In Biblical times the act of kissing or touching one’s lips to those of another (Prov. 24:26), to another person’s cheek, or, in an exceptional case, even to his feet (Luke 7:37, 38, 44, 45), served as a token of affection or respect. Kissing was common not only between male and female relatives (Gen. 29:11; 31:28) but also between male relatives. (Gen. 27:26, 27; 45:15; Ex. 18:7; 2 Sam. 14:33) It was likewise a gesture of affection between close friends.—1 Sam. 20:41, 42; 2 Sam. 19:39.
Kissing might accompany a blessing. (Gen. 31:55) Aged Israel or Jacob kissed and embraced Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, before blessing their father and them. (Gen. 48:8-20) When the patriarch later finished giving commands to his twelve sons he expired and “Joseph fell upon the face of his father and burst into tears over him and kissed him.” (Gen. 49:33–50:1) Samuel kissed Saul when anointing him as Israel’s first king.—1 Sam. 10:1.
A fond greeting included kissing, perhaps accompanied by weeping and embracing. (Gen. 33:4) The father of the returning prodigal of Jesus Christ’s illustration fell upon his son’s neck and “tenderly kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) Kissing also went with a loving farewell. (Gen. 31:55; Ruth 1:9, 14) When the apostle Paul was about to depart from Miletus, the older men of the Ephesian congregation were so moved that they wept and “fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him.”—Acts 20:17, 37.
The Bible makes brief reference to kisses associated with love between the sexes. (Song of Sol. 1:2; 8:1) In giving advice to guard against the devices of a wicked woman, the book of Proverbs warns of the seductive kiss of a prostitute.—Prov. 7:13.
Kisses could be hypocritical. Absalom, shrewdly seeking power, kissed men who drew near to bow down to him. (2 Sam. 15:5, 6) Treacherous Joab’s kiss meant death to unsuspecting Amasa. (2 Sam. 20:9, 10) Also, it was with a deceitful kiss that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ.—Matt. 26:48, 49; Mark 14:44, 45.
Kissing as an act of adoration toward false gods was forbidden by Jehovah, who mentions 7,000 men who did not bend the knee to Baal and kiss him. (1 Ki. 19:18) Ephraim was scored for making idols and saying: “Let the sacrificers who are men kiss mere calves.” (Hos. 13:1-3) The Greeks and Romans had the practice of throwing a kiss with the hand to their idols, if these were inaccessible, and in this way they also greeted the rising sun. Job 31:27 may allude to a similar idolatrous practice.
THE “HOLY KISS”
Among early Christians there was the “holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26) or “kiss of love” (1 Pet. 5:14), possibly bestowed on individuals of the same sex. This early Christian form of greeting may correspond to the ancient Hebrew practice of greeting one with a kiss. Though the Scriptures provide no details, the “holy kiss” or “kiss of love” evidently reflected the wholesome love and unity prevailing in the Christian congregation.—John 13:34, 35.
Kissing, as representing a demonstration of respect and devotion, is mentioned in the inspired advice to “serve Jehovah with fear” and “kiss the son, that He may not become incensed and you may not perish from the way.” (Ps. 2:11, 12) Persons responding favorably and submitting to God’s king and kingdom will realize great blessings when it can be said: “Righteousness and peace—they have kissed each other,” because the connection of the two will be as evident to all as is the close association of affectionate friends.—Ps. 85:10.