Before I come to the explication of this book, some things must be premised concerning it.
1. That it was of Divine inspiration is so clear and certain, that, as Jewish writers note, none ever questioned it, although some doubted of some other of Solomon's writings. And the same arguments which prove the divinity of other books are found here, such as the quality of the penman, who was confessedly a man inspired by God; the excellency and usefulness of the matter; the sacred and sublime majesty of the style, and the singular efficacy of it upon the heats of sober and serious persons, who read it with due preparation; and those other characters which are commonly known, and therefore it is needless here to enumerate.
2. The form of this book is dramatical, wherein several parts or parcels of it are uttered by or in the name of several persons, which are chiefly four, the bridegroom and the bride, and the friends or companions of the one and of the other. Nor is it declared what or when each of them speak, but that is secretly couched, and is left to the observation of the prudent reader, as is usual in writings of this nature.
3. The design of the book in general is to describe the passionate loves and happy marriage of two persons, and their mutual satisfaction therein, and the blessed fruits and effects thereof. But then it is not to be understood carnally, concerning Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter, as some have fancied, although the occasion of this love and marriage may be taken from that, or rather he makes an allusion to that; but spiritually, concerning God, or Christ, and his church and people. This is sufficiently evident from the descriptions of this bridegroom and bride, which are such as could not with any decency be used or meant concerning Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter, as when he is brought in like a country shepherd, Son_1:7, and is called his bride's brother, Son_5:2, and when he gives such high and excessive commendations to himself, as we shall see, and when she is made the keeper of vineyards and of sheep, Son_1:6, Son_1:8, and is said to be smitten and abused by the watchmen, Son_5:7, and said to be terrible as an army, Son_6:4, and to be like Pharaoh's horses, and to have a head like Carmel, a nose like a tower, eyes like fishpools, teeth like a flock of sheep, &c., Son_7:4-5. And there are many such-like expressions and descriptions, which being applied to them, are absurd and monstrous. Hence it follows that this book is to be understood mystically or allegorically, concerning that spiritual love and marriage which is between God, or Christ, and his church, or every believing soul. And this will be more than probable to any man who shall consider the following particulars.
1. That the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament are full of mystical and allegorical passages; which being known and confessed, it is needless to prove.
2. That the doctrine of Christ, or the Messias, and of his being the Head, and Husband, and Saviour of God's church or people, was well known, at least to the prophets, and the wise and pious Israelites, in the time of the Old Testament; whereof we have many manifest and unquestionable evidences, not only in the New Testament, but in the writings of Moses, in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, and in the prophets, as hath been noted in part, and will, God assisting, be further observed in the proper places.
3. That God compares himself to a bridegroom, and his church to a bride, Isa_62:5, and calls and owns himself the Husband of his people, Isa_54:5 Hos_2:16, Hos_2:19-20. In which places, by comparing these. with many other texts of Scripture, by God, or the Lord, is meant Christ, the second person in the Godhead, who then was to come down, and since did come from heaven to earth, for the consummation of that eternal project of marriage between God and his people; which also is fully confirmed by the writings of the New Testament which were designed for the explication of the Old, in which Christ is expressly declared to be the Bridegroom or Husband of his church, an Mat_9:15 Mat_22:2 Joh_3:292Co_11:2Eph_5:23Rev_19:7Rev_21:2 Rev_22:17
4. That Ps 45, which is a kind of abridgement: of this book, although it had its rise from or alludes to the marriage between Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter, was written concerning the Messias, as all interpreters, both Christian and Jewish, agree, and concerning the mystical marriage between Christ and his church; of which see my notes upon that Psalm. From these considerations, and many others which might be suggested, and which will offer themselves to our thoughts from several passages of it, it is sufficiently manliest, that the main scope and business of this book is to describe the mutual love, union, and communion which is between Christ and his church in the various conditions to which it is liable in this world, as in the state of weakness, and desertion, and persecution from foolish shepherds, and the like, Son_1:6-7 Son_3:1-4 Son_5:2, Son_5:7, &c. Moreover it is to be considered, that Solomon doth here vary his speech, sometimes speaking of the church in general, as one person or body; and sometimes of the particular members of it, or of several believers, both of such as really and sincerely are so, or such as profess to be so, and of their various dispositions and conditions. And hence comes the difference of persons here mentioned, the mother or spouse, and the children or daughters of Jerusalem, sixty queens, and eighty concubines; some that are strangers to the bridegroom, and some that are well acquainted with him, &c. These things being premised will give great light to the several passages of this book.