OF THE BOOK OF
is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among, women?
Whither it thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.
church having answered the former question of the daughters of Jerusalem to their satisfaction, by giving them an ample account of her beloved, what he was; they proceed to another question, and ask, whither he was gone, which we have in this verse. In which may be considered,
I. The title or appellation they give her, or their manner of addressing her, “O thou fairest among women.”
II. A question proposed by them to her, which is also repeated; “Whither is thy beloved gone? whither is thy beloved turned aside?”
III. The end of their asking this question; “that we may seek him with thee?”
I. The title or appellation which they give her, is, the “fairest among women:” which is, no doubt, designed to express the exceeding greatness of her beauty; women being the fairest of human race, and she the fairest of all that sex; she was in their eye the “perfection of beauty,” and therefore they give her this character; and they were not mistaken in it, for Christ gives her the very same encomium, and that in the same words, in chapter 1:8. But now we must not understand this of her, as considered in herself; neither did the daughters of Jerusalem so understand it, who had been better informed from her own mouth; for she had told them, that she was black in herself, though comely in Christ: nor is it to be understood of her outward appearance in the world: for under that consideration she appears also black with reproaches, scandals, persecutions and afflictions: but this character suits her as she is considered in Christ, her head; as justified by his righteousness, washed in his blood, and .sanctified by his Spirit. It may also be observed, that these persons continued in their esteem of her; for the same character they give her here, they gave her when they proposed the first question to her, in chapter 5:9, nay, perhaps their esteem of her, and value for her, might rise higher than heretofore, they having a clearer knowledge of Christ than they had before; for as our knowledge of Christ and love to him increase, so do our love unto, and our esteem for his people: and it is very probable, that the beauty and loveliness which they saw in her, drew their pity and compassion towards her; so as to take notice of her case, condole her misfortunes in the loss of so excellent a person, and offer their service to assist her in the search of him. Likewise, no doubt but the veneration and esteem which they had for her person, made them more carefully attend to what she said concerning her beloved: for thus it is with persons under the preaching of the gospel; if they come prejudiced against the person who ministers, they take but little notice of what is said, unless it be to calumniate and reproach, and so reap but little advantage from it; when, on the other hand, if persons come, not only unprejudiced against, but having a veneration and respect for the minister of the gospel, they generally give the greater heed unto, and are most likely to profit by his ministrations.
Moreover, the daughters might make use of this title or appellation in their addresses, to assure her that they were serious and in good earnest in asking this question, as well as in the former; and that it was not to indulge a vain curiosity in themselves, nor designed for her disadvantage, but rather the contrary.
II. Here is a question put by them; “Whither is thy beloved gone?” Which way did he take? what course did he steer? on which hand did he turn, when he withdrew from thy door? which question is repeated, though another word is used, yet to the same purpose, “Whither is thy beloved turned aside?” Which way did he look? which way did he turn his face, when he turned it from thee? Now, 1. The putting of this question, and not insisting any longer upon the former, or upon the explication of any branch of her answer to it, supposes that they were entirely satisfied with it; therefore the question is not now, who or what her beloved was, for they knew that full well from the description she had given of him but now the question is, “Whither is he gone?” This may teach us, that when younger Christians have any doubts, scruples, cases of conscience, or questions relating to faith or experience; to the person, office, and grace of Christ, or to any part of the great mystery of godliness, to be resolved, they should make their application to elder ones: this method these young converts, or daughters of Jerusalem, took here; which God was pleased to bless and succeed, for their increase in light and knowledge, and for the stirring up of their affections and desires after the Lord Jesus: and may serve to encourage the private conferences and conversations of the saints with each other: which, when carried on in an agreeable manner, when filled with spiritual discourses, and taken up with asking and answering proper questions relating to faith or experience, are highly well pleasing to God, and tend much to the edifying of one another: this may also serve as a direction to ministers to insist chiefly upon the glories and excellencies of Christ; for this is the way of preaching which God owns and blesses, for the conversion of sinners, and consolation of saints; the church's insisting on this subject, was made of great use to these persons, to draw out their love to Christ, and to make farther inquiries after him. 2. It may be observed from this question, that when Christ is known, who he is, and what he is; the next question is, where he is, and how he may be come at? whilst persons are insensible of their wretched state by nature, they see no need of Christ; and whilst they are ignorant of him, they have no value for him, nor desire after him; ignoti nulla cupido; there is no desire after an unknown thing; an unknown Christ is an undesired Christ: the reason why souls, in a state of nature, seek not after God is, because they have no understanding of him: “there is none that understandeth,” says the apostle (Rom. 3:11), “there is none that seeketh after God:” the same reason holds here, with respect to Christ; for, whilst souls remain strangers to the beauties and glories of Christ's person, they will have no value for him, nor make any inquiry after him; but as for those that know the Lord, they will “follow on to know him,” and make use of all means appointed for that purpose; for the more a soul knows of Christ, the more it desires to know; mere speculative notions of his person, without knowledge of interest in him, and communion with him, will not satisfy them an account of him by hearsay, though exceeding ravishing and delightful to them, is not enough without seeing him; for where Christ's worth is once known, there is no contentment without the enjoyment of him; when he is once discovered as “the pearl of price,” the soul is willing to run all risks, endure all hardships, part with every thing that is near and dear, so it may but be possessed of him: its language is, Give me Christ, or I die; ten thousand worlds, if I had them, for an interest in this glorious person: this seems to be the case of the daughters of Jerusalem here. 3. The repetition of this question, shows that they were serious and in good earnest, and did not speak sarcastically: and that they were impatient until they received an answer; “Whither is thy beloved gone? whither is thy beloved turned aside?” prithee give us an answer speedily, keep us not in suspense; thou hast given us such a character of his person, that we long to see him, and are uneasy until thou givest us some notice of the place whither he is retired, that we may, along with thee, be searching after him. 4. There may be some knowledge of Christ, love to him, and desires after him, when there is but little faith in him that is discernible; all the graces of the Spirit are implanted at one and the same time, but they do not all appear at once in their actings upon Christ; love and affection to Christ, and desires after him, appear before faith does: so they did in these persons: they had got some farther knowledge of Christ from the church's description of him; were filled with greater love and affection to him, and had more ardent desires after him, and yet had but little faith in him; for they could not say, that he was their beloved; and therefore, as one well observes, they do not say, where is our beloved gone, but where is thy beloved gone? 5. It appears that they were willing to take the least hints, nay even conjectures, that if it was possible, they might improve them towards finding him, “Whither is thy beloved gone?” Canst thou not give us some hints of it I canst thou not guess which way he took? which shows how intent they were of using all means, so that they might but find him; let it be which way it would, they. were resolved to pursue it; could they but have the least notice of it, whether it was to the right-hand or left, backwards or forwards. 6. Their putting this question to her, shows that she was, or at least that they thought she was, capable of giving them some directions, though she was at the same time destitute of his presence; and it seems she was, by the answer she gives them in the following verse. The church knew where Christ usually retired, and granted his gracious presence to his people; and though he was not willing, at present, to show himself to her, yet she did not know but he might to them, and therefore directs them; nay, sometimes believers are capable of advising and directing others, when they cannot take advice themselves.
III. The end they propose in asking this question, is, that they might seek him with her: which may be considered as a motive to prevail upon her to comply with their request; for this shows that they were serious and in good earnest; that their end was not mere speculation, but practice, which indeed ought to be the end of all our inquiries; that it was their purpose and resolution to seek him; they had agreed and resolved among themselves to do it; for so the words may be read, “and we will seek him with thee;” and if thou wilt tell us which way he went, it will lay us under an obligation to make good our resolution: nay, it shows also that it was her good they had in view, as much as their own; and self-interest goes a great way; so that, put all together, it is no wonder that she readily, and without any hesitation, answers the question. Now this being the frame of soul that these daughters of Jerusalem were brought into through her discourse concerning Christ; and seeking Christ being the thing which they had in view, and were desirous of being directed in; may lead us to observe the following things: 1. That the end of setting forth the excellencies of Christ, whether in private conversation, or in the public ministry, is to set souls a seeking after him; for this purpose the ministers of the gospel insist upon the glories of Christ's person, the excellency of his righteousness, the efficacy of his blood, and the fullness of his grace; it was with this view that the church took so much pains, and spent so much time, in discoursing concerning this excellent person, her beloved, which had its answerable success. 2. It is very discouraging to seek Christ, and not know where he is; it is true, the church knew where Christ used to retire, when he withdrew himself, and therefore knew where to seek him, in hopes of finding him; but the daughters of Jerusalem were unacquainted therewith; and therefore it was very proper for them to put such a question, previous to their seeking, him. 3. This should be the principal thing we should have in view in all religious duties, seeking and seeing Jesus; this is that one thing that should be uppermost in our hearts and desires, when concerned in the duties of hearing, reading, praying, meditating and conferring, that we may “behold the king in his beauty.” 4. Our seeking Christ should be jointly and together; we should seek him, not separately, but with the church: though this does not exclude our seeking him alone, in our closets and in our families; yet there is a social part of worship that we should be concerned in jointly; in which we are to worship the Lord with one shoulder and one consent, and “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some too often is. 5. We should seek Christ in his ordinances, and where his church seeks him: we cannot expect the presence of Christ, when we run away from his church and ordinances, or when we seek him elsewhere; we should seek him with the church, and where the church seeks. 6. Their saying that they would seek him with her, was no doubt to encourage her in hopes of finding; they do as good as desire her not to be cast down at his departure; for they hoped he was not gone far, and that he would be found again, and at the same time promise her all the assistance they were capable of giving; though there is also reason to believe, that they were in hopes of sharing with her in so valuable a blessing; and indeed it was but reasonable, that if they bore part with her in the fatigue of the search, they should also participate with her in the enjoyment of the blessing; which no doubt she was willing to, and therefore immediately gives the following answer.
 dlj jna pou~ ajphlqen, Sept. quo abiit, Vulg. Lat. version, Montanus, Tigurine version, Junius; quo ivit, Mercerus; quorsum ivit. Cocceius.
 hgp hga pou~ apebleyen, Sept. quo declinavit, Vulg. Lat. version; Pagninus; quo respexit, Montanus; quo se vertit, Junius, Mercerus,Tigurine version ‘ quorsum flexit, Cocceius,
 So R. Sol. Jarchi in loc.
 Durham in loc.
 dm[ wnçqbnw ki< zhthsomen auton meta sou, Sept. & queremus cum tecum, Vulgate Latin version, Montanus, Cocceius, Mercerus, Marckius; ut quaeramus. cum tecum, Jumus; ut tecum perquiramus cum, Tigurine version, agreeable to our version.