Song of Solomon 1:5 MEANING

Song of Solomon 1:5
(5) As the tents of Kedar--i.e., Dark as the Kedareen tents of black goats' hair, beautiful as the royal pavilions with their rich hangings. For a similar style of parallelism, comp. Isaiah 15:3 : "On her housetops, and to her open streets, every one howleth, descendeth with weeping." For Kedar, see Genesis 25:13.

As the poet puts this description of the lady's complexion into her own mouth, we must understand it as a little playful raillery, which is immediately redeemed by a compliment. It also prepares the way for the reminiscence of an interesting passage in her early life. See next verse.

Verse 5. - I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. The word "black" (שְׁחורָה) does not necessarily mean that the skin is black, but rather sunburnt, dark brown, as in Lamentations 4:8, where the same word signifies the livid or swarthy appearance of one who has suffered long from famine and wretchedness. There is certainly no reason to take the word as an argument for the bride being Pharaoh's daughter; but it points to what is confirmed by the rest of the poem - the rustic birth and northern blood of the bride. She has been living in the fields, and is browned with the ruddy health of a country life. The best explanation of the words is that they are drawn out by the fact that the bride is surrounded by her ladies. Some think that they look askance at her, or with indignation at the boldness of her words; but that is quite unnecessary, and would be inconsistent with the dignity of the bride. The country maiden feels the greatness of the honour, that she is chosen of the king, and with simple modesty, in the presence of courtly ladies around her, sets forth her claim. The simile is not uncommon in poetry, as in Theocritus and Virgil. Comely; i.e. attractive, agreeable. Kedar (whether from the Arabic, meaning "powerful," or from the Hebrew, "black") designates the tribes of the North Arabian descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13; Isaiah 21:17), Kedareens, referred to by Pliny, and remaining in Arabia until the time of the Mohammedans. The Bedouin still calls his tent his "hair house;" it is covered with goat's-hair cloth, mostly black or grey. Whether the reference is to the colour of the goat's hair or to the tents being browned or blackened by the heat of the sun, we cannot doubt that the allusion is to the complexion, and the rest of the simile would then be applicable to the lovely shape and features of the maiden, the curtains of Solomon being the curtains of a pavilion, or pleasure tent, spread out like "a shining butterfly," i.e. the beautiful cloth or tapestry which formed the sides of the tent or the tent coverings, the clothing of the framework, or tent hangings (see Isaiah 54:2; Exodus 26:36; 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17:1, etc.). Egyptian hangings were particularly prized. The custom prevailed among Eastern monarchs of sojourning once in the year in some lovely rural district, and at such times their tents would be very magnificent. The LXX. has, ὡς δεῥῤείς Σολομὼν, "as the skins of Solomon;" but this is a mistake. The word is derived from a root "to tremble," i.e. "to glitter in the sun." Those who desire to find an allegorical interpretation think there is an evident allusion here to the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness, or the admission of the Gentiles into the covenant; but there is no reason for any such strain upon the meaning. The simile is merely poetical. The soul realizes its own acceptance before God, but ascribes that acceptance to his grace. "The bride, the Lamb's wife," sees the beauty of the Lord reflected in herself, and rejoices in her own attractions for his sake. There is no immodesty in the consciousness of merit so long as that merit is ascribed to him from whom it comes. There is often more pride in the assumption of humility than in the claim to be acknowledged. The same apostle who declared himself less than the least of all saints also maintained that he was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

1:2-6 The church, or rather the believer, speaks here in the character of the spouse of the King, the Messiah. The kisses of his mouth mean those assurances of pardon with which believers are favoured, filling them with peace and joy in believing, and causing them to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost. Gracious souls take most pleasure in loving Christ, and being loved of him. Christ's love is more valuable and desirable than the best this world can give. The name of Christ is not now like ointment sealed up, but like ointment poured forth; which denotes the freeness and fulness of the setting forth of his grace by the gospel. Those whom he has redeemed and sanctified, are here the virgins that love Jesus Christ, and follow him whithersoever he goes, Re 14:4. They entreat him to draw them by the quickening influences of his Spirit. The more clearly we discern Christ's glory, the more sensible shall we be that we are unable to follow him suitably, and at the same time be more desirous of doing it. Observe the speedy answer given to this prayer. Those who wait at Wisdom's gate, shall be led into truth and comfort. And being brought into this chamber, our griefs will vanish. We have no joy but in Christ, and for this we are indebted to him. We will remember to give thanks for thy love; it shall make more lasting impressions upon us than any thing in this world. Nor is any love acceptable to Christ but love in sincerity, Eph 6:24. The daughters of Jerusalem may mean professors not yet established in the faith. The spouse was black as the tents of the wandering Arabs, but comely as the magnificent curtains in the palaces of Solomon. The believer is black, as being defiled and sinful by nature, but comely, as renewed by Divine grace to the holy image of God. He is still deformed with remains of sin, but comely as accepted in Christ. He is often base and contemptible in the esteem of men, but excellent in the sight of God. The blackness was owing to the hard usage that had been suffered. The children of the church, her mother, but not of God, her Father, were angry with her. They had made her suffer hardships, which caused her to neglect the care of her soul. Thus, under the emblem of a poor female, made the chosen partner of a prince, we are led to consider the circumstances in which the love of Christ is accustomed to find its objects. They were wretched slaves of sin, in toil, or in sorrow, weary and heavy laden, but how great the change when the love of Christ is manifested to their souls!I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,.... The church having obtained of Christ, what she wanted, turns to the daughters of Jerusalem, the same perhaps with the virgins her companions; they seem to be young converts, it may be not yet members of the visible church, but had a great respect for the church, and she for them; and who, though they had but a small knowledge of Christ her beloved, yet were desirous of knowing more of him, and seeking him with her; see Sol 3:9; to these she gives this character of herself, that she was "black" in herself (x), through original sin and actual transgression; in her own eyes, through indwelling sin, and many infirmities, spots, and blemishes in life; and in the eyes of the world, through afflictions, persecutions, and reproaches, she was attended with, and so with them the offscouring of all things: "but comely" in the eyes of Christ, called by him his "fair one", the "fairest among women", and even "all fair", Sol 1:8; through his comeliness put upon her, the imputation of his righteousness to her; through the beauties of holiness upon her; through, the sanctifying influences of his Spirit; and, being in a church state, walking in Gospel order, attending to the commands and ordinances of Christ; and so beautiful as Tirzah, and comely as Jerusalem, Sol 6:4; and upon all accounts "desirable" (y) to Christ, and to his people, as the word may be rendered;

as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon: each of which are thought by some to refer to both parts of her character; and suppose that the tents of Kedar, though they might look poor on the outside, were full of wealth and riches within; and Solomon's curtains, or hangings, might have an outward covering not so rich and beautiful as they were on the inside; but rather the blackness of the church is designed by the one, and her comeliness by the other. With respect to her blackness, she compares herself to the tents of Kedar, to the inhabitants of those tents, who were of a black or swarthy complexion; Kedar signifies the name of a man whose posterity these were, that dwelt in tents, even of Kedar the second son of Ishmael, and who inhabited some part of Arabia; and, their employment being to feed cattle, moved from place to place for the sake of pasturage, and so dwelt in tents, which they could easily remove, and hence were called Scenites; and the tents they dwelt in being made of hair cloth, and continually exposed to the sun and rain, were very black, and yet a number of them made a fine appearance, as Dr. Shaw relates (z); though black, yet were beautiful to behold; he says,

"the Bedouin Arabs at this day live in tents called "hhymes", from the shelter which they afford the inhabitants; and "beet el shaar", that is, "houses of hair", from the materials or webs of goats' hair whereof they were made; and are such hair cloth as our coal sacks are made of; the colour of them is beautifully alluded to, Sol 1:5; for nothing certainly can afford (says he) a more delightful prospect than a large extensive plain, whether in its verdure, or even scorched up by the sunbeams, than, these movable habitations pitched in circles upon them; of which (he says) he has seen from three to three hundred.''

And for her comeliness the church compares herself either to the curtains of Solomon, about his bed, or to the rich hangings of tapestry in the several apartments of his palace, which no doubt were very costly and magnificent.

(x) "Nigra per naturam, formosa per gratiam", Aug. de Tempore, serm. 201. p. 354. tom. 10. "Fusca per culpam, decora per gratiam", Ambros. in Psal. cxviii. octon. 2. col. 881. tom. 2.((y) "optabilis", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Mercerus; so Aben Ezra. (z) Travels, p. 220. edit. 2. See Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 28. Solin. Polyhist. c. 46.

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