Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sexual Intimacy According to the Bible

The wedding vows are complete - you may now ki...

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The Song of Songs is representative of health sexuality in marriage.  I will in the next posts share with some of the Bible teaches on sexual intimacy.  I have been reading an commentary by Mark E Washburn called "To Find and Enjoy the Love of Your Life."  In this book he helps to bring to light the symbolism as well as the cultural idiosyncrasies of the book.  I would recommend it. 

Song of Songs 4:1-5:1 represents a couples first night together.  In this we see a natural progression of the consummation of marriage vows.  Most of the verses focus on what the husband is saying to his new bride.  The interesting thing about this text is that it is graphic without being pornographic.  It is a beautiful expression of God Plan for sexual intimacy. 

How beautiful you are, my darling. How very beautiful! Behind your veil, your eyes are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats streaming down Mount Gilead.
Song of Songs 4:1 (HCSB)

On this wedding night the bride maintains her modesty.  Behind the veil her husband takes time to notice her eyes.  There is something about connecting with the eyes.  There is an old English proverb "Eyes are windows to the soul."  Making that eye to eye contact communicates a level of intimacy and trust in the relationship. 

A Casual glimpse of your mate, husband, and failure to look into her eyes is a failure to appreciate what God wants you to see in her heart before and after marriage.
-To Find and Enjoy the Love of your Life

The husband goes on to notice the beauty of her hair.  Verbalizing how beautiful your wife is a part of intimacy. 

Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn sheep coming up from washing, each one having a twin, and not one missing. Your lips are like a scarlet cord, and your mouth is lovely. Behind your veil, your brow is like a slice of pomegranate.
Song of Songs 4:2-3 (HCSB)

He moves on to her face.  Her teeth, lips, and mouth get his attention.  It seems that she is smiling after his initial complements.  He is drawn to her lips.  We might say your lips are kissable.  Pomegranate has a double meaning it seems.  First his wife has done her best to make her self up.  She has a very deep red make up on her face.  Pomegranate also is a symbol of sexuality.  It was revered as an aphrodisiac in ancient times.  So he is saying that her face is making him excited sexually. 

Side note:  Pomegranates have been found in recent studies to increase male and female libido as well as help with erectile dysfunction.  Those ancients knew what they were talking about.

Your neck is like the tower of David, constructed in layers. A thousand bucklers are hung on it- all of them shields of warriors.
Song of Songs 4:4 (HCSB)

Without understanding the context this verse would seem very odd indeed.  First he is not praising her long neck, which is what I though at first.  It appears that she must have a very fancy necklace on.   The reference to the  "tower of David" and "shields of warriors" is important.  The tower of David had shields of warriors hung on it symbolizing the commitment to protect and defend.  I believe that the husband was not only appreciating the fine jewelry, but also making a statement of protecting and defending their love together. 

Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies.
Song of Songs 4:5 (HCSB)

The husband moving down is admiring her breasts.  This is the first time that he has seen them.  In his previous description of her beauty her breasts are left out.  Gazelles are beautiful, sleek, and graceful creatures.  Twins are rare as gazelles usually give birth to only one.  The husband is saying that her breast are a rare beauty.  In Song of songs 5:3 we learn that the husband's lips are compared to lilies, and so it would appear here that he does more than notice the beauty of his wife's breasts, but he also kisses them. 

Before the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will make my way to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.
Song of Songs 4:6 (HCSB)

I want to point out how slow this husband is moving toward the act of sex (until the early morning he will make love to her).  It is important to note that sexual intimacy has a slow moving flow.  We can have sexual intimacy on the quick but it is not nearly as satisfying as if we move slowly with our spouse.  Appreciate the mutual attraction for one another.  Allow love's passion to draw you in don't force raw desire. 

He continues to talk about her breasts.  He is smelling the perfume that she has been keeping between her breasts for this occasion (Songs 1:13).  This is a moment of intense passion. 

You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection in you.
Song of Songs 4:7 (HCSB)

The husband has noted 7 things about his wife that express her beauty.  Seven is the number of perfection.  He is expressing her perfect beauty.  It also is a number that represents God.  It could be that he is praising God for giving him a beautiful wife. 

Try it out.  See if you, husband, can name seven beautiful features that you see in your wife.  Obviously some of her features others will notice as well as yourself.  Then there will be some features that you may regard as beautiful others may not see or appreciate.
-To Find and Enjoy the Love of Your Life

You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride. You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful your love is, my sister, my bride. Your love is much better than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any balsam.
Song of Songs 4:9-10 (HCSB)

The husband is head over heals in love with her.  There is an unfortunate belief in male culture that some how it is unmanly to allow a woman to capture your heart.  There are expression of "whipped man" comes to mind.  It seems that it is more important to maintain a sense of respectable independence than to please the woman he loves.  To be sure such a man has not allowed his wife to capture his heart.  True sexual intimacy will be hard to come by if this does not occur.  He goes on to say that the love of his wife is better than any earthly pleasure.  He is devoted to her love.  Side note:  The expression "my sister" might weird us out in our modern culture.  However it is an expression of a deep close protective relationship.  Not that he sees her as his biological sister. 

Your lips drip sweetness like the honeycomb, my bride. Honey and milk are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
Song of Songs 4:11 (HCSB)

Things are moving along.  After sharing more about his love for her he begins to passionately kiss her on the lips.  This is no mere peck.  This is sweetness, honey and milk deep passionate kissing (note the tongue is involved here).  He continues to be intoxicated by the smell of her.

My sister, my bride, you are a locked garden- a locked garden and a sealed spring.
Song of Songs 4:12 (HCSB)

The passion of the moment draws them ever closer to the moment of marital bliss.  Notice that she is locked up.  This is an expression of virginity.  This is their wedding night after all.  He goes on to describe her garden in Songs 4:13-15.  There is the pomegranates again. Except now it is not a mere slice, but tree containing "a paradise of Pomegranates."  Needless to say the husband is quite overcome with sexual desire toward his wife. 

Fountains and Springs are occasionally used in the Bible to express sexual intimacy between a husband and wife.  This is a shared fountain and spring.  It is to be exclusive.  Proverbs 5:15-20 admonishes that sexuality be expressed exclusively between a husband and wife using this imagery. 

Awaken, north wind- come, south wind. Blow on my garden, and spread the fragrance of its spices. Let my love come to his garden and eat its choicest fruits.
Song of Songs 4:16 (HCSB)

And with that the husband is invited to enjoy his wife.  Note a couple of things.  The act of sex after a long period of foreplay is initiated by the invitation of the wife.  The husband has not forced himself upon her.  What is more is the wife says "his garden."  We would do well to recognize that sexual intimacy is carried in the basket of mutual respect and mutual belongingness.  That is to say one does not ever do anything that is violation of the other (they are invited) and each recognizes that his/her body is not their own (1 Cor 7:3-4). 

I have come to my garden-my sister, my bride. I gather my myrrh with my spices. I eat my honeycomb with my honey. I drink my wine with my milk.

Eat, friends! Drink, be intoxicated with love!
Song of Songs 5:1 (HCSB)

The husband and wife enjoy their sexuality with each other.  Sexual intimacy has been achieved.  Notice that the husband expresses is deep satisfaction with what has just happened.   It has been fulfilling experience for him (and for her I suspect). 

This last phrase is seen by commentators as the voice of God.  He is expressing His blessing on the sexual intimacy that has just occurred.  May you be intoxicated with love for your spouse.  If you are not married then may you remain as a locked Garden or a sealed fountain until you can share that special intimacy with your spouse some day.  God bless you all.

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