The enquiry of the daughters of Jerusalem serves but to draw out the progress of the bride in her appreciation of the Bridegroom's worth and love, as well as of her value for the relationship.
''Whither is thy beloved gone,
Thou fairest among women?
Whither hath thy beloved turned,
And we will seek him with thee?
My beloved is gone down to his garden, to the beds of spice,
To feed in the gardens and to gather lilies.
I [am] my beloved's, and my beloved [is] mine:
He feedeth [his] flock among the lilies.
Thou [art] fair, my love, as Tirzah,
Comely as Jerusalem,
Terrible as bannered [hosts].
Turn away thine eyes from me,
For they overcome me.
Thy hair [is] as a flock of goats
On the slopes of Gilead.
Thy teeth [are] like a flock of ewes
Which go up from the washing,
Which have all borne twins,
And none [is] bereaved among them.
As a piece of a pomegranate [are] thy temples
Behind thy veil.
There are threescore queens and fourscore concubines,
And virgins without number.
My love, mine undefiled, is one;
She [is] the only one of her mother,
She [is] the choice one of her that bare her.
The daughters saw her and called her blessed;
The queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
Who [is] she [that] looketh forth as the dawn,
Fair as the moon,
Clear as the sun,
Terrible as bannered [hosts]?
I went down into the garden of nuts,
To see the verdure of the valley,
To see whether the vine budded-
The pomegranates blossomed.
Before I was aware,
My soul set me [in] the chariots of my willing people.
Return, return, O Shulamite;
Return, return, that we may look upon thee?
What look ye upon in the Shulamite?
As upon the dance of two camps (Mahanaim)." (vers. 1-13).
How wonderful is the grace of God always and in every relationship! On His side, on the part of Him Who alone is His perfect image, the accomplisher of His counsels and the expression of His ways, love abiding though never insensitive to the failure of the object of His love, and ever turning the failure to the correction of faults and a deepening sense of relationship. So it is here. In the earlier stage (Son_2:16) said the bride, My beloved [is] mine, and I His. And this is the right order of apprehension. She thinks of Him as the object before her heart and rejoices that He is here though even then she can say that she belongs to Him. But the exercises of soul through which she passes, in consequence of her failure in answering to His love and of her review and self-judgment, lead her now as appropriately to say, "I [am] my beloved's and my beloved mine" (ver. 3). This is no less true, and learnt experimentally more than at first; but such is now the deep feeling of her heart, and out of the abundance of it she speaks. How overwhelming that such as we should be so near to Him! and how re-assuring that the only Worthy One is ours! So Jerusalem will say in truth of heart ere long.
Then follows the Bridegroom's renewed declaration of the bride's charms in His eyes. The nations are to be blessed in that day, some of them peculiarly in that prolonged and future hour of earth's blessing to the praise of Jesus. Isa_19:23-25 is plain enough, if the ears were not dull of hearing. The blessing succeeds the judgment of Jehovah which that day opens. Instead of mutual hostility, and each seeking mastery over Israel, Egypt shall serve with Assyria: both subject to the God of Israel. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and Assyria, certainly not to enfeeble Isa. 11, 12, 14, 24-27. (to refer to nothing beyond the same prophet), but to assure each of the divine mercy to all as yet in unbelief when all Israel shall be saved and He will have mercy upon all (Rom. 11). Jehovah of hosts shall reign on mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients in glory. The name of the city from that day is Jehovah-Shammah. How great the favour of Israel, Abraham's sons and not seed only in that day, when they shall be a blessing in the midst of the earth, not a reproach and a curse as now because of their infidelity! But when Jehovah of hosts has blessed them, it will be in large mercy, saying, Blessed be my people Egypt, and the work of my hands Assyria, and mine inheritance Israel. So near is Israel to Him, that it is in no way demeaned by being named third. The bride of the beloved is one, His undefiled, the only one of her mother, the choice one of her that bare her; so she will sing. As Jehovah counts when writing up the peoples, This Man was born there. His blood has washed away the reproach of the blood-shedding for Jerusalem believing and blessed and a blessing. The daughters saw her and called her blessed; the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. No more rivalry, nor treacherous dealing of the vile called noble; for a king shall reign in righteousness, and the Spirit be poured from on high to bless man on the earth, instead of men severed from it in sin save those now united to Christ on high for the heavens.
When the Bridegroom looks on the bride according to her unique place and destined glory on the earth (ver. 10), as He had expressed afresh what she is for Him, He goes down to see how all flourishes by His grace, and before He is aware, His soul set Him on the chariots of His willing people in glory. It is no longer "Who is this coming up out of the wilderness"? as in Son_3:6, where He had found her again and recalled her to Himself. Here He anticipates her triumphant glory when He leads Israel in the day of His manifested power; and they, His people no longer unwilling, have said with believing hearts, Blessed He that cometh in the name of Jehovah. Then indeed the Shulamite shall have returned from long and fruitless and sad wandering, and Israel, no more weak, nor longer needing a staff, shall become two camps, God's host.