OF THE BOOK OF
My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.
church having, in verse 8 given the daughters of Jerusalem a strict and solemn charge, that when they found her beloved, they would tell him that she was sick of love, made them, in verse 9 very inquisitive after him; being as it were uneasy till they knew what he was, and wherein he excelled others; and therefore put this question to her, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” to which an answer is returned by her, in this and the following verses; in which she first gives a more general description of him, and then descends to particulars. The general description of him is in the words now under consideration; in which she describes him,
I. Positively, in regard to what he was in himself, as to his favor and complexion; “my beloved is white and ruddy.”
II. Comparatively, as he may be considered with regard to others; “the chiefest among ten thousand.”
I. She describes him by his favor and complexion, “white and ruddy.” Which some understand of his two natures, human and divine; who may be said to be white, as to his divine nature; “the ancient of days,” the everlasting God, is represented in Daniel 7:9 as being clothed with “a garment white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool:” the description which John (1 John 1:5), gives of the Divine Being, is, that he “is light, and in him is no darkness at all;” which is thought to be best represented by this color, which is simple, and has no mixture and composition in it. Christ is “the light of the world;” he was known by this character to the Old Testament saints; he was prophesied of as the great light which should lighten the Gentile world; this was owned by old Simeon, witnessed by John, and asserted by himself: and then it is thought by these interpreters, that he may be said to be red or ruddy, as to his human nature. The first man, who was a type of Christ, and “a figure of him that was to come,” was called Adam, which signifies red; and perhaps he had his name from the Hebrew word hmda adamah, which signifies red earth, out of which he was formed, Genesis 2:7, so Christ is called “ the last Adam? (1 Cor.15:45), because he “took part of the same flesh and blood the children” whom he loved, “are partakers of.” Now, according to this sense of the words, her answer is this; Would you know who and what my beloved is, and wherein he excels others? I will tell you, and be it known unto you, that he is no mean, common and ordinary person; no, he is a glorious and an extraordinary one; his name is alp pele, wonderful, a wonder, a miracle; and so is his person; two natures meet in him; he is God and man in one person; he is “the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh;” and when you hear this, you will cease to wonder why I so charge you, and why I love, value, and esteem him above all others.
Again others understand these words of Christ's human nature only; and that he may be said to be white, because of the innocence, purity and holiness of his human nature; which was not tainted with original sin, as ours is, he not descending from Adam by ordinary generation; but was miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Ghost, and therefore it is called “that holy thing:” neither was there any sinful action committed by him in all his life; but both in nature and practice he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;” he never sinned in thought, word or deed, though he “was made sin for us.” Also they suppose, he may be said to be red or ruddy, on the account of his sufferings in this nature; by reason of which he may be represented, in Isaiah 63:1,2, as being “red in his apparel,” and as being clothed with “dyed garments;” for what with the buffetings and scourgings of his body, the crowning his head with thorns, and piercing his hands, feet and side, with the nails and spear, the garment of the human nature was like “a vesture dipped in blood:” to this purpose is Alcuin's note on the text, which is not to be despised; he is white, says he, because without sin; red, with the blood of his sufferings; “chosen out of ten thousand,” because he is the only mediator of God and men. Now there cannot appear a more beautiful and delightful sight, to those who desire “to know nothing but Christ and him crucified,” than to see the just Jesus suffering for unjust ones; him that “knew no sin, made sin for them;” and the holy, harmless, innocent, and unspotted lamb of God, shedding his blood for the vilest of sinners: according to this sense, the church's answer is; Would you know what my beloved is, and wherein he excels others? I will tell you, he is not lack with original and actual sin, as you and I are; for though you see him red with sufferings; yet he was “not cut off for himself, but was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities;” for in his nature and actions he is white, pure and spotless; and such a mixture of white and red, of innocence and sufferings, render him extremely amiable and lovely to me. Or else,
As others have observed, these words may be understood of the different administrations of mercy and justice: Thus when Christ pardons sinners, “though their sins be as scarlet,” he makes them “as white as snow; and though they be red like crimson, they become as wool;” and when he justifies persons, he is said to clothe them in “fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints;” and when he promises glorification to them, it is in such words as these, “they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy;” and so glorified saints are represented, “clothed with white robes, palms in their hands, and hallelujahs in their mouths;” for all which see Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 3:4, 5; and 7:9, 13, 14, and 19:8, and then when he is represented as taking vengeance on his enemies, and executing wrath upon his foes, he is said to be “red in his apparel,” and to be “clothed with a vesture dipped in blood;” for so they understand Isaiah 63:1,2; Revelation 19:13, and it may be farther observed, that the wrath which the Lord poureth forth upon the “wicked of the earth,” is represented by a cup of red wine, expressing the fierceness and fury of it; “for in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and, the wine is red,” etc. (Ps.75:8). And this agrees with the common notion of the Cabalistic doctors, that when God appears in mercy and kindness, then he may be said to be white; but when in wrath and anger, red: of this frequent mention is made in Zohar, and in other Cabalistic books: according to this sense, it is as if she should say, My beloved has mercy and grace for his people, which he bestows in a sovereign manner upon them; and he has vengeance for his adversaries, which he executes upon them according to the strictest rules of justice; and this mixture of mercy and justice, of white and red, renders him an extraordinary person; it makes some to love him, and others to fear him. Or else,
These words may be interpreted of Christ's battles and victories, and may represent him as a mighty warrior, and a triumphant conqueror: Thus in Revelation 6:4. the warrior, who had “power given him to take peace from the earth,” is introduced as riding upon “a red horse;” and in verse 2, he that “went forth conquering and to conquer,” as riding upon a “white horse;” thus Christ, who is “the Lord of hosts, the man of war,” considered as fighting the Lord's battles, may be said to be red or ruddy; and as returning from the field of battle, as a mighty conqueror, having “spoiled principalities and powers,” and got an entire victory over all his and our enemies, may be said to be white. And now this great person, as if she should say, has done all this for me, and “made me also more than a conqueror;” and this person is my beloved.
But passing these several senses, which perhaps may be thought too nice and curious, though agreeable to the analogy of faith, yet it may be, will not bear so well here; though I choose rather to understand them of the beauty, glory and excellency of Christ, as mediator, without applying particularly these colors of “white and ruddy,” to either nature, or to any particular actions performed in either: and I cannot but think that the church, in this description of Christ, has some reference to the account that is given of David, 1 Samuel 16:12. which is, that “he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look at.” David was an eminent type of Christ; of his line the Messiah came, who is sometimes called David in scripture; and is both his “root and offspring, the bright and the morning star;” and as described by David, is “fairer than the children of men,” being “white and ruddy, which discovers the best temperature, the most healthful constitution, and the completest beauty: as mediator, he is a perfection of beauty; all divine perfections are in him; the glory of them all shine resplendently in his face or person; and they are all glorified in him and by him, who is “the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person.” There is also a mediatorial glory that he is possessed of, which is the result and consequence of his work; and which readers him exceeding fair and beautiful in the eyes of believers now, and is what they will, with wonder and pleasure, everlastingly gaze upon in another world: likewise as mediator, all fullness of grace dwells in him; and as “full of grace and truth, his glory appears as the glory of the only begotten of the Father.”
Again, Christ, as mediator, is “white and ruddy,” a perfection of beauty in the eyes of believers, as considered in all his offices of prophet, priest and king; and in all his relations, as husband, father, brother and friend, which he bears and stands in to his people: moreover, he is exceeding beautiful in their esteem, in all that he has done and suffered for them; but of this beauty and fairness o£ Christ, see more on chapter 1:15.
II. Christ is here described by the church comparatively, as he may be considered with regard to others; “the chiefest among ten thousand.”
The Septuagint render the words thus, “chosen out of, or from ten thousand:” so Christ is both by God and men; he is chosen of God from among ten thousand, as man and mediator: when that large number of all the individuals of human nature, which tie resolved to create in time, came up in his vast and eternal mind; a certain number of them he for himself whom he meant to make instances of singled out his mighty grace and mercy, and therefore ordained them to life and salvation; and out of this select company, which he had in his eternal view, he chose the man Christ Jesus, and singled oat that single individuum of human nature only, to be united to the eternal logov, logos, the second person in the glorious Trinity; and therefore he is said to “exalt one chosen out of the people:” he chose this glorious person to be the Savior. head, and mediator of his elect ones, that living stone, which is disallowed and rejected by some men, who would be accounted builders, is “chosen of God, and precious;” he has laid him as the foundation, and “made him as the head of the corner;” he knew that he was furnished with suitable abilities to be the sinner, savior, therefore he “laid help upon one that is mighty;” he called him to the work, invested him with the office of a mediator, and appointed him his “salvation to the ends of the earth:” and now, had all human beings been summoned together to have chosen a savior for themselves, they could never have made a better choice than God has made for them; with this choice every sensible sinner is well satisfied, and rejoices in it; and was it to be done again, would say, as the Psalmist did, “He shall choose our inheritance for us,” (Ps. 47:4).
He is also chosen of men from among ten thousand: there is none among all the angels in heaven, the large number of inhabitants that fill the upper world; nor any among the vast crowds of the sons of men, so desirable to sensible sinners as he is: they make choice of Him only for their Savior i far being sensible that in vain is salvation hoped for any where else, they say of all the works of their hands, even of the best their hands ever wrought, “ye shall not save us;” neither will we any more give you such honor, nor have such a dependence on you as to say, “ye are our gods,” but Christ, and he only, shall be our salvation; and though he slay us, yet will we trust in him: they choose him for their ruler and governor, their Lord and King; and though they have formerly been under, and have submitted to the government of others; yet they now desire to be his subjects and servants only, and to be obedient to his laws and commands: they likewise fix on him as the alone object of their love, whom they have the strongest affection for, and desirous to keep the most inviolable chastity to; for though he is out of sight, he is not out of mind, “whom having not seen they love;” nor can he be out-rivaled by any, being preferable in their esteem to all others.
Moreover the Hebrew word may be rendered, a “standard-bearer, or one standard among ten thousand.” The church of Christ here below is in a militant state; she has many enemies to grapple with, which cause fightings without, and fears within; and though these enemies are mighty and powerful, crafty and cunning, yet in the name and strength of her Lord, she sets up her banners, and appears as terrible to them, and as majestic to others, “as an army with banners;” and this banner, or standard, which is both her covering and her comfort in the day of battle, is love, according to chapter 2:4. It is the love of Christ, as a banner displayed, an ensign set up, and standard erected, which invites and engages so many to enlist themselves in Christ's service; and, when enlisted, animates them to fight the Lord's battles so courageously as they do; Christ, he is the standard-bearer, and the great “captain of our salvation,” being by God the Father given as a “leader and commander” to the people. Now Christ being said to be “the standard-bearer among ten thousands” may be understood of the multitude, either of ministering angels, who are under him and at his command; or of saints, who are enlisted in his service, and ready to do his pleasure; he having set up his standard, and being himself “an ensign to the people,” multitudes flock unto him, and fulfill the prophecy of him, as the great Shiloh, to whom “the gathering of the people should be:” herein lies the glory and excellency of Christ that he has ten thousand, that is, a large number of choice and select ones under his standard, such as there are not the like in all the world besides; and how stately and majestic does Christ look, and what a noble sight is it to see him bearing the standard before such a company! such a sight as this John had of him, at the head of a vast multitude of those shining ones, who were “clothed with white robes,” and had “palms in their hands,” having just obtained a glorious victory over their enemies (Rev. 7:9, 13, 14). Or else, the intent of the word is, that Christ is a more excellent standard-bearer than all others: there may be ten thousand persons who carry a flag, but none of them all are to be compared with him, either for comeliness, strength or courage; none have such a choice and select company under them as he has; neither do any carry such a banner as he does, whose motto is love; and herein was he, who is “the lion of the tribe of Judah,” represented by that tribe, which of all the tribes of Israel pitched their standard first, and had the greatest number under it (see Num. 2:3, 4).
But these words by our translators are rendered, “the chiefest among ten thousand;” and the sense of them is no ways opposed by the former versions; for if he is “chosen out of,” and is “the standard-bearer among ten thousand,” then he must be the chiefest among them; he is the chiefest among all the angels in heaven; for to “which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son,” etc. He is the Son of God in a higher sense than angels and men are; angels are the sons of God by creation, saints by adoption, but Christ is the Son of God by an ineffable generation; as he is God, he is the creator of angels, and to him they pay homage and adoration; they are his servants, and are at his command, whom he sends forth as ministering spirits, to do his pleasure; and though as man, in the state of his humiliation and abasement here on earth in the days of his flesh, he was “made a little lower than the angels;” yet now in the very same nature in which he was abased below them, he is now exalted above them at the Father's right hand; for “to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand,” etc. as mediator, he has “obtained a more excellent name than they;” for the name of a savior or mediator is given to none of them; and as such they are beholden to him, though not to make peace and reconciliation for them, they having never sinned and incurred the divine displeasure; yet they are obliged unto him for confirming grace, to secure them in that state in which they stand. He is also the chiefest of all on earth, as well as of all in heaven; in all things, and over all persons, he has the preeminence; he is the head of saints, their “everlasting father,” and tender husband; he is the great master of the family, and “the first-born among many brethren;” he is the King of saints, and Lord of the creation; and should be the chiefest, and have the chiefest place in the desires of our hearts, in the contemplations of our minds, the affections of our souls, and in our ascriptions of glory; for “he is the chiefest among ten thousand.”
 Foliot & Ainsworth in loc. Ambros. in Psalm 118. octon. 5. col. 907. Theodoret. & Tres Patres apud ibid.
 Color albus praecipue decorus Deo est, Cicero de Legibus: 1:2.
 Vid. Baxtorf. & David de Polnis in Lex, in rad. µda & Joseph. Antiq; 1. 1. c. 1. s. 2.
 Hieron. Greg. Psellus, S. Thorn. Beda, & Rupert. in Sanct. in loc.
 Vid. R. Aben Ezra, R. Alshech, & Ainsworth in oc. & R. Sol Jarchi in ver. 16.
 Vid. Shirhashirim Rabba in loc. fol. 20, 1.
 jEklelocismenov apo muriadwn, Sept. electus ex millibus, Vulg. Lat. David de Pomis in Lexic. Hebrews fol. 18. 3, renders it magnificatus, electus.
 hbbrm lwnd vexillatus, ornatus vel elatus ut vexillarius, Buxtorf. vexillatus myriade, Mercerus; vexillatus a decem millibus, Montanus; vexillarius est e myriade Junius; sub signis habens exercitum decem millium, Tigurine version.
 Vid. Targum, Aben Ezra, & Shirhashirim Rabba in loc.
 Intelliges insignem prae decem millibus, ut m prae comparationem designet, Mercerus in loc. Insignitus prae myriade, Cocceius, Marckius; insignius prae decem millibus, Pagninus.