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All you need is love: Song of Songs

I am working with Celia Kellett at BBC Radio Nottingham on an idea to present most of the books of the Bible, one a week, during 2011 as part of the celebrations of the King James Bible. The plan is to read some verses from the book, to give a one-and-a-half minute summary, to hear a human interest story which relates, and then include a short discussion making the connections.

Here’s the key verses and summary for Song of Songs (‘All you need is love?’), to be broadcast this Sunday 23rd Jan from 8.20 am:

Verses: Song of Songs 7.6–13

(He)
How beautiful you are and how pleasing, my love, with your delights!
Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.

(She)
May the wine go straight to my beloved, flowing gently over lips and teeth.
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.

Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages.
Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded,
if their blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom—there I will give you my love.

The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy,
both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my beloved.

Summary

The Song of Songs is something of a surprise to find in the Bible, since it consists of eight chapters devoted to exploring physical desire—a sort of holy sex manual. We live in a culture surrounding by sex—tv, newspapers, the internet, everywhere you go there are images of sexuality—but not many people expect to find a book in the Bible devoted to it!

It claims to be written by Solomon, the famously wise king, and consists of a dialogue between a man and a woman who are lovers—telling each other how much they desire each other, and what they will do when they meet!

Not surprisingly, many Jews and Christians haven’t known what to do with it! So a common approach has been to see it as describing the relationship between God and the believer, the divine and human as spiritual lovers. This is not so far-fetched—after all, the Bible depicts sex as something that God made, not something that wicked humans invented! And from the beginning the image of God in people is found in the bringing together of male and female.

The message seems to be that the best sex is not about technique but about relationship—a relationship that reflects the unwavering faithfulness of God.

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