Archives For Song of Songs

Song of Songs #4

August 2, 2010 — Leave a comment

Sorry for the break and we now return to the Song for yet another powerful lesson.  This one is especially for you single people out there.    

Beloved

1 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

Lover

2 Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.

Beloved

3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest my lover among the young men.  I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.  4 He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. 5 Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.  6 His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. 7 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you the gazelles and by the does of the field:  Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

There is much to “digest” (notice the pun ;)) in these verses that speak both to human sexuality and to moral purity.  First of all, Song 2:1 actually appears in two hymns, #1 in “The Lily of the Valley,”  (or, “I have found a friend in Jesus”) and also in the hymn “Jesus, Rose of Sharon.”  I am not sure as to why the authors of each song attributed Jesus to the lily of the valley or the rose of Sharon but my gut tells me it is an allegorical interpretation of the song as speaking not about a marriage but about Jesus and the church.  This is just not the case and is more fanciful than fact.[1] 

In verse 4 the imagery there is, more than likely, the bed where the love-making occurs.  It may allude to a specific place but since the beloved’s love was better than wine (1:2) it seems to point to the same sort of metaphor.  The scene is one that is romantic as she is “faint with love” (2:5).  The ESV translates this phrase, “for I am sick with love.”  Tremper Longman III says:

“Presumably, the woman continues speaking and exclaims that the intensity of her love makes her physically weak.  She is exhausted…Love has made her faint…She is overwhelmed emotionally and physically by her love for the man.  It is a strong statement of the power of love and may also contain a cautionary note to the effect that love is wonderful but not something to play around with.”[2] 

 Have you ever felt so strong about a person that it made you physically sick?  Have you ever been so in love with a person that all you could think about, all you could dream about was that person and the thought of that person made emotionally drained you?  May we all be this sick in love with someone. 

But…

“Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2:7).  That’s a warning!  We need not be sick in love and that love be quenched in an unacceptable manner.  Love has its appropriate time in the scheme of God’s appropriate plan. 

“Love is such a powerful emotion and carries such enormous power that it must not be misused…The full appreciation of the joys of physical love can happen only when love comes at the appropriate time with the partner that love chooses.  For the Christian, here are the beginnings of a powerful message of physical love as God’s gift according to his will and timing.  It is not a decision reached by the daughters of Jerusalem (any more than by the sons) but one that must be received when and in the manner God has decided.”[3]    

In other words…acting out sexually is something that any sexually capable person can do.  Many people are out getting a sexual fix for their sexual appetite .  This impulse is a strong emotion that is hard to overcome.  Many people give in to sexual temptation because their boyfriend or girlfriend whispers in their ears how much they love them and that they would not do this with anyone else so it must be ok.  Yet, they are saying that because they want to gratify their sexual desires and so it sounds good but it is not.  It is carnal and is weak.  But…to quench love when it arouses in the proper scheme is not something everyone does but is something God’s people can experience.  This is worth waiting for.  I venture into dangerous territory here for there are plenty of people who lost their virginity, are still Christians, are single and wonder what to do now.  I recognize that you have made a mistake but fully embrace the idea of you having a brand new start.  I heard of one Christian woman tell her Christian boyfriend who upon confessing to her that he was not a virgin and that he felt like she needed to know before they could move on in the relationship she looked at him and said, “You can still be a virgin for me!”  It takes a godly woman to say that and be able to accept someone like that. 

Good lessons in these verses…What are your thoughts?      


[1].  Hippolytus, Origen, Ambrose, Gregory of Nyssa and Bernard of Clairvoux all claimed an allegorical interpretation for this Song.  For a reasonable introduction to this and other interpretations of the Song read Hess, Song of Songs, 22-29.   

[2].  Tremper Longman III, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001): 114.   

[3].  Hess, Song of Songs, 83.

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Song of Songs #3

July 29, 2010 — Leave a comment

We are getting close to closing the first section but I forgot to even include an outline so here is the best one I have seen:

  • Title (1:1)
  • Prologue:  First Coming Together and Intimacy (1:2-2:7)
  • Lovers Joined and Separated (2:8-3:5)
  • Love and Marriage at the Heart of the Song (3:6-5:1)
  • Search and Reunion (5:2-6:3)
  • Desire for the Female and Love in the Country (6:4-8:4)
  • Epilogue: The Power of Love (8:5-14)[1]

Beloved

12 While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance. 13 My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. 14 My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi.

Lover

15 How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.

Beloved

16 How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.

Lover

17 The beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are firs.

Again the woman is obsessed with the smells of expensive fragrances like perfume (spikenard), myrrh and henna.  Richard Hess notes that the perfumes start with the most expensive (spikenard which was only made in the Himalyan regions of India) to myrhh (available in South Arabia) to henna (available in Palestine).  The point is that these were available to royalty since they were so expensive.  

“My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts” no doubt is as explicit a reference of intimacy as the biblical reader is going to see. 

“Here…the sensual nature of the perfume between her breasts becomes an entrée into a word picture of the male lover spending the night with the female.  The picture of lying between her breasts evokes a scene of sexual pleasure.”[2]

I wonder what reaction you get when you read the above quote.  If you are a junior-higher then you probably looked it up and started laughing as if what you were looking at was naughty.  If you are mature enough then what you read is nothing more than a beautiful, honest expression of love-making that is perfectly fine in a marriage context.  If you are a single man or woman this probably elevates some emotional response at which I say is good.  Anticipation for the moment is not a bad thing and perhaps this is why the Song is in Scripture.  As a single person you should be excited at the prospect of one day uniting with your spouse in bed and that being a most glorious, wonderful, breath-taking, astonishing, ______________ (insert appropriate adjective here) moment.     

Verses 15-16 is a picturesque portrayal of conversation between two people who are enraptured by each other’s presence.  The man, in verse 17, utilizes imagery and metaphor to point to the bed and it seems that the couple use God’s creation to point to the sexual act as something creational which is altogether good in its proper context. 

Lessons?  For couples we need to think about how romance is good and that there is something celebratory in the act of lovemaking between married individuals.  It is more than the physical act but there is something else at work—something spiritual in it that begs us to proclaim, “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!”  For youth and singles there is the lesson that anticipation and the realities of physical desire are genuine as we were created in part to be sexual beings.  It’s ok to want to have sex in the future with someone you are in covenant with but is not spiritual when you do this on impulse—it’s carnal and mundane.  We will touch more on this in a few days. 

What have you learned?[3] 


[1].  Hess, Song of Songs, 5.  Tremper Longman III in his commentary Song of Songs divides the book into 23 different poems which is helpful but does not point to the thematic nature of the poem.   

[2].  Ibid., 69.   

[3].  Again, I am not covering everything in the text which is difficult to do in a blog.  I am merely introducing material and making my own lessons on it.  Also I am not making a lesson out of every point because some application made from the Song is simply not valid in the text.  For example, some people allegorize the two breasts in verse 13 as the Old and New Testament and see the myrrh in between the breasts as Christ in between the two testaments (see Hess 70).  That is just not in the text and misses the romantic intent of the poem.  If you have found a point in the text that went unnoticed or lesson that I have missed then do me a favor-put your arm over your head backwards and give yourself a pat on the back.

Song of Songs #2

July 28, 2010 — 1 Comment

Continuing our voyage through the Song we come across the man’s response to the woman in 1:8-11 which is (when analyzed) some of the most beautiful bits of poetry known to mankind. 

8 If you do not know, most beautiful of women, follow the tracks of the sheep and graze your young goats by the tents of the shepherds.

Lover

9 I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of Pharaoh. 10 Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, neck with strings of jewels.  11 We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver.

If you look at verse 8 and compare it with verse 7 he is answering her ever concern…consider the graph below:[1] 

Woman (1:7)

Man (1:8)

“Tell me, you whom I love…” “If you do not know, most beautiful of women
“Where do you graze your flock?Where do you rest your sheep at midday?” “follow the tracks of the sheep.”
Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?” “Graze your young goats by the tents of the shepherd.” 

 

Something else we see in the male’s response is that he speaks only of her physical appearance where as the female speaks of all of the senses (taste, touch, smell, etc.).  But something is going on here that we do not initially recognize.  This woman is worried about her self-image (1:5-6) and what the male does (almost in knightly fashion) is speak to her that she is the most beautiful thing people can see with their eyes.  She is better than the choicest mare (which was an expensive animal and considered to be a sign of royalty) and then he goes on to complement her face and cheeks which would be the only thing visible to the maidens and others.  Why is he doing this? 

Because he wants to let her know and perhaps the maidens who think he is the most amazing specimen that there is nobody better than her when it comes to physical beauty and he wants to tell the world that!    

Something beautiful is at work here that we need to recognize: 

“What is portrayed in the first dialogue of the Song is not a stereotyping of the female as fully open to all the senses and the male as focused on objectifying the physical form of his lover.  Instead, the male’s concern addresses the one element that threatens to mar the female’s otherwise perfect praise of their love.  He uses it as a means to restore her confidence by reinforcing his love for her in the one area that she has displayed insecurity.”[2]

In other words, he is there for her and knows what she struggles with and seeks to be a good man and console her with kind, albeit honest comments.  He is not trying to patronize her with kind words to simply make her feel better.  He is honest and loves her!!! 

Men and women, are we defending the honor of our spouses by letting the world know how beautiful and exquisite they are?  Do you let your spouse know how beautiful he or she is on a consistent basis?  Do me a favor—check that—do your marriage a favor and send some roses (don’t go cheap ;)) or if you are a woman send them a romantic text or something to let them know how much you appreciate them. 

Teens, does the person you date complement you and is willing to defend you if someone should hurt you?  Or do they embarrass you in front of the other guys or girls or maybe they put you down in front of people?  That’s not love—that’s chaos. This is a good lesson on your significant other saying something that is not flattering but honest appreciation for something as beautiful as YOU!

See you tomorrow…


[1].  Hess, Song of Songs, 61-62.   

[2].  Ibid., 67.

Song of Songs #1

July 27, 2010 — 2 Comments

I wrote a post a few months ago about sex (“Sex is Great!“) and the church’s need to have a theology on sex based on Scripture and a great springboard for such a discussion is the book Song of Songs in the Old Testament.  I am beginning a series of posts based on that book and eventually I will turn these posts into full class material to be taught to both youth (in the fall) and eventually adults (in the winter).  We will take this slowly and methodically.  Again, I would like to thank David Shannon, minister with the Mt. Juliet church of Christ, who opened my eyes to the need of teaching this book.     

Beloved

2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. 3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out.  No wonder the maidens love you!  4 Take me away with you—let us hurry!  Let the king bring me into his chambers.

Friends

We rejoice and delight in you ;  we will praise your love more than wine.

Beloved

How right they are to adore you!  5 Dark am I, yet lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon. 6 Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected. 7 Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?

Something first you should notice is that the woman speaks most in the song.  This is rare in the Old Testament but not uncommon (see Ruth and Esther).  Something else you need to realize is how the woman jumps from the different senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.  All are utilized in the song and points to the power physical beauty has on an individual.  One scholar notes:  “Touch and taste combine with the sound of the words as they roll of the tongue.  The kisses on the mouth, the lovemaking, and the wine join together to provide readers with an introductory verse that plunges them into heady waters of this poem.  Here is no gradual acclimation, a step at a time, but rather a baptism by fire!  With the assonance of the sounds, the word pictures of kissing with desire, and lovemaking that can only be compared to the intense pleasure of drinking wine, the poet leaves the reader or listener in no doubt as to the direction she is taking.”[1]

There is so much to get into grammatically that the space is unavailable here so I suggest you see Richard Hess’ commentary referenced below.   I can’t help but to notice how much the woman values her appearance.  She is upset because the sun has darkened her skin but to her beloved she says that she is lovely but to the maidens she beckons them to not make snide remarks or look at her as if she is weird.  She is dark because of her devotion to her family.  A side note here—guys we need to be concerned about what we say about our spouses, girlfriends or those we are trying to “woo.”  Girls are concerned about their self-image and we always need to continually let them know how beautiful they are and how lovely their appearance is to us.  To the woman she was lovely in the man’s eyes but to the maidens the woman seemed a little more self-defensive.    

A second thing I appreciate is how much the two of them love each other and how they long to be with each other.  Verse 7 is a bold statement in that they want to plan to be together at noon and verse 4 says, “Take me away…let us hurry!”  Married folks—when was the last time you felt this way about your spouse?  When was the last time you just wanted to be in their presence not just for love-making but for the company and for being together?  The woman is saying, essentially, that the king’s love(making?) is more intoxicating than wine!  Even the most expensive oils and perfumes and colognes hold no value to their love. 

Young people, you probably get this more than most of us adults.  You know the power of physical attraction and how a girl consumes your mind and all you can think about is her skin, her eyes, her appearance and the more you try to not think about her the more you end up thinking about her.  That is what this love is between this couple and they want to consume it at the appropriate time. 

A lot to learn in these short verses but we will stop for now and let you make some comments.  What did you see in these few verses?


[1].  Richard S. Hess, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005): 50.

Sex is Great!

March 29, 2010 — 9 Comments

I am writing a lesson series on Song of Songs and there are two books I am reading: Real Sex by Lauren Winner and Sexuality and Holy Longing by Lisa Graham McMinn.  Both of these argue that we as a Church have done an absolutely poor job at producing a healthy theology on sex.  In my experience in the churches of Christ the word “sex” is hardly ever used in a positive sense but is mostly something discussed if there are discussions about “fornication,” or “adultery.”  One time I said the word “sex” from the pulpit and a brother came up to me stating that I should not say that word from the pulpit as it is “distasteful.”  I urged him to consider the biblical passages which shed a positive light on sex as a gift from God to married couples but he would have none of it. 

This concerned me.  Let’s be honest…the Church is missing it.  There are too many “former youth group” members in our churches who live with people and have sex with each other yet are not married.  There are too many people who believe chastity is something of the past and is really not what God had in mind.  We are missing the boat.  Is it bad to say that I am a married person and I enjoy sex (I do have four kids you know)? Is it bad to say that sex is worth waiting for?  Nobody said chastity was fun, exciting and exhilirating but could it be?  The issue may be we have a messed-up view of intimacy and equate physical, erotic love with genuine intimacy.  Song of Songs is a great book written for members of God’s people to appreciate the benefits of being in love and being physically intimate with each other.  Is that bad to talk about?  If you think so then tell God you wish Song of Songs were not in the Bible.  I am not saying we share things that should be kept private but the concept of a married couple having sex with each other is a GOOD THING! 

What are your thoughts about this whole discussion?  I feel that the church should be proactiv about it to not only help teenagers wait for something that is amazing but also to help marriages right now become more exhilirating and exciting. 

I look forward to your comments.