‘To the Clean . . .’
BELIEVERS in the Bible were doubtless startled to read a headline in a recent US newspaper: “Ban the Bible? It celebrates oral sex, love.” The writer, a priest, was not seriously suggesting that the Bible be banned, but he did claim that it condones what Christians would view as immorality.
The part of the Bible he had in mind was the Song of Solomon. Here is how he describes it: “The Song of Solomon . . . describes such [oral] sex with words which are surely far more tantalizing than any Penthouse can manage.” He goes on: “There is no indication that the lovers are married; the woman is naked through most of the story (she protests at one point that if her lover doesn’t take her to her chamber she will have to put on her gown again) . . .”
Have you ever read the book? If so, did you notice such things in it?
The Song of Solomon describes the constancy of the love of a young Shulammite girl for a local shepherd boy. It contains some warm descriptions of their feelings for each other. But oral sex? Read it through as often as you like, and you will find no reference to any such thing. In fact, the young couple committed no form of immorality. The Shulammite girl is called “the pure one.” At the end of the song, her virtue is viewed as proved. The young shepherd himself says about her: “A garden barred in is my sister, my bride, a garden barred in, a spring sealed up.” (Song of Solomon 6:9; 4:12; 8:9, 10) No, the conduct of this couple was blameless.
Is it true that “there is no indication that the lovers are married”? Probably they were not, but notice that the shepherd calls the Shulammite his “bride.” What does he mean? In this context, the Hebrew word cal·lahʹ means either a bride just before marriage, or a new wife. (The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Gesenius) Since the young shepherd calls her his cal·lahʹ several times, the couple are evidently planning on marriage. Hence, their passionate feelings are not out of place.
Is it true that the woman is “naked through most of the story”? Well, the text does not describe her clothes, but does that mean she has none? On one occasion, the shepherd says to her: “Your eyes are those of doves, behind your veil.” (Song of Solomon 4:1) If she is veiled, that sounds as if she is modest, does it not?
What about the statement, “she protests at one point that if her lover doesn’t take her to her chamber she will have to put on her gown again”? The only part of the book that mentions her gown, or robe, is chapter five. Here, the Shulammite is describing a dream. She says: “I am asleep, but my heart is awake.” Then she relates how, in her dream, her shepherd knocks at the door of her chamber. She refuses to open to him. Why? “I have put off my robe. How can I put it back on? I have washed my feet. How can I soil them?” Surely this episode shows that the Shulammite has a sense of decency!—Song of Solomon 5:2-6.
The apostle Paul said: “All things are clean to clean persons. But to persons defiled and faithless nothing is clean, but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15) If looked at by people with minds tainted by this world’s immoral thinking, even something as clean and wholesome as the love of the Shulammite for her shepherd can be made to look sordid.