Chapter 1


My beloved is unto me at a cluster of camphor, in the vineyards of Engedi.

church having had such sweet communion with Christ at his table, verse 12, which excited and drew forth her grace into exercise, enters into a commendation of him, verse 13, and finding so much sweetness in him, she scarcely knew what was excellent enough to compare him to, that thereby she might express his excellency, in himself, his usefulness to her, and that delight and pleasure which she took in him; having declared that he was “a bundle of myrrh” to her, which she desired might always have a place in her bosom, she does, in these words, compare him to “a cluster of camphor.”

I. She gives him the same title or character as before; “my beloved.”

II. Says that he was, to her, “as a cluster of camphor in the vineyards of Engedi.”

I. She gives the same title or character to Christ here, which she had in the former verse, “my beloved;” which teaches us, 1. That Christ being once the believer's beloved, is always so; he has always an interest in Christ, and can never lose it; it is true, he may not always have the manifestations of Christ's love, but he has always an interest in him, as his beloved; for nothing can “separate him from the love of Christ.” 2. This shews, that her faith in him, and her love towards him, still continued; these two graces are never separate; they are implanted in the heart at one and the same time; they grow up and increase together, “faith works by love;” they continue together, and can never be lost; they are not indeed always alike in exercise, but they are always in being; but here they were in exercise as before, and rather increased, while she was contemplating and commending her beloved's excellencies. 3. From hence it appears, that she was not ashamed of Christ under this character, and therefore she repeats it, and indeed she had no reason: for her Maker was her husband, “the Lord of hosts is his name, the God of the whole earth shall he be called;” he had more reason to be ashamed of her, she being a poor, sinful, and despicable creature in herself, and he the Creator of all things, and the holy One of Israel; and indeed, she was so far from being ashamed of Christ as her beloved, that she took a pleasure in looking on him, and conversing with him as such. 4. Her repeating it, shews not only the vehemence of her love to him, but also the singular esteem that she had for him; that he was her beloved, and none else; that she chose, approved of, and valued him above all others; he was to her “the chiefest among ten thousands,” and preferable to all other beloveds.

II. She compares him to “a cluster of camphor in the vineyards of Engedi:” it is somewhat puzzling and perplexing to interpreters, to know what this copher, which is translated camphor, was.

First, It is, by the Septuagint, rendered Cyprus, by which is meant either the island so called, of which we read, Acts 11:19, 20 and 27:4, and then we must understand, by “a cluster of Cyprus,” a cluster of the grapes of those vines which grew in Cyprus, which were the best and largest vines, as[1] Pliny observes; and these being said to be in the vineyards of Engedi, mean either those vines that were brought from Cyprus, perhaps, in Solomon's time, and planted in the vineyards of Engedi; or else, some of the best vines in the land of Canaan, which were much like to those in Cyprus: The land of Canaan was very fruitful of vines, and some of the best sort, which bore very large dusters; such an one was that which was carried by. two men upon a staff, who were sent by Moses to spy the land, Numbers 13:23, 24, in memory of which the place from whence it was taken was called Eshcol, the same word that in this text is rendered a cluster; and it is highly probable, that those vines, which grew in the vineyards of Engedi, were the best of all: R. Solomon Jarchi relates, out of the Agadah,[2] that these vineyards brought forth fruit four or five times a year, and R. Alshech says seven times. Now Christ may be compared to a cluster of grapes, which grew in these vineyards; he compares himself to a vine (John 15:1), and therefore may be very well compared to a cluster of grapes that grew upon the vine. And that,

1st, For the number of berries that there are in a cluster of them. 1. In Christ is a cluster of divine and human perfections; “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily; every divine perfection is to be found in him; eternity, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc. are as it were in a cluster in him: and as all divine, so all human perfections are in him; for he is perfectly man, as well as perfectly God; he is “God manifest in the flesh;” he was made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted, which is the greatest imperfection of human nature. 2. In Christ is a cluster of all spiritual graces; he is “full of grace and truth;” he is full of grace to communicate to others, as Mediator and has all grace habitually in his human nature, God having not given “the Spirit by measure” to him; for he is “anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;” a cluster of the graces of the Spirit, which are in the human nature of Christ, may be seen in Isaiah 11:1-3. The Jews used to call such men who had all excellencies and virtues in them, twlwkça esbcoloth, clusters; hence they have a saying[3] that”“ after the death of Jose Ben Joezer, a man of Tzereda, and Jose Ben Jochanan, a man of Jerusalem, the clusters ceased, according to Micah 7:1” and say they[4] “what is lwkça esjcol, a cluster! why say they, “it is wb lkhç çya ish shehaccol bo, a man that has all things in him,” that is, that has all virtues, a perfect knowledge of the law, etc. Now Christ is such a cluster that has all moral and spiritual perfections in him; all virtues and every grace are clustered together in him. 3. In Christ is a cluster of all spiritual blessings; all the blessings of the everlasting covenant are in his hands, and at his dispose; and saints are “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him; he is the believer's “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption;” there is not a mercy we want, but, is in him; nor a blessing we enjoy, but what we have received from him; he is the believer's “all in all.” 4. In Christ is a cluster of “exceeding great and precious promises,” all suited to the various cases of God's children, and to advance his glory; for “in him are all the promises, yea, and in him, amen, to the glory of God by us;” and these look like “a cluster” of grapes growing in the vineyards of Engedi.”

2dly, Christ may be compared to a cluster of grapes for the abundance of juice that is in them, 1. The cluster is squeezed and pressed, that the juice may be obtained; so Christ was “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, under the severest strokes of justice, and pressure of his Father's wrath; for “it pleased the Lord to bruise him,” and all this for our good, that our sins might be expiated, our souls comforted, and persons accepted with God. 2. The juice squeezed out of this cluster may denote the blood of Christ and the efficacy of it; which being “shed for the remission of sin,” perfectly procured it; it “cleanseth from all sin,” and purgeth “the conscience from dead works,” and has an influence in our justification, and in every other blessing of grace. 3. As the wine, which is the blood of the grape, is of a cheering and refreshing nature, so is a crucified Christ to a poor sinner; that there are salvation, righteousness, peace, and pardon through his blood, for the chief of sinners, is a reviving cordial to those that see themselves so, and the best and most acceptable news that they can hear of; this is more cheering and refreshing than the choicest wine. Or else, By Cyprus is meant the Cyprus-tree,[5] which grew upon the banks of the Nile, and at Ascalon in Judea, and very probably in the vineyards of Engedi, here mentioned, as it did also in the island of Cyprus, from whence, perhaps, it had its name. The word Copher is used in the Misnah[6] and translated Cyprus; and Maimon and Bartenora[7] say, it is the same which in Arabic is called anhla, the Alhenna, and refer to this place; and observe, that there are some that say it is the spice called the clove. Of the Alhenna Dr Shaw[8] says,” this beautiful and odoriferous plant, if it is not annually cut and kept low, grows ten or twelve feet high, putting out its little flowers in clusters, which yield a most grateful smell, like camphor.” There seems to have been a likeness between the Cyprus-tree and the vine, especially in their flowering; and it is said to bear a flowery fruit like a grape in flower; and hence as vines when they flower are said to Cyprize, as in the Greek version of chapter 2:15, so a bunch of Cyprus-flowers in likeness to the vine, is called here a cluster;[9] and with propriety is the flower of the Cyprus referred to, since it induces sleep;[10] see verse 13. And, 1. The[11] seed of the Cyprus-tree is much like a coriander seed, which the manna also resembled (Num. 11:7), which was typical of Christ, who is called “the hidden manna,” (Rev. 2:17), being exceeding sweet, delightful, pleasant, and nourishing to believers. 2. The[12] flower of this Cyprus-tree which may be chiefly designed, is of a white color, and a sweet smell; and may denote the purity of Christ's nature, and the innocence and holiness of his life, who in both appeared to be “holy, harmless and undefiled;” as also the sweet fragrancy of his person, blood, sacrifice and righteousness. 3. The[13] leaves thereof are good for the healing of ulcers, etc. “so the leaves of the tree of life,” which is Jesus Christ, are said to be “for the healing of the nations;” that is, for the healing of their spiritual maladies and diseases. 4. An excellent[14] oil was made out of it; and of this with other things was made an ointment, which by Pliny, is called the royal ointment. Christ is by the holy Spirit anointed above measure with the “oil of gladness,” and is possessed of those good ointments which are exceeding savory; and from him do saints receive that “anointing, which teacheth all things.”

Secondly, Some[15] think that the Cyprus or Cypirus, of which Pliny writes (lib. 21. c. 18), is here meant, which is a kind of rush or sword-grass, is of a sweet smell, and has bulbous roots, to which it is thought the allusion is here made. And, 1. The smell of it, as Pliny, in the place before cited, writes, is much like that of spikenard; and for the same reasons that Christ may be compared to the spikenard, in verse 12, may he be compared to the cyperus here. 2. The smell of it, as the same naturalist observes, makes men vegetiores et firmiores, more lively and strong, active and robust: in Christ is all a believer's strength, and from him they receive fresh supplies of it; and the more they exercise faith on him, the stronger they are; so that though they are poor weak creatures in themselves, yet they “can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth them.” 3. The root of it, as is observed by the same author, is good against the bitings of serpents, especially scorpions. Christ, who is “the root of Jesse,” was typified by the brazen serpent, which Moses, by a divine command, erected upon a pole, that every Israelite that was bitten by the fiery serpents, might look to it and have a cure, Christ was lifted up on the cross, and now is in the gospel, that whosoever looks unto him may live and not perish (see John 3:14, 15); he is a sovereign and infallible remedy against the bitings of those fiery serpents, within, our own sins and corruptions, and of that old serpent without, the Devil.

Thirdly, Others have thought that a cluster of dates, the fruit of the palm-tree, is here intended, which is the opinion of R. Aben Ezra and other Jewish writers; and indeed Engedi, as is manifest from Pliny,[16] was famous for those sort of trees, as was Jericho, which is therefore called the city of the palm-trees (Deut. 34:3), and it is very probable that Engedi was called Hazzazon-tamar, as it is 2 Chronicles 20:2, for the same reason: also the[17] fruit of this tree grows in clusters, and is very sweet and luscious, and may be expressive of Christ, and the fruits of divine grace, which souls receive in clusters from him, and are exceeding sweet to their taste.

Fourthly, Others think, and particularly Sanctius, that the balsam-tree is here intended, which only[18] grew in the land of Judea: this place Engedi,[19] was remarkably famous both for that and palm-trees; so Origen observes,[20] that Engaddi abounded not so much with vines, as with balsams;. the vine-dressers in Jeremiah 52:16 are interpreted by R. Joseph,[21] of the gatherers of balsam, from Engedi to Ramatha; and places where those trees grew might with propriety be called vineyards, since the balsam-trees were like to vines,[22] and were cultivated after the manner of vines.[23] From this tree dropped the precious balsam, which was of a sweet smell, and of an healing nature; to which Christ may be very well compared, who is the great and only physician of souls, whose blood is a balsam for every sore, and has virtue to cure every disease.

Fifthly, The word Copher is by our translators rendered camphor, and so it is by “Pagnine, David de Ponsis,” and others; which[24] is of a sweet smell, is a very good remedy against the pains and aches of the head, a reviver of the spirits, and a refresher of the brain; and, if intended here, may be expressive of that sweet consolation and divine refreshment which believers enjoy, resulting from views of acceptance in Christ's person, pardon through his blood, and justification by his righteousness. Though what we call camphor, seems not to be known to the ancients, nor does it grow in clusters; but is the tear or gum, or something of a resinous nature, which drops from an Indian tree.

Sixthly, There is one thing more to be remarked, and that is, that the Hebrew word rpk copher signifies “an atonement or propitiation;” and so may very well be applied to Christ, who is “the propitiation for our sins,” and has made full atonement for them by “the blood of his cross.” Bishop Patrick[25] observes, that the ancient Hebrew doctors, by dividing the first word lkça “eshcol a cluster,” found out the mystery of the Messiah in these words, and considered them as if they were read as, rpwk lk çya ish col copher “my beloved is unto me the man that propitiates or expiates all things,” that is all sins and transgressions. In the Talmud[26] it is explained, “He whose all things are, has atoned for my iniquity.” Both the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi carry it in the sense of atonement, though not as made by the Messiah: but it is certain that the great atonement for sin was to be, and is completely made by the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Messiah; in which appeared a cluster of all the divine perfections, shining in equal glory; here grace and mercy, justice and holiness, truth and faithfulness, sweetly joined and harmonized together; whereby also a cluster of divine blessings was procured and eternally secured to all his redeemed ones, such as peace, pardon, justification, etc. all which are sweet and comfortable, and fill them with unspeakable joy and pleasure.


[1] Nat. hist. 1. 14. c. 1.

[2] Vide Yalcut in loc.

[3] Mimah, Sotah, c. 9. f. 9

[4] Vide T. Bab. Temurah, fol. 15, 2. R. Sol. Jarchium & Ez. Chayim in Misnam, ibid.

[5] Pliny 1. 12. c. 24.

[6] Sheviith, c. 7. f. 6.

[7] In ibid.

[8] Travels, p. 113. 114. ed. 2.

[9] See Origen. in Cant. Homil. 2. fol. 87. E.F. & Comment. in Matthew p. 463, 464. & Huet. Nor. in ibid. p. 79

[10] Plutarch. Sympos. 1. 3 p. 647.

[11] Plin. 50:12. c. 24.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid. 1. 23. c. 4.

[14] Plin. 1. 12. c. 24. & 1. 13. c. 2.

[15] Vid. Cocceium and Bishop Patrick in loc.

[16] Lib. 5. c. 17.

[17] Plin. 1. 13. c. 4.

[18] Ibid. 1. 12. c. 25.

[19] Josephus Antiq. 1. 9. c. 1. f. 2.

[20] Homil. 2. in Cant. fol. 87. E.

[21] In T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 26. l.

[22] Plin. 1. 12. c. 25.

[23] Justin. Hist. 1. 36. c. 3. So Foliot in loc. Vide Jerom. de loc. Hebrews in voce Engaddi.

[24] Fernel. method, med. 1. 5. c. 17. &1. 6. c. 1.

[25] In loc..380

[26] T. Bab, Sabbat. fol. 88. 2. Yalkut in loc.