(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)

Song of Solomon, Chapter 7.

In chapter 6 we read the Lover and his Beloved praising each other, and chapter 7 continues that theme with the Lover’s admiration of his Beloved’s physical attributes. The imagery here isn’t hard to interpret.

How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
    O noble daughter!
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,
    which looks toward Damascus.
Your head crowns you like Carmel,
    and your flowing locks are like purple;
    a king is held captive in the tresses.
How beautiful and pleasant you are,
    O loved one, with all your delights!

The Lover delights in the beauty of his Beloved: her feet, thighs, stomach, breasts, neck, eyes, nose, head, hair. So what’s he going to do about it?

Your stature is like a palm tree,
    and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree
    and lay hold of its fruit.
Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
    and the scent of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.

And the Beloved’s response isn’t coy or shy — she invites her Lover into her fields and vineyards, where she promises to give him her love.

It goes down smoothly for my beloved,
    gliding over lips and teeth.
I am my beloved’s,
    and his desire is for me.

Come, my beloved,
    let us go out 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.
The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
    and beside our doors are all choice fruits,
new as well as old,
    which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.

Mandrake root was believed to be an aphrodisiac that would also enhance fertility. The Beloved has laid up all the choice fruits of her sexuality for her Lover, both new and old. The image here is that the Beloved is eager to ravish her Lover with her body, ready and willing share with him the beauty that he has admired for so long. The Beloved offers everything to her Lover and holds nothing back.

This passage from Genesis 30:14-17 cracks me up. The sisters Leah and Rachel were two of Jacob’s wives — Leah was Jacob’s first wife, and Rachel was Jacob’s best-loved wife. Leah had already borne Jacob four sons, but now both she and the childless Rachel were unable to conceive. Mandrake roots were commonly believed to be aphrodisiacs that could cure female infertility.

In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.

I’m sure this situation was fraught with emotion for everyone involved, as for anyone struggling with infertility, but from several thousand years away the conversation strikes me as quite humorous.

Both women eventually have children, so from then on I’m sure all was happy and peaceful in their household.