OF THE BOOK OF
I said I will
go up to the palm-tree, I will take hold of the boughs
thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the
smell of thy nose like apples..
having compared the church to a palm-tree and her breasts to “clusters of dates,” the fruit thereof, does here,
I. Make a resolution or promise to go up into its and “take hold of the boughs thereof.”
II. Mentions several effects following upon his putting this resolution into practice, or fulfilling this promise; two of which we have an account of in these words: as, 1st, That her breasts should be filled, and become like “clusters of the vine.” 2dly, “The smell of her nose” should be “like apples.”
I. We have in these words Christ's resolution or promise which consists of two parts: 1st, He resolves to “go up to the palm-tree.” 2dly, When there, to “take hold of the boughs thereof.”
1st, He signifies it as his will, to “go up to the palm-tree.” Some popish writers have fancied that the cross of Christ, or at least some part of it, was made of the wood of the palm-tree; to support which they have no sufficient proof or evidence; though it is not very unlikely, seeing there was such plenty of those sort of trees in Judea, as has been observed on the former verse: and therefore, some have thought, that by Christ's going up to the palm-tree, is meant his crucifixion, which he expresses by being lifted up, in John 12:32. Moreover, his going up to it may signify his voluntary submission unto death, even the “death of the cross:” besides, the palm-tree being an emblem of victory, may represent the conquest which Christ has obtained over all his and our enemies; he has destroyed sin, overcome the world, abolished death, spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them, openly triumphing over them on the cross.
Though others have thought, that by Christ's going up to the palm-tree, are meant his ascension into heaven, his conjunction with his church there, and that unspeakable pleasure which he will take in her for evermore: it is true, Christ not only ascended to his God and our God, to his Father and our Father; but also went up to the church triumphant, which may very fitly be compared to a palm-tree; the saints there appearing with “white robes and palms, palm-tree-branches in their hands;” as a token of that joy they are possessed of, and of that victory over all their enemies, which they are sharers in, through Christ Jesus: and it was the delightful company of these persons, which Christ had in view in becoming a surety for them, assuming their nature, and dying in their room and stead; it was this “joy that was set before him,” which caused him so patiently to “endure the cross, despising the shame” which attended it. Though I am rather inclined to think, that by the palm-tree here, we are to understand the church militant, as in the foregoing verse; and Christ's going up into it; is expressive, 1. Of his right unto, and property in his church: she is his by the gift of the Father, and by the purchase of his own blood, as well as by the conquest of his powerful and efficacious grace; on which account he claims an interest in her, and says, “I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine;” and she is very free to own and acknowledge this rightful claim unto her, as it is her honor, interest, and duty so to do: this palm-tree is of his own planting; he waters it every moment; he keeps it night and day; he prunes it, and makes it fruitful; and therefore has a right to go up into it when he pleases. 2. Of his presence with her, so Christ is said to be “among the myrtle-trees,” in Zechariah 1:8, as he is here said to go up into the palm-tree: and this is the grand reason why the church is at any time in a flourishing condition, and like the palm-tree, grows, though never such weights and pressures are upon it; because Christ is in the midst of her, and grants his gracious and supporting presence to her. 3. Of his delight in her: he loves to be in her presence and company, as men do to go up into their trees, and handle the boughs thereof. His saints are “the excellent in the earth,” in whom his delight was before the world began, and now is and ever will be: the mutual delight which appears in the bride and bridegroom, falls short of expressing that which Christ takes in his church; he “rejoices over her with joy; he rests in his love towards her, and joys over her with singing,” (Zech. 3:17).
Now from Christ's going up into his palm-tree, the church, we are not to imagine that the church is higher than Christ, for he is far superior to her; and it is an instance of his grace and condescension, that he will take notice of her, and grant his presence to her; he is her head and husband, her Lord and king, and therefore she is inferior, and ought to be in subjection to him; and though he was in our nature, and that by reason of suffering in it, made “a little lower than the angels;” yet he is vastly higher than they, yea, higher than the heavens themselves. But this expression here is suited, and is very agreeable to the metaphor here made use of. The palm-tree is a very tall tree; and its boughs and branches do not grow out of the sides, as in many other trees, but only on the top of it; so that whosoever would lay hold upon them, and gather the fruit, must go up into it: moreover, the trunk and body of it is made with rings in the bark of it, like steps; so that it may be very easily climbed, which is done by the eastern people, with an incredible swiftness: these steps are made of the knots or polices, as Dr Shaw calls them, being gradually left upon the trunk of the tree, serve, like so many rounds of a ladder, to climb up the tree, either to fecundate it, or to lop it, or to gather the fruit: Lucian observes that “those who have seen how men get up into palm-trees, in Arabia, Egypt, and other places, must needs understand what he says, about climbing the Phalli in the temple of Hyrapolis in Syria, he is describing.”
2dly, Going up into the palm-tree, is in order to take hold on the boughs of it. The palm-tree has no boughs nor branches growing out of the sides of the trunk of it, as before observed, but shoots upon the top of it, on which its fruit hangs; and the Septuagint renders it, “I will take hold of the heights of it ;” some render it, the fruit of it, as the Vulgate Latin version; to which Kircher inclines: and this ascent to the top of it was, either to gather the fruit, or to crop the shoots themselves, and eat them; for the tops of them, which are of the first year's growth, are very tender and sweet, and may be eaten; so the top of the palm-tree, which some call the cerebrum, or brain, is very sweet; and is spoken of as very pleasant and nourishing. Christ's end in doing this may be twofold: 1. To gather the fruits of it; which he has an undoubted right unto; they are his: whether we understand by them the blessings of grace, which believers are possessed of; or the graces of the Spirit, which are implanted in them; or the good works which they are enabled to perform; these all come from him; he is the “green fir-tree,” from whom all the believers “fruit is found;” therefore he may lay hold on the boughs, and gather the fruit when he pleases; in doing which, he takes much delight and pleasure, and is kindly invited by his church thereunto: see chapter 4:16. 2. His other end in laying hold on the boughs, may be to prune them, that they may bring forth more fruit; this he does sometimes by his word, and the preaching of it: by which sin is corrected, error refuted, and sharp reproofs and admonitions given on the account of both; for as the word is as an ax to cut down sturdy and obstinate sinners; so it is as a pruning knife in Christ's hand, to remove all “superfluity of naughtiness,” which hinders the growth of his trees and plants: sometimes also Christ prunes his churches by the ordinance of excommunication; by which he lops off unfruitful branches, such who are unfit for communion in his churches; which awful sentence is executed sometimes more mildly, and sometimes more severely, according to the nature of the offense; sometimes it is expressed in scripture by a withdrawing from disorderly persons; at other times, by a rejecting of heretics; as also, by putting away such who are notoriously vile and wicked: again, Christ prunes his people likewise by afflictive providences, by which their iniquity is purged, their graces are tried and exercised, and they made under those sharp trials, to yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness: moreover Christ sometimes effects this work by suffering persecution to befall his churches; this sun scorches up those plants, which are not of Christ's planting, and are not rooted in his person and grace; this is the fan which Christ sometimes takes in his hand, and “thoroughly purges his floor,” the church, of hypocrites and formal professors; this is his pruning-knife, with which he lops off those fruitless and withered branches. This is an awful way of pruning the boughs of his palm-tree.
It may be observed, that these words are delivered in the form of a purpose or promise, “I said I will go up,” etc. Christ thinks, and then resolves, before he acts; he does all things deliberately, and according to the counsel of his own will, and always for his own glory and his church's good: moreover, this being a promise of Christ's, the performances of it may be expected by his people; for “he is faithful who hath promised;” it may also be pleaded by them: Has he promised to go up into his palm-tree, or grant his presence in his church? He will be as good as his word; his people may expect his presence there; and they are allowed to put him in mind of such a promise, which they need not doubt the fulfillment of. But,
II. Let us now consider the effects of Christ's going up into his palm-tree: and we find two of them mentioned in this verse, and a third in the following one:
1st, The church's breasts become like “clusters of the vine;” that is, of grapes which grow in clusters on the vine: which words may be considered, either as a wish, and be read thus, “and now let thy breasts be as the clusters of the vine;” or else, as a promise that they should be so; which accordingly was effected by his granting his presence to her, which filled her breasts, and made them like clusters of the vine. By which may be meant, either, 1. The ministers of the gospel; who not only direct men where the wine and milk of gospel-grace may be had, and invite them to it, but do also themselves feed them with “the sincere milk of the word;” with which they are filled, by Christ's granting his presence to them in their studies and meditations; and are brought forth by him at proper opportunities, laden with “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ;” so that these breasts look like clusters of the vine. Or, 2. By them may be meant the ordinances; which are “breasts of consolation” to God's people, When they have the presence of Christ in them, otherwise they are but dry breasts; it is that which fills them with milk for nourishment, and with wine for refreshment. Or, 3. The two Testaments, with those dusters of excellent doctrines and precious promises that are in them; which, when men have the presence of Christ, either in the hearing or reading of them, yield them much delight and comfort, though at other times they are but as a dead letter. Though, 4. This may in general intend that influence, which Christ's presence has on the fruitfulness of his people; it is this which makes them fat and flourishing, brisk, and lively in the exercise of grace, fruitful in every good word and work; so that they g row and thrive in every grace, and are not barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ Jesus.
2dly, Another effect of Christ's going up into his palm-tree, or of his presence in his church, is, that “the smell of her nose” thereby becomes like that of apples. Formerly it was usual to anoint the nostrils, which was reckoned very healthful and refreshing to the head; as well as was done, that they might give the more agreeable smell: and some sort of ointments, it seems, gave a smell like that of apples, which in some is very grateful and delightful; and Cicero observes, that the plenty and variety of apples, their pleasant taste and smell, show that they were only made for men: and indeed there was an ointment made of them, called melinum; so that the nostrils being anointed with it, might well be said to smell like apples; and which was accounted one of the best. By which apples may be meant, either, 1. The refreshing doctrines of the gospel from Christ's ministers; who are the church's nose, and are capable of distinguishing truth from error: these doctrines which they preach, when fitly spoken, seasonably applied, and attended with the power and presence of Christ to poor souls, are like “apples of gold in pictures of silver;” nay, not only like apples for sight, being beautiful to look upon, but also for smell; for these diffuse a sweet savor of the knowledge of Christ in the souls of his people. Or else, 2. The fame and report of the church's faith, piety and courage, which was spread far and near; her faith, for its strength and purity, is compared in verse 4 to “a tower of ivory;” and her courage and magnanimity in defending, this faith against all opposition, is expressed by her nose, being “as the tower of Lebanon, which looketh towards Damascus:” now the smell, fame or report of all this, like the smell of apples, was diffused abroad, and gained her credit and reputation, even from others; she having, like those heroes, in Hebrews 11, “obtained a good report through faith.” Or, 3. It may be expressive both of her outward conversation and inward constitution, which were both sound and healthful; she had an inward principle of grace, from whence proceeded a savory conversation without; the hidden man of her heart, was that which is not corruptible, which sent forth, not a nauseous, but a grateful odor; no rotten nor corrupt communication proceeds from hence, but what is not only edifying to others, but grateful to Christ; and nothing has a greater influence than the presence of Christ, to make her inward constitution and outward conversation so. Though, 4. This may intend the savoriness of those things which she smelt, which were as grateful to her as the smell of apples: thus spiritual and heavenly thinks, the divine truths and excellent doctrines of the gospel, are exceeding savory to believers, especially when they have the presence of Christ, the discoveries of his love, and the quickening influences of his Spirit. The third effect follows in the next verse.
 Vid. Soto Major in loc.
 Foliot & Alcuin in loc. Tertull. & Cyprian. in Soto Major in loc.
 Diodat. in loc.
 Plin. 50:13. c. 4. so Sandy's Travels, b. 2. p. 79.
 Travels. tom. t. p. 142, ed. 2.
 De Des Syria.
 Vid. Buxtorf. Lex Talmud. rad. rwq col. 2005.
 Plutarch. de San. Tuend. vol. 2. p. 133. Plin, 50:13. c. 4.
 Athenaei Deipnosophist. 50:2,. c. 28. p. 71.
 Liventibus uva racemis, Propert. 50:4. eleg. 2. 5:13. ipse racemiferis uvis, Ovid. Metamorph. 50:3. 5:666.
 dydç an wyhyw & sint quaeso mam-mae tuae, Tigurine version, Merceras; & sint agedum ubera tua, Cocceius; & sint aunc ubera tua. Brightman, and so Ainsworth.
 Enaleifetai tav rinav, etc. Alexis apud Athen. Deipnosoph. 50:2. c. 7. p. 46. Et crocino nares myrrheus ungat onyx, Propertius, 50:3.
 De natura Deorum, 1. 2. c. 63. Vid Plutarch. Sympos. 50:5. p.883.
 Athenaeus, ut supra, 1. 15. c. 11, 12. p. 688, 689. Plin. Nat, Hist. 50:13 c. 1. & 50:23. c. 6.