There has ever been a divine interest in gardens. Man’s history began in one, and so sadly, did his ruin. Our Lord’s last evening hours were spent in a garden, Gethsemane, and on the next evening He lay in a garden tomb. God has a garden now, as Paul tells us, calling it “paradise” (2 Cor 12:4), and the purposes of God are leading us to a garden (Rev 2:7), where again, as in Eden, there will be a tree and a river, and a Man with His redeemed Bride (Rev 22). It is not surprising therefore, that His people should be seen under the figure of a garden, both in the Old Testament and in the New. It is in the mind of God that one day Israel will be a well watered garden (Isaiah 58:11; Jer 31:12). Perhaps here in the Song (4:12-16), it is a faithful godly remnant of Israel viewed as a garden, or indeed there may be a foregleam of the New Testament Church, the Bride of the Lamb. The local assembly too, has all the characteristics of a garden (1 Cor 3:6-9), but many saints will prefer to see here, an individual devoted heart, the fruitfulness of one who loves the Savior and lives for Him. Whichever is preferred, the principles are the same; the Beloved has a garden which He calls “My garden,” and it is indeed His garden, flourishing for His pleasure. Note that there is in His garden a fence, a fountain, fruits, and fragrance.
“A garden enclosed” is a garden exclusively for Him. There are at least three reasons for any fence, around any garden. First, it is to delineate or distinguish what belongs to the owner, and so it is with this fence. It is as if He is saying, “This is mine!” Paul affirms this when he writes, “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20). We have cost the Beloved dearly. With His blood He has purchased us, and we are His alone, a garden enclosed for Him. Second, the fence is for protection. There are marauding influences all around which could spoil the garden. It must be protected for His glory, whether it is the assembly or the individual saint. Third, the fence ensures seclusion. The Beloved desires communion with a people sanctified, set apart for Himself. How jealously He desires the intimate fellowship of His Bride.
“A fountain – a well of living waters – streams from Lebanon.” What a privileged garden is this, in a land where water is never plentiful. This water flows from above. The melting snows of Mount Hermon flow down into the depths, then burst forth as fountains and spring wells. Here is an apt figure of the gracious Holy Spirit, descending from above to refresh and empower those who belong to the Beloved. “A well of water, springing up into everlasting life,” said the Savior, “rivers of living water” (John 4:14; 7:38-39). His people are indeed a well watered garden, in the enjoyment of the ministry of His Spirit. Every saint is born of the Spirit, sealed with the Spirit, and indwelt by the Spirit, all coming into the good of that one baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost. And this is all for His pleasure.
“Pleasant fruits!” Twice the Bride uses this expression (4:13,16). What an array of fruits and fragrant spices the garden produces for the Beloved. Pomegranates! Note the links with the priesthood and the temple. There were pomegranates on the hem of Aaron’s robe and on the pillars of Solomon’s temple. The Bride delights to worship Him whom she loves. Cinnamon! Calamus! Myrrh! These were all ingredients of the holy anointing oil which was sweet and pure, and exclusively for God (Ex 30:23). So is our devotion to Him. Frankincense! That precious white fragrant substance which was offered with the Meat Offering (Lev 2:1-2, 15-16), was there burnt upon the altar, all for God. How beautiful that it should be a chosen gift of the Magi to the Infant Christ. It is worship! Spikenard! And who can think or speak of it without reference to Mary of Bethany, who, at great cost, lavished her spikenard upon the Savior with His burial in view. The fragrance of it filled the house and must have clung to the Lord’s garments, and to Mary’s too. It was a sacrifice of praise that she brought, leaving us an example. Camphire! This was a sweet-smelling shrub, mentioned only in the Song, but mentioned twice. Her Beloved is to her like a cluster of camphire (1:14). And she is that to Him in His garden (4:13). In the measure that she appreciates Him, and is occupied with Him, she becomes sweet to Him. Aloes! Like myrrh, aloes are a blending of sweet bitterness, sweet to the smell and bitter to the taste. How significant therefore is the fact that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint the Saviour’s body in John 19:39. The sweet bitterness of the sufferings of the Man of Calvary has made Him precious to His Bride and she worships accordingly.