Equality Of Sexes In Marriage: Exposition Of The Song Of Songs -- By: Arthur H. Lewis

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:2 (Spring 1997)
Article: Equality Of Sexes In Marriage: Exposition Of The Song Of Songs
Author: Arthur H. Lewis


Equality Of Sexes In Marriage:
Exposition Of The Song Of Songs

Arthur H. Lewis

A graduate of Wheaton College (BA.) and Brandeis University (Ph.D.), Arthur H. Lewis is professor emeritus of Old Testament Studies at Bethel College and a past national president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Specializing in Hebrew, Akkadian, and Ugaritic, he was a translator for the Old Testament division of the New International Version of the Bible and he has contributed many articles to scholarly journals.

The Hebrew view of marital sex, in contrast with Neo-platonism and early church, was not celibate. The Jews were never prudish about sex. The best evidence of this is the high place Solomon’s Song of Songs, an ancient collection of poems on courtship and love, holds in the canon of Hebrew Scripture and in the worship of the synagogues, where it is usually read on the 8th day of Passover.

I am acquainted with the “triangle” interpretation of this book: a country girl has won the affection of King Solomon, but also has a shepherd lover in the North near her home. After re-reading the book, however, I conclude that Solomon and the shepherd are one and the same; the language of the story is easier to understand with only two leading characters, the girl and her lover. This song was for King Solomon the “Greatest of Songs” and probably describes his favorite and most-loved wife.

That the two lovers are married is proven by the fact that the Solomon brings her in his carriage to Jerusalem is called “the day of his wedding” (3:11). That she thought of him at first as a shepherd, with a flock grazing near the flocks of her brothers, should not surprise us. Kings were often called “shepherds” and their people thought of as “sheep” (as King David spoke of them, 1 Sam 24:17).

The explicitly physical and at times sensual elements of their love should be considered as God-given essential aspects of the marriage relationship, reflecting the original union of Adam and Eve in God’s garden, who were “naked and not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). Some commentaries have found many parallels between the Song of Songs and the account of the Garden of Eden.

As an Old Testament scholar, I am concerned to point out the equality of the bride with her husband in this story— mainly to correct the common idea that in a biblical view of marriage the man must be the aggressor or initiator, and that he should always exercise a more dominant role.

Equality of Freedom: The young bride requests that the king “take her away with him into his chambers” (

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