Study of the Hebrew word for love, ahavah

In Hebrew, the primary word for love is “ahavah”.  It has a very broad meaning, just as our word “love” does.  It can mean everything from love for God to sexual love, which makes it difficult to discern how the Hebrews saw love.

For the purposes of our study on the Song of Solomon, we will concentrate primarily on its usage related to the love between a man and a woman, and the more narrow construct of marriage.  Jews see no sin in sexuality, even outside of marriage, though they do see marriage as the proper channel for it.  Adam and Eve “knew” each other and were unashamed.  Unfortunately, over the centuries of Christianity, it began to be seen as a necessary evil.  I hope through my posts not only to dispel that thought, but to show that marital love is very necessary to an healthy, enduring relationship.   With that said, marital love does involve more than just eroticism.  In the previous post, I stated that Jews rightly see sexuality as including the whole person.  You can’t just make love to a partial person, seeing your partner in just the physical.  That strips the person of their humanity, of their identity that God gave to them.

Ahavah, or more properly ahav as shown in the Hebrew text can include even loving food, and other physical things.  However, for the Jew, everything, literally everything, has a spiritual connection.  Everything comes from God.   Ahav means at its deepest level to breathe after, to long for, as if your breath depended on the thing desired.    Most references we see involving male-female relationships and the use of this word involve a deep longing for that goes beyond the physical.  Even Shechem, the son of Hamor clave to Dinah.  That is, he stuck like glue to her.  In my humble opinion, the guy truly loved her–he did after all, want to marry her, even if it was after the fact.  Usually ahav goes hand in hand with the word “delight”.  We are delighted in the person beloved.  Delight in the Hebrew sense means “to be inclined toward, to favor, take pleasure in.”  Again emphasizing that pleasure goes beyond our senses and incorporates our spiritual being.   The Word often uses the word “delight” in terms of the pleasure the Lord takes in His people.

One very descriptive use of the word “love”, that is “ahav” is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our might.  Essentially, we are to put our whole being into our love for God.   My contention is then, that love involves our whole selves, not just a part of ourself.  If our heart, our inner man is not involved in loving, then we are no better than the animal.  If our soul is not involved, our very breath, is not involved in our loving someone, then we divorce ourselves from the depths of love God intended for us.

One Torah study I read says that everything given to us of God is to be seen as a priveleged gift that we are to protect and provide for.  Our spouse then can be seen as priveleged gift from God (lots of scripture to support this).   Love isn’t just an emotion, but it should go deeper than the emotion to our very being, our very spirit.  To love our spouse then, goes to the core of who we are as a person, and that should be expressed in the intimacy that we have with them.  The Song of Solomon certainly bears out the depth of love.

The last comment I want to make on this before I move on is that when it says that Adam and Eve knew each other, people always construe this to mean just carnal knowledge, but true intimacy goes deeper.  Jesus said, I never knew you.  I was never intimate with you.   How can you not feel tender about someone you are intimate with on a regular basis?  If you are not, then you’re not truly giving of yourself.

Pamela Parizo © 2017