1 Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.
2 My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
3 I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.
4 Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.
5 Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.
6 Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them.
7 As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.
8 There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.
9 My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
10 Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
11 I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.
12 Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.
13 Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.
Inquiry where Christ must be sought. (1) Where Christ may be found. (2,3) Christ's commendations of the church. (4-10) The work of grace in the believer. (11-13)1 Those made acquainted with the excellences of Christ, and the comfort of an interest in him, desire to know where they may meet him. Those who would find Christ, must seek him early and diligently.2,3 Christ's church is a garden, enclosed, and separated from the world; he takes care of it, delights in it, and visits it. Those who would find Christ, must attend him in his ordinances, the word, sacraments, and prayer. When Christ comes to his church, it is to entertain his friends. And to take believers to himself: he picks the lilies one by one; and at the great day he will send forth his angels to gather all his lilies, that he may be for ever admired in them. The death of a believer is not more than the owner of a garden plucking a favourite flower; and He will preserve it from withering, yea, cause it to flourish for ever, with increasing beauty. If our own hearts can witness for us that we are Christ's, question not his being ours, for the covenant never breaks on his side. It is the comfort of the church, that he feeds among the lilies, that he takes delight in his people.4-10 All the real excellence and holiness on earth centre in the church. Christ goes forth subduing his enemies, while his followers gain victories over the world, the flesh, and the devil. He shows the tenderness of a Redeemer, the delight he takes in his redeemed people, and the workings of his own grace in them. True believers alone can possess the beauty of holiness. And when their real character is known, it will be commended. Both the church and believers, at their first conversion, look forth as the morning, their light being small, but increasing. As to their sanctification, they are fair as the moon, deriving all their light, grace, and holiness from Christ; and as to justification, clear as the sun, clothed with Christ, the Sun of righteousness, and fighting the good fight of faith, under the banners of Christ, against all spiritual enemies.11-13 In retirement and in meditation the Christian character is formed and perfected. But not in the retirement of the idle, the self-indulgent, or the trifler. When the Christian is released from the discharge of his duties in life, the world has no attractions for him. His prayer is, that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow within him, and around him. Such are the interesting cares and employments of him whom the world wrongly deems unhappy, and lost to his true interests. In humility and self-abasement, the humble Christian would turn away from the sight of all; but the Lord delights to honour him. Chiefly, however, may the reference be to the ministering angels who shall be sent for the soul of the Christian. Their approach may startle, but the departing soul shall find the Lord its strength and its portion for ever. The church is called the Shulamite: the word signifies perfection and peace; not in herself, but in Christ, in whom she is complete, through his righteousness; and has peace, which he made for her through his blood, and gives unto her by his Spirit.Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.