Solomon’s Sex-Filled Song

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 10

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

Solomon's Sex-Filled Song, Part 1 (Header Image)

How beautiful and how delightful you are,
My love, with all your charms!
Your stature is like a palm tree,
And your breasts are like its clusters.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree,
I will take hold of its fruit stalks.”
Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
And the fragrance of your breath like apples,
And your mouth like the best wine! (Song 7:6-9a).

Many people wonder how the Song of Solomon ever made it into the Jewish and Christian Bible. The usual explanation is that it was likely authored by Solomon (although no one knows for sure) who, according to 1 Kings 4:32, famously authored 1,005 songs. Beyond that, some theologians say that the sensuous scenes described in its chapters are actually allegories of God’s love for Israel or, prophetically, of Jesus’ love for His bride, the church.

It is certainly possible that a prolific polygamist and songwriter could have authored the Song of Songs, as it is alternatively called. Is it, however, an allegory for God’s love? No such claim is made anywhere within the Song of Solomon or elsewhere in the Bible. And I can’t resist asking: Is God’s love for His people truly analogous to a man admiring a woman’s breasts? Moreover, was Israel’s reciprocated love towards God of equal magnitude to His love for them, as is depicted between the lovers in Solomon’s song? Has the church’s reciprocated love been of equal magnitude? If God wanted to describe His devotion to Israel or the church with a marital metaphor, wouldn’t it seem more appropriate if He focused on His covenantal relationship and redemptive sacrifice, as He unmistakably did in other places in Scripture (for example, Is. 54:5-7; Hos. 2:19-20; Eph. 5:25-27)?

For these reasons, I’m not persuaded that the Song of Solomon is allegorical at all. Rather, I think it is a poetic validation of devoted love between a man and a woman and a celebration of monogamous marital sex, with all its desire, yearning, admiration, passion, pleasure, and exhilaration. By the close of this chapter, I hope you’ll agree.

I’m so glad the Song of Solomon is part of Scripture. I don’t think it was included in the Bible by accident but, like all the other books of the Bible, by God’s design. It affirms so much of what I’ve been trying to communicate in the previous nine chapters. Moreover, it offers insights into what contributes to the best sex. So let’s see what we can learn from it, because, as you know, sex is for Christians.

The Fuzzy Plot

If Solomon’s sensuous song has a plot, it is admittedly challenging to follow, in part because different people alternatively speak throughout its passages without any clear accompanying identification. Imagine reading an opera script without any references to who was to sing the individual parts. That is what it is like to read Solomon’s song.

Some Bible translations do attempt to identify speakers with added subtitles, but such identifications are speculative because they are not found in the original Hebrew text. So we must do our best to determine who the speakers are and when they are speaking.

It is clear that one of the speakers is a beautiful young woman, a “Shulammite” (Song 6:13), perhaps identifying her native village or region. Another speaker is her lover. Who is he? Many think Solomon, who is specifically mentioned in the Song ten times, seven by name[1] and three as “the king.”[2]

In most of those ten mentions, however, the speaker is not speaking to Solomon, but about him. In only one of those mentions is Solomon actually being spoken to, and it is not in one of the passages in which the lovers are admiring one another. Rather, it is a passage in which the Shulammite seems to gently snub Solomon (Song 8:11-12), and not even to his face, but in an imaginary way, a figure of speech known as apostrophe.

All of this is to say it is very possible that Solomon is never a speaker in the Song he may, or may not, have authored. Alternatively, it is possible that there are two male speakers who both express their admiration for the Shulammite’s beauty, one of them being Solomon, and the other being her true lover.

Keep in mind that if the Shulammite’s lover was Solomon, then the Song is all about their deep and mutual love for each other and the sexual attraction between them. That means she was thrilled to be Solomon’s highest-ranking sexual playmate among his growing harem that at the time included queens, concubines, and captive virgins-in-waiting (Song 6:8).[3] Her famous words, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song 6:3) would have been better stated, “I am one of my beloved’s many lovers and I share him with scores of other women.”

You are probably starting to realize that I don’t buy into the idea that the Song of Solomon romanticizes polygamy. So if Solomon was not the Shulammite’s beloved, who was her lover who so poetically described her beauty in a way that makes Victorians blush?

Her Lover Revealed

He is a shepherd, and is repeatedly described as such,[4] which certainly disqualifies him from being Solomon. The Shulammite refers to him as “my beloved” twenty-five times,[5] as the one “whom my soul loves”[6] five times, and as “friend” once.[7] He refers to her as “my bride” six times,[8] and as his “sister” (an expression connoting familiarity and closeness) five times.[9] There is very good reason to think they were already married.

In the plot I’m suggesting, the story begins with the Shulammite being selected, because of her extraordinary beauty, for Solomon’s harem, not unlike the story of Esther.

Of course, if she was already married (or even betrothed), she was off-limits for Solomon. How could she end up in his harem?

If the poem is fictional, any narrative is possible, of course. If the plot is historical, however, perhaps she, like Esther, was selected by a government bureaucrat who stood to be rewarded for bringing an exceptional beauty like her into the harem. A king who ultimately possessed 700 wives and 300 concubines had to have help in finding so many women. Solomon may have had several field staff whose sole job was “female acquisition.”

That being so, the Shulammite may have been abducted when her beloved shepherd husband was far from home seeking pasture for his flock, as would have often been the case for shepherds who sought scarce plant life in the rock-strewn and barren wildernesses of Israel. And there were ways, or course, for ancient kings and their cronies to work around the pesky problems presented when they desired beautiful women who were already married. Remember what Solomon’s own father, David, did to get Bathsheba, and recall Abraham and Isaac’s fears of being killed by men who desired their wives. Who knows? The Shulammite’s shepherd-lover may have been running for his life as government agents, apart from Solomon’s knowledge, were looking for him in order to do what was necessary to make her a lawful wife or concubine for the king of Israel.

Keeping all of this in mind, note one of the opening lines of the Song that is sometimes interpreted as the expression of love by the Shulammite for Solomon: “Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers” (Song 1:4). That sounds romantic, especially if “draw me after you and let us run together” metaphorically means “let’s make passionate love that leaves us both breathless.” The Shulammite’s words, however, may not have been addressed to Solomon, but to her true love from whom she has been separated. Perhaps she was not wanting to run with the polygamous king. Rather, finding herself captive in his chambers with scores of his other playthings, perhaps she was dreaming that her beloved would rescue her so they could run from the king! Notice she didn’t say: “Draw me after you and let us run together! You have brought me into your chambers.” Rather, she said, “Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers.”

More Evidence that Solomon was not Her Lover

No one can argue that the theme of separation and longing for reunification does not surface throughout the Song. That being so, why would the Shulammite be separated from Solomon for any significant amount of time as one of his captive concubines or queens? Why would she dream about going out into the city streets to look for King Solomon, and when she finds him, imagine taking him inside her mother’s house (Song 3:4)? Why would she be longing for King Solomon to come to her, leaping on the mountains “like a gazelle or a young stag” (Song 2:8-9)? Why would she imagine King Solomon seeking her by “standing behind our wall…looking through the windows…peering through the lattice” (Song 2:9)? Solomon never needed to do anything that resembled those kinds of actions. He got whatever he wanted, including women.

Perhaps most importantly, why would the Shulammite ever so passionately desire Solomon, who at the time apparently already had scores of wives and concubines (Song 6:8) and who was destined to ultimately have 700 of the former and 300 of the latter?

All of this is to say, I’m persuaded that the admiration and longing expressed by the two lovers in the Song is that of the Shulammite bride and her beloved shepherd husband. They were separated from each other because she, due to her exceptional beauty, had perhaps been abducted for Solomon’s harem, the mishap of a government roundup of hundreds of eligible women.

It is possible that Solomon’s admiration of the newest member of his harem can also be found in a few of the Song’s passages. If so, we can imagine him, sensing her resistance and not initially realizing that her heart belonged to another, attempting to impress and flatter her.

Incidentally, the chorus of women who sometimes speak in the Song, identified as the “daughters of Jerusalem,” are possibly all members of Solomon’s harem. Why else would there be a group of women in Jerusalem who, together, unitedly also admired the Shulammite’s exceptional beauty, and in some passages of the Song dialogued with her?

If my suggested plot is correct, at the end of the story, the two lovers are reunited. And it’s a great story of faithful devotion. A poor, country girl, blessed with beauty, remained true to her husband, a simple shepherd. She could have succumbed to the temptation presented by her circumstance and probably risen in the harem to be one of Solomon’s queens, but she resisted. She is depicted as someone who understood the strength, devotion and value of genuine love, perhaps most memorably expressed in one of the closing passages of the Song:

Put me like a seal[10] over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the Lord.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised (Song 8:6-7).

Perhaps that final sentence was a veiled reference to Solomon. All of his wealth could not pull her from her beloved.

The Foundation of Great Sex

If my suggested plot is correct, it reinforces the fact that the foundation for great sex is devoted love. The devotion expressed through a marriage covenant, of course, is the minimum requirement for that kind of love to exist. Only a lifelong commitment provides the security for the full expressiveness, passion, creativity and vulnerability of great sex. Outside of marriage, sex is cheapened. When you give your body to someone who is not willing to live with you and love you until death, you devalue yourself. [11]

That being said, the lovers in the Song of Solomon were actually more than just married. They were also deeply in love, a component that is missing from too many marriages. Being deeply in love affects every hour of one’s life and every aspect of lovers’ relationships with each other. Lovers are always in love, and sex is one highlight of a ceaseless continuum of love’s many expressions. For them, “foreplay” is all day, every day, expressed through endearing verbal admiration and thoughtful, love-building actions. Similarly, the “afterglow” of their lovemaking never fully fades. Lovers frequently find themselves anticipating and reminiscing, just like the couple in Solomon’s Song.

If you are married but not experiencing what I’ve just described, don’t be discouraged. Rather, be encouraged that your marriage, and your love life, can improve. But it is imperative that you see sex, not as an event unrelated to everyday married life, but as a component of continual love that is expressed in manifold ways.

That is the essence of the message of Dr. Kevin Leman’s popular book, Sex Begins in the Kitchen. Many husbands, in particular, don’t realize that peeling potatoes for their wives, as well as giving affectionate hugs, engaging in meaningful conversations, sending thoughtful texts, and playing with their children, set the stage for great sex. Wives, of course, can also enhance their love lives by many means outside the bedroom. Verbal encouragement and appreciation, recreational companionship, and attention to personal beauty are just some of the ways they can deepen marital love.

Different Sexes, Different Needs

What I have just described requires effort, but the payoff is well worth it. Many good books have been written to help married couples take positive steps to enhance their relationships and deepen their love, a subject beyond the scope of this book. That being said, because great sex is only found within great marriages, allow me to reference my favorite marriage-building book, His Needs, Her Needs, by Willard Harley, Jr.

Harley is a clinical psychologist who realized in the 1960s that the counsel he, as well as his peers, was giving to couples with troubled marriages wasn’t working. Most who sought professional marital therapy still ended up divorced. So Harley began asking those who were ready to call it quits, “What do you think it would take for you to be happily married again?” Most didn’t believe a happy marriage was possible, but when Harley persisted, the answer he repeatedly heard was, “for us to be in love again.” Every couple understood their relationship had at one time been blissful, but over the years, they had “fallen out of love.” So Harley set out to learn how he could help them fall back in love.

Applying the psychological principle of “learned associations,” he began counseling couples in crisis to do what it took to make each other feel good and avoid doing what made each other feel bad. Over time, Harley postulated, couples would begin to associate the consequent good feelings with their spouses, and fall back in love. And his theory proved to be correct. Couples who put Harley’s advice into practice recovered their lost romantic love and saved their marriages.

From interviewing thousands of couples, Harley eventually compiled a list of the five most commonly-expressed emotional needs of husbands and the five most commonly-expressed emotional needs of wives. That list of ten became the basis of his excellent book, His Needs, Her Needs, that has now sold over 2 million copies. Couples caught in troubled marriages who make the effort to understand and meet their spouses’ most important emotional needs find themselves falling back in love. Even couples that have good marriages can enhance their marriages by applying Harley’s principles.

I encourage you to get a copy of His Needs, Her Needs, but until you do, here are the ten emotional needs, listed in order of their importance, of husbands and wives:

For her:

  1. Affection
  2. Intimate conversation
  3. Honesty and openness
  4. Financial support
  5. Family commitment

For him:

  1. Sexual fulfillment
  2. Recreational companionship
  3. Physical attractiveness
  4. Domestic support
  5. Admiration

Note that not every husband or wife might compile their list in that same order of importance as the above list. Some might even add another emotional need to replace one of Harley’s five. For that reason, a worthwhile exercise for couples is for each to compile their own list to share with each other. Then they can go to work on meeting one another’s most important needs.

Also note that there is no overlap in Harley’s two lists. The primary emotional needs of the sexes are significantly different. Those who assume their spouse shares the same emotional needs as themselves will fail to meet their actual emotional needs, an error that can be disastrous.

His and Her #1 Needs

It is perhaps no surprise to both male and female readers that “sexual fulfillment” is on the top of the list for men, and their wives’ “physical attractiveness” is third. But what may well be a surprise to male readers is that affection is at the top of the list for wives.

Husbands who think that “affection” is another way of saying “sex” need a little education, and all they have to do to learn the difference is ask their wives! Affection is expressed in manifold ways, but all of them send the message, “I care about you.” Every non-affectionate husband has the capacity to start showing his wife affection, because affection is what he showered her with when he was originally pursuing her. She would, in fact, never have married him if he hadn’t given her affection when they were dating or courting. So all that non-affectionate husband needs to do is what he did when he was pursuing his wife. It is just that simple.

Wives who don’t receive adequate affection have trouble being motivated to meet their husbands’ need for sexual fulfillment. Sex apart from consistent, daily affection makes wives feel “used.” So wise husbands who want their wives to meet their #1 need are diligent to meet the #1 need of their wives. It also works the other way, of course. The husband or wife who works at meeting all the emotional needs of their spouse is very likely to find their spouse making efforts to meet their needs.

This is a principle that applies to every human relationship. Just as selfishness tends to breed a selfish response from others, so selflessness tends to breed a selfless response from others. We reap what we sow, and this is certainly true in a marriage relationship. Couples who ignore each other’s most important needs can soon find themselves caught in a vicious circle of selfishness, and they eventually realize they are descending in a downward spiral towards marital hell. On the other hand, couples who focus on meeting each other’s emotional needs find themselves in a virtuous circle of selflessness that lifts them towards marital heaven. The good news is that any couple caught in the downward spiral of selfishness can reverse their direction through unselfish efforts to meet one another’s most important needs.

In summary, great sex doesn’t begin with deep knowledge about sexual technique. It starts with being married and being deeply in love. And being deeply in love is not what is experienced by two self-focused, distracted people who live under the same roof and who schedule a twice-weekly, 30-minute romp in bed, after which they quickly return to their phone screens! Being deeply in love is all about focus. The lovers in Solomon’s song certainly weren’t having problems there. Let’s see what we can learn from them.

The Shepherd’s Sincere Admiration

I would love to take you through the entire Song verse by verse in pursuit of the plot I’ve suggested. That, however, would take a lot of time and space. So, let’s focus on some passages that might help us better enjoy sex as God intended.

Keep in mind that the Shulammite’s lover, a shepherd, would have been very in touch with the natural world. He spent his days, and probably many nights, outdoors in the wilderness, and with lots of time to observe all the details of God’s creation. So it is no surprise that he described his bride’s beauty with metaphors derived from nature, including references even to the goats and sheep he shepherded.

Keeping all of that in mind, and to set the stage for what we’re about to read in the Song’s fourth chapter, imagine him sitting on a hillside overlooking his flock while dreaming about the special woman who thrills him. Or, perhaps imagine him returning to their home at dusk, having safely corralled his flock with another shepherd’s and then walking many miles to reach her. Now, listen to their intimate conversation, either imagined in their thoughts or, better, expressed face to face as they both anticipate an unfolding evening together:

How beautiful you are, my darling,
How beautiful you are!
Your eyes are like doves behind your veil;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Mount Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes [female sheep]
Which have come up [white] from their washing,
All of which bear twins,
And not one among them has lost her young (Song 4:1-2)

The shepherd’s initial focus is on his lover’s face, and specifically her eyes, hair and teeth. He will soon be including her lips, mouth, cheeks and neck. He was obviously interested in details, and just about every man can easily relate to his God-given attraction to every aspect of her facial beauty. She, no doubt, was flattered by his compliments. For any male reader who mistakenly thinks that foreplay consists of sneaking up behind his wife in the kitchen and pinching her buttock, I hope you are paying attention! Take a tip from a shepherd: Foreplay starts with words. Nice words. First thing in the morning and throughout the day.

Few modern men would compare their lover’s hair to a flock of goats or her teeth to newly-shorn sheep, but we’re reading the sincere words of a simple shepherd, awkward as they might seem to us. I’m assuming the goats of his flock were mostly black, dark like her hair, and as they descended a mountain slope following him, he was reminded of the captivating natural waves of her long hair. Studies have shown that, generally speaking, men perceive long hair on females as being attractive, although they can’t explain why. It again seems to be instinctive rather than culturally learned, and surprisingly, even the New Testament affirms this:

Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? (1 Cor. 11:14-15, emphasis added).[12]

I can certainly sympathize with women who prefer the practicality of short hair, and if you are one of them, please don’t become angry with me! Keep in mind that I’m in sales, not management. I didn’t write the Bible. I’m just supposed to faithfully convey what it contains. For that reason, I strongly encourage wives to adopt their husband’s hair preference, whether it be long, mid-length or short, because that is one of many ways wives can express their love for their men. And according to His Needs, Her Needs, a husband’s third most important emotional need is his wife’s physical attractiveness. (If you are single and trying to catch the eye of a good man, long hair is probably your best bet.)

What About the Proverbs 31 Woman?

So I’ve now officially broached the sensitive subject of beauty and female physical attraction. Any biologically-ignorant, uber-feminists who have endured reading this far are no longer with us. (I bid them farewell.) And a few Christians who think the subject is unspiritual or somehow misogynistic are inwardly disapproving. “Don’t you know,” they ask, “that the Bible declares: ‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised’?” (Prov. 31:30).

First, Proverbs 31:30 is one verse out of the Bible’s 31,000 verses. It does not contain the full revelation on the subject of human beauty. Neither does it, when rightly interpreted, contradict other relevant verses on the subject or any natural revelation that is evident apart from the Bible.

Proverbs 31:30 does not say, “Be as unattractive to your husband as you possibly can.” Nor does it say, “If you are a single woman who desires to be married, stay away from any man who demonstrates his lack of spirituality by any criteria he has for some degree of beauty.” Rather, Proverbs 31:30 simply affirms that spiritual character is more important than physical beauty, because spiritual character counts for eternity, whereas beauty is “fleeting” (an alternate translation for the Hebrew word translated “vain” in the NASB).[13]

Let’s face the brutal fact that youthful appearance is universally thought to be more attractive than aged appearance. Who can explain why? It is, once again, innate. In any case, beauty is indeed fleeting as we grow older. I’ll bet, however, that you, like me, imagine the new bodies all Christians will one day inherit will be ageless and beautiful. So what could be wrong with making an effort now on earth to preserve one’s God-granted beauty to a reasonable degree, even as “the outer man is decaying” (2 Cor. 4:16)?

Moreover, for a wife to make an effort to preserve her God-granted physical beauty as an expression of love for her husband is in fact a spiritual act. If her physical appearance is important to her husband, then striving to please him in that regard is an act of obeying Titus 2:4, which enjoins wives to love their husbands. Obeying the Bible is spiritual.

“If he really loved me, he wouldn’t care what I look like,” confused women sometimes claim. But he’s thinking, “If she really loved me, she would care what she looked like for me.” (What if he said, “If she really loved me, she wouldn’t care if I ever talked to her or showed her any affection”?)

The truth is, dear wives, if your husband was not physically attracted to you before you were married, he would not have married you. Your beauty was part of what motivated him to make his proposal. Most women understand that very well, which is why they work so hard to make themselves attractive when they are single. When they start dating or courting someone, they make themselves as attractive as possible for one person, him. And such a strategy often works in their favor…they land a good catch!

Some husbands, however, once landed in the marriage net, are dismayed to discover that they’ve been victims of a “bait and switch.” That is a term used in the world of sales that describes how unscrupulous merchants sometimes entice prospective buyers by offering something they actually don’t have to sell. But once they’ve lured buyers into their shop with the “bait,” they attempt to sell them something else. A man who marries a woman who is attractive to him but who allows herself to become unattractive to him feels betrayed. He signed up for something else. Of course, husbands are often also guilty of a “bait and switch” regarding the most important emotional needs of their wives. What they offered when dating turns out to not be included in the marriage package.

I’ll have more to say about this in the next chapter, but suffice it to say for now that it is obvious that the Shulammite’s beauty was a big factor in her lover’s affection for her, and we’ve only begun to examine all the biblical evidence for that. Yes, character is very important (see the previous chapter), but you won’t find one word about character from either lover in the Song of Solomon, and it is a book in your Bible!

More Verbal Foreplay

Let’s continue eavesdropping on the shepherd and the Shulammite:

Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
And your mouth is lovely.
Your temples [the NLT says “cheeks”] are like a slice of a pomegranate
Behind your veil.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
Built with rows of stones
On which are hung a thousand shields,
All the round shields of the mighty men (Song 4:3-4).

It is not clear how the shepherd could see his bride’s eyes (Song 4:1) and temples/cheeks (Song 4:3) if they were “behind her veil” as he twice said. We should probably imagine, not a full-facial veil, either transparent (like modern wedding veils) or opaque (like a Muslim burka). Rather, we should imagine a shawl that covered her head and shoulders, and that would have hidden her face from a side angle, and that could be pulled across her face if modesty required it.

Regardless, at this point of their foreplay, she was still wearing her head veil, and in spite of that, the beauty she was revealing to him was more than enough to spark his interest. She understood something about modesty that has been lost in many modern cultures. Revealing a little and hiding most is actually more attractive than revealing most and hiding a little, at least to men who aren’t looking for prostitutes. Women who, by their public attire send an overtly-sexualized message, cheapen themselves. They give to every man what should be reserved for just one. Married men whose wives are modest in public know they are special.

The Shulammite may well have also understood, like all wise wives, that maximum pleasure for her husband was achieved by creating a desire in him to see more of her beauty, which required initially hiding most of it, and then slowly revealing more of it at the right moments. The shepherd will soon be admitting that seeing a single strand of her necklace makes his heart rate increase (Song 4:9). It excites him because it reminds him that there is still more to see. Her skillful seduction was sweet torture to him.

Admiring her neck by comparing it to a stone citadel in Jerusalem on which are hung the shields of soldiers certainly seems odd to us. Perhaps the similarity is the cylindrical shape, and perhaps her beaded necklace reminded him of a row of shields hung on David’s tower around its circumference. I do not know. I wonder if this may be another unsophisticated metaphor of a simple shepherd whose sincerity eclipsed his poetic proficiency.

Seeing Double

Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle
Which feed among the lilies.
Until the cool of the day
When the shadows flee away,
I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh
And to the hill of frankincense (Song 4:5-6).

It is again difficult to see the similarities—in this case between her breasts and twin gazelle fawns—other than that both would be beautiful “twins” and both would be captivating (for males) to look at. It does again seem that we are reading the sincere but unsophisticated metaphors of a shepherd. But trust me, female readers, men do have the amazing capacity to see two identical things and think of female breasts! It is perhaps more understandable that hills and mountains, also mentioned in this passage, could trigger similar male thoughts. (You may not know that the famous McDonald’s arches not only represent the first letter of the restaurant’s name, but that they were designed to also subliminally suggest a pair of nourishing female breasts.)

Perhaps the shepherd is anticipating seeing after sunset what he had been imagining during the day, and the “mountain of myrrh” and “hill of frankincense” may also be references to his lover’s perfumed breasts. It is again hard to say, which is often how it is with poetry.

You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
And there is no blemish in you.
Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
May you come with me from Lebanon.
Journey down from the summit of Amana,
From the summit of Senir and Hermon,
From the dens of lions,
From the mountains of leopards (Song 4:7-8).

This section makes me think we are reading about the shepherd’s imaginations while he was far from his bride, among the mountains of Lebanon for a season finding pasture for his flock. Perhaps he was dreaming of her being with him as he beheld the beauty of the remote landscape, and if she would be with him, how he would protect her from the danger of lions and leopards. She would see his bravery and know she was safe. (Men love to feel like protectors.) In any case, here’s another tip for men: Women love to know that you are thinking about them when you are apart. So let your woman know when you are dreaming about her.

Perfume is Scriptural!

You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride;
You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes,
With a single strand of your necklace.
How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
And the fragrance of your oils
Than all kinds of spices!
Your lips, my bride, drip honey;
Honey and milk are under your tongue,
And the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon (Song 4:9-11).

In previous chapters we have repeatedly observed in relevant scriptures the visually-oriented nature of male sexual desire, and this entire passage in the Song of Solomon is yet another affirmation. This shepherd’s eyes and physical heart are connected…one glance from her makes his pulse quicken.

His words, “How much better is your love than wine,” could perhaps be best interpreted as, “Making love with you has a wonderfully intoxicating effect on me.” He is not only enraptured by what he sees, but also by her enticing fragrance and the sweet taste of her lips. Regardless of whether we are reading about a real or imagined encounter, he has moved in closer to enjoy her fragrance and to kiss her. The verbal admiration of his foreplay, however, hasn’t ceased. Husbands, take note!

A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
A rock garden locked, a spring sealed up.
Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates
With choice fruits, henna with nard plants,
Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
With all the trees of frankincense,
Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.
You are a garden spring,
A well of fresh water,
And streams flowing from Lebanon” (Song 4:12-15).

The New Living Translation, taking some linguistic liberty that would never be allowed by the New American Standard Version, translates the same passage:

You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride,
a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.
Your thighs shelter a paradise of pomegranates
with rare spices—
henna with nard,
nard and saffron,
fragrant calamus and cinnamon,
with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes,
and every other lovely spice.
You are a garden fountain,
a well of fresh water
streaming down from Lebanon’s mountains.

I’m sure you are beginning to understand why I’m persuaded these lovers are married, and not just betrothed. Their level of intimacy, regardless of what might be implied by the imagery found in either translation, reveals a significant degree of familiarity and experience that could only be pure within marriage. The Shulammite bride is a “private garden,” reserved only for her lover, and one that is full of pleasures he has fully explored and enjoyed.

Building on her lover’s sensuous garden metaphor, she responds:

Awake, O north wind,
And come, wind of the south;
Make my garden breathe out fragrance,
Let its spices be wafted abroad.
May my beloved come into his garden
And eat its choice fruits! (Song 4:16).

At the metaphorical minimum, she invokes her alluring beauty to draw her lover to her to indulge in every sexual delight. Interpreted within the larger context, some see the allusions to eating in this passage not only to the lovers kissing, but to using their mouths in other forms of sexual expression, including oral sex (mouth-to-genital stimulation). That is a topic for a later chapter, but suffice it to say for now the Bible does not contain a single clear reference to oral sex, much less a reference that either approves or condemns it. The closest it comes to possibly alluding to it are the figurative images in the Song of Solomon of lovers eating each other’s fruit (see also Song 2:3).

Mutual Physical Possession

Notice that the Shulammite beauty invites her beloved into his garden rather than her garden, bringing deeper meaning to her later declaration, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song 6:3). The New Testament teaches this same concept. Married couples have authority over each other’s bodies:

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (1 Cor. 7:4).

Couples who embrace those assertions in their fullest sense enjoy Edenic sex, and I’ll elaborate on that in the next chapter.

Closing this passage, and responding to her invitation to come into his garden and eat of its choice fruits, the shepherd declares:

I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk (Song 5:1).

Again, she is his garden, and he has obviously already indulged in a variety of sexual pleasures with her, as indicated by the previously-mentioned metaphors regarding gathering myrrh, eating honey, and drinking milk and wine. Their lovemaking had been “sense-sational.” And, if any reader might be wondering if God approves of their mutual sexual intoxication, the final two sentences of the passage offer an unmistakable answer:

Eat, friends;
Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers (Song 5:1b).

Sex is indeed for Christians, and it is especially enjoyed by those who are friends and lovers in the fullest sense. There is much more to learn from Solomon’s Song, so we’ll continue to explore its poetic passages in the next chapter. In the meantime, if you are married, don’t wait another minute to put this chapter into practice, and start reaping the beautiful benefits!

[1] Song 1:1, 5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12

[2] Song 1:4, 12; 7:5

[3] Some commentators, attempting to overcome the problem of a biblical book that allegedly romanticizes polygamy, speculate that the Shulammite was Solomon’s very first wife whom he purely loved—at least until he began accumulating scores of other women. That, in my opinion, would romanticize pre-polygamy.

[4] Song 1:7-8; 2:16; 6:2-3

[5] Song 1:13, 14, 16; 2:3, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17; 4:16; 5:2, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, 8, 10, 16; 6:2, 3a, 3b; 7:9, 11, 13; 8:14

[6] Song 1:7; 3:1, 2, 3, 4

[7] Song 5:16

[8] Song 4:8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 5:1

[9] Song 4:9, 10, 12; 5:1, 2

[10] An alternate translation for “seal” here is signet, a device engraved with a reverse design for making an impression in order to identify ownership.

[11] Some questionable Christian commentators try to convince us that the Song of Solomon sanctions unmarried sex, but in light of the rest of the Bible, that is entirely implausible. It does certainly sanction God-given sexual desire, portrayed as being pure, beautiful and mysterious, like everything God created in the natural world, such as the passing of seasons, the falling of rain, the blossoming of flowers, and the songs of birds (Song 2:11-12).

[12] Of course, “long” and “short” are relative terms, so we should be cautious in inventing doctrinal hair codes based on this verse. Jesus seems to always be portrayed as having a hair length that almost touches His shoulders, but His hair is not nearly as long as women’s hair is often portrayed in the same era.

[13] The New Testament confirms this (see 1 Tim. 2:9-10).