King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Song of Solomon 4

Christ sets forth the graces of the church. (1-7) Christ’s love to the church. (8-15) The church desires further influences of Divine grace. (16)

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Christ sets forth the graces of the church

1 Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

2 Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

3 Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

4 Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.

5 Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

6 Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

7 Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.

Christ’s love to the church

8 Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.

9 Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.

10 How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!

11 Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

12 A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

13 Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,

14 Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:

15 A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.

The church desires further influences of Divine grace

16 Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. How. Christ again praises the beauty of his Church. W. — The dialogue takes place in the country. H. — From corporal beauty, which is often dangerous, and the portion of the most dissolute, we must raise our minds to spiritual advantages, which the Holy Ghost has here in view. — Within. S. Amb. “besides thy taciturnity.” Sept. “silence.” Rabbins, &c. “hair.” Prot. “within thy locks.” But what renders this version of tsammathec (H.) suspicious is, that none of the ancients knew of it, and the hair is afterwards specified. C. vi. 4. Moreover, Isaias, (xlvii. 2.) uses it for (C.) “turpitude,” (S. Jer.) or the parts which are usually “covered.” Sept. H. — Si qua latent, meliora putat. Met. 1500. — All the glory of the king’s daughter is within. Ps. xliv. 14. Modesty and silence are the best encomium. C. — The Lord praises the intention, occupations and doctrine of the Church, the twins of faith and good works; the preaching of Christ’s passion without shame, (v. 3.) and the administration of the sacraments, which, like the neck, unite the members to their head; so that they become invincible, (v. 4.) whether they be of Jewish or Gentile extraction, v. 5. W. — Up. Heb. and Sept. “appear.” Jerusalem was the highest part of the country; (H.) and coming up and down often means no more than coming or going. Jug. xi. 3. and xv. 11. C. — The hair of goats in Lycia was beautifully curled. Ælian xvi. 30. — Women used such false hair. Mart. xii. 45. — Though the hair be only an ornament, it is not to be neglected; so the pious Christian will always treat with respect the ceremonies established chiefly for the instruction of the ignorant. C. — Those simple and fervent souls, by their numbers, adorn the Church, as hair does the body. S. Greg. — The external and internal perfections of the spouse deserve commendation. M.

Ver. 2. Them. Those who lay aside the old man, and receive baptism, are filled with grace, to bring forth the fruits of virtue. S. Aug. Doct. ii. 6. — Pastors in particular, must lay aside worldly cares, and attend to their flocks. M.

Ver. 3. Scarlet. Preachers of the gospel (S. Greg.) must speak with elegance, and have their lips dyed with the blood of Christ, and purified with coals from the altar. C. — So, if we may use the words of a living critic, who is sometimes accurate, “a commentator ought to study at the foot of his crucifix, and write with ink drawn from the heart of Jesus.” H. — Pomegranate. Plump and ruddy, representing the purity of the Church, and of virgins, who are its “flower,” (S. Cyp.) and bring forth fruits of good works. S. Aug. de Virg.

Ver. 4. Bulwarks. Heb. Thalpiyoth, “at the height of the defiles,” probably in Libanus, when David conquered Syria. Thalassar, Thelmela, &c. were such “heights.” Bucklers, to be used in case of need, or for ornament. Thus the neck of the spouse was adorned with chains and pearls. The Church is this tower, the pillar of truth, 1 Tim. iii. Matt. xvi. 18. Apostles and prelates are her bucklers.

Ver. 5. Roes. This comparison does not seem happy: but exactitude is not required. C. — Indeed if we were to take all in the literal sense, a very grotesque figure would arise, with a head like Carmel, a nose like a tower, &c. which shews that the tropological or allegorical sense must be adopted. D. — The two Testaments given for our instruction, (c. i. 2.) or the charity towards God and our neighbour, may be meant. Theod.

Ver. 6. Retire. In the morning, (Sanct.) or rather the bridegroom takes his leave early, promising to return in the evening. C. ii. 17. C. — Myrrh. To Calvary, where the fervent will pour forth their prayers, and learn mortification. C. — Christ dwells in mortified and devout minds.

Ver. 7. Thee. All must be pure before they enter heaven, as the blessed Virgin was on earth, (W.) and the Church is still. Eph. v. 27. C. — Before his departure, Christ heaps praises on her.

Ver. 8. Thou. Heb. “look from.” — Libanus. So Jerusalem is called, Zac. xi. 3. Ribera. M. — Amana. Sept. “faith.” By it and charity, we must do good. S. Aug. Ps. lxvii. Amanus separates Cilicia from Syria. — Sanir is the name given by the Phenicians to Hermon, (Eusebius) beyond the Jordan. 1 Par. v. 23. — Leopards. It is not fit for women to hunt such beasts. Ovid (Met. x. 10.) thus speaks of Venus: Nuda genu, vestemque ritu succincta Dianæ, &c. The Church leaves Jerusalem to preach the gospel without fear. M.

Ver. 9. Wounded. Symmachus, “given.” Sept. Prot. “ravished.” Mystic writers suppose, that the spouse had been guilty of some negligence; or, on the contrary, that her deportment was most enchanting, bent on God, and on good works. C. — Sister. So Assuerus styles himself brother of Esther. xv. 12. Christ died for the unity of his Church. M.

Ver. 10. Spices. He returns her compliment. C. i. 2.

Ver. 11. Lips. Teachers who accommodate their instructions to the capacity of their audience, (C.) giving milk to children. Heb. v. 13. H. 1 Cor. iii. 2. — In allusion, perhaps, to this passage, (C.) it was customary to give milk and honey to the new baptized. Tert. coron. — Garments. Which were perfumed, (Gen. xxvii. 17. Ps. xliv. 9.) and imply good works, (2 Cor. v. 3. Rom. xiii. 14. C.) and the external service and prayers of the Church, which ascend like incense. Ps. cxl. 2. M.

Ver. 12. Up. She is perfectly chaste. Prov. v. 14. The Church excludes from her society all unbelievers and schismatics. The wicked serve to exercise the virtuous. Her pastors explain the Scriptures, the fountains of saving knowledge. C. — Christ is also a fountain. Zac. xiii. 1. and Jo. vii. 37. M.

Ver. 13. Plants. The various orders of clergy and laity. — Cyprus, (c. i. 13. C.) whence a healing oil is extracted. Theod. — Prot. “camphire.” H. — Spikenard is twice mentioned, as it may be well mixed with cyprus and saffron. M.

Ver. 14. Cinnamon. Very rare. Ex. xxx. 23. — Libanus, or “incense.” Heb.

Ver. 15. Libanus. The law of the gospel was proclaimed by the apostles, who were Jews. They explained the pure doctrine of the Scriptures, and converted many.

Ver. 16. Wind. At different times. Let all nations be convinced of thy beauty. C. — The holy Spirit enabled the apostles to convert the world. Nys. Rupert. — All temptations, whether proceeding from cruelty or deceit, “make constant souls more grateful to God.” W.