NOURISHING MARRIAGE PASSION REQUIRES INTENTIONALITY AND FEEDS ON MUTUAL PRAISE
Duane Garrett / Paul House: The point is that the lovers are now free to engage in sexual play, and they are intent on doing so. This song concludes with the woman expressing her happiness at being in the arms of her beloved and warning the other girls not to squander their affection and hearts.
Sierd Woudstra: Our God, who created the magnificence of nature, with its almost infinite variety, also created the human body in such a way that it is a marvel of his handiwork. Physical beauty and the pure desire of husband and wife (and bridegroom and bride) for each other are God-given gifts to man. It is the perversion of these gifts that is base (cf. Rom 1:26, 27), and therefore to be condemned.
POSB – Introduction: one of the most basic laws of science, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, teaches that everything in existence is in a state of decline or degeneration. In order for something to be sustained, there must be some force at work that overcomes the item’s natural tendency toward deterioration. Simply stated, everything in life must be maintained and nourished. Nothing ever reaches a point where it is permanently self-sustaining. Fires must be fed or they will burn out. Structures and machines must be maintained and improved or they will wear out or erode. People must be continually nourished or they will become weak and eventually die. Marriages are no different. If wood is not added and the flame is not fanned, the fire in marriage will go out. If a marriage is not nurtured and nourished, it will die. Some marriages are starved—wasting away and barely existing. God does not want it to be this way. The Word of God teaches the truth of the Law of Thermodynamics in regard to marriage. All of the actions commanded of husbands and wives in the New Testament are in the Greek present tense, which indicates continuous action. Husbands must continually love their wives (Eph. 5:25) and be respectfully considerate of them (1 Pe.3:7). Wives must continually submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; 1 Pe.3:1). This most beautiful of songs ends with Solomon and the Shulamite nurturing their relationship. Chapters seven and eight present a valuable list for keeping the fires of marriage burning, for growing and maturing a marriage. Husbands and wives everywhere would do well to follow their example. (Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible- Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon)
I. (7:1-5) PRAISE FOR HER CAPTIVATING BEAUTY (Onlookers)
Most commentators take the speaker in this section to be the male lover. However, the designations in v. 1 (“O prince’s daughter”) and in v. 5 (“the king is captivated”) seem to fit better with outside observers commenting on the woman’s beauty. That would fit the context of the end of Chapter 6 where the woman is dancing before her friends and onlookers in almost an exhibitionist fashion. Her beauty and sexuality and desirability are being extolled by others so that the man responds beginning in v. 6.
Bruce Hurt: Carr seems to agree with MacArthur – Most commentators and translations assign the whole unit Song 7:1–9 to the lover as he responds to her question, but the context (i.e. the plural forms in Song 6:13 and the last colon in Song 7:5) makes it clear that these five verses are spoken by the onlookers, not by the lover himself. His contribution—and a highly personal one it is—comprises Song 7:6–9. The companions respond to her question with a very explicit and erotic description of why she is the focus of their attention. Beginning from her feet and progressing upward to the crown of her head, they sing the praise of her beauty. Whether, as Delitzsch suggests, she removed her outer garments and danced in the light clothing of a shepherdess, or as Gordis argues (p. 96), she danced either naked or in diaphanous veils, she ‘displayed all her attractions before them’ (Delitzsch, p. 122). The Song of Solomon – Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
A. (:1) Feet and Hips
“How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter!
The curves of your hips are like jewels, The work of the hands of an artist.”
Tremper Longman: This waṣf is different than the previous ones, however, in that it begins with the feet and works up the body rather than vice versa. The reversal was most probably compelled by the previous verse that remarks on the woman’s dance, which would focus attention on her feet. Indeed, that may be why her feet are specifically mentioned as sandaled, in that she is involved in a dance. However, appropriate footwear can enhance the erotic attraction of the female foot, and this may be the reason why the sandal is mentioned.
Duane Garrett / Paul House: It may be that a sandal, which is an article of clothing that leaves most of the foot bare, is something of a tease. Keel ( 231), on the basis of a portrayal of exiles in a relief from the palace of Sennacharib, suggests that Judean women normally went barefoot. If so, then the sandal may convey the idea that she is dressed up in a way that is particularly alluring to him. Also, as Keel suggests, the wearing of sandals may give her a dignity above the common woman.
Richard Hess: The feet and legs form a natural bridge between a vision of the female dancing and the waṣf that begins with this text. . . The second half of the verse moves upward from the feet to the hips and thighs. The female’s enticing curves are likened to the adornments of jewelry that attract attention by their beauty and thereby enhance the beauty of the one wearing them. . . The flesh forms not an end in itself but a praiseworthy object that both physically and metaphorically, in the language of the text, points to the source of all beauty and all true desire. It points to God himself.
Tom Gledhill: Her feet and ankles are delicate and dainty. The Hebrew word used for ‘feet’ (pǎ‘ǎm) can also mean a step, a pace, an interval of distance. This would lend support to the dancing scenario. So her movements are swift and light and well coordinated. Like the ladies of Jerusalem of Isaiah, she is ‘tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles’.
B. (:2) Naval and Belly
“Your navel is like a round goblet Which never lacks mixed wine;
Your belly is like a heap of wheat Fenced about with lilies.”
Daniel Akin – verse 2 is badly translated in my judgment in virtually every English version. The problem is with the word translated “navel.” It simply does not fit the upward progression or the description. The Hebrew word is rare, occurring only three times in the Old Testament (cf. Prov 3:8; Ezek 16:4). Here the word almost certainly is a reference to the innermost sexual part of a woman, her vagina (vulva) (see Carr, Song, 157; Snaith, Song, 101). Solomon’s description makes no sense of a navel, but it beautifully expresses the sexual pleasures he continually receives from his wife. Like “a rounded bowl; it never lacks mixed wine”—she never runs dry. She is a constant source of intoxicating pleasure and sweetness. The idea of blended or “mixed” could refer to the mingling of male and female fluids in the appropriate place of a woman’s body (Snaith, Song, 103). Shulammite was an exotic garden (Song 4:12, 16) and an intoxicating drink (Song 7:2) in her lovemaking. Seldom, if ever, was her husband disappointed. She was his dream lover, and amazingly, he wasn’t dreaming! The more he learned about her the more he loved and enjoyed her.
Duane Garrett / Paul House: the use of “wheat” here is striking. Since wheat, along with the other staples of the Israelite diet, was essential for life and could be regarded as the primary fruit of the field, it may be that “wheat” obliquely alludes to the woman’s distinctive reproductive power, the ability to grow a child in her “belly” (or “womb”). For the ancient Israelite, the birth of the first child was not a long-deferred blessing, much less something to avoid; it was the much-desired fulfillment of a marriage. Couples desired the first pregnancy to come as soon as possible. Thus, it is possible that the man here is also celebrating the power of the woman’s “belly” to produce fruit. The association of wheat, the staff of life, with this power seems appropriate.
The Hebrew “belly, womb, stomach” is an ambiguous term, and it appears that this verse makes much of its ambiguity. On one level, the verse speaks of the simple beauty of her navel and curved waist, like a bound sheaf of wheat. On another level, it suggests her genital area as well as sexual arousal. On a third level, it speaks of her as one who has the power of fertility in her “belly.” In other words, the meaning of the verse should not be limited either to the woman’s navel and waist or simply to her vagina and to sexual arousal but should encompass her whole “belly” with all its beauty, sexuality, and fertile power.
C. (:3) Breasts
“Your two breasts are like two fawns, Twins of a gazelle.”
Tom Gledhill: Perhaps we should see pictures of shyness and gentleness here.
Dennis Kinlaw: Her breasts are symmetrical objects of grace and beauty that evoke tender and solicitous response.
D. (:4) Neck, Eyes and Nose
“Your neck is like a tower of ivory, Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon By the gate of Bath-rabbim; Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, Which faces toward Damascus.”
Richard Hess: The eyes provide a powerful magnet, perhaps to break the hearts of numerous suitors. Like the pools, their reflection and beauty promise an abundant life. However, this is not to be enjoyed by all. Hence the pools themselves, like the eyes of the female, need to be guarded by the strongest towers possible. . .
The picture thus is not that of a large nose but, like the neck, of the features of the face that reflect nobility, personal security, and well-being for the woman.
Trevor Longman: The comparison here is with Carmel. Carmel is the range that juts out into the Mediterranean, just south of Acco. In this context, the reference to Carmel likely refers to the fact that she stands tall and dignified.
Wiersbe: The reference [to the neck] isn’t to size or prominence but to proportion and fitness. Like a tower on the city wall, or even standing alone in the land, it was in the right setting and had its own beauty.
E. (:5) Head and Hair
“Your head crowns you like Carmel,
And the flowing locks of your head are like purple threads;
The king is captivated by your tresses.”
Trevor Longman: Royal imagery comes back into play in the second colon, where her hair is said to be purple. Purple was the most expensive dye at the time and reserved for both human (Judg. 8:26) and divine (Exod. 25–39) monarchs. She is queen-like and fit for a king. Indeed, according to the third colon, her hair (a metonymy for her whole being) ensnares or entraps a king. Her stunning beauty cannot be resisted.
Duane Garrett / Paul House: The two stanzas [7:1-5 and 7:6-8] thus mirror each other in that both are exclamations of the woman’s beauty, but stanza 1 gives a detailed, area-by-area description of her beauty, while the latter describes her body in a more holistic fashion but focused on her breasts. [Breasts are at the heart of stanza 1 as well.]
Sierd Woudstra: Carmel is the mountain range the summit of which overlooks the Mediterranean sea and the Palestinian land in solitary majesty.
II. (7:6-10) PURSUIT OF SEXUAL PASSION
A. (:6) Recognition of Her Sexual Charms (Male)
“How beautiful and how delightful you are,
My love, with all your charms!”
Trevor Longman: The last phrase of the verse, O love, with your delights (ʾahăbâ battʿănûgîm), seems awkward in the Hebrew and has led to some proposed emendations. It may be simply a cry of ecstasy as the man contemplates a joyous union with the woman.
B. (:7-8) Ravishing of Her Breasts (Male)
1. (:7) Admiration
“Your stature is like a palm tree,
And your breasts are like its clusters.”
Duane Garrett / Paul House: it is at least clear that the attention on the breasts here and in Prov 5 indicates that sexual activity is for pleasure also and not simply for reproduction.
Iain Duguid: While continuing to affirm her stately majesty, the man declares that he is not content to admire the woman’s beauty visually from a distance; rather, he wants to engage his other senses as well, touching, smelling ad tasting her sweetness. In metaphorical terms, he longs to climb the palm tree and pick her dates or, shifting the image in typical poetic fashion, her clusters of grapes. In more straightforward language, the man longs to bridge the distance that has come between the so that he can once again caress and fondle her breasts. He also desires to breathe in the scent of her breath, which he compares to apples (see 2:3-5), and taste the best wine of the kisses of her mouth (see 1:2).
2. (:8a) Acquisition
“I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree,
I will take hold of its fruit stalks.’ “
3. (:8b) Appreciation
“Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
And the fragrance of your breath like apples,”
Tom Gledhill: Here is the violent urgency of aroused desire. It is not a male chauvinistic triumphalism. He articulates (‘methinks’) a passionate intention to climb the tree; this is his ‘conquest’. But it is a willing and eager surrender on the part of the girl. Her breasts are taut and juicy, grapes ready to be plucked, the object of great desire.
Richard Hess: This single verse, with its four lines of imagery, encompasses a range of senses that bring about full pleasure to the male. There is the female as a palm tree, the touching of her breasts as seizing the branches, the taste of her breasts as grapes from the vineyard (amplified in the following verse), and the aroma of the lover’s breath as fresh and sweet as apples. Add to this the auditory message introduced by the first word, “I said,” and the twelve words of the verse provide a feast of sensuality.
Duane Garrett / Paul House: In the third stanza (7:9-10), the tenor and soprano sing four lines antiphonally (lines 11A–D). The feminine singular suffix on “and your palate” implies that the tenor sings line 11A. Line 11B uses the word “to my beloved” which is the woman’s sobriquet for the man; it indicates that this line is sung by the soprano. Line 11C contains no suggestion of who the singer is but is assigned to the man. Line 11D again refers to and thus is sung by the soprano.
C. (:9) Reveling in Her Kisses
1. (:9a) Intoxication (Male)
“And your mouth like the best wine!”
Wiersbe: Kissing her was like drinking wine, and he told her so. Her reply was that she hoped the wine would flow gently over his lips and teeth and please him.”
Jack Deere: The rapid interchange of speakers (the beloved is not introduced as the speaker in v. 9b) reflected their excitement in giving and receiving kisses and caresses. The intermingling of their lips in kisses was stylistically reflected by the poem’s intermingling of their voices.
2. (:9b) Participation (Female)
“It goes down smoothly for my beloved,”
3. (:9c) Satisfaction (Male)
“Flowing gently through the lips of those who fall asleep.”
D. (:10) Relationship of Mutual Possession (Female)
“I am my beloved’s, And his desire is for me.”
Richard Hess: The usage of “desire” (tĕšûqâ) in Song 7:11 (7:10 Eng.) is unique. Within its context it should be understood first as erotic desire. Nevertheless, more is suggested here, as well. As in Genesis, this also concerns the control of the partner’s body. However, here it is no longer a negative feature. Keel is correct that the verse conveys a reciprocity of possession. The lovers give themselves to one another and possess each other’s bodies. Thus the Genesis judgment of each person seeking domination is reversed, with each person now seeking mutuality and willingly giving possession of their body to their partner. In the NT this becomes the test of love between a husband and wife, that they give their bodies to one another and love each other as they love their own bodies (1 Cor. 7:2–4; Eph. 5:22–33).
Duane Garrett / Paul House: In the Song, the ideal of love and marriage is represented almost as though the fall had never happened. One should not transfer the meaning of in Genesis to the Song. Song of Songs presents love, sexuality, and the pleasures of a man and woman as compassionate as well as robust and healthy.
Wiersbe: Again she assures him of their mutual love and devotion (v. 10; see 2:16 and 6:3). “His desire is toward me” reminds us of Genesis 3:16, where the Lord said that Eve’s desire would be for her husband. Sexual attraction in marriage must be a mutual experience, and the husband and wife must work at making themselves desirable.
Dennis Kinlaw: There is a primeval Edenic purity about all of this. Once again we are reminded of that first couple that God gave to each other and commanded to be one flesh.
III. (7:11-13) PLANNING A ROMANTIC GETAWAY (Female)
A. (:11) Romantic Destination
“Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country,
Let us spend the night in the villages.”
Tom Gledhill: They want to be far away from human habitations, they are seeking the solitude of the rustic bower. They are to go on a tour of inspection of the springtime, to see whether the vines have budded, and the pomegranates are in bloom. There, in the early morning, in the fragrance of the misty countryside, among the blossom and budding fruit, she will give herself totally and unreservedly to her beloved. We have met this theme of love in the countryside before (2:8–13). The whole of nature seems to be sprouting and blossoming, and the two lovers want to be part of that. Their love has blossomed and become fragrant, they are ripe for love. Love in the springtime is a common literary motif. It seems to suggest that powers and urges that have long lain dormant can now burst forth unhindered and without restraint. The imagery seems to indicate that there is a time and a season for everything. There were times when restraint was necessary, but now it is a time to embrace.25 Romance in the great outdoors is also a picture of untrammelled freedom and of closeness to nature. The literary fiction reminds us of our creatureliness and of our unashamed delight in participating in the natural order of things.
Duane Garrett / Paul House: Her invitation to him to go to the fields is probably a double entendre. No doubt lovers did literally go out into the fields to enjoy their love in privacy. The level of privacy one could find out in the fields, in contrast to the close quarters in the confines of cities and villages, to say nothing of houses with extended families, is evident in the rape legislation of Deut 22:23–27. At the same time, the fields, like the gardens, vineyard, and meadows of the Song of Songs, symbolize the pleasures of love.
Wiersbe: Sometimes visiting another place gives a freshness to marriage relationships, and she promised to give him her love (7:12).
Jack Deere: Spring is a universal symbol for love. The beloved used the image of spring to ask whether there was still the same freshness and anticipation that had initially characterized their relationship (cf. 2:10-13).
POSB – The Shulamite was very wise: she recognized the need to get her husband away from the incredible busyness and pressures of life to focus on their relationship. She recognized the need to add some variety to their lives, including their love life. She tantalized her husband by telling him she had some special ideas for the two of them during their most personal and private times together. How to Keep the Marriage Fires Burning: Go away together—alone. Every marriage needs revitalizing along the way to maintain the passion. Every couple should plan occasional excursions where they can get away from the pressures of life and the familiarity of home to rekindle their love and their identity as a couple. Such trips need not be long, or far away, or expensive. Some couples err by putting their personal lives on hold during the child-rearing years. Some do not want to leave their children overnight or to exclude them from an activity they would enjoy. One of the best things parents can do for their children is to nurture and nourish their love for each other. This instills security in the hearts and minds of the children and sets an example for them to follow later in life. Husbands and wives must never forget: one day those children will be grown and gone, but the spouse is going to be there always—at least, that is the way God intends it. Sadly, when the nest is empty, many people find themselves alone with a stranger. For that reason—and before it is too late—husbands and wives need to put their marriage relationship first. Scripture is clear on the subject: (Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible- Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon)
B. (:12) Romantic Intentions
“Let us rise early and go to the vineyards;
Let us see whether the vine has budded and its blossoms have opened,
And whether the pomegranates have bloomed.
There I will give you my love.”
C. (:13) Romantic Inducements
“The mandrakes have given forth fragrance;
And over our doors are all choice fruits, both new and old,
Which I have saved up for you, my beloved.”
NET Note – In the ancient Near East the mandrake was a widely used symbol of erotic love because it was thought to be an aphrodisiac and therefore was used as a fertility drug. The unusual shape of the large forked roots of the mandrake resembles the human body with extended arms and legs. This similarity gave rise to the popular superstition that the mandrake could induce conception and it was therefore used as a fertility drug. It was so thoroughly associated with erotic love that its name is derived from the Hebrew root (dod, “love”), that is, (duda’im) denotes “love-apples.” Arabs used its fruit and roots as an aphrodisiac and referred to it as abd al- sal’m (“servant of love”) (NET Note Song 7)
Tom Gledhill: Supremely confident of her capacity to satisfy him, she articulates all the delights she has in store for him and describes the circumstances where she will give him her love. This kind of advance planning must drive her lover wild with frenzied anticipation. Such psychological ploys are part of the game of love. She is creating a mental and physical environment in which their union may be consummated with the maximum intensity and minimum of inhibition. She even hints that she is able to teach him a thing or two. All is fair play in the desire for a happy release of sexual tension.
Iain Duguid: The choice fruits of this garden (see 4:13) are new as well as old, which may be a merism referring generally to all of the various kinds of conjugal love, or more specifically may indicate the joy of renewed union (“new”) as a reiteration of their original union on their wedding night (“old”). Either way, these are the delights of love that the woman has laid up and kept safe to give to her husband alone. There is certainly no celebration of promiscuity in the Song.
Wiersbe: The Shulamite enjoys fruit that is both new and old, suggesting that they’re brave enough to try something new but wise enough not to abandon what they know really works.
IV. (8:1-4) PINING FOR FREEDOM OF SEXUAL EXPRESSION (Female)
A. (:1-2) Physical Desires
1. (:1) Desire for Public Display of Affection without Shame
“Oh that you were like a brother to me
Who nursed at my mother’s breasts.
If I found you outdoors, I would kiss you;
No one would despise me, either.”
Tremper Longman: This verse is a nearly insuperable problem for those who want to read the Song as a logical plot from courtship to wedding and then early marriage. Here the relationship is best understood as a secret one; at least it is highly unlikely that they are married at this time. . . The second line of the verse explicates the reason for her desire that he were her brother. She could kiss him in public without shame. The term shame is what shows us that a matter of cultural delicacy is at issue here.
Wiersbe: As she closes her monologue, she expresses regret that she can’t show her love to him spontaneously, as a sister can do to a brother (8:1-4).
2. (:2) Desire for Private Delight of Sexual Passion
“I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother,
who used to instruct me;
I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates.”
Duane Garrett / Paul House: she declares that since she cannot give him any affection openly, she will more than make up for it with the affection she gives him in private. . .
The “house of my mother” occurs elsewhere in the Song only at 3:4. There, I suggested that the house of her mother and the chamber of the woman who conceived her can only be the womb. Here the meaning is even clearer. In Song 8:1–2 she self-evidently is taking him to a night of lovemaking, and no explanation for doing this in her mother’s literal house is satisfactory. The “mother’s house” is thus here a euphemism for the female genitals, and it is appropriate as a designation of the place of procreation.
Iain Duguid: True love is never content to exist in secret: it craves public approbation of the relationship. Therefore, the woman wishes to bring the man to the house of her mother, to receive the approval of her family. In chapter 3, this was where she wanted to bring the man when she found him, as a sign of public approval of their relationship. Now she is able to bring him there without fear. This is an appropriate place for celebrating their relationship, since it was there her mother used to teach her. The exact nature of what her mother taught her is left unspecified, but in context, it is presumably the ways of love (perhaps illuminating an important aspect of what the older women are to teach the younger women in Titus 2:4).
B. (:3) Physical Embrace
“Let his left hand be under my head, and his right hand embrace me.”
C. (:4) Refrain of Restraint
“I want you to swear, O daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not arouse or awaken my love, until she pleases.”
Dennis Kinlaw: It is the better part of wisdom, she informs her friends, not to permit love to be awakened until the time is right. Love like this should have no shadows or constraints.