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Chapter 7 Verse 5b & 6
—The king is held in the galleries.
How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights?
, having given a description of the church’s beauty, in ten particular instances of it, does here,
I.In the latter part of the fifth verse, discover his great love and affection to her, though in a very abrupt manner; “the king is held in the galleries.”
II.Gives a general and comprehensive summary of her whole beauty, in verse 6 thus; “How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights.” And,
I.I shall consider this abrupt expression, “the king is held in the galleries:” which seems to have no dependence upon or connection with, either the preceding or subsequent words, but only with the affections of Christ’s heart; who being as it were surprised and astonished at, captivated and ravished with the church’s beauty, breaks out in these words, even before he had well finished the account he was giving. And it may be here inquired, 1st, Who is meant by the king. 2dly, What those galleries are in which he is said to be held. And, 3dly, What by being held in them.
1st, By the king, we are to understand the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ; who is the governor of the whole universe, has a sovereign dominion over all creatures, is the prince of the kings of the earth; who sets up and pulls down at pleasure, and exercises an uncontrollable power over all created beings: and who is in an especial manner the king of saints; who are committed to him as mediator by his Father, to rule and govern; whom he has purchased by his own blood, and conquered by the mighty power of his grace; in whose hearts he reigns, by putting his Spirit, implanting his grace, and writing his laws there; whom he continually protects, subdues their enemies, and supplies with all things necessary: this kingdom of his is not of this world; it is not supported by worldly power; nor carried on with worldly interest; nor does it appear in worldly pomp and splendor; but is of an invisible find spiritual nature; it is managed according to the strictest rules of justice and equity, and is upon such a foundation as will last for ever.
2dly, By the galleries, in which this great king is held, we are to understand the ordinances of the. gospel: the same word, which is here rendered galleries, is, in chapter 1:17 translated rafters; which are of much use for the strength and support of buildings: as the ordinances are for the strengthening of weak hands, and confirming of feeble knees: the word is also by some, here rendered canals,868868So Montanus, Brightman, Cocceius, Mercerus, Tigurine and Vulgate Latin versions; and so the Jews understand it in Shirhashirim Rabba in loc. and in Vajikra Rabba, parash. 31. and the Targum and Aben Ezra in loc. as it is gutters, in Genesis 30:38, 41. And troughs to water cattle in Exodus 2:16 which also is applicable to the ordinances of the gospel through which, as through so many canals, conduit-pipes or gutters, is conveyed to souls the grace of the Spirit, which is in scripture frequently compared to water: but we render the word galleries; as does R. David Kimchi,869869in lib. Shorash. tad. fhr and after him Junius and Tremellius. In the eastern countries, galleries ran along by the sides of great houses, and were a common passage to the rooms in them;870870See Shaw’, Travels, p. 273. and which will well suit with the ordinances, which are those galleries where Christ and believers walk and converse together; where he discovers the secrets of his love, and leads them into a farther acquaintance with his covenant grace; from whence they have delightful views of his precious person; who having been some time absent from them, they now from hence behold him coming towards them, “leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills;” here they are oftentimes indulged with Pisgah views; and not only see the king in his beauty, but also beheld the good land which is very far off. But,
3dly, I shall next consider what is meant by this great person’s being held there. The word signifies a being bound, as a prisoner, with chains and fetters: R. Aben Ezra and Al-shech acknowledge, that the Messiah is here intended; and tell us, that it was the opinion of their ancient Rabbins, that he was born the day that Jerusalem was destroyed: and if yea ask the modern Jews, why then they are so unbelieving concerning him? they will tell you, that though he was then born, he is not yet revealed; and if you ask where he now is, some of them will tell you, that he is in paradise, where he lies tied and bound with the locks of womens hair, which are like to the frizzles and curlings of water in canals; to support which whim of theirs, they torture this text of ours, and read it thus; ;the hair of thine head is like purple, with which the king is tied or hound in the walks or canals;871871Vid. Buxtorf. Synag. Jud. c. 50, that is, in paradise. But though the king Messiah is here represented as one bound as a prisoner, yet not in this ridiculous sense; but his being held or bound in the galleries or ordinances of his house, shows, 1. How much his heart was ravished and captivated with the beauty of his church; it struck him with so much wonder, and filled him with so much pleasure, that he was like one bound in chains, and could, not stir hand nor foot; had, no power to move along, nor could he take his eye off her; but stood and gazed upon her, as one surprised and astonished at her. Or, 2. It is expressive of Christ’s fixed habitation in his house and ordinances: for though believers do not always perceive him, yet he always is there; he has promised so to be, and he is as good as his word; nay, he takes delight and pleasure in being there, and that, as much as any man can, to be in his own house, and to walk in the galleries of it; “This is my rest for ever,” says he (Ps. 132:14), “here will I dwell, for I have desired it:” he is, as it were, tied and fastened to its rafters, and bound in its galleries. Or, 3. It may be meant of any earthly king or prince whatever; and then the sense is as Junius gives it: There is no king so great and glorious, if he should behold thy beauty and glory, but would stand amazed at it; and would be held with a perpetual desire of seeing it, esteeming it far above his own or the glory of the whole world: and indeed, the earthly glory and grandeur of the greatest prince and monarch in the universe, is far inferior to that of Christ’s church; if Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of the lilies of the field, much less is any king or prince to be compared with Christ’s lily, the church: but, though this sense serves much to set off the church’s glory and beauty; yet I rather choose the other, which best expresses the affection of Christ, and the astonishing beauty of his church.
II.In verse 6, Christ gives a general and comprehensive summary of his church’s beauty; and at the same time expresses the strongest affection for her, saying, “How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights.” Where may be observed,
1st, The title he gives her, “O love.” The church is Christ’s love, both objectively and subjectively; she is the object of his love, who he loved from all eternity; loves in time without any change or variation, and will love to all eternity, without the least interruption: she is also one who dearly loves Christ, in whose heart that grace dwells and reigns; which she discovers by her regard to his person, value for his ordinances, and respect to his commands: of this title, see more on chapter 1:9, though indeed a different word is here made use of, and that more full and expressive, both of Christ’s love to her, and hers to Christ, than is there; she is called love in the abstract; as being all over love, love itself, nothing else but love, and altogether lovely in his esteem.
2dly, The commendations that are given of her are, 1. That she is fair; and so she is, not in herself, but in Christ; not in her own nature and righteousness, which are unclean, but in his own person and righteousness, which are without spot and blemish; not as she is now considered in this imperfect state, but as she shall he hereafter, when she shall be presented “a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing:” though now; in Christ’s eye; she is all fair, and there is no spot in her; but this commendation we have frequently met with. 2. She is also said to be pleasant; which epithet is by her given to Christ, in chapter 1:16, which he here returns to her; it being usual in this song for these two excellent lovers so to do. The church now was pleasant to Christ, and that for delights; he having loved her, not only with a love of benevolence, but with a love of complacency and delight; and that before the foundation of the world, as appears from Proverbs 8:31. The church, I say, is pleasant to him, as she is his spouse and bride; for though she is as the loving hind, and pleasant roe unto him; and as she is the portion and inheritance, of which he says, “the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places;” and also as she is his friend and intimate acquaintance, she is pleasant to him, as Jonathan was to David. Moreover, she is so as she is clothed with his righteousness, and adorned with the graces of his Spirit; her countenance is comely; her voice, both in prayer and praise, is sweet; her faith and love are ravishing, and her company delightful; in short, he takes abundance of satisfaction and pleasure in her: she was all delight872872Meae deliciae, Plauti Stichus, act. 5. sc. 5. to him; her countenance, some, actions, and gesture. And therefore,
3dly, Expresses it after the manner he does, “How fair and how pleasant art thou!” that is, thou art incomparably and inexpressibly so; none can tell how fair thou art in my eye, and how pleasant and delightful thou art unto me; it is beyond all human thought and expression: What astonishing love and grace now appears in all this, that one so great and glorious, as this royal person is, should be so much in love and pleasure in such poor, vile, with, and take so much delight and sinful creatures, as we are!
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