3000 year old guide on love and romance

This is a continuation of the Song of Songs series. This is a look at 2:1-3, a short interchange between Beloved and her Lover. The entire series can be found here. Italics indicate the NET Bible assumption of who is talking. All Bible quotes from the NET.

The previous verses left them laying together intimately under the cedars. As she adores the nature around them she notices the flowers…

The Beloved to Her Lover:
2:1 I am a meadow flower from Sharon,
a lily from the valleys.

Remember her self-confidence? She believes her Lover’s compliments and abides in them. Yet she doesn’t overshoot and step into vanity. She considers herself one flower among a meadow. Not that a flower is any less beautiful because it keeps company with a million others. Sharon is a well watered area and vegetation including flower meadows would be found there. The NET Bible notes a proposal for the sole member of the lily family that grows in Palestine, Israel’s chamomile.
There is a neat photography blog called the Flowers in Israel and here is a picture of this flower.The Latin name for geek research is Anthemis palaestina.

She knows that the palace is Solomon’s meadow and he can pluck whatever blossoms he wants. But she also feels her position is valid in his harem. She isn’t a fluke although she stands out for her dark skin and difficult, non-regal background. Yes she’s a hill-billy girl, a daisy from the valley, but one who can tend a vineyard or a flock of sheep. It’s partly this atypical background for a princess that intrigues Solomon and elevates her status in his eyes. In response to her humble assertion, he affirms her tremendously.

The Lover to His Beloved:
2:2 Like a lily among the thorns,
so is my darling among the maidens.

“Dear,” he says, “you aren’t ‘just’ a lily, you are the only lily, not growing in a meadow surrounded by similar lilies, but by ugly brambles.” He was calling her “one-in-a-million” in a fresh way and not a hackneyed, throw-away expression of little worth. Not is she “one in a million” but she is the one among the 1,000 chosen maidens (700 wives and 300 concubines) for his harem. Certainly, men have used assertions like this to get a woman into bed, but he is working his skills on his wife. The wedding band does not free a husband from romance. In fact, a virginal wedding provides new material to wax eloquent on. Later on in the poem they cover some of that more erotic material.

The Beloved about Her Lover:
2:3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

Beloved returns the compliment. The NET Bible notes that apple trees are not native trees. Finding an apple tree in the forest there would be akin to finding a lily among the thorns. Because the maidens are mentioned in the poem, and they are plural, I think it is safe to presume Solomon is not such a youngster anymore. Surely she isn’t number 700, but even if she wasn’t but, say, only number 100, he isn’t a young buck anymore, but she caresses his ego by holding him above all the kingdom’s strapping young men. Men may not display insecurity, but usually because they don’t realize they are insecure. A little preventive affirmation will keep them running smoothly and away from mid-life crises and the accompanying insanity that may endanger a marriage. Husbands and wives need to be pro-active instead of reactive in affirming their attraction to the other. Not only does he stand out in the forest of young men but she loves being in his shade and partaking of his fruit. Umm, that’s a metaphor for their physical intimacy. Think about it. He’s between her and the sun…

Update: Perhaps, dear reader, you accuse me of over-sexualizing this epic poem. I can accept the accusation but I have a rebuttal.

Fertility worship abounded in that time as much as it does in this day. However, there is only one true God and he created sexuality with all its pleasures. Sex within the bounds prescribed by its inventor is the superior experience described in this massive poem. Sex is not encumbered by romance and foreplay and fidelity and longevity, it is enhanced by these things, which this Scripture emphasizes in every paragraph. Hence, I see it and note it in every paragraph.

Addendum: Great quote at Acton Institute on freedom that I find helpful in the context of sexual relations, noted at the EO.
The Word of God teaches that the Christian is a free man and should "stand in the freedom which Christ has made him free." What is meant by Christian freedom? What is freedom in general? We answer: it is not the right and the ability to do as one pleases, but the ability to move without constraint in the sphere for which God made us. Freedom therefore is not inconsistent with limitation and law. The bird is free only when it can move in the air unhindered. A worm is free when it is not prevented from moving in the ground--in a sphere which would mean bondage and death for many other creatures. A locomotive is not free unless its motion is confined to the two rails on which it was made to run. Man was made in the image of God to be like Him and to reflect his holiness. Consequently he is free only when he moves without constraint in the sphere of holiness and obedience to God's law.

From “Christian Liberty,” in “Report of the Committee on Worldly Amusements,” Agenda: Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, To convene June 13, 1928 at Holland, Mich., p. 22.

To this I add, true sexual freedom is found within the sphere of marriage.


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