Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Excerpt from New Book: Dance Lessons: Solomon and the Shulamite

Lesson 24: Solomon and the Shulamite

The Song of Solomon has always amazed me with the way that this book celebrated sex. There is no talk of having babies and keeping things PG. Sex and romantic love are celebrated as gifts from God.

Some have come from Christian homes where they depicted sex as something no one talked about. The church didn’t talk about it and no one is on board with having sex and it is super taboo.

But for most evangelicals, we have come to the conclusion that sex is not only a part of pro-creation, it is this thing that should be celebrated. I think that is a welcomed change.

Now for the single person reading this book of the Bible, beware, it definitely wouldn’t fit in any contemporary conservative Christian dating books. I mean it starts off with the woman wanting to suck face with her man. She’s not trying to fain or hide her interest. Nor is she being quiet and waiting for the man to pursue her. She made her wants and desires known. She is ready to go. I’m not advocating this position, I am merely going to read this book as it is written and not try and super-spiritualize it and make it about something it is not.

Verse one starts off by titling the book. Essentially it could be retitled “The Best Song of Solomon.” 1 Kings 4:32 told us that Solomon wrote 1005 songs. He was a lyrical master and this was one of his most prolific.

A woman breaks on the scene in verse two and started by sharing her very deep affection for her non-husband. In most bibles the speaker is denoted in the margin or super-scripted. That wasn’t in the original text, however it does help in better understanding the song.

Song of Solomon `1:2-4a

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers.


So I feel like I just walked in on an awkward conversation of a woman whispering sweet nothings her man’s ear. She wanted to play tonsil hockey. She noticed he smelled great and his name (or a better word might be reputation) preceded him. He was the complete package of attractive and well thought of by everyone. The NET Bible translates that last line as, “May the king draw me to his chambers,” expressing the woman’s desire to be his.[i]

Song of Solomon 1:4b

We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.


Here is a change in the character. The daughters of Jerusalem whom we will meet in the following verses are giving approval to the romance. They are excited for her.

Song of Solomon 1:5-7

 I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.

Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother's sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!


This woman responded to the daughters of Jerusalem with her insecurity. Her brothers gave her no special treatment and put her to work. We don’t know why they had anger towards this woman, but they did and her working on their vineyards didn’t allow her to apply beauty treatments.

Her darkness would have made her feel insecure because she wasn’t a typical woman of Solomon’s court. Those in the Middle East wanted fair skin because that meant that the woman was an indoor girl.

Now some take her brothers being angry with her being good with authority. She may have been great with authority. I can’t imagine a woman in that day and age being courted by a king who didn’t do well with authority, but this verse doesn’t make that case.

It could in fact mean that she was rebellious and was punished often for her inability to respect authority. We don’t have enough information here to draw any concrete conclusion.

Song of Solomon 1:7

Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?


The woman addressed her lover. Solomon was not a shepherd. Kings in general don’t hang out with sheep. However in ancient Near Eastern love poems a shepherd was a common terminology for a man. She wanted to spend some quality time with Solomon, but she had standards. She would not be confused with a prostitute who just played the part of his fan club.

Song of Solomon 1:8

If you do not know, O most beautiful among women, follow in the tracks of the flock, and pasture your young goats beside the shepherds' tents.



Scholars debate who is speaking in this verse, but it seems that Solomon wouldn’t chide her and tell her to do the very thing that would cause her to look like a prostitute. More likely it was the daughters of Jerusalem saying that if you don’t believe you’re gorgeous, you’re crazy, and you might as well go back to the losers back home and miss out on the king.

Song of Solomon 1:9-10

I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh's chariots. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.

Solomon affirmed her beauty by comparing her to a horse. Before you go feminist on Solomon here, just realize that there were only stallions (male horses) in Pharoah’s army. Mares (female horses) were sent into the ranks to distract the stallions so that the other army might have an advantage in battle. So in other words, she is so fine, every man is staring distracting them from their task because of her beauty. He also admired her choice of jewelry. Apparently this woman was fashionable.

Song of Solomon 1:11

We will make for you ornaments of gold, studded with silver.


The daughters of Jerusalem come through for their friend and are going to hook her up with some bling to please the king.

Song of Solomon 1:12-14

 While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.


The couch that the king was on would be his banqueting table. It was common to have a couch like bench with pillows that allowed the king to sit up properly and eat. The sachet of myrrh was kinda like one of those smell-good things that people have hanging from their rear view mirror. Same concept—only on a person. She wore oils and impressed him with her smell. Remember, bathing wasn’t exactly an everyday thing, so perfumes and oils covered up the nasty B.O.

Her sachet of myrrh reminded her of him everytime she breathed in the wonderful aroma. Then she commented that Solomon was like a cluster of henna blossoms that smelled like roses but also made a reddish-orange dye.[ii]

Song of Solomon 1:15

Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.


This is where I think Solomon was stalling as he was searching for adjectives, because instead of going on and on like the woman, he resorts to repeating himself. Quite possibly he is just lost in her eyes. Some want to make a big deal about how commenting on eyes meant that Solomon was really commenting on how wonderful her character was, but I kind of doubt that that scholar has looked into a beautiful woman’s eyes as she stares back with a hunger.

Song of Solomon 1:16

 Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful. Our couch is green; the beams of our house are cedar; our rafters are pine.

The woman recounted how wonderful it was to be with Solomon. She gave us details of the fact that they sat on a grassy field surrounded by trees: a gorgeous date for two. Now some commentators note that they are outside which proves they are in public. I somehow doubt that. Two lovers staring into each other’s eyes are not going to want to be seen.

It’s possible that they are being chaperoned. Perhaps the daughters of Jerusalem are watching nearby as Solomon and the Shulamite gawk at each other, but the scripture doesn’t give us that information. Some assume that the king would never be alone and therefore was chaperoned. Again, tough to put into a 21st century context.

Again, I’m not advocating here to take a date to a secluded area on a first date and romance her and stare into each other’s eyes and share every deep dark secret one has, but I am going to argue that this scripture doesn’t say anything about not going on a romantic date ALONE.

Song of Solomon 2:1-2

I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.


The woman compares herself to a rose of Sharon which is like a Lily. Solomon responds back that the other women were like ugly brambles, compared to her beauty.

Song of Solomon 2:3-6

 As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me!


The Shulamite again got a mouthful of Solomon. Apples and raisins were often used as aphrodisiacs. With the way Solomon’s hands are all over her body it is clear they are in full-fledged make out here.

The term “his banner over me was love” has been interpreted to mean that Solomon had marked his territory and was claiming her publicly.[iii] However, other scholars argue that it is from an Akkadian word that meant desire or intent so the phrase would mean “his intent toward me is lovemaking.[iv]

It’s tough to make a call either way on that one, but we can see three things pretty clearly. Sitting in the shadow of another denoted protection. The banner over her was a clear mark of public identification, and their closeness showed a deep intimacy.

Now since no Israelite in their right mind would ever advocate sex before marriage, I can tell you that if the couple in this passage are having sex, then they are already married. If not, then they are deeply kissing one another with the man gripping her head and body passionately as they kiss.

That is why this book of the Bible is tough to use as a “dating” manual. There is just too much we have to make an educated guess at. If someone made this out to be a married couple, I wouldn’t argue it. Remember the point of this book was never to teach 21st century Christians how to date, but rather to celebrate sex and the romantic love that a man and a woman share.

Song of Solomon 2:7

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.


On the heels of a solid make out session, the woman gave some advice here to her friends. She wanted them to be patient for love to come to them. Perhaps a better way to put this is she wanted them to be patient for sex. To get close to a skittish animal like an antelope or to a deer one must be very patient. To get the real deal love, one must wait for it.

This verse which is repeated in 3:5 and 8:4 is the refrain of the song. It is a powerful verse that sums up how to get the kind of love that everyone wants. Be patient and wait.

Now it does seem odd that the woman who gives this advice is essentially drooling over Solomon and throwing herself at him. He isn’t exactly backing off, but patience seems to be the last thing on the mind of this young woman.

Can you make an application from this? If so what is it?

[i] NET Notes (Sol 1:4)

18 sn The verb מָשַׁךְ (mashakh, "draw") is a figurative expression (hypocatastasis) which draws an implied comparison between the physical acting of leading a person with the romantic action of leading a person in love. Elsewhere it is used figuratively of a master gently leading an animal with leather cords (Hos 11:4) and of a military victor leading his captives (Jer 31:3). The point of comparison might be that the woman wants to be the willing captive of the love of her beloved, that is, a willing prisoner of his love.
[ii] Dr. Constable’s notes
[iii] Song of Solomon, Tommy Nelson
[iv] Constables notes Song of Solomon page 15

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Excerpt from Dance Lessons: Learning the Basic Steps of Relationships

God is in the process of partnering with you to find your future spouse. We all agree with that. We all agree that He wants you to have someone of the opposite sex. We all agree that partnering with parents and others that love you that God has given you is a wise move.
 Everyone has studied Proverbs 31, but for the most part, we do a “yeah, got it” to verses 1-9. Read a little about women knitting and the fact that they don’t sleep and their kids and husband love them. Then we highlight, verses 29 and 30, “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Get our mom’s coffee mug with that verse slapped on there in cursive and go back to trying to find a spouse desperately trying not to care about the way she/he looks.
So I want to take a moment to bring some context back to this scripture. Since this Proverb is written to men, I am going to generally find applications that apply to men and it just too tedious to write he/she all the time. So work with me here. Everything that I am saying applies both ways in most cases. Don't write me an email reminding me how everything here applies to both...got it.
In the first half we find that the author of this Proverb was a woman: King Lemuel’s mom. Jewish Tradition held that King Lemuel was actually Solomon and that King Lemuel’s mother was Bathsheba. I have nothing to argue against it. I wouldn’t bet my salvation on it, but I don’t see Lemuel anywhere else in the scripture.

Verses 1-3 (ESV):
The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:
What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows? Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.

So here we have a concerned mother, most likely, Bathsheba not exactly thrilled with perhaps her young son’s choices in women. I think all of us have had a mom say something to that effect. That’s what mom’s do, they worry about their sons. They worry that the woman they marry will shipwreck them. They will turn their career to failure, their marriage to a three-time loser, who now has to move back home. Trust me, your mom has those thoughts.
The point she is making here is that a son dedicated to God has no business going after women that want him for his hefty bank account and life on easy street. Reality check for men. If you win her with your money, you will lose her with your lack of cash. Reality check for women. If you win him with your body, you will lose him when you lose the tightness on your tummy.

Verses 4-7 (ESV):
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

Lemuel’s mom then admonishes her son not to waste his life. Simple stuff here. Leave being an idiot to those on the streets. Some scholars argue that leaving the drinking and drugging to those who were poor and destitute is tongue in cheek. The point that Lemmy’s mom is getting across is that classy men don’t waste their lives like those who have no hope or future. In fact she goes on to teach him to be an example to them and look after those who are poor.

Verses 8-9 (ESV)
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

King Lemuel is to be a truly noble man. He was to speak up for those who couldn’t speak up for themselves. He would be a modern day social justice hero. Here is where Lemmy’s mom makes it very clear about the most important part of his life. She spent two verses telling not to go after whores, three verses on not being an alcoholic or drug addict, two verses on looking out for the rights of others and ruling fairly and then she spends 21 verses on finding the right woman. I guess it’s kinda important.
I’m going with the Message and the ESV side by side for this portion so that you can do an easy compare and contrast as sometimes you need the Message to bring to light some of the words that are foreign to us, even in English.

Hymn to a Good Wife
A good woman is hard to find,
   and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
   and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
   all her life long.

10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

The first thing that King Lemuel’s mother shares with her son is that a good woman is hard to find. This implies that finding a good woman isn’t going to be easy. It will take time, the ability to discern a good woman from a not-so-good woman, and it will be the most important investment he will ever make.
But the reality is a good woman is hard to find. Strange, 3000 years later, men are still nodding in their heads in agreement. The interesting thing is that men in that day were looking for the wrong kind of “good”. Things haven’t changed. She will go on to explain what good looks like, but for a moment she lets him know that when he finds a good woman he needs to hold on to her, cause she is worth more than money could ever hope to buy.
The first characteristic of this good woman is she doesn’t give her husband negativity, but treats him with unbelievable love seeking to do him good all his life. How many marriages do you know look like that? How many times have you seen a woman dotingly look at her husband and think to herself, ‘I wonder how I can do him good, today.’ In America, it seems that if a couple merely gets along they are doing fantastic. But this woman does her man good, and not harm. She seeks to serve her husband.

  •    Men, take time to search for a good woman. It’s worth it.
  •    Men, find a woman who looks for opportunities to do good to those she loves.

She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
   and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
   and brings back exotic surprises.
She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast
   for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
   then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
   rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
   is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
   diligent in homemaking.
13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
 17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. (Pro 31:13-19 ESV)

This woman knew how to shop, where to shop, and a good deal when she saw one. She didn’t have debt and in fact knew how to save money and invest it. She had no image or self-esteem issues, She understood the importance of who she was and what she did.
She worked until whatever needed to be done was done. Laziness was not in her vocabulary. She crafted her work with skill. She used the spindle and distaff with expertise. The "distaff" was a rod that held raw wool while spinning. The "spindle" was the stick the spinner twirled between her fingers that took up the spun wool.
This woman handled her money with wisdom. This is something that men could learn from as well. Financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce.
  •  Men, look for a woman who knows how to dress for less.

That isn’t a plug for Ross, but it is a plug for a woman who knows how to put herself together without going into debt.

  •    Men, look for a woman with a solid self-image who values what she does

If a person doesn’t value themselves, then they can’t serve you out of a generous heart, but rather out of a heart that is constantly looking to you for worth. And when, not if, you make a mistake in the marriage—i.e. sin against her—you will find a deep struggle that will lead to other issues of lost trust.

  •    Men, look for a woman who loves what she does and isn’t lazy.

  •    Men, ask questions about financial stability.

She's quick to assist anyone in need,
   reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows;
   their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
   and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
 22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
 (Pro 31:20-22 ESV)

This woman serves the poor, but never neglects the needs of her own family. In fact, her family is dressed to the nines. She doesn’t over spiritualize herself. She gives to the poor and helps those in need. However, she doesn’t put on rags herself or allow her family to not look their best. This woman doesn’t do ministry out of her own brokenness, but out of her love and generosity.
You are probably friends with at least one or two people who are socially off. They over-spiritualize what they do when they give to the poor, but you can’t deny they are out there rain, sleet, or snow helping poor people. Then they remind you how unspiritual you are for not doing likewise. They may even criticize you for not shopping at the thrift store.
Now there are some people who are the really cool bohemian types that shop at the thrift store and hang out with the poor and have that really chill, laid back personality. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the person who is always finding some crisis with which they need to be involved. They are always talking about how little sleep they got. They are always talking about how little they actually got to eat. They are always sharing a story about some wayward person that they had to help. There is no joy there. They are merely covering up their brokenness and not dealing with their hurt. Instead of turning to drugs, alcohol, or some other coping mechanism, they have chosen to find someone worse-off than themselves to dive into and share in his or her misery.
I think that is better than drugs or alcohol, but it doesn’t solve the real issue. The person needs to turn their issues over to Jesus by dealing with their struggles in community.

  • Men, find a woman who reaches out to the poor.
  • Men, find a woman who knows how to take care of themselves and those she loves.
Her husband is greatly respected
   when he deliberates with the city fathers.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. (Pro 31:23 ESV)

This woman knew how to pick a man. She got a man was respected by the leaders of the community. What a huge deal that was. On the flip-side, her character was one that brought nothing but praise upon her husband. She is looking out for and looking to advance his career.
So, ladies, the question has to be asked of the guy you’re dating or wanting to date. Does he have the respect of the leaders of your community? And, men, does she have the capacity to help you in your career. If she is not into your career, you will have a huge divide. How many hours a day will you spend on doing your career? Let’s say a minimum of 40 hours a week. That is how food gets on the table. That’s how the bills are paid, and that is where a huge part of your joy in life should be found.
 If she is not interested in what you do, it’s hard for her to support what you do and help you advance. Ladies, if you want to win a man, encourage him in his career. He needs to know that you are going to be behind him in whatever he does.

  •  Women, find a man respected by the leaders of your community.
  •    Men, find a woman who selflessly helps others succeed.
She designs gowns and sells them,
   brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
   and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
   and keeps them all busy and productive.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
 27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Pro 31:24-27 ESV)

This woman knows how to run a home. No laziness here. She is busy and her house is organized and everyone knows their role. But oddly enough she is not a tyrant. Kindness drips off her lips. It’s one thing to work hard, it’s another thing altogether to work hard and be kind. She doesn’t sweat the small things and looks to serve rather than be served. She also looks good in the midst of her work. But then it’s hard not to be attractive when you are so kind and warm.
Men, I want you to notice it’s this woman’s kindness and industrious nature which make her even more attractive. That is what you’re looking for.

  • Men, find a woman who is not lazy.
  • Men, find a woman who can run a house.
  • Men, find a woman who is kind.
Her children respect and bless her;
   her husband joins in with words of praise:
"Many women have done wonderful things,
   but you've outclassed them all!"

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
 29 "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." (Pro 31:28-29 ESV)

Everyone reading this desires their family to say this of them. That kind of praise doesn’t come undeserved. This woman has outdone them all. She has worked hard and has received the praise she deserved. Her husband knows that she needs to be recognized and does so accordingly. He doesn’t try and steal the spotlight when it is her turn to be recognized. He wants to lift her up and that might be the reason she works so hard, she is loved well.
Notice that you don’t hear her rejecting praise in some sort of false humility. She just accepts it. She doesn’t over-spiritualize it and talk about how she is just God’s servant and that it was really nothing. She just accepts it.

  • Women, find a man who knows how to affirm others.
  • Men, find a woman who knows how to take a compliment.
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
   The woman to be admired and praised
   is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
   Festoon her life with praises!
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
 (Pro 31:30-31 ESV)

Here are the verses that we all know. We must take them in context with what has preceded it. The woman that King Lemuel’s mom described might as well be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The reason she received praise wasn’t her looks or charm.
A lot of women needing attention use every flirt trick in the book to get it. I’m not talking about women who are fun or nice, I’m talking about the ones that paw every man they come in contact with and are fishing for compliments. Unchecked charm will mislead other men to think she is really interested in them. I promise you it never bodes well for those who search after shiny things.
The woman that King Lemuel wants for her son is one that lives in the Fear-of-God. She doesn’t live for her husband. She lives for God. Men, you want that every time. She won’t be affected when you’re an idiot. She doesn’t serve you, because of how magnanimous and wonderful you are, but because she fears the Lord.
The great thing about being this kind of woman is that it results in reward from her family and the community. People want to be around her. She doesn’t search out praise, but you can’t help but praise her.

  • Men, stop searching for the Mother Teresa who is also a Victoria’s Secret model.
  • Men, find a woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
  • Women, live in the Fear-of-God.
Ladies, I am serious here. If you live in the fear of being single, get ready for your worst nightmare. If you live in the Fear-of-I-don’t-want-to-break-up-with-him-cause-it-might-hurt then you are walking into a catastrophe. Whether you are afraid of it hurting him or it hurting you, be wise and end it. In the end, he’ll thank you for letting him get on with his life.