I have been considering how to do a study on the Song of Solomon. There is much thought on the meaning of love in the Bible, particularly between a man and his wife. Some feel that marital intimacy should include tender affections, emotions, feelings for one another. Then there are those who think men are not masculine if they love with their emotions, so they try to divorce the emotions and say it is all about sex.
Let me start off by saying marital love definitely includes sexuality, but unfortunately this is misunderstood to mean eros, that is merely sexual desire. One can sexually desire someone without being emotionally involved with them. I’ve done some reading on sexual intimacy within the Judaic culture in order to obtain an understanding of how the Jews viewed sexuality. Jews rightly believe that sexuality within marriage is an obligation. The marital partners should not withhold sex from their partner. It is a mitzvah that they perform toward them, that is a good deed done of duty. This is upheld by 1 Corinthians chapter 7. Sexuality is not sinful though it is reserved for marriage. This is reinforced by Hebrews 13:4. Sexuality also involved the whole person, and this is a concept that is often missed by those wanting to take away from the affectionate aspect of intimacy. If one sees sexuality as only physical, then their partner becomes a sex object rather than a person, and they themselves lower their own character. Affection then becomes an important component of the sex act, otherwise it is no better than prostitution.
In my readings on marital intimacy, we have the findings of Dr. Juli Slattery, that men express their emotions through sex, that sex releases a hormone that makes men more affectionate. So to only view marital love as raw sexual desire is robbing oneself and one’s partner of a part of themselves and their common humanity.
In the ensuing posts, I hope to explore the meanings of love conveyed in the Song of Solomon through the basic words “ahavah”, “dowd” as well as more descriptive terms such as “rayah” which means female friend. If Solomon views his wife as a friend and not just a sex partner, that certainly involves some connection of the affections rather than just his love for her body. I hope to explore some of the endearments Solomon and his bride use for each other (my sister, my dove) which indicate heart and soul rather than just an appreciation of her physical beauty. And from there, I will explore the Septuagint translation of the Song which makes use of the Greek term “agape” which as Christians we know to be the highest form of love, which in Greek usage is defined as “commitment to love, affection and high esteem”.
Lastly, I want to point out that we cannot view the Old or the New Testament in terms of rationalism. The Bible is a spiritual book, and everything within it has spiritual meaning. The commandments of the New Testament for families, for Christian behavior are not just about duties and obligations, but of spiritual callings based on our faith and our Christian love for one another. Our Christian experience is based on our spiritual experience through the Holy Ghost, and the highest expression is love, love for each other, love for God, love for our neighbors, even love for our enemies. Agape means we are committed to loving the other, that we feel affection for the other, that we hold the other in high esteem. Obligations, rules, duties without love are carnal actions. That is the righteousness of the Law and is no better than phariseeism. Our righteousness is based on the heart. God said, I will write my Law on your hearts.
So in this, we see that as Christians, our relationship with our partner, the love we have for our spouse must include affection, that is fondness, caring, tender attachment. It must include respect and admiration for the other. Ephesians 5 emphasizes that man and woman are one flesh, as is stated in Genesis 2, but this goes beyond merely their physical joining together, the sensual. It says that a man is to nourish her and cherish her. Cherish is the Greek word “thalpo” meaning tender love.
In my study of the Song of Solomon, I hope to bring out that the love of Solomon and his bride comes from their hearts and souls as much as their desire to have each physically. There is nothing wrong with the physical pleasure of marital intimacy, but it does involve much more, and I hope to bring that out in this study.
Pamela Parizo © 2017