L-O-V-E! What woman does not desire love? Truly, it seems to be the boon and bane of our femininity, of our humanity. It is our joy and our pain. It’s like sunshine and rain. We can and often do live without romantic love; but then again, we ask ourselves, “Do we really want to?”
As young girls we fantasize about love, falling in love (“puppy love” as they call it), waiting for love, scribbling hearts and kisses across our notebooks, writing Mr. & Mrs. This or That on scrap paper, and hoping for that happily ever after moment. But, eventually, we find out all this passion we desire is not the fairy tale, we hoped it would be.
For tonight’s teaching, I will present the erotic (EROS) presentation in the Song of Solomon: The Shulammite, the centerpiece of her own love story, in full throttled, swelling, passionate pursuit of her lover. Her lover desires physical consummation; but, not the emotional intimacy which she ultimately needs, seeks and desires.
The Greeks, who have six different presentations of the word “love,” (see worksheet attached), call what we will explore in the Song of Solomon, as “Eros,” – the romantic, often sexual/sensual and fully passionate considerations of a man and woman yearning to share in physical union.
Definitely, and without hesitation, the sexual union of a man and woman is a gift and blessing from God. This is the first and most important part of this scriptural treatment of the Song of Solomon.
It is God who gives us the gift of sexuality; yet, expects us to manage it and not permit this most awesome gift to manage us! Therefore, in the first verse of the book of The Song of Solomon, we discover the Shulammite’s (described in the text as a girl or a virgin) overt and unmistakable erotic desire for her lover: “Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine. How fragrant is your cologne. How great is your name! No wonder all the your girls love you! Take me with you; come, let’s run!” (verses 1-2 – Living Bible translation).
Been there – done that! Drunk in Love!
In the book of Solomon, perhaps the most controversial book of the Holy Script, and arguably the Old Testament, the reader discovers an unapologetically erotic, passionate, and sensual presentation of a young maiden in love with her elusive, often dismissive lover.
There is and was a book ends scholarly debate on the Song of Solomon with two schools of thought weighing in from opposite sides. A portion of scholars posit that we should read the story, as it was written – a passionate, sexual narrative/love song poem, that may have been appropriated by Israel for her own purposes from an ancient pagan fertility cultic practice. The second group of scholars believe that the narrative should be read metaphorically, as God’s (The Shulammite) pursuit of a reluctant, often elusive and dismissive Israel, and/or Jesus’ love for His church. It is this scholar’s opinion that the reading of the Song of Solomon is not a metaphor, and was never intended to be; therefore, we will continue, with a literal reading of the story for this portion of the teaching.
All of the Shulammite’s senses are captured and aptly eroticized. She shamelessly confesses that not even wine can make her feel better than her lover’s kisses. Oh yes, and by the way, this just happens to be a black-skinned maiden. It is one of the rare places in the Old Testament. where the color of the biblical figure is mentioned in the text. (See verses 5-6).
So, the love dance begins, as the Shulammite is wildly pursued by the sweet words of seduction and deliberate romantic actions of her lover (verses 12-16). In chapter 2 of their story, their romantic desire for each other is consummated in physical union. The church has hotly protested against some of the encountered imagery and language of this story, since the ancients understood this as the language of love, and in many cases, heavily coded with sexual content:
“pomegranates” – breasts; “raisins and apples” – sexual desire; “vineyard/grapevine” – female sexual anatomy; “gardens and fountains” – images of female sexuality; “banquet housing” – the bridal chambers; “little foxes” – other men whom desire sexual contact; “mandrakes” – food which was believed to arouse sexual desire.
As their love blossoms, so to speak, another presence arrives in the narrative: it is the Daughters of Jerusalem, referred to as the “chorus,” singing to the Shulammite like a sisters’ circle of girlfriends. The Daughters provide words of caution: “I adjure you(I charge you), O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.”(Chapter 2:7). This wise counsel is provided immediately after the Shulammite announces she is “sick with love.” Their warning is a foreshadowing of the unexpected outcomes of this heady, unbridled, undisciplined, untamed sexual involvement. They are almost saying to her: “Girl, you need to slow it down and back it up!” The Daughters of Jerusalem and their cautionary prodding lead us to our second point:
What we do with EROS in the physical realm has indications and manifestations in the spiritual realm. There is NO getting around it!
And then it happens…………….in chapter 3 of the story, “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 the squares, I will seek him whom my soul loves…..”
How did she get there? EROS moves from the physical level to the higher level of the soul. The Bible refers to this phenomenon as Soul Ties.
As God’s humanity, we are created different. Scripture assures us that we are created in God’s divine image. As spiritual beings with a soul, housed in a body, we are designed to interact and bond with our Creator and with one another. Indeed, God has created us for fellowship and sexual union (within the context of marriage); in such a way that scripture often describes this fellowship as being “knitted together.”
The Greek word used several times in the New Testament to describe this is “sundesmos,” (soon’-des-mos).
Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31
Soul ties are real, whether we acknowledge them or not. You can wrap a fork and knife together for years, and there will be no interaction. You can set a chair upon a floor and it will never bond to the floor because it is not designed to interact in this way. But, God has made us this way. When we bond as one flesh, the automatic outcome is soul ties, whether we desire them or not. And, we see, by her own admission, this is where Eros: romantic, passionate, consummation leads the Shulammite. As Jill Scott sings: “After being chased, I’ve been dismissed, as just an object to play with.”
Sex, without responsibility, sex without sacred intent, sex without any fixed boundaries, has emotional, and an even higher level of spiritual consequence. The Shulammite pays a dear price for where she has allowed her body to lead her.
In her wonderful book and treatment of the Song of Solomon, Dr. Renita Weems writes: “There are some lovers who remain indelibly encoded within your psyche….The names and addresses of other lovers may be long forgotten, but somewhere within, there is a vault that keeps a tally of where the bits and pieces of energy (both negative and positive) you stored up from lovers past and gone………A shower can wash away his fluids from your thighs; but, it can‘t easily wash away the his scent from your life…… (page 170 – What Matters Most). This is where we find the Shulammite until she realizes:
Point three: “My vineyard, my very own, is for myself……… (Chapter 8:12)
You see, in the end, the Shulammite, while never mentioning God in her story, realizes the even EROS, romantic, passionate love, leads her to self-love, self-discovery, self-dignity, self-realization, and sovereignty. It leads her to who, what, and how God created her to be and to live. While we never know if she ever unites with her elusive lover, The Shulammite can say, as well as we: In the end, Love is always about God!
Questions for our study and consideration:
If the text was written as a literal interpretation, why do you think the Church/Israel’s rabbis insist otherwise?
How do you “feel” about the Shulammite’s decisions? Have you ever found yourself in this place? In the place of the Daughters of Jerusalem? What advice would you give your younger self about how the Shulammite acts/reacts in this relationship?
Think about the word “sovereignty.” What does it mean to you? How does this relate to the Shulammite’s statement in chapter 8: ” “My vineyard, my very own, is for myself………
How can you take this story and use it for your own life?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
“You teach people how to treat you.” – Oprah Winfrey
“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.” Maya Angelou
written by Maxine E. Garrett for Tabitha’s Daughters