Ladies, how would you feel if a guy were to walk up to you, look you in the eyes, and say:” Your hair is like a flock of goats”? I tried the line on a modern maiden a few months ago. She laughed in my face. But the line must have been hot in Solomon’s time.
Check out Song of Solomon 4:1:
“How beautiful you are, my love, how very beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats, Moving down the slopes of Gilead”
Indeed, the whole book of the Song of Solomon is full of powerful romantic and erotic imagery. The book was so hot that some of the early church fathers and some Jewish scholars see the book as purely symbolic, representing the passionate love that God has for his people.
That may very well be but that does not make the symbols any less passionate.
Indeed a basic principle for bible interpretation is to first to take the biblical material as you find it. And the book speaks eloquently about the passionate love between a man and a woman.
If the language of the Canticle (Song of Solomon) embarrasses us, it may say more about the modern Christian reader than about the text itself. That the text should embarrass at should be puzzling. The language of the Canticle is tame compared to the stuff available to us out there today.
But somehow romance doesn’t seem to fit into a Christian Worldview. I can understand this discomfort. It stems from what a fallen world has done with romance and love. It has dissociated them from covenant love and marriage. As always, sin divides and distorts God’s gifts and purposes.
But before sin entered human experience, the first man had no qualms about giving his version of “all riiiight” when he saw the first woman (Genesis 2:23). Indeed it is the first instance of a poem recorded for us in the bible. Unfallen man bursts into song when he encounters his unfallen lady. And they were in the nude too. (I think I need to go take a cold shower.)
Perhaps Christians should take a fresh look at the subject of romance. I have often heard Christian ladies complain to me that Christian guys may be hot on theology and ministry but they do not know how to treat a lady. I have two responses to this.
1. Romance is overrated.
Romance is everywhere. Even in today’s cynical age, romance flourishes. Just check out how many movies feature romance as its primary theme. While you are at it check out the size of the romance section at the bookstores. Indeed note the messianic way in which romantic encounters are often portrayed in the entertainment media. Life suddenly becomes worthwhile because the hero/heroine meets the love of his/her life.
I can only attribute this fixation with romance as yet another symptom of a humankind cut of from their primary source of love and significance — the God who made them.
But romance, like all other god-replacements, is bound to fail.
It may be worthwhile to note that in biblical times, most marriages were arranged. No romance here though I would expect that loving parents would take into consideration the feelings of their children. Still, choosing a life partner was hardly a personal choice based on romantic feelings.
I think there are lessons here for choosing a life partner today. Romance is the icing on the cake but the bread and butter qualities that go into a healthy marriage are qualities like emotional maturity, a genuine love for the Lord, compatible life goals, healthy communication patterns, much mutual acceptance and a forgiving spirit. If a relationship is built on qualities like these then the sex and romance complete the picture. But a relationship based on romance and sex alone will find itself on very shaky foundations.
2. Romance is underrated.
Because a fallen world overrates romance and sex, bible believing Christians tend to be suspicious of them. This may be a reaction that blinds us to the proper place of romance in God’s purposes. Any one who has felt the flush of romance will know how powerful romance can be. A person “in love” jealously protects the one “loved” from other suitors, makes the lover his/her primary focus, and will do anything for that person, even if it entails huge personal sacrifices. Don’t tell me you can’t see echoes of the divine here.
You don’t have to remind me that the heart of divine love is agape and the best human love is some combination of agape and philadelphia(brotherly love). I heartily agree. But I think poor eros has received the short end of the stick. Instead of an either-or approach to the issue of love, let us see how the different types of love have their place in God’s plans. After all there is only one book in the bible that focuses on the theme of romantic love. While the whole of Scripture cries out ”agape”.
But still, the Canticle IS there, in Holy Writ. By including it in the Bible, God is telling us romance and sex has a place in His world.
Wise married couples would do well to discover how to make their partners feel special. Because they are.
And if “your hair is like a flock of goats” just doesn’t cut it today, maybe something else.
“You complete me?”