Young Jewish boys were not allowed to read it (but I bet they did). I’m talking about the Song of Solomon, the Old Testament book about a man and woman passionately in love with each other. The writing, set in poetry, describes dating, marriage, and the problems that inevitably occur. But most of all the song is about God’s gift of sexual intimacy between a man and woman in the context of marriage. The book pulls no punches regarding sex. Yet it is no way vulgar or crude.
Three Hebrew words in the song best describe the components of intimate lovemaking.
This Hebrew word means “spirit love,” and is translated “friend” throughout the song. That’s where healthy sexual relationships begin—a non-sexual relationship, usually in the company of others. This allows you to see how a person acts and interacts with others. Friendship provides a safe place where you can begin to talk with one another and learn the substance of a person’s heart.
This is important because a major desire for couples is to have a friend in their partner. In one study conducted with couples in all stages of the marriage relationship, couples were asked to rank a list of possible goals for their marriage. The single most important goal listed was to have a friend in one’s partner (Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, Fighting For Your Marriage: Positive Steps for a Loving and Lasting Relationship, pp. 233-234). In another study aimed at determining why singles wanted to get married, 84% described friendship as the primary reason. This should not be surprising since the essence of marriage is the meet man’s need for companionship and loneliness. Researchers Notarius and Markman note that many divorced couples say that in the process they “felt like they lost their best friend” (We Can Work It Out: How to Solve Conflicts, Save Your Marriage, and Strengthen Your Love for Each Other, p. 132).
This Hebrew word describes “heart love” and describes the emotional part of love. It is that indescribable feeling that mysteriously causes two people to desire to spend their life together. When a man and woman “fall in love” they can think of little else. Ahab is used in this song to describe “lovesickness” (2:5b…for I am faint with love) and “emotional loyalty” (3:1— …the one my heart loves).
This Hebrew word describes physical love. It means “to caress, rock, embrace, and consummate.” Throughout the book, it is translated “lover.”
These three components—connection, commitment, and consummation—make for true sexual intimacy. Any one by itself or any two are incomplete and unbiblical.
- Consummation without connection or commitment is animalistic.
- Connection and consummation without commitment are called fornication.
- Connection and commitment without consummation lead to frustration and temptation.
But all three together—spirit (rea), heart (ahab), and body (dod)—now we’re talking! Now we’re singing love songs! This is the one-flesh relationship that only God could invent and design!