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The Intimate Garden

The Song of Solomon

We conclude Mr.Aaron's book


THE INTIMATE GARDEN

     The Song of Solomon (sometimes called Canticles) is a
collection of ancient songs about love - love between a man and a
woman, love pure and simple, love sensual and sincere songs sung
in gardens and villages of the promised land.
     The Song opens with the words of a woman, unashamed to
express her desire for kisses: "Let him kiss me with the kisses
of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine" (Song 1:2). As
they kiss, they open their mouths to discover that "his mouth is
most sweet" (Song 5:16), and "the roof of her mouth is like the
best wine" (Song 7:9). The word that is here translated "mouth"
means the inside of the mouth, the area where food is tasted
(Strong's Concordance, 2441) - implying wet, open mouth kissing.
As The Anchor Bible, which contains a wealth of information on
the Song of Solomon, phrases it: it seems likely these "explicit
references to kisses ... include amative oral activities."
The Jerusalem Bible implies not only mouth to mouth kissing, but
kissing all over the body: "Your lips cover me with kisses" (Song
1:2).
     At one point the man says: "I have compared thee, O my love,
to a company of horses in Pharoah's chariots" (Song 1:9). The
Hebrew word used here means, specifically, a mare - "a mare in
Pharoah's chariots." This has puzzled commentators, for chariots
were drawn by stallions. Only a bit of "horse sense" is required,
however, to recognize the use of an established metaphor. The
Rabbis compared the escaping Israelites to mares, and the
pursuing Egyptians to stallions eager with desire; Herodotus told
how a mare excited a stallion, becoming a factor in Darius
becoming king; Aristotle wrote about the sexual heat of horses,
as did also Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Jeremiah 5:7,8; Ezekiel 23:20).
     When the man compared his special lady to a mare in
Pharoah's chariots, he unashamedly shows she has excited him with
her sex appeal.
     The romantic closeness of the couple has excited the woman
also. She says: "My spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof"
(Song 1:12) - referring to the ancient custom of perfuming the
sexual parts. Her rising bodily heat caused the smell of her
spikenard to fill the air. "Our bed is green" (Song 1:16) shows
that places in which they made love included outdoors, on the
grass. The intensity of their love has made them delightfully
uninhibited. Expressions such as: "I am sick of love," "Thou hast
ravished my heart," "How pleasant art thou, O love, for
delights!" are clear enough to reveal the erotic theme of the
book. But much more erotica is there, veiled only by the style in
which it is written. The highly esteemed Christian commentator,
Adam Clarke, wrote:

     There are many passages in it which should not be explained.
     ... the references being too delicate; and Eastern
     phraseology on such subjects is too vivid .... Let any
     sensible and pious medical man read over this book, and, if
     at all acquainted with Asiatic phraseology, say whether it
     would be proper, even in medical language, to explain all
     the descriptions and allusions in this poem.

     Though Clarke, writing over 150 years ago, felt it improper
to explain the delicate and vivid phraseology, his words most
definitely establish the obvious: the Song of Solomon is written
in the style of erotic poetry. As such, phrases must be
understood in their erotic sense - not as literal statements!
     If we tried to take the Song of Solomon in a literal sense,
we would conclude that a man went into his garden and picked
flowers. He climbed a palm tree. He plowed his field. He drank
water from a fountain. He received great delight in eating grapes
from his vineyard. His female friend enjoyed sitting under his
apple tree and ate apples. She served him pomegranate juice. He
hiked on hills where spices grow and enjoyed the fragrance. Taken
literally, none of these activities would be too significant. But
understood erotically, expressions about various fruits and
spices, gardens and fields, flow with rich meaning, providing
beautiful and vivid descriptions of love's sweet and sensual
pleasures.
     Similar expressions are sometimes used in other books of the
Bible. Sexual reproduction is called being "fruitful" (Genesis
1:28), offspring is called the "fruit" of the womb (Genesis
30:2), semen is called "seed" (Leviticus 15:16). In today's
language, a sexually promiscuous man "sows his wild oats"; a
virgin has a "cherry"; testicles are called "nuts"; and terms
like "sweet" and "honey" are used.
     One prominent fruit of the Song of Solomon is the
pomegranate. With its numerous seeds, it has from ancient times
been known as a symbol of fertility, as in the accompanying cut
of Juno holding a pomegranate. In mythology, the mother of Attis
conceived him by putting a pomegranate in her bosom. According to
a Turkish belief, when a bride throws a pomegranate on the
ground, the number of seeds that scatter indicates how many
children she will have. The pomegranate has a high content of
estrogen, a word meaning "begetter of mad desire." A fertility
deity that Naaman worshipped was called "Rimmon" (2 Kings 5:18) -
the same word that is translated pomegranate (Strong's
Concordance, 7416,7417). "I would cause thee to drink of spiced
wine of the juice of my pomegranate"(Song 8:2), says the woman.
Those who attempt to shun the erotic nature of the book might
suppose she merely gives the man a glass of pomegranate juice to
drink! How nice. But this can hardly be the intended meaning, for
this is erotic poetry!
     The next line reveals the position of the couple: "His left
hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace
me." The couple is not standing or sitting, for then his hand
might be behind her head, but not under her head. She is lying
down, his left hand is under her head, his right hand embraces
her, and in this position she tells him to "drink" of the "juice
of my pomegranate." A person even vaguely familiar with the
Eastern phraseology should not miss the erotic implications here.
     The Song of Solomon mentions figs. "The fig tree putteth
forth her green figs .... Arise, my love, my fair one, and come
away" (Song 2:13). As with the pomegranate, figs from very early
times were linked with sexual fertility. The word "fig" signified
vagina in several Mediterranean languages, and one need only
split open a purple fig to see why. Maidens of Athens wore
garlands of figs and carried fig cakes in the procession of
Athena. There is evidence from the ruins of Pompeii that figs
were a major offering at the temple of Isis. The fig persists as
a potent symbol in the obscene gesture "making the fig" and as
amulets against the evil eye.
     And the Song of Solomon mentions "mandrakes" (Song 7:13) -
commonly identified with the "love apple." Known among the Arabs
as "the devil's testicles," mandrakes have long been used with
the belief that they amuse sexual desire. Reuben presented
mandrakes to Leah for this purpose (Genesis 30:14-16).
"Pomegranates," "figs," "nuts," "apples," "grapes," "mandrakes"
to be enjoyed in the "garden" -- are expressions that are
certainly capable of erotic meanings. All of this begins to come
into focus as we read that the young woman is a "garden." The
male lover is invited to enter the garden and eat the pleasant
fruits (Song 4:12-16):

     A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up,
     a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of
     pomegranates, with pleasant fruits .... Awake, O north wind;
     and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices
     thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden,
     and eat his pleasant fruits.

     Phrases about "pomegranates" or a "garden" being "opened" -
used in an erotic sense - are not uncommon in the Eastern world.
We give here a parallel Palestinian poem:

     Your breast, O you, is like a pomegranate fruit, And your
     eyes have captured us,
     By God and by the Merciful One.
     Your cheek shines as it were a Damascene apple; How sweet to
     pluck it in the morning
     And to open the garden.

     A line from an Egyptian poem is similar in style:

     I entered your garden and plucked your pomegranates ...

     The erotic impact of the man entering his garden is further
intensified by the mention of myrrh, aloes, cinnamon, and
frankincense (Song 4:13,14). From ancient times these exotic
spices were used to provide a sensual scent for the bed of love,
as mentioned in Proverbs 7:17,18: "I have perfumed my bed with
myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love
until the morning." In similar wording, the man of Solomon's song
says: "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get
me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense"
(Song 4:6). The fact that women used these spices to perfume
their sexual parts, strongly suggests that the mountain/ hill
that was visited during the night was the mons Veneris.

     We get some idea of how highly the ancients regarded these
spices by the fact that frankincense and myrrh were presented
right along with gold to the Christ child (Matthew 2:11).
     According to Pliny, at Alexandria (where raw frankincense
was processed), workmen were required to strip and submit to
searching before leaving the premises - so valuable was the
spice! The lady lover of Solomon's song is totally faithful - she
is a garden inclosed, a fountain sealed. Only her lover is
invited to come into his garden - her - and eat the pleasant
fruits and drink the water of love. "In Oriental imagery," says
The Interpreter's Bible, "the wife is described in terms of a
fountain, and sexual enjoyment in terms of drinking water." The
correctness of this statement is confirmed by Proverbs 5:15-20:
"Drink water out of thine own cistern .... Let thy fountain be
blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as
the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy
[margin: water] thee at all times; and be thou ravished always
with her love." Thus did the writer admonish men to marital
faithfulness, though admitting that "stolen waters are sweet, and
bread eaten in secret is pleasant" (Proverbs 9:17). Notice how
terms about drinking and eating are used as euphemisms for sexual
activity.

     Having invited her lover to come into his garden, the next
scene provides the reply (Song 5:1):

     I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have
     gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb
     with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk.

     Some understand these words as those directed by the groom
to the wedding guests. He has consummated the marriage and 
enjoyed the delights of love - here described, again, as "eating"
honey and "drinking" milk and wine. Passages such as these
present love as a pleasant appetite to be satisfied. A Sumerian
sacred marriage poem uses "drink" in this same sense. The bride
speaks to the king-groom of her charms:

     My god, sweet is the drink of the wine-maid,
     Like her drink, sweet is her vulva, sweet is her drink, Like
     her lips sweet is her vulva, sweet is her drink, Sweet is
     her mixed drink, her drink.

     The men of Jerusalem used expressions about eating and
drinking to describe their sexual activities: "One would say to
his neighbor, 'On what did you dine today? On well-kneaded bread
or bread not well-kneaded; on white wine or on dark wine; on a
broad couch or on a narrow couch; with a good companion or with a
poor companion?'" Sexual intercourse is likened to "eating" a
meal, also, in Proverbs 30:20.
     In another portion of the Song, the male lover is described
as eating or feeding among the lilies (Song 2:16,17):

     My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the
     lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away,
     turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart
     upon the mountains of Bether.

     The animals mentioned - the roe and hart - were known for
their beauty and sexuality, as seen by their role in Mesopotamian
potency charms. There can be little doubt that this night-time
"feeding" among the lilies is an erotic expression for love
making. From very early times the lily or lotus has been used as
a symbol of rich sexual significance - in Egypt, China, India,
Japan, Greece, and Rome. The term "Lotus licking" is but another
way of saying cunnilingus.

     Haupt, whose writings on the Song of Solomon have often been
referred to, translates the phrase about lilies as feeding "on
the dark purple lilies," equating such with the mons Veneris. The
Anchor Bible makes this same identification, pointing out that
feeding among the lilies involved the "mountains of Bether" or,
as the margin says, "mountains of division." Understanding
that this area was commonly perfumed, makes translations such as
Moffatt's understandable: "Play like a roe or a hart on my
perfumed slopes."
     Probably the phrases about her beloved "feeding" among the
"dark purple lilies" located at the "divided mountains" are among
the phrases that Adam Clarke felt should not be explained - not
even by a pious doctor in medical language!
     In another scene, the man is likened to an apple tree,
beneath which the woman sits with great delight (Song 2:3,4):

     As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my
     beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with
     great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He
     brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me
     was love.

     The meaning of this phraseology could range anywhere from
fellatio to the pleasure of love making in a general sense. "But
in this context," says The Anchor Bible, "one could hardly miss
the sexual sense of the metaphor." The meal the couple shares in
the "banqueting house" is not physical food, but "love."
     Having compared the man to an apple tree, the Song now
portrays the female lover as a palm tree which the male intends
to "climb" (Song 7:6-9):

     How pleasant an thou, O love, for delights! Thy stature is
     like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
     I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of
     the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be be
     clusters of the vine...

     The palm tree, producing a sweet fruit, is commonly employed
in Eastern poetry as an emblem of love. When the man says he will
go up (or "climb") this palm tree, it is only another way of
saying he will "open" the garden, "eat" the pleasant fruits, or
"drink" his wine and milk. To suppose our poet meant he would
climb a literal palm tree is quite naive.

     I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. Come, my
     beloved, let us go forth unto the field. ... Let us get up
     early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish,
     whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud
     forth: there will I give thee my loves. The mandrakes give a
     smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits
     (Song 7:10-13).

     Taken in a literal sense, phrases such as "go forth into the
field" convey little meaning. But understood erotically, a rich
meaning is obtained. In ancient usage, "plowing a field," with
its back and forth motion to open the ground for seed, was a
natural figure for sexual intercourse. The expression used by
Samson, "If ye had not plowed with my heifer" (Judges 14:18), was
a sexual euphemism. So is it understood by the Septuagint and
Syriac versions.
     In the Eastern custom of dividing objects into male and
female categories, a plow was male because it opened the earth to
receive seed; a furrow of a field was designated as female. The
Latin word "vomer" signified both phallus and plow. According to
an old Indian custom, a plow set up under a canopy at marriage
ceremonies would insure fertility. In an Egyptian song, a girl
refers to herself as ground in which a youth dug a "canal." The
writer of Proverbs speaks of a whore as "a deep ditch" (Proverbs
23:27). The Koran expresses the thought that women are plowing
fields; that men should visit their fields how and when they
desire. In a Sumerian poem, a girl likens her vulva to a field on
a hill that needs plowing:

     As for me, my vulva, for me the piled-high hillock, Me - the
     maid, who will plow it for me?

The answer comes:

     O Lordly Lady, the king will plow it for you, Dumuzi, the
     king will plow it for you. 

And joyfully she responds:

Plow my vulva, man of my heart!

     The writer of the Song spoke of a woman's breasts as
"clusters of grapes" hanging down. He mentioned one woman who had
breasts like "towers." He expressed concern about his
little sister's breasts that had not developed (Song 7:7;
8:8,10). In another portion, a woman is represented as saying: "A
bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me; he shall lie all
night betwixt my breasts" (Song 1:13). According to the Mishnah,
women wore little bags of myrrh in their bosoms. To emphasize the
romantic closeness of the couple as they sleep together, the male
is likened to this bundle of myrrh between her breasts.

     The mention of women's breasts in the Song is not unlike
other poetry from the Eastern world. A parallel poem says:

     My eyes are springs for you, if you come to drink,
     and my breast is a garden, with herbs sprouting for you.

     Another poem expressed the idea that a man may grow so old a
woman will not look at him, yet he will still rejoice in the
sight of her breasts:

     I'll cry out: 'Great is God,'
     For her whose breasts are pomegranates and larger. But I
     fear that old age will befall me,
     Then she of the beautiful fillet will hate the sight of me.

Another episode (Song 5:2-6) is based, apparently, on an erotic
dream. It is night. The man comes to the house of his lover and
knocks on the door:

     I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved
     that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my
     dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my
     locks with the drops of the night I have put off my coat;
     how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I
     defile them? My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the
     door, and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open to
     my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh ... upon the
     handles of the lock. I opened to my beloved; but my beloved
     had withdrawn himself, and was gone.

     The details are not difficult to understand. The setting is
a village in Palestine. Late at night the man knocks on the door
to the delight and surprise of the woman inside. Since the wooden
keys in use were of considerable size, he is able to put his hand
in the hole of the door. Still the door must be opened from
within by lifting the handles. Ultimately she is disappointed
when her lover, for some reason, has withdrawn himself. Such is
the story taken at face value.
     But, being in a book of erotic poetry, there is
justification for seeking the deeper meaning. It is, after all, a
dream: "I sleep, but my heart waketh..." The woman's hands drip
with exotic spices as she handles the lock. A number of the words
used - "knock," "open," "door," "hand," "hole," and "feet"are
established euphemisms with sexual significance.
     A virtuous woman is spoken of as "a wall," while one
sexually open is "a door" (Song 8:9). The Anchor Bible says: "The
word 'door' is recognized even by the most modest of commentators
as a figure for a female unusually open and receptive to sexual
overtures. The request to 'open' in the preceding verse could in
certain circumstances have sexual connotations."

     We read that the man "put in his hand by the hole." The
three words that follow in the King James version - "of the door"
- being in italics, were added by the translators. Understood
erotically, the hole would not be the hole of a literal door. We
should bear in mind, also, that "hand" has sometimes been used as
an euphemism for the male organ. If that is the case here, "there
can be no question that, whatever the context, the statement 'my
love thrust his hand into the hole' would be suggestive of coital
intromission, even without the succeeding line descriptive of the
emotional reaction of the female. (The Anchor Bible).
     That "succeeding line" says her "bowels" or inward parts
were moved with romantic emotion for him. The Hebrew word used
here is translated "womb" in Ruth 1:11. Strong defines it, when
used of a woman, as "uterus" (Strong's Concordance, 4578). Such
was the area that responded to the man putting his hand in by the
hole.
     The man at the door, seeking to enter, gives "reasons" why
he needs to come in; she gives "reasons" why she can't open to
him - all in the language of romantic teasing. He must enter
because his head is filled with dew. She replies that she cannot
let him in because she has taken off her robe! - and, "How shall
I put it on?" She has washed her feet and does not want to dirty
them. But would she get her feet dirty simply going to the door?
Did she not have sandals?
     Again, as with "hand," the word "feet" may be used here
euphemistically. Says The Anchor Bible: "In view of the well
known use of 'feet' as a euphemism for genitals, the language is
at least suggestive." Putting it all together, there is support
in this portion and throughout the Song of Solomon for the erotic
interpretation.

     If some feel they must attempt to apply all of this to God's
love for Israel, or the love of Christ for the church, this is up
to them. But even our esteemed commentator, Adam Clarke,
confessed he could see no ground for this opinion.

     Within the Bible - which includes such things as history,
genealogy, chronology, prophecy, and law - we do not think it
improper that one book, The Song of Solomon, would feature
ancient poems about love. The ravings and rebukes of prophets are
absent from its pages. It is exempt from bloodshed and battles.
Its erotic descriptions of the most intimate forms of love making
have been a shock to some, a relief and delight to others. Here
the human body is not considered something "shameful" that must
be covered. The design and beauties of the physical form are
praised. Love, including the sexual aspect of love, is presented
as an intoxicating experience.

     During our historical and Biblical journey from Eden, we
have observed playboys and perverts, virgins and victims, gays
and graffiti, ecstasy and evil, atrocity and affection, fantasy
and fact, romance and reality. Having now brought together the
research and study of many years, we will simply conclude with
the words of a famous preacher (Ecclesiastes 12:12-14):

     Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a
     weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the
     whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this
     is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work
     into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good,
     or whether it be evil.

                          ......................

Thank you Mr.Aaron for going into places within the Bible that
few have ventured into with any details. Tough to go into in some
places, hard to understand in other places, shocking in yet other
places. A different age at times, with different customs and
practices, some allowed by God, for reasons we may not fully
understand at this time, for as the apostle Paul once said, "we
look through a glass darkly." But nevertheless it is all in the
Bible, that covers and talks about things a lot of us would want
to ignore or wish was not in the Bible - Keith Hunt

Entered on this Website August 2007


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