OF THE BOOK OF
Thy neck is as
a tower of ivory: thine eyes like the fish-pools in
Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower Ode
Lebanon, which looketh toward Damascus.
continues his commendation of the church's beauty; and adds, in these words, three other instance, of it to the five former, mentioned in the preceding verses. And,
I. He compares her neck to “a tower of ivory.”
II. “Her eyes to the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim.”
III. “Her nose to the tower of Lebanon, which looketh toward Damascus.”
I. He compares her neck to a tower of ivory: Two things recommend the neck, erectness and whiteness; both are here expressed, the one by a tower, the other by ivory; hence a fine beautiful neck is called an ivory one; and for the same reason it sometimes has the epithet of snowy, and sometimes of milky, and sometimes of marble. R. Aben Ezra, by the neck, understands the King Messiah; but he is not the neck, but the head of the church; R. Solomon Jarchi interprets it of the temple and altar, or of the lishcat gazit, or paved chamber, in which the Sanhedrim sat: The Targum would have abbeth din, the father of the house of judgment, or chief of the Sanhedrim, intended: but it seems better by it to understand, either,
1st, The ministers of the gospel, who hold unto, bear up and exalt Christ, the head; and are instruments in bringing souls near unto him, and of conveying spiritual food to the several members of his body, the church: who are likewise beautifully adorned with the gifts and graces of the Spirit, whereby they are fitted for the work they are called unto: these may also be said to be like towers for their strength and impregnableness; they are set for the defense of the gospel, and are as immoveable as towers; they stand the battery of Satan's rage and malice, and abide the force of the world's persecutions and reproaches; and none of these things move them to desert the work they are employed in. Moreover, this neck of the church is compared to a tower of ivory: whether there was a tower built of ivory, or that was so called, we have no account in scripture; the Targum, on this place, speaks of an ivory tower, which king Solomon made, but the scripture is entirely silent about it; unless by it we understand that great throne of ivory, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 10:18, and which may as well be cared a tower, as the pulpit on which Ezra and others stood, is, in the Hebrew text, in Nehemiah 8:4. Now the church's neck may be said to be as a tower of ivory, 1. To express the purity of gospel ministers, both in doctrine and life; who at once answer that character, of holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience; and so become examples to others, both in faith and purity. 2. These may be said to be as towers of ivory for their strength which they receive from Christ, to hold fast the doctrine of faith, to confirm and establish others in it, and to withstand the force and power of Satan's temptations. 3. They may be compared hereunto, for the smoothness and evenness of those doctrines which they preach; by which I mean, not those smooth things, which carnal persons would have prophesied to them, such as are tickling to the carnal ear, taking to the carnal fancy, and suited to the carnal hearts of unconverted ones; but such as are agreeable to the word of God, consistent with themselves, being all of a piece, and not yea and nay, as well as suited to the experiences of God's children. Or else,
2dly, By the church's neck may be meant, the scriptures of truth; which lead and direct souls to Christ, the head; and are the means of conveying spiritual breath, life, and food to God's children; and are beautifully hung and adorned with soul-refreshing doctrines, and comfortable promises. Now this neck may be said to be as a tower which is very high: seeing that it contains things which are sublime, and out of the reach of carnal sense and reason; and is also as impregnable and immoveable as a tower; for though Satan and his emissaries have attempted to remove the scriptures out of the world; yet their efforts have hitherto, and ever will be in vain: and these may likewise be very well compared to a tower of ivory, for the purity and glory of them; for, “the words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times,” (Ps. 12:6). Or else,
3dly, By the church's neck may be meant, the grace of faith, which lays hold upon and keeps close to Christ, the head; it is that grace which exalts and glorifies him, and by which saints live upon him, and receive grace, strength and nourishment from him; and is never without the other graces of the Spirit, and the becoming fruits of righteousness, which serve to adorn it: This may be compared to a tower of ivory, 1. For the strength of it; which appears both in believing the promises of God, which sometimes seem to be attended with difficulties insuperable to sense and reason, and in resisting and withstanding Satan's temptations; this fort and tower of faith Satan could never take and demolish it: it has stood, and will stand against all the posse that he is able to collect together against it; because Christ, who is the author, will be the finisher of it; and continually prays that it fail not. 2. For the purity, beauty and glory of it; as the church's neck being compared to a tower, is expressive of its strength. So its being compared to ivory, shows its beauty and fairness: faith, that is pure and unfeigned, is a beautiful grace in the eyes of Christ; he is sometimes ravished with this neck of the church, and with one chain thereof: see chapter 4:9. 3. For the preciousness of it; as ivory is very precious and valuable, so is this grace of faith; it is called precious faith, in 2 Peter 1:1, and so it is in its nature, object, and actings; it is more precious than ivory, yea, than gold; hence the trial of it is said to be “much more precious than that of gold that perisheth,” (1 Peter 1:7).
II. The eyes of the church are here compared to fish-pools: in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: in this comparison the allusion may be to the humors in the eye, one of which is called aquea; which are enclosed as water in a fishpool, and in which the eye seems to swim; hence the eyes are called by Virgil natantia lamina; and the same word in Hebrew, signifies both a fountain and the eye; and fishpools, in the plural number, are properly observed, because there are two eyes. Some think that Heshbon is not to be taken here as the proper name of a place, but to be read in construction with fishpools, thus, thine eyes are like to fishpools, artificially made; that are curiously formed, and according to art; such as were about the sheep-gate, which is here called the gate of Bathrabbim, because it was much frequented, and through it abundance of people passed to and fro: but it seems most agreeable to understand it of the city Heshbon, which. was the seat of Sihon king of the Amorites, as appears from Numbers 21:26, and Bathrabbim was one of the gates of this city; which was so called, either because it led to Rabbath, a city near unto it, and therefore are mentioned together, in Jeremiah 49:3, which,, as is manifest from 2 Samuel 12:27, was a city of waters: or else, because of the vast multitudes of people which went in and out thereat; for it may be rendered: “the gate of the daughter of many, or of great ones.” Near this gate, it seems, were some very excellent and delightful fishpools, to which the eyes of the church are here compared; and by which may be meant, either,
1st, The ministers of the gospel; who are to the church, as eyes are to the body; for which see chapter 1:15, and these may be compared to fishpools, 1. For their clearness of sight into gospel-truths: it is true, in comparison of that light and knowledge which saints have in glory, they now “see but through a glass darkly;” but yet, with respect to the legal dispensation, in which there was much darkness and obscurity, they may be said to “behold with open face the glory of the Lord;” and their light will still be considerably increased, when the “watchmen shall see eye to eye;” and that will be, “when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” 2. Like fishpools full of water, they are filled with “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ:” the means of grace, the ordinances of the gospel, and particularly the ministry of the word, are in scripture compared to waters (see Isa. 55:1), where souls are kindly invited, and where they often meet with that which is as refreshing as cold water to a thirsty man; and of this Christ's ministers are full, being filled by him, who “fills all things;” they are not like those, in 2 Peter 2:17, who are said to be “wells without water,” but are like “the fishpools in Heshbon,” clear and full. 3. They may be compared to those fishpools which were “by the gate of Bathrabbim,” because of the multitude of people which flock to, and attend upon their ministry, and which receive benefit more or less thereby; and then more especially will they answer this metaphor, when that prophecy, in Isaiah 2:2,3, shall have its full accomplishment. 4. The word which is here translated fishpools, comes from a word which signifies to bless, because pools of water were esteemed blessings (see Judg. 1:15), and so are ministers of the gospel to the churches of Christ; they are promised by God as such (Jer. 3:15), and he sometimes threatens to remove them as such from his churches, when they are grown carnal, lukewarm and indifferent, and do not prize and use such mercies and blessings as they should (see Rev. 2:5). Lord's days, ordinances, and opportunities of hearing the gospel preached, are the only blessings and comforts of life that some enjoy; God gives them “the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction;” this they are sure to have, with this they are fed all the week long; but on Lord's-days, they have sweet and comfortable meals for their souls; and this great blessing God favors them with, though he denies them many temporal ones, which is, that their teachers are not removed into corners, but their eyes behold their teachers; they have Christ's fishpools to come unto. 5. They are like fishpools, whose waters are still, quiet, invariable and constant; and are not like troubled waters, such as false teachers are, who are continually casting up the mire and dirt of their own inventions, and the divers and strange doctrines of men; but these abound with those truths, which, like Christ, the author of them, are “the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” Or else,
2dly, By these eyes of the church, may be meant “the eyes of her understanding,” which are enlightened by the Spirit of God, particularly those of faith and knowledge; which may be said to be as fishpools, 1. For their perspicuity: faith can behold things clearly, which are invisible to, and are out of the reach of carnal sense and reason, and therefore is called “the evidence of things not seen;” it can look “within the veil,” and view an unseen Christ, with all the invisible realities of another world. 2. For their steadiness and unmoveableness: the eye of faith is fixed, not upon the duties, services and performances of the creature; but upon the person, blood and righteousness of Christ; it looks off of all things else alone to him. 3. For their abounding with the tears of gospel-repentance: Jeremy wished that his “head were waters,” and his “eyes a fountain of tears:” the believers eyes are so; for repentance is a tear that drops from faith's eye: souls first look, and then they mourn; nor do they ever more so, nor in a better manner, than when they can view their righteousness, peace, and pardon in a bleeding Savior; it is under a sense of this, they both mourn, most and best, both for their own sins, and the sins of others; their eyes are as fishpools, abounding with these waters; “rivers of water run down their eyes, because they keep not God's law,” (Ps. 119:136). 4. For the modesty of them: these are not rolling waters, to which wanton and immodest eyes may be compared; but quiet, still and standing ones: faith is a very modest grace; and he that is possessed of it, and has the greatest measure thereof, is the most humble soul; it exalts Christ, magnifies his grace, and gives all the glory to him; it abases the creature, takes away all boasting from him, and ascribes nothing to him; for which reason the church's eyes are also said to be as “doves eyes within her locks.” 5. For their proportionable size, exact symmetry, and delightful beauty: perhaps the allusion may be to fishpools; which, being discerned at some distances between trees or groves, look very sparkling and dazzling; and so did the church's eyes to Christ; with which he seems to be ravished, as he says he was, in chapter 4:9 and 6:5.
III. Her nose is said to be “as the tower of Lebanon, which looketh toward Damascus:” Very properly is the nose mentioned next to the eyes; since, as Cicero says, it is so placed, as that it seems to be as a wall between the eyes; and here it is compared to a tower, not for the largeness of it, which is not reckoned comely, but for its position and use: though it may be rendered, “thy face;” and may denote her aspect, bold and courageous. This tower of Lebanon seems to be one that was built in or near the forest of Lebanon; and was a frontier tower for that part of the country which lay towards Damascus: it was a tower on that part of mount Lebanon which fronted Damascus, that lay in a valley; and so open to view, as well as exposed to winds, hence called by Lucan, ventosa Damascus; which tower was so high, as Adrichomius says, that from thence might be seen and numbered the houses in Damascus: Vitringa observes, that many travelers relate that, on the extreme part of this mountain, in a craggy place, to which the plain of Damascus is subject, is a small building; which, though it is of an Arabic original, as is said, yet he thinks it is the place where a tower formerly was, looking to Damascus, to which Solomon here alludes. To this the church's nose is compared: by which may be meant, 1. either, 1. The ministers of Christ, as before; for it need not be thought strange, that one and the same thing should be expressed by different metaphors for different reasons, especially this: seeing there are different parts and branches of the work and office of ministers; who are not only eyes to see, but as the nose to smell; having a spiritual discerning into gospel-truths beyond others, they not only savor them themselves, but diffuse the savor of them to others, and are themselves to many “the savor of life unto life:” they are, in some measure; both the ornament and the defense of the church; the former is intended by their being compared to the nose, which is the ornament of the face, as well as the seat of smelling; and the latter, by “the tower of Lebanon;” and this as “looking towards Damascus,” the inhabitants of which were always enemies to the people of Israel: and so it denotes the courage and vigilance of faithful ministers; who continually have their eye upon the church's enemies, watch all their motions, observe all their steps, and, wish a manful courage, face and attack them. Or, 2. By this part thus described, may be intended in general, the stateliness and majesty, courage and magnanimity of the church; her stateliness and majesty by her nose, which, when of a good size and well-proportioned, adds much grace and majesty to the countenance; her magnanimity and courage, by its being compared to the invincible and impregnable tower of Lebanon, which looks towards Damascus; intimating, that she was not afraid to look her worst enemies in the face; and so answers the character which is given of her, both by Christ and by the daughters, in chapter 6:4,10, which is, that she was “terrible as an army with banners.” Or else, 3. It is expressive of her prudence and discretion in spiritual things which she is capable of discerning from carnal; she can distinguish truth from error, and can espy dangers afar off, and so guard against them; for which her nose may be compared to this tower which was thus situated.
 Elefantinov trachlov, Anacreon. Eburnea cervix, Ovid. Epist: 20. v. 37. eburnea colla, lb. Metamorph. 1. 3. lab. 6. 5:422. & 50:4 fab. 5. 5:335.
 Nivea cervice, Ovid. Amor. 1. 2 eleg. 4. 5:41.
 Lactea colla Virg. AEneid. 1.8. 5:661.
 Marmoreo collo. Ovid. Fasti, 1. 4. v. 135. mamorea cervice, Virgil. Georgic. 4. prope finem.
 AEneid. 50:5. so Ovid. Fast 1. 6 animique oculique natabant.
 ˆrbçhb twkrk dyny[ oculi tui piscinis artificiossaimis, Junius, Piscator. In Bemicoa Rabba, parash. 14 the words are paraphrased thus; “Thine eyes are like fishpools, which are finished with consultation and thought.”
 The Targum by them understands the scribes; Jarchi, the wise men, or such who delight in sublime wisdom; so in Zohar, in Numbers fol. 89. 2. Aben Ezra, the prophets: in Shirhashirim Rabba in loc. and in Bernidbar Rabba, parash, 11. they are interpreted of the Sanhedrim, and elders of the congregation; and so in Yelammedenu and Siphri in Yalkut in loc.
 Vid. Sanct. in loc.
 De natura Deorum, 50:2. c. 57.
 dpa tua facies, Pagninus; frons, Clarius; so Jarchi.
 Pharsal. 50:3. 5:215.
 Theatrum Terrae Sanctae p. 100. so Jarchi in loc from the Midrash.
 Comment. in Jes. 37, 24.