OF THE BOOK OF
return, O Shulamite, return, return, that we may look upon
thee: What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of
words consist of two parts:
I. A call, either of Christ or of the daughters of Jerusalem, to the church, to return, that they might have a full view of her.
II. A reply to that call, which is made by proposing a question, and returning an answer to it.
I. Here is a call, either of Christ or of the daughters, to the church, to return, that they might have a full view of her: in which may be considered,
First, The name she is called by, or the title and appellation which is given to her, Shulamite. Secondly, What she is called upon to do; and that is, to return, which is repeated over and over. Thirdly, The end of it, which is, that they might “look upon her.”
First, The name she bears, or the title and application which is given her, is, Shulamite; and she may be called so, for the following reasons:
1st, Because she was an inhabitant of Salem or Jerusalem: as the woman with whom Elisha lodged, is called a Shunamite from her dwelling in Shunem; so the church is here called a Shulamite or a Jerusalemite, from her dwelling in Salem or Jerusalem: Jerusalem was formerly called Salem; so it was in Melchizedek's time, as is thought, who was king of that place; which ancient name of it is mentioned by the Psalmist, in Psalm 76:2, “in Salem also is his tabernacle.” And now it is no wonder that the church, or any particular believer, should be called a Shulamite, seeing the church, both in the Old and New Testament, frequently bears the name of Jerusalem; so that to be a Shulamite, is to be a “fellow-citizen of the saints, and of the household of God,” and to share in all the privileges and immunities thereof, as they do; who, besides the company of angels, and conversation of saints, enjoy the presence of Father, Son, and Spirit; and share in all the blessings of the everlasting covenant; for to the Shulamites, these natives of Zion, or inhabitants of Jerusalem, do these properly belong (see Isa. 33:24; Zech. 13:1).
2dly, Because she was the wife of the true Solomon, Christ Jesus. This is thought by some, to be the same with Solomon, having a feminine termination, which suits well with her: and as it is a common thing for the wife to have the same name with the husband; so it is no unusual thing for the church to be called by the same name as Christ is; Is he the Solomon? She's the Shulamite: Is he Jehovah our righteousness? this is also the name wherewith she is called: See Jeremiah 22:6, compared with chapter 33:16, hence it is, that she shares in all the blessings he is possessed of, and in every thing he has a property in: for Christ being hers, all that he has is hers.
3dly, The word flora whence this is derived, signifies both perfection and peace; so that she may be called the Shulamite, from that perfection, and peace which she enjoys in and through Christ. 1. She may be called so from that perfection, which She is or shall be possessed of; “Return, return, O Shulamite;” or, “O thou perfect one;” who art an accomplished beauty, being the perfection of it; whose renown is gone forth among the heathen for it; for thy beauty is perfect, through the comeliness which the Lord hath put upon thee. Now the church may be said to be a Shulamite, a perfect one, these several ways: (1.) Not as she is in herself, but as she is in Christ; as she is in herself, she is black, but as she is in Christ, she is comely; as she is in herself, she is imperfect, but as she is in him, she is complete; as she is in herself, she is full of spots, but as she is in him, ‘she is all fair, and without spot.” (2.) She is perfect: not as considered in her own righteousness, but as considered in Christ's; as she is considered in her own, she is perfect, that being so; which she frankly acknowledges, saying (Isa. 64:6), “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;” but as she is considered in Christ's righteousness, she is perfect, being completely justified, acquitted., and discharged thereby from all sin; and so may be justly reckoned among the number “of the spirits of just men made perfect.” (3.) She may be said to be perfect: not absolutely as in herself, but comparatively, with regard to others: so saints may be said to be perfect, when compared either with themselves before conversion, or with hypocrites and carnal professors, or with the profane men of the world: so Job, though he may be said to be “a perfect and an upright man “on the account of his having Christ's righteousness upon him, and the truth of grace within him; yet he may also be said to be so, as being compared with the men of that generation in which he lived; and therefore the Lord says of him, “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man.” (4.) She may be said to be perfect, or, with a perfection of parts, but not of degrees; it is true, the believer has a complete sanctification in Christ, but not in himself: moreover, every part, power and faculty of the soul, may be sanctified, but not wholly, or to that degree as it shall be: the new creature is formed in all its parts, but it is not yet grown up to be “a perfect man in Christ;” it is not adult, it is as yet in its nonage, in its infancy.” (5.) She may be called the Shulamite, or “the perfect one,” not as she is now, but as she shall be hereafter; for though saints “are now the sons of God, it does not vet appear what they shall be;” they are now in some measure like to Christ, but then they shall be perfectly like unto him; they have now spots upon them, but then they shall be without ‘spot or wrinkle, or any such thing;” they will then. appear to be complete in Christ, and to be “ the fullness of him,” as the church is called, in Ephesians 1:23, which then she may be said to be, when all the elect are called by grace, and not one member of the body is missing; and when all these members are filled with all the gifts and graces of the Spirit in their measure, and are all grown up to a just proportion in the body. 2. She may be called the Shulamite, from that peace which she does or shall enjoy in and through Christ. (1.) She may be called so from that peace which she has through Christ: who is her peace, and has made peace for her through the “blood of his cross,” and thereby has reconciled her unto God; so that being now “justified by faith” in his blood and righteousness, she has “ peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2.) From that peace which she has from Christ; who gives unto her such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away: “Peace I leave with you,” says Christ (John 14:27), “my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you;” which is such an one as the believer can experience, even in the midst of the world's frowns, troubles and persecutions: this is a peace which “passeth all understanding;” and which is spoken only by the blood of Jesus, that ‘speaketh better things than that of Abel;” and which the God of peace gives to men, by leading their faith to the person, blood and righteousness of Christ. (3.) From that peace which she does or should enjoy in her members: who ought to endeavor “to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace;” which they will do, if “the peace of God rules in their hearts,” as it should do; for hereunto are they called. (4.) From that peace which she is entitled to, and shall enjoy hereafter; for though this world is a world of trouble to the believer, yet he is no sooner out of it, but “he enters into peace;” and into such an one as will never be interrupted and broke in upon, either by sin, Satan, or the world; for “mark but the upright and perfect man,” the true Shulamite, “for the end of that man is peace.” But,
Secondly, Let us now consider what is said unto this Shulamite; and that is, “return, return:” which, if we understand as the words of Christ, may be expressive, either, 1. Of the spiritual return of his church and people to him after sin and backslidings; which sense is favored by the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase upon this place; and also suits with the former state and condition of the church, who was fallen into a piteous frame of spirit, was sleepy and drowsy, negligent of her duty, and slighting Christ, for which reason he departed from her; but now returning himself, invites her to return also to him; which shows the exceeding greatness of his love unto her, and tenderness for her; and therefore to answer all objections, and remove all discouragements, he not only speaks to her in such loving and endearing language; but also repeats the call over and over, to shew how earnestly desirous he was of it, as well as the haste and speed he would have her make in it (see Jer. 3:1-12; Hosea 14:1-4). Or, 2. Of the conversion of the Jews: The name by which the church is here called, may more especially intend the Jewish church; and the words, “return, return,” aptly represent the present state of the Jews, who are in a state of blindness, impenitence and unbelief; and have not only veils over their heads, but also over their hearts, when the law of Moses is read and expounded among them; they have their backs turned upon God, and their hearts set against the true Messiah, Christ Jesus: moreover, their conversion is expressed both in the Old and New Testament, by a turning or a returning unto the Lord (see Hosea 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:16); and the repetition of these words, “return, return,” not only shows the power and haste in which this shall be accomplished; for then shall that prophecy be fulfilled, which is mentioned with so much wonder and surprise, in Isaiah 66:8. “Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?” but also their being repealed four times, may denote the collection of the Jews, at the time of their conversion, from the four corners of the earth (see Isa. 11:12). I rather think, that these are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, who, perceiving that the church was going away from them, call after her to return from them; they first meet with her in the time of her beloved's absence from her, and had accompanied her in her search after him hitherto; but not having met with her beloved, who had made himself unto her as “the chariots of Amminadib,” she takes her leave of them, and in all haste goes along with him; which they observing, car to her after this manner: or else, these daughters having observed how the church, through modesty and shamefacedness, “being conscious of her former treatment of Christ, hang down her head, and hid her face, as blushing and being ashamed to look up, being now in his presence; they call to her to turn, as some tender the word; that is, to turn her face, that they might behold the beauty and glory of it. Which leads us to consider,
Thirdly, The end of this call, which is, that they might “look upon her:” and if we take them to be the words of Christ, then the we are either the Trinity of Persons, Father, Son and Spirit; who are all well pleased with returning sinners, look upon them with delight and pleasure, and grant them communion and fellowship with them: or else, Christ and his angels, who, together with Christ, not only rejoice at the conversion of profane stoners, but also at the return of backsliding ones: or else, he and the daughters, :her companions; who, as well as he, were in love with her, and with wonder gazed at her. Though they seem rather to be the words of the daughters themselves; who here express their desire of seeing her, and therefore call to her to return unto them: they had heard very great commendations of the church's beauty, in the preceding verses, which had excited desires more narrowly to look upon, and take a fuller view of her, than hitherto they had done: as also, that they might again enjoy her company and conversation, which had been so useful and instructive to them; and which, they might imagine, would be. more so, seeing she had so lately met with Christ, and had some fresh experiences of his love to her. So much for the first part of the words.
II. Here is a reply made to this call of Christ, or of the virgins to the church, to return; which is done, 1st, By proposing a question, “What will ye see in the Shulamite?” 2dly, By returning an answer to it, “as it were the company of two armies.”
1st, A reply is made, by proposing this question, “What will ye see in the Shulamite?” which is done either by Christ; who was best able to answer it; and this he does, not as being ignorant of what was to be seen in his church, nor with a design to lessen his church's glory and excellency; but rather to heighten it, and to animate and excite the desires and affections of these virgins more strongly towards her: or else this question is put by the virgins, one to another; some of them wished for her return, and others asked what they would see, or what they expected to see in her. Though I rather think, it is put by the church herself; who, perceiving that the daughters were so very importunate with her to return to them, that they might look upon her; ask what they could expect to see in her, who was in herself and in her own opinion, such a poor, mean and unworthy creature; not fit to be looked upon, there being nothing in her that was extraordinary, or indeed valuable, or worth seeing;
2dly, An answer is returned unto this question, thus, “As it were the company of two armies;” which is either given by Christ as an answer to his own, or to the daughters question, and that with a design to set forth the glory and majesty of the church: should it be asked, as if he should say, What is to be seen in my church? I answer, a great deal of glory; for though she is militant, yet she is “terrible as an army with banners;” nay, there is as much stateliness and majesty to be Seen in her, as in two armies set in battle array; or else, they are the answer of the virgins, one to another, declaring what they expected to see in Christ's spouse; and that is; either such a glorious and joyful meeting between Christ and his church, as is often, between great persons, which is frequently attended with singing and dancing; for the word translated company, signifies a company of those who dance and sing and therefore is rendered by the Septuagint, coroi, choirs; an instance of which spiritual joy, signified by such metaphors, see in Psalm 68:24, 25, or as an army at the reception of their prince, for the sake of greater honor and majesty, divides itself into bands, or else, it was an angelic glory which they” expected to see in her, or to see her face as the angel of the Lord; which would be as delightful and refreshing a sight unto them, as that was which Jacob had, when he had just parted with Laban, and was in danger from his brother Esau; who (Gen. 32:1, 2), saw the angels of God as two bands, the one to go before, and the other behind him; and therefore he called the name of the place Mahanaim; which signifies two hosts or two armies, and is the same word that is here used; and to this history the allusion seems to be here made: or else, by this company of two armies, which these virgins expected to see, and were desirous of seeing in the church, may be meant, the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body; which will be effected in the latter day; and when it is, it wall be a glorious and delightful sight. Though I rather think, that both the question and the answer are the church's; who first asks what they could expect to see in her; and then replies, that nothing could be seen in her, but as it were the company of two armies; that is, flesh and spirit, grace and. sin, which were continually warring against, and opposing each other (see Rom. 7:23; Gal. 5:17); and this surely could be no pleasant or desirable sight, as she thought to them: but notwithstanding she had such a mean opinion of herself, yet very large and noble commendations are given of her in the following chapter, which fill up the greatest part of it; and thus it begins Chapter 7.
 Quadrigae polauli mei munifici. Montanus; quadrigae populi mei spontanei, Pagninus; curribus populi mei ingenui, Junius; curribus populi mei voluntarii, Cocceius Piscator, Marckius, Michaelis.
 so R. Aben Ezra in loc. and R. David Kimchi, in lib. Thorash rad. µla give the sense of the word.
 Vid. Durham in loc. & Menochium de Repub. Hebrews 1. 3. c. 21. n. 14.
 µlç compleri, perfici; pacem habere vel colere, Buxtorf,
 Eireneousa, Aquilla: this is interpreted of a nation that both makes and enjoys peace, in Shirhashirim Rabba in loc. and in Bereshith Rabba, parash. 66.
 Vid. R.. Aben Ezra & Brightman in loc. & Carpzov. Critics Sacra, par. 3. P. 904.
 In Shirhashirim Rabba and Bereshith Rabba ubi supra, it is interpreted of the four kingdoms the Jews had been carried captive into.
 Verbum Hebrews bws sub, pro quo, Vulgatus, revertere, etiam convertere significat; & ita vertunt LXX. (epistrephe) & legit Ambros. libro de Isaac. cap. 8. & Hieronymus in Epistola ad Algasiam, Sanctius in loc. Though it ought to be observed, that the Hebrew word is not ybws but ybwç which is Sanctius's mistake.
 Vid. Sanctium in loc.