(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.

Only one chapter to go!

We’ve written a lot about how good sex is for your health, so it shouldn’t surprise you that sex is also helpful for reducing the risk and impact of atherosclerosis (the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries that can lead to heart disease and stroke).

According to von Borstel, exerting yourself between the sheets is one of the most beneficial exercises you can do for your heart. “As well as an entire cardiac workout, before and during intercourse there is a big release of hormones that have a protective effect on our cardiovascular system,” he explains.

An orgasm can release 50 different chemical messengers. One substance, oxytocin, the so-called cuddle hormone, triggered by affectionate physical contact, is proven to lower blood pressure, promote the healing of wounds and reduce stress.

Endorphin is another useful hormone released during sex – this helps to lower heart rate and blood pressure to the heart muscle during exercise. Meanwhile, both oestrogen, which is anti-inflammatory, and testosterone, which lowers cholesterol levels in the blood, receive a boost through sex, too. High cholesterol causes fatty deposits in blood vessels to attach to artery walls, causing clogging and arteriosclerosis, says von Borstel, who recommends having “as much loving sex as possible”.

As for garlic, it’s obviously the king of seasonings, but did you know that it’s neither a spice nor an herb? It’s technically an aromatic vegetable like its relation the onion — and a member of the lily family. Lilies? Where have we read about those before?

Song of Solomon 2:1-2

She

I am a rose of Sharon,
    a lily of the valleys.

He

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.

If wood is the ancient metaphor for the penis, the equivalent image for the female is the flower. The Lover’s member is a massive cedar, and his Beloved’s girly bits are a beautiful lily — compared to her, the other young women are thorns and thistles.

Eat up! (Although I grant that “lily” is a more appealing metaphor than “garlic” when it comes to a wife’s intimate parts.)

In addition to tasting great, eating garlic (and onions) can help promote the health of your circulatory system.

“Vegetables and fruits have secondary phytochemicals that have the same effect as different [heart protective] medications but not in a dose that is dangerous for your body,” says von Borstel. He cites ginger, onions and garlic as blood thinners which promote blood flow through vessels and improved blood supply to organ and tissues, and recommends grating a teaspoon of root ginger or two or three teaspoons of grated garlic into a glass of water a day to naturally reduce blood pressure.

“As long as you eat in a balanced way, it is no problem to eat these every day,” he says. Allicin, the key ingredient found in garlic and onions, is thought to act on the kidneys, changing levels of hormones and dilating the blood vessels. Research by the Institute of Food Research found that eating a 100g to 200g serving of onions (one to two onions) had the biggest impact on inflammation.

Eating a “lily” probably wouldn’t hurt either! Can anyone suggest a new heart-healthy bifecta that brings together sex and garlic in a fun and exciting way?

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

Song of Solomon, Chapter 6.

In chapter 5 we read about the Beloved’s longing for her Lover, and we see her fantasize about his return. At the beginning of chapter 6 we hear the Chorus ask: where has your Lover gone?

Where has your beloved gone,
    O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
    that we may seek him with you?

And the Beloved responds that her Lover has returned, using flowers again as a sexual metaphor. What is the Lover’s garden? Where is he grazing? I think you know.

My beloved has gone down to his garden
to the beds of spices,
to graze in the gardens
and to gather lilies.
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies.

As a parallel to the Beloved’s praising of her Lover in chapter 5, we now see the Lover’s admiration for his Beloved.

You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love,
    lovely as Jerusalem,
    awesome as an army with banners.
Turn away your eyes from me,
    for they overwhelm me—
Your hair is like a flock of goats
    leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
    that have come up from the washing;
all of them bear twins;
    not one among them has lost its young.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
    behind your veil.
There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
    and virgins without number.
My dove, my perfect one, is the only one,
    the only one of her mother,
    pure to her who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
    the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.
“Who is this who looks down like the dawn,
    beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun,
    awesome as an army with banners?”

The Lover is overwhelmed when he meets his the eyes of his Beloved! As beautiful as the Moon and as bright as the Sun, she is the only one for him. You’ll also notice a technique common in Hebrew poetry: the passage ends by repeating the same metaphor it began with — the Beloved is as awesome as an proud army flying its banners. Definitely an image drawn from the mind of a military man.

In response to this praise, the Beloved is stirred with passion and… goes down… to see if there’s any budding or blooming going on…

I went down to the nut orchard
    to look at the blossoms of the valley,
to see whether the vines had budded,
    whether the pomegranates were in bloom.
Before I was aware, my desire set me
    among the chariots of my kinsman, a prince.

And she is overcome by desire to ride the Lover’s chariot.

The chapter finishes with a reflection of its beginning — the Chorus is now asking, where is the Beloved?

Return, return, O Shulammite,
    return, return, that we may look upon you.

And the Lover responds:

Why should you look upon the Shulammite,
    as upon a dance before two armies?

Sorry Chorus, my Beloved is currently unavailable. Two armies are dancing.

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

Song of Solomon, Chapter 5.

Chapter 4 was all about the Lover’s admiration, love, infatuation, and joy for his Beloved; he compares her to a secret garden, and in the final verse of the chapter she beckons him to enter:

Let my beloved come to his garden,
    and eat its choicest fruits.

Chapter 5 begins with the Lover’s entrance and exhortation by the Chorus. The Lover enters his garden and enjoys its fruits.

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
    I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
    I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
    I drank my wine with my milk.

Others

Eat, friends, drink,
    and be drunk with love!

The chapter then continues with the Beloved’s description of her heartache when her Lover is absent. Perhaps she is dreaming, or fantasizing about his return. She plays coy and worries about her modesty, but eventually hurries to greet her Lover before he can admit himself.

I slept, but my heart was awake.
A sound! My beloved is knocking.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
    my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is wet with dew,
    my locks with the drops of the night.”
I had put off my garment;
    how could I put it on?
I had bathed my feet;
    how could I soil them?
My beloved put his hand to the latch,
    and my heart was thrilled within me.
I arose to open to my beloved,
    and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
    on the handles of the bolt.
I opened to my beloved,
    but my beloved had turned and gone.
My soul failed me when he spoke.
I sought him, but found him not;
    I called him, but he gave no answer.

The imagery is evocative: both the Lover and the Beloved are wet, and the Beloved’s fingers drip with fragrant perfume from her fantasies of longing for her Lover. Perhaps her dream ends here and the next portion is a metaphor for her longing, or perhaps the dream continues into nightmare and despair.

The watchmen found me
    as they went about in the city;
they beat me, they bruised me,
    they took away my veil,
    those watchmen of the walls.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    if you find my beloved,
that you tell him
    I am sick with love.

However it is interpreted, the Beloved is sick with grief at the absence of her husband and Lover. The Chorus asks her, what’s so special about him?

Others

What is your beloved more than another beloved,
    O most beautiful among women?
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
    that you thus adjure us?

The Beloved goes on to describe her absent Lover in intimate detail.

My beloved is radiant and ruddy,
    distinguished among ten thousand.
His head is the finest gold;
    his locks are wavy,
    black as a raven.
His eyes are like doves
    beside streams of water,
bathed in milk,
    sitting beside a full pool.
His cheeks are like beds of spices,
    mounds of sweet-smelling herbs.
His lips are lilies,
    dripping liquid myrrh.

His head, his hair, his eyes, his cheeks, and again myrrh dripping from his lips.

His arms are rods of gold,
    set with jewels.
His body is polished ivory,
    bedecked with sapphires.
His legs are alabaster columns,
    set on bases of gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
    choice as the cedars.
His mouth is most sweet,
    and he is altogether desirable.

Apparently the Lover lifts. And finally, ultimately, why is the Lover so precious to his Beloved?

This is my beloved and this is my friend,
    O daughters of Jerusalem.

Not only are they lovers, husband and wife, but friends. How sweet is that?

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

Song of Solomon, chapter 4. In chapter 3 we spied on the Beloved’s dream on the night before her wedding and we saw her reaction to her Lover’s approach on their wedding day. Chapter 4 opens with the Lover’s admiration of his Beloved’s beauty as he arrives at the wedding. He begins at the top of her body and works his way down…

 Behold, you are beautiful, my love,
    behold, you are beautiful!
Your eyes are doves
    behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
    leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
    that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twins,
    and not one among them has lost its young.
Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
    and your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
    behind your veil.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
    built in rows of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
    all of them shields of warriors.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
    twins of a gazelle,
    that graze among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
    and the shadows flee,
I will go away to the mountain of myrrh
    and the hill of frankincense.
You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

The Lover is completely entranced with the beauty of his Beloved! He compliments all the features we men notice in modern times, and he grows more intimate as he moves down her body. Eyes, hair, teeth, lips, neck, breasts… but what’s this about a mountain and a hill? Some commentaries suggest that the mountains in the metaphor refer to the Church, and that the myrrh and frankincense refer to the scented incense that was used in Jewish temple rituals. Maybe! Song of Solomon is a metaphor for Christ’s love for the church, just as the institution of marriage itself is.

But! It’s not that hard to follow the Lover’s progression down his Beloved: head, neck, breasts, and then a heavenly-scented mountain that is perhaps too intimate to name directly. “Until the day breathes and the shadows flee”, the Lover will be caught up in his Beloved’s girly bits. It’s a lovely picture, and in my mind’s eye I can see the Beloved blushing in coy arousal. The intimacy and love described here are beautiful — the Lover is utterly smitten.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
    with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
    How much better is your love than wine,
    and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride;
    honey and milk are under your tongue;
    the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

The Lover then describes his Beloved as garden of delight.

12 A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
    a spring locked, a fountain sealed.
13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates
    with all choicest fruits,
    henna with nard,
14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
    with all trees of frankincense,
myrrh and aloes,
    with all choice spices—
15 a garden fountain, a well of living water,
    and flowing streams from Lebanon.

The garden is locked, the spring is locked, the fountain is sealed. The Beloved belongs to her Lover alone, and the intimacy of their relationship is tightly guarded from outsiders. This intimacy is sexual, but not only sexual. It is their whole relationship, uniquely protected for just the two of them. The Lover ends with an evocative exhortation that is not difficult to interpret:

16 Awake, O north wind,
    and come, O south wind!
Blow upon my garden,
    let its spices flow.

The Lover’s words drip with erotic intimacy, and upon hearing her Lover’s profession of desire the Beloved does what any sensible woman would do:

Let my beloved come to his garden,
    and eat its choicest fruits.

To paraphrase: Come get some.

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

On to chapter 3!  As background: The book is commonly understood as a celebration of marital/sexual love and it contains a lot of rather graphic imagery. It’s an especially important book because it’s very sex-positive and provides a powerful illustration of the joy God takes in the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.

Chapter 3 opens with a dream sequence: the Beloved searching and longing for her Lover. Who hasn’t had a dream like that? She eventually finds him in her dream, and she awakens somewhat flustered. This the dream of the Bride on the night before her wedding.

On my bed by night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
    I sought him, but found him not.
I will rise now and go about the city,
    in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.
    I sought him, but found him not.
The watchmen found me
    as they went about in the city.
“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
Scarcely had I passed them
    when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
    until I had brought him into my mother’s house,
    and into the chamber of her who conceived me.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
    until it pleases.

In her dream, the Beloved catches her Lover and drags him to bed. The imagery of bringing him “into the chamber of her who conceived me” highlights the special intimacy of sex within marriage: this isn’t just sex, it’s loving sex that could lead to pregnancy. What could be more erotic?

When the Beloved awakens, she sees her Groom arriving for their wedding. Just as in earlier chapters the Lover admired his Beloved’s feminine attributes, here the Beloved is entranced by the Lover’s masculine wealth and power.

What is that coming up from the wilderness
    like columns of smoke,
perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
    with all the fragrant powders of a merchant?
Behold, it is the litter of Solomon!
Around it are sixty mighty men,
    some of the mighty men of Israel,
all of them wearing swords
    and expert in war,
each with his sword at his thigh,
    against terror by night.
King Solomon made himself a carriage
    from the wood of Lebanon.
He made its posts of silver,
    its back of gold, its seat of purple;
its interior was inlaid with love
    by the daughters of Jerusalem.
Go out, O daughters of Zion,
    and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
    on the day of his wedding,
    on the day of the gladness of his heart.

Chapter 3 may not contain as many sexual metaphors as chapters 1 and 2, but I find the marital intimacy to be especially erotic. Trying to get pregnant is some of the best sex ever.

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

After a long delay we’re back to the Song of Solomon series, this time reading chapter 2. As background: The book is commonly understood as a celebration of marital/sexual love and it contains a lot of rather graphic imagery. It’s an especially important book because it’s very sex-positive and provides a powerful illustration of the joy God takes in the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.

The book is written in the form of a dialogue between  the Lover and his Beloved, with occasionally interjections from the wife’s Friends. The language is dominated by agricultural metaphors that can make the book difficult to understand for modern readers who aren’t familiar with the context (which certainly includes me). I’m going to do my best to untangle the imagery, but some of it is guesswork.

As I wrote in the previous post. the end of chapter 1 flows into the beginning of chapter 2 with the Beloved comparing her Lover to a mighty cedar, and the Lover comparing his Beloved to a rose — both ageless metaphors for male and female sexuality. Chapter 2 then gets even more explicit. Says the Beloved of her Lover:

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
    so is my beloved among the 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 banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins;
    refresh me with apples,
    for I am sick with love.

The Lover is once again a tree, and the Beloved delights to sit in his shade and eat his fruit. In fact, the Lover has brought his Beloved to the banqueting house. What do you think they’re feasting on? Hint: each others’ bodies. Double hint: oral sex. My most-visited post is titled “Yes, You Should Swallow”, and here’s some Biblical affirmation. The Beloved goes on:

His left hand is under my head,
    and his right hand embraces me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
    until it pleases.

The embrace described is sexual intimacy. The Beloved is so aroused that she knows she has lost all self-control, and she admonishes other young women to avoid this passion until it finds its proper place in marriage.

Then we hear the Lover cries out to his Beloved and entice her: the time is right for us to make love.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away.”

The Beloved surrenders herself to her Lover and they have sex until dawn.

My beloved is mine, and I am his;
    he grazes among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
    and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
    or a young stag on cleft mountains.

Chapter 2 is even more sexual than chapter 1! If you thought God and our ancestors were prudes, I hope this exploration of Song of Solomon changes your mind. God intends for sex between husbands and wives to be mind-blowing!

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

I’m going to do a series on the sexual passages of the book Song of Solomon (which, if you didn’t know, is in the Bible). This post is about chapter 1. The book is commonly understood as a celebration of marital/sexual love and it contains a lot of rather graphic imagery. It’s an especially important book because it’s very sex-positive and provides a powerful illustration of the joy God takes in the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.

The book is written in the form of a dialogue between  the Lover and his Beloved, with occasionally interjections from the wife’s Friends. The language is dominated by agricultural metaphors that can make the book difficult to understand for modern readers who aren’t familiar with the context (which certainly includes me). I’m going to do my best to untangle the imagery, but some of it is guesswork.

The couple is not yet married at the beginning of the story and are fantasizing about each other. The book begins with the Beloved initiating sex rather explicitly.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
    for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
    your name is like perfume poured out.
    No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
    Let the king bring me into his chambers.

Nothing ambiguous there. Note especially the “let us hurry!” This woman needs some action. The Beloved continues:

Do not stare at me because I am dark,
    because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
    and made me take care of the vineyards;
    my own vineyard I had to neglect.
Tell me, you whom I love,
    where you graze your flock
    and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
    beside the flocks of your friends?

She works hard and takes care of her family, but her own needs have been neglected. The Beloved wants to find her Lover — why should she wander around like a prostitute (“like a veiled woman”) searching for him among the flocks?

Her Lover replies:

I liken you, my darling, to a mare
    among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.
Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings,
    your neck with strings of jewels.
We will make you earrings of gold,
    studded with silver.

The “mare among stallions” imagery is pretty hot. We read above that the young women adore the Lover, and the Beloved is no less in demand. The Lover will array his Beloved in jewels befitting her beauty.  (Some have interpreted these jewels to be the Lover’s semen shot onto his Beloved, but that may be a stretch.) When the Beloved replies she again turns the conversation to sex.

While the king was at his table,
    my perfume spread its fragrance.
My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
    resting between my breasts.
My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
    from the vineyards of En Gedi.

These three verses focus on the fragrances of the Beloved and her Lover. While the Beloved is spreading her… fragrance… her Lover is feasting. Her Lover is a packet of perfume (“csachet of myrrh) between her breasts. Women commonly used henna as a beauty product (as a component of make-up or hair coloring), and her Lover makes the Beloved feel beautiful.

The Lovers go on to praise each other:

Lover

How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!
    Your eyes are doves.

Beloved

How handsome you are, my beloved!
    Oh, how charming!
    And our bed is verdant.

“Verdant” is “green with vegetation; covered with growing plants or grass” — but figuratively: alive and fruitful. The Lovers’ marriage bed is full of primal, natural life. This is a joyous picture that always makes me smile.

The Lover closes the chapter with a metaphor that must transcend the ages.

The beams of our house are cedars;
    our rafters are firs.

That’s a lot of wood. Beams and rafters create a rather girthy image in my mind, but given the intimacy of the moment I suppose we’ll excuse the Lover if he brags a little.

The chapter break isn’t fluid here, so let’s finish this post with the first two verses of chapter 2.

She

I am a rose of Sharon,
    a lily of the valleys.

He

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.

If wood is the ancient metaphor for the penis, its equivalent for the female is the flower. The Lover’s member is a massive cedar, and his Beloved’s girly bits are a beautiful lily — compared to her, the other young women are thorns and thistles.