OF THE BOOK OF
part. Turn away thine eyes from me,
or they have overcome me.—
this and the two following verses, Christ gives a more particular account of the church's beauty, and begins with her eyes in these words; for though they are delivered in such a manner as they be, yet they serve to commend that particular part of her, here mentioned; which is never taken notice of by Christ in this song but with commendation; see chapter 1:15 and 4:1,9; and 7:4. And in these words may be observed,
I. Something that is enjoined the church by Christ; which is, to “turn away her eyes from him.”
II. The reason of it; “for they have overcome me.”
I. Here is an injunction laid upon the church by Christ, to turn away her eyes from him; in which may be inquired, 1st, What is meant by her eyes, 2dly, What by turning them away from him.
1st, By her eyes may be meant, as has been observed on chapter 1:15, the ministers of the gospel, who are that to Christ's body, the church, as eyes are to an human body; they are placed in a more eminent part of it; their business, is to watch, inspect, and overlook the several members of the body, and therefore are called-watchmen and overseers; they pry, search and penetrate into gospel truths, and discover them to others; they guide and direct those who are under their watch and care, “teaching them to observe all things” which Christ has commanded them. The Targum, by eyes, understands the Rabbins, and wise men of the great congregation: and R. Aben Ezra, by the turning of them away, the removal or ceasing of prophecy in the second temple. Or else, by eyes may be meant, the enlightened eyes of the church's understanding; the eyes of her faith, love, and knowledge; that eye of faith which looked upon Christ in the dark) and was the evidence of an unseen Jesus to her; so that she could say, “I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine:” this eye of faith, I say, had pierced the heart of Christ, won it, and got an entire conquest over it; which obliged him to say these words, “Turn sway thine eyes from me,” etc. That love which she had shown unto him, though absent from her, discovered in a variety of expressions to the daughters of Jerusalem, appeared exceeding fair and beautiful to him; her strong and constant affections to him, being attended with solid judgment, and an exact knowledge of his person and grace, took much with his heart, struck the passions of his soul, which shewed and gave themselves vent in such expressions as these. And these eyes of faith and love, I take to be principally intended here. But,
2dly, It may be inquired what is also meant by turning away these eyes from him, Some read the words thus, “Turn about thine eyes over against me;” so Ainsworth: and this. is favored by the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase upon the text; and so indeed the word signifies to turn to as well as to turn from. And this, 1. Suits well with the mind and will of Christ: which is, that his church and all believers should be continually looking to him for life and salvation, righteousness and strength, peace and pardon, joy and comfort; and in short, for every needful supply of grace, until they are brought safe to glory: his language is, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else,” (Isa. 45:22). 2. It suits with the experience of God's children; who often have their eyes taken off from Christ, and set either upon their own righteousness, their duties, and their frames; or else upon creature enjoyments, the transitory and perishing things of this world; and therefore have need to be called off from them, to look to him: and perhaps this was the case of the church here; she had had her eyes intently fixed on Christ for some time, and now on a sudden they are diverted from him, and therefore he gives her this exhortation, to turn them again to him. Which shows, 3. That he was well pleased and exceedingly delighted with them: faith is a precious grace; it is so in its own nature, and in the actings of it upon the person of Christ; it is a precious grace to believers, being very useful to them in dealing with Christ, and receiving from him; and it is also precious to Christ, seeing it brings all the glory back to him: how much Christ is delighted with both these eyes of faith and love, may be seen in chapter 4:9, 10. 4. This version, or reading of the words, may lead us to observe, that Christ would have us not: to take side-looks only of him, but full views; “turn about thine eyes over against me,” right over against me; look me full in the face: it is true, Christ's countenance is as the sun, when it shineth in its full strength; which we, in this imperfect state, cannot so fully and directly look at; yet there is a vast difference between faith's looking at Christ at one time land at another: sometimes we have only a glance, a side-look at Christ; at other times, faith, with open face, beholds, “as in a glass, the glory of the Lord:” our eyes, as Solomon directs (Prov. 4:23), “look right on, and our eyelids look straight before us;” and this is what Christ would have his church do here. 5. It gives us an intimation, that we should look all around Christ, and take as it were a survey of his person, and the glories and excellencies of it; turn about thine eyes; look all around me, view me from head to foot, on all sides: It is true, thou hast been viewing me, as if he should say, and giving an excellent description of me; but turn thine eyes about me again and again, thou wilt find more glories still, fresher beauties, and be able to make new discoveries of my person and grace. 6. This being the first time of their meeting together, after she had so shamefully and basely treated him; she might be filled with so much shame and confusion at the thoughts of it, that she could not lift up her eyes, and look him in the face; which agrees with the experience of the psalmist, when he said, Psalm 40:12, “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up,” And this now being her condition, Christ speaks these words to her, for her encouragement, turn thine eyes unto me; look up with an holy and humble confidence to me, for thine iniquity is done away.
But then, if we consider the words as our translators have rendered them, we are not to understand them, either, 1. As a reprehension of her curiosity, in prying and searching into the glory and greatness of his majesty, which is the sense that some give of the words; for though Christ, as God almighty, cannot be found out to perfection; nor can we comprehend his person and grace as God-man in this imperfect” life; nor see him as he as, which is reserved to another and more perfect one; yet this does not forbid our search and inquiries, in order to obtain a more perfect knowledge of him; though a check should be given, and a restraint laid upon all vain curiosity”: but this does not appear to be the case of the church here; Christ was not displeased with her, nor had he absented himself from her on such an account as this, but because of her slothfulness and negligence in duty; besides, it does not appear likely that Christ, when he is extolling and commending his church in such a manner, should give so severe a rebuke unto her. 2. Nor were these eyes of hers carnal and sinful, haughty and lifted up, or wanton and unchaste, and therefore disagreeable to him; no, her eyes are said to he doves eyes within her locks, modest, humble and chaste; which are well-pleasing to him, and are always commended by him. Nor, 3. Are we to understand the words as if Christ did not approve of her looking to him by faith; for there is nothing more grateful to him; faith always meets with a kind reception from him, and is always commended by him: souls need not fear its being accounted a piece of boldness or presumption in them to believe in Christ, for he gives all encouragement to it; “Ye believe in God,” says he, “believe also in me,” (John 14:1). But, 4. It is expressive of the exceeding great passion of love he was in with her; he could stand it out no longer, but must acknowledge he was overcome by” her, and therefore bids her turn away her eyes from him; not through any dislike, but as having his heart overpowered with love by them: the expression is designed to signify the exceeding greatness of Christ's love to the church, as well as, her surpassing beauty. Unless, 5. We would rather understand it as his will, that she should cease petitioning to him. seeing he had granted her request; thus, lifting up the eyes to God, signifies prayer to him; see 2 Chronicles 20:12. Psalm 123:1, and if we take it in this sense here, it is as if he should say; thou hast been lifting up thine eyes to me, and petitioning me, that thou mightest have some discoveries of my grace, enjoyment of my presence, and communion with my person; and now thou mayest turn away thine eyes from me, or cease petitioning; for thou hast the thing thou hast been praying and looking up to me for.
II. The reason of Christ's saying so to his church, or bidding her “turn away her eyes from him,” is because they had overcome him. These words are very differently rendered. 1. Some read them thus, “for they have lifted me up,” so Ainsworth; or, “that they might lift me up,” so Junius that is, make me cheerful, comfort and encourage me: there is a near union between Christ and his church, from whence arises a very great sympathy; he has a fellow-feeling with his people in all their afflictions, both inward and outward, temporal and spiritual; when they are afflicted, he is afflicted; when they are east down, he is as it were cast down with them; and when they are cheerful, he is so too; he “weeps with them that weep, and rejoices with them that rejoice:” the church being in a comfortable frame, and in the exercise of faith and love upon him, he is as it were cheered by it, and. rejoiced at it; but this must be understood only as expressive of that near sympathy there is between them, and not as implying weakness or alteration in him, who is subject to no change. 2. Others read the words thus, “ for they have strengthened me;” and so our translators have rendered the word, in Psalm 138:3, and then the sense is, they have strengthened my desire towards thee and confirmed me in it, as R. David Kimchi observes; and it is as if he should say, It is true, as I am thine, and thou art mine, I always had a desire towards thee, and to thy company; and it is not long since I signified it to thee; but since thine eyes have been so intently fixed on me, thy faith and love have been so exercised upon me, methinks my desire towards thee is strengthened and increased: but this must be understood as expressive of that great regard which Christ had to her, and be taken with the same caution as before. 3. Others, as R. Sol. Jarchi, read the words thus, “for they have made me proud;” the word is rendered, “to behave one's self proudly,” in Isaiah 3:5, by our translators: Christ, as I may so say, is proud of his people, whom the Father has given him, and he has purchased with his own blood; he takes a kind of pride as well as pleasure in them; he is proud of that beauty which he himself has put upon them, and of those graces which he has wrought in them, and especially that of faith, when it is in exercise: What notice did he take of the Centurion's faith? and in a kind of a boasting manner, as being proud of it, say to his followers, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel:” here is an instance of faith for you, such an one as is not to be matched in Israel. 4. Others read them thus, “they have made me fierce;” not with anger and indignation, but with love; for there is a power, a force, a fierceness in love, as well as in wrath; “love is strong as death;” it is so not only in Christ's people towards him, but more especially in him towards them; his affections are very strong towards them, and are sometimes let out with a greater force upon them than at other times, as they seem to be here. 5. R. Aben Ezra renders them thus, “they are stronger than me,” or, “they have taken away my strength;” so that I am as one that is dead, and have no life and spirit in me; these sparkling eyes of thine have transported me into a kind of ecstasy, that I am scarce myself: and to this purpose the Septuagint render it, “they have made me to fly away;” that is, out of myself; which agrees with our version, “they have overcome me,” I am not master of myself; the sense is the same with chapter 4:9. Now this shows us, (1.) The power of faith; which not only ‘subdues kingdoms, stops the mouths of lions, and puts to flight the armies of the aliens,” but conquers God himself. (2.) This is owing very much to the importunity of it, which is increased by seeming denials: faith will not let Christ alone, nor let him go, nor will I cease petitioning, till it has got the blessing; sad the repulses it meets with, do but increase its importunity (see Gen. 32:26; Ex. 32:9, 10; Matthew 15:24-28). (3.) Christ's being overcome by the church, does not imply any, weakness in him; but is a discovery of his astonishing, condescending love and grace, that he should be willing to be held, as it were a captive, by a poor sinful creature; that He should be willing to be overcome by us, who has conquered all our enemies, sin, Satan, hell and death for us, is surprising and amazing; and perhaps on this account, as well as upon some others, we may be said to be “more than conquerors,” because we are the conquerors of him who has conquered all.
 Foliot & Alcuin in loc. Thorn. & Beda in Sanct. in loc.
 Ut illi efferant me, Junius; illi enim me extulerunt, Mercerus.
 ynbyhrj corroborant me, Marckius.
 In lib. Shorash. rad.
 Me superbiorem faciunt, Tig. version, Piscator, etc.
 Ipsi reddiderunt efferum me, Montanus; ii ferocire fecerunt me, Cocceius.
 Fortiores fuerut me, Pagninus, Mercerus.
 jAnepterwsan me, Sept. ipsi me avolarc fecerunt, Vulg. Lat. version.