The Sultry Song of Solomon
A week ago or so a pastor friend of mine posted this text from Psalm 23, verse 6, on her Facebook page: “Your beauty and love chase after me everyday of my life.”
She lifted it from The Message version of the Bible. You might be more familiar with it translated in this way: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”
The way that The Message relays it, though, there is definitely the sense of pursuit, of yearning desire for union.
So I commented that the verse reminded me something of the sultry Song of Solomon.
She replied, “I’m just theologically sexy like that!”
I love that.
Scripture can be shockingly, sublimely, sensually, sexy.
The Song of Solomon is nothing, really, but a poem about extravagant lovemaking, male and female oral sex, yearning and searching and hiding and finding, all between two unmarried people, one dark-skinned, and one light.
Breasts are compared to fawns; a man’s penis as sweet fruit and his genitalia as a bag of myrrh; the woman’s as a garden of pomegranates that should be eaten; lips and mouths are honey and milk.
I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. Your cheeks are comely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels. We will make you ornaments of gold, studded with silver. While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of En-gedi. Ah, you are beautiful, my love; ah, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely.
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens. As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention toward me was love. Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am faint with love. O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me!
Your lips distill nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon. A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed. Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices– a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden that its fragrance may be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits….
How graceful are your feet in sandals, O queenly maiden! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand. Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, overlooking Damascus. Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses. How fair and pleasant you are, O loved one, delectable maiden! You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches. Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your kisses like the best wine that goes down smoothly, gliding over lips and teeth. I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields, and lodge in the villages; let us go out early to the vineyards, and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love.
Never once have I preached on these texts from the pulpit. Fellatio makes an awkward segue to most anything most anywhere, not least of all in the pulpit.
Preaching it is complicated even more because God is never once mentioned, not even by way of allusion, in the whole book.
To make sense that this positively erotic book found itself included in scripture anyway has moved many faithful believers, Jews and Christians alike, to make some analogies between the passion of these two people to the love of God for God’s people, or Christ for Christ’s church (which is particularly awkward since the Song of Solomon was penned quite some time before Jesus appeared).
Most scholars, though, believe it to be just this: a gorgeous secular love song; the landscape itself voluptuous and lusty and succulent; about abundant and seductive love; love that shows the woman to be the pursuer as well as the pursued; that it is reciprocal; that is unquenchable until sated; that celebrates creative and complete and unabashed giving of their two bodies.
Perhaps it was included in the Holy Books because such joyous celebration of sexuality is, itself, a religious experience.
So why a blog on the Song of Solomon?
Is not the discovery of incredible mutually delightful unbridled sexuality in Scripture reason enough?
Go read it, now.
Perhaps with your partner.
And a pomegranate.
The text of the short book can be found here.
An extraordinarily well-done and richly written piece on the Song of Solomon is here, written by The Rev. Dr. Alyce M. McKenzie, Professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology. Read it.
A favorite Christmas hymn of mine is “I am the Rose of Sharon,” which is taken from this text. You can see and here it sung here.