Forty percent of the couples in our country have either been through, or are going through a divorce.
Does God have anything to say in the Bible about marriage? In the wisdom books of the Old Testament, you’ll find Ecclesiastes, which gives us wisdom in life. Psalms gives us wisdom towards God. Proverbs gives us wisdom toward everyday occurrences. Job gives us wisdom about evil. But what about marriage? Did God ordain romance?
God in the Old Testament has a pet name for Israel: Yeshurun, which means “my little upright one.” He is like a loving husband to the nation of Israel. Jesus called His people His little flock. He loved us—we are the bride of Christ.
So, yes, God certainly knows a thing or two about marriage. There’s a book in our Bible that’s devoted exclusively to romantic love. This book is the most misunderstood and least taught book in the entire Bible. It’s the Song of Solomon.
This book walks through marital love, starting with the first step for all romances: Attraction. What normally attracts a man and a woman to each other? The physical. Then what? Their cleverness and sense of humor. And then we get around to asking if they have any spirituality whatsoever—although it usually doesn’t matter. Here’s what the woman in Song of Solomon has to say about attraction:
“May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, your name is like purified oil.” -Song of Solomon 1:2-3
When you call to a guy, “Hey Chops!” you’re implying that he plays well. When a woman says to a man, “Your name is purified oil,” you are saying that he is sweetness. We don’t know what Solomon looks like. We don’t know if he has a sense of humor. But here’s what we do know: She considers it a privilege to be his wife. What attracts this woman to Solomon? He is sweet.
Now, look at what this woman says about herself in verses 5 and 6:
“I am black, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, for the sun has burned me”
She is saying that she’s not a catch when it comes to beauty. The most important mark of beauty in this woman’s culture is her skin. The women put veils on to keep the sun away and preserve their skin. Yet this woman speaking in the Song of Solomon is sunburned. Why? She goes on in verse 6:
“My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me caretakers of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard.”
This woman worked hard and was obedient to authority. She hustled. She had to be strong with her arms. Other places we see these qualities in Godly women throughout Scripture
- Rachel was a shepherdess
- Zepora, the wife of Moses, was a shepherdess
- Rebecca went down a well and got water for the camels of Abram’s servant
- The Proverbs 31 woman is described physically by the strength of her arms
The woman in Song of Solomon goes on in verse 7, saying, “Tell me, you, the one I love: Where do you pasture your sheep? Where do you let them rest at high noon? Why should I be like the one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?”
The one who veils herself? She’s referring to the prostitutes, who would veil themselves and follow around the working men. This woman has noticed Solomon—but take note: She is firm that she will not stoop to the level of the prostitutes.
This woman was not impressed by her own physical looks. Yet she was a woman who is faithful, hardworking, obedient, and Godly. She is a woman who will not bend her morality to get the guy—no matter how handsome or sweet he may be. She knows she must uphold her standards and make sure her marriage is rooted in truth from the start.
The initial thing that attracts this couple to one another is the spiritual. We don’t know what they look like—but we do know Solomon was sweet and she was a Godly woman. If your mate does not have a soul in Jesus Christ, you’re going to get very, very bored.
We’ve seen how they regard one another—but, how do they relate to one another? Look at verse 9:
“I compare you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.”
Darling in the original language is the Hebrew word, rayah, which translates as “most intimate companion.” Solomon uses this word nine times throughout this book. His words are kind. In the armies of Pharaoh, you had horses that pulled the chariots, but a white mare pulled Pharaoh’s chariot. That mare was the most special, prized, esteemed animal there. When Solomon, a lover of horses, calls his wife, “Pharaoh’s mare,” that’s the most tender thing he could ever say to her.
Her response is just as gentle in verse 12 and 13:
“While the king is at his table, my perfume gave forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh, which lies all night between my breasts.”
A woman in this culture would wear a pouch of myrrh and that was the most esteemed thing to give her beauty. This woman says, “I already have a fragrance. It’s Solomon!” Not only that, but she thinks about him all night as she sleeps. That’s how much she loves this man!
Once the spiritual attraction and the emotional attraction are established, we move on towards Solomon’s physical attraction to the woman in verse 15:
“How beautiful you are, my darling. How very beautiful! Your eyes are doves.”
He doesn’t merely look at the body. He’s looking at her soul—how peaceful and kind she is. The woman responds in verse 16:
“How handsome you are, my love. How delightful! Our bed is lush with foliage; the beams of our house are cedars, and our rafters are cypresses.”
Not only is he handsome, but she also likens him to a great mansion of security. A woman needs her self esteem to be nourished. She will either find that in her husband, or she will go outside of the home for it.
In verse 1 of chapter 2, the woman says, “I’m the rose of Sharon, the lilies of the valleys.” Solomon responds in verse 2, “Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens.” Your wife will grow spiritually when she mirrors her worth in your eyes.
Chapter 2 goes on, as the woman says, “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
The home as got to be shade and it’s got to be nourishment for the wife. If another guy wants to hug your wife’s neck, compliment her, or send her flowers for secretary’s day, that’s good and fine. But it’s got to supplement you, not substitute you.
Now look at verse 4:
“He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.”
In those days, on battlefields, they’d have great big banners. You’d see that banner, and you’d know that’s your company. For a man’s banner to be over his wife in love, his affection for his wife is made apparent to everyone around.
Your wife is the queen. Open the door for her. Walk in with her. Sit her down. Help her up. Spend your life doing what you promised you would—to love her, honor her, and cherish her. Your banner over her is love in a public place.
In verse 5, the woman says, “Stain me with raisin cakes.” This sentence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us, but it definitely did at the time. A raisin cake is what they used in pagan fertility rites. Why? Because a raisin is full of seeds. It was believed that if you ate raisin cakes, they would help produce a drive towards each other—with the ultimate result of children.
We like to believe that God doesn’t have a clue about sex. We need to rethink that, because this is the most romantic, sensual book you will ever read.
In verse 6, the woman says, “Let his left hand be under my head, and his right hand embrace me.” That is the most intimate position in the most intimate of marital acts. This woman wants to give herself to him, all because he’s so tender to her.
Sexual feelings are not inherently bad—God put them there. It’s a beautiful thing! But how do you respond? Do you indulge them? Do you suppress them and act like they’re not there? Do you call them dirty? Verse 7 instructs us on how to respond:
“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, that you do not arouse until she pleases.”
If you pursue sexual intimacy before marriage, you’re accelerating it way beyond what God intended it to be. If your marriage is founded upon physical attraction, someday you aren’t going to know how to communicate and the whole thing is going to collapse on you.
In the first chapter and a half of this book, it’s incredibly apparent that God knows what he’s talking about. This 3000 year-old document will transform your life.
Tommy Nelson is the Pastor of Denton Bible Church and Guest Instructor at the Kanakuk Institute.