OF THE BOOK OF
art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah;
comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.
are the words of Christ; who, having absented himself from his church for a considerable time, to show his resentment of her former carriage to him, now manifests himself unto her, and declares that he has the same love and affection for her as ever he had, and therefore addresses her with this title or character, “O my love!” nay, that she was as beautiful and comely in his eye as ever she was, notwithstanding all her failings and infirmities; which beauty of hers he describes first more generally in this verse, and then more particularly in the following ones. In this general description of her beauty are three parts: “that she is as beautiful as Tirzah.”
I. He says,
II. “Comely as Jerusalem.”
III. “Terrible as an army with banners.”
I. He declares her to be as “beautiful as Tirzah.” The Septuagint do not take it to be the proper name of a place, as we, with R. Aben Ezra, do, and therefore translate the word, and render it thus, wJv eudokia, as good-will or good-pleasure; which may be expressive of the sweetness of her temper and disposition, which is heightened by using the abstract; she was all over good-will and good-nature, not only sweet, but sweetness itself, as she says of him, in chapter 5:16. Moreover, this may be spoken of her, as she is the object of God's good-will and pleasure; and so she appears to be, as chosen in Christ by him, to be a partaker of grace and glory with him; which was not done upon the foot of works, but by an act of his sovereign good-will and pleasure, who “will have mercy on whom he will have mercy:” also, as she is redeemed by Christ: in which there was such a discovery of “the exceeding riches of God's grace,” such an appearance of his “goodwill to men,” that the angels could not but take notice of it, when they celebrated with a song the birth of an incarnate Savior (Luke 2:14). likewise, as called and sanctified by the blessed Spirit of grace, who “worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” And now if we thus consider the church as the object of God's good-will and pleasure, in those several instances of it, she will appear beautiful and lovely. Or else, this may be said of her, as she is filled with good-will to God, to Christ, his people, gospel, worship, ways and ordinances: the church and all true believers in Christ bear a good-will to God; they “love him, because he first loved them;” they love him, not only for what he is unto them, and what he has done for them, but also for what he is in himself: for he is in his own nature, in his own perfections, amiable and lovely: they bear a good-will to Christ, he is altogether lovely to them; they have none in heaven but him, nor as there any on earth they desire besides him; every thing that belongs to him is exceeding precious to them: “his name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love him;” they bear a good-will to his people, who have his image enstamped upon them, and to his gospel, which they prefer to their necessary food; and to his worship, ways and ordinances; they love the habitation of his house; his tabernacles are amiable; his ways are ways of pleasantness; his commands are not grievous, but exceeding delightful to them. Now if we consider the church :as being of this sweet and loving disposition, which is wrought, influenced and maintained by divine grace, how beautiful does she appear!
Again, the word Tirzah comes from a root, which signifies to be grateful, or to be accepted; and so R. Solomon Jarchi paraphrases the words, “Thou art beautiful, O my love, seeing that thou art acceptable to me;” and so he says it is explained in an ancient book of theirs, called Siphre: and if we take the words in this sense, they set forth the beauty and glory of the church, as she stands before God, “ accepted in Christ the beloved.” God is well pleased with Christ, and with the church in him; he is well pleased for his righteousness sake, and with her as she appears in that; for so considered, she is a complete beauty, fair and without spot, lovely to look upon, delightful to Christ, and acceptable to God.
The Targum paraphrases the words thus, “How beautiful art thou, O my love, in the time it is thy will to do my pleasure. Our righteousnesses are indeed as filthy rags, and we ourselves as an unclean thing;” yet when we are made “willing in the day of God's power,” to act according to his will, and that in faith, from a principle of love, and with an eye to his glory; it is accepted by him, the same way as our persons are. But I see no reason why we should not take the word as the proper name of a place; seeing it is certain that there was such a city as Tirzah, in the land of Judea, which was a very pleasant and delightful place, as its name manifestly shows; for which reason, no doubt, it was made choice of by one of the ancient kings of Canaan, to be the place of his residence (see Josh. 12:24), as it was afterwards by Jeroboam and his successors, until Zimri's time: who, when the city was taken, burnt the king's house with fire. Now either for its pleasant buildings, or beautiful situation, or some such tiring, the church is here compared unto it, being arrayed with Christ's righteousness, and adorned with the graces of his Spirit. But,
II. Lest this should not be sufficient to commend her beauty, he says also, that she is as “comely as Jerusalem;” which was not only the chief city in Judea's land, but as Pliny says, was the most famous of all the cities in the east; nay more, it was “the joy of the whole earth:” the church goes under this name, both in the Old and New Testament; for which, see the following texts, Isaiah 40:2 and 52:1; Galatians 4:25,26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2. Now she may be said to be “comely as Jerusalem,” for the following reasons: 1. Jerusalem was a well-built city, its houses were closely joined together, and its streets uniform; hence the Psalmist says (Ps. 122:3), “Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:” so the church of Christ, and the members of it, as they are built upon the same foundation, and are closely joined to the same head, Christ; so they are strictly united one to another, and are like “a building fitly framed together,” or like an human body that is “fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth;” all the members being set in their proper places, in a just symmetry with, and subserviency to each other (see Eph. 2:20, 21, 4:16). 2. Jerusalem was not only the metropolis of Judea, but was the chief city in all the world, as has been observed: and this may set forth the super-excellency, glory and comeliness of the church, above all the world besides; which will more manifestly appear, when “the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and be exalted above the hills, and God's Jerusalem be a praise in the earth,” (see Isa. 2:2, 62:7). 3. It was a very beautiful city; it had many beautiful structures in it, particularly the temple, which was the finest building that ever was seen in the world; it was also very beautiful for situation, as well as for buildings, and therefore was called the perfection of beauty; as the church also is, being beautified with the garments of Christ's salvation. 4. It was a very rich and opulent city; especially in Solomon's time who “made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones:” in the church, not only the unsearchable riches of Christ, are preached, but also the immense riches of divine grace and mercy are expended upon the members of it; so that every inhabitant of this Jerusalem is a king and a prince: How rich must that city be, all whose inhabitants are kings and princes? such are the saints, the members of Christ's church, who are made by Christ kings and priests to his Father. 5. It was not only the place of the residence of the kings of David's line, where they had their palaces, and kept their courts; but also, what made it more glorious and comely than all the rest, it was “the city of the great king;” even of him who is the King of kings, who was set up by his Father, as king over his holy hill of Zion: so the church is Christ's palace, where he keeps his court, grants his presence, shows himself, and entertains his friends as courtiers; it is his rest, his habitation, where he dwells and delights to be, having chosen it for that purpose, 6. What made Jerusalem also exceeding comely, was, that the worship of God was kept up there: here was the temple; here sacrifices were offered up; hither the tribes went up to worship; and therefore is called, the city of our solemnities: Christ's church is the place of worship where saints assemble together, where God is reverenced and adored by them; where the sacrifice of prayer and praise are offered, up; where the word of God is preached, and his ordinances administered, to the comfort of his saints, and to the glory of his name. 7. Jerusalem, as it was beautiful in its inward buildings, so it was likewise in its outward fortifications, which were both natural and artificial; it had not only many towers and bulwarks, which were its artificial fortifications, ,but had also mountains around it, which were natural ones; and for this reason the church and people of God are compared to it, in Psalm 125:2. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth, even for ever:” God himself is a wall of fire around his church; Christ is a strong tower in the midst of it, and salvation has God appointed for walls and bulwarks about it. 8. Jerusalem was a free city, as is Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all; it had many privileges and immunities, as has also the church of Christ, and all the members of it; all who are “fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God,” are all Christ's freemen, and enjoy the liberty of the gospel, and can never lose their freedoms, nor be deprived of them; they shall never be arrested by divine justice, nor come into condemnation, nor be reduced to a state of bondage.
III. He also says of her, that she was “terrible as an army with banners.” This comparison manifestly shows, that it was not any single person that is intended in this song; not Pharaoh's daughter, nor any single inhabitant of Jerusalem; but a considerable company of persons, a collective body, such as the church of Christ is; for a single person cannot well be compared to an army with banners. Now this shows that the church of Christ on earth is militant; she is in a warfare state, and has many enemies to fight with, as sin, Satan, and the world; she has enemies within and enemies without; “a great fight of afflictions” to endure, and “the good fight of faith to fight,” after which she is to receive eternal life: the use of banners has been taken notice of, on chapter 2:4. Moreover, this comparison may lead us to observe, that the church was as an army in good order, well-disciplined, having proper officers and good, armor: Christ is the chief general; the ministers of the gospel are the under-officers; the banner is love; and the armor they are accoutred with, what you read of in Ephesians 6, says not only so, but that she was in a posture of defense, ready to fight, whenever the enemy should attack her: she appeared like an army, having its general at the head of it, its colors flying, drums beating, and sword in hand; and being so, she was terrible to her enemies, sin, Satan, and the world.
Now the terribleness of the church of Christ, here spoken of, may be understood, either, 1. Of that awe which godly persons have over the wicked; the good examples and pious conversations of the saints often distress the consciences, and strike an awe upon the minds of the ungodly; they are deterred sometimes by them from evil practices, especially when in the presence of them, and are awed by them from doing them any hurt; thus Herod feared John the Baptist, because he was a holy man (Mark 6:20). Or, 2. Of the invincibleness of the saints, when united together; when they are at peace one with another, and have no discord and mutiny among themselves, but keep close to each other, and endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,” they are like an army in battle-array, that cannot easily be broke in upon by the enemy. Or, 3. Of her constancy and undauntedness in seeking of him; and it is as if he should say, When I parted from thee, what difficulties, didst thou meet with? How wast thou abused by the watchmen and. keepers of the walls? who smote and wounded thee, and took away thy veil from thee; and yet thou wast not discouraged, but still went on in search of me, marching like an army with banners, bearing down all before thee, surmounting all difficulties until thou hadst obtained what thou soughtest for, Or, 4. Perhaps Christ may say so of her, as regarding himself: who had felt the power of her arms, and was conquered by her; like another Jacob, she “had power with God, and prevailed.” Her love to Christ was so great, her faith so strong, she so diligent in her search, and so importunate in her desires, that he could not withstand her; and therefore, as one that had found her to be “terrible as an army with banners,” says, in the following words,
 It is explained the same way in Shirhashirim Rabba in loc.
 Lib. 5:c. 14.
 It is highly commended for its beauty, in T. Bah, Kiddushin. fol. 49, 2.