He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
Three phrases, three passages, two in the same book. This will take some explanation.
The old view says that the Song of Solomon was an allegory of Christ and the church. Fewer people accept that any longer, and though it may have sparked the original lyrics, I am not certain they were meant in precisely that way. For one thing, the analogy doesn’t hold up.
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys, Song of Solomon 2:1.
My beloved is white and ruddy, The chiefest among ten thousand, Song of Solomon 5:10.
In the first passage, the shepherdess is talking about herself. In the second, the shepherdess is speaking about her beloved, the shepherd (or Solomon if you prefer that interpretation of the book). Those passages are about two different people in the narrative, so how could the poet be following the old interpretation of Christ and the church in the hymn if the analogy does not hold up?
Here is the point we are so bad about seeing sometimes: they are figures of speech. The lyricist has borrowed various phrases out of the Bible to depict how wonderful Christ is to the believer. Did you catch the Rose of Sharon reference too? These are poetic metaphors. Making literal arguments from figures of speech is something we ridicule our religious neighbors for doing. Why do we? Jesus is like a beautiful flower. He is so fair (as in “Fairest Lord Jesus” too, by the way) we could say he is the fairest among ten thousand.
Does that mean number 10,001 is fairer than he is? Of course not, not any more than the other phrase means he has a stem and petals. None of these is meant to be taken literally whether you believe in the allegorical version of the Song of Solomon or not. As it happens, I don’t. I believe it is in there to show us how to order our romantic marital love. If that isn’t what it’s about, then God left something awfully important out of the Bible and I don’t believe that for a minute. He tells us too many times that it contains everything we could possibly need in any circumstance. And if Paul can talk about the church being the “bride of Christ” why can’t I use these terms for my spiritual “husband?”
Then we have the “Bright and Morningstar.” What is that all about? Balaam prophesied, “There shall come forth a star out of Jacob,” Num 24:17. Peter tells us, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” 2 Pet 1:19. The Morningstar, or daystar, was a bright star that appeared just before dawn at certain times of the year, Venus I read in one place, which at other times of the year is the Evening Star. Jesus is our Morningstar. He appeared before the coming of his kingdom, the “day” Joel speaks of in Joel 2. He will appear again on the “day” he takes us to our promised rest. When we accept him in our hearts, he “appears” to us individually (and figuratively) on that “day” as we enter his spiritual body. Take your pick of interpretations and “days.” Any of them satisfy the metaphor.
That leaves us with just one more wonderful phrase to cover next time, a promise that should encourage us all. But for now, dwell on these a little while. Is Christ that important to you? Is he that beautiful to you? Would these figures of speech rise from your lips? Or are we a little too ignorant of the Word and a lot too embarrassed to say such syrupy words about a Savior who gave up everything for us?