A shorter post today, as I hope to devote more time to other posts that I am working on. The first passage is from the Song of Songs:
Upon my bed by night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
2 “I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.”
I sought him, but found him not.
3 The watchmen found me,
as they went about in the city.
“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
4 Scarcely had I passed them,
when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
until I had brought him into my mother’s house,
and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
5 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the hinds of the field,
that you stir not up nor awaken love
until it please.
The Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon as it is otherwise called, is not my usual fare when it comes to reading scripture. But I’ve been reading through the Wisdom books in my bible lately and it is included amongst them. This passage makes that connection appropriate, because there are two important messages contained in this passage (at least, as far as I can tell).
To begin with, this passage makes it very, very clear that women are sexual creatures, just like men. Verse 4 in particular, once you understand the metaphors involved, showcases that women can be just as passionate as men. The notion that women, at least good women, are “pure” and thus uninterested in sex is something that pops up all the time in Christianity. Yet not only is there no scriptural support for that position, scripture (such as this passage) indicates quite the opposite. Rather than examine this issue in depth in this particular post, my next post will focus on this particular manifestation of the Madonna/Whore complex.
The next bit that I found interesting is the final verse. While it can be read several ways, one interpretation that strikes me is as warning against stirring up “love” before its time- with the love in question being best described as Eros. Essentially, the verse warns the women of Jerusalem (representing the women of Israel I would wager) about awakening their passions too soon. In this case I would equate “too soon” with being before marriage. In other words, women are warned about not stirring up or awakening Eros in a man before marriage.
Now, I think that this makes sense as a warning- it helps to ward women away from sexual immorality. It does, however, create some problems for Christian men looking to marry in the present environment. A number of Christian bloggers and commenters around these parts, and I would be included among their number, advocate marrying a woman only if she demonstrate clear sexual attraction for you. Marrying a woman who doesn’t show passion towards you risks being stuck in a sexless marriage.
So here we have two bits of advice, or two warnings, that seem butt up against one another. They can’t co-exist, because passion or Eros is tied up with a woman’s demonstrating sexual attraction. Or can they? I’m curious what my readers think. Can a woman avoid awakening love, while still expressing enough attraction to a man to convince him that he isn’t signing up for a lifetime of “friends without benefits?”
One more quick thing. I was re-reading Proverbs, as part of writing another post, when something clicked in my mind reading this passage:
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely hind, a graceful doe.
Let her affection fill you at all times with delight,
be infatuated always with her love.
20 Why should you be infatuated, my son, with a loose woman
and embrace the bosom of an adventuress?
The main point of this passage is a warning against adultery, of course. But I realized that infatuation (I’ve also seen it translated as intoxication, which I think is a better fit) isn’t treated as negative in and of itself. Only when it is directed towards another women is it wrong. If anything it encourages men to be intoxicated with their wives. To me, this passage suggests a strong element of choice- choosing to focus on your wife after you are married, and before marriage choosing as a wife a woman who will intoxicates you easily. Which means that yes, the attractiveness of a woman does matter, and men should consider it when they are marrying.
[Speaking of what to look for when marrying, I’ve been slowly working on a post concerning that for some time now. I hope to finish it later this week, or early next week.]