Modern Love According to King Solomon

by Gina Gardner, Steppes of Faith

Love is shown in many ways.

“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3 NKJ

What do you think of when you think of love and Valentine’s Day? Hearts? Chocolate? Balloons? Flowers? How about flocks of goats? Heaps of wheat? Shorn sheep or the tower of David?

No?

Well, if you had lived over 930 years before the birth of Jesus you would have thought this was pretty romantic stuff. Back then, this was what modern love was all about.

All this mushy stuff comes from a beautiful book in the Bible called “Song of Solomon.” It’s a rather short book, but actually, it wasn’t even a book. It was originally created to be a musical piece. King Solomon had written approximately 1,000 musical works in his day (who knew?). This was apparently his best work.

Song of Solomon describes the courtship between a king and a maiden. Solomon himself is “the beloved,” the king. It’s up for debate who the Shulamite maiden is, but most scholars agree that it most likely was an unknown girl whose family worked for Solomon. She eventually became his first wife. Like many good stories, and like many relationships, conflict comes in when there’s miscommunication. But by the end, all is well and love is renewed. It’s very much like our modern love is today.

The Language of Love

As beautiful as it is, we can chuckle a little about the use of language here. Although it was well intended and perfectly appropriate in its day, I don’t think these kinds of overtures would be received very well now. For example, in chapter four “the beloved” sings to the maiden with such romantic phrases like this:

“….your hair is like a flock of goats going down from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep which have come up from the washing.”

A few verses later we read, “Your neck is like the tower of David, built for an armory on which hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.”

Followed by, “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle which feed among the lilies.”

Then, in chapter seven, the king says to the maid that her navel is like a rounded goblet, her waist is like a heap of wheat, and her nose is like a mountain.

Pretty romantic stuff, don’t you agree? I’m sure you’re swooning. Personally speaking, if a man told me that my waist is like a heap of wheat, he’d probably get a punch in the nose (just kidding, but I’d be seriously offended).

There’s also a bit of something seemingly X-rated in chapter 2, verse 5: “Sustain me with cakes of raisins and refresh me with apples for I am lovesick.” It seems harmless to us, but cakes of raisins, which were mainly used in religious festivals, may have also been used for…eh hem…eroticism. That sounds pretty weird to me, so let’s move on.

Geographically Inspired Love

Aside from love, it’s a great book to learn about the local plant life like spikenard, myrrh, henna, rose of Sharon, frankincense, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, mandrakes, and lilies of the valley. The book describes many gardens like this. Sounds beautiful even if I have no idea what half of these plants are.

You can also learn about the local geography of the time. Here you will read about amazing places such as En Gedi, the mountains of Bether, Mount Gilead, Lebanon, the tower of David, the top of Amana, the top of Senir and Hermon, the pools of Heshbon, the gate of Bath Rabbim, Mount Carmel, Baal Hamon, and Damascus. Since the king compares all these places to some aspect of the maiden’s body, I’m sure you can see why the king thought she was so amazing even if we don’t understand it. Suffice it to say that Israel must have been quite the place.Be heirs together of the grace of life in your love.

The Sanctity of Love and Marriage

Even though none of this would stand up to today’s standards of romance and love, and probably not win you a second date, it is an important illustration of courtship and marriage. By detailing how Solomon fell in love with his first wife, he demonstrates God’s intention for the sanctity of marriage and how lovely it should be.

Solomon builds on what the Bible says about marriage. Genesis 2:24 says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh”), and Psalm 45 describes the relationship between Christ and the church, which Solomon compares it to his own experience with the maiden.

Many scholars would argue that the entire book is a depiction of God’s love for His people, which is why it is one of only five books recognized as the “Holy of Holies” by the Jewish faith. It’s a pretty special book. However, we can also see that not only did people throughout all time fall madly in love and barely resist their urges but that they could- and still can- do it within the context of the parameters God designed to create successful marriages.

It is only by honoring our marriage as God purposed it that we become “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3 NKJ

Your Turn

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? Are there any traditional things you do, or are you and your spouse more spontaneous? Tell us about it here and let’s celebrate love and marriage together.

Further Reading

Sometimes couples struggle to keep the love alive. Valentine’s Day with all its expectations and pressure can make it especially hard. Here’s what the Bible has to say about love and how you and your spouse can reclaim those warm fuzzies. And while you’re there, check out the whole five-part series about strengthening your marriage.

The 5 Pillars of Marriage: Part IV, Love

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