owes, the security of that bond which binds her eternally to the Beloved, and the certainty of the outcome of that vehement and jealous flame of holy love wherewith God holds eternally secure, the Bride for whom He has paid in full the rich dowry of His own blood (see Song 8:6-7).
There can be no room for doubt that the Lord’s first miracle at Cana of Galilee—the changing of the water into wine—was deliberately planned and performed as an inaugural sign of the coming of Shiloh—a sign to Israel to which they gave no heed. That this was the first miracle Christ ever performed invests it with a peculiar significance. Nor are we disappointed of this our expectancy as the miracle unfolds itself before our very eyes. Every detail and every act or word spoken proclaims to Israel that the moment had arrived when Jacob’s prophecy was to be fulfilled to the letter. The time of “the change of the covenants” had come.
THE CONNECTION OF GALILEE WITH THE GENTILES
(See 1 Kings 9:11-13)
Since the time of Solomon, Galilee had a dishonoured name in Israel. Solomon’s royal friend Hiram, king of Tyre, had done much to assist in the building of Solomon’s temple at Jerusalem. He supplied materials and skilled men to help with the great task, and Solomon planned to reward him by giving him twenty cities in Galilee. Hiram came from Tyre to view the cities but they displeased him and he called the land “Cabul”—that is, “displeasing” or “unclean”. It was in this despised region that it pleased God the gospel light would shine first, and part at least of the reason was the region’s connection so long before, with a gentile king and people, moreover a region despised by Jew and Gentile alike. For this is the wisdom of God, to cause His light to shine first in the darkest places of the earth, and places despised. Nazareth was one of the cities of Galilee, and one of the most despised. Of this despised place Philip testified when he declared to Nathaniel that they had found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets after Moses, had written—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” was Nathaniel’s incredulous reply. “Come and see” replies Philip, using a formula of words of prophetic import, spoken by Christ the day before (John 1:39).
It was in Cana of Galilee that the first miracle was wrought by Christ, and it is of this miracle we must now speak because of the bearing it has upon the words of the Bride in the Song—“Thy love is better than wine”. To despised Cana came the first manifestation of Christ as the Messiah.
There can be no room for doubt that the Lord’s first miracle was deliberately planned and performed as an inaugural sign that Shiloh had come. Every detail of the miracle of Cana proclaimed the identity of Christ as the promised Shiloh, who brought with Him that which was ‘better than wine’ according to the cry of the mystic Bride. Here was the change of the Covenants—the passing of the old and the bringing in of the new, the everlasting covenant for which all creation had tarried so long.
THE MOTHER OF JESUS WAS THERE (John 2: verse 1):
Of course! She was the symbol of the first covenant, about to pass away. She represented the chosen remnant in Israel—the true Israel through whom Christ came. The “mother” of Solomon also appears in the Song—“Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart”. (Song 3:11)
THEY HAVE NO WINE (v.3). So the mother addresses the Son. Of course, all the wine was spent! The wine of the Old Covenant failed at last with the advent of the heavenly Solomon in whom all things were to be fulfilled.
WOMAN, WHAT HAVE I TO DO WITH THEE? (v.4). Not an unkind rebuff to Mary. Christ did not utter anything in vain. The remark was prophetic. The mother stood for Israel after the flesh. The Old Covenant was about to pass away. “What have I to do with thee?” was a prophetic declaration, deliberately made and deliberately recorded. It was the repudiation of the Old Covenant which, with its outward symbols, constituted that yoke of the Law which Peter in the council of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:6-11) declared to be null and void. The Law was “our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” says Paul (Galatians 3:24-26). Christ did not attend the marriage at Cana to preside over the prolongation of the Old Covenant but to bring it to an end. Hence “What have Ito do with thee?” was neither a rebuke to Mary nor an offence on His part against the respect and honour due to a faithful and loving parent (who at that time was already a widow).
WHATSOEVER HE SAITH UNTO YOU, DO IT (John 2:5): Mary marks the transition of the Covenants from the Old to the New in these prophetic words. Moses and his typical Covenant of Works is set aside. Henceforth the Mediator of the New Covenant is here—and that New Covenant is the Everlasting Covenant which can never be modified or replaced. (Hebrews 13:20) See also Isaiah’s prophecy, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David”; by which is meant the Gospel as promised to David in accordance with the great Shiloh prophecy which we have shown (in our previous chapter) is the fundamental ground of the New Covenant in Christ.
FILL THE WATER POTS WITH WATER — commanded the Son, and they filled them to the brim. “Draw out now and bear unto the ruler of the feast.” The pots filled with water represented the legal requirements of the Mosaic economy which could not in themselves give purity of heart. Commentators should have been on their guard to perceive this because the water was ‘for the purifying of the Jews’ and therefore up to that point had a legalistic and covenantal significance. The changing of the water into wine shows the change of the covenants from that of Moses to that of Christ. Wine is the symbol of life and salvation, and is so ordained by Christ in the symbol of the cup at the Last Supper—“This is my blood of the new covenant shed for many for the remission of sins”. Rome’s error lies in regarding the wine as the thing typified, just as she regards the water of baptism as of heavenly virtue in itself, whereas both ordinances are memorials and pledges of that new covenant of grace which is the Kingdom of Christ set up spiritually and invisibly in the heart, and not in the flesh.
“DRAW OUT NOW AND BEAR UNTO THE GOVERNOR OF THE FEAST” (verse 8): This acknowledgment of the presence and the office of the “Governor” of the feast shows that the Law was about to give way to the New Covenant of Grace. The Governor, good man! spoke prophetically, though he knew it not when, having tasted the new wine of Gospel grace made the declaration, “Thou halt kept the good wine until now”. The old wine of the Mosaic Law could not confer salvation or the forgiveness of sin. Here then was the best wine of the New Covenant, for which the Bride in the Song thirsted and longed when she said
“Thy love is better than wine.”
All the miracles recorded by John—seven in number as befits the studied purpose of the Fourth Gospel to display the perfection of the New Covenant in Christ—were carefully selected to show the absolute deity of Christ and (as in the event of Cana) His absolute decree “to take away the first that He might establish the second”—to abolish the legal covenant and its inferior wine, and make way for that new wine of eternal life in Himself symbolised in the Last Supper. By the sacrifice of Himself He reconciles Man with God in the unity of the One Lord and One Spirit.
This is the substance of the cry of the Mystic Bride of the Song, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for thy love is better than wine”—in effect, “Let me be one with Him in eternal marriage”, for the wine of His love is beyond all measure greater than the inferior wine of that Old Covenant relationship which pointed to the ultimate goal of the holy love of God, but could not in itself bring the soul to the heights and depths of love divine.
And now we see why she altered the pronouns in the sentence, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine”. For Christ is present in both covenants. He is both absent and present. The awakened soul must seek Him as though absent, and enjoy Him as ever present. This is the believer’s paradox, and this is the meaning of the Song of Songs.
HENGSTENBERG ON THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE SONG
Dr. E. W. Hengstenberg in his “Christology of the Old Testament” (English edition, 1860) is a valuable guide to the spiritual as against the literal method of interpretation of the Song of Solomon. He writes: Even Magnus (i.e., a contemporary critic) cannot avoid finding in the superscription—“The Song of Songs”—a proof that the writer intended the whole poem to be interpreted allegorically. “For” (says Magnus) “had he really regarded his book in the light of an ordinary lovesong, the title given to it would have been a thorough lampoon of all the other writings of the Old Testament. What Israelite could ever dare to consider a worldly Song as more excellent than the many divine compositions of a Moses, a Miriam, a Deborah, a Hannah, and a David—or even than the God-inspired discourses of the prophets, which may, after all, be styled Songs?”
Dr. Hengstenberg proceeds. “A correspondence may be traced here between the superscription, The Song of Songs—and the expression, ‘Thou art the fairest amongst the children of men’ (Psalm 45:2)—and with the greater right, as the reason assigned in the superscription for the exalted nature of the poem is, that it relates to the most glorious of all subjects, to wit, the heavenly Solomon.
“The mention of Solomon, as the author may also be taken as suggesting the allegorical view. If Solomon be the author then we are driven at once to the allegorical method of interpretation, for he could not speak of himself in the manner in which he is there spoken of. If Solomon wrote the book the Solomon of which it speaks must be different from the author—must be the heavenly Solomon.
“In favour of the allegorical interpretation may be urged the relation in which the poem stands to Psalm 45. If the spiritual is the only correct view of the latter, we cannot retain the literal view of the former. Psalm 45 has been termed a compendium of the Song of Songs, made with a view to public performance in the Temple. The sons of Korah (Ps. 45, title) enter here into a relation of spiritual service to Solomon, similar to that which they held towards David. Common to both is the king who is ‘fairest among the children of men’ (Ps. 45:2), the ‘chiefest among ten thousand’ (Song 5:10). Common to both is the designation, ‘the king’, given to the one who is praised (see Song 1:verses 4 and 11, and especially Song 7, verse 5, where the word MELECH [king] is employed, as in Psalm 45:1, without the article [in the Hebrew original] ).
“Common to both also is the plurality of brides with whom the king unites himself in love at one and the same time, and amongst whom one takes a particularly exalted position (see Song 1:3; 3:6-11; and 6:8-9. Compare Ps. 45: verses 9, and 14-15). Literally understood this would be a circumstance peculiar of its kind, for it was never the custom to take more than one wife at the same time. Common to both is the use of lilies as an image of the lovely virgins (Ps. 45, title). Moreover there is a similarity between the opening of the Psalm (v.1) and the superscription of the Song. Common also is the mention of the loveliness of the lips, by way of designating loveliness of discourse (Song 1:2, compare Psalm 45:2. Compare also Song 5:13 and 16, also Luke 4:22).
“With the description of the heroic might, glory, majesty of the king in Psalm 45:4-6, compare Song 5:10-15. Common to both also is the connecting of myrrh and aloes (Ps. 45:8, Song 4:14). Only in these two places, and in Proverbs 7:17 (written by Solomon) does the word ‘aloes’ occur in the OT.
“There can be no doubt that the allegorical, and especially the Messianic interpretation of the Song of Songs and of the 45th Psalm, stand or fall together. That which shows the allegorical interpretation of Psalm 45 to be the only correct one, applies also to the Song of Songs, and he who accepts the spiritual view in the one case and rejects it in the other, must fall into serious difficulties.”
“A wise criticism will conclude from the fact that, previous to the Song of Songs, such symbolical representations were rare and undeveloped, whilst afterwards they occur frequently and in detail, that the Song must have been written by Solomon, and can never have been otherwise than allegorically interpreted…Hosea is remarkable in this respect. His employment of the image and symbol of marriage to represent the relation between the Lord and Israel extends through the whole of his first three chapters. To this we may add, that the prophet presupposes the people to be prepared to understand such representations—a presupposition scarcely to be accounted for if there existed only the hints contained in the Mosaic Law. The references made by Hosea to the Song of Songs, as allegorically interpreted are unmistakable. So also do Isaiah (see chapter 5 v.1 and elsewhere),Jeremiah and Ezekiel, unquestionably allude to the Song of Songs….It is the duty of the Church to deprive of every excuse that literal view which has robbed the treasure of Holy Scripture of one of its noblest jewels.”